Businesses across the state will begin reopening this week under the Responsible RestartOhio Plan. Retail stores can open on Tuesday, outdoor dining and personal care businesses on Friday, and dine-in bar and restaurant services can start again on May 21.
Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County’s Director of Environmental Health Jennifer Wentzel spoke with WYSO’s Leila Goldstein about what these changes mean for the county.
[The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.]
Leila Goldstein: This week retail, dining, and personal care businesses are starting to open up. What is required of businesses to keep customers and staff safe?
Jennifer Wentzel: Many of the requirements are going to be the same for all three of those business sectors that you spoke about. Employees need to make sure that they're keeping 6-foot distance between themselves as well as customers. All employees are required to wear face coverings. There's an exemption list and if they fall within those exemptions, then they're required to have, in writing, justification as to why they can't wear a face mask.
Employees are going to be required to perform daily symptom assessments. If employees are sick, they're required to stay at home. Employees must be washing their hands regularly. Hand sanitizer should be available. Items that are high touch, like the point of sale units where you swipe your credit card or carts or baskets, those items should be cleaned frequently after use also.
Some restaurants and bars will be installing physical barriers if they can't meet the 6-foot distance. The same thing will apply in salons, we’re likely to see barriers between chairs. Patrons may be required to wait out in their car until it's their turn. Decreasing the number of people in the salon will help reduce exposure.
Goldstein: What's expected of customers as they start to go back into these businesses?
Wentzel: Anytime that we venture out into the community, it's important to go by yourself. Keep your kids at home as much as possible. Do one-on-one kinds of shopping and activities, whether it's to get your haircut or go pick up food or go to the grocery store.
As customers start going back, recommendations are that they're wearing face coverings, also. It's not a requirement unless the business requires them to. They should be washing their hands when they get home and keeping six feet away from those people that they interact with in the store. If the store looks too busy, they should probably think twice and come back at a different time. We have to do our part to protect the employees that are working in these businesses. It's important that we're doing very similar things that the employees are doing.
Goldstein: How is Public Health working with businesses to make sure they're following these statewide requirements? Will your staff be relying on reports from customers and staff or will the department be going in and inspecting businesses?
Wentzel: As far as phone calls into our agency, we've been handling those on a daily basis. We will address any complaint that comes into our office. We will also be out in the community and be very visible with Public Health logo vests on. We will be doing random, unannounced spot checks on those businesses that are beginning to open up.
Goldstein: Last week, Governor Mike DeWine said that reopening Ohio is a risk. Does Public Health recommend that people still try to limit their outings as much as possible or is it recommended to go out and help restart the economy?
Wentzel: We all have to do our part to protect each other and to keep our numbers of cases at a lower level. It's important that we do our own part by staying home as much as possible. The stay at home order is still in effect, it's just that some businesses are being permitted to reopen. Washing your hands, keeping your face covered when you're out in public, and visiting those businesses where you believe that you can maintain your 6-foot distance is going to be imperative to help keep our numbers down.