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Belmont vaccinations on track despite ice

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Snow and ice are expected to continue pummeling the nation, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday asked the public to keep in touch with their COVID-19 vaccine providers to make certain they are still scheduled to receive shots.

The inclement weather likely will mean delays in vaccine shipments.

Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul said his office moved vaccine shipments ahead one day to avoid another expected snow and ice storm Thursday and Friday.

“Initially, we were looking at Thursday, which we’ve done in the past, but with the weather report, Wednesday looked the best. We’re hoping the roads are getting cleaned today and the weather works with us.”

Sproul’s office already received 400 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech version of the vaccine to give Belmont County residents their second doses, and another 400 doses of the Moderna version for first doses is expected to be received by today.

“It’ll be an 800-dose day,” Sproul said, assuming the vaccines arrive. “Wednesday looks like it’s going to be a fairly clear day.”

Each recipient must have a second shot in about 29 days. Currently, Ohioans 65 and older are eligible for shots and are being notified when they are available.

During his talk on the Ohio Channel, DeWine and other officials said a series of virtual town hall sessions were being scheduled for 6:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-23 and March 1-2. Community and medical leaders will share facts about the virus and the vaccine. The town halls are geared toward African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans and rural Americans.

The town halls will be aired on the state’s YouTube channel and at coronavirus.ohio.gov and will be left up for viewing on the Ohio Channel Feb. 26 through March 6.

In other matters, DeWine also said the state is close to establishing a central website for vaccination scheduling, where Ohioans may determine what vaccination group they are in.

Sproul’s office also continues to make preparations to vaccinate adult staff in Belmont County schools.

“We’re needing about 1,027. Surveys of the schools, that’s what we came back with,” he said. “We’re waiting to see if the state can meet that. We’re waiting right now for the state to confirm that they’re going to get us those doses.”

The local health department also is awaiting word from the state about regulations for upcoming school activities.

“A lot of the schools are asking about upcoming spring events, and we’re trying to get input from the state,” Sproul said. “They’re still saying ‘no’ to a lot of the normal functions, and we’re trying to get them to come up with guidance for this spring.”

In addition, Sproul reported 5,189 total cases in Belmont County since the pandemic’s onset. The number of residents with active cases and in isolation at home has dropped from more than 400 last week to 335 with another 59 people hospitalized. Sproul said there have been 4,702 recoveries, and 93 residents have died while infected with the virus.

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