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Ohio will lift mask mandate, all COVID-19 health orders June 2

Cincinnati Enquirer logo Cincinnati Enquirer 5/13/2021 Jackie Borchardt, Cincinnati Enquirer
a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Governor Mike DeWine speaks to members of the media during his visit to the Hamilton County mobile COVID-19 vaccination site at the Price Hill Library in East Price Hill on Friday, May 7, 2021. © Albert Cesare / The Enquirer Governor Mike DeWine speaks to members of the media during his visit to the Hamilton County mobile COVID-19 vaccination site at the Price Hill Library in East Price Hill on Friday, May 7, 2021.
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Ohio will lift the state mask mandate and all remaining coronavirus health orders except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities on June 2, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday evening.

DeWine said his decision to lift orders follows four weeks of declining coronavirus infections and hospitalizations and the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children age 12 to 15. It also comes amid increased pressure from fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

“The vaccine is here. It's stronger and better than medical experts ever imagined,” DeWine said during a speech broadcast statewide. “Everyone can now control their own health. Everyone can now control their own destiny.”

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In the next three weeks, DeWine said, Ohioans will have ample opportunities to get vaccinated. Vaccinations for kids age 12 to 15 will begin Thursday.

DeWine said schools and businesses will be able to set their own requirements, including for masking and distancing, after the state orders expire.

"Each Ohio citizen will make their own decision about wearing a mask, social distancing, how to protect themselves and when, for them, those actions are appropriate," DeWine said.

In setting the June 2 date, DeWine abandoned his previous goal at which he said Ohio would be well-positioned to end health orders. DeWine set a benchmark on March 4: 50 new cases per 100,000 residents during the past two weeks.


Video: Mask mandate, all Ohio virus orders will be lifted June 2 (WLWT Cincinnati)

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That figure was 140 on Thursday and will be 123 this week. That's down from 185.5 three weeks ago.

If cases continue to drop at the same rate as the past few weeks, Ohio would meet the 50 mark in about four weeks.

As cases have fallen, so have the number of Ohioans seeking an initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As an incentive, DeWine said, Ohio will give away $1 million to five adults who have received the vaccine and a four-year scholarship to a state university to five children age 12-17. The "Ohio Vax-a-Million" prizes will paid for with federal coronavirus funds and awarded for five Wednesdays in a row starting May 26.

Ohio Vax-a-Million: Gov. DeWine 'thinking outside of the box.' Ohioans react to Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery

Vaccinations have slowed down in Ohio since everyone age 16 and older became eligible March 29.

The number of first shots given has declined nearly 80% since a peak of 485,860 doses given during the first week of April. The state is refusing or choosing to store 80% of its federal allocation of first doses this week.

Meanwhile, the governor's Republican colleagues at the Statehouse were ready to vote to repeal the orders June 23 – the day after a bill giving legislators that authority takes effect. Hours before DeWine's address, House Republicans said they already had legislation drawn up to do so.

“I’m going to predict that most if not all of these orders will be rescinded before June 22 because the governor does not want the embarrassment of us going in there,” Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, said during a Monday appearance on Cincinnati's WLW radio.

The governor's announcement received support from business groups such as the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Restaurant Association, as well as the Ohio State Medical Association and Ohio Hospital Association.

Wednesday's address was DeWine's fourth since the beginning of the pandemic. He used previous evening speeches to encourage Ohioans to wear masks, threaten to close bars and restaurants and set the benchmark for lifting health orders.

Ohio already lifted the stay-home order and curfew and modified some orders for fully vaccinated people and for nursing home visits. Still in place are a requirement that people wear masks indoors and outdoors if they can't be six feet apart from others, a K-12 mask mandate and social distancing rules for retail stores, bars and restaurants and other businesses.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio will lift mask mandate, all COVID-19 health orders June 2

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