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Ohio Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations In Nursing Homes On Friday

In this March 6, 2020, photo, tissues, gloves, and masks greet visitors at the South Shore Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center, in Rockland, Mass.
David Goldman
Associated Press

Gov. Mike DeWine says residents and workers at nursing homes, where 61% of Ohio's confirmed coronavirus deaths have occurred, will begin to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.

"We can't wait, frankly, to get as many vaccinated as quickly as possible," DeWine said at a press conference Thursday.

In the last week, the state reported 286 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, for a total of 4,361 deaths since the pandemic began.

Ohio partnered with four pharmacies – Walgreens, CVS, Absolute Health and PharmScript – to distribute the vaccine to nursing homes. DeWine says the state was invited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to participate in the scaling up of the program.

"We have a moral obligation to get this vaccine out as quickly as we can," DeWine said, adding that their goal is to vaccinate as many people as they can at each facility.

For people who are unsure, DeWine says the vaccine will be available later, but "I don't know when that opportunity will be."

Because of the risk nursing homes residents face from COVID-19, "this is an intervention I really, truly believe will save lives," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health.

State Remains Red

Ohio's public health alert advisory map remains awash in red, showing that the coronavirus remains widespread across the state. Just one county, Richland, is still purple – the highest level of severity – but DeWine advised people not to be deceived by that.

"When everything is virtually red, the importance of [the map] takes on less meaning," DeWine said.

The governor encouraged people to look at what's going on in the hospitals in their community and look at the county-by-county incidence. Every Ohio county reports at least three times the rate of high incidence as defined by the CDC, which is over 100 cases per 100,000 people.

"We have many that are much, much higher than that," DeWine said. "The only good thing we can say is the Thanksgiving bump that we feared is not what we expected."  

DeWine again cited the statewide 10 p.m. curfew, which he recently extended, and the state's mask mandate as having "slowed this down. But there's nothing to be happy about as we look at these numbers."

A technical glitch impaired an accurate count of cases Wednesday. Averaging the cases reported yesterday and 11,412 cases reported today puts the two-day count at 8,411. The number of COVID-19 patients in Ohio's hospitals and intensive care units remains a concern.

According to the latest data, DeWine says one out of every four patients in hospitals has COVID-19, as does one of every 3 ICU patients.

"All this impacts the ability of schools to stay open," DeWine said.

The state reports a growing number of districts are withdrawing from in-person instruction again, with 45% of students now attending school remotely. DeWine says 28% of the state's students are receiving instruction in-person and 26% are on a hybrid plan.

He pointed to reports that thousands of students in the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools are not logging on and have essentially disappeared.

"If you don't have a reason yet to wear a mask, to keep distance, to not eat with anybody who doesn't live in your own household… I'll give you a good reason: We need our kids back in school," DeWine said.