COLUMBUS—House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today penned a letter to Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) following a House floor session where all members were not socially distanced as the health experts recommend and where only a few of the Republican members were wearing masks.
House Democrats and staff were not informed of this change in seating arrangement protocol until a few hours before the afternoon floor session and like most Ohio workers who have been noticeably absent from public discussions of reopening Ohio, had no input in the dangerous decision.
“Like other Ohioans, we trust that our employer is making the best decisions for our health and safety in the midst of this global pandemic,” said Leader Sykes. “But unfortunately, we are learning just as many other Ohioans are as they return to work, that not all employers are taking COVID-19 seriously and are purposely putting their employees at risk.
The blatant disregard to human life by many on the right is deeply upsetting. It is upsetting to the front-line, minimum wage worker whose life is endangered by customers who believe the virus is a ‘hoax’ and refuse to wear a mask. It is upsetting to the health care worker who self-quarantines from their family after a 48-hour shift and is then sneezed on by a neighbor who refuses to distance themselves on the sidewalk. And it is upsetting to the members of this body whose own colleagues – many of them high-risk themselves – stand bare-faced and proudly refuse to take up bills that could help millions of Ohioans in this time of crisis and instead advocate for an inhumane ‘survival of the fittest’ course of action.
Never in my legislative career have I seen such a disgraceful display of arrogance and selfishness.”
State Representative Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) made a motion on the floor today to immediately consider amending the House Rules that would require all persons over the age of two, including any member, to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face covering while attending a meeting of the House or meeting of any standing committee, subcommittee or select committee of the House. Exceptions would be made for a person unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition or the person is otherwise exempted by the Ohio Department of Health guidance. His motion was voted down by House Republicans, many of them refusing to wear masks themselves.
“Masks or cloth facial coverings are recommended by the CDC and other medical professionals and groups to lessen the spread of COVID-19 to others,” Skindell said. “By wearing a mask, you are demonstrating your deep concern for the health and safety of people around you.”
**Editor’s Note: A letter from Leader Sykes to Speaker Householder is attached.