Pandemic Response & State Initiatives Week In Review


Throughout the past week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was joined by Lt. Governor Jon Husted and provided updates on Ohio's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as state initiatives.

On Tuesday, Governor DeWine released the latest basic reproduction number or R0 (pronounced “R naught”) for eight regions of Ohio. The R0 represents the number of people, on average, that a person will spread a disease to.

With Ohio's interventions, the R0 for the state measured at 0.87 on June 7.

POP-UP SITES

Governor DeWine announced additional pop-up testing sites available throughout the state this week and next week.  Locations include Cincinnati, Middletown, Elyria, Portsmouth, Xenia, and others.  More information on pop-up sites can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Governor DeWine announced that Ohio will borrow money to meet its unemployment obligation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state requested $3.1 billion in borrowing authority from the U.S. Department of Labor. This is not an unprecedented situation, Ohio borrowed more than $3.3 billion during the last recession and joins states such as California and Texas in borrowing money during this crisis.

MULTI-SYSTEM YOUTH GRANT

Governor DeWine also announced $1 million in grant funding to Ohio’s local Family and Children First Councils (FCFC). Local FCFC’s serve some for Ohio’s must vulnerable children and often need services from many different agencies. These grant dollars will help local FCFC’s ensure that children can continue to connect with their loved ones and access essential medical services.

OBM, INNOVATEOHIO SAVINGS

Lt. Governor Husted announced that the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and InnovateOhio have identified $950,027 in savings to state taxpayers through data analytics applied to state agency spending ledgers. These are actual taxpayer dollars recovered, not just potential savings identified. The total dollar amount of duplicate payments identified totals $1,008,876, leaving $58,849 still in the process of being recovered.

The total number of confirmed duplicate payments identified by InnovateOhio from January 2019 to May 2020 is 107 across 27 different agencies, boards, and commissions. The duplicate payments tool was initially announced in November 2019.

FRAUDULENT ACTIVITY

Lt. Governor Husted also reminded Ohioans to be on alert for individuals that may want to take advantage of them with potential fraudulent cures, work-from-home offers, and messages asking for personal information. 

He also warned Ohioans of fraudulent unemployment claims. For resources on how to protect your personal information and protect yourself from fraud, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or the Ohio Department of Commerce, or the Ohio Department of Insurance websites.  If you think you have been a victim of fraud contact the Ohio Attorney General office.

SUMMER FOOD PROGRAM

More than 65,000 children a day are expected to take part in Ohio's Summer Food Service Program this summer. With more than 1,500 sites across the state, many of the programs have set up new guidelines for distributing food to kids.

Additional information can be found at education.ohio.gov/kidseat or by calling 866-3-HUNGRY.

On Wednesday, Governor DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost announced the following actions and proposed legislative reforms aimed at making meaningful improvements to law enforcement training, transparency, and accountability.

The proposed reforms were developed with feedback from the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, Ohio Conference of NAACP, Ohio Chiefs of Police Association, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and others.

Conversations regarding additional actions to improve Ohio's overall criminal justice system will continue and more reforms are anticipated in the future.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY BOARD

Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost outlined their plan to create a law enforcement oversight and accountability board comprised of members of the law enforcement community and the public. They called on the Ohio General Assembly to move swiftly to permit this law enforcement oversight under Ohio law.

The oversight and accountability board as envisioned would be established within the Ohio Attorney General's Office as part of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC). Board members would work with law enforcement experts to establish standards and a code of conduct for Ohio’s law enforcement professionals. The board would also be responsible for ensuring that Ohio’s law enforcement officials adhere to the professional code of conduct. Violations could result in the suspension or revocation of a peace officer’s certificate. 

INDEPENDENT USE-OF-FORCE INVESTIGATIONS/PROSECUTIONS

Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost both called on the Ohio General Assembly to mandate that qualified, neutral investigative agencies investigate all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.

Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost additionally announced that they will immediately begin requiring independent investigations on cases of this nature involving the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). BCI will investigate any cases involving OSHP and vice versa.

To further eliminate any perceptions of impropriety, Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost also recommended that the Ohio General Assembly mandate that outside prosecutors also be assigned to all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths to independently evaluate the evidence and prosecute cases in which charges are filed.

BCI OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING INVESTIGATIVE UNIT

Attorney General Yost announced that his BCI Special Investigations Unit will dedicate highly-trained special agents to form a team that will conduct independent investigations after an officer-involved shooting.

The BCI Special Investigations Unit currently investigates critical incidents upon receiving a request for assistance from a local law enforcement agency. This specialized response team will leverage existing BCI expertise, including BCI’s Crime Scene Unit, Laboratory Division, and Criminal Intelligence Unit.

USE-OF-FORCE TRANSPARENCY

Governor DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) will begin developing a public database to house information on use-of-force incidents in Ohio. He also asked the Ohio General Assembly to develop a standard use-of-force definition and enact a law that mandates the reporting of all use-of-force incidents to OCJS.

The use-of-force data will help Ohio identify the scenarios that most often lead to use-of-force and offer specific de-escalation training related directly to these situations.  The data can also be used by OCJS to direct federal grants into targeted areas to help improve community-police relations.

CHOKEHOLDS

Governor DeWine asked the Ohio General Assembly to ban the use of chokeholds by Ohio law enforcement officers unless the officer is justified in using deadly force in situations where an officer is fighting for his or her own life or protecting the life of another.

Governor DeWine also directed all cabinet-level agencies that possess law enforcement authority to examine their use-of-force policies to ensure that chokeholds are only permitted in situations where use-of-force would otherwise be justified.

BODY CAMERAS

Governor DeWine announced that he has asked Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Tom Stickrath and Col. Richard Fambro of the Ohio State Highway Patrol to begin outfitting troopers with body cameras where appropriate.

Governor DeWine also asked the Ohio General Assembly to determine if the state can provide monetary assistance to local agencies to help defer the cost of purchasing equipment and storing video.

ADVANCED TRAINING

Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost asked the Ohio General Assembly work with them to identify a permanent funding stream for law enforcement training to ensure that every Ohio officer receives advanced training every year.

With the exception of annual firearm re-qualification training, current law prohibits the state from mandating advanced law enforcement training without offering reimbursement.

As a short-term solution, Governor DeWine announced that he has directed OCJS to reimburse local agencies for up to six hours of law enforcement training on use-of-force, implicit bias, and the de-escalation of situations involving individuals in a mental health crisis or suffering from drug or alcohol addiction issues.

The reimbursement would apply for any officer who has not yet received this training in 2020.

BASIC TRAINING PSYCHOLOGICAL EXAM

To better ensure that only those with the appropriate character and temperament enter law enforcement basic training in Ohio, Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost announced that they are encouraging the Ohio General Assembly to require that all basic training applicants pass a psychological exam as a condition of their acceptance into a police academy.

Following a cadet’s graduation from basic training but before issuing a peace officer certificate, OPOTC would check references and take other critical steps to further ensure that the candidate possesses the appropriate character, fitness, and temperament to be a certified peace officer in Ohio.

OHIO OFFICE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT RECRUITMENT

Governor DeWine also provided an update on the creation of the new Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment within OCJS.

Governor DeWine announced that Dr. Patrick Oliver, Ph.D., who currently serves as the director of Cedarville University's criminal justice program, has agreed to serve as the lead consultant to the new recruitment office. Dr. Oliver served for 27 years in law enforcement, including 11 years as a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He also served as the police chief in the cities of Fairborn, Grandview Heights, Cleveland, and as the Ranger Chief of the Cleveland Metropolitan Parks.

The new Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment will assist agencies that are working to hire more minorities and women and will encourage these populations to explore a law enforcement career. The office will also develop and share best practices on the hiring of candidates who are best suited for the law enforcement profession.

Additionally, Governor DeWine announced that the following order has been signed by Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes:

Director's Order Reopening County Fairs and Animal Exhibitions, with Exceptions

Also on Wednesday, Governor DeWine also signed several bills into law, including House Bill 16, House Bill 81, House Bill 287, House Bill 285, and House Bill 168.

On Thursday, Governor DeWine announced that although Ohio is seeing an overall declining number of COVID-19 cases, there is currently an uptick in cases in Southwest Ohio.

Increases are being seen in Montgomery County, Greene County, Clark County, Warren County, and Hamilton County. Case counts in these counties by zip code can be found on coronavirus.ohio.gov.

INCREASE IN COVID-19 CASES IN CHILDREN

Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease doctor and associate medical director for infection control at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, provided information on an increase in the percentage of children testing positive for COVID-19 at Rainbow Babies.

Dr. Edwards said that hospital admissions for COVID-19 in children at Rainbow Babies have also increased.

Symptoms of COVID-19 in kids are similar to symptoms in adults. If your child seems to be having trouble breathing or is not eating or drinking, Dr. Edwards recommends calling your pediatrician to get your child tested.

In addition, Dr. Edwards reported that cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children have also increased at Rainbow Babies. Symptoms include high fever, rash, red eyes, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains. More information on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is available at uhhospitals.org. 

HOSPITAL PPE READINESS STOCKPILE

Governor DeWine announced the creation of a new Hospital PPE Readiness Stockpile, which will be compiled and stored by Ohio hospitals throughout the state. Items in the PPE stockpile will be distributed to residents and staff at long-term care facilities should there be an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Hospitals have begun to build a 30-day reserve of PPE based on several calculations, including the state’s surge models, the number of residents and staff at Ohio nursing homes, as well as recent FEMA PPE allocations to each Ohio nursing home. Each hospital will have a different amount of stockpile that is calculated specifically for the region.

The stockpile is a collaborative effort between the Ohio Hospital Association, hospitals throughout the state, and several state agencies, including the departments of Health, Medicaid, and Public Safety.

GOOD CAUSE EXECUTIVE ORDER

For the seventh straight week, renewals of unemployment claims have declined. Last week, more than a quarter a million fewer people filed for continued unemployment insurance than they did during the COVID-19 unemployment peak.

Governor DeWine signed an executive order that expands the definition of good cause throughout the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

OHIO MEANS JOBS

Lt. Governor Husted announced that because most of Ohio's economy is now open, the coronavirus.ohio.gov/JobSearch website will transition back to Ohio's regular job-search website, OhioMeansJobs.com.

OhioMeansJobs.com currently has over 120,000 job postings, with almost half paying over $50,000. Approximately 76,000 jobs require less than a bachelor’s degree, while 36,000 require either a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree. Approximately 77 percent of the job openings are considered in-demand.

RESUMING SPORTS ACTIVITIES

Lt. Governor Husted also announced that Phase II of the Responsible RestartOhio plan for sports activities will allow contact practice for all sports to resume on Monday, June 22.

Training guidance is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov. The Ohio High School Athletic Association and the summer league work group worked together with the Ohio Department of Health on this plan. 

On Friday, Governor DeWine signed several bills into law, including House Bill 11, House Bill 65, House Bill 481, and House Bill 164. 

Also on Friday, Governor DeWine issued the following statement on the recent vandalism at the Ohio Statehouse: 

“I have spoken with Ohio State Highway Patrol Col. Richard Fambro about security at the Statehouse, and I shared with him my anger and disgust at the vandalism that occurred at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday.  I support the right to peacefully protest. However, defacing, damaging, and vandalizing our state capitol and its grounds are wrong, and such actions are criminal. The Ohio State Highway Patrol is conducting a criminal investigation into yesterday’s acts, and they will send their findings to the appropriate authorities for potential prosecution.”

On Friday, Governor DeWine gave remarks to commemorate Juneteenth Day, celebrating the end of slavery.  

On Sunday, Governor DeWine ordered that all United States flags be flown at half-staff on all public buildings and grounds throughout Geauga County and at the Ohio Statehouse, Vern Riffe Center, and Rhodes Tower in Columbus in honor of the life and service of Ohio Marine, Sgt. Wolfgang Kyle Weninger. 

As of Sunday afternoon, there are 44,808 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 2,700 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 7,242 people have been hospitalized, including 1,844 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.