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Coronavirus In Ohio: Democratic House Members Furious About Handling Of Cases

Ohio House
Members of the Ohio House come into the chamber a few minutes before session starts on June 4, 2020.

The Ohio House Speaker's office is reinstituting its work-from-home policy, after at least one House employee tested positive for COVID-19 and put on administrative leave. Some Democratic members are furious, saying they’ve been kept in the dark.

State Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) says she only knows about the COVID-19 exposure because one of her staffers was asked to stay home, but later found out he was mistaken for someone else. She blames Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) for not being forthright about exposures to the virus.

“This is just a ticking time bomb waiting to blow up, and we are going to have an absolute outbreak on our hands," Miranda says.

Miranda says she and other Democrats have no idea how contact tracing is being conducted when someone in the Ohio House tests positive for the virus. She blasts Householder for "an absolute lack of leadership" when it comes to dealing with issues involving the pandemic in the Ohio House.

Miranda says Democrats are looking into legal options.

In recent weeks, Democrats, who wear masks in legislative sessions, have been criticizing Republican lawmakers because most of them have not been wearing masks. Some Republicans have lambasted Gov. Mike DeWine for measures he has taken to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

For his part, Householder has not responded to interview requests, but has tweeted that he told the Democrats’ Chief of Staff about the situation.

Ohio House Majority Press Secretary Taylor Jach, in a written statement, says staff who were within six feet of the individual who test positive for more than 15 minutes were sent home. She goes on to say they are undertaking a deep cleaning of the impacted employees’ workspaces and the common areas, and are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jach says staff who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or had close contact with someone who has, have been given the option of either taking paid leave or working from home.

Sign at entrance of Ohio Statehouse saying face masks are recommended.
Credit Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau
Statehouse News Bureau
Sign at entrance of Ohio Statehouse saying face masks are recommended.

Earlier this week, state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) announced she is battling the virus. Howse said she wanted the public to know so they could get tested if they had been exposed to her and would take the virus itself more seriously.

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine confirmed a member of his staff is battling the virus. The staff member has been working from home since the pandemic started.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.