Gov. Mike DeWine announced April 27 that the state will begin reopening May 1. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Managing Editor for Multimedia

Ohio will see the first steps towards normalcy in May with the reopening of parts of the state’s economy as COVID-19 testing will be ramped up.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that elective medical procedures, including dentist and veterinarian appointments, will be allowed to continue “full steam ahead” starting Friday. Manufacturing, distribution and construction companies and general offices will be allowed to reopen May 4 and retail stores and consumer services can reopen May 12 if they follow protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“I think the most important question is how we do it because if we do it right, we can provide as much protection as we can,” DeWine said.

DeWine said the stay-at-home order will remain in place and that gatherings of more than 10 people are still not permitted. Restaurants are still under carry-out only orders.

In accordance with DeWine’s announcement, the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State announced in a press release Monday that it will slowly return to providing elective surgeries, procedures, and diagnostic testing and imaging that do not require inpatient or overnight hospital stays. 

The medical center will  reach out to individuals who had elective surgeries postponed to schedule a telehealth appointment, during which they will discuss their condition and the risks of contracting COVID-19 with their physician before deciding whether to move on with the procedure, the release said.

“Despite the pandemic, we must still treat all aspects of our health. Don’t let fear of COVID-19 prevent you from seeking necessary medical attention. Our health care facilities are safe,” Dr. Timothy Pawlik, surgeon in chief of the medical center and chair of the Department of Surgery in the Ohio State College of Medicine, said in the release. 

Nonessential surgeries, defined as surgeries that do not save lives or prevent permanent dysfunction or disease progression, were suspended March 19 by DeWine.

DeWine said businesses that choose to reopen will need to conduct daily health assessments of employees, regularly sanitize work spaces, allow social distancing in the workplaces and require customers and employees to maintain social distancing and wear facial coverings.

The economic reopening will need to happen in conjunction with increased COVID-19 testing and coronavirus tracking, DeWine said. He said the Ohio Department of Health estimates testing capacity will expand to more than 18,000 tests per day by May 13 — totaling nearly one percent of Ohioans per week.

At the time of publication, there were 16,325 cases of COVID-19, 712 deaths, 3,232 hospitalizations and one percent of the population tested in Ohio, according to the department of health’s website.

“My heart aches for the businessmen and women who have not been able to work, who are looking at savings going down everyday,” DeWine said. “One could not overstate the tragedy of this. So we’ve got to get moving. We’ve got to get people back to work. We got to open things up. And at the same time, we’ve got to protect Ohioans.”

This story was updated with information regarding the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State at 10 p.m.