Rep. Powell: Special session needed to guarantee no new COVID mandates

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even though state lawmakers have already blocked Gov. Mike DeWine from issuing any long-running health orders without their approval, Rep. Jena Powell wants lawmakers to do more. In a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman, Powell has called for the General Assembly to cut their summer break short and return to the Statehouse to pass new legislation to protect people from COVID mandates.

“I’m calling for us to go back into session to discuss and ensure that Ohio will not have forced vaccinations because a lot of people are in a place where they can either take the vaccination of lose their job,” Powell said in an interview with WHIO-TV.

Under current law, employers have the legal authority to require employees to be vaccinated. Also, employers and school districts have the ability to require staff and students to wear masks at school.

>> New bill introduced could remove the mask mandate

Powell said at a recent town hall meeting with constituents in her district, several people told her that they face losing their jobs if they do not get the coronavirus vaccine and they object to being forced to get it. Meanwhile, Powell said there is growing fear of a return to mandatory mask orders from the state. " People and children are scared that we’re going to have another mask mandate put on them in the coming months and they’re also scared that we’re also going to have another shutdown,” Powell said.

It comes just as COVID cases in Ohio are growing again. Late Wednesday the Ohio Department of Health said there were 2,167 cases reported statewide in the last 24 hours. That is up from 547 three weeks ago.

In a recent briefing, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer, Ohio Department of Health, said there are no mandates in effect, only strong encouragement for people to protect themselves and their families. “Those who aren’t vaccinated yet are encouraged to wear a mask in indoor spaces and outdoors in crowded and when social distancing isn’t possible,” Vanderhoff said.

Asked for comment, Gov. Mike DeWine’s Press Secretary, Dan Tierney, confirmed receipt of the letter. “Since no such legislation has yet been introduced, it would be premature to comment. However, the Governor’s previous comments, regarding new mandates on private businesses and regarding the rights of private business owners to operate their businesses and protect their employees and customers, are well known,” Tierney said.

Earlier, DeWine said there would be no more shutdowns and that people should make their own decisions on what to do about the virus. DeWine, for example, is leaving it up to local school boards to decide what precautions to take, including whether staff and students will have to wear a mask in the classroom.

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