With the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassing the 350,000 mark, government health officials said Sunday that coronavirus vaccinations have been “ramped up” after a slower-than-expected start.
The Highland County Health Department reported Monday that vaccinations in the Phase 1A program were now at 267.
Presidential Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he has seen “some little glimmer of hope” after 1.5 million doses were administered in the closing days of the year, or an average of about 500,000 per day.
He said the marked increase in vaccinations brought the total to about 4 million, but acknowledged the nation had fallen short of its goal of having 20 million doses shipped and distributed by the end of December.
The Ohio Department of Health said that Ohio is still behind most states in terms of vaccinations, but despite the lag, Ohio Gov. DeWine said in a Sunday interview that it was his hope to “have every kid back in school” by Monday, March 1.
In a Facebook post Monday, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner reported that the cumulative infections total since March numbered 2,178 with 2,028 recoveries,129 listed as actively sick and 309 currently in quarantine.
Highland County’s active case count was currently at 129 people, which Warner said was a nice reduction from where it was one week ago.
He expressed concern Monday regarding rebounds he had witnessed in some case rates in other southwest Ohio counties, with a couple of larger counties nearing their previous all-time high marks again.
Hospitalizations continued to be steady, he wrote, which unfortunately means that hospitalization counts remain high.
Southwest Ohio still has one in four hospitalized patients with COVID-19, and one in three in the ICU with COVID-19, Warner said, noting that Highland County emergency room visits remained level.
Warner provided highlights from the Ohio Department of Health regarding written guidance he had received over the holidays on the new K-12 quarantine process now in place for schools.
The two main points of the ODH directive were:
• If a sick student or staff person is at school during their infectious period, and all close contacts, such as students and staff, are wearing a mask and are in the classroom setting, then there is no quarantine order in those close contacts.
• If an exposure occurred outside the traditional classroom setting, such as on a bus, at lunch, band, choir or sports practice, the traditional close contact definition and quarantine process will be employed.
“One message that we need to be really clear about is that these new quarantine rules only apply to traditional classroom settings,” Warner stressed. “Some students may still be quarantined based on other exposures. I am worried that the only message that parents heard was “no more quarantines from school,” and that is not a full picture of what is happening here. This new policy should greatly reduce the quarantines associated with a school, but it will not eliminate them entirely.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 20 million people nationwide have been infected, with several states reporting record numbers of cases, and funeral homes in Southern California reportedly being inundated with bodies.
Fauci and others warned that an additional surge is likely because of holiday gatherings combined with cold weather keeping people indoors.
The Ohio Department of Health reported Monday nearly 6,000 new COVID-19 cases (5,942) and 67 deaths, bringing the cumulative infections and death total since March to 727,423 in the nation and 9,143 in the state.
Statewide, health officials reported that 314 people had been hospitalized with 45 admitted to intensive care units.
Three of the four rolling seven-day indicators — total cases, deaths and hospitalizations — were all down slightly, while ICU admissions increased marginally.
Arizona on Sunday reported a one-day record of more than 17,200 new cases, overshadowing the previous mark set in early December of about 12,000 cases, while North Carolina and Texas set new records with nearly 3,600 in the Tar Heel State and over 12,500 in the Lone Star State.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.