DeWine Warns: Will ‘Err on the Side of Protecting People’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — During his daily address Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine had a stern warning for businesses not following the best practices listed by the state to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

DeWine thanked businesses who have “gone out of their way to comply with the best precautions,” including maintaining safe distances between others, eliminating opportunities for employees to congregate and making hand sanitizer available to employees and customers.

“What you’re doing every day is saving lives. There’s absolutely no doubt about that,” DeWine said.

The governor and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, however, continue to receive emails, texts and messages from employees and from individuals observing noncompliance, DeWine said.

Those businesses are “recklessly risking the lives of their employees, their employees’ families and everyone those employees and their families come in contact with,” and they must start to comply with the best practices, he said.

As DeWine continues to balance his responsibility to the safety of Ohioans and the economic stability of the state, “I will err on the side of protecting people” if the business do not comply with the best practices, he said.

“I took an oath of office to do the essential thing that government does, which that is to protect the people,” DeWine said. “So, no announcement today. But the bad behavior, the reckless behavior must stop.”

When asked what the next intervention would be if the businesses are not in compliance, DeWine responded he hasn’t hesitated to close businesses and other operations if they post a threat to individuals

“I think people can imagine what that next step will be,” he said.

This comes a day after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses in the commonwealth closed. And while DeWine stopped short of addressing the possibility of a total lockdown of the state, he addressed rumors of such action in Thursday’s address, stemming primarily from the presence of the National Guard, which has been deployed to help erect tents outside of hospital emergency rooms and assist food banks with food transportation.

“The National Guard is not involved in carrying weapons. You may see them carry groceries,” DeWine said Thursday. “Rumors about marital law, quarantining anyone in their home – none of those are true.”

According to Husted, business best practices include:

  • Taking temperatures of employees before coming into work if they have the capability, or having employees do it at home.
  • Dedicating people to specifically clean surfaces, door handles, rails and any place where people would touch.
  • Removing chairs from areas where they are too close together or people can congregate.
  • Staggering breaks in lunch areas to minimize congregation.
  • Keeping six feet of distance between individuals.
  • Asking employees to stay at home after work. Don’t travel outside of the workplace.
  • If employees exhibit symptoms, send them home.
  • Switch to A and B shifts to avoid tight congregation.
  • Identify individuals at their facility to be in charge of enforcing the rules.
  • Ban gatherings without personal space.
  • No community gathering space.
  • No sharing equipment without it being disinfected.
  • Wash hands. Don’t touch your face.

DeWine and Husted also addressed the state’s first confirmed death because of coronavirus. The death of attorney Mark Wagoner Sr., Toledo, was confirmed Friday by the Ohio Department of Health. Wagoner, who DeWine and Husted knew well, sat on the Lucas County Board of Elections and was a prominent Republican in the state, DeWine said.

“When we hear about this, these deaths, in other states and as we hear about them in Ohio, most times we will not know the individual,” DeWine said. “But I think it’s important for us to remember that each time we hear about a new death, that is someone who is loved. Someone who lived their life. Someone who wanted to live longer.”

To date, the department has confirmed 169 cases in the state with 39 hospitalizations. Of the 28 counties with confirmed cases, there are seven in Mahoning County and three in Trumbull County. The current age range is 1 to 91 years, with a median age of 49. Of those cases, 69 are female and 100 are male.

There are no positive diagnoses in Columbiana County, though the county has “a number of COVID-19 tests that are pending results,” according to a joint statement Friday from East Liverpool City Hospital and Salem Regional Medical Center.

Wagoner’s death adds a new variable to COVID-19 testing criteria, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of health. When there’s a death, the individuals within that person’s cluster – people in close contact, first responders and health care workers – will be considered for testing, she said.

EXECUTIVE ORDER: SENIOR CITIZEN CENTERS TO CLOSE

During his address, DeWine issued a new executive order effectively closing the state’s senior citizen centers and senior day cares beginning at the close of business Monday, because the coronavirus presents “a significant risk to be in a group setting,” he said.

Centers will still be allowed to deliver meals to senior citizens’ homes, as well as provide transportation services.

DeWine has been in talks with Ursel McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, as well as the providers who operate these centers, who knew the day was coming, he said. They gave the centers “a few more days” before making the final order.

When asked about the potential closure of daycares for children, the governor said, “we’re not there yet,” but said many of the children in daycare have already been taken out and the numbers are “down significantly.”

The reason for not closing them yet is for health-care workers who continue to work during the pandemic, he said. The state is moving toward a situation where they will allow the hospitals to establish their own daycare if necessary. Before the final order is issued, DeWine wanted to make sure the child has someplace to go during the day, he said.

When closing any industry, DeWine reiterated he is working to balance the safety of Ohioans while assuring the continuation of services so individuals can make a living, provide for their families and to keep the economy moving, he said.

“I’m fully aware that some of our orders have caused people to lose their jobs,” DeWine said. “Each one of those orders was thought out, agonized over. I made those decisions because I felt the evidence was abundantly clear that those decisions would save lives.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.