Governor on coronavirus: “We’ve turned a new chapter”

Posted Mar. 11, 2020 by

Today, the Governor announced that the total number of Ohioans who have been infected with COVID-19 is now at 4, with the fourth person contracting it through “community spread,” which means there was no history of travel and no known contact with someone with the disease. The Governor called it a “game changer” and Ohio Dept. of Health Director Dr. Amy Action said we can now expect that up to 1 percent of the Ohio population will be infected. The Governor says he will sign an order prohibiting any large events.

This week, Governor Mike DeWine declared a State of Emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak and said the announcement is a legal necessity that will allow state departments and agencies to better coordinate their response. He also said his Executive Order will not require the implementation of the Public Safety Emergency Procedure directive that limits state employees’ obligations to travel to and from work. Hence, the Office of Collective Bargaining is saying no emergency pay is in order at this time since state employees still must report to work. OCSEA is currently reviewing this decision.

However, if you are a state employee who has been told to stay home or self-quarantine and use your own time because of illness, travel to affected areas or contact with an infected person, please contact your chapter leader, worksite steward or OCSEA staff representative ASAP. OCSEA has filed a class action grievance.

Agencies have been instructed to follow CDC guidelines regarding state employees’ personal travel to Level 3 countries (currently China, Iran, South Korea and Italy) or travel on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 outbreak.

Some state agencies are limiting non-essential travel and large meetings over 10 people or going to web- or teleconferencing. Large events, including sporting events, will now be prohibited. The large BWC Safety Congress for this week was cancelled, for example.

Additionally, numerous agencies have increased the number of hours for custodial services to 7 days a week in order to keep areas and surfaces clean. Most 24-7 operations are in the process of restricting visitors and other outside people coming into their facilities. DR&C and DYS are postponing all visitation as well as restricting other third party visitors like volunteers and nonessential contractors. While union leaders are in discussion at the prisons regarding the outbreak, there are no negative changes to roll call or podium pick at this time.

Health screenings for staff are taking place upon entry to many 24-7 facilities. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, has traveled to one of the affected countries or has symptoms of a respiratory infection will be denied entrance. This is in an effort to keep the virus from spreading inside state institutions. However, as state before, if an employee is sent home because they fail the health screening, please contact your chapter leader, worksite steward or OCSEA staff representative.

Currently, OCSEA is reviewing all agency protocol.

Colleges around the state are also being asked to close temporarily, with The Ohio State University announcing it will not offer in-person classes until at least March 30. About 40 colleges around the country have followed suit. Eastern Gateway Community College is not anticipating any disruption to their online classes.

If you have questions or concerns about anything that is happening at your worksite regarding the coronavirus response, please contact your local union leadership or staff representative. Timeline:

  • Friday, March 6, OCSEA sends letter to Governor DeWine asking for updates, to be included in discussions on protocol, to limit external people entering state institutions and instituting telework where possible.
  • March 6 DAS sends directive to agency managers about each agency’s preparedness, which is shared with OCSEA and you can see HERE.
  • March 9 Governor holds press conference with Dr. Amy Action from the Ohio Dept. of Health regarding the 3 positive cases for COVID-19 and an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency. Announced restrictions on travel and large gatherings for state employees and the increased housekeeping and custodial services in state building.
  • March 10 Governor meets with cabinet heads, sends email to state employees regarding agency responses. DR&C announces it has moved from “green” to “orange” level in terms of its operations and visitations at Ohio’s prisons will be postponed.
  • March 11 Governor announces the first case of “community spread” of COVID-19 in Ohio. Governor announces he will sign an order to prohibit large gatherings, including at sporting events.

We encourage all OCSEA members to get your information from reliable sources, including the Ohio Department of Health, the CDC and the World Health Organization. The state now has a help line where people can call and ask questions at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH, 7 days a week from 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Read more:

Taking precautions: coronavirus - COVID 19

Health and safety resources: Reliable sources is key