LIMA — Nearly 500 Allen County residents on Thursday received a COVID-19 shot, far exceeding the 11 new coronavirus cases reported that day.
It’s a trend that has been evident for the past several weeks, as more than 15% of Allen County’s population has had at least one dose of vaccine since December.
Declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, attributed in part to the increasing number of Ohioans vaccinated against the disease, suggests that the end of the pandemic is fast approaching.
But it also raises the question: When is it safe to do away with public health orders that have dictated how people live and businesses have operated for the past year?
Gov. Mike DeWine attempted to answer that question, announcing on Thursday that Ohio’s public health orders will be rescinded as soon as the state sees the average number of coronavirus cases fall below 50 per 100,000 people over a two-week period, a metric the Ohio Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have used to track communities with high incidence of COVID-19.
Already, Allen County has seen its incidence of COVID-19 drop from more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day period to 94.77 per 100,000 on Thursday, improving the county’s status under Ohio’s public health advisory system from red (Level 3) to orange (Level 2) this week.
“It does appear that the strategy that the state employed with who was able to get the vaccine first has worked,” said Tami Gough, public information officer for Allen County Public Health.
Auglaize County is at 87.61 new cases per capita, according to ODH. Hardin County is still above 100, at 168.98 new cases per 100,000 population. Putnam County is also higher than 100, at 112.22 new cases per capita in the past two weeks, and Van Wert County is at 123.78 new cases per capita in the past two weeks.
Fewer nursing home residents and other elderly residents are arriving at hospitals with COVID-19, Gough said. And the overall number of cases has declined dramatically since last fall’s surge.
But Gough and others in public health warn that the downward trend in cases could reverse, despite rising vaccination rates if people stop wearing masks and social distancing too soon.
“They’ve gotten us through quite a bit to this point,” said Oliver Fisher, Auglaize County’s health commissioner.
Even with vaccinations accelerating, Fisher said it’s important for the public to continue practicing those protocols until enough people within the community have been immunized against the virus. Once that happens, he said, people can relax a bit and regain a sense of normalcy.