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Cleveland.com: Sen. Rob Portman and five Ohio Congress members to advise White House on reopening the economy

Cleveland.com: Sen. Rob Portman and five Ohio Congress members to advise White House on reopening the economy

Sabrina Eaton | Cleveland.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers that the Trump administration has asked to join a task force on reopening the economy after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
 
The task force also includes five U.S. House of Representatives members from Ohio: Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge, and Republicans Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River, Jim Jordan of Champaign County, Steve Chabot of Cincinnati and Warren Davidson of Troy, the White House announced Thursday.
 
A White House statement said President Donald Trump and members of his administration are discussing topics with the group that include the need for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program’s aid to small businesses, international and domestic supply chains, ways to energize the economy, surprise medical billing, clarifying the difference between essential and non-essential workers, and mental health issues related to the pandemic
 
“As we continue to make progress in lowering the curve and look towards recovery, it is imperative that we ensure our nation has a plan in place that will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our communities while allowing us to successfully regrow our businesses and put our citizens back to work,” said a statement from Gonzalez. "I look forward to working on this task force alongside my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to address this crisis head on.”.
 
In an interview this week with Ohio reporters, Portman said he thinks the nation should dramatically expand testing for the COVID-19 virus and use its prevalence as an indicator to decide whether it’s safe to lift social distancing measures that have effectively shut down many sectors of the economy.
 
“That, to me, is the biggest single priority right now,” Portman said. “Once there is a two-week period where we have fewer infections every day, as compared to more infections every day, then I think people will say, 'Okay, based on the experts on the health care side, not elected officials like me, that means we’ve actually turned the corner."
 
Portman said development of effective antiviral medications for COVID-19 would be another key development, because even when the virus spread dissipates, people will be concerned about having “a very severe reaction” or dying if they contract it. He said many companies are working on treatments, and effective ones “will make a big difference.”
 
“It’s going to have to be based on science and based on people,” Portman said of the decision to reopen the economy.
 
He also predicted the transition will “take a while,” in that “for some regions of the country and some kinds of businesses, it’s much easier to reopen.” He predicted there may also have to be a period where there’s more social distancing, even as the economy reopens.
 
“In a factory where you can have the kind of social distancing that we’ve all been practicing, you can work six feet apart and you can use a mask and gloves,” he explained. “That’s very different than if you’re in restaurant, where people are at a bar seated right next to each other.”
 
Davidson released a statement that said his background as a business owner who led manufacturing companies through the 2008 financial crisis helps him understand the "heavy burdens placed on entrepreneurs and their employees during such trying times.
 
“The novel coronavirus has stalled our economy and stifled economic growth, threatening the livelihoods and hard work of Americans across the country,” his statement continued. "I expect we will find safe and creative solutions that not only protect the health of Americans but also enable us to restart America’s economic engine.”