Coronavirus: Who is Dr. Amy Acton, leader of Ohio’s pandemic response?

If you’re paying attention to Ohio’s response to coronavirus, you’ve seen Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Acton, 54, has been doing rounds of press conferences with her boss, Gov. Mike DeWine, and she has quickly become Ohio’s trusted face during the pandemic. It is Acton’s signature on orders prohibiting gatherings of 100 or more people in public and shutting down restaurants and bars statewide.

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Here are four things to know about the woman in the crisp white doctor’s coat:

Credentials: She earned her medical degree from Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine and completed residency training in pediatrics and preventative medicine. She also holds a master's degree in public health from Ohio State University;

• Previous jobs: Acton has served as assistant professor-practice at Ohio State University College of Public Health; director of Project LOVE (Love Our kids, Vaccinate Early) in Columbus; and community research and grants manager for the Columbus Foundation.

• Family: She and her husband, Eric, have six children and live suburban Columbus. Eric Acton is a middle school teacher and high school cross country coach.

• Childhood: a Youngstown native, she once lived in a tent in the middle of winter when her family was homeless.

The Ohio Department of Health, which has about 1,100 employees, enforces regulations on abortion clinics, inspects nursing homes, tracks health data, and is in charge of preventing, monitoring and responding to infectious disease outbreaks.

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Ohio law gives the department extraordinary powers when it comes to quarantine and isolation and the preservation of life and health. The state department, as well as local health districts, can rely on a long list of authorities, including police officers, to enforce quarantine and isolation orders.

ODH officials say they can’t recall a time when the director has issued statewide isolation orders before the coronavirus crisis.

Traditionally, ODH has been headed by a physician but went without a doctor as director from February 2014 until Acton’s appointment in February 2019.

She was DeWine’s final cabinet pick after a lengthy search process, because DeWine said it was crucial they have the right person in charge in case of a crisis.

Now she’s working seven days a week until the late hours of the night, working to keep the public calm, prepared and healthy as a global viral outbreak spreads to Ohio’s borders.

Last week, DeWine said at the coronavirus preparedness summit in Columbus he wanted someone with passion, vision and great communication skills.

“We had no idea that we would be here today, but we knew we might get some crisis,” DeWine said. “And so Dr. Acton has been communicating, and she really has been the face of this administration. She’s been the face of public health as we go through this crisis. And that will continue.”


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