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Gov. DeWine sets goal for when state health orders will be lifted

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 6:19 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 9:28 AM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday set a specific target of reduced coronavirus cases as the benchmark for ending public health orders in Ohio, including mask wearing.

Those orders will be lifted once the state hits the mark of 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, DeWine said. He called the goal ``very doable,’' noting that that figure has already dropped from 731 cases on Dec. 3 to 445 cases on Feb. 3, and to 179 cases on Thursday.

But meeting that goal requires continued mask wearing for now and for as many people to receive the coronavirus vaccine as possible, DeWine said. The state now has supplies of three vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

DeWine, many of whose grandchildren are runners, compared the requirement for continued vigilance to toughing out the last portion of a marathon.

``No marathoner pulls out on purpose at the 25th mile marker,’' the governor said.

``They know that they’re almost to the finish line,’' he said. ``And that is when the marathoner digs even deeper from within to martial the will to go on, to go on to that finish line.’'

DeWine called masks a ``battle-tested’' tool proven to work.

The goal set by DeWine still amounts to a ``moderate to high incidence,’' said Tara Smith, a Kent State epidemiologist. Removing health restrictions if that goal is reached quickly could still mean many essential workers remain unvaccinated and at risk, especially as virus variants circle in the state, she said. Better to continue the mask mandate regardless, Smith said.

``We could be nearing an endgame here as far as the worst of the pandemic, but we need to hold steady,’' she said Thursday. ``If we move backwards and give the virus more hosts in which to spread and evolve, we could be seeing the spread of these nastier variants, and possibly the emergence of new ones.’'

DeWine’s announcement came a week after he announced expanded attendance figures for sports and entertainment venues and lifted bans on large gatherings _ such as wedding receptions _ as long as social distancing and mask wearing continues.

It also came two days after Texas announced it was ending its mask mandate. Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top House Democrat, credited DeWine for keeping the mask mandate even as she criticized him for not properly planning for the vaccine rollout.

Sykes commended DeWine ``for standing up to Statehouse Republicans and others in his party by committing to the mask mandate, an easy, proven, low-cost intervention to stop the spread.’'

As they did last year, fellow Ohio Republican lawmakers continue to push new bills to restrict a governor’s ability to enact public health orders during a pandemic.

In his 15-minute speech, DeWine reviewed the beginning of the pandemic, which for many started this week. It was one year ago that DeWine laid down strict attendance limits on the annual Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, a giant sports festival that typically attracts 20,000 athletes from 80 countries as well as thousands of spectators.

Nine days later, DeWine ordered schools closed for three weeks, an order that ultimately ended in-person learning for many districts for nearly a year.

DeWine applauded Ohioans for showing what he called ``our Ohio grit’' over the last year even in the face of job losses and the deaths of loved ones from the coronavirus.

He also acknowledged that ``all of us are so sick of this virus’' while encouraging a fight to the finish.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 2,353 new cases per day on Feb. 17 to 1,801 new cases per day on March 3, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 1.8 million people in Ohio have received at least one shot of the vaccine, or about 15% of the population as of Thursday, according to the state Health Department. More than 980,000 have completed their vaccinations, or about 8% of the population.

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Previous story: 3/4/2021 6 P.M.

COLUMBUS, Ohio WSAZ) - Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday when Ohio has 50 cases per 100,000 people for two straight weeks, all health orders will be lifted in the state.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard from the Ohio Department of Health, the current statewide average for cases per 100,000 residents over a two week period is 179.6.

“Our path back is by each of us getting vaccinated when we can, and by each of us wearing masks in public. While no one will be forced to take the vaccine, the more of us who are vaccinated, the more complete our victory, and the more confidently we can put this behind us.”

“The end of our fight is now in view, but we must continue pressing forward in these final days. We must not relent.”

Gov. DeWine said Thursday that Ohioans are ‘doing things right.’ Gov. DeWine says because of this the state curfew was lifted, stay-at-home orders were not extended, and restaurants, bars and gyms were reopened.

Gov. DeWine touted that the state has vaccinated more than 1.8 million Ohioans and now has more than 1,200 vaccination locations.

The Ohio National Guard is also vaccinating people at places like low-income senior housing locations, churches and community health centers.

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