What's essential and what's not? In Ohio, businesses can decide

Kentucky order is more specific
Posted at 8:26 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:47:15-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

Ace Hardware was open Tuesday. So were Joann Fabrics and Leslie’s Pool Supplies.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky ordered non-essential businesses closed by then, raising the question of what’s essential and what’s not.

Over the last few days, WCPO 9 has gotten numerous calls from concerned employees asking why their shop wasn’t closed.

“I thought that it was probably an inevitability that at some point we would have to shut the store,” said Sean Moore, manager of Ace Hardware in Hyde Park.

Not yet, though. A hardware store is allowed to stay open under Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s order includes a list that breaks down retail categories, declaring what can stay open with a “yes” or a “no.” For example, under motor vehicle, a dealership is “No,” a repair shop is “Yes.”

DeWine’s order is broader, with just overarching categories. And the governor’s office says it’s up to the business to decide if it qualifies as “essential” based on the order.

“If they think they fall within an exception which classifies as essential business, I would move ahead,” DeWine said.

Leslie’s and Joann told WCPO 9 they’re “essential” and will remain open. Here’s why:

Leslie’s says it sells "sanitary equipment and chemicals.”

Joann says it sells “essential materials” like cloth being used to make masks.

“Everything has been pretty clear,” Moore said.

A spokesman for DeWine’s office told WCPO 9 that people shouldn’t focus on the type of business and if it’s open, but rather ask whether a business that chooses to stay open is following the social distancing requirements under the order.

At Ace, floor markers were in place to ensure people stay 6 feet apart.

“It’s not that important to us that you shop as it is that you’re safe,” Moore said.

DeWine said people who believe their workplace should be closed should reach out to their local health department. That could lead to an investigation.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.