AKRON, Ohio — Small businesses in Akron's Merriman Valley are struggling. Businesses such as Big Tree fitness are having a hard time getting any kind of assistance or small business loans.

"Anybody that has a very small amount of employees, or even one to two employees, we're just not getting any kind of support from the small business loans, it's not going to any of us. We're kind of stuck fighting for ourselves," said Michael Meeker, owner, Big Tree Fitness.

  • Governor Mike DeWine wants to start reopening Ohio on May 1
  • A University of Akron homeland security expert says reopening comes with restrictions
  • She recommends states use the White House plan as a guide

Michael Meeker owns Big Tree Fitness in Akron. We talked with him right before he was forced to shut the doors last month due to the stay-at-home order. 

He says reopening his business won't be an easy task.

"We will do everything we can down here, none of us are willing to give up on anything, we're going to work our butts off, if it means we're back a hundred percent a month from now, great, but if it means we're not getting back to a hundred percent a year from now, that's part of the whole entire deal," Meeker said.

Governor Mike DeWine wants to start reopening Ohio May 1.

Fitness centers are among the businesses to reopen in Phase 1.

University of Akron homeland security expert Dr. Stacy Willett says reopening comes with restrictions.

"You're going to have to social distance, you're not going to be able to be right next to each other, you're going to have to be really concerned about sanitization and then wiping down things and just being very clean," said Willet.

Dr. Willett says Ohio should use the White House plan as a guide.

Phase 1 calls for social distancing and groups of no more than 10 people. 

But for vulnerable populations, self-isolation is still necessary.

"I'm sorry to say they're telling them to isolate and through Phase 3 not Phase 1, not Phase 2, all the way through Phase 3, seeing your loved one in a nursing home or assisted living center, they're telling you no, not till Phase 3."

Phases 2 and 3 allow for more social interaction, but minimal time in crowded environments is recommended.

Reopening the state and the country has been met with controversy, but the decisions to reopen are based off of data.

"This isn't just some kind of shot in the dark of we're just tired of being inside and we're tired of not working and it's really an economic thing. The data has shown that we are over that curve, that we have been flattened, that we're starting to come out the other side, and that data shows that we can now start to lift some of these things that we've had in place," said Willet.

Dr. Willett says each phase will not be dictated by how much time has passed, but by the benchmarks we hit.

"When we look at disasters, whether that is a hurricane or that's COVID, the benchmarks that we use is when are we going back to work, when are children going back to school because parents need those things. It's the societal benchmarks that we look at, when we look at normalcy, it's those economic normal day-to-day functions, returning into the world."

Dr. Willett says while it is a three phase plan, if a second coronavirus wave comes, people should be prepared to quarantine again and then reintegrate into society.