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Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Cancel Ohio's State Of Emergency, Face Mask Mandate

A sign on face mask requirements at Sierra Trading Post in Easton.
Darrin McDonald
A sign on face mask requirements at Sierra Trading Post in Easton.

A Republican lawmaker who’s been critical of Ohio’s pandemic response has proposed a bill to cancel the state of emergency order from March. The bill would allow businesses and hospitals to return to full-capacity operations and all schools to in-person learning – with no masks or social distancing required.

State Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) says her bill would allow things to, in her words, “go back to normal,” with people being allowed to make their own decisions on masks and social distancing.

Grendell, who has also questioned the state’s coronavirus data and proposed a bill to change the way it's reported, says Ohio has to live with this virus like with flu.

“The flu is far higher, far higher, and we don’t make people take masks for the flu,” Grendell says

But the Ohio Department of Health says the death rate for COVID-19 is between 3-4%, with the seasonal flu usually well below 0.1%. Recent data from the CDC showed 94% of those who died of COVID had another underlying health condition such as asthmadiabetes or heart disease – which millions of Ohioans also have.

Grendell also that coronavirus deaths are lower than those from cancer, heart disease and drug overdoses – but those are not contagious.

The bill has seven co-sponsors, including some strident critics of the state's COVID-19 response:

  • Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason)
  • Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Hartville)
  • Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster)
  • Jon Cross (R-Kenton)
  • Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander)
  • Craig Riedel (R-Defiance)
  • John Becker (R-Cincinnati)

Grendell said she was watching legislation in Idaho to craft this bill. That measure passed the Idaho House but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate because of concerns about its constitutionality.

Gov. Mike DeWine has hinted he would not support this bill. Hisfirst non-budget vetowas a measure that sought to limit the power of public health orders. It would have lowered the fines for violating orders issued by him, his health director or local health departments.

In addition to the bill, a lawsuit was filed earlier this monthin federal court to lift the state of emergency.