Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday told Ohioans that the state will gradually relax its shutdown starting Friday, but stay-at-home instructions will largely remain in place as part of the state’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak. And there’s no word yet on reopening sit-down restaurants, bars and haircut shops.
With state Department of Health orders set to expire at week’s end and many constituents anxious to reopen the economy, DeWine has been under pressure to announce the next steps.
“My heart aches for the businessmen and women who are not able to work,” DeWine said, but the first steps will be devoted to reopening segments of the health care sector that were shut down. Most health services that do not require an overnight hospitalization — including dentistry and many elective procedures — will be allowed to resume Friday.
On May 4, manufacturing, distribution and construction operations will be allowed to resume with strict safety instructions in place. That same day, general offices can resume operations, but DeWine strongly emphasized that those who can work from home are encouraged to continue doing so.
On May 12, consumer retail and services can resume as long as facial coverings are worn by employees — with customers strongly urged to do the same.
No decision has been made yet, DeWine said, on the timetable for reopening restaurants, bars, barbershops, hair salons and day care. Also on the list of places that remain closed for now are gyms, movie theaters, casinos as well as other services and recreational sites that bring people together in close settings. School buildings already have been ordered to stay closed for the remainder of the academic year.
The head of a statewide restaurant trade group urged DeWine to follow up Monday’s announcement with a plan to help revive the badly hurting industry with a May 15 reopening.
John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said proprietors should be allowed to offer modified sit-down dining.
“As Ohio businesses begin to reopen, restaurants are able to safely offer dine in service, with appropriate social distancing added to all of the procedures we will follow to keep our employees and our guests safe,” he said in a news release.
The governor said he was trying to strike the best balance for the state in resuming some functions, but said it would be reckless to end stay-at-home expectations across the board.
“To throw the doors open on May 1” and get rid of coronavirus precautions “would be totally irresponsible,” DeWine said. “I am trying to balance the harm from the economy, understanding also that for business to really come back, people have to feel safe.”
DeWine tied the timetable to the broadening of coronavirus virus testing availability statewide, and said the state is projecting as many as 133,650 tests will be available per week by the end of May. The ability to trace the spread of the virus is intertwined with testing, DeWIne said. To achieve that, the state must ramp up its trained public health workforce of 685 to about 1,750 by June 1.
He led the briefing by saluting Ohioans for doing “an amazing job” of slowing the spread of coronavirus so far, but acknowledged that the risks remain serious and the same tools that people have been using to fight it must continue to be put into use.
As of Monday, the state has 16,325 cases of coronavirus, a 2.3% increase from Sunday, including 753 deaths and 3,232 hospitalizations.
Here are the latest local numbers:
Summit: Summit County Public Health has reported a total of 38 deaths (one death reported Sunday was reassigned to another county). Among those, 21 deaths are in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. There are 514 confirmed cases, an increase of 34 since Sunday. At least 133 cases are health care workers.
Stark: One new death reported. A total of 312 cases (two new), 75 cumulative hospitalizations and 35 deaths.
Portage: Two new deaths reported. A total of 221 cases (one new), 61 cumulative hospitalizations, 33 deaths.
Wayne: One new death reported. A total of 114 cases (10 new), 20 cumulative hospitalizations and 22 deaths.
Medina: No new deaths reported. A total of 159 cases (one fewer than Sunday’ count), 42 cumulative hospitalizations (none new) and 13 deaths.
Ashland: Six cases (none new), one hospitalization, no deaths.
Holmes: Five cases (none new), two hospitalizations.
Tuscarawas: 57 cases (seven new), 11 hospitalizations (one new), no deaths.
DeWine said advice from an appointed business task force led by Frank Sullivan, CEO of Medina-based coatings maker RPM International, was important in shaping the plan to reopen the economy.
“Frank said to me, ‘You know Mike,’ he says, ‘the idea that we can’t do two things at once in Ohio is crazy. We’re Ohioans; we can do two things at once. We can get this economy moving back, at the same time continue to protect each other and protect our communities,” DeWine said,
Even with the partial reopening recalling some workers and welcoming some consumers, business officials expect many Ohioans will be wary of venturing out while coronavirus remains a threat.
State officials acknowledge the number of new infections likely will increase due to the alteration of the stay-at-home order, with 6-foot social distancing and other precautions continuing for months to come.
While some Republicans demanded allowing all businesses to reopen, others believe the state is moving too quickly.
“House Democrats believe that a decision to discontinue the current stay-at-home order in early May is premature and inconsistent with advice being given from health experts,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron.
Relaxing precautions will “certainly lead” to more infections and deaths, she said, pointing to public health officials’ recommendation that social distancing must be maintained for 14 consecutive days of decreasing cases before any enhanced safety measures can be relaxed.
The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.
Deaths per capita
Cases by county
Cases per capita by county