COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Life has changed significantly since Laura Simmons and her wife, Leah, last patronized the Old Bag of Nails in Worthington, the Columbus suburb where they live.
“This was actually the last place we went before the governor issued the (stay-at-home) order,” Simmons, 33, a state worker, said from behind her protective mask. “We thought, if anyone, they’d probably be doing the patio thing and maybe lunchtime wouldn’t be too crowded. Turns out we’re the only ones here.”
“Welcome to the Old Bag of Nails 2.0,” their masked server quipped.
The Simmonses were among Ohioans venturing back to dining establishments Friday, as outdoor patio spaces were allowed to reopen. It’s the next step toward resuming normal business operations under Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s state reopening plan.
DeWine has said that 90% of the state’s economy will be back online this weekend with Ohioans having returned to offices, factories, construction jobs and retail stores, and now outdoor eating. In-person dining can resume on May 21.
The governor and Health Director Dr. Amy Acton made it clear at a Thursday briefing that Ohioans must still take numerous precautions from wearing masks to frequent hand-washing to proper social distancing.
“This is a time when we’ve got to really continue to do that,” DeWine said. “Even as people move around more, they’ve got to even be more cautious.”
Dr. Rene Anand, 59, of Westerville, whose company is working on COVID-19 research, and marketer colleague Kevin Rich, of Columbus, heeded the governor’s advice as they met for coffee Friday on the patio of La Chatalaine, another Worthington restaurant. Anand wore a fabric face mask, ball cap and protective glasses and Rich wore a mask, cap and thick gloves.
“We are social people, human beings are, and it is necessary to kind of come together and make those connections outside of Zoom and Skype,” Anand said. “But we’re taking all the precautions. … It feels lovely.”
Restaurants had the option to provide takeout food during the pandemic, but even so, four in 10 restaurants closed since the stay-at-home orders began and 3% won’t reopen, the Ohio Restaurant Association said Thursday.
Nearly half of Ohio restaurants experienced economic losses of more than 70%, and more than half of the state’s 585,000 food service employees were laid off or furloughed, the association said.
Hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, tattoo shops, spas and massage services also were allowed to reopen Friday, with caveats aimed at protecting health and safety.
Tommy Checkler, who owns the Old Village Barber in Worthington, said his first customer, a 90-year-old regular, arrived at 7 a.m. By noon, he and brother Tommy were cropping the shaggy heads of two others — barbers and customers alike in masks — and two other patrons were waiting on their designated Xs on a bench along the wall.
Checkler said he didn’t get any unemployment or PPT assistance while barber shops were under forced shutdown.
“The only thing I’ve received is my stimulus check, which I call a survival check,” he said.
The number of confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus in Ohio has reached 1,581, an increase of 47 from a day earlier, state health officials said Friday. The number of confirmed and probable cases neared 27,000, and hospitalizations neared 4,800, the Ohio Department of Health said.