Cuyahoga County Offering New Incentives As Vaccination Rates Lag

Cleveland resident Alyssa Rambeau receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine during a pop-up clinic at the Rockport Branch of the Cleveland Public Library Aug. 2, 2021. Just 39.2 percent of Cleveland residents are fully vaccinated. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland resident Alyssa Rambeau receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine during a pop-up clinic at the Rockport Branch of the Cleveland Public Library Aug. 2, 2021. Just 39.2 percent of Cleveland residents are fully vaccinated. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]

Updated: 4:45 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021

Vaccination rates in the city of Cleveland remain low - just 39.2 percent of Cleveland residents are fully vaccinated, according to data from the city’s health department.

The numbers also remain low in minority populations in Cuyahoga County. Nearly 34 percent of African Americans and 44 percent of the Hispanic population have been vaccinated, said Health Commissioner Terry Allan in a press conference Wednesday.

“There’s still maybe some fear out there, or maybe folks who have questions about the vaccine and its effectiveness,” Allan said.

Although 55 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated, there is still a long way to go, Allan said.

“If we look at our data, our county-wide data and our specific equity data, it shows that many of us still remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to contracting and spreading the delta variant,” he said.

Cuyahoga County health officials are urging more COVID-19 vaccinations as hospitalizations continue to increase in the region due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The county is offering a new incentive in the hopes of boosting vaccination rates. Residents receiving their first dose at upcoming community clinics will be eligible to receive $100 cash cards,  Allan said. Clinics include various cultural centers, churches and libraries, as well as a McDonald’s restaurant in East Cleveland. Dates and times for the October vaccination clinics are listed on the county’s website.

Those receiving their second dose or booster shot are not eligible for the cash incentive, Allan added.

Allan added the city of Cleveland also has ongoing efforts to increase vaccination access, and the health department often holds community clinics.

“They are out all the time. They’re in rec centers, they’re in mobile locations, churches, doing everything they can to make vaccine available … closer to home to people,” Allan said.

County hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Allan said, and are now operating at 84 percent capacity. Because of this, some have had to restrict visitors and postpone procedures, he said.

“Hospitals are now having to triage patients based on the level of need,” Allan said. “This is just as flu season is starting, and their admissions are predicted to increase as they do every flu season.”

Emergency departments are also filling up, he said, and Allan encouraged residents to seek COVID-19 testing elsewhere to help reduce these numbers. Individuals can purchase an at-home COVID-19 test at a pharmacy, or go to an outpatient center or primary care office to be tested, he said.

The county's testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests, rose nearly a percentage point over the last several weeks to 8.6 percent, according to Cuyahoga County Board of Health data.

The county stopped issuing weekly COVID-19 reports last month, but an online data dashboard shows the county recorded more than 500 new COVID-19 cases last week, down from 1,800 new cases the week before.  

However, COVID-19 deaths are increasing, and the dashboard will be updated with data from this week in the coming days, Allan said.

Tying broadband access to health outcomes, Cuyahoga County has signed a contract with Digital C to bridge the digital divide in Cleveland’s Central Neighborhood, executive Armond Budish said in the conference.

“This partnership will build out wireless internet service for approximately 70 percent of Central and it will provide equipment for roughly 500 households. Installation work is expected to begin in mid-November,” Budish said.

Budish also asked county residents to fill out an online survey about Internet speed and broadband access to gather data about improvements needed across the county.

Ideastream Public Media’s Glenn Forbes contributed to this story.

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