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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.

Vaccination Disparity Has Improved But Rates Still Low For Area's Black Residents

Hamilton County Health Department
A scatter plot shows that communities with at least 60% minority populations have the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination.

One in six residents of Hamilton County have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But a higher percentage of white residents have gotten vaccinated compared to Black and other minority residents. 

County Commissioner Alicia Reece says they're working on a pilot program to bring vaccines directly into neighborhoods with the lowest rates – a one-stop mobile unit.   

"That would have testing, would have vaccine, would have a pharmacy, and also will have economic resources that we're doing with our COVID economic relief and recovery task force," Reece said.

Health officials say Hamilton County recently ranked second in the state for reaching the African American population. But while about 19% of white residents have been vaccinated, only about 9% of Black residents have gotten the shot.

County Commissioner Denise Driehaus says zip codes with the highest vaccination rates show the disparities clearly. 

"Hyde Park, Madeira, Indian Hill, Blue Ash, Montgomery – those are at the top of the list," Driehaus said. "All three of the zip codes have already seen about 25% of their population vaccinated. Each of these zip codes has less than 7% of African American population in their communities."

East Price Hill, Winton Terrace, and Camp Washington are among the areas with the lowest rates of vaccination.

So far, about 13.5% of vaccines in the county have gone to African Americans, although about 26% of residents are Black.

Mass Vaccination Site Coming To Cincinnati

The Cintas Center will host a mass vaccination event the weekend of March 18. Health officials say that's another part of the plan to increase equity.

The NFL has offered all stadiums as mass vaccination sites. Driehaus said she's not aware of any immediate plans to use Paul Brown Stadium for that purpose, adding the Cintas Center is preferable anyway because it's more centrally located and offers free parking.

Additional Resources Available

Commissioners also announced a new website, 513relief.org, offering residents impacted by the pandemic one place to find a variety of financial assistance.

"To help them with rent assistance, mortgage assistance, small business assistance, everything that you need," Reece said.

The website also directs residents to COVID-19 testing and vaccine information.

Reece says they're still working on a phone number to offer the same support to residents who aren't able to use the online resources.

The county is hiring navigators to walk people through the complicated applications. It's part of the county's plan to spend federal CARES Act money leftover from last year.

Meanwhile, local pandemic numbers continue to trend down, with an average 102 new cases of COVID-19 each day over the past seven days. That's a significant decline compared to the peak of 716 daily new cases in late December. 

Credit Hamilton County Health Department
Hamilton County Health Department

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.