Apr 8, 2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 8
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on April 8, 2021 to provide updates on coronavirus and vaccine distribution. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Gov. Mike DeWine: (04:53)
Good afternoon, everyone.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (04:59)
As a result of the pandemic, the state of Ohio has had to borrow money from the federal government in regard to the unemployment compensation fund. That debt at this point is about $1.46 billion. Certainly not the first time that this has occurred, and it was to be expected as we went into this pandemic. But I am recommending now to the general assembly, and I had the opportunity to talk this morning to the Speaker and to the president of the Senate, leaders of their respective bodies, and they are in agreement with me, that we should take some of the money that will be coming to Ohio shortly from the last bill passed by Congress and to use that money to pay this debt. It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. We will have the ability to do that, and we should go ahead and do it.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (06:10)
The loan itself, of course, was caused by the pandemic. Paying this off now will free Ohio employers from this burden, so they can instead focus on getting employees across the state of Ohio back to work. This will help small businesses across our state and will certainly help employment and our employees. This is a very important step that we can take together that will help stabilize our economic environment and spur long-term growth. Again, we look forward to working with the members of the general assembly on this.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (06:50)
I might also add that I’ve spoken to the Senate president, I’ve spoken to the Speaker and asked both Speaker Cupp and President Huffman if they and the legislature would tackle the difficult job, a separate job, in regard to our unemployment compensation fund, and that is that it is structurally not really balanced. From a structural point of view, this has been a problem that existed long before the pandemic hit. We’re recommending we pay off the debt, but we still are left with a structural problem. This is something that the legislature should tackle. I think there’s a willingness in the legislature to take this on and to try to come up with a solution. It really is in the best interest of everyone if this can be done.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (07:58)
In the nature of good news, I want to take a moment to talk about our recent good news in regard to Ohio’s economy. Last year, at the onset of the pandemic, we took steps in this administration to ensure that our state budget remained balanced and stable. We froze state government spending. We stopped hiring additional employees. In fact, we’ve seen the number of employees as a result of that go down significantly. And we saved money by refinancing our state bonds. We made these hard choices early on in the pandemic tightening our belt because, frankly, we did not know what the future would hold. These were the right decisions. A strong post- pandemic economy directly depends on defeating this virus, and that has been an underlying theme of everything that we have done, that our economy is directly tied into our ability to keep this virus under control. I appreciate the work that every Ohioan has done to do this. It makes a difference.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (09:21)
As we’re working now very, very hard to vaccinate Ohioans, we’re seeing good signs in our economy as well. I want to share these with everyone. Ohio’s GDP outpaced the nation in the final quarter of calendar year 2020. The US GDP is estimated to have grown about 4.3% in that final quarter. Ohio’s GDP is estimated to have increased by 5% during that last quarter. Further, Ohio’s unemployment rate in February of this year was at 5%. The national rate was 6.2%. Our state revenues are recovering as well. This month Ohio’s tax revenues exceeded the monthly estimate by $41 million, or 2.6%, and remain 4.3% above the estimate for the fiscal year to date. This is a dramatic improvement from a year ago and where we were at the onset of this pandemic and where we thought, frankly, that we were going.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:35)
Getting back to the unemployment fund, using federal dollars strategically to shore up our unemployment system, along with making the structural long-term changes that we need in that system. We’ll continue our strong year of recovery, so good news.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:53)
Some more good news. Signs of spring are all around, and one of them is the Ohio Department of Transportation, the yellow barrels. I always kind of joke that that’s the good news and the bad news. The bad news is you see them and they may slow you down a little bit. The good news is the work is going on, and that we’re really into that season. ODOT plans to invest 1.92 billion of your dollars into 956 projects statewide this year. In the budget that we presented this year and the budget we presented two years ago, we put a lot of emphasis on safety, protecting lives. Many, many of these projects are directly related to safety. Many times, we’ve listened to local communities about a dangerous intersection, a dangerous curve, and tried to focus on these, to repair these so that we can save lives. These continued infrastructure investments are really good news on our road to recovery. By making improvements to our infrastructure, we are investing in Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine: (12:13)
A caution. During the pandemic ODOT was able to have a full construction season, and that is the good news. But as we head into this season, I want to remind everyone about something else that happened last year: The concerning amount of accidents that occur in construction zones. Over 4,500 of those accidents occurred last year. Of those, 18 crashes were fatal, 96 resulted in serious injuries. This is something that we really are asking all drivers out there to pay attention, slow down. Your fellow citizens are out there constructing the roads, reconstructing, improving them. They have a very, very dangerous job. It’s up to all of us to keep them safe as we drive.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (13:17)
We also have seen some of these accidents certainly caused by distracted driving and I would, again, urge the general assembly to pass the Distracted Driving Bill that we have suggested and that is in front of the general assembly. I know there is support in the general assembly for that, and that’s something that we really, really need to get done.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (13:40)
I want to give you an update on the federal partnership with the state on our mass vaccination site at Cleveland State University at the Wolstein Center. We’re now in our fourth week of operation. This is an eight-week program, and so the fourth, fifth, and six weeks, the weeks that we’re in right now, are second doses. Just remind everyone, if you got a first dose, look at your card that they gave you that day, make sure you go back and get that second dose. These three weeks that we’re in right now will cover the second doses. In addition to that, the seventh week and the eighth week, we still plan to use Johnson & Johnson to vaccinate individuals. Those will be for both weeks, of course, first and only doses one. One dose for the Johnson & Johnson.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (14:37)
It has run exceedingly well. We have a time-lapsed video from our local partners in Cuyahoga County to show you that progress. Eric, thank you very much for running that. What’s unique about this particular operation, and Fran I’ve traveled around the state, we’ve been to 29 different vaccination sites around the state, each one’s different, but each one is unique. Each one is people coming together to do a phenomenal, phenomenal job. My understanding is there’s no other FEMA mass vaccination site in the country that does it this way. We’re using a stationary patient model. Citizens come in, they take their seat, those administering the shots go straight down the aisle and go to them. They vaccinate around 500 people every single hour. It’s quite an operation to see. It’s been very efficient. It’s truly an amazing feat.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (16:01)
I want to express my appreciation to FEMA. I want to express my appreciation to the Department of Defense, the Ohio National Guard, certainly Cleveland State University, and all of our local partners, who have really worked so very, very hard to make this work. We appreciate that very much.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (16:22)
Again, as we head into this week, back to the Wolstein center, we’re in a week of second doses. We can remind everyone to please make sure they get those second doses.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (16:39)
There are many other locations across the state offering vaccinations. We’re at about 1300, and that does not include the different mass vaccination sites. So many, many sites across the state. You can visit, GetTheShot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. Again, that’s GetTheShot.coronavirus. ohio.gov to look for open appointments at other mass vaccination clinics or at one of Ohio’s 1300 local providers. You can also call (833) 427-5634 for scheduling help. Someone would help you schedule. (833) 427-5634 for scheduling help.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (17:27)
This week marks the second week that vaccine eligibility in Ohio has been open to all Ohioans 16 years of age and older. As we look towards next week, our administration is continuing our efforts to closely monitor vaccine allocations, make changes, make adjustments as necessary, and continue initiatives to help keep uptake of the vaccine high, which is what we really need to continue our battle against COVID 19.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (17:57)
We found, for example, this week we had some of the health departments who said, “Don’t send us any. We still have some from last week.” We appreciate knowing that. We want to make sure these vaccines do not sit, so we’re reallocating some of these to other places where the demand is certainly higher.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (18:16)
I want to talk about three other ways today, about how we can increase vaccinations. It really is taking the vaccinations to people and making it even more convenient. Beginning this coming Monday, our providers may provide and may partner with other organizations to hold closed-pod vaccination clinics with those organizations. For example, it might be a church. It might be a labor union. It might be a business who wants to vaccinate their members in one location, or two, or three locations, depending on if it’s a company that has maybe different locations. That partnering can start on Monday. We know there’s a real desire to do that. I’ve got calls myself, so I know many businesses and labor unions and others are interested in doing that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (19:19)
We have really encouraged people to do this. A couple of examples, Nestle, with locations in northeast Ohio, central Ohio, and southwest Ohio has partnered with Discount Drug Mart to provide vaccinations for their employees at these different facilities. GE Aviation in Cincinnati area has also partnered with a local health system to provide vaccines for its employees. Many examples of that. We also know that vaccine providers themselves are making plans to vaccinate their own employees and some have already started. It might be the local pharmacy that’s vaccinating their own employees. It might be Kroger that’s vaccinating their thousands and thousands of employees across the state. We continue to encourage employers and other organizations to reach out to your local health department and vaccine providers to set up these vaccination clinics.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (20:17)
Also, vaccine providers, local health departments, we ask them to be proactive and reach out to your local employers. In fact, in the counties where we have seen the demand maybe go down a little bit, we really have encouraged the health departments to go out and reach out to employers in their community so we can continue to get shots in arms. These clinics that are being put together will make a big difference in helping us get more Ohioans vaccinated.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (20:50)
We will add. We’re in the process of surveying all 1300 providers and asking them which ones want to be considered to partner with companies or other entities that might want to do a closed pod. Once we get the results back, we’ll make that, we’ll publish that, and that will be available so employers will know who in their area, what provider, might be interested in doing this.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (21:19)
Second, we continue to encourage health departments to reach out to local high schools. We have 16, 17, 18, sometimes year old young people who are in school, and we really would like to get as many of them vaccinated as possible. They obviously have to have a permission slip. Those who are those who are 16, 17, you have to have a permission slip from their parents. But we’re already seeing this start to happen. A great example of this was the Columbus Public Health Department and Nationwide Children’s Hospital reaching out and coming together with two of our high schools in Worthington, as well as in Westerville. There were pictures in the paper the other day of those shots occurring.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (22:04)
The third way we want to increase this, this week we began providing vaccinations to providers, partnering with our public and private colleges and universities in order to vaccinate students who want to get vaccinated. This will be a multi-week process. Many of our smaller liberal arts schools will have received all of their vaccine this week. They will, we hope, get those shots in arms. That’s moving along very, very, very well. Some of our bigger schools, it will take them multiple weeks, obviously, to be able to vaccinate all the students and their student body who want to get vaccinated. Again, we encourage our students to take advantage of this opportunity.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (22:50)
I’ll talk a minute about demand. As I previously stated, we continue to closely monitor demand for the vaccine as we make allocations across Ohio. We make the allocations every Thursday. We find out on Tuesday what’s coming into Ohio, what the federal government is going to give us, then we make the allocation. Basically shipping orders back to the federal government, go back on Thursday.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:13)
We’ve been able to adjust vaccination allocations where demand has lessened. Some of these have shifted to our mass vaccination sites and our population centers, as well as our mobile clinic efforts. Others have shifted to northern Ohio areas, which have both high demand and concern was spread of the virus variants. This week, just as an example, we were able to allocate 5,000 additional doses each to Lucas County and to Cuyahoga County for distribution through local providers. These additional doses were on top of the amounts allocated through our normal county formula. Franklin County, for example, we are able to allocate more than 1100 additional doses to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital for distribution.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:59)
We’ve also directed our team to continue to look at ways we can encourage partnerships to distribute-
Gov. Mike DeWine: (24:03)
… Our team to continue to look at ways we can encourage partnerships to distribute more vaccines and to adjust nimbly to changes that we see in demands. We’ll monitor this every week, and we’ll continue to make the changes that are needed. Eric, let’s go look at the data. As you can see, we continue to see a higher, significantly higher, number in cases, 2742 today. If you look at the average for the last 21 days, that was 18, so these numbers are up. Hospitalizations are up, ICU admissions are up, not dramatically, but they are certainly both up.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (24:39)
Eric, let’s look at the next slide. This is vaccinations. And we look at this, of course, every day, as well. As you can see, today we have crossed over one-third of all Ohioans have now received their first dose of the vaccine. So one-third of all Ohioans, and so we’re very happy to hit that milestone and look forward to the next milestones, as well.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (25:06)
Eric, we’ll go the next one. All counties ranked, you can see this, again, on our webpage. Again, we’re moving it now in the wrong direction. For a while we were moving in the right direction. But if you look at these, you’ll see more of these now are blue. Blue simply means we’re over a hundred cases in that county, a hundred cases per 100,000 over a two week period of time. So going in the wrong direction. You’ll also see it on the top end, at the top end numbers. Let’s go to the next one, Eric. The top end numbers are higher. The top one, for a while, we got down I think as low as 250, 260, something like that. The top one is now 336. That is Hancock County, followed by Lucas County. So again, they’re all moving in the wrong direction there.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (26:05)
Eric, we’ll go to the next one. So this is our number, the statewide average for cases per 100,000. Statewide average for cases per 100,000, 183. Again, going not in the direction that we want. More than half of our counties, 53, have seen increases. While we’re going in the wrong direction and we’re certainly going away from our goal of 50, we’re not seeing the runaway case growth that we saw during the fall, certainly not yet. So we can still turn this around if more people continue to get vaccinated. This is a race. We are in a race, and it’s a very, very, it’s a life and death race. One third of Ohioans have now been vaccinated. We just have to keep moving as fast as we can to get more of our fellow citizens vaccinated and be able to eliminate people who can get it, eliminate people who can spread it. And that’s just vitally, vitally important.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (27:09)
The alert map also shows this increase. Increases in case rates are reflected in this week’s advisory system update. Franklin County is moving to the watch list this week, because the county has recently had sustained increases in cases and in COVID related healthcare use, including emergency department and outpatient visits and hospitalizations for COVID. Putnam County moved from orange to red this week. In addition to some healthcare indicators trending upward, the county has also experienced an increase in cases per 100,000 during a two week period, going from 124 last week to 221 this week. So very fast acceleration. Carroll County, Mercer County, Morgan County moved from yellow to orange, while Brown and Noble dropped from orange to yellow. We’ll look at the hospitalizations. Unfortunately, these continue to trend up. They’re certainly not an alarming number yet, but they’re going in the wrong direction. As you can see, this is the number of people as of yesterday in the hospital from COVID, 1,193. And as you can see, that is going in the wrong direction. I’m going to turn now to Dr. Vanderhoff and have him give us an update in regard to the variants. This is something that he is following every single day. And doctor, thank you for, again, joining us, and tell us what’s going on in Ohio.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (28:41)
Thank you very much, governor. As we progress into April, it’s clear that Ohio and the nation are enduring yet another wave of COVID-19, but as you noted, this time it’s being driven by the new variants of the original virus. As you highlighted, we’re seeing this in the numbers. Our two week average of cases per 100,000, up over 180. Our testing positivity rate back above four percent, our concurrent hospitalization number at 1193, which is, by the way, close to where we were all the way back at the beginning of March.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (29:23)
And our variant numbers continue to grow. In addition, evidence continues to mount that B.1.1.7, along with other variants, is not only more contagious, it’s also more deadly. Here in Ohio, B.1.1.7 and the two California variants, B.1427 and 1429, account for more than 95% of our variant detections. And B.1.1.7 alone, which really seems to have been the variant driving the wave both nationally and in Michigan, accounts for the lion’s share of our total.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (30:05)
Just to give an idea of how quickly B.1.1.7 and the variants are spreading, our variant counts jumped from 92 back on March 12th up to 797 today. That’s a doubling time of about every nine to 10 days, which is very similar to what they saw this winter in the United Kingdom. But our spring surge of variants here in Ohio is in fact happening in a better context than what the UK endured this winter, because of our very successful vaccination effort, as the governor noted, now with more than one third of all Ohioans having received a vaccine. And we also have paired with that a strong track record of masking in public.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (31:06)
Now on top of that, we also have increasingly good news about our vaccines and their ability to provide immunity that’s not only long lasting, but also holds up very well against the variants. So as the governor noted, Ohio remains in a very important race against the virus and its variants, and variants that are now more deadly, and we know from other parts of the world, spread like wildfire. But we can win the race as long as we don’t falter, as long as we continue to press on with consistent masking and getting the vaccine. Thank you, governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (31:56)
Doctor, let me ask a couple questions. The variant count that you were using, that 700 and some, what does that mean, though? How often are we testing for variants? What labs can do that, or how many labs can do it? Because it doesn’t sound like a very high number. You used it in the context of where we were, where we are, how fast it’s moving. Do you want to explain that?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (32:23)
Yes. So what our variant count is essentially is a [inaudible 00:32:29]. What’s important about the variant count really is not the absolute number. It’s the trend of the numbers that we observe. The fact is that we are able to test only a subset of all the COVID tests that are performed, because we’re only able to run these genomic surveillances off of PCR tests, and of those, only those where there’s still enough available, enough sample available, to run an additional test, the genomic test. Layer onto that the fact that there are a limited number of labs with this very advanced technology and capability.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (33:14)
Nevertheless, we run a lot. We are right now testing somewhere in the neighborhood in the state of a quarter to a third of all the positive tests through this genomic surveillance. But everyone in the country, as they’re looking at these numbers, does not look at them in terms of the absolute number of variants, but rather as an indicator of what proportion of activity is being driven by the variants.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (33:47)
And what these numbers tell me is we have a sizeable portion of the activity that this virus is engaged in that now is being driven by these variants, and I am confident that we will see more and more. And quite frankly, I think within the next couple of weeks, the variant will be the virus that we’re dealing with.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (34:16)
So if I understand what you’re saying, you think within two weeks, these variants will be the dominant?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (34:24)
Yes. [crosstalk 00:34:25] if you look nationally, it’s about a third of the virus that’s out there, is believed to be B.1.1.7 or its cousins.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (34:36)
And when you talk about, I mean, we’ve been talking for some time, and medical professionals like you have been talking for some time, these are more contagious. But I didn’t start hearing more deadly until, I don’t know, a week or so ago. How do we quantify these, or do we quantify these?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (34:58)
Well, that’s a really good observation, governor. And I think that’s in part because the medical and scientific professions have been learning more and more about these variants over time. And originally, we were not really sure that they in fact were more deadly, that they in fact caused more severe disease. We sure knew that they spread a lot faster. As we’ve learned more about them, it’s increasingly clear they’re both. They spread really fast and they cause people to get sicker.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (35:34)
Doctor, thank you very much. I want to turn now to another problem that’s got a little attention, but is a real one, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. We know that COVID has historically affected older Ohioans more than children, but children certainly are not immune to getting sick with COVID. In some rare cases they can develop what’s called multisystem inflammatory syndrome. It can have serious complications for children. They can certainly become very, very sick. Today I’ve asked Dr. Dustin Fleck, the chief rheumatology at Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, to talk to us about this syndrome. Doctor, thank you for joining us, and just tell us what this is, how it manifests itself, and what parents should be looking for.
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (36:30)
Thank you, governor, for the introduction and having me here today. MIS-C, also known as a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, so what this is, is this is a post-infectious inflammatory syndrome that’s generally associated with COVID-19 infection. What makes this unique versus what’s a lot of the talk with the COVID infection right now is it’s not actually associated with an active COVID infection. This is kind of a post-infectious inflammatory response that usually develops about two to four weeks after kids can develop either a symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID infection.
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (37:06)
The simplest way to put it is it’s just an abnormal immune response, usually characterized by fever, significant inflammation throughout the body, specifically targeting the heart, but can also involve the GI system, liver, lungs, kidneys, as well as brain. From a little bit more complex standpoint, we’ve been using a lot of analogies with MIS-C with a common disease that we’ve had around for a while known as Kawasaki’s disease, which also has some similar symptoms. What we do notice with MIS-C, it does seem to be more severe, more resistant to therapy, and kids are more likely to develop heart manifestations and long-term problems associated with MIS-C versus Kawasaki’s.
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (37:48)
Other variants and presentations that we see with MISC-C, some kids develop kind of abnormal activation of immune cells, which can start to invade the bone marrow, the liver, as well as spleen. This can be seen in about 25% of kids. And this is a condition known as macrophage activation syndrome. It does require some different therapies to help reduce that inflammation.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (38:11)
Doctor, let me interrupt you, because I kind of lost what you said. You said 25% of what?
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (38:20)
25% of kids with MIS-C [inaudible 00:38:23] can go on to develop this extra immune activation that can require some different therapies that can help. MIS-C, all the different kinds of presentations that we can see have a really high risk of developing some inflammation of both the heart muscle, as well as the arteries and blood vessels that supply blood to the heart.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (38:43)
What should parents look for?
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (38:46)
The biggest thing that people should look for, the vast majority, near 100% of cases have fever, as well as some kind of GI symptom. We see abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea that can be associated with it. Other symptoms kids may have may include rash. They may have swelling in the hands and feet. You may notice some redness of the eyes, some redness of the tongue, some dried, cracked lips. Overall, kids just may feel ill. They may be weak, lethargic. Symptoms alone aren’t enough to establish a diagnosis, so if kids are having symptoms similar to these, being evaluated by a primary care doctor or elsewhere to get to the bottom of the symptoms should be done.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (39:26)
And doctor, you talked about this coming on later. How much later? Let’s say I have a child that comes down with this and diagnosed with COVID. When would I start looking for this to see if this is occurring? What’s the normal progression if that happens?
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (39:46)
Normally it occurs about two to four weeks after exposure. We’ve been seeing on average about four weeks. Now, that doesn’t include, kids don’t have to have active infection. We’ve had a lot of kids who have quarantined due to exposure, but didn’t go on to develop any symptoms of any active COVID infection, but then went on to develop MIS-C approximately four weeks after, and they had antibodies in the bloodstream demonstrating exposure to it before in the past.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (40:12)
Dr. Fleck, if I could just ask one quick question, do we have any better understanding of why in the U.S. more Black and Latino children have been diagnosed with MIS-C?
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (40:26)
We don’t. There’s been a lot of look into this, and we’re trying to extrapolate studies from Kawasaki’s disease, which generally affects more of the Asian population. We think there’s a lot of genes and genomic factors that play a part into this. Makeups of immune system and genetic factors may make people more predisposed to this. But with Kawasaki’s disease, which has been around and noticed since the fifties and sixties, we still don’t have a clear understanding of that, but I know a lot of people are working hard on research to figure out what makes kids more prone to develop this syndrome.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (41:03)
Doctor, how many, roughly, how many have you seen at Children’s in Dayton?
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (41:08)
We’ve seen approximately 35 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, dating all the way back until April.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (41:15)
Without a vaccine obviously available for younger children yet, again, recommendations to parents as far as how they proceed?
Dr. Dustin Fleck: (41:24)
Yeah. So at this time, until vaccination becomes available for children, although the risk of MIS-C is still low, it’s still present. And although kids may not have symptoms of COVID-19 infection, they can still go on to develop this. So it’s still going to be dependent on appropriate social distancing protocols, mask wearing, and adults getting their vaccinations to help prevent spread, which will prevent exposing kids and will hopefully decrease the risk of these cases going forward.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (41:55)
Great. Dr. Vanderhoff, any other questions?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (41:58)
No, the only thing I might add, governor, is that here in Ohio, since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had a total of 166 children treated for this [inaudible 00:42:12].
Gov. Mike DeWine: (42:13)
Okay. Doctor, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for being with us. We’ll now go to the lieutenant governor.
Jon A. Husted: (42:22)
Thanks, governor. I want to just comment on a couple things that you mentioned earlier. I thought that was great news about getting to the one third number of vaccinations across the state. I visited in Ashland County yesterday a facility there where they’re doing vaccinations. A lot of this is being done by volunteers across the state that are helping to support these facilities, healthcare professionals, firefighters, EMS personnel, the National Guard. They’re all to be commended for that work. As you said one third, it took me back to the beginning of this pandemic when we had the ad up with the mousetraps, where all the mousetraps showed the ping pong ball bouncing and how easy you could spread it. Between natural immunity due to those who had it and now this one third that have been vaccinated, it’s great to see we’ve removed more than one third of those mousetraps, where we’ve protected people.
Jon A. Husted: (43:27)
And that will continue to help drive the momentum. And I know as people are looking for some hope and optimism, they should have that. And we’re just real proud of all those people that have been pitching in to make this happen, because it’s a real sight when you go out there and see what people are doing every single day, volunteers showing up every single day. And I want to thank them for that.
Jon A. Husted: (43:53)
Also, great news, and we hope the general assembly will take your lead on this and use some of the recovery funds that we have available to help support the unemployment compensation system in paying back that loan. I spoke with the NFIB and the chamber of commerce this morning, just to try to get a perspective about what this meant to small businesses and businesses across the state. And they said that it would prevent a 50% increase on the federal unemployment tax in 2022, 100% increase on that tax in 2023, and 150% increase on that tax in 2024. To put that into real numbers, in 2022, that would be an additional $1.9 million out of their pockets, an additional 219 million in 2023, an additional 329 million in 2024. To peg this to the individual, that moves from $21 additional in 2022 to $42 additional in 2023 and $63 per employee in 2024. So if you put that into reality for a lot of these small businesses that are really still struggling to get out of this, and we want to save our small businesses, we don’t want to have to be reliant on these national companies for everything. We need Ohio companies, we need good small businesses here in Ohio. And instead, they can use this savings to hire people, to provide wages and benefits to their employees that they need to succeed. And they wanted to extend their thanks to you, governor, for this announcement today and your leadership in helping to make this happen. So that’s really good news.
Jon A. Husted: (45:51)
I also want to reflect on an announcement, because every time we talk about it, we get more students who sign up. The Choose Ohio First announcement. You can find out more about Choose Ohio First at ohiohighered.org/cof. And what we announced this week is that 3,400 more Ohio students will be enrolled in the Choose Ohio First program this year. For those of you that don’t know what Choose Ohio First is, it’s a STEM scholarship for Ohio high school graduates, to get them to enroll in Ohio colleges and universities and major in STEM. The emphasis of the program is on non-traditional STEM students, because to hit the numbers that we need to hit to get more STEM graduates, particularly in healthcare and computer science, we need to bring more students into the fold that traditionally wouldn’t enroll.
Jon A. Husted: (46:49)
And we’re going to end up awarding in the 2019, 2020 graduations, [inaudible 00:46:57] last year we awarded 41,969 STEM degrees as a state. It’s still way below where the demand is. So we encourage people to find out more about the Choose Ohio First scholarship and the other programs that we have to help people earn those STEM skills.
Jon A. Husted: (47:15)
Additionally, on the BMV project, a couple weeks ago, we announced an upgrade of the BMV website to make it more user-friendly. And as evidence that when you use technology to improve the way we serve our customers, just since we did that, we’ve seen an increase in organ donations and next of kin registrations, by more than, it quadrupled. It quadrupled the number of people who signed up on that for organ donation and next of kin registrations, because now you can do an individualized BMV profile. And so remember, go to bmv.ohio.gov. This has worked out really well, and we’re enhancing some of these services.
Jon A. Husted: (48:03)
This worked out really well, and we’re enhancing some of these services again today with the online queuing system. So Governor, you and I were at a BMV in June of ’19, I believe it was, when we announced the Get In Line Online System, where you could go on, enroll online, reserve your space, they would text you a code, and then you would reserve your place in line. They would tell you how long it was before you needed to be there, and then you would have to go physically in though to the BMV and let them know on the local kiosk, the kiosk that they had there, that you had arrived so they could call you up. But you no longer have to go inside. We now have Q codes that are going to be on the outside of the building. You sign up online. Instead of having to go in, physically go in, you can just take your phone, like many people are accustomed to at restaurants these days, scan the QR code, and it lets them know that you’re there.
Jon A. Husted: (48:56)
So you don’t have to go inside. Why does that matter? Well, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s good that we all don’t have to sit inside the same waiting room. As we try to get out of this, it allows people to remain in their cars and not have to come inside. All of these upgrades are available through our BMV, and this is another timely reason for doing this, is that a lot of those expiration dates for not having to go get your license and things like that, those are expiring. And so people are going to have to go back into the BMV, particularly before the grace period ends on July 1 for a lot of these issues. So go now. We’ve got a queuing system that makes it simple and easy for you. Don’t wait. You don’t have to get inside with everybody else. And we’re making it a lot easier. So continuing to focus on education, STEM education, continuing to focus on these customer service upgrades in our system, and we know that when we do that, good things happen. So Governor, I’ll turn it back over to you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (50:04)
Lieutenant Governor, thank you very much. Great news about organ donations. We just would encourage everyone to sign up. That’s something that you can do that in case of a tragedy your family knows what you want to do. And it really has saved a lot of lives and improved a lot of lives. It’s a great thing to do. We’re ready for questions.
Speaker 1: (50:27)
Governor, our first question today is from Allison Walker at WKEF in Dayton.
Allison Walker: (50:30)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (50:37)
Allison Walker: (50:39)
So doctors say that kids 12 and older transmit COVID-19 at the same rate as adults. Have you gotten a timeline from the federal government about what vaccines will be approved and administered for those 12 plus in light of the highly contagious U.K. variant that’s now the dominant strain?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (51:00)
I’m going to let Dr. Vanderhoff answered that. He and I actually were talking about that very question yesterday. So I’ll let him answer that.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (51:04)
Well, first, in terms of when we believe a vaccine will become available for people younger than the age of 16, of course, none of us know that yet. I think it’s a very encouraging sign though that we see drug manufacturers like Pfizer who are already reporting some very favorable information about the trials involving adolescents. So I remain optimistic that we will be seeing a vaccine becoming available to younger age groups as we head into the summer. But I am not able to give you any firm prediction. What was your second question? I didn’t quite understand what the second part of the question was.
Allison Walker: (51:51)
Oh, you answered my question. I just really was wondering about the timeline about when those 12 plus will be able to get their shots.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (52:03)
Not soon enough. It can’t happen soon enough. But Dr. Vanderhoff told me yesterday, he’s pretty encouraged, as you just heard. We look forward to that day.
Speaker 1: (52:17)
Next question is from Adrienne Robbins at WCMH in Columbus.
Adrienne Robbins: (52:22)
Hi, Governor. Thank you for taking our questions. I think my question is for Dr. Vanderhoff. We talk a lot about this race that we’re in to vaccinate Ohioans as the variant continues to spread at a little over 33% of the population starting their vaccines. I mean, how are we doing in this race? And is there a certain percentage that you’re aiming for compared to the number of cases that we’re seeing?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (52:47)
Well, certainly looking at the number of vaccines in arms is very important for us to be doing, because as we’ve said many, many times, it is vaccination that is ultimately our path out of this pandemic. I really like the analogy that the Lieutenant Governor shared about the ping pong ball and the mousetraps. I too remember watching that video and it’s really a very apt analogy. The more of us that we take off the table, once we’re fully vaccinated, the data’s increasingly clear, we’re off the table. Our vaccinations are incredibly good. They’re safe, they’re incredibly effective. And the good news is now we have more and more evidence that something that initially I think we had reasonable concerns regarding is no longer a substantial concern, and that is that perhaps B117, and some of the other variants would make our vaccinations less impactful, and that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (53:54)
So I don’t have that exact number. Some very, very smart vaccinologists and virologists have postulated different numbers, but I can tell you that we’ll know it when we get there, because what we will see is we will start seeing our cases go down and as those cases go down, fewer people will end up sick and in the hospital.
Speaker 1: (54:21)
Next question is from John London at WLWT in Cincinnati.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (54:25)
John London: (54:26)
Hi, Governor. Based on what Dr. Vanderhoff just said, so 33% partially vaccinated, 19% fully vaccinated. I wonder, will we reach a percentage that could cause you to alter and raise the 50 per 100,000 metric, or is that a hard and fast standard that you need to see for two weeks before removing restrictions?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (54:50)
Well, it’s based upon, as you know, John, metrics that we’ve used for over a year, and that are used nationally. We picked 50 after consultation with experts to see what would be a logical place. It could have been 45. I suppose it could have been 55. It could have been something else, but you could see us, we were moving very well in regard to that until we weren’t and it started back up. I we’ve learned throughout this last 14 months, we’ve learned throughout this virus that the virus is unpredictable. So I can’t predict how this ,is going to play out. I can tell you how I hope it plays out, and the way I hope it plays out is that we continue to vaccinate at a very high rate and that at some point, because we have removed those mousetraps or whatever from the playing field and we remove more and more and more of them, it’s more difficult for the virus to spread, and then those numbers, those cases start going down.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (56:02)
That’s what we expect to happen. That’s what we hope happens. But when that will happen, I can’t really tell you that, and I don’t think anybody can.
Speaker 1: (56:13)
Next question is from Mike Livingston at Gongwer New Service.
Mike Livingstone: (56:18)
Hi there, Governor. On the unemployment system, is there anything specific that you’d like to see in a plan to address the solvency issue? And is that something you might favor seeing included in the operating budget as Present Huffman, I think, has previously suggested? Thanks.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (56:35)
I assume your question has to do with basically taking care of the structural problem that we’ve known we’ve had for quite some long time way before the pandemic. No, I’m not prescribing anything to the general assembly. I think the issues are pretty well known. We have to bring people together, they have to bring people together, and come up with a formula that will make this solvent as we move forward. It is not structurally balanced at this point. So the answer is, no, I’m not prescribing anything. I’m just saying that has to be the goal. Let’s try to work towards that goal.
Speaker 1: (57:15)
Next question is from Justin Dennis with mahoningmatters.com.
Justin Dennis: (57:20)
Hi, Governor. Thanks for briefing us, as always. With large events given the green light this year, what mechanisms are recommended to enforce things like masking and social distancing at things like fairs or festivals? Is there some entity being offered up like BWC inspectors, or will enforcement be left up to local health departments? Will enforcement continue to be a priority or are we relying on event organizers essentially to police themselves?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (57:46)
Well, I think what’s happened in the last few months since we not only put on the statewide mask order but we started having inspectors go out statewide, the truth is that we’ve not issued any citations. There may have been some warnings issued, but no business has been closed for any period of time at all. And so if you think about that, what’s really happened is the people running the business have taken charge and dealt with it. And we’ve not said that 100% of the people in your business have to have masks on. That’s aspirational. I asked this morning, the director, “What’s our numbers from yesterday?” I think 94 and a half percent. So it’s holding steady very, very strong. And when you think about that, it’s almost self enforced, because we don’t have that many inspectors going out, and it’s really people in the stores that are doing it.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (58:43)
So if you look at fairs, you look at festivals, look, we’re asking the people who run these events to do the signage, to put the signs up, to have an expectation that people will, in fact, wear a mask. And we’ve had great success in Ohio in doing that. I mean, think about our schools where we’ve gone day after day after day with virtually no spread in the classroom and everybody wearing a mask. We’ve done the same thing in our retail now for months. So Ohioans has been very, very successful in doing this, and so I have every confidence that we will be able to do this as long as we have to do it. We would love to be in summer and not have to do this anymore.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (59:26)
And I think if we can vaccinate, continue to vaccinate people, and people are willing to continue to get vaccinated at a high level, we will get to the point where we will not have to have any of these orders on. But we’ve put that goal out there, we’ve set a set of marker, and I think we know how to get to it. And I think until we get to it, Ohioans will be willing to continue to do what they have to do to protect themselves and protect their families.
Speaker 1: (59:57)
Next question is from Spenser Hickey at Hannah New Service.
Spenser Hickey: (01:00:01)
Thank you. Following up on that question with the Ohio State Fair’s announcement today that it would only operate this year under a limited basis. Do you think there should be additional funding for it next year? And what do you think this will mean for County Fairs this year?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:00:22)
Well, three good questions. Yes, the State Fair will need some money, and we intend to ask the legislature for some of the money from the federal dollars that are coming in to be used for the State Fair. It has been very difficult, obviously, for the State Fair. The State Fair made the decision to go to a Junior Fair. And if you’re a parent of a 4H-er, FFA, or if you belong to any of those groups and you participate in the Junior Fair in your local county, having that State Fair out there as being aspirational is a great thing. And I know our kids a couple of years have gone to State Fair with photography, and we know a lot of kids who have gone over the years to the State Fair. So kids will be able to have that experience this year. And so I’m very, very happy about that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:01:17)
The County Fairs we’ve outlined what they need to do. We anticipate that all County Fairs and all independent fairs will be able to have full fairs. But the decision that was made today by the State Fair Board is unique to the State Fair because of its size, because of how much of it depends on different revenue streams. They made that decision. I’m comfortable with the decision that they made. But the important thing for me, I think the important thing for all of us should be, that young people will be able to have the experience of taking their projects to the State Fair this year like a normal year they would be able to do. And I look forward to 2022 and a great State Fair.
Speaker 1: (01:02:12)
Next question is from Tom Jackson at the Sandusky Register.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:02:16)
Tom Jackson: (01:02:17)
Hi, Governor. Governor, I’m sure you saw the disappointing news about a manufacturing mistake at the Johnson & Johnson’s plant. Has the federal government been able to assure you that it will be able to keep increasing the vaccination doses that it’s sending to Ohio as you keep taking more steps to get those shots into people’s arms?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:02:45)
Yeah. Tom, you broke up a little bit. I think I have the question. If I don’t, you can come back and correct me. Look, no one wanted to see that happen. It did happen. Will it ultimately affect Johnson & Johnson coming into Ohio? Certainly, it’ll affect it going into every state. None of that, of course, entered the state and it did not impact for the next few weeks. The amount that we’re receiving next week, which is down very considerably, is not, I’m told, impacted by what happened in that factory. So we’ve got a couple of weeks of a lot less Johnson & Johnson. It’s quite interesting, when we heard about Johnson & Johnson coming online, we didn’t know whether people would want it or not want it. We didn’t know how they would sort out these three vaccines, and it’s clear that a lot of people really do want the Johnson & Johnson.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:03:43)
And I would just, I guess, repeat what some of the experts have said. The vaccine you want is the vaccine you can get as quickly as you can, because this variant is out there, and it’s dangerous and we’re still losing people and we’re still having people get very sick and we have more and more people going into our hospitals. So I would just urge everyone, I know some people are waiting for the Johnson & Johnson, I would urge you not to do that. I would urge you to get what you can get. We know that the first dose is very potent, even before you get the second dose of the Moderna, the second dose of the Pfizer. We know that first dose, after a relatively period of time is very, very powerful. So we just urge people, get it. If you can get it, wherever you can get it, get it into your arms, and start that process going.
Speaker 1: (01:04:36)
Next question is from Marty Schladen at the Ohio Capital Journal.
Marty Schladen: (01:04:40)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:04:41)
Marty Schladen: (01:04:44)
Even though older Ohioans now have been eligible for the vaccine for months, the highest proportion at any cohort has at least gotten a first dose is 75%. Do you think that some of this is due to vaccine hesitancy? And I know you’ve been working mightily to show Ohioans that you think the vaccine is safe, but is there any plan to identify who is hesitant, why they’re hesitant and a way to message to them that to get over that hesitancy?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:05:22)
The answer is yes to that. Certainly, we’re looking at those things. There’s been some national polls done. There’s been other polls down that we’ve looked at, state polls, in trying to think this through. I think, Marty, it’s a combination of a lot of different things and I think it’s a process. I think that we have to continue to work at it very hard. We have to make it as easy as we can for people. We know that there are health departments that are working mightily to get, for example, those people, older people, generally older people who are in their homes and literally could not leave their homes and the only way they leave is in an ambulance. I mean, they’d literally can’t leave. And they’ve done a good job in reaching these individuals, but there’s still more people out there who have not been reached.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:06:13)
I think also part of this is persuasion, and my experience as Fran and I have traveled around and just talked to people who are getting vaccinated, and all ages we’ve talked to. And it just seems that the most common persuader is your family, your close friends, what you see them doing. So I would just constantly continue to urge if you have a loved one in your family who has not been vaccinated, whatever their age, please try to persuade them to do it. Talk about your experience. When you talk to people who are getting vaccinated, so often in the conversation, it’s, “My spouse wanted me to get it. My husband wanted me to get it. My wife wanted me to get it. I’m doing it because I want to go see my mother. She’s already been vaccinated.” So it’s these family relationships and these friend relationships that really drives a lot of this.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:07:23)
So there’s no silver bullet. There’s no one magic thing we can do. I just think we have to continue on our side of this in the state government, in the providers, to work as hard as we can to try to make this available. And we are going to see as we move forward and as demand starts to slacken, that’s why we’re going out to try to get people who are working in factories. That’s why we’re going out to go into churches and all these other things. So the 74%, 75% in regard to those who are older, those are not bad numbers, but we obviously want to have them higher. If you look at it now, I think I looked at it this morning, and if you look at 65 and over and you average those out, we’re over 70% of that whole group. But that’s not where we want to be. We want to continue to go after the other ones and to make that available.
Speaker 1: (01:08:33)
Next question is from Sean Cudahy at WHIO in Dayton.
Sean Cudahy: (01:08:38)
Hi, Governor. Similar theme to this question about vaccine hesitancy. I covered one of our counties, Monroe County, last night that they’ve actually decided to stop doing a drive through vaccine site, because they are not seeing the demand they need to justify putting it on. What is your level of concern at this point, as we look toward trying to get to herd immunity at some point? I think that county has got about 25%, 24% of people vaccinated so far. Are there particular areas where you’re seeing concerns right now?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:09:11)
Well, Sean, there are, and you can look at it on the chart that we put out every single day. The interesting thing though, is if you look at the highest counties, the conventional wisdom is they’re all urban counties, they’re all suburban counties, and many of them are, but you’ve got some rural counties that are very high on the list, in the top 10 of the most vaccinations. And if you go from the top to the bottom, we are seeing quite a disparity between counties where it’s a high level and counties where it’s a much lower level. We continue to, frankly, worry about any Ohioan who’s not been vaccinated. We worry about them for themselves, but we also worry about their family, and we know that collectively it’s so important for us to do everything we can to reach that herd immunity.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:10:10)
So no magic bullet to get it done. I just think it continues to mean work. And we will in the not too distant future have a lot more sites where literally people can walk in and can get their shot without an appointment. We’re going to see more of that. We already have some of those, but that’s, again, there’s some people who just, that’s how they want to operate. They don’t want to make an appointment. They don’t want to have to say it’s going to be X number of days. They want to be able to walk in and get it. And so giving them the opportunity to do that in different parts of Ohio I think will be helpful as well.
Speaker 1: (01:10:53)
Next question is from Andy Chow at Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Andy Chow: (01:10:57)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:10:58)
Andy Chow: (01:10:59)
For you and for Dr. Vanderhoff, And I think Dr. Vanderhoff, you addressed this earlier, when it comes to this recent spike, recent increases in cases, do you expect the death rate to be dramatically different than recent surges given the fact that high risk people have had opportunities to get vaccinated?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:11:23)
We’ll let Dr. Vanderhoff take that one.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:11:25)
Well, Andy, I think probably one of the most reliable indicators we can look at to answer that hypothetical question is if we look at our hospitalizations. And as I look at hospitalizations, one of the things I’ve asked myself is, are we seeing a reduction in the percent of people of advanced ages, since they were the group that we began our vaccination efforts with and they’re a group that has a very high percentage of vaccination? Are we seeing fewer of them go to the hospital? And the answer is yes.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:12:03)
…of them go to the hospital. And the answer is, yes, we’ve seen the percent of people who are hospitalized above the age of 80 dropped almost in half. And as we then go down to the group, that’s 70, it’s probably a third less. So there’s clear indication that vaccination is having the impact that we hope it would. And, as I said, there’s more and more research emerging showing that when you have that vaccination, it drops your statistical risk of ending up in the hospital, or dying from COVID-19 to an incredibly low percentage. So, I am confident that it’s going to mitigate it. The real question is, again, this race, how quickly can we get enough vaccine into enough arms that we reduce that number, that absolute number of people who end up needing hospitalization and advanced care.
Speaker 2: (01:13:11)
Next question is from Geoff Redick at WSYX in Columbus.
Geoff Redick: (01:13:17)
Good afternoon, governor. This might be a question for both of you. You and Dr. Vanderhoff, but obviously Franklin County going up and is on that watch list case rises statewide on that 50 per 100,000 metric to remove even the simplified health orders. Clearly we’ve headed in the wrong direction. Are you still optimistic as you previously said that we might reach that by July 4th? Or is this bumping that back by a month or more?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:13:48)
Oh, I think it’s still possible. I’ll let Dr. Vanderhoff who certainly worked on that and knows more about these things than I do. I’ll let him answer the question, but I’m optimistic that that’s still achievable.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:14:02)
Yep. Thank you, governor. And yes, I would share the governor’s optimism and not because we don’t face a challenge, but because of how, here in Ohio, we’ve consistently addressed these COVID challenges as the governor outlined, we’ve got two really powerful forces working in our advantage. One is that we’re doing a very good job getting vaccines into arms. We’ve crossed that one third threshold that’s very encouraging. And the second is the very high retail compliance with masking that we see in this state, 94 and a half percent. That’s remarkable and not per my conversations with counterparts in other states, universally seen when you go to other states. So those two factors working together really give me optimism even in the face of these variants.
Speaker 2: (01:15:00)
Next question is from David Winter at WKRC in Cincinnati.
David Winter: (01:15:06)
Thank you for taking the question, governor. This is actually a follow-up to Monday’s question regarding allowing people to collect unemployment benefits while not looking for work. While people who file claims after December sixth do have to seek work. ODJFS got back to me and they said that the plan is to keep paying the hundreds of thousands of people who filed prior to December 6th, without requiring that they seek work until the federal unemployment aid expires in September. Jobs are opening up restaurants and other employers are saying that they were finding it difficult to find people to apply for their open jobs. You just said that we had to borrow 1.5 billion from the feds to pay for unemployment. We’re spending $95 million a week of state money on unemployment. Why are you still waiting until September to require people look for work while collecting unemployment?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:15:59)
Well, I will check with the department and we’ll get back to you on that. Look, we obviously want to encourage people to look for work. That has always been a central part of unemployment that people have to show that they are, in fact, doing that, but we encourage people to do that. But let me get back to you on that.
Speaker 2: (01:16:26)
Next Question is from Kevin Landers at WBNS in Columbus.
Kevin Landers: (01:16:30)
Hello, my question is for the Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governor, it’s our understanding that you plan to meet with members of the Asian-American community on Friday. Can you confirm that? And are you planning to make an apology for the use of the phrase “Wuhan virus”, thank you.
Jon A. Husted: (01:16:47)
Well, I will say this. I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people and we’ll we’ll have to do a review here since you asked the question. The purpose for my tweet was to raise awareness about what happened in China, as it relates to the Coronavirus. We know that in Wuhan, there is a lab that circumstantial evidence is building that could have been the location of the origin of the virus, or the wet market where it’s alleged that the virus spread initially, I have tried to explain that the Chinese government needs to be held accountable for what is happening, and what happened surrounding the origin of the virus. It is my belief that they’re hiding of information, their lack of responsiveness led to this pandemic. And we have to be able to have that conversation without connecting it in any way to any Chinese American, anyone, any Asian American in this country. There is no excuse or no reason to connect the two, no one should. And no one should confuse in any way what I said with that.
Jon A. Husted: (01:18:36)
I will continue to have conversations because people have asked me to have private conversations within the community. And I’m having those private conversations within the community. There’s a lot of disagreement among Asian-Americans who some of them don’t want to be brought into this. They want to be classified as Americans and not Asian-Americans people of different heritages view the issue differently. It’s one of those things that I hope by having these conversations, we can create some more understanding that we can be empathetic to the fears that some in the Asian American community, the Chinese American community have about hate and violence call attention to that help to alleviate those threats, and concerns by building bridges, not inflating the issue anymore than it already has been.
Jon A. Husted: (01:19:46)
We are having a lot of those kinds of conversations. I’m just looking down here at a note that someone sent me that said, “Look, we all experienced life as individuals, not as a group. And we have to respect everybody’s individual opinion and try to find ways to build bridges.” I’ve always conducted myself like that. I will continue to do that, but again, I’m going to emphasize, we have to be able to have the conversation about holding the government of China, the Chinese communist party to account for what happened without in any way, connecting that to Chinese Americans. And I will continue to try to do that.
Speaker 2: (01:20:33)
Next question is from Farnoush Amiri at the Associated Press.
Farnoush Amiri : (01:20:37)
Hi, governor. This question is for you and I’m Dr. Vanderhoff. As you guys have mentioned multiple times on this call. There is this parallel race of the variants that are spreading and the states ramping up vaccinations up to like 80,000 people a day, which is really promising. But I’m wondering if the science, or experts are telling you that what is happening with these variants is going to be no matter how many people get vaccinated, there’s a new population of people getting this that maybe weren’t, is it like younger people? Is it still the same older, vulnerable populations? What do you guys know about what’s happening in this new surge that it’s different than what happened in the fall?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:21:23)
Yeah, I’ll let Dr. Vanderhoff answer, but just to make a observation based on the numbers, as we vaccinated significant number of people over the age of 65, you’re seeing the percentage of those people in the hospital go down. You’re seeing therefore the percentage of younger people who are getting it, it’s certainly going up. So, it’s skewing younger, and I just assume that that’s a direct result of the vaccinations that are taking place, doctor?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:21:55)
Yes. Thank you, governor. Well, I actually think that the variants provide us with one more important indication. One more important reason why we should roll up our sleeves and get vaccinated. The data, which is emerging about the vaccines beginning with our MRNA vaccines, because there’s been the most time to do the testing with them is very compelling. It’s very strong indicating that not only is the vaccine associated immunity very durable, lasts a long time. We now have data, for example, with Pfizer, confirming six months of very solid non waning immunity, but it also holds up very well in the face of the various, including B1351, which is one of the variants that many scientists had the greatest anxiety regarding. So we have great confidence there.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:22:56)
On the other hand, even before the variants arrived, we knew that natural immunity, the immunity we get from exposure to the virus is variable. And some people develop a robust immunity and many other people not so robust. And in fact, it can wane over time. And we have cases of people being reinfected who’ve had immunity from natural exposure. So I think what it really tells us is, look, this virus is not standing still. We need the best immunity we can get, and that is vaccination.
Speaker 2: (01:23:34)
The next question is from Jim Provance at the Toledo Blade.
Jim Provance: (01:23:40)
Hi, again, governor, we’ve watched the infections over in Michigan skyrocket in recent weeks and their positivity rate right now is over 15%, but Ohio dropped its travel advisory a few weeks ago when the numbers were going in a better direction. Is there any consideration about bringing that back now, given the surge we’re seeing in some border states and ultimately, is there any reason to believe that what’s happening in Michigan now won’t eventually happen here?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:10)
Well, I’ll let Dr. Vanderhoff take the last question. I’ll take the first one. Jim, we are seeing our positivity rate go up. It’s certainly not anywhere in the same ballpark as where Michigan’s is nor our case numbers, but we certainly are headed in the wrong direction. I think that whether we put a advisory on or not, I would suggest that people who are thinking about traveling anywhere take a look at what the data is from that place that they’re going to. And what that’s going to tell you is what the odds are of you coming down with the COVID or at least being exposed to someone who has COVID, the numbers are clear. You can look on the webpage and you can see what all the states are certainly including Ohio. And you can see where those real hot spots are. And so if I was going to a state that has a high incidence, and where it really appears to be spreading, I would be particularly careful. Absolutely. Seems to me, that’s just common sense and that is just prudent. Doctor?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:25:21)
Yeah. So, thank you, governor. And to then pick up on the second part of the question, as we look at the data, and as we look at what has happened in the hotspots, one of which of course is Michigan. One thing is very clear. We in Ohio have the benefit of having a period of weeks of headstart in terms of vaccine before B117 really began gaining traction. And that is crucial time. So I am not anticipating that the experience in Ohio is going to mimic what we’ve seen in Michigan. Nevertheless, that is completely dependent on us continuing to do a very good job with our masking and distancing, as well as our vaccination. We’ve said it over and over, we’re in a race. When you’re in a race, you can’t flag, as you’re reaching the end of the race, we have to keep moving forward with the things that are working.
Speaker 2: (01:26:35)
Next question’s from Jessie Balmert to the Cincinnati Inquirer.
Jessie Balmert: (01:26:39)
Hello, governor. My question is Amtrak recently put out a new proposal for passenger rail, including several locations in Ohio, obviously your predecessor rejected some funding for a proposal like this. What do you think of the plan? Would you support it?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:58)
I think we have to know more. We have to know what the state’s involvement would be, what kind of costs that would be for the state. So I don’t think that’s clear. So I would certainly reserve judgment until we get more information about it. What’s our role, what’s our costs, what specifically are the plans? So I think we’re much too early to make any kind of judgment on that.
Speaker 2: (01:27:26)
Next question is from Trevor Peters at WXIX in Cincinnati.
Trevor Peters: (01:27:31)
Hi, governor, your simplified health order doesn’t give capacity restrictions for outdoor events as long as there’s distancing. A week into the baseball season, are you staying with 30% capacity for the Reds and Indians, or will that be changed soon?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:27:47)
Now, what we actually did and we didn’t make a huge deal out of it. It was in the order, but we increased the size of the pods from six to 10. And at the same time for outside, we took away capacity, but saying you take away capacity, but you still have to have social distancing and you have pods of 10 instead of six, the Reds, the Indians, different minor league teams could tell you how that changes it, but it changed it some would allow some more people in, but it’s not going to dramatically change it because of the distancing requirement. At least that’s how the baseball teams have explained it to me. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but.
Speaker 2: (01:28:40)
Next question is from Nathan Hart at WCPO in Cincinnati.
Nathan Hart: (01:28:46)
Hi, governor. I was just wondering as the summer comes around, if for some reason the situation gets worse, was there any chance of you rescinding some of these orders you just issued on Monday about gatherings that were making them more restrictive?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:29:05)
Well, we’re always going to be driven by the facts and what the situation is. So I think it’s probably not a good idea to ever say, I’ll never do something, but what we truly, truly believe is that we know a lot more about this virus and the variants today than we did even a few months ago. And what we truly know is that masks really make a difference. And so if Ohioans will continue to wear masks when they’re out continuing to wear a mask when they’re in retail, that is going to have a huge impact. If Ohioans will remember that outside is a lot safer than inside that if you’re with someone who is not living in your household your warning signs should go up.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:29:55)
But, again, as long as everyone is wearing a mask, we can have a spring that is as close to a normal spring as possible. We can have graduations, we can have proms, we can have festivals. So I think that all of us staying with what matters most, and that’s what we try to do with these orders. We try to simplify them. We try to really put a focus on what matters most. What matters most we’ve learned is wearing a mask, keeping some distance being outside. Those are the essential things. So, that’s really what we have to continue to execute every day until this thing is driven down a lot further.
Speaker 2: (01:30:46)
Governor, next question is the last question for today. And it belongs to Alex Ebert of Bloomberg.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:30:52)
Alex Ebert: (01:30:53)
Thanks for having us governor. I know you said you wouldn’t provide any specific prescriptions for how to fix the UI funded balance. However, there’s really only two things we could do, right? We could decrease benefits or we could increase the costs or fees to employers. What would you not sign? Would you not sign something that does one of those two things, or are you open to anything?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:31:16)
Look, I think it’s not wise at this point to be laying down certain things to do. And certainly not to do that publicly. The legislature has a heavy task ahead. This is not easy. If it was easy, it would have been done a number of years ago. There’s been attempts to do this. There’s been thought about it, but I just think Ohioans need to try to come together and we need to try to figure this out. And I think it is a job worth doing, and it will put our fiscal house in much better order. It will allow us to go into any kind of future problems that we might have in a much, much better shape. And it’s the wise thing to do. We just need to see now if we can do it. And I’m hopeful that we can. So, we look forward to seeing everybody next week. Thank you very much.