Mar 8, 2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript March 8
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on March 8, 2021 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Gov. Mike DeWine: (04:16)
Good afternoon everyone. Every Monday morning, I speak to the 113 health commissioners throughout the state of Ohio, and it’s always a great opportunity to really see what’s going on on the ground and what they’re seeing. One of the things that I asked them about this morning was the uptake of the vaccines and they told me what was going on and a number of them requested that we lower the age, that we broaden who is eligible. Some of the counties frankly were still having vaccine left over at the end of the week. So we looked at that and we looked also at what was going on in our hospitals, what’s going in our federal health clinics and come to a conclusion that we will in fact announce today a change. So on Thursday of this week, we will add what we will call Phase 1D, type II diabetes and end-stage renal disease. So as of Thursday morning, anybody with diabetes, whether type I or type II, will be eligible to get the vaccine as well as anyone with end-stage renal disease. Last week we announced those 60 years of age and older would be eligible to receive the vaccine as part of Phase 2A. Today we’re announcing 2B, and 2B will take the age down to 50. So beginning Thursday to recap, anyone 50 years of age and older will be eligible for the vaccine and anyone with end-stage renal disease will also be eligible beginning on Thursday and anyone with diabetes, either type I or type II, will be eligible Thursday morning. Those 50 to 59 year of age, total population in Ohio is approximately 1.2 million. End-stage renal disease, those under 50 we think is about 25, 000 and type II diabetes, again under 50, is about 172,000 we believe. That will give you some idea of we’re opening to those three groups beginning on Thursday.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (07:22)
Now to some sad news. Ohio mourns the death of Bowling Green student Stone Foltz who died as a result apparently of hazing. His family and friends, all those who loved him have our deepest sympathy. His tragic and senseless death should remind us all the moral imperative for us to drive hazing out of the state of Ohio. It is a moral imperative that we do this, that we not tolerate it. I talked a few minutes ago to State Senator Stephanie Kunze who’s been working on a bill to reform the hazing laws in the state of Ohio. I support her efforts, and she reminded me that hazing has many victims and that those who die from hazing end up in the hospital are not the only victims. Other victims are those who have longterm mental health challenges as a direct result of the hazing. We should resolve in Ohio that Ohio become a hazing-free state. Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to talk with our state university presidents about this specific issue. Every state university has significant rules and regulations in regard to hazing, but it’s clear to me that in 2021, we still have a culture problem among some people and that simply must change. We cannot tolerate this. This just must change.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (09:27)
We have some sad news from the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Phillip Hill, a youth specialist at the Indian River Juvenile Collection Facility in Massillon died on March 1 after battling COVID-19. Youth specialist Hill worked at DYS for 33 years. His colleagues say he will be remembered as a hard worker, kind person, and a friend to all. He had a big heart and he loved his family very much. He was one of 10 children and had three of his own children. He adored his mother, doted on his grandchildren. Our prayers are with him, with his family, and with all those who worked with him and all those who loved him.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (10:26)
This morning, Fran and I had the opportunity to travel to Harrison Township in Montgomery County to the Bethesda Temple, where Public Health of Dayton and Montgomery County have organized a vaccination clinic. We toured the site, we thanked the vaccinators, all those from Public Health and everyone, the volunteers who are making a difference. The individuals that we talked to had such a sense of optimism. They were happy that we were on the offense, happy that they would be able to see more of their family, more of their friends and get back to normal. It was really an inspiring trip. Fran and I were happy to be there and really just want to thank all the health workers, some of the health workers … Most of them had been at this a year, a solid year. We had other volunteers who were there. We had churches that were involved, so it was a very good event. They told me, they told Fran that they would vaccinate about 600 people today, so thank you to them. Thank you as well to Bethesda Temple. That church will also be hosting on Friday another vaccine clinic.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (11:50)
Last week we opened up vaccinations to a number of new people such as those 60 and older, childcare providers, correction officers, and those in law enforcement. We have some video of a few of Ohio’s law enforcement leaders who immediately rolled up their sleeves to encourage other officers, deputies, troopers, to get vaccinated as well. Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Richard Fambro was vaccinated in Columbus on Thursday and described getting his first dose of the vaccine as smooth and painless. Sidney Police Chief William Balling who is also the president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police was vaccinated at Wilson Health in Sidney, encouraging other police officers across the state to follow suit. Two of Ohio’s county sheriffs stepped up to be vaccinated at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London. Sheriff John Swaney of Madison County and Sheriff Jamie Patton from Union County. So we thank all of them. It’s great to see them leading by example. We’re appreciative of Colonel Fambro, Chief Balling, Sheriffs Swaney and Patton for encouraging other sworn active duty law enforcement officers and peace officers across the state to get their vaccine. We’re excited about that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (13:11)
Starting today, actually 9:00 this morning, the Ohio Department of Health is scheduling appointments through our Central Scheduling Tool. The tool is on the internet and it can be accessed by going to GetTheShot … Let me do it again, gettheshot.coronarvirus.ohio.gov. That’s gettheshot.coronavirus. ohio.gov. You can go on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (13:42)
Ohioans can use the tool to determine first if they’re eligible to receive the vaccine. Then they can schedule appointments, receive updates and reminders. As of this morning, there are thousands of appointments available through this tool so we encourage you to go look. Our team continues to work with providers to load even more appointments on this system and we encourage more and more providers to get on just as quickly as they can. Every day there will be more appointments that will be added. We are requiring providers to either schedule vaccines using this system or another electronic scheduling system that interfaces with this portal.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (14:24)
We believe this will streamline the scheduling process, reduce data lags, and provide realtime information on vaccination progress across the state. We will also be using this central scheduling tool for appointments for the mass vaccination clinics that we announced on Friday, including the FEMA site in Cleveland, where we are anticipating up to 6,000 vaccines being given every single day, seven days a week. Additionally, the other mass vaccination sites around the state that we also announced, those that the State of Ohio will be running, will schedule appointments using the same central scheduling tool.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (15:05)
So when Ohioans visit the system, they will be able to check a box to verify age, occupation, or that they have a qualifying medical condition. Then they can enter their zip codes to see vaccine providers within a 20-mile area, within 20 miles. If a patient is not eligible, the option to sign up to receive email or text message alerts to indicate to them when they are eligible. The tool is best we believe for people who have not started their vaccination series yet, so these would be people who would be looking to get their first vaccination. If an eligible provider has not loaded appointments into the system yet, the person looking for an appointment will be directed to the other providers’ appointment scheduling system through this tool.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (15:56)
Eric, let’s go look at our data slide today. First you’ll notice our death numbers look certainly different. That’s because of the death data reporting changed that we announced last week. We’re now reporting deaths that have been confirmed by death certificates and these numbers are updated twice a week. Eric, let’s go to the 88 county slide. The good news is you’ll see the white is creeping up and what is white on there are those counties that are below high incidence level which is 100. So every time we show this, I think just about every time in the last few weeks, that number has gone up. We’re happy to see that number go up. Eric, will you go to the next one?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (16:47)
If we look at the first 20 counties, you’ll see Washington County is first, 275. The good news is that county that’s on top, those numbers seem to continue to be going down. Now that’s still … Washington County is a high spread, it’s three times what the CDC calls high incidence, so it’s still very high. All of those in the top 20 are, but they are collectively going down. Last week when we made the announcement … On Thursday night when I made the announcement in regard to when we would be able to take off health orders, again, this is the type of chart that we are looking at and we will, every Thursday, give you a state number and we can see what that state number is doing and we hope it continues to go down but this is a calculation that we have been using for months that has been on our webpage and every day you can see … You can look at the county numbers, we’ll give you that number for the entire state every Thursday and we can watch we hope watch it go down.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (18:03)
Eric, let’s go to our hospitalization slide. 830 Ohio citizens in the hospital because of COVID. So again, you can see these numbers continue to go down. Very, very happy to see that and that’s a great, great thing. Eric, go to the next one. I have asked Dr. Vanderhoff to join us to talk more about the virus variants that we’re seeing in the state now. Dr. Vanderhoff, thanks for being with us today and I’ll turn it over to you.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (18:49)
Thank you Governor. As we’ve been expecting, Ohio and the nation are seeing more and more of the three main variants, B117, you will recall that’s originally from the U.K., B1351, originally from South Africa, and P1, originally from Brazil. In Ohio, ODH and the CDC have confirmed 31 cases of the B117 variant and one P1. The distribution of these variants is dispersed, it’s north and south, it’s urban and rural. Nationwide, B117 is now in 49 states in fairly significant numbers. B1351 is in 20 states though not yet in Ohio and P1 is in nine states in very small numbers including Ohio. These numbers are entirely consistent with what we’ve been expecting. As we move through March and head into April, we continue to expect a growing presence of these contagious variants, especially B117 which as we expected, is leading the way.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (20:04)
As the number of these variants continue to grow, they really remind us that COVID-19 isn’t giving up, but like other viruses, it continues to become more transmissible, more contagious. These variants underscore just how important it is for all of us to get vaccinated when it’s our turn and to continue to play good defense until more of us are vaccinated, masking, physical distancing, frequent hand hygiene. These really remain our best protection as we look forward to the day when the vaccines put the pandemic behind us.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (20:45)
I think we can all be encouraged by the results in Ohio so far, results the governor just shared. Even in the face of growing numbers of these new, more infectious variants, we really do have the weapons we need to improve our lives this spring. Masking and distancing until more of us get vaccinated. Thank you Governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (21:07)
Doctor, thank you very much. Let me turn to an unemployment update. As you know we’ve been working to improve Ohio’s experiences with the unemployment program. There’s been a huge demand for assistance during the pandemic this past year and on top of that fraudsters including some from highly sophisticated fraud operations have been filing claims in Ohio and other states around the nation. We have enlisted the help of the private sector as we have announced to help us both fix the fraud prevention and the call center. We’ll work with both of these. The head of the Department of Jobs and Family Services has signed a contract with IBM to improve the call center. That’s a good step forward to make sure Ohioans’ questions are answered faster. Further to help combat fraud, Jobs and Family Services has signed a contract with LexisNexis to work with us on their ongoing efforts to keep fraud out of the system. We continue to work with Experian as well on these efforts but LexisNexis will add a new layer of help. The more we can keep fraud out, the better and faster the unemployment system will be for those eligible and deserving Ohioans who are making claims every single weeks. These are positive steps.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (22:26)
Today Matt Damschroder, who has been serving as our director of the Department of Administrative Services, is starting his work as interim director at the Department of Jobs and Family Services. Matt is joining us today by Zoom. How is the first day on the job, Matt?
Matt Damschroder: (22:44)
It’s going great Governor. Thank you. I do want to say Governor, I look forward to serving Ohioans in this new role as I shift from my leadership at DAS and I’m pleased that Director Henderson will be continuing for a few months as a senior advisor –
Matt Damschroder: (23:03)
… will be continuing for a few months as a senior advisor to me and the team as we quickly get up to speed. Also appreciate, Governor, your leadership in establishing the private-public partnership team, the P3 team that we’ll talk a little bit more about. Everyone at JFS, including me, all of our vendors recognize the urgency that’s needed to improve our unemployment system so that eligible Ohioans are served in the most efficient manner possible. So thank you, Governor, for establishing that committee, and everyone is excited to get to work.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (23:35)
Director, thank you. Thank you very much. A few weeks ago, we contacted the Ohio Business Roundtable, Pat Tiberi and his team. We asked for their assistance in connecting the department Jobs and Family Services with private sector partners and experts in banking, insurance, and other industries to help with improvements. We call this team the job and family service public- private partnership, or P3. Jeff Ficke is the leader of the P3 team, and Jeff is joining us today. Jeff ran Fifth Third Bank central operations, and is a leader in solving technology problems. Jeff, thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you for being on this team and actually leading this team. So how’s it going?
Jeff Ficke: (24:27)
Well, Governor, first of all, thank you very much. It’s an honor to be a part of this team. We’re off to a fast start. I do want to share with you, echoing Matt’s comments, that Director Henderson, the team has been very cooperative. I’ll talk a little bit more about the number of people that we’ve been engaged with in the private sector and also at Jobs and Family Services, but it’s definitely off to a fast start, and I think it’s been a great starting point for us to bring the private and public sector together. Governor, if it’s okay, I’ll take a couple of minutes and just give you some updates for everyone on where we are. And our second slide in the deck actually is focused on, again, reiterating kind of what the key deliverables or the key focus areas we have, our top priorities.
Jeff Ficke: (25:21)
And that is, as the governor has mentioned, and as Matt has mentioned, fraud prevention, locking the doors, really making sure that we’re having most effective claims and adjudication process, and that we are doing everything we can to answer every phone call, every inquiry coming in from Ohio citizens. Those are the three areas we’re focused on. I want to show you the next slide, which actually is going to give you an indication of the organizations that have been involved. A few weeks ago, Governor DeWine announced that there were five companies that were part of this team. There was a kickoff, and in conjunction with Ohio Business Roundtable, that included Fifth Third Bank and COVA, Nationwide Insurance, Western & Southern, and KeyBank. I’m proud to announce today that Ohio companies and companies around the US have stepped up to add additional resources to that team.
Jeff Ficke: (26:16)
And as you can see on here, FIS Global, which is an Ohio company, US Bank, which distributes prepaid cards for the unemployment insurance programs, Visa, KPMG, CBTS, a key partner in the call center partnerships, and the Sheakley group, and Envoca technologies. Pat Tiberi from the Ohio Business Roundtable has done an amazing job at continuing to help us expand that partnership, and the next slide is going to just give you a little bit of an update on where we are from a project perspective. As I mentioned and the governor mentioned, rapid expansion, and a number of people want to be involved. 12 companies covering 5 different industries very relevant to what we’re trying to have immediate actions for. So financial services, insurance, processing, technology, and advisory services.
Jeff Ficke: (27:18)
This really represents over 30 people in the private sector, and they have expertise in fraud, in claims processing, insurance, and call centers. I think it’s really important to identify that these folks spend every minute of every day, and in most cases, 20 years of their careers, building these types of solutions for the private sector. Fraud was one of the things we wanted to put a really solid lock on the door, and I wish I had time to go into the details of the types of people that we would able to engage. They built some of the best fraud prevention systems in the private sector, and have given us immediate and valuable insight in the way that we’re going about that. We’ve had over 50 meetings between JFS teams. Those are anywhere from discovery, to understand the current situation, to ideation, to recommendations, and I just want to say one more time that the JFS team has been amazing to work with.
Jeff Ficke: (28:19)
They are engaged, they are working hard through a long pandemic, and they’ve been knowledgeable and have been very open to ideas and concepts that we believe will actually help accelerate some of these projects. When Governor DeWine announced this program a few weeks ago and I got involved, one of the things was very clear. We did not want to be working at a strategy that was going to take six months to implement. We needed to have immediate results. We needed to talk about things that happened in 30, 60, 90 days, that are going to impact the system across multiple solutions. So we’ve actually organized the team between JFS, the private sector, and the things we’re doing as a coordination team between them to run on a technical term, but it’s agile sprints. And those are four weeks in duration. We’ve actually completed our first set of recommendations and delivered those.
Jeff Ficke: (29:13)
The next slide I want to take you through will actually show you some of the early recommendations that we have out of the program, and they definitely hit on the key pillars that we have been discussing. As Governor DeWine mentioned, we believe, and our subject matter experts who’ve reviewed this from the security and fraud perspective, is protecting us against these organized crime rings, international, requires partnerships with multiple outside firms. Experian is actually playing a key role in that, but we’ve also engaged for LexisNexis, the risk solution side of that organization to come in. We’re very confident in a very short period of time that we’re going to put a more secure door on the front of the organizations to stop the fraudsters, and have them sort of pointing in other directions outside of Ohio.
Jeff Ficke: (30:08)
The second main area that I want to talk about is the pending announcements we’re going to have, but the importance of actually clearing the backlog. In general, I think I’ve heard that we’ve got about 1.25 million cases that are pending adjudication going through the system. There’s some very talented people that are trying to do that work, but I’m also a big believer that big data can help us play a big role in solving that. We are shortly going to make some announcements about partnerships with some very well-known big data companies that are going to help us very strategically look at how we can segment those claims so that we can pull out the ones that are true Ohioans that have zero indications of fraud, and put us in a position to be able to process those claims as soon as possible, while we actually push the ones to have heavy indications of fraud off to the side and make sure that we get that moving along faster.
Jeff Ficke: (31:06)
The third area that Governor DeWine also mentioned is our partnership with IBM. IBM has a whole suite of products that fall under the umbrella of IBM Watson technology. It can actually help us to coordinate activities in the call center. It is truly an artificial intelligence platform that learns as it goes, and we can actually develop technology to automate the answers to questions, and make it sure that we actually route people to the right customer service people as fast as possible. Just to wrap it up my comments for today, there’s two additional areas that are coming out of our findings. First of all, in conjunction with Matt at JFS, we’re going to do a full review of the third party relationships.
Jeff Ficke: (31:52)
There are so many third-party key relationships that are involved in the delivery of all these services to Ohio citizens. We are making sure that we’re looking at those, making sure they’re doing what they need to be doing, and making sure that we are getting everything out of this that we need to. The last areas that I’ve… My background and the work that I’ve done mean that we’ve always had to go through data-driven decisions. We’re making sure we’re pulling decisions from multiple different platforms into one location so that we can have data to back the plans that we have around improving performance, and that we’re able to measure the results so that we get the information back. We are off to a fast start. We’ve been four weeks into that. We’ve got people stood up. They understand the environment. They’re recommending changes that are happening fast, and Governor, I’m proud of what our private sector folks in Ohio have stood up to help the citizens of Ohio with. Thank you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (32:57)
Jeff, we appreciate your report. Thank you for what you’re doing. Thank you for what your team is doing. This public-private partnership with you all is very valuable, very important, and we’ll be bringing you back from time to time to give the citizens of Ohio an update on how things are going. Thank you very much.
Jeff Ficke: (33:17)
Thank you, Governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (33:18)
Lt. Governor Husted: (33:21)
Thanks, Governor. Yeah, it’s great to see Matt Damschroder on the job. He did a wonderful job in his previous life as deputy secretary of state, and Jeff Ficke and the team, they are some of the top people that have done this in the private sector at managing tech solutions, and so it’s great to get that report. I know they’re working hard on this. But I guess it’s good timing. We’re transitioning from people who are unemployed to our efforts to get people jobs to focus on employment. And one of the very first things, Governor, that you asked me to do was to work leading your Office of Workforce Transformation and work with the team at Innovate Ohio to build technology solutions to help improve the way we serve our customers, the people of the state of Ohio.
Lt. Governor Husted: (34:15)
And another step in that direction we’re announcing today, which is the redesign of Ohio Means Jobs, trying to improve the front door to make it more welcoming to people and make it easier for them to navigate the system and to find a job and a career and opportunities, and just to take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there. We know this about technology and any customer service. If you remove the friction, if you remove those things that are making the user experience less inviting, then you’re going to have more success as people find it easier to find what they’re looking for. And so we’re going to show you slide one here, hopefully, of the redesign. It’s much more streamlined, and it’s less confusing. There’s there’s one open door, not a lot of different places you have to click. The Innovative Ohio team and the Office of Workforce Transformation, along with ODJFS, helped make this happen, so I want to thank them for that collaboration.
Lt. Governor Husted: (35:22)
I think that if you’ve ever used the site before, you will find that this is much easier. You can find all of the job opportunities and apply for those jobs in one spot for free, and so we like the price as well. And additionally, there is no better time than now. I know that we are in the final sprint toward the end of what we’re trying to accomplish here with the virus, and I can tell you, employers are hiring. There’s almost not a day that I talk to an employer in our state who tells me that they’re having difficulty finding people to come to work, finding people with the right kinds of skills, and there are a lot of reasons for that, and we’re trying to help knock down some of those barriers. If you look at slide two, you will see that you can post jobs if you’re an employer. You can see qualified candidates, view metrics of their searches, set up automatic questions to screen applicants, all of the kind of filtering tools that make it easier to use this technology to make the process a lot easier.
Lt. Governor Husted: (36:35)
It’s been upgraded to even optimize the use of mobile devices, since 60% of our traffic is on the use of a mobile device. There are special sections specifically for veterans and workers with disabilities, people receiving unemployment assistance, so back to what we just talked about. If you’re on unemployment assistance, this will make it easier for you to use this site to meet your reemployment goals and activities. So I invite everybody to go to Ohio Means Jobs site. Ohiomeansjobs.com is the site for you to search to find all this good information here. We have 156,397 job openings as of today. 83,776 of those jobs pay $50,000 a year or more. There are over 30,000 recruiters who are currently using Ohio Means Jobs to find employees, and there are 6,000 employers on here who have designated themselves as military friendly, meaning that they’re actively trying to recruit veterans to their team.
Lt. Governor Husted: (37:46)
And so we appreciate the team’s work on using technology improve the way we serve our customers. Good news as we try to work ourselves out of the challenges that we have with the unemployment system, and also work our way forward to recovery in 2021, putting people back to work, helping our employers hire, because they need to find the talent to compete with our foreign competitors and those people in other states. And when we do that, when we can prove in Ohio that we can supply the talent, then we will recruit more employers to make investments and grow their businesses here. And as we talk about growing business, I want to make one final point, a recognition for Rickenbacker. As you know, Ohio is a state that is on the cutting edge of aerospace, for both the defense sector and the private sector. We’re also a leading state for logistics.
Lt. Governor Husted: (38:50)
We are a place where we build things, and then we move those things out of our state and through our state to the end user. We’re also a state that’s done a lot of great research in unmanned aircraft, from the work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, NASA Glenn, Battelle, and the Unmanned Aeronautical Systems Center in Springfield. And you know, Governor, you and I have both attended events with FlyOhio and DriveOhio who are actively involved with this. The bottom line or the news here is that Rickenbacker International Airport was selected as one of five host airports across the nation to be a research site for exploring new technologies to detect and mitigate personal safety risks posed by drones in our airspace.
Lt. Governor Husted: (39:37)
The effort is part of the FAA’s Airport Unmanned Aircraft Systems Detection and Mitigation Research Program. Look, we’re trying to build this industry in Ohio to do the research on the safety aspect of this, and Rickenbacker is just another important step to making Ohio a leader, continuing to make us a leader in the future as it relates to aviation as we look at more things. From everything from air taxis to unmanned delivery systems, the technology is coming, and we are clearing the way in Ohio for it to be tested, developed, and hopefully manufactured here. Governor, back to you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (40:21)
Lieutenant Governor, thank you very much. We’re ready for questions.
Speaker 1: (40:26)
Governor, your first question today is from Luis Gil at Ohio Latino TV.
Luis Gil: (40:35)
Hello, Governor. Thank you for doing this again.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (40:38)
Luis Gil: (40:40)
Governor, this is [inaudible 00:40:42]. Good, thank you. Governor, this is not my actual question, but how are you doing, and you and your wife after… You still doing okay after being vaccinated?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (40:53)
We’re doing well. Thank you for asking. Both of them were non-events, so we didn’t really have any fever or any result. I think the only thing was a little sore arm maybe the first night, and that was about it. But we’re doing well, thank you very much.
Luis Gil: (41:12)
Okay. Governor, congratulations on accomplishing the incredible task of getting the kids back to school. One of the questions that I have is are you going to have a special evaluation after the year for the kids, how they compare to the previous years? [inaudible 00:41:42]. Will you have an evaluation to see the level of the kids it was accomplished equally to the previous two, three years ago?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (41:51)
You know, one of the things that we’re looking forward to, and I talked about this last week, is graduations. I know we get questions about that. So we look forward to getting specific guidelines for graduation, but people will be able to have graduations this year. They’ll be able to have proms, and I think that’s something that’s very good and something we all look forward to. The legislature I think has made it clear, and we also have some clarity coming out of Washington as well, is that these tests will have to continue, but we would not want ramifications coming from those tests. Federal government’s made it plain those tests will continue. Most of the tests that are given are really given pursuant to a requirement by the federal government. So those tests will be given, but I think it’s fair to say that we should not be judging schools by what those results are. So let’s look at this, and maybe take this as a piece of information that can be helpful and valuable as we move forward. I think Lieutenant Governor wants to add something to that as well.
Lt. Governor Husted: (43:12)
Yeah. Luis, I’ll tell you what. The good news for Ohio is that thanks to the governor prioritizing vaccines for schools, that as of today, 99% of our schools in the state are back for in-person education. I just read in the Wall Street Journal that on average, students have lost 116 days in reading, and 215 days in math as a result. This is a national study. It’s disproportionately affected rural and African American and Hispanic students, and that’s why it’s important that we go back to school. So I think Ohio is in many cases ahead on the recovery academically. The governor has asked that by April the 1st that schools have a plan together about how they expect to respond to learning loss from their students, and how they can help catch them up. And we’ve put money toward that in the state of Ohio, extra money for schools to help them during this time, everything from the BWC rebate to a number of things where they’ve added additional resources to help them.
Lt. Governor Husted: (44:22)
And now with the recent COVID package that passed that’s in the process of heading to the president’s desk, I know that 20% of that money is required to go to help these students. So we hope that the evaluations that are occurring will be used to support the students, to find out who’s falling behind and how we can intervene to help them. It’s really important that we do that. And look, this is why we say this. If Ohio does this right, if we help our students better than they’re being helped other places, it’s going to help them earn more over the course of their lives. It’s going to help them get ahead. It’s going to help our state be more prosperous. That’s why all of this really matters, and we thank all of those educators out there who are working in this cause back to school, and helping make all this happen.
Speaker 1: (45:12)
Next question is from Andy Chow at Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Andy Chow: (45:17)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (45:18)
Andy Chow: (45:19)
The CDC put out new guidance recently for people who are fully vaccinated, sort of changing the rules a little bit if they want to hang out with other people who are fully vaccinated. Will the state be offering a different set of guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated in the future? Maybe they can do things differently compared to other people, given these restrictions.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (45:40)
I’m going to let Dr. Vanderhoff answer that. I think it’s important to look at what the CDC was talking about. They’re talking about not public events, not when you’re out in public. They’re talking about what people do basically in their own homes, which is a practical matter. We’ve never really regulated that-
Gov. Mike DeWine: (46:03)
We’ve never really regulated that, what people are doing in their own homes. So Dr. Vanderhoff, maybe you can give us some more details on what the CDC is saying and how that applies to us.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (46:14)
Thank you very much, Governor. Andy, I think we had very good news out of the CDC today that people who are fully vaccinated can safely get together among one another without masks or physical distancing in their private spaces, but that they should continue to wear masks in public. And if they are visiting unvaccinated people who are at higher risk for severe disease. And why is important here. The why is that we’re in a transition period. There are still a lot of us who are unvaccinated, including a lot of high risk individuals. In fact, nationally, less than 10% of the country is fully vaccinated. And fully vaccinated, just as a reminder, means two weeks past the final dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (47:12)
So while the CDC is confirming that vaccinated people are less likely to get infected, less likely to spread the virus, they’re also reminding us that there is a small risk of transmission, especially to the very vulnerable. And that when you’re in public, you have no idea who is vaccinated or unvaccinated or who might be at high risk. So this new guidance is really encouraging. It’s another step toward normalcy, but it’s reinforcing the benefits of vaccination as well as reinforcing Ohio’s stance that we really need to see greater immunity from vaccination before we can responsibly step back from public masking and distancing.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (48:05)
Speaker 2: (48:07)
Next question is from Nathan Hart at WCPO in Cincinnati.
Nathan Hart: (48:12)
Hi governor. Last week you received a letter from Cincinnati Mayor, John Cranley, and he urged you to get rid of age requirements for vaccines and instead vaccinate essential workers. Have you given any thought to if or when the age requirements might go away and instead focus on professions or other criteria?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (48:31)
Sure. We continue to evaluate this and to listen to input from the mayor, for example. But the fact is that age is by far the biggest indicator. So we talked about 65 years of age and older representing 87% of the deaths in the state from COVID. If we go to 50, which we’ve done, which we’ll do on Thursday, open that up to people 50 years of age and older account, I think, for 97%, 98% of the deaths. So it is just the best indicator, and it’s so important that we don’t get sidetracked. We have gone off to do some specific things. We started with our health professionals because they have to be protected to protect us. And it’s the right thing to do. We did teachers because we want to get kids back in school. We’ve gone and listened to the medical science, listened to the data in regard to what medical conditions for those people under the age that we were at, make them much more vulnerable to death. And we’ve added those and we continue to expand on those.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (49:53)
But the vast majority of what we have done has been focused on age. And by taking this now to 50, what that means is if everybody 50 and above were vaccinated, you would knock out 98% of the deaths. So making that available as quickly as we can was very, very important. I’m glad we’re, as of Thursday, going to be able to go to 50. But we’ll continue to look. We’ll continue to look at who has the most risk. It’s an ongoing process and it’s an ongoing kind of consultation with the medical experts.
Speaker 2: (50:33)
Next question is from Jeff Redick at WSYX in Columbus.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (50:37)
Jeff Redick: (50:38)
Hello Governor. You’re now seeing increasing calls to end health orders from within your own party. Just this morning, Congressman Troy Balderson was in Licking County at a nursing home. He’s urging you to allow full unfettered visitation at long-term care centers. And you noticed states like Kentucky are doing this. They’ve gone beyond the CMS guidelines. You have not. If the residents are fully vaccinated though, why can we not open fully the visits yet?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (51:05)
Well, let me start with the big picture because I think that was your first question. The big picture is that we have a tool that’s very effective and that is the vaccine. That’s offense. We’re on offense. But we can’t give up our defensive tools until we’ve overcome the enemy, until we’ve beaten the enemy. So we’ve got to also stay on defense. The mask is by far the strongest indicator of how we stay on defense.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (51:31)
I talked to the congressmen earlier today and he and I had a good conversation. We continue to evaluate exactly what we can do in a safe way in our nursing homes and in our assisted living. But for some time, we have allowed visitation in our assisted living. We are, in fact, going to expand that and there will be a new letter going out shortly to our assisted living facilities around the state, telling them that not only can they have visitation, but the visitation can actually be in that resident’s room. If it’s a couple, that’s fine. If it’s one resident to a room, that would be fine as well. And we will send a letter out in the next few days telling them about that.
Speaker 2: (52:30)
Next question is from Isaac Stanley-Becker at the Washington Post.
Isaac Stanley-Becker: (52:36)
Hi there. Thank you. Hi Governor. I wonder if I could ask two brief questions. The first is we’ve been hearing that there’s going to soon be a lot more vaccine coming down the pike. What sort of steps is the state taking to prepare for that and scale up increased capacity? And what sort of limitations or potential limitations do you see, whether it’s the number of vaccinators who are available to perform this work, whether it’s space or other constraints? And then secondly, when you mentioned certain counties that are seeing doses or not finding enough takers for those doses, what sort of counties are those? Are those largely rural counties, urban counties? And early in the process, there was a lot of concern about getting this out and making this work in more rural areas. Do you still have that concern or do you think actually large population centers at this point are seeing more difficulty with this product?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (53:28)
Yeah. You might want to take a look at a chart that we put up. That chart shows our 88 counties. And what it shows is those counties by number of people, the percentage of the people in that county who have gotten their first shot and the second shot. It’s quite interesting. What you will find is the numbers are all over the place. It’s hard to even get a pattern in regard to that. The counties are spread geographically. They’re spread urban, rural. So it’s really hard, even someone who knows the state pretty well like I do, it’s kind of hard to get a pattern from looking at that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (54:15)
But you might look at that. It’s something we look at every day and we talk to our health commissioners and we talk about why is one county higher maybe than another? Because we’re sending this vaccine out, 80% of the formula is based on just pure population with whatever age group that we’re talking about. The other 20% has to do with more vulnerable populations, so that’s skewed a little bit. But basically everybody’s getting roughly the same. And so it’s interesting to take a look at that and to see what differences are.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (54:51)
Now this morning on our health department call, the areas that we were seeing where there was not the uptake that we might expect was more in the Southeastern part of the state, which would have been in some of our smaller Appalachian counties. But I just would caution not to jump to a lot of conclusions because as we talked to the big city health directors, health commissioners is what we call them in Ohio, they were just as much in favor of lowering age 50 as we’ve done today, and maybe even more so than some of the other counties. So it was really kind of a consensus that we could move down to 50.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (55:39)
As far as what limitations there are, from the time that I sent a letter to President Biden in response to his request, “What do you need?” And our answer was we can use a lot of things, but the most important thing we need by far is just more vaccine. And what we have done in Ohio is build a system. We started initially was 700 providers around the state that we started funneling the vaccine to. And these were pharmacies, these were health departments, these were hospitals. These were community health clinics, fairly qualified community health clinics. We have now raised that to over 1200. We will continue to raise that up. We also announced on Friday, not just the one FEMA site in Cleveland, the federal FEMA site in Cleveland, but an additional 15 other sites around the state. Four of those 15 will be actually mobile clinics, but 11 permanent ones there will be mass vaccination sites.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (56:57)
So we’ve gone with the belief that keeping it close to people and in a lot of different locations is the way to go. But what we’re now layering on top of this is a series. As I said, 15 mass vaccination sites. And we also, if we look at some of our hospitals, for example, Ohio State, Cleveland Clinic, University of Cincinnati, all of them have the ability right now to expand. So we know how much they can expand, and they all can expand, some dramatically. So we have capacity here. We think we’re ready to go. We’ve got great health workers. We’ve got a lot of volunteers. So as fast as this vaccine comes into Ohio, we’re going to be able to get it out.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (57:54)
The same time, we know at some point we’re going to have more vaccine than we have people. And that’s a good problem, I guess, to have. But we’re also working on the messaging and getting people information about exactly what the facts are in regard to these vaccines. We’re doing it with targeting different groups. So we have African-American doctors talking to African-Americans, and that’s just part of the messaging that is going on. So that is going on at the same time the rest of this was going on.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (58:35)
The other thing that’s going on, and our local health departments, cities, or counties are doing a phenomenal job and we’re partnering with them obviously on this, but they’re doing innovative things. They’re partnering with churches. They are partnering with different people in the community. The site that Fran and I were at this morning is in a township in Montgomery County, close to Dayton. High African-American population. They’re going to vaccinate 600 people there today. They were pulling them in. Fran and I walked around and I talk to the different people who were there and said, “Well, how’d you know about this one?” And one said, “I saw it on the news on TV.” One said, “I called my health department and I found it through the health department.” Another one said, “I got it through my church.” So it’s communities coming together like that to make sure that we are penetrating every community in the state and making it available to every community in the state. So we think we’re ready to move up and we’ll just continue to move up as the more vaccine comes in.
Isaac Stanley-Becker: (59:43)
Speaker 2: (59:45)
Next question is from Kevin Landers at WBNS in Columbus.
Kevin Landers: (59:49)
Good afternoon, Governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (59:50)
Kevin Landers: (59:51)
Ohio’s nursing homes bore the worst of COVID-19 during the past year. Looking back, do you think you acted appropriately to save enough lives? And in terms of unemployment, do we know what kind of a delay in terms of days fraud is causing to get the checks out to those who actually need the money? Thank you.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:00:08)
Yeah. I’m going to refer the last question either to Matt or to Jeff, so if they could get back on. Kevin, the deaths and the nursing homes and all the deaths weigh heavily on me. We all look back and say, “Gee, should we have done something else? Should we have done it differently?” It was a priority throughout. The truth is that Ohio has much more exposure than most states. We have more nursing home beds, I’m told, than any other state except one. So we had I think 930 nursing homes. We have over 700 assisted living facilities. So we had great exposure. We are a state that has more people in nursing home per capita, as I said, then all states but one.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:01:05)
So what we are doing now, we worked on sanitation, we worked on other things. We work on testing in the nursing homes, and we took the resources that we had and deployed them the best that we could at the time. I think if you look at the vaccinations going out, we absolutely prioritize them. Not only were they on day one, they went out before day one, and we got special permission from the federal government to start on the Friday before they were supposed to start, I think on Monday or Tuesday. We’ve stayed with that. We have vaccinated all the nursing homes, anybody who wanted it in the nursing homes. Been back, we’ve done the same thing now, and we’re almost done with assisted living. And there’s a few of the third visits there.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:01:56)
We also started what I think is a very innovative, and it’s the right thing to do, effort. And that means that nursing homes and assisted living as they move forward will continue to have vaccine when they need it. If they hire somebody else, they’ll be able to vaccinate that person. If they get new residents, there’ll be able to get that person vaccinated as well. If a resident who was there before and didn’t want it changes his or her mind, they’ll get vaccinated. If you got an older employee who was there and didn’t want it before, changed their mind, they’ll be able to get it. So we are sending that vaccine out through the system that they usually use. The system they use or use is every nursing home, every assisted living has got somebody they’re getting drugs from, they’re getting the pharmaceuticals from. We’re plowing that through them so that that goes out directly to them. So I think we’re focused on it. I can guarantee you that. We’ve worked very hard on it. But when you see deaths occur, yeah, it weighs on me very heavily. Matt?
Matt Damschroder: (01:03:06)
Thanks, Governor. In response to the question of how long the delays are being added as a result of fraud, I think the answer is it’s hard precisely to quantify on a mass scale, simply because of the complexity of a number of different individual claims, and in some cases, the type of fraud that’s being perpetrated. But I think our best estimate is about two weeks. But I do want to underscore, Governor, what Jeff said, and the focus here is being able to use technology to kind of move a number of the claims through, and also to detect items that have a number of flags that can be put aside as potentially fraudulent in order to cut down that timeframe. So we really hope to see those numbers change in the coming weeks.
Speaker 2: (01:04:11)
Next question is from Devin Marty at WEWS in Cleveland.
Devin Marty: (01:04:15)
Good afternoon, Governor. I was hoping to ask you, regarding the back and forth with the Cleveland Municipal School District and their teacher’s union on the concerns of returning back to the classroom, have you yourself or the Lieutenant Governor spoken to CEO Eric Gordon or the teacher’s union regarding the concerns that they are still vaccinating teachers? And are there any further action that the state can do to get the kids back in the classroom?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:04:46)
Yeah. I’ve talked to Eric Gordon. The most recent time I talked to him was … I’m trying to think. I believe Friday. And we talked about this and he said, “Look, we’re trying to do everything that union is asking us to do, and we’ll continue to work on that.” So I’ve not talked to anybody with the union. But I had a good conversation as I always do with Eric Gordon. I mean, we’ve talked before. He’s focused on getting kids back in and trying to provide a safe environment as humanly possible. I do think that he has a lot going for him and a lot going for the schools. He described some of the extra work that they were doing as far as sanitation and other things. I thought it was very impressive.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:05:43)
We also know just big, big picture is that every school personnel in those buildings who want a vaccine has received one. They’re going to get a second one. And we also know that we now know a lot more about the schools and what’s been going on in schools, because we’ve had a lot of schools that have been just in session the whole time. And what we’ve found is when kids are wearing masks in classrooms, it’s a very safe environment. So I just think all those things coming together are very important. So I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic that these kids will get back in school.
Speaker 2: (01:06:20)
Next question is from Jim Provance of the Toledo Blade.
Jim Provance: (01:06:24)
Hi again, Governor. You’ve been talking about dropping the statewide orders when Ohio drops below 50 cases per 100,000 people. But as you’ve done today, you’ve also looked at incidents numbers on a county by county basis. Even if Ohio should drop below 50 as a whole, should some restriction stay in some of these counties if they remain high?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:06:49)
Well, that’s a real good question. Our commitment was that if we get this on average statewide, that we thought it was okay to move forward. That’s basically the medical advice we’ve got. Let me ask Dr. Vanderhoff because he was very much involved in coming up with this number to see if he has anything he would like to add to that.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:07:17)
Well, thank you, Governor. Yes, I think it’s a very good question. And as we were looking at a threshold, I think we had a high degree of confidence in the threshold that we identified, particularly for the state. It’s very hard to predict where every county in the state will be as we approach that number. I would be surprised if we found that there were counties that were markedly outside of that target number. However, what we are doing does not preclude local jurisdictions from looking at their particular situation and continuing to offer strong guidance, direction or advice about what would be safest or best in their jurisdiction. We have a very locally designed system in the state and we have very good health departments, so distributed throughout the state. So I do think we need to have some local consideration as we look at this, but we’ll just have to see as we approach that time.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:08:27)
And I would think, if I could just add one more thing, Jim, I would think for local health department to go be outside this guidance. This is pretty conservative guidance that we have created. They’d have to see something really unique to that county. And while we certainly have seen, and you’ve watched it, you’ve seen some counties up, some counties down, one thing we do generally see is they do kind of move together generally. And this downturn that we’re in, you’re seeing it-
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:09:03)
This downturn that we’re in, you’re seeing it on the top county and the bottom county. I mean, they are moving roughly kind of in pattern together. It would be unusual that we would have one that would just stand out. Anything’s possible, but I think for a local health department to ignore this broad guidance that we’ve given, it would have to be a pretty unique and compelling case.
Next question is from Danny Eldredge at Hannah News Service.
Danny Eldredge: (01:09:39)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:09:40)
Danny Eldredge: (01:09:42)
I was hoping to get your take on the $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief bill. What do you see in that could help Ohio? How will it affect the budget? How could it help with vaccinations, et cetera?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:09:55)
That’s a lot of money. Yeah, that is an awful lot of money. I think everyone, I talked to mayors today, I talked to county commissioners today, I think they’re all going through the process that we’re going through. That is trying to evaluate exactly what buckets that money is in, what we will be allowed to do with it.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:10:17)
I would just say one thing aspirationally at this moment. This is an opportunity for us to fix some long-term challenges that we face. Certainly one of them is the internet and broadband and making sure that every Ohio citizen can fully participate in the economy. That would just be one. I consider that to be infrastructure. I think when you have the opportunity to rebuild your infrastructure or to bring your infrastructure up to where it should be, that if you have the chance to do that and can do that as permissible, that that’s a pretty good use of the money. We are evaluating that now and we’ll have more as we kind of work our way through the bill.
Next question is from Jessie Balmert with the Cincinnati Inquirer.
Jessie Balmert: (01:11:16)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:11:19)
Jessie Balmert: (01:11:19)
I had a question about the new website for scheduling. One of the priorities of this website was to kind of cut down on the number of locations you were going to or websites you had to go to for scheduling. It seems like a lot of the site you still are clicking through to Walgreens or CVS or something like that. Are you hoping to improve that? Why aren’t more of the appointments on this website already?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:11:48)
Yeah, good question. It’s going to get better we think every day. We’ve challenged our providers. We have a lot of providers as we have said, over 1,200. We’ve challenged them to interface with that. I’m told, for example, some of the hospitals it’s going to pay another 10 days for they’ll be able to do that. We’re just encouraging, really, really asking anybody who has the ability to do that so that a person can go on directly and book directly. Now as you have seen, if they can’t do it directly, they at least can then make the leap over to that and work on that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:12:29)
The way the system is designed, I’m not the tech guy, I’ll guarantee you that, but my understanding of the way the system is designed is that when you go on it, what’s going to be up there is places that do in fact have it. There will be a advantage, a competitive advantage, so to speak, for you to be part of that and for your place, your location to come up as a place that actually has the vaccine.
Next question is from Adrienne Robbins at WCMH in Columbus.
Adrienne Robbins: (01:13:05)
Hi, Governor. My question is for you or Dr. Vanderhoff. When you look at the percentage of people who have gotten the vaccine, whether it be in the 75 and up group, we’re sitting around 61%. Are you happy with those numbers or are you concerned about the number of people who have been vaccinated or really have not been vaccinated? Especially when you’re getting calls from healthcare professionals who are saying the vaccine is out there?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:13:31)
Well, that’s a very good question. Look, I look at this, I see it usually by 11:30 or 12 noon every day it comes to me. The first thing I do, I look at the total number of vaccinations the previous day. Then I go right to the age groups. We continue to see these age groups work their way up. What we have seen so far is that as we get lower in the age, it takes longer, longer weeks to move up. It is what it is. I’m not sure I can say I’m happier. I’m not happy about it. It is what it is. We certainly want to get as high number as we can. I don’t have in front of me and maybe you’re looking at it, but I think with 80 year olds, we’re up to about what about 65%, something like that the last I looked. Then you’re seeing everything below then kind of fill in.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:14:43)
The 60 to 64 group seemed, 65 to 69 group, 65 to 69 group seem to be slow, slower. It was slower in moving. It was taking longer to move forward. We’re in a sprint to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can, but we’re also in a marathon in a sense that this won’t be over. We’re going to continue to work on this. We’re working on messaging. We’re working on who the messengers are so that every person has the opportunity to understand what the vaccine does or answer any questions that they might have about it.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:15:34)
I think if you talk to our local health departments and then talk to our team, messaging is important, but our main responsibility is to make sure it’s available. What Fran and I saw this morning, for example, in Montgomery County, it’s just one example of what many counties are doing and trying to reach as many people as they can and to make sure that underserved populations that might not, people who might not have a medical home, for example, those are always people you worry about. If they don’t have a medical home and a place where they normally go, we have to make special effort to reach them.
Next question is from John London at WLWT in Cincinnati.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:16:22)
John London: (01:16:23)
Hi, Governor. There’s still no reliable data on asymptomatic transmission as far as I know. I wonder if it wouldn’t be more prudent to wait for that data before we go in with the CDC guidelines about no restrictions inside if you’re vaccinated. Then would you be open to consider region by region lifting of restrictions or must it be statewide only, [50 out of 100? 01:16:49]
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:16:49)
John, our intention is what I said on Thursday night. That is to go statewide. We think that the state will generally move together. Certainly the counties may be different, but if you can get a trendline that we can take this on an average down to below 50, we think that in every part of the state we’ll be okay to be able to take those guidelines off.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:17:18)
Dr Vanderhoff, do you want to answer John’s question about those who are not showing symptoms? I don’t know if you heard that or not?
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:17:26)
Yes, I did. Thank you, Governor. Yes. First, in terms of transmissibility of the virus when people are asymptomatic, the first thing we need to recognize is that it is understood that this virus is substantially spread from asymptomatic people to other people. I think that actually is fairly well understood.
Dr. Vanderhoff: (01:17:51)
The second point about the virus and its spread though relates to when people are vaccinated. I think the announcement today from the CDC is a signal that the data increasingly points to the efficacy of these vaccines in reducing the risk of transmission after you have been vaccinated. I think it is certainly true that we always have some risk with any vaccine, that there could be some transmission, hence, I think some of the cautions that are contained in their current guidance. But I would actually look at today’s announcement by the CDC as an encouraging sign in terms of growing confidence in the ability of the vaccine to protect us.
Next question is from Jim Otte at WHIO in Dayton.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:18:52)
Jim Otte: (01:18:53)
Hi. Could we return to your announcement Thursday and have you expand on that a little bit, especially when it comes to the 50 per 100,000 cases? How that’s going to work in practical sense? In other words, when that number would be announced or posted on the website so people at home can watch as that changes over the next couple of weeks and what your expectation is, you personally? Are we talking weeks or months before we get to 50?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:19:19)
Well, Jim, we’ll post this every Thursday. Everybody will have the chance to see that number, that statewide number, what it’s doing every Thursday. Our goal, what we hope, of course, is that it continues to go down. What’s in favor of thinking that that will happen is that that’s the trend now, although in other parts of the country we’re seeing trend go in the wrong way, but that the trendline seems to be continuing. We also know that every day in Ohio we are vaccinating thousands and thousands of Ohioans. The more we vaccinate people, the faster we vaccinate people, the more difficult it’s going to be for this virus to jump from one person to another.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:20:06)
If we combine that vaccination with continuing to wear a mask as Ohioans have done, Ohioans have done a phenomenal job, we check this every day and were at about 93% of people in retail establishments in Ohio, for the whole state, 93% are wearing masks, that is phenomenally good. We know that in schools, that it does not spread when people are wearing masks. We know in businesses when everyone is masked, it is not spreading. The vaccine on offense, the mask on defense. With those two tools, we can continue to drive this virus down and make some real progress.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:20:53)
I’m optimistic. I’m always cautiously optimistic, but I’m optimistic about where we’re going. How long that will take, Jim, I really don’t know. I think when Dr. Vanderhoff and I talked, we talked about maybe two months, but I don’t think he knows. I know I don’t know. But, it’s how we execute. We continue to vaccinate as fast as we can. It’s taken a lot of people out there. This is not the Governor doing it. This is a lot of volunteers out there. A lot of great health workers, a lot of people willing to be vaccinated. Ohioans are really coming together in this vaccination process. It’s a wonderful thing, frankly, for Fran and I to behold as we travel around the state. Ohioans are doing a phenomenal job in wearing masks. If we continue to do both of these things, we’re going to get there.
Lt. Governor Husted: (01:21:55)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:21:57)
Lt. Governor Husted: (01:21:57)
Yeah. I would just like to add something to Jim’s questions. Jim, when I watch this, as we all do on the Governor’s team every single day, and if you look at the progress we’ve made just since, I looked at February the 8th, my February 8th report, the high county then was Brown County at 748 cases per 100,000. Now, we’re seeing the high county around, I think it was 264 today, maybe 274 with Washington County. The low county was a Holmes County at 166. That’s the progress that’s occurred in one month. If we can just continue those trends, because look, that’s the month of February.
Lt. Governor Husted: (01:22:40)
In the month of March, we have more vaccines. We’ve accumulated the total of the number of people who’ve had the vaccine. We’re adding an incredible amount of vaccinations in the month of March. The weather also gets warmer, which means maybe people are spending a little more time outside. You get a little better ventilation. All of the numbers, all of the reason to be optimistic that we will continue to make good progress and be in a completely different place a month from now, I think there’s a lot of reason for optimism.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:23:13)
Jim, I’d just had add one additional thing. Our data is always at least a day behind as far as vaccinations, but I can guarantee you that right now over 2 million Ohioans have received their first vaccine and that over a million Ohioans have received their second shot. We have a ways to go, but we’re moving.
The next question is from Laura Hancock at Cleveland.com.
Laura Hancock: (01:23:41)
Hi, Governor. Going back to the unemployment announcement made, you described reviews and recommendations and new partnerships. Have there been any specific actions taking yet to solve the problems? Do you have any concrete results of improvement? Also, what are these new contracts going to cost the state?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:04)
We’ll make that information available. I don’t have that information. I don’t know whether Jeff is still on here or Matt?
Jeff Ficke: (01:24:10)
I am, Governor.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:13)
Jeff, I don’t know whether you heard Laura’s question or not. Were you able to hear it?
Jeff Ficke: (01:24:17)
I was. I was, Governor and thank you. Speaking specifically on actions, there definitely is under fraud space we’ve taken specific actions to engage with the right types of partners. There have actually been very recent signatures have happened on those. On the contract side, there’s been, contracts had been signed with IBM, with Experian that were a long process that we went through to actually have those processed. With regard to the specific costs, I would agree with Governor DeWine. We’ll provide you the information as available.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:24:59)
Jeff, as you look at the next few weeks, can you give us a preview, a little bit more?
Jeff Ficke: (01:25:05)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:25:06)
Some other concrete things we might see.
Jeff Ficke: (01:25:09)
Well, Governor, specifically, I would say around fraud, we expect in the coming weeks to have these systems up and running to put a really strong lock on the front door. That’s not a month. It’s a matter of a couple weeks commitment that we have from our partners to do that.
Jeff Ficke: (01:25:28)
The other thing that we have is very short-term solid deliverables with some of the big data companies that are going to really help us segment out all these claims. It’s differentiating Ohioans from actually the ability to differentiate the fraud and get a lot of that fraud out of there.
Jeff Ficke: (01:25:47)
All three of these pillars we’re working on are very interconnected. If you think about the amount of fraud that gets in that leads to claims that fill the backlog, that leads to phone calls that come through to call centers, it all starts with getting the lock on the front door to minimize those new calls coming through and making sure then that we’re focused on processing the claims that we need to. It all starts with getting the right kind of security at the front end. We’re well on the way to do on that.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:16)
Governor, next question is the last question for today. It belongs to Dan DeRose of WOIO in Cleveland.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:24)
Dan DeRose: (01:26:25)
Hey, Governor. How are you today, sir?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:26:26)
Dan DeRose: (01:26:28)
Good. Hey. I’d like to go back to the centralized sign-up website for the state. A few weeks ago when you announced sort of the plan for this, you said you were going to require that if any of these 1,200 locations are getting it from the state stockpile, that they would be required to fall in line and get onto the centralized website. Can you give us a percentage of how many have signed up now? Are you going to be able to push hard on these so that there is just one place to sign up?
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:27:00)
We’re going to push very, very hard. I can’t give you the number. We’ll give you the number on Thursday. That number is changing as the day goes on, or if our team has that, we’ll have somebody call you and give you that number. Happy to make that available, but I don’t have that number. But, yeah. We’re pushing up. We’re pushing up pretty hard. Yeah, it’s very important.
Speaker 3: (01:27:24)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:27:27)
Last week I talked about the one- year anniversary of the start of our battle against the COVID-19 virus. Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID, which was reported in Cuyahoga County. As we reflect on the lives of our fellow Ohioans that COVID has taken and how the pandemic has challenged us, how the pandemic has changed us, I want to announce that I’m going to issue a proclamation tomorrow that marks March 9th is a date of remembrance in Ohio. We will be lowering the flags across the state of Ohio to honor the lives of all those who have been lost and to honor all those who have been part of this battle and who have worked so very, very hard to save lives. In addition, we’ve started planning for a memorial growth to be in one of our state parks to honor the memory of all those who have died.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:28:34)
I want to close today with a hopeful video, a very hopeful video with several religious leaders from across the state. They talk about how we have fought the virus the Ohio way, the way we always do. How vitally important it is to get across that finish line, finish the race and to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can.
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:29:04)
Eric, let’s take a look.
Pastor John Coats: (01:29:05)
Together, Ohioans are strong.
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:29:07)
Together, we are resilient.
Hodan Mohammed: (01:29:10)
And despite the hardships we have been through in this COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to help each other.
Rabbi Nissim Abrin: (01:29:17)
It’s what Ohioans do.
Hodan Mohammed: (01:29:19)
It’s what we do for our loved ones-
Fr. Eduardo Valezquez: (01:29:20)
Bishop Dr. Larry Macon Sr.: (01:29:22)
Pastor John Coats: (01:29:23)
And even strangers.
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:29:24)
One big way you can continue to help and protect other Ohioans is to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s your turn.
Pastor John Coats: (01:29:34)
Hodan Mohammed: (01:29:34)
Rabbi Nissim Abrin: (01:29:36)
Fr. Eduardo Valezquez: (01:29:40)
I plan to get the vaccine as soon as I can.
Bishop Dr. Larry Macon Sr.: (01:29:40)
I already got the vaccine. I feel good knowing I’m not only protecting myself, but also I am protecting other people too.
Pastor John Coats: (01:29:48)
I can’t wait to get the vaccine when it’s my turn.
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:29:52)
If you’re not sure if the vaccine is right for you, I hope you’ll consider the facts.
Pastor John Coats: (01:29:56)
The COVID-19 vaccines now available are safe and are FDA-approved.
Rabbi Nissim Abrin: (01:30:01)
They have been thoroughly tested on a diverse group of volunteers, including a large number of volunteers from communities of color.
Fr. Eduardo Valezquez: (01:30:09)
The vaccine work.
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:30:11)
The vaccines are free, even if you don’t have insurance.
Rabbi Nissim Abrin: (01:30:15)
You do not have to verify your residency, immigration or citizenship status to get one.
Hodan Mohammed: (01:30:21)
Please learn more-
Fr. Eduardo Valezquez: (01:30:23)
About the facts for yourself.
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:30:25)
Pastor John Coats: (01:30:30)
While more and more Ohioans receive the vaccine every week, we all need to continue to wear a clean mask every day-
Bishop Dr. Larry Macon Sr.: (01:30:37)
Practice social distancing and wash our hands often-
Fr. Eduardo Valezquez: (01:30:41)
Until it’s our turn-
Hodan Mohammed: (01:30:43)
It’s my turn-
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:30:44)
Your turn for the vaccine.
Bishop Dr. Larry Macon Sr.: (01:30:46)
When you do get a vaccine, you are protecting yourself and helping your community on the road back.
Rabbi Nissim Abrin: (01:30:52)
Hodan Mohammed: (01:30:53)
We are strong.
Fr. Eduardo Valezquez: (01:30:55)
We will get through this together.
Rabbi Yael Dadoun: (01:30:55)
Pastor John Coats: (01:30:55)
Rabbi Nissim Abrin: (01:30:55)
Hodan Mohammed: (01:30:55)
Bishop Dr. Larry Macon Sr.: (01:30:55)
Gov. Mike DeWine: (01:31:05)
We want to thank everyone on the video. I hope everyone has a good day. We’ll see you all on Thursday. Thank you very much.