COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday announced a gradual two-week roll-out to reopen the state, at the end of which manufacturing, distribution and construction companies, offices, and retail businesses can open their doors as long as they follow strict health and social distancing practices.
Nonessential surgeries and other medical procedures that don’t require an overnight hospital stay can begin again in Ohio starting Friday, along with dental and veterinarian practices.
Manufacturing, distribution and construction companies can begin operations next Monday, along with offices, although DeWine urged companies to continue to have employees work from home as much as possible.
DeWine said retail businesses can begin to reopen May 12 as long as employees are encouraged to wear masks and customers are required to, and other safety practices are followed, such as sanitation and social distancing.
The governor called his plan a “good beginning” made possible by Ohioans’ efforts so far, and which will be aided by ramped-up testing and disease-tracing efforts.
“We’ve gotten this far — but we have a ways to go,” DeWine said. “These are the first steps.”
The reopening of restaurants and businesses like barbershops won’t happen for a few weeks and will be aided by what is learned over the next few weeks, the governor said.
Half of the state’s residents want to see Ohio’s economy get a jump-start this week, but their support waned when asked about opening specific businesses and churches, a new poll found.
Only about one-third of the Ohioans surveyed were ready for salons, churches and restaurants to open. And even less thought playgrounds and day cares should open this week, according to the poll conducted last week by Baldwin Wallace University.
Many of the Republicans who hold a majority in the Ohio House are pushing for allowing all businesses to reopen by Friday.
Their plan released on Monday and backed more than half of the GOP House members said they think all businesses are essential and that many have made changes to protect employees and customers.
But Democrats in the House said the state is not ready because there’s not enough testing or tracking of people who have been near someone who was infected.
“Without that information, we are operating blindly and making ourselves susceptible to a second surge,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top Democrat in the House.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
The state has 753 confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus to date and more than 16,000 positive tests, including more than 3,200 hospitalizations, Ohio health officials reported Monday.
Most Ohio coroners are collecting extra blood samples from autopsies to go back and test for antibodies to better determine how many Ohioans were exposed to the coronavirus, Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County coroner, told The Columbus Dispatch.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Sixteen Ohio prison inmates and one guard have died from COVID-19, according to the state prisons agency. More than 2,000 inmates out of about 2,500 at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive to date, while more than 1,500 of about 2,000 have tested positive at Pickaway Correctional Institution, where 10 of the inmates who died were housed.
Cincinnati-based grocery chain Kroger Co. is expanding free drive-thru testing for health care workers, first responders and people with COVID-19 symptoms. The company said Monday it has added Ohio sites in Toledo and Dayton, along with Detroit and Denver.