Ohio Chief Medical Officer Says Coronavirus Variants Driving New Wave: Reporters Roundtable

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Variants of the coronavirus are rapidly becoming the dominant form on infection in Ohio, according to Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the state's chief medical officer. Vanderhoff says Ohio and the nation are seeing "another wave" of the coronavirus.  But, this time, the variants are more numerous than the original virus.  Vanderhoff says the B-117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom makes up the "lion's share" of cases here in Ohio.

The governor says that now one-third of Ohioans have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. He framed this stage of the pandemic as a life or death race with vaccinations seen as the key to heading off this current spike and future mutations.

The decision whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine has been left to personal choice in Ohio. The governor has said that he does not intend to make the vaccine mandatory. Still Ohio lawmakers are pre-emptively seeking to protect those who choose not to get vaccinated. House Bill 248 would allow a person to decline the COVID-19 vaccine or any other vaccine and prevent those making the choice from facing discrimination or being required to follow additional protocols.

Earlier this week, Governor DeWine sought to simplify existing health orders regarding mass gatherings to make it easier for people to make plans for spring and summer events.  In reissuing a simplified order the governor said he wanted to remove confusion. But, at the core of the simplified health order DeWine says is a focus on the basics of masking, hygiene and social distancing.

Ohio law no longer requires a person to "retreat" before resorting to the use of deadly force for self-defense. The state's new so-called "stand your ground law" went into effect on Tuesday. Supporters say it gives more legal protections for those caught in life-threatening situations. Opponents say the new law will diminish the safety of people of color and lead to more gun-violence and deaths.  

Before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic in March of 2020, we were already several years into the public health crisis created by opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
This week, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Gilson, issued a public health alert stating that Cuyahoga County saw at least 69 suspected overdose deaths in March. This puts the county on a pace to eclipse the 727 overdose deaths recorded in 2017.

The Cleveland mayoral race will be decided this year. It is expectedt to be a crowded race for mayor and yesterday---City Council President Kevin Kelley announced his intent to run. The move had long been expected.         Kelley joins Zack Reed and Justin Bibb as declared candidates--although others are expected to follow.
 

Guests: 

Lisa Ryan, Health Reporter/Producer, Ideastream
Andy Chow, Reporter, Statehouse News Bureau, Ohio Public Radio/TV
Ken Schneck, Editor, The Buckeye Flame

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