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.