Mar 11, 2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript March 11
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on March 11, 2021 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Gov. Mike DeWine: (04:47)
Good afternoon everyone. Interesting piece of trivia. Today marks the 150th press conference that we’ve done since the pandemic began just a little over a year ago. The first one was in Cleveland on February 27th when I went to Metro Health. We toured the facility and talked about prevention and education efforts. Now more than a year later, we are here. We’ve moved through many stages of the pandemic and I think we’re in a much better place today. I want to thank the Ohio Channel for their work in helping us share our press conferences with Ohioans, and I thank all the TV stations who have carried this broadcast as well as the radio stations. I also want to thank our press team who’ve done a phenomenal job. Behind the camera, Eric Porter, you can’t see him, but Eric, thank you. Eric’s done 148 of these, I guess, and Michael Murray who is also here, I want to thank him.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (06:01)
Yeah. He’s been here, I think, for virtually all of these as well. Michael is our deputy chief of staff. So it’s been an interesting year. Today, we began vaccinating 50 year olds in Ohio, and we also added those with Type 2 diabetes end-stage renal disease, and that is moving forward very, very fast today as I talk to different providers as far as their vaccination sites starting to be filled up. I continue visits around Ohio. This morning, Fran and I were in Clark County where people are receiving the COVID vaccine at the Upper Valley Mall. I want to thank the Clark County Health Department. I want to thank Commissioner Charlie Patterson, thank them for the great job that they’re doing. Zanesville, yesterday I was in Zanesville at the Maple Terrace, a metropolitan housing authority, high rise for older Ohioans and Ohioans with disabilities.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (07:14)
The Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department is also doing a phenomenal job. I want to thank the health commissioner, Corey Hamilton, as well. Tuesday, I was in Columbus at the Ohio State University Schottenstein Center. Thanks to everyone at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for their smooth operation. I want to thank Dr. Andy Thomas for his leadership and his work there. We’re going to now go to the lieutenant governor. And the lieutenant governor is back home in Williams County and he’s visiting Williams County Public Health vaccination site. Jon, you want to tell us a little bit exactly where you are? And I see Montpelier High School sign right there.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (08:04)
Yeah. Absolutely, governor. We are here at [inaudible 00:08:08] school, which is the school where I went to junior high, played my high school basketball games here. We’re at a pop-up site here in Williams County, it will be open from 9:00 to 3:00 today. 840 people are going to receive their first dose of Pfizer today. So far, there have been a total of 5,623 vaccines given here. 3,775 are first doses. So the number of second doses is 1,848. And we’re going to vaccinate a few folks here today in Williams County. We know that the message is, the more shots we get in arms, the more people will get vaccinated, the quicker we get through this. And I have the mayor of Montpelier with me today, Steve Yagelski.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (08:58)
Mayor Steve Y.: (08:59)
Lt. Gov. Jon: (09:01)
He’s going to get his vaccine right now. So we have a couple of other folks here. The next one up, Shirley Fry, who the three of us actually went to the same church growing up and Shirley was my babysitter when I was a little kid. So we’ve got a lot of fond friends and connections, and Tammy Riegsecker, who is going to be the health nurse who is going to provide the vaccination [crosstalk 00:09:31].
Gov. Mike DeWine: (09:31)
Awesome. Thank you very much.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (09:38)
But we’re not, governor, able to get up and see everybody right now, but they have a really efficient operation here moving people through. Also, I might mention the health commissioner, Jim Watkins, is here today. He’s done a great job at organizing this and helping them make this an efficient process here at Williams County. So the mayor is done. [crosstalk 00:10:03].
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:03)
Hi, mayor. How was it?
Mayor Steve Y.: (10:05)
It went good.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (10:08)
And now we have Shirley Fry.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:10)
Lt. Gov. Jon: (10:11)
Say hi to the governor.
Shirley Fry: (10:12)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:14)
Hello. [crosstalk 00:10:15].
Lt. Gov. Jon: (10:15)
[crosstalk 00:10:15] this morning when he heard that my babysitter was going to actually be here to get the-
Shirley Fry: (10:20)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:21)
So Shirley, do you have any stories to share with us about Jon?
Shirley Fry: (10:25)
That’s what they asked me and I said he was really very good. I loved babysitting him, but I have to admit that they preferred my sister because she let them stay up late and I didn’t.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (10:37)
As you would expect, right?
Shirley Fry: (10:37)
Lt. Gov. Jon: (11:01)
Well, great. And governor, we have one more person to get vaccinated, and that’s me. I finally qualify. We’ve got my [inaudible 00:11:10], so I’m going to get my vaccine and do my part to get this thing behind us.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (11:18)
Lt. Gov. Jon: (11:47)
There we go. Thanks, Tammy. So governor, we’ve got three more down on our road to get everybody who is willing to to get vaccinated today throughout the course of this timeframe that we have. And I will tell you that we’ve done many of these on our news conferences, where we got tested with the swab in the nose and then we get the needle in the arm. And the needle in the arm is a lot more pleasant than the swab in the nose, I’ll say that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (12:19)
Yeah, that was my experience as well. Well, great. Mayor, thank you very much, and Shirley, thank you, and Jon, thank you. And Jon, we’ll be back to you in a few minutes.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (12:28)
Great. Thanks, governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (12:31)
Talk a little bit about the Cleveland mass vaccination site, working with our FEMA partners, we began to open appointments this morning for the Cleveland mass vaccination clinic. That site begins on March 17th, next Wednesday. Already today, more than 17,000 Ohioans have registered to get their vaccine at the site. We’ve been working with community partners to ensure that traditionally underserved members of our community have access to the vaccine if they choose to get it like everyone else that chooses to get. Our goal is to make it accessible for every Ohioan. This site will be open for a number of weeks and many more appointments will be available during the coming days. We encourage Ohioans to continue to check the website regularly because more appointments are being added in partnership with FEMA. So they’re off to a good start already. Let’s turn now to nursing home visitation.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (13:38)
This week, the federal government announced new national guidelines for nursing home visitation. They clearly state that facilities should always allow responsible indoor visitation for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident or of the visitor. Of course, there’ll be some exceptions to this such as when a facility has experienced an outbreak of the virus. The bottom line is that these new guidelines emphasize the importance of every nursing home resident receiving a vaccine. As the Federal Pharmacy Program wraps up, we’re implementing our vaccine maintenance program to ensure new nursing home residents and employees or those residents and employees who previously declined getting a vaccine, they’re going to have another chance. They will have continuous chances to get that vaccine.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (14:38)
We know that the physical separation with our loved ones who are in nursing homes that the COVID has caused has really taken an emotional on many, many people, on the residence, on their friends, their families. These new regulations just issued by the federal government are certainly a step closer to return to the way things used to be and the way that we want them to be. Ohio Department of Aging and director, Ursel McElroy, is joining us to talk about these new rules. So again, director, new rules, new guidelines from the federal government just out this week in regard to our nursing homes. You want to explain a little bit more about those guidelines.
Ursel McElroy: (15:31)
Absolutely. Thank you, governor. This is certainly a sign we are on the road back after quite a long year. So I’ll take a few minutes to discuss some of the highlights in the federal guidance and what it means for Ohio’s nursing homes. As you stated, essentially, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident or visitor. There are some exceptions and when visitation would be limited. So I want to walk through those. One, exception. If in fact, you have an unvaccinated resident who is within a building that sits within a COVID-19 county that has a positivity rate of greater than 10%. And also within that building, if less than 70% of those residents in that facility are fully vaccinated.
Ursel McElroy: (16:34)
So essentially what we’re saying here and what CMS has said is that if you have a building that’s in the county where we have a lot of spread, and if within that building, we don’t have a high percentage of residents vaccinated, those residents that are not vaccinated would not be in a position to have visitors. Another exception is when you have residents who have confirmed COVID-19 cases, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated ,until they’re able to meet the criteria for us to discontinue any transmission based precautions, so as long as that individual is COVID, whether they’re vaccinated or not, that would limit their visitation. And then those residents who are in quarantine, again, whether vaccinated and unvaccinated, until they meet the criteria for release from quarantine. Now, we understand that outbreaks increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Ursel McElroy: (17:43)
But we also understand that a facility should not restrict visitation all residents, as long as there is evidence that virus transmission is contained to a single area of the facility. It’s expected that the facility will continue to adhere to regulations and guidance for their testing for both their staff and residents. But again, if there’s evidence that that spread is only contained to a particular place, then in fact the facility should not restrict visitation for everyone. However, when a new case of COVID among residents or staff is identified, the first thing a facility must do is to begin outbreak testing. During that testing period, they will suspend visitation until at least one round of testing has been completed in the building. When they’ve completed that one round of testing, visitation can resume based on the following criteria.
Ursel McElroy: (18:50)
If that first round of testing reveals no COVID cases in other areas, just one area, then visitation will resume in those virus free areas. However, if during that testing they determine that there is COVID in multiple areas of the building, at that point, they will have to suspend visitation for the entire building. I do want to take a moment, sir, if I could also to stress again that the facilities and the visitors will have to continue all of the good infection prevention and control practices they’ve used throughout. It’s also important to note that in addition to everything I’ve stated, I want to remind everyone that compassionate care visits are always allowed regardless of even the exceptions that I just outlined. And if you feel like you’re not being allowed to visit your loved one, please contact our office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsmen. That’s at 1-800-282-1206.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (20:05)
So director, I’m going to be honest. I find this complicated and I suspect that other people will find it complicated as well. So where can people go? And again, these are federal CMS regulations, and I think one of the things that’s sort of been missed during this time is how much the federal government is controlling through their regulations throughout this pandemic the visitation procedures. They really set the broad guidelines that we have to follow. We might fill in the blanks a little, but they set the broad guidelines. So if someone wants to look this up, if somebody out there who’s watching has a loved one in a nursing home and they say, “I’m not really sure what all that means.” Where can they look this up?
Ursel McElroy: (21:01)
Absolutely. So they can go to one of two places. We always post everything at coronavirus.ohio.gov. So again, our normal site, coronavirus.ohio.gov, as well as aging.ohio.gov. So you’ll have resources that help to clarify some of the federal guidance, as well as provide you with resources for the Ombudsman, should you need assistance advocating for visitation?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (21:33)
I would just say, like a lot of things in healthcare, it’s always good if you have a loved one in a nursing home, someone needs to be their advocate. And if you think there’s a problem with visitation in that nursing home, somebody needs to become the advocate for visitation with that particular individual. And the more you know about it, where you can look it up and understand what your rights are, that’s great. If they don’t understand their rights, who do they call, director?
Ursel McElroy: (22:05)
It’s going to be the Long-Term Care Ombudsmen at 1-800-282-1206. And sir, I will say, throughout I believe we’ve had many families and residents as well reach out. And we, I believe, have been very responsive and we’ve worked with the facilities, the families oftentimes to be able to facilitate visits where perhaps if we hadn’t become involved, those visits wouldn’t have happened.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (22:37)
So let me just maybe summarize, and you tell me if this is right or not. Basically visitation is allowed. There may be some exceptions. Those exceptions may depend on what is going on in that particular nursing home, or it may depend on if there’s a lot of spread going on in the county in which that-
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:03)
A lot of spread going on in the county in which that nursing home is physically located.
Ursel McElroy: (23:08)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:09)
Is that correct.
Ursel McElroy: (23:10)
That is correct. That is correct. Sir, we have also posted as well, on our website, we try to keep our website updated so that people also have a good understanding of exactly where that particular facility is in relation to positivity and what sort of visitation they can have at this point.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:31)
Okay. You showed me some charts today, are any of those charts up. Is the one chart maybe up that people could see it? Not today, but if they could see it? I don’t know if you have it Eric, there or not? Yeah.
Ursel McElroy: (23:44)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:44)
Is that been up? Okay. You had it up, I couldn’t see if it was up. Okay. No, that’s good. These numbers, who’s in red, who’s in green, that’s going to change by the week. The other thing I would add, while we’re still on nursing homes, is this, if you have a loved one in a nursing home and they have not been vaccinated, they still can get vaccinated. If you are a new employee in a nursing home, and you’ve not been vaccinated, you can get vaccinated. If you are an older employee, long time employee, or you’ve been in the nursing home, and you said before, “No, I don’t want the vaccine,” but now you’ve said, “I want the vaccine.” They will get you the vaccine, because we have a program to get vaccine into every single nursing home. As we move along, we want to make sure that we continue to be able to vaccinate anybody in that nursing home, employee or a resident who wants that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (24:42)
Director, let me turn real quickly, if you could tell us now, let’s switch to the broad topic of assisted living. Let’s go from the nursing homes, now let’s go to assisted living. You want to talk very briefly, if you could, capitalize where are we with visitation in assisted living?
Ursel McElroy: (25:01)
Absolutely. I’m glad you asked, because it is important to make a distinction between the different types of long-term care facilities, who their residents are, and what that means for safe visitation. We just finished talking about nursing homes, which we referred to as skilled nursing facilities, and often those residents do need the highest level of care, and they are subject to the federal guidance from their Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or what we call CMS.
Ursel McElroy: (25:29)
Our assisted living facilities are not subject to that same federal guidance, but they should be allowing visits under our Ohio order. It is expected that these facilities allow visitation whenever possible to ensure good resident physical and mental wellbeing. They can do this by following the safety standards we’ve set forth in our order, and so again, if you’re not having visits in your assisted living facility, I would again encourage you to reach out to our ombudsman.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (26:03)
We are changing the order and going to be allowing visitation in assisted living in people’s rooms.
Ursel McElroy: (26:12)
Very excited about that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (26:15)
We’re excited about that, and we’ve had that request, and we’re going to do that, so that will be coming. Again, if there’s a problem with that, you can always call the omnbudsman person and we’ll try to run that down for you. Director. Thank you very much.
Ursel McElroy: (26:31)
Thank you, sir. Thank you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (26:33)
Eric. Let’s go and look at the data for the day.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (26:38)
Cases, you can kind of see how they’re going up a little bit and then down, but again, they’re below the 21 day average, which is good. Hospitalizations a little bit above. ICU admissions a little bit down from there.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (26:56)
We’ll go to the next one, Eric. 88 counties ranked by high occurrence. This is the chart that we’ve been showing you for some time, and again, it is try to level things out between counties based on population. It measures the amount of COVID for the last two weeks per hundred thousand population, so it evens everybody out, and then we can take a look at that. If you recall, we set the state goal, if we can get statewide below 50, then we’ll be able to take off the health orders. We have a ways to go, but I’m going to show you in a minute that we’ve really made some progress here, but let me look at this.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (27:43)
The white counties, the white counties are counties that are now below a hundred, the counties that are in blue are those above a hundred. A hundred is high incidence level, so still most of our counties, high incidence level, but the good news is the number of those below a hundred are going down or going up. You can see this line continues to creep up and more and more are the white counties. That is great.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (28:16)
Eric? Again, this just goes from the top and you can see the number generally is coming down, even the highest county, which is, I believe Washington County, is 275, and there was a time when that number was 1100 for the highest county, 1200, so that’s great progress.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (28:40)
We told you that every Thursday we would give you the new number, the statewide average. It is going down in the last week. We were at 155, 155. Let’s talk a little bit about this data. The number of counties below the high incident threshold, as I said, continues to drop, and so do the number of new cases across the State of Ohio. Last week, we were a little below 180 cases per hundred thousand in that two week period throughout this, for the whole state of Ohio. As of today, it’s gone from that little bit below 180 to 155. That is great progress. Now this is still a highly elevated level. It’s above what the CDC says is high incidence level, but the data is certainly trending in the right direction.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (29:41)
Now we’re going to look at a new chart, and this is a chart that I asked our team to put together. This shows the statewide average of cases per hundred thousand residents for a two week period since March, since March of last year. You will see that our peak was at 845 in mid December. Today we’re at 155, and let me go through… Fran, went through for me, pulled some of this data, just a moment ago, and I’m going to read by month.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (30:16)
This was in May. In May, we were at 43; June, we were at 46 statewide. By July, it had gone up to 114; August, it was 70; September, 75. Then we start taking off. October, and these are all the latter part of the month, so September, it’s September 23rd, we were at 75. By October 28th, we were at 200, and then by November 25th, around Thanksgiving, we were at 750. Then in December, December 16th, we’re at 845, and then January 20th, we were at 620; February 10th, we were down to 340, and now, March 10th, we were at 155.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (31:24)
Nothing is guaranteed when we’re dealing with the virus, but Ohioans have done very well. Keeping the mask on, doing what we need to do. This number continues to come down, and I’m very, very hopeful that we will continue to see that occurring.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (31:40)
Let’s go to the hospitalizations. We had a little blip yesterday, day before yesterday, I guess. Went up a little bit, but the trend line, it did jump here quite a bit, but we’re down to 908, so the trend line, the overall trend line is still good.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (32:06)
Let’s go to our old traditional alert map. You’ll see some changes. We’re also seeing more counties move off of red in the advisory system. This week, nine counties are moving from red to orange. Those are Adams, Darke, Guernsey, Harrison, Knox, Morgan, Preble, Putnam, and Van Wert. They’re primarily moving down because their cases per capita have all dropped below the high incidence level of a hundred. We have also have one county moving from red to yellow, and that is Meigs County. The case rate in Meigs County was well over the high threshold last week, but this week they’ve dropped it below 50, which means they no longer meet the cases per capita indicator at all, and are now at yellow.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (32:49)
We do have a bit of upward movement, Holmes moved to orange. This is because their cases per capita increased from just under 50 to about 60 this week. It’s a small difference, but it does mean they go back to orange for this week. Even with this increase they’re well below the state average, we’ll keep a close eye on their status. Just to remind you that we could hit little bumps in the road in our journey out of this pandemic, and in all likelihood will, but we shouldn’t be discouraged. We should keep our eye on the ball and continue to move forward.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (33:22)
We’ve had discussions with a number of members of county fairs or fair boards, do a great job. I know from our experience in Greene County and Clarke County, and as Fran traveled around the state, Fran and I traveled around the state to see county fairs, and we’ve been, I think, to every… I know we’ve been to every county fair in the state at one time or the other. The fair board members just do a phenomenal job, and we’ve had the opportunity to talk to a few of the fair board members, particularly those who have fairs in June, which is the first month of our county fairs. Based upon what we are seeing now, some of the data that I just shared with all of you, it’s our anticipation that we will be able to have full county fairs, full county fairs this year, so we’re very, very excited about that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (34:12)
We are issuing today, the fair guidance. People will be able to take a look at that. Really just a quick summary of it is that the fair will be able to go on. There’ll be some limitation in the grandstands that we have talked about before, 30%. Social distancing will be required. The other main thing is that we’re asking the fairs to have signs throughout the fair in regard to mask wearing, and mask wearing will be required at the fairs.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (34:47)
That’s the way it looks today. It certainly is possible that by the time we get to the second month of fairs, or even possibly the first month of fairs in June, we may be off the health orders. We don’t know. We just hope things continue to go well, but what we wanted to do and what we were requested to do, by the county fairs, is to tell us if the fair would be starting today, what would be the guidelines? The guidelines that we have put out are those guidelines. They could change in the future, but we wanted to give fairs an idea of how they’ll be able to start their county fair.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (35:29)
Let me jump over some of this, and let me go and just say festivals, parades, graduations, proms, we will within the next week be issuing guidelines for these. The good news is we are going to be able to do them this year. This year is a better year than last year. We have the vaccine, we’re on offense. We’re moving forward. We just have to continue to move forward, keep our mask on, keep defense at the same time we’ve got offense.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (35:58)
I’ve received requests in regard to spring, high school sports. Spring, high school sports in regard to who has to be quarantined. The good news is spring sports are basically outside, and that makes things better. We’re also seeing better numbers, as we just talked about. We’re announcing today that students are not required to quarantine, because they’ve had an incidental exposure to COVID in a classroom, those kids who we’ve said for the last few months, if they’re in a classroom, everybody’s wearing a mask, they’re exposed, they do not have to quarantine from school, but the order was that they would have to quarantine from extracurricular activities, from sports and other things. What we’re saying today is, no longer will they have to quarantine from those sports, as well from those sports, those extra curricular activities.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (37:06)
Dr. Vanhoff, you want to give us a little quick background on the rationale for this decision. And I think it’s very good news for anybody who’s got kids in sports, spring sports, and we’re moving forward. Doctor?
Dr. Vanhoff: (37:21)
Yes, indeed. Thank you, Governor. As you noted, our K through 12 student athletes have two very important factors working in their favor as we head into the spring. First, most of the time they’re outdoors, or in facilities that can open doors or windows to allow enhanced ventilation. That really reduces the risk of COVID transmission. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, our K through 12 students have an outstanding track record of wearing masks and following safe practices in the classroom. The benefit of these measures in our classrooms, as everyone, I think will recall, was clearly demonstrated by the Ohio Schools COVID Evaluation, which we completed towards the end of December, at the height of our largest surge. That was affirmed by another study from Mississippi, published in December, on December 18th, by the CDC.
Dr. Vanhoff: (38:21)
This allows us to be confident that a student who is currently not required to quarantine for a school-based exposure is at very low risk, and can continue to participate in organized sports activities, as long as they remain symptom-free, and follow all the applicable sports guidance.
Dr. Vanhoff: (38:42)
Now, there are also times when our student athletes might have an exposure outside the classroom that requires them to quarantine. In considering that quarantine, we and the CDC, recognize that a quarantine period shorter than the traditional 14 days may actually improve compliance by making it easier for people to complete. The new guidance today will also allow our K-12 student athletes who have some other exposure, again, likely outside the classroom, to end their quarantine after day 10, without testing, or after day seven, following a negative test collected on day five or later.
Dr. Vanhoff: (39:28)
This of course now provides our student athletes access to the same 10 and seven day quarantine options that we announced sometime ago for most other Ohioans. As you said, Governor, this is of course, very good news for our student athletes, but there’s steps we can take, because our students are doing such a good job with masking, distancing, and other safe practices, and because so many of our teachers, coaches, parents, and other adults are similarly adhering to safe practices and lining up to get vaccines.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (40:09)
Doctor, I think that’s coming out. We’ll make sure that schools will be able to get that. Is that coming out today?
Dr. Vanhoff: (40:16)
Yes, it is, Governor. We’ll be issuing that along with our usual collateral guidance later today.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (40:23)
Okay, Great. Schools can take a look at that, and parents can take a look at that, and we’re very happy about that. Testing remains important. We talk now about vaccinations all the time, as we think about that, as we try to get vaccinations out to Ohioans throughout the state, but testing, as long as this virus is here we still have to continue to test. So I want to talk about some opportunities for testing, and the state has been involved in purchasing some testing. We announced that some time ago, but I want to revisit this, because we’re making this available to a number of different locations in the state. These are real tools that can be used to knock the virus down. They can also be used to determine who has it, who does not have it, and just make better rational decisions.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (41:17)
Testing remains a critical tool for identifying the virus and slowing it’s spread. Our strategy continues to rely to a great deal on that testing. Two weeks ago, I talked about an investment the state has made in rapid, at-home antigen testing, partnering with Abbott and EMAT. This partnership and the availability of these at-home tests are changing what COVID testing looks like, because you can literally pick up a test, take the test home, with the assistance then of a telehealth proctor and get the results very, very quickly. These are four key initiatives that are making rapid tests more accessible for Ohioans.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (42:02)
Let me start with the first one. Federally qualified health centers relied upon by many Ohioans. Our first initiative focuses on our ongoing partnership with our federally qualified health centers. Since December, we have provided federally qualified health centers with more than 150,000 rapid tests that can be administered right on site at these clinics. The ability to go to a health center and have a professional administer your tests can be extremely valuable, so if you use a fairly qualified health center, you can get a test there.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (42:38)
Second, local health departments. For at-home tests, we’re working with local health departments to use them to address the local priorities of the community. We’ve seen local health departments who’ve decided to partner with schools. They partner with nonprofit organizations and first responders to provide these tests. The vast majority of our local health departments now have these tests, so if you see a need for those tests, you can contact your local health department, and certainly when the health department sees a need in the community, they can take those rapid tests out now and utilize them.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (43:17)
Three, our public libraries. Our third initiative is focused on partnering with our great public libraries in Ohio to make at-home tests available throughout Ohio. During the first two weeks of this initiative we have had nearly 120 library systems tell us they want to partner, and that represents more than 250 sites. These will be going out to our hospitals. We’ll take a look at the slide between February, between our libraries and our local health department partnerships, at-home testing is available in 76 of our 88 counties, including in some areas that have had very little access to testing earlier in the pandemic.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (44:05)
Next, to schools. Finally, I’m announcing today that we plan to make rapid testing available in our K through 12 schools as well. Throughout the pandemic schools have had low transmission rates of the virus, because of masks, social distancing, cleaning procedures. Now we’re adding testing to this environment to increase confidence and safety in our schools. This is a tool again, that our schools can use. In the coming days we’ll be shipping more than 200,000 of the at-home test to our educational service centers. We encourage our schools to take advantage of this resource and develop aggressive testing plans. We’ll continue to support those efforts for as long as necessary.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (44:51)
Again, this is a tool, we don’t want to give up this tool. These are opportunities, four different examples of opportunities where these can be used in the community. Testing still plays just a very important role in protecting our communities during this pandemic. Testing is now more available and more accessible than ever. Let me now turn it over, back again, to the Lieutenant Governor, John?
Lt. Gov. Jon: (45:17)
Thanks governor. Again, I’m here in Montpelier, Ohio, where I grew up, at the school where they have a pop-up clinic today serving 840 doses today, of vaccine to the people of Williams County and the surrounding area. I will tell you, Governor, they wanted to emphasize, and I’ll emphasize again, the new website, gettheshot. coronavirus.ohio.gov, where people can find resources, to find a provider and book an appointment. I will say that this setting, I want to thank one of my former high school football coaches and biology teacher for putting this all together today. He put the setting together for us, and I will tell you, Governor, that when you made the announcement-
Lt. Gov. Jon: (46:03)
Setting together for us, and I will tell you Governor, that when you made the announcement about the new quarantine rules for masked students, as it relates to sports, we have two masked students here in this room who play baseball and track, and they were shaking their heads and giving the thumbs up, because they’re seniors and they wanted to make sure they got to have a full season. And if they do the right thing in wearing their masks, they know now that they can avoid a quarantine for an exposure, and they’re super excited about that. I did want to mention one more thing that has to do with the pandemic unemployment system, PUA, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Again, reminder to everybody what this is, it’s not our traditional unemployment system. This is a system the federal government created back early in the pandemic for people who would not qualify for the traditional unemployment assistance through the traditional system.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (47:03)
And they set up rules and states had to build the technology platform to process this. It has plagued all the states, both in terms of speed of serving the people that they need to speed, and the attempted fraud activities that are coming, not only domestically, but from Russia, China, Nigeria, and other places around the world. Every state has been developing their own technology and administrative solution to this, and we formed in Ohio, a public/private partnership to attempt to deal with this coming up with technology solutions and best practices. Wanted everybody to know that the Governor and I sent a letter to President Biden, asking him to create, develop immediately, a national coordinated response to the ongoing attempt to defraud America, the American people, through this pandemic unemployment assistance program. We recognize that the system was created pre-President Biden, and that most of this has occurred prior to his watch, but we are asking the President to help make this a national best practices effort, because if you get it right in one state, the fraudsters can just move to another state.
Lt. Gov. Jon: (48:24)
We think we have a good plan that we’re building, but we know that the country would benefit by having a coordinated effort, so we’ve asked President Biden to lead an effort to make that happen. And just wanted to make sure that the media and people who have been following the story, understand what we’re looking for and how we want to participate in helping inform that national conversation on best practices from the things that we’re trying to do here in Ohio. Governor, I’ll turn it back to you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (48:51)
Thank you very much, Lieutenant Governor. We’ll go to questions.
Speaker 1: (48:57)
Governor, first question is from Justin Dennis of Mahoningmatters. com.
Justin Dennis: (49:02)
Good afternoon, Governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (49:03)
Justin Dennis: (49:04)
As said, the state is rapidly increasing vaccine eligibility, what are some other medical conditions or comorbidities that you’re looking at including in upcoming phases? Other states have chosen to prioritize things like obesity, we’re wondering if there’s any timeline for more common medical conditions that also create extra risk for COVID-19.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (49:26)
Yeah, we’re certainly looking at that, no decision has been made. We think we’ll be… Since we just today opened 50 and above, and you’re seeing how the slots are filling up pretty quickly, we don’t anticipate opening a another slot for a number of days, but we’ll see how that works out. We’re in the process of really looking at this from a… What we’ve tried to do all along, is to figure out how we can cut down on potential deaths. 50 and above is about 98% of the deaths that have occurred. So 90% of the deaths in the state of Ohio have occurred from those individuals who are 50 and above. By going primarily based upon age, as quickly as we can, we have been able, I think, to save a… Well, we know, save a lot of lives, and we’ve tried to do it with what is still a scarce product, in a way that saves the most lives.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (50:27)
I’m happy to see, as we look at the age groups, the different age groups starting with 80 and above, and 75 to 80, if you look at each one of those, they all continue to move up slowly now, but they all continue to move up. I think we have three age groups that are now in this 60% or above. That is encouraging that that continues to happen. I know the health departments are very focused, and many of our providers are very focused, on continuing to get the most vulnerable individuals. We think we have given them the guidelines to do that. But as we look to people below 50, and we look at that group, and we’re going to look and see who is the most vulnerable, and then try to identify those groups, and make them eligible.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (51:27)
But age is just, by far, the best indicator, and we’ve made some groups that are below the age limit now, eligible because of the higher risk. But the lower you go in age, many of these special challenges that people have, are taken over and are covered because you’re covering them by age. But we’re going to continue to look at this, saving lives is going to continue to be our number one priority in slowing the spread.
Speaker 1: (52:12)
Next question is from Randy Ludlow at the Columbus Dispatch.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (52:15)
Randy Ludlow : (52:17)
Good afternoon, Governor. Your fellow Republicans [inaudible 00:52:22] legislature [inaudible 00:52:24] challenge to your authority to issue public health orders and to potentially veto any that might be issued. Will you veto Senate Bill 22 and why?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (52:35)
Well Randy, thank you for the question. Throughout my career, I have found that I generally can get things done, make things happen, try to improve the status quo, by working with people. And I still hold out some hope that we will be able to do this with the General Assembly. We talked about what the Senate did with the bill and I said, “Look, it was an improvement.” And I was trying to create the environment so that we could have a discussion, and we had discussion, but nothing really came of it after that. That’s been my experience throughout my career, but so far, we’ve not been able to do that with this issue. But I still have some hope, certainly, that we’ll be able to do this, but I will have to veto the bill. There’s no governor that I can think of in Ohio who would have not vetoed this bill.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (53:51)
And I will have to veto it, not so much for me, certainly, because we’re coming out of this pandemic, but I’m very concerned about the future. I’m very concerned about a future governor and health departments around the state, not having the tools they need to keep the people of the state safe. And the one thing we’ve learned about this during this pandemic is, something that we thought was unthinkable, has now occurred. Two years ago, no one, no one, except some real, real experts, ever thought about a virus that would kill this many people. We have people in the world who are terrorists. We have terrorist states who are thinking of different things that they could do to the United States. So we just don’t know what the future is going to bring, and we have to be able to protect the people of the state. And it’s not just the governor protecting the people of the state, it’s local health departments, because this strikes directly at the heart of the ability of public health in the state, local officials, to keep the people of the state safe.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (55:21)
Let me give some examples. And we’ll start off first of all, the bill is unconstitutional. That’s where we have to start. If the bill became law, it would grant the General Assembly the ability to overturn and modify lawful actions of the Executive Branch, not by passing a bill, which is the way it should be done, that’s what the Ohio Constitution requires, it’s the passing of a bill, but by passing something called a concurrent resolution. That’s not a bill, that’s not law. Further, second point about the constitutionality, the bill clearly violates the separation of powers, and we’ll have more about that in my veto message to the public, and into the General Assembly. Let me talk about a couple of specific examples, and let me go to what the bill would do if it became law. One of the parts of the bill says, that in order for someone to be quarantined by the local health department, that person must come into direct contact with someone who has been medically- diagnosed with a communicable or contagious disease.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (57:06)
So for the local health department to be able to quarantine… And keep in mind, we’ve not done this during this pandemic, but they must be able to show that that person who is going to be quarantined, has come into direct contact with someone who has been medically-diagnosed with a communicable or contagious disease. What does that mean? Well, early on in this pandemic, two Miami University students were coming back from Wu Han, and this was when the outbreak was going on over there. They flew in, they came back to campus. Now, they were very cooperative, they did everything that the Butler County health department asked them to do, and that Miami University asked them to do, they quarantined, they waited the time, tests were done, took a while for tests to come back, but tests came back and it was found that they did not have it, thank God.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (58:18)
But let’s suppose that they did have it, and let’s suppose they were not cooperative when they came back, and let’s suppose they just said, “Hey, we’re going to go about our business.” They could have contaminated hundreds and hundreds of people on Miami University’s campus, with devastating results in Butler County and throughout the state of Ohio, because you never would have been able to prove that they had come in contact with somebody who had been medically-diagnosed, absolutely impossible. Let me take another one, and again, not far-fetched at all. Ebola, there’s outbreaks of Ebola now in Africa, different locations, different places. I had a conversation with Dr. Vanderhoff about this two or three days ago, about Ebola. And although we don’t see danger now, but it’s there, it is in these countries. So let’s say somebody comes in to the United States and we find out that they have come from the infected area of one of those countries.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (59:33)
Do we really want that person to be mixing with society, possibly sealing the medical fate of hundreds and hundreds of people? This bill would say that that local health department could not stop that person from doing that, couldn’t stop someone coming in from a foreign country, coming from an infected area. Look, it makes no sense, I could go on and on, and we will have further examples. But the only thing I can think is that, members of the General Assembly just did not take this all the way through to the ramifications it would mean for the safety of their fellow citizens in the future. And the unknown, when the unknown becomes the known, when the hypothetical becomes real, the local health departments and the governor have to have the ability to move very quickly to save lives. So this is not about me, this is about the future and saving of lives. And it would be absolutely irresponsible, absolutely irresponsible, for me to do anything but veto this bill.
Speaker 1: (01:01:02)
Next question is from Mike Livingston at Gongwer News Service.
Mike Livingston : (01:01:06)
Yeah. Hi Governor. Kind of staying on that topic, the House broadened the scope of this bill quite a bit earlier this week. How much more concerned are you with this becoming law in its final form than you were prior to the events of this week?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:01:19)
Mike Livingston : (01:01:20)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:01:20)
Well yeah, Mike thank you. The bill got worse, and really, I don’t think members of the General Assembly… It was changing, things were added, the crippling of local health departments’ ability to do thin, and we’ll have more and more examples. And local health departments will have examples. They’ve sent me… They’ve told me about some things and I didn’t even talk about those today, but we’ll have a lot of those in our veto message. And look, we want to work with the General Assembly. We want to include them, we want to have conversations. We’re coming out of this thing. Things are going well, but I just can’t let this go.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:02:05)
I couldn’t sleep at night, I would not, I just couldn’t do this, because it really is about the future of protecting the people of the state of Ohio. And look, it’s not about me. Members of the General Assembly may be irritated about an order that we issued, or that order, and one can argue the merits of these. And we can have that discussion, but to strip away essential power that might be needed in the future to protect life and to save lives, I cannot accept that.
Speaker 1: (01:02:46)
Next question is from Tom Jackson at the Sandusky Register.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:02:50)
Tom Jackson: (01:02:51)
Hi, Governor. Governor, my favorite sport, baseball, starts up in just a little bit more than two weeks. Do you expect to be able to ramp up the allowable attendance pretty quickly, if things continue in the same direction? And by the time we get into the summer, do you think we’ll be able to have full-capacity crowds in the baseball stadiums?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:03:15)
Yes, and yes. Look Tom, if this keeps going, we can move forward. Minor league baseball does not start until May 4, major league baseball is April 1. And I think things are going to look better by even April 1, but certainly by May 4th. We may be beyond the limitations that we’ve imposed now. I look forward to full ballparks this summer at some point, and I just don’t know when that will be, but things are going to get better. They’re continuing to get better. Look, we control this future. We’re vaccinating people, encourage anybody who is thinking about getting vaccinated, if they need a ride, give them a ride, whatever they need, help them out to get vaccinated. The more people we get vaccinated, the faster we get them vaccinated, the better off we’re going to be, and the sooner we’re going to move to full ballparks.
Speaker 1: (01:04:14)
Next question is from Jake Zuckerman at the Ohio Capital Journal.
Jake Zuckerman: (01:04:19)
Hey, Governor. I wanted to get back to Senate Bill 22, among other pieces of that bill you mentioned, it would actually end the current state of emergency that you declared about a year ago, 30 days after taking effect, so somewhere around 120 days from now. Would that have any practical effect right now, if that declaration were no longer present?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:04:41)
I don’t know. I hope it would not, because I hope we’re out of this by then. We’re not going to be totally out of it, but I think we very well could be out of, beyond health orders at that point. That would certainly be my goal, no one would be happier to see health orders go away than me. So yeah, I think we could be well, well out of that, but my responsibility is to think about future crisis, and to think of what today might be unimaginable, but tomorrow might be reality. And we have seen the unimaginable in this pandemic become real, and the world is changing quickly, there are many threats out there, some natural, some by people. And we can’t give up the ability to protect people, it’s kind of an essential function of government to, to protect people against danger, and someone coming in here with Ebola is danger.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:05:51)
Someone coming into the United States with Ebola, who we know has been exposed, but we can’t prove that the person that they came in contact with in that other country, had been medically-diagnosed as having Ebola, there’s no way we could prove that. But what rational Ohioan wouldn’t say, “Okay, some people are coming in and they come from a country and a location in that country where Ebola is running wild.” What rational person wouldn’t say, “Let’s be on the safe side, let’s have them quarantined for a while before we let them out to mix among our family members.”
Speaker 1: (01:06:39)
Next question is from Allison Walker, at WKEF in Dayton.
Allison Walker: (01:06:42)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:06:46)
Allison Walker: (01:06:49)
Can you hear me?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:06:50)
I can indeed, thank you.
Allison Walker: (01:06:52)
Awesome. Thank you. Staff at the vaccine clinic in Springfield today, told me that there are some people coming in from out of state to get vaccinated. Why are vaccinations open to people who don’t currently live in Ohio?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:07:06)
Well Allison, that’s a good question. I’ve talked to our neighboring governors, talked to other governors, and we have Ohioans today who are getting vaccinated in other states. I talked to one today who just happened to tell me, or yesterday I guess it was, who happened to tell me that they got a shot in another state. They don’t live in the other state, they live in Ohio. So if we start trying to impose that, other states would impose that against our citizens. And I just have a sneaking suspicion, since this is occurring during the winter, that we’re probably getting more people, Ohio citizens, vaccinated in other states, a couple in particular, than we are vaccinating people coming in from other states to Ohio. So my guess is, I can’t prove it, but my guess is, we’re a net winner in regard to that.
Speaker 1: (01:08:08)
Next question is from Andy Chow, Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:08:13)
Andy Chow: (01:08:14)
Hi, Governor. Hey, when we’re talking about this expansion of testing, the at-home testing, do you believe that could make it harder for the state to reach the 50 cases per 100,000 threshold with the expansion of testing? I know last year when we saw an increase in testing, that the positivity rate was a big metric that the state was following.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:08:37)
Yeah. Andy, the positivity rate, we watch it still, we don’t talk a lot about it, but we follow it. Every day, one of the things I look at is, how many tests we’re doing in Ohio, and we are down, just like, I think, virtually every state is down. But when your positivity is as low as it is now, I’m not worried about that. We’re down in 3%.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:09:02)
We’re down in 3%, 3.2, 3.3, something like that. So it has dropped. You remember the time, it wasn’t that long ago, when we put up over 15, and we were one of the ones that was over 15. So that positivity rate staying low is a really a good sign to me. So it’s not just the low cases, but I’m watching the positivity rate. And it’s down. So I’m not worried about how many tests we’re doing. That that is not going to really impact, to a great extent, when your positivity rate is that low.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:09:42)
So, no, I’m not concerned about that at all. And it’s a tool that people can use. It’s a tool that people can use who have not been able to be vaccinated. So a school can use that tool. A college could use that tool. Others could use that tool, who have not been able to be vaccinated yet. And it’s a very effective tool.
Next question is from Geoff Redick at WSYX in Columbus.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:10:11)
Geoff Redick: (01:10:12)
Hi, Governor. You’ve said unequivocally here that you believe SB 22 is unconstitutional, and that you’ll veto it. There appears to be plenty of energy to override that veto, in both House and Senate. So, if it’s unconstitutional, is a legal solution or challenge for you a possibility? Is it worth that, going to the courts?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:10:33)
Well, I think we should first have a … Look, I think we first have a discussion about this. We’re going to have a little while here, where we can talk, have the opportunity to have a public discussion about what’s in the bill, what it would do, what the ramifications are. And I’m just convinced that, when reasonable people look at this bill, and listen to local health departments, that they’re going to look at that and say, “Well, we didn’t really mean mean to do that. That’s not a consequence we wanted to have.”
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:11:15)
I would also add, and we’ll talk more about this, but this is just a bill that encourages litigation. It encourages litigation. And it will change how universities, for example, have to deal with frivolous lawsuits. So this is a bill that encourages frivolous lawsuits. And I know that that’s not something this general assembly is interested in doing. And, again, as we look at this further, and as people have a chance to reflect on it, I think they’ll see that it’s going to encourage a lot of lawsuits, and encourage frivolous lawsuits.
Next question is from Matt Wright at WJW in Cleveland.
Matt Wright: (01:12:11)
Hi, Governor. Many Ohioans are, of course, anxious to make plans, and looking forward to an end to the health orders. Last week, here in the Cleveland area, you said you’re hoping to see full ballparks, maybe by July 4th. Earlier today, you said, “The orders might end as soon as June.” Have your experts given you a timetable? At this point, when do you expect we might reach that incidence rate goal to end health orders?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:12:33)
No. Matt, one thing we’ve learned throughout this pandemic, is we can’t really predict. You can listen to the experts and they can tell you what they think is probably going to happen. But I can’t stand up here and come up with any kind of dates. And there’s no expert that I’m aware of in the country that can.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:12:56)
We don’t know what this variant is going to do. We know it’s multiplying. We know it’s more contagious than what we’ve had before, what impact that has. At the same time, we’re frantically and very systematically vaccinating people very quickly. Yesterday was over 50,000 people, first doses. So all of those things can’t really be … People can’t calculate how all those things coming together. We’ve not had the vaccine before, nor have we had this variant before. So we don’t know how that’s going to play out.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:13:36)
So we can be cautious. We can say, “We think we can do this,” because people are asking us, “What can we do? Can we plan for a prom? Can we plan for graduation? Can we plan for this and that?” And we try to tell them the best we can, based on what we know today. But setting a date, I think, would be kind of an irresponsible thing to do. And I can’t do that.
Next question is from Andrew Tobias at Cleveland.com.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:14:07)
We’ll come back to Andrew. Next question is from Kevin Landers at WBNS in Columbus.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:14:16)
Kevin Landers: (01:14:17)
Hi, Governor. Can you explain why transit workers are still not among the groups to be eligible for the vaccine? They were considered essential workers at one point. And then what’s preventing you from creating a monthly calendar, so people or groups can plan in advance when they can get the vaccine? Thank you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:14:35)
Kevin, good question. I actually had a conversation with one of the mayors today, or several mayors, about transit workers. Made a good point. We have, as you know, really not focused on essential workers. Because how does that compare to the essential worker who is in the grocery store? How does that compare with another essential worker?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:15:03)
So we’ve really not used essential workers throughout this. We’ve used odds of dying if you get COVID. That’s been the number one indicator. Number one goal is to reduce the deaths. And we felt the fastest way to reduce the deaths is to go by age. And the data clearly shows that. Again, we’ve now opened up to 50 and above. 50 and above constitutes 97, 98% of the deaths. So we started with the nursing homes. Want to seal that group off as much as we could. So that’s what we followed.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:15:42)
Now, we’ve picked some people who have certain diseases, certain medical conditions, I should say, and said, “Look, even though they’re not 50, or they’re not 60 yet, they have a high, high, high risk. So let’s try to cover those.” The only real exceptions have been teachers, who we did, frankly, because we want to get the kids back in school, want to protect the teachers. But we also wanted to get the kids back in school.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:16:12)
Another group, certainly, was our health workers, because we need them to protect us. And everybody, I think, consensus was that was the right thing to do. And the other group we’ve added is our police officers, and our other first responders, who are out there protecting us every single day. So we’ve really not gone by essential workers. We have gone by how do we save lives.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:16:36)
But now, as we’re looking at where do we go below 50, all these things are certainly on the table. And we’re trying to analyze them. We’re open to ideas. We’re trying to do the best we can to save lives and to protect people.
Next question is from Noah Blundo at Hannah News Service.
Randy Ludlow : (01:17:00)
Good afternoon. Can you hear me?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:17:02)
I can indeed.
Randy Ludlow : (01:17:03)
Great, thanks. So, in regard to Senate Bill 22, and the conversation that you want to have with lawmakers, other than being an optimist, do you have any reason to suspect that there are actually minds to be changed? They voted on something like this twice now in great numbers. They’ve been pretty insistent on scale back your power. So, again, like I said, other than being an optimist in general, why do you think you’re going to change any minds?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:17:38)
Well, this bill continued to change, as you know. It was changed at the relatively last moment again. So I think that there needs to be a discussion, which we will have, about all the ramifications of this bill. And I remain convinced that many members of the general assembly hadn’t thought about Ebola. Because that’s real. It exists. And the circumstances of someone coming into this country who has Ebola is not far-fetched. And the circumstances of that person coming into Ohio is not far-fetched. So these are real dangers. And to require, as this bill does, that that local health departments got to be able to say, “Well, the person that he came in contact with, or she came in contact with, was medically diagnosed.” And maybe, in the country, there wasn’t a doctor there in sight. Maybe a doctor wasn’t right there in that area. And how are you going to know where that person has been, medically, that the person that they came in contact with has been medically diagnosed? It’s impossible.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:19:03)
It would be asking the local health departments, who are sworn to protect us, just to put up the white flag and say, “We’re out of it. We can’t stop this person coming in who’s got Ebola.” This is real. So I just think the only thing I can assume is they … I just think they need to look at this, and think about it, and look at all the ramifications.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:19:28)
And there are things that we can work out. There are ways. And we have talked to some of the members of the general assembly, and I will not get into it today, but we talked about ways where we could come up with something, that I think would satisfy the members of the general assembly’s concerns. And give them real authority, real power, but also protect the people of the state of Ohio. And that’s really what I’m concerned about. It’s not about me. It’s about protecting the people of Ohio.
We will try again with Andrew Tobias of Cleveland.com.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:20:07)
I think Andrew is having audio issues, and he’ll submit his question in writing in a moment. But, until then, we will go to Jessie Balmert at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:20:22)
Ursel McElroy: (01:20:23)
Hello, Governor. My question is, when we were looking at heat maps, you looked at a lot of different factors, different numbers when pulling those together. When we were looking at the curve for you, you looked at death numbers. Now, when we’re looking at lifting health orders, you’re looking at new cases. So, I guess, why focus on one individual number? And then, also, why is that the right number to be looking at?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:20:47)
Yeah, I’m going to go to Dr. Vanderhoff. He was very instrumental in working this. Obviously, I approved it. I thought it was the right thing. I will say one thing, that we wanted something … We kept hearing from the general assembly, we heard from the public, very understandably, “Give us a marker. Give us a measure. Tell us when we can get out of this. Tell us when we get back to totally normal in the state of Ohio.”
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:21:13)
And so we just looked at everything, and felt that this was really a good measure. And I think, as I showed on the chart, if you look at the cases going way, way back, I think that chart was very instructive, it tracked pretty well when we were having big trouble. And it tracked pretty well when we were having not as much trouble. Dr. Vanderhoff?
Dr. Vanhoff: (01:21:39)
Well, yes, Governor. Thank you. And I think you said it very, very well. Ohioans really, understandably, want to get their lives back to normal. But they have asked us over and over again for a mile marker, something that they really think could be understandable, and a clear signal that our vaccinations are having enough of an impact, that we really can back away from a lot of the mandatory restrictions that that we’ve had in place.
Dr. Vanhoff: (01:22:13)
And, as we looked at the numbers, the best leading indicator, the one that really seemed to point toward us arriving at that place, was this metric of cases per 100,000. It’s a measure that we and the CDC had been tracking, from nearly the very beginning of the pandemic.
Dr. Vanhoff: (01:22:38)
And as we looked at how that measure has performed over time, it appeared to be a very reliable indicator of when the virus was either expanding, spreading, or when it was contracting. And we looked at that in the context of multiple other measures. There are other measures that I think are important ones, but they tend to be lagging in indicators. This really was that mile marker that people were requesting, that we felt we could have the most confidence in.
Andrew Tobias at Cleveland.com has submitted the following question. Well, we have readers who are wondering when they may be eligible for the vaccine. The next time you expand eligibility, will you reduce the age incrementally again? Or might you just open it up to everyone?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:23:35)
Well, I don’t think we’re ready to open it up to everyone. I think, when you do that, you’re basically saying we’re either that close to the end on the age, or you’re saying we can’t really practically define other groups that are more likely to die than others.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:02)
So I don’t think that we will go straight to opening it up, but we’re moving a lot faster than we were. And, of course, that’s because more vaccine is coming into the state of Ohio. We anticipate to be sort of the same amount for the next few weeks. But then, into April, at some point, we would expect to see those numbers go back up again even further.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:31)
So this is moving. And we’re going to try to continue to get the vaccine out, and make it as many sites as we can, many opportunities as we can. Our health departments are working very hard. And I know some of our other providers are to dig down, and to make sure that that person is living at home, and can’t get out.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:53)
I was talking to Charlie Patterson this morning, for example, in Clark County. And we were talking about how do we reach the one person who’s at home? And they’re doing it. It’s not easy. It’s not fast. But we have a moral obligation to get this vaccine in the arm of every single citizen in Ohio who want it. Every single one. And so we will continue to focus on that every day. And it’s taking an entire community, an entire state, to do it. Whatever county I’m in, it’s a lot of different people, lot of them volunteering.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:25:34)
We saw, today, the doctor that delivered several of our babies. And he was in Clark County. He’s retired. But he’s still doing volunteer medical work. And he was there putting shots in people’s arms. I mean, there’s a lot of people like Dr. Billings, who just are making a difference every single day.
Next question is from John London at WLWT in Cincinnati.
John London: (01:26:06)
Hi, Governor. We hope to see you down here in Cincinnati for a visit sometime soon.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:10)
Coming soon. Coming soon, John. Thank you.
John London: (01:26:13)
Raw data, Governor, down here in Hamilton County, shows racial disparity in delivering vaccinations into certain neighborhoods. And former state rep Alicia Reeves, who you know, wants the state to help bring about a mobile vaccine bus, that would go into black neighborhoods block by block. She’d like to have it operating in April. Do you find that to be feasible? And how might the state help with that?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:41)
I’ve talked to Alicia about this. She and I have known each other for a long time. She and my son Pat served on city council together. And she’s a friend. And she’s absolutely right. It needs to be done.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:57)
I was talking to our team yesterday about how fast we can get mobile sites up, but also mobile vans that literally can go into neighborhood after neighborhood. So I think it’s a phenomenal idea. We’re for it. We’re going to work with her, and with people throughout the state to get these out. We’re going to do it.
Next question is from Jim Provance at the Toledo Blade.
Jim Provance: (01:27:24)
Hi again, Governor. Earlier this week, you had a phone conversation with the university presidents about hazing after the death of Scott Foltz at Bowling Green. Could you tell us how that call went? We know that the presidents have since come out in favor of pending legislation, and was that done at your urging?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:27:42)
I don’t think it was my urging that did it. I think they were going to do that anyway. I talked to them about accessing more testing, talked a little bit about that. They’re well down the path, many of them, most of them, in regard to testing.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:27:59)
But I wanted to say, look, we’ve got some rapid testing. Most of them have already made the contracts and done things. But I just said, “Look at this, we’ll help in any way. We want to make sure that, testing, you know it’s there, and you can get it, and you can access it.”
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:28:13)
The main purpose of talking, and the reason I requested some time with them, was to talk about hazing. Changing the culture in any place, about anything, is tough. The old saying is culture trumps all, and it’s the toughest thing to change. But we not only have to pass legislation. We have to pass … We have to be able to change culture.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:28:39)
And there’s still, obviously, some remnants of an old culture, that says hazing is some passage that people have to go through. And whether it’s in a band, or whether it’s a fraternity, whatever, it’s some sporting group, this is an antiquated way of thinking. And we have to rid ourselves and rid our culture of this.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:29:12)
As a parent, as a grandparent, it is just disgusting, and just so very, very sad, to think that you could have a young person with so much potential, so much future, and now they’re gone. And they’re gone for no logical reason. And they’re gone because of some antiquated way of thinking, that this is some rite of passage that someone to go through, before they can be part of a group. We got to stop it. And we have to go after it.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:29:57)
And I would go even further. And one of the things I did say to the presidents … And, by the way, they all have programs. They all are focused on it. They get it. They didn’t need me to tell them. They are very, very, very focused on it. But seems to me that anybody who is part of an organization, who knows that this hazing is going on, should be disciplined by the university. I’m not talking about criminally. That’s a different issue. But, anybody who even knew that hazing was taking place, they should be gone.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:30:45)
Well, thank you everybody. Again, the 150th press conference. So it’s been an interesting year. And we’ll be back next week. We’re not on Monday. We’ll be back on Thursday, unless something breaks before then. Thank you very much.