With the Ohio Department of Health confirming Thursday that the total number of COVID-19 cases since March has gone above the 800,000 mark, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner indicated that case counts across Southwest Ohio continued their upward trend as well, with Highland County’s per capita case rate standing at 847.99 per 100,000 people.
The state health department said that the cumulative case total had reached 807,293 with the addition of 7,654 new cases in its Thursday update.
The ODH also reported that there had been 663,856 who have recovered from the virus since March.
Writing in his midweek Facebook update, Warner said that visits to hospital emergency rooms, outpatient visits and hospital admissions continued to remain steady without any change in significant trends.
COVID-19 statistics for Highland County on Wednesday showed a cumulative total of 2,539 cases since March, with 2,204 recoveries and 21 deaths.
There are currently 314 active cases, according to the health department, with 311 under observation in quarantine and 709 vaccines started.
“All of our initial 300 (vaccine) doses have been administered to the Phase 1A population,” Warner said, that population consisting of emergency medical, health care and long-term care center personnel. “We received another 100 doses on Monday, and these doses will be administered to additional Phase 1A groups through this week and early next week.”
He said his office was aggressively trying to finish the first phase of the state vaccination program, despite there being some groups they have not been able to get in contact with.
Complicating matters was the local health department is also seeing some people in the Phase 1A groups that at first refused the vaccine, but later changed their minds, which he said was increasing demand on an already short vaccine supply.
As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, vaccinations in Phase 1B are to begin the week of Jan. 19 for those Ohio residents 80 years of age and older.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s tiered system for offering vaccinations is staggered over the next four weeks to allow the estimated 2.2 million people eligible for the vaccine to be inoculated.
After the next phase begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19, Phase 1B vaccinations will continue the following week starting on Monday, Jan. 25 for those 75 years of age and older, and those with severe congenital or developmental disorders.
The program is to continue the week of Monday, Feb. 1 for Ohioans 70 years of age and older along with adults who work in K-12 schools, followed by the week of Monday, Feb. 8 for Ohioans in the 65 and older age bracket.
“When a new age group begins, vaccinations may not be complete for the previous age group,” Warner said. “It will take a number of weeks to distribute all of the vaccine, given the limited doses available.”
As he first told the Highland County commissioners Wednesday, the COVID-19 vaccine is in short supply in both Ohio and the nation.
During a virtual ZOOM meeting, he informed the commissioners that there are approximately 420,000 people in the 80-plus age group in Ohio and that next week, 100,000 doses of vaccine will be available.
“This isn’t going to be enough to satisfy demand,” he said.
The opportunity to vaccinate a larger segment of the county’s 80-plus demographic materialized late Tuesday evening when Warner said he was notified that Highland County would receive 300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine next week.
“Even with this allocation of 300 doses to Highland County, we are not going to have enough for all of the interested 80-plus group in our community,” he said. “While we know that many people in our community are eager to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we must be patient while demand for the vaccine remains higher than the available supply.”
He said that registration information for Highland County COVID-19 vaccinations would be released later in the week, and that his office will partner with several other health departments to use a regional scheduling system to coordinate the clinics.
“There is no need to call our health department,” Warner said, “and there will be no out-of-pocket cost to anyone for this vaccine.”
According to the Food & Drug Administration, the government announced a policy change in its strategy to allocate the vaccine.
The agency said the plan now is to no longer hold back second doses in reserve, with the hope that manufacturing capacity increases to the point where second doses wouldn’t be compromised.
Warner said his staff is excited to begin vaccinating the older populations in Phase 1B, but asked Highland County residents to be realistic in their expectations.
“Supply is currently very limited, and it is going to take months for us to work through our Phase 1B groups,” he said. “I ask everyone to be patient as we continue to provide vaccines to our community.”
Warner said he will issue his end-of-week update of Highland County COVID-19 statistics later Friday evening on Facebook.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.