MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) – Southeastern Ohio’s hospitals are calling on residents to get vaccinated and wear masks.

That comes in a joint statement Monday signed by leaders of nine regional-and mostly rural-hospital systems:

Jeff Graham, President & CEO, Adena Health System, Scott Cantley, President & CEO, Memorial Health System (Marietta), John R. “Jack” Janoso, Jr., President & CEO, Fairfield Medical Center, Tim Colburn President & CEO, Fairfield Medical Center President, OhioHealth Berger Hospital, Stacey Gabriel , President & CEO, Hocking Valley Community Hospital, LeeAnn Helber, President & CEO, Ohio Health O’Bleness Hospital (Athens), Michael Canady President & CEO, Holzer Health System, Ben Gill, President & CEO, Southern Ohio Medical Center, and Dana Engle CEO, Madison Health.

Memorial Health System’s hospitalizations, including positive COVID cases, rose from 56 to 64 during the past weekend. 55 of those patients were not vaccinated.

Memorial continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases in hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and urgent care offices.

The patients, according to Director of Marketing Jennifer Offenberger, are as young as 10 years of age and as old as 89.

”Many of these patients are requiring hospitalizations; they’re experiencing a higher degree of illness than they have in the past,” Offenberger said Monday. “It’s taking its toll on our resources and our employees. Our employees are tired, and we have been challenged with this for some time now.”

The letter signed by the hospital CEO’s says, in part: “With the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, our hospitals, emergency departments, and urgent cares are hitting record numbers. Many of the patients requiring hospitalization are experiencing a higher degree of illness than we have seen in the past, this is taking a toll on our associates. We are concerned with what the coming weeks will bring, we want to continue to provide the care our patients need, and when and where they need it. What we are experiencing is very real. It isn’t a political issue; it’s a medical issue. When we look at our patient data, a vast majority of hospitalized COVID patients have not received the COVID vaccine.”

It goes on to say, “Communities are in crisis”, and “masks and vaccines will slow down the virus spread”.

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