Gov. Mike DeWine met with the White House Coronavirus Response coordinator over the weekend amid concerns that Columbus and Cleveland may emerge as hot spots for COVID-19.
Dr. Deborah Birx was in Columbus where she met with Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts and other state and local health officials. DeWine joined via video conferencing.
“She gave us kind of her take on what was going on. She has a concern about (the) Midwest, a concern about Kentucky, Ohio (and) Indiana,” DeWine said Tuesday at his coronavirus briefing.
Last week, Birx warned officials in a private call that the positivity rate was trending up in about a dozen cities. Along with Columbus and Cleveland, Birx identified Baltimore, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis as cities that need to take “aggressive” action to combat the virus.
The majority of local conversations with Birx were about testing, the governor said. DeWine said he is working with Birx and the White House Coronavirus Response Task Force on some ideas, but that he wasn’t ready to share them on Tuesday.
“The good thing about these meetings is you can really kind of get down into the details … She understands the important role that testing and timely testing and getting results back plays in all of this,” DeWine said.
Following his Tuesday briefing, the governor said he planned to join a 3 p.m. COVID-19 conference call with Birx and Vice President Mike Pence.
Along with testing, DeWine said officials spoke with Birx about how to handle the spread of the virus in bars.
DeWine and former Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton ordered bars and restaurants to close March 15. Bars were allowed to continue with carryout service and were permitted to reopen their indoor spaces May 21.
Columbus City Council is expected to act Monday on legislation that would force bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close by 11 p.m. starting Tuesday. While DeWine mandated masks statewide earlier this month, he hasn’t yet moved to further restrict bars again.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that the White House’s guidelines have been that in some of our counties … their recommendation would be to shut bars down and we talked about that,” DeWine said.
Dispatch Reporter Rick Rouan contributed to this story.