By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Outdoor and indoor sports and entertainment facilities can reopen with limited attendance under rules announced Thursday by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. He also said guidance for proms, banquets, wedding receptions, fairs, festivals, and parades is coming soon.
The attendance limits could be further eased depending on the progress of the coronavirus pandemic this spring and summer, but could also be restricted if things worsen because of the coronavirus variant, the governor said.
DeWine said outdoor venues can reopen with a maximum 30% capacity and indoor venues with 25% capacity. Social distancing and continued mask wearing are key to making these limits work, the governor said.
“The goal will be for all of us to get back to where we want to be — what our lives were before the pandemic,” DeWine said.
The Republican governor called the measures “a bridge” back to normal life, but one built on vaccinations and continuing to follow safety protocols such as mask wearing.
The governor also announced that the state’s two veterans homes have reopened to new admissions after nearly a year. The state is also lifting restrictions on visits to the state’s behavioral health facilities.
About 1.5 million people in Ohio had received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Thursday, or about 13% of the population. The state is on track to receive 310,000 doses next week, and distribution is being expanded to places like Meijer, Walmart and independent drug stores.
Ohio continues to see sky-high claims for unemployment with fraud blamed for part of the new record numbers, according to the latest jobless data released Thursday.
Ohioans filed 101,825 initial claims for unemployment for the week ending Feb. 20, with at least 29,000 of those flagged for potential fraud, the state Department of Job and Family Services said.
Over the past year, initial weekly jobless claims have been far higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, with figures ranging from around 20,000 to more than 40,000.
But beginning the week ending Feb. 6, the agency received 140,444 initial claims for unemployment, a figure that has slowly declined but still is considered artificially inflated by fraud. The human services agency has set up a hotline and online reporting center to notify the state of potential fraud.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3,129 new cases per day on Feb. 10 to 2,127 new cases per day on Feb. 24, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.