Governor Mike DeWine announced on April 16th that he wants to re-open Ohio (OH) for business on May 1st, but it looks dangerous. May 1st would make OH the first state to re-open, while other states such as New York (NY) and Pennsylvania (PA) just extended their lockdowns to May 15th. He says he will do so cautiously in phases which is the right approach but the latest upsurge in newly confirmed cases should cause him to re-think his strategy. The OH governor has received praise for his early recognition and response to the pandemic, but his initial response was tepid and he only imposed a strong lockdown and stay-at-home policy four days after CA on Mar 23rd when his state was about 1.5 (±0.1) times more infected than California (CA). By then OH had 38 cases per million population whereas CA had 25 cases per million four days earlier (of course both states are much better than NY).
Until recently OH had followed an infection record as controlled as CA (see figure below where the left axis for CA and right axis for OH have been adjusted for their differing populations; the horizontal axis tracks real-time for CA and has been shifted back 4 days for OH’s delayed start). However, over the last two days, OH has experienced a renewed surge. OH did update its definition for COVID-19 on April 8th to include probable cases, but that should not have produced an upsurge on April 15th unless there was a delay in implementation. Another reason may be OH has lots of infected neighbors.
If any state can re-open early it is CA because it was the first state to lockdown and its major cities and metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are self-contained — with the Rockies and the Pacific serving as very effective shields for the state. However, Governor Newsom has said that he may extend the CA lockdown into June or at least until he can get more thorough testing. OH is in a much tougher position to control its pandemic or re-open by itself. It is part of two large MSAs: one in Cincinnati with Kentucky and Indiana and the other with Pittsburgh in PA. OH also borders West Virginia, and heavily infected Michigan. This means that Governor DeWine should not re-open without close coordination with all these 5 states. If he re-opens earlier than his neighbors he can infect his neighboring states. Complex MSAs like NYC and Cincinnati should have been managed as a unit with full cooperation between federal, state and local governments. This is why the lack of Federal government coordination in testing and lockdown has had such as a disastrous impact on the US war against COVID-19.