Vaccine task force convenes in county
LISBON — As Columbiana County remains level two orange on the Public Health Advisory System, the county health department and others are gearing up to provide the anticipated vaccine, make certain everyone gets a chance to vote who wants to vote and continue going to school and work.
On Thursday, Health Commissioner Wes Vins said they just held their first meeting of the COVID-19 mass vaccinations task force. Those in the group are looking at the ways vaccines will be delivered when they arrive including storage capabilities, locations and partnerships with businesses and health care providers, long-term care facilities and pharmacies.
Additionally, the group is looking at the plans, which were already developed in the past for the H1N1 and Ebola outbreaks. Although the plans they are currently putting together will be a fluid, working document, Vins said he feels the procedures are ready.
“I think we’re in a good spot, a very good spot,” Vins said. “I think right now all I need is the vaccine. If they give us the vaccine, we’re ready to go.”
There have been predictions a vaccine could be ready as early as sometime in November.
Before that happens, there will be a general election and both the health department and the board of elections want everyone to have a chance to vote. Vins said the board of elections should be commended for all the hard work they have put into making plans to accommodate voters, including those who have COVID-19 concerns.
Public information officer Laura Fauss said for those concerned about being exposed due to waiting in line with other voters, she wants to encourage them to use an alternative method. One is requesting an absentee ballot by mail, which voters are allowed to do in Ohio up until noon on Saturday, Oct. 31. However she notes election official encourage everyone to request the ballot no later than a week before the election, which would be Tuesday, Oct. 27. Besides returning the absentee vote by mail with Nov. 2 or earlier postmark, a voter can also drop it off at the drop box located outside the board of elections office on Dickey Drive, Lisbon, up until 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Additionally, there is the drive-up, curbside voting method. Fauss said the election poll workers have plenty of personal protective equipment to protect them, so those experiencing any symptoms or currently self-isolating or quarantining are strongly being encouraged to vote curbside. Fauss said a bipartisan team of election officials will come to the vehicle, provide the ballot and allow it to be privately cast, even on election day at the polling locations throughout the county.
Finally, even a hospitalized COVID-19 patient or the parent of a hospitalized child can vote. In a medical emergency that occurs after the absentee voting by mail deadline at noon on Oct. 31. Such a voter can apply to until 3 p.m. on election day by providing required voting information, along with information about the admission to the hospital, including the date. The absentee ballot can be returned through a family member or board of elections employees or mailed if the hospitalization is outside the county.
Currently, county residents are already lining up for early voting. As of late Thursday afternoon more than 4,100 have already cast their ballot prior to the election, including 420 on the busiest day yet on Wednesday.
Vins said while there have been some cases at local schools, the students, administration and staff continue to do a good job, cleaning, providing distancing and communicating both within the school and with other sports teams. Vins said the coaches, teachers and administrators are doing a good job showing the children how to responsibly handle the pandemic and minimize risks.
While students have been placed in quarantine after being identified as a close contact of a student, so far there have been no cases attributed to a student having coronavirus at school. In many cases, the coronavirus positive student can be traced directly to an adult in the family, a sibling or a family event or gathering such as a backyard get together, a wedding or a funeral.
Cases of coronavirus are rising in the general community, but not in the congregate settings, which include the FCI-Elkton prison and the long term care facilities. Fauss said the number of cases in the general community have now matched the 959 cases at the prison. There have been 208 cases in long-term care facilities, bringing the county’s total to 2,126 cases.