Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner was ecstatic about the county’s vaccine treatment progress, in an update posted Saturday on the Highland County Health Department’s Facebook page.
The health department spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week vaccinating people at the Highland County YMCA gymnasium thanks to a new partnership between the two, with the department vaccinating K-12 school staff on Friday.
“And finally, the happiest place in Highland County this week was the Highland County YMCA gymnasium… We talked to seniors who have been waiting for months to hold their great-grandchildren,” Warner said. “We talked to adult children who have been waiting to visit their homebound parents. The emotional toll of COVID-19 has impacted so many people in our community. This week our community worked together to give seniors new freedom, helped parents protect their medically fragile children, protected our school community and we brought families back together. I can’t stop smiling. This was a good week.”
Warner said the department will get 900 new doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, which he said was another high number for the county. Warner said all indications show vaccine supply is increasing in the long term. The health department is also adding a new vaccine provider to the county.
“We have something really special here in Highland County when I can call any organization or business in town and ask for help, and have every single one step up without hesitation,” Warner said. “No contracts, no cost, no strings attached. It has just been amazing to see, and we are so grateful.”
Warner also stressed that people on the wait list need to answer their phones. He said there is a problem with those in the 65 and older group that won’t pick up the phone when the the health department calls. He said he understands people being cautious about phone scams, but also said the department can’t continue to constantly call people that won’t answer or return the department’s voicemails.
“I am asking you to please answer the phone when it rings if you are on a vaccine wait list with any provider,” Warnerw rote. “We have attempted to call all 875 people on our wait list at least once, and we are going to make another couple of attempts before moving on to new people.”
As of March 1, Highland County is still collecting names for vaccine registration for this week for those in the 65 and older group. This can be done online through a link on the health department’s Facebook page or with a phone call to 1-866-395-1588. This number is available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Warner gave updated COVID-19 numbers for Highland County. As of Feb. 27, the county is at 215.47 cases per 100,000 residents. He also said outpatient visits, emergency department visits and hospitalizations are getting so low that “we risk triggering some of the state’s Public Health Alert system indicators simply because there is nowhere left to go but up.”
The county has had a total of 171 Covid hospitalizations and 55 deaths. Warner said the progress in death reporting has led the health department to think the numbers may increase as it identifies some nursing home deaths.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH), which last updated its numbers on Monday, had Highland County at 3,277 total cases of the virus, 172 hospitalizations and 56 deaths. The department also said the county has 3,062 that it presumed recovered from the virus.
Warner also said the county is intently watching other COVID-19 variants, as both Hamilton and Ross counties have identified United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 strains. He said Highland County will see a variant impact “at some point,” but that they can’t predict right now what it will look like.
In a news release from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, he detailed the people included in the state’s Phase 1C and Phase 2 plans which he said will start on March 4.
Pertaining to new medical groups, Phase 1C includes people with Type 1 diabetes, pregnant women, bone marrow transplant recipients and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) patients. It also introduces new occupations to the vaccination list including the following:
* Childcare Services, about 40,400 Ohioans, including administrators, lead and assistant teachers and substitutes enrolled in Ohio’s Professional Registry and currently working in open childcare and pre-kindergarten programs. It also includes licensing specialists that are employed by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services or county job and family service agencies.
* Funeral services, about 3,600 Ohioans, includes embalmers/morticians, funeral home directors, crematory operators and apprentices.
* Law enforcement and corrections officers, which is about 76,000 Ohioans, includes “police officers; sheriff’s deputies; Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers; other state or federal enforcement officers such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resource enforcement staff, pharmacy board investigators, BCI agents, state fire marshal investigators, federal transportation security officers, and other federal law enforcement officers who do not have access to vaccination from federal sources.”
DeWine also said that because COVID-19 risks increase with age, Phase 2 will open more vaccinations based on age. It will start with Ohioans ages 60 and older, which includes about 695,000 eligible Ohioans.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.