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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

DeWine Releases First Steps To Reopen Ohio Amid Coronavirus Concerns

mike dewine
Andy Chow
Ohio Statehouse News Bureau

Gov. Mike DeWine outlined a plan for the state to slowly reopen after the stay-at-home order expires May 1.

The first sector to open up is the hospital system. DeWine will sign an order allowing procedures to resume as long as it doesn't require an overnight stay in the hospital. There are exceptions, such as cases involving cancer or extreme pain. This order also applies to dentistry and veterinary offices.

Hospitals were ordered last month to cancel elective surgeries to preserve protective equipment for health care workers and free up space for COVID-19 patients.

On May 4, all construction, manufacturing and distribution companies will open. On May 12, retailers can open.

However, all companies will have to follow five rules:

  • Wear face masks
  • Assess employee health daily health, such as by checking temperatures
  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Clean and sanitize surfaces frequently
  • Limit capacity to 50% of fire code requirement to maintain social distancing

Customers are also encouraged to wear face masks especially in retail stores. If a COVID-19 case is suspected in a business, it must be reported immediately and the health department will quickly locate everyone who had possible contact with the patient.
DeWine said the state will reopen one step at a time, and changes will be made based on the number of cases confirmed each day.

"The coronavirus is still here. It's just as dangerous as it's ever been. It is still living amongst us," DeWine said.

DeWine also announced plans to ramp up testing and tracing in the state. Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher and ROE Dental Laboratory in Independence will create components to allow more testing. 

The state has developed a six-week testing expansion plan starting Wednesday. For the first week, daily testing totals will be around 7,200. By week six, they hope to have that number at 22,000 tests being conducted every day. That does not include testing being done by private labs.

As for tracing, DeWine plans to train 1,750 people to find those who might have had contact with a COVID-19 patient. This will be done in a three-tier process and DeWine says they're gathering funding.

Ohio has seen a decrease in cases over the last week. There are more than 16,325 total cases and 753 deaths. DeWine attributes the plateau to residents following stay-at-home orders. He said the order will remain in effect throughout May but will be modified. Gatherings of 10 people or less will be mandatory. More details are expected to be released in the coming week.

Although Ohio will start reopening, DeWine and the state's top health official Amy Acton encourage residents to continue precautionary measures.

"We have to respect the mountain. We have to respect the virus," Acton said. "Your health and well-being is never a zero sum game."

As for hair salons, gyms, schools and daycares, no decisions have been made. DeWine said he's focusing on sectors that are the easiest to control to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This story first appeared on WKSU. For more like this, visit wksu.org.

Lydia Taylor is a news intern for WKSU. She is a junior multimedia journalism major at Kent State University with experience in print and visual journalism. She is currently working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism. During the school year, Taylor works for Kent State Student Media in The Kent Stater and KentWired. She is currently an assigning editor and a reporter in the Kent State University Student Media Newsroom for the spring semester.