Editorial: A new stage in the pandemic


If you still needed a reason to get the coronavirus vaccine, a good one arrived Thursday.

Fully vaccinated Americans can safely stop wearing masks in most settings, the federal government said.

The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was further proof that the road out of the pandemic runs through vaccination clinics.

Granted, the United States hasn’t hit herd immunity yet and masks should still be worn in certain places, such as health-care settings and airplanes, but it was a sign of real progress.

Those who haven’t been vaccinated should continue to wear masks and take other steps to limit their chances of contracting or spreading the virus, which has killed around 583,000 Americans. Better yet, they should get vaccinated. The vaccines are effective and safe.

The loosened guidance also should ease the minds of those who worried that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s pledge to lift his health orders June 2 was too cavalier.

Those concerns were justified Wednesday after DeWine moved the goalposts he set in March, when he said the health orders would end once the state’s incidence rate dropped to 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks.

It was a reasonable goal, but we’re not there yet. Even DeWine acknowledged that the state might not hit the mark by June 2. On Thursday, the rate was 119.9 cases per 100,000 people. In Lorain County, it was 130.7 cases per 100,000 people.

In explaining his decision, DeWine pointed to the state’s declining infection rate, fewer hospitalizations and the effectiveness of vaccines. The restrictions Ohioans endured for more than a year have mostly done their job.

“There comes a time when individual responsibility simply must take over,” DeWine said.

As of Thursday, a little over 42 percent of Ohio’s population had received a first dose. In Lorain County, the corresponding figure was 45.4 percent.

Unfortunately, the pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably, with appointments going unfilled in recent weeks.

Still, DeWine hasn’t given up on persuading the unvaccinated among us to roll up their sleeves.

On Wednesday he unveiled a plan to make vaccinated adults eligible to win one of five $1 million prizes in a lottery, which was quickly drubbed the “Vax-A-Million.”

The idea generated almost immediate criticism from both sides of the aisle, with some questioning whether it was an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money and others dismissing it as a gimmick. DeWine himself sounded like a carpet salesman when he pitched it.

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

Is giving away $5 million the best use of federal coronavirus relief dollars?

Probably not, but the unorthodox tactic will entice some people into getting vaccinated, which will save lives. The same goes for the five full-ride scholarships to any public college or university in the state that will be raffled off to vaccinated youngsters.

Regardless of the state of the pandemic in Ohio, DeWine was running out of time to lift the restrictions.

A new state law, which goes into effect in late June, will allow the General Assembly to override his health orders. There was no doubt that many of DeWine’s fellow Republicans intended to do just that.

Better for him politically to do it himself rather than have it forced on him.

… There could be another surge or a dangerous variant could emerge requiring a new round of restrictions, but for now it looks as if we’re entering a new phase of the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the threat persists, and vaccination remains the best way to limit it.

— (Elyria) Chronicle-Telegram, May 14, 2021.