Ohio’s current COVID-19 hospitalizations and average new case numbers continued a downward slide on Thursday as more people receive vaccinations against the coronavirus.
Still, the virus remains widespread throughout the state, with all but four of Ohio’s 88 counties at the second highest alert level for viral spread.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the state’s chief medical officer, urged Ohioans to continue wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from one another, particularly as new strains of the virus circulate.
“That’s why it’s very important that we don’t declare victory too quickly,” Vanderhoff said. “Make no mistake, vaccines are working very, very well, but our national vaccination effort needs more time.”
Ohio remains focused on vaccinating people age 65 and older, and hasn’t yet lowered the eligible age, Gov. Mike DeWine said at his Thursday coronavirus briefing. The week’s winter weather has slowed down distribution.
Younger Ohioans in certain groups—such as school staff, those with specific medical conditions and frontline health workers—remain eligible for the vaccine.
The state is receiving roughly 200,000 first doses each week, with about a quarter going to educators and the rest available for seniors, DeWine said.
Meanwhile, the state has launched a vaccine “maintenance program” for staff and residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities who did not receive vaccines the first time around, the governor said.
“We’ve seen a dramatic, dramatic drop in cases in our nursing homes, and we’re very happy about that,” DeWine said, “but we just want to continue to keep driving those numbers down, because we know that over half the people who have died in Ohio of COVID have died coming out of the nursing homes.”
Still, there was some evidence of uneven vaccine rollout, as the governor faced media questions about patients who’d reportedly been turned away despite eligible medical conditions.
DeWine emphasized that people younger than 65 with special medical conditions detailed by the state have every right to a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
“We have 700-and-some providers, there’s always someone who just doesn’t get the message, I guess,” he said. “So we’re doing it one more time today and we’re saying it as strongly as I can say it: We have a list. You should be looking at the list.”