COLUMBUS —Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron)and State Reps. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), two lawmakers with degrees in public health, today issued a statement following the Wednesday evening address from Governor Mike DeWine.
All 88 counties in Ohio have a high rate of spread and the state remains in a state of emergency. DeWine called this the “most dangerous phase of the pandemic.”
“Tonight, I hoped to hear a science-based, statewide plan to protect Ohioans from COVID-19 from this dangerous third wave NOW, but instead we just got another stern admonishing, a rehash of how dire the numbers are in our state and what appears to be a final warning that he may take steps to slow this down in a week,” said Leader Sykes. “We needed him to stand up to the bullies within his own party as he did in the spring. We needed him to stand up for our communities, our small businesses, our health care professionals and our front-line workers. I agree with the Governor, we are tired – tired of our neighbors, family and friends getting sick because he appointed a health director that is not medically trained and without significant public health experience, tired of watching our economy continue to free fall, and tired of leaders who acquiesce to politics at the expense of human life.”
“We needed plans, not platitudes and Churchill quotes. What we need right now is leadership in mask wearing from our elected officials. Leaders lead by example. House Democrats have consistently shown up for work at the Ohio Statehouse wearing a mask and many House Republicans continue to defy the governor’s mask mandate, endangering the lives of lawmakers, our staff and the public,” said Rep. Russo. “I worry this most recent pep talk will make no difference if Ohioans are getting conflicting messages from their elected leaders. All state and community leaders should be speaking with a unified voice about the importance of wearing a mask and following public health guidance, and right now, Republican leadership at the Statehouse is the biggest obstacle to that.”
After consulting with local health officials earlier today, Leader Sykes and Rep. Russo offer these suggestions to Governor DeWine on what he should implement immediately:
- Statewide conformity for enforcement of health orders. Currently, 113 health jurisdictions across the state are all enforcing differently without clear ODH directives regarding standards and coordination between jurisdictions.
- Increased investment in public health infrastructure, including data systems and contact tracing resources. The systems are overburdened because it is poorly resourced.
- Additional targeted testing for essential services -schools, first responders, essential businesses. These employees and students should have a fast and reliable source of testing followed by comprehensive contact tracing.
- Resources for Ohioans without paid sick or family leave to allow them to comply with quarantine orders.
- A focus on high-risk communities with special consideration of health disparities.
- Expanded educational campaign about the risk of informal and indoor gatherings; this is currently the largest source of spread.
- Leadership on mask wearing - ALL elected and community leaders should speak with one voice about the importance of wearing face coverings.