BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – “Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud will remove all pandemic health orders, except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, effective three weeks from today on June 2.”
Those 30 words that came at 5:42 p.m. on Wednesday from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine were what many people across the state have been waiting to hear.
Gov. DeWine has been cautious, some might say too cautious, when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. So for him to say he’s ready to drop all restrictions means he must be confident that the state is ready to move on.
Wednesday evening outside the Boardman Target, customers who were exiting the store still wore masks — the sign at the entrance telling them it’s mandatory. But come Wednesday, June 2, all COVID-19 restrictions in Ohio, including mask-wearing and social distancing, will be dropped.
“It’s about time because it’s ridiculous that we have to wear these masks. Everybody’s got their shots, man,” said Joe Carbone, of Beaver Township.
“I think the masks are a good idea. I think it keeps people safe. I think it’s just good for the community in general,” said Bronson Bilke, of Poland.
“There comes a time when individual responsibility simply must take over,” Gov. DeWine said.
The governor based his decision to end restrictions on the drop in cases and the rise in vaccinations.
“The vaccine is here. It’s stronger and better than medical experts ever imagined,” Gov. DeWine said.
The three weeks before the restrictions are lifted are to allow people not yet vaccinated to get their shots.
But once the health orders are lifted, it doesn’t mean all places will drop their requirements.
“Lifting these health orders will not prevent a business from imposing its own requirements,” Gov. DeWine said.
Donald Loveless, of Austintown, said he’s OK with what the governor decided.
“It’s their responsibility for their own health, and if they feel uncomfortable, wear your mask. If you feel alright, don’t wear your mask,” Loveless said.
Carbone does not think places like grocery stores or even Target should still require the restrictions.
“When you’re shopping, you’re not on top of each other anyways. You’re walking in and out of the store,” Carbone said.
“We are Ohioans. We are Buckeyes. We are strong, and we will finish the job,” Gov. DeWine said.
Gov. DeWine is strongly promoting being vaccinated, so much so that he’s offering incentive programs.
First, anyone under 18 years old who gets at least their first dose of the vaccine will be eligible for a full, four-year college scholarship at any of Ohio’s public universities. The drawing is on May 26.
Second, for people 18 and older who’ve at least received the first dose, there will be five consecutive Wednesday drawings with the winner receiving $1 million. The first drawing will be on May 26. The money will come from Ohio’s coronavirus relief funds.