DeWine ponders school changes

Warner: Current vaccines won’t be as effective against new strains

By Jacob Clary - [email protected]

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has asked some school districts to make plans to possibly end the school year later than originally scheduled, begin the new year earlier or even extend the school day, according to a news release.

He highlighted that summer programs, tutoring or remote options could all be possible. He asked that school districts give their plans to the public and General Assembly by April 1 at the latest.

DeWine also asked school districts to work with communities to help students “make up for any learning that may have been lost or delayed because of the pandemic.” He said the pandemic has affected academic progress, per the Ohio Department of Education’s fall 2020 enrollment report.

In terms of moving people back into the classroom, 15 percent of students are currently attending classes online full-time, according to DeWine. That is a significant change from December when DeWine said the state was at 45 percent learning remotely full-time.

“This once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has impacted all of us, so it should be no surprise that it has impacted our children. But we should not panic, nor should we be surprised by the results of assessments,” DeWine said. “Instead, we should do what Ohioans have always done when facing a challenge — stay calm, roll up our sleeves, and work to solve the problem.”

DeWine also announced Ohio’s maintenance COVID-19 vaccine plan to make sure staff and residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have continued access to vaccines is almost finished.

“The plan will outline how nursing homes and assisted living facilities will move forward to vaccinate new residents, new workers, and workers who initially declined the vaccine but are now willing to be vaccinated,” DeWine said. “The plan will leverage existing relationships between nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and the pharmacies that regularly provide them with prescription drugs.”

To prepare for its release, DeWine has asked administrators of long-term and assisted-living facilities to figure out if the facility already has a pharmacy provider that is able to administer the vaccine. If that provider is not a “COVID vaccine provider, they should determine if they intend to become one.”

In a new update from the Highland County Health Department’s Facebook page, health commissioner Jared Warner said there have been indications that the current vaccines won’t be as effective against some of the new strains of COVID-19 because they are “against the predominant strain currently in circulation,” meaning new vaccines might be needed in the future.

In other news, Warner said that because of the weather this week, the Highland County Health Department might need to move appointment times or possibly even cancel them if the weather becomes too hazardous.

The department is still going through its current wait list and does not anticipate it will have general availability this week for new registrations.

Beginning next week, it will also start scheduling vaccinations for those with severe health disorders, but it is waiting for specific guidance from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) on how these groups will be defined and the kind of documents it will need the people in this group to provide to prove their eligibility.

There are 7,723 eligible people in the 65 and older group in the county, with 1,146 people having already received the vaccine, Warner said in his latest update. That leaves more than 6,500 people that still need to get vaccinated, when the county only receives a small number of vaccines — 300 this week for the whole county and 100 for the health department.

“I have mentioned before the difficulty that our 65 and older group are going to have in getting connected to a vaccine appointment,” Warner said. “There is still a very limited amount of vaccine coming in… The math is not in our favor, and we need to be honest and clear about this. It is going to take a while before everyone who wants a vaccine can get one.”

Warner also updated the case count for the county. Currently, the ODH shows the county is at 539.84 cases per 100,000 and emergency department and hospitalizations rates are low. However, he said, “Outpatient visits and death rates are increasing slightly. Death rates are a delayed indicator and often peak a couple of weeks after cases increase in a community.”

On ODH’s COVID-19 Dashboard, Highland County moved up to 3,124 cases as of Wednesday.

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.
Warner: Current vaccines won’t be as effective against new strains

By Jacob Clary

[email protected]