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Ohio's COVID-19 State Of Emergency Comes To An End

Gov. Mike DeWine in August 2020. [Jay LaPrete / AP]
Gov. Mike DeWine wears a mask as he holds a coffee cup outside his home in August 2020

As of Friday morning, Ohio’s few remaining health orders are no longer in effect.

As COVID-19 infection rates continue to fall and vaccination rates rise, Gov. Mike DeWine lifted the state’s coronavirus state of emergency and nursing home regulations.

Nursing home and assisted living residents can have more than two visitors and scheduling visits is no longer required by the state, though facilities are expected to continue to follow federal guidance on outbreak prevention.

“We really encourage nursing homes to allow for as much visitation as possible,” the governor said.

One of the state's first actions when the COVID-19 pandemic began last March was to limit entry at nursing homes, except when residents were near death. But while the move kept many of the most vulnerable Ohioans safe from the virus, the social isolation resulted in mental and emotional anguish and rapid decline for many in nursing homes and assisted living.

The state’s twice-per-week testing requirement for unvaccinated staff members is still in force.

The state is still seeing about 80 COVID-19 cases per week in nursing homes, DeWine said.

“By and large, this is being brought in by unvaccinated staff,” he said. “That is the challenge.”

Ohio’s state of emergency, declared by the governor March 14, 2020, also ended Friday.

DeWine said the declaration means less in Ohio compared to other states and is designed largely to provide flexibility in state procurement rules, to make obtaining supplies and other pandemic-specific purchases, such as ventilators, easier. Lifting it will not have any impact on continued federal pandemic assistance, he said.

“We’ve come to the conclusion it really does not impact what we need to do in this pandemic based on this point in the pandemic,” DeWine said Thursday.

Had the governor not lifted the state of emergency, Ohio’s lawmakers could have voted to end it themselves, under a law they passed earlier this year. Overriding DeWine’s veto in March, the Ohio legislature approved a law allowing lawmakers to overturn public health and emergency orders issued by state and local health departments that have been in effect for more than 30 days.

Most statewide pandemic mandates were lifted June 2. But DeWine cautioned Thursday that the easing of restrictions comes with a warning and a reminder that the coronavirus is not in the rearview mirror for Ohio just yet.

“We still are losing people every single day to COVID,” DeWine said.

About 10 people in Ohio die every day due to COVID-19, he said, and the need for more people to get vaccinated remains.

“There really is a dichotomy that’s really a fundamental difference between your safety if you’re vaccinated and your safety if you’re not vaccinated. On one hand you’re safe, on the other hand you’re not,” DeWine said “We have variants coming into the state. Things will continue to change. We’ll have some more figures next week, but we continue to lose people who are dying every single day in Ohio because of COVID. A lot less than what it was. Hospitalizations are down, cases are down, positivity numbers are down, so we’ve certainly headed in the right direction. But that is being driven by the people who are vaccinated. The people who are not vaccinated still run a very, very significant risk.”

As of Friday, about 47 percent of Ohio’s population has been vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the Ohio Department of Health.