COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Calling it a “crazy, ridiculous internet rumor,” Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the issue of FEMA camps and family separation in Ohio.

The governor said the rumor prompted many calls over the weekend that he felt the need to talk about it during his coronavirus briefing Tuesday.

“I want to clear up any confusion about the latest non-congregate sheltering order that is getting all of this attention,” DeWine said.

DeWine said the order dates back to March 13, when President Donald Trump declared a coronavirus national emergency.  On March 20, the state of Ohio and FEMA entered into an agreement allowing the state to apply for emergency protection measures including non-congregate sheltering.

FEMA defines non-congregate sheltering as locations where each individual or household has living space that offers some level of privacy such as hotels, motels, or dormitories. They are usually used for people who test positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization, or for people who have come in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive, or for high-risk individuals who require social distancing.

Trump then issued a major disaster declaration for Ohio on March 31. The Ohio Department of Health then issued an order establishing non-congregate sheltering for people who were unable to self-quarantine in their homes. The same ODH order was renewed on April 29 and Aug. 31.

“The order provided that sheltering in non-congregate shelters, in other words, shelters where there weren’t a bunch of people but single places, should be determined by the local health officials and based on individual’s needs,” DeWine said, adding that the order does not create FEMA camps or force anyone to quarantine against their will.

DeWine said the order is a funding mechanism to allow for federal reimbursement for those who set up the non-congregate shelters.

The order has been used in a few cases in the state, but not very often, the governor said.

“In each one of these cases, we were taking this authorization from the federal government, the agreement with the federal government and being able to provide space for individuals to use when they needed it,” DeWine said.

The governor said the non-congregate sheltering could be used by health professionals who may have come in contact with the virus at work and do not want to expose their families to it. The federal government, through the agreement, would pay for it.

“I am aware there are rumors on the internet that incorrectly claim that these orders allow children to be separated from their parents without permission,” DeWine said. “Let me just say this is absolutely ridiculous. It is not true. There is no intention anyone has to separate children, but somehow, this has been reported on the internet.”

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