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On April 27, 2020, Governor DeWine announced Ohio’s initial plan for restarting the economy beyond the limited activities allowed under the Department of Health’s stay at home orders issued in March and April. Only essential businesses and certain health care facilities were allowed to remain open during the initial lockout phase. The new restart plan allows additional businesses to open and accept customers, and it also broadens the amount of medical and health services available. Here are some highlights from the restart plan announced by the governor.
Beginning May 1st
All medically necessary procedures that do not require an overnight stay in a health care facility or inpatient hospital admissions may be scheduled. What qualifies as medically necessary is not specifically defined and there may be some gray area between what is considered medically necessary and what is also considered as an elective procedure. However, the order does indicate that doctor visits, well care checks, well baby visits, outpatient surgeries, imaging procedures, and diagnostic tests are allowed. In addition, all dental services and veterinary services may proceed, as well.
Beginning May 4th
MANUFACTURING, DISTRIBUTION AND CONSTRUCTION BUSINESSES
So long as your business falls within any of these three broad categories and you can meet the mandatory safety requirements for customers and employees, you can begin operations. This obviously would be in addition to the businesses that are already deemed essential and that fall under these categories.
Beginning May 4th
General business/service offices can reopen so long as they can meet mandatory safety requirements for customers and employees.
Beginning May 12th
RETAIL AND CUSTOMER SERVICE
These types of businesses can reopen if they can meet the mandatory safety requirements for customers and employees. However, in an amended order issued on April 30th, retail establishments are now allowed to open on May 1st so long as they restrict their operations to curbside pickup and delivery or appointment only visits and adhere to the ten people at one time restriction in the store.
WHAT ARE THE MANDATORY SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES?
The general safe business practices that all businesses will have to follow (including the previously opened essential businesses) are:
1. Require face coverings for all employees and strongly recommended for clients, customers or other visitors.
The Director of Health and the Governor have now gone through two different versions of this requirement concerning face coverings. While initially requiring face coverings for all employees, they relaxed that requirement Monday, the 27th of April, only to reimplement it on April 29th. The Governor’s office, however, did indicate there are exceptions to the rule and they provided a general list of the exceptions. They are:
a. The employee in a particular position is prohibited by law from wearing a face covering while on the job.
b. Wearing a face covering on the job is against documented industry best practice
c. Wearing a face covering is not advisable for health purposes
d. If wearing a face covering is a violation of the company’s safety policies.
e. An employee is sitting alone in an enclosed workplace.
f. There is a practical reason a face covering cannot be worn by an employee.
It was emphasized that wearing a face mask was something “we do out of mutual respect for one another. At work, you wear a mask because you want to protect your fellow employees and because you want to protect your customers.” You should document your reason if you allow employees to work without a mask.
2. Conducting daily health assessments or self-evaluations of employees to determine if they can remain at work.
3. Maintaining good hygiene throughout the facility which would include hand washing and social distancing.
4. Cleaning and sanitizing workplaces throughout the day and at the close of business or between shifts.
5. Limiting capacity to meet social distancing guidelines.
In the situation when a COVID-19 infection is identified, all businesses are also required to:
- Send the infected employee home.
- Immediately report the employee or customer infections to the local health district.
- Work with the local health departments to identify potentially exposed individuals and to help facilitate appropriate communication and contact tracing.
- Shut down the shop or floor area where the employee worked for deep sanitation.
- Clean and sanitize the site location of the business.
- Reopen in consultation with the local health department.
- The company should continue to monitor its employees for any symptoms and updates on their condition.
Each individual business group has additional specific safety requirements. Therefore, you should check the website for the Ohio Department of Health for new dictates.
Probably the most helpful portion of the restart plan is the section that lists the businesses that are not allowed to open.
Under the restart plan, the following businesses and facilities must remain closed.
- Schools and daycare centers.
- Dine in restaurants and bars (carry out is still permitted).
- Personal appearance and beauty businesses.
- Older adult daycare services and senior centers.
- Adult day support or vocational rehabilitation services in group settings.
- Entertainment, recreation, fitness centers and gyms.
Also, the restart plan emphasizes that the previous stay at home order remains in place. In other words, all Ohioans are encouraged to continue to remain at home except for essential tasks. Also, there is an added emphasis on those who are 65 years of age or older. They are encouraged to stay home as they are in the high risk group as well as those with high risk medical conditions such as; chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or liver disease and those who are otherwise compromised or obese. The governor also emphasized that large gatherings of more than ten people are still prohibited.
We welcome the governor’s efforts to restart the Ohio economy and while not everyone will still be allowed to return to work, this is a good start. We hope that by the end of the month, additional businesses will be given the opportunity to open their doors with a successful completion of these first phases.