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DeWine Releases First Steps to Reopen Ohio Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Three-tier plan to train health care workers to trace possible COVID-19 cases in the state. [GOV. MIKE DEWINE TWITTER / OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH]
Three-tier plan to train health care workers to trace possible COVID-19 cases in the state.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday outlined a plan for the state to slowly reopen after the coronavirus stay-at-home order expires May 1

The first sector to open up will Ohio’s hospital system. DeWine will sign an order allowing procedures that do not require an overnight stay in the hospital to resume. There are exceptions to the overnight stay rule, such as cases involving cancer or extreme pain. The order also applies to dentistry and veterinary offices. 

Hospitals were ordered last month to cancel elective surgeries to preserve protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and free up bed space for COVID-19 patients.

On May 4, all construction, manufacturing and distribution companies will be permitted to open. On May 12, retailers can open. 

However, all companies will have to follow five rules:

  • Wear face masks
  • Assess employee health daily, such as by checking temperatures
  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Clean and sanitize surfaces frequently
  • Limit capacity to 50 percent of fire code requirement to help maintain social distancing

Customers are also encouraged to wear face masks, especially in retail stores. If a COVID-19 case is suspected in a business, it must be reported immediately and the local health department will quickly locate everyone who had possible contact with the patient. 

The state will reopen one step at a time, DeWine said, and changes to the opening plane will be made based on the number of cases confirmed each day, if necessary.

"The coronavirus is still here. It's just as dangerous as it's ever been. It is still living amongst us," DeWine said. 


Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio

DeWine also announced plans to ramp up Ohio’s testing and tracing. Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher and ROE Dental Laboratory in Independence will create components to allow more testing.  

The state has developed a six-week testing expansion plan, starting Wednesday. For the first week, daily testing totals will be around 7,200. By week six, the governor’s office hope to have 22,000 tests being conducted every day, not including testing being done by private labs.


DeWine plans for the state to train 1,750 people in contact tracing – finding those who might have had contact with a COVID-19 patient through tracing the patients’ movements after their likely infection date. The workforce ramp-up will be done in a three-tier process and DeWine said Monday the state is still gathering funding. 

Ohio has seen a decrease in cases over the last week, but there are still more than 16,325 total cases and 753 deaths. DeWine attributes the plateau to residents following the stay-at-home order, which will remain in effect throughout May but will be modified incrementally. Gatherings of 10 people or less will remain mandatory. More details are expected to be released in the coming week. 

Although Ohio will start reopening, DeWine and the state's top health official, Dr. Amy Acton encouraged residents Monday to continue precautionary measures.

“We have to respect the mountain. We have to respect the virus,” Acton said. “Your health and well-being is never a zero sum game."

As for hair salons, gyms, schools and daycares, no decisions have been made. DeWine said he's focusing on sectors that are the easiest to control to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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