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Ben Asks a Question: What should I do if I don't feel safe to return to work?

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Posted at 6:15 PM, May 05, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says Ohioans who feel unsafe at work should reach out to their local health departments if companies are refusing to make accommodations related to COVID-19.

At Tuesday’s coronavirus press briefing, I asked DeWine about a question sent in from WCPO viewer whose family members work in local small businesses. One family member has already tested positive for COVID-19 and another is awaiting test results.

Ben Asks a Question is a feature we started as a way to help give you a voice during Gov. Mike DeWine's daily press briefings. Since then, Ben has gotten hundreds of questions a day. If you'd like to ask a question, find us on Facebook and feel free to message us there, or send us an email at newsdesk@wcpo.com.

At the time the viewer submitted his question last week, a handful of employees at said small business tested positive for COVID-19. The viewer wanted to know how the state plans to oversee non-essential businesses as they begin to reopen, while other essential businesses still aren’t cooperating with the current guidelines.

While my question was directed to DeWine, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton answered first -- telling Ohioans who feel unsafe with their work conditions to first reach out to their local health department, and then the state health department if necessary.

“What I would suggest is both the owner of that business, and the employees, reach out to their local health department, which will in turn work with us and maybe we can give them some guidance,” said Acton. “Because I know I don’t know this particular situation so I can’t comment on it, but I think what we want to do is reach out for help. Help the workers, and make sure that someone at the local health department can help contact trace that, and maybe get some testing to those folks and help the business actually help that … But I think we have to offer help -- so reach out to your local health department, and if that’s not satisfactory, please reach out to the state health department.”

DeWine followed, adding that he hopes small businesses will treat their employees as if they are a part of their family -- while echoing Acton’s suggestion of reaching out to the appropriate health department if needed.

“If someone finds themself in a position that they feel is unsafe because of this, because of COVID-19, obviously they should talk to the employer -- but they also have the option, if that does not bring any kind of good results, to go to the local health department,” said DeWine. “And they can go, they can do that anonymously as well … Small businesses, many times, are like families. And they treat each other like family, and that’s what we hope would happen. But clearly something has to be done. The facts that you described are very concerning, and the employee certainly has a right to be concerned.”

Retail and other stores in Ohio are set to begin reopening on May 12. DeWine’s order can be found here.