Ohio Ending Mass Gathering Ban As Part Of New, Simplified Health Order

[Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]

Updated: 3:24 p.m., Monday, April 5, 2021

Ohio this week is issuing a new, streamlined health order that encompasses guidance on mass gatherings and other COVID-19 restrictions. Gov. Mike DeWine announced the new order at a press conference Monday, calling it a return to “basics.”

"The best safety measures are the ones people can understand, remember, and apply faithfully to everyday life," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer of the Ohio Department of Health.

DeWine and Vanderhoff, along with Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud, said the simplified order drills down on the “common sense” actions at the core of Ohio’s previous health measures.

“We’re making it clear in this order that proms can occur. We’re making it clear in this order that festivals can occur. We're making it clear in this order that graduations can occur,” DeWine said. “We can do about anything we want to do, it’s just how we do it. That really is what we’re emphasizing today with these new orders.”

McCloud said the consolidated order, which is expected to be signed today, will help clear up confusion Ohioans might have about what demands apply to them, whether they’re running a business or organizing an event.

Under Ohio’s current mass gatherings ban, people are prohibited from holding “all public and private gatherings of greater than 10 people” outside of their home or place of residence. However, over the past year, the state has made allowances for indoor and outdoor sporting events, entertainment venues, county fairs and other events.

Now, McCloud says, that blanket mass gatherings ban will go away; instead, the state will ask people to keep groups at events below 10 people.

At the same time, those groups of 10 or fewer will still need to keep six feet away from other groups, remain seated when eating or drinking and wear face masks at all other times, even when outside.

McCloud said indoor events will remain limited to 25 percent capacity, because of the greater risk of spreading disease, while there are no capacity limits for outdoor events.

DeWine emphasized the statewide mask mandate has not changed.

“Above all, common sense. Wear a mask. Social distancing,” DeWine said. “Being outside is always just so much better than being inside. Good hand-washing. And limiting gatherings of large number of people who are directly with you.”

DeWine’s announcement comes just weeks after the Ohio General Assembly overrode his veto to approve SB 22, a law that will allow the legislature to overturn any states of emergency and public health orders issued by the governor when it goes into effect in late June. Republican legislative leaders say they may vote to end DeWine’s restrictions when they return to session to work on the state budget.

However, DeWine said the new health order was not influenced by the legislature’s actions.

The governor previously stated Ohio will drop all public health orders when the two-week infection rate drops to 50 cases per 100,000 people. But after months of rapidly dropping cases and hospitalizations, the state is seeing numbers rise again — the current rate stands at 167 cases per 100,000 people — in part due to surges in northern Ohio and just over the border in neighboring Michigan.

Vanderhoff said Ohio remains “in the thick of things with COVID-19.”

“Our cases are rising again. Our testing positivity rate is back up above 4 percent. Our variant [case] numbers continue to grow and evidence continues to mount that B.1.1.7, and other variants, are not only much more contagious but more deadly,” he said.

But the context of what Vanderhoff called “this spring surge” is that 32 percent of Ohio’s population — or 3.7 million people — have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine.

“The message with these revised orders, therefore, is clear: Simple steps can save lives and put this pandemic behind us,” Vanderhoff said.

Copyright 2021 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.


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