COLUMBUS, Ohio — Outdoor spaces are some of the safest places for Americans to be during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ll also become less and less practical as temperatures drop heading into October.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine dedicated much of his Tuesday news conference to discussion of the just-begun autumn and imminent winter, during which time Ohioans will likely find themselves indoors more often, in closer quarters with one another and potentially battling the flu along with the novel coronavirus.
“We’ve seen Ohioans following the expert advice, but we also know colder months are coming,” DeWine said.
Dr. Mark Weir of the Ohio State University’s Infectious Disease Institute said masks, social distancing and good hygiene will remain critical as the weather cools. Indoors, engineers continue to explore the role that ventilation can play in circulating or limiting the circulation of the virus.
Normally, he added, “the solution is dilution” — fresh air and larger spaces disperse viral droplets and exhalations. Ventilation systems that cycle fresh air into buildings could be able to perform a similar risk-reducing process, albeit one that still requires masks, distancing and hand-washing.
DeWine recommended Ohioans get their flu shot to protect themselves from potentially fighting a viral war on two fronts. He acknowledged the high likelihood that flu patients will need to be tested for COVID-19 as well and said he expects the state to have enough tests to accommodate them.
Multiple reporters questioned DeWine Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s Monday night rally in Vandalia, Ohio, the day before. At the event, Trump supporters — most unmasked — booed at mentions of DeWine and at Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s encouragement that they wear masks to protect themselves.
DeWine said he wasn’t bothered by the audience’s rebuke and would not act to impose a mask requirement on future political events for any candidate. Like churches, he said, these events are protected by the First Amendment.
“People have every right to boo,” DeWine said. “I’ve been picketed in the past. I’ve been booed in the past.”
Husted said he only hoped his mask-wearing would set a positive example for people who saw it.
“I know from time to time, people will disagree with these things,” he said. “When tough times come around and people are struggling and they want to blow off a little steam at me, I’m happy to take it. But I’m going to care about them, I’m going to try to get things right, and we’ll do our best.”
The state of Ohio recorded 685 new cases of COVID-19 between Monday and Tuesday, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Twelve COVID-19 patients died; 70 were newly hospitalized.
Small, rural counties continue to top the state’s list of most-infected relative to their populations. Mercer, Putnam, Shelby, Athens and Lawrence counties — all home to fewer than 70,000 people — topped ODH’s list Tuesday.