Ohio plans 1st shot for all school employees in February


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Some school employees will begin receiving the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine this month as Ohio continues its goal of returning all children to in-person learning by March 1, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday.

Employees at Cincinnati city schools will be the initial recipients this week and those at other districts next week, though the state doesn’t have enough doses on hand for all districts to begin receiving vaccinations this month, the governor said.

“Ohio’s ultimate plan is that anyone who works in a school in Ohio will have the opportunity to get their first shot in the month of February,” DeWine said.

DeWine also said the current 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be shortened to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Thursday as long as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to fall below 3,500. The curfew could be eliminated if, over the next few weeks, hospitalization numbers fall below 2,500 over seven days. About 2,900 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus Tuesday.

The good news about the curfew doesn’t mean Ohioans should let down their guard, the governor said.

“We must keep practicing safety protocols. Our case numbers are improving because of what you are doing — and what you’re not doing,” DeWine said at his twice-weekly briefing streamed live. “More people are wearing masks. Please continue wearing masks.”

The curfew prohibits people from being outside their homes during those hours with multiple exceptions including work, grocery shopping, medical appointments and other necessary trips.

Ohio began offering vaccinations this week to people 75 and older, to those with a developmental or intellectual disability, and to people with congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and severe congenital heart disease.

More doses are becoming available as Ohio finishes with the first phase of vaccinations, which included frontline medical responders, and staff and residents of the state’s nursing homes. Ohio will also have an additional 77,000 doses available the next two weeks because so many nursing home employees declined a shot, the governor said.

Ohioans 70 and older can receive shots beginning next week and those 65 and older the following week, after which Ohio will pause lowering the age groups because the over 65 group is so large, DeWine said.

Also Tuesday, the push and pull between the Republican governor and fellow GOP lawmakers over DeWine’s anti-coronavirus efforts continued as lawmakers proposed a committee to provide more legislative oversight of state public health orders.

The measure would also allow the General Assembly to rescind executive actions issued by governors, according to the proposal from Republican Sens. Rob McColley and Terry Johnson.

The announcement is the latest in a series of legislative action against DeWine by members of his own party as the governor attempts to stop the spread of the virus through curfews and enforced safety precautions.

In December, DeWine vetoed a Senate bill curtailing the Ohio Department of Health’s authority to order quarantine and isolation as a means of containing the spread of infectious diseases. The bill would have extended statewide quarantine orders to people who are not ill or haven’t been directly exposed to an infectious disease, like COVID-19.

The Senate adjourned for the legislative session last month without overriding DeWine’s veto, with then Senate President Larry Obhof saying the issues in the bill will remain up for discussion and negotiation with the governor this year.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new coronavirus cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 8,219 new cases per day on Jan. 11 to 5,370 new cases per day on Jan. 25, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 80 deaths per day on Jan. 11 to 70 deaths per day on Jan. 25.

The state Health Department says more than 620,000 Ohioans, or just over 5% of the Ohio’s population, have received at least the initial dose of the vaccine.

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Contributing to this report was Farnoush Amiri, a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press