OHIO — Ohio's COVID-19 case rate continues to decline, far below a benchmark previously set by the state, Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday.  

As of Wednesday, the case rate fell to 39.1 per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks.

Before dropping health orders on June 2, DeWine said the state would end restrictions once the case rate fell to 50. In mid-May, DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the state was on track for the case rate to hit goal the same time orders were set to expire. 

The state hit below its target goal on Saturday with a rate of 49.5, just three days after health orders ended. On May 27, the case rate was 82.3. 

As of Wednesday, the state reported 391 new COVID-19 cases, below the 21-day average of 580. Hospitalizations increased slightly in the last 24 hours with 77 admissions reported, but overall, hospitalizations are the lowest they've been since the pandemic began. 

The Ohio Hospital Association reported Wednesday 471 people were being treated for COVID-19 across the state. That's a decline from 503 the day before. The state recorded the most hospitalizations on Dec. 15 with 5,308 patients admitted. 

DeWine said he believes vaccines are helping bring down the spread of the virus. 

“We’re still getting benefit from that as we move forward but we’re really seeing what this vaccine is doing," he said.

DeWine added the most significant drop in cases are being shown in rural counties, citing Hocking, Seneca, Ross, Jackson, Fayette, Crawford and Pickaway counties. 

More than 46% of the state's population has received the first dose of the vaccine, and 41% is completely vaccinated, according to state data.