COLUMBUS — In Columbus these days, the halls of the statehouse are empty and the legislative chambers sit quiet, but the Economic Recovery Task Force, charged with reopening the state’s economy, is hard at work conducting hearings in Zoom, Brady-Bunch-style.
Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D - Cleveland) is the vice-chair of the committee.
“The Task Force is designed to begin to strategize how we will move Ohio's economy forward once we get out of this coronavirus and what we can provide for workers, blighted communities and overall the folks who have been impacted,” said Upchurch. “There are businesses that are hurting and we understand but the main concern is the public health and I think the governor said it best something to the effect of we protect Ohio's economy by protecting the public health.”
The task force heard from small businesses last week, the medical community Monday and hotels and restaurants on Tuesday.
“So we're getting different perspectives,” Upchurch said.
May 1 is the date the task force is working towards because that is the date that’s set at this point, but, he adds, it’s one written more in pencil than ink.
“Obviously if we don't see a decline in cases and deaths I think we need to reassess that date," Upchurch said. "We need to do whatever we need to do to make sure that the number of cases goes down and the number of deaths go down, especially when we don't necessarily have the adequate testing that we should have. We're a year away from a vaccine so I would feel more comfortable pushing the date back if necessary in order to keep the public health as priority one.”
While we’ve seen states on the east and west coasts form alliances towards the reopening of their regional economies, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday there are no such pacts between Ohio and its neighboring states, but he added he and his staff are in constant communication with those states about where they stand and how they are proceeding.
Upchurch said he’d like for the task force as well to hear from neighboring states.
“It’s my intention that we begin to talk to other states too. I do believe that Ohio can lead the way as far as recovery economically and prevention of the virus spreading, but I do think it's going to take cooperation with other states and certainly some other states have set good models that Ohio can follow, such as New York and California," Upchruch said.
In the meantime, while President Trump raised questions over the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment Monday in saying he had the authority to reopen business in states, Senator Rob Portman said in the end it won’t be the president or the governors who ultimately make the call.
"I think the people are going to determine it,” Portman said. “You’re not going to be able to tell a mom or a dad when its time to send their kids back to school, they’re going to decide when it’s safe. You’re not going to be able to tell you or me when to go back to a restaurant you know we’re going to decide when it’s safe. So I think the key here is not so much elected officials choosing a date as providing the criteria for people to know it’s safe.”