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Caution urged as first businesses open today in Ohio

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park President, Mark Kucharski along with other Miami Valley Vietnam veterans, thank the doctors and nurses testing people at UD Arena. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park President, Mark Kucharski along with other Miami Valley Vietnam veterans, thank the doctors and nurses testing people at UD Arena. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Dental, veterinarian and medical offices will reopen today, the first businesses considered non-essential to open under Ohio’s new health orders.

The Dayton Daily News asked experts in health care about their reaction to the DeWine administration’s plan for Ohio’s initial reopening. They reacted with a mix of approval, cautiousness and concerns.

Dr. Dawn Wooley, virologist and Wright State University professor, said the pace of reopening shared by the DeWine administration is fairly conservative, with non-essential manufacturing, distribution, construction and general office businesses to reopen Monday and retail opening in mid May with conditions like increased sanitation and social distancing. More congregated services with vulnerable populations like senior centers not reopening yet.

“It’s reasonable because only very few services can open up in the early part of May, at mid May when you start to see consumer retail services there’s more chances for transmission and that’s two weeks down the road from now,” Wooley said.

Wooley said there are people who don’t qualify for life-saving procedures who still need care that has been put off and there are other medical services like cancer screenings that are important to continue.

“I think it’s very reasonable where we are at with these curves to say we start opening back up some of those medical procedures,” Wooley said.

She cautioned that it’s important to remember the virus is going to be with the community even when cases decline to a lower level.

“Therefore people still need to be cautious. We do not want a resurgence, but if we’re not careful we’re going to negate everything we’ve done, all of this pain and suffering with the shutdowns will be for nothing,” Wooley said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner with think tank American Enterprise Institute that authored a blueprint for recommending how states could reopen, posted online in reaction to Ohio’s news that “the state acted early with tough mitigation steps and was able to get earlier control of their epidemic.”

“Nonetheless, while the state is showing signs of a plateau, Ohio is still not testing a lot of its residents and needs to show steadier declines in new cases,” Gottlieb, whose blueprint had called for 14 days of sustained decline in cases.

Gottlieb noted that as Ohio looks to gradually restart aspects of the state’s economic activity, that COVID-19 testing has been improving. American Enterprise Institute, which has been tracking Ohio testing, reports 3,608 Ohioans tested April 27. A week before there were 3,447 tests, and two weeks before that there were 1,869 tests.

The five day average of newly recorded cases is 488 cases. Newly reported cases have hovered relatively steady for five days, with 744 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours , according to Ohio Department of Health. There were 1,380 newly recorded cases April 19, which was the highest point so far. With limited testing, reported cases don’t show the full picture of the outbreak.

New hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Ohio have been in an uneven decline since early April. Since hospital stays from COVID-19 are often long, the number of people in the hospital from COVID-19 has not had the same corresponding decline. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 1,068 still hospitalized out of the outbreak total of 3,533 Ohioans hospitalized. Out of the 1,035 439 of which were in the ICU and 282 on a ventilator.

Coronavirus: Complete coverage from the Dayton Daily News

A week ago there were 1,086 people staying in Ohio hospitals from COVID-19 and two weeks ago there were 1,030. The highest point was April 22 with 1,110 hospitalized.

The Ohio reopening details that were shared includes important layers of protective measures such as social distancing and symptom assessment, face coverings and disinfecting commonly used services, said Dr. Zach Jenkins, pharmacy professor at Cedarville with a clinical practice in infectious disease at Atrium Medical Center and Miami Valley Hospital.

“These are all layers of protection and an additional shield,” Jenkins said.

Dr. Glen Solomon, chair of internal medicine and neurology at Wright State University, said Ohio has been comparatively successful in it’s response to the virus and the overall approach to reopen is following public health experts, but his one concern is the state backed away from its plan to have employees and consumers all wear masks at businesses.

While N95 masks protect the wearer, cloth face coverings help protect others by reducing virus spread from the person wearing the mask. He said it’s an act of good citizenship to wear a mask when in a space where people can’t be assured they will keep a physical distance from other people.

“The masks are not protecting the person who chooses not to wear it. They are protecting everyone around them. So it’s not somebody’s personal right to infect everybody else,” Solomon siad.

Coronavirus: Black death rates disproportionate; DeWine launches minority health task force

Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio CEO Eddie Koen said he is reacting with cautiousness to the plan for reopening that was laid out, with the civil rights organization running an ongoing “Mask What Matters: Protecting Our Community” campaign to assist traditionally underserved black communities with getting protective gear. He said less than 1 in 5 African Americans had the ability to work from home before the virus, there are racial disparities in who is out as an essential worker, and there are disparities in who is living in an intergenerational home (which comes with risks during the outbreak).

Koen said he thinks the governor has done “an incredible job in keeping the public informed, especially comparatively to other governors.” Moving into plans for reopening, he said there needs to be access to the quality personal protective equipment needed for people to safely do their jobs, and more examples of testing locations in equitable places.

“I wonder what would happen if we had waited a little longer until the actual testing availability met with demand. We also service small businesses that are solo-preneurs like barbers, salons, so we’re feeling the brunt of those who did not get access to PPP funding or SBA funding. And they are all struggling,” Koen said. “We’re just saying if you’re going to open as a government, then we also have a responsibility to make sure that people have the equipment and the tests to protect themselves, especially knowing we have an issue with asymptomatic people.”