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DeWine: Ohio close to lifting restrictions

After close to one year of lockdowns across the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday announced a goal for lifting health restrictions.

“When Ohio gets down to 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, all health orders in the state will come off,” he said.

He reached this conclusion after consulting with health experts.

“Achieving this goal is very doable. We can do this, and I know we will,” he said.

DeWine pointed out on Dec. 3 Ohio was at 731 cases per 100,000 for two weeks. On Feb. 3, Ohio’s cases were 445 per 100,000, and this week the number was 179 cases per 100,000.

“In three months, we’ve gone down 550 cases per 100,000 people. Over the last month alone we’ve gone down 265 cases per 100,000. Ohio is on the right path.”

However, DeWine also reaffirmed the need for Ohioans to continue to adhere to precautions, particularly mask-wearing, as new and more infectious versions of the virus develop.

“Victory is in sight. We have to keep in mind that there is still a threat out there. Scientists tell us that the virus in Ohio is fast morphing into a more highly-contagious virus and no one really knows the full impact that this change might bring,” DeWine said.

“The end of our fight is now in view,” he said. “When the end is in view, there is a natural human tendency to let up … I can’t tell you exactly the day and the time when we can declare victory, but we will be able to declare victory.”

DeWine spoke on The Ohio Channel about the state’s progress in slowing the virus and the shedding of restrictions such as the curfew and opening of restaurants, bars and gyms, as well as considering this summer’s activities.

“We’re looking forward to a spring with graduations and proms, and a summer of fairs and festivals, concerts and baseball,” he said, adding he anticipates capacities at such venues to grow until full capacity is permitted.

“Vaccines are available in every community in the state. Today, we have over 1,200 separate locations for all Ohioans to get a vaccine close to their home,” he said. “We’ve taken the vaccine literally to the doorsteps of people who have other barriers.”

He commended the volunteers, the Ohio National Guard, and others who have helped provide the vaccine to low-income or otherwise at-risk Ohioans.

“To date, we have vaccinated over 1.8 million Ohioans,” he said, adding 450,000 doses arrived in the state this week. “More vaccine is coming.”

He added nursing homes and long-term care facility cases have dropped from 2,800 per week in December, now 268 cases per week, with more vaccination opportunities for new residents and staff. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized has also dropped steeply.

DeWine also pointed out 15,000 Ohioans with developmental and congenital disorders have been vaccinated, with more daily.

Locally, Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul held the second of two vaccine clinics Thursday at the Ohio Valley Mall, with 800 people vaccinated. He said Belmont County would be receiving it’s first batch of the new Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine, which requires only a single dose compared to the current Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna versions, which call for two doses.

“It is coming into the counties, but we were expecting it to be next week,” Sproul said.

His office will have 300 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses and 600 Moderna of the version by next week.

He reported there have been 5,342 confirmed cases since the pandemic’s onset, with 182 people isolated with active cases, 4,995 recoveries, 64 people hospitalized and 101 deaths related to the virus.

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