Ohio wedding receptions can resume June 1, other reopenings announced

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio leaders announced reopening dates Thursday for several activities such as wedding receptions, bowling alleys and high school athletic training if they can meet required safety protocols.

Beginning Tuesday, May 26, miniature golf, batting cages, and bowling alleys may resume operations. So can skills training for all sports, including contact sports.

Tournaments, games, and competitions for contact sports are still prohibited.

Beginning Monday, June 1, catering and banquet centers may reopen and hold events like wedding receptions with a cap of 300 people if they meet required safety protocols currently in place for restaurants.

“We recognize that people want to go on with life and we are trying to provide guidelines and recommendations as to how you can do so as safely as possible,” Lt. Jon Husted said at Gov. Mike DeWine’s news conference. “We want to proceed with cautious optimism that when we follow the proper protocols, we can resume the activities in life that we love without negatively impacting the health of our loved ones.”

The state’s ban on mass gatherings of more than 10 people still remains in place, so tables must be 6 feet apart with no more than 10 people per table, said Dan Tierney, a spokesman in Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

And since congregating is prohibited, that likely would eliminate dance floors in most facilities. Self-service buffets or salad bars also not allowed. Buffets must be staffed by workers serving food.

Weddings have always been permitted and that will continue without restriction on the number of guests at the ceremonies, Tierney said. Those are often religious ceremonies, which are protected by First Amendment Rights, he notes.

But if you are attending or hosting your own reception outside or in a backyard, the state’s mass gathering ban would cap it at 10 people, Tierney clarified.

Minority Health Strike Force recommendations

DeWine unveiled the state’s Minority Health Strike Task Force recommendations Thursday.

The team was formed in April in response to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans who make up 14 percent of Ohio’s population, but represent 26 percent of positive COVID-19 cases, 31 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 17 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, according to DeWine’s office.

The group has been studying how coronavirus impacts minorities in Ohio and developing recommendations how communities of color are more likely to have underlying health conditions, less access to healthcare, and discrimination when accessing healthcare services, he said.

“I am deeply concerned about this data. I am the Governor of all of Ohio, and when I see something disproportionately affecting some of our citizens, I have a responsibility to do something,” said Governor DeWine. “To augment on the work that we are currently doing on health equity and to address the immediate threats posed by COVID-19 to our minority communities, we intend to move forward with the strike force’s recommendations, and we have several additional efforts that are ready to get underway.”

Here are the recommendations:

  • Establishing culturally appropriate and accessible COVID-19 exposure notification services for communities of color.
  • Expanding testing capacity and access for minorities and high-risk populations
  • Using data to prioritize resources in the communities that have the highest need
  • Developing and launching a statewide, culturally-sensitive outreach campaign that educates African Americans and communities of color on COVID-19, health disparities, and social determinants of health

The task force’s preliminary report will be available soon at coronavirus.ohio.gov. Final recommendations will be issued on June 11.

New position to address health inequity

DeWine also announced Thursday that a new position will be created in the Ohio Department of Health dedicated to “social determinants of health and opportunity." This person’s work will build on several existing efforts to respond to health inequity by working directly with local communities on their specific long-term health needs and Ohio’s response to COVID-19.

The employee will collect data to inform best practices and for helping to ensure the implementation of the Minority Strike Force’s short-term and long-term recommendations.

Communications campaign

The Ohio Department of Health and Minority Health Strike Force will work with Us for Us to unveil a new communications campaign aimed at Ohio’s minority populations called “Stay in the Fight.” This campaign will focus on the need to stay informed, stay involved, and stay inspired during the pandemic.

Minority community COVID-19 testing

To expand access to testing, Ohio has partnered with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers which represents Ohio’s Federally Qualified Health Centers, including 55 Community Health Centers at 378 locations. It has multiple mobile units in 68 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

“Community health centers have a unique reach,” DeWine said. “They are trusted in their local communities to provide primary and preventive care regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, making them critical to any strategy that makes COVID-19 testing available in rural and urban neighborhoods throughout our state.”

For testing, individuals should contact their Federally Qualified Health Center or community health center for information and direction about how to be tested.

Community wellness kits

The state is partnering with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and the Nationwide Foundation to distribute thousands of “Community Wellness Kits” that contain COVID-19 protection-related items, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, and soap.

COVID-19 exposure notification

To support both the state and local health departments in efforts to fight COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on people of color, the state will significantly increase the number of public health workers who can help notify Ohioans of possible exposure to the virus.

The hiring of these public health workers is in progress at both the state and local levels with the goal of hiring individuals who represent and reflect the make-up of their own communities.

Mental health grants

The governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will award $1 million in grants to provide mental health and addiction services for hard-to-reach individuals.

The grants will allow faith-based and local community-based organizations to develop culturally appropriate messages that target those who may not be as easily reached by mass-media messaging efforts, such as racial and ethnic minorities, Appalachian and rural communities, older adults, and others.

Acton lifts stay-at-home restrictions

Overnight, Ohio’s top health official signed a document officially lifting stay-at-home restrictions. Dr. Amy Acton replaced them with strong recommendations under an urgent health advisory called “Ohioans Protecting Ohioans.”

Earlier this week, DeWine said public health orders were transitioning to recommendations as the state continues to reopen businesses that shut down in March when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Acton’s advisory, however, stresses that the coronavirus remains as dangerous as ever with no vaccine.

“Accompanying our freedom to guide our own actions is an equal responsibility to each other to slow the spread of this deadly virus, prevent a new spike of cases upon the reopening of the economy, and save the lives of our neighbors and loved ones,” the advisory reads.

“Coronavirus is still with us, it is still dangerous and deadly, and at no other time in our lives will our individual actions play a greater role in saving the lives of others, even complete strangers.”

The state will still require workers to wear masks in businesses, stores, restaurants and other workplaces, which should all maintain 6-foot social distancing.

Gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. So are people who live in other states that have coronavirus. They can only enter Ohio to receive medical care.

Coronavirus is becoming one of the leading causes of death in Ohio, outstripping motor vehicle deaths in 2018 and soon 2018 deaths by suicide, according to the the state’s advisory.

Preliminary research indicates more than 90,000 people in the U.S. have died with COVID-19.

In Ohio, there are 30,167 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 1,836 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths, according to the state’s latest figures released Thursday.

A total of 5,295 people have been hospitalized, including 1,397 admissions to intensive care units.

The majority of hospital admissions and deaths are among adults ages 60 and older, but nearly half of reported COVID-19 cases in Ohio are among adults ages 30-59, state data shows.

“In addition to the common symptoms of COVID-19, the virus is believed to cause other effects such as the risk of stroke. COVID-19 is also suspected to be impacting the pediatric population, including children without underlying chronic disease, with atypical and at times devastating effects,” the advisory states.

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