Ohio Governor Mike DeWine sat down for a heart-to-heart chat about the coronavirus during a statewide address on July 15. The announcement about the special event fueled speculation about whether the governor would again order a mandatory shutdown or share an update about how schools should operate in the fall.
But the address turned out to be a matter-of-fact plea to ask Ohioans to take the coronavirus seriously amid a recent spike in cases and asked everyone in the state to wear a mask in public. Ohio is not going back under lockdown.
DeWine warned, “If we do not change course, Florida and Arizona will be our future.” DeWine did not announce any new mandates but stressed that he would “take whatever action is necessary to protect the people of this state.” He added, “This is not a drill. It’s certainly not a hoax.”
DeWine praised communities for rallying early on during the pandemic. “You made extraordinary sacrifices. you left school. You left work. You stayed home. You missed loved ones. You missed milestones. Yes, you missed paychecks… You flattened that curve. You bought Ohio time.”
DeWine urged Ohioans to avoid letting their guard down and to stay strong even though abiding by the guidelines can be exhausting. He cautioned that failing to do so is like “playing a Russian Roulette game with our own lives… Good decisions will protect the economy and save lives.” He did not issue any new orders.
DeWine made the announcement during an evening news address on July 15 and did not take reporter questions. His office promoted the event after the governor declined to give his usual daily briefing on the state of the coronavirus on July 14. The governor’s office did not give a reason for why DeWine canceled the usual briefing on Tuesday but, according to WKYC-TV, a spokesperson reassured that there had not been any kind of emergency.
Here’s what you need to know:
COVID-19 Cases In Ohio Have Skyrocketed Since June 21
Ohio was among the states praised for the initial handling of the coronavirus. DeWine issued a stay-at-home order on March 23 in an attempt to get ahead of the virus and closed all non-essential businesses. At that time, there were fewer than 500 confirmed cases statewide.
DeWine was the first governor in the nation to decide to close all schools in mid-March. He announced on April 20 that all K-12 schools would remain shut for the remainder of the school year and students would have to rely on remote instruction.
The stay-at-home order was extended until May 1, when the state began to gradually allow various businesses such as hair salons, gyms and dine-in restaurants to reopen. Business owners were asked to implement social distancing measures.
But the number of cases began to dramatically rise during the second half of June as summer activities resumed. The number of coronavirus cases in the state has doubled since June 21, the Columbus Dispatch reported. There has been an average of 1,000 new hospitalizations per day since July 5, according to WOSU Radio.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the number of COVID-cases has risen above 69,000 as of July 15. More than 3,000 people have died due to complications from the virus. Approximately 9,200 patients have been hospitalized. Health officials also note that the number of people who have presumably recovered is more than 47,300. The department explains on its website that “presumed recovered is defined as cases with a symptom onset date >21 days prior who are not deceased.” Officials added that numbers could be higher because there tends to be a delay between when a patient is tested and when the cases are reported to the Ohio Department of Health.
Ohio Officials Have Been Urging People to Wear Masks In Public & Face-Coverings Were Mandated In 12 Counties
Ohio officials have launched a major public relations effort to encourage people to wear masks in public. The Ohio Department of Health released commercials featuring medical professionals. The theme of the campaign is to push back against skepticism about whether masks are beneficial.
In the clip above, a man is shown standing next to a truck as he explains: “Some people say masks don’t make a difference. The fact is if four out of five of us wore a mask in public, the spread of COVID-19 could be significantly reduced. That’s what I believe.” In the second half of the clip, the man is revealed to be Dr. Kevin L. Sharrett, with his practice in Cedarville, Ohio, behind him. Graphics appear on screen that read, “Believe the people who see it, treat it, know it.”
This commercial debuted two weeks before DeWine ordered that face-coverings would be mandatory in public for high-risk counties. The initial order applied to seven counties where health officials determined there was a “very high risk of exposure and spread.” As of July 15, 12 counties were designated as experiencing Level 3 Public Emergencies and include the major metropolitan areas of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Masks are required in public in these counties:
The Department of Health has also continued to encourage social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. A second commercial featured Shareece Mashiska, a registered nurse in Youngstown. “People think we can ease up on social distancing. The fact is your chance of getting sick is still linked to the distance between you and an infected person. That’s what I believe.”
Efforts by state health officials have also attracted criticism in the state, specifically from Republican lawmakers. Senator Matt Huffman pushed DeWine to reopen businesses in mid-April. He argued in a letter to the governor that areas with smaller populations should be allowed to resume operations because “less densely populated areas of the state have not been affected in the same way as the rest of the state.”
State Representative Nino Vitale co-sponsored a bill in May that would have banned any state officials from enacting mask requirements without the consent of two-thirds of the Ohio House and Senate. He has also argued in several Facebook posts that mask requirements are akin to living under a dictator.