Coronavirus: Ohio nursing homes join federal vaccine program starting tomorrow

Starting Friday, Ohio will be part of a federal program distributing the coronavirus vaccine to nursing home staff and residents, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.

The vaccines will be received through Walgreen’s, CVS, PharmScript and Absolute Pharmacy.

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“Ohio was invited by the CDC to participate in the scaling up of the federal program and we couldn’t be more excited,” the governor said. “We have lost a large number of people in our nursing homes, we can’t wait to be frank, get as many vaccinated as quickly as we can.”

The nursing homes were able to sign up with the different pharmacy companies. DeWine noted that some nursing homes did not sign up with any of the pharmacies, so the state will work on getting vaccines to those locations.

If a nursing home opts out of getting the vaccine, residents and staff will be able to get them at a later day, but DeWine said it isn’t clear when that will be.

“It’s all a scheduling issue,” he said.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer of the Ohio Department of Health, said he hopes that people seeing health care workers and experts getting the vaccine will help reassure those with concerns.

“I assure you they wouldn’t be lining up to get these shots if they didn’t think they were going to be safe and effective,” he said.”

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This week has marked a new chapter in Ohio’s response to the pandemic as the state’s first shipment of vaccines arrived.

Pfizer sent 98,475 doses of its vaccines to the state, and is expected to send another 123,000 next week.

The Moderna vaccine, which is in the final steps of approval, is scheduled to ship 201,900 doses to Ohio next week.

By the end of 2020, Ohio is expecting to have more than 660,000 doses, according to DeWine.

Currently, vaccinations are prioritized for health care workers, residents and staff at congregate care settings and EMS responders. Congregate care facilities include nursing homes, assisted living center, veterans homes, psychiatric hospitals and group homes for those with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses.

For next few weeks, the Pfizer vaccines will be sent to the long-term care facilities and the Moderna vaccines will got toward health care workers.

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Ohio recorded more than 100 deaths attributed to coronavirus for the third day in a row Thursday, bringing the total to 7,894, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

More than 11,000 daily cases were reported, more than double the 5,409 cases recorded Wednesday. According to a message on ODH’s COVID-19 dashboard Wednesday, technical issues resulted in a lower case number. Between the two days, the state averaged 8,411 cases, DeWine said.

Since the pandemic, Ohio has reported 596,178 total cases of coronavirus. Over the last 21 days, the state is reporting an average of 10,164 cases a day.

Hospitalizations increased by 370 to 33,745. Thirty-eight ICU admissions were reported Thursday, bringing the total to 5,382.

Coronavirus patients account for approximately one-fifth of Ohio’s ICU beds, Vanderhoff said, which is making it harder for other patients who need the additional care to get into the unit.

“Not only are our ICUs very busy, they’re busy with critical volumes of COVID-19,” he said. “That’s a signal to all of us that we can’t let this thing get any worse. We can’t let our guard down for one minute.”

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Miami County made the level 4 watch list for the first time since the public health advisory system was unveiled this summer.

The rest of the Miami Valley remained at level 3.

Ohio has one purple, or level 4, county: Richmond. Only four counties in the state are at level 2. The remaining 83 counties are at level 3.

“We’re seeing counties move to the watch list and then purple when we’re seeing worsening trends in cases and healthcare indicators, and then a return to red when these all plateau at a very critical level,” DeWine said.

As more and more of the state hits level 3, the governor noted that if people want to see a more detailed and accurate look at how the virus is impacting their community to check the state’s ranking of counties by the highest occurrence of cases.

Wyandot County is at the top of the list with 1,318.2 cases reported per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. That is more than 13 times the CDC’s definition of high incidence.

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