DeWine: Mask, social distancing orders end in Ohio in 3 weeks

Governor announces $1M drawings, college scholarships as vaccination incentives.

Wearing masks, social distancing and all other coronavirus-related health orders will end in three weeks in Ohio.

“It is time to end the health orders,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday during his fourth primetime address on the state’s COVID-19 progress. The address was streamed live on the Ohio Channel.

Lifting the orders does not mean Ohioans are safe, but it means each person will make their own decisions about wearing masks, social distancing and other protective measures, DeWine said. The end of health orders will take effect June 2, but does not include nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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“The virus is more dangerous than ever to those who are not vaccinated,” he said. “There comes a time when individual responsibility must take over.”

Children 12 and older can start to receive the Pfizer two-dose vaccine starting Thursday in Ohio.

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The Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for ages 12 to 15 on Monday and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its recommendations Wednesday.

Pfizer is the only vaccine in the U.S. authorized for ages 12 and older. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson and two-dose Moderna vaccines are authorized for ages 18 and older.

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As an incentive to get more people vaccinated, DeWine announced five $1 million drawings and college scholarships to those who are vaccinated.

“Ohio — let’s do this. Let’s get it done. Let’s get everyone vaccinated. Because we are Ohioans, we are Buckeyes, we are strong, and we will finish the job,” he said.

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The first drawing will be in two weeks, on May 26, for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. For five weeks, one winner will receive $1 million.

“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.’ But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — the real waste is a life that is lost now to COVID-19.”

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A similar drawing for those 17 and younger who have been vaccinated will be for a full, four-year scholarship to state of Ohio universities.

“This will include tuition, room and board and books,” DeWine said.

Both drawings will be Wednesday nights for five weeks starting May 26. The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health and paid for with existing federal COVID relief funds.

Ohio’s cases per 100,000 are the lowest compared to all its neighboring states, according to CDC data, and DeWine reported a 75% drop in COVID-related hospitalizations since the vaccine became available.

“As more and more eligible Ohioans get vaccinated, we are seeing more and more signs that the tide of this pandemic is finally turning in our favor,” he said.

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