"If We Don't Do It Right, the Consequences Are Horrendous": DeWine Plans Gradual Reopening of Ohio Economy Beginning May 1

click to enlarge "If We Don't Do It Right, the Consequences Are Horrendous": DeWine Plans Gradual Reopening of Ohio Economy Beginning May 1
The Ohio Channel

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine yesterday shared the cautious good news: The state will begin reopening the economy come May 1. That will happen gradually, the governor said, and in phases that will be re-evaluated in the future based on hospital admission data, the availability of PPE and the state's testing capacity.

"We are fighting, really in a sense, a two front war...One has to do with a medical crisis, but the other has to do with an economic crisis," DeWine said while congratulating Ohioans on flattening the curve of infections.

DeWine didn't provide details on the rollout or the timeline beyond mentioning that it will likely begin with allowing companies to reopen who can demonstrate that they can adhere to a series of health and safety guidelines designed to keep both their employees and customers safe.

He said that while COVID-19 is out there, there is no plan that will prevent people from getting it until there is a vaccine. And until there is a vaccine, both he and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said people need to be wearing masks in public, washing their hands, social distancing, sanitizing and practicing other recommended means for avoiding infection.

"The path ahead — you're hearing a lot and I know it's hard because there's not one exact path — but what our team has been putting together is a series of phases that we'll walk through together as we slowly and responsibly open up and try to bring about more of our life as we know it," Dr. Amy Acton said.

As for how the rollout will progress, a plan is being created by a group of economic advisors — a collection of what DeWine called CEOs of both major and smaller Ohio companies — and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and the goal is to avoid a second spike in infections. These advisors have been looking at the best practices of companies that were allowed to remain open during the stay at home order, and blending that with medical science, DeWine said.

"We must get this right because the stakes are very high," DeWine said. "If we don't do it right, the consequences are horrendous."

DeWine also reiterated that those who are at the most risk of contracting COVID-19 will have to be very careful when we enter this "new period" after May 1 and weigh their options going forward when deciding to go out or possibly exposing themselves to the virus.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce applauded DeWine's decision in a statement: “We know the COVID-19 crisis is not over, and that health and safety protocols are going to remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future. But businesses are ready to get back to work, and knowing that May 1 is the target date for this happening will allow them sufficient time to prepare to reopen safely and successfully.”

Unions and worker advocates meanwhile are trying to ensure that safety remains paramount.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union sent a letter to DeWine requesting that as he opens the economy he also gives orders that will protect those returning to the workplace, including mandating masks for everyone inside stores, limiting capacity inside buildings and slowing speeds at processing plants. As the massive outbreak at the Smithfield processing plant in South Dakota shows, the lack of spacing or PPE can lead, very quickly, to hundreds of infections in a single workplace.

“Mandating everyone to wear masks or facial coverings inside essential stores and food production plants is critical to keeping people safe. The front-line workers in these places are already facing an outsized risk of exposure because their jobs force them into frequent contact with others. An outbreak at these locations would represent a direct threat to our food supply and must be mitigated,” the union said in a statement.

Obviously, everyone is hopeful that as the calendar turns to May Ohioans maintain proper social distancing, wear masks and behave responsibly while in public.
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