Ohio Department of Health

During a Thursday press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, M.D., MPH, announced the next phase of what is called the Responsible RestartOhio plan.

During the announcement, the governor reminded Ohioans that COVID-19 is still incredibly dangerous, and he stressed the importance of continuing to exercise safe health habits as different sectors of the economy begin to reopen.

“Reopening Ohio is a risk, but it’s also a risk if you don’t move forward. We’re on a dangerous road that has never been traveled before in Ohio and the danger is that we relax and stop taking precautions,” said Governor DeWine. “All of us collectively control this. I ask you to take calculated risks and make good judgments. Continue social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing face coverings. If you aren’t concerned with what happens to you, do it for others.”

According to dictionary.com, a calculated risk is “a chance of failure, the probability of which is estimated before some action is undertaken.”

DeWine said that how we open up is very important.

“We have asked businessmen and businesswomen, professionals, to work with experts in health, people from health departments around the state, in a number of different working groups,” he said.

DeWine indicated that they tried to come up with the best practices when it comes to reopening businesses.

On Friday, May 1, hospitals and other health care services expanded what they were doing. On Monday, May 4, manufacturing, distribution, and construction was reopened with mandatory safety requirements, as were general office environments.

On Tuesday, May 12, “virtually all retail will open up”, DeWine said, and at that point 89 percent of the private economy will be back open in Ohio.

“In each of these cases we had groups that have done an amazing job to come up with the best practices. And what we are trying to marry is the science and the practicality of that profession or that business,” he said.

Also at Monday’s press conference DeWine announced that on May 15, personal care services, such as hair salons, barbershops, day spas, nail salons, and tanning facilities, may reopen.

“To ensure that these establishments operate in the safest manner possible, Governor DeWine’s Personal Services Advisory Group created a detailed list of guidelines and best practices for personal care service providers to follow,” according to the governor’s office. The full list of mandatory and recommended best practices for these personal care services can be found at https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/OHOOD/2020/05/07/file_attachments/1446174/Sector%20fact%20sheet%205%20Hair%20Salons%20and....pdf

Also on May 15, restaurants and bars in Ohio will be permitted to have outdoor dining. On May 21, they will be able to offer dine-in service.

“To ensure that these establishments operate in the safest manner possible, Governor DeWine’s Restaurant Advisory Group created a detailed list of guidelines and best practices for restaurant and bar owners to follow,” according to the governor’s office. The full list of mandatory and recommended best practices for restaurants and bars can be found at https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/OHOOD/2020/05/07/file_attachments/1446150/Sector%20fact%20sheet%204%20Restaurants%2005.07.20.pdf

Safety requirements are to be in place when the businesses open, and things should not be the same as they were before the pandemic — not for the time being, anyway.

“This is a significant time in our journey,” DeWine said.

He also expressed several thoughts concerning this phase of the journey. He said that this is a marathon and not a sprint and that we are in this for the long haul. He said that we have to set our minds this way — that this pandemic is not something that we are going to run through quickly.

He also said that we have to do two things at once — keep our people safe and get the economy back, and he said that what we have to do to do these two things is complicated. In addition, he said that what we have to do to fight back against the virus is “quite complex.” He said that the best practices laid out for businesses and professions are very important.

“It’s important that everybody out there in business and professions follow what your peers have come up with as being the best practices so that we can ensure that our employees our safe and that we can ensure that customers are safe,” he said.

The governor also stated that there is a still a lot that we do not know about this virus and that what we know is constantly changing.

“We know a lot more today than we knew before when it started, but we still have a lot to learn,” he said.

“As we open up the economy, let me just state the obvious and not shy away from it: the risk is up,” the governor stated. “The more contacts that we have, the more that we do, the more risk there is. That we can expect.”

DeWine spoke about the rate of infectivity and indicated that the opening up of the economy is going to take those numbers higher.

“We can expect that the opening up of this economy is going to take those numbers higher, but what we have to do is do everything in our power not to let those go very high, and a lot of this depends on what we do,” he said. “So, what are the variables? What are the things that we are doing?”

The governor indicated that these measures include best practices for businesses, best practices for professions, testing for the disease, and contact tracing. Testing levels are still not where they need to be, but they have gone up dramatically in Ohio, he said.

“And the final thing, though, is what we all have control over, and that is ourselves,” he stated.

“As we go through this from here, it’s so very, very important … for us to continue the social distancing,” the governor stated. “It is very, very important, when possible, to wear masks. This is going to determine, really, whether we can do this or not. This is a gamble. This is a new part of the journey. We are on a road that has never been traveled before, certainly never been traveled before in Ohio. It is a road that has danger signs on it, and we need to fully understand that.”

He indicated that the danger is that we relax and pull back from safety measures such as social distancing.

“And if we relax, if we pull back, if we take things for granted, in a month, six weeks from now, seven weeks from now, things are not going to go the way we want them to go. We don’t want to see a spike. We don’t want to see that go up dramatically. We don’t want to then have to make choices about are we going to pull back on the economy, what are we going to do?

“What you and I do is going to determine our ability to get the economy moving, keep it moving, to be able to go out and do the things that we will be able to do, but all the while, continue to be very, very careful.”

The governor spoke directly to individuals who are under 60 years of age and do not have any medical problems. He said that the COVID-19 death rate is small for younger people without any medical problems, but that younger people can get very sick from the disease and can die.

“You have it within your power not only to impact your family, but other people’s families as well, because while you may not be concerned about what happens to you … you certainly can be a carrier and sometimes not even know that you are, in fact, a carrier. So again, be careful for others; wear that mask for others, being careful that you aren’t bringing (the disease) back to your 80-year-old grandmother who is at great, great, great risk if she gets it. These are all things that we have to continue to remind ourselves, and it’s easy to forget.”

He indicated that even though spring is here, and summer is coming, and things look good outside, the virus is still out there.

DeWine also spoke to those who are over 60 years of age, and especially those who are over 70, indicating that the risk is high for them.

“The virus is still there. It has not gone way,” he said, adding that the death rate goes up as age goes up and/or if someone has another medical problem.

He reminded them that as the economy reopens and there are more opportunities for things to do, to be very careful.

“This too will pass; we’re going to get through this,” he said. “This is not forever.”

He said there will be ample opportunities “to do the things that we all love to do” when the pandemic is over.

“There are so many, many people, if you’re 70, or 80, or 90, who care very, very much about you, who love you, and who want you to be around in years into the future as far as humanly possible. So please be careful for them.”

“This is a high-risk operation,” he said of reopening the economy. “But it would be high risk if we didn’t do anything. It would be high risk for our state, for our country, if we sat back and said, ‘We can’t do anything.’ So whatever we do is a risk. What I would ask you to do in your individual lives and then collectively — because you have such an impact on everyone else — is to make those (the risks) calculated risks. Make those good judgements because what you do is going to affect our ability to come back economically, but it’s also going to really impact our ability to keep as many of our fellow Ohioans as safe as we can.”

He also spoke directly to those living in rural Ohio, stating that he and his wife, Fran, live in rural Ohio.

“So we understand that sometimes it feels like the virus is not impacting us as much, but we certainly see evidence that that virus can come into the rural areas. We can see people who die, and we can see a movement of this. So, we just all need to keep in mind that we are in this together, and if you are in a rural area, what happens in an urban area does, in fact, impact you and may impact you in the future.”

“We are all tied in together,” he said. “And that’s why we have taken the approach that we need to do this together.”

A member of the press asked the governor if saying that the rate of infectivity will increase as a result of reopening the economy is just a way of saying that more Ohioans will die as a result of reopening the economy.

One of the things that DeWine said in response was that he thinks that “we have done everything that we can to set things up for the workplace. (If) businesses follow these best practices, we don’t eliminate risk, but for those seven hours or eight hours or however long the employee is there, what we can assure the employee, and the customer if it’s retail, is that everything’s been done that can be done. What I have a bigger concern about, frankly, is what we do the other 16 hours of the day, and that really lies, again, with each and every one of us.”

He indicated that if Ohioans look at the reopening of the businesses that are reopening in May “as kind of like ringing a bell” and saying that the danger is over or that things are okay or that a person can do whatever they want regardless of age and/or health conditions, then the state will “be in big trouble.”

DeWine indicated that there is some risk to reopening, but he also indicated that people who have a great risk should not do the things that put them at risk and that if everybody acts in a careful, considered way, “that’s really the most important thing.”

He also mentioned that if we can get the percentage of people in Ohio who are wearing face masks up dramatically, “that’s gong to save lives … So much of this is in our hands. I don’t think anyone — or not very many people — think that we can keep this economy totally shut down for a year (or) more. The social consequences and the health consequences would be astronomical. So, yeah, it’s a risk, and I just said it right up, it’s a risk, but it’s also a risk if you don’t do anything, so I think we have to move forward. The question is how we move forward. And we’ve taken care of the business side: now everybody has to comply and everyone has to do what they need to do in regard to that, but the rest of that time that we control as individuals is really going to determine how well we do, and we can control it. We can wear a mask. We can observe the six-foot distance. We can, as we go about our business, be careful or we can not be careful ... But we control this, all of us, collectively, and we can do it.”

Another member of the press asked DeWine about the working groups that were formed to come up with best practices for reopening businesses. He asked DeWine that since there were no lower-level employees on the groups and they were only made up of of business owners, what does he say to people who would state that the working groups are just made up of people who wanted to get their businesses up and running again.

DeWine indicated that the working groups did include people who are sole proprietors who own their businesses and who work in their businesses, as well.

“My experience is each of of them has a real interest in protecting their employees, and during this pandemic, no employer should want to be in a situation where the employees are in a dangerous situation.”

Husted added that many of the restaurant owners and the people in the personal care business are practitioners who are cutting hair, operating the restaurant, etc.

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the virus continue to rise in Ohio. As of Friday, May 8, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), there were 21,969 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state (according to limited testing) and an additional 1,047 probable cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded case definition, for a total of 23,016 cases of the disease.

ODH reported that as of Friday there were 1,306 total deaths from COVID-19 in the state, with 1,185 of those as confirmed cases and 121 probable cases of COVID-19 death according to the CDC expanded death definition.

In Pike County, as of Friday afternoon, the Pike County General Health District reported four cases of COVID-19 in Pike County, with three confirmed cases and one probable case. One of the confirmed cases was listed as active, and the other three Pike cases were listed as recovered. On Friday evening, the Pike County General Health District announced a fifth active COVID-19 case in a county resident, this one a probable case. 

The five reported Pike County cases range from 30 to 45 years of age and included two males and three females. As of Friday afternoon, there were reportedly four tests pending in Pike County.

More detailed information on the Responsible RestartOhio plan can be found at www.coronavirus.ohio.gov/ResponsibleRestartOhio

For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, including tips for prevention of the disease and slowing its spread, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Email at mlucas@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @NewsWatchman.

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