Ohioans are Hurting – All Businesses Must Safely Reopen Immediately

Small town businesses left in limbo by the Governor. No income and no reopening date in sight.

Initially Ohioans were told and believed that nearly 10,000 people a day would be infected with COVID19. Hospitals would be overrun, proper protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators would not be able to meet the demand. We were in crisis and the best way to address the pandemic was to close our businesses at the end of said day and stay sheltered in place.

Given the seriousness of the science Ohioans complied. We were told the goal was to flatten the curve so that hospitals could manage the case loads of critical patients. This would not eliminate the virus and that over time many if not most of us would have COVID19. Most of us would have slight symptoms while others with certain underlying health condition could risk more serious symptoms and even death.

Now nearly two months into the quarantine, the science doesn’t match the initial predictions. Current numbers from the Ohio Department of Health show 17,303 total COVID19 cases far short of the predicted 10,000 cases per day. The number of individuals who have been infected is unknown as people with mild symptoms were told to stay home.

The Governor has begun to reopen Ohio for business but not for everyone. Small retailers, hair salons and restaurants have received no guidance as to when they can open. And as they wait for that guidance they wonder if they will be able to financially survive. Most will not.

Thomas Garage Inc. located at the Ohio Valley Mall was among businesses to receive authorization that they could reopen today, May 1.

Owner Robert Thomas said the dealership will be at full staff and doing business as usual, except for mandatory masks for employees, and lots of cleaning and disinfecting.

Thomas Garage has been in business for over a century and employs 45 people.

“This the first time in 103 years we have ever laid a person off of work,” said Thomas. “Every one of our employees understood our decisions we made and have stuck with us. We are very fortunate for our employees and our managers.”

It is unknown how the new lockdown order issued by Ohio Health Director Amy Acton last night will affect the dealership’s business.

Many small business owners have testified before the Ohio 2020 Task Force that they have taken appropriate steps to ensure the safety of their employees and costumers once their business reopens.

The owner of Tangles Hair and Nail Studio in St. Clairsville, Marie “Elaina” Harris said, “Our industry standards in sanitization and sterilization are second to none. We understand and agree that the health and safety of our guests and staff are top priority.”

Added Harris, “We have full faith that we are capable of creating a safe environment for all, while continuing to make our guests beautiful.”

Darcee Williams, owner of Revival Salon & Spa, also in St. Clairsville, said her salon had just opened its doors for business 18 days before being ordered to close.

“We will spend time and money in cleaning, making safety improvements suggested and mandated by the state, as well as PPE equipment,” said Williams. “We have a ton of local support, we are just awaiting our reopening.”

Williams said the salon’s six stylists and two licensed massage therapists are all independent contractors. “We have been unsuccessful with unemployment, SBA loans and most of us are still awaiting a stimulus check. Financially this is very difficult on all of us.”

While Ohio salons remain closed, salons in West Virginia and Pennsylvania are reopening. It is inevitable that some clients will cross state lines to obtain the services that they cannot get here, said the East Ohio stylists.

If large retailers can safely keep their doors open for the purchase of groceries and other critical needs so can small retailers who have yet been given the green light to reopen by the Governor. Many of these are small retail shops that have been in families for generations and are the backbone of small-town Ohio.

In addition, some mini-farming operations say they are struggling to buy feed for their animals. These small farms do not qualify for government subsidies.

Sandy Hill Boer Goats raises goats for 4-H kids who intend to show them at the county fair, as does Kid Sittin’ Acres LLC in Colerain. Both farms report that buying feed and paying associated expenses has been difficult.

Some county fairs have already been cancelled for this year.