Dr. Amy Acton Steps Down As Ohio Department of Health Director
Dr. Amy Acton is stepping down from her role as the director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Thursday. DeWine said she will now serve as his chief health advisor.
Acton began her role with the department in February 2019. She has received praise from some Ohioans for her style of communicating and her proactive actions since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. However, she has also been criticized for the stay-at-home and business closure orders she issued. Republican lawmakers attempted to limit her authority, and protesters gathered outside her home on several occasions.
At the governor’s press conference Thursday, Acton thanked the governor, Ohio’s local health departments, the state highway patrol, and the press for their work during the pandemic.
“I really want to say most of all, though, to Ohioans: Ohioans, you have saved lives. You've done this,” she said. “It is my honor to continue to work on this alongside of you and to witness what you have done already.”
Acton said she had been struggling over the last couple of months with when to leave her role. She said the hours she was working, waking up at 4 a.m. to catch up on reading and going to bed late in the night, were not sustainable. But as the state enters a new phase of opening up, Acton said it was a natural time for her to transition out of her role.
“We've sort of gone through one phase and we're pretty much opening up. And now we're looking at a different phase in the pandemic of learning to live with it,” she said. “So I think there is a natural sort of shift that is occurring here that makes it sort of a good time so that I can refocus.”
Lance Himes, currently General Counsel for ODH, will serve as interim director of the department.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced that COVID-19 testing is now open to everyone in Ohio. Testing was previously limited to those with symptoms for COVID-19. Ohio had also prioritized the state’s limited testing capacity by reserving tests for certain populations earlier on in the crisis, including first responders and residents of nursing homes.
“COVID-19 testing is now open to everyone in Ohio. Even if you are low risk and not showing symptoms, we want those who want to be tested to be able to get tested,” he said. “By knowing who has the virus, we can better protect the vulnerable and work to stop its spread.”
Testing sites throughout the state can be found using an interactive map on the ODH website. Temporary pop-up testing locations will also be available, beginning Friday with six sites in Columbus. In the coming weeks, DeWine said more pop-up locations will open in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Portsmouth, Dayton, Xenia, Columbiana and Akron.
DeWine also announced that the department has developed a list of suggested best practices for places of worship to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These include having space between family groups, encouraging people to wear face coverings, and eliminating the touching of common surfaces. He said these are not requirements, as the state has never mandated the closing of places of worship.
ODH reported a total of 37,120 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide on Thursday, with 2,263 confirmed deaths.