Feb 16, 2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 16

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 16
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsOhio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 16

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on February 16, 2021 to provide coronavirus updates. He discussed plans for a centralized COVID-19 vaccine scheduling system. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.

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Governor Mike DeWine: (08:45)
Afternoon, everyone. I want to say Happy Birthday to Kevin Miller. Kevin is the Director, member of our cabinet, Director of the Opportunities for Ohioans With Disabilities, and thank him for the great job that he is doing. I thought we’d start off with the weather. I’ve asked Director Jack Marchbanks, who heads up Ohio Department of Transportation, to give us a little report. Director, what’s going on? Tell us where you are, first of all.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (09:18)
Governor, I’m in the Traffic Management Center of the Ohio Department of Transportation, our statewide system that monitors all areas of the state through our camera network. I wanted to give you and the rest of Ohio an update on our weather situation. We’re making progress and working to get the lanes and shoulders as clear as possible before the next round of snow and ice hits the state. Ice is the toughest thing that winter can throw at ODOT. There’s not much we can do other than salt the roadways a lot and often, but we are making progress. The challenge is not to just get the heavy snow off the roadways, but also to keep it off the roadways. Wind gusts causing snow drifts can quickly recover a recently plowed roadway.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (10:07)
The best thing you can do is avoid essential travel. This is our advice to all Ohioans. The best thing you can do is avoid essential travel until we have time to catch up and let our materials work. This will help us ensure we have things as clear as possible before the next wave comes in. Lawrence County really got bad ice yesterday and last night. Many roads are closed and traffic signals are out due to a lack of power. Remember to treat dark traffic signals like a four-way stop. Be very careful that those dark signals.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (10:46)
It’s all hands on deck for ODOT. More than 1,200 crews are out across the state plowing and treating state and US routes outside municipalities and on all interstates. Crews are working 12 to 16 hour shifts and have been on the road for the last 36 hours. They will continue to work until we get the job done. We’re also patrolling for downed trees. We’ll have chainsaws and our trucks to help get roads opened as quickly as possible.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (11:17)
You’ve heard some concerns about salt. We have enough salt to get us through. ODOT has just used about 600,000 tons of salt thus far this winter. We still have more than 410 tons on hand and ready, and more. Actually, I want to make sure that people know that we have more order to ensure that we’re ready for the rest of winter. Our forces have spent 751,000 hours driving more than 7.1 million miles to clear snow and ice of our state and US routes thus far.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (11:54)
One thing I wanted to emphasize … Yes, Governor.

Governor Mike DeWine: (11:57)
Oh, go ahead. Go ahead.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (11:58)
One thing I wanted to emphasize is that when you’re out, if you have to go out, please, please give our drivers enough room to do their work. We’ve had 11 snow plows hit just the past two weeks. We had only eight hit all last winter, so it’s very treacherous out there. Give our drivers enough room. Slow down. Keep a clear distance behind them. Try to avoid driving beside them. Our snow plows are very heavy, very sturdy. If you hit a snow plow, you and your vehicle will be the ones who come out for the worst for it. Unfortunately, we have had a fatality in regards to someone hitting a snow plow up in Medina County just today. So again, please give our drivers room as they clear the roadways for you. That’s it, Governor.

Governor Mike DeWine: (12:54)
Director, that’s what I was going to ask you about. What people should do when they see that snow plow. But I guess the message is, give him plenty of room.

Director Jack Marchbanks: (13:03)
Yes, sir.

Governor Mike DeWine: (13:05)
All right. We appreciate that. I want to thank our ODOT crews, but also our county crews that are out today. Village crews, city crews, and township crews. I’ll give a shout out to Miami Township. They’re doing our road right in front of our house. Miami Township, that’s close, and all the townships, but everybody who’s out there, they’re working very, very hard, and we appreciate what they’re doing. Let me continue on the weather and talk a little bit about some of the shipment delays. Ohioans with vaccine appointments during this storm should not only check the road conditions before they leave home, but should also confirm their appointment has not been canceled. Many providers are continuing with their scheduled appointments, so a lot of them are moving forward today, so don’t assume it’s been canceled, but a lot of them are. However, some have had to cancel due to snow emergencies. These providers are contacting their patients sometimes by phone, email, or by posting on social media. If you haven’t heard from your provider and are concerned about whether or not your appointment is still scheduled, or you need to cancel your appointment, please contact your provider or visit their website.

Governor Mike DeWine: (14:22)
Now, a large number of Ohioans’ COVID vaccine providers receive shipment directly from the manufacturers, Moderna and Pfizer. We have been told that due to severe weather across Ohio and the country, some of these shipments are delayed. Sometimes by a day, sometimes by two days. The Ohio Department of Health has contacted all of the providers here in Ohio who were expecting shipments, and we have notified them of these potential delays, alerting them to closely monitor their shipments’ tracking information.

Governor Mike DeWine: (14:57)
In addition to these direct shipments, the state of Ohio repackages vaccines in smaller parcels for some providers through what we call our receipt store and stage, that’s RSS warehouse. We had 26 deliveries scheduled for today. We’ve been making those deliveries on a two-hour time delay, giving some time this morning for the roads to be clear. Throughout the day, delivery drivers have been making calls to providers and giving them 30 to 60 minutes notice prior to arrival to make sure that providers are ready to receive their vaccine. So we’re continuing to monitor the weather and the shipments for the rest of the week, but we expect seeing a slowdown in the shipments, and obviously that’s going to mean a slowdown for a little while, at least, in the number of people who can be vaccinated in Ohio.

Governor Mike DeWine: (15:55)
I have Director of Aging Ursel McElroy, Director McElroy on the line, and I’ve asked her to talk about something that we’re doing in regard to what we’re calling town hall meetings. And these are not in person town hall meetings, but they’re virtual, and Director, tell us what you’re doing and explain to everyone why we’re doing this.

Director Ursel McElroy: (16:23)
Absolutely. Good afternoon, Governor. It’s important that we [inaudible 00:16:28] always with the lens of equity and access, and we understand that there are many Ohioans across the state who may be ambivalent about taking the vaccine, but we also know that providing accurate information and increasing access can help in that personal decision-making. So specifically, we want to engage local leaders so that they can be the catalyst within their own communities.

Director Ursel McElroy: (16:51)
Therefore, we will host several town halls to empower the community leaders and community members so they can incorporate correct information and strategies into their local vaccine plans, and we hope that people will join these virtual meetings to hear facts about COVID-19 directly from the experts and have their questions answered and their concerns addressed. So while the State of Ohio continues to work diligently to make sure that the infrastructure addresses equity and access by how we allocate and where we distribute to, it will be at the local level where the doers will ensure it takes place.

Director Ursel McElroy: (17:27)
So the town halls will take place from 6:30 to 7:30 PM, and we have four of them lined up: The 22nd, the 23rd, March 1st and March 2nd. And these virtual conversations will be led by community and medical leaders representing a host of communities. They will be live streamed on YouTube as well as Facebook, and the links can also be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov. And for those who can’t catch it live, they will be re-aired on The Ohio Channel the weekends of February 26 and March 6.

Governor Mike DeWine: (18:02)
Director, let me just read the dates on this. Monday, February 22, we will host a virtual conversation led by African-American community and medical leaders about the safety of COVID-19. On Tuesday, February 23, we host a similar virtual conversation led by Latino leaders from across the State of Ohio. The following week, on Monday, March 1, we’ll host a virtual conversation about the vaccine with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. And on Tuesday, March 2, we’ll host the virtual vaccine conversation with rural Ohioans. People can join any of those. They can go up online and check that out. And again, Director, how’s the best way for them to join that? It’s for anybody who wants to get online. Anybody can have the opportunity to hear from medical leaders, other leaders in the community about this vaccine.

Director Ursel McElroy: (19:02)
Absolutely. We don’t assume that-

Governor Mike DeWine: (19:03)
About this vaccine.

Director Ursel McElroy: (19:03)
Absolutely. We don’t assume that people have access to the best information or to experts all the time and so we want to be sure that we provide that so they can join by livestream on YouTube as well as Facebook. The links again are coronavirus.ohio.gov and we will re-air this on The Ohio Channel.

Governor Mike DeWine: (19:22)
Okay great. Director, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Governor Mike DeWine: (19:25)
I want to give an update in regard to the Central Scheduling System known as VMS. We have talked in the past about Ohio’s efforts to establish a centralized vaccine scheduling website for those Ohioans who would prefer to use that option when scheduling vaccination appointments. This system is a statewide portal where Ohioans will be able to go to confirm that they are in a certain group that is eligible, make sure they’re eligible, and also though they’ll be able to find providers near them and schedule their vaccine appointment.

Governor Mike DeWine: (20:04)
In addition to increasing convenience for those already eligible, this system will be critically important as we look forward to a time when we receive more vaccine and more Ohioans become eligible because it is scalable. This is a system that has been built to expand and it will be of particular importance down the road when we have more and more vaccines coming in to the state of Ohio. It will be imperative that we have this system available.

Governor Mike DeWine: (20:33)
The good news is that our first phase for launching the system has been completed. As our Department of Health team and our technology consultants have developed the site and have made it functional and ready from a technical standpoint. Early in vaccine planning Ohio looked into the federal government’s centralized scheduling system they intended to develop for all states. Because I know we’ve gotten questions about that, so I want to cover that. Our team frankly reviewed that system and decided as did 40 other states, roughly 40 other states, the system would not work for Ohio. Instead, Ohio chose to build our own system, our own solution, and despite the significant build time and configuration required for a software project like this, I’m happy to report today this was done within our intended timeframe which was an aggressive goal for a huge IT project.

Governor Mike DeWine: (21:35)
Centralizing scheduling websites such as this one work best when a large number of providers have added their appointment availability into the system, so this would be our community health clinics, this would be our hospitals, this would be our health departments. It would also be our pharmacy providers. We know that that is what people want, one place where they can go to book their appointments instead of calling around and visiting a number of websites. Therefore the next phase of our launch of this site is an aggressive outreach that has already begun to vaccine providers to sign them up to participate in our central website. We have to have them signed up and here’s what we’re doing to accomplish this goal.

Governor Mike DeWine: (22:26)
New COVID vaccine providers, ones that are just coming on that have not been with us as we expand, new providers that begin to provide vaccines in Ohio, the new ones will be required to use the system as they come on. Second, we’re conducting an aggressive outreach with current providers to encourage signing up just as soon as possible. Providers will be expected to use this system as we look to the future and we will provide guidance in the near future regarding what those deadlines will be. Three, some providers have also informed us that they have extensive waiting lists, and our team is working directly with these providers to assist them in working through their wait lists and potentially integrate these commitments that they have already made, the wait lists that they already have, and putting that into our system without new patients jumping in line in front of them. This is one of the concerns that many of these providers had, they had the list, they had people in order, and they did not want to lose that ability to continue to go in line.

Governor Mike DeWine: (23:39)
Also some providers have also told us that they have contracted with other companies or already have systems in place to help them. It will take them some time to transition from those systems into the state portal. We encourage them to do it as quickly as they can. This is normal for an IT project such as this. So the Ohio Department of Health is committed to work with them to integrate into our system their system as quickly as possible.

Governor Mike DeWine: (24:08)
During the next two to three weeks, we will continue to work directly with these providers, pharmacies and health departments, et cetera. Our local people who are delivering these vaccines every day, our local health departments, our fairly qualified health centers, pharmacies, to help them transition to this new system. We expect these numbers to grow as these providers work through their wait lists. We will provide extra service to help them get set up. We’ll work with them one on one to make sure the system can work well for everyone.

Governor Mike DeWine: (24:45)
Once we have, once we have a critical mass of participating providers signed up, our third phase will be to make the site live to those seeking to be vaccinated. We will be very happy and we hope everyone else will be happy when we reach that goal. Our goal is for Ohioans to have a positive customer experience when we launch to make these appointments.

Governor Mike DeWine: (25:06)
Those interested in getting a vaccination will be able to put their zip code in, pull up appointments within 20 miles of their location. We know further that not everyone has access to the internet and we have called on our partners including the area agencies [inaudible 00:25:23] to help Ohioans navigate appointment scheduling.

Governor Mike DeWine: (25:27)
Eric, let’s go very quickly to the data slides and we’ll start with cases which have been hovering around 2,000. Certainly a lot better than where we were and we’re happy to see those numbers. Our deaths, 59. Hospitalization, 104. That’s a little bit less than what the 21-day average has been and our ICU admissions are 10 and that is less than it has been. So happy with those numbers. Eric, let’s go to the 88 counties and then the 20 questions and then again this is the order in which the counties are based upon the spread within that county, number of cases found within the last two weeks. So one of the things you’ll see, the lowest county is Vinton County, several other counties are the lowest ones. Let’s go to the top 20, Eric. Brown County and Adams County, two counties right next to each other along the river. They are our highest counties and they are running about five times the CDC average. The CDC number of high incidence, so it’s five times over the CDC’s high incidence level. So again, these numbers are very high. They certainly are better than the high counties were a month ago or so.

Governor Mike DeWine: (27:01)
Eric, let’s go to the hospitalization table and again this is how many people are in the hospital from COVID today. Actually yesterday was the county and you’ll see that these numbers continue to go down. We’re at 1,566 and I’m happy to see those continue to go down. Thank you Eric.

Governor Mike DeWine: (27:22)
I want to talk a little bit about K-12 education and then I’ll turn it over to the lieutenant governor. I want to thank our teachers, school administrators, parents, I want to thank the students for all that they have done this year and what I know has been a very difficult year to navigate for everybody and they’ve done I think a very, very, very good job and we owe them a great deal.

Governor Mike DeWine: (27:55)
We’ve learned a lot this year from the in-class learning that has taken place. We’ve learned that masks work. They work exceedingly well. We’ve learned that when students are together in a classroom that students do wear masks. They will wear them and the compliance has been close to perfect frankly. It’s just been phenomenally good with teachers, administrators and students in classroom wearing masks. We’ve also found that as a result of that, we’ve not seen much spread in the classroom. So we’ve learned some things as we have moved forward.

Governor Mike DeWine: (28:39)
But also, for the kids who have not been in school, we have heard over the last few months from parents, teachers, students, some of our big city mayors for example, that some kids who have been totally remote have just not done that well. Some kids do okay, some kids do very well, but we have a number of children who are not doing very well and we worry a lot about them. We have some of our schools that have been out literally since last March and it’s been totally remote. And so back in December, December 23, I announced that any school that would guarantee that they would start back in school no later than March 1, understanding some schools were in session all the time, but we said any school that tells us that they will be in session March 1, either full or hybrid, we will vaccinate anybody in that school, any of the adults in the school, school personnel, that wants to be vaccinated.

Governor Mike DeWine: (30:06)
On January 7, I talked about this again in a press conference and I said we’re going to require the superintendent or the CEO, chief operating officer, to sign a document saying yes, we will be back in session by March 1. The good news is that … We made this by the way, we made this offer not just to public schools, but to parochial schools, private schools and certainly of course another form of public schools our charter public schools. As far as our public schools, every school but one accepted. Most of our other private schools, parochial schools, they accepted this offer as well.

Governor Mike DeWine: (30:57)
The good news is, and there is some very good news, we are in the third week of vaccinating our teachers and our school personnel and it’s been a huge undertaking. I’m sure we got derailed a little bit today, maybe tomorrow as far as the vaccine coming in, but it’s gone exceedingly well. We’re in the third of four weeks and I just want to thank everyone who’s been a part of that, everyone who’s made that happen. It’s worked I think very, very well. We have also really since making that offer seen some real changes and we’ve gotten a lot of schools back in session. In fact let me give you the numbers. At the start of January, 47% of our students were in schools that were fully remote. Again in the start of January, 47% of our students were in schools that were fully remote. Today that number is less than 15% and we will get an update in a couple days and we will share that with you, we hope to share that with you on Thursday but we would think that that number would drop even more so going from 47 to 15%.

Governor Mike DeWine: (32:17)
Another way of looking at the start of January, 219 Ohio school districts were fully remote. Today, there are only 31. So those numbers have changed dramatically and we’ll get an update on those as I said on Thursday. So thus far this has been very, very successful and we’re very happy with where it is. I did a rather impromptu news conference on Friday when we found out that some of our districts were not going to be able to make that deadline and I would just again encourage them to do everything that they can to do that. It’s not about a commitment to me. It’s not about a commitment to the state or the health department. It is really a commitment to the students and we would just ask them to do everything in their power to get these students back into the classroom.

Governor Mike DeWine: (33:16)
I know we’ve had a question about what hybrid is. We’ve been consistent throughout this from the beginning when we started talking about maybe some schools would be hybrid and I remember some people were kind of shocked by that fact but we’ve let schools make their own determinations. What we’ve said is if you go back by March 1, it would be great if you would be fully, five days a week, but if you can only do part of the week and have to split the classes, which is what some schools have done, two days, two days, one day, but a split basically kids in school two days out of the week, the third day is somehow … Sometimes they go a third, third day or some days the third day they do something else special in regard to other students but if they could do that, if we said if you could do that by March 1, then we’re happy to go ahead with the vaccination. So that’s what hybrid means. It means actually every student has the opportunity to be in class every week and that’s what we’re talking about as far as hybrid.

Governor Mike DeWine: (34:33)
So again, I would just encourage Akron, Youngstown, Cleveland, in Cincinnati we have one school Walnut Hills, all the other schools are either back or going back, so again, this is a small number but it’s significant. So I would just urge these schools to do everything in your power to get back in session. Again it’s not about me. It’s about your students. Thank you very much. Lieutenant Governor.

Jon Husted: (35:08)
Thanks Governor. I know we only have an hour today so I’m going to skip some things and just want to offer some supportive comments to the remarks you just made about schools. I know it’s always complicated when we’re talking about all the different ways, all the different schools, all the different situations that exist out there during the pandemic and beyond but I would be remiss if I didn’t relay some messages I have received from teachers and superintendents about their desire, their excitement about getting back to school and helping educate their students because they know how important it is and the time that’s been lost is hard to regain.

Jon Husted: (35:51)
We know that we’ve seen the academic results of students who have been out. We’ve seen some of the nationalized and state data that shows that reading loss can be as high as 25% or 33% in math where students have been out and it’s important because it’s hard to make it up. It’s hard to make this time up. The students need to be in the settings where they’re not only getting the academic support they need but the other support whether it’s mental health, other types of issues that we know our children are dealing with to help get them in that environment where we can lay eyes on them, we can see them, we can interact with them, we know what’s going on in their lives and we can help support them so that’s incredibly important.

Jon Husted: (36:42)
I know I also spoke with Mayor Ginther today. Columbus also one of the school districts that are having challenges getting their older students back. We need all of them back in school. The districts willingly signed onto this commitment and they need to uphold their commitment and you’re right Governor, not for us but for the kids. The kids need these educational support services. It’s the foundation of their future and we will see the consequences of success and/or failure based on what we do here over the course of the next year, months and year and I just want to say encouraging words to the schools who are out there doing that and encourage those who maybe haven’t made that commitment to do it because the kids of our state need you. It will echo for a generation. Thanks Governor.

Governor Mike DeWine: (37:36)
Lieutenant Governor, thank you very much. We’re ready for questions.

Speaker 1: (37:39)
Governor, first question today is from Jim Provance at the Toledo Blade.

Governor Mike DeWine: (37:43)
Hi Jim.

Speaker 1: (37:52)
We’ll come back to Jim. Next question is from Tom Gallick at Gongwer News Service.

Tom Gallick: (37:58)
Hi Governor. I wonder what if any new information we know about the suspected –

Tom Gallick: (38:03)
I wonder to what if any new information we know about the suspected unemployment fraud claims that were reported last Thursday and how close are we getting to resolving the issues for folks who filed the actual claims?

Governor Mike DeWine: (38:17)
And the Lieutenant Governor, do you have any update on that?

Jon Husted: (38:20)
I don’t, but I believe the director is going to have her available tomorrow as she normally does on Wednesdays. And we’ll go through all that information on that update.

Speaker 2: (38:34)
We’ll go back to Jim Provance at the Toledo Blade.

Governor Mike DeWine: (38:37)
Hey, Jim.

Jim Provance: (38:38)
Hi governor, can you hear me this time?

Governor Mike DeWine: (38:40)
Yes, sir.

Jim Provance: (38:40)
I appreciate it. You’ve had some older Ohioans who have been arguing all along that younger teachers and other school employees should not have been put ahead of them in the line for vaccines in the first place, but they accepted your reasoning as to why this was necessary. What do you say to them now that some of the school districts are not meeting their end of the bargain?

Governor Mike DeWine: (39:01)
Yeah Jim, I’d say it’s been extremely successful. We’ve got kids back in school that wouldn’t have been in school, but for doing this and we knew that. The numbers I gave a few minutes ago, it’s been a dramatic change since when we were looking at over 40% of our kids out of school in December. So we’re moving. And even the schools that have said, “We can’t make the March 1st deadline.” And we again, urge them to try to make that. They’ve told us, “Well, we can make March 15th.” And again, that’s not what we want. It’s not acceptable, but these kids will be back in school. So I think it’s been very successful.

Governor Mike DeWine: (39:47)
We have been able to continue to vaccinate our older population at a pretty decent rate during the four weeks in February. This is what this is. Four weeks in February where we’re taking some of the doses 60,000 a week roughly and putting them over here for people who work in school so that we can get our kids back. So I think it’s been a successful program. I wish it would, the schools that we mentioned would hit that deadline of March 1st, but it’s been very successful. And I think it makes a big difference in the future of these young people.

Governor Mike DeWine: (40:33)
Look, these were tough calls. Do we do this or do we not do it? But we felt this was the only way, particularly with our urban schools, we were going to get them back in, and they’re coming back. Some not as fast as we want, but they’re all coming back.

Speaker 2: (40:52)
Next question is from Farnoush Amiri at the Associated Press.

Director Ursel McElroy: (40:58)
Hi, governor. The Senate plans to have a final hearing in committee tomorrow on Senate Bill 22, which would further hinder both your ability and the Department of Health’s ability to put in any precautions or emergency health orders. I’m wondering if this will be similar to your response to the other Senate bill that came out last year, where you vetoed it and how you see this going out, playing out?

Governor Mike DeWine: (41:25)
Even though the numbers are certainly good, they’re going down. And we like to see our cases go down. We like to see the number of people in the hospital go down. And it’s a wonderful thing. Dr. Vanderhoff will talk Thursday about the variant and the concern that not only the medical community in Ohio has, but the medical community across the country. If you listen to any of in the national news and the national stories that you’ve carried. So that’s a big concern. So we’re not out of this yet. We cannot declare victory.

Governor Mike DeWine: (42:06)
This variant could come back and hit us very hard, much, much more contagious. And as I said, Dr. Vanderhoff, will talk about that on Thursday in more detail. So this is not the time for us to be cutting our authority, health department’s authority back in regard to protecting the people of the state. It also has long-term ramifications well beyond this governor, well beyond this health department, well beyond this pandemic. It is also, if you look at it, Legislative Service Commission has raised constitutional questions about it and something that they wrote it is, in my opinion, not constitutional.

Governor Mike DeWine: (42:55)
So I think it would just be a grave, grave mistake and I’ve made it very clear to my friends in the legislature that if this bill would be passed, I would have no choice as governor of the state, but to veto it.

Speaker 2: (43:10)
Next question is from Randy Ludlow at the Columbus Dispatch.

Governor Mike DeWine: (43:15)
Hi, Randy.

Randy Ludlow: (43:16)
Good afternoon, Governor. You talked earlier about the online portal system that you had originally hoped might be online by Sunday. I did not hear you mention a date of when that might go live. What is your best estimate at this point?

Governor Mike DeWine: (43:33)
Yeah, it is ready to go, but Randy, what we have to do is get the providers on. And one of the challenges that they have explained to us, some of them have created lists, waiting lists, people who are 80 years or 75 years of age, however they set up their own lists. They’ve got waiting lists and what they don’t want to do is abort that, and then end up where other people can jump the line in front of them. And so, that’s been one of the reasons that they are not ready to jump right into the portal. Director, I don’t know. Director, you’re on here. If you want to add anything to that or not, but that’s a …

Stephanie McCloud: (44:22)
Thank you governor. Yes, we are working to sign up those providers and deal with those technology challenges. To answer your question, we don’t know exactly how long that is going to take, but obviously moving as quickly as we can so that we have something open for Ohioans as quickly as possible.

Stephanie McCloud: (44:40)
The other long-term benefit of this particular system of course is going to be as we move toward mass vaccination sites, we will be using this along with other means of communication, but using this to achieve some of those larger goals that we have once more vaccines available.

Speaker 2: (45:00)
Next question is from Jesse Balmert at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Governor Mike DeWine: (45:05)
Happy birthday, Jesse.

Jesse Balmert: (45:06)
Thank you. My question is, I think there’s a lot of Ohioans looking for kind of some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the COVID vaccines. So why has Ohio not put out a list of the next group or two as other states have done and when will Ohioans know who is next in line?

Governor Mike DeWine: (45:28)
Yeah, we’re working on that. We will hope to announce that when we get that done, but what we cannot tell people and we know we can’t tell them is the dates for any of that. I want to assure people who are 65 years of age and older, we’re staying at this age for the next few weeks because we’re going to just continue to give you the opportunity to be vaccinated because you are the most vulnerable people in the state of Ohio. And we know there’s been frustration. We know that people, you have look for vaccines, but every week, every day, there are more and more of your fellow Ohioans in your age group that are getting vaccinated and your ability to get on and in sign up, that’s going to increase.

Governor Mike DeWine: (46:29)
So I’m not asking you not to be impatient. I would be impatient. I think people have a right to be impatient, but be persistent, hang in there. We’re do I stay at this age and not change that until we have a pretty good feel that we’ve got a large number of 65 years of age and older who want to be vaccinated actually in fact vaccinated. The answer to your question, Jesse, we will come out with this. I don’t want to set a date because we’re still looking at it. Still trying to frankly look at the question of who’s most vulnerable and how do we save the most lives?

Governor Mike DeWine: (47:20)
And ultimately the question is how do we save the most lives and how do we balance all the things that people very legitimately bring up? As we’ve indicated to you, 700 different groups, over 700 now have sent us letters and indicated to us they want to go next. In fact, some of them would say we want to go now. It’s human nature. I want to go now. And so we’re trying to go through that. In weighing that, we spent some time this weekend working on it, and we’re just not ready to announce that yet. So we understand people want to know, but what we can’t tell them is even after we tell them what group is next, we can’t tell them when that group is going to be.

Speaker 2: (48:06)
Next question is from Steve Albritton at WLWT in Cincinnati.

Steve Albritton: (48:11)
Hey Governor, how are you doing today?

Governor Mike DeWine: (48:13)
I’m well, I’m well.

Steve Albritton: (48:14)
Good. Good, good, good. I have a question for you about one specific school here in the Cincinnati area. Walnut Hills High School declining to go back in person. I know you’ve touched on it a little bit, but have you been to that school or anybody who you work with have been to that school to see the space restrictions that they have to deal with and why they are declining to go back in person? I know it’s specific, but we were just wondering what the administration can do with schools who are in such a tight situation like that.

Governor Mike DeWine: (48:42)
Yeah. Look, it’s been explained to me by a superintendent. I understand I’ve been to Walnut Hills, but have not been there for a number of years. So I’ve not gone in and inspected it, or taking a look at it. What’s we have said though is a couple of things as you look at the Walnut Hill situation. First of all, superintendent signed a document, said they would go back. There wasn’t an exception in there for Walnut Hills. Everybody would go back. Second, we’re not requiring schools to be in session in person five days a week for every child. They can split it. They can do what many schools have done, who have had a space problem. They can go to a hybrid two days in, two days out, third day they would alternate. You can double your size that you have by going hybrid if that’s the decision the school wants to make.

Governor Mike DeWine: (49:51)
Next, we know more. We know when we started this. CDC had a six foot rule. Either made the six foot rule or didn’t make the six foot rule. What we have learned is that with everyone wearing masks that what we have said and what our rule has been for some time after we did some testing, after we looked at national testing, and that is if everyone in the classroom is wearing a mask you could be within closer than six feet. It’s not great, but we do believe that the evidence has clearly shown that we do not have spread in that classroom or very little spread in the classroom, even when people are within six feet long as they’re all wearing a mask.

Governor Mike DeWine: (50:43)
So I think all those are facts that are very important when you look at the situation in regard to Walnut Hills. I want to point out again, we don’t force any school to go back. But what we said was if you go by hack, we will vaccinate your teachers and here’s the deal. And we’re not only vaccinate your teachers, we’ll vaccinate your bus drivers, any other school personnel. So those are just facts in regard to Walnut Hills that I think are important when people look at the merits of that issue, which that. Lieutenant Governor.

Jon Husted: (51:21)
Yeah. Thanks, Governor. I would mention that I’ve had calls, we’ve had calls from parents who would like to be involved in the process down there with their schools who have children in that school. They want the school to go back in person. We’ve received those calls. I want to emphasize something the Governor said about spacing. You can go hybrid the CDC, the studies we’ve done and say if you have masks less than six feet is also safe for those kinds of settings.

Jon Husted: (51:51)
And also I want to add something that the Governor said, this school district, their superintendent signed the document. They voluntarily took the vaccine under the premise that they were going to go back for in person and it’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do if you took the vaccine to go on or that end of the commitment by serving those students.

Speaker 2: (52:20)
Next Question is from Marty Schladen at the Ohio Journal.

Governor Mike DeWine: (52:24)
Hey, Marty.

Marty Schladen: (52:24)
Hey, Governor. Dan McCarthy started a dark money group within two days of the founding of the now guilty Generation Now. And millions of dollars from funnel from FirstEnergy into Generation Now according to the federal affidavit. Given how massive the scandal’s been, don’t you think your administration should explain who asked McCarthy to start Partners for Progress and what he was told that money was for, and what he thought that subsequent tens of millions of dollars that were flowing through it work for? Or do you think it’s just enough to say he didn’t see anything wrong with all that?

Governor Mike DeWine: (53:05)
Well, look, I said this before. My position, Lieutenant Governor’s position as candidates, we were for nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only way in this state today that we can have very much non-carbon production. It’s the only way we can do it. And people who’ve looked at that understand it. So my position has been consistent throughout this. Consistent throughout this. I don’t know what else to say. I mean, we have not changed position in any way. And again, far as I know, Dan McCarthy has been a well-respected individual for many, many years long, long before he started working for me as our legislative director. And I have faith in his integrity.

Speaker 2: (54:18)
Next question is from Geoff Redick at WSYX in Columbus.

Geoff Redick: (54:24)
Good afternoon, Governor. Just to add some to question based on what you and Lieutenant Governor Husted have said today and we’ve got people reaching out to us about this so. Columbus City Schools, biggest district in the state says they are compliant. I think one of your spokesman says they are compliant with the return to the classroom. There’s no date for middle or high schools to return in Columbus City Schools. So are they breaking an agreement or are they compliant because some schools will return to hybrid?

Governor Mike DeWine: (55:00)
Well, I’m not sure I got all the facts you just spelled out. If the school is not going to have every student back in fully in person or hybrid by March 1, then they’re breaking the agreement. We spelled this out. I mean, it was just spelled out very, very clearly in a document that we required each school in the state of Ohio to sign. They all signed it, but one. Every school had a right to do what the one did and that was to say, “No, we don’t want to do that. We’re not coming back.”

Governor Mike DeWine: (55:39)
Every other school signed it and I think taxpayers, I think the citizens of Ohio, but more importantly, the children have a right to say if that was the agreement, you should go ahead and do that. No matter what school it is, should be back in March 1st. Let me just emphasize again. I know that we keep saying this, but it is about the kids. It’s not about me. It’s not about the Lieutenant Governor. It’s not about the health department. It’s about the kids. And we continue to hear throughout this that kids, particularly in our urban centers where schools have been out for a year, that these kids needed to get back in school. They need to get back in school academically. They need to get back in school emotionally, socially. And we felt that it was worth it. Tough call, but worth it to get these kids back in school to go ahead and say, “Yes, we’re going to vaccinate your employees. We’re going to vaccinate your teachers, anybody else in your school who wants the vaccine,” but the deal is you need to be back in full force March 1. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. Lieutenant Governor.

Jon Husted: (56:59)
Yeah, can I add to that? Remember, they knew what the promise-

Jon Husted: (57:03)
… Can I add to that? Remember, they knew what the promise was when they signed the document. Everybody knowingly took the vaccine, knowing that those were the rules. Columbus specifically, I believe, has complied with the K-5 group of students or intend to at least with hybrid. But the middle school and high school students don’t have that opportunity as the plan, as I understand it currently exists. And I know I spoke with Mayor Gunther about this earlier today. I know he has concerns. I recognize there are challenges, but everybody knew what the obligation was in return for receiving the vaccine. And again, it is about the students. I spend a lot of my time on workforce development issues knowing that we have high school students who need to finish off their high school career, for example, seniors, who may be trying to get an industry recognized credential or some credits that they need to go to college or go to work.

Jon Husted: (58:07)
And these opportunities at the close of the school year are essential that they have access to them. And those are just some of the reasons it’s important. And I want to emphasize that as it relates to all students. And again, I think it’s important to reiterate, this has been a success in the sense that the vast, vast majority, it’ll be over 90% of them schools in the state will ultimately hit that goal. And that’s why we did this. A lot of good news. We’re here to just encourage that it happened in all of the schools because these kids need it.

Governor Mike DeWine: (58:49)
And look, as Jon says, it has been successful. We’re spending some time today to talk about the schools that we wonder about, are they going to do it and are they going to hit the deadline? But overall it’s been worth it. It’s been something that is important for these school children. Many of them are back in school today and more will be back in school, March 1, who would not have been back if we had not done this. So it is worth doing. We’re glad we did it. Just want to encourage the schools that are not going to hit that, are saying now they’re not going to hit that March 1 date to please do everything that you can to do it. I related on Friday, I had a conversation with the CEO in Cleveland and he said, “I’m going to do everything I can to get kids back in March 1.” And so we just ask for that effort by everyone.

Speaker 3: (59:54)
Next question is from Laura Hancock at cleveland.com.

Laura Hancock: (59:58)
Governor DeWine, on January 21st you had mentioned sending the Biden administration 100 potential sites for larger scale vaccinations. And today Director McCloud talked about the mass fascination sites that would pair perfectly with this online centralized scheduling system. We’ve been trying to get the list since late January. Where is that list?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:00:26)
Well, I don’t know where the list is. I mean, I’m sure we have a list that we talk about and we go back and forth with different names. Whether or not there’s a written down list, I don’t know. There may be. We’re getting close to being able to announce some things specifically about that. But the idea is that we want to have the ability to scale up. And so that may start off with one big site. It may entail a number of sites as we move up. Director, I saw you on there.

Stephanie McCloud: (01:01:06)
Thank you, governor. We are always looking for sites and preparing for the time we’re very excited about when we have more vaccine and looking toward. And as you know, there are some sites already operational in the Schottenstein as well as out in Dayton that they’re doing some clinics. We’re just looking forward to a time when we can have enough vaccine to get those up and running as a state. And hopefully again, look to use that new system, that statewide scheduling system for just those type of events.

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:01:37)
And I would also say that when we think of a mass vaccination site, they’re not all set up in at ballpark or a football field. We could have mid-size sites like that. We could have smaller sites like that. There’s all kinds of different things that we can utilize. But again, as the director says, we got to have the vaccine to be able to do it. And basically what we’re doing is layering on as we get more vaccine.

Speaker 3: (01:02:14)
Next question’s from Adrienne Robbins at WCMH in Columbus.

Adrienne Robbins: (01:02:18)
Hi, governor. Thank you for doing this today. You talk about the vaccination plan for the schools being a success. When it comes to these few schools though, who are outliers and may not make it back by March 1st, what can really be done if they don’t go back to school? Obviously, it’s not like the vaccinations can be taken back at this point. And in that same vein, what do you say to the teachers who don’t have a vaccination appointment until February 27th and say, why March 1st? Why can’t it wait a couple more weeks until they’re fully covered?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:02:54)
Well, I mean, what I would say to them is that you get some immunity after the first shot. And that’s been explained here. Second, we know a lot more today than we knew at the beginning of the school year. And if someone would have said, at the beginning of the school year, I don’t really think it’s safe, no one would have argued and we’d let people do that. We let schools make their own decisions. But as the year has gone on, we’ve learned more. We’ve learned that masks work phenomenally well. We’ve learned that kids will wear a mask phenomenally well. And if you remember, that was a big… when we put a mandate on K-12, people thought we were crazy. Well, kids won’t wear a mask. You can’t do that. Well, they have, and we found that works.

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:03:46)
We’ve done studies in school ourselves, Ohio schools, Ohio kids. The national study is done. And now the CDC has come along as well and confirmed that it’s safe to go back without any vaccination. We’re not asking people to do that. We’re giving them one vaccination and we’re going to give them the second one. But in the month of February, everybody who wants one will get at least one, some will get to. Those who don’t get the second shot in February, will get it into March. And so I think those things all layered together, make it so that you can say, look, this is something that I can do. And that’s what I would say to a teacher who is hesitant about it, that all of these things, factors coming together. I think we’ve created a situation where you can feel good about going back into the classroom.

Speaker 3: (01:04:41)
Next question is from Noah Blondeau at Hannah News Service.

Noah Blondeau: (01:04:45)
Good afternoon, governor. Can you hear me?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:04:47)
I can. Thank you.

Noah Blondeau: (01:04:49)
All right. On Friday, the Biden administration told Ohio and a number of other states that they’re going to start moving to revoke the prior approver for Medicaid work requirements. Wondering your reaction. And if you feel like there’s any recourse for you and the other states in the courts or somewhere else to go ahead with those?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:05:13)
Well, we’ll have more information, more announcement about that as we move forward. But look, it’s been the policy of this administration, been the policy of the General Assembly to have work requirements. And this is not a punitive thing, this is something to help people. There’s many ways you can qualify under the work, but trying to get people the opportunity to advance themselves. And so we think the broad philosophy is in fact, correct. And that’s the position of this administration.

Speaker 3: (01:05:54)
Next question is from Jim Otte at WHIO in Dayton.

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:05:58)
Hey, Jim.

Jim Otte: (01:05:59)
Governor, can you talk with any greater detail about… you spoke earlier about the holdup in some of the shipments of the vaccine as it’s coming to and through Ohio, mostly because of the snow. Is that getting it to the state? Is it getting around the state of Ohio? Do you have any more detail on what’s going to push back some of these clinics and their availability to get the vaccine?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:06:22)
Jim, we were notified that some of the shipments were simply not going to be made because of the weather. And we understand that. What we don’t want to see is any spoilage. We don’t want to see any loss of the vaccine. And I would just say to the people of Ohio, this vaccine’s coming here. It may be a daylight, but it’s coming. And I trust our providers, our doctors, our pharmacies, our hospitals, our health departments, they will get it in your arm. If you had an appointment, that appointment may have to be rescheduled. But they will get it in and I trust they’ll get it in this week. So I have great confidence that they will be able to do that.

Speaker 3: (01:07:05)
Next question is from Jennifer Pignolet at Akron Beacon Journal.

Jennifer Pignolet: (01:07:11)
Hi, governor. Thank you for taking [inaudible 01:07:13]. Long time listener, first time caller here. Akron schools’ leaders have not yet said if they’re going to change their plans based on your message on Friday, but they have said that their firm plan to bring everyone back starting March 15th, and then everyone by March 22nd should be sufficient based on direct guidance they say they have received in conversations with your office saying that the March 1st deadline was flexible. Do you refute that? And how far do you plan to go to enforce the March 1st deadline?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:07:48)
Well, I have been very consistent in what I’ve said at press conference, after press conference, after press conference. I cited two specific dates a moment ago, one in December, one in January. The document that they signed was explicit. Very, very clear. So I don’t really know what that means that they got guidance from us that, that was okay to fudge the date or to change the date. I have no knowledge of that at all. And certainly did not come from me. So I had direct conversation in regard to this matter on Friday. And I don’t know what to say other than that’s did not come from me at all. I have no knowledge it came from anybody else in our administration. Nobody in our administration would have had the authority to say that.

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:08:52)
And again, it was in the document that they signed. And what I’ve said consistently press conference after press conference is March 1. If you’re back in March 1, you can be hybrid on March one. You can be just in school, your kid two days a week. But if you do that, we’re willing to vaccinate your school personnel. And the sad thing is that we did not know that the schools in question, we’re not going to go back on March 1 until after everyone had been vaccinated. So you’re correct. We can’t take the vaccine back. We don’t want to take the vaccine back and we’re going to live up to our bargain. We’re going to give the second shot. We’re not pulling back the second shot either. I mean we made this commitment and we’re going to live up to our commitment.

Speaker 3: (01:09:57)
Next question is from Jo Ingles at Ohio Public Radio and Television.

Jo Ingles: (01:10:01)
Hello, governor. We know that many younger Ohioans outside the 1A and 1B groups have been able to get the leftover or extra shots from clinics. And you’ve said before that this is preferred to wasting those vaccines. However, I’ve been hearing from family members who say, if they knew grandma could get a shot, they’d have her there in a matter of minutes. The problem is grandma is not in the physical condition to camp out at these vaccination distribution sites. Is there anything the state could or should be doing to set up a system to make sure those extra shots are going to the people who actually are in those eligible groups?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:10:46)
Well, Jo, we have said to the providers, we want you to always have a backup group. And that backup group is supposed to be people who are 1A or 1B. We’ve also said to them, if in a dire emergency, we don’t want you to waste any of these. And you can put them into anyone’s arm that is 18 years of age and older for the one and 16 over for the other, but that’s not the preference at all. What we want you to do is a have a list. People you can go to. And I will tell you, although you’ve heard those stories, I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And the good stories are that doctors, other providers have somehow had one or two left and they know where they were going. They call people up. They came right in, they got the shot. People who were in that list, people over 65, people who are eligible in some other way. So there’s a lot of good stories out there as well. And that’s what we have told people to do. Have your list of qualified people.

Jon Husted: (01:12:07)
Governor, and I just want to reiterate to Jo, I leave this right here on my desk about the backup plan, and everybody is supposed to have a backup plan that includes those priorities. This is guidance that came from the Ohio Department of Health. And it’s been well-known since the very beginning of the vaccine process that that’s how they’re supposed to handle it.

Speaker 3: (01:12:35)
Governor, next question is the last question for today and it belongs to Patrick O’Donnell from the 74million.org.

Patrick O’Donnell: (01:12:41)
Hi. So the CDC guidance about schools on Friday encouraged opening of elementary schools, even in high transmission areas, but it recommends virtual operations for high schools and middle schools in high transmission areas without very, very strict mitigation efforts. The schools that are all delaying reopening past March 1 are all in what seemed to be the high transmission areas. Would it be fair to bring the older kids back there until they drop to orange and the CDC requirements relax?

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:13:13)
Well, Patrick, we think that we’ve had, in fact, we know we’ve had very strict mitigation efforts all year, and they were contained in the document that we sent to schools this past summer about what they needed to do. We’ve revised those as we’ve moved forward. Keep in mind that we have a very strict rule about wearing mask that we’ve tested. We know that there’s not spread in the classroom. And so we think we already have the guidance and that guidance has always been available. And we would classify our schools as being on the strict side of that mitigation. So I can’t speak specifically to a building or what a particular school has done. What I can tell you is that in conversations over this entire school year, going back to August, I’ve been very, very impressed with what schools have done. They’ve spent money, they’ve done some very, very positive things. Lieutenant governor.

Jon Husted: (01:14:21)
Governor, can I add to that? I also… From my read of the CDC guidance, that was about schools that didn’t include vaccines. In this particular case, on top of all of those mitigation tools, in Ohio, we’re vaccinating the school personnel. So we are way above and beyond the protocols as it relates to those kinds of schools because we have a vaccination program in our schools in Ohio.

Governor Mike DeWine: (01:14:52)
Well, thank you all. Look forward to seeing everybody on Thursday.

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