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Details on the nascent plan to reopen parts of Ohio’s economy remained sparse Friday afternoon, but Lt. Gov. Jon Husted promised an update within the week. The delay, he said, is due to the number of business, healthcare, civic and government interests the plan needs to accommodate: “Inclusiveness is inefficient.”
He, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton each took a turn to emphasize the May 1 date given Thursday will not mark a doors-open, lights-on jumpstart for every business — or even most — in the state. Instead, it will be the date that some restrictions on some aspects of Ohio life begin to loosen.
“After May 1, things will change some, but the essential reality of the fact (is) that this virus will remain out there, and so our life has to be guided by that,” DeWine said.
Work-from-home should remain a standard practice when possible, he added. Businesses that reopen brick-and-mortar operations should be ones that enforce the practices of distancing, mask-wearing and frequent cleaning. They should also take employees’ temperatures, send sick people home and limit the number of customers allowed inside the building at any given time.
He did not outline a possible system for determining which businesses can reopen when.
The question of schools also remained unanswered. DeWine said Thursday he planned to meet with superintendents before reaching a decision.
Husted, who said he had met with a large number of business leaders, spoke in front of a Venn diagram with RESTART at the center of three bubbles: Public health measures and compliance; businesses operating safely with safeguards; and protecting the most vulnerable.
All three things have to happen for Ohio to make a safe comeback, he said.
“Whether it’s April 17 or May 1 or June 1, government order or not, coronavirus is just as dangerous as it’s ever been,” he said. “What we believe we have, though, now, is the knowledge from public officials, the safe operating practices as a business, the understanding as a society and a culture that we know how to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.”
And that comeback will still be relative. Acton cautioned that truly normal life would likely not return until an effective vaccine is invented or populations begin to develop herd immunity.
ODH has confirmed 8,858 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. At least 401 people have died of the virus, and 2,424 have been hospitalized.