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Doctor warns against declaring victory vs. virus

Although the number of COVID-19 cases is at its lowest level in four months, people still need to take precautions or the pandemic could worsen, the Ohio Department of Health’s chief medical officer said.

“It’s very important that we don’t declare victory too quickly,” Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday. “Vaccines are working very well, but our national vaccination effort needs more time. We have to keep up our work of preventing spread through masking and distancing.”

During a Thursday news conference, Vanderhoff added: “Even in the face of new, more infectious variants, we have the weapons we need to improve our lives as we head into the spring. Masking and distancing work. They’ll be the key to living our lives normally.”

Gov. Mike DeWine said he is optimistic about the near future.

“We do believe with masking and the vaccine, we’re going to see things get better, and spring is going to be much more normal than what we’d seen a year ago,” he said.

Asked about those 65 years old and older who are eligible for the vaccine but are frustrated that they can’t get it, DeWine said about 200,000 first doses of the two-dose vaccine come to the state each day. Of that amount, about 145,000 go to seniors with the rest for adult staff at K-12 schools.

Those school employees should be finished with vaccinations by the end of the month, and seniors will get all of the doses, he said.

“We’re not going to move off 65 for a while,” he said.

That won’t change until state officials are confident seniors who want the vaccine have received it, he said.

DeWine also said he’s assembled a team of doctors and nurses to develop a plan for safe nursing home visitation. An update is expected late next week, he said. Currently, the state permits certain visits to nursing homes.

During Thursday’s news conference, DeWine spoke to Canfield Mayor Richard Duffett and Joe Knoll, the school district’s superintendent, about how the community has responded to the pandemic.

Duffett said Canfield got 25 of its top leaders together to “reinforce good mask behaviors.”

Knoll said masks are a “big prevention” component of keeping students and staff safe in the district.

“This has been a really great, great effort,” DeWine said.

COVID-19 CASES

The 2,282 COVID-19 new cases reported Thursday was the highest number for one day since 2,799 on Saturday, but it’s below the daily average of 3,032 cases during the past 21 days.

It’s also the first time the state had five consecutive days with fewer than 2,500 new cases reported since Oct. 18-22.

There were 947,389 total COVID-19 cases in the state as of Thursday with 876,697 presumed recovered and 16,611 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

There were 98 new deaths reported Thursday, including three each in Mahoning and Trumbull counties and one in Columbiana County.

Mahoning County had 19,034 total COVID-19 cases as of Thursday with 17,489 presumed recovered and 530 deaths, according to the ODH.

The department reported 13,962 total COVID-19 cases in Trumbull County as of Thursday with 12,821 presumed recovered and 445 deaths.

Columbiana County had 7,969 total cases as of Thursday with 7,372 presumed recovered and 176 deaths, according to the ODH.

The three counties remain among the 84 in the state at Level 3 (red) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. It’s the second-highest level. The four remaining counties in the state are at Level 2 (yellow).

VACCINATIONS

DeWine urged vaccine providers to collect and report accurate data on people getting the inoculations based on race, ethnicity, age and category of eligibility as the distribution’s goals are “equity and fairness,” particularly for minorities.

Because of the bad weather nationwide, vaccine shipments continue to be delayed, he said.

The Columbiana County Health District reported the drive-thru vaccination clinic for today was moved to next Wednesday because of the delay.

The state had given at least the first dose of the two-dose vaccine to 1,369,627 people, 11.72 percent of Ohio’s population, as of Thursday, according to the ODH. That figure is usually for 6 a.m., but the ODH website said that “due to a technical issue, there was a delay in the normal time that vaccine” number was updated, which has been a common problem.

It showed 29,734 vaccinations in the previous 24 hours, but it was for a longer period of time and it could lower today’s 24-hour number, according to the ODH.

In Mahoning County, 13.75 percent of the population (31,434 people) had received at least the first dose compared to 11.87 percent in Trumbull County (23,509 people) and 11.98 percent in Columbiana County (12,202 people), according to the ODH.

Also, 539,023 people in Ohio, 4.61 percent of the state’s population, had received both doses of the vaccine as of Thursday. The same delay issue happened with this data so the last 24-hour reporting period was longer and showed 25,840 people getting both doses in the past day.

In Mahoning County, 4.91 percent of the population (11,218 people) had received both doses, while 4.13 percent of the population in Trumbull (8,186 people) and 4.22 percent of the population in Columbiana (4,300 people) had both doses.

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