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New Health Orders Loosening Ohio's Event Restrictions Take Effect

Columbus Crew supporters at the Nordecke fan section on September 29, 2019.
Adora Namigadde
Columbus Crew supporters at the Nordecke fan section on September 29, 2019.

Two new health orders are now in effect that allow sports and entertainment venues to reopen in Ohio, and relax restrictions around weddings, proms and other big events.

Since last March, the Ohio Department of Health has banned "mass gatherings" as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. Under Tuesday's updated order, signed by health director Stephanie McCloud, that prohibition of "all public and private gatherings of greater than 10 people occurring outside a single residence" remains in place.

However, banquet halls are no longer limited to 300 people, as long as those attending weddings, proms, funeral wakes and parties wear face coverings, and the facilities adhere to previous health orders regarding restaurants and in-person dining.

Ohio's mass gathering ban has never applied to religious gatherings or other First Amendment-protected activities, including protests or church services.

Under the state's updated order on youth, collegiate, club and professional sports, spectators are once again allowed at 25% of indoor seating capacity or 30% of outdoor seating capacity. The same rules apply to entertainment venues such as theaters.

In an August order, Ohio limited outdoor attendance to 15% of capacity or 1,500 people, and indoor venues to 15% capacity or 300 people, whichever was less. However, some professional sports teams such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Indians and Browns, and Cincinnati Reds and Bengals were given expansions on those limits.

Gov. Mike DeWine said last week that the new guidelines could be loosened or tightened depending on the course of the pandemic this spring.

The two orders took effect at 12:01 p.m. Tuesday.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.