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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.

DeWine Urges Eligible Youth Get Vaccinated As Ohio 'Seems To' Be Headed For A Plateau

Ohio Department of Health

With the number of older Ohioans getting vaccinated consistently going up, Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday used his coronavirus briefing to speak to younger residents and urge them to get the shot.

Currently, those age 16 and older are eligible for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, while Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine remains on pause. DeWine said almost a fifth – or 18.6% – of 16- and 17-year-olds have received their first dose, which "is not bad," but he'd like to see more.

"What happens with our younger people is going to determine how fast we can reach herd immunity," he said.

Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said what might not have been a concern for younger Ohioans early in the pandemic should be a concern now.

"Until we get a lot more vaccines in people's arms, the unvaccinated are playing the COVID lottery and it's a lottery where the consequences are pretty stark," he said. Vanderhoff later noted that in the winter, people in their 20s accounted for 3-4% of hospital admissions, but now that number has doubled to 6%.

The state is releasing a series of PSAs featuring young Ohioans who have gotten vaccinated.

Meanwhile, 38% of the state's total population has received their first dose, and 27.5% are now fully vaccinated, DeWine reported.

The governor said cases are still at a high rate, but not going up, which indicates the state may be headed to a plateau. Still, he cautioned the virus is "more contagious than it's ever been."

"We'll feel better when we see a really defined, downward direction," he said. "I don't think we can say we're there yet."

Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.