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COVID-19 senior citizen vaccination preparations get underway

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic is surging and many in Belmont County are awaiting an expected vaccine, set to go to the state’s senior citizens.

The Belmont County Health Department continues to receive about 100 doses of the Moderna version of the vaccine weekly. Deputy Health Commissioner Rob Sproul said he will not know how many will be coming in the next shipment until late today or early Wednesday.

His department is preparing to execute Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to vaccinate Ohio’s senior citizens in stages, beginning with those 80 years old and older this coming Monday. Every following week, the maximum age to receive a vaccination will decline by five years, with those 75 and older eligible Jan. 25, followed by people 70 and older, then people 65 and older hopefully able to receive vaccines by Feb. 8.

Adult school staff should be eligible in February.

The vaccine requires a second dose in about 29 days.

Sproul’s staff also continues to vaccinate high-risk health care workers, but Belmont County faces a challenge in vaccinating seniors, since close to 45 percent of the county’s population is 65 or older. The department is gathering information from those residents and setting up vaccination stations.

Sproul said he expects to issue a release in conjunction with the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency this week.

Sproul said this past Saturday’s free coronavirus testing conducted by the Ohio National Guard was successful, with about 100 people arriving at the Ohio State University Eastern parking lot. Recipients of the test were given a serial number that will allow them to track their testing progress online and learn the results as soon as possible.

The National Guard has conducted several free testings across the county during 2020.

Sproul reported Belmont County has had 4,182 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic. There are currently 915 people in isolation with active cases, while 3,152 have recovered and 34 people are hospitalized. As of Monday, another death related to the virus was reported, bringing total to 81 people who have died after being infected. The latest was a man in his 50s.

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