DeWine, Husted: Districts that took vaccine doses have a duty to reopen to in-person learning

WCPO dewine in mask.jpeg
Posted at 1:56 PM, Feb 16, 2021

Snow and ice on Ohio roads may delay COVID-19 vaccine shipments from Moderna and Pfizer by up to two days, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ve seen a slowdown in the shipments, and obviously that’s going to mean a slowdown — for a little while, at least — in the number of people who can be vaccinated in Ohio,” the governor said.

Monday’s overnight snowfall brought out over 1,000 Ohio Department of Transportation crews to salt and clear roads. DeWine said the Ohio Department of Health was in touch with all vaccine providers scheduled to receive shipments and had informed them of expected delays, which could be as little as two hours or as much as two days.

Patients anxious about the status of their vaccination appointments should reach out to their provider rather than automatically assuming their shot has been canceled, the governor said.

No new vaccine-eligible categories for now

Monday marked the final scheduled expansion of Ohio’s vaccine-eligibility criteria. All adults with certain high-risk medical conditions are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, joining K-12 educators, frontline health care workers and seniors over 65 on the list of Ohioans allowed to get the shot.

DeWine declined to name groups that might be added to the list next or predict when the next expansion might arrive. Health workers’ focus for now, he said, must be on vaccinating the Ohioans who already qualify — particularly seniors, who are among the most vulnerable to serious complications and death if they become ill with COVID-19.

“We hope to announce new groups when we get that done,” he said of the senior vaccination effort. “What we cannot tell people, and we know we cannot tell them, is the dates for any of that. I want to assure people that are 65 years and older that we are staying at this age for the next few weeks.”

The governor encouraged seniors who have not yet secured an appointment to continue trying and monitoring opportunities in their community, with help from relatives if necessary.

“I’m not asking you not to be impatient,” he said. “I would be impatient. But be persistent.”

ODH working to centralize vaccine scheduling

Appointment scheduling will be less piecemeal when Ohio unveils its central online appointment scheduling website, he added. ODH hopes vaccine seekers in the near future will be able to input their ZIP code and find appointments near them — and the platform on which they’ll do so already exists.

But it’s useless without the participation of a “critical mass” of vaccine providers to furnish the appointment dates, times and locations. DeWine said ODH is working with providers across the state to get their information into the scheduling platform, but the effort could take several weeks.

The site will go live when ODH feels it’s ready, he said.

Husted: Going back to school is 'the fair thing to do'

Fewer than 15% of Ohio students remain in fully remote school schedules, a figure DeWine described as a sign of major progress. His decision to allow K-12 educators to receive the vaccine is part of a larger push to put Ohio children back in physical classrooms by March 1.

In remote learning, he said: “Some kids do OK, some kids do very well, but we have a number of children who are not doing very well, and we worry a lot about them.”

And some individual schools and districts, DeWine said, have accepted vaccination for their staff without making good on their commitment to getting back in the classroom.

The state won’t punish these schools and districts, DeWine said. It will continue to push them toward opening back up, arguing that in-person instruction is safe even when students like those at Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High School cannot space themselves six feet apart and that districts have a moral obligation to reopen schools if they accepted vaccine doses for their staff.

"This school district, their superintendent signed the document," Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. "They voluntarily took the vaccine under the premise that they were going to go back to in-person. It’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do, if you took the vaccine, to go honor that end of the commitment by serving those students."