Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday encouraged Ohioans to begin planning for spring and summer graduations, county fairs, sporting events and celebrations that were nixed or sharply curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“There are a lot of signs of spring out there and a lot of things to be happy about as we move forward,” he said in an afternoon news conference.
The governor did not set a date for when these events would be allowed to resume but promised formal guidance would arrive by March 4.
In the meantime, he laid out some basics.
The governor said his administration will allow indoor events, such as wedding receptions, to resume at 25% capacity and outdoor events, such as sports, to resume at 30%.
Mask-wearing will be mandatory, and attendees must be seated in “pods” of no more than six people — ideally all from the same household. Each individual pod must be spaced six feet or more from its nearest neighbors.
Before DeWine finished speaking, the Cincinnati Reds announced their upcoming season would accommodate in-person guests at Great American Ball Park beginning April 1.
Per the governor’s specifications, GABP will open at 30% total capacity, meaning about 12,695 of its 42,319 seats will be available for fans to book.
DeWine said his administration is optimistic about the next several months in Ohio and anticipates a partial return to the “normal” that existed before spring 2020.
“There’s a bridge to that life, and we have to take that bridge,” DeWine said. “And the bridge is really built on two things. One is vaccinations, and the other is to continue to wear masks.”
A little more than 1.5 million of Ohio's 12 million residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, according to data published Thursday by the Ohio Department of Health. By March 5, every K-12 school worker whose district committed to in-person learning for the spring will be on that list, and many, DeWine said, will have received two shots.
Thanks in part to his ultimatum — return to in-person class by March 1 or don't get vaccine priority — only 10 public school districts remained fully remote by the time he spoke Thursday.
The governor declined again to set a date for when the state might expand vaccination eligibility beyond the groups already receiving the vaccine: Frontline health care workers, K-12 educators, Ohioans over the age of 65, people with certain long-term health problems that contribute to COVID-19 fatalities and people who live or work in congregate care settings such as nursing homes.
However, he said, there's reason for optimism in Ohio's near future. The forthcoming approval of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-1`9 vaccine will improve the state's supply of doses, enabling more shots whenever the Food and Drug Administration grants Johnson & Johnson its emergency use authorization.
"We don’t know when that green light goes on … but when that light goes on, we believe, based on the information we have from the federal government, that in the first week, this would be an additional 90,000 doses," DeWine said.