PARMA, Ohio — Calling it the day he's waited for since the coronavirus pandemic began, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine watched a livestream of residents and workers at a Parma nursing home receive some of the state's first COVID-19 vaccines.
Pleasantview Care Center on Ridge Road was one of 10 Ohio nursing homes that received the first round of what DeWine hopes will be a steady rollout in the weeks and months to come.
"The good news for people in nursing homes, today we start," said DeWine. "It’s also great news for families that have a loved one in a nursing home."
Nursing homes in Ohio have been hit hard by the virus.
Since April 15, the state numbers show more than 58,000 residents and staff contracted coronavirus.
COVID-19 is blamed for nearly 4,000 deaths in congregate living facilities and nursing homes statewide.
It's why the state included the facilities in its first tier of vaccine distribution, along with medical providers and first responders.
Parma's mayor called the vaccines signs of hope.
"In a baseball analogy, I think we're rounding second and heading for home, which is great," said Mayor Tim DeGeeter.
Over the next three to four weeks, the governor hopes between 350,000 and 400,000 people will be vaccinated.
DeWine said what happens next will largely depend on the supply of the shots.
"What we hope is it starts out here, and just keeps going out like this," DeWine said, gesturing an upward curve, "so that the flow into Ohio every week is more, but we don’t know. I don’t think anybody really knows."
The governor said it's too soon to know when vaccines will be available to the general public.
However, DeWine said there are no plans to make them mandatory.
Instead, the governor hopes that over time people will gain confidence in their effectiveness and chose to be vaccinated.
"It really is something that is literally a life saver," said DeWine. "We know this will save lives."
It's why the director of nursing at Pleasantview Care Center said she was one of nearly 300 workers and residents to sign up for the vaccine.
She believed the benefits will extend beyond the walls of the nursing home and into the entire community.
"If we can do it here, you know the staff comes and goes. They also have loved ones and family members that maybe their jobs are suffering, so it’s all around involves everyone," said Emily Mahnem. "So if we can do our part here, hopefully it will help the overall."
DeWine told reporters that he does plan to get vaccinated himself, but isn't sure when. The governor said he doesn't feel it's right for him to jump the line.