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2021
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Photo: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health; public domain.

COVID-19 update— State health orders end June 2

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In Ohio, COVID-19 cases are falling. Vaccination eligibility is expanding. Masks are coming off.

Recently, there has been some positive news about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week that most of the remaining health orders initially put in place last year will be lifted June 2.

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“The tide of the pandemic is turning toward our favor,” DeWine said in a televised address on Wednesday, May 12.

“So, it is time. It’s time to end the health orders,” he added.

The measures being removed include social distancing guidelines and capacity limits for both indoor and outdoor events and mandates to wear masks in public.

Two days later, however, DeWine updated the state’s mask order to match new guidance from the CDC that only those who are unvaccinated must wear them in public. Masks must still be worn by everyone in healthcare settings, public transportation and private businesses that require them.

In addition, Ohio will no longer be under a state of emergency as of June 2, which means Yellow Springs’ state of emergency will also no longer be in effect.

In his address, DeWine highlighted the role of the COVID-19 vaccine, a “powerful weapon that is almost 100% effective,” in driving the months-long reduction in cases from pandemic highs in December and January.

In support of his decision, DeWine shared the following statistics:

• Ohio’s two-week case incidence rate had fallen from 800 per 100,000 in December 2020 to 119.9 as of last week, lower than all neighboring states.

Hospitalization for COVID-19 in the state had fallen 75% since vaccination began.

• New cases per week in nursing homes fell from a peak of 2,800 to less than 200.

• 78% of Ohioans 65 and older had been vaccinated.

DeWine also pointed to the CDC’s decision, made earlier in the day, to approve the Pfizer vaccine for those 12–15 years old, as another positive development.

“You’ve followed the protocols. You’ve done what we’ve asked you to do. You’ve bravely fought this virus,” DeWine said. “Now cases are down and we have a tested and proven weapon in this vaccine that all Ohioans 12 and older can now utilize.”

Despite the upcoming changes to pandemic health orders, however, orders will remain in place involving nursing homes and assisted living facilities, according to DeWine.

DeWine is lifting the health orders just a few weeks before the date when Ohio lawmakers would have been able to cancel them by joint resolution. State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 22 in March granting themselves the ability to rescind health orders, then overrode DeWine’s veto. In fact, a few hours before DeWine’s announcement, state lawmakers signaled they would soon introduce legislation to end the health orders.

Before Senate Bill 22 was enacted, DeWine said the health orders would be lifted once the state reaches a case biweekly incidence rate of 50 per 100,000. At a press briefing on May 13, DeWine said the state is “moving toward that number,” but that the lifting of the orders is no longer tied to the case incidence rate.

“Whether we are going to get there, or how it will coincide with the date selected, I don’t know,” DeWine said of the 50 figure. “It appears we are really headed in that direction and it may be close to that period of time.”

DeWine added a note of caution about the upcoming changes, stating that it “does not mean the virus is gone” or that all Ohioans are safe, but that it will be up to individual Ohioans to take measures to keep themselves healthy.

“Each Ohio citizen will make their own decision … about how to protect themselves,” he said.

In addition, businesses and schools “will make their own decisions about how best to keep their customers, their employees and their students safe,” DeWine said.

So far 43% of Ohioans have received at least one vaccine dose, but the rate of vaccination has fallen by 80% since the first week of April. DeWine said that he hopes more people get vaccinated to make sure that the virus doesn’t rage again next winter.

“We hope for a good summer, but we have to be able to get through the dark days of winter safely as well, and to do that we need a much higher percentage of Ohioans than we do today to be vaccinated,” he said.

In other COVID news—

At his May 12 address, DeWine announced incentives for unvaccinated Ohioans to get a shot. During the “Vax-a-Million” giveaway, Ohio residents who have received at least one vaccine dose will have a chance to win one million dollars. Ohio youth ages 12–18 have their own contest. They’ll be in a lottery for five full-ride scholarships to a state university, provided they have received a vaccine.

The state will announce weekly winners every Wednesday for five weeks straight starting on May 26. The money for both lotteries is coming from federal coronavirus relief funds. Those interested in participating in either contest must opt-in by the Sunday before the drawing. The deadline to do so for the first drawing is May 23. To sign up, visit http://www.ohiovaxamillion.com or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

• Greene County’s case incidence rate fell to 107.7 per 100,000 over the two weeks ending May 13. That was down from 132 the prior week. Greene County is one of 27 Ohio counties remaining “red” on the heat map. But if current trends hold, Greene County could be downgraded to orange this week.

• The moving seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Greene County fell to 6.86 per day this week. That’s as low as it has been since July 2, 2020.

• No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the 45387 area code.

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One Response to “COVID-19 update— State health orders end June 2”

  1. Les Groby says:

    ORC 3701.13 needs to be repealed so that Dewine’s authoritarian takeover can never be repeated.