Gov. DeWine to lift last remaining coronavirus orders as vaccination rate climbs

·3 min read

Jun. 17—As new coronavirus case reports continue a steep decline, Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday said he's lifting Ohio's state of emergency order and ending nearly all remaining orders related to nursing homes.

"We're at a very different stage of the pandemic," Mr. DeWine said during a virus briefing, noting the downturn in new infections and hospitalizations as Ohio's vaccination rate ticks up. "We could not find a significant reason to continue to do this."

The governor said the emergency order will end Friday. Mr. DeWine signed it in March, 2020, allowing state agencies to implement certain rules to address the pandemic, such as suspending competitive bidding. The state canceled most public-health orders, including the mask mandate, on June 2.

"In some states [the emergency declaration] means a lot of different things, but in Ohio it has a very, very narrow meaning," he said.

The governor's move comes just ahead of possible action by his fellow Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly, who in March overrode his veto of legislation limiting his power to issue health orders.

Among other things, the law put a 30-day expiration date on Mr. DeWine's existing state of emergency, and is slated to take effect next week.

Also beginning Friday, the state will no longer require nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to schedule visits or limit visitors to two at a time. Nursing homes can still impose their own safety rules and should follow federal guidelines, Mr. DeWine said.

The only remaining measure required by the state is the twice‑weekly testing of employees who work in these facilities and who aren't vaccinated.

As of this week, Ohio has reached a vaccination rate of 57.6 percent for people 18 and older, the governor reported.

After a brief surge in vaccinations, next Wednesday marks the final $1 million Vax‑a‑Million drawing and full‑ride college scholarships for Ohio adults and students who have gotten the shots. By the end, the state will have awarded $5 million to five people as well as five college packages.

This week's winners were Suzanne Ward of Findlay, who claimed the $1 million prize, and Sean Horning of Cincinnati, who won a four‑year scholarship to a state college or university.

Ms. Ward is an associate professor of business at the University of Findlay. Like most winners, she said she couldn't believe it at first. A representative from the governor's office showed up at her door to deliver the news.

Her next conversation will probably be with an accountant or financial planner, she said.

"Some grandkids will have their college fund paid for, and [we're] looking at things we have a real passion for in the community," she said.

Asked about the expulsion of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder on Wednesday following his arrest last year on public corruption charges, Mr. DeWine declined to comment beyond saying it was the lawmakers' prerogative to remove him from office.

"I felt he should have resigned, but this was a decision that was made by the House and we should respect that decision," he said.

First Published June 17, 2021, 11:36am

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