Striking a balance.
That has been Gov. Mike DeWine’s mantra in all matters as chief executive of Ohio since taking his oath of office. The way he runs his administration and makes decisions largely are data-driven, with the goal of striking an acceptable balance when two competing forces come into conflict.
He will trust his instincts, on occasion and with the benefit of previous experience, but time after time he has talked about “seeing data,” “trusting the data” or “using data” to light his path in leading Ohio.
So it should come as no surprise his actions taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic follow the same course.
Finding the right balance.
What actions to prohibit. Closing schools. What businesses to shutter (or allow to remain open). Whether to proceed with the state’s primary election.
DeWine has used the word “balance” many times during his daily briefing on the status of COVID-19 cases in the state. His sessions with the press began with the somber news of Ohio’s first confirmed death from the virus, a man DeWine knew personally.
The governor emphasized there would be more fatalities traced to the virus and the urgent need to follow the directives his administration, working in conjunction with state health director Dr. Amy Acton, have handed down.
Maintain social distance. Avoid large gatherings. Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are experiencing any signs of illness.
About the closures of many small businesses, particularly in the service sector, DeWine said, “we continue to balance this” and he always would “err on the side of protecting people.”
All of his decisions are made “in the best interest of the people of the state of Ohio.”
Not everyone agrees, of course.
There is plenty to pick apart in the handling of the on-again, off-again primary election. It was neither DeWine’s nor Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s finest hour.
In our view, the decision to cancel — made with consideration for the need to balance the safety of voters and poll workers against the need to fulfill the rights of candidates and entities with issues on the ballot — was the correct call. The clumsy process to get to that final decision, however, saw several missteps and miscalculations.
DeWine has taken a hit from lawmakers and the public over the handling of the election. That issue was to be revisited this week in the legislature.
Easy to find, too, are outraged business owners and patrons angry over what they see as government overreach for something “less dangerous” than seasonal influenza “that kills far more people every year.”
Many people have defied the administration’s directives about socializing. They are engaging in what DeWine has called “bad behavior.”
“Reckless behavior must stop,” he has said, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has reiterated.
We have found ourselves many times feeling the same conflicting emotions we saw expressed in a social media post:
“The weirdest part of living through the COVID-19 pandemic is this strange mixture of normalcy and emergency that we’re all experiencing. I constantly feel like I’m either over- or underreacting, or really both at the exact same time. It’s surreal.”
We suspect DeWine’s reaction to that thought would be to say we need to find a balance between the fear of what we don’t know and the knowledge of what we do know.
Amid these dizzying circumstances, let this be the week we regain our balance.