COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Earlier this week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a statewide address where he warned of possible business closures and growing COVID-19 numbers.
Friday, Ohio lawmakers offered their opinions on the governor’s response to the coronavirus spike.
“We have to keep Ohio open, dealing with our physical health, our mental health and our financial health. You can’t pick two out of the three, you got to have all three,” said Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton).
DeWine announced changes to the statewide mask mandate during his address Wednesday afternoon. Now, businesses will be responsible to enforce the order or risk being closed for a period of time.
“Times are really difficult right now and some of these new orders could make it even more difficult for businesses already struggling,” said State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green).
DeWine also warned Ohioans that if coronavirus case numbers continue to climb, bars, restaurants and fitness centers may be forced to close. That’s an announcement lawmakers from both sides of the aisle weren’t happy to hear.
“I personally am not sure that shutting down bars and restaurants and gyms is necessarily the right approach here,” said Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). “It feels a bit like using an ax when really a scalpel should be used.”
“If the governor is trying to focus on the physical health, if doctors, nurses are saving lives, who in the heck is saving jobs and I feel like the legislature needs to step up and focus on our financial health,” Cross said.
Cross believes Ohio should be approaching the pandemic on a county-by-county basis, adding he would like DeWine to work with the legislature on any new orders or restrictions. If the governor chooses not to, Cross would like the legislature to act.
“The leadership of both the House and Senate need to work extremely fast next week and the following week and pass bills to get to the governor’s desk,” Cross said. “We need to put solutions on his desk, we need to put checks and balances on his desk and we need to send a signal that, ‘Governor, our constituency has had enough. We need to keep Ohio open.’”
Russo said political in-fighting and lack of a consistent message by Republicans has led Ohio down the wrong path during the pandemic.
“I think we have a lack of leadership at both the State and, in many cases, our community level in terms of the message and the consistent message we’re sending out that masks are important and this virus is serious and it’s real,” Russo said.
DeWine’s Press Secretary Dan Tierney responded to the criticism Friday with the following statement:
“The theme of the Governor’s speech was that we need to act now to protect hospitals and businesses and avoid shutdowns. Anyone who agrees with the Governor that shutdowns should be our last resort needs to help spread the message that we need to all wear masks, socially distance, and avoid unnecessary contact with those outside your household.”
The legislature is scheduled to be in session next Wednesday, the day after DeWine said he will evaluate the potential closing of restaurants, bars, and fitness centers.