One million

COLUMBUS -- More than 1 million Ohio residents have now tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday afternoon.

The governor, during a press conference, said 1,001,194 Ohio residents have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic reached Ohio one year ago, about 8.5 percent of the state's populations.

DeWine said a decline in new coronavirus cases, which has been seen since mid-December, has now recently leveled off.

"We are starting to see a plateau in cases. Cases were dropping for a while and have leveled out -- but we'll have to keep watching this. Some neighboring states are starting to see increases in their cases again," the governor said.

The percentage of those testing positive for coronavirus has also leveled off, remaining around 3 percent since late February, according to the Ohio Dept. of Health website.

"When this started, I didn't have any idea we would be at this a year later and have a million Ohioans infected," the governor said in response to a media question.

Vaccinations continue to increase around the state. As of Monday afternoon, 2,822,236 Ohio residents have received at least one dose of the vaccines, or about 24 percent of the adult population.

The ODH website reported that 1.6 million residents have been fully vaccinated, either receiving both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the one-dose vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

"Every day we are getting closer to victory, but we haven't reached the finish line yet. Although we're getting more vaccines into arms each day, we're also seeing more activity from the variants," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the state's chief medical officer.

"Our total variant count was only 32 cases two weeks ago, but there are now 173 variant cases. This is not the time to throw caution to the wind. We're in the final stretch of the marathon, but we have to keep masking and social distancing," Vanderhoff said.

All 88

DeWine announced on Monday that he has authorized the state's 1,300 vaccine providers to distribute shots to everyone in the state age 16 and older if the provider still has appointments available.

People 16 and older and without qualifying health and professional circumstances were scheduled to become eligible to begin receiving the vaccine on March 29.

“I authorized all of the [local] health departments in the state and any other of the [COVID-19 vaccine] locations -- we have about 1,300 locations around the state of Ohio -- so we have now authorized them that if they cannot fill slots this week or next week, we authorized them this morning to go ahead and offer them to 16 years of age and older," DeWine said.

"If the department has not been able to fill the slot this week, they can go ahead and take anybody 16 years of age and older. If a provider are not filling slots this week, and they feel it's necessary, they certainly have our permission to do that," the governor said.

DeWine also said he will veto on Tuesday a bill that would allow state lawmakers to rescind health orders issued by the state. Senate Bill 22 was approved by the Ohio House and Senate earlier this month.

The law would give lawmakers power to revoke states of emergency and health orders. The bill would put a 90-day expiration on a state of emergency issued by the governor.

Supporters of the measure have said the law is not meant to target authority of state health officials, but would ensure there is legislative oversight for any future crises.

In a five-page letter sent to the bill's sponsor on Monday, DeWine claimed "significant portions" of the proposed law are unconstitutional and that he had "deep concerns" about the bill's language.

DeWine, a Republican, said the bill would strip local and state health departments of their ability to protect citizens from possible future threats and would "fundamentally change" the state's ability to protect its residents.

Leaders in the House and Senate, which are also led by Republicans, have said they would hold votes to attempt to override any veto.

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