SCIOTO — A flicker of light can perhaps be seen at the end of a months-long tunnel in the county’s battle against the coronavirus.
The virus, which has taken the lives of 39 Scioto residents and caused economic and mental health distress, has possibly met its match with the arrival of vaccines starting next week. According to a release from the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency on Friday, that day could come as early as Monday, Dec. 21.
Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith, returning from military service, filled-in Portsmouth City Council on the latest of getting the vaccines to the area.
“I thought by the time I got back, it would be all over, but actually, the second half is probably just getting started,” he said to kick-off the Dec. 14 session.
In total, the Portsmouth City and Scioto County Health Departments will each receive approximately 500 Moderna vaccines in addition to allotments to area hospitals. These vaccines will first be distributed to frontline medical and public health workers and emergency medical responders before widespread public availability.
Corporate pharmacy offices for CVS or Walgreen’s will take care of long-term care facilities, Smith said, where the virus has spread considerably according to Ohio Department of Health data.
As of Dec. 16, 471 cumulative cases among residents and staff have been recorded in the county’s 18 facilities where the Best Care Nursing Home in Wheelersburg leads the way with 132 total. In terms of cases recorded this week, Rosemount Pavilion’s 51 cases were by far the highest, bringing their number of cases reported since Apr. 15 to 66.
Of Ohio’s 3,992 deaths at these facilities, Scioto County has nine.
The Moderna vaccine, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been distributed to 10 hospitals throughout the state, does not require sub-zero freezing temperatures and is awaiting approval from the FDA. The Southern Ohio Medical Center is prepared to store Pfizer’s, however, said PCHD Administrator Belinda Leslie, who now has an ultra-cold storage unit at its facilities.
With this promising news, Smith still says it will take until next June for everyone who wants a vaccine to have that opportunity. In order for a return to normal, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC reporter Meg Tirrell on Wednesday that 75% to 85% of the population would need to be injected.
“We’re not looking at something that will be done in a couple weeks or a month,” he said. “We have to continue our social distancing, wearing masks, and continue to do that throughout the vaccination process.”
Keeping an eye on PCHD and the city’s handling of the pandemic during his time away, Smith said the embracing of public health guidelines and the mask ordinance were strong decisions that saved lives.
“It’s not been perfect,” he said to Council. “But you guys slowed it enough that our hospitals didn’t get overloaded. We didn’t have people that were turned away.”
According to the latest figures from SOMC, the hospital averaged slightly more than 32 COVID hospitalizations last week, which has raised fairly steadily since September.
Smith asks for the public to be patient as new information comes through constantly and to have trust in PCHD’s preparation in the roll-out. The department, he says, has been practicing with dry-runs on vaccinations since 9/11.
Reach Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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