COLUMBUS, Ohio — Details on Ohio’s plan to gradually reopen its economy will arrive later than promised, but only by a few days. Addressing the public in his Thursday afternoon news conference, Gov. Mike DeWine said he plans to debut the plan on Monday.
He declined to provide much more information — only that the plan includes multiple phases and that the first businesses to reopen will be those considered least at risk of causing a new outbreak.
“We want to do it in a careful way and in a way that engenders confidence in people,” he said.
“When you see the standards (for reopening), they’re going to be very solid standards,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted added later. “These are going to be very strict standards to open, and I would add that nobody will require anybody to open. We’re saying, ‘These are the standards you must meet to open.’ You don’t have to open.”
The state of Ohio had diagnosed a total of 14,694 cases of COVID-19 by the time the pair spoke. Dr. Amy Acton, who has appeared at almost every daily news conference since mid-March, took the day off — but continued to call and text about work, DeWine said.
Tests had confirmed 14,142 of those cases. The other 552 patients had been diagnosed by doctors based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria. Nearly 3,000 Ohioans have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic, and 656 have died.
DeWine declined to answer questions about the future of Ohio schools, which will remain closed through the end of the academic year. He also noted that some non-emergency medical providers could see a longer delay than other types of businesses.
The state’s lack of personal protective equipment remains a defining issue for hospitals, he said, and health officials are working to conserve what remains for workers treating COVID-19 cases. Although he had encouraged resuming elective surgeries on Wednesday, he admitted Thursday many will still be delayed. Dental work likely will be, too.
“We’re not ready for the entire health care system to instantly turn back on, but I’m anxious to get to that point,” DeWine said.
He added he had asked a team of health care professionals to outline a plan that would bring the state closer.
Much of the daily news conference was given over to a call with epidemiologist Mark Weir, an assistant professor at the Ohio State University. Weir, who has modeled the potential spread of the disease in various conditions, repeatedly emphasized the need for Ohioans to continue protecting themselves even as some parts of the economy reactivate.
“It is really going to take the individual agency of each Ohioan to seriously consider themselves and their neighbors’ health when they’re making decisions and they’re going about their daily lives,” he said.
And more is better, according to Weir. He encouraged Ohioans to continue wearing masks, washing their hands frequently and sterilizing surfaces in their homes and workplaces.
“If one of those barriers doesn’t protect you as well as you think it will, there are other barriers,” he said.
Although Friday won’t bring more information about reopening, DeWine promised what he described as a “good-news update" in the week's final news conference.