‘Stay Safe Ohio’ Order Takes Effect, Not All Comply

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With the new Stay Safe Ohio order in effect, the state has “reached a new stage, and I think that’s good news for everybody,” said Gov. Mike DeWine.

During his daily briefing, DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, reiterated the spirit of the order isn’t to require Ohioans to “stay at home,” but to continue promoting the best practices that they content have helped to flatten the curve of positive cases of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus.

The order is the first step in reopening the state, which began today with hospitals, dentists, veterinarians and other health care providers more fully opening their doors and “doing what they were doing before the coronavirus came on the scene,” DeWine said. The reopening continues on May 4 with offices, industry and construction that were initially deemed nonessential will be allowed to open their doors, provided they follow best practices established by the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On May 12, retail will follow. Per the request of many retailers who “have some critical days coming up,” the state is allowing retailers to schedule appointments with customers to come in and process a sale, DeWine announced Friday. They can also provide curbside service “if the retail business lends itself to that type of activity,” he said.

Even after opening, businesses must abide by guidelines, which include maintaining six feet of social distance, wearing face coverings – unless workers are among the stated exceptions – maintaining proper hygiene and sanitizing all surfaces and frequently touched areas. Practicing these guidelines is critical to having a successful reopening of the economy, DeWine said.

“People have to feel that every precaution is being taken. Every safety measure is being taken,” he said. “Having that public confidence is absolutely essential for businesses to be able to come back and to make it.”

The guidelines were developed for each industry after conferring with business leaders into those fields, DeWine said. In an effort to establish custom guidelines for all industries and their needs, the administration is continuing talks with restaurateurs, barbers, libraries, travel/tourism, outdoor recreation, adult and youth sports, gyms and fitness centers, theater and arts, professional sports, child care and adult day care.

Once best practices for each industry are established, the administration will set a date for reopening, DeWine said. Some will come fairly quickly. DeWine acknowledged that Ohioans are of two minds on the reopening, with some thinking it’s not moving fast enough while others say it’s moving too fast.

But for the reopening to be successful, all Ohioans must abide by social distancing guidelines to protect the people they are intended for, he said.

“My fellow Ohioans, we can do two things at once,” DeWine said. “We can stay safe. We can protect each other. We can protect the most vulnerable. And at the same time move our businesses back and get people back to work.

“What each one of us does not only impact us, our families, but many cases total strangers,” he added. “So whether we like it or not, we are in this together. And our collective actions matter a great deal.”

DeWine and Husted both expressed their frustrations with not being able to see loved ones or go out without wearing face coverings. However, the goal of Stay Safe Ohio is to ensure that when people do go out “we want to make sure they have the best knowledge possible and the best standards” to keep them safe, Husted said.

In the order, “most of the economy is opened up with safety standards in place,” Husted said. And while the spirit of the order is intended to promote collective responsibility and not to fine those who violate its guidelines, local health officials need a set of standards so health departments can hold “egregious violators” accountable, he said.

“While we know that the safer Ohio order does have the power of law, I don’t expect that all Ohioans will do the right thing just because it says so,” Husted said. “We have to set a standard and we want people to meet that standard.”

According to the order, a violation of the order is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, which can include a fine of not more than $750 or not more than 90 days in jail or both.

Some Ohioans have stated they will go back to normal life despite the executive orders. In a letter to DeWine from the We the People Convention, an Akron-based conservative political group, state Rep. Diane Grendell, R-76 Chesterland, writes “Many are already disobeying the executive orders, especially because 74% of the cases and deaths in the last two weeks appear to be in nursing homes and prisons,” she said.

Grendell challenged the accuracy of the original modeling, which were used as evidence for the need to “flatten the curve.” She argues that the curve has been flattened in the general community, excluding nursing homes and prisons, and that hospitals have been “underutilized” to the point of financial harm.

“Closing the state for two months for a virus that has a 99% survivability rate makes no sense for too many Ohioans. Spreading fear to our citizens for a virus with a 99% survivability rate is not defensible,” Grendell writes. “It is imperative that you terminate executive orders and stay at home orders for the general community, while still maintaining the orders necessary for nursing homes and prisons so that all Ohioans may return to work. We can still maintain social distancing, hygiene and optional masks for those that choose to use them.”

The Ohio Department of Health has yet to report a recovery rate for COVID-19 because “there hasn’t been, to date, a landed upon recovery definition,” reported the department’s director, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, during Wednesday’s briefing. The department is working with other health professionals in other states to determine the best way to accurately report recovery rates, she said.

“We haven’t tested a lot of the mildly ill people, so I have no way of knowing the people who have stayed at home, had this – or been asymptomatic and had this – and have recovered,” Acton said Wednesday.

In working with hospitals, they have seen patients who seem to improve after two weeks and others who are still getting better longer than that, she said.

“So that definition of ‘recovered’ has been tricky,” Acton said. “It’s something that we will eventually have and will eventually have better data on.”

Health officials expect to see higher incidences of COVID-19 diagnoses in congregate settings where social distancing is more difficult, as well as higher incidences of deaths among vulnerable populations.

During Thursday’s briefing, Acton said it wasn’t a surprise that nursing homes and prisons are experiencing higher numbers of diagnoses and deaths compared to the general population where stay at home orders have been in effect. However, the department won’t know the full extent of the impact of the coronavirus on the general population until more testing is in place, she said.

“We really can’t say a lot about the general population yet until we can get a better idea, better testing and better prevalence study,” she said.

The DeWine administration expects to be able to ramp up a 30-by-30 prevalence study of the general population in the near future. The study includes testing for COVID-19 as well as serologic antibody testing and another type of blood tests to test the accuracy of the antibody tests.

“It’s the same thing we’re testing in hospitals on people who have recovered and are donating their antibodies for convalescent plasma,” she said. “So we’re going to be doing that study starting Monday.”

The test takes about two weeks to complete and another week to analyze the data. DeWine and Acton will have more information on prevalence testing next week.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.