Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is worried again, he admitted Friday. COVID-19 case numbers are rising again throughout his state as the delta variant, which is far more contagious than the strain that reached Ohio in 2020, spreads.
“I have lost good friends who have died,” he said. “I think everybody's had somebody in their family, somebody they know, who's been sick (with) COVID. We've lost a lot of people in Ohio.”
And the state is on track to lose more. The delta variant is fueling a resurgence of the virus, particularly in counties with low rates of vaccination. More than 50 out of every 100,000 Ohioans have caught COVID-19 — a ratio that previously moved DeWine to require masking throughout the state.
But the governor plans on offering more incentives, not more mandates, to encourage unvaccinated people to get their shots.
“We are still looking at all the different things we can do,” he said. “We’ve implemented the policy to pay people on Medicaid — people on Medicaid is a very low number of vaccinated people. We’re doing the same thing for state employees again.”
People in those two groups — people on Medicaid and state employees — can receive a $100 payment for getting the shot. President Joe Biden has recommended state and local governments consider offering similar payments to all unvaccinated people, taking funds from their American Rescue Plan allotments if necessary.
DeWine said he also hopes that regular FDA approval of the vaccine — which hasn’t happened yet, although the agency continues to work toward it — will soothe the fears of unvaccinated people who worried about receiving a shot that had not gone through a full, formal approval process.
The agency’s regular stamp of approval could be the final necessary incentive to convince business owners they should require employees to be vaccinated.
“I have some businesses that have indicated to us that once the FDA says that this is regular use — it's no longer emergency use, now it's regular use — businesses will feel more comfortable doing that,” DeWine said.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both received emergency-use authorization in late 2020, allowing health care workers to begin administering them immediately during one of the pandemic’s most desperate hours.
Both are still undergoing a more in-depth review. According to CNN, experts and FDA officials expect to issue full approval for regular use within the next several months.
DeWine added he wants to be patient and respectful toward people who have not yet gotten their vaccines. He knows they might not listen to his advice when he evangelizes in favor of the shot.
“I think we have to hear why they have reservations,” he said. “We need to try to have Ohio doctors — not me, Ohio doctors — explain to them, ‘Here's what the science is. Here's what the facts are.’ I think that really is the best bet in getting more people vaccinated.”