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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

House Passes Bill Requiring Written Permission For COVID-19 Contact Tracing

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) speaks to reporters in the chamber after session on May 28.
Karen Kasler
House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) speaks to reporters in the chamber after session on May 28.

As local health departments try to contain the spread of coronavirus by tracking down those who might have been exposed to people with COVID-19, the Ohio House passed a bill requiring health officials to get written permission from people before beginning the contact tracing process.

Contact tracing is voluntary, and has been used in other countries during this pandemic and with other outbreaks, including HIV and smallpox.

But House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said because there’s personal information involved, his Republican caucus wanted health officials to get written permission, though confirmation over the phone would be easier and quicker.

“I think there were some members that were concerned that that’s an easy standard to set – anyone can say, yeah, well, I had oral confirmation on it," Householder said.

Householder said he's never been involved in any kind of contact tracing, but said he didn't think the requirement would slow down or affect contact tracing efforts by local health departments.

"I don't know that it's necessarily going to have that big of an impact on it," Householder said.

That change was added to a bill to exempt family and residential information of 911 operators from public records law, and had passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House on a party line vote.

Senators would have to agree to that change, and Householder said he’s open to discussion on it.

Last month the House also passed a measure that would limit the power and length of public health orders on coronavirus that their fellow Republican, Gov. Mike DeWine, has been issuing through Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. It would require a panel of state lawmakers to vote to extend those orders after 14 days. The Senate has not taken up the bill, and DeWine said if it passes he'll veto it.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.