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As Ohio eases COVID-19 restrictions, local businesses remain optimistic

Shopping masks
Posted at 10:10 PM, Mar 02, 2021

At the end of February, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced capacity limits on events like weddings, proms and funerals would be lifted soon. This news comes as the CDC warns states against returning to normal too soon.

Catering companies took a major hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions going into place just as event season was supposed to be ramping up.

Now, they’re looking forward to business stabilizing – but they’re still taking precautions as experts warn not to get too comfortable.

“It caught us off guard,” Funky’s Catering co-owner Jerin Dunham said. “Caught everybody off guard and took us out of our wheelhouse.”

With events canceled or drastically downsized, Funky’s Catering had to do the same.

“Jerin and I talked to every single person,” Funky’s Catering co-owner Michael Forgus said. “We laid off 86 people.”

Restrictions lifting statewide come as a sign of hope to struggling businesses.

“We can see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dunham said.

The men know things aren’t yet normal and expect the uptick to take time as the vaccine rollout continues.

“Our biggest challenge, obviously, is: are people going to feel comfortable getting together?” Dunham said.

Hamilton County is seeing numbers trend in the right direction, but the Public Health Department warns now is not the time to abandon precautions.

“This isn’t over yet,” Hamilton County Public Health public information officer Mike Samet said. “Our case count is still very high. Our case counts, while they’re dropping, they still remain really elevated as compared to where they were last year at this time.”

For people considering planning an event in the coming weeks or months, Funky’s plans to maintain its social distancing and sanitation methods and encourages clients to be realistic.

“Sometimes you may have to have hard conversations and say, ‘Hey, given where we are, maybe it’s good if you don’t come,’” Forgus said. “And how do you have that conversation with someone who’s been in your family the whole time?”

Samet said people need to hold on a little while longer.

“We can get through this,” he said. “I’m hopeful by the summer that we’ll begin to see the end of this.”

The revised order makes it clear masks are still required. DeWine said restrictions may go back in place if the numbers rise again.