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Athens City-County Health Department

The Athens City-County Health Department. File art.

By Sydney Dawes

Athens NEWS Editor

Ohioans who are 16 years and older can schedule a COVID-19 vaccination in places where they are struggling to fill appointment slots, the Governor’s Office announced.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine previously announced that those aged 16 and older would become eligible for the vaccine beginning March 29. Currently, those age 40 and older are eligible to receive a dose of the vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses, is available for people 16 years of age and older. Johnson and Johnson, a one-dose vaccine, and the two-dose Moderna vaccine can be administered to anyone over the age of 18, according to the Athens City-County Health Department.

To make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, visit gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.

DeWine also announced Monday that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will issue an updated order related to assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

The general visitation requirements will remain the same, including the requirement that visitors schedule appointments in advance, are screened at the door, and wear masks. Changes to the order include:

Ohio is requiring that visitation be permitted whenever safety protocols can be met. Previously, visitation was permitted, not required.

Vaccinated residents may have physical touch with their visitor while wearing a mask. Previously, touch was discouraged.

Visits may occur in a resident’s private room, as opposed to the previous requirement of a separate visitation area

The minimum amount of time for a visit should be 30 minutes. Previously, 30 minutes was the maximum time to visit.

The order will expand the circumstances in which compassionate care visits should be granted, a Governor’s Office press release stated. In addition, the order will update nursing home and assisted living testing requirements to require the facilities to test vaccinated staff once per week and unvaccinated staff twice per week.

The previous order made no distinction between vaccinated or unvaccinated staff.

“We must continue regularly testing for the virus,” DeWine said in a press release. “It’s just good science, and it will help us identify cases early and prevent the spread. Further, if COVID is controlled, that means less disruption to visitation.”

Certain circumstances, such as a facility outbreak, may necessitate that visitation be restricted on a case-by-case basis. Nursing homes must also continue following federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the press release stated.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 4,764 cases have been reported in Athens County, with 107 active cases according to the Athens City-County Health Department. In addition, 52 COVID-19 deaths have been reported as of Tuesday.

According to ODH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 14,077 people in Athens County have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (roughly 21.5 percent of the county’s population).

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