Ohio is expanding access to the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 11, Gov. Mike DeWine announced during a March 8 news conference.
Phase 1D includes anyone with diabetes or end-stage renal disease. Phase 2B includes Ohioans age 50 and older.
DeWine said that during a March 8 call, a number of local health commissioners asked that the state broaden who was eligible for the vaccine due to the amount that was leftover at the end of the week.
Approximately 197,000 people are eligible under the 1D group. Phase 2B adds approximately 1.2 million Ohioans.
𝐕𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐄𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐔𝐩𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞Beginning Thursday, March 11: Phase 2B➡ All Ohioans 50+ pic.twitter.com/Pv0JEOyKnf— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 8, 2021
Also on March 8, the Ohio Department of Health launched a COVID-19 vaccine appointment central scheduling tool, gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. DeWine said Ohioans can use the tool to determine if they are eligible to receive the vaccine, schedule appointments and receive updates and reminders.
The governor said ODH will continue to work with providers to load more appointments into the system.
The central scheduling tool will be used for appointments at the mass vaccination clinics that were announced March 5, including the FEMA site at Cleveland State University’s Bert L. and Iris S. Wolstein Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 8 announced new guidance that fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing. ODH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said this was very good news.
"We're in a transition period. There are still a lot of us who are unvaccinated, including a lot of high-risk individuals," Vanderhoff said. "In fact, nationally, less than 10% of the country is fully vaccinated" – two weeks past the final dose of the vaccine.
While the CDC is confirming that vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and spread the virus, there's still a small risk of transmission, Vanderhoff said. When you're in public, you have no idea who is vaccinated and who is at risk.
The new guidance is another step toward normalcy and reinforces the benefits of vaccination, as well as Ohio's stance that the state needs to see greater immunity from vaccination before we can responsibly step back from wearing masks and social distancing, he said.
Across the state, there are now 15 counties below the high incidence rate for COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 20 counties with the highest occurrence of cases are seeing a decline in cases per 100,000 residents, DeWine said.
Last week, DeWine said all health orders would be lifted once the state hits the mark of 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people for two weeks.
"We will, every Thursday, give you a state number and we can see what that state number is doing, and we hope it continues to go down," DeWine said.
If the state reaches the mark but a particular county has a significantly higher case rate, Vanderhoff said the local health department could choose to issue their own stricter guidelines.
The case rate for Ohio is 179.6 per 100,000, as of March 4. Cuyahoga County has the sixth highest incidence in the state, with 198.7 cases per 100,000 residents.
The nation is seeing more cases of the COVID-19 variants, Vanderhoff said, which he said is entirely consistent with what health officials have been expecting. The presence of the contagious variants should grow into the spring, he said.
"These variants underscore just how important it is for all of us to get vaccinated when it's our turn, and to continue to play good defense until more of us are vaccinated – masking, physical distancing, frequent hand hygiene," Vanderhoff said. "These really remain our best protection as we look forward to the day when the vaccines put the pandemic behind us."
Ohio has had 979,725 total cases of COVID-19, the ODH reported March 8.
The number of reported cases increased by 1,254 from March 7.
The number of cases reported remains under the state's 21-day average of 1,831.
The ODH has changed how it releases COVID-19 deaths in the state after conducting a review of the process. Deaths will be verified by coded death certificate information received from the National Center for Health Statistics, which can take some time to receive, according to a note on the ODH website. Death information is not available daily and will be updated twice a week moving forward.
Ohio has had a total of 17,502 COVID-19 deaths, the ODH reported March 5; the median age of those who has died is 80.
The individuals who have tested positive range in age of less than a year to 111 years old; the median age is 42.
The total number of tests conducted in Ohio is 10,282,753. The daily percent positivity of confirmed laboratory tests is 3.4%, with a seven-day moving average of 3.2%, according to data from March 6.
The ODH reports 50,965 cumulative hospitalizations, and 7,223 individuals have been admitted to the ICU due to the coronavirus. The median age of those hospitalized is 68.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations reported in the last 24 hours is 84, with 16 ICU admissions. There are currently 830 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus – 244 are in the ICU, and 173 are on ventilators.
The ODH reports 927,244 individuals are presumed recovered – defined as cases with a symptom onset over 21 days prior who are not deceased.
Cuyahoga County accounts for 97,121 of the cases, 5,933 hospitalizations and 1,881 deaths.
A total of 1,997,268 Ohioans have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,134,801 Ohioans completed both doses as of March 8.
If you have questions regarding COVID-19, call 833-4ASKODH (833-427-5634) or visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.