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Fresh rounds of vaccines on their way

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday updated the state on delivery of COVID-19 vaccines during recent winter weather and assured Ohioans shipments are still coming.

“Most of our counties spent time under snow emergency over the past few days,” DeWine said. “Over 29,000 first doses were delivered (Wednesday) and 28,000 second doses. … That’s not bad considering the situation. Vaccine shipments in Ohio and across the country unfortunately continue to be delayed. Ohioans with vaccine appointments this week should not only check the road conditions, but should also confirm their appointment has in fact not been canceled.”

Locally, Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul and his staff were able to hold a vaccination clinic one day earlier than planned on Wednesday at the Ohio Valley Mall.

Plans are already in place for next week, when adult staff in Belmont County’s school districts will be vaccinated along with more people in the vulnerable age group of 65 and older.

“We were notified that we are receiving all the doses for the schools and 600 doses for the 1B group first doses. They are all Pfizer (BioNTech) doses and we are planning for distribution next week,” Sproul said in a text message. He had requested 1,170 doses for school staff.

The eligible schools and districts include: Barnesville, Bellaire, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Shadyside, St. Clairsville and Union Local public schools as well as the Belmont-Harrison Career Center and private institutions Green Pastures Classical School, Harrell Family Academy, Lone Oak Lifetime Learner’s Academy, Martins Ferry Christian, Olney Friends School, Scientia Classical Academy, St. John Central Academy, St. Mary, St. Mary Central, Tiber Keep and West Academy.

During his presentation on The Ohio Channel, DeWine and Ohio Director of Aging Ursel McElroy emphasized the importance of providing new inoculation opportunities at nursing homes statewide.

“There may be new hires. New employees are coming in. There’s certainly new residents who are coming in,” DeWine said, adding the state will work with existing providers. “Every nursing home has a pharmacy company that’s serving them. … If they did not have the vaccine before they were admitted to the nursing home, within the next week or so we want them to get that vaccine. … We’ve seen a dramatic drop in cases in our nursing homes. We’re very happy about that, and we just want to keep driving those numbers down. We know that over half the people who have died in Ohio of COVID have died out of the nursing homes.”

“There has been discussion on vaccinating new residents and new hires at the facilities and the providers who will be doing that,” Sproul texted. “CVS Walgreens were the original providers to our local facilities.”

Other issues for DeWine’s office to consider include guidance for visitations at nursing homes. He plans to issue guidelines next week. DeWine also noted traditional school events are coming up in the spring, including proms and graduations, and his office is considering these issues as well as the potential of more infectious versions of the virus.

In more positive news, DeWine noted the number of Ohioans hospitalized with the virus statewide is around 1,500. So long as the number remains below 2,500, DeWine has said a curfew will not be necessary.

Ohio Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff also said flu hospitalizations have declined from 5,500 last year to less than 100.

“It’s really remarkable, and a real testament to masking,” Vanderhoff said.

Sproul reported there have been 5,204 confirmed cases of the virus in the county since its onset, with 288 people now isolated at home with active cases and 60 hospitalized, 4,763 recoveries and 93 resident deaths connected to the disease.

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