Coronavirus: May 1 is target for starting to re-open parts of Ohio

Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio may start cautiously re-opening parts of the state May 1 with mandates such as the use of masks, hand sanitizers and social distancing to protect workers and the public from a resurgence of the coronavirus infections.

“We must get this right because the stakes are very high. If we don’t do it right, the consequences are horrendous,” DeWine said on Thursday.

He added, “It’s going to be gradual. It’s going to be rolling it out one thing after another….We’re trying to do this in a very thoughtful way.”

The governor said there are variables that will influence how Ohio re-opens:

- Are the cases and hospital admissions staying level or increasing?

- Is there an increase in availability of personal protective equipment?

- Is there an increase in testing capacity?

A detailed plan is being developed, he said.

The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday announced 8,239 confirmed coronavirus cases, plus an additional 175 probable cases; 2,331 hospitalizations; 373 deaths, plus 16 deaths from probable COVID-19 disease.

“The main thing is, no matter what anyone says, there is not enough tests and there is not enough PPE (personal protective equipment),” said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce said in a written statement that it is “highly encouraged” that DeWine indicated when Ohio’s economy will get moving again. “We know the COVID-19 crisis is not over, and that health and safety protocols are going to remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future. But businesses are ready to get back to work, and knowing that May 1 is the target date for this happening will allow them sufficient time to prepare to reopen safely and successfully.”

United Food and Commercial Workers, a union that represents 80,000 in Ohio, is asking DeWine to issue orders mandating three things: that masks be required for everyone inside essential stores; that line speeds at food processing plants be slowed down; and that grocery stores cap customers inside stores at 20 percent of building capacity.

“Mandating everyone to wear masks or facial coverings inside essential stores and food production plants is critical to keeping people safe. The front-line workers in these places are already facing an outsized risk of exposure because their jobs force them into frequent contact with others. An outbreak at these locations would represent a direct threat to our food supply and must be mitigated,” the union local presidents said in a joint written statement on Thursday.

The UFCW national representatives issued a letter to Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control, asking that these mandates be applied across the country.

“You’re going to see masks everywhere you go in public. You’re going to see washing hands, hand sanitizers, wiping services, distance, distance, distance. That is our new reality,” DeWine said.

He stopped short of saying he’d issue a masking order; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed one for his state this week.

“Let me start today with a very, very, very strong suggestion that when people are out in public, it’s the courteous thing to do, it’s the safe thing to do, is to wear a mask,” DeWine said. “This is going to be part of what we do at least until we’re done with the virus in a year or so.”

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