As many Ohioans are now entering at least their fourth week of staying at home under Gov. Mike DeWine's order to only leave to conduct essential business, seek health care and for exercise, and around 700,000 have filed for unemployment benefits from the resultant economic fallout of COVID-19-related business closures, people are asking: When will the state reopen? When will things go back to normal?
In Tuesday's coronavirus press briefing, both Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and Gov. DeWine agreed it was less about "when" and more about "how."
"Until there is a vaccine, this monster — as I’ve referred to it — is going to be working around us and so when we start businesses back up, when we start schools back up, when we start colleges back up, it’s going to be different," DeWine said. "And what everybody needs to be thinking about — and this is to every business out there that is chomping at the bit to reopen; it’s to every university, every college, every superintendent — you need to be thinking how am I going to open? What am I going to do every single day to keep my employees safe, my customers safe, my students safe, my faculty safe, my teachers safe. And we’re going to work with you on that."
Acton said part of this reopening process will need to include adequate COVID-19 testing to acknowledge cases when they happen and to do thorough contact tracing to slow the spread of the virus. She said these together will help us to get to a place where we could all be a "lot more free."
But we're "going to open up with a situation that is not ideal — that is far, far from ideal," DeWine said.
And that reopening still has no timeline.
Both Acton and DeWine said when Ohio does reopen, it will involve social distancing — functional social distancing, Acton called it — the use of masks, and a slow trickle back to work. But that in going back to work, employees and employers must also recognize people need to stay home when they're sick and there need to be safeguards in place so people don't lose their jobs if they need to stay home when they're ill.
"Coronavirus is still, as far as we can tell, still going to be very much here, is still going to be, for some people who get it, deadly," DeWine said, noting that while hospital admissions and deaths have seemed to level off in the last week, 50 Ohioans had died within the last 24 hours.
"I still have people who send me emails who say this is like the flu. I wish it was. It’s not," he said.
Acton said, "It’s hard for all of us."