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Vaccines offered in Belmont County schools

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul updated the county Board of Commissioners on Wednesday about COVID-19 infections and vaccination clinics at schools and reminded people to stay safe as festival plans proceed.

Sproul said about 50 first doses were administered at St. Clairsville High School on Tuesday. More shots were given at Bellaire High School on Wednesday.

First doses will be available 4-5:30 p.m. today at the Ohio Valley Mall clinic, and Friday at Shadyside High School.

“We’re seeing some uptake. Not as much as we’d like, but we’re still seeing numbers going through. That’s what we have to do, continue to pull in numbers,” he said.

The Pfizer BioNTech version was given to students.

More young people are being encouraged to get the vaccine to avoid spreading the illness to others who can be more vulnerable.

“We’re getting some, which is good. We’re only able to do the 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. We’re getting some interest, which is good. I think they’re looking at being able to continue with sports, continue with a lot of the events, because again with the governor’s orders now, if you’re fully vaccinated you don’t have to be quarantined (upon exposure). That is a good bonus,” he said.

Sproul said about 38 percent of Ohio’s population has received at least the first dose of vaccine. He was not certain of the percentage of Belmont County residents who have received their first dose, since people from outside the state and county have come to the walk-in clinics.

He also said the number of people infected seems to be trending downward.

Sproul said there have been 6,080 confirmed cases in Belmont County since the pandemic’s onset, with 292 people in isolation at home with active cases or hospitalized. Sproul said there have been 5,672 recoveries and 116 deaths related to the virus.

“It’s kind of been stabilizing, which is great,” Sproul said. “Our numbers are doing nice. I’d like it to be zero, but again we’re not hitting the 20s, 30s, 40s like we were in the past.”

Sproul’s office works with Belmont County Tourism Council and festival organizers who plan to proceed with popular draws such as the the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival and the comparatively new Blame My Roots Festival country music eventl started by local residents after Jamboree In The Hills went on “hiatus.” Sproul said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidelines remain straightforward.

“He seems to be doing broad guidelines,” Sproul said. “It seems to be more around the masking, the handwashing, the social distancing and the vaccines.”

For outdoor events such as concerts, DeWine has recommended attendees stay in groups of 10, situated 6 feet apart.

“They can still have a large number of people there, they just need to have some separation between the groups. That’s going to be something we’ll talk with them (about) as we move forward. We still have a little time until the Pumpkin Festival and other events, so we’ll definitely talk with them and see where the guidance is at that point. Every day, every week he comes out with a little bit more, and a little bit more information comes out. Hopefully we can get to that point where we’re back to where we used to be.”

Sproul’s office has not received any more shipments of the Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine since its use was continued due to a possible link to blood clots. DeWine said this week that Ohio can resume using the shot that requires only one dose rather than two doses about a month apart.

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