Child care centers will be allowed to reopen May 31 but will face rigorous requirements for hand washing and repeated cleaning of toys, playgrounds and common areas, as well as smaller class sizes, the DeWine administration said Thursday.
Infant and toddler classroom head count will be limited to six, while the maximum class size for older children will be nine.
“We are taking a cautious approach. We want to continue to inform that approach with additional data,” said Gov. Mike DeWine, while acknowledging that “there is no playbook” for running daycare centers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ohio will earmark $60 million in federal CARES Act money to defray the higher costs associated with smaller classrooms and stepped up cleaning mandates, DeWine said.
Ohio has about 7,500 licensed child care programs for 285,000 children, according to the state Department of Job and Family Services.
Other openings announced Thursday:
• May 21: Campgrounds.
• May 22: Horse racing, but spectators are banned and racinos remain closed.
• May 26: Gyms and fitness centers; dance studios; tennis clubs; and limited- and non-contact sports leagues, such as golf, softball, baseball, tennis, paddle sports; pools but not water parks; and Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices.
• May 31: Day camps.
Guidance and protocols will be posted online by Friday for operating these venues. More information is expected soon on higher contact sports such as basketball, field hockey, hockey and lacrosse.
The Ohio Campground Owners Association President Jeff Hoffman estimated 2 million people visit private campgrounds in Ohio each year.
As Ohio reopens and people move around, DeWine said it’s even more important to practice social distancing, wear face masks in public and wash hands.
“These things are going to determine in three weeks, four weeks, what the numbers look like. So this is the crucial, crucial, crucial time. It’s so very important that we get this right,” he said.
The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday reported 24,800 confirmed coronavirus cases, plus 1,557 probable cases; 4,718 hospitalizations; 1,388 confirmed deaths, plus 146 deaths attributed to probable cases.
Ohio this week received 20 cases of remdesivir, a drug that is being studied in clinical trials and so far has been found to shorten the duration of COVID-19 from 15 to 11 days. ODH is distributing the allotment of remdesivir to hospitals.
Meanwhile, another 51,125 Ohioans filed for jobless benefits last week, bumping up the total claims over the past eight weeks to more than 1.16 million. The state has paid out $2.4 billion in unemployment compensation to 587,000 claimants over the past eight weeks.
A recent poll from Ipsos/Washington Post shows 86% of Ohioans approve of the job DeWine is doing. Nonetheless, some Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly want to diminish the power of DeWine’s health director to issue quarantine and isolation orders. The House voted last week in favor of bills that would subject public health orders to approval by a legislative panel. The Senate introduced a similar bill this week.
State law on the books since 1886 gives the state health director broad powers to order isolation and quarantine as a means to protect public health. Enforcement can be carried out by state and local health departments and law enforcement.
State Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, an emergency room physician, is co-sponsoring the bill.
“People have to be able to make choices that are right for themselves and their families, and those circumstances will not be the same for everyone,” he said.
DeWine has promised to veto bills that diminish health department authority to act swiftly in an emergency.
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