Health officials: Snow not expected to stall vaccinations
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The heavy snowfall this week is not expected to slow the weekly COVID-19 vaccination process for Belmont County senior citizens.
This week, residents ages 70 and older can look forward to receiving their first scheduled doses, despite the accumulation of snow Sunday and Monday.
Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said his office has received 300 fresh doses of the Moderna version of the vaccine.
“We got our vaccine in actually (Monday). Moderna’s been pretty good about getting it here on Mondays,” he said.
Sproul said his office has selected Wednesday to administer vaccines this week.
“That looks to be about the best day. There’s snow (Monday and Tuesday) and Wednesday it looks like it’s clear. Thursday’s going to have some weather issues and then Friday it’s going to have some weather issues. Looking at the weather outlook, it looks like Wednesday’s going to be the best for us,” he said.
Following the high priority front-line health workers, the state is now concentrating on vaccinating the older Ohioans who are most at-risk.
Since this number is particularly high, the governor’s office has been staggering the vaccinations by week, beginning with those 80 and older three weeks ago, then expanding the number by five years ever week, from those 75 years old and older last week, to those 70 and older this week.
Sproul has said in Belmont County this is expected to be a lengthy process, since more than 40 percent of residents fall into the 65 and older age range and hundreds of vaccines are received with every weekly shipment. Everyone who receives a vaccine must have another shot in about 29 days.
Another major vaccination project late this month are adult school staff members, since Gov. Mike DeWine’s goal is for schools to be back in session in person and five days a week by March 1. Sproul’s office is working with Belmont County’s schools to schedule vaccinations.
“They’re focus is schools across the state. Ours will be in on (Feb.) 22. They’re getting the doses ready for that,” Sproul said. We’re reaching out to the people who want to be (vaccinated), trying to get them knocked out so that way we can get the doses out to them and keep moving,” he said.
“They’re trying to get us more vaccines, and we’re just waiting on them to arrive,” he said. “We have a few weeks to fine-tune the plan.”
He also has not heard whether his office will receive the Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech version of the vaccine.
“Moderna comes earlier in the week. That gives us a few more days to be able to work with,” Sproul said.
Two other potential version of the vaccine are also in the works.
“If that’s the case, there may be more doses available,” Sproul said.
Vaccines will be available to Monroe County school employees, including those of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, Mighty Grace Private Academy and St. Sylvester Actholic Grade School, during the third week of February.
In Harrison County, Harrison Hills City School District and Conotton Creek School District also can begin administering the shot to staff members the week of Feb. 15.
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.
Jefferson County’s schools also are slated to receive staff vaccines the fourth week of February.
They include: Bishop John King Mussio elementary and junior high, Buckeye Local, Steubenville Catholic Central, Dugan Academy, Edison Local, Hatcher’s Academy, Indian Creek, Jefferson County, Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Jefferson County Christian, Jefferson County Educational Service Center, Mary Seat of Wisdom Montessori, Steubenville City and Toronto City schools.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s curfew has been expanded last week from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., since the number of people hospitalized with the virus has decreased below 3,500. If the number decreases below 2,500 for seven days, DeWine has said the curfew will be lifted.
In Belmont County, people appear to be complying with restrictions such as masking and social distancing.
“They seem to be going along with them, which is good. It’s good they’re expanding it, because the state is seeing numbers improve,” Sproul said.
Sproul reported Belmont County has had 4,979 cases since the onset of the pandemic, with 776 isolated with active cases. There have been 4,062 recoveries, 51 people are hospitalized, and 90 people have died.