COLUMBUS – State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon), and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) expressed disappointment today after Governor Mike DeWine decided to issue a waiver of his public health orders for political rallies, including an upcoming presidential rally in Toledo on Monday.
“It is unfortunate that just days after Toledo Express Airport's name was officially re-dedicated to honor a man of science, NASA Mission Control legend and Toledoan Eugene F. Kranz, our Governor ignores science and sound judgment by waiving the COVID-19 guidelines,” said Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson. “On balance, our right to life and liberty requires implementing safety standards and rules with the cooperation of all.”
While the Representatives all agree that protecting the First Amendment right to freedom of speech is of the upmost importance, it seems inconsistent to say that mask mandates and social distancing undermine that right. The DeWine administration has previously issued a mask mandate on church attendance, as well as limitations on the size of other gatherings, presumably also protected by the First Amendment. The Representatives also believe that these science-based orders do not fundamentally hinder a campaign’s right to freedom of speech.
“Since the pandemic began, Lucas County has confirmed the fifth most COVID-19 cases in Ohio. Fortunately, the precautions outlined in the Governor’s public health orders have worked, and coronavirus cases in Lucas County have trended downward since the end of July. It is disappointing that the Governor has waived the statewide public health orders for the upcoming presidential rally,” said Rep. Sheehy.
“Over the past few months, Lucas County residents have practiced social distancing, worn masks outside of the home, and slowed the spread of COVID-19. Doing so has allowed us to be downgraded from red to orange on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. Unfortunately, now the upcoming rally next week, without appropriate health guidelines in place, threatens all of that progress,” said Rep. Sobecki. “I’m disappointed that the Governor waived requirements to wear masks in public, maintain social distance, and cap the number of attendees allowed inside the venue. Throughout the country, there have been Americans who have gotten sick, or died from COVID-19 as a result of attending political rallies without reasonable precautions. It’s a shame that the Governor, who led early on in this pandemic, is faltering and jeopardizing people’s health.”
Reps. Hicks-Hudson, Sheehy, and Sobecki call on Governor DeWine to reconsider the waiver he granted to political rallies given that it is clear in this instance that campaigns will not be universally enforcing COVID-19 precautions, such as mandatory mask wearing and social distanced attendees, on their own recognizance.
In addition to the event in Toledo, there will also be a stop in Montgomery County, which Governor DeWine has said he will attend. Montgomery County is presently listed as red on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, and has the tenth most cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 statewide.