Seven months deep into a world-changing pandemic, there are no fast solutions forthcoming and no new advice to give, Gov. Mike DeWine said in his Thursday news conference. Ohioans should enter the winter doing the same things they’ve done: Wearing masks, practicing good hygiene and remaining apart, even when it’s difficult.
“I know everybody is tired,” he said. “I’m sick of it. You’re sick of it. We’re all sick of it, but we’ve got to hang in here. … We’ve got to keep this virus low. We’ve got to keep our foot on its neck and wait.”
His plea arrived alongside news that Hamilton and Clermont counties were again at the Ohio Department of Health’s second-highest alert level for COVID-19 cases. Each had been orange — “increased exposure and spread” — on ODH’s color-coded state map for over a month. By the time DeWine spoke, they were red — “very high exposure and spread.”
Hamilton County recorded 737 new cases of the virus in the final two weeks of September, diagnosing about 50 each day. DeWine did not identify any particular event or demographic linked to the upswell.
Clermont County recorded 129 new cases in the same time period. According to DeWine, many were linked to a pair of outbreaks at a long-term care facility and an unidentified workplace.
The two new counties joined nearby Butler County, where cases among Miami University students led to a significant late-summer spike, on the red list.
According to DeWine, daily case totals across the state are increasing again; so are diagnosis rates among older Ohioans, who are most vulnerable to experiencing serious complications if they catch it. The governor said he had also heard from health directors across the state worried about slipping rates of mask-wearing.
“I know this has been tough on businesses,” DeWine said. “I know this has been tough on bars. I know this has been tough on restaurants. I know it’s been tough on a lot of small businesses, and I know it’s been tough on people losing their jobs. If we’re going to have any chance of continuing to grow the economy, then we’ve got to keep our foot on this devil down there. And it can only be by people wearing masks.
“There aren’t different things to do. We just got to do what we know we got to do.”
Antibody study results
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted held a brief call during the conference with Dr. Abby Morris Turner, an Ohio State University researcher who helped run a recent antibody test that searched for signs of active COVID-19 infection or COVID-19 antibodies in hundreds of participants.
Anyone expecting antibodies to act as a silver bullet is hoping for too much, Turner said.
However, her study yielded some useful results. Participants’ active infection rate was around .9% at the time of the study; COVID-19 antibodies were found in 1.5%. If those numbers were to hold true for the broader population, Turner said, Ohio’s infection rate would be about average — not great, not terrible.
She added that her team observed some apparent cases of reinfection during the study but could not determine whether reinfection was a significant risk in general. The reinfected patients may have had a decreased immune response when fighting their first case of COVID-19, or their sickness could have been influenced by other factors.
Two angry men
DeWine used part of Thursday’s conference as an opportunity to congratulate Cleveland on holding the year’s first presidential debates and to scold the two men who participated in it: Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
“As Ohioans, we were certainly very proud to host this debate,” he said. “However, the debate itself was certainly not our country’s finest hour — or not our country’s finest 90 minutes.”
The governor, a conservative Republican, criticized both candidates’ performance and focus on personally attacking one another.
“The name-calling by both candidates is simply not helpful,” he said. “Name-calling by both candidates is not productive. … Each candidate has an obligation to articulate a vision for the future of this country, to articulate what kind of a country that candidate believes we should be leaving to our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.”
DeWine has typically dodged questions about the president’s controversial behavior and provocative public comments since assuming Ohio’s highest office in 2018. He did so again Thursday when asked specifically about Trump’s apparent reluctance to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, this time becoming visibly irritated when questioned directly about it.
“I’m not here to answer every single thing the president says,” he said. “I think I’ve been very clear throughout my career and throughout my time as governor what I believe in and what we do.”
He restated his belief that the president would step down if defeated and, in a now-familiar gesture, reassured Ohioans that they should expect a free, fair and secure election in November.
Husted did him one better. If Ohioans are concerned about the way the election is run, Husted said, they’re all free to apply to become poll workers on Nov. 3.