As vaccine efforts continue in Cuyahoga County, new COVID-19 cases drop each week.
During a Feb. 19 Cuyahoga County Board of Health press briefing, Commissioner Terry Allan announced that 136,800 county residents, or 11.1% of the county's population, have started the vaccine process. Over 51,200 residents, or 4.07% of the county population, have completed the vaccine process.
Allan attributed the stream of vaccinations and followed safety protocols to the county's consistently dropping COVID-19 cases, as CCBH reported another drop in new daily case averages from 234 cases two weeks ago to 183 this past week.
"I'm happy to report that COVID-19 cases continue to drop in our community, and clearly the masking, the social distancing, remote work, avoiding large gatherings, case investigations, contract tracing, suppression of disease clusters and vaccination have all played a part in this great news," Allan said. "...Our vigilance is clearly paying off."
CCBH has used nearly all of its designated doses for the phase 1A group, and by Feb. 21, the health department will have vaccinated over 10,200 people and utilized over 75% of its 1A vaccines. Starting next week, Allan said that CCBH will transition to vaccinating both 1A and 1B groups and will first target those needing second doses in the 1A group and those 80 and older in 1B.
The county saw an increase in reported deaths from 48 deaths last week to 59 this week. Allan attributed this increased statistic to "lag from the adjustments at the state health department on fatalities."
Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio Director of Operations and Development Jennifer Dodd announced that the ESC started a vaccination clinic Feb. 10 to inoculate 23,000 total educators in 250 different school entities in the county. This clinic will perform the first dose until Feb. 24, then administer second dose vaccinations March 3 through March 17.
These local school entities consist of most Cuyahoga County public schools and some nonpublic, as school entities had a choice to either be vaccinated through ESC working with CCBH or the Cleveland Department of Health.
The state has seen a delay in its received shipment of vaccines due to recent snow storms, Allan said. Allan shared that the county "will be fine," as CCBH's delayed shipment will arrive next week along with that week's shipment of 2,000 to 3,000 doses.
Ohio counties are experiencing a COVID-19 vaccine shortage, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said. Budish explained that counties' vaccines are limited by supply and the state's decisions as to how and where to distribute them.
The percentage of vaccines being administered to minority populations continues to be "way too low," Budish said. To combat this vaccine disparity, Budish announced that he and Hamilton and Franklin counties have partnered together and put together a formal request to be sent to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asking for at least 20% of the state's COVID-19 vaccines be given to minorities.
To boost vaccine efficacy views in minority populations, the Ohio Department of Health will be hosting virtual townhall meetings where health officials will lead discussions and provide information about the vaccine. These townhall meetings will be streamed on ODH's Facebook and YouTube pages. More information is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov/townhall.
Allan also echoed announcements DeWine made in a previous press conference that a number of health conditions have been added to the prerequisites for the 1B group. These health conditions include sickle cell anemia; down syndrome; cystic fibrosis; muscular dystrophy; cerebral palsy; spina bifida; people born with severe heart defects requiring regular specialized medical care; people with severe type 1 diabetes who have been hospitalized for this in the past year; Phenylketonuria, Tay-Sachs and other rare, inherited metabolic disorders; epilepsy with continuing seizures, hydrocephaly, microcephaly and other severe neurological disorders; Turner syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and other severe genetic disorders; people with severe asthma, who have been hospitalized for this in the past year; alpha and beta thalassemia; and solid organ transplant candidates and recipients.
Hospitals are being encouraged to reach out to patients who have been hospitalized for these added conditions in the past year to schedule a vaccine, as they are at a higher risk for adverse outcomes due to COVID-19.
Cuyahoga residents must schedule vaccines through one of the 80 providers in the county, and the list of providers can be accessed at ccbh.net.
Allan pushed for county residents to continue following safety protocols, especially due to the COVID-19 variant strains that have been recorded in Ohio.
"Amid this promising news, we need to remember that Cuyahoga County is still 2.5 times the CDC threshold for high transmission and remains at level three, or red, in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System indicating a high risk for transmission," Allan said. "What we have to watch now are these variant strains that are emerging. We're very concerned about that."