COLUMBUS, Ohio — Most COVID-19-related health orders will lift on June 2, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday. Orders for nursing homes and assisted living facilities will remain in place.
The state also will begin mobilizing vaccination resources Thursday to administer the shots to children 12 years and older, following FDA and CDC approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 inoculation for that age group.
And all vaccinated Ohioans will be eligible to enter a lottery for a chance at some big prizes.
During a late afternoon news conference Wednesday, DeWine touted the progress Ohio has made in vaccinations, lowering COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state, specifically compared to case rates per 100,000 people in December, at the start of the vaccination rollout.
"In December, that number topped more than 800," he said. "Four weeks ago it was 200. Two weeks ago it was 155, and today it is down to 123."
Case rates have consistently dropped roughly two to three points per day, he added. In comparison to neighboring states of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, DeWine said Ohio has the lowest average for COVID-19 cases.
"According to the CDC, Ohio's cases per 100,000 have averaged the past week as the lowest of all our neighboring states and that, that is great news," he said.
As of Wednesday, roughly 78% of Ohioans over the age of 55 have been vaccinated; DeWine emphasized the importance of that, alongside the FDA and CDC's approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children, toward his declaration that most of the health orders will end.
Since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, children have consistently made up as much as 22% of cases nationwide, according to DeWine.
"In preparation for the vaccination of 12- to 15-year-olds, Ohio’s children’s hospitals and pediatricians are already working with local groups to make the vaccine available to their patients and members of their community," DeWine said.
"What you have done has truly worked," he said. "Now we have a powerful weapon that is almost 100% effective at beating this virus... It's time. It's time to end the health orders."
Orders being lifted will include Ohio's mask mandate and social distancing rules imposed by the state. Businesses and schools are allowed to make their own determinations as to whether masking or social distancing should continue.
"In fact, based upon the experiences of other states, we expect that many stores and businesses may require social distancing and may require masking," he said.
Lifting the mandates does not mean the virus is gone or that everyone is safe, DeWine added. He said this is simply a transition into Ohioans making their own decisions about wearing a mask, social distancing and how to protect themselves.
Full ride scholarships for kids and $1 million for adults
The governor also emphasized that vaccinations should continue, because those who have not received a vaccine make up the majority of COVID-19 cases, which still occur daily. Citing data from the Cleveland Clinic, nearly 100% of those hospitalized recently from the COVID-19 virus have been people who were not vaccinated, DeWine said.
"For those who are not vaccinated, the virus is just as dangerous as ever," he said. "In fact, because the new variant is more contagious, the virus is really more dangerous than ever."
He urged businesses to offer incentives for people who can prove they've been vaccinated and announced several incentives from the state, as well.
Teens under the age of 17 who have been vaccinated will have the opportunity to sign up for a lottery, beginning May 18, that will last for five weeks. Each Wednesday following May 18, the state will randomly select one teen who will win a full four-year scholarship to any college or university in the state of Ohio.
On May 18th, an electronic portal will be opened up for young people who have been vaccinated to be able to register. We will do this every Wednesday, for five straight Wednesdays -- each time randomly selecting one student to receive the full, four-year scholarship.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
The scholarship will fully cover the cost of tuition, room and board and books for each winner, DeWine said. Anyone under 17 can register each week during the five-week lottery.
Adults shouldn't despair either, because DeWine announced a separate lottery for those over the age of 18: The chance to win $1 million.
Two weeks from tonight on May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive one million dollars.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
Once a week, for five weeks, one adult over the age of 18 who has been vaccinated and is a resident of Ohio will be chosen to win the money, DeWine said.
He promised there would be more specific information about both drawings in the coming days and did not elaborate on specifics.
Watch the full address below: