DeWine Anticipates 'Full County Fairs' This Summer As Infection Rates Decline
Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio counties will be able to once again hold county fairs this summer, anticipating that the state will soon emerge from the COVID-19 restrictions imposed one year ago.
Marking his 150th coronavirus press briefing since the pandemic began last March, DeWine on Thursday said “it’s our anticipation that we will be able to have full county fairs this year.”
The state health department is issuing new guidance for such events, placing a 30% capacity limit for grandstand activities, along with required physical distancing and masking.
“Guidelines could change in the future,” DeWine said. “But we wanted to give fairs guidance on how they could start.”
While the Ohio State Fair was scrapped last summer, the Ohio Department of Health allowed county fairs to happen with greatly reduced grandstand capacity and strict safety guidelines.
DeWine added that the state will issue rules next week for anticipated events like festivals, parades and proms.
Less Spread, But Still Concerning
Ohio continues to see coronavirus numbers decrease across the board. On the state's public health advisory map, nine Ohio counties dropped from red to orange this week, and one – Meigs County in the southeast corner of the state – decreased to yellow, the lowest level of concern.
The state's infection rate has decreased to 155 cases per 100,000 people, a drop from 179 in the previous period. DeWine has indicated that once the two-week infection rate falls below 50 cases per 100,000 people, the state will lift all health orders, including the ongoing mask mandate and mass gathering ban.
“This is still a highly elevated level," DeWine cautioned, while noting the progress. "It’s above what CDC high incidence is (100 cases per 100,000 people), but the data is certainly trending in the right direction.”
DeWine also announced several changes related to schools, most of which have returned to some form of in-person learning. DeWine said the state lifted the quarantine requirement for students who had incidental exposure to other students in a classroom, guidance that now extends to student-athletes as long as they remain symptom free.
Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff also said students who have been exposed will be subject to a shorter quarantine period of 10 days with no testing. If a test is taken five days after exposure and comes back negative, that quarantine can end after day seven.
“This may improve compliance,” he said.
That new guidance will be issued today.
Deploying More Tests And Vaccines
The state also announced Thursday it’s shipping 200,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits to educational service centers around Ohio, as it continues to encourage the use of testing as a critical component of keeping the virus at bay.
Ohio has also reached out to public libraries to make the at-home test kits available across the state. DeWine said 120 library systems and 250 sites are on board with the effort, making the home test kits available in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The state previously made the rapid at-home tests available through local health departments. DeWine also said the state provided more than 150,000 rapid tests since December to federally-qualified health centers, which can administer them onsite.
"Testing plays a very important role in protecting our communities during this pandemic," DeWine said.
Registration opened today for the mass vaccination clinic being held in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center. DeWine said 17,000 people had already registered.
The site will open March 17 and is expected to vaccinate up to 6,000 people a day.
"This site will be open for a number of weeks and many more appointments will be open in the coming days," DeWine said.
The state has made people age 50 and older eligible to receive a vaccine. During the briefing, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted—who said he is now eligible—received a first dose of the vaccine in Montpelier at the school where he went to junior high.
The Williams County Public Health Department conducted the pop-up clinic where Husted got the shot.
"The needle in the arm is a lot more pleasant than the swab in the nose," Husted said, referring to COVID-19 testing procedures.
The clinic expected to administer 840 first doses today. The mayor of Montpelier and Husted's former babysitter, Shirley Fry, were among those vaccinated during the briefing.
What questions do you have about COVID-19, the vaccines, or Ohio's response? Ask below and WOSU may answer as part of our series A Year Of COVID.