The COVID-19 case rate in Ohio has dropped to the lowest it's been in a year. Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) used the decreasing case numbers to call on people to get their vaccinations.

The state saw a two-week average of 49.5 cases per 100,000 people. That's the first time since last June that it's dropped below 50.

The new case rate comes just days after the state lifted most health orders related to the pandemic.

DeWine previously said those mandates wouldn't go away until the state hit 50 cases per 100,000 people.

He changed course last month and set the end date for June 2.

DeWine says the COVID-19 vaccine is making the difference.

"Ohioans have shown our resilience and grit, and by continuing to get vaccinated we are coming through this pandemic stronger than ever," DeWine said in a written statement. "When I announced this goal on March 4, I said that reaching 50 cases per 100,000 would mean we were entering a new phase of this pandemic. Vaccinations are working. That's why cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are down. But that doesn't mean we can let our foot off the gas."

The latest numbers from the state health department show more than 5.3 million Ohioans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 4.7 million are fully vaccinated. On Monday, DeWine issued a news release saying the state has 200,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine that will expire June 23.

"For Ohioans who have been waiting to get their vaccine, I urge you to take action now," Gov. Mike DeWine said in the statement. The release indicated the state does not have legal options to dispatch these doses to other states or countries.

Health officials say unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing in public.

The current case rate continues the state's downward trend since hitting a 2021 high of 200 cases per 100,000 on April 15.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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