COLUMBUS, Ohio — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a story published on Feb. 27, 2021.
On Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that state Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud had signed a revised health order, expanding capacity for mass gatherings within the state.
According to the governor's office, the first order--which originally prohibited mass gatherings--will now allow for events to go forward, so long as COVID-19 protocols are still followed. This includes wedding receptions, funeral repasts, proms, and other major gatherings.
The order now also allows for more than 300 people to attend events held at banquet centers, as long the venue still enforces other health orders and guidelines. It is big news for wedding planner Lindsey Kernya, owner of Heart to Home Wedding and Event Planning
"I had about half of my weddings cancelled last year," she told 3News. "It was hard to break the changing news to brides as far as capacity."
Kernya is optimistic about the state’s recent ease of restrictions, but says brides are still opting for outdoor weddings.
"The restrictions being lifted is great news, but I think people are still going to be weary for a little bit," she admitted.
The second amended order addresses sporting events and other major gatherings, both outside and in. McCloud authorized a 25% capacity at indoor sporting events, and a 30% capacity at outdoor sports venues. For entertainment-led events, the same rules apply
These revised orders went into effect on Tuesday at 12:01 p.m. The revisions come as Ohio continues to see decreasing case numbers, and increasing vaccinations.
With easing of restrictions, the question is, how do we do it safely? We took the question to Cleveland Clinic infectious disease expert Dr. Kristin Englund.
"It's now time for each and every one of us as Ohioans to follow rules and follow these restrictions," she said. "So when we talk about a certain number of people that can be going to a prom or a certain number of people that can be going to a wedding, that number needs to be enforced."
Several experts also warn that the virus is still out there, and with variants, it could transmit more easily.
"Not every variant is a super variant, but we certainly do need to know which ones are out there and continue to be worrisome," Englund explained.
Back in December, University Hospitals detected the variant which was first identified in the United Kingdom in a patient in Northeast Ohio.
"This is not a time to let down our guard, because we don't want to see those trends turn in the wrong direction just as we are making progress," Englud added.
Meantime, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is urging Americans to be vigilant of those variants.
"At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained," she said. "These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.
"We have the ability to stop the fourth surge of cases in this country. Please stay strong in your conviction, continue wearing your well fitted mask and take the other public health actions that we know work."