Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine hints toward vaccine benchmark to prompt relaxing COVID rules

Posted at 9:30 PM, May 03, 2021

While some Ohioans have held back on getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he's holding back on lifting more pandemic-related health restrictions.

But in the coming days, the Republican has hinted he might set a new benchmark for lifting things like indoor capacity limits on bars, restaurants, music venues and sporting events, and that benchmark will most likely revolve around getting more Ohioans vaccinated.

While case numbers had decreased slightly as of his Monday update, he called upon local health departments to get creative with their vaccine outreach in order to begin loosening the restrictions.

"My caution is: If you have not been vaccinated, this is a high-risk gamble, a very high-risk situation," DeWine said Monday during a news briefing. "Getting it in people's arms is our ticket out of this virus," he said, pointing to age statistics that show case rates among older Ohioans -- those first eligible for the vaccine -- are among the lowest in the state.

"We have not yet come up with a, 'Here's a specific number that all health orders will come off,'" he said. "We're still talking about it, still looking at it."

In Kentucky, DeWine's counterpart, Gov. Andy Beshear, set a rough goal of 2.5 million Kentuckians vaccinated before making major revisions to his administration's health orders.

As the weeks since vaccination eligibility opened across the state, demand for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines has been decreasing across both states. In Ohio, more than 2,100 new shots had been administered since last count, but that was the lowest count for the year so far.

Roughly 4.7 million Ohioans -- roughly 40% of those eligible -- had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.

"There's a point in time, which is very soon, where everybody's had a chance to get the vaccine, and you can't ask everyone else to continue to sacrifice to you if you're not willing to do what it takes to create your own safe environment," said Lt. Governor Jon Husted Monday on 700 WLW.

DeWine did relax one COVID procedure: Long-term care facilities no longer have to test fully vaccinated employees on a biweekly basis.

"People are going more to restaurants; they're going to bars; they're going to baseball games," DeWine said. "There's a world out there once you're vaccinated."

Hamilton County Public Health said it will be driving around to give vaccinations wherever they can find people are gathered. Last week, for example, the department set up a location to give out free shots at Kenwood Theatre.