DeWine vetoes bill that allowed legislature to overturn health orders

Ohio

Proponents of Senate Bill 311 say it provides "checks and balances"

Mike DeWine wearing a mask. (Credit: Via WCMH)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio Governor Mike Dewine, as promised, vetoed a bill Thursday that could diminish the authority of health orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health or the Governor’s Office.

Citing objections from health care professionals and business leaders as being detrimental to pandemic response and public health, DeWine vetoed Substitute Senate Bill 311, stating in his veto message that “it is not in the best interest of protecting the health and safety of all Ohioans.”

The veto message included several comments from health experts opposing the measure:

  • “One of the most concerning aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the ability of an individual to infect another person unknowingly during the asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic phase of the infection. If the ability of the Ohio Department of Health to only issue executive orders related to those already diagnosed with the infection or exposed to someone who is diagnosed, we fear that there will be millions of Ohioans put at risk given the risk of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic spread,” said Dr. Andrew M. Thomas, Ohio State Medical Association Council member, during his testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives State and Local Government Committee.
  • “The legislation takes away public health’s ability to be nimble in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will limit the ability of public health officials to respond to future infectious disease outbreaks and potential acts of bioterrorism,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer of the Ohio Department of Health, during his House testimony.
  • “It’s possible that our number of COVID-19 patients could eventually exceed our hospital’s current capacity,” said Dr. Jerry A. Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer of Mount Carmel Health System, during his House testimony. “Our staffing levels are stretched thin, and our team of physicians, nurses, and other staff are exhausted.”
  • “The notion that action cannot be taken to prevent the spread of any of these serious illnesses to those who have not been directly exposed is contradictory to public health best practices that have been scientifically tested and verified over the past 100 years,” said the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners during their Ohio House testimony.

State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, voted for the bill. He said the legislation provided for “checks and balances” and a “nice balance of power.”

In his veto statement, DeWine said Ohio has strong laws to protect Ohioans from a public health crisis, such as COVID-19. He went on to say that medical experts believe that Senate Bill 311 restricts public health officials’ ability to react to such threats to public health.

DeWine used examples of President Donald Trump’s halt on travel from Wuhan, China, to slow the spread of COVID-19, saying, “There is no question that this action bought Ohio and the country valuable time to prepare.” He said if Senate Bill 311 were in effect then, Ohio would not have been able to impose its own quarantine on those coming into Ohio from a disease hotspot and “would be unable to protect our citizens.”

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