COVID-19 milestone: Ohio vaccinations surpass cases, plus funeral workers want priority

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 8:05 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Ohio reached a promising milestone on Wednesday.

The number of COVID-19 vaccinations has surpassed the number of confirmed and probable Covid-19 infections statewide since the pandemic started.

At the same time, our state’s “last responders” are issuing an urgent plea for help.

The Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland crunched the data.

Their interactive chart shows the number of COVID-19 cases grew steadily from about 600,000 in mid-December to about 906,727 current cases.

In the meantime, the number of vaccinations during this time has gone up substantially, hitting about 908,096 Wednesday.

Only about 7.7% of Ohio’s total population has received at least the first shot of the vaccine so far, which is slightly below the national average.

Ohio ranks 38th out of 50 states in terms of vaccination coverage.

The number of vaccines has surpassed total cases of Covid-19 in Ohio.
The number of vaccines has surpassed total cases of Covid-19 in Ohio.(The Center for Community Solutions)

Funeral workers want priority for vaccine

Ohio’s “last responders” are calling on the governor to add them to the vaccine priority list.

Funeral workers say they’ve been overwhelmed since COVID-19 hit.

More than 11,000 Ohioans have died of COVID-19 and thousands of families have been left grieving.

Funeral workers are often working weeks straight through without breaks to bury their loved ones.

We are at a breaking point. We have members that are completely overwhelmed. They need to have this vaccine in order to continue serving families in their communities,” said Melissa Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association.

They’ve been fighting for more than 3,000 of Ohio’s funeral workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

They asked for help from Gov. DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health last year, and they recently sent the governor a letter too.

“They absolutely are at risk. They put themselves in harm’s way every single day, multiple times a day. So when a funeral director is called to pick up a decedent at a hospital, they have to go into that facility, navigate through the hallways, up to a COVID floor and transfer that decedent into their care,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said they’re already strained, serving up to twice as many families.

And more and more workers are out with the virus or quarantined.

“There is such a small population of death care workers in Ohio,” she said.

Sullivan said dozens of other states have started vaccinating death care workers, and 38 states placed them in group 1B or higher.

They’ve reached out to national organizations for help, looking for volunteers from other states who have been vaccinated to come to Ohio because there aren’t enough workers.

The hard, grueling work continues as they wait to find out when they can get the vaccine.

“Funeral workers are amazing people. They are so committed to this, I won’t even say profession—to this role. It’s almost an oath to the community,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she was really encouraged when Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged death care workers last week. But she said they haven’t heard anything more.

We’re still waiting for a response from the governor’s office.

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