By Melody Vallieu
PIQUA — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine visited a Saturday morning COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Mote Park to personally thank residents for helping Ohio get to the finish line of the pandemic.
DeWine said Miami County is on track with the state with about 25 percent of residents vaccinated, where the state overall is at about 26 percent. DeWine said two-thirds of those 70 or older in Miami County have been vaccinated and praised the team at Miami County Public Health and its volunteers, as well as county and city leaders, for the county’s success so far.
The First Lady of Ohio, Fran DeWine, accompanied her husband, greeting visitors to the Mote Park building and passing out a “double batch” of homemade Fran’s Buckeye Brownies she said she makes for such visits.
DeWine said there is a focus on quickly getting Ohio residents vaccinated as expanding variants of COVID-19 have been found in Michigan and West Virginia. He said Ohio’s infection numbers have plateaued and Friday saw the highest number of cases in a month.
“It’s a real race between getting people vaccinated and this variant expanding in Ohio,” DeWine said.
DeWine said residents have two tools — masks and vaccinations.
“We have our masks and we really need to keep wearing our masks in Ohio, that’s a real defense, and the offense … it’s always really good to be on offense, is the vaccine,” DeWine said. “We feel good about where we are, but we’ve certainly got more work to do.”
City of Piqua Mayor Kris Lee said Saturday’s vaccination clinic was the third at the location, and said he works at a school and has been vaccinated.
“I encourage everybody to do it as soon as you’re able to do it,” Lee said.
“The mayor is leading by example,” DeWine said.
Miami County Commissioner Greg Simmons said he also has been vaccinated without any side effects and encourages others to follow suit.
“I would encourage everyone to get their shots as well,” said Simmons, who said he grew up about three blocks from the Gordon Street location.
DeWine said while the state continues to run TV and radio ads promoting the vaccine, word of mouth among family and friends is helping most, he believes.
“Human nature is we listen to the people we love. We listen to people we are close to. We listen to our family and our friends. So there is nothing really magical about this, it is just a process that has to take place,” DeWine said. “A lot of (those being vaccinated) are there because a family member already got it and it worked out fine. We’ve had a number of people say they are the last member of their family to get it, ‘they talked me into getting it, and now I’m here,’ or just the reverse, ‘I’m the first member of my family to get it and I’m going to go back home and tell everyone to get it.’”
Regarding public activities resuming, DeWine said Ohioans can look forward to again attending events such as festivals and fairs.
“Summer is going to be a lot better, spring is going to be a lot better,” DeWine said. “For now, as long as this virus is still around, we’re going to have to wear masks when we go to events, but there’s really going to be very little this summer that people cannot do.”
DeWine said the vaccination represents newfound freedom for residents.
“So this is going to be a very different summer than last summer. I would just say that after talking to a number of people who are getting their vaccinations, they look at this shot, or shots, as their ticket to freedom.
“They look at that as this is the way I’m going to get out. I’m going to go see my grandchildren. I’m going to go see my mom. I’m going to go see a baseball game. Whatever their passions are in life, the vaccine gives them the ability to do that.”
DeWine said they are working to get the vaccine to people, especially the elderly that may not be able to leave their homes, by bringing the vaccine to them when possible. The governor said he will soon also announce details on the state working with businesses, colleges and universities to help get people vaccinated.
“We’ve had a number of our businesses that have told us, ‘we would love to vaccinate people right in our workplace,’” said DeWine, who then visited the Shared Harvest food distribution taking place at Upper Valley Career Center.
Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes said between Saturday’s clinics and others scheduled this week, it will be the biggest week of vaccinations so far in the county, with about 2,000 total vaccinations, both first and second doses, having been administered to residents.
“Like the governor said, we are at about 25%, so we still have a long way to get to that herd immunity, at 75 to 80%, and we’re going to be working all along to make sure we get there,” Propes said.
DeWine said as of Friday, 3.1 million people have been vaccinated in Ohio — but with millions to go before the state makes a touchdown where the pandemic is concerned.
“We’re driving on Michigan, or Wisconsin, or whoever you want to say. We’re down to the 4-yard line and were almost ready to score, but we can’t stop,” he said. “We don’t walk off the field and say, ‘oh well, we did real well.’ We gotta go score the touchdown. The way we’re going to score a touchdown is to keep masks on and continue to get shots. We’re moving.”