Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Thursday the liberation of more coronavirus-closed Ohio businesses, including dine-in restaurants, bars, barbershops and hair salons.
The governor said restaurants and bars can begin serving patrons on their outdoor patios and outside dining areas on May 15.
Inside service, including for meals, will not be permitted until May 21, with virus precautions such as 6-foot social distancing between tables.
Servers will be required to wear face masks, with cooks and backroom employees exempt. Guests could be asked to wear masks. Capacity limits could be imposed based on restaurant and bar space.
A host of personal service businesses also are permitted to reopen a week from Friday, such as nail salons, barber and hair salons, day spas and similar businesses, after enacting “best practices.”
Barbers, stylists and cosmetologists will wear masks while dealing with customers, who could be asked to wait outside until the time of their appointment and to enter alone, except for those accompanying children and caregivers for other adults. Waiting areas will follow social distancing guidance.
All had been closed since March 15 under a stay-at-home order closing unessential businesses. Restaurants and taverns were permitted to sell food at drive-thrus and by carryout and delivery. Ohio restaurants subsequently laid off more than an estimated 300,000 employees.
“We need to do two things at once — bring back our economy and at the same time, stay safe,” DeWine said. “How we open up is so very, very important,” he said stressing the need to respect virus safeguards.
The closure list continues to include massage therapy services, day care centers, senior centers, entertainment and recreation venues (including movie theaters and amusement parks), gyms and fitness centers, casinos, fairs and festivals, spectator and recreational sports and campgrounds.
A prohibition against gatherings of more than 10 people remains in place.
“This is something we are not going to run through quickly,” DeWine said. “What we have to do to fight back against the virus is quite complex.
“As we open up, the risks go up. The more contacts we have, the more we do, there is more risk. That we can expect,” he said, adding each infected person infects, on average, one more person.
“The opening up of this economy is going to make those [cases] go higher,” DeWine said, again repeating Ohioans and businesses must follow social distancing, the wearing of masks and other precautions.
“This is a new gamble, a new journey ... marked with danger signs. The danger is, we relax,” he said. “If we relax, take things for granted ... things are not going to go the way we want. We don’t want to see a spike.”
Latest case count
Meanwhile, Ohio recorded 555 new coronavirus cases and 46 additional COVID-19 deaths Thursday.
Ohio now has 22,131 coronavirus cases, an increase of 2.6% from Wednesday, with 1,271 deaths and 4,140 cumulative hospitalizations.
Here are the latest local case numbers (provided by the state unless otherwise noted):
Summit: Data released Thursday afternoon by Summit County Public Health show 826 cases (47 new), including 66 deaths (two new) and 272 cumulative hospitalizations.
Stark: One new death reported. A total of 450 cases (23 new), 104 cumulative hospitalizations and 60 deaths.
Portage: One new death reported. A total of 265 cases (three new), 69 cumulative hospitalizations, 46 deaths.
Wayne: Five new deaths reported. A total of 177 cases (four new), 24 cumulative hospitalizations and 41 deaths.
Medina: One new death reported. A total of 185 cases, 48 cumulative hospitalizations and 17 deaths.
Ashland: Twelve cases, one hospitalization, no deaths.
Holmes: Seven cases, two hospitalizations, one death.
Tuscarawas: 153 cases, 21 hospitalizations, one death.
A daily record of more than 8,000 tests was conducted Thursday, said state health director Dr. Amy Acton. State officials project totals could reach 22,000 per day late this month, but Acton said that still will fall short of what is needed.
Road to revival
While acknowledging a risk of increasing the spread of COVID-19, DeWine said Ohio had to get back to work to jump-start its ravaged economy, which has included more than 1.1 million Ohioans losing jobs.
House Republicans have rebelled against what they denounce as too slow of a reopening, passing a bill that would give lawmakers say-so over stay-at-home orders surpassing 14 days. The Republican DeWine says he will veto the bill if it also passes the Senate.
Ohio officials credit the stay-at-home order, first issued March 23 and later extended, with depressing the growth of coronavirus infections and avoiding overwhelming the state’s medical system.
Stay-at-home was continued until May 29, but now permits Ohioans to travel to work and, when stores open Tuesday, to begin shopping.
The pandemic fallout devastated state income and sales tax collections, prompting DeWine on Tuesday to announce $775 million in state budget cuts through June 30, including a $465 million loss in state funding to schools and public universities and colleges.
On Thursday, DeWine saluted privately operated Ashland University and showed off a purple Ashland tie, in keeping with his habit of recognizing colleges across the state at the start of his coronavirus news conferences.
Deaths per capita
Cases by county
Cases per capita by county