DeWine lifts mask requirement for vaccinated more than 2 weeks early

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Changes follow new guidelines from CDC.

Ohio mask requirements for the fully vaccinated will be largely dropped, in line with new CDC guidance and more than two weeks ahead of the scheduled expiration of Ohio’s pandemic mandates, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday afternoon.

The announcement came just two days after DeWine shared that the mask and social distancing orders would all expire June 2, and one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that it’s generally safe for the fully vaccinated to be unmasked indoors.

“Ohio will be amending our remaining health orders to comply with the new CDC guidance, which says that those who have been vaccinated no longer need to wear masks, while those who have not been vaccinated should still wear a mask and socially distance,” DeWine said.

ExploreDeWine: Mask, social distancing orders end in Ohio in 3 weeks
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday said those who have been vaccinated will no longer need to wear masks after the CDC released updated guidelines. That was not the case 19 months ago, when DeWine traveled around Ohio Oct. 9, 2020, including a stop at the Patterson Homestead on Brown Street in Dayton, to urge Ohioans to wear a mask because he was worried about the recent COVID-19 uptick. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday said those who have been vaccinated will no longer need to wear masks after the CDC released updated guidelines. That was not the case 19 months ago, when DeWine traveled around Ohio Oct. 9, 2020, including a stop at the Patterson Homestead on Brown Street in Dayton, to urge Ohioans to wear a mask because he was worried about the recent COVID-19 uptick. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

With the whirlwind of news, it is unclear how the latest update will be implemented and could create some confusion because there’s no clear way to tell who is vaccinated. It’s also not clear how many local organizations will loosen their rules for the vaccinated or choose to maintain masking requirements, which they have the option to do.

“The most powerful tool we have to protect against the COVID-19 virus is the vaccine. Because of the vaccine, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are decreasing dramatically. The vaccine allows us to live our lives more normally and without fear,” DeWine said in a media statement.

On June 2, the state’s masking requirement and almost all other pandemic mandates for the public will go away. The exception is for those rules involving nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

He noted that the CDC still recommends that everyone wear masks while in healthcare settings, on public transportation or when inside a business that chooses to require masks.

“Individuals who have not been vaccinated should continue to wear masks pursuant to CDC recommendations,” DeWine said. “Businesses also have every right to continue to use masks and to require them for employees and customers.”

The CDC advised on Thursday that fully vaccinated people can safely do much of what they did pre-pandemic.

The agency’s guidance still calls for wearing masks in certain public indoor settings such as when flying on a plane, in prisons and homeless shelters, public transit and at the hospital. There’s also caveats in the advice for some individuals — higher risk people with weak immune systems such as those with a transplant should ask their doctor for advice. Businesses and other organizations can also choose to keep the same mask requirements they have had.

Ohio’s order will be amended to reflect these recommendations.

The state masking and social distancing orders will still be completely dropped June 2.

ExploreCOVID vaccinations for kids ages 12-15 start in Ohio: What you need to know

Nearly 4.94 million people in Ohio have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 4.32 million are fully vaccinated as of Friday, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That means more than 42% of Ohioans have at least started their vaccination and nearly 37% have completed the vaccine.

Children 12 and older became eligible Thursday to be vaccinated against COVID in Ohio. The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is only vaccine authorized for ages 12 and up. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson and two-dose Moderna vaccines are authorized for ages 18 and older.

“Regardless of the new CDC guidance, this fact remains clear: The most powerful thing anyone can do to end this pandemic is to get vaccinated,” DeWine said.

Kroger, which is one of the largest area employers and retailers, said Friday morning that the grocery giant will continue to require face masks for everyone in stores. A Kroger spokeswoman also noted that the company is “encouraging and incentivizing associate vaccinations by offering a $100 one-time payment to associates who receive the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine” and continues to review safety practices.

Walmart announced that it is no longer requiring fully vaccinated customers and employees to wear masks in its stores. Also, it is providing a $75 payment to employees below store manager level, the chain announced Friday evening.

Just prior to DeWine’s Friday afternoon update, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati shared that Catholic churches in the region will not require face masks once the Ohio mandate is lifted. Catholic Conference of Ohio announced that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days will be reinstated starting Sunday, June 6.

United Food and Commercial Workers President Marc Perrone stated that millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and don’t follow local COVID safety measures.

“Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?” he said.

The union called for leaders to clarify how this new policy will be implemented and how essential workers will be protected.