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Government & Politics
WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Ohio Expects Increase in Vaccine Supply; Curfew May be Lifted

hospitalizations graph.PNG
Ohio Department of Health
The number of Ohioans in the hospital with COVID-19 continues to decrease. Gov. Mike DeWine says if it remains under 2,500 for seven consecutive days the state will remove the 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew that is currently in place.

Ohio’s effort to vaccinate citizens against COVID-19 has been hampered by a lack of supply. During his briefing Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine said there is hope that the state will begin receiving more doses from both Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccines have so far been approved for use. He also hopes that a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson may soon be approved and be made available.

DeWine said Pfizer has indicated that it expects to increase by 40% the amount of vaccine it’s shipping out by mid- February. He said Pfizer is currently shipping 73,000 doses to Ohio each week. “We think that should mean that number should increase by that much as well by that week or the next week,” DeWine said.

Moderna has also shipped about 73,000 doses to the state. DeWine said that is increasing to more than 105,000 doses next week.

Next week, the state will lower the eligibility age to be vaccinated to 65. DeWine said there are about 2 million people in that category. “It will take us a while to go into that number,” he said. He expects vaccination eligibility to hold at that age for a number of weeks due to the limited supply. “What we have to do today is to be careful, worry about equity, worry about fairness and most of all worry about saving lives and that’s what we’re doing,” DeWine said.

Reporting concerns
The governor urged providers—including hospitals, health departments, pharmacies and others to provide all information requested on vaccination reports. He said 13% of records submitted yesterday did not indicate the recipient’s race. “It’s really important,” DeWine said to have that information. “What we’re striving for is equity and fairness as this vaccine goes out.”

This week, the state began vaccinating teachers as it works to ensure Ohio students have some element of in-person learning by March 1.

The number of coronavirus cases reported Thursday was 4,120, again below the three-week average which stands at 4,932. However deaths, hospitalizations and patients in intensive care all were above the three-week average. But the number of Ohioans in the hospital with COVID-19 remains under 2,500 and if it continues below that threshold for seven consecutive days, the state will lift the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. "We'll look at that again next Thursday," DeWine said.

DeWine did note the number of cases in Ohio nursing homes is decreasing “dramatically. What we hoped would happen, is happening,” he said. Vaccinations distributed in nursing homes is helping to drive down COVID-19 infections in those facilities. He said the state is among the top five in the country for delivering vaccines to people living in long-term care. DeWine said the state will continue to vaccinate new residents and those who chose not to receive the vaccine during earlier distributions.

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A public health nurse in Medina County administers vaccine to a woman over age 70 during Gov. Mike DeWine's coronavirus briefing Thursday.

Fixing unemployment
DeWine also announced more details about a public/private partnership to address problems with the state’s unemployment response. He said Ohio Roundtable CEO Pat Tiberi helped the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services connect with experts who are providing assistance with managing call volumes, processing claims, and detecting fraud. The team of 16 includes employees from Fifth Third and Key Banks as well as several insurance companies, including Nationwide.

DeWine said more than 110,000 Ohioans so far this week have received benefits from the new federal unemployment compensation approved late last year. He said beginning Feb. 6 more than 155,000 will also see benefits from the federal aid package. And he indicated that by the end of February everyone will be able to claim and receive the benefits they are owed.

DeWine started the briefing by offering condolences to the family of a department of corrections employee who died of COVID-19 this week. He also highlighted vaccine distribution at Reynoldsburg High School in Columbus, Apollo Career Center in Lima and by a public health nurse in Medina, where health commissioner Krista Wasowski says her department has vaccinated 960 people age 70 and older over the last two days.