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Hamilton County Health Prepping For Business Reopenings

A Downtown Starbucks had only been open for carry out during the pandemic. Restaurants in Ohio are able to open their doors to patrons next Friday.
A Downtown Starbucks had only been open for carry out during the pandemic. Restaurants in Ohio are able to open their doors to patrons next Friday.

Large parts of Ohio's economy begin coming back to life this week after being shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Some shuttered retail establishments can reopen Tuesday. Hair salons, barber shops and outdoor dining return Friday. 

Interim Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said residents have a responsibility, too, during the reopening.

"If you approach a business and you feel unsafe, it is OK to leave," Kesterman said. "We want you to feel safe. But we also want you not to step into businesses that aren't practicing the safe masking and the social distancing. It's critical to make sure that we share that that's the expectations moving forward."

Kesterman said a key part of the reopening will be additional CVOID-19 testing, and that will involve testing those who are having mild symptoms.

"To make sure that if a sick employee is discovered, even with mild symptoms, we're able to isolate that employee and individuals that were close contact immediately," Kesterman said. "So, we don't seem to spread inside of businesses."

The county health department will have 26 additional employees to do contact tracing, and another 50 volunteer tracers.  The goal is to quickly isolate anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Kesterman said the agency has been getting a lot of questions from restaurant owners in the county since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the reopening guidelines last week.

"Are we required to do every other booth or every other table; is there enough space in between," Kesterman said. "The general rule of thumb is that six feet of space is what you want to maintain between patrons, whether that's tables or sitting."

Kesterman said those questions are good so health officials can talk with owners about what's required and if they are able to meet those guidelines.

WVXU asked Kesterman about social media posts showing businesses using shower curtains hanging for the ceiling for protective barriers. He was asked if that's effective.

"From a COVID-19 perspective that sounds like a great plan and they are wipeable," Kesterman said. "I would just always encourage if you're hanging things from the ceiling in a business, you check with your local fire department to make sure that it meets fire code. Last thing we want is to create another hazard of a restaurant."

The county health department will be investigating complaints against businesses that may not be following the guidelines. Those complaints can be made anonymously.

The Hamilton County Health Department serves all the county except the cities of Cincinnati, Norwood and Springdale, which have their own health departments.

If you have complaints or concerns about businesses and COVID-19 safety guidelines, you can contact the county health department at 513-946-7800.

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