Most Ohio COVID-19 health orders officially lifted; state eyes fall and winter months

The majority of COVID-19 health orders implemented by the state of Ohio are officially over, but the state’s chief medical director cautions that declaring victory over coronavirus would be premature.

“As we head into the fall, will we achieve sufficient population immunity to avoid a fall, winter resurgence,” Ohio Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said. “I won’t feel comfortable declaring victory until we get through the Fall and Winter without encountering that.”

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The state has transitioned its push in recent weeks to getting Ohioans vaccinated. So far, about 5.3 million Ohioans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our goal is to put behind us the severe winter surges we lived through last winter,” Vanderhoff said.

Even with state health restrictions expiring, some masking, protective barriers and social distancing may continue in businesses on a voluntary basis.

Gov. Mike DeWine said during a statewide address on May 12 that it was time for the restrictions to come off. “Everyone can now control their own destiny. It’s time to end the health orders,” DeWine said.

Businesses view the move as a positive step to return the state’s economy and local communities to normal.

In an interview with WHIO-TV, Chris Kershner, President and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the move is a positive one.

“We’re moving forward, Jim, and that’s what’s important. When the restrictions come off today this is a good thing,” Kershner said.

Local businesses like bars, restaurants, retail stores and offices will have to choose what they plan to do next.

Kershner said some companies may keep all or part of their office staff working from home.

Others may bring everyone back to the office. Hybrid work schedules are also a possibility, with workers at home some days and in the office on other days.

Kershner said that decision is no longer up to the state of Ohio.

“We get to make those decisions for ourselves, for our organizations, what makes sense for us,” Kershner said.