Even with Warren County boasting one of the highest vaccination rates in its Ohio region, officials are still struggling to reach people in its eastern rural communities.
Burgitto Bistro owner Christina Price worries those low vaccination rates may affect her ability to get people into her restaurant along Route 22 near Morrow. The dining room, which was built by her own family, sits empty most of the time and is nowhere near pre-pandemic capacity levels despite vaccine availability and lifted health orders.
"I honestly haven't seen any difference. I thought that they would feel more comfortable,” Price said. “We were about 75% dine-in before and now I think we're about 10. There are days we do not see a single person in here."
Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury said the trouble with the eastern parts of Warren County is accessibility. Many people live 10 miles from the nearest clinic.
“Where the cities are, you know, Springboro, we can go to this park, set up, and we'll have lots of people,” Stansbury said. “Going out into the countryside, you'll run into things with 10 or 20 people, and we're to that point where we're willing to do that."
Health officials are hoping to connect with smaller villages in eastern Warren County and are seeking invitations to events with 10 or more people to bolster vaccination rates. They’re also running private vaccine clinics for businesses.
"It's all about answering those questions that folks have so that they can see us,” Stansbury said. “We're not a threat to them; we're here just to help.”
Price said she has enough loyal customers to keep her business going, but she still hopes for the day when life gets back to the way it was before the coronavirus pandemic.