Hamilton County appeared purple on the Ohio Department of Health’s color-coded COVID-19 risk map Thursday afternoon, a designation that might in 2020 have prompted an urgent, detailed response from Columbus — but, speaking Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine mentioned the change only in passing.
The data coming out of Hamilton County, which reports a high level of emergency room visits and low number of available ICU beds, is only slightly worse than the rest of the state. ODH’s four-tier alert system, its levels ranging from yellow (least risk) to purple (most risk), has in reality been a two- or three-tier system since mid-2020. Orange, for a “high degree of caution,” is as positive as the forecast gets.
DeWine instead devoted his attention Thursday to continued discussion of the state’s vaccination program, which will admit a new group of eligible people starting Jan. 19.
Ohioans over the age of 80 will be allowed to receive the vaccine beginning on that date. Eligibility expands by five years every subsequent week until early February, when all people over 65 will be allowed to get the shot.
DeWine said all of the state’s vaccine providers will be listed online at this link by 8 a.m. Friday so qualifying families can begin making plans.
“We’re very happy to get started on this very, very vulnerable group,” he said. “We’ve prioritized those individuals who, candidly, are most likely to have a bad outcome” if they become ill.
But vaccines won’t be available for everyone who technically qualifies. Ohio’s over-80 population includes more than 400,000 people; its over-65 population, plus the K-12 educators who will qualify starting Feb. 1, comprises about 2.2 million.
The state receives a shipment of around 100,000 vaccines each week and distributes them to 750 separate providers. No individual provider is likely to receive more than a few hundred doses.
“The big picture on vaccines always comes back to this: We don’t have enough,” DeWine admitted near the start of his conference. “We hope that this is going to increase as we move forward … but as of today, like all states, we have to deal with this scarcity.”
He encouraged Ohioans to keep track of vaccine locations in their communities and set up appointments when they qualified. When the vaccine supply increases, he added, the number of Ohioans able to receive it will increase, too.
“We will continue to learn, we will continue to adjust as we go through,” he said.
About 361,603 Ohioans — people who qualified in “phase 1A,” which included health care workers and nursing home residents — had been vaccinated by Thursday afternoon.