Coronavirus: Clark County businesses move cautiously toward reopening

The assembly department at the Springfield Topre plant in 2019. Representatives of the company say they are taking additional preventive measures amid statewide COVID-19 concerns and plan to resume production next week. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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The assembly department at the Springfield Topre plant in 2019. Representatives of the company say they are taking additional preventive measures amid statewide COVID-19 concerns and plan to resume production next week. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

As the state begins to reopen in phases amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local employers impacted by the crisis are gauging what that will mean for their businesses in the coming months.

The state has set forward guidelines that each industry is to follow as well as best practices designed to ensure the safety of workers as well as customers. Not all industries will reopen at the same time and the first phase of the state's plan will start on May 1.

At that time, all health procedures that do not require an overnight stay and are deemed medically necessary will be allowed. This will replace the mid-March order that suspended elective procedures.

Mercy Health —which operates the Springfield Regional Medical Center, the Urbana Hospital and the Mercy Medical Center in Enon— has set up a task force that is looking at what needs to be done in order to resume elective surgeries and other procedures that had been temporarily suspended.

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“The task force is diligently working with local and state health agencies to make decisions that put the health and safety of every patient, resident, associate and visitor first,” said a statement from the hospital network.

Representatives of the Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital in Springfield said last week that they are closely monitoring the situation and are putting measures in place that will allow them to quickly ramp up. That includes making sure they have the appropriate amount of personal protective equipment as well as making sure staff and patients are safe amid the ongoing pandemic.

A vast majority of the services offered by the physician-owned hospital is elective and as a result it temporarily closed its doors in March.

Businesses that fall under the categories of manufacturing, distribution and construction that were not considered essential will be allowed to reopen during the first week of May. So far, state officials said that will go into effect on May 4. That also includes general offices.

Requirements that those businesses will need to follow have slightly changed since DeWine’s announcement on Monday. Initially all workers and customers would have been required to wear facial coverings. However, the Ohio Department of Health said on Tuesday that though face coverings are not mandatory, they are recommended.

However, social distancing practices that ensure a minimum of 6 feet or the installation of barriers if social distancing is not possible in the work environment are still required for those industries. Employees must also perform daily symptom assessments.

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Mike McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield, said the pandemic has impacted manufactures in Clark County differently.

Some have had to shift to making only products that are deemed essential, while some have had to stop production due to being nonessential or because of disruptions in the supply chain. Others have actually seen a greater demand for their products.

“You are going to see some of those manufacturers come back and begin to ramp up based on their supply base,” McDorman said. “A lot of it will be based on the need for their products.”

“I think it will be a new normal once we come out of this,” he added.

Some manufacturers in the area have had to stop production, especially in the auto industry, based on decisions made by large companies such as Toyota and Honda.

Toyota is expected to resume production at its facilities in the country on May 4 and Honda is expected to resume during the second week of May.

Companies that rely heavily on contracts with those companies have had to taken similar actions in some cases. Topre America, which has a facility in Springfield, ceased production in the area in late March. The Springfield location’s production schedule is heavily reliant on Toyota, said Brad Pepper, the vice president of Topre America.

That decision has lead to 200 out of 230 employees at the facility being temporarily laid off.

Pepper said they plan on resuming production in Springfield next week. However, he said it will be at 65% and they will be monitoring the situation before resuming back to full production.

Pepper said they currently have plans in place on how that restart will look like. That includes social distancing, temporary barriers as well as optional PPE for workers.

Consumer retail will likely began to reopen on May 12.

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