Newspapers can help Ohio defeat COVID
By Monica Nieporte, OMNA President and Executive Director
So, here we are. The start of summer and again we are staring at a little bit of uncertainty. No, things are not as scary heading into the biggest summer holiday of the season this year as they were last year but there is still more we can do – and should do – to help our communities return to normal as quickly as possible.
I think we can all agree that we have sacrificed too much family time, community activities and enjoyable outings with friends since March 2020 when COVID really started to shut Ohio down.
Buckeyes, we are behind. The President wants 70 percent of eligible Americans to have received at least one COVID shot by July 4. Some states are already to that goal. Ohio still has a ways to go.
Now before you jump on me and declare this a “political column," I need to remind you that both President Biden and former President Trump have personally gotten the vaccine and have recommended that others do so. So, this isn’t about politics. This is about the need to be able to enjoy our beautiful state again without all of the sickness and death. This is about not having to forgo a third summer without Red, White and Boom in Columbus or the Italian American festival in Summit County. This is about not having to make “reservations” to enjoy a day at Cedar Point or Kings Island.
This is also about helping to give families who have children under age 12 some peace of mind when they take their kids to the zoo or a ballgame. The peace of mind that comes from knowing, based on statistics, that even though their children aren’t yet eligible to get the shot, most of the people around them in public have gotten it and so the risk to their children is lower. Don’t we want our college campuses to be able to open this fall without masks, without restricted attendance, with all activities resuming and being able to give our college students the experience they are paying for? Because right now, they still aren’t getting it. Let’s get enough people vaccinated that COVID can no longer be used as an excuse. An excuse for people, who are able, not to return to work, an excuse for colleges and businesses to charge the same amount of money for less amenities and less quality and an excuse for people to hide behind and give bad customer service.
Looking at maps, you can see which newspapers are located in counties that have been hesitant to receive the COVID vaccine. Take a look at your paper. Have you presented this information as public health information or as a political issue that gives just as much space to anti-vaxers and the vaccine hesitant? Have you done follow-up stories to try to answer some of the hesitant people’s questions? Have you presented information each week in your paper about where readers can go to get the shot? Or have you just included the link to the state website in your stories? Make it easy for people. Do the legwork. Tell them where locally they can get the Pfizer vaccine for their 15 year old because right now it is the only vaccine approved for that age group.. It’s true that the number of infections is going down. But it is also true the best insurance to making sure that continues is for more people to continue to get vaccinated.
Governor DeWine announced this week that Ohio has about 200,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines that will expire this month unless they are used. That is unacceptable when there are people literally dying elsewhere in the world because they still cannot get the shot.
Isn’t there something more we can do to help our communities move this whole process along a lot faster? To make sure we use as many of those as possible and to get as close to that 70 percent goal as possible? I would guess there is.
We reach a huge percentage of Ohio residents. Many of our members are located in counties where less than 50% of the eligible residents have been vaccinated. My guess is the percentage is higher among readers of your newspaper versus among residents who rely on social media for “news”. But there are still people you can reach.
We advocate for public health practices every day. Don’t drink and drive, get the flu shot, wear your seatbelt and protect yourself against ticks and lyme disease. None of those are seen as “political issues” and this shouldn’t be any different unless we allow people to continue to make it so. That isn’t in the best interest of your community or our state as a whole.
Ask yourself, can we do more to educate our readers to help them make a better-informed decision and get Ohio back to being the Ohio we all miss? It’s time to swing for the fences and knock COVID and all its misery and excuses out of the park.