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No new mask, health orders, but DeWine says Ohio at ‘most critical point’ in virus fight

ajc.com

Governor urges all Ohioans to wear a mask in public

Gov. Mike DeWine did not issue any new mask or health orders during Wednesday’s statewide address, but he did say Ohio must do better as the once-flatted curve is starting to spike in what he called a “disturbing reversal” during a “defining time” for Ohioans.

Ohioans set the example for the rest of the county early in the pandemic, said DeWine, who called on Ohioans to once again unite.

“We’ve now reached the most critical point in our battle against the coronavirus,” DeWine said. “If all of us do not take immediate action to slow this virus down the tragedy that we see playing out on our television screens every day in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California may well be our reality in just a matter of weeks.

“The good news is this nightmare does not have to be our future. Our future truly lies in our own hands,” he said.

Ohio was able to responsibly reopen, and the economy is starting to come back and unemployment coming down. But virus must be kept in check to rebuild consumer confidence and keep the positive economic momentum going, he said.

“Clearly, clearly the virus is spreading with a vengeance across many parts of Ohio. ... Tragically, in just four months we have already lost 3,075 of our fellow Ohioans to this dreaded disease, nearly the same number of Ohioans who died in the Vietnam War.”

Ohio is now nearing the April and May peak of cases.

The Dayton and Cincinnati region is seeing more COVID-19 patients than during any previous point during the pandemic, and the Cleveland region is nearing a similar point, DeWine said.

There are 1,027 Ohioans in hospitals suffering from COVID-19, including 316 in an ICU with 146 on a ventilator. Also, many who have recovered are still suffering long-term or permanent consequences, such as lung or kidney damage, he said.

While there is more testing in the state —  it has gone up by 87 percent — it is not the only reason for the number of positive cases, which DeWine said has skyrocketed to almost 200 percent.

“I’m asking each one of you, wherever you live in Ohio, whatever county, whatever the alert level of your county, to wear a mask whenever you go out in public,” he said.

There is a broad consensus in the medical, health and business community that masks are critical to curbing the spread of the virus. Face masks are also a way to protect Ohio jobs, with studies showing they are a good alternative to a lockdown.

But masks are not enough. The governor urged Ohioans to follow other guidelines, including social distancing, staying home when possible and frequent hand washing.

“Good decisions will help protect the economy and save lives. Reckless ones will hurt and kill.”

These are once in a 100-year sacrifices, short-term inconveniences for long-term gain, he said.

“This virus will end, it will end, and don’t we all want to be around when it does?” he said.

DeWine kept the figure of Gov. James Cox, the owner of the Dayton Daily News, behind him during his address.He said Ohioans have faced many challenges throughout time — wars, floods, tornadoes — but not anything like the coronavirus since Cox was in office during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

“Gov. Cox and I are both from the Miami Valley, but the reason I keep his figure here is to remind me of the resilience and the strength of all the Ohioans who went through that tragedy. And I know that Gov. Cox must have felt, as I do every day, the pain and anguish of each family who lost someone to that virus.”

As of Wednesday, there have been 69,311 confirmed and probable cases and 3,075 deaths attributed to the virus in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

That includes an increase of 1,316 cases in the last 24 hours.

>> New pressure on Ohio governor, once hailed for virus action

Earlier this month, DeWine unveiled the state’s new color-coded alert system to show hot spots by county.

Montgomery and Butler counties are among 12 counties statewide that are red, at Level 3 of four levels. This means that there is very high exposure and spread of the virus, and that masks are required to be worn in public.

 

Clark, Preble and Warren counties are orange, at Level 2, which means that there is increased exposure and spread.

So far, no counties are purple, Level 4, which means severe exposure and spread. However, the governor warned last week that Butler County was close to that level.

DeWine did not conduct his usual 2 p.m. press conference Tuesday nor Wednesday.