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DeWine: Vaccination stations can be searched

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Applebee’s in St. Clairsville serves customers via carryout and drive-through only on Monday, but there have been no positive coronavirus cases there. The restaurant is being cleaned and sanitized as a precaution, according to local health officials. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has further outlined plans to vaccinate the first group of Ohio’s seniors, ages 80 and older. They will be able to search for nearby vaccination sites online.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Coronavirus vaccinations are expected to begin next week for the first group of Ohio’s senior citizens, but even with them broken into age groups there likely will be only one dose for every four people who are eligible at first.

“We knew going into this that at least in the beginning, we would have not enough vaccine, and this has turned out to be true,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, adding the Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech versions of the vaccine are available in different parts of the state and a third version may be available in the near future.

He said 87 percent of Ohio coronavirus-related deaths have occurred among those 65 or older.

“We will start next week with those 80 years of age or older,” DeWine said.

More than 420,000 Ohioans are older than 80. DeWine said Ohio should receive about 100,000 vaccines next week for that age group.

Meanwhile, for greater convenience, people will be able to search online at the Ohio Health Department’s website to find vaccination sites nearby. This week, county health departments statewide will make announcements along with local emergency management agencies telling the locations of vaccination sites.

Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul said his office might be making its announcement today or Thursday.

“We are still waiting on the number of doses and have to speak with the other partners on if they received vaccines this time and what they are planning,” Sproul said in a text message.

DeWine also said coronavirus.ohio.gov would have information posted Thursday about what providers are being allocated vaccines for the next week. Residents will be able to search by ZIP code or county to find the closest provider. The website will also provide contact information for each location and links to learn more from that provider.

“Each provider will handle their own scheduling,” DeWine said.

In the succeeding weeks, the age range for eligible recipients will expand 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.

“When a new age range opens, that certainly does not mean that vaccinations will be completed for the previous age. We’re just adding,” DeWine said. “It will take a number of weeks to distribute all the vaccines, given the limited doses available.”

Those Ohioans with severe congenital, developmental or early onset medical disorders will be eligible for vaccination Jan. 25. Adult school staff should be eligible in February.

The vaccine requires a second dose in about 29 days.

Statewide, the vaccination of health workers continues and 85 percent of nursing homes have been visited to offer staff and residents the opportunity for a shot. DeWine said more than 80 percent of residents have taken a vaccine and 40 percent of staff.

Hospitals are also vaccinating their medical personnel, but DeWine said hospitals are being instructed to complete their vaccinations by midnight Sunday.

“Because on Monday, they need to move then to vaccinate those older Ohioans who are 80 or older,” he said.

Locally, Sproul has said 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.

In other matters, some members of the public noticed Monday that the St. Clairsville Applebee’s restaurant had stopped seating patrons inside and was offering solely drive-through pickup service. Employees at the restaurant said cleaning and sanitation was being conducted and dining in the restaurant would resume at 11 a.m. today.

Sproul said there were no outbreaks or infected people related to the restaurant.

“They are just choosing to do carryout for the safety of their (staff) and the safety of the public,” he said in a text message.

Sproul said there have been 4,247 total cases in Belmont County since the onset of the pandemic, with 980 people isolated with active cases. There have been 3,152, recoveries, 34 people are hospitalized and there have been 81 deaths associated with the virus.

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