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Gov. DeWine announces new, condensed coronavirus health order

COLUMBUS — As the number of vaccinated Ohioans rises and new COVID-19 cases also creep up after weeks of decline, Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new health order Monday.

DeWine said case numbers continue to climb in Michigan and from there to northern Ohio, most likely due to more infectious variants of the coronavirus.

“At the same time, we are vaccinating people in Ohio at a high rate,” DeWine said. “It truly is a race. This period of time, it really is a crucial period of time.”

He described the new order as a “consolidation” of the most effective parts of previous orders.

“We know a lot more today than when this started,” DeWine said, adding that wearing a mask while inside is extremely important. “Back to the essential basics is what these orders are emphasizing. Above all: common sense.”

During his broadcast on the Ohio Channel, DeWine asked Ohioans to continue basic precautions and to be outside rather than inside as often as possible.

“Consolidating these orders, encompassing them all into one order, we hope helps focus those important items and get away from any confusion about which order applies and where it applies,” Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said, adding event organizers, restaurant and business owners and the public will hopefully benefit.

Events should be held outside whenever possible. She said while there will not be a capacity of attendance of events, Ohioans should not attend in groups larger than 10, and those groups should remain separate.

“Smaller groupings of individuals within a mass gathering will limit the spread,” she said.

“Our understanding of this virus and how it spreads is much more advanced than when we first learned about it in 2020,” McCloud said. “There are a handful of key measures that will slow or prevent the virus.”

Masking will continue in any indoor site not a residence and whenever people outside are closer than six feet.

Indoor facilities with fixed seating will continue a capacity of 25 percent.

“Today’s orders simplify and underline the vital steps we Ohioans need to take to keep ourselves, our family and friends our coworkers and our communities safe in this final stretch of the pandemic,” Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer with the Ohio Health Department, said. “We are still very much in the thick of things. Our cases are rising again. Our testing positivity rate is back up above four percent. Our variant numbers continue to grow.”

However, he added 32 percent of Ohioans, or 3.7 million, have been vaccinated.

McCloud said guidelines regarding proms, graduations and other events should be released Tuesday.

Since the age of eligibility for vaccination was reduced to 16 and older, DeWine also reported more high school students are elected to receive a dose. He has noted that while younger people are less likely to contract fatal cases of the virus, they could potentially spread the disease to those more vulnerable.

During the decline of COVID-19 cases, DeWine had set a goal of 50 cases per 100,000 people. The statewide average has since climbed from the 150s to 167.1 per 100,000 people according to coronavirus.ohio.gov.

The initiative to provide the vaccine to every college student who wants a shot of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson by May 1 is also rolling out. Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul reported there has been a delay in receiving Johnson and Johnson doses.

This week, 900 second doses and 600 first doses are planned at the Ohio Valley Mall, with more openings yet if people wish to register at belmontcountyhealth.com or gettheshot@coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Sproul said the first doses will be 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, and the second doses 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. The later hours should be more convenient for younger and working Ohioans.

He also advises people who wish to laminate their vaccination cards to wait until the second dose has been received.

“We still have to write down the second dose information on that card,” Sproul said. “We’d have to make them a whole new card.”

“We’re also asking them to take a picture of it and maybe email it to themselves also, so just in case they would lose that card they would have a copy,” Sproul said.

Sproul said there have been 5,732 cases in Belmont County since the pandemic’s onset. The number of active local cases also continues to rise, with 362 people either in isolation with active cases or hospitalized. There have been 108 deaths associated with the virus, with the latest, a man in his 60s, reported Monday.

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