COLUMBUS — State health orders pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted on June 2.
That was the announcement from Gov. Mike DeWine during a press conference held Wednesday evening.
“So, it is time, it’s time to end the health orders,” DeWine said. “It’s been a year. You’ve followed the protocols. You’ve done what we’ve asked. You’ve bravely fought this virus. And now, our cases are down, and we have a tested and proven weapon in the vaccine that all Ohioans 12 and over can utilize. … Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud will remove all pandemic health orders, except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, effective three weeks from (Wednesday) on June 2. This will give anyone who has not been vaccinated time to get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna and be well on the way to full immunity.”
DeWine’s decision comes in the wake of the General Assembly’s vote to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 22 on March 24. That measure gives lawmakers the authority to cancel any gubernatorial health orders that last longer than 30 days, require the governor’s office to renew such orders every 60 days, and create a legislative oversight panel. The bill also limits local health officials’ power to require people to quarantine or self-isolate without a specific medical diagnosis and allows Ohioans to sue over the constitutionality of any state emergency order in their home county.
The legislation is scheduled to take effect in late June, 90 days after the override vote. DeWine’s order to lift the restrictions predates the measure’s effective date.
Crawford County Public Health Commissioner Kate Siefert said removing restrictions now is the right course of action, especially since the vaccines have proven successful in Crawford County.
“We have been providing COVID-19 vaccines for almost five months now and have been able to locally see the benefit being vaccinated has on our cases,” Siefert said. “None of our deaths, hospitalizations or severe cases in 2021 have been individuals that have been vaccinated and have reached full immunity. Knowing we have vaccines that are effective, it makes sense for the government to move forward with removing social distancing restrictions and requirements for facial coverings and to instead shift the responsibility for individuals and businesses to take control on how they want to reduce their risks of exposure to the virus.”
Siefert, like DeWine in his address, noted that COVID-19 is still active in Ohio and some people will still need to take precautions.
“This does not mean that the virus has disappeared and is not still capable of spreading and causing infection,” she said. “We anticipate we will be seeing new, positive cases for a long time yet. But allowing people to take charge of their own health and to decide what is best for themselves is certainly appropriate at this time. There is plenty of vaccine available locally for those that choose to get vaccinated. We will also find that some people choose to continue to wear masks and social distance to protect themselves from potential exposure. Whatever path people choose, we should remember to respect their decision and not chastise them for their choice.”
Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary said while he’s happy about DeWine’s announcement, he has concerns about House Bill 110, the state budget bill, and its effect on city health departments.
“The lifting of the mandates is good news. However, we’re still not happy about the state’s efforts to eliminate city health departments,” O’Leary said.
A provision in House Bill 110 could result in the closing of health departments serving cities with populations of fewer than 50,000 people. That measure is making its way through the Ohio Senate after winning passage in the House.