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Push to Vaccinate Ohioans Continues As Cases Plateau

 Five counties moved to a higher level of alert this week on the state's public health advisory map, but the alert level was lowered in eight counties; 55 counties are under red alert, which Gov. DeWine said is the lowest number since Oct. 29
Five counties moved to a higher level of alert this week on the state's public health advisory map, but the alert level was lowered in eight counties; 55 counties are under red alert, which Gov. DeWine said is the lowest number since Oct. 29

Ohio will receive more than half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week, “by far the highest amount that we have received,” Gov Mike DeWine said in a briefing Thursday.

He and Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff emphasized the need to vaccinate as many people as possible to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has plateaued in recent days. “We’re in a race to get enough people vaccinated that we stay ahead of these more contagious variants,” Vanderhoff said. “I’m encouraged by the pace at which that is happening in the state.”

DeWine announced plans for an additional 11 mass vaccination sites that should open next week, along with four mobile clinics that will serve rural areas. Beginning Monday any Ohioan age 16 and older is eligible to receive a vaccine and to ease scheduling, the state is simplifying its vaccination sign up portal to accommodate that change this weekend.

The governor indicated the state’s first mass vaccination clinic at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University had administered 46,000 first doses of vaccine so far. The first three weeks at the site have been devoted to first dose administration; the second three weeks, beginning April 6 will be for distribution of second dose shots. Those who don’t wish to sign up at the can call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH to make an appointment.

DeWine said the state expects to receive 571,460 doses of the three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson next week. That is in addition to the supply allotted to the Wolstein Center. “If you’ve had trouble in the past [scheduling an appointment], this is an opportunity,” DeWine said.

The following sites are expected to open next Wednesday with the specified number of doses:

Location Doses available/week
Knights of Columbus, Lima 2,500
Lucas Co Rec Center, Toledo 5,000
Dayton Convention Center 5,000
Summit County Fairgrounds 5,000
Southern Park Mall, Youngstown 2,500
Wilmington Air Park 5,000
Colony Square Mall, Muskingum Co. 1,500
Celeste Center, Columbus 5,000
Cintas Center, Cincinnati 5,000
Adena Med. Ed. Ctr., Ross Co. 2,500
Wayne Street Med. Campus, Marietta 1,500

These sites are in addition to 1,300 sites already distributing vaccines. In addition, four mobile clinics will begin administering shots. They will be based in Richland and Jefferson Counties and at Ohio Northern University in Ada and Ohio University in Athens. DeWine said appointments at these locations should begin to be available for scheduling on Saturday.

Cases level off

After declining for a number of weeks, cases have leveled off with about 1,500 new cases reported Thursday by the Ohio Department of Health. In addition, the statewide average for new cases per 100,000 people showed a slight increase from 143.8 last week to 146.9 this week. DeWine has said the state will lift all health orders when that number hits 50 per 100,000. "We just have to continue to work on this," DeWine said. "It's the defense—wearing the mask, and the offense—vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. We're going to do everything we can to drive this virus to the ground."

The Ohio Legislature on Wednesday, by overriding DeWine's veto, enacted a bill that allows lawmakers to limit a state of emergency to 90 days and terminate it after 30 days. The legislation takes effect in 90 days. DeWine did not say what legal action might come out of the legislature's move but said he maintains that the bill is unconstitutional and hurts future leaders' ability to protect citizens. He also said, "We have the ability in the next 89 days to end this. Whatever people have thought about the health orders, all of us coming together can have a common cause to get everybody who wants to be vaccinated, vaccinated."

Calling out long term care

The state's effort to vaccinate people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities has been largely successful in driving down cases there. But DeWine said there are still a number of facilities that have not responded to the state's effort to vaccinate their residents. "We must make sure these people have the opportunity to get vaccinated," DeWine said.

The state will publicize online the 56 nursing homes and 158 assisted living facilities that have not yet responded to the state's vaccination effort. DeWine says the facilities may have made their own arrangements for vaccines, but they have not informed the state. "If you have someone living in one of those nursing homes or assisted living facilities, it's just important that everybody who's there has the opportunity to get the vaccine."

Spring break

Many schools mark spring break next week, but Vanderhoff said, "We're encouraging Ohioans to consider staying home this spring." He recommends those who do plan to travel get vaccinated first and continue to take safety precautions when out in public or with people outside your own household. That includes wearing a mask, maintaining 6 feet of physical distance and washing hands frequently. For those who do travel without being vaccinated "limit activities outside of your home when you return," Vanderhoff said. And if you're not feeling well, get tested for COVID-19. "We're in the final stretch of this marathon, but we have to recognize that we're not at that finish line yet."

Vanderhoff said variant activity continues to increase, with the so-called UK variant (B.1.1.7) being seen most frequently in Ohio followed by the two California variants (B.1.427 and B.1.429). He noted that the ebb and flow of the virus has shown cases rise every 90 to 100 days. "We're about 90 to 100 days from the last time it did that."

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