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Last April, as the rest of America was just beginning to grasp the deadly potential of the newly arrived coronavirus pandemic, Ohio’s Mike DeWine became the nation’s first governor to order schools to close.

On Thursday, DeWine took another pioneering step on the COVID-19 frontier, this time in the opposite direction: He announced that as of Friday, it was OK for salad bars and food buffets to reopen in Ohio restaurants.

Sure, facial coverings are still mandatory in indoor public buildings in Ohio.

Those traveling to states with positive COVID-19 test rates of 15% or higher (currently Kansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, Iowa and Idaho) still need to self-quarantine for two weeks when they enter the Buckeye State before they can mingle with the public.

But for some so-far unclear reason, Ohio has deemed it safe for folks to join throngs of hungry strangers in ladling oversize portions of grub onto their plates from communal food troughs.

What could go wrong?

In a similar vein, DeWine on Thursday lifted a coronavirus curfew on “non-essential businesses” (think ‘bars’) that previously had to close between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Sure, some new rules accompanied the new salad bar mandate: Face masks have to be worn at all times as diners make their way through lines leading to newly reopened self-serve food venues, keeping six feet apart, before loading their plates and walking to their tables. Serving utensils must be replaced at least hourly. Commonly touched surfaces must be cleaned and sanitized frequently. Sneeze screens are mandatory.

Judging from the response to a tweet on the Columbus Dispatch Twitter feed announcing the reopening of salad bars, it will take a lot of time — maybe a lifetime — for those who have developed higher states of germ consciousness during the pandemic to dive back into communal, self-serve dining.

Among early re-tweeters of the post was television news icon Dan Rather, who commented “Hard pass” in reaction to the return of Ohio salad bars.

By midday Friday, Rather’s message had garnered more than 10,000 “likes” and an endless stream of comments, nearly all agreeing with his stance.

“Here’s hoping the salmonella fights off my COVID,” one commenter tweeted.

“Yaay! Edible Petri dishes!” responded another, followed by a tweet stating, “Who wouldn’t want COVID pudding in their ranch dressing?”

“Wake me when the chocolate fountains return,” responded Sean Spicer Facts, a Twitter platform satirizing Donald Trump’s first presidential spokesman.

In fact, the only positive response to the return of salad bars that I came across was one with which I can empathize:

“But they let you have seconds!”

Gov. Jim Justice, Dr. Clay Marsh, the ball’s in your court.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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