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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

DeWine Will End Ohio's COVID-19 Health Orders, Restrictions June 2

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) [Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)

Updated: 6:55 p.m., Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Ohio will lift the state mask mandate and all other coronavirus-related health orders on June 2, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday.

The three weeks between the announcement and the removal of restrictions that have been in place for more than a year will give more Ohioans time to get at least one shot of the vaccine, the governor said, “well on the way to full immunity for themselves.”

“Each person now has access to a mighty weapon that they can use to get 100 percent protection,” DeWine said in his evening address to the state. “It’s now up to each Ohio citizen whether to use it or not. There comes a time when individual responsibility simply must take over.”

The only exceptions to the health order removals next month will be for nursing homes and assisted living facilities which will remain in effect.

DeWine cautioned that the end of state mandated precautions does not mean the pandemic has come to an end, nor does it mean individuals, businesses and schools in Ohio cannot set their own rules for COVID-19 protection.

“Lifting these orders does not mean the virus is gone. It does not mean that we’re all safe,” DeWine said. “Each Ohio citizen will make their own decision about wearing a mask, social distancing, how to protect themselves, and when for them those action are appropriate. Ohio businesses and schools will also make their own decisions.”

Ohio has been moving rapidly toward the goal of 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in population, with the current case rate at 123, after a brief uptick in cases earlier in the year. In March, when the case rate was at 179, DeWine set the 50-case benchmark as the point at which he would lift health orders.

Fewer than 1,000 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ohio as of Wednesday evening, which the governor attributed to the success of the vaccines.

“We have seen more than a 75 percent drop in our COVID-19 hospitalization counts since we first got the vaccine,” DeWine said.

He also cited a Cleveland Clinic statistic, showing 99.75 percent of those hospitalized for the virus between January and April were not vaccinated.

“Let me repeat that,” DeWine said. “Nearly 100 percent of those hospitalized for COVID occurred among those not vaccinated. This is powerful.”

More than 42 percent of the state has been vaccinated so far, but the governor said that is not enough, repeatedly imploring Ohioans to get the shot in much the same way he asked people to stay home and wear masks one year ago.

“It's been a year,” DeWine said. “You've followed the protocols. You've done what we've asked you to do. You've bravely fought this virus. Now our cases are down and we have a tested and proven weapon in this vaccine.”

DeWine also said that on news of the approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio will begin vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 15 as early as Thursday.

“We will start vaccinating these children in Ohio tomorrow morning,” he said. “Fran and I have several grandchildren that age and we are so happy that they too now will be able to get the vaccine.”

Children's hospitals and pediatricians are already working with local groups to make the vaccine available to their patients and members of their community, said DeWine, who began pushing for plans to inoculate Ohio kids on a May 5 visit to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

DeWine also announced lotteries for five $1 million giveaways and a five college scholarships in the coming weeks, with the names to be drawn from the rolls of Ohioans who have been vaccinated and are registered to vote.

“Now I know that some of you now are shaking your head and saying 'That Mike DeWine, he's crazy. This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” the governor said with a chuckle before growing somber. “But truly...when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it, the real waste is a life lost now to COVID-19.”

ideastream's Glenn Forbes contributed to this report.