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COVID-19 & Ohio: Understanding House Bill 606

The new law offers employers civil immunity

On Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 606 into law. House Bill 606 ensures civil immunity to individuals, schools, healthcare providers, businesses and other entities from lawsuits arising from exposure, transmission, contraction of COVID-19 or any mutation of the virus, as long as they were not showing reckless, intentional or willful misconduct.

It also shields healthcare providers from liability in tort actions regarding the care and services they provide during this pandemic unless they were acting recklessly or displaying intentional misconduct.

According to the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation, Ohio’s business community has done an outstanding job responding to the current public health crisis and working to keep their employees and customers safe. H.B. 606 protects Ohio’s businesses and employers that are taking all of the steps asked of them to create a safe environment so that we can get more people back to work and grow the economy.

In July, Lt. Governor Husted announced that DeWine signed onto a letter to Congressional leadership with 20 other fellow governors from across the nation, calling for reasonable limited liability protections for businesses, schools, healthcare workers and governments as they are reopened during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Additionally, in an effort led by the Development Services Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense has made a commitment to Ohio’s defense manufacturers and put the state in a position to receive a $5 million grant to improve manufacturing processes and train workers for next-generation jobs. Ohio has been designated as a "Defense Manufacturing Community," which is a program designed to support long-term community investments that strengthen national security innovation and expand the capabilities of defense manufacturing.

According to a statement by Husted, more than 900 grant requests were approved. More than 121,000 students are expected to gain high speed internet devices in their homes, and 645,000 are expected to now have a place to go to access the internet through the creation of new public wi-fi and mobile wi-fi spaces. The K-12 Broadband Connectivity Grant was created to allocate CARES Act funding to help students gain internet access.

In March, the administration announced the launch of a telehealth pilot project with Monroe County's Switzerland Township. The district is a prime example of the connectivity challenges many rural schools face because of its rolling hills and great distance between buildings. As a result of this pilot project, BroadbandOhio and InnovateOhio have authored a “Telehealth in Schools Blueprint” to share lessons learned in Monroe County with all school districts across Ohio. If you think your school could benefit from a telehealth program, this guide can help you.

The Common Sense Initiative (CSI) has made progress toward streamlining regulations through their new artificial intelligence tool. CSI identified 62 words commonly used in the regulation of broadband. Those words are defined 303 times in Ohio’s rules or statutes, across 25 different agencies. For example, there are 16 definitions of public utility among five agencies. In an effort to develop a strategy that will create a clear and concise set of terminology for broadband providers to follow, the state and CSI will work with agencies to streamline these definitions.

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