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COVID-19 vaccine drive launched for Ohio college students

DAYTON, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new initiative Thursday to vaccinate as many of the state’s college students as possible by May 1.

“We have the ability to do this with Johnson and Johnson,” DeWine said, naming the version of the vaccine that requires only a single dose. “We know that most colleges are out around May 1, so there’s a very limited period of time. We’re working with our universities.”

He emphasized the need for convenience with this initiative, saying vaccine clinics would be located on campuses. He also cited the potential of college students to carry and spread the virus through travel and socialization.

“That age group interacts more,” DeWine said. “It is a strategic move, frankly, to vaccinate them on campus before they get out in early May for the summer and scatter throughout the state and throughout the country. We also … have the ability to vaccinate a significant number of people in a very short, short period of time. We’ve been working with our colleges for the last week to make these arrangements. We will start this next week.”

Julie Keck, spokeswoman for Belmont College, was not sure if the college would be ready to administer vaccines on campus next week, since administrators are still in the planning process.

“Our administration has been in touch with the Belmont County Health Department on this very topic. We would welcome the opportunity to provide vaccinations on campus. We have numerous employees and students who would take advantage of it,” Keck wrote in an email.

David Rohall, dean of campus and community relations, said Ohio University Eastern also has been working with the local health department. He said they are making an effort to determine if the health department has the capacity to vaccinate OUE’s roughly 400 full-time students by May 1.

“I certainly think it’s doable if we can coordinate with the health department’s current demand,” Rohall said.

He added that the entire Ohio University system has a goal of offering 60 percent of its normal course programming when classes resume in the fall. He noted that facility usage currently is restricted to 25 percent of capacity, so some hybrid models and other ways of keeping classes from becoming crowded may be required.

During his talk from the city of Dayton that was broadcast on the Ohio Channel, DeWine also said the state is working with businesses to offer vaccinations on job sites beginning April 12. He said any vaccine provider in the state will be able to take up to 25 percent of their vaccine allocation for that week and set up sites in partnership with area businesses and labor unions.

“We believe the time is right for that to happen. We’ve had a lot of requests for that to happen,” DeWine said. “It’s all going to be voluntary. We think that’s going to increase the percentage, and that is so very, very important.”

DeWine added the state will still continue to provide vaccines for the more vulnerable nursing home and assisted living residents and staff. He added that any homebound person desiring a vaccine should contact their county health department. The Belmont County Health Department can be reached at 740-695-1202. People can register at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.

He also said a list of nursing homes and assisted living facilities that have not contacted the state and shared their vaccination plans can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported Belmont County is experiencing a surge in new cases, along with the rest of the state. The county picked up 12 more cases Thursday, bringing the total number of residents in isolation at home with active cases up to 263 from Wednesday’s 251. Ten new cases had been identified between Tuesday and Wednesday. At the beginning of the week, there was a spike of about 50 cases reported over the weekend.

There have been 5,682 confirmed cases in Belmont County since the pandemic’s onset, with 5,238 recoveries. Sproul said 74 people are hospitalized and 107 people have died after contracting the virus.

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