Photos: Precaution And Protest Across Columbus

May 1, 2020

Ohio's long road to reopening begins Friday. Gov. Mike DeWine has announced plans for gradually easing restrictions on businesses after weeks of shutdowns.

As Ohio prepares to move forward, here's a snapshot of scenes around the Columbus area, captured by WOSU TV's production team over the past couple weeks.

Easton Town Center is virtually abandoned with all stores closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Credit David Holm / WOSU

Retail businesses are set to reopen on May 12, which is likley a welcome change for the more than 240 stores at Easton Town Center in northeast Columbus.

The federal government has offered some aid to small businesses with some complicated restrictions. The future of some larger retail chains, such as Victoria's Secret, are uncertain.

After initially stating that all employees and customers at retailers would have to wear masks, DeWine ammended his plan, saying that masks for customers was "strongly encouraged" but not a mandate.

Doors to the Ohio Union at the Ohio State University wrapped in caution tape.
Credit Ryan Hitchcock / WOSU

Colleges and universities across the state have also been severely impacted. In a spring semester of closing campuses and switching to online learning, the academic year will end with virtual commencement ceremonies. The summer will remain remote too, and the fall is still uncertain.

All institutions of higher education will likely be facing severe budget cuts, and those that rely on sports revenue may see drastic changes to their athletic programs.

For Urbana University, the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic combined with low enrollment rates means their campus will never reopen.

Karla Saunders is one of the protesters who've been gathering at the Statehouse to criticize the state's plan and to push for the reopening of businesses.
Credit David Holm / WOSU

Though the plan to slowly reopen the economy is now in place, many are still critical of DeWine's handling of the pandemic. Even fellow Republican lawmakers want a faster reopening process and have released their own plan.

For weeks, protesters have converged at the Statehouse with signs accusing the government of overreacting and infringing on citizens constitutional rights.

A man who idenitfied himself as "Bill from Clintonville" expressed his support for Dr. Amy Acton at the Statehouse.
Credit David Holm / wosu

Counter-protesters have also come out to support DeWine and Ohio Health Department director Amy Acton.

Both have recieved ample praise for their handling of the pandemic. Acton in particular has become something of a cultural icon, inspiring T-shirt designs, a cartoon, and even a bobblehead figurine.

A superhero-themed yarn sculpture that reads "Dr. Amy" wraps around a utility pole on Acton Road in Clintonville.
Credit Ryan Hitchcock / WOSU

While dates are set for most businesses to reopen, dine-in restaurants and hair salons are still in limbo with no clear timeline for resuming service.

Meanwhile, food banks and other services have seen a steep increase in demand from the communities they serve, in some cases having to turn people away.

Gail King, an outreach worker at the Clintonville Beechwold Community Resource Center, writes messages of hope on paper bags filled with food.
Credit Ryan Hitchcock / WOSU

Even though the state is set to start opening up in May, gatherings of over 10 people are still prohibited.

It's still not clear when events like football games and concerts will start up again.

An encouraging message displayed on the marquee at the Newport music venue reads "We will get through this Cbus."
Credit Ryan Hitchcock / WOSU

In the meantime, state officials say wearing masks, washing hands, and slowing the rate of infections are the surest ways to get back to normal–or some new normal–as quickly as possible.

The marquee at the Ohio Theater reads "Stay Healthy Columbus!"
Credit David Holm / WOSU