In a public address on Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine deferred the problem of stopping COVID-19 to his state’s individual county governments. Localized “COVID defense teams,” he suggested, would be better at handling the escalating crisis than new orders out of Columbus.
The next day, the Ohio Department of Health reported a new all-time high number of daily diagnoses: 3,845.
So — what does Hamilton County’s “COVID defense team” look like? And what is it supposed to do in the months ahead?
“In all humility, I think our part of the state is out-performing all in terms of its coordination already and is probably part of the motivation for the governor to try and get this replicated in other parts of the state,” said Craig Brammer, CEO of the Cincinnati-based Health Collaborative.
In one sense, the Cincinnati-area “COVID defense team” has existed since March.
Brammer has already spent months attending 7 a.m. meetings about the best way to stop COVID-19 from spreading in Hamilton County; health workers and government leaders across the county, including the Hamilton County board of commissioners, have worked together since March.
And local business initiatives like the “Restart Task Force,” organized by the Cincinnati Regional Chamber, have focused on ensuring regional businesses can continue to operate as the pandemic continues.
“We have pretty well organized our region,” Brammer said.
He believes the governor’s plea likely won’t change much for him going forward. Local groups will make small adjustments, if necessary, in order to meet state recommendations, but Brammer doesn’t foresee any major overhauls.
Due to the broadness of the governor’s Thursday plea, it’s unclear exactly who would take charge to lead a major reorganization effort if it were called for.
“We just want to make sure we kind of retrofit to meet the governor’s expectations but don’t add another layer of complexity,” Brammer said.
Ultimately, he said, reducing the spread of COVID-19 will be a question of Ohioans’ willingness to practice common-sense safety measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
“Until we have a vaccine that’s widespread, which is candidly a year from now, we have to use basic public health measures if we want to keep our kids in school and keep our economy humming,” he said.