COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As 2021 comes to a close and 2022 begins, Ohio is seeing some of its highest COVID-19 numbers of the pandemic.

As many ring in the new year, thousands will start 2022 in the hospital. This includes patients and the front-line workers taking care of them.

State data shows Ohio currently has more patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 than at any point before.

“It’s really a pretty daunting time right now. I think all of us are keeping our heads up and just trying to get through the patient volume but it’s pretty challenging right now in healthcare,” said Dr. Nicholas Kman, an emergency department physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUMC). 

He spent part of Dec. 31 taking care of COVID-19 patients. He will likely be doing that on Jan. 2 as well. 

“It’s all aspects of public health that have been impacted by the virus,” said Dr. Kman. “Hopefully we can get this thing, this fire put down a little bit.” 

About a year ago, the first of the COVID-19 vaccines were being administered in Ohio. At the time, nurses and doctors were hopeful. Feelings are a bit different now. Though vaccines have been widely available for several months, Gov. Mike DeWine says 92.5% of patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 since June 1 have been unvaccinated. 

“To be honest with you, healthcare workers are surprised to still be here,” said Dr. Kman.

Hospital employees are used to working holidays. But they say entering 2022 feels different than starting previous years. Jennifer Hollis will be taking care of COVID-19 patients on New Year’s Day.

“I’ve been a nurse for 12 years and I’ve seen more death in the past two years than I’ve ever wanted to see in my lifetime. And that’s not why I got into nursing,” Hollis said.

Hollis is a critical care nurse in the ICU at OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospital. She also did not expect the state to be in the situation it is dealing with now. 

“It’s really difficult, it’s really complicated to kind of sum up everything we’re feeling because it’s just an array of emotions every shift we’re coming in,” she said. 

“I hope we don’t have to do this again next year. These are unprecedented times, and we ​don’t want this to be this way forever and so we can only do that with the community’s help.”

Hospitals are also urging people not to come to emergency departments if all they need is a COVID-19 test. Doctors and nurses say emergency rooms are already extremely busy and that’s not the best use of resources.