And, so it begins. After an almost seven-week statewide shutdown due to the novel coronavirus health crisis, Ohio will start to slowly open. Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this week began to unveil his plan to get commerce and Ohioans’ lives back on track.

It will not be an immediate return to our familiar routines. With no vaccine or proven treatment for the highly contagious and deadly COVID-19 disease, there will be no normal right now. Medical experts say a vaccine probably will not be available for one or two years. That means we all must adopt practices to protect ourselves, our families, our friends, our co-workers and anyone else we happen to encounter along the way.

We have heard it countless times. Wash your hands with soap and water, wear a mask when in public, clean surfaces with disinfectants and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

Gone are the handshakes. Gone are the high-fives. Gone are the friendly embraces.

This is all a small price to pay considering the possible consequences of contracting COVID-19 or unknowingly passing it on to someone else. Descriptions from healthcare providers on how the disease progresses in patients are frightening.

This deadly virus started in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and spread around the globe. The virus is new, so our bodies have no immunity, and researchers are just learning about it.

We in Ohio are fortunate to have a governor and health director who recognized the dangers of this disease and took swift action to protect us.

The goal was to control the spread of COVID-19 so the number of people getting sick would not overwhelm hospitals. Gov. DeWine closed school buildings on March 16, instituted a stay-at-home order on March 23 and closed nonessential businesses on March 24.

The number of cases somewhat leveled off over the past month, but as Gov. DeWine noted, COVID-19 still lives among us and is just as dangerous as ever.

But the closures have had a devastating impact on the economy in Ohio and nationwide. Deciding when to open Ohio and the nation is tricky. It is a balance between lives and livelihoods. When is the best time to transition back to business? No one is sure.

Gov. DeWine presented the Responsible Restart Ohio plan this week. It hinges on continuing to practice good hygiene, wearing masks in public and observing physical distancing. Testing also is crucial to this plan.

Gov. DeWine put together a bipartisan team including former Governors Richard Celeste and Robert Taft to figure out how to get a steady supply of materials for COVID-19 tests. The result was that Thermo Fisher agreed to expand manufacturing of the needed reagent and ROE Dental Laboratory agreed to mass produce testing swabs.

Another key to opening is training people to do contact tracing. This allows health officials to identify individuals who might have been exposed to the disease and have them isolate themselves to prevent further spread.

Ohio’s opening begins on Friday, May 1, by expanding medical care to services such as well-baby visits, dental care and diagnostic tests. On May 4, the door opens for manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses. On May 12, consumer, retail and services can open their doors with safety practices in place.

What stays closed for now are school buildings, sit-down restaurants, nail and hair salons, daycare centers, gyms and large venues. The governor’s plan for advisory groups to look at the best ways to reopen sit-down restaurants and salons is prudent.

With more than 16,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 799 deaths statewide, Gov. DeWine must maintain this slow and steady path to opening Ohio. Our lives depend on it.

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