Senator during Hamilton visit: ‘We’ve got to get people back to work’

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said this week the country is “not out of the woods yet” with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican senator from Cincinnati said the country needs to focus on schools and healthcare, but he also wants to see tax credits for businesses for incorporating personal protection equipment, like masks and hand sanitizing stations and installing plexiglass shields.

Portman was in Hamilton on Monday to visit window maker Vinylmax, which he said was a success story in the use of federal payroll loans to avoid layoffs.

“What you want to do is to come out of this thing strong and not have the economy — which was strong going into it — end up being weak for a long time,” Potman said. “We’ve got to get people back to work.”

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As schools begin a new year of instruction, there are concerns with some colleges and schools resuming in-person instruction, Portman said. He said there been “a little bit of a bump up” in COVID-19 virus cases into the new school year.

“We’ve got to continue to be careful,” Portman said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, talks with 20-plus year Vinylmax Windows employee James Miller as he tours the Hamilton plant Monday, August 31, 2020. Vinylmax is one of the local businesses who received a payroll protection program loan to keep its employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, talks with 20-plus year Vinylmax Windows employee James Miller as he tours the Hamilton plant Monday, August 31, 2020. Vinylmax is one of the local businesses who received a payroll protection program loan to keep its employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Gov. Mike DeWine said the 1,453-new-case-jump reported Tuesday was the highest number since the end of July. The highest one-day spike in reported virus cases was on Aug. 12 with 1,422 cases, the governor said. The state reported nearly 900 new cases on Monday.

“This is a stark reminder the virus is not going away,” DeWine said. “We think that a significant part of this is caused by our colleges going back as well as our grade schools and high schools going back.”

Portman said the federal government needs to do multiple things, one of which is to “provide funding for schools in order to reopen safely because it’s expensive to do that.”

Schools are reopening with smaller class sizes, and virus safety measures like incorporating plexiglass dividers, hand sanitizer, personal protection equipment like masks. Some school districts, like Middletown and Talawanda, began the school year with remote learning.

Portman said medical professionals have told him they have concerns about reopening schools safely “because they don’t want to see another increase. They feel like it’s finally gotten under control in our area.”

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Regarding health care, Portman said money is needed for vaccines and therapies. AstraZeneca announced Monday the U.S. launch of Phase 3 trials for its coronavirus vaccine and are looking for 30,000 volunteers in the United States.

At a roundtable discussion Monday morning with The Health Collaborative in southwest Ohio, there is an effort to increase testing and access to treatment in minority neighborhoods. State officials, Portman said, need to “work expeditiously” to get any remaining CARES Act funding to local communities.

Money is also needed for testing and contact-tracing because “if we don’t figure that one out,” that could also lead to another increase, Portman said.

Portman is in favor of new legislation to support efforts combating COVID-19, including another round of the Paycheck Protection Program.

“You need to have something out for these small businesses,” Portman said. “We want to make sure they don’t close their doors permanently.”