- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday warned that his state “could become Florida,” a current COVID-19 epicenter in the US.
- DeWine, who was at first lauded for proactive steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Ohio, has received criticism for his refusal to issue a statewide mask order.
- At the end of April, DeWine issued a statewide mask mandate but quickly rescinded it following criticism, calling his own order “offensive.”
- DeWine has since required masks to be worn in 19 Ohio counties experiencing outbreaks, though there is no mandate in dozens of other Ohio counties.
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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who has so far refused calls to issue a statewide mask mandate, warned Sunday that his state could become the next Florida — a current epicenter for coronavirus cases in the US.
“We are at the point where we could become Florida,” DeWine said. “Where you look at our numbers today versus where Florida was a month ago, we have very similar numbers. So we’re very, very concerned.”
According to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University, there have been at least 350,037 known cases of COVID-19 in Florida and 4,981 deaths. In Ohio, there have been 74,928 confirmed cases of the virus and 3,173 deaths. According to the Hopkins data, 6.2% of all COVID-19 tests administered over the past week in Ohio have returned a positive result compared to about 17% of the tests in Florida.
“While we did a great job early on in Ohio, we’re now headed in the wrong direction, and frankly, I’m very, very concerned about that,” he said. “So we’re going to move ahead with more orders from us this week.”
The Republican governor had been praised early during the pandemic for his swift actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, though he has since been criticized, particularly for his reluctance to require Ohioans to wear facial coverings in public. Public health experts say these masks greatly mitigate community spread of the novel coronavirus.
—Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) July 19, 2020
In June, the state’s health director, Dr. Amy Acton, who helped DeWine craft his coronavirus response, resigned after protesters in the state targeted her for weeks, as The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
According to the Toledo Blade, DeWine on April 27 had mandated that residents wear face masks when patronizing businesses that were soon to be reopened as he relaxed Ohio’s stay-at-home mandate. The next day, DeWine reversed the order after he received backlash.
“We believe that, in almost every case, it is safer for everyone if both people wear a mask, but we also know that this was offensive,” he said April 28. “People looked at this and said that’s one government mandate too far. It’s just too much.”
On Sunday, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd asked DeWine why he hadn’t declared a statewide mandate.
“I don’t think anybody in Ohio who’s watched what I’ve done over the last four months doubts that, I’ll do what we need to do to protect Ohioans,” he said, adding that officials had not ruled out a statewide order.
As of Sunday, face masks are currently required in 19 of Ohio’s 88 counties under the state’s Level 3 designation, which as of July 7, requires the use of face masks to through DeWine’s executive order. Masks are not required for counties at Level 2 or below.
Still, DeWine stressed that education rather than order could be more effective in stopping Ohio from becoming an epicenter.
“Orders are important, but it’s also about getting people to understand, ‘Hey, this is, this is very, very serious,'” DeWine said.