DeWine: County Fairs Will be Back As COVID-19 Cases Continue Falling In Ohio

Updated: 4:35 p.m, Thursday, March 11, 2021

Nine Ohio counties have gone from red to orange this week on the state’s public health advisory map and one – Meigs County – decreased to yellow.

The average number of cases per 100,000 people statewide has decreased to 155. Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday said Ohio counties will be able to host county fairs that begin in June as the state continues to anticipate an emergence from the restrictions imposed a year ago to limit the spread of COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus.

DeWine has said once the state’s average number of cases per 100,000 drops below 50 statewide for two weeks, he will lift all health orders, some of which have been standing for a year. While noting the progress, DeWine said: “This is still a highly elevated level. It’s above what CDC high incidence is [100 cases per 100,000 people], but the data is certainly trending in the right direction.”

However, Holmes County, the first in the state to dip back down to yellow earlier this month, moved back to orange after a slight increase in cases, illustrating the fragility of these early steps toward “normalcy.” DeWine said Holmes County is still showing virus metrics “below the state average,” even with a minor increase in cases for the week, and remained optimistic.

“We could hit little bumps in the road in our journey out of this pandemic. In all likelihood we will, but we shouldn’t be discouraged, we should keep our eye on the ball and continue to move forward,” he said.

In light of the progress, the governor announced, “it’s our anticipation that we will be able to have full county fairs this year.” State guidance for those events include capacity limits of 30 percent for grandstand activities, social distancing and required masking.

“Guidelines could change in the future,” DeWine said. “But we wanted to give fairs guidance on how they could start.”

DeWine also said the state will issue guidelines next week for other upcoming anticipated events including festivals, parades and proms and graduations.

The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday reported 1,448 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, along with 112 hospitalizations and 10 ICU admissions. Coronavirus-related deaths are no longer being reported daily.

Vaccine Distribution Continues

Registration opened Thursday for the mass vaccination clinic being held in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center. DeWine said 17,000 people had already registered.

The site will open March 17 and is expected to vaccinate up to 6,000 people a day.

“This site will be open for a number of weeks and many more appointments will be open in the coming days,” DeWine said.

Ohioans age 50 and older became eligible for vaccination as of Thursday. During the briefing, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted got his first dose in his hometown of Montpelier, at a pop-up clinic at his former high school run by the Williams County Public Health Department.

“The needle in the arm is a lot more pleasant than the swab in the nose,” Husted said, referring to COVID-19 testing procedures. The clinic expected to administer 840 first doses Thursday. The mayor of Montpelier and Husted's former babysitter, Shirley Fry, were among those vaccinated during the briefing.

More Rapid Tests Deployed

Vaccines are going out, but testing is still on the minds of Ohio officials other than Husted. DeWine also announced shipments of 200,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits to educational service centers around Ohio as it continues to encourage the use of testing as a critical component of keeping the virus at bay.

Public libraries will also get the testing kits make the rapid antigen tests at-home test kits, which are part of a partnership with Abbott Labs and digital health care company eMed the governor announced in January. DeWine said the test kits are already or will soon be available in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The state previously made the test kits available through local health departments and also provided more than 150,000 rapid tests since December to federally qualified health centers which can administer them onsite.

“Testing plays a very important role in protecting our communities during this pandemic,” DeWine said.

Updating Student Quarantine Procedures

The state is lifting quarantine requirement for students who have had incidental COVID-19 exposure to other students in a classroom when it comes to their participation in sports and other extracurricular activities.

Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said students who have been exposed to the virus will be subject to a shorter quarantine period of ten days with no testing.

“This may improve compliance,” he said. If a test is taken five days after the exposure and it is negative, Vanderhoff said the quarantine can end after day seven.

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

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