DeWine says no safety guarantees as Ohio reopens for business

As Ohio retailers, bars, restaurants and barber shops re-open with strict public health protocols, no guarantees exist that workers and customers won’t be exposed to the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged on Tuesday.

“A lot of this is going to depend on what we do. There is no guarantee that it can stay out of anywhere in Ohio so I can’t give that assurance at all. The virus is still here. It has not gone away. What we have tried to do is come up with the best practices we can for restaurants and the best practices we can for retail, the best practices for cutting hair,” DeWine said.

Ohioans will have to take steps to safely engage in activities, he said, and some people may opt out of doing so, based on their age or medical conditions. “What we can do by our behavior, each and every one of us, is impacting the odds,” he said.

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DeWine sidestepped a question about whether he and his wife, Fran DeWine, will dine at a restaurant soon.

“No news yet. I’m enjoying her cooking a lot,” the governor said, adding that the couple plans to get carryout from a Clark County restaurant soon.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton advised Ohioans to venture out in a responsible way by practicing social distancing and wearing face masks in public.

“It is still a pretty treacherous time for us,” she said.

Acton also said that even if businesses follow all the protocols, employees may still get sick. If that happens, businesses need to ask local health departments for assistance, she said.

The DeWine administration announced Tuesday that tattoo, body piercing and massage businesses will be allowed to reopen May 15 — the same day that hair salons and barbers are permitted to resume business.

Roughly 850,000 K-12 students and their families will automatically receive about $300 a month to purchase food after Ohio received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, DeWine said. The payments are intended to help the one in four Ohio school children who would normally have access to free meals at school.

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The Ohio Department of Health reported 23,809 confirmed cases of COVID-19, plus 1,441 probable cases; 4,539 hospitalizations; and 1,303 deaths, plus 133 deaths attributed to probable cases.

Ohio’s testing capacity is up to 14,275 tests per day, nearly double what it was last week. So far, nearly 210,000 coronavirus tests have been administered in Ohio.

Facing limited personal protective equipment and testing supplies, Ohio had been restricting tests to front line health care workers and patients in high-risk categories who showed symptoms. However, as the state lined up more testing supplies, the criteria for testing has been loosened.

In some instances the rising case numbers might reflect the uptick in testing in Ohio.

A big chunk of Ohio’s probable and confirmed coronavirus cases are in state prisons and nursing homes, where people live in close quarters.

Nursing home staff and residents account for 4,385 cases while Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reported 4,956 inmates and staff members have tested positive.

DRC conducted comprehensive testing at three facilities but opted not to do so at other prisons where there are confirmed cases. State prisons incarcerate about 49,000 people.

DeWine said this week that it’s unlikely that Ohio will test all nursing home residents and staff, as was recommended by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Roughly 70,000 people live in nursing homes and 42,000 in assisted living centers in Ohio.

Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran said hospitals across the state have partnered with nursing homes to assist them during the pandemic and local infection control strike teams have responded to coronavirus cases inside nursing homes. Visits to nursing home residents have been halted since March 14.

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