Six months later: A one-on-one with Gov. DeWine about Ohio’s coronavirus response


If there's anything Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said we've learned over the last six months, it's how resilient Ohioans are

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It has been six months since the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Ohio. That was back on March 9. That same day, Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency.

We all know what happened in the days following the confirmed cases. The governor and the Ohio Department of Health issued orders banning mass gatherings, shutting down bars and restaurants, and closing school buildings and other industries. DeWine’s stay-at-home order then took effect.

May brought reopenings. Then in July, the governor used a primetime address to make a plea, “Take action now to help slow the spread.” Later that month, masks became mandatory in public places across Ohio. Then, alcohol sales had to end at 10 p.m.

If there’s anything DeWine said we’ve learned over the last six months, it’s how resilient Ohioans are.

“Ohioans are by and large very resilient, very tough — they’ve adapted well,” DeWine said.

It’s also what we need to keep doing to flatten the curve.

On Wednesday, DeWine talked one-on-one with reporter Lindsey Watson about his hope for the future. Looking back over the state’s coronavirus response, DeWine says we’ve come a long way.

“At first they stayed home and flattened the curve, and now what they’re doing is wearing masks, keeping distance. So we just need to keep doing that,” DeWine said.

The governor said Ohio’s positivity rate is about 4.2%/4.3%. Not bad, but it could be better. He’s looking to the numbers now that more kids are back to school and we’re past Labor Day.

“Because of that activity, we would expect to see some spike up,” DeWine said.

DeWine commented on whether he’s thought at all about Thanksgiving or fall breaks when it comes to schools — what problems could breaks cause for universities if students travel home?

“All of those things worry us. What the White House experts tell us is what they don’t want to see is kids go back to college and then the college closes down and everybody goes back home — they’re carrying a much higher rate of the virus and then they infect family members,” DeWine said.

He called it a struggle, knowing college kids love to hang out and go to parties. He wants them to social distance and wear a mask.

And when it comes to the mask mandate, how do we get more people to follow it?

“Look, I know it’s controversial and we’re all tired of wearing a mask, myself included. It’s not we don’t want to wear a mask, but I just would say, it looks to me, the way I look at a mask, it is something that gives us more freedom,” DeWine said.

The governor said it’s clear mask-wearing works in Ohio. For instance, in Trumbull County, where the health advisory map shows how the county has gone from a red alert down to yellow.

“It’s a real tribute to what people have done in the community,” DeWine said.

When it comes to the race for a coronavirus vaccine, the White House has asked states to be ready by Nov. 1.

Dewine said whether a vaccine is available by then or not, they have to be prepared.

“It’ll come out, people can make their own judgment. I’m pretty confident it’s going to be safe. I was asked yesterday if I’d take it and I said, ‘Well, absolutely. I will indeed.’ I’m not going to jump in line — we’re going to start with people who are the most high risk. They will also probably start with first responders, so people — our nurses, our doctors, our paramedics — they’re the ones that need the protection first,” DeWine said.

He also told Ohioans to look to our scientists and doctors for guidance.

Watson also asked the governor about Dr. Amy Acton leaving the Ohio Department of Health. It’s a question many people wanted to know.

He said after all she did for us and the state, he understood her decision and still consults with her all the time.

Governor DeWine also has a message for the Mahoning Valley.

“Everyone stay the course, stay strong, we’ll get through this. Let’s beat this virus and move on…” DeWine said. “Mahoning Valley has a great future. I’m so excited about what I see in the Valley, we just have to get through this pandemic. We will get through it, there’s a great future ahead.”

Looking back and talking one-on-one with him, the governor told Watson that we continue to learn things.

“We continue to learn things about this pandemic. We don’t know where it ends. We know that the scientists are working exceedingly hard to get a vaccine but we don’t know exactly when that is coming. So if we want to keep our kids in school, keep them playing sports and doing other things that we cherish and think is very, very valuable, then it’s just important for us to hang in there, do what we go to do,” DeWine said.

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