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Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb urges COVID-19 vaccination shots and calls for more state help on testing

 Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb
City of Cleveland
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb had his first press conference as mayor Tuesday. It was a virtual event alongside Cincinnati's new mayor, Aftab Pureval.

Mayor Justin Bibb urged more Clevelanders to get the coronavirus vaccination shot as hospitals handle a wave of largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Bibb and Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, both of whom took office last week, held a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon. The two mayors, joined by health leaders in their administrations, asked for more state help in obtaining COVID-19 tests and masks.

About 45 percent of Clevelanders have received two doses of the vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot, according to the city’s public health department. Even fewer, about 17 percent, have gotten the booster.


“The biggest thing that alarmed me in terms of what we should be doing as a city is more on-the-ground conversations talking to our residents, particularly communities of color, talking about the vaccines and the importance of getting boosted,” Bibb said.

The mayor’s COVID-19 task force, which includes health leaders and elected officials from around Northeast Ohio, will have its first meeting Wednesday. One charge of the task force will be finding new ways to encourage vaccination, the mayor said.

“Because 45 percent in the city of Cleveland is not good enough,” Bibb said.

The mayor thanked neighborhood activists, who he said have been working to build trust in the vaccines. The city could offer more support by enlisting clergy and other respected members of the community to spread the word about the shot, he said.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District returned to in-person classes Monday after a week of virtual instruction. The schools are also offering voluntary, free weekly testing, CEO Eric Gordon told parents in an email.

Bibb said he has stayed closely in touch with Gordon about school health and safety, including during the transition last year.

“I think it’s very clear—having our children in school is critical,” Bibb said. “The recent data has shown that the learning loss, but also the trauma that our children have experienced over the last year of not being in school, has tremendous negative consequences in our respective communities across the country.

“And so the more we can do to make sure that schools are safe, that our teachers are safe, that our transit riders are safe, to get our children to school, is critical,” the mayor continued.
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Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.