Oct 29, 2020
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript October 29
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on October 29 to provide coronavirus updates. He reported 3,590 new cases, the highest number of cases in one day for Ohio during the entire pandemic. Read the transcript of the briefing with his remarks here.
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Governor Mike DeWine: (02:16)
We’re reporting 3,590 new cases today. This is by far the highest number of cases we’ve ever seen during the entire pandemic. In fact, it’s about 700 cases more than our previous high, which was just a few days ago. Virus is raging throughout the state of Ohio. There’s no place to hide. We now only have two counties that are yellow, and they represent only one fifth of 1% of our state’s total population. So every county is red or orange. Only five of our counties are not high incident counties. So 83 of our 88 counties are high incident counties.
Governor Mike DeWine: (03:12)
Since there is no place to hide, all of us together, have to come together to fight this enemy. We have to come together to fight this invader. We have tools to beat this virus back and we’ve learned a lot during the pandemic. The tools are very simple, it’s more people wearing masks, more people keeping distance, washing our hands, good ventilation when we’re inside. We got to get back to fundamentals. We got to get back to the basics.
Governor Mike DeWine: (03:52)
I am today calling on the leaders of each county, each community throughout the state of Ohio, to come together to create a COVID defense team. This COVID defense team that we were asking every community to form is really what we need to fight back. It should certainly include the county commissioners, mayors, local hospital leaders, certainly the health commissioner, business leaders, religious leaders, and other local leaders. It should be, in each county, representative of the community.
Governor Mike DeWine: (04:38)
I am asking the COVID defense team in each of our counties to assess and understand their situation, to inventory their assets in the community, and to focus on what steps to take to turn the situation in their community around. Because we now know what works to fight the virus, a major part of their job will be to explain to people in the community exactly what is going on in the community, the state of the virus, what’s going on in their local hospitals, and what steps must be taken to slow this advance of the virus.
Governor Mike DeWine: (05:27)
And my team in the last three days, and I have been doing our Zoom calls, starting with the counties that were high incidence counties, and now we’ve moved to the counties that are the highest number of cases in the last two weeks. We will continue to work down that list. I think that these calls, from my perspective, have been extremely productive. Each county has committed to expanding their working group to include more people. They have each committed to meet at least once a week and they have each one a specific goal, reducing the active new cases that are coming in each day.
Governor Mike DeWine: (06:19)
And I just want to say I’ve been so very, very impressed by the leadership in these counties. So far, we have met with the leaders, some of the leaders in the Clark County, Cuyahoga County, Hamilton County, Mercer, Allen, Putnam, Auglaize, and this morning Holmes County. We will start again tomorrow morning with more counties, but we ask the counties not to wait for us, not to wait for us to schedule the call. It will take a few days, of course, for us to get through all 88 counties. But we ask people to go ahead and schedule your own meeting, put your own local leaders together. As one of the leaders said to me yesterday, if a tornado hit our County and he said, it has hit our County, he said, everybody rallied together. We came out to help friends. We came out even if we didn’t know the people.
Governor Mike DeWine: (07:20)
That’s what we’re asking communities to do again. Ohioans are great about this. Remember a few years ago, a lot of floods along the Ohio River, I was just so impressed that how many people came out to help their neighbors. Same way when tornadoes hit, people come out. This is a crisis that is as grave, certainly, and much more widespread than those crisis. So despite the grim data that we see today, that we’ll show you in a moment, I’m optimistic because Ohioans have the tools. We know what works. We always rally when we need to rally. And I’m confident that people will do that. When people see a threat, particularly to their families, to their neighbors, to their community, they come together. We can in fact slow down this invader. The decisions each Ohioans make each day will really determine what kind of winter that we have.
Governor Mike DeWine: (08:36)
We must mask more. We must distance more. We must be more careful. We must wash our hands more. We must have more ventilation inside, particularly as we move more inside as winter approaches. We can control our own destiny.
Governor Mike DeWine: (08:56)
Eric, let’s look at the numbers. As you will see today, we have, as I said, set another record. We report 3,590 cases. This is the first time we’ve surpassed 3,000 daily cases per day. To put that in perspective, today’s new cases, our figure is about 25% higher than the second highest date, which we reported just last Saturday. It’s not only the case numbers though, that are increasing. We also have 192 new hospitalizations reported in the past 24 hours. This is the third highest we have ever reported. The top five highest new hospitalization numbers have all occurred in the past week and a half. So we continue to be very high.
Governor Mike DeWine: (09:46)
Let’s look, Eric at the next slide. This is all 88 counties reported by highest occurrence, starting Putnam all the way down. What you see here in the blue of course, these are the high incident counties. So as I said before, 83 of our 88 counties are high incident counties. And again, this is how the federal government determines it, a hundred cases in two weeks based on a hundred thousand population.
Governor Mike DeWine: (10:25)
Let’s go to the next slide. Again, this again tells us we have Putnam County at nine times the high incident level, Auglaize about five times, Holmes about five times, and just all the way down you can see these top counties. The bottom of this 20, the 20th, Greene County, it’s about three times the high incidence. So we’re seeing this in mid-size counties, we’re seeing it in small counties, and we’re seeing increases in our urban counties as well.
Governor Mike DeWine: (11:02)
Let’s turn to the alert system. We’re seeing no counties go purple. That is the one bright spot. And I’ll talk about that in a moment. We don’t have a purple counties and no counties on our watch list. However, this virus is spreading, as you can see, significantly throughout the state. So we’re down now just to two counties, Eastern side of our state, they’re yellow, everything else is red or orange, and just shows the gravity of this spread. Today, we have 43 red counties, only two yellow counties. This is the highest number of red counties, lowest number of yellow counties we have seen to date. Our new red Ashtabula, Auglaize, Claremont, Defiance, and Trumbull. This is an increase of five counties from last week. And two, Ashtabula, Auglaize are red for the first time. This week, 78% of Ohioans are living in a red county. 78% of Ohioans are living in a red county, less than 1%, as I said, are living in a yellow county.
Governor Mike DeWine: (12:19)
Now let me talk for a moment about the three counties that dropped from the watch list to red. Our system is designed to, a county goes to purple. It has to continue to accelerate, and it has to continue to go up. What we’ve seen with Clark County and Hamilton basically is that they plateaued or did not see a significant increase, and not a significant enough increase to move to the purple level. But we’re still seeing with these counties, very, very disturbing trends. As I said, our alert system is designed to flag indicators that are getting worse. What we’re seeing is these three counties have plateaued at high levels.
Governor Mike DeWine: (13:13)
In Cuyahoga County, outpatient emergency visits are a elevated plateau. Hospital admissions have been increasing. Clark County, emergency visits and hospital missions have plateaued at an elevated level. Outpatient visits are still high. Hamilton County, outpatient visits and hospital admissions are an elevated plateau, but cases continue to go up.
Governor Mike DeWine: (13:38)
During the past month, the average age of cases in Cuyahoga County, the age of the individuals in Cuyahoga Clark and Hamilton County, has moved from people in their early forties to people in their late forties. So we’ll continue to see an increase in the age or the average age. If you recall, back in June, July, when we saw that significant increase, that was really led by a younger group
Governor Mike DeWine: (14:04)
On Cuyahoga and Hamilton County, as cases continued to rise steadily and hospitalizations remain elevated. Clark County local health department officials told us today they’re seeing alarming increases. They have recorded 271 cases during the past seven days, 271 during the past seven days, hospitalizations are at a record high and they’ve had 41 deaths, 41 deaths in Clark County in October. Their previous high for deaths was 17 in August. What we see in these counties is similar to what we’re seeing in the rest of the state, case numbers are continuing to go up, healthcare utilization is trending upward.
Governor Mike DeWine: (14:52)
We’ve been sharing stories about where we see spread. And I talk to health directors every Monday morning and they share some stories with me. They also share some stories-
Governor Mike DeWine: (15:03)
Every Monday morning and they share some stories with me. They also share some stories with our staff. High school football team had 13 players with COVID-19. A couple of players were infected, spread it to the other members of the team. The spread mainly happened at informal gatherings of the team where there were more interactions than there should have been. These were not regular team functions. So again, this is similar to what we’re seeing in the adult world, where it’s not as much. Look, it spread everywhere. But most businesses, we’re not seeing much spread. Same way with schools.
Governor Mike DeWine: (15:41)
But where we’re really seeing the spread is just the personal interactions, the more informal settings. Another example, we learned about an outbreak among staff at a doctor’s office, as a result of non-compliance, not wearing masks. Staff members at the doctor’s office were either not wearing masks or were not wearing them correctly. Finally, we learned about a funeral at the end of September that now has 19 cases, 19 individuals who have COVID associated with that funeral. 17 of the cases were identified with a funeral and two cases were secondary spread.
Governor Mike DeWine: (16:21)
One of the points we discussed on our call in Holmes County this morning was that most things we can do. Fran and I have been to three funerals that were safe. Certainly as far as we could observe, everything was done right. Weddings can occur. Many things, we can continue to do, but it’s just how we go about it that we have to be careful about. I spoke with Hamilton County leaders yesterday and on that Zoom conference meeting, we heard from Dr. Rick Lofgren about what they’re seeing in the hospitals in the region. Dr. Lofgren has been on here before.
Governor Mike DeWine: (17:06)
He’s a zone lead for the Southwestern Ohio Region of our pandemic response team. He’s president and CEO of UC Health, the University of Cincinnati’s affiliate healthcare system. He also is an internal medicine physician who has also worked in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan during the span of his career. Doctor, thank you very much for being with us again. Appreciate it.
Dr. Lofgren: (17:31)
Thank you, Governor, and I appreciate having an opportunity to speak. As you mentioned, we have seen a decisive increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and an increase in hospitalization in our region. We did a great job as Ohioans suppressing the spread of this virus through the summer and into the early part of the fall. We were opening up our activities and our like, and really what we were seeing at that time is really the opportunity or seeing across our community sort of hotspots was a facility or an area, a specific group that we were seeing some cases.
Dr. Lofgren: (18:08)
We were able to get resources around that and actually bring it down. However, in the last three weeks, as you mentioned, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations. That’s been nearly doubling every two weeks and to the hospitalization at a level like we’ve never seen before. And I think that one of the things that’s really notable, I think, is that unlike what we saw before, this spread is diffuse. There’s no one particular area, no one particular group or facility that really accounts for the increased number of cases.
Dr. Lofgren: (18:42)
I might also say that we used to see much more in the highly dense, urban core. That’s not the case anymore. We see it up in the suburbs and in the entire area. And as you mentioned before, we’re also seeing an increase in our positivity rate in all the different age groups. Not that many weeks ago, our positivity rate in Hamilton County and in the various age groups was right around 3%. But right now, we are seeing positivity rates in every one of our age groups somewhere between five and six and a half percent, all of which has really happened in the last three weeks.
Dr. Lofgren: (19:16)
As you mentioned, I think our businesses have really done a nice job of adhering to safety guidelines and keeping the work environment safe. And our schools have done, I think, a remarkable job, as you said before, is that they really have had really remarkably few positive cases as we adhere to those standards that we know work. We know what keeps this virus at bay. It’s there. If you let your guard down, it spreads. And so it really appears that the vast majority of the spread is really occurring in private social events. I think we’re simply letting our guard down.
Dr. Lofgren: (19:53)
We all have COVID fatigue. But we know what works, and I think we’re starting to see people expanding their bubble. You need to ensure that there’s a small cadre of people who you live with, but we all are social animals. We want to increase our bubble. And I think people are sort of letting their guard down and in some respects sort of believe that, well, if I know you and you’re a friend of mine, I can let you in my bubble and you’re really not at risk. where in the fact, we need to recognize that if we expand our bubble, you’re increasing your risk. At any given point in time, we don’t know who amongst us may be actually infected without symptoms and inadvertently spreading the virus. And so that we need to go recognize, particularly as we start to go indoors, because before we could do some of these social events outside, that we really need to maintain those steps that we know that work when you’re going to increase your bubble. Having somebody into your home, you need to maintain the social distancing and you need to wear a mask. You need to recognize that anybody who’s new into your environment may potentially be infected.
Dr. Lofgren: (21:04)
I think this is going to be a particular challenge as we start to think about the holidays. We’re all going to be delighted to see some relatives and friends that we haven’t seen before, but we need to understand the way which we celebrate has to change. In that if you’re going to bring people into your environment, you have to maintain social distancing, you have to maintain the masking and all those things that we know that work in are effective as we move forward. So sometimes I get asked about testing before events, and it’s certainly nice to know whether or not you are negative before an event, but it’s also not assurance.
Dr. Lofgren: (21:42)
I could be tested today and be negative and then be percolating the virus within me, go into somebody’s bubble and inadvertently spread the virus. So I think the message to our community and to each other and to Ohio is that we’ve learned a lot in the last six months. We’ve learned what’s effective in terms of keeping this virus under control. We really have seen our organizations in our community responding and the businesses and the things that they’re doing in the schools. And as you mentioned, the football story. It’s not the formal events where we take these measures where we’re seeing the spread.
Dr. Lofgren: (22:20)
It’s the informal events that happen that we really start to let our guard down. So I think one of the messages that I think is important as we see this marked uptick throughout our community is that we really need to recommit and understand that we need to maintain our exposure and our bubble. We have a small cadre of nuclear people that we live with. And when you realize that anybody else who comes into it, we just need to treat them like even a stranger, keep a distance, wear your mask, wash your hands, and sanitize your environments.
Governor Mike DeWine: (22:57)
Doctor, thank you very much. We appreciate all you’re doing. And thanks for that summation of where we are today. Thank you very much.
Dr. Lofgren: (23:05)
Governor Mike DeWine: (23:05)
Appreciate it. It goes without saying that the pandemic has changed all of our daily routines. But for our children with developmental disabilities, these changes can be extremely disruptive to their learning and to their development. Many children can struggle with remote learning, but children with IEPs are often also losing needed in person support, such as individualized instruction, behavioral support, occupational therapy. To assist children and families with IEPs who are doing remote learning, we are launching Learning Aide Ohio, a supplemental tutoring program.
Governor Mike DeWine: (23:44)
Starting on Monday, eligible families can apply for up to $1,500 in grant funding to cover costs of tutoring and other needed supports. To apply for a grant or to sign up as a provider, visit learningohio.com, learningohio. com. Ready for questions.
Speaker 1: (24:04)
Our first question today is from Laura Hancock at cleveland.com.
Laura Hancock: (24:09)
Governor Mike DeWine: (24:10)
Laura Hancock: (24:12)
Hi. My question is you’ve pointed out some anecdotal data about like the football football teams and formal parties, but how can you say that this ongoing surge stems from private informal gatherings among family and friends, the actual types of events where contact tracing is easier than other places such as bars when you have no empirical data to back that up. Have you made any kind of renewed effort to find out other than just tweaking last week from the contact tracing system?
Governor Mike DeWine: (24:47)
Yeah, I mean, we’re trying to get better data. The old system was not designed. The system is not designed to drill down in a pandemic to find out where the spread is. So I think we explained last week exactly what we have. We have anecdotal notes that are coming in from tracers. And so we’re going to try to bring about some consistency, but even then, even then let’s say someone has got the virus, you’re on the phone with them, the tracer is on the phone with them. And they say, I was in a bar one night, he was a restaurant the next night. I was at work today. I was here, here, here, here.
Governor Mike DeWine: (25:35)
So all that person would write down is all those different things and you still are not going to know where they got it. So unless it’s a big super spreader event, many, many times it is impossible to know for sure. But what we rely on is some of this, what we’re hearing from the health directors. They’re the ones that are out there, 113 different organizations out there. They’re the ones who are monitoring and watching it every day. This is what they tell me because I’m not out there. I’m not making the calls. Dr. Lofgren, what he just said, which was the same thing, and other doctors are telling us that as well.
Governor Mike DeWine: (26:25)
Doctors who are treating COVID patients are telling us, this is where we are seeing the spread. This is what they’re telling me. So we’re never going to … Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not saying there’s not spread in workplace. I’m not saying there’s not spread in schools. I’m not saying there’s not spread in bars. But what I am saying is a big component part of this, according to everybody who is dealing with it every single day, the frontline people, they are describing these informal get-togethers and these informal events.
Governor Mike DeWine: (27:03)
And the big spreader, the big, big spreader ones, funerals, weddings, big get-togethers, that’s what we’re seeing. So all we’re trying to do, all I’m trying to do for the people of Ohio is report what we’re hearing as we talk to the people who are on the front line.
Speaker 1: (27:26)
Next question is from Ben Schwartz with WCPO in Cincinnati.
Governor Mike DeWine: (27:30)
Ben Schwartz: (27:30)
Hi, Governor. With this COVID defense team that you’re calling on community leaders to create, what do you expect to see from it and have you thought about the next steps if this defense team is not able to control the spread of the virus?
Governor Mike DeWine: (27:47)
I mean, look, Ben, this is one more thing that we think is important. Now, some communities are already have this. They may not call it that. Different communities are at different stages of battling back. But my experience in life has been and my experience in politics and government in Ohio is things happen at the local level and somebody at the local level who might not think they should wear a mask is a lot more likely to listen to a neighbor than they are to me or they are to Dr. Fauci or they are to the Lieutenant governor or our health director.
Governor Mike DeWine: (28:34)
So engaging people in the local community, and one thing that we tried to do on these calls so far, and we’re just not too far into these calls. But a lot of communities are doing a good job. We try, if that community has a hospital, we want to get that head of the hospital or some representative of the hospital in that call because they can really give a good indication here’s what we are seeing in real time that’s coming into our hospital. And while we do not want to imply to anyone that our hospital’s overflowing because they’re not, but the hospitals can give you a good, good read.
Governor Mike DeWine: (29:16)
And they’re all saying an increase in what is coming in or basically most of them are. So pulling those people together to be communicators to the community, pulling those people together, to say, hey, do we have a problem in the nursing home with not enough PPE? Okay. Let’s go call DeWine. Let’s go call the governor’s office. Let’s call the health department. If we’ve got a problem here or a problem there, and that’s how we see this group. And as I said, different counties are at different levels. Some are up here, some are here, but all, everybody we’ve talked to so far wants to help, wants to be involved.
Governor Mike DeWine: (29:54)
And so this is not magic. We’re not saying this is going to solve the problem, but we can’t win this. We can’t push back the virus unless we’re all engaged.
Governor Mike DeWine: (30:02)
Can’t push back the virus, unless we’re all engaged. We’ve got to do it.
Next question is from Jim Abi at WHIO in Dayton.
Governor Mike DeWine: (30:09)
Jim Abi: (30:10)
Hi, Governor. Good afternoon. Given the numbers out today, and the steady increase that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, what’s your prescription, whether it’s you or the doctor, prescription for families who still insist, they’re still planning on having a Halloween get together this weekend? The weather’s going to be terrible outside, so they’re going to have this Halloween gathering inside. Despite what you’ve said in the past, perhaps with the new numbers, help convince them to do otherwise.
Governor Mike DeWine: (30:39)
Well, Halloween parties are fun, but they make no sense this year. We’ll save it till next year. It’s not what anybody wants to hear. But, look, Thanksgiving has got to be different. Christmas has got to be different. We’re already starting to think in our family how we’re going to do it. Ohioan’s are resourceful. We’ll figure out how to do these things.
Governor Mike DeWine: (31:03)
But it’s everywhere, as Dr. Lofgren said. And the difference today is used to have a hotspot, and say, “Okay, here’s a problem. Here’s a problem. Here’s a problem.” Today, it is just spread. And it’s everywhere. And it is advancing at a very fast pace. And we’ve got to slow it down. So we can’t be doing things like Halloween parties. We could carefully do trick or treat, if we’re careful in how we go about it. We can do most things, but we can’t do them the way we’ve always done them in the past.
Next question is from John Reed at Gongwer News Service.
John Reed: (31:54)
Good afternoon, Governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (31:55)
John Reed: (31:56)
There’ve been reports around the country for months about people getting what they’re calling long COVID, where they have symptoms, serious symptoms for months. Has the state collected any data on how many people in Ohio have that? And maybe for the doctor, if he’s still on, have we seen that? What’s the prevalence of that?
Governor Mike DeWine: (32:19)
Yeah. I don’t know if Dr. Lofgren is still on, Eric, or not? You available?
Dr. Lofgren: (32:24)
Yeah, I am.
Governor Mike DeWine: (32:25)
Dr. Lofgren: (32:26)
And I don’t have those numbers right in front of me. So I can’t give you these percentages. But this phenomena of what’s being called at long haulers is very real. I think one of the things, as we learn more about the virus, is that’s a small percentage of people who get the virus, even if they survive it, has this intense inflammatory response. It’s the inflammation that it triggers that can cause a lot of ongoing problems, including the infection of the heart called myocarditis, kidney problems, and inflammation of other organs. And there’s definitely a cadre of individuals who, six, nine months plus later, still have problems with fatigue, low grade fevers, and recovering. And speaking to my colleagues around the country, this is enough of an ongoing phenomenon, that people are starting their what they call long hauler clinics, where they’re really getting people together to really help support them through this recovery period.
Dr. Lofgren: (33:24)
So it’s not always a very simple recovery. It isn’t a large number of people, but there are definitely a cadre of people who really manifest ongoing symptoms for months later. And we need to know a lot more about it. And, unfortunately, I don’t have a percentage about it. It’s not common, but it’s definitely a phenomenon.
Governor Mike DeWine: (33:44)
And, Doctor, is it my understanding that we really don’t know why some people react that way, and why some people don’t or most people don’t?
Dr. Lofgren: (33:53)
Yeah. One of the things I’ve said is that since the introduction of this virus in this community, we’ve learned a lot, and we have a lot more to learn. And so I think that the science, and my colleagues, the research they’re doing, is phenomenal.
Dr. Lofgren: (34:08)
But it really is unclear why somebody will have an infection, and really not have any problems whatsoever, and another group of individuals will have this intense inflammatory response, that can cause multiple organs to damage, and up to and causing death. So we’ve gotten some more insights into it, but there’s a whole lot more to learn.
Governor Mike DeWine: (34:30)
Good. Thank you, Doctor. Thank you.
Next question is from Jack Windsor at WMFD in Mansfield.
Governor Mike DeWine: (34:37)
Jack Windsor: (34:38)
Hi, Governor. Since it’s clear that, even though cases have increased 400%, there has been an uptick in … Well, actually, I think you just said not an uptick in COVID hospitalizations. We continue to see hospital utilization drop overall. Over the past two weeks, inpatient bed occupancy dropped from 71 to 67%, ICU from 66 to 63, and then ventilator usage is about flat.
Jack Windsor: (35:08)
Is this evidence that our healthcare system is not at risk, and as deaths are not increasing, that we need to continue to restore freedoms, get people back to working onsite, and kids back into school buildings full time? It appears that it’s fear, at this point, that’s killing our businesses and people more than that.
Governor Mike DeWine: (35:27)
Well, let’s go to the facts. I mean, we know I’m going to ask Dr. Lofgren again to comment about what they’re seeing in Cincinnati. But we know that the number of people in the hospital today is double … People in the hospital from COVID is double what it was three, four weeks ago. Dr. Lofgren, you want to address that, what you’re actually seeing in the Cincinnati region?
Dr. Lofgren: (35:55)
Yeah. Thank you. Just as you said, I think that one of the things that I really look at frequently, to really understand the burden of the disease on our community, is really the number of people who’re not infected, but also infected to the point that they’re required to be hospitalized. And we have seen a decisive increase in the number of individuals in our community who’ve been hospitalized.
Dr. Lofgren: (36:16)
In our region, in the latter part of September, we had about 90 people in the hospital who had COVID. Today, we have, I think, it’s about 260 individuals who are hospitalized in in our hospitals. We’ve also recently seen a real uptake in ICU as well. One of the things I do think is the case is that we are more effective in treating the infection. We know a lot more about how to treat patients now than we did six months ago. So I do think that we’re doing a better job, in terms of preventing them, to prevent some of the progression.
Dr. Lofgren: (36:52)
Definite uptick in terms of hospitalizations, definite uptick in utilization. Within our region, we are able to accommodate the current volume of patients. But if they were to continue to double or triple from that number, it will start to squeeze out non-COVID care.
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:10)
Okay. Thank you.
Next question’s from Marty Schladen at the Ohio Capital Journal.
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:15)
Marty Schladen: (37:16)
Governor, how are you today?
Governor Mike DeWine: (37:18)
I’m good, sir.
Marty Schladen: (37:21)
As you’ve outlined, I think that most people would agree that the numbers look really grim. And, last week, you said that this idea that, just because we’re doing more testing, that’s the reason we’re seeing more cases, is just nuts. But, like you just said to my previous question earlier, let’s go to the facts, Donald Trump’s one of the people who’s out there saying that the reason we’ve got more positive cases is because we’re doing more testing.
Marty Schladen: (37:47)
He went to Circleville, and said that the media will stop reporting on coronavirus on November 4th. And he jokingly talked about going out in the crowd and kissing everybody. And so we’re right before election day. And I wanted to ask you, who do you think is better suited to deal with this coronavirus problem, Donald Trump or Joe Biden?
Governor Mike DeWine: (38:06)
Always get political questions though. Look, I said this yesterday, TBI was on. But, look, I think the president has not gotten enough credit for what he’s done in regard to making a decision very, very early to invest real big money into the drug companies, for them to do the research that they needed to do. We don’t know when that’s coming, but we hope it’s coming soon. And that, I think, will make a huge, huge difference.
Governor Mike DeWine: (38:41)
If you look at the cases, we are testing more, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. Look at the numbers from yesterday, even before they fill in, they fill in for the next few days as it keeps coming in, but 50,000 tests. Now, look, I’d love to double the testing. I’d love to have it 100,000. But, at 50,000, certainly we’ve been able to increase the average testing that we’re doing in the state of Ohio.
Governor Mike DeWine: (39:09)
So testing in of itself will increase cases, but it’s not nearly … The increase we’re seeing in positive cases is not caused solely by the increase in just testing. And the way we can tell that is the positivity number. Normally, when we started off and we were only testing, we said, “Oh, we’re only going to test you if you have symptoms.” Well, we got away from that. And so we’ve said, “We’re going to basically test anybody today,” which is the right thing to do, in my opinion. And we made that decision several months ago.
Governor Mike DeWine: (39:47)
So when you go from only testing positive, or excuse me, only testing people who have symptoms, obviously, the numbers are going to be higher there. But what we’re doing now is throwing that net in a much broader group. And the positivity numbers should be coming down. They haven’t been coming down. They’ve been going up. They went from two and a half …
Governor Mike DeWine: (40:09)
I think, I looked today, the last number I saw, 6.9 for one day, or 6.8 or 6.9 for one day. And that’s a far cry from two, two and a half percent. So the positivity numbers should be going down. Instead, they’re going up like a rocket every day. So that’s not why we’re seeing more positive cases.
Next question is from Justin Dennis at MahoningMatters.com.
Justin Dennis: (40:41)
Governor, thanks as always for keeping us informed. You begged for mask wearing earlier this week and last week. And today we’ve now far surpassed the state record of new cases. Last week, you said, “Government cannot mandate, unless we’re in China or some totalitarian state.” But we have seatbelt laws. We have no smoking laws. And the enhanced gun penalty laws you want are less about enforcement and more about changing behavior.
Justin Dennis: (41:05)
You said last week, “It’s time to get serious.” So my question is why can’t you and the Ohio legislature get serious, and approve a law to mandate mask enforcement in public? Who lacks the will to get that done, you or the legislature?
Governor Mike DeWine: (41:20)
Well, you’d have to ask the legislature. I think you have pretty good idea of the answer to that question. Look, Ohioans have been able to dramatically increase mask wearing. And we saw this back in July, when we put a … Let me just say it very clearly. We have a statewide mask order on. If you’re out in public, you need to have a mask on.
Governor Mike DeWine: (41:47)
Now, we do not have a mask police. And we’ve had some police departments that obviously don’t want to enforce that. Health departments are overrun with work and really not in a position to do that. So we rely on the goodwill of the people of the state of Ohio, as we rely, frankly, on them for most compliance with regulations or most laws.
Governor Mike DeWine: (42:11)
And so we saw a dramatic increase in mask wearing in July, in our urban areas. We don’t know exactly, but it would appear it went from something in the 50% to somewhere in the 85, 90. And when we saw that, we saw cases go down. We can do this again. And that is the most effective, the most efficient, and, frankly, the only way that we’re going to knock these number of cases down.
Governor Mike DeWine: (42:48)
We’ve got to see more mask wearing. And Ohioans have proven they can do it before. We don’t have the ability to have a mask police everywhere. And we rely on the goodwill of the people of Ohio. And I think, the more people learn about it, the more we learn about the power of these masks, and what masks have done in the past, and I think as people see, community by community, what it is doing and will be doing to their community, I think we’re going to see mask compliance and wearing go up.
Next question is from Jo Ingles at Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Governor Mike DeWine: (43:28)
Jo Ingles: (43:28)
Good afternoon, Governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (43:28)
Jo Ingles: (43:30)
About election day, you’ve said that local police will respond first to polling places, if there are problems, and then the National Guard could go in. But potential problems can happen quickly on election day. And we’ve heard a lot of problems lately with people’s tempers getting out of line over politics.
Jo Ingles: (43:52)
We have numerous examples of that. You put a lot of people together on election day in a line, that could be problematic. So is the response enough? And is it going to be fast enough to actually deal with problems at the polls on Tuesday?
Governor Mike DeWine: (44:12)
Well, we have a long history in this country of having fair and free elections, and peaceful elections. And we’ve done it for over 200 years. We’ve done it exceedingly well. Are there people out there that might want to disrupt something? Yeah, sure. I mean, we know that.
Governor Mike DeWine: (44:35)
6:30 this morning, I was on a conference call with our team, with the National Guard, the Highway Patrol, and others, just kind of going over what we know and what plans that we have. According to the Ohio Revised Code, the Sheriffs have a unique role, a unique role if there is a problem inside the flag area. The local, if there’s something out-
Governor Mike DeWine: (45:03)
[inaudible 00:45:00]. The local, if there’s something outside the flag area, then of course depending on where that is, if it’s out in the county, then it’s the sheriff. If it’s a municipality, village, city, then it’s up to the local police department, so they would be the first responders. But we’re all tied in with communication, and we basically have a war room, and if we need to do things, we will do them. But the first line of defense is the local government state. The first line of defense is the local police, local sheriff. We have the highway patrol back up. We also have the National Guard. And so again, National Guard is limited by federal law, correctly, in what they can do, particularly around elections. But we are ready, and we have a long history of running good elections in this country and this state, and I think people should have confidence they can go to the polls. They can have confidence they can go and to vote elections today, or they can vote by absentee ballot.
Speaker 2: (46:19)
Next question is from Jeff Reddick at WSYX in Columbus.
Governor Mike DeWine: (46:24)
Jeff Reddick: (46:26)
Good afternoon, Governor. Was just looking over some of the numbers, for example, the testing is approaching the highest positivity rates since I believe July 16th, still on quite an upward trajectory. And you’ve talked about that there’s no sign of a plateau in sight. You talk about the goals for mask wearing and things. Some people do like to very seriously look at the numbers for themselves, so what would signal a plateau? What are we shooting for numbers-wise that shows that a plateau is coming?
Governor Mike DeWine: (47:04)
Well, I think plateau by definition just means you stop going up and you’re not going down. We had a plateau in cases for quite a period of time, around a thousand cases a day, but we didn’t like it having a thousand a day, but at least it wasn’t going up, so I think that’s a minimum. What I’ve challenged the counties to do, as I said, in these conference calls we’ve been having, we started with the highest incident counties, and we said, “Look, set a goal to knock these numbers down and start taking them down so that when you look at them every several days, those numbers in the last two weeks are going down.” There’s no reason the county that’s at five time high incident level. The CDC, there is no reason that by good adherence, to good practice and getting back to fundamentals and putting masks on.
Governor Mike DeWine: (48:03)
If a county goes from 30% wearing masks to 60%, I will guarantee you those cases will start down. We’ve just seen it time after time. So I think every county ought to set a goal and say, “Look, what do we think we can do?” And the goal should not be to plateau. Of course, the goal should be to start taking those numbers down, and we know what works. This is not rocket science. This is not difficult. We know what works, we’ve just got to do it. I think trying to look at it 88 counties one at a time and local community getting directly involved, and as I say, many of them have great leadership and they’ve been directly involved, but every county being involved and every county having a group that is fighting I think is the way to knock this down, or at least one of the ways to knock it down.
Speaker 2: (48:52)
Next question is from Jackie Borchardt at the Cincinnati Inquirer.
Jackie Borchardt: (48:58)
Good afternoon, Governor.
Governor Mike DeWine: (48:59)
Jackie Borchardt: (49:00)
You mentioned the other day that if we keep on this trajectory, things might shut down on their own. Businesses will close. Schools will close. There’s no stimulus or extra unemployment compensation in sight. Are we prepared to support Ohioans through this third and greatest surge, and what is your plan for ensuring that safety net is there this winter?
Governor Mike DeWine: (49:22)
Well, as you know, we put out $5 billion yesterday. It was absolutely unprecedented, going out to businesses all over the state of Ohio to help keep them open. In some cases, they decide how to spend the money, but keep people working. So that $5 billion we think is important. It certainly solve every problem. I’m optimistic that Congress will, after this election and a lame duck session, come up with an additional bill to help, but the best way for us to help people economically is for this state to keep working, and the biggest threat to work, the biggest threat to being in school is the virus. Now, I’ve talked to superintendents in the last week who have had to pull back for a week, two weeks, a few days because of the virus. And so in understanding, all of us understanding that the safety of my grandmother, a grandmother in a nursing home depends on keeping the community spread down.
Governor Mike DeWine: (50:34)
The ability to keep that school open depends on that as well, and the ability to go into a hospital and be treated as you can today for a heart attack or whatever the medical problem is. Our hospitals are not overflowing. They’re open, but it would be threatened if this spike continues to go up, and at some point you’ll start seeing hospitals saying, “We can’t do elective surgeries. We can’t do this. We can’t do that.” So a lot of this will simply happen organically if these cases continue to go up and we continue to see hospitalizations go up and we continue to see deaths.
Speaker 2: (51:14)
Next question is from Kevin Landers at WBNS in Columbus.
Dr. Lofgren: (51:18)
Hello, Governor. Judging by today’s cases, it seems very clear that the mask message isn’t working. I know it worked in the past, but it doesn’t seem to be working now, and I’m wondering if the message is getting muddled because we don’t have a health director directly speaking to the people of Ohio every day about this serious issue. It seems like the state’s strategy now is to sort of hope for a vaccine, and we all know that hope is not a plan, so what more have you thought about that you can do? Have we run out of ideas? What is the strategy moving forward? Thank you.
Governor Mike DeWine: (51:53)
Yeah. What we started to do this week some of you reported as a new plan. I didn’t look at it quite like that, but that’s fine, was really drilling down county by county. As we have these calls, sometimes we’re finding, hey, somebody needs this. Health Department needs this. Nursing home needs this. But really, it is about getting neighbors, friends, leaders in that community saying, “Hey, we don’t want our county ripped apart. We don’t want our lives ripped apart. We want to keep our kids in school. We want to keep working.” And so giving that support I think will in fact make a difference.
Governor Mike DeWine: (52:39)
It’s one more thing. One more thing that we can certainly do. Look, we’re going to continue to look at different things that we might be able to do or that we can do, and we’re going to do those. But so much of this comes down to what people do in their own individual lives where government cannot really interfere, unless you’re in a totalitarian state, and I don’t think we want to be in a totalitarian state. So it is people of goodwill coming together, understanding the facts and taking action to save their own lives, lives of family members and their community.
Speaker 2: (53:26)
Our next question is the last question a day, and it belongs to Farnoush Amiri of the Associated Press.
Farnoush Amiri: (53:31)
Hi, Governor. So with the number of cases rising at an alarming rate that you outlined here today, there’s a concern among voters about showing up to the polls both on Election Day and in the days leading up to it. What would you tell voters concerned about the infection rate in Ohio?
Governor Mike DeWine: (53:50)
Yeah. I think if you feel that you can go to the grocery store, you ought to be able to feel you can go to vote. What I think I would do is try to determine what is the time of day that the least crowd will be there? That’s what I would, if I had the discretion, if you could pick a time, let’s say someone has retired and they want to vote in person, they can certainly do that. It looks like maybe over half the people in the state who are going to vote will have voted by Election Day, so that means when you walk into your precinct or precincts where some precincts maybe are together, those are the only people are going to be coming to that polling place.
Governor Mike DeWine: (54:39)
So I know we’re seeing a lot of long lines at boards of elections, but that’s only one polling place in the whole county. I’m not discouraging people from going today, tomorrow and even this weekend. That’s great, but if people want to wait until Election Day, you’re going to have already half the people voted, so there’s going to be fewer people. But I think being careful, wearing a mask, keeping a distance. If there is a line standing back, respecting where that other person is. Get in and vote and leave. I think that is just as safe as going to a grocery store and some of the other things that people do.
Governor Mike DeWine: (55:17)
As we end today, I want to introduce you to an Ohioan who is one of our state’s heroes of hope. Master Sergeant Smith is one of 60 Ohio National Guard and Ohio military reserve members who are helping with COVID-19 testing around Ohio, which since June, they’ve done in 151 sites. To find a site near you, go to coronavirus.ohio.gov. Let’s take a look at the video.
Jack Windsor: (55:49)
How you doing today?
Jack Windsor: (55:58)
I’m Master Sergeant Josh Smith. I worked as a speech therapist at the beginning of the year, but with the pandemic heading, I ended up starting work as a nurse based off of the training I got in the Air Force, and then in May, I was activated to work and do this COVID testing for the National Guard.
Jack Windsor: (56:16)
Be 10 seconds each nostril.
Jack Windsor: (56:18)
With the Guard, we have people who are all throughout the community, all walks of life. We have people who work in construction. We have your nurses, your EMTS, students at OSU all coming together, putting down their current life to come and help out their communities, help out their neighbors. They’re raising their hand to work with the Guard to help out when they’re most needed.
Jack Windsor: (56:43)
So results take about two to four business days.
Jack Windsor: (56:46)
I have traveled to all corners of this state from Toledo down to Fort Smith. We’re here in Cincinnati. I’ve been far east as Gallipolis. I’ve been all over the state doing testing. We put in long hours. We often say that we’re making the best out of a bad situation. We’re all reacting to large amounts of stress, constantly changing environment, and I’m seeing a positive attitude every city, town, and village I’ve been in. It’s been heartening seeing how much everybody has risen to the occasion, not just the members of the military, but our community partners, local health boards. Even the private businesses have come together with us, and it’s worked as one large team rather than dozens of disjointed. It’s been fantastic.
Jack Windsor: (57:34)
If you do have a positive result, you’ll be getting a call from the Health Department.
Jack Windsor: (57:38)
This has been probably one of the most exhausting, stressful and rewarding moments of my career in the Guard. To be able to say that I raised my hand and said “I will help” when Ohio needed me the most, I can say I was there and I helped. I did my duty for my state. I am definitely proud to be here an Ohioan.
Jack Windsor: (57:58)
All right, have a good day.
Governor Mike DeWine: (58:06)
We want to thank our heroes of hope, members of the National Guard who’ve done such a great job with taking testing to many, many communities around the state. I’ll close with a quote from three-time presidential candidate, unsuccessful, but three-time presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan. I think it’s appropriate to the challenges that we’re facing today. “Destiny is not a matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice. It’s not a thing to be waited for. It’s a thing to be achieved.” End of quote. Tuesday is Election Day. We will not have a press conference on Tuesday. Regular scheduled press conference will be Thursday, unless there’s some breaking news and some reason that we need to have a press conference before next Thursday. Thank you very much.