Between Health Director Dr. Amy Acton sneaking in an extension of her dining orders until July 1 and Governor Mike DeWine assembling a restaurant police force, one may wonder if Ohio is really reopening.
Late last Thursday, following the final press conference of the week, Acton issued the “Director’s Dine Safe Ohio Order,” which is available here. The order allowed outside restaurant dining as of last Friday.
The Health Department director mentioned, “The sacrifices and incredible efforts that Ohioans have undertaken, make it possible to begin to lift the mandatory requirements and restrictions that were needed during the initial phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Acton gave permission for restaurants bars and such businesses to reopen for “full, dine-in service within the State so long as all workplace safety standards are met.” Such requirements included forcing customers to keep six feet apart in line, placing a limit of 10 people per reservation, and telling customers to sit down while eating or drinking. Restaurants received permission to not to have to remove fixtures like video games and billiards. Customers are to be allowed to wear masks, and workers in most cases must wear masks or the business must provide written justification, among other requirements.
Two paragraphs in the 10-page order address the fact that Acton’s original March 15 order is being amended in regards to on-site restaurant consumption for patio and indoor dining but otherwise her order stands until July 1.
“This remainder of this Order shall be effective at 12:01 a.m. on May 21, 2020 and remains in full force and effect until 11 :59 p.m. on July l, 2020, unless the Director of the Ohio Department of Health rescinds or modifies this Order at a sooner time and date.”
I hereby ORDER that restaurants and bars may reopen or continue to operate as set forth in this Order. This Order shall remain in full force and effect until 11:59 p. m on July 1, 2020, unless the Director of the Ohio Department of Health rescinds or modifies this Order at a sooner time and date.
Meanwhile, DeWine on Monday said he is creating a task force to investigate and punish restaurants that do not comply.
The enforcement team will operate as part of the Ohio Department of Safety’s Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) and will conduct safety compliance checks in crowded bars and restaurants. Businesses found violating the Stay Safe Ohio order will receive administrative citations that could result in the revocation of liquor licenses. The OIU team will also work with municipal prosecutors to take potential criminal actions against business owners who do not follow the order, which includes the requirement that patrons remain seated while eating/drinking and that parties stay six feet apart.
So, even as daycares, campgrounds and sports leagues prepare to open, people are encouraged to work from home, wear masks and keep their distance, and the restaurant police are watching restaurants and bars until at least July 1.
– – –
Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.