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Roundup: The top headlines from Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 briefing

DeWine made several announcements on Thursday, including the anticipation that county fairs will be fully open this summer.

CEDARVILLE, Ohio โ€” Gov. Mike DeWine was back behind the podium at his home in Cedarville for a briefing Thursday with the latest on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its vaccine rollout.

DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted made several announcements during the news conference. Here's a rundown of the top headlines.

More reopenings

As the vaccines continue to be administered and numbers around the state are improving (more on that below), DeWine announced that the state is anticipating that its county fairs will be fully open starting in June. 

"This year, we anticipate we'll be able to have full county fairs. It's possible that by the time we get to fair season we may be off the health orders if things continue to go well," the governor added.

More guidance on spring and summer events including festivals and proms will be announced next week.

Earlier on Thursday in Cleveland, city leaders announced that it will reopen its outdoor pools and playgrounds this summer. The swimming pools, which were closed last year due to COVID-19 concerns, will operate in 45-minute sessions to give crews time for cleaning.

The numbers look promising

DeWine has stated that his target number for the state's COVID-19 health orders to be removed is when the state averages 50 cases per 100,000 over a two-week span. 

While Ohio still has a ways to go to reach that mark, the numbers seem to be trending in the right direction. On Thursday, DeWine said that the state's average has improved from 180 cases per 100,000 last week, to 155. 

"This is still a very elevated level, but the data is certainly trending in the right direction," DeWine noted. 

You can watch DeWine's explanation about the state's progress in this category below:

Wolstein Center vaccination clinic update

The Cleveland mass vaccination site, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will launch on Wednesday, March 17, at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland. 

According to DeWine, as of Thursday more than 17,000 Ohioans have registered to receive their vaccine at the site.

Additional appointments will become available throughout the coming days. To schedule an appointment at the Cleveland mass vaccination site, or with a vaccination provider, visit gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov

The battle over health authority

Republican lawmakersโ€™ latest in a year-long attempt to rein in DeWine's authority to issue public health orders during the pandemic passed Wednesday and faces a likely veto by the governor. DeWine was asked about it on Thursday.

"I will have to veto the bill," DeWine said Thursday. "Not so much for me, because we are coming out of the pandemic, but I'm very concerned about future governors and future health departments not having the tools to keep people safe."

The bill that would allow lawmakers to rescind public health orders issued by the governor or the Ohio Department of Health was fast-tracked out of committee one year to the day from when the coronavirus pandemic began in Ohio and moved onto the House floor where it passed on party lines.

Spring Sports Update

DeWine announced that students who are not required to quarantine because they have had an incidental exposure to COVID in a classroom can participate in sports activities as long as they donโ€™t have symptoms and follow the appropriate sports guidance.

Rapid COVID-19 testing

DeWine detailed four initiatives that he says are making rapid COVID-19 tests more accessible to Ohioans:

  • Federal Qualified Health Centers
    • The state's ongoing partnership with federally qualified health centers has led to the availability of over 150,000 rapid tests at community health centers. These centers have professionals on-hand to administer the tests free of charge.
  • Local Health Departments
    • Local health departments have partnered with their communities to make at-home testing available to schools, nonprofit organizations, and first responders.
  • Public Libraries
    • The state has recently partnered with public libraries to make at-home tests available to more Ohio communities. During the first two weeks, Ohio has partnering with 120 libraries.
  • K-12 Schools
    • A new partnership launched today will bring 200,000 at-home tests to Educational Service Centers. To increase confidence and safety in schools, Governor DeWine encourages school districts to take advantage of this resource and develop aggressive testing plans.

Between libraries and local health departments, at-home testing is accessible in 76 of Ohio's 88 counties. Some of these areas had disproportionate access to testing earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can watch Gov. DeWine's Thursday briefing in the player below:

More headlines:

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