COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In an effort to outrun the coronavirus, Ohio will begin to ramp up vaccination numbers by meeting people where they are: college campuses, workplaces and churches. But requiring vaccinations remains off the table, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday.
Beginning next week, the state will work with Ohio colleges and universities to begin offering vaccinations directly to students before they break for the summer by May 1, DeWine said.
“I think young people understand that they can be spreaders. I think they want to go see their grandmother, they want to go see family and friends, and getting vaccinated is something that I think you’re going to see a lot of young people do,” DeWine said during his briefing.
Similarly, private organizations — such as businesses and churches — will be allowed to open up private clinics beginning April 12 to vaccinate their staff. The move is a reversal of policy by DeWine, who had told health care providers earlier this week to stop scheduling clinics that aren’t open to the public.
DeWine acknowledged that cases are on the rise in the state. The number of cases per 100,000 went up for the second time in two weeks, bad news for the governor’s pledge to end statewide orders — including the mask mandate — when the figure hits 50 per 100,000. The number was 167 cases per 100,000 on Thursday, up from 146 per 100,000 last week.
The governor said he has no plans to raise the threshold for lifting the mask orders, believing that mass vaccinations will drive the numbers down.
“Every single day we make it harder for the virus to jump from one person to another, but it is a race, and this variant is pushing things off because it is so much more contagious,” DeWine said. “We are in a battle, but we’ve got a pretty big cannon, and that cannon is the vaccine, and we just need to keep deploying it every single day, and we will wear this virus down.”
Earlier this week, New York officials launched a digital pass that residents can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
The Excelsior Pass will be accepted at major entertainment venues like Madison Square Garden and Albany’s Times Union Center.
Two Ohio lawmakers have promised to introduce legislation banning such passports, saying more restrictions aren’t the answer to dealing with COVID-19. DeWine said the state doesn’t have plans to develop a so-called vaccine passport.
“Is it possible that somebody will come up with that and say only people who have been vaccinated can do thus and so, or a cruise ship that only has vaccinated people? I don’t know,” DeWine said Thursday. “I don’t know where the market is on that.”
The governor said the influence of people’s doctors, spouses, family members and close friends is a better approach to boosting vaccination rates than requiring the vaccine.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from about 1,456 new cases per day on March 16 to around 1,842 new cases per day on March 30, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.
As of Thursday, about 3.5 million people in Ohio have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state Health Department, or about 30% of the population. The state says about 2 million people, or 17% of the population, have completed the vaccination process.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.