It was a memorable Monday afternoon, March 29 at the Vinton County Health Department (VCHD) as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine came calling.

The Vinton County stop was part of the governor’s statewide tour to visit and personally thank local public health departments for their service and dedication over the past year during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. He had made similar visits earlier in the day to Morgan and Monroe counties and noted he had made visits to 18 counties in the past several weeks.

“We are trying to get out to the counties to talk to people -- but mostly to listen in regard to what’s going on as far as the vaccine rollout is concerned.”

The governor took the stand in front of a large contingent of media with state, regional, and local media members present. The local welcoming committee was led by VCHD Administrator Janelle McManis and other members of her staff. The Vinton County Commissioners were also in attendance along with other local officials.

As he began speaking, the Governor noted it has been a tough year to be involved in public issues.
“The year 2020 was tough," said the Governor. “I want to thank all the health departments for what they have done. It's not the time for Ohioans to let their guard down, we are moving down the field, like the Ohio State football team does  -- toward lifting public health orders.”

Then the governor offered a mixed message in how things stand in what is now more than a yearlong battle against COVID-19.

While COVID-19 case numbers have been trending down in the past month or so, DeWine also noted there is new statistical evidence that the pandemic is not over. “The truth is that this virus is everywhere” the governor warned.

“In our cases in Ohio, we have seen those cases now plateau out – and they’re going up,” the governor noted. “Now, they’re not going up a lot, not by a great rate, but it looks like they’re starting up.”

The governor reported the state is making a concerted effort to get vaccines to all regions, especially to the rural counties. Part of his concern regarding small counties are transportation issues as some residents may have problems getting to vaccine clinics. DeWine says this is one of the issues his administration is currently addressing.

“We will continue to be focused on making sure that every Ohioan who wants the vaccine has the ability to get the vaccine,” DeWine declared. “My message today is very simple: We’re in a race and we need to win the race. And the way we win the race is for every Ohioan to get vaccinated.” He reported that 27 percent of Ohioans have had at least the first dose of the vaccine and that’s it’s important to push the vaccination programs at the state and local levels.

McManis also shared thoughts about the governor's visit. She stated for a small county, the office has 42 employees and has stayed very busy. The administrator stated she and the staff were honored to have the governor visit and take a personal interest in health-related matters. She reported VCHD provides approximately 200 vaccinations per week, spaced out during the week with all the work taking place at the Health Department building and carried out by the VCHD staff.

In other matters, the governor took time to congratulate the Vinton County Lady Vikings basketball team for being runners-up in the Division II Girls State Basketball Tournament and thanked the local citizens for their hospitality. The First Lady also reminded everyone about the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library they have for children and how it is available in all 88 Ohio counties.

In a separate discussion with the Vinton County Commissioners, Governor DeWine also heard about the need for public water lines in the Garrett Ridge area in western Vinton County.