MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – The countdown is on. At midnight Tuesday the state of Ohio’s health orders will be lifted, signaling a major step forward and out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many people and businesses are ready for this next phase. This summer could look close to normal to a lot of people once the mask mandate, social distancing guidelines, and capacity restrictions are removed. But doctors still caution the pandemic is not over yet.
Dr. Roberto Colon is the Chief Medical Officer at Miami Valley Hospital. He says, “This is not life back to normal. This is a step in that direction.”
Dr. Colon says everyone will move at their own pace once restrictions are lifted at midnight Tuesday. And that includes businesses, some of which may still require masks and social distancing.
Dr. Colon says, “We are going to have people who may have had a very direct impact from COVID. They may have seen somebody go through it, they themselves may have health issues. They may want to continue wearing their mask and there is nothing that says they can’t.”
Outdoor gatherings may look normal this summer, but Dr. Colon says there is always a worry lifting restrictions may lead to an unintended rebound of more cases. “It’s when we go indoors, where you’ll still see that we’re not quite there yet.”
Some people have been waiting for full FDA approval before getting vaccinated. That could come soon now that Moderna is seeking full approval. The CDC says fully vaccinated people are safe to restart normal activities, but there is still a risk if you’re unvaccinated.
Dr. Colon says, “You yourself are still putting your health at risk, and if you contract COVID and you’re going into other areas, you may be passing it to other people.”
And that’s why the mask mandate is not going away completely, especially in healthcare facilities like hospitals, emergency rooms, physicians’ offices, nursing facilities, and extended care facilities. Dr. Colon says, “You’re still going to be required to wear a mask when you come into any of our hospitals and into any of our physician offices.”
WATCH what the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce says is the next hurdle for Miami Valley businesses:
Private businesses can still require masks and social distancing if they choose, but the state requirements will mean most businesses can operate at full strength.
The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce says they must now tackle the next hurdle. Holly Allen says, “I think we’re on a great trajectory. I don’t see any hurdles in the way for our economy to return, except for that workforce piece.”
Ohio businesses will soon be able to lift coronavirus-related restrictions if they choose. Allen says, “They’ve been through a really long road, and they’re just looking forward to welcoming customers and being able to make those decisions on their own based on how the owner feels and how comfortable they are.”
The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce says the only thing now holding them back is hiring enough staff to meet demand. Allen says, “You see billboards. Everyone is hiring. That is the biggest roadblock to our economy getting back up and running.”
The chamber recently polled membership within the last few weeks to gauge their concerns. Allen says, “78% of our chamber members that responded to the poll, 78% said they’re having a hard time filling positions.” And that’s across the board, from entry level positions to experienced positions, and every industry and every level of pay.
Restaurants and retail stores especially are seeing customers coming back but are still facing staffing shortages. Allen says, “The work is there, so they have work to be done. What’s holding them back is getting the employees in the door and being able to fill the positions they need to ramp back up and get back to where we were before COVID.”