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States begin to manage reopenings

EDITOR’S NOTE: Much of the nation has been shut down over the past two-plus months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now the economy is reopening, and businesses are ramping up for what they hope will be a busy summer season. To tell the positive, meaningful stories of how we’re all rebuilding after a very uncertain time, today we’re launching the first part of an ongoing weekly series titled “Reopening.” Each week we’ll delve into a different aspect of how local businesses are dealing with reopening and its positive impact on our communities. The first installment focuses on a state-by-state look of where we are in the process.

While the national toll for deaths related to COVID-19 eclipsed 100,000 last week, states across the country currently find themselves in various stages of their respective reopening plans, which has proven to be a sign of optimism from local leaders that the outbreak is trending in a positive direction.

OHIO

Buckeye State businesses have reopened and Gov. Mike DeWine lifted the mandatory stay-at-home order May 19.

Manufacturing and distribution companies and retail services have reopened, but staff is required to wear face coverings, conduct daily health assessments and maintain cleaning procedures.

On May 26, gyms and fitness centers were allowed to reopen and baseball and softball teams will be allowed to play, as long as they follow guidelines set by the Ohio Department of Health.

Child care providers and day camps are reopened with reduced numbers of children. Catering and banquet facilities may open again and are limited to 300 guests with similar guidelines to restaurants.

Justin Phillips, owner of Six More Miles Tattoo Saloon in Norwalk, said when his shop was shut down, he received no government assistance, so he welcomed the ability to reopen with open arms.

“It’s a breath of fresh air and a relief,” he said. “We needed this, our families needed this. Every business needs to do their part to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

PENNSYLVANIA

The Keystone State is in the process of reopening based on positive case numbers, which are still high in more densely populated regions. Gov. Tom Wolf’s color-coded reopening plan consists of red, yellow and green phases.

There remain 10 counties in the southeastern part of the state that are still in the red phase, which is the most restrictive, though Wolf announced Friday that those counties will move to the yellow phase on Friday. The majority of the western part of the state will move to the green phase Friday, which has the fewest restrictions as a result of the pandemic, meaning restaurants, salons, gyms, theaters, shopping malls and casinos may open at 50 percent capacity with social distancing restrictions.

Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said that when businesses move into the green phase, the social distancing measures and “healthy practices” that they’ve been maintaining the last two months will need to continue. He said customers will want to feel safe when they begin patronizing businesses again.

“We understand that businesses, especially small businesses, are eager to reopen and welcome their customers back,” Kotula said. “And while that is the ultimate goal, we have counseled our businesses to open based upon customer demand for their products and services. This may take some time as customers need to feel safe to patronize businesses again, but it will be beneficial to both the business and customers in the long-term.”

VIRGINIA

Virginia is in phase 1 of its “Safe at Home” plan, which means that retail stores can open with restrictions, restaurants may open for outdoor seating or takeout, and beaches may be used for exercise or fishing. Childcare facilities may open and churches may operate at 50 percent capacity. Salons and barbers may also open by appointment, with social distancing and sanitization protocols in place.

“For hairstylists, if we’re not behind the chair, we don’t make money,” said Kelly Degear, owner of Village 9 salon in Leesburg. “We’ve been without income since March.”

It will be much slower than they’re used to working, she said, as only one client per stylist can work at a time. “We want to work but we have to make sure we’re being safe about it,” she said.

WEST VIRGINIA

The state’s five casinos are allowed to open. In late May, weekend, pools, limited video lottery operations and other businesses saw their first opportunity to open since March.

Also, museums and visitor centers could reopen, along with state park cabins and lodges — for in-state visitors only — and bars, with capacity reduced by 50 percent.

Wayne Waldeck, co-owner of the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg, said the lounge opened last week to go along with indoor dining, which resumed with a reduced capacity and tables spaced so that chairs were six feet apart when pulled out.

Waldeck said he’s been surprised with the amount of customers they’ve seen since reopening, which he attributes to safety practices such as servers wearing masks and gloves.

“People are bringing (older) mothers and fathers in because … they feel safe,” Waldeck said.

MICHIGAN

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on May 22 extended her stay-at-home order to June 12 for the lower parts of the state. Effective May 22, Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, restaurants and retail shopping establishments were able to open with social distancing and occupancy restrictions in place. Theaters, gyms, salons and casinos remain closed statewide.

Iron Mountain Mayor Dale Alessandrini said in the U.P., the cases are very few and as long as people abide by social distancing guidelines and wear masks, things should be opening up. He said he has mixed feelings about the opening guidelines, which allow bars in the northern portion of the state to open, but not barbers.

“You go into a bar, and there’s people in there, right next to each other, but yet, you can’t go into the salon and get your hair done,” Alessandrini said. “So some of it, I think, is unnecessary. The salons should probably be open because they take the precautions with face masks and shields. Yet when you walk into a bar, there’s no precautions taken.”

But he added: “I agree with the gyms not being opened, because there’s a lot of touching.”

NEW YORK

With the exception of New York City, the rest of New York has entered Phase 1 of reopening under statewide guidelines, allowing non-essential businesses in the fields of construction, agriculture, manufacturing and wholesale trade to resume operations.

Retail activities are limited to pick-up and drop-off. The state has issued mandatory guidelines and recommended best practices for all of the affected businesses.

The western region of the state is expected to enter Phase 2 on Tuesday, which will allow retail establishments to open with limits on occupancy, along with professional and administrative services, real estate and rental and leasing, said Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s really important to our economy and to our workforce to get folks back into the workplace and getting money circulating back into the economy,” he said.

Like other states, New York’s continued reopening is contingent upon positive trends in infection and hospitalization rates. Tranum said businesses and customers must remain diligent with safety precautions to make that happen.

“We cannot afford to slip back,” he said.

MARYLAND

Twenty-three of 24 counties in Maryland have entered or announced plans to enter Stage One of the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery.” That includes resuming outdoor dining and other outdoor activities like youth sports, day camps and pools, while continuing to follow public health guidance.

The statewide guidelines are being implemented on a community-by-community basis, according to a recent news release from Gov. Larry Hogan, who warned that COVID-19 “is still very much a deadly threat, and our responsible behavior is absolutely critical in the continued efforts to defeat it.”

If positive, data-based trends continue, Hogan said the state will be poised to move on to Stage Two, which involves lifting the executive order that closed non-essential businesses.

FLORIDA

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s reopening plan is in Phase 1, which reopened much of the state’s businesses. Beaches, parks, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, salons and retail shops are all open, under many restrictions relating to building capacity and social distancing guidelines.

Vacation rentals, theme parks, bars and nightclubs, which typically boost tourism across the state, are expected to open with restrictions next month, under Phase 2 of the plan.

Vacation rentals will be limited to in-state reservations and theme parks will be limited to 50 percent capacity. Also in Phase 2, retail stores, restaurants and gyms will be bumped back up to 75 percent capacity.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Gov. Chris Sununu has started opening businesses gradually under his plan, which has allowed salons to open, but are only allowing 10 in the space, including staff, with face masks. Retailers are able to open with limited capacity and restaurants were able to open with only outdoor dining as long as tables are six feet apart.

Beaches open today, but sunbathers are prohibited. Beaches are only open for recreation activities such as swimming, running, surfing and walking. Lounging and sports are still prohibited and parking lots will be at 50 percent capacity.

Other care services such as nail salons, massage therapy and tattoo shops may begin to open June 1 by following universal guidelines and CDC recommendations. In addition to the recommendations and guidelines, all staff must wear face coverings.

KANSAS

In Kansas, the power of managing the reopening process shifted from Gov. Laura Kelly’s hands to that of individual health departments on May 26.

Kelly had a four-phase reopening plan in place. As of May 26, Kansas was in phase two of that plan, which limited social gatherings to 15 people and required some at-risk businesses to stay closed.

But because Kelly felt she had “no choice” but to veto a bill on May 26 that would have limited her powers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s emergency disaster declaration expired at midnight on May 26, and with it, Kelly’s phased plan to gradually reopen the state ended, too. Going forward, counties in the state will have the option to comply with the plan or issue their own local orders, rather than following executive orders from the governor’s office.

UTAH

Utah has color-coded phased guidelines for the state. Those include red (high risk), orange (moderate risk), yellow (low risk) and green (new normal risk). On May 16, Gov. Gary Herbert and the Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission moved all areas of the state — save for three counties and three cities — to the yellow (low risk) stage.

In the low risk stage, guidelines include that pools may be open, churches may have services, schools may open and team sports may be played. In all cases, it is recommended that people remain six feet apart and wear face coverings in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Team sports with close contact are to be engaged in cautiously.

IOWA

In Iowa, a partial reopening of the state took place on May 1, when restaurants, gyms and some non-essential retailers were able to reopen, albeit with some social distancing guidelines in place. On June 1, more businesses, including speedways, casinos, amusement parks, bowling alleys and more, will be able to reopen.

Still, cases are up — possibly due to increased testing, according to Webster County Public Health Director Kari Prescott.

MINNESOTA

Gov. Tim Walz is allowing restaurants, bars, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors to reopen as long as the businesses practice social distancing, wear masks and abide by reduced occupancy requirements. Retail establishments were allowed to reopen on May 18 at 50 percent capacity. Gyms, fitness studios, and public entertainment venues including museums, zoos, concert halls, race tracks, and bowling alleys are still prohibited from opening.

HAWAII

Gov. David Ige has been working with county mayors on a phased reopening plan with social distancing precautions in place. Timelines for opening are determined by county officials and must be submitted for approval.

In mid-May, Hawaii moved from a “safer at home” stage in which malls and pet grooming reopened, to the current “act with care” phase that allows for the reopening of “medium-risk” businesses including restaurants, parks, playgrounds, pools, fitness centers and beaches.

Churches and salons have also been allowed to reopen. Bars, nightclubs, theaters and entertainment venues remain shuttered.

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota, for its part, was never under a stay-at-home order, but many businesses were closed until allowed to reopen May 1. Businesses such as bars, restaurants, gyms, hair salons and tattoo shops were able to open under guidelines to limit the number of people, maintain six feet between one another and cleaning protocols.

Restaurants are limited to 50 percent capacity while movie theatres are operating at 20 percent capacity. For other event venues, facilities may operate at 50 percent of their normal occupancy, but are capped at 250 people.

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