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DeWine: Economy will begin to reopen after May 1

Governor said restart will be gradual; precautions in place for possibly one year

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state will begin the process of reopening its economy after May 1.

The governor, at his news briefing on Thursday, said it would not be an overnight process and that precautions being taken because of the coronavirus will remain in place.

DeWine said the virus “will be with us until we have a vaccine,” which medical experts say could take up to a year.

But he said he remained optimistic about the next phase.

“This period of time living with COVID-19 will not last forever,” he said. “We will get through this.”

He urged Ohioans to be patient and vigilant.

“Life will not resume to normal for a while,” he said. “We all have continue taking precautions and protecting the most vulnerable Ohioans — seniors and those with pre-existing and chronic health conditions.”

DeWine said he has appointed an economic advisor group, consisting of business representatives from all sectors of the state to help formulate a plan out of the economic crisis, which he said will be unveiled in coming weeks.

The governor said he could envision some sectors of the economy restarting before others, with hospitals becoming more open so people could catch up on needed appointments, while large gatherings, such as sporting events and county fairs, being permitted only later.

“It’s going to be gradual, a rolling out,” he said. “May 1 is the date. We’re not reopening the state in that sense.”

The governor was asked about county fair throughout the state in the summer, to which he said there is no answer at this time.

“Nobody loves a county fair more than Mike DeWine,” the governor said. “The thought of kids who wouldn’t be able to take their lambs to show is, I think that’s just horrible.”

He said the crowd size at these events would be problematic.

“Bigger events where we are mixing together are pretty problematic as long as this monster is out there,” he said.

DeWine said Ohioans, in complying with the stay at home order and practicing social distancing, have flattened the curve and he hopes that a decline begins soon after cases have remained flat for several days.

“As we open back up, we will continue to monitor where we are at in the curve, the amount of PPE (personal protective equipment) we have available and Ohio’s testing capacity,” he said.

He said businesses will have to have plans in place to protect both employees and customers and to ensure that there is confidence in an economic reopening.

“In re-opening any business, it will be essential to provide a safe environment for employees. We cannot have another large spike of COVID-19 cases,” DeWine said.

The governor said those who have been working during the crisis have provided some answers on how to proceed.

“We have learned a lot from our companies who are considered essential and are still open during the stay at home order.,” he said. “Many safety precautions have been put into place to protect employees.”

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton holds up a cotton facemask at a news conference on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. Acton said that, though the state will begin the process of reopening its economy after May 1, Ohioans will need to wear facemasks in public setting until a vaccine for the virus can be developed or herd immunity occurs, which could take at least a year. (Screengrab)

Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, said all precautions will need to be followed in the coming year.

“The path ahead will consist of several phases and there is a lot of things that you can do to help us continue to flatten the curve, such as great hygiene and wearing a face mask while out in public,” she said.

She also said the new reality will not go away immediately.

“The virus will continue to spread until we have herd immunity of that vaccine,” she said.

She especially urged people to continue wearing face masks in situations where social distancing is difficult.

“Face masks will be a big part of our future,” she said. “Do not underestimate the power of donning your face mask.”

Acton said she and the governor’s team have been “fighting every day for your lives, your health and your livelihood.”

“This has been a very trying time for all Ohioans, but I’m very optimistic on how we will continue to travel this road together,” she said.

DeWine said, as a father of eight children, he has learned to be positive.

“I am an optimist and am confident that Ohioans will also live up to the challenge of doing things differently as we open back up beginning on May 1,” he said. “These are the essential facts that we know. And I will continue to tell you what we know, when we know it. Ohioans have done a great job at flattening the curve. You have saved lives. You have made a difference.”

Many have been comparing the pandemic to the world’s situation during World War II and DeWine offered the words of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to sum up the situation.

“On Nov. 10, 1942, Winston Churchill said, ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,’” DeWine said. “I believe this is where we are today. At the end of the beginning stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As of Thursday, the state reported 8,239 confirmed cases of the virus, with 373 confirmed fatalities. Officials said, because of limited testing, the number is believed to be higher. Cases are confirmed in every county in the state, except Vinton County. In Lawrence County, there were 19 confirmed cases.