As Ohioans slowly trickled out to shop — and the cautious stayed home — Gov. Mike DeWine warned Tuesday that coronavirus risks abound as the state attempts to rebuild a working economy in the midst of a pandemic.
DeWine said there are no promises of public safety amid the phased-in reopening of businesses that had been closed to help check the spread of COVID-19. And, he said, there won’t be for some time to come.
“There’s no guarantee it can stay out of anywhere in Ohio. I can’t give that assurance at all. The virus is still here; it’s not going away,” DeWine said when asked if the White House can’t keep the virus out, how can Ohio?
“Life has risks. The coronavirus presents a risk, a dangerous risk, but we can deal with that in as safe a way as possible,” he said after the state added tattoo and body-piercing shops and massage services to the businesses now allowed to reopen Friday.
State health officials reported an additional 473 cases of coronavirus statewide on Tuesday, raising the total number of confirmed and probable infections to 25,250 in slightly more than two months.
Another 79 COVID-19 deaths, including eight in Summit County, also were reported, increasing the fatalities from the highly infectious respiratory disease to 1,436. Some of the deaths generally date back weeks due to slow reporting.
Summit County now has 86 confirmed and probable deaths, including at least 54 from long-term health care facilities.
The new cases were lower when compared to the 696 daily coronavirus cases (and 16 deaths) reported Monday. With increased testing, the daily numbers have shown no ongoing decrease.
DeWine and state Health Director Dr. Amy Acton expect a rebound of new infections as the state loosens the virus-imposed reins on its economy and Ohioans are freed from stay-at-home orders.
State health officials promise a dramatic increase in testing and contact tracing of individuals potentially exposed to coronavirus to isolate them as part of the attempt to restrain the number of new virus patients.
While acknowledging increased risks, DeWine has moved to restart a state economy choked off by forced business closures and the accompanying loss of 1.1 million jobs — about 20% of the workforce.
DeWine announced Tuesday that federal authorities had approved the state’s pandemic plan to distribute $300 to qualifying needy families to allow them to feed their children since they are receiving no free meals with schools closed. The amount on the electronic equivalent of food stamps totals $250 million.
General offices have been allowed to reopen since May 11, with retail stores and consumer businesses following on Tuesday. Barber shops, hair and nail salons and other personal-care businesses can reopen on Friday.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday that tattoo and body-piercing shops and massage services also will be allowed to reopen Friday with virus protocols.
Friday also will allow bars and dine-in restaurants to serve up outdoor dining after being restricted for two months to drive-thru, carryout and delivery fare. Inside meal service can resume on May 21.
All employees in stores and workplaces are required to wear face masks to help check the spread of coronavirus in case they are infected and show no symptoms or are in the early stages of COVID-19.
DeWine initially required customers and office visitors to wear face coverings, but backed off after saying too many Ohioans found the requirement objectionable.
The governor told Ohioans on Tuesday to “wear masks as a matter of courtesy to the people serving you in the retail businesses … and later in restaurants.”
Workplaces and stores also are required to practice six-foot social distancing, disinfect common areas and employ other virus precautions.
Child day care centers, gyms and fitness centers, campgrounds, organized and spectator events and events that gather large crowds remain on the indefinitely closed list, with DeWine saying some may be allowed to reopen in coming days.
Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran spoke via video link at DeWine’s daily news briefing on Tuesday to discuss 115,000 Medicaid patients in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Nursing homes have been a hot spot for new virus cases, accounting for nearly three-fourths of cases during the past two weeks. Acton said nursing homes and senior living centers account for 16% of Ohio’s overall cases and 22% of deaths.
Corcoran outlined a state plan, enacted in April, in which regional hospitals work with local health departments and other providers to help nursing homes deal with coronavirus, including “more aggressive” testing. Homes with virus infections do not signal bad care, she said.
Meanwhile, coronavirus-related job losses have cost hundreds of thousands of Ohioans their employer-provided health insurance coverage, leading them to enroll for Medicaid assistance.
Medicaid rolls for the jointly state and federally funded health care program grew by 140,000 in April alone and are expected to increase by 100,000 each in May and June, Corcoran said.
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Cases per capita by county