Editorial: Lawmakers aren’t equipped to make decisions about health emergencies

A recent editorial by The Columbus Dispatch:

As the fairy tale goes, the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed before trying to blow down each of the three little pigs’ homes.

Republican lawmakers from around the Buckeye State have huffed and puffed since Republican Gov. Mike DeWine began issuing public health orders to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus a year ago.

And now they have voted to limit the authority of the governor and state and local health officials when it comes to issuing orders to keep us healthy and safe during emergencies such as the one we have experienced for a year — one that has sickened nearly 1 million Ohioans and killed nearly 18,000 here.

They huffed — bare faced — that mask mandates go too far. As a glaring show of their ignorance about public health matters and their arrogant refusal to trust science and health professionals, Republican lawmakers have consistently refused to wear masks or require them in the Statehouse.

They puffed that restrictions on businesses and the designations of who is and who is not an essential worker were an offense to the principles we hold dear.

… Some lawmakers refuse to exit the fairy-tale land and enter the reality that 530,000 Americans have died painful deaths because of the virus.

More than that, they’ve dug into a make-believe world in which they think the virus either doesn’t exist or isn’t actually all that bad.

Evidence of that came Wednesday [March 10] when Ohio Republicans passed a bill — over the objections of Democrats and DeWine — that would let state lawmakers change or revoke the state’s public health orders.

That vote and the general loathing by some Republican lawmakers for masks and restrictions fly in the face of reason.

… The CDC said that if restaurants are open, as they are in Ohio with certain restrictions, they should follow as many prevention measures as possible. This includes masks for employees and customers who are not eating or drinking, promoting outdoor dining and having adequate indoor ventilation.

DeWine called a prior version of the bill approved Wednesday “a grave, grave mistake” and indicated that he would veto it, just as he has vetoed every attempt to curb his executive powers during the pandemic.

When and if DeWine vetoes the bill, we hope cooler heads prevail at the Statehouse and any attempt at an override is squashed.

… DeWine’s persistent efforts to slow the coronavirus spread, and now to see that Ohioans are vaccinated as quickly as possible, have been reasonable and effective. In short, he and health officials have issued orders that have saved lives.

Ohio is the nation’s seventh-largest state, but ranks 23rd among the states where coronavirus has spread the fastest on a per-person basis, according to a recent USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

That’s good news for Ohioans, and some of the credit for that goes to the health orders issued by state and local health officials — trained professionals who are steeped in science and proper health care.

God knows what will happen if lawmakers who can’t even see fit to wear a mask are allowed to override public health decisions. …

— Columbus Dispatch