The Ohio Valley Mall hosting vaccine clinics

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Doug Hartlieb of Bellaire is joined by wife Joyce as he receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Kathleen Martinkosky, right, a volunteer nurse from Bridgeport during a vaccination day Wednesday. The Ohio Valley Mall is hosting the vaccine clinics.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Inclement weather and a delayed shipment of new COVID-19 vaccines did not stall a weekly shot clinic in Belmont County.

Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul was unable to attend the Wednesday meeting of the board of county commissioners to give his weekly update, but Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton stopped by to speak with Sproul about the pandemic and his department’s continued response.

Sproul said vaccines likely will continue to be administered at the former Sears location at the Ohio Valley mall in the near future.

“We got 400 doses this morning,” Sproul said Wednesday, adding that the doses were the Pfizer BioNTech version. “We’re doing 350 Moderna this afternoon. … We’re hoping to be here another three weeks at this facility. So far this facility’s been great. The mall’s been great to work with. They did a super good job taking care of the roads and the entrances in so people weren’t having any issues.”

Sproul had hoped to be able to vaccinate 800 people in the 65 and older age range Wednesday, but the expected shipment of the Moderna version of the vaccine was delayed.

“It was supposed to be 400, but due to the weather — we were were notified late (Tuesday) night that it wasn’t coming in — so these were doses we were using for another clinic … for second doses … ,” he said, noting the department expected to receive doses of the Moderna version late Wednesday. “That’s why we had to drop it from 350 to 400.”

“The county health department is doing a very good job of setting up these clinics. I know it’s challenging for everyone,” Dutton said. “It’s been a long, long time. The biggest complicating factor with everything has been the amount of vaccine availability. That’s what Gov. (Mike) DeWine has continued to preach, and we see it here on the ground level.”

“I think everyone is handling this in the county a little bit differently just because of various health concerns,” Dutton said. “There’s some that have resumed more regular activities, there’s others that are just waiting for this vaccine. That’s why the department is working as hard as it can.”

Among those receiving the shot was Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato.

“This is my first vaccination,” he said. “I come back in a month … for the second vaccination. It wasn’t painful at all.”

Like other courts, Fregiato’s weekly hearings have been marked by strict masking and sanitization measures, clear partitions and the use of technology to avoid in-person appearances when possible, while continuing to hold regular cases.

“Court is pretty much normal. We haven’t changed too much, except for the separation and the masks. However, I do believe the vaccinations are going to put us back to normality. … I believe normality is coming. I think once the vaccinations occur for everyone and we get herd immunity, I think normality will come.”

Doug Hartlieb of Bellaire, a past president of the Bellaire Sons of Italy, said he has been waiting for his vaccination.

“It’s been about a month since I signed up,” he said. “I think the vaccine is very important. The more people getting it definitely will help with the spread of the COVID,” he said. “We’re trying to get back to normal as far as all the events at the Sons of Italy.”

Hartlieb intends to continue to wear a mask and take precautions after his second dose in 29 days. He added that while events such as fish frys to mark the season of Lent and Thursday spaghetti dinners held at the Sons of Italy have been curtailed by the pandemic, the club intends to resume its activities soon.

“Hopefully this Friday we’ll start back on the fish fry,” Hartlieb said, adding the fish frys will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays through Lent. “People come in for take-outs. We don’t stay in, but we don’t discourage that. They can come in and eat at the lodge.”

The spaghetti dinners have been continuing on a take-out basis 4-7 p.m. Thursdays, but Hartlieb said people are permitted to dine in the lodge as well.

The lodge is located at 3348 Belmont St., Bellaire.

Kathleen Martinkosky, a volunteer nurse from Bridgeport, said there was a strong turnout of area seniors.

“People are excited. Some people actually cried,” she said. “We are grateful it’s indoors. The first four weeks we did outdoors. This is much better. Everyone’s happier and everyone’s warm.”

Sproul reported 5,199 cases in the county since the pandemic’s onset with 317 people in isolation at home with active cases and 59 hospitalized. There have been 4,730 recoveries and 93 deaths associated with the virus.

Sproul said active cases continue to decline.

“Everything is going the right direction. We like to see that and we hope it stays that way,” Sproul said, adding his office has not seen more infections variants of the coronavirus. “We’re hoping that trend continues. … We’re hoping it’s because of the vaccinations, masking and social distancing, doing all the things they need to do to stay safe.”