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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Working To Improve Vaccine Scheduling

hamilton county vaccine map
Ohio Department of Health
A screenshot of the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine dashboard shows progress in Hamilton County as of Feb. 23, 2021.

The Hamilton County Health Department got a lot more vaccine doses than usual this week. Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says the majority of doses in the county are still going to private health providers, but the increase is much needed.

"When I'm only getting 500 doses a week, my power to go into communities is minimalized," Kesterman told county commissioners Tuesday. "So having 2,300 doses this week is really helping us a lot."

About 450 of those doses are being administered at two churches this week. It's part of the effort to address racial disparities in vaccine distribution. Black residents are close to 30% of the county population but have received less than 12% of vaccinations so far. That's a slight improvement over last week.

Some residents trying to schedule an appointment at the churches this week faced technical problems and hours-long delays. Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas herself says she waited on hold for three hours before getting an appointment.

Kesterman says they've made adjustments to the scheduling process to avoid future problems.

"Probably, we should have only scheduled one church at a time to go to our call center and that might have helped eliminate some of the bottleneck," he said, adding that staff will start taking down phone numbers to return calls instead of placing people on hold.

Lincoln Heights Missionary Church had 222 doses to administer Tuesday, and a church in Forest Park has the same amount for a clinic on Thursday. The Cincinnati Health Department is hosting a clinic at a church in Bond Hill Wednesday with 250 doses. All of the appointment times are full.

A little over 13% of Hamilton County residents have been vaccinated so far, a bit ahead of the statewide vaccination rate.  

Kesterman says although cases and hospitalizations in the area have been trending down, it's critically important for people to remain vigilant in slowing the spread.

The health department confirmed a case of the U.K. Variant of COVID-19 in Hamilton County this week. Kesterman says it was only a matter of time before the variants started appearing in the area. He says although this strain of the virus can spread more easily, it doesn't impact the severity of the disease, and the vaccines being distributed now are effective against this variant.