During Tuesday afternoon's COVID-19 update, Governor DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton were in unison on one specific point: Ohio isn't ready to reopen yet, but even when it is, things will not be the same.
Acton emphasized the uncertainty government officials are facing, as COVID-19 numbers continue to steadily increase; Ohio saw 50 deaths in the 24 hours between Monday's conference and Tuesday's, a bigger spike than has recently been seen.
"It's not something I can look up in a book," Acton said about the road ahead for Ohio. She said research, numbers and information about COVID-19 are still coming in regularly and being interpreted and understood.
Acton also said masks and social distancing policies will be in Ohio's future for quite some time to come, even long after businesses may be allowed to re-open. DeWine echoed this, saying that businesses, as they "chomp at the bit to reopen," should be considering not when they could open, but how.
"The 'when' is one question, but the 'how' is the bigger question," said DeWine.
Business owners eager to reopen should be working on a plan for what they will do to protect people when they are allowed to reopen, said DeWine. From providing hand sanitizer, increasing cleaning practices and social distancing to allowing masks and providing a work culture that doesn't penalize workers for being sick and needing to stay home, DeWine and Acton both encouraged business owners to create a plan for how they will work to keep employees, customers, staff and faculty safe long after the state is able to reopen.
"Until there’s a vaccine, this monster is going to be lurking around us," said DeWine.
Acton agreed, saying that only the appearance of a widely-available vaccine will end this chapter, and in the meantime, social distancing and other practices that have helped Ohio flatten the curve must persist to keep COVID-19 from creating a new surge of hospitalizations and deaths.
"The truth is, we lost 50 people in the last 24 hours, 50 of our citizens died," said DeWine. "This is a very, very dangerous situation. I still have people who send me emails saying 'this is like the flu.' I wish it was, it’s not."
He also pointed out that, even if businesses are permitted to re-open, it will take the public's trust and a degree of security before people will even feel comfortable going out to eat or to bars again.
"If I stood up here right now and said 'people, go do whatever you want to do,' if people are still afraid, they're not going to go to restaurants," said DeWine. "If people are afraid, they're not going to go to bars. Sure, some will. But the vast majority of people will not. So what we have to do if we want our economy to pick back up, if we want people to be employed, we have to be as deliberate and careful and thoughtful about getting out of this as we were when we had to make the decisions to close things down. And this part of it is, frankly, much more difficult."