CNN  — 


That word, in big black letters and surrounded by white space, called out from Ohio’s largest newspaper – a desperate plea from six Cleveland-area medical systems facing a crush of Covid-19 cases.

“We need your help,” read the bottom of the ad. “We now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before.

“And the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated.”

The ad was sponsored by Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth, Summa Health, the US Department of Veterans Affairs and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

It follows a similar plea from hospitals in Minnesota earlier this month, who took out a full-page newspaper ad that said, “We’re heartbroken. We’re overwhelmed.

This ad by six Cleveland-area health-care facilities appeared Sunday

Sunday’s ad in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer was a response to the latest Covid-19 health crisis exploding in Northern Ohio, nearly two years into a pandemic that has killed more than 810,000 Americans and battered many of the nation’s hospitals.

“We are in a significant surge right now and we are raising awareness about the importance of vaccination – stressing that the majority of people who are hospitalized because of Covid are unvaccinated,” University Hospital spokesperson George Stamatis said, commenting on the ad’s intent.

Northern Ohio has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 hospitalizations and accounts for 60% of all hospitalized Covid-19 patients within the state, Dr. Alice Kim, the medical director of operations for the Cleveland Clinic, said in a briefing on December 15.

“As we are seeing the cases rise, we are also seeing how sick these patients are,” Kim said. “They are definitely sicker than we had experienced in the first few months of the pandemic in 2020.”

The number of Covid-related hospitalizations are at their highest level since December 22, 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine said in a news conference Friday.

Given the stress placed on hospital staff, DeWine noted that almost all hospitals in the northern part of Ohio have stopped elective surgeries.

The governor on Friday mobilized more than 1,000 members of the National Guard to “help relieve the hospital staffing strain caused by the rising number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” according to a news release.

On Tuesday, a free drive-thru Covid-19 testing site staffed by the Ohio National Guard and the Ohio Health Department was opened in Cleveland.

But it was shut down by the end of the day due to the overwhelming demand. The Ohio Department of Health said more than 1,000 people were tested but that registration was no longer being accepted.

More than a third of the Cuyahoga population remains unvaccinated, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“We continue to see that most of our patients, particularly our patients in the ICUs are unvaccinated,” Chief Medical Officer for Community Health at the MetroHealth System Dr. Brook Watts told CNN’s John Berman on Monday.

Having taken care of Covid patients since the beginning of the pandemic, Watts said the difference this time is that they’re seeing younger people, especially younger parents come in with Covid-19.

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than walking into a Covid patient’s room and seeing pictures of their young children,” Watts said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the part of Ohio that accounts for 60% of all hospitalized Covid-19 patients within the state. It is northern Ohio.

CNN’s Liam Reilly and Raja Razek contributed to this report.