COLUMBUS — Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff addressed the topic of COVID-19 variants during Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Thursday briefing.
Vanderhoff said these variants can be deadly and spread quickly, but getting vaccinated and wearing a mask remain the best ways to fight off those variants.
“It is clear that Ohio and the nation are enduring another wave of COVID-19,” said Vanderhoff. “This time it is being driven by new variants of the original virus. The variants are more contagious and more deadly.
“Our variant counts jumped from 92 on March 12 to 797 today,” DeWine said. “That’s a doubling time of about every 9-10 days. Ohio remains in a very important race against the virus and its variants.
“We can win the race if we continue to press on with consistent masking and getting the vaccine,” DeWine added.
Getting more shots
About one-third of eligible Ohioans have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, stated Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine at his Thursday briefing. He stressed three ways that the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations can continue to increase.
• “Beginning Monday, vaccine providers may partner with other organizations, such as employers, labor unions, churches, etc., to hold closed-pod vaccination clinics with these organizations,” he said.
• “We continue to encourage employers and other organizations to reach out to their local health departments and vaccine providers to set up these vaccination clinics. Vaccine providers and local health departments should also be proactive in contacting local employers as well,” said DeWine.
• “Similarly, I continue to encourage health departments to reach out to local high schools to help set up vaccinations for eligible students who want to be vaccinated,” he said. “This week we also began providing vaccines to providers that are partnering with colleges/universities.
DeWine announced Thursday he is recommending to the General Assembly “that we use a portion of our federal COVID relief and recovery dollars to pay off the Unemployment Insurance loan owed to the federal government.
“This loan was caused by the global pandemic,” said DeWine. “Paying this off now will free Ohio employers from this burden so they can instead focus on getting employees across our state back to work. This will help small businesses across our state and their employees.
He added, “Our state revenues are recovering as well. This month, Ohio’s tax revenues exceeded the monthly estimate by $41 million, or 2.6%, and remain 4.3% above the estimate for the fiscal year-to-date. This is a dramatic improvement from one year ago at the onset of the pandemic.
“And using federal dollars strategically to shore up our unemployment system – along with long-term actions to stabilize that system – will continue our strong year of recovery.”
Of the 44,985 initial jobless claims reported this week by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, about 3,700 have been flagged for potential fraud.
Anyone who suspects their identity was compromised and used to file a fraudulent unemployment claim is urged to report it to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) immediately by visiting unemployment.ohio.gov, clicking on “Report Identity Theft,” and following the instructions. As an alternative, individuals also may call (833) 658-0394.
Ohioans filed 283,201 continued jobless claims last week — 493,101 fewer than, or about 36% of – the peak last year. That includes both traditional unemployment claims and claims for extended benefits.