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'Everything Is Going The Wrong Way,' Says DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine during today's press conference.
The Ohio Channel
Gov. Mike DeWine during today's press conference.

Gov. Mike DeWine gave a pessimistic account of the state of Ohio’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during his live press conference on Thursday.

“There’s a red tide flowing all over the State of Ohio,” DeWine said, referring to the warning colors on the state’s COVID emergency map. Over 85% of Ohioans, or about 10 million people, are now living in an area with a high risk of community spread.

DeWine said indicators show people are not abiding by coronavirus restrictions, leading to increased community spread and rising illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. And, there’s serious concern infections will intensify in the coming winter months.

“The storm clouds are gathering,” DeWine said. He urged Ohioans again and again to wear masks, and do basic things like wash their hands and stay six feet apart. He said people should avoid events like weddings, funerals and political rallies. But DeWine also said that more shutdowns probably won’t be coming any time soon.

“There’s a limit to what a governor could do or should do,” said DeWine. “We’re at a point where we have to just live with this virus.”

Record Cases

Ohio has reported record new coronavirus cases in recent days, over 4,100 total. That's followed a gradual reopening of the state, including schools, political rallies and professional football games. DeWine said local public health directors have told him schools are acting in a responsible way, and the increases are due to other localized spreader events like weddings, funerals and parties in private homes.

Asked several times by reporters about large political rallies held in the state, DeWine celebrated Ohio's role as a political battleground state. He said he welcomed both the Biden and Trump campaigns to spend time in Ohio. DeWine said they have asked the campaigns to hold their events outside, and to encourage mask wearing. But, he said, "sometimes people don't listen."

DeWine said Ohio's hospitals are prepared for a surge of COVID patients if indicators continue to trend the wrong way. He said the state was successful in building out hospital capacity in the spring that ultimately wasn't used, and those plans are still in place if they're needed again.

Testing Up

DeWine said one of his primary missions was to advocate for and acquire more testing. He admitted Ohio had hit a plateau after working to increase its testing capacity earlier this year, but said more tests were on their way.

DeWine said over 228,000 new "strip" tests were being delivered by the federal government, and would be distributed to settings like nursing homes and colleges where surge testing can be of benefit. DeWine said one major goal was a significant increase in the testing of nursing home employees.

DeWine said a vaccine is on the horizon, and its future availability is a key part of the state's coronavirus plan. But, DeWine said true "community immunity" won't be achieved until at least next summer.

Celebrating Safely

DeWine was joined by Drs. David Margolis and Nick Dreher of MetroHealth in Cleveland. The doctors stressed that hospitals in the state are not being overwhelmed, but they are seeing an increase in COVID patients. Those patients take up treatment capacity that might be needed by other people.

"If the hospitalization rate is going up, the disease burden is going up," said Dreher. "We're fine at this moment, but we're paid to be paranoid as doctors."

Dreher also stressed that people shouldn't rely on the notion of "herd immunity" to be a solution to the current crisis.

"Herd immunity is defined mostly by getting vaccines," he said. "You don't want herd immunity from people getting sick."

Margolis said people can celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving with their loved ones, as long as they take he proper precautions.

"Wear a mask, try and be outside, and be 6 feet apart," he said. "If you're going to spend time with people, spend it safely."

Gov. DeWine said his personal family Thanksgiving would be different this year, with different families encouraged to stay apart.

Last Day To Be Counted

Oct. 15, 2020 is the last day to be counted by the Census, Lt. Gov. John Husted reminded people during the press conference today.

"Statistically speaking, you don't exist if you don't fill out the census." Husted said.

A poor representation by the census could result in Ohio losing a congressional seat, Husted said.

The national Urban Institute predicts more than 73,000 Ohioans may be missed by this year's count.