COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state will allow proms, banquets, weddings, fairs, festivals, and parades this spring, though masks and distancing rules will be required, Gov. Mike DeWine said, previewing an announcement that will come next week.
The governor, at his news conference Thursday, shared the latest announcements in Ohio's phased reopening as the number of cases falls due in part to vaccinations. He also announced the state’s behavioral health hospitals will resume visitation on March 1 and said the state’s veterans homes resumed admitting new residents Thursday.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said it was important for the state to let residents begin planning events for the spring and summer.
"There are so many people who were waiting for this day, I know you've received the calls and the texts, and I have too from people who were looking to plan for the future, and now, I think, it's reassuring to everybody that the planning can begin, that we can begin down that road back to normal,” Husted said.
The governor announced indoor sports and entertainment venues will be able to allow fans at 25% capacity, and he confirmed the cap will be 30% for outdoor venues like ballparks. Ohio’s professional teams will be expected to sell tickets in “pods,” he said.
Reacting to the announcement, the Ohio High School Athletic Association said it was evaluating the matter. Officials said they would share any updates on high school sports when further details from the state are available.
State officials feel confident they are getting a grip on the pandemic and said the outlook is improving as Ohio is expecting a much larger vaccine shipment next week — 310,000 first shot doses from Pfizer and Moderna.
Additionally, the FDA plans to meet Friday to decide if Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will receive emergency use authorization. If it does, it could be distributed as soon as Saturday, according to health officials, meaning Ohio could actually receive more than 310,000 doses, DeWine said.
With vaccine supply looking up, Ohio will bring on Walmart and Meijer pharmacies as vaccine providers, DeWine announced Thursday, adding that the state will also start giving vaccines to more independent pharmacies.
Looking ahead to the spring and summer, the governor confirmed amusement parks will be able to open with the same restrictions as last year.
DeWine said Thursday that due to vaccinations and declining case numbers, veterans homes can now safely admit new residents. The Sandusky Veterans Home is welcoming a Korean War veteran who served in the Army and, in a few days, a Vietnam War veteran will be moving into the home in Georgetown.
“More than 90% of veterans in these two homes accepted the vaccine, and they really set a great example,” he said. “Right now, there are no positive cases at either location. As new residents are admitted, they'll be tested, and then placed in a new admission wing for 14 days before being transferred to the new living area with the rest of the veteran population.”
The governor also gave an update on the state's progress toward its goal of getting all districts back to at least hybrid learning by March 1.
According to his office's tallies, 68.3% of districts are 5-day in-person, while 29.2% are in hybrid models, 0.8% have "partial access to hybrid," and 1.6% are fully remote.
However, many of the districts that are not yet offering hybrid learning to all students are urban districts with thousands of students. According to the state's data, 12.7% of students are in districts without full access to hybrid learning.