Amid Virus Spikes, DeWine Warns It’s ‘Not a Drill’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In a brief address Wednesday evening, Gov. Mike DeWine asked Ohioans to make sacrifices now to curb the recent spikes in cases of COVID-19, though stopped short of issuing new restrictions or mandates.

The governor asked all Ohioans, regardless of what level their county is on the Public Health Advisory System, to wear masks anytime they leave the house and to reconsider any gatherings, including family reunions, neighborhood cookouts and play dates.

DeWine complimented Ohioans on the sacrifices made at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Actions taken then helped flatted the curve, “saved many lives,” and bought the state’s health care industry time to learn more about the virus and gather necessary equipment, he said.

In recent weeks, however, parts of the state have seen spikes in cases, particularly in the southwestern portion of the state. With the recent increases, Ohio is approaching a rate of new cases similar to when the virus peaked three to four months ago, he said.

“Ohio is now nearing our April and May peak of just over 1,100 hospital patients, with the Cincinnati and Dayton regions currently seeing more COVID-positive patients in their hospitals than during any previous time during the pandemic,” he said. “And the Cleveland region is also nearing a similar point.”

At the start of the pandemic, it took 20 days for Ohio to reach its first 1,500 cases, he said. Last week, the state recorded more than 1,500 cases in a single day. A month ago, the state was at just 400 new cases daily, he noted.

As of July 15, the 21-day reported case average in Ohio was at 1,074, with 1,316 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. Hospitalizations were at 160 in the last 24 hours, with a 21-day average of 84, according to Coronavirus.ohio.gov.

With testing increasing by 87%, DeWine acknowledges it plays some role in the case increases, but countered that by saying the number of positive cases in the state “skyrocketed by almost 200%.

“Clearly, our number of new cases is not just the result of increased testing,” the governor said. “If we do not change course, Florida and Arizona will be our future.”

DeWine cited the spikes in those states as a cautionary tale, saying that on Sunday, Florida saw 15,300 new cases in a single day, up from a rate of 1,200 daily cases in early June. Similarly, Arizona’s rate was at 3,400 cases daily as of Sunday, compared to 1,200 daily cases a month ago, he said.

Quoting an article written by John Berry, author of “The Great Influenza,” DeWine said if the pandemic isn’t brought under control now, “in a few months when the weather turns cold and forces people to spend more time indoors, we could face a disaster that dwarfs the situation today.”

The governor advised Ohioans the virus and the need to act is “not a drill and it certainly is not any hoax.” He reiterated the importance of wearing masks and face coverings when going anywhere.

During a press conference Tuesday, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, promoted the disciplined use of face coverings, social distancing and proper hand hygiene to fend off the virus. He said masks are a “major” defense against the virus’ spread.

“If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks to six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground in this country,” Redfield said.

Masks are also “the best way to protect Ohio jobs” and should be considered an alternative to lockdowns, DeWine said, but added they are not enough.

“All of us have started to let our guard down. I know I have. We’re tired, we want to go back to the way things were. And that’s very understandable,” DeWine said.

Attending large gatherings, such as family reunions and neighborhood cookouts, is like playing “a game of Russian roulette” with the lives of family members and neighbors, he said.

“We have to ask ourselves, what’s better: Knowing you did all you could to keep your family and your neighbors safe and our economy open? Or taking risks that lead to illness, death and other economic shutdowns?” he asked.

“These are once in 100 year sacrifices. Short-term inconveniences for long-term freedoms,” he continued. “I’m calling on all of you to once again unite. This virus is real. It’s killing our family members, our friends, our coworkers. We must take the long view in response to it.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.