Governor voices optimism even as vaccinations lag

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Tom Troy and Jim Provance, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
·3 min read
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May 3—COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday said Ohio is moving in the right direction toward the goal he laid out for eliminating all of the restrictions imposed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic just over a year ago.

"I think summer's going to be good," he said. "We're getting back to where we want to be. The economic numbers are good. But my caution is if you are not vaccinated, this is a very high-risk gamble. Once you're vaccinated you have great opportunity to live your life.

"There is reason for people to feel optimistic," he said.

Ohio reported 995 new infections Monday, well below the 21-day average of 1,648.

The governor has set the target for removing Ohio's face-mask requirements and gathering restrictions at 50 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period. It has never came close to reaching that point.

The state had gotten down to 143.8 in mid-March before the infection rate began to dramatically rise again. By Monday it had gotten back to same neighborhood, at 147.9 per hundred thousand.

Last week, Lucas County topped the state with the highest rate of sickness at 299.1 per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks. On Monday, Lucas County still led the state, but with a reduced rate of 270.1 cases per 100,000. Erie and Defiance counties were not far behind. while Wood County ranked 25th with an infection rate of 146 per 100,000.

At that time, the statewide infection rate was 155.5.

Mr. DeWine said talks continue about possibly shifting to a new metric for lifting such orders, one instead based on the rate of vaccination. No determination has been made.

The rate at which Ohioans are being vaccinated continues to decline to the point that Mr. DeWine said it is requiring creativity and ingenuity from community health leaders as they take vaccines to baseball games, casinos, libraries, theaters, bars, and restaurants.

"They're pulling out all the stops, doing everything they can," he said. "They're taking it directly to people. The idea of taking a van out and taking a mobile unit out, literally going into a neighborhood ... and setting up shop right there, not requiring anybody to sign up in advance, is the way that we are going to make this available to everyone."

After announcing last week that fully vaccinated people would no longer have to quarantine themselves if exposed to someone with coronavirus, he announced Monday that vaccinated employees of nursing and assisted-living homes would no longer have to undergo routine testing multiple times a week.

On the other side of the globe, however, images persist from India of bodies being cremated because its health system has been overwhelmed at a time it lacks access to vaccine supplies like the United States has.

"What we're seeing out of India is just gut-wrenching without the quantity of the vaccine," Mr. DeWine said. "It's just horrible.... We didn't know what we would see here, but we did feel it could be bad. The experts were telling us it could be bad.

"I think it's always hard for that to sink in," he said. "None of us have had this life experience before.... When something like this has never happened in your lifetime, it's difficult to really have it sink in to your head."

There were 89 new hospitalizations in Ohio on Monday. The state has reached 1,075,999 cases and 19,284 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health, which did not update the death toll Monday.

The statewide record of vaccination starts has climbed to 4.7 million people started on the two-shot vaccine, or 40.4 percent of the state. The share vaccinated locally was just under 40 percent in Lucas County and 45.7 percent in Wood County.

First Published May 3, 2021, 2:09pm