More Butler County offices reopen as business official warns of damage to economy

A new set of businesses started operating Monday, some as part of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to gradually reopen the state and some by their own choice.

Jason Crank, partner at United Heartland Insurance, said his Butler County firm never officially closed, but the majority of its staff — 14 out of 17 employees in its Hamilton office and all four of its Blue Ash staffers — have worked remotely from home.

The insurance agency on Monday started formulating plans to return the office to normalcy, coinciding with Ohio allowing offices to resume operations.

“Today, we started discussing, the other owners and I, kind of the plan of attack of how we can get begin to slowly bring people back in here and let the clients come in and feel comfortable coming in,” Crank said. “We don’t want people coming in here feeling less comfortable than they did three months ago.”

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Bringing every employee back all at once isn’t necessary because they already are working efficiently in their remote environment, Crank said.

“We’re finding out that we can do a lot of what we do remotely,” he said. “Talking to clients, answering questions. A lot of our communications come through email anyway and were before so that’s just picked up a little bit more.”

To that end, the firm is discussing making physical changes within the building, requiring face mask and cleaning “from top to bottom” throughout the day, Crank said. By the end of May, it hopes to slowly open to more foot traffic and gradually bring staffers back to the office.

DeWine’s administration last week gave Ohio manufacturers, construction companies, distributors and some offices the green light to reopen Monday. But a good number of them never truly closed, especially if they were able to meet new needs created by the pandemic.

Some of the conditions for reopening include daily health assessments for employees and good hygiene.

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Dental Care of Fairfield, an affiliate of Heartland Dental, initially was limited by the state to providing emergency procedures only, which led to laying off six of the office's staffers, according to Dr. Marcia Irving-Ray.

DeWine’s administration allowed medical and dental offices to see patients starting Friday for non-emergency procedures.

“Now we’re seeing everybody,” Irving-Ray said. “A lot of us knew it was going to happen and so we were kind of expecting it. I’m glad I can provide care to my patients.”

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum started the first piece of its re-opening Monday. Park hours will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and for Pyramid Hill members only.

The popular Butler County attraction will reopen in phases to ensure that is able to provide the safest experience, according to Sean FitzGibbons, its executive director.

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Remaining closed are all indoor facilities, the visitor center, gallery and Ancient Sculpture Museum. All park restrooms and water fountains will remain off and closed.

There’s no set time for the start of Phase Two, he said.

“We’d like to move as fast as possible, but at the same time it’s more important to be as safe as possible,” FitzGibbons said.

Social distancing guidelines will be enforced, including keeping at least six feet between oneself and others and keeping carloads to the same household. It also includes not gathering in groups of 10 or more while in the park, not meeting up with other households and not touching any of the sculptures.

“We’re aren’t really opening Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum. What we’re doing is opening Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park,” FitzGibbons said. “With everything that’s going on we felt that we had the ability to be a resource for our community in unprecedented time and in order to open, we needed to make sure that we’re doing everything as safely as possible.”

Dan Bates, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said Monday’s reopening isn’t that big because construction and manufacturing never really closed.

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“The hospitals are allowed to do non-essential procedures because they are all sitting empty,” he said. “Local hospitals have laid off hundreds of professionals while they are losing millions of dollars leaving beds open for an anticipated spike.”

Bates said the reason people are upset is the inconsistency in the mandates and enforcements.

“The governor needs to take into consideration all the businesses that can safely open within the guidelines,” he said. “All businesses are essential and I fear the economic destruction will far surpass the destruction from the virus.”

DeWine plans to give details this week on other businesses reopening, like restaurants and salons.

Ohio’s reopening schedule

May 1: Health care reopenings: Non-essential procedures, doctors, dentists, veterinarians

May 4: Manufacturing, distribution, constructionand general office

May 12: Consumer, retail and services

The general safe business practices that all businesses must follow as they reopen are:

• Requiring face coverings for all employees, and recommending them for clients and customers at all times

• Conducting daily health assessments or self-evaluations of employees to determine if they should work

• Maintaining good hygiene at all times such as hand washing and social distancing

• Cleaning and sanitizing workplaces throughout the day and at the close of business or between shifts

• Limiting capacity to meet social distancing guidelines

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