DeWine: Private sector partnership in the works to help with state’s unemployment system

A plan to rollback the state’s curfew restrictions, expediting vaccinations for school staff members, and plans for helping the state’s unemployment system were among the items addressed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during his Tuesday COVID-19 news briefing.

>>RELATED: DeWine sets guidelines to relax statewide curfew as hospitalizations drop

Ohio will begin a week early vaccinating school staff members across the state by giving shots to select districts starting on Thursday, DeWine said. The state had a plan to start providing vaccinations to school staff members who wanted them by Feb. 1. The state will start those vaccinations one week early with Cincinnati Public Schools on Thursday.

Not all school districts will start vaccinations of staff on Feb. 1 due to the still limited number of doses available. However by the end of February, the state hopes to have provided the opportunity for staff members who want a vaccine to receive their first shot.

The state maintains the goal of having all Ohio students in some form of in-person learning by March 1.

>> Key data shows COVID-19 situation improving in Ohio

Additional announcements made during the news conference:

  • DeWine acknowledged continuing, consistent problems with many Ohioans not receiving valid unemployment benefit payments. He again apologized to Ohioans still experiencing issues receiving their benefits.
  • The state will announce in the coming days a partnership with the private sector to address issues with the unemployment system. Additional details about the partnership, and what problems it will address, were not specified. “It is clear to me ... state government needs help from the private sector,” DeWine said.
  • DeWine again cited widespread fraudulent claims that have been filed and the need to double check as part of the reasons for the payment issues. He included that both he and his wife Fran, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted had all been notified that someone fraudulently filed a request for unemployment benefits in their name. Also he cited technical issues and limitations involving the state’s unemployment system.
  • DeWine and Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer, announced the thresholds for the state to decrease and eventually eliminate the 10 p.m. curfew, based on current hospitalization numbers.
  • Possibly as soon as Thursday, if the state remains under 3,500 total hospitalizations, Ohio will roll-back the curfew’s starting time to 11 p.m. for two weeks.
  • After the 11 p.m. curfew is in place, if hospitalizations fall and stay under 3,000 for seven additional days, the curfew will start at midnight for two weeks.
  • If the state falls again to under 2,500 hospitalizations for seven days, the curfew will be lifted entirely.
  • After the first curfew rollback, DeWine would not rule out the possibility of the state just skipping a midnight curfew and eliminating it entirely, if state data shows under 2,500 hospitalizations for seven days.
  • Vanderhoff said the 2,500 number was chosen because it is the average peak in a normal flu season and when resources start to become strained in hospitals.
  • As of Tuesday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health reports 2,964 hospitalizations across the state. For comparison, last Wednesday, Jan. 13, the state reported 3,909 hospitalizations. Yesterday, there were 3,037 hospitalizations.
  • DeWine added that if the hospitalizations begin to increase, the state can and will reverse course.
  • As more variations of the virus are discovered, including a new “Midwest variant” DeWine and state health officials warned it could become the dominant strand of COVID-19 in Ohio.
  • “We must keep practicing safety protocols. Our case numbers are improving because of what you are doing, and what you’re not doing. More people are wearing masks. Please continue wearing masks,” DeWine said.
  • The state will begin to focus on distributing more of its vaccine doses to older Ohioans as the state continues to finish administering doses to those in Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout plan. DeWine said the state is averaging around 146,000 administrations of the vaccine a week, with most of that number going to Phase 1A members. However, because that group is nearing completion, more of the state’s vaccine resources will be devoted to older Ohioans, Phase 1B members.
  • Over the next two weeks, an additional 77,000 doses will be available for the state to administer to older Ohioans, DeWine said.
  • DeWine opened the Tuesday briefing with live vaccinations being administered across the state. The third vaccination was in Dayton, and showcased the partnership between Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Dayton-based Ziks Family Pharmacy at The Mt. Enon Missionary Baptist Church.
  • The first vaccination shown in Tuesday’s news conference was administered at a drive-thru vaccination clinic in Columbus. DeWine said the state will have additional drive-thru sites in the near future.
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