Ohio House passes health dept. COVID-19 data bill

    A photo of the Ohio Statehouse from Wikimedia Commons.

    A bill forcing Ohio health officials to report certain COVID-19 statistics passed another hurdle Wednesday.

    House Bill 624 was approved by the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 61-34. It was a partyline vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against.

    It will require passage by the Ohio Senate and a signature from Gov. Mike DeWine before it can become law. Compared to the Ohio House, the Senate has shown less of an appetite for advancing bills targeting the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and its director, Dr. Amy Acton. The governor has also indicated a willingness to veto such bills should they arrive on his desk.

    State Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland

    HB 624 is sponsored by state Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland. As previously reported by the Ohio Capital Journal, the bill would require local health officials to report each COVID-19 test administered (regardless of result) to the state health department. 

    The state would then be required to release COVID-19 case information to the public “in the form of a chart or table,” broken down by zip code and with infection rates for “congregate settings.” Modeling projections would have to be released with “supporting information and documents, as well as a margin of error.”

    Grendell has argued the data ODH provides is “woefully incomplete.” Many of her Republican colleagues have acknowledged that much of the data requested by HB 624 is, in fact, already being reported. They argue, though, the information is not presented in a clear way that would help Ohioans be better informed about the risks associated with the virus.

    Tyler Buchanan
    Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.