Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine promised newly eligible school staff will not compete with seniors for COVID-19 vaccination appointments when the state’s candidate pool expands next week.
Instead, individual K-12 school districts will choose pharmacy partners and hold private vaccination clinics specifically for their staff members, eliminating the need for staff to seek out general vaccine providers. Cincinnati Public Schools has already started.
The vaccine supply is so limited that many others will be forced to wait.
Most K-12 educators become eligible to receive their first shot Monday, on the same day as people between the ages of 70-75 also enter the field. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans over the age of 75 are still waiting to book appointments where they can receive the vaccine, which remains vanishingly scarce compared to the number of people hoping for a spot in line.
“We simply do not have the supplies” to vaccinate all of the state’s K-12 workers within the first week, DeWine said Thursday. “We simply do not have the vaccine to do that. We need to spread this out over time.”
Almost every public school district in the state has agreed to DeWine’s condition for its staffers to get the shot: They must restart at least some in-person classes by March 1.
Getting students back in classrooms has been among the state’s highest-priority goals since DeWine first announced its vaccination schedule, which places seniors, people with certain high-risk health conditions and educators ahead of millions other Ohioans.
Most educators will only receive one shot before they are required to return to the classroom; they’re expected to complete their vaccination with a second within a few weeks.
Ohio Department of Health advisor Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said he wasn’t fearful for the health of educators who return to school with only one shot at first.
“I don’t want anyone to think that, for these vaccines, a single shot is enough — it’s not,” he said. “But I also want people to recognize that, within weeks of receiving that first shot, our bodies are mounting very substantial immunity.”
Lori Criss, who leads Ohio’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, appeared at DeWine’s Thursday news conference via video chat to enumerate the state’s reasons for pushing a return to in-person learning.
Schools with masking and distancing requirements in place are among the safest spaces for people to interact, she said. And students’ mental health has suffered broadly since the pandemic began in March 2020, with more children showing more severe symptoms of depression than before.
“School is community for kids,” Criss said. “It benefits them beyond their academic content.”
‘Good numbers’ prompt curfew rollback
Thursday will be the first night since November 2020 that many Ohio businesses — bars and restaurants foremost among them — will be allowed to stay open until 11 p.m.
DeWine’s administration confirmed it would modify the state’s curfew, which lasted from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. for nearly three months, in light of falling COVID-19 hospitalization rates.
The modifications depend on concurrent, not cumulative, hospitalizations. As long as the state records seven straight days of fewer than 3,500 hospitalizations for COVID-19, the curfew is 11 p.m. (Wednesday was the seventh day.)
At seven days of fewer than 3,000, the curfew moves again to midnight.
If Ohio can spend seven consecutive days with fewer than 2,500 simultaneous COVID-19 hospitalizations, DeWine has promised to eliminate the curfew.
The state’s daily COVID-19 diagnosis totals are also trending downward, according to data collected by the Ohio Department of Health. ODH recorded 5,432 new diagoses Thursday, far below the 21-day average of 6,221.
Deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions all remain significantly below their holiday-season highs but have not shown a marked day-over-day decline.
“These are good numbers,” DeWine said.
The curfew could return if they change course.