Oxford, State of Ohio start process of reopening

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Oxford’s business district, seen here along High Street, has been practically deserted during the pandemic shutdown. City officials hope it will begin to come to life as the phased in restrictions are eased in the next few weeks. Photo by Richard Campbell.

By Halie Barger

Oxford hopes to slowly start getting back to normal today, May 1. With emphasis on the word slowly.

On April 27, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Responsible Restart Ohio, a phased reopening to allow businesses and social activities to return to the way they were before the COVID-19 pandemic forced society to shelter in place. The restart is focused on protecting the health and safety of the public while getting people back to work, according to the state website.

“We’re asking Ohioans to be reasonable and rational,” DeWine said in announcing the restart conditions. “Please don’t take huge chances, and please use common sense when you go out and where you go out.”

Starting Friday, May 1, elective medical procedures that do not require an overnight hospital stay and minimize the use of personal protective equipment can proceed. Dental visits and veterinary visits can proceed, as well. On May 4, construction, manufacturing and distribution businesses can go back to work as long as they meet the responsible opening guidelines for their customers and employees. General office settings will be allowed to return to work May 4, as well. On May 12, consumer, retail and service businesses may re-open. These businesses are expected to follow the responsible opening guidelines as well.

Those responsible guidelines include:

  • Face coverings for workers and customers.
  • Daily health assessments of workers.
  • Good hygiene maintenance.
  • Limiting capacity of businesses to meet social distancing guidelines.

Businesses are expected to limit their capacity to 50% of the fire code regulation. They also are urged to meet with customers by appointment when possible.

“Everyone is anxious to see how this phased business roll out proceeds,” Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott said.

According to Elliott, most city employees, many of whom had been working remotely, will return to their regular work sites on May 4. The city of Oxford will require all staff returning to work to wear masks. Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said that city workers will have the option to continue to work from home if they feel safer doing so.

“We’ve increased sanitation in our buildings, and we’ll continue to do all of that,” Greene said.

The municipal building is not expected to be open to the public until May 31. Elliott said this is to allow for employees to become acclimated with the new safety protocols in place.

“We can continue our services to the public without our municipal building being open right now,” Greene said.

The Oxford City Council will continue to have virtual meetings through the end of May. While this is a big step for getting back to normal, social gatherings are still limited to 10 people and many businesses remain closed.

Things that will remain closed for the time being include:

  • Schools and daycares. Schools are continuing online teaching.
  • Dine-in restaurants and bars (carry-out is still permitted).
  • Personal appearance and beauty businesses.
  • Older adult daycare services and senior centers .
  • Adult day support or vocational rehabilitation services in group settings.
  • Entertainment, recreation, and gyms.

Reopening dates have not yet been set for the city’s playgrounds or the Oxford Aquatic Center. Photo by Richard Campbell.

Because of the remaining closures, the city is unsure when things like swimming pools and playgrounds will open back up. The Oxford Aquatic Center originally was set to open for the season May 23. According to Elliott, for the time being all programs that were set to take place in the recreation center are cancelled for the month of May. Elliott said the city is looking at what the month of June will look like in terms of recreation.

“We’re taking a look at what a possible policy could be if we were to open the pool later this summer on a limited basis,” Elliott said. “We haven’t made any decision there.”

Ann Kamphaus, owner of Books & Brews, located at 107 E Church St. said COVID-19 has made things quite frustrating for restaurant owners when it comes to federal small business loans. The federal government is giving loans out to small businesses, but Kamphaus said due to the ability to register single locations with under 500 employees or below, bigger corporations have gotten a lot of the money.

“All that small business loan money went to large corporations,” Kamphaus said.

Books &  Brews has masks and gloves for sale, said Kamphaus, and all employees wear masks and gloves currently for carryout orders.  When restaurants are given the go ahead to open back up, Kamphaus said her restaurant is prepared to accommodate social distancing, keeping customers six feet apart..

“I’ve spaced out the tables, I’ve put barriers in between, we’ve completely cleaned,” Kamphaus said. Books & Brews has already been thoroughly sanitized because it is running carryout, she said.

According to Holli Morrish, director of communications for Talawanda School District, the district expects to continue providing meal pick-ups for students through June. Talawanda’s summer school program will be done remotely, she said. Students taking part in summer school will go through a virtual orientation and use the technology provided to them by the district for remote learning that has been taking place in the normal school year.

Miami University faculty and staff will continue to work from home unless directed otherwise, according to University President Gregory Crawford. The university has created a committee to coordinate the reopening of the university.  Miami will move forward with its virtual commencement on May 16 and 17.  An in-person Miami graduation celebration is planned for Sept. 12 and 13.

The city is urging residents to continue to limit gatherings, follow social distancing guidelines and follow the governor’s recommendations on going out in public. According to Greene, the police department will continue to enforce and educate people on social gatherings larger than 10 people.