The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the Ohio Valley Region. But stay at home orders and social distancing restrictions reduced the number of cases modelers projected without them.
Now there is pressure to ease the restrictions and open states’ economies back up as the businesses that were closed struggle to find relief and record numbers of people apply for unemployment.
Here is a brief rundown of how West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky plan to reopen businesses.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced on April 27 that the state would begin reopening businesses before the federal government and outside organizations recommended.
The voluntary openings in the “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” plan are scheduled to take place in waves over three to six weeks, depending on outbreaks and hospitalizations spikes as social distancing restrictions relax.
Week 1 (April 30)
-Hospitals across the state were able to resume elective medical procedures, “provided that they have a plan in place to safely phase-in procedures based on clinical judgement while following all CDC guidelines.” They must also have enough personal protective equipment and a plan to respond if there is a surge of COVID-19 patients in the future. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Health Facility Licensure & Certification was tasked with approving each application.
-Outpatient health care operations could resume if their boards or associations approved.
-Testing of daycare staff began across the state.
Week 2 (May 4)
-The state’s “Stay at Home” was replaced with a “Safer at Home” order on May 4.
-Any small business with fewer than 10 employees was able to resume operations.
-All businesses providing professional services, such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops and pet grooming were permitted to reopen. But customers are required to make appointments for these businesses and must wait in their vehicles until their appointment.
-Outdoor dining at restaurants is permitted under strict physical distancing restrictions.
-Churches and funeral homes that chose to stop in-person services that wish to resume are encouraged to take extra precautions such as limiting seating to every other pew, maintaining physical distancing and wearing face covering restrictions.
All businesses included in the Week 2 phase of reopenings are required to operate with physical distancing measures in effect. Businesses are also required to implement efforts to increase sanitation and the use of face coverings.
Week 3 (May 11)
-Wellness centers operated by or with West Virginia Licensed Health Care providers, dental offices (as approved by the West Virginia Board of Dentistry) and drive-in theaters will open up May 11.
-Outdoor guided fishing tours can resume.
-Guided outdoor rock climbing can resume.
Week 4 (May 18)
-All gyms can reopen under the same guidelines as wellness centers.
-Indoor dining at restaurants can resume at 50 percent capacity. (Restaurants must operate under new guidance. Bar areas are to remain closed.)
-Large and specialty retail stores can reopen.
-State park campgrounds are open to in-state residents only. (Cabins and lodges reopen to in-state residents Tuesday May 26)
-Outdoor recreation rentals, including kayaks, bicycles, ATVs and similar equipment, can continue.
-Outdoor motorsport and powersport racing can resume with no spectators.
-Whitewater rafting. (The number of people per raft will be limited to six guests and one guide. Seating on buses to get to launch will also be limited.)
-Remaining businesses including office and government buildings, hotels, casinos, spas and massage parlors and other businesses will be notified one week before they are allowed to reopen.
-There is no timetable for the reopening of nursing home visitation, entertainment venues and gatherings of more than 25 people.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also announced his “Responsible Restart Ohio plan to reopen businesses in the state on April 27.
He said the plan was a “balancing act” between restarting the economy and keeping people safe, outlining measures to increase testing and contact tracing.
DeWine organized the plan by when certain sectors would reopen. Some business owners continue to wait on the governor’s word.
-The state’s “Stay at Home” order was replaced with a “Stay Safe Ohio” order scheduled to run through May 29. The order relaxed some restrictions, but still included social distancing and sanitation practices at businesses and banning social gatherings of 10 or more people.
-DeWine signed an order allowing hospital procedures to resume as long they don’t require an overnight stay in the hospital. There are exceptions, such as cases involving cancer or extreme pain.The order also applied to dentistry and veterinary offices.
-Retailers could open offering curbside pickup only.
-All construction, manufacturing and distribution companies could reopen.
-”General office environments” could reopen.
-Retailers can open in-store operations.
All companies that reopen were told they have to follow five rules:
-Wear face masks (for most employees, not customers)
-Assess employee health daily health, such as by checking temperatures
-Maintain good hygiene
-Clean and sanitize surfaces frequently
-Limit capacity to 50 percent of fire code requirement to maintain social distancing
On May 7, DeWine announced another round of openings.
-Barbershops, salons, day spas and similar personal services can reopen under new guidelines. These include waiting for appointments outside, only allowing the person holding the appointment inside (with some exceptions for children) and mask wearing for workers.
-Outdoor dining and restaurant and bars can resume. Restaurants and bars must operate under guidelines developed by working groups established by DeWine. These include barriers between seating areas, no open congregate areas, employees required to wear masks (with exceptions for cooks and certain other employees).
–Indoor dining at restaurants and bars can resume under new guidelines.
-All campgrounds can reopen.
-Horseracing (without spectators) may resume.
-Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations may reopen.
-Gyms and fitness centers can resume operations.
-Pools (not water parks) can open.
-Non-contact or limited contact sports leagues can resume.
-Child care providers can resume operation under certain guidelines (Maximum kids per classroom will be nine, maximum infants/toddlers per classroom will be six, temperatures will be taken daily and workers will wear masks.)
-Day camps can resume operations.
DeWine’s working groups will establish timelines for remaining businesses, including entertainment venues, to reopen.
Kentucky is taking a slower approach to reopening that Ohio and West Virginia.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced his “Healthy at Work” plan would include different phases for the health care industry and non-health care industries.
-”Non-emergent/non-urgent” outpatient healthcare services were permitted to resume. This includes physical therapy, chiropractic services, dentistry, oral surgery and anesthesia. Non-emergent/non-urgent surgical and invasive procedures were not included in this phase.
–Outpatient/ambulatory surgery and invasive procedures can resume. But all patients must have COVID-19 pre-procedure testing and each facility must maintain a 14-day supply of all necessary PPE. Acute care hospitals must maintain at least 30 percent bed capacity, per facility surge plan, in both ICU and total beds for COVID-19 patients.
-Manufacturing and construction businesses may reopen.
-Vehicle or vessel dealerships can reopen.
-Half of office-based businesses may reopen.
-Horse racing, with no fans, may resume.
-Dog grooming and board can continue.
–Non-emergent/non-urgent inpatient surgery and procedures may resume at 50% of pre-COVID-19 shutdown volume. The same guidelines with outpatient/ambulatory surgery and invasive procedures will apply.
–Retail businesses can resume in-store shopping.
-Houses of Worship can hold in-person services with social distancing guidelines.
-Restaurants will be able to open at one-third capacity with some social distancing requirements.
-Kentuckians will be allowed to gather in groups of 10 or fewer.
-Barbers, salons, cosmetology businesses and similar services may resume.
–Non-emergent/non-urgent inpatient surgery and procedures may resume at volume determined by each facility.
-Movie theaters and gyms will be able to open.
-Campgrounds will be allowed to open.
-Childcare facilities and youth sports can begin operation.
-Bars will be allowed to open and groups of 50 can meet.