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COVID-19 in Ohio: Ohioans age 65 and over, school employees will be next in line for virus vaccines, DeWine says

Randy Ludlow
Akron Beacon Journal

At-risk Ohioans age 65 and over and school teachers and staff will be among the next to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday.

Developmentally disabled persons and people younger than 65 with inherited disorders such as Sickle Cell Disease also will be in the group, which DeWine hopes can begin receiving vaccinations in mid-January.

Vaccines will be offered to school districts willing to resume in-person classes, with a goal of getting school children back in classes by March 1, DeWine said. Parents can continue to opt for remote learning for their children, he said.

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Noting 86% of Ohio virus deaths have occurred among those age 65 and older, DeWine said, "The goal must be, it's just imperative, that we do everything we can to save lives."

With DeWine urging Ohioans to "celebrate small" by limiting Christmas gatherings to members of their immediate households, the state reported 7,790 new virus infections and 109 additional deaths on Wednesday.

As DeWine's news conference began with videos of live COVID vaccinations from around Ohio, the new cases reported were more than 2,000 beneath the three-week daily case average of 9,852.

Continuing a trajectory that saw COVID-19 infections decline last week, reported daily cases so far this week have averaged 7,598 as compared to 8,710 last week. Case levels, though, still remain three times higher than two months ago.

Death numbers have remained elevated, with Wednesday's addition of a high 109 COVID-19 fatalities bringing December deaths to 1,916 — the deadliest month of the pandemic by far

An above-average total of 431 new daily hospitalizations were reported, with discharges dropping the number of statewide virus inpatients on Wednesday to 4,694 — Ohio's lowest total in nearly a month.

The positive rate on virus tests increased to 15.3% on the latest reported day (Monday), boosting the seven-day average positivity rate to 14.0%.

Since the first confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported March 9, Ohio has recorded 644,822 infections and 8,361 deaths.

To help check the spread of coronavirus, the governor and health officials are advising residents to forgo getting together with other family members and guests, with the large DeWine clan canceling its traditional Christmas Eve get-together.

While largely ducked during Thanksgiving, officials fear a potential post-holidays spike in infections from holiday celebrations without masks and social-distancing precautions as the pandemic continues.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health, called on Wednesday for Ohioans to keep celebrations safe with virus precautions and to avoid contact with people outside their households.

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We’re heading into Christmas riding our highest wave of COVID-19 ever … simply put, we can’t afford to let this get worse. We can’t let our guard down … our holidays just have to be different this year," Vanderhoff said.

DeWine on Wednesday announced the COVID-10 death of another state employee, Robert Burns, a Department of Youth Services specialist who had worked at the Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in Massillon for more than 28 years.

Coronavirus does not take holidays off, but the state numbers counters will. No daily case or death numbers will be released on Friday or New Year's Day, with two-day totals then to be posted on Saturday and Jan. 2.

Amid questions about Ohio's pace of administering vaccines, state health officials announced Tuesday evening that Ohio is in line for more doses this week than originally anticipated — although still less than initially expected.

The number of first-shot COVID vaccinations reported by the state on Wednesday totaled 11,700, an increase of 1,363 from Tuesday.

An allotment of 89,700 Pfizer-BioNTech doses — 19,500 more than expected after the number was reduced last week — are scheduled to arrive Thursday, Ohio first had expected 123,000 doses.

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The Pfizer shipment will be followed by 69,700 additional Moderna vaccine doses later in the week, officials said. The vaccines will be routed to hospitals that have not yet received doses for their frontline workers.

Gov. Mike DeWine holds up a face mask while speaking about the rise in COVID-19 cases statewide during a news conference Oct. 19 in Cleveland.

Ohio now expects to receive a cumulative total of about 258,000 doses from Pfizer and 271,000 from Moderna by the end of the year, state health officials said Wednesday.

Vaccine distribution by teams of pharmacy employees also will be expanded beyond residents and employees of skilled-care nursing homes to assisted-living facilities and retirement centers, including facilities housing Ohioans with developmental disabilities.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services reports more than 2,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine were arriving at six state regional psychiatric hospitals to begin vaccinating nearly 1,000 patients and additional staff. The hospitals are located in Athens, Cincinnati, Columbus, Massillon, Northfield and Toledo.

State Rep. Beth Liston, D-Dublin, a hospital medicine physician working with virus patients, on Wednesday became the first state lawmaker to be vaccinated, receiving her shot at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“I am very excited to take this important step in our recovery. The process was smooth and the shot was virtually painless. I was monitored after receiving the vaccine and experienced no issues," Liston said in a statement.