DeWine Will Veto Bill Limiting Health Dept. Orders

Updated 5:50 p.m.: Ohio Senate passed SB 311
Updated 10 a.m. Nov. 20: Corrected House of Representatives vote count
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –  Should the bill reach his desk, Gov. Mike DeWine has vowed to veto Senate Bill 311, which would bar the Ohio Department of Health from issuing “general, mandatory statewide or regional quarantine or isolation orders” unless an individual has been directly exposed or diagnosed with a contagious disease.

“The bill, if enacted, would severely limit the ability of the Department of Health to issue orders necessary to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, not just this one, but ones in the future,” the governor said at his press conference Thursday. “I’ve said from the beginning that I’d be taking advice from medical experts. Medical experts have told me that this bill should not become law. They’ve told me this bill would be a disaster. Doctors, nurses, scientists have all advised me against this bill. For this reason, if by chance it would pass, I would veto the bill because I have a moral obligation to do so.”

The bill was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives 58-32 Wednesday and by the Ohio Senate 58-30 Thursday evening. If DeWine vetoes the bill, the House could override it with a two-thirds majority vote.

Also during the press conference, DeWine announced that several counties had been moved up a level on the state’s Public Health Advisory System, including Columbiana County, which was upgraded to Red. That level signifies “very high exposure and spread” and asks that residents limit activities as much as possible.

“The color change on the Public Health Advisory System that we witnessed today for  Columbiana County should be seen as a call to action,” said Columbiana County health commissioner Wesley Wins in a statement. “As the holidays approach, we must  utilize all of the tools that we have to stop the spread of this disease. This means making hard  choices like staying home instead of attending an event, and if you must go out consistently wear your mask in public. Together, we can get though this.” 

The upgrades also mean that all 88 counties in Ohio are now at least at the Orange level of increased exposure and spread. 

Franklin County also became the first county upgraded the top-level Purple rating, indicating severe exposure and spread and recommending that resident only leave their homes for supplies and services.

“While Franklin is the county moving to Purple this week, we’ve seen similar stories in other parts of the state. Our health-care system is feeling the impact of this disease and hospitals are worried about being able to keep up with staffing of nurses and doctors and other support staff,” DeWine said. “Other counties may not be seeing the same sustained increases that have caused Franklin County to go Purple, but make no mistake about it: almost all counties are seeing more cases and more health-care use. It could threaten the medical system if it continues.”

Three other counties – Lake, Lorain and Montgomery counties – are showing the same indicators as Franklin County, but because it is their first time with those markers, they were not upgraded. If their results don’t change, however, they will be moved to a Purple level.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.