Feb 22, 2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 22

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 22
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsOhio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 22

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on February 22, 2021 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.

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Governor DeWine: (01:36)
Good afternoon, everyone. Today, I’m wearing a mask from South Point high school. They’re called the pointers, and I appreciate having been down there. I want to thank superintendent Mark Christian, principal Dean Nance for making the high school available for my meeting with the Lawrence County elected officials this past week. I was down there to take a look at the damage from the very massive ice storm, and we appreciate their hospitality, and we also appreciate their good work, their teachers and all the personnel, and the students throughout this year. Yesterday, Fran and I want to see a vaccine clinic at Thurgood Marshall High School in West Dayton. Clinic vaccinated 1,592 people yesterday. Kroger employees ran the clinic, and they performed all check-ins, screening, vaccinations, and monitoring for reactions during the event. It was certainly very, very well organized. People got in, got out quickly.

Governor DeWine: (02:49)
Great to see so many Montgomery County residents getting their vaccinations, and Fran and I talked to a number of them and they certainly all were very happy to be able get it. And the vaccination clinic was put together by Kroger, by Mayor Whaley’s office, the Montgomery County Public Health Department, State Public Health Department, our office. I just want to thank everyone who made that a very successful day. I want to update you about last week’s weather-related vaccine shipment delays, and there certainly were some. Now, despite the bad weather, a few hospitals did receive their Pfizer shipments. We also were able to deliver Pfizer shipments that were repackaged by the Ohio Department of Health warehouse, so this is done. Came in on Monday, and we were able to repackage and get those out. However, the Moderna shipments were delayed. Some of our providers were able to use second doses that they had received already so that they didn’t have to cancel clinics that they had scheduled.

Governor DeWine: (03:56)
Those second doses will be backfilled. No one should worry about that. They’ll get their second doses. Second doses will be backfilled with shipments they received this week. Additional delayed shipments of Pfizer and Moderna will arrive between today and Wednesday. For those providers who canceled appointments last week, we’ve urged them to expand their appointment schedules, including evening and weekend hours. So to every provider who’s getting this late, we just ask you to get those out just as quickly as you can. We’ve got to get caught up, and that may mean doing it in the evening. That may mean doing it on the weekend. We want to get caught up just as quickly as we can.

Governor DeWine: (04:41)
I want to talk about nursing homes. As we’ve shared with you during the past week or so, the number of new COVID-19 cases in our nursing homes continues to go down. Last week, long-term care facilities reported 343 new cases. That compares, and it’s a significant decrease, from what it was in December. So 343 new cases last reported in December. The high was 2,832 new cases when these cases peaked in December, so we’re definitely making progress there. I want to now, though, talk about nursing homes and visitation, because I know a number of Ohio citizens are concerned about this, both people who live and who are residents in nursing homes in assisted living, but also their family and their loved ones.

Governor DeWine: (05:48)
Let me go back and kind of recap visitation, and how this has progressed. When the virus first started to spread across Ohio, every medical expert that we talked to recommended shutting off visitation at nursing homes. We did that. I think every other state did it as well. So on March 13th, 2020, Ohio issued an order that limited entry, allowing only healthcare personnel necessary for the operation of the home. The order also allowed, though, for visitation for people who were near death. After a while, we started to hear from families, family members who told us that their loved ones were suffering in the nursing home because they were not being able to be visited.

Governor DeWine: (06:43)
So in June, we started permitting outdoor visitation for assisted living facilities. We clarified and expanded the exceptions for end-of-life visits. Then in July, we opened it up more, permitting outdoor visitation for nursing homes and restoring group activities within nursing homes. So June, assisted living, then July, nursing homes. In September of this past year, there was a change. The federal government centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, known commonly as CMS, issued new guidance, regulations for visitations. Those federal visitation requirements are still in effect. Under these CMS federal regulations, a nursing home has to meet three criteria to allow visits. One, there has been no new onset of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days. Two, the facility is not currently conducting outbreak testing, and three, CMS reports that COVID-19 county positivity rate at less than 10%. So those are the federal regulations that went into effect in September, and they override really anything that the state does. So the nursing homes have to comply with these federal regulations, but I do want to talk about some exceptions under the federal law.

Governor DeWine: (08:36)
Even if the nursing home is not allowed to have visits because they don’t meet the three criteria from CMS, visitation can and should still happen in certain circumstances. Under the federal CMS rules, compassionate care visits are always allowed. So let me repeat that. Under the federal CMS guidance, compassionate care visits are always permitted. Now, what are we talking about? What is compassionate care? Let me talk for a few minutes about that. Compassionate care is not just for end-of-life situations. Again, compassionate care is not just for end-of-life situations. Whether compassionate care visitations or special visits in which a family member or other visitor provides comfort, support, and assistance to a resident whose wellbeing is suffering or at risk, these visits should be utilized in many circumstances to get that loved one well again, or to halt a decline in that loved one.

Governor DeWine: (09:50)
CMS has a list, the federal government has a list, of examples of compassionate care situations that include, but are not limited to, the following. Here are some examples. A resident who was living with their family before, recently became admitted to a home, and now is struggling with the change in environment and the lack of physical family support. That’s an example. Second example might be a resident who is grieving after a friend, family member recently died. Or three, a resident who needs chewing and encouragement with eating or drinking previously provided by family or caregivers is experiencing weight loss or dehydration because they’re no longer getting that contact with that family member or caregiver. Another example, according to CMS of compassionate care, a resident who used to talk and interact with others is experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently when the resident had rarely cried in the past.

Governor DeWine: (11:07)
Now, additional examples. This is not an exhaustive list, so additional examples of situations where compassionate care visits should be facilitated could include the following. A resident who has been readmitted to the facility, following an acute-care admission to the hospital. They go to the hospital, they come back, and they’re not doing well. Or, a resident has a new order for an antipsychotic drug, an antidepressant, or an appetite stimulant. Or, a resident’s dementia has dramatically progressed. And this is what I’ve heard from a number of Ohio citizens, resident’s dementia has dramatically progressed. Another example, during window visits, loved ones have noticed a change in the resident’s appearance, grooming, or their cognitive ability. Another example, the resident is no longer responding to loved ones during virtual visits. These compassionate care visits are not just for nursing homes. Again, I want to make this clear. They also include assisted living facilities. So all these examples would include assisted living facilities.

Governor DeWine: (12:25)
To make sure that there is a full understanding of this, I am sending a letter today. This is a letter that I’m sending to all nursing homes in the state of Ohio. It is to remind them of two very important things. One, that each nursing home needs to check their county positivity rate every week to determine their visitation status. They can go up online and look at that. And that is changed, potentially is changed, every week. So that helps determine their visitation status. So every week, potentially their visitation status can be changed by the federal government because of that. That’s number one, to remind nursing homes to do that. Number two, to remind nursing homes to allow for compassionate care visits. The examples I just read are examples of where compassionate care visits should be allowed, no matter what the status of that nursing home, as far as normal visitation.

Governor DeWine: (13:39)
So we’re talking about two different things, normal visitation and compassionate care. Now, we’re seeing positivity rates across the state decrease. Soon, many more nursing facilities may be able to open up to allow more visitation, so that is changing. And every week, we’re seeing more as they change colors. Ohio facilities are required to report in weekly and update our dashboard to indicate if visitation is allowed at their facilities. You can find that on our dashboard. Families can access the visitation dashboard on our website at coronavirus.ohio.gov, coronavirus.ohio.gov. Red means visitation is restricted to only compassionate care visits. Yellow and green counties could have visitation. Those nursing homes in those counties that are yellow or green might have visitation depending on the situation at each individual facility. Remember, they also have to be COVID-free and not be outbreak testing. Everyone should look at the dashboard, as it could potentially change each week, especially as cases continued to decrease in Ohio. The dashboard will tell you the specific visitation schedules and allowances of the nursing homes.

Governor DeWine: (15:02)
Now, in the letter that I just held up, I also remind facilities that they must continue to allow for compassionate care visits as I just outlined. If you have a loved one in need of a compassionate care visit, and that loved one is not getting that visit and you’re being stopped from visiting, you have rights. You’re empowered to get that business schedule. Now, our director of aging, Ursel McElroy, is with us today to talk about those rights and what you can do if you feel your loved one’s needs are not being met. Director, good to have you back on.

Ursel McElroy: (15:39)
Thank you, Governor. I’m glad to be here today to talk about this important issue. We know that the COVID-19 health emergency has been very difficult on residents of long-term care facilities. And not only our residents at particular risk of illness and death, but they may be experiencing loneliness and isolation due to the restrictions on visitation. And as you mentioned, no matter what the visitation situation is at a nursing home, compassionate care visits can be allowed. Our long-term care ombudsmen stand ready to assist residents and their loved ones and navigate the visitation opportunities in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The order requires these facilities to work with residents, families, caregivers, a resident’s representative, clinicians, and the office of the state long-term care ombudsman to identify the need, the length, the frequency for compassionate care visits. If you need a compassionate care visit, please feel free to call the ombudsman hotline.

Ursel McElroy: (16:43)
That number is 1-800-282-1206. Again, that’s 1-800-282-1206. Our ombudsmen are here to assist and represent you and your loved one. Sir, I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind the facilities how critical it is to update that visitation dashboard that you referenced. We do have some facilities who are not yet reporting in. This is something that should have started October 19th, and we want to be sure that you’re doing it consistently. We also know that you’re reporting into CMS data that’s critical, and we want you to continue to do so. If you wish to view your information, we have created an abbreviated CMS report that just features Ohio counties and positivity rates. So if you’ve been previously accessing the entire national dataset, we have distilled a view of only Ohio facilities, and you can view this at aging.ohio.gov. We know that you and your staff are busy, but entering the CMS information is so important.

Ursel McElroy: (17:49)
It’s being used at the federal level, the state level, and the local level to inform decisions and policy. I want to pivot for a moment on something that’s also important and very much related to visitation, and that’s a bit about some of the things we’ve done in the nursing homes to position us in a way to host visits whenever possible. We’ve provided many resources to help facilities address some of the requirements. For example, we’ve implemented a state testing program that facilities can still join where they’re testing supplies, and lab work are covered at no cost. We continue to help with any staffing shortages. And this month, we launched the vaccine maintenance program, which is so very critical to continue our efforts to vaccinate nursing home and assisted living residents and staff. Just last week, I had a chance to join the governor and talk about our webinar to launch this program, something we certainly believe we’re leading out here in the nation on.

Ursel McElroy: (18:51)
You’ll remember that under the federal program, our pharmacy partners supported three clinic opportunities in each participating facility to administer vaccines. Now that those first three rounds of clinics are concluding, we did not want to lose the momentum of vaccinating our long-term care residents and staff. So Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine maintenance program is up and running, and I’m happy to report that we actually can begin starting those clinics here in the next few days. So we want to remind our partners in the industry to please complete your program enrollment survey no later than tomorrow, February 23rd, so that we can be certain that we can get these vaccines in arms as quickly as possible. This is a fast-moving program. We’re proud to do everything we can to keep the vaccines going, not only in the nursing homes, but in the community. So working together, staying safe together, using all the tools in our toolbox, the masks, the distancing, our infection control practices, and the vaccines, we certainly believe that we’ll soon get back to full visitation. Thank you, sir.

Governor DeWine: (20:00)
Doctor, thank you very much. Eric, let’s go to the data slides. As you can see, our cases continue to trend lower. We’re very happy about that. The deaths, however, holding up unfortunately, 58. Hospitalizations, 120, and ICU admissions are 16. Eric, let’s go to the next one. These are all the counties again. And you’ll see up on this side creeping up very, very slowly, the two counties that you see here are in white, which simply means that they are now below the high incidence for cases in their County. So we still have 86 counties that are high-incidence, although if you look at the numbers…

Governor DeWine: (20:54)
Let’s look, Eric, at the top ones. Athens is highest, and they’re at about four times what the CDC says is a high-incidence level. So again, the numbers in general are coming down, but if you look at the top 20, they’re still very, very high. Let’s go to the next slide, Eric. Hospitalizations, again, if you look at the number of COVID patients in the hospital, those numbers continue to trend downward, and we’re certainly happy to see that as well. And we’ll go to the next one, Eric. So I want to talk for a moment about this chart, and this chart I look at every day. It’s the first thing actually I look at, and it’s vaccinations first doses in Ohio by age group. So if you look down here, we’ll start with the oldest. So the oldest is 80 and above, and as you can see, we’re almost at 60%.

Governor DeWine: (22:06)
So that gives you some idea. We’re close to 59 point… Almost 60%. We should go in the next day or two hit 60% of all those 80 years of age and older in Ohio have received their first vaccination. If you look at the next number, you’ll see this is a new… In fact, this is a new chart, so I’ve not actually seen this one. They just came out with this chart. So this one goes 75 to 80, and we’re at almost 50% in that age group, and you can see it go down from there. So we don’t know, frankly, how high we’ll be able to get with it with each age group, but we know that we certainly still have demand within those age groups. As we look at… I get the question, ” How long are we going to stay on 65 and older?”

Governor DeWine: (23:03)
… and how long are we going to stay on 65 and older. We’re going to stay on 65 and older because it is the age group where 87% of all deaths of come, 65 years of age and older. So we will remain at 65 until we have basically satisfied that demand with that age group. But I would just invite everyone to look at this breakout every week, every day if you wish, and you can is we’re moving forward on these different age groups.

Governor DeWine: (23:35)
So, we continue to look at that and continue, again, the most vulnerable are the oldest. So with almost 60% of those who are 80 years of age and older, we’re doing pretty well. But we know we still have a ways to go. And then when you go down to the next one you see it tracking up almost 50%, those 75 to 80 years of age and then it goes down from there.

Governor DeWine: (24:01)
As we move forward, age is the best indicator of death, the likelihood of death. So we will hold at 65. I want to be be very clear, we’re going to hold at 65 until we are clear that people have been able to get their shots in that age group. We will then at that point, go to 60. We’ll hold there. Then we’ll go to 55. Then we’ll go to 50.

Governor DeWine: (24:31)
We are also looking at small groups, that because of special exposure, we may add in there once we go below 65. So we don’t have anything to announce on that today. We’re still looking at all the data in regard to that. But the next big move is going to occur when we move from 65 down to 60, and then from there to 55, and then from there to 50.

Governor DeWine: (25:05)
If you look at people 50 and over what you’ll find is that 97 to 98% of all deaths have come in that age group. So again, it is the best indicator that we have. But we’re looking at other small, smaller groups that we may insert in there when we go from 65 to 60. Last week, vaccine eligibility opened up to Ohioans born with or who have early childhood conditions that are carried into adulthood, which put them at a higher risk for adverse outcomes due to COVID-19. We’ve continued to hear anecdotal reports of people with these conditions being rejected when they tried to make appointments at pharmacies, for example. Particularly, we’ve heard about people with cystic fibrosis.

Governor DeWine: (26:08)
So I want to remind all the providers to look at this list, to take a look at the list and to follow this list. This is a group of people in Ohio, who, even though they’re under the age of 65 still carry a very significant risk of death if in fact they get COVID. So we ask everyone to keep that in mind.

Governor DeWine: (26:34)
We are asking hospitals and doctors who had the vaccine to proactively reach out to their patients who may know of the medical conditions that we have outlined so that these vulnerable Ohioans can get their vaccine as soon as possible. I’d like to show the list again on this slide, and it is found on our coronavirus website at coronavirus. ohio.gov/vaccine.

Governor DeWine: (27:14)
We’ve also made progress in vaccinating other high risk individuals in other groups that we have prioritized because of their vulnerability to COVID-19. First and second doses of the vaccine are well underway for those with developmental disabilities living in congregate settings. We haven’t really talked much about this group, but a high risk group.

Governor DeWine: (27:38)
In Ohio’s eight State operated developmental centers, more than 91% of the residents have accepted and been given that vaccine. So we’re very happy about that. Workers at the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities report that the vaccine has boosted morale among the residents of those homes. For those Ohioans living with developmental intellectual disabilities who also have a certain health condition they were born with or developed in childhood and carried into adulthood.. You remember, we opened this up three or four weeks ago, this group. This is part of our 1B vaccination program. We’re very happy to report the now more than 14,000 of these individuals have received their first dose, at least the first dose, of the vaccine.

Governor DeWine: (28:29)
This is a group of individuals with developmental disabilities who also have a medical condition as listed on the slide we just showed and now are reporting 14,000 of them have been vaccinated. So we’re very happy about that.

Governor DeWine: (28:46)
As for residents and staff in congregate settings for residential treatment facilities, mental health residential care facilities, recovery housing, progress varies by communities. But we’re continuing to make progress and we’re working to complete vaccination of those individuals.

Governor DeWine: (29:05)
A little reminder about our first Townhall session that we’re doing tonight on the safety of the vaccine. To help address Ohioan’s concerns and drive community conversations we have scheduled virtual Townhall meetings where you can go to hear from medical experts and community leaders about vaccine facts. And you can have your questions answered. The first one is tonight at 6:30. These meetings are open to everyone, but there will be a special focus at each one in addressing issues common to specific underserved communities. For example, tonight at 6:30 we will host a virtual conversation led by African-American community and medical leaders about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Governor DeWine: (29:51)
Tomorrow, February 23rd at 6:30 PM we will host a similar virtual conversation led by Latino leaders from across the state. Next week on March 1 at 6:30, we will host a virtual conversation about the vaccine with our Asian American community and Pacific Islander communities. And then on March 2nd at 6:30, we’ll host a virtual vaccine conversation with Ohioans who live in the rural parts of the state.

Governor DeWine: (30:17)
Ohioans can watch these Townhalls live or on demand on the Ohio Department of Health Care’s Facebook and YouTube pages and online at coronavirus. ohio.gov/townhall. They will also air on the Ohio Channel at a later date. And I want to thank the Ohio Channel for doing that. We appreciate that very much.

Governor DeWine: (30:46)
Now, a word about the death data audit. The Ohio Auditor of State, Keith Faber, and his team have been actively engaged in auditing the Ohio Department of Health. Auditor Faber informed me last year that their office is part of a multi-state effort with other state auditors designed to examine the accuracy of aspects of each auditor’s state COVID-19 data.

Governor DeWine: (31:07)
The Ohio Department of Health worked cooperatively with the auditor’s team to create an audit scope and data sharing plan that will allow for insightful data driven conclusions. As this relates to our recent announcement of issues regarding COVID-19 death data reconciliation, I want to say that I agree with Auditor Faber, that his team would not have been able to identify their under-reported 4,000 deaths. That’s what the auditor has reported, we agree with him absolutely on that.

Governor DeWine: (31:41)
This is due to the fact that names being removed from the data points through the audit in order to comply with federal health information privacy laws. This has been a productive process. Keith Faber and his auditors audit, it’s been a productive process that is producing results. We have responsibility to protect the health information of Ohioans, but we also made significant efforts to provide as much detail as we can to audit teams.

Governor DeWine: (32:11)
So again, I want to say thank you to the auditor and his team for working with the Department of Health to identify meaningful recommendations to improve our reporting. And we look forward to seeing the report when it is released next month. Let me now go to the Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governor.

Jim Husted: (32:29)
Thank you, Governor. We know that 2021 is our year of recovery from the standpoint of both the virus, as we get vaccines distributed, and the economy. There was an article out in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend that talked about how in Central Ohio and Southwest Ohio that our recovery is going a little faster, at least in terms of jobs, than other parts of the country. And so I guess it’s appropriate that we have an economic announcement for Northeast Ohio today. That the Ohio Tax Credit Authority today approved an expansion project for tax credit assistance for Rocket Mortgage, which is expanding in Cleveland. The expansion through Quicken Loans, LLC will create 630 full-time positions adding an additional $47.3 million in new annual payroll to go along with the $94 million in payroll that they currently have. The Tax Credit Authority approved at 2.211% ten year job creation tax credit for this project.

Jim Husted: (33:45)
This is great news for the City of Cleveland as a lot of urban areas struggled during the pandemic. Great news for the City of Cleveland coming out of the pandemic. It’s also great to see as companies are starting to make these investments, starting to grow, coming out of the pandemic that they’re choosing Ohio locations to make those investments.

Jim Husted: (34:05)
Currently they have 721 people employed in Cleveland and will be adding an additional 630, which is great, great news. We know that a lot of these folks will be getting trained and that there’s an opportunity for growth inside the company. So, those are wonderful things, too. I want to thank Jobs Ohio, the Greater Cleveland partnership, Team NEO, the City of Cleveland and our own development services agency for their work on this. Cleveland beat out several other cities including Phoenix and Detroit for these jobs. So that was great news, great news coming today.

Jim Husted: (34:48)
But we know that there are still places in Ohio where people aren’t back to work. We know that there are a lot of folks still struggling, and we want to get them trained. We want to get them back to work. We want to get them connected digitally so they can do those kinds of things. I will remind folks of the great resource we have with the OhioMeansJobs. If you lost your job, you’re in an industry sector like the hospitality industry sector that was hit very hard and it’s going to take some time to recover, go there, OhioMeansJobs, and you’ll see that there are 155,000 jobs available. 85,000 of those jobs pay $50,000 a year or more.

Jim Husted: (35:31)
And so, with the job training money that we have in the Economic Recovery Package with some of the programs we have like TechCred and IMAP. That ODJFS is doing with JobsOhio on Ohio To Work. A lot of these programs have job training dollars available for you. Take advantage of those resources so that you can go out there and get one of those jobs that are starting to come back as the recovery begins. So Governor, I’ll turn it back over to you.

Governor DeWine: (36:00)
All right. Lieutenant Governor. Thank you very much. I think we’re ready for questions.

Moderator: (36:04)
Governor, first question today is from Jim Provance at the Toledo Blade.

Governor DeWine: (36:08)
Hi, Jim.

Jim Provance: (36:08)
Hi Governor. I think this question might be better for the Lieutenant Governor? I’ve heard from a reader, a one person business with no other employees who received eight letters just today from multiple ODJFs offices indicating that unemployment claims were made by those claiming to be former employees. When she called today to report that, she was told that the system is down and that she should call back next Monday. Why is the system down and what are people like her supposed to do?

Jim Husted: (36:41)
Well, I don’t know if we have the director available on online? If so, I will let her address that question because I am not aware that the system is down. So you’re sharing with me some information that I did not have. I can tell you that the team, the private sector team, that the Governor had appointed is working with ODJFS to improve the customer service aspects of the system.

Jim Husted: (37:13)
I had a call this morning with the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions to look at some other tech options to help streamline the process so that we can build a system on the front end that it will hopefully eliminate and let the user know that the attempt at fraud was unsuccessful and we can clear out the system. But Jim, unfortunately, that’s as good of an answer as I have for you right now. I was not aware that the system is down and before the end of the news conference I’ll try and get you an update on that.

Governor DeWine: (37:50)
Yeah, Jim, I was not either. We’ll see what we can get before the end of the conference.

Moderator: (37:56)
Next question is from Mikel Livingston at Gongwer News Service.

Mikel Livingston: (38:00)
Hi, Governor.

Governor DeWine: (38:01)
Hi, Mikel.

Mikel Livingston: (38:01)
On Friday you got the next batch of names to replace Randazzo on the PUCO. Just wondering what your timeline is for making that appointment? And as you’re looking at these new candidates, what qualities or experience you’re looking for? Thanks.

Governor DeWine: (38:18)
Well, we’re evaluating those candidates now. That process has already started. We’re. frankly, doing some background checking in general and we’ll be interviewing those candidates. So that’s kind of the process we want. Obviously, someone who can handle the job. It is not an easy job. So, we we’re going through that process now.

Governor DeWine: (38:46)
So we want someone who I think will engender confidence from the public and someone who will be able to balance what the needs are. Look, as consumers, what do we want? We want power when we want it, but we also want to make sure that is the cheapest we can have it. So it’s always finding that balance of reliability so we don’t have a crisis that we’ve seen, for example, in Texas.

Governor DeWine: (39:24)
Certainly an extreme example. I’m not inferring that we are going to see that kind of crisis at all. But, constantly you have to weigh making sure the power is there, everything is there, at the same time keeping the price down for the consumer and that consumer may be an individual or the consumer maybe a company. And both of those are… That’s very important. We’ll keep you informed.

Moderator: (39:56)
Next question is from Randy Ludlow at the Columbus Dispatch.

Governor DeWine: (40:00)
Hi Randy.

Randy Ludlow: (40:01)
Good afternoon, Governor. The Columbus Clippers report to us today that your office had advised them that they can expect to open at 30% capacity when their season begins in early April. Is that accurate and would that 30% figure also apply to the Reds, Indians, Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati?

Governor DeWine: (40:26)
We’ll have an announcement on that later, later in this week. I was on the phone, this weekend, talking in general to the Reds, to the Indians and to the minor league baseball teams around the state. And I wanted as early as I could, because we know that they’re they’re planning.

Governor DeWine: (40:55)
Major league baseball starts April 1. Most minor leagues teams start May 4. AAA starts shortly after major league starts. So we know that all of these teams are anxious to start doing their planning. So we reached out to them and said, “We think we’re going to be around 30%. We want to see your plan and we want to see how you’re able to get the social distancing.”

Governor DeWine: (41:29)
So that’s where we are. Later this week, I’m going to have a Zoom call with all the minor leagues. We’ve already had some pretty extensive discussion with the two major league team, the Indians and the Reds. We anticipate having a full announcement on Thursday.

Governor DeWine: (41:46)
So, Randy, that the target figure we think that we’re going to be able to start with is 30%. I’ve also made it very clear, two things, one, we hope to expand… Actually, three things.

Governor DeWine: (42:02)
One, that we can do that if everyone is masked. We’ve learned this from schools, schools have done a phenomenal job. Kids have been relatively close together, and yet we’re not seeing the spread in classrooms. So we know the masks work. So when you add to that the factor of being outside, we think 30% is a logical place to start provided they can also have the distancing that that is required.

Governor DeWine: (42:33)
So what we have told them is we want to see your plan and we’ll review the plan. Their local health department, the county health department will review the plan as well. We’ve had a caution though. And the caution is that the variant is out there in Ohio and our best medical information is that it very well could become dominant in Ohio by the latter part of March. We don’t really know what’s going to happen after that.

Governor DeWine: (43:14)
So, latter part of March major league baseball starts shortly after that minor league baseball later on. We don’t know exactly where it will be. On May 4th, for example, and most of minor league baseball kicks in. So what we hope is that we start at 30% and it can go from there. But the caution that I conveyed to every minor league team and to the major league teams is, “We don’t know about this variant. We don’t know what it means. We don’t know what the spread is going to be.”

Governor DeWine: (43:47)
So we’re optimistic. We’re looking at a summer where more and more people are going to be vaccinated every day and we’re mask wearing inside a ballpark. If that can occur, we think 30% is a reasonable place to start.

Randy Ludlow: (44:04)
Would that also apply to the Columbus and Cincinnati major league soccer teams?

Governor DeWine: (44:10)
Yeah, it would be in the same general vicinity. Yes. Again, every stadium’s configured differently. So, they’ve got to be able to achieve the distancing. And they’re doing it by pods, this has been kind of the way that this has developed. And we would anticipate that all of them would use that as well.

Governor DeWine: (44:31)
It is a difficult job, I’m sure, for these teams to be able to figure out how do you do this? Keep people in groups, keep everybody wearing a mask and get people into the stadium. Look, it’s a big operation. We looked at what happened with the Browns and the Bengals, we thought they did a good job. And, we think that with what we know about masks and the power of masks now, plus the vaccine that we could start it at 30% with the only one exception, dark cloud out there, is the variant. And we don’t know how that’s going to impact it. And I’ve told all of them that, that could totally change the ball game. We just got to wait and see it. We hope it doesn’t.

Moderator: (45:25)
Next question is from Jim Otte at WHIO in Dayton.

Jim Otte: (45:28)
Governor, if we can, let’s go back to the distribution of the vaccines? Could you characterize the time period before that next age shift down to 60 years old? Are we talking a week or two or a month or longer? And do you have a percentage of coverage for 65 and above that would trigger all of this change?

Governor DeWine: (45:48)
Yeah. Eric, do you want to put the slide back up of the age. Jim, that’s a real good question. We don’t know. But, it’s a matter of weeks. And whether that’s three weeks, four weeks, I don’t think we know at this-

Governor DeWine: (46:03)
… and whether that’s three weeks, four weeks, I don’t think we know at this point. And so I’m not setting a date. I want to be very, very clear. We’re going to know when we get to that point, and the way we’re going to know is when people 65 years of age and older have been able to get their vaccine. 87% of all deaths have come from people 65 years of age and older. So we’re anxious to move it, but we’re not going to move it as long as we’ve got 65 year olds out there that are having a difficult time scheduling that vaccine. And what I would advise everybody to do is to watch these numbers as you see them. And we don’t really know, Jim, what percentage they have to hit. We don’t know at what point, how high we can get.

Governor DeWine: (47:01)
We obviously want to get as high as we can with each of these age groups, because the more 80 year olds that we get vaccinated, and we’re now at about 60, the more we get vaccinated, we know we’re saving lives, because we know the higher the age, the more risk. So the goal will be to get the 65 years of age and older vaccinated, then we’ll move down to 60. Then we’ll go to 55. Then we’ll go to 50. We know that over 50, if you take everybody over 50, now you’re talking about roughly 97% of all the deaths. So age is just the best indicator, and when you have a scarce product, which unfortunately this vaccine still is, this is the best way to go to save the most lives. So we’ll see when we get to the point when 65 year olds have no trouble getting the vaccine, we’ll move it down to 60. John, you want to add something?

John : (48:07)
Yeah, Governor, I was just going to mention that Director Kim Henderson is available now to answer questions on unemployment comp and the system. So. Director.

Governor DeWine: (48:22)
Hey, Director.

Director Kim Henderson: (48:23)
Good afternoon, Governor, Lieutenant Governor.

Governor DeWine: (48:26)
I don’t know whether you got the previous question or whether that could be restated.

Director Kim Henderson: (48:33)
I believe the communication I’ve received was an employer called to report fraud and was advised by an agent that the system was down and to call back. I’ve checked in with my team and we’re not aware of any system outages today, and certainly I would like to connect with, I’m not sure which reporter it is, but we’re happy to connect with them offline if they identify themselves. But the system is up and running. The hotline is up and running and our call center is open.

Governor DeWine: (49:11)
Okay. All right. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: (49:14)
Next question is from Marty Schladen at the Ohio Capital Journal.

Marty Schladen: (49:18)
Afternoon, Governor.

Governor DeWine: (49:20)
Hey, Marty.

Marty Schladen: (49:22)
As you know, we’re about to cross this really grim national milestone of a half a million dead from coronavirus. I just wanted to ask, when this was all starting, did you have any idea of about how prolonged and how profound it would be? And with the benefit of hindsight, is there any one thing you’d have done different?

Governor DeWine: (49:45)
Well, Marty, the answer is no. I certainly did not have any idea of the magnitude of what we were headed into. I don’t know if anybody really understood it. Maybe somebody did. But no, I did not know that. I had no idea that we would be nationwide crossing this figure of a half a million people dead. So no. And I was thinking this morning, the number of people just I know who were friends who are now gone, I mean, good friends who are now gone from COVID. At the beginning of this a year ago, had no idea that this would be, what we would be going through for this year. The other question was what, Marty? I’m sorry.

Marty Schladen: (50:34)
If you had it to do over again.

Governor DeWine: (50:36)
Oh yeah.

Marty Schladen: (50:37)

Governor DeWine: (50:38)
Marty, look, I mean, I joke with people, my team, and it’s really not a joke, but I said, “Look, in the next pandemic, we’ll do this differently or we’ll do that differently.” I think that the one thing that we know today that we did not know when this started and if we had known it, it would have changed what we do. And that is just how powerful the masks are. And I don’t know if anybody really understood that. Today, we’ve got scientific evidence. We’ve done testing ourselves. We know how powerful these masks are. We know what they do. And when I said that we would start back school in the fall, this was last summer, and that everyone K through 12 would wear a mask, I know there are a lot of people who are watching right now, who thought I’d lost my mind. And what I heard was, “Little kids won’t wear a mask. They can’t be compliant. This is a horrible thing.” But we did it and what we found is that kids will wear a mask, adults will wear a mask, and that stops the spread. So that’s the one thing that I wish I knew at the beginning of this, and I wish everybody knew at the beginning of this. But I’m sure that as I go back, we can look at a lot of things that we may have done differently in hindsight. Hindsight is always great, but what we try to do is base decisions every day on what we know now, what the best scientists tell us now. And I look to the future, frankly. I don’t have the luxury of spending much time going back and second guessing myself or somebody else and thinking what we should have done. I’m sure there’ll be a time and a place for that, but we’re still in the middle of a storm.

Governor DeWine: (52:37)
And we’re still losing people, as you can on the death numbers. We talk about how happy we are about the case numbers being down. Yes, we are. They’re dramatically down, but they’re still high. And at the same time, we’re still losing people. We’re losing a lot of people. So we’re in this storm. We’ve got to keep battling. What we know as far as the summer coming up and the spring and the summer is that we can do some of the things that maybe we didn’t think we could do before, but only if we have strict mass compliance. Mass compliance plus the vaccine is going to enable us to do some things this summer that we would not have thought about or that we shouldn’t have done last summer.

Speaker 1: (53:22)
Next question is from Alex Ebert at Bloomberg.

Alex Ebert: (53:27)
Good afternoon, Governor. Thanks for having us. Could you comment upon whether or not you will urge the Department of Taxation to not subject the dividends from Workers’ Compensation to get CAT tax this year? I reached out to your office a couple of times on this and at a tax conference earlier this year, Tom Zeno, the godfather of Ohio’s CAT Tax, had reiterated that the Department of Taxation is looking to tax what’s supposed to be a dividend here from employers. And so if you could look into that, that’d be really appreciated, because a lot of taxpayers are concerned.

Governor DeWine: (54:06)
Okay, I will do that. I’m not aware of any desire to do that, but I’ll confirm and have a discussion.

Speaker 1: (54:15)
Next question is from Patrick O’Donnell at the74million.org.

Patrick O’Donnell: (54:21)
Hi. So the Cleveland School District revised its opening plans from opening at the beginning of April to bringing a very small number of kids back on March 1st, and then bringing more back over the course of the month. I’m curious if that meets what you want from them, or you’re satisfied they’re doing what they should be doing?

Governor DeWine: (54:42)
Well, the CEO told me he was going to make every effort to get back and try to hit that target date of March 1. So I’m sure they will continue to try to do that. I would urge them to get as many kids back as they can. He described for me a procedure where they would start with different groups of kids, which was fine, and layer those in as they went forward. So all I can say is that I think overall in the state we’re doing well. I know we’re doing very well. We’ve taken the number of kids who were totally remote around January 1 at about 41% or 42%. We’ve knocked that down to I think less than 10% now. And I’ve got a list that I keep, I don’t have it in front of me right now, of the schools that have indicated that are out and not in-person yet, not hybrid or not totally in person, and we’re checking them off as they start back.

Governor DeWine: (55:49)
And some of them have told us they can in fact start March 1, and some have said, “Well, we can’t quite make that.” So I would simply urge any school in the state, do everything you can to get back in on March 1. Again, that was the deal, and the deal was that we’re going to vaccinate your personnel and in return you’re going to put your kids back in school. And I would just again state, because I think it’s so very, very important, and I would say this to schools that are telling me they can’t quite get back in and they can’t get back in on March 1, but I would also say to schools that have been able to be in all year and somehow they look up and they say, “Well, this isn’t really fair,” I would remind everybody it’s not about the adults, it’s about the kids. This is about the kids. We’re vaccinating school personnel so kids can be in school.

Governor DeWine: (56:52)
Some kids have not been in school for almost one year. That has longterm impact. At the very least, we need to get them back so they can have three months in March, April, May. Schools need to do that. So that was the deal. They signed on the dotted line. They promised us they would do that. And so we have vaccinated all of them now. I mean, we’re finishing up some schools this week, but the schools in question have pretty much been vaccinated. So we would ask them to do everything in their power to get kids back in school. Again, it’s about the kids.

Speaker 1: (57:37)
Next question is from Laura Hancock at cleveland.com.

Laura Hancock: (57:41)
Governor DeWine, you have shared that max vaccinations can’t begin until the state starts receiving more vaccines. How many are you looking for, for these mass vaccination sites? And your Health Department has sought volunteers to man the sites. What exactly would they be doing? Who would run these sites? Would it be FEMA or the National Guard, or retail pharmacies? Any kind of details for mass vaccinations would be great. People are interested.

Governor DeWine: (58:11)
Sure. Look, I think that I want to be clear about this. We have existing in Ohio today what some people would call mass vaccination sites. I mean, I look at what some other states are doing and they call them mass vaccination sites, and now look at what we’re doing. In Dayton, Ohio, as I told you, I wrote down the exact amount, but there’s 1500 where people were vaccinated in one site yesterday on a Sunday in Dayton, Ohio. We’ve got other health departments and other urban areas that are putting significant sites together and vaccinating a lot of people in one day. We have the ability, if you just look at some of our hospitals, if you look at the University of Cincinnati, if you look at the other hospitals in, in the Cincinnati area, I was on the phone with several of them, if you look at Ohio State, you could look at the Cleveland Clinic, UHC, Metro, and Cleveland, they are not even close to their capacity to be able to vaccinate people in a day.

Governor DeWine: (59:22)
They’re not even close to being ramped up. So there’s a tremendous ability to ramp up with what we already have. We already have over 700 locations. So we could, just by staying with the 700 we’re dealing with now, we could significantly ramp up vaccinations. In addition to that, as you know, we have been looking at different sites in the state and to see where we would be able to ramp up. We have the National Guard, if we need additional help. We are going into senior housing in East Cleveland tomorrow. There’s two different places. Those are not mass vaccination sites, but we’re going into where we have [inaudible 01:00:08] people going in with the National Guard. We have the National Guard that’s available. We don’t think that we’re going to have any trouble manning sites, and if we feel a need to go to the mass vaccination sites, bigger sites, we will certainly, certainly go to those sites as well. We’re looking at a lot of different things. We’re looking at convenience. We’re looking at convenience being defined at least in part on how far a person has to go to get a shot. That’s why we’ve gone through over 700 locations in the State of Ohio. But we’ve always intended at some point when that vaccination got big enough and it was flowing into the state as big enough, as rivers are big enough, that we’d have the ability to expand out and go to some sites that you could call a mass vaccination site. So we don’t think we’re going to have a problem manning those sites. We’ve got people that can ramp them up. I mean, Kroger, for example, they’ve demonstrated they can run these big operation sites. We have vaccinated, think of how many teachers, we’re going to be over 200,000 teachers in four weeks in pods that are just focused directly on teachers, and if you look at those numbers, some of those numbers, some days are 1000, 1500 people.

Governor DeWine: (01:01:38)
So we’ve demonstrated we have the ability to do that and we have many resources to do it. We have a great hospital system. We’ve got great entrepreneurs, like our pharmacies and like Kroger, for example. So we’ve got many opportunities to do this, and we’re looking at, as you know because you saw the list, we’re looking at a lot of different sites. And we’ve heard from a lot of people who say, “We’ve got a site that we could use.” So that’s not the problem. The ultimate problem continues to be, and we hope we’ll get through this, but it continues to be, we just don’t have enough vaccine.

Speaker 1: (01:02:19)
Next question is from Geoff Redick at WSYX in Columbus.

Geoff Redick: (01:02:23)
Hi, Governor.

Speaker 1: (01:02:27)

Geoff Redick: (01:02:27)
Earlier when you were talking about dropping the age of eligibility down continuously at some point, you mentioned alongside that there would be some small groups of people also eligible based on exposures. I know your administration and you-

Governor DeWine: (01:02:43)
I said there might be, Geoff. I said there might be, but we’re still trying to evaluate it. Still trying to drill down and figure out, I’m sorry to interrupt you. Go ahead.

Geoff Redick: (01:02:53)
That’s all right. You’ve talked in the past and your administration has about funeral directors and morticians. Just interested who else is on that list of most exposure?

Governor DeWine: (01:03:04)
Look, we’ve got, as you know, over 700 different letters I think, groups that want to be in that list and they all make good cases. So I think it’s probably better if I don’t speculate today. I think it’s better if we wait til we actually make an announcement, but we will be doing that.

Speaker 1: (01:03:29)
Next question [crosstalk 01:03:31].

Speaker 2: (01:03:36)
Hello, Governor. We are getting a lot of inquiries from parents, from students, and people who are planning weddings, and they’re all asking how they can plan for a wedding or a prom or a graduation that might be a few months away and they want to have dancing and they want to be able to know what they can plan. What kind of guidance can you give us right now for someone who has to plan something and put a deposit down on something that might be three to four months away?

Governor DeWine: (01:04:15)
Well, I wish I had a crystal ball and I wish I knew what the future was going to be, and I’m not being sarcastic. I do wish I knew, and I wish I could answer that question. No one can answer that question at this point. What we can do and what we’re going to do in the near future, within the next week or so, we’re going to give some guidance on what we think people are going to be able to do. But we’re going to have a couple of caveats, or at least one big caveat. And that is, we don’t know where this virus is going to be on those dates. We certainly do not know where, as this morphs and changes, we don’t know how much more contagious it’s going to be. I mean, the concern that has been expressed, and I’ve talked to Dr. Vanderhoff about this and, Bruce, you may want to say something, but the variant that he talked about last time is believed to be significantly more contagious than what we’re dealing with today.

Governor DeWine: (01:05:25)
We already know how very contagious what we’re dealing with today is and how deadly. So if it ramps up and is much more contagious, we could be in a very, very different and much worse situation in May or in June or July, or whenever these events are coming up. So we’ll give guidance, but there’s a big asterisk, there’s a big caveat there, that says, “Look, we can’t predict what the future is going to be.” It’s the same thing I told the general managers of baseball teams, who I was talking to this weekend. We can’t tell you what the future is. We’ll give you guidance now. We hope it works. But if this variant is out there and it’s just spreading, it could dramatically change the numbers that I was showing today. Dr. Vanderhoff, I don’t know if you want to comment on that at all.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:06:24)
Yes. Thank you, Governor. First of all, I think the Governor summarized the situation very, very well. We are continuing to monitor very, very closely B117 and all of the variants that have been reported internationally. But what the arrival of these variants reminds us, and I’ve shared this previously in other press conferences, is that COVID-19 is not just going to disappear, but like other viruses, it’s evolving and it’s evolving to make itself more effective. These variants, including B117, underscore just how important it remains for all of us to continue the precautions that we’ve been following so well, the masking, physical distancing, and frequent hand-washing. These remain our best protection even as we are looking forward to the day when our vaccines will put this pandemic behind us. But as we move into the spring months, we have to move in with eyes wide open and recognize that how much we’re able to get back to our everyday lives really depends a lot on us and how willing we are to be consistent with these safety measures that so far we’re doing a pretty good job with. Thank you, Governor.

Governor DeWine: (01:08:01)
Thanks, doctor.

Speaker 1: (01:08:02)
Next question is from Kevin Landers with WBNS in Columbus.

Kevin Landers: (01:08:06)
Governor, thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions. K through 12, you mentioned, are nearly vaccinated. They took up a large amount of the vaccine supply. So does that mean that when that group is completely vaccinated, they’re finished with their vaccine protocols, the state will be able to free up more vaccine to get more people vaccinated? And when are you thinking that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, assuming it gets federal approval, will hit Ohio?

Governor DeWine: (01:08:32)
Yeah. Kevin, very good question. We have said that we felt that February was going to be tough. We have taken about, for those four weeks every week, we took about a fourth roughly of the vaccines and put them over here into education to get our kids back in school. That left about three-fourths primarily for people 65 years of age and older. March, when we hit March-

Governor DeWine: (01:09:02)
… March. When we hit March, those 50,000 to 60,000 vaccines a week that were reserved for schools are now no longer going to be needed for schools. They’re going to flip over. And so you’re absolutely correct. You’re going to have those available March 1. We’re already planning for that as we look at allocation. We also think we’re going to have a Johnson & Johnson coming in. Now, is that going to be the week of March 1, March 8th? I don’t know, but it’s going to come, and it’s going to come relatively soon. We also have been told, as you saw increased production with Pfizer, which at some point is going to kick in.

Governor DeWine: (01:09:43)
So we’re optimistic about the future. I think people should be optimistic. I know people are frustrated who can’t get the vaccine who are 65 and over, and I don’t blame them. But more’s coming. And March is going to be a better month, frankly, than February as far as availability of the vaccine.

Speaker 3: (01:10:06)
Next question is from Jamie Eldridge at Hannah News Service.

Jamie Eldridge: (01:10:10)
Hello Governor. So my question’s on indoor sports and entertainment. I know the Blue Jackets announced they’re about 10%, Calves are currently at about 14% capacity. Is there any thought to just changing the order to increase the number of people allowed at these and do they also apply to concerts? Can you just talk a little bit about what the plans are for that?

Governor DeWine: (01:10:31)
Sure. Sure, Jamie. Inside is tougher than outside, but there is a difference between a place like the Blue Jackets, where they’ve invested some serious money in the air conditioning, heat operation, where the circulation is fairly fast, in and out, filters are there. That’s a very different situation than maybe in a older gym, for example. So we’re open to look at this and we’ll have some announcements as we move forward. So in regard to the question, could it be that the Blue Jackets would be able to have more people? Yes, could be. And we’re going to continue to evaluate that as we move forward.

Governor DeWine: (01:11:23)
All of this is conditioned. All of this is conditioned and it goes back to something we talked about last week, and that is this summer is going to be better. It’s going to be better for two reasons. We understand the use of mask and we’re getting more and more people vaccinated. So we can do these things. We can have more people at different events if people are wearing masks. And if we can do that, we’re going to be able to do a lot more this summer. I’m very optimistic and myself planning on going to some baseball games and doing some other things. So I think the summer’s going to be better.

Governor DeWine: (01:12:03)
What Bruce said, what Dr. Vanderhoff said is absolutely right. We don’t know about this variant. We just don’t know how it’s going to impact. But besides that, things look pretty good. We’re going to continue to vaccinate. We’re at 1.4 million Ohioans have been vaccinated. We’re going to keep pushing that number up. And we know the power of masks. We’re going to keep wearing masks. And if we can do that and keep wearing a mask inside an arena, outside of the ballpark, we’re going to be able to do more.

Speaker 3: (01:12:34)
The next question is from Jess Hardin at Mahoning Matters.

Jess Hardin: (01:12:43)
Hi Governor.

Governor DeWine: (01:12:45)
Hey Jess.

Jess Hardin: (01:12:45)
Thanks for taking our questions today. We’ve been hearing from readers wondering when visitation can resume at group homes serving adults with disabilities. They report that some residents are struggling without contact with their parents and/or caregivers and that they’ve been essentially on lockdown since March. I’m wondering if the letter that you mentioned today includes these facilities, or if you have any particular plans for outlining guidelines or sharing that with folks?

Governor DeWine: (01:13:15)
Yeah. Yeah. Jess, I’m talking to the director about that, and we’ll have something in the next few days on that. That’s a ,very good question. I don’t know Dr. McElroy, if you want to add anything to that or not, but it’s a very, very good question.

Ursel McElroy: (01:13:33)
Right. No. Thank you. It is a good question. And actually last night, Director Davis and I were having conversation about it, and I know that he certainly has really good plans in place. So I would just say stay tuned. He’s equally sensitive to the issues in his homes as we are with nursing homes.

Governor DeWine: (01:13:48)
Yeah. We hope to get that to you very, very quickly. And I understand families. I get it. I understand. So we’ll try to get that out very quickly.

Speaker 3: (01:14:00)
Next question is from Jessie Balmert at the Cincinnati Inquirer.

Jessie Balmert: (01:14:05)
Hello, Governor. My question might be for you, or it might be for Dr. Vanderhoff, but I guess Ohioans trying to make decisions about safety precautions. They see Dr. Fauci saying we might be wearing masks until 2022, whereas there’s an item in the Wall Street Journal that says we could hit herd immunity by April. I guess if we don’t know when, at least under what circumstances can we expect some easing of precautions?

Governor DeWine: (01:14:34)
Well, yeah. Look, it’s a good question. And it’s no wonder people are confused. They’re hearing all kinds of different things. So I try to be cautious and I try not to get out of my area of any kind of expertise. And so I rely on medical doctors and others. So all I would say about that is what I have read, and Dr. Vanderhoff can jump in here, I don’t think anyone knows when you achieve herd immunity. I don’t think we know that with this virus. And particularly we don’t know if it’s mutating out and changing. So I don’t think we know that number.

Governor DeWine: (01:15:18)
But there are some things we do know, and I know we’re vaccinating people, and I know how many we’re vaccinating every day. And I know how many are getting the second dose. And those numbers I truly believe are going to continue to go up at a faster and faster rate. So that is a good thing. To our knowledge, the vaccines that we have now are handling this mutation.

Governor DeWine: (01:15:50)
The other thing I know that we did not know at the beginning is how powerful masks are. So when we look at what people will be able to do this summer, we can tell them we think that you can do this and this and this. When you it’s your turn to get vaccinated, for heaven’s sake, get vaccinated. And when you’re at the fair or you’re at the amusement park, or you’re at the Reds or the Indians, Blue Jackets, wear a mask. These are kind of basic things that we now know.

Governor DeWine: (01:16:25)
Now, as far as the idea that we’re going to be wearing a mask in a year, look, I don’t think anybody knows that. And I’m more optimistic than that. I’m kind of an optimistic person. So I look to the future. I look seeing my grandkids more, seeing them up closer more, and I look to go to baseball games and enjoying the summer. Dr. Vanderhoff?

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:16:52)
Yes. Thank you, governor. Well, I think the governor really did summarize this extremely well. What you’re seeing is that experts, all of whom are very well-educated, very well intentioned, are looking at the picture and describing pieces of it a little bit differently. I saw that same report about April and herd immunity. I think that that’s premature, but I think it does point to the fact that we’re seeing encouraging signs. We are seeing the impact of vaccines. It’s clear that immunity in our country is improving and that immunity is having an impact on the severity of illness, the number of deaths, hospitalizations, et cetera. But it’s also clear that the virus is changing, that we have a real risk if we are shortsighted, declare victory too early. And I think what Dr. Fauci is pointing to is a reaffirmation of what the governor I think has rightly described as the power of the mask.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff: (01:18:11)
So I think that we can be optimistic. I’m certainly optimistic. I joined the governor in looking forward to things getting better for us, but I think that we need to do it in a responsible way, in a measured way, and let the proof be in the pudding. Thank you, governor.

Speaker 3: (01:18:34)
Next question from Adrienne Robbins at WCMH in Columbus.

Adrienne Robbins: (01:18:39)
Hi Governor DeWine. Thank you for doing this today. Several leaders in the African-American community are voicing their concerns about the number of black people who have received the vaccine versus white people here in Ohio. It’s something you’ve talked about. Now some people were calling for the vaccine restrictions on African-Americans to maybe be changed to 50 and older. What are your thoughts on this? Is this something you would consider? And if not, what is the state doing to make sure that we have more equality in our vaccine distribution?

Governor DeWine: (01:19:09)
Excellent question. I’m going to get Director McElroy back on here, but I’m going to start off on this. She’s been certainly working a lot on this. Let me talk about a couple of conversations I had today. And first conversation, every Monday morning, I start with hospitals zones at 6:30, and then I go 7:15 with the health departments from 7:15 to 8:00. And we were talking about, if you look at our dashboard, the large number of people that are not signifying race, and it’s a huge number. I don’t have it in front of me, but it’s like 25% or so. You can see it on the dashboard exactly what it is, and how difficult it is for us to actually measure how well we’re doing with different communities when we’ve got a quarter of them that’s not reporting. So the discussion was why are people not reporting?

Governor DeWine: (01:20:19)
And I really got two answers back. And this is from people who are out in the field, talking every day with people who are getting these shots. One is a feeling among young people that we’re all in this together. We shouldn’t be segmenting by race, and I’m not going to go deal with that. I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to get into that. We have other people who describe situations where we had people who were afraid to put race down, a distrust of the medical system. And that might be a cause. Director, you want to address that issue? And then I want to talk about something else and I’ll come back to you. But why you think we’re seeing hesitancy in getting race down on paper?

Ursel McElroy: (01:21:22)
I think we have a responsibility to be certain that the message is a clear message and it’s a widespread message of the importance of capturing that data, both from the side of the providers who can collect it, and also just making certain that people understand that when you do register, why that information is important. And so I do think we’re going to be very thoughtful and intentional while being certain that that message is conveyed.

Governor DeWine: (01:21:53)
And the only thing we’re trying to do obviously is just to make sure we’re not under serving a portion of our population. That’s it. And there’s just nothing more to it. But it is a fact our data’s not good. When you’ve got that big a hole, we’ve got data that’s not that good. The county commissioners and the mayors of our major cities that contain significant minority populations have been talking with us and have been saying, “Help us. We think that our local health department, our county health department, or our municipal health department, our city health department, that we can target these individuals and underserved.” This is underserved populations. How do we reach people who are underserved? And it may not just be African-Americans. It could be anybody who can’t … For example, an older person who cannot navigate the internet.

Governor DeWine: (01:22:55)
And so these are all things that we are constantly working on every day. But they came forward with a plan and we have said, “Look, we will back you on this plan in these urban communities where we have significant minority population and to make sure that we are reaching that population.”

Governor DeWine: (01:23:12)
We are also going out … Eric is telling me I’m running out of time. No? We are also going out. We are also going out and going into housing, maybe senior housing. We’re going to be, for example, tomorrow, as I said, a couple of sites, I believe, tomorrow in East Cleveland and other places. Director, I’m getting the hook here. You want to just finish up on what else we’re doing and then I’ll do the wrap up.

Ursel McElroy: (01:23:45)
Yeah, here quickly. I think what is important to note is that we understand that our strategy has to be multi-pronged. One, we understand that we have to have an allocation formula correct. So one of the things we’ve done with our allocation formula is adjusted 20% of it for the social vulnerability index so that there is vaccine that accounts for some of the more hard to reach populations. That’s one. Two is to knock down any of the barriers that exist to getting access to it. So for example, maybe people want the vaccine, but may have difficulty being able to get to the vaccine. So those things that we can close in on, being certain, one, that we’re in the right spots, two, we’ve included the right people to help be certain that we are in the communities and that we have our trusted partners working with us, and then knock down those things. Transportation, making sure they can get registered, making sure they can get to the site. And so we continue to work on all of these things that we know are so critically important.

Jim Husted: (01:24:47)
Governor, can I add something to that? This has been said several times, but I feel the need to reiterate it. But that’s why we went with 700 different providers with locations in every county and in every community from the very beginning, because it would have been easier if we would have just picked a couple of mass vaccination sites and administered it that way. But we were really interested in getting it to hard to serve communities, minority populations, to people who live in poverty, people maybe who are in rural Ohio, who don’t have … So there’s been a real focus from the very beginning to get at the issue of hard to serve populations or underserved populations. And we’ve built an entire strategy on that. And it keeps getting better because we’re listening to the health departments and to the local elected officials who are giving us advice to do the very things like you did in Dayton on Sunday, Governor, to go and be in locations where we were trying to target those underserved populations.

Governor DeWine: (01:25:50)
This is a work in progress. It’s not perfect. We’re not there yet, but we’re working with people at the local level to make sure that this does in fact get done. I want to close by wishing our son, Pat, a happy birthday. He was born on this date, George Washington’s birthday. Actually a little trivia in our family, my grandfather was named George. He was also born on this day, and Fran’s grandmother, Martha Hawkins, was also born on February 22nd. So a big day in the DeWine family.

Governor DeWine: (01:26:25)
I want to close, play a very powerful video sent to us by our friend, Dr. Roberts, Dr. Mashika Roberts, who is the health commissioner from the city of Columbus, does a very good job. It features members of the Black Physicians Network of Columbus explaining where we are with COVID and talking about the safety and the effectiveness of the vaccine as we encourage people to take it. So let’s take a look.

Laura Espy-Bell: (01:26:50)
It all began in the year of 2020.

Speaker 4: (01:26:53)
When a virus better known as COVID-19 …

Dr. Lamont Clay: (01:26:56)
Changed our lives and devastated our communities.

Dr. Cassandra Suggs: (01:27:00)
COVID-19 has impacted our jobs.

Dr. Michelle Golla: (01:27:05)
Our children’s ability to go to school.

Dr. Tiffany Bell: (01:27:07)
Our ability to socialize and gather with our loved ones.

Speaker 5: (01:27:10)
And prevented us from worshiping in our faith institutions.

Speaker 6: (01:27:15)
And we already knew that healthcare disparities existed.

Dr. BJ Hicks: (01:27:19)
This pandemic has highlighted just how much of a disparity exists as it relates to people of color.

Dr. Amber Bondurant-Sullivan: (01:27:25)
Did you know that thousands of people die every day of COVID-19?

Dr. Mysheika Roberts: (01:27:30)
As people of color, we are more likely to get COVID-19.

Dr. Jill Clay: (01:27:34)
More likely to be hospital.

Dr. George Barnett Jr: (01:27:36)
And we are most likely to die.

Dr. Rena Henriques: (01:27:39)
As people of color, we are more likely to work in essential jobs.

Dr. Gloria Fleming: (01:27:43)
And many of us live in multi-generational households, which increases our risk of the virus.

Dr. Darrell Gray II: (01:27:49)
We are dying and burying our loved ones at a much higher rate as compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

Dr. Diana Moulton: (01:27:56)
We have to make a change.

Laura Espy-Bell: (01:27:59)
Although we face such adversity, we are a powerful and resilient community.

Speaker 4: (01:28:05)
The COVID vaccine is now available and is an effective weapon to fight this virus.

Speaker 7: (01:28:14)
This vaccine provides so much hope for the future.

Dr. Jennifer Walton: (01:28:19)
Did you know that a black scientist was crucial to the development of the vaccine?

Dr. Demicha Rankin: (01:28:25)
As a matter of fact, there were several black scientists who were on the FDA advisory committee who heavily scrutinized vaccination before it was widely distributed.

Dr. Christen Johnson: (01:28:36)
Did you know that thousands of people of color were included in the clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccine?

Dr. Amber Bondurant-Sullivan: (01:28:45)
People that look just like you and me.

Dr. Maureen Joyner: (01:28:48)
Now, I understand that you may be hesitant to get this vaccine because I was too, until I did more research.

Dr. Kimberly Morton: (01:28:57)
It’s so important that you review credible resources in making a decision about this vaccine.

Dr. Christopher Brown: (01:29:03)
We understand. The healthcare system hasn’t always been kind to us.

Speaker 5: (01:29:10)
We remember the Tuskegee experiment.

Dr. George Barnett Jr: (01:29:13)
And we remember Henrietta Lacks.

Dr. Cassandra Suggs: (01:29:15)
We know the history of our healthcare system.

Dr. Michelle Golla: (01:29:19)
But we have made so many advances since then.

Dr. Lamont Clay: (01:29:22)
People of color are in key decision-making roles.

Speaker 8: (01:29:25)
As black physicians, we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.

Dr. Mysheika Roberts: (01:29:30)
We went into medicine to advocate for you.

Dr. Rena Henriques: (01:29:33)
To educate.

Dr. Christopher Brown: (01:29:34)
To counsel.

Speaker 9: (01:29:35)
To heal.

Dr. BJ Hicks: (01:29:36)
Please follow our lead.

Speaker 10: (01:29:38)
When you make the choice to get vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself from a serious illness.

Dr. Jill Clay: (01:29:46)
You are protecting your family.

Dr. Alexandra Blood: (01:29:48)
Your friends, your entire community.

Dr. Maureen Joyner: (01:29:52)
And that’s why I got vaccinated.

Speaker 11: (01:29:54)
And that’s why I got vaccinated.

Speaker 6: (01:29:59)
And that’s why I got vaccinated.

Laura Espy-Bell: (01:30:01)
And that’s why I got vaccinated. And we hope that you will too.

Governor DeWine: (01:30:13)
We want to thank Dr. Roberts for that very powerful video, and again, remind everybody, 6:30 tonight is the town hall. Thank you very much. We’ll see you on Thursday.

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