As officials scramble to work out kinks in getting the COVID-19 vaccine into Ohioans' arms, Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday said he's started talks with members of the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
DeWine, a Republican, stressed that he’s had a good working relationship with the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump — and particularly with Vice President Mike Pence, who headed up Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force.
However, Trump has long been criticized for checking out of the fight against a pandemic that will have killed around 400,000 Americans by the time he leaves office next Wednesday. As the number of vaccinations administered has fallen far short of promises, the administration was criticized for supplying states with vaccines and largely leaving them to figure out the hugely complex task of distributing and administering them.
Days after Biden announced plans to release all of the vaccine supply — instead of holding half back for second doses — the Trump administration on Tuesday announced its own sweeping revisions, including by releasing the entire supply.
On Thursday, as Ohio was poised to cross the 10,000 mark for coronavirus deaths, DeWine said he’s been pleased so far with his interactions with Biden’s team. He said they reached out to him on Wednesday.
“We had a very, very good conversation in regard to how this thing is going to play out,” the governor said in a remote press conference. “I told them what we were seeing working in Ohio and what wasn’t working so well.”
He added, “It’s an exchange of information at this point, but it’s a good exchange. They’re listening.”
DeWine has made no secret of his displeasure that some hospitals and other facilities have been slow to get vaccines into staffers’ arms quickly after receiving them. Weekends and the holidays have seen big dips in the number of vaccinations.
“I’ve been frustrated by the weekends as well,” he said. “In a crisis, you just have to work the weekends.”
The state’s Covid-19 Vaccination Dashboard shows that so far 362,000 Ohioans have received a first dose of the two-dose vaccine regimen. That’s 3% of the state. Experts say 70% or more of a population must be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
In a piece of good news, DeWine said that the pharmacy chains working with the state and federal government have now administered vaccine at more than 90% of Ohio’s nursing homes.
He added that more employees have agreed to be vaccinated. The governor didn’t give a figure, but at the end of December, DeWine said 60% of nursing home workers were declining the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues its relentless march through Ohio. On Thursday, 7,654 new infections and 109 new deaths were reported over the previous 24 hours.
Nationally, the number of deaths has been climbing above 4,000 on some recent days.
This story was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal.