by J.D. Davidson
While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was announcing a statewide curfew to slow the spread of COVID-19, more than 97 people submitted written testimony supporting a bill that would strip authority from the governor and the Ohio Department of Health to issue orders.
Doctors, nurses and regular citizens provided written and oral testimony in support of House Bill 618, legislation that would make any special or standing order from the governor seeking to prevent the spread of contagious or infectious diseases advisory only. If HB618 passes, any such order from the governor would have no legal effect unless approved by the General Assembly.
The committee also held a first hearing for Senate Bill 311, a similar bill that prohibits the state health department from issuing mandatory statewide or regional quarantine orders for people not directly exposed to or medically diagnosed with the disease.
That bill passed the Senate in late September with a 20-13 veto-proof vote.
“Granting statutory authority to the General Assembly to act on behalf of the citizenry of the state to protect their rights and liberties is a sensible safeguard against state overreach,” state Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, the bill’s co-sponsor, said in testimony. “It is important that we, the legislative branch, are engaged when it comes to making decisions that so powerfully affect the health, safety, welfare and freedom of our constituents.”
State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, said the bill does not limit the governor’s authority but clarifies it.
“We are not limiting the authority of the Department of Health or the governor. We’re clarifying the original intent of the statute,” McColley said. “Therefore, we are also clarifying the governor and the health director never had the authority to begin with to do many of the things they have.”
Dr. Michelle Yan, who owns a chiropractic practice in Bay Village, Ohio, said revised mask orders have not helped limit the spread of COVID-19.
“As health care providers, we believe the science is not matching what the governor and the Ohio Director of Health are relating to Ohioans,” Yan testified. “It is common to protect the sick but to mask everyone, including the healthy and the young has never happened until COVID-19 began. Mandating masks has not helped the spread of COVID-19.”
She also likened statewide orders to government control in China.
“My husband’s great-grandparents and my parents are immigrants. My parents left communist China to give me a better life,” Yan testified. “It is ironic that all the freedoms and liberties that our forefathers so desperately fought for are the same ones being taken away as we speak.”
DeWine on Tuesday placed Ohioans under a curfew, beginning Thursday, for 21 days in what he said is an effort to stop the rising spread of COVID-19. The curfew runs from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. daily, with exceptions for work, groceries, stores, pharmacies and drive-thrus.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.