DeWine Says First Batch Of Vaccines Could Arrive In December

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOSU) — Ohio could see its first batch of coronavirus vaccines on December 15, Gov. Mike DeWine announced, bringing some welcome news as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations show no indications of slowing.

“Once it starts coming, they hope it to be a continuous flow,” DeWine said.

The governor said he did not have information on how many doses would be made available to Ohio at first, but that additional batches will be distributed every few days. The Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive about a week after the Pfizer vaccine.

DeWine said the state is still refining a list of priority groups to receive the vaccine, but said first responders and health care workers – especially those in direct contact with COVID-19 patients – would be the first in line, followed by nursing home residents and workers. Subsequent phases of the vaccine rollout would expand to other at-risk groups, teachers and school staff, and people in group homes, prisons and jails.

“We need to understand it’s going to take two shots – so the first one, and then the next one is three to four weeks later,” DeWine said.

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, as many people are expected to eschew the CDC’s guidelines to avoid traveling or holding large gatherings, DeWine reiterated his call for Ohioans to “slow things down” but did not issue any new restrictions or guidelines.

“The next few days – Wednesday, Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday – are just going to be critical,” DeWine said.

DeWine said the impact of Thanksgiving on the state’s coronavirus fight won’t be seen until a week or two later, and people’s individual actions now may decide the course of the next few months.

“There’s two kind of basic things: One is to have fewer contacts with people, and the other is to wear a mask,” DeWine said.

The governor said his hope is “next Thanksgiving, when we are free from this virus, that we will all be together.”

Hospitalizations have skyrocketed in recent weeks, with Ohio setting a new record of 4,449 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized. Of those, DeWine said about a fourth – 1,046 patients – are in the ICU, and there’s a record 598 people on ventilators.

At a press conference Monday, hospital leaders from around Ohio warned that they may have to again delay non-essential procedures and surgeries to keep up with staffing demands. At the Cleveland Clinic, almost 1,000 caregivers are out of commission because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health, said much of the current volume of COVID-19 patients in hospitals can be traced to Halloween gatherings.

“Thanksgiving could have a much more profound impact and could actually result in our hospitals being overwhelmed,” Vanderhoff said.

In the last two weeks, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the governor has added more muscle to the state’s face mask mandate and issued a statewide curfew of 10 p.m.

DeWine also formed a new Retail Compliance Unit to conduct reviews of businesses, which could be shut down if they don’t enforce mask requirements among staffers and customers. That threat seems to be working so far: checks on retail establishments have shown about 90% face mask compliance, which DeWine says is up from a few weeks ago.

While the state hasn’t issued any shutdowns or further restrictions on schools or colleges, DeWine praised universities for keeping their spread low – and mentioned that some districts voluntarily suspended in-person classes and sports until at least January 1. Still, he issued a word of warning.

“For those that have not suspended sports, we will ask you when you conduct winter sports – basketball games, whatever – to do so without fans,” DeWine said. “The idea of bringing 200 adults into our gym at this point in the pandemic, with the spread we’re seeing, just makes absolutely no sense.”

The Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday reported 8,604 more cases, a high of 98 more deaths, 364 hospitalizations and 29 ICU admissions. A note on the state’s coronavirus dashboard still says that data is incomplete, which DeWine said because about 15,000 antigen tests are being double-checked for accuracy.

DeWine said Monday’s record 11,885 cases was “artificially high” because the state was clearing a backlog of cases from over the weekend – about 6,000 of which have yet to be included.

Because of Thanksgiving, Ohio’s updated Public Health Advisory map and travel advisory will come out on Wednesday instead of Thursday.

“We are very close, ourselves, in Ohio where we would advise people to be very careful if they were to travel to us,” DeWine said.