COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Health has released the latest number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

As of Wednesday, March 17, a total of 993,681 (+1,458) cases had been reported since the pandemic began, leading to 51,837 (+81) hospitalizations and 7,295 (+8) ICU admissions. A total of 2,495,544 people — 21.35% of the state’s population — have started the vaccination process.

The Department of Health is updating the total number of deaths only after death certificates have been processed, usually twice a week. The ODH reported Tuesday a total number of 17,992 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

Gov. Mike DeWine stopped Wednesday at the Ohio University Shoemaker Center in Chillicothe to tour a vaccination site. Watch his comments in the player above.

DeWine announced Tuesday that eligibility will open Friday for those 40 and older and as well as those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart disease and obesity. On March 29, eligibility will open to those 16 and older.

DeWine has said he will lift all state health orders related to the pandemic once the state achieves a rate of 50 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period. Last Thursday, he said the state is at 155.0, down from a peak in December of 845.5.

With case numbers declining, DeWine said that county fairs can proceed this year. Social-distancing and mask-wearing will be required as long as the health orders remain in place. And he said for high school spring sports that student-athletes will no longer be required to quarantine if there is incidental exposure to a positive case in the classroom.

The governor previously said guidance would be issued this week on how parades, festivals, proms and graduations could proceed. On Wednesday, he shed light on how that guidance would look.

“We’re going to issue guidance as if these events were occurring now, with the understanding that as events change, we may be able to loosen up the guidance, but the guidance now basically is going to say you can do about anything — wear a mask now,” he said. “So proms — wear a mask. If the prom was occurring today, we’d say you need to wear a mask. If the graduation was occurring today, we would say wear a mask. Outside is better. If you could do it outside, that’s probably better than doing it inside.”

DeWine said the visitation policy at state nursing homes will follow new federal guidelines that have relaxed rules for visitation.

On the updated map for the Public Health Advisory System, Franklin County and its surrounding counties remained at level 3, or red. A total of 21 counties were at level 2, or orange, and one county, Meigs, was at level 1, or yellow. The remaining counties were at level 3.

A state portal for scheduling vaccinations has been launched. Users can search for vaccine locations by city, county or ZIP code and find links to make appointments.