As the state officials plans a gradual re-opening of the economy, the city of Columbus is working on measures to maintain safety during the transition.
The state announced Monday that it plans to open non-essential medical services, construction, offices, and then retail services over the next two weeks.
Still, Columbus Public Health director Doctor Mysheika Roberts says people should still wear masks in public and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
“I would encourage you to continue to follow the stay-at-home orders when you can. Only go out when necessary,” Roberts says. “If that means you have to go out to go to work, do that and come back home. Go out for your essential duties.”
Mayor Andrew Ginther cautions that city operations will not return to normal for a while.
“It will not happen until we have access to a vaccine, widespread on-demand testing and widespread case contact investigating,” Ginther says.
The city asked the state to provide more test kits, recommendation on wearing masks in public, guidance on the handling of mass gatherings and support on guidelines for managing congregate living settings, like nursing homes. Ginther says the state provided this information.
Roberts also says Columbus has begun contact tracing, which health officials say will be necessary to manage the spread of COVID-19 as businesses reopen.
“Right now, I have a team of disease investigators who contact every case that’s been identified by a lab here in Columbus as well as in Worthington,” Roberts says.
After identifying a case, the Columbus Public Health team determines who that person has been in contact with, calls them and asks them to quarantine for two weeks.
Ohio's closure of non-essential businesses has come with its own complications for local governments. The city has conducted 495 joint inspections with Columbus Police and 112 compliance checks for licensed facilities, and issued 29 warnings to date. Roberts expects those numbers to increase as businesses re-open.
When the city performs a compliance check, it provides information about business protocol during the COVID-19 pandemic, issues a warning if there is another violation, and then has the power to the cite the business if there is another.
Next week, Ginther will meet with Columbus City Schools officials to discuss operating at-home learning while some parents return to work.