We have been dealing with the impact of the pandemic to our daily lives for nearly a year. Yesterday, Governor Mike DeWine struck an optimistic tone in his regular COVID-19 media briefing. The governor says there is reason to be hopeful about regaining a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. Ohio's case numbers are trending downward, and vaccine supplies will be increasing over the coming weeks. The governor says the combination of the vaccines and the continued use of masks and distancing will be the bridge between the pandemic and a return to normal activities.
The governor added onto his messaging from last week, saying he expects events such as proms and graduations to be held this year-provided safety measures are followed. He expected to give more specific guidelines soon. The governor said the state will begin slowly rolling back some COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for up to 25% capacity for indoor sports and entertainment venues, including banquet centers, and up to 30% of capacity for outdoor venues, including sports stadiums.
The state however is standing pat on its current eligibility list for the COVID-19 vaccine. Ohioans 65 and older as well as those with certain medical conditions and school employees can be vaccinated. The governor says once those groups are vaccinated the state will move to its next phase.
Ohio has been under a state of emergency since March 9, 2020. As we near the one-year milestone, DeWine reflected this week on the state's response and zeroed in on the efficacy of masks. He said he wished he had known sooner what a difference masks could make in holding down the virus. He credits masks for helping to get students back into class. The state says nearly 70 percent of districts are back in school and the state has nearly completed vaccinating school workers.
March 1 was the targeted return date, though some districts won't meet that specific deadline. Last week the governor chided Cleveland and Akron administrators for distributing vaccines to their employees, but failing to meet the March 1 deadline. Those districts will begin the process of returning students to class on March 8.
Nick Castele, reporter, Ideastream
Lisa Ryan, health reporter, Ideastream
Andy Chow, reporter, Statehouse News Bureau, Ohio Public Radio/TV