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Craft stores, beauty shops testing essential business rule during coronavirus outbreak

Essential businesses
Posted at 6:23 PM, Apr 02, 2020

County health departments are being overwhelmed by complaints that employers are pushing the limit of what businesses can remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.

From employees fearful of being fired if they fail to report for work to family members concerned the virus will be brought home from work, the COVID-19 crisis has stressed health inspectors to the limit.

It's also testing the patience of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine who just yesterday said "what people do in their own life is usually their own business--but what when what they do in their own life endangers other people--we have to take action."

On Thursday, DeWine announced a new order that establishes more strict guidelines for the businesses deemed essential in order to protect workers and customers from the spread of COVID-19.

As part of the order, retail businesses will be required establish the number of people who can be in the business at a time. DeWine said his team won't tell them what the number needs to be because businesses are all different, but that the businesses must determine their number and post it for the public.

He also suggested businesses establish six-foot guides to promote social distancing, a system many businesses have already implemented. The additional guidelines come following a surge of complaints of overcrowded stores, DeWine said.

In Summit County, health inspectors have received more than 900 complaints involving businesses that remain open despite the statewide stay at home order that allows only essential businesses to remain open.

"Our goal is any enforcement action is get compliance," says Tonia Burford who serves as Summit County's Environmental Health Director, adding that "we are working with folks to see what aspect of their business is considered essential."

And that has created a huge gray area as employers are initially deciding on their own whether they qualify.

It remains up to county health departments and local law enforcement to investigate and ultimately close or seek compliance with social distance and sanitizing guidelines.

Craft store chain "Hobby Lobby" just today agreed to close its Ohio stores, but only after an Attorney General cease and desist order was issued.

But Joann Fabrics remains in business, insisting it supplies essential material to make protective masks.

One of its stores on Canton Road was closed for "non-compliance" but was allowed to reopen after complying with social distancing and sanitizing guidelines, plus limiting customers to 10 at a time.

And toy manufacturer "Little Tykes" is working with health inspectors to remain open as it retools to help produce parts for ventilators.

Beauty supply shops have also come under scrutiny as well.

Five "Sally Beauty Supply" shops were initially closed but permitted to remain open for curbside pickup.

"They do actually sell a number of products that are being requested right now like gloves and sanitizer products," says Burford.

But health inspectors have closed "World Kickboxing Academy" in Cuyahoga Falls, as well as five car washes.

Nine other car washes were initially closed but reopened after being found essential since they provide service to police and first responder's vehicles.

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