EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 2021 number one story for Mahoning County, as voted on by the staff at Vindicator.
Although it seemed for a while that Ohio and the nation would finally emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the year ended with a record number of cases due to new variants of the virus.
As Ohio enters 2022, there is no sign of the virus easing.
Until this month, January had the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported for a month in 2021.
But as vaccinations have become more available, the number of cases has declined.
On February 11, Governor Mike DeWine announced the lifting of the state curfew following a drop in hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
In March, eligibility for immunization appointments opened and people quickly signed up to go to immunization clinics to get their shots. But although there are more than enough vaccines for those who qualify, demand declined in May.
DeWine announced on March 4 that once the state fell below 50 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population, it would lift all health orders related to the virus, including a required mask warrant for those who are located in public areas.
He said that day: “The end of our struggle is now in sight, but we must continue to move forward in these last days.”
DeWine expected the state to drop below 50 per 100,000 cases by June. But on May 14 – with an average of around 120 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the state – DeWine lifted the warrant.
This came shortly before a veto waiver, approved on March 24 by DeWine’s Republican colleagues in the state legislature, of a bill to limit the governor’s ability to impose orders of public health and state emergency declarations do not take effect. The waiver had a 90-day window before it was enacted.
As it turned out, DeWine was right as the state fell below 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 on June 5. It fell to its lowest mark of 19.2 cases per 100,000 on July 2. This followed a record low for a full month during the pandemic of 9,390 COVID-19 cases for June.
DeWine lifted the state of emergency on June 18, which was first declared on March 9, 2020. The legislature would have lifted it a week later if DeWine had not done so first.
But in July, the delta variant hit and cases started to rise.
DeWine said on July 9 that he was concerned about the variant.
“It’s a lot more contagious than what we were faced with in terms of this pandemic when it started, so we have unvaccinated people and we have a delta variant that’s really gaining momentum not just in. Ohio, but other states.
As of September, 193,072 cases were reported for the month. It was the most since January.
This month, the state hit a new record with delta and omicron variants on the rise.
There were several days in December when the daily number of COVID-19 cases was higher than the entire month of June.
Using money from the federal COVID-19 grant, DeWine touted two state lotteries – including one that handed out five prizes of $ 1 million each – to help convince Ohioans to get vaccinated.
There was no evidence that the lotteries resulted in an increase in the number of people vaccinated, as only 55% of the state’s population was vaccinated at the end of the year despite an initial rush among eligible people in the during the first months of 2021.
This was, in part, because of people who opposed vaccines and others who were skeptical of their effectiveness.
Despite COVID-19 cases topping 1,000 per 100,000 Ohioans by year-end and 88 counties above 100 per 100,000 for four months, DeWine has refused to impose health restrictions.
He said his hands were tied because of the legislative veto that limited DeWine’s authority, but did not eliminate it.
A number of Republican lawmakers have pushed for a bill to stop vaccination mandates – and not just for COVID-19 – by employers.
The Ohio House passed a bill to grant exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine warrants, but the state Senate refused to consider it.
Recap of the 10 best stories of 2021 in Mahoning County:
10. Two children among the victims of the Youngstown crime wave.
9. Youngstown schools are struggling to get out of state control.
8. Valley communities receive millions of dollars in US bailout funding.
7. The Robinson-Shuba handshake statue is unveiled in Youngstown.
6. A new bishop is installed in Youngstown.
5. YSU faced a difficult year with declining enrollments and staff reductions.
4. Construction of the Ultium battery plant continues.
3. The redistribution brings big changes to the legislative lines of Congress and the states.
2. Lordstown Motors Corp. ends a tumultuous year.
1. COVID-19 cases declined, then skyrocketed at the end of the year.