Just as with power, a crisis doesn’t change a person’s character so much as reveal it.
What we’ve learned in the last 10 days about Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine by his bold and proactive measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic should reassure all of us that he is up to the job. While the federal government dithered and botched its response, allowing the coronavirus to get a foothold in the U.S. and then spread uncontrollably, DeWine has admirably made the choices, some of them deeply unpopular, to slow the virus and protect Ohioans’ health.
Consider the aggressive actions taken by DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to address what both wisely recognized as a rapidly emerging and unprecedented public health threat:
• Prohibited spectators at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus (March 5).
• Called a state of emergency, allowing state agencies to better coordinate their responses, after the first three confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state (March 9).
• Called on colleges to move all classes online or teach them remotely (March 10).
• Rightly focused on the particularly vulnerable elder population, they limited and then banned visitors to nursing homes and assisted living facilities (March 12). That after having already moved polling places out of nursing homes (March 9).
• Limited public gatherings to no more than 100 people (March 12).
• Ordered all schools in the state to close for three weeks, making Ohio the first state to take that prudent step (March 12).
• Closed inside dining at all restaurants and bars, allowing them to sell food only on a carry-out or drive-through basis (March 15)
• On Monday, he was seeking to delay the state’s presidential primary election until June 2. (March 16)
The measures, DeWine said, are to help Ohio avoid “the potential of becoming Italy,” where more than 17,600 cases of COVID-19 and 1,200 deaths have been reported — all since the first case was confirmed on Feb. 20. Now, 60 million people in the country are in lockdown.
Here, the goal is not to contain the virus — which is no longer possible, a consequence of the federal government’s appalling failure to provide an adequate number of test kits — but to “flatten the curve,” mitigate its spread to prevent hospitals and medical professionals from being overwhelmed by a sudden spike in cases, as happened in Italy.
In a marked and refreshing contrast with the Trump administration, DeWine sought out top experts in the medical and epidemiological fields, listened to what they said on twice-daily conference calls and, most crucially, actually implemented their recommendations.
“Mistakes that I have made throughout my career have generally been because I didn’t have enough facts, I didn’t dig deep enough,” DeWine told The Columbus Dispatch. “So, I made up my mind I was going to have the best information, the best data available.”
Of course, we caution that none of the governor’s actions so far guarantees success, not when the number of COVID-19 cases continues to double approximately every six days and up to an estimated 100,000 Ohioans — 1% of the state’s population — are already infected.
And much work will remain to assist the many almost certain to face severe financial hardships that figure to last long after the final COVID-19 diagnosis. The relief package backed by President Trump and approved late Friday by the U.S. House will help, but we urge DeWine to strongly consider the proposal put forth by state Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, and others to use his executive authority to create a temporary paid leave program for Ohio’s workers.
Surely, after all he’s done to this point to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor will not stop until the job is complete.