State Rep. Diane Grendell has spent much of the past year fighting against state-mandated restrictions aimed at reducing infections caused by the COVID-19 virus. During a Feb. 24 hearing regarding House Bill 90, which would allow the General Assembly to rescind orders and emergency declarations issued by
State Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chester Township) has spent much of the past year fighting against state-mandated restrictions aimed at reducing infections caused by the COVID-19 virus.
During a Feb. 24 hearing regarding House Bill 90, which would allow the General Assembly to rescind orders and emergency declarations issued by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health, Grendell continued on that theme.
The public does not understand the science behind state-ordered mandates like last summer’s mask mandate, she said, adding closures have affected the mental health of adults and children alike, and have been “disastrous” to the state of Ohio.
“The Amish in our community … they don’t wear masks,” she continued. “They refuse to because they believe in God, they have that faith in God. Initially, I think seven Amish died. And many of them were older and they have … other problems. But now they don’t have it anymore. They’ve culled the herd, so to speak.”
The word “cull” is generally used to refer to removing, through hunting or slaughter, weak or sick animals from a herd, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Grendell did not respond to a request to clarify her comment, which was sent to both her office and the office of the majority deputy press secretary.
Geauga Public Health Commissioner Tom Quade said in an email he has heard no reports of any population being culled as one would do with livestock.
“Public health professionals don’t use that sort of language when referring to human beings,” he said.
Quade added the state’s disease reporting system does not capture information on religion — meaning there is no evidence to suggest an increase or decrease in COVID-19 rates among the Amish population.
“If anyone has evidence to make those sorts of claims, it would be very helpful if they would share it with the public health professionals so we can use it productively,” he said.
Additionally, practitioners at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center have told him there is still a considerable problem with COVID-19 in the Amish community, Quade said.
“Every time someone from the Amish community comes to the health department, they are wearing masks and in many of the stores I visit, where they are working, they are also wearing masks,” he said. “It never occurred to me to think that their faith might not be as devout as those not wearing masks. I have not heard from any of the Amish bishops that masks were against their religion. I don’t think anyone is served by more ‘us versus them’ kinds of rhetoric.”
Grendell’s comments came while questioning Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“We didn’t close down the state for the Plague, for Spanish flu, for the other flu,” Grendell said.
While the state did not close during the 1918 Influenza epidemic, Thomas said responses from local health departments in cities like Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus were similar to Ohio’s COVID-19 response.
“It sounds a lot like where we were last spring (where) you could only have so many people on a streetcar, bars and restaurants were closed after a certain time, schools were closed,” he said. “It is a lot of the same responses that are tried and true public health interventions.”
Grendell countered those moves were not mandated by the state. However, it was in response to the flu pandemic that, in 1919, the Ohio legislature acted to consolidate the state’s health districts and eliminate a patchwork of over 2,000 individual departments across the state, increasing the medical expertise at each public health department.
The hearing saw testimony from 19 opponents, including medical and public health professionals, as well as representatives from the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, Ohio Association of County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Ohio Mayors Alliance and the Ohio State Medical Association.
The six who testified in support of the bill included Ashtabula County Auditor David Thomas, Ashtabula County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski and Barry Sheets of Health Freedom Ohio, a nonprofit organization that says on its website it is dedicated to “standing up against legislation that limits our freedom to choose, while pushing for greater transparency and greater access to these choices.”