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DeWine says mask mandate won’t come back as COVID-19 cases increase

State still exploring new vaccine incentive programs.
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 10:32 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he’s not considering reinstating the state’s mask mandate as cases and hospitalizations rise following the July 4 holiday.

“There’s one way out of this,” DeWine said Friday. “That is to have more people get vaccinated.”

The state’s 21-day case average had been steadily decreasing until the holiday weekend. On July 5, the state was averaging 251 new daily cases in a three-week period. The average is now up to 287.

Ohio reported more than 500 new cases on consecutive days Friday for the first time since the end of May.

Cases are increasing in all 50 states for the first time since early January, prompting some cities and counties to reintroduce mask mandates.

Health officials are stressing the current outbreaks across the country are preventable.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday. “Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated.”

DeWine has said as recently as Tuesday that the state plans to unveil a new vaccine incentive program. He hinted at the idea leading up to the final Vax-a-Million drawing, which he said gave the state a boost in inoculations for the first two weeks of the five-week lottery.

The V Project in northwest Ohio is partnering with Metroparks Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department to host vaccine clinics at different Metroparks in July. Everyone who gets their shot will get a $15 restaurant gift card and get entered to win a free overnight stay at The Stables treehouse at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark.

The parks will offer Pfizer and Johson & Johnson vaccines each day listed below from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18: Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, Oak Openings Lodge parking lot, 5440 Wilkins Rd., Whitehouse
  • Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25: Pearson Metropark, playground shelter parking lot, 761 S. Lallendorf Rd. (between Navarre and Starr), Oregon
  • Saturday, July 31: Farnsworth Metropark, Indianola Shelter parking lot, 8505 S. River Rd., Waterville: Farnsworth Metropark, Indianola Shelter parking lot, 8505 S. River Rd., Waterville

DeWine believes a major hurdle to getting people vaccinated is the Food and Drug Administration.

The federal agency has granted emergency use authorization to the three COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the United States. DeWine said some people are sitting on the sidelines as they wait for the shots to gain full FDA approval, a process Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts will happen because “of the extraordinary amount of positive data.”

Vaccination rates in Ohio continue to crawl compared to their early pace. According to state data analyzed by the 13abc Vaccine Tracker, 288,528 people have received their first dose since June 1. More people received their first shots in a three-day period between March 30-April 1 (295,323) when the state was at its peak.

The governor signed a bill this week that bans public schools and universities from mandating vaccines that don’t have FDA approval, however, it doesn’t go into effect after the 2021-2022 school year starts.

DeWine said he’s expressed his feelings about getting the vaccines full FDA approval to the White House and looked into the cameras as he discussed the topic with reporters Friday:

“It’s time. It really is time for you to give full approval,” DeWine said. “We have lives at stake and we can’t wait any longer.”

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