Revised Order Puts Onus on Ohioans to Protect Ohioans

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In his latest update to his original stay-at-home order, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday the Urgent Health Advisory: Ohioans Protecting Ohioans, which effectively lifts the remaining stay-at-home mandates.

During his daily briefing, the governor said the update moves the state “from orders to strong recommendations” to better reflect the reality of where Ohio stands during the coronavirus pandemic. This revision essentially replaces the safe-at-home order issued on April 30.

“Since the original stay-at-home order, a lot has happened,” DeWine said. “Our orders have evolved and the circumstances have evolved in Ohio as well.”

Social distancing efforts made by the state and Ohio residents have helped to flatten the curve of positive diagnoses, thus preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients, DeWine said. They’ve also reduced the infection ratio – previously, one person was infecting two people, on average. That has been reduced to one-to-one.

As his administration worked with health professionals and business groups, they have issued guidelines for best practices, thus allowing for the reopening of a number of sectors thus far, creating more opportunities for Ohioans to leave their homes.

The advisory does not, however, rescind the required six feet of social distance, limiting mass gatherings to 10 people, or keeping up with proper hygiene and sanitation efforts. Vulnerable populations are still advised to stay at home as much as possible and avoid places where they’re likely to encounter a lot of people.

It also does not negate business orders regarding social distancing and sanitation, including requiring employees to wear masks or face coverings in an effort to protect employees and customers.

What it does, he said, is place the responsibility upon Ohioans to keep up with these efforts and calls upon their “personal sense of accountability” to themselves and others.

“Our health advisory recommends but does not require that those Ohioans stay at their place of residence when possible with the intent of lowering the spread of COVID-19,” DeWine said. “Young, healthy Ohioans should take protective action, and any Ohioan should take protective action because they could unknowingly pass this virus on to one of their fellow citizens.”

Under the new Urgent Health Advisory, unnecessary travel is now permitted, “but not encouraged,” DeWine said. In the spirit of Ohioans Protecting Ohioans, DeWine is advising residents to make their own judgments for out-of-state travel based on the situation, who they are traveling with, who lives in their household and who they interact with when they travel.

“We just ask they be cautious,” he said. “What we do individually will be what saves Ohioans collectively. The concept of love thy neighbor is as old as the scriptures. It is something that we all believe.”

Individuals testing positive for COVID-19 and have not recovered or who are showing symptoms “should not enter the state” unless doing so under medical orders.

The state will continue its efforts to help businesses maintain their requirements. Starting May 20, the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation will start distributing 2 million face coverings to Ohio employers who are covered by the BWC for their employees, DeWine said. Packs will contain at least 50 coverings, and are funded by the existing budget and will not impact premiums.

“If you receive more than you needed, we ask that you share them with others in your communities who need them,” DeWine said.

On Monday, DeWine responded to examples of overcrowding at bars and restaurants over the weekend, with images showing patrons not maintaining social distancing nor wearing protective face coverings. During Tuesday’s briefing, DeWine was asked if he had concerns with putting too much faith in Ohioans to do the right thing given the examples of some willfully ignoring the recommendations.

“I don’t think so,” DeWine responded, saying that despite those examples, he’s also received many reports of restaurants, bars and their patrons abiding by the guidelines.

Restaurants and bars reopened for outdoor dining on May 15 and are permitted to allow indoor dining May 21 provided the follow specific guidelines.

“Ohioans have demonstrated in the last two months that they will use their common sense. They will do what needs to be done,” DeWine said.

That said, DeWine reiterated that local health departments have authority to issue more restrictive orders if deemed necessary and enforce those orders, as well as existing state guidelines.

DeWine stressed that he does not want the state to follow a similar path of some European nations who loosened restrictions, only to see the number of diagnoses rise again, forcing those governments to reinstitute closures. The state’s economic recovery is tied to public safety and health, he said.

“What we do in the next few weeks is going to determine exactly where we are,” DeWine said. “This is how we’re going to save our economy. We cannot separate keeping safe, keeping the virus spread down, and growing the economy.”

With the updated order “we are taking another step” toward reopening the economy, added Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, adding that there may be additional announcements on Thursday. While he understands reopening brings a risk of seeing infections rise, remaining closed also has a risk to both the economy and Ohioans’ mental health, he said.

Husted reminded viewers that Bureau of Motor Vehicles deputy registrar offices will reopen May 26. He reiterated that many of the services offered by the BMV can be done line at Oplates.com, and he encouraged to use the website before coming to the local office, creating a rush.

He also reminded that individuals with a driver’s license or photo ID don’t have to get them renewed right away. Even if they are expired, the passage of H.B. 197 in late March provided a 90-day grace period of state and local licenses.

Pictured: Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all flags in the state be lowered to half-mast to honor Annie Glenn, widow of U.S. Sen. John Glenn., who died Tuesday of complications from COVID-19. Annie Glenn was 100. “Theirs is a truly inspiring love story. She represents all that is good in Ohio, all that is good in this country,” DeWine said. “We were lucky to call both of them our fellow Ohioans.”

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.