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Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, right, speaks with President Todd Harford of UH Samaritan Medical Center, Director Mark Rafeld of the Ashland County Emergency Management Agency and Mayor Matt Miller of Ashland.

ASHLAND -- Ohio's Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is optimistic that mask mandates and state health orders could be lifted by June, he said during a stop in Ashland on Wednesday afternoon.

“I believe we can get there,” Husted told reporters. “But it all depends on whether we get enough people to get vaccines and whether or not we’re careful when we're around people who are not in our normal circle of contacts, so that we don't spread (COVID-19).”

Husted made the remarks when asked about Senate Bill 22, which will allow the Ohio General Assembly to vote on limiting states of emergency issued by the governor and rescinding health orders. The bill would also allow the legislature to vote on limiting what local health departments could do during a state of emergency.

The bill takes effect in late June, meaning the legislature could begin to act on any health orders still in place at that time. The lieutenant governor hopes it will be a non-issue. Governor Mike DeWine has previously stated that all health orders will be lifted once Ohio’s case numbers drop to 50 or fewer per 100,000 people for two weeks.

“I believe we can get there,” he reiterated. “Nobody likes this. We want to get the virus under control and move on.”

During his visit to Ashland, Husted visited the vaccination clinic at UH Samaritan’s Urgent Care facility on Main Street, where he toured the premises and thanked health care workers and volunteers.

He also praised the collaboration between local health authorities and volunteers and the efficiency of the vaccination process.

The clinic is operated by UH Samaritan and Ashland County Health Department. The Ashland County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and Ashland County-City Medical Reserve Corps also aid in the operations.

Around 5,000 people have been vaccinated during the twice-weekly clinics, according to Mark Rafeld, director of Ashland County EMA. 

“I think everybody appreciates the flexibility. We have people driving in from an hour away to come to UH Samaritan in Ashland,” Rafeld said. 

Rafeld also stated the health department is working with Ashland University to offer a Johnson and Johnson vaccination clinic for students on Thursday.

Ashland Mayor Matt Miller shared that the county received approximately $32,079 in grant funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation to provide free public transit to vaccination clinics.

“We’ve already had people starting to take advantage of that offer,” he said.

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