Stay at Home Tonight Order and House Bill 404 aimed at combating virus

During the week of Nov. 16, 2020, the state of Ohio has seen an average of 7,618 COVID-19 cases per day, a 71 percent increase from two weeks earlier. Both Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Legislature have introduced new orders and bills to combat the increased and ongoing effects of the pandemic.

Stay at Home Tonight Order
On Nov. 17, 2020, Governor DeWine announced a statewide curfew during his daily briefing. The Stay at Home Tonight Order (the Order) signed by Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health, went into effect Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, and requires that all Ohioans and individuals visiting be in their residence by 10 p.m. and remain inside until 5 a.m. Under the Order “residence” includes single family homes, apartments, condominiums, dormitory living units, hotels, motels, shared rental units, all shelters, and colleges.

The mandate does not apply to certain essential activities such as: (1) engaging in activities or tasks essential to a person’s health and safety, such as seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies, or visiting a health care professional, (2) obtaining necessary services or supplies, including groceries and food, so long as food and beverages are obtained for consumption off-premises, through delivery, drive-through, or carry-out, (3) obtaining social services from entities such as day care centers, day care centers, shelters, or from any provider funded by certain state of Ohio departments, including the Department of Health, Department of Medicaid, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Veterans Services and Department of Youth Services; (4) travelling to and from work, (5) caring for family members, friends or pets.

Governor DeWine stated that he opposes an additional shutdown but that slowing down is necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19. During the daily briefing, DeWine explained that “the curfew is aimed at helping reduce the number of person-to-person contacts because the only way the virus lives is when it goes from one person to another. We have to flatten this curve again and get this under control.”

House Bill 404
Ohio State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney’s House Bill 404 was sent to Governor DeWine’s desk for a signature on Nov. 19, 2020, after passing through both the Ohio House and Senate. House Bill 404 tackles various issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of particular importance is the extension of House Bill 197, which permits public bodies to meet remotely until July 1, 2021.

Sweeney’s new bill allows members of a public body to continue to hold and attend meetings and conduct or attend meetings by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology. During remote meetings, any formal action shall have the safe effect as if it had occurred during an open meeting or hearing and all members who attend through electronic means shall be considered present and permitted to vote. Public bodies will still be required to provide notice of meetings and hearings to the public and public access through various acceptable methods, including live-streaming, local radio, television, cable, or call in teleconference.

Under Section 121.22 of the Ohio Revised Code, the term public body includes any board, commission, committee, council, or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution legislative authority or board, or similar body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision or local public institution.

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