Feb 18, 2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 18
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on February 18, 2021 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Governor Mike DeWine: (00:38)
Good afternoon, everyone. On this day when there is a snow all the way across Ohio or pretty much all Ohio, it’s good to think of spring. One of the first indicators that spring is coming is spring training. Yesterday, pitchers and catchers reported for spring training so I’m wearing a Cleveland Indians face mask, I have the Reds tie on. I’m actually wearing the tie for my dad. This is my dad’s birthday, would have been his 98th birthday. And one of the things that he thought was really neat is that most years when he was growing up and even later, pitchers and catchers reported for spring training on his birthday on the 18th today.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:26)
So this year it’s one day early, but we think of my dad a lot. And I imagine him down in spring training in Sarasota watching his Reds that he loves so much drinking a beer, and eating a hot dog. So good thought at least a good thought for our family on this cold and very winter-y day. Speaking of winter, let’s start by talking about the winter weather that has hit us this past week.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:57)
Most of our counties spent time under a snow emergency over the last few days. Our Southern most tip Lawrence County was hit particularly hard and they remain hit hard. We have some photos that came to us from Rome Township that show the situation that they faced. Two severe ice storms, one last Thursday, another overnight Sunday into Monday, brought down trees and caused widespread power outages throughout the county. In response to this yesterday, I declared a state of emergency in Lawrence County. This allows our state agencies to respond, to assist local authorities in getting the power back on. And the roads cleared.
Governor Mike DeWine: (02:44)
Our Ohio Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the effort and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, their aviation division has helped doing flyovers to see exactly what the damage has been. What we know is hundreds of trees are down across the county, maybe thousands, and they’re getting in the way of utility crews who are trying to fix the power lines.
Governor Mike DeWine: (03:09)
The trees were also blocking many roadways. And so the Ohio Department of Transportation has been down there clearing these roads. When they finish the state roads where we have primary responsibility, they will continue and work on county roads and other roads. I think where ODOT can be of help. We have with us. Ohio Department of Transportation Director, Jack Marchbanks. Director, tell us what’s going on in Lawrence County. Whoop. Hey director, I think you’re muted. Director, I think you’re muted.
Jack Marchbanks: (03:54)
Governor Mike DeWine: (03:55)
You’re on now, Director. You got it.
Jack Marchbanks: (03:57)
Thank you. Governor, thank you for your leadership. Happy to report that conditions have significantly improved in Lawrence County. ODOT brought in crews from neighboring Gallia, Jackson and Scioto County. And because of their work, US highways and state routes are now open to traffic. We have also been working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and their forestry division. They have brought in four crews and we we’re expecting more assistance. ODOT along with ODNR has removed hundreds of trees that allow the utilities to come in and restore power. We’ll continue to work around the clock removing snow and ice until we emerged from this winter storm this weekend when things hopefully will warm up on Sunday.
Governor Mike DeWine: (04:42)
Great. Director, thank you very much. Thanks for that report. And we’re really thinking about our friends in Lawrence County. The vaccinations, many of them have been postponed. We would just advise people to stay in touch with their pharmacy or wherever they were going to get that vaccine. The Lawrence County Health Department’s clinics were canceled yesterday, today and tomorrow. But we’re told that everyone who had a scheduled appointment will receive a call to reschedule. The county tells us that pharmacies in the area that pharmacies that have vaccines are moving forward with their appointments.
Governor Mike DeWine: (05:19)
If you have an appointment with a pharmacy, it’s best to call ahead, though, ensure that they’re running on schedule. Let me talk for a moment now about vaccine shipment delays across the state. Interestingly, despite all the delays I noticed on our dashboard today that just came out, we had over 29,000 first doses were delivered yesterday and 28,000 second doses. So some of those may have been a little lag in reporting, but that’s what we were showing. And so that’s not bad considering the situation.
Governor Mike DeWine: (05:54)
Vaccine shipments in Ohio and across the country unfortunately continued to be delayed. Ohioans with vaccine appointments this week should not only check the road conditions, but they should also confirm their appointment has in fact not been canceled. These providers that had to change or cancel appointments are contacting patients by however means they can by phone or other ways. If you have not heard from your provider and are concerned about whether or not your appointment is still scheduled, please contact your provider.
Governor Mike DeWine: (06:24)
Because of the weather delays, our expectation is that providers will continue to get vaccinations. And so our goal always for providers is to get them out in people’s arms just as quickly as possible. And so, for the providers that have been delayed, we would ask you to reschedule those very quickly. We would hope that you would be able to accomplish this over the weekend, certainly or into Monday. So the faster you can get those in people’s arms, obviously the better. But we know that some of you have been delayed several days in getting the vaccine. So this is something we’re just going to have to work through like a great part of the country is in fact working through.
Governor Mike DeWine: (07:14)
Let me go to Canfield. In October, we asked community leaders in each county to put a group together of local citizens, drawn from all kinds of different walks of life to really tackle the COVID. They’ve moved from focusing on wearing masks and distancing, and they’re still of course doing that. But now of course, getting people the vaccine is something that they’re certainly working on.
Governor Mike DeWine: (07:42)
These are our COVID defense teams, commissioners, mayors, local hospital leaders for example. And we’ve just been very, very impressed frankly by the work that many of them have been doing. So joining us from Canfield is Mayor Richard Duffett and also Canfield Local School District superintendent, Joe Knoll. Good afternoon to both of you. Tell us a little bit about this response team and how you pulled people together, and how it’s working out.
Mayor Richard Duffett: (08:13)
Well, thank you very much. Governor DeWine for your strong leadership against this vexing virus. When you put out the request for mayors to get together, we called 25 of the top leaders in the city, which we called our state rep, which is Mr. Cutrona, our health commissioner, four former mayors, three superintendents, four judges, our police chief, our fire chief, and we assembled them all within a week from your calling outside at our gazebo spread out. And we decided to form three committees, an education committee, a communications committee, and a recognition of rewards to reinforce good mask behavior, social distancing, and we made videos. And so far, so good.
Mayor Richard Duffett: (09:02)
Our superintendent, Knoll is the head of the education committee. He researches, provides the communication committee with the message and then our recognition and rewards goes throughout the city, businesses and people that are doing well, and we reward them, he does, our chief of police.
Governor Mike DeWine: (09:19)
Well, that’s great. It sounds like you really pulled a diverse group of people together, and that is great. Mr. Superintendent, hope you’re doing well. Tell us a little bit from your angle how things are going.
Joe Knoll: (09:31)
Well, thank you, Governor. Welcome to Canfield first of all. It’s a pleasure.
Governor Mike DeWine: (09:35)
I wish I was there today, but I can’t be there in person.
Joe Knoll: (09:39)
Virtually is awesome as well. I just want to talk a little bit about how we’re doing here at school. When I got here in August as the new superintendent to Canfield, the first thing we took a look at was your reset and restart materials from your office, ODH and ODE. And we realized we had some work to do here in Canfield. So we spent some money. We bought some student dividers, we bought some temperature scanners, hand sanitizers. Our county commissioners in a township gave us some dollars for hand washing stations and UV sanitation lights to put in the rooms if we had a positive case.
Joe Knoll: (10:14)
But really that the big prevention piece for us here in Canfield was masking. And I applaud your effort to say, “Hey, we’re going to wear masks in schools. We are going to do that in Canfield one way or the other anyway.” But this mask that I’m wearing and the mayor has was kind of a way to just kind of get that whole process going. We needed additional staff. We hired people to help us on our buses, to clean at night and in between routes and to help us in the school day.
Joe Knoll: (10:41)
The second big piece has been our stakeholders, Governor. I mean, as you know, this is all a team effort. Our parents are our first line of defense. We asked them to assess the kids before they leave home. Temperatures if kids weren’t feeling good, keep them at home. Call us if there is a positive case or a close contact. Our students have been great. They followed all protocols. They want to be here and that’s important. So they’d done a great job.
Joe Knoll: (11:07)
But as you have said before, as a superintendent, if you don’t have staff, you can’t run the schools. And our staff’s been awesome following all the protocols and doing above and beyond. And we took it to phase two, Governor, here in Canfield. Things were getting a little dicey so we went to the phase two Operation Stay Open Canfield, and it was just for our staff. Six feet’s great, but eight to 10 feet sometimes is better. We tried to spread out in the lunch rooms and I told my ministrative team, “Anything we could do with technology to replicate meetings, let’s do that. Instead of face-to-face, let’s do everything virtually so.”
Joe Knoll: (11:44)
Governor, it’s been hand to hand combat it’s been day-to-day, but every day that we’re in person, learning is a blessing. And it’s been really good here in Canfield.
Governor Mike DeWine: (11:53)
Well, Mr. Superintendent, I want to congratulate you and the other superintendents across the state, but not just you, your teams. This has really been a team effort. And I think you all have done a great job. I think your students have done a great job, parents. This has been a really a great, great effort. And so thank you for your hard work. Mr. Mayor, thank you for working so hard on this and both of you trying to pull the community together. There’s no substitute for pulling together locally. That’s so much more effective than anything else the state can do, the federal government can do. We’re a local state and we like it that way. And thank you for pulling together.
Governor Mike DeWine: (12:37)
So Mayor and Mr. Superintendent, again, congratulations to both of you and thanks for joining us and maybe I’ll see you at the Canfield Fair next year so or this year we hope. Not next year, this year, we hope so.
Mayor Richard Duffett: (12:50)
Thank you very much, Governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (12:52)
Thank you. We appreciate it. This morning, we launched the COVID 19 vaccine maintenance program for our nursing homes and assisted living facilities. And one of the things we’ve been proud of is that initially we went right into nursing homes first shot and second shot. Same thing with our assisted living. But now we’re approaching the time when we know that we have to continue to get vaccine into these nursing homes, because there may be new hires, new employees are coming in. There’s certainly new residents that are coming in.
Governor Mike DeWine: (13:29)
And so, that is something that our Director of Aging, Director of McElroy has been working on. And I know, Director, you’re working on that today. And you want to just give us a kind of a little report about how that’s working and that working with the nursing homes and assisted living, and where we’re going from here.
Ursel J. McElroy: (13:48)
Absolutely. Thank you, sir. And if you recall on the morning of December 18th, we were together when Ohio witnessed the very first shot as part of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program. And now that we’re getting close to rounding up all three rounds of those clinics, we certainly didn’t want to lose the momentum of vaccinating our long-term care residents and staff. And so we’ve treated Ohio’s vaccine maintenance program.
Ursel J. McElroy: (14:16)
On a regular basis, facilities will be able to enroll in the program and let us know what their needs are. Do they need to host a vaccine clinic for their residents and staff? This can be for new hires, new residents, or maybe just those who had recently decided that the vaccine is the right choice for them. We hosted a webinar this morning with the Ohio Department of Aging, Department of Health, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, and one of the larger pharmacy networks representing many pharmacies across the country. And together, we laid out the program for Ohio’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Ursel J. McElroy: (14:51)
There were more than 1000 facility leaders in attendance. In fact, we had to move some over to the virtual overflow and we have received a lot of positive feedback and some great questions, especially some around the facility and pharmacy partnerships. And to that point, we are trying to match facilities with the pharmacy of their choice if the logistics work. Meaning they can store vaccines safely. It’s important to note that we anticipate there’ll be a federal program in the upcoming weeks, but we wanted to ensure continuity of care between the first federal program and the availability of vaccines to all residents and staff. And because the state had already coordinated the COVID testing program and facilities, us moving to the vaccine program was a pretty natural progression. And one that we felt was important to support. It will mean less waste, more coordination, more access, and more strategic distribution. So we look forward to updating you and the citizens of Ohio after the first month the clinics take place.
Governor Mike DeWine: (15:55)
So Director, I think maybe to explain to people, every nursing home has a pharmacy company that’s serving them that is bringing whatever medicine is needed into that nursing home. And so, I think our concept basically simplistically is plugging into them, working with them. They’re already have that relationship with the nursing home or with the assisted living. Is that close to it anyway?
Ursel J. McElroy: (16:26)
No, no, you’re absolutely right. We wanted to build upon those relationships that already exist. So if you have a channel that exists, it’s natural, it’s easy, it’s easy to follow. And so, we’re building upon those relationships. And where perhaps we may have maybe a facility and the relationship with the pharmacy. Maybe if it doesn’t exist, we’re going to be there to coordinate so that there is not one facility left out.
Governor Mike DeWine: (16:52)
And let me just say to everyone who has a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living or somebody just got there, we are focused on making sure that they have the vaccine. So if they did not have the vaccine before they were admitted to the nursing home within the next week or so, we want them to be able to get that vaccine. I would also say to anybody when we went through the first time, second time, third time, and they said, “No, I don’t want a vaccine.” And we would just tell them that now they again will have an opportunity to get that vaccine. So we would hope they would rethink it, particularly staff but also residents.
Governor Mike DeWine: (17:31)
We would love for everybody in every nursing home who works there, everybody who lives there to have the vaccine, and we’re going to make that available again. And it’s just very important that more and more people in our nursing homes. We’ve seen a dramatic, dramatic drop in cases in our nursing homes. And we’re very happy about that, but we just want to continue to keep driving those numbers down. Because we know that over half the people who have died in Ohio of COVID had died coming out of the nursing homes.
Governor Mike DeWine: (18:02)
Director, let me quickly just go to one other issue you and I have talked a lot about and we’ve been on the phone this past week about, and we’re going to finish up in the next few days I hope. And that is something that we get asked a lot about and that is visitation in nursing homes. We have visitation now, but with the vaccine coming the nursing homes and better understanding of the masks and other things, we hope to come out next week, latter part of next week probably with some more guidance for the nursing homes.
Governor Mike DeWine: (18:39)
So I don’t know if you want to mention anything about that. We’ll going to save that till next week until we get everything completely ready to go. But any comments you want to make on that?
Ursel J. McElroy: (18:51)
Yeah. I just want to ensure people that we are constantly evaluating this, having the right conversations, looking at the right things. Not only with our colleagues or our peers in the medical community, in the social services community, but also with the federal government. So there are a lot of layers to this, but when you get down to it, we want to connect people as quickly as possible and as safely as possible. And so I look forward to having this conversation next week so that people understand what their options are, and the progress that we’re making.
Governor Mike DeWine: (19:28)
So we’ll continue to balance, worry about the COVID coming in, but we’re at a different time now. So we also know that people can really be hurt who are in nursing homes or assisted living who can not have contact. We know that’s a problem. We’ve had guidance since July I believe in regard to what was allowed, what was not. We’re revisiting that again. And we’ll lay that out again we hope a week from today. So Director, thank you. Thank you very much. One of our goals in getting the vaccine out of course is equity, fairness and in many ways. Geographically, as far as race, as far as underserved populations, because of poverty. All of these things are very, very important. And so this, is a plea for me to our providers directly to every provider in the state, whether it be the pharmacy, whether it be a hospital, whether it be one of the clinics, health departments. Please, please, please make sure that data gets in there in regard to the individual who you are in fact vaccinating.
Governor Mike DeWine: (20:42)
That’s the only way. It’s not the only way, but it is a way that we can see if we’re missing people, if we’re missing groups. We just need to continue to drill down on that and look at that. For example, in phase 1B, we need to know if people are getting this because of age if they fall into that category. Are they getting it because they’re a teacher or work in a school? Or are they in our special group of at-risk people with early onset health conditions with intellectual or developmental disabilities? Or if they are in our special group of at-risk people with early onset health conditions who do not have intellectual or developmental disabilities? So these are different categories and it’s just very important. Having this data helps us understand administration or uptake rates among specific communities or occupations. It also helps inform future policy and allocation decisions. The data accuracy is key to measuring results. It’s a requirement really for all of our providers. So again, we expect our providers to do this and to make sure this information is in there, and is in fact correct. This week, vaccine eligibility opened up to Ohioans born with or who have early childhood conditions that are carried into adulthood, which put them in a higher risk for adverse outcomes due to COVID-19. So we did this for several weeks with people who fit that criteria with intellectual, developmental disabilities. Now we’ve added people without those disabilities. So anybody who fits this criteria.
Governor Mike DeWine: (22:38)
And so, we just would ask our providers if someone comes in and they have one of these conditions, they have every right to get the vaccine. We are seeing, for example, we’ve heard complaints with people who have cystic fibrosis who have been turned away. That is not right. Those-
Governor Mike DeWine: (23:03)
That is not right. Those individuals should be able to get their vaccination. So let me turn it over now to our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, really to kind of go over these conditions again, because we want to make sure everyone understands what these conditions are, because this is something that is new, and we’re asking our providers put this up on your webpage. But also when someone comes in and fits one of those conditions, they have the right to get that vaccine, even though they may not be 65 years of age or older. Doctor.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (23:42)
Yes. Thank you, Governor. So I’ll go through this list very briefly. First, you’ll recall that on the list we begin with sickle cell anemia. That’s an inherited disorder of red blood cells. These patients face many challenges, including severe pain episodes, stroke and organ damage. We have down syndrome on the list, which I think is fairly well understood and recognized by the public. Cystic fibrosis, which the Governor mentioned. That’s a hereditary disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. And these patients tend to have a shorter life span. Muscular dystrophy. These are inherited conditions that damage or weaken muscles over time. Cerebral palsy, disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Spinal bifida. That’s a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. People with severe heart defects requiring ongoing medical care. So again, this refers to those with heart defects, but who still require regular care from their heart doctor.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (24:52)
So this wouldn’t include the many Ohioans who had heart surgery as a young child that worked very well, and they’re now doing very well and don’t see their doctor regularly. People with type one diabetes, who’ve been hospitalized in the past year. This category refers to those individuals who have a kind of diabetes that generally begins early in life and requires insulin, not the kind of diabetes that so many people develop later in life and for which they often begin their treatment with pills. And even within this category, we’re asking that vaccination at this time, be reserved for those who may not have been able to achieve good control of their blood sugars, and therefore needed to go to the hospital for things like DKA. We have PKU Tay-Sachs, another rare inherited metabolic disorder. And if you have a question about this category, please talk to your doctor. Epilepsy with continuing seizures. Hydrocephaly, microcephaly and other neurologic disorders.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (26:02)
And again, this would expressly not apply to people who’ve had febrile seizures early in childhood, fairly common illness, but now are doing just fine. Turner syndrome, fragile X, Prater Willy, and other severe genetic disorders, and these are often called chromosomal disorders. People with severe asthma, again, not the majority of us who have asthma that are doing very well with our inhalers and other medications, but those whose asthma is more serious and has required them to go to the hospital in the past year. Alpha and beta thalassemia. These are blood problems, and most of these patients have a specialist. And if you have a question, ask your specialist. And then finally, the solid organ transplant candidates and recipients
Governor Mike DeWine: (26:53)
Doctor, thank you very much. We’ll remind everybody that this can be found on our website, coronavirus.ohio.gov/ vaccine. Also as a reminder, we’re at 65 years of age and older, we’re going to stay there for the next few weeks. So if you’ve not been able to get your vaccine yet and you’re 65 years of age and older, you’re going to be able to get it. And I know it’s been frustrating for you, but we’re going to continue to hold right there at 65, because 65 and older constitutes 87% of our deaths in the state. We know this is the most vulnerable population. So we’re going to get to you and we’re going to keep trying to get that more supply into the state of Ohio. Eric, let’s go to our data slides real quickly.
Governor Mike DeWine: (27:45)
2200 cases. We’re happy to see them where they are. We hope they would even go down obviously even further. If you look at the deaths, sadly we’re at 98 deaths. Hospitalizations at a higher number than frankly we’ve been running. And when we look down here at ICU admissions, they are higher as well. So let’s go to our counties. Interesting thing I noticed, this is all our counties. And again, this is by, last two weeks, how many cases they’ve had per 100,000 population. Something interesting occurred this week. Benton County, the last County, you’ll see it’s in white. Why is it in white? Well, we’ve had a solid blue over here, and solid blue simply means that every county for the last number of weeks have been higher than what’s considered to be a high incident level. I’ve Benton County, first county in a long time drop below that. They’re not low by very much, but they did drop below it a little bit. So that’s a good piece of news.
Governor Mike DeWine: (28:54)
Let’s go to our top 20 again. Brown County, Clinton County, Athens County, those three are up in the neighborhood of about four times the high incident level. Let’s go to the next slide, Eric. Hospitalizations. Sadly, we continue to see people come into our hospital. People who are very ill, people on ventilators. I have a friend who just found out today is on a ventilator. But the good news is this number continues to edge downward, just a little bit over 1500 of our fellow Ohioans who are in the hospital now for COVID. So those numbers continue to get better. Let’s go to the alert map. No changes in the alert math. We’ve not seen a change in this map for quite some time.
Governor Mike DeWine: (29:54)
Let me now talk about one final thing before I go to the Lieutenant Governor. We know that people are looking forward to spring, early summer, graduation, prom, sporting events, and we’re getting a lot of requests and inquiries about what is that going to look like? And so we’re working on this, we’re working on it this weekend. And we’ll let Dr. Vanderhoff talk a little bit about kind of where we are in general. But one of the things that we know today that we did not know a number of months ago, and every month that goes by, it’s driven home even more, and that is the power of the masks. So, the wearing of the mask is going to allow us to do things in the spring. We now know how powerful they are. We’ve seen it in school. Phenomenally successful what teachers have done and students have done in our schools, and that’s because people have been masked up, wearing the mask. Even many times within a close proximity to each other, and we’re not seeing much spread.
Governor Mike DeWine: (31:08)
So as we look to the spring, we look for proms, we look for graduation, we look to sporting events, we looked at all kinds of things that we want to do to get back to normal. I think this mask is going to be able to allow us to do a lot of these things. And I’m optimistic, frankly, about that. So, Dr. Vanderhoff, I wonder if you can talk a little bit more about this. You and I, and the Lieutenant Governor and our team were talking about this early this morning, and maybe just share a little some of your thoughts.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (31:39)
Yes. Thank you, Governor. Well, as we look ahead to the spring months, I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that more contagious strains of the virus, especially B117, the so-called UK variant, are in fact appearing in Ohio. What we’re seeing is that the virus that causes COVID-19 is changing, as nearly all viruses do, to become more contagious, and it’s happening here in Ohio, just as it has in other parts of the world. In fact, the B117 variant is now in at least 40 states. And other variants, including B1351, which is originally from South Africa, and P1, which is originally from Brazil, have also arrived in some other states. These new strains, these new variants are an important signal about what’s happening to the virus and where it’s headed. They tell us the virus is becoming more contagious and having more opportunity to change as it gets into more people. It’s becoming more efficient, and it will go on doing so until we, as a group, are largely immune to it, until it no longer finds enough of us in which to duplicate and evolve.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (33:01)
And that’s what many mean when they talk about herd immunity. Vaccines of course are the way to achieve herd immunity quickly and without unnecessary suffering or death. But it’s going to take more time to get enough of us vaccinated that this virus is no longer a threat. Meanwhile, the B117 variant, and others, are among us, so we still have to protect the many of us who haven’t yet been vaccinated, and are both vulnerable to illness and able to spread the virus. And those of us who aren’t yet vaccinated also don’t want to be the Petri dish for some new variant. That’s why it’s very important that we don’t declare victory too quickly. Make no mistake, vaccines are working very, very well, but our national vaccination effort needs more time. That’s why we need to keep up our good work of preventing spread of this virus with masking and distancing, which we know are working.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (34:04)
Just look at our flu numbers. Last year at this point, we were approaching 5,500 flu hospitalizations in Ohio. This year we haven’t even hit 100. So as we go forward, we’ll continue to watch these variants very closely, with particular attention on the indicators of COVID disease activity from our dashboards that the Governor just reviewed. But I think we can all be encouraged by our results so far. They reflect our good adherence to masking and distancing, along with steady increases in vaccination. So even in the face of these new, more infectious variants, we have the weapons we need to improve our lives as we head into the spring. Masking and distancing work, and they’re going to be key to living our lives more normally as we go into the spring.
Governor Mike DeWine: (35:05)
So we have the tools that either we didn’t fully understand or that we didn’t have. We didn’t have the vaccine before. We also have a full understanding of the power of the mask. So those are things that, Doctor, we need to keep in mind as we move forward and we hope will allow us to do more things. Our intention is to have more things that we like to do and that we want to do this summer as we go forward. The data you gave in regard to flu, Dr. Vanderhoff, was absolutely phenomenal. If I wrote it down correctly, last flu season 5,500 hospitalizations in Ohio. This year under 100.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (35:47)
Yes. Yes. It’s really remarkable and a real testament to masking.
Governor Mike DeWine: (35:52)
Yeah. I mean, it really shows the power of the masking and what results that can be. That’s just an absolutely phenomenal figure. Doctor, thank you very much. We’re going to go to the Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governor, you’re in Richland County and Mansfield, I believe, your Health Department. And tell us what’s going on?
Lieutenant Governor: (36:11)
Well, we are, Governor. People are excited to be here today as part of Richland Public Health’s vaccination effort. They’ve been doing on average about 100 vaccines a day. We’re doing a hundred vaccinations today with Maderna. And so things are moving along well in Richland County and at Richland Public Health. They have, by the end of the day, will have vaccinated 2,705 people at this facility. Now, today we have Doris Reinbold. Doris is going to get her second dose of the vaccine today. And her nurse, Laura Corbett. Now believe it or not, Governor, Doris wants Laura to give her the vaccine and not me. So I’m going to step aside and let that happen.
Laura Corbett: (37:06)
Are you all set?
Doris Reinbold: (37:06)
Laura Corbett: (37:06)
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:06)
Well, good afternoon to both of you. Thank you. Thanks for being on our show here.
Laura Corbett: (37:10)
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:27)
Laura Corbett: (37:27)
You’re all set. Would you like a sticker that says you got your vaccines today?
Lieutenant Governor: (37:31)
Doris got a sticker. Just like when we do when we vote, we have a sticker for getting the vaccine and it’s fantastic. And as I was talking to some of the other folks getting vaccinated downstairs, that’s their armor now. They feel protected and really excited.
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:52)
Doris, that’s your second? This is your second, is it? Second vaccine.
Doris Reinbold: (37:55)
Yes, it is. Didn’t hurt at all.
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:58)
So you got to feel good about that. A couple more weeks and you’re going to be [crosstalk 00:38:06]-
Lieutenant Governor: (38:06)
Some friends that were urging her maybe to scream out in pain or something like that as a joke. And I said, [crosstalk 00:38:11].
Governor Mike DeWine: (38:13)
Well, I’m glad you didn’t do that. Thank you very much. Good to be with you guys. Appreciate it.
Lieutenant Governor: (38:19)
And Governor, we have actually a local celebrity who’s going to be joining us for his first dose today, and that’s Mayor Tim Baker. Mayor is not getting the vaccine because he’s a celebrity, he qualifies. He qualifies in the latest round, and we’re glad that he could be here with nurse Amanda Crawford. And Amanda’s going to start the process for Mansfield’s Mayor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (38:52)
Mayor, thanks for having us in your community. Appreciate it.
Mayor Tim Baker: (38:57)
My pleasure. Thank you for coming.
Governor Mike DeWine: (39:03)
John was trying to tell me you weren’t old enough to get this.
Mayor Tim Baker: (39:08)
I look young. You’re young, you’re a young mayor.
Lieutenant Governor: (39:14)
He asked me earlier, Governor, whether if I had received the vaccine yet, and I said I’m not old enough yet. I don’t qualify. But I’ll get it as soon as it’s my time.
Amanda Crawford: (39:27)
Are you ready? One, two three. And that’s it.
Governor Mike DeWine: (39:34)
All right. How you doing, Mayor?
Mayor Tim Baker: (39:36)
I’m doing great. Thank you very much. You’re doing an excellent job. This is great they were here and you guys are here. And Lieutenant Governor’s doing a great job, and both of you are. Thank you.
Governor Mike DeWine: (39:49)
Well, good to be with you both. Thank you both for what you’re doing, and thanks for vaccinating so many people. That’s great. You guys are doing a great job at the Health Department, and it’s wonderful. So thank you all very much. Appreciate it.
Lieutenant Governor: (40:04)
[crosstalk 00:40:04] Thanks, governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (40:05)
I think we’re ready for questions.
Speaker 1: (40:07)
Governor, first question today is from Scott Hollis at the Xenia Daily Gazette.
Governor Mike DeWine: (40:11)
Speaker 1: (40:12)
Hey, Governor. How are you?
Governor Mike DeWine: (40:14)
I’m good. I’m good, Scott.
Speaker 1: (40:16)
Good. Apologize for the length of this question. I received an email from someone at a Trinity community in Montgomery county the Dayton area, which is an independent living community, not an assisted living, or nursing home or affordable housing. And they seem to be kind of lost in the vaccine clinic process, because they’re not able to get a clinic scheduled because they’re not assisted living or nursing home, yet they have third-party providers coming in and out and their average age is 86. And they’ve been having a time getting the vaccines, and they seem to be going through this endless loop. They contacted Montgomery County Health, who told them to contact the Ohio Department of Health, who told them to contact Montgomery County Public Health. What can be done for free types of places like this?
Governor Mike DeWine: (41:05)
Well, Scott, thank you. I’ve visited Trinity a number of times over the years. Very nice place. And we will check on that and get back to you. I don’t know whether the director is on. Director, are you on?
Ursel J. McElroy: (41:20)
I am. I am.
Governor Mike DeWine: (41:21)
Oh, we got several directors here. Director McElroy, you want to check that out for us and for the folks at Trinity, and we’ll see what we can do to help them?
Ursel J. McElroy: (41:30)
Yeah. And what we’ll do if we can before the end of the show, we do have what’s known as a Regional Rapid Response Assistance Program, where we call it RRRAP. And one of the roles of that team is to go out and assist places, such as what you’ve described, where there are those clusters of older adults. And if it’s easier to come to them, similar to what we’re doing for affordable housing communities, we’re also open to do it in other spaces. So before maybe the end of the show, we can make sure that you have the phone number so that people will know how to reach us.
Governor Mike DeWine: (42:08)
Okay. That’s great. If you can get back to me, Director, on that. And I would just say that we are certainly looking for places with have a significant number, it doesn’t have to be a huge number, of people 65 years of age and older, and where we can go in there with a team, maybe sometimes go in there with the National Guard, and actually vaccinate everyone who’s eligible and everyone who wants the vaccine. We’ve done that in some high rise areas, apartment buildings. So anytime we can have the opportunity to do that and cover a lot of people, we’re certainly willing to do that and we would love to do that. So let us know. Thank you very much.
Speaker 1: (42:53)
Next question is from Lindsay Mills at WBNS in Columbus.
Lindsay Mills: (42:58)
Hi, good afternoon, and thanks for taking my question. I have two, if you don’t mind. The first one, Governor, you mentioned the frustration with people 65 and older. We saw just this weekend, Franklin County, when a new clinic opens, the website crashes. So my question there is, how is the state helping? And then my second question, and if I could get this in, is about SB 22, getting lawmakers veto power over your health mandates, your own party supporting that. So what should the public believe here?
Governor Mike DeWine: (43:28)
Well, let’s start with your question about people, the frustration if you’re 65 and older. You’re eligible, but yet you can’t get the vaccine. We’re coming in every week. What we’re getting now is roughly 200,000 first doses every week. For the next week and a half, about 55,000 of those per week is going to go to our educators. But that means that roughly, these are rough figures, around 140,000 are going to go to people 65 and older. Once we hit March 1st, those numbers will go up because we’ll be done with the educators. So three fourths of it is now going to those 65 and older. A much higher percentage will go to those 65 and older when we get into March. So we’re not going to move off 65 until we have some satisfaction that everyone 65 and older who wants this vaccine has been able to get it.
Governor Mike DeWine: (44:31)
So it’s a supply and demand. We have a big demand, which is great. We don’t have enough supply. But that supply should, we’re told, continue to arch up as we move forward. So as we look to the future, we don’t know what date that will occur, but we hope sometime around March 1st we’re going to see the third vaccine come in. We don’t know exactly. Johnson and Johnson, I was talking to executives from Johnson and Johnson yesterday. They really couldn’t tell us exactly what that first few weeks is going to be, but there will be some J&J coming into Ohio. And so that will help us as well.
Governor Mike DeWine: (45:12)
As far as Senate Bill 22, look, this bill was improved, and I’m grateful that it was in fact improved by the general assembly at Dolan’s Amendment. But we think it has a ways to go. And really it’s not so much about me. In fact, it’s not about me. Even if this were passed, this would take some time before it went into effect. But what we have to make sure we get right is how a future governor, not a Mike DeWine, future governor can react to an emergency. An emergency-
Governor Mike DeWine: (46:03)
… react to an emergency, an emergency of any type that may hit the state of Ohio. We can all dream up our worst case scenarios, but we do not want to leave the people of the state of Ohio defenseless. We do not want to leave, take these powers away from a governor, and not think about what the future might bring, and what might be coming through and hit us with. So I think we have to be very careful.
Governor Mike DeWine: (46:33)
I fully understand the general assembly’s desire, as a branch of government, to be involved in discussion. In the last few months, we’ve really ramped up our discussions with the state legislature. We’re going to continue to do that. We want to hear from them. We want to have input from them. We’re doing weekly calls, which we’d love to have any member of the general assembly get on to talk about what they’re seeing.
Governor Mike DeWine: (47:05)
As we look to the future, our concern is the variant. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with that, but we do believe that with the masking, and the power of the mask, and the vaccine, that we’re going to be able to see things get better, and that the spring is going to be a much more normal spring, we hope, than we have seen a year ago in spring. So we look forward in summer, I guess, to working with the general assembly, to talk this through, to figure out how we can make sure they have the input they want, and that they’re a part of this.
Governor Mike DeWine: (47:50)
But we don’t want to be in a situation where a future governor does not have the tools that she or he needs to protect the people of the state of Ohio. That would be shortsighted. It could be tragic. So we can work this through, I think. It’s going to take some effort on both our parts and I’m willing to make that effort. We just have to be careful what we end up with, but I think things are going to continue to get better, we hope. We’re going to continue to work with the legislature, and we hope to come to some accommodation in regard to this piece of legislation.
Speaker 2: (48:30)
The next question is from Jess Hardin at mahoningmatters.com.
Jess Hardin: (48:40)
Hi, governor. Thanks for taking my question today. Our rep from Youngstown City School District said today that the district is announcing its reopening plans next week. It appears that the district is going to miss your March 1st deadline. Of the 1,300 employees who signed up to receive the vaccine, 1,100 have gotten their first shot. What happens to the 1,100 expected to be needing the second dose, and what happens to the estimated 250 employees who haven’t received vaccines yet? And given the fact that the district is under state control, how is missing this deadline an option?
Governor Mike DeWine: (49:17)
We got a lot of questions there. They’re all good. I believe that everyone in Youngstown schools who wanted the shot, got it. Now that’s a pretty high uptake number. We’re going to keep our word. We’re not going to fail to give them a second dose. That would be irresponsible. That would not be what we should be doing. They got the first dose. They should get the second dose in the appropriate time. We will make sure that they do that.
Governor Mike DeWine: (49:45)
I want to put this in perspective. When we started this discussion, when I first announced in December that we asked the schools to come back by March 1, no later than March 1, and we said to them, “We will vaccinate everyone in your school, all the adults, if you’re willing to come back by March 1.” At that point, we’re, I think, at 41-42% of the population, student population for going to schools that were totally remote, 42%.
Governor Mike DeWine: (50:20)
Today, I just looked at it. Let me just look again. Let me do the quick math here. If we look at the schools today, that number has gone down to 12%, so we’re down to 12% from 40 some. So we’ve already achieved a great deal. I think this program has been immensely successful. We’ve been able to get shots into people’s arms very effectively. We’re in the third week. That slowed down a little bit this week because of weather. We’ll pick that back up and should be done by March 1st, everybody first shot, some people second shot.
Governor Mike DeWine: (50:59)
So the program’s been successful and it’s been successful in getting kids back in school. Remember what we said is either back in school full-time or back in school hybrid. So the fact that some schools may miss this by a few days is not good, but I think we need to keep our eye on the ball that the glass is about 95% full, and we should not fixate on the 5% or so that is not full. If I look at my chart here, or look at what my team gave me today, if you look at traditionally we’ve had remote, full remote, full in person, and then we’ve had hybrid. Now we’re getting something that’s kind of else. It doesn’t qualify for the hybrid, but where schools, some of the kids are coming back part of the time. That’s really not where we want to be, but it’s certainly better than what was going on. Lt. Governor, you want to add anything?
Lieutenant Governor: (52:04)
Yeah, Governor, I just want to say that there are so many schools though, that are just excited about the fact that they’re coming back. The teachers, the administrators, the kids, many of them are really doing a great job. They’re coming back. They’ve proven that you can do it safely and successfully. We just have a couple of outliers that need to buy into what the rest of Ohio is doing and serve those children. So I just wanted to add that. Thanks Governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (52:31)
I got a text from Akron a few minutes ago, said they’re trying to move it up. So look, we just asked people to make the best effort. We’d love for them to be back March 1, but this has been successful. I think it’s getting more successful as we go.
Speaker 2: (52:47)
The next question is from Dan DeRoos of WOIO in Cleveland.
Dan DeRoos : (52:53)
Good afternoon, Governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (52:54)
Dan DeRoos : (52:56)
I’m doing my best here. I get contacted quite a bit by quite a few folks. Most of the time, I can help them understand why they are or are not eligible, and then really explaining it’s just a supply issue, that there just aren’t enough. Just because your group qualifies, doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to get it the next day.
Dan DeRoos : (53:15)
But I’ve had a couple in the past couple of days that are just head scratching. A 48 year old quadriplegic man here in Northeast Ohio, who has cerebral palsy. We’ve had a 30 and a 32 year old, both women have cystic fibrosis, both of whom had appointments scheduled, only to get a call and say, “Oh, you’re only 30 years old. You don’t qualify. You’re 32 and you don’t qualify.” Can you empathize with how tough this is? They finally think they have a shot and then they’re out. Then where’s the communication failure?
Governor Mike DeWine: (53:50)
Well, you can never have enough communication. I started this press conference, one of the things I said specifically, cystic fibrosis. We went to Dr. Vanderhoff, let him go through the list again. We have 700 and some providers. There’s always someone who just doesn’t get the message, I guess, so we’re doing it one more time today.
Governor Mike DeWine: (54:15)
We’re saying as strongly as I can say it, we have a list. You should be looking at the list. If you’re a provider, you should have that list in front of you. You should have that list on your webpage. When someone fits that criteria, they have every right to be there. It doesn’t matter what their age is. The whole purpose of this list is to reach people who are not 65, but who, if they get the COVID, it’s not good, it’s really not good.
Governor Mike DeWine: (54:49)
So the examples that you have given, I would be very frustrated if I was them. I would simply say if you want to offline give us their contacts, we will reach out to them, or if they want to just go back and try again. But we want to make sure that they get this vaccine because they are the people, the very people that we want to have it.
Governor Mike DeWine: (55:15)
As we look at this, we just have to cover the most vulnerable people that we can. Age is a great indicator, it’s the best indicator, but we know there’s some people under 65, who also are in a situation where they’re very vulnerable, and we have to be able to get them the vaccine. So again, my message to all the providers, I believe we, as of this morning, I said, “We need to send another message out, send another email out, contact our providers, tell them they’ve got to watch this list.”
Speaker 2: (55:54)
Next question is from Nathan Hart at WCPO in Cincinnati.
Nathan Hart: (55:59)
Hi, Governor. I was wondering if the state has a plan for vaccinating homeless people and workers at homeless shelters?
Governor Mike DeWine: (56:06)
Yeah, I don’t know if we’ve got anybody on here who can answer that, if any of our directors are on. I’m looking at the board and see who’s up, who wants to jump on? Anybody? I have specifically, I know, asked this question. Director McElroy, I don’t know if you have the answer for that. We’ve talked about this before. I know efforts have been made to do that. Do you have anything to add to that, or we can check?
Ursel J. McElroy: (56:45)
I do know that we have the team is looking at that issue and trying to see how we can reach the population. It is definitely a part of our overall strategy with equity. So I just want it to make certain that it was understood that we are acutely aware of the need. We’re trying to be certain that we have a way to reach people.
Ursel J. McElroy: (57:11)
I think pieces that we have to be certain that we’re able to address is the two dose regimen, and when people are transient and moving, being certain that we have a way to do it. Is it a situation where perhaps that we look at some of the vaccine products that we believe are coming on? So I just thought it was important that to come on is to say that we’re absolutely aware of it. We do have people who are looking into it. We’re just trying to see-
Governor Mike DeWine: (57:45)
I’ll check with our team, because I know that we’ve done, there’s been some vaccination done at these shelters, and someone who’s watching this may say, “Well, why are you doing homeless?” Well, if you have people who are in for any period of time in a congregate care setting, in a homeless shelter, depending on the situation in that shelter, the configuration, they may be in a congregate care setting.
Governor Mike DeWine: (58:17)
Again, criteria always is who is the most vulnerable, who is the most likely to get really sick or die if they get the virus? We’ll get back. I apologize. We’ll get back with a fuller answer on what we’ve done and what we’re going to do, either later in the press conference today, or we’ll get back on Tuesday.
Speaker 2: (58:38)
Next question is from Kristen Spicker at the Dayton Daily News.
Kristin Spicker: (58:43)
Governor Mike DeWine: (58:45)
Kristin Spicker: (58:46)
Last night, we learned that Wright State University is expected to receive a recommendation to eliminate roughly 100 faculty positions. I was just checking to see if you’ve been briefed on the situation and if you have a comment or any concerns about how that would impact university and its community?
Governor Mike DeWine: (59:05)
Well, as you know, everyone in the Miami Valley knows, Wright State has had some difficulties in regard to the budget. Many other schools are having difficulties. The coronavirus has acerbated problems for our liberal arts schools, our private schools, as well as our public schools. I know that the board at Wright State, the president, are continuing to focus on what is the right size for Wright State.
Governor Mike DeWine: (59:42)
The question that every college has to face today is what’s their niche? I know that Wright State is going through that process and working on that. So I don’t have any specific response to this news that I read today, but I know that they’re making efforts. Wright State is very important to the Miami Valley. Wright State has to thrive, and get in a position where it can thrive is very important, but I don’t have any particulars or any judgment, frankly, on this piece of news.
Kristin Spicker: (01:00:21)
Speaker 2: (01:00:23)
Next question is from Sara Arthurs at the Findlay Courier.
Sara Arthurs: (01:00:27)
Thank you, Governor. My question is for Director McElroy, if she’s still available. That is you had indicated that there was a webinar with the nursing homes and people had a lot of questions. I’m curious what some of the more common questions were, or what some of the obstacles are to getting more vaccines into nursing homes for the people that are not yet vaccinated, and how the state’s addressing those obstacles? Thanks.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:00:50)
Sure, Sara, thank you. Director?
Ursel J. McElroy: (01:00:53)
So first I would say a lot of the questions, many were operational in nature. So for example, if I’m on a shared campus, if I have an assisted living facility and a nursing facility, can we all be vaccinated at the same time? Also, if I have an independent living setting, can they also be included in being vaccinated?
Ursel J. McElroy: (01:01:19)
What we know with the clinics that took place is that there were situations where some people were hesitant and they didn’t necessarily want to do it during the first rounds that we were able to go out. We also know that there were other situations where maybe a person was ill, maybe they were off work, so there were a lot of missed opportunities. What we simply want to do is be certain that we go back and are able to capture those who want the vaccine now, and to be sure that we capture those new residents and those new staff coming in.
Ursel J. McElroy: (01:01:57)
I think right now we have this really interesting time of we were waiting to see if perhaps there would be a federal program that would be activated. I do believe that perhaps that will happen, but we did not want to be in a situation where we lost the continuity that we already had in place. It’s my understanding that we are the first state to look to move forward in a program such as this. So I think there’s excitement, there’s a lot of energy around it. We’re trying to be as flexible as possible just to make sure that we can do it in a way that is conducive to the business that the facilities have right now.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:02:46)
We haven’t talked on this press conference about swiss cheese for a long time, but I’m just thinking that there’re holes there and we’ve got to fill the holes. The holes come from people who had the opportunity to get the vaccine and said, “No, I don’t want it. I want to wait.” And now they’ve waited, and now they’ve seen millions of people vaccinated, and maybe they want it.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:03:02)
You got a new resident that’s coming in. Maybe they have not had the opportunity to get vaccinated, but we need to make sure they’re vaccinated. It could be a new employee who’s come in. Or as the director said, an employee who was on vacation, or just simply not there when it came through the first couple of times.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:03:19)
So we’ve got to continue to keep hammering away at this because this is where a huge number of our deaths are. We’ve made great, great progress. We don’t want to lose that progress. And frankly, we to continue to fill the holes that are there for anyone who actually wants the vaccine. We’re not going to force anybody to take it, but we sure want to make it available to anyone in those situations.
Speaker 2: (01:03:42)
Next question is from Chelsea Sick at WKEF in Dayton.
Chelsea Sick: (01:03:47)
Hi there, Governor DeWine.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:03:49)
Chelsea Sick: (01:03:50)
We were told by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services director that it’s possible another federal stimulus package could mean more needed system upgrades to the state’s unemployment system. The department told us those upgrades were to blame for the backlog of pandemic related unemployment payments last month. Are you working with federal leaders on accommodating another stimulus package when it comes to unemployment? What’s your message to Ohioans worried that a federal relief package could mean less money for a period of time?
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:04:18)
Yeah, the director’s on, I believe. Eric, if you can pull the director up?
Kimberly Henderson: (01:04:23)
Yes, I’m here. Good afternoon.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:04:25)
Hey, director, afternoon.
Kimberly Henderson: (01:04:28)
Thank, you, Chelsea. We are keeping a very close eye on the activity in Congress so far. We don’t have an indication that there will be major tweaks to essentially the four programs that are running right now, but we are in a wait and see mode. Our goal certainly will be to respond as quickly as we can to whatever those additional requirements might be and work as hard as we can to get benefits out the door to those who are eligible.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:05:02)
Speaker 2: (01:05:02)
The next question is from Andy Chatwood, Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Andy Chatwood: (01:05:08)
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:05:09)
Andy Chatwood: (01:05:11)
I’m wondering if you and Dr. Vanderhoff could address a claim that was brought up a lot yesterday by supporters of SB22 to break it down. Many people said a similar thing that if you look at a map of the U.S., they say that several states that have very little restrictions have a similar death toll to states that have a lot of restrictions. So, of course, it’s more complicated than that, but can you explain why it’s more complicated than that? What are the other factors that people should be looking at to determine if restrictions are working?
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:05:50)
Well, I’ll start off and, Bruce, you can jump in. I’ll just take one example, and that is the mask order. In the summer, we saw some of our cities start, in the city, we followed fairly closely that with the rest of the county, and basically go to the counties that were red, and put out a mask order. When we put that mask order, two things happen. People started wearing a mask at a much higher rate. And two, we started seeing a slowing down of the increase, or in some cases, we started seeing it going down.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:06:35)
We put the mask order at some point on statewide. When we started enforcing that mask order by sending people out, we saw the mask compliance jump. Same time we did the curfew, two things that some of our critics didn’t like, and we saw some real results. We started seeing a slow down of the increase. Today, we’re still at statewide at 93% of the state of Ohio in retail establishments, people were wearing masks. So on those two different occasions, very, very significant changes that we saw.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:07:24)
I’ll give you a third example. Some of the same critics, some of my friends didn’t want us to require a mask in school. They said, “Kids won’t wear masks. Parents will rebel. It’s not necessary.” We said, “K through 12,” and then people really went crazy. What we’ve learned is that has worked exceedingly well. It’s enabled many, many of our kids to be in school virtually the entire year with very, very little spread in the classroom.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:07:59)
So those are all health orders, all things that we put on based on medical science with the best medical advice that we could get, that have saved lives, that have turned things around, that have changed things. Dr. Vanderhoff?
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:08:20)
Yes, Governor. I think that was very well said. I’ll add two pieces of important information, Andy, that I think are worthy of consideration. The first was the February 5th mortality and morbidity weekly report from the CDC, which showed that states that had very strong mask mandates, and they specifically referenced Ohio as being among those states, were able to significantly impact… in fact, it was up to five and a half percentage points… the rate of decline in new COVID positive cases during the period.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:09:02)
… new COVID positive cases during the period of the peak across the country. So that’s one study that I think would point in a different direction and is pretty credible. The other would also come from the CDC and the mortality and morbidity weekly reports. This one from January 15th, which showed that in countries where they were able to evaluate the impact of mitigation strategies like those that we had undertaken here in Ohio, those jurisdictions were clearly able to save thousands of lives in contrast to those places that were slow on the uptake in applying those kinds of measures. So our curfew would be a great example of that kind of mitigation strategy. So two very important, incredible, and recent studies coming out of the CDC in both national and international literature.
Next question is from Geoff Redick, WSYX in Columbus.
Geoff Redick: (01:10:20)
Good afternoon, Gov. Hi, on SB22 again, you mentioned earlier it’s an improved bill. What is improved about it? Your opposition last time was that the bill gave the General Assembly power to override your administration’s health orders, and this grants seemingly the same power. So why would you consider signing it? What would a compromise be?
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:10:41)
Well, I didn’t say I’d consider signing this bill. I said it was improved over what it was, which we did. But look, I’m a person, throughout my career, who’s tried to advance the ball, make things better, get things done. And many times that does involve compromise. And may times that involves trying to understand what the other person wants and what they need. And I’ve been pretty good at it. I’ve never given up my principles, I don’t intend to give up my principles. But I’ve been able to get things done, whether that was in the United States Senate or other jobs I’ve held. So I’m not a different person today than I was then, and I’m interested in the end result. And so I just believe that we at least ought to try, the General Assembly and the governor, speaker, Senate president, ought to at least try to see if we can work this out. And I’m not going to negotiate in public and do that, I don’t think that makes any sense.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:12:02)
But if there’s a way that we can reach a combination, we will. If we can’t, we won’t. And time will tell. But I think we owe it to the people of the state to try to reach that accommodation, to reach that agreement. We have a lot of other things that need to be done. We have a budget that needs to be passed. We have a lot of things that need to happen. And we’re all players in that and we all have an obligation to try to make things happen, to improve the lives of the people, the state of Ohio, give people more opportunity. So all these things come together and we’re going to, at least from the governor’s point of view, we’re going to try to see what we can do. But there’s no guarantees, but we’re going to try.
Next question is from Molly Martinez of Spectrum News.
Molly Martinez: (01:12:51)
Hi Governor. I think this question is probably more for Dr. Vanderhoff. But you mentioned that the first vaccine significantly bolsters immunity against COVID, but do we have any idea of how much exactly? And have there been cases of people contracting COVID in between their first and second shots?
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:13:08)
Yeah. We’ll let Dr. Vanderhoff answer that, but I’m going to say that it’s good to see Regis again. Our viewers can not see Regis, but I think Regis, I put Regis to sleep because he’s sleeping there, right?
Molly Martinez: (01:13:23)
Don’t take it personally.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:13:25)
Yeah. I mean, he just looks very comfortable on your lap there. I’m sorry the rest of you can’t see this, but it’s a beautiful dog. Dr. Vanderhoff.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:13:33)
Yes, sir. Happy to answer that. Yeah. First, it’s important for us to understand that the first dose of either of these mRNA vaccines is pretty impressive. They do generate very substantial levels of antibody and demonstrate a fairly significant ability to prevent people from developing COVID illness. Now they’re not going to be 100%. So yes, there are instances where people, after receiving the first dose, could acquire COVID-19. If that weren’t the case, their efficacy would be rated at 100%. And of course, no vaccine is rated there. But here’s what’s important about that second dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:14:28)
That second dose of the vaccine does more than just boost the antibody levels that a person is able to generate, it also triggers, or it enables another important part of the immune system, which we call the adaptive immune system. It’s a largely cellular part of the immune system, so more than antibodies. And that’s important because that’s what allows the staying power of the vaccine. And that’s what also enables the vaccine to trigger what I would call nimble immunity. Immunity that is able to deal with many of these variants, et cetera, that we’re seeing globally. So, both are needed. The first one is very good, but you’re not done with the first one.
Next question is from Andrew Welsh-Huggins at the Associated Press.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins: (01:15:26)
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:15:27)
Andrew Welsh-Huggins: (01:15:28)
Thanks for doing this. I had a question related to the two veterans homes. As you probably know, the veterans homes have been closed to new admissions, pretty much for the entire pandemic. And at this point, both Sandusky and Georgetown have fairly lengthy waiting lists. They’re also operating at considerably below capacity compared to pre-COVID days. I spoke with a World War II vet who’s eager to try to get into Sandusky, but his family is a little concerned about when that might happen. I guess my question just is, what is your position on when Ohio’s veterans homes should reopen to new admissions?
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:16:12)
Yeah, they’re going to reopen very, very soon. You’re right, there is a waiting list at both. People want to get in. We’ve had very good uptake of the vaccine. The home, everyone there. Both homes, Sandusky and Georgetown, did a phenomenal job of advising people, particularly the residents, as well as the workers, about the importance of the vaccine. I don’t remember the exact number, is well over 90% as far as the residents. So we’re in a position now, I talked with the director today, Director Ashonhurst. We’re in a position now to start opening back up. I think we’re not going to take a whole bunch of people in one week, but we’re going to slowly start opening that back up and see how it goes, and we hope that we can open it up. And further, we would love to be back to the full operational capacity, but we won’t be there for a while. But we’re going to start on our way back. So anyone who’s on the list, there is hope, and we’re going to start moving that way very shortly.
Next question is from Laura Hancock at Cleveland.com.
Laura Hancock: (01:17:30)
Hello, this question is for Dr. Vanderhoff. While COVID has some distinct symptoms such as loss of smell, many of the symptoms in COVID and flu present the same way, such as headache and fever. How are you making sure a COVID death is not a flu death, and how are you making sure probable COVID cases are not actually flu cases?
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:17:57)
Thank you. That’s a very, very good question. And you’re absolutely right, there’s a lot of overlap in these winter respiratory diseases. Now of course, flu and COVID can occur other times of year, but the winter is traditionally for respiratory illnesses, the peak season. So physicians have long had to think about, how can we differentiate illnesses like this? And this year, differentiating COVID from the flu is very important. So first, it has to do with the testing that goes on when you go to a hospital, a doctor, or an emergency room. And in many, many circumstances we are testing for both viruses. But the data, and I referenced this in my comments earlier, really are just showing that this year we are just not seeing the flu. It’s just not turning up. The cases are vanishingly low. And so what we’re seeing is the vast majority is being driven by COVID.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:19:05)
Now, when it comes time to counting deaths, that information is information that comes to us largely out of our healthcare environment, either through death certificates and/or through our infection disease reporting. And what we do in Ohio is a process, and we’ve referred to this in previous settings, but a process of reconciliation. Where people go through to make sure all the data that’s available is counted for. And that if a death is attributed to COVID, it’s attributed because it appears to be causal, and the same would be true for influenza. So, if a death is attributed to influenza, it’s attributed because it’s believed to be causal. So I hope that answers your question.
Next question is from Danny Eldridge at Hannah News Service.
Danny Eldridge: (01:20:03)
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:20:04)
Danny Eldridge: (01:20:06)
So today a pretty large bipartisan group of lawmakers talked about plans to introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty. Given the current situation with the death penalty in Ohio, is that something you would sign? Or what would you like to see from the [inaudible 01:20:22] on that issue?
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:20:25)
Well, look, I’ve made it pretty clear that my thinking on the death penalty is certainly evolved. It is the law. And as long as it’s the law, it certainly stays on the books. It is something that I would expect at some point the General Assembly to take up. And I’ll certainly weigh in if they move a bill forward. I’ve also said that we’re fighting a virus, we’re trying to do a lot of other things. And I truly believe that the provisions that we have put in our budget that deal with crime, deal with people who are violent, repeat offenders, people who have a gun who are not supposed to have a gun because they’re a convicted felon, enhancing that penalty. Making sure that outstanding warrants are in the national database and the state database. All of those things are so much more important in regard to saving lives than the death penalty itself. And the death penalty debate has gone on for centuries. But I know that the things in the budget, that we put in this budget, things that we’ve talked about before, things I’ve talked about from this podium time after time, after time, I know those will save lives. I know those will save a lot of lives. So I’m putting my energy on, frankly, on the things that I think will save lives and where I think will really, really make a difference and keep Ohio families safer.
Next question is from Adrienne Robbins, a WCMH in Columbus.
Adrienne Robbins: (01:22:15)
Hi Governor. My question is actually for Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. How concerned should Ohioans be about these COVID variants? The way you described it makes it kind of sound like we’re in a race against time on getting people vaccinated and getting that herd immunity before the virus outsmarts that vaccine. So how worried should people be?
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:22:37)
Here’s what I would say, I think we need to pay attention to the COVID variants. They’re important. They are changing the way that the virus is behaving. The virus is clearly becoming more contagious, and to some degree it is becoming a virus that can make some people sicker. However, one thing is not changing about the virus in terms of what these mutations, and that’s really what’s going on with the virus, is mutations are occurring that make these variants. And those mutations are not able to affect the mechanics of how the virus spreads from me to you. It’s still a droplet spread virus. So the message that I really want people to have is, these changes in the virus are underlining how important it is for us to mask and maintain distance, even as we get our vaccinations. Yes, the faster that we as a populace can get vaccinated the better. But the reality is, the miracle of these vaccines came about in a remarkable period of time, with historic speed.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:23:57)
And we are blessed to have very effective, very safe vaccines coming online. But that miracle is going to take a period of time to roll out to all of us. I don’t want people being frightened, but I also don’t want them ignoring the threat that the variants pose. But the good news with this is, masking and distancing still work. We need to take advantage of that. And oh, by the way, our vaccines are doing a very fine job even in the face of these variants. One last thing I’ll do to point to that, to underline it with science, is look at what the manufacturer reported about the J&J vaccine, and how it worked even in South Africa and South America in the face of dominant variance. And it had 100% ability to prevent hospitalization and death, which are the end points that really matter.
Governor, next question is the last question for today, and it belongs to Jessie Balmert at the Cincinnati Inquirer.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:25:14)
Jessie Balmert: (01:25:15)
Hello. I actually have a followup question on the variance for Dr. Vanderhoff. My question is, how is Ohio tracking these variants, and where has the UK variant appeared in Ohio so far?
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:25:32)
Also very, very good question. Ohio has joined the national effort to increase surveillance for these variants. And the entire country, the entire United States has been doing very limited genetic surveillance prior to, really, a month or so ago. On January 15th, the CDC scaled up its program called NS3. That’s the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance program. And we’re a part of that here in Ohio. And through that program and through our efforts, we are now able here in the state to do hundreds of surveillance tests each and every month. And we’re working to increase that even more.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:26:38)
In terms of where the B117 variant has been identified, it’s actually been identified through multiple labs, including through the ODH state lab and in different locations around the state. So we know B117’s here. Exactly how much B117 is either in Ohio or the rest of the country is not clear. But the evidence would suggest that we’re early in the B117 growth. And as I look to the rest of the world, I would fully expect B117, if it does what it has done everywhere else, will likely be our dominant variant by the time we get into late March, early April.
Governor Mike DeWine: (01:27:35)
Doctor, thank you very much. And thanks everybody, we’ll see you all on Tuesday. Have a good day.