COLUMBUS — Ohio is gearing up to vaccinate the 2.2 million people in Phase 1B — which includes older Ohioans, people with severe medical conditions and school employees — and based on the scant information available, the rollout won't be smooth or quick.
As of Monday, only 40 percent of COVID-19 vaccines received in the state have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ohio ranks 31st in the country in terms of vaccines administered per 100,000 people.
In better news, nearly a month after Ohio received its first shipment of vaccines, 85 percent of Ohio's more than 900 nursing homes have been visited for distribution of the first dose of the vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine said during a briefing Tuesday.
However, the percentage of healthcare workers refusing the vaccine has been worryingly high. DeWine said earlier this month only about 40 percent of nursing home employees are getting the first shot.
"Anecdotally, as they go back for the second time, those numbers have gone up," DeWine said. "We are happy about that."
Vaccine skepticism is evident in the state's veterans homes as well.
At the Ohio Veterans Homes in Sandusky and Georgetown, 92 percent of residents have received the vaccines. But, 60 percent of employees at the Sandusky location have received the vaccine, and at the Georgetown home, that number is only 42 percent.
While addressing the kinks in the vaccine rollout for Phase 1A, the state is looking to the next group.
Starting Jan. 19, the state is moving to Phase 1B, which includes older Ohioans, people with serious health issues and school staff — but not all at once.
Ohioans 80 years of age and older will be able to get the vaccine starting Jan. 19. The state expects to receive 100,000 doses for the group of 420,000.
Although the CDC on Tuesday issued guidance expanding vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older as well as to those with comorbidities, Ohio is sticking with its plan of limited and gradual access by expanding the age range each week.
The state has identified 800 local health care providers to administered the vaccines.
"We wanted [vaccination sites] to be in communities," said DeWine. "They're in every county. What that means is nobody gets a whole lot."
Providers won't find out when the shipments will arrive until the weekend — making appointment-based vaccinations, as seen in other communities, nearly impossible.
Furthermore, it will be up to local health departments to determine how to distribute their shares of vaccines. DeWine has requested that departments, in cooperation with local emergency management agencies, notify the media of their plans today [Wednesday] or Thursday. Health departments and providers are also responsible for coming up with contigency plans to avoid wasting doses.
The state's vaccine supply should be increasing soon, though, DeWine added.
The Trump Administration implemented President-Elect Joe Biden's proposal to free up vaccines being reserved for second-dose shots. DeWine lauded the development, calling it "very, very good news."
• According to the latest figures Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 792,308 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 16,219 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 11,921 in Trumbull County; and 6,780 in Columbiana County.
• Statewide, there have been 9,802 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, including 325 in Mahoning County; 290 in Trumbull; and 122 in Columbiana. Mahoning County’s 355 reported COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday was eighth among Ohio’s 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 961.
• In nearby counties: Stark, 23,585 cases and 382 deaths; Portage, 8,449 cases and 103 deaths; and Ashtabula, 4,263 cases and 66 deaths.
• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday, there were 733,429 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 18,080 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 74 percent. There have been 6,720 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 174 deaths; 4.871 cases in Lawrence County and 140 deaths. In Mercer County, 2,111 people have been vaccinated thus far; 1,196 in Lawrence County.
• A drive-thru donation event will be from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot behind the Pinetree Plaza office of the Trumbull County Democratic Party on Warren Road in Niles in recognition of the MLK Day of Service. Anyone can donate nonperishable food items; toiletries; hygiene products; or money to be distributed to Someplace Safe and Warren Family Mission.
• The Raymond John Wean Foundation is inviting grassroots groups from Warren and Youngstown to apply for Neighborhood SUCCESS grants of $500 to $5,000 through a new streamlined application portal beginning Thursday. Groups are encouraged to visit the Neighborhood SUCCESS web page for more information.