Gov. Mike DeWine has unveiled plans to allow some businesses to begin reopening after Ohio's current stay-at-home order expires on May 1.
DeWine said his "Responsibly Restart Ohio" framework will begin Friday with what he calls a “health care opening." All health procedures that can be done without an overnight hospital stay will be allowed again. There are exceptions, such as cases involving cancer or extreme pain. Dentists and veterinarians will be able to start operating then, too.
Hospitals and health care facilities last month were ordered to cancel elective surgeries to preserve personal protective equipment for health care workers and free up space for COVID-19 patients.
Beginning May 4, DeWine said office workplaces can reopen, along with manufacturing, distribution and construction services. All businesses must follow strict health protocols if they choose to reopen, including a "no mask, no work, no service, no exception” requirement for employees, clients and customers at all times.
Workplaces must also implement strict social distancing guidelines, including limiting capacity to 50% of the fire code, clean workplaces throughout the day, and conduct daily health assessments of employees. Office personnel should work from home if possible, DeWine urged.
On Tuesday, May 12, consumer, retail and service businesses can open. Even though Ohioans won't be required by law to wear masks outside, both employees and customers will have to wear masks if they go inside business settings.
If a business suspects a COVID-19 cases, it must be immediately reported so the local health department can quickly locate everyone who possibly had contact with the patient.
Ohio's stay-at-home order, which is set to expire on May 1, will remain in place through at least the end of the month with modifications. The state will continue its ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
Unlike other states, restaurants, bars, daycares, and gyms are not included in Ohio's first phase of reopening. Schools, daycares, barbershops and salons, entertainment and amusement facilities, parades, fairs and spectator sports will also remain closed indefinitely.
Coronavirus Still Spreading
Speaking on Monday, DeWine said the state must reopen one step at a time, and changes will be made based on the number of cases confirmed each day.
"The coronavirus is still here," DeWine said. "It's just as dangerous as it's ever been. It's still living amongst us."
Ohio has seen a decrease in new cases over the last week. As of Monday, Ohio's Department of Health reports 16,325 total cases and 753 deaths from COVID-19.
The state has repeatedly said it has limited testing, and some reports have shown Ohio is near the bottom of all states in tests administered per capita. DeWine announced on Friday that the state will go from an average of about 3,700 tests a day to 22,000 tests daily in the next four weeks, thanks to new agreements made with Thermo Fisher to produce more reagent and ROE Dental Labs to manufacture more swabs.
As for contact tracing, DeWine says the state plans to train 1,750 people who will work to find those who may have been in contact with coronavirus patients. The governor says they're working to gather funding for that initiative.
Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton said it’s important for Ohio to look at the virus as a public health issue.
“Your health and well-being is never a zero-sum game,” Acton said.
DeWine's announcement followed the release of a contesting plan from Republicans in the Ohio House's 2020 Economic Task Force. That group has been hearing from business owners via videoconference for more than two weeks.
The plan, signed by a majority of Republicans in the Ohio House, says that "all businesses can and should begin opening on or before May 1." It argues that "in Ohio, we believe we are now past that stage of concern" of overwhelming the health care system.
The plan has 12 principles and strongly recommends employers and customers to follow CDC guidelines, but doesn't have enforcement procedures. It says that Ohioans can be trusted to responsibly reopen the economy, saying that "all businesses are essential."
Ohio House Democrats put out their own proposal with 10 areas of focus, including testing, tracing, child care, worker protection and support for business.
In those 10 areas of focus, Democrats want more details about the workforce that will be hired for contact tracing; the plan for day cares for workers who are called back to their jobs; a general election contingency plan if in-person voting is at risk in the fall; and a clear plan from the state with regard to how to reopen the state to everyone.
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