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DeWine says end of COVID-19 fight in sight

Lays out methodology for lifting health orders in statewide address

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s COVID-19 map again saw slight improvements in its update on Thursday.

This week, 11 counties were listed at Orange Level Two, an increase of three since last week, with the change being due to four counties having their designation dropped from Red level Three.

One County, Holmes, also moved to Yellow Level One, the least severe designation on the four-tier system.

The rest of the state, including Lawrence County, continues to be listed at Red level Three. No counties are listed at Purple Level Four, the most severe designation.

Lawrence County has been at Level Three since Oct. 8. The 20 weeks are its second stint at that designation.

The system, compiled by the Ohio Department of Health, is determined by seven data indicators — New cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases not congregate cases, sustained increase in emergency room visits, sustained increase in outpatient visits and sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions — that identify the risk level for each county and a corresponding color code to represent that risk level.

DeWine also gave a statewide address on Thursday evening, marking one year since the state reported its first case of COVID-19.

“Ohioans are doing things right,” he said. “And because of what Ohioans have done, we have made significant strides in getting our lives back to normal.”

DeWine pointed to the lifting of the statewide curfew, stay-at-home orders and the reopening of restaurants, bars and gyms as indicators that the situation has improved as vaccinations are under way.

“When Ohio gets down to 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, all health orders will come off,” he said. “Cases per 100,000 people for a two-week period is a standard measure we have used since early in the pandemic.”

As of this week, the state is at 179 cases, per 100,00 people, he said, an improvement since early December, when it was at 731 per 100,000 people.

“The end of our fight is now in view, but we must continue pressing forward in these final days,” DeWine said. “We must not relent.”

DeWine said more than 1.8 million Ohioans have been vaccinated at more than 1,200 locations.

“The vaccine is the most efficient, effective and powerful weapon,” he said. “Our vaccination plan has been to prioritize Ohioans most likely to die if they get the virus: older Ohioans, those with severe developmental disabilities and those with serious, life-threatening medical condition.”

He said the National Guard has been vaccinating people at low-income senior housing locations, churches, community health centers, and many other places in the state.

“Our path back is by each of us getting vaccinated when we can, and by each of us wearing masks in public,” he said. “While no one will be forced to take the vaccine, the more of us who are vaccinated, the more complete our victory and the more confidently we can put this behind us.”

He urged the public to continue to follow the guidelines and be vigilant in coming months.

“This has been a tough year,” he said. “Many have lost a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a spouse, and some have even lost a child. Yet we did what Ohioans always do — we rallied together. We sacrificed. We worked hard to protect the most vulnerable.”