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COVID-19 surges in Ohio as vaccine distribution continues

Gov. Mike DeWine says more vaccines will arrive in the state in the coming days.

CLEVELAND — The coronavirus continues to take Ohio by storm with cases remaining high across the state. Last week, five counties in Ohio were labeled with a Level 4 'purple' coronavirus (COVID-19) risk level according to the state's Public Health Advisory System. 

But while, as of Thursday, only one county -- Richland County -- in the state still carries that designation, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine warned that there's currently only so much you can read into the state's system.

"What we really need to see is a drop in the number of cases, we've really got to see those cases go down,” DeWine said Thursday.

According to Gov. DeWine, because the Ohio Public Health Advisory system is based on trends, that means that a country dropping from Level 4 "purple" to Level 3 "red" doesn't necessarily indicate that its coronavirus numbers have improved. Rather, a county could drop levels by seeing its numbers plateau or by not increasing enough to maintain the Level 4 "purple" designation.

To further illustrate his point, Gov. DeWine noted that every county in the state's coronavirus numbers are currently at least three times the number that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers to be "high incidence." The 20 counties in the state with the highest occurrence are currently 9-13 times higher than what the CDC currently considers to be "high incidence."

It's all the more reason why Dr. Joseph Khabbaza of the Cleveland Clinic rolled up his sleeve to get the vaccine. Dr. Khabbaza spends his days saving lives in the intensive care unit.

“I would be the first one in the world if I had the opportunity to,” said Dr. Khabbazs. "I couldn't even sleep the night before from how excited I was…which is kind of weird, I wasn't expecting that."

Dr. Khabbaza has seen the coronavirus ravage so many patients and his loved ones for nine months. After his vaccination, he says his only side effect is soreness of his arm.

"I wasn't able to sleep on my left side just like after the flu shot but that's it,” said Dr. Khabbaza.

He sees the isolation, the pain, and the suffering of patients on a daily basis and he says it’s been an emotional journey.

"I don't think I've realized how much I've been minimizing concerns of catching the virus myself or bringing it home to my family and feeling that weight and layer lifted off of me is going to make the hard work still ahead just a little bit lighter." said Dr. Khabbaza. "I was not expecting the emotions that I've been experiencing in the last few weeks."

DeWine says more vaccines will be here within the coming days.

"Next week we will see many many hospitals we hope get the vaccine. The Moderna vaccine will be going out to them,” he said. "We have lost a large number of people in nursing homes and we can't wait to get as many vaccinated as quickly as we can.”

On Friday, 10 Ohio nursing homes will be among the first in the nation to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The distribution to the small group of facilities part of a federal program to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff. They will receive the vaccines through Walgreen's, CVS, PharmScript and Absolute Pharmacy.

Health care workers at several hospitals in the state, including the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospitals, received their first doses of the vaccine this week. The state’s plan isn’t fully finalized on who specifically is next in line.

You can watch Gov. DeWine's Thursday COVID-19 briefing below:

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