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Senate rejects push for contract tracing written consent

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Posted at 9:06 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 21:06:04-04

COLUMBUS — A proposal by House Republicans to require individuals’ written consent for the state to track the spread of the coronavirus was rejected by fellow Republicans in the Ohio Senate on Wednesday.

The House would have required in-writing permission before the Health Department could undertake what is known as contract tracing. This technique allows investigators to contact people who have been in close and recent proximity to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

The proposal reflected the disagreement many conservative House Republicans have with GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s response to the coronavirus, which they feel has gone too far.

But Senate Republicans joined by Democrats said the proposal itself went too far and could rule out people willing to allow the tracing but unable to sign a form if, for example, they were out of town. Contact tracing is considered essential to tracking a contagious illness as a means of slowing it down.

“Just like firing a gun in your backyard or yelling fire in the theater, you do not have the right to infect your friends and neighbors with a disease simply because you want to exercise the ability to not sign a form for contact tracing,” said Sen. Dave Burke, a Republican from Marysville in central Ohio.

The bill goes next to a conference committee where the requirement’s future was uncertain.

However, Senate Republicans did take a swipe Wednesday at DeWine and his health director, Dr. Amy Acton, when they approved a resolution prohibiting state government officials from taking any action not “expressly granted” by the state and U.S. constitutions.

The resolution was aimed at the DeWine administration’s “government overreach” that has led to widespread economic difficulties because of the governor’s stay-at-home orders, said Sen. Terry Johnson, a Scioto County Republican.

The resolution has no statutory power and doesn’t affect the governor’s ability to exercise his powers.

In other coronavirus developments Wednesday:



The Health Department reported nearly 36,800 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases and 2,299 deaths.

Ohio will average about 10,589 tests a day this month, far below the 22,000 a day that DeWine predicted weeks ago, The Columbus Dispatch reported.Ohio now expects to hit that goal in July, a DeWine spokesman said.


Ohioans eligible for food stamps can buy food online through Walmart and Amazon, the state human services agency said. Previously, food could be ordered online but recipients had to pay at the store. Recipients cannot use food stamp dollars to pay for delivery.

“We hope online purchasing gives individuals more options and makes it easier for them to both stay safe and eat nutritiously,” Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said in a statement.



Ohio State University, one of the country’s biggest colleges, plans to resume in-person classes this fall with an approach that incorporates distance learning methods and a variety of health precautions, such as face masks, social distancing and controlling the flow of foot traffic into and around buildings. It’s also adjusting its academic calendar: In-person instruction will end Nov. 25, and the final week of the semester will be conducted virtually.