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County Fairs Will be Back As COVID-19 Cases Continue Falling in Ohio

 A new chart state leaders shared today shows the incidence of cases per 100,000 since last March.
Ohio Department of Health
A new chart state leaders shared today shows the incidence of cases per 100,000 since last March.

Nine Ohio counties have gone from red to orange this week on the state’s public health advisory map and one—Meigs County--decreased to yellow. The average number of cases per 100,000 people statewide has decreased to 155. And Gov. Mike DeWine today said Ohio counties will be able to host county fairs that begin in June as the state continues to anticipate an emergence from the restrictions imposed a year ago to limit the spread of COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus.

DeWine has indicated that once the average number of cases per 100,000 drops below 50 statewide for two weeks, the state will lift all health orders. The number this week at 155 decreased from just under 180 in the previous period. While noting the progress, DeWine said, “This is still a highly elevated level. It’s above what CDC high incidence is (100 cases per 100,000 people), but the data is certainly trending in the right direction.”

Because of that, DeWine announced that “it’s our anticipation that we will be able to have full county fairs this year.” The state is issuing guidance for those events today: capacity limits will be in place for grandstand activities (30% of maximums), social distancing and masking will also be required at this point. “Guidelines could change in the future,” DeWine said. “But we wanted to give fairs guidance on how they could start.”

DeWine also said the state will issue guidelines next week for other upcoming anticipated events including festivals, parades and proms.

Updating student quarantine procedures

DeWine also announced the state is revising its quarantine guidance regarding student-athletes participating in spring sports.

The state has lifted the quarantine requirement for students who’ve had incidental exposure to other students in a classroom. That will now extend 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 ten days with no testing. “This may improve compliance,” he said. If a test is taken five days after exposure and it is negative, Vanderhoff said the quarantine can end after day seven.

That new guidance will be issued today.

More rapid tests deployed

The state also announced today 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.

It has also reached out to public libraries around Ohio to make the at-home test kits available. DeWine said 120 library systems are on board with the effort, putting kits in 250 sites statewide. This means rapid, at-home test kits are available in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The state previously made the rapid at-home tests available through local health departments. He also said the state has 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.

Vaccine distribution grows

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 as of today. 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 saying "the needle in the arm is a lot more pleasant than the swab in the nose," 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.

DeWine noted that today's briefing marks a milestone—it is the 150th briefing he has given since the pandemic began one year ago.

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 Lt. Gov. Jon Husted receives a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine during a pop up clinic in Williams County.
/ The Ohio Channel
The Ohio Channel
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted receives a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine during a pop up clinic in Williams County.

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.