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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Cuyahoga County Expecting Shipments of Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine

an image of Ohio's vaccine distribution plan
Cuyahoga County Board of Health
Romona Brazile, co-director of prevention and wellness at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, explains the priority groups in Ohio's Phase 1A of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in a virtual press conference Dec. 18, 2020. The county's health board expects to begin vaccinating some emergency medical services workers and residents and staff in congregate settings next week.

Cuyahoga County’s health board is expected to begin administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 21, to emergency medical services (EMS) responders, as well as residents and staff of group homes, health officials said in a press conference Friday.

County Executive Armond Budish also announced that the county stay-at-home advisory that was initially set to expire Dec. 17 has been extended through Jan. 15, 2021.

The advisory asks residents to only leave homes for essential trips and supplies, such as groceries.

The Food and Drug Administration formally authorized the Moderna vaccine for emergency use Friday, clearing the way for it to be shipped out to states.

Ohio is expected to receive 200,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine, which will then be divided among 108 local health departments and 98 hospitals, said Health Commissioner Terry Allan. It is not known yet how many doses of the vaccine will be distributed to Cuyahoga County, he said.

Although most of the county’s nursing homes have signed up to receive vaccinations through a national partnership with drug stores like CVS and Walgreens, the county health board will also vaccinate residents and staff in some long-term care facilities like nursing homes, said Romona Brazile, the county's co-director of prevention and wellness.

People will be able to get vaccinated at drive-thru clinics held at the board of health's headquarters in Parma, or other community centers, Allan said. In some cases, health officials may have to travel to congregate settings to administer the shots to those who are eligible, he said.

“[The individual] may have a developmental disability or some other reason or purpose where we need to come to them, so we’re looking at a bunch of different approaches, but we would see both drive-thru settings that we’re looking at, as well as some mobile teams,” he said.

The board of health set up community vaccination clinics in schools and gyms during the H1N1 flu pandemic, Allan said. He did not say whether schools would be used as potential sites for COVID-19 vaccinations.

In a press briefing at a Parma nursing home Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine said the Moderna vaccine may arrive as soon as Monday or Tuesday in Ohio, and more shipments from Pfizer are expected as well.

“For the first few weeks at least, 70 percent of that will go to our hospitals, 30 percent of that will go to our local health departments,” DeWine said. “So, next week you're going to see in Cuyahoga County and in other counties across the state the health departments starting to get the vaccine.”

Moderna would be the second company to receive approval to distribute its COVID-19 vaccine from the FDA. The first, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, received authorization Dec. 11.

Brazile encouraged everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to the general public but recognized some people, such as African-Americans, may be hesitant to get it.

“I understand, of course, the fear and skepticism … and that is rooted in history and lived experience, and that can’t be denied,” she said.

Brazile's friends and family members have asked her whether she thinks they should get the vaccine, she said.

“The vaccine is part of our way out of this, so my answer is yes,” she said.

Cuyahoga County remains in the level 3, or "red" category, threat level in the state’s public health advisory system, indicating continued high exposure and spread.

Because of this, county officials extended the stay-at-home advisory through Jan. 15, 2021, said Budish. 

The 28-day advisory was issued jointly with the City of Cleveland. People will not be penalized for not following the advisory, he said.

The county averaged 760 new COVID-19 cases per day last week – nearly 1,000 per day if the City of Cleveland’s numbers are included, Allan said.

The testing positivity rate, which measures the rate of how many total COVID-19 tests come back positive, has continued to increase “at an alarming rate,” Allan added.

The positivity rate for the week of Dec. 7 was 22.7 percent, according to county data. Any percentage above five percent is a concern, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Area hospital officials continue to be concerned about bed and staffing shortages, Allan added.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions have slightly decreased since the end of November, but ventilator usage has increased since last month to around 46 percent, according to county data.

Health officials are discouraging residents from gathering with extended family and friends during the holidays to combat this high spread and exposure, Allan said.

State health officials have warned that anyone under 40, who gather with people over the holidays, will likely be infected with COVID-19, Allan said. Officials also recommend people over 65 not go anywhere indoors where people will not be wearing masks, and ask family members to assist with getting groceries and other essential supplies, due to an expected surge in cases over the next few months, he said.

Older individuals and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk of contracting severe cases of the coronavirus, Allan added.

Budish also announced thousands of dollars in new funding available to aid restaurants, as well as arts and culture programs in the area, in response to financial hits these organizations have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll be reaching out to the original round of applicants, and providing grants to organizations and individuals who did not originally receive grants,” he said.

Some 140 restaurants initially received financial help through these grants, and the new funding will go to an extra 48 restaurants who applied.

The funds were secured through the county’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) money sent to states by the federal government.
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