The COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio has changed shape since the spring, health officials told Gov. Mike DeWine during his Tuesday afternoon briefing. Instead of being centralized in congregate settings such as prisons and nursing homes, the virus has moved into broader communities where spread is harder to track; rural counties, not urban ones, place highest on the state’s ranking of cases per 100,000 people.
Appearing at the briefing via teleconference, Medina County Health Commissioner Krista Wasowski said her county had only recorded 17 cases in congregate settings since June. The rest — about 85 a week throughout August, higher than any month before — came from community spread.
“We need to get ahead of this before flu season starts, for sure,” she said, adding that she was heartened by the sight of more masks around her community.
DeWine doesn’t currently plan to shut down schools or businesses again, he said. With safety measures enacted across the state and almost all sectors of public life operating again, he encouraged Ohioans — especially students returning to school — to monitor their own behavior and keep in mind their out-of-class actions have far-reaching consequences.
“The spread is occurring because people are letting their guard down,” he said. “The spread is occurring because people are getting together and because they’re with friends, they’re in a social situation, sometimes they’re drinking, they let their guard down, they don’t wear a mask, they don’t keep a social distance.”
That’s been the case in places like Miami University, where 27 student-athletes caught the virus after attending an off-campus gathering, DeWine said; it’s likely the case for outbreaks occurring in non-school settings, too.
The governor urged students to be mindful and cautioned them that a school’s extensive safety planning can still be spoiled by risky behavior outside of the classroom.
“Am I worried? Yes, I’m worried,” DeWine said, adding: “I think the good news is, I’m confident that every state university, I’m confident that the private schools, all have a plan. They’re all on it. They’re doing the best they can. But it’s ultimately going to come down, frankly, to what the students do, what kind of year they’re going to be able to have.”
New numbers in Ohio
The Ohio Department of Health reported 844 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths on Tuesday — both lower numbers than usual throughout August. DeWine said Mondays and Tuesdays tend to deliver fewer deaths and positives as a general rule.
DeWine not worried about impeachment attempt
The governor chuckled while addressing the articles of impeachment recently drafted and backed by four fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature.
“My focus as governor is going to continue to be, and my priorities are, to keep people safe and to get our economy moving faster,” he said. “Getting people to work, growing our economy and saving lives. That’s where my focus is. If there are others in the legislature who want to spend their time drawing up resolutions and filing articles — look, it’s a free country if that’s how they want to spend their time.
“I would just say to them, ‘Have at it.’”
Without a massive upswing in legislative support, the articles — which accuse DeWine of harming Ohioans by mandating mask-wearing and shutting down certain businesses during the spring — won’t pass.
Author Rep. John Becker would need 46 more votes in the House of Representatives and a two-thirds majority of 22 votes in the Ohio Senate to remove DeWine from office.