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Return to work with great caution

Gov. Mike DeWine gained an enormous amount of credibility by the way he handled the COVID-19 outbreak in its early stages. Beyond any reasonable doubt, the state approach, led by the governor, has saved lives.

As of Thursday, the state had recorded 14,694 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 656 deaths. Of those, 17 were in Columbiana County including an elderly husband and wife. Sixty-two deaths have been reported in Mahoning County.

Every life is precious, it should go without saying. Every life lost to the coronavirus is a tragedy.

But Ohio, with plenty of urban areas to serve as hotbeds for the disease, has a record that surely must be the envy of some other states.

So, both DeWine’s concern for his fellow Ohioans and his skill in accepting the right advice and acting on it are not open to serious question.

Now he says it is time to get the state’s economy back in gear — in a measured way. Some businesses closed because of the pandemic could reopen by this Friday, the governor believes.

Clearly, getting back to work is crucial. During the past month, Ohio has recorded 964,566 new claims for unemployment benefits. That is unsustainable. There is no money tree to help residents pay the bills.

But how to go about getting people back to work? The experience we are having now is like nothing in memory. A hidden enemy seemingly waits all around us to strike if we let down our guard.

DeWine understands that. “If we don’t do it right, the consequences are horrendous,” he commented last week.

Precisely. Moves toward “normalcy” — whatever that may be during the coming months and years — will have to be made cautiously.

The potential for COVID-19 to come back hard is enormous. It is likely that in some areas where pre-epidemic work life is resumed, there will be resurgences of the disease. More people may die. Some may accuse DeWine of heartlessness. That would be both morally and rationally wrong. Again, the governor has shown his concern and has acted effectively — more so, let it be noted, than some other governors.

We cannot simply wait until there is no possibility of a COVID-19 rebound — because that day will never come. It is time, as DeWine urges, too begin the cautious task of getting back to work.

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