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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Ohio’s leaders are reminding residents to take preventative measures as the state prepares to begin its gradual reopening.

As of Thursday, there were 14,694 confirmed and probable cases of the virus in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health said 656 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

During a Thursday afternoon news briefing, Governor Mike DeWine shared more details on how the state plans to proceed by elaborating on the end to Ohio’s elective surgery ban.

He said the biggest concern is for those who had surgeries postponed and have been waiting. He has encouraged health care providers to reach out to their patients and assess how to proceed moving forward.

The Governor says Ohio will begin the process of opening dentist offices and other medical facilities in the near future.

“Our healthcare facilities across the state are doing a great job at implementing infection control practices within their environment to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” said DeWine. “They are making it as safe as possible to be in a healthcare environment by wearing of masks; practicing good hand hygiene; screening staff, patients, and visitors for symptoms of COVID-19, and many other measures. But, with all that being said, we are not ready for the entire healthcare system to turn back on again. We’re working on our plan to identify the steps we must take to move forward with healthcare.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Jon Husted addressed the state’s rising unemployment. He said 5.6 million people were working in Ohio at the beginning of March.

Husted reminds Ohioans that currently 866 companies are looking to hire in Ohio. He says there are over 50,000 jobs posted right now on the government’s website. Click here for job postings.

The Lt. Governor also reiterated that just because businesses are beginning to reopen doesn’t mean the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said earlier this week that Ohioans could be living with coronavirus over the next 18 months.

Ohioans were encouraged by public health experts to wear masks and to take as many steps as possible to protect yourself and others. These steps include practicing social distancing, regularly cleaning and practicing good hygeine.

Click here for information regarding the use of multiple protective barriers.

Ohio will start its gradual reopening on May 1. Reopening will begin with businesses that can create a safe environment. Employers were instructed to utilize masks, sanitizer, soap and 6 feet of safety.

Officials say they know these strategies will work and additional guidance would be coming in the days ahead.