Expect more full restaurants, unmasked shoppers, and more people in theaters seats among changes coming to Ohio now that the state’s emergency pandemic rules have almost entirely ended.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration ended orders on masks, capacity, social distancing, following the rollout of vaccines and dramatic improvement in pandemic outlook. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are the exception and they still have some additional pandemic rules to follow.
Dropping or keeping mask rules and distancing is up to the business. Some are immediately dropping all restrictions. Others are keeping at least some precautions for now.
Elizabeth Valenti, chef and owner of Wheat Penny Oven and Bar in the Oregon District, said they will be taking gradual steps, starting by adding some more tables and removing the guards but still not going back to full capacity. She said she wants to make sure the staff and customers who aren’t vaccinated are in as healthy an environment as possible.
“We’re going to take baby steps and see how June plays out,” Valenti said.
Just over half of all Ohio adults have received a COVID-19 vaccine, including more than three-fourths of Ohioans older than 65. The threat of the virus has likewise been retreating, with 30% fewer Ohioans hospitalized as of Tuesday with COVID-19 compared to two months ago.
COVID-19 vaccines nearly 100% protect against getting severely ill or dying from the virus and the CDC advises that it is generally safe for people who are fully vaccinated to resume what they were doing before the pandemic.
It’s not clear yet the degree to which vaccines protect people with weakened immune systems, and there’s concern that immunocompromised people might not have as high of protection from the vaccine, said Equitas Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chad Braun.
Braun said he strongly encourages vaccinations and encourages people to do what makes them feel comfortable as they make decisions like whether they want to mask in places where it’s not required.
“There is a time that we’re going to have to go back to whatever normal is after COVID, and we’re just figuring that out right now ... Right now, I’m pretty optimistic and that’s a good place to be after the last 15 months,” Braun said.
Less visiting restrictions
Local hospitals are loosening visitor restrictions.
Members of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association will allow three visitors per patient in private patient rooms and will also allow up to one visitor at a time for patients being treated for COVID-19 starting June 2.
“Changes to our region’s visitor restrictions will increase the interactions between patients, families, and caregivers while we continue to be mindful of COVID-19 transmission and the need to protect everyone in our hospitals’ care,” said Sarah Hackenbracht, President and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.
Additionally, maternity patients will be allowed to have three visitors per patient at a time with the limitation of two support persons during delivery. Children ages 12 and over may also visit patients under the new guidelines. Patients who require additional assistance may have one additional assistance person. Other exceptions to the regional visitor restrictions policy may be made by hospital staff upon approval. Masking is still required in public spaces.
More in-person events
The Dublin Pub is having an end-of-Prohibition-style party today marking the end of required masking.
Anthony Good, general manager of the Dublin Pub, said its about “the desire for the community to get back to a sense of normalcy.”
Dayton Live’s VP of Operations Sarah Robertson said this weekend they’ll have the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance in the Schuster Center performing the Music of Queen with social distanced seating still in place, but masks are no longer required. They’ll also open a lobby bar for the first time this season.
“As we move through the summer and into the fall, we will be selling events at full capacity and excited to have people join us,” she said.
The lifting of state mandates today will bring changes for Dorothy Lane Market’s three locations, which will no longer require face coverings, said Marketing Director Jessie Kuhn.
“However, we certainly welcome our customers and associates to continue to wear them if they feel more comfortable,” Kuhn said in a statement Tuesday.
Montgomery County Job and Family Services is expanding access to in-person services starting today at the Job Center at 1111 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton, such as allowing walk-ins again at the child support area.
“I am also particularly looking forward to sharing our new Family Assistance Resource Room with the public,” said Michelle Niedermier, Montgomery County director of Job and Family Services.
Rules have been loosening at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and other military facilities, which operate on a different set of pandemic regulations that have generally mirrored workplaces in the civilian world.
The Defense Department no longer required masks at DoD facilities for fully vaccinated personnel as of about May 14. That guidance applies to all military personnel and civilian employees, according to a memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s own rules are reflecting that new reality.
“I trust you to make the right call,” Col Patick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, said in a May 19 Facebook Live meeting. “At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice.”
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, told the media in late March he expected every uniformed military member who wants to receive a vaccine to be able to get one “by mid-summer.”