COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state will be simplifying the statewide health orders, encompassing all of the individual health orders to date into one overarching order while also making it clear that proms, graduations and other events can occur.
The new order will encapsulate the previous orders while still placing importance on wearing masks, social distancing and limiting large gatherings.
“Above all, common sense," DeWine said about the contents of the new order. "Wear a mask, social distancing, being outside is always just so much better than being inside, good handwashing and limiting gatherings of large numbers of people who are directly with you."
The goal is to “get back to basics” and make a “smooth path to the return to our lives” as the state works to come out of the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud.
Simplifying the health orders, McCloud said, comes with the hope that by focusing on the important items and highlighting the basics, the state will clear up confusion about which order applies when and to whom the orders apply — helping organizers of events, business operators and the general public follow the state's guidance.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state has learned much about the virus and has issued health orders in response to new information regarding the pandemic. More than a year in, the state feels comfortable combining the most important orders into one statewide order, combining those previous orders into one place.
The focus of the new, combined order will include:
- Wearing masks at all times in any indoor location that’s not a residence or when outside and unable to maintain a safe, social distance.
- Social distancing of six feet.
- Limiting large gatherings, keeping individual groups of people to 10 or smaller without congregating with other groups around them. Outdoor events will not have a capacity limit but will have to comply with social distancing.
- Practicing good hand washing and hygiene.
- Having events outside whenever possible.
- Remaining seated when actively eating or drinking in public.
- Keeping capacity at indoor venues limited to 25% and making sure protocols are outlined.
“We hope by encompassing our separate orders into this one order we will make them easier to understand for organizers and for those who are attending events,” McCloud said.
But Dr. Amy Edwards, University Hospital's Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, told News 5 she's concerned the consolidated, more relaxed health order, could lead to some health concerns.
Dr. Edwards urged everyone, including parents that they shouldn't let their guard down as we head into prom and graduation season.
“I think he’s counting too much on people doing the right thing, because we know perfect well that if big groups are gathering, they are not going to be 6 feet from each other.”
“By loosening any kind of restrictions right now, you’re giving the variant the edge.”
“I mean it’s almost not fair, like why should anybody die of COVID right now when there is a vaccine available. It just seems like a bad idea right now.”
“COVID for kids right now is almost as bad as one of the worst flu seasons that I can ever remember.”
“When it comes to proms, parents, I just don’t see why you would take that risk, and especially if your kids are high risk, like if they have asthma or diabetes.”
"Do something outdoors, make it smaller groups, so instead of one big prom with the whole senior class together, maybe you make a couple of sub-proms.”
Dan Lark, Lake County General Health District Director of Environmental Health told News 5 he's in favor of consolidating all the health orders, but said everyone must continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocol to make it work.
“Having so many different orders I think sometimes became confusing to the general public," Lark said. "Where you’d go to a restaurant and have one set of orders, and you’d go to work and have a different set of things you’re supposed to follow.”
“Wearing your masks, staying in small groups, staying apart from other groups. People are getting vaccinated, and if we could just keep it up a little bit longer, I think we’ll really be in a good spot shortly.”
DeWine said that enforcement of the order will "boil down to common sense."
The governor also said the decision to combine the orders had nothing to do with the General Assembly's recently-passed legislation limiting the governor's power to enact health orders, or preventing health orders from being overturned.
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