In his late Wednesday evening Facebook update, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said the county’s case count experienced what he called a “slight increase” since earlier in the week.
Hospitalizations had a slight increase as well in southwest Ohio, though he said that trends for the last 21 days were maintaining a steady rate.
“All of southwest Ohio is now seeing a slow climb in active case counts again,” Warner wrote. “The time frames would support connecting this increase to Christmas gatherings, but it is really hard to say for certain. We are averaging roughly 19 new cases a day over the last 14 days.”
As of Wednesday, figures supplied by Warner’s office showed the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Highland County was at 2,269, with 2,044 having had a full recovery.
Active cases numbered 204, with another 290 under observation in quarantine.
Local efforts in Ohio’s Phase 1A vaccination program continue, he said, with Wednesday’s figures showing 283 Moderna vaccinations having been started, and health department staff finishing with the last of the emergency medical services vaccinations.
As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, Warner’s office reached out to other area medical providers in order to provide them with the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.
“Gov. DeWine is very interested in pushing into Phase 1B, and we are working with the schools now to identify how many on their staff are interested in vaccines,” he said.
The next phase of Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which DeWine announced Thursday would begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19, has as its goal inoculating the state’s 65 and older population, school teachers and staff, and those with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders.
Beginning Jan. 19, Ohioans 80 years of age and older will be eligible to get the vaccine, and he said that time frame was for those in that age group not in a nursing home.
DeWine said the media and the state’s COVID-19 web page will contain the details as to where people could go in each county to get the vaccine.
The Phase 1B plan will take several weeks to get everyone 65 and older vaccinated, DeWine said, with the idea to open eligibility by five years in each of the following weeks.
Beginning on Monday, Jan. 25, the Ohio Department of Health anticipates being able to start inoculations in those 75 and older, with the following week, Monday, Feb. 1, dropping the eligibility age to 70.
Starting on Monday, Feb. 1, school personnel will be eligible for vaccinations.
DeWine indicated that during that week, superintendents will be getting forms to confirm they’ll be open to in-person learning or hybrid learning by Monday, March 1, if their staff and teachers get the vaccine.
Warner said he was concerned that a rapid move into the vaccination program’s next phase could compromise vaccine quantities in Highland County.
“A move into Phase 1B significantly earlier than urban areas might result in people driving to Highland County from other areas for vaccine access,” he wrote. “We are going to need to carefully coordinate our future public vaccine clinics with our regional counterparts and develop some ways to avoid mass regional migrations of our Phase 1B groups as they look for vaccine clinics.”
He said he felt that smaller, rural communities were farther along in the initial vaccination phase than their city counterparts due to the availability of the vaccine.
“A hundred vaccines in Highland County will cover a much larger part of our Phase 1A group than 500 vaccines in Hamilton County will cover of their Phase 1A,” Warner said.
He also asked everyone to not call the health department regarding vaccinations for specific groups since his office will be focused on medical providers and congregate settings for the next few weeks.
Preregistration information for Phase 1B clinics will be made available when his office and staff move in the next vaccination phase, he said.
With the Highland County COVID-19 death toll still at 21, Warner said he wanted to remind everyone of the process in place in counting COVID-19 deaths.
“There are several Highland County deaths that we expect to be attributed to COVID-19 on their death certificates,” he said. “The reason we have not listed those deaths in our numbers yet is because we haven’t seen the final death certificates themselves. We will not count a Covid death in our records until the attending physician attributes the death to COVID-19 and files the death certificate in the county that the death occurred in. For many of our hospitalized deaths, they will be filed in larger cities. This further delays our ability to collect these records.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.