COVID: Where do Ohio governor candidates stand if another surge or another pandemic hits?

The Dayton Daily News asked the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor on the May 3 primary ballot where they stand on five major issues, including COVID-19.

The Democratic candidates are John Cranley and Nan Whaley. The Republican candidates are incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine, Joe Blystone, Ron Hood and Jim Renacci.

Look for their answers on a different issue every day through Friday, followed on Sunday by profiles of Republican candidates. Profiles of the Democratic candidates were published April 10.

Below are their responses, edited for length and clarity.

Question: What action should the state take to continue dealing with COVID-19, and prepare for a resurgence or for future pandemics?

Ron Hood: Hood’s campaign has not responded to requests for comment. His website does not mention COVID-19, but under a heading for health care makes these statements potentially related to it:

“Personal health decisions need to be monitored by patients and doctors alone, not government bureaucrats or insurance companies that wish to profit from big pharma and heavily funded hospitals.

“High quality health care should be affordable and no mandates regarding a person’s private health matters should be the business of the state. It’s your money and your health.”

Jim Renacci: “Gov. DeWine’s decision to shut down Ohio’s economy, crush small businesses, close schools, and mask our kids was an unmitigated disaster for our state. While those reckless policies crippled families and businesses, and imposed lasting damage on children’s ability to learn, they also delivered none of the ‘benefits’ DeWine insisted would come as it pertained to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. After all of the shutdowns and mandates, Ohio ranked 47th out of 50 states when it came to combatting COVID. Meanwhile states like Florida, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis who rejected shutdowns and mandates, fared far better than places like Ohio, New York or California in terms of COVID metrics.

“I’ve made it crystal clear that as governor, there will be no lockdowns of our economy. There will be no mask mandates on anyone, period. While it’s obviously difficult to speculate about the best course of treatment of a future hypothetical pandemic, the last few years under Ohio’s failed leadership showed us all exactly what not to do. As governor I will protect and preserve our personal, economic, and educational freedoms each and every day. No matter what.”

Editor’s note: An October 2021 comparison by personal-finance website WalletHub ranked Ohio 47th in COVID-19 safety, based on a composite of vaccination, positive tests, hospitalization, death and transmission rates. As of March 30, Ohio had risen to 36th place. According to the New York Times’ COVID tracker, as of April 12 Florida ranked 16th in the country for deaths per capita, seven spots worse than Ohio.

Nan Whaley: “No matter how it started, at some point in time, Gov. DeWine betrayed the public trust and started worrying more about getting reelected than he did about keeping Ohioans safe. Rather than follow the guidance from public health, he was more worried about himself and his politics, which led to chaos in our state between opening and closing, masks or no masks. As governor, I’ll follow the advice of my public health department. But let’s be clear: We have proven tools now to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 without having to shut down major parts of our economy or close our schools. We need to prioritize keeping our economy healthy and our kids in schools learning, while also looking out for the health and safety of our community — we can do both at the same time.

“This pandemic also exposed our broken unemployment system. People who were owed benefits couldn’t get the help they needed while scammers stole hundreds of millions of our dollars. We need to reform this system and hold those responsible for its failure accountable so that this will never happen again.”

Joe Blystone: “Should another pandemic occur under my administration, we will allow Ohioans to choose their level of protection. If they want to wear a mask or receive a vaccination, it will be their choice. If businesses want to remain open for business as usual, it will be their choice. House Bill 248 protects many Ohioans from the overreaching mandates of the current administration. I support HB 248 and encourage the legislature to pass it immediately. However, if they fail to act, I will not.

“Several states have enacted executive orders restoring the freedom of their citizens to decide for themselves whether masks and vaccines make sense for them. The constitution of Ohio, Article 1 Section 21, “No federal, state or local law or rule shall compel directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.” It further defines health care system as ‘any public or private entity or program whose function or purpose includes the management of, processing of, enrollment of individuals for, or payment for, in full or in part, health care services, health care data, or health care information for its participants.’

“On Day 1, I will sign the Executive Order for Ohioans Health Autonomy. Details can be found on my website.”

Editor’s note: HB 248 stalled last year in a House committee amid Republican disagreements between prohibiting vaccine mandates and imposing government orders on private business. The proposed executive order would ban vaccine mandates, make vaccination status secret, and investigate any local government that retains pandemic public health measures.

John Cranley: “I helped lead Cincinnati through COVID by using our city’s public health department to rapidly deploy PPE and contact tracers and provide action teams to help congregant homes with additional support. Cincinnati has invested in public health but still needs improvement, and so does Ohio.

“To better prepare Ohio, we will invest in public health and train and staff a permanent infrastructure that includes PPE and contact tracers. We will hire top public health experts to analyze all existing data and determine the most efficient and least harmful approach going forward. We need a system to rapidly distribute effective vaccines, target those most at risk and devise strategies to reach hard-to-reach populations. To avoid shortages or rationing, Ohio also must have an adequate stockpile of PPE for health care workers, safety forces, grocery store workers and other essential workers who need it most.

“Our highly acclaimed medical and manufacturing sectors must identify needs and opportunities to rebuild the pandemic-response supply chain.

“Once the next pandemic arrives, Ohio must provide its citizens with easy access to clear, concise information about how to protect themselves, and businesses must have easy access to guidelines that should be followed to allow for safe, stable operations.”

Mike DeWine: “Many remarkable collaborations and innovations have emerged out of this unprecedented challenge.

“We partnered with the Ohio Manufacturers’ Alliance, JobsOhio, and hospital supply chain leaders to address a record demand for personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, and now have established new production capabilities right here in Ohio.

“Also, we recently announced the Ohio Workforce Safety Innovation Center Initiative, which provides $30 million in new research grants for development of protective equipment for Ohio’s employers. The objective is for Ohio research grantees to conduct proof-of-concept work to accelerate the creation of new technologies and applications for the prototyping of improved PPE.

“We also developed a unique partnership among our health care systems through a hospital zone structure that has improved our ability to bring vital health services to more communities, more consistently and effectively, and has prepared us for success in addressing future challenges. Our new hospital zone structure is one of the reasons that the Trust for America’s Health recently named Ohio as one of only three states to improve our readiness ranking. Ohio is now in a better position to respond to future disease outbreaks, environmental threats, extreme weather, and other health emergencies.”

Complete coverage

The Dayton Daily News asked all the gubernatorial candidates about where they stood on five major issues. Here’s the schedule:

Monday: Guns

Tuesday: Abortion

Today: COVID-19 response

Thursday: Creating and retaining well-paying jobs

Friday: Long-term economic growth in Ohio

The Democratic nominees for U.S. Senate and Ohio governor in the May 3 primary were profiled on April 10. Next Sunday, April 17, we’ll profile the Republican candidates in those races.

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