Statewide COVID-19 Health Orders Extended Short-Term
Yesterday during his press conference concerning the ongoing battle against the novel coronavirus, Governor DeWine announced that he is extending existing health orders through this week as his administration finalizes vital plans to help local schools safely reopen, as well as plans to keep Ohioans healthy and safe. Details on this new phase are anticipated to be released on Thursday.
Last week was the first week of increasing COVID-19 hospital utilization in Ohio after over two months of decreasing utilization since late April. From June 21, 2020 to June 27, 2020, Ohio had approximately 500 to 550 total COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide. This week, there are approximately 650 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide.
Governor DeWine explained that the increase in positive COVID-19 cases is not fully due to Ohio’s increase in testing. “Ohio’s positivity rate has increased slightly as our testing totals have increased,” said Governor DeWine. “If the spread of this virus remained at a low level, more testing should show a lower positivity. The increase of our positivity rate, even as we are doing more testing, means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread.”
Both Hamilton and Montgomery counties have experienced a noticeable increase in cases over the past few weeks, significant enough to attract the attention of Vice President Pence.
As Cases Increase in Large Urban Areas, City Leaders Prepare Face-Covering Ordinances
After an uptick of COVID-19 cases in large urban areas, Council staff have been in communication with high-level representatives of several large metropolitan cities in Ohio that are working on draft ordinances to require customers to wear face coverings inside consumer-facing businesses. We have shared with them the importance of not placing retailers in the position of having to enforce such a requirement because of the unnecessary risk to store associates along with liability concerns.
We are pleased that our input was well received and recognized as legitimate. The cities have also been in communication with each other and we have stressed to them the importance of consistency and certainty when enacting such proposals. We will update you when these draft proposals become public.
Senate Committee Amends and Passes House COVID-19 Employer Immunity Bill
This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee made positive changes to the as passed by the House version of House Bill 606, a proposal that will provide much needed protection for employers against claims that employees were exposed to or contracted COVID-19 at their place of employment.
Before passing the bill out of committee on a straight party-line vote, the committee removed controversial language added on the House floor that would have made COVID-19 an occupational disease for purposes of workers’ compensation coverage. The coverage would have only applied to grocery and convenience store employees, food processing facility employees, first responders and corrections officers. The language also would have created a presumption in favor of those specific employees where current workers’ comp law requires the employee to prove the injury or condition is work-related. The Council opposed this language because of the presumptive change, the limited application and more than 85% of COVID-related workers’ compensation claims have already been approved by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
When the Senate convenes session later today, House Bill 606 will be on the calendar for a vote and is expected to pass. After that, it will be up to the House to reconvene to consider changes made by the Senate before the bill can be sent to the Governor for his anticipated signature.