Sep 29, 2020
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Press Conference Transcript September 29
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on September 29 to give coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of his news briefing here.
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Governor DeWine: (04:27)
Good afternoon, everyone. I’m wearing a Cleveland Indians tie today. Congratulations to the Indians for making the playoffs, and good luck against the Yankees tonight. Good luck for the Reds tomorrow against Atlanta. Congratulations to both Ohio teams. It’s an exciting time of year.
Governor DeWine: (04:50)
I want to start with something I’ve talked about every week. And I’m frankly, going to continue to do this as long as it’s necessary to do it. And that is the tragedy of gun violence where we have repeat offenders, violent offenders who have a gun, and they have no right to have a gun. This past week, at least 20 people in Ohio died, last Tuesday through yesterday, due to gun violence. Seven days, 20 people murdered, an additional 21 or more people shot. So another 21 who’ve been shot. There is legislation that has been pending in the general assembly now for almost a year that gets tougher on those responsible for the majority of violent crime in this state. And those are the convicted felons who illegally carry guns. Who doesn’t want to get tough against convicted felons who illegally carry guns?
Governor DeWine: (06:07)
Right now, many of these felons are not getting locked up when they’re found with guns. Current state law considers this a lower level, nonviolent offense. Oftentimes this results in probation. Despite the fact that those who are willing to break the law and carry a gun are often the people who are willing to hurt or kill with that weapon. I’m not blaming judges. The law needs to, frankly, be changed. And that’s why I’m proposing to do.
Governor DeWine: (06:40)
Let’s look at a couple of the victims. Six year old Mar’Viyah Jones was shot earlier this month. She lived for two weeks before dying last Tuesday. A little girl, another child full of promise was caught in a crossfire when two men started shooting at each other in Akron. According to court records, one of the alleged gunman was a convicted felon prohibited from having a gun. He allegedly had a gun, he allegedly used that gun. And now another child is dead, another Ohio child. Here’s another case. Sandusky. Quadruple shooting in Sandusky now homicide after victim dies, suspect still on the loose. This happened on Sunday. Four shot, one dead. Sandusky police identified the man, Maleek Aaron, as the suspected gunman. Going to public records, he is a convicted felon who is prohibited from having a gun. Sandusky police issued a warrant for his arrest and warned that he should be considered armed and dangerous. This man is still wanted. He’s out there on our streets, and we need to find him.
Governor DeWine: (07:59)
I want to stress that everyone, of course, is innocent until proven guilty. However, if this is the person responsible, there is no doubt that he would have known that he couldn’t have a gun. On at least two occasions, the court informed him in writing that he did not have the right to carry a gun. Let me read directly from the court’s entry. “The defendant’s hereby notified that under federal law persons convicted of felonies can never lawfully possess a firearm. The defendant was further notified that if he is ever found with a firearm, even one belonging to someone else, he could be subject to prosecution by federal authorities and subject to imprisonment for several years.” Now, federal law is tougher than state law. And we have to change state law to correspond with what the federal law is. As I said, if charged for illegally possessing a gun under state law, an offender many times will get probation.
Governor DeWine: (08:56)
Yesterday in Cincinnati, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio announced that they had federally indicted 16 people in regard to gun violence in Hamilton County. And that is great, great news. But the reason the federal authorities have to get involved with cases like this is because of what I’ve been saying week after week. And that is that state law isn’t tough enough on these criminals. And the truth is that there are only so many of these cases that the federal authorities can take. And so, many times, our county prosecuting attorneys or sheriffs or police, when they find someone, a convicted felon, someone who has committed a violent act in the past who has no right to have a gun but is found in possession of a gun, they can’t take those into federal court because there’s just not enough ability to prosecute those in federal court. And the federal prosecutors have to pick and choose which ones to take. So we need to give our local prosecuting attorneys, our 88 county prosecuting attorneys, the ability to take those cases.
Governor DeWine: (09:58)
Now, our bill does not require mandatory sentencing. We leave it up to the judge. But this is a vast improvement. It’s an improvement of our law, the mayor’s improvement of our law, the chiefs of police have asked me for. And it’s something that we really need to do. We need to give our local authorities the ability to save lives and get these repeat violent offenders off our streets.
Governor DeWine: (10:28)
Eric, let’s go to the data for today. Today, we’re reporting 1,105 new cases in Ohio. That is above the average. As you can see by looking at this, we’ve been hovering around 1000. And for I’ll say four out of the last seven days, we’ve been under 1000 maybe five of those days. But we are back. We are up today. Part of this is that the collection of the cases just goes down and the reporting goes down on the weekend. So again, we are now hovering right around 1000. We certainly want to keep that number down. Number of deaths reported, 37 in the last 24 hours. Number of new hospitalizations, 106. And number of ICU admissions, 13. So those numbers are up. We assume they smooth out as the week if you take all seven days. Again, if you look at the 21 day average, this is something everyone to keep their eye on.
Governor DeWine: (11:36)
Eric, let’s go to the cases now ranked. As we described in the past, this chart takes the number of COVID cases for, in this case, from September 14th to September 27th, and then makes a calculation based on the population size of that county to get the number of cases per 100,000. So it’s not history, it’s the last 14 days. This allows us to compare counties with different population sizes so that it’s an apples to apples comparison. This is why, for example, Franklin County has the highest number of cases during this period with 1,457 cases, but is only 17th on this list because they also have a much larger population. Putnam, Mercer, Pike counties come in with the top three highest case rates per 100,000. So these are the top 20. Putnam, Mercer, Pike, Wood, Athens, Shelby, Lawrence, Henry, Jackson, Defiance, Darke, Miami, Butler, and on down the list.
Governor DeWine: (12:47)
And what you see behind me now is the entire list of all 88 counties. And again, we’ll talk more about this on Thursday when we give you an update on the color code. But this ranking that you’re looking at now is just one other way to look at it. The color code is more focused on hospitalization and health use with some early indicators built into it. The data you’re looking at now is just straight numbers, just straight how many cases in the last 14 days?
Governor DeWine: (13:25)
I want to share a couple of stories I’ve heard during the past several weeks about the virus spread. Every Monday, 7:15 in the morning, we get on the phone with all our 113 health departments around the state and they tell us what they’re seeing on the ground. One example, happened in one of our larger counties, involved a group of 21 coworkers who got together two weeks ago, got together as a group. Someone in that group had COVID-19, didn’t know it. Now, sadly, 12 people have tested positive, nine additional coworkers, and three family members of those coworkers. So again, what we’re seeing many, many times, it’s not what occurs necessarily directly in business or what occurs in classrooms, but rather what occurs as people just get together. And we just alert everyone to please be very, very careful about that.
Governor DeWine: (14:21)
Here is another story. I learned of another story on my call with the local health commissioners. I wanted to share it. Very, very sad story. On August 28th, the family in a more rural county had a wedding. As a result of that wedding, 11 people tested positive. The bride and groom both got sick. So did parents. And so did grandparents. A couple of weeks after the wedding, one of the grandfathers of the couple tragically passed away. We tell these stories not because we want to tell them. And we don’t want to inflict more pain on anyone. It’s just a heartbreaking situation. But we tell them so that other families won’t have the same heartbeat. This just occurs when people are getting together in groups and you’re with friends or family and people just let their guard down. And it just happens.
Governor DeWine: (15:18)
Last week, I said we would provide an update on our wastewater monitoring project. This is an exciting project. And I have asked Rebecca Fugitt to join us to talk about this project. She is the assistant chief of the Bureau of Environmental Health and Radiation Protection for the Ohio Department of Health. She has worked at the Bureau for 25 years. Rebecca, are you on there? See if I can see you. Okay, she’s on.
Rebecca Fugitt: (15:48)
Yes, I am. Yes I am, sir. Thank you.
Governor DeWine: (15:50)
Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it. Tell everyone why we are monitoring wastewater and how that is working.
Rebecca Fugitt: (15:58)
Okay. So the Ohio Coronavirus Wastewater Monitoring Network tests wastewater for gene fragments of COVID-19. Because people start to shed the virus early when infected, a significant sustained increase in these gene fragments found in wastewater can be an early warning sign of a pending increase in a specific area’s COVID-19 cases, and could point to possible hotspots or potential community spread. Having this information gives communities an opportunity to act proactively to prevent outbreaks.
Governor DeWine: (16:31)
And you talk about early. Any idea how early this might be compared to when you start seeing people with symptoms? Any way of-
Rebecca Fugitt: (16:45)
Governor DeWine: (16:45)
Yeah, go ahead.
Rebecca Fugitt: (16:47)
Research suggests and our data indicates that we start to see increase in cases anywhere from four to seven days prior to … We start to see the increases in the wastewater three to seven days before increases in cases.
Governor DeWine: (17:03)
And how many cities are we looking at that now?
Rebecca Fugitt: (17:10)
We’re currently, we’ve seen increases in about six cities over the last several weeks. And most recently, in three cities across the state.
Governor DeWine: (17:18)
And how many total cities are being monitored now, do you know?
Rebecca Fugitt: (17:23)
We’re currently monitoring 36 cities and we plan on increasing an additional 25 cities within the next month.
Governor DeWine: (17:32)
You and I talked earlier today and you told me that this is kind of a work in progress and that not only are you warning cities or communities when you see something, but we’re trying to learn some things as well. Can you talk a little bit about what we know, maybe what we don’t know yet, and what we’re trying to learn?
Rebecca Fugitt: (17:55)
Well, what we’re trying to do is we’re monitoring the viral gene copies that we’re seeing in the wastewater. And we’re just starting to begin to compare that to case data within communities so that we can confirm that we do, in fact, see this viral gene data as a leading indicator of disease. So we’re closely monitoring the results that we’re seeing across our state, we are monitoring a number of sites biweekly now, we’ll be moving to monitoring all of our sites biweekly so that we are able to provide that three to seven day leading indicator of disease. And then when we see this information, when we see increases, we alert health officials and utilities of any sustained upticks in their communities. And we’ve provided a toolkit that helps inform the public. And we’re coordinating to help offer pop-up testing and contact tracing support for those communities. Just most recently, we’ve worked with several local health districts to do this.
Governor DeWine: (18:54)
And what districts have you worked with? I think you told me Mansfield, Akron.
Rebecca Fugitt: (19:03)
Governor DeWine: (19:04)
As well as Lucas County as well. You want to just tell us a little bit about that?
Rebecca Fugitt: (19:09)
Sure. The Toledo Lucas County Health Department has a pop-up testing event planned and has notified the community through a press release about the increases in their wastewater data. We’ve most recently worked with the Richland County Health District. They’ve issued a press release today regarding increases observed in Mansfield following their Labor Day weekend. The increase in gene fragments in the wastewater was observed about five to seven days before we saw increases in the community. So when the virus does increase in the community, it can quickly spread to impact other businesses and facilities within the community. And then in Summit County, officials are comparing our findings with COVID-19 case data for the area served by the plan in Akron so they can better identify some of their hot spots and areas of concern.
Governor DeWine: (20:00)
So I don’t pretend to be a wastewater expert. When you do this, let’s say you’re doing Lucas County. Is there one place that all goes to? Or is there ways to actually see where that’s coming from?
Rebecca Fugitt: (20:20)
Currently in the monitoring network, we’re measuring the gene copies in the raw wastewater that’s entering the wastewater treatment plant. So right now, the data that we collect reflects the community that’s served by the wastewater treatment plant. We do have the ability, excuse me, we do have the ability to go into communities and monitor in specific sub-sewer sheds within that community. We just haven’t started doing that yet within the network. But that is a possibility, and it’s been done elsewhere across the country.
Governor DeWine: (20:50)
And I think you told me for Lucas County, it was actually Oregon. Is that right? It was not actually the city of Toledo. Is that correct?
Rebecca Fugitt: (21:03)
That’s correct. It was in the suburb of Oregon.
Governor DeWine: (21:06)
Okay. Very good. As we move forward, are you going to expand in the number of sites?
Rebecca Fugitt: (21:23)
Yes. We currently have 36 sites that we’re monitoring at, and we’ll be adding an additional 25 sites in the coming month.
Governor DeWine: (21:31)
Okay. All right. We look forward to hearing more and learning more. Thank you very much. We appreciate it, you being online.
Rebecca Fugitt: (21:39)
Thank you for having me.
Governor DeWine: (21:41)
Our Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction also recently began conducting wastewater monitoring at Ohio’s prisons. We’ve talked many times about how challenging it can be to prevent spread in any congregate settings such as a prison where a positive case in one person can certainly have a ripple effect. Director Annette Chambers-Smith is here with us on Skype this afternoon to talk about how they’re using wastewater data to help them, and really also kind of give a report on COVID in Ohio prisons and what the department is doing about that. Director, thanks for joining us.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (22:21)
Good afternoon. Yes, we have been interested in wastewater since about June. In fact, one of the deputy directors came in with a newspaper article and was like, “Hey, there’s this wastewater thing.” And we went to OSU’s environmental health area and said, “Is this credible? Should we be using it?” And started researching it. At the same time, the US EPA came to us and asked to conduct a study. And so we said, “Sure, we would love that.” So they started in June collecting wastewater at one prison. And then a short time later, OSU started collecting wastewater numbers in three prisons. And what we saw was some correlation to what was going on in the prison, as Rebecca just mentioned. So we decided to test every prison every week. And we’ve been doing that since the first week of September.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (23:08)
And what we’re finding is there’s a relationship between what’s going on in the prison and the wastewater, and the early warning aspect of it does appear to be happening for us. I don’t think we all have enough data right now to say conclusively exactly how many days it is. But yes, it looks like it’s about seven days. And that’s precious time for us to plan. So we use it as an early warning system. And so far, we’ve been using it to do things like decide how many cohorts can be together, whether or not we’re going to have visiting, just a whole host of decisions that are made that can make the prison safer if COVID is going to be coming there. But now I’m putting out an executive order that will require staff to be tested when certain indicators like positivity of staff, positivity of the incarcerated adults or the wastewater indicators show that there’s a-
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (24:03)
… the incarcerated adults or the wastewater indicators show that there’s a problem with COVID in that prison. We would not require testing if there’s not any indicators, but if there is, and wastewater is a leading indicator that happens before hospitalizations, before the cases come through testing, that would help us control things. Because we know that COVID comes into prisons from the outside, but once it gets in there, it’s very difficult to stop it. So requiring staff to test at the point where we know that that would be useful, that’s what the executive order’s about. And then every other prison will always have staff being able to do voluntary testing. So we’re going to start the mandatory testing on October 6th at only those sites that trigger these indicators. And wastewater is definitely an important one because it is the only one that’s really a leading indicator.
Governor DeWine: (24:54)
And you want to tell us a little bit about what the protocol… You told me a moment ago about what you’re announcing today, but what’s been the protocol as far as testing? How do you do that?
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (25:10)
In the past, we’ve tried several different methods of voluntary testing, such as having the National Guard help us test on site, in the parking lot, setting up contracts with local hospitals near the prison. So since the beginning of COVID, we’ve had different ways for our staff to test as well as they can take advantage of any of the testing that goes on in the community.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (25:36)
But to be frank with you, when we have a staffing shortage and people are working double shifts, the last thing they’re trying to do is go somewhere in the community and get a test, or if they have to work their days off. We have a very hardworking staff, they’ve been doing a great work. What we want to do is bring the testing to the facility all the time so they can get it while they’re on duty, they don’t have to miss a beat or take any of their personal time to do it.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (26:01)
So we’re really transitioning from just like catch as catch can and using contracts in the communities to having it on site and the staff being able to do it when they think they have symptoms. When they’re concerned about exposure, they can do it. And then also, if we have a problem, we’ll require it.
Governor DeWine: (26:23)
You want to tell us a little bit, I think we talked about Mansfield. We’ve got some cases there, I believe. But maybe you just give us an overall report of all the prison facilities. You don’t have to take them one by one, but just give us a summary.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (26:39)
Well, we do have 79 staff members who are currently positive for COVID, and we have 266 people that live in the prisons that are currently positive. Three of our prisons make up the majority of the positivity. That’s Richland Correctional Institution, which you just asked about, the Correctional Reception Center, and Madison Correctional Institution. Those three prisons have the majority of the positive cases. We have about one-third of our prisons that don’t have COVID at all, not in their wastewater, not with their staff testing, nor with their incarcerated adult testing, which is great.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (27:14)
And then, the next thing we’re going to be doing is flu shots, so we want to make sure that our staff and our incarcerated adults are vaccinated so that we don’t have to use resources or have additional people sick, confusing flu symptoms with COVID symptoms. We don’t want to be fighting on all fronts, so we’re going to really try to make vaccinations accessible. Again, we’ll do those onsite for our staff. We are partnering with a local provider to come in, do the shots at different times, different days. And then, of course, our medical staff that work in the prisons will provide the vaccinations to all of the incarcerated people.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (27:54)
So multi-prong attack that changes with the seasons, including an environmental aspect that we’ve been pursuing.
Governor DeWine: (28:06)
Tell me a little bit, I know you’ve been doing some work about airflow inside the prison. You want to talk to us a little bit about that?
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (28:16)
Yes. In April, our HVAC experts started changing the air circulation between the fresh air outside and the recirculation to have more fresh air coming from outside, sometimes up to a 100% if the system could take that. That was the beginning of starting to look at environmental factors.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (28:36)
After we’d already done social distancing to the extent possible, and wearing masks and gloves and washing your hands, and all the different things we do to try to fight COVID that a person is responsible for, we then turn to start looking at, well, now what we can do with our environment. So that’s how the HVAC system started working. And then we engaged an environmental health specialist from OSU named Dr. Weir. He has been working with us to choose ionization and filtration systems. Those filtration systems are installed at five of our facilities, and they’re supposed to obviously clean COVID out of the air. OSU will be doing testing to make sure that they do. And if they do, we’ll buy more for more facilities. But there’s been a lot of magic beans during COVID, so we don’t want to buy too much of something without really making sure that it has efficacy.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (29:28)
But according to Dr. Weir, this system is the one that’s most promising out there. So that would clean the air, and we’ve put that in places where we have high-acuity people at those five sites. We did that in April, and then in May, we changed out our filters to have the highest MERV rating that the system could handle. So that’s an additional filtration measure.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (29:54)
And now we’re in the process of procuring a portable air filtration systems for additional filtrations in places like the visiting area or entry or the medical area. So we’re just really trying to take care of our physical plan as well because when winter comes, everybody’s going to be inside all the time, and we want to make sure we have the very best chance we can have.
Governor DeWine: (30:20)
Well, thank you very much. Good to have you on. And we’ll get a report in a few more weeks. But thank you. [crosstalk 00:30:29] Appreciate it, Director. We now turn to the Department of Medicaid. Since coming into office in January, 2019, our administration has been evaluating our Medicaid program. Department of Medicaid officials have traveled the state, have spoke to hundreds and hundreds of Ohioans who were covered by Medicaid to better understand what their actual experiences with Medicaid have been and what their health outcomes have been. We’ve also met with physicians, hospitals, healthcare providers, managed care plans to hear their ideas about how we improve the delivery of healthcare and the health of Ohioans.
Governor DeWine: (31:16)
From these conversations and this process, we have developed a new plan, a new vision for Ohio’s Medicaid program, one that focuses on people and not just focuses on the business of managed care. A vision of what we hope will be a better, a healthier, more productive state of Ohio.
Governor DeWine: (31:40)
This is the first major overhaul of Medicaid in 15 years. In the coming days, the Department of Medicaid will be rolling out a series of requests for applications for managed care plans to submit to us, to help carry out this vision. This is this process we’ll be rolling out in the next few days.
Governor DeWine: (32:05)
The Department of Medicaid is the largest provider of health insurance in the state of Ohio. Medicaid covers 3 million Ohioans. Of those, nearly 90% are enrolled in a managed care plan, including nearly every child enrolled in Medicaid in the state of Ohio. That’s why what these plans do is so very important.
Governor DeWine: (32:28)
Tomorrow, a new application will open for those businesses interested in providing managed care plans for children and adults within the Medicaid program. The selected plans, the ones that are selected, will be an essential piece in improving the health and lives of millions of Ohioans. Not only will selected plans work with my administration to build better systems of care, but they also play a special role in helping their members develop good health habits, such as using primary care instead of the emergency rooms, getting needed vaccinations, and attending prenatal visits for pregnant women. They will also help to coordinate care for individuals with more complex health needs, ensuring that patients see their specialists and take their needed medication.
Governor DeWine: (33:16)
Medicaid’s new program will focus on all of the following. One, improving care for children who have complex needs. Two, it will emphasize the personalized care experience of the patient. Three, improving wellness and health outcomes, getting in front of the problem, focusing on wellness. Number four, giving doctors and other medical providers more time to spend with patients and patients having more lengthy conversations with their doctors. I think that is very important. Next, increasing transparency and accountability across managed care to improve members’ care and experience, and making sure all recipients understand what their prescription drug and their other benefits actually are.
Governor DeWine: (34:11)
Let me make one thing clear: if you’re watching this and you’re currently covered by Medicaid, please know that any changes to Ohio’s managed care plans will not disrupt your coverage or your access to care. Another announcement that I would like to make is that the Department of Medicaid will issue a second managed care application letter later this fall to specifically serve children who have complex behavioral health needs. On any given day, thousands of Ohio children are living in treatment facilities because they struggle from severe mental illness, substance use disorder, or developmental disability, sometimes all three.
Governor DeWine: (34:57)
Sadly, many of these children are from Ohio’s foster care system. Almost half, almost half of teenagers who are in foster care over the age of 15 live in a residential treatment center. Children’s experiences leading up to and in the foster care system can leave them with trauma and other significant behavioral health needs. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all Medicaid spending on Ohio’s foster care youth is for behavioral health services, showing that their mental health needs far outpace their physical health needs.
Governor DeWine: (35:35)
For some youth, their needs are so intensive that we don’t have the types of care within the state of Ohio that meat their needs. In fact, today, 140 of Ohio’s children are currently receiving care outside the state of Ohio, placing them sometimes far away from their families, their homes, and their communities. Clearly, we’re not doing these children and other children in need of care justice. They and their families deserve better. Our new managed care program for these children, which we’re calling Ohio RISE, Ohio RISE, R-I-S-E, will work to build up evidence-based care coordination and behavioral health programs throughout the state, ensuring access for more children and better outcomes for those children. We certainly will not see changes overnight. This is a process, but we begin that process today, and I am confident that these new programs will help to make Ohio a healthier, more vibrant state.
Governor DeWine: (36:39)
Last week, the Ohio Hospital Association launched a new public awareness ad campaign, encouraging Ohioans to do the right thing, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So we thank the Ohio Hospital Association for doing that. These public service announcements are airing throughout the state right now on both TV and on radio. Both feature Ohioans, Ohioans who are COVID-19 survivors.
Governor DeWine: (37:07)
The first is from Cleveland State University women’s basketball coach, Chris Kielsmeier. Eric, let’s take a look at the video.
Chris Kielsmeier: (37:20)
I was fatigued, just like every other basketball coach in March, but didn’t think about getting sick. I woke up one night with the worst pains and chills I’d ever experienced. I tested positive for coronavirus and immediately self-quarantined. I got worse and worse and checked into the hospital. Multiple times, I said, “I don’t want to die.” We know what works, we know how to fight this, but it’s going to take all of us doing the right thing every single day.
Governor DeWine: (37:52)
Certainly a very powerful message. What works of course is mask wearing, social distancing, good hygiene, and just an overall willingness to do the right thing for others. The next PSA features Stacey Unsinger, a resident of Ashtabula County, who says nothing could have prepared her for what she went through with COVID-19.
Stacey Unsinger: (38:17)
I heard a lot about it, obviously, but nothing prepares you for when you actually get it. I started having trouble breathing, I felt like I was drowning. I went to the hospital and tested positive for coronavirus. My oxygen levels dropped really low. I spent several weeks on a ventilator. It was terrifying. I consider myself lucky to be able to share what happened. We can beat this, but it’s going to take everyone doing the right thing every single day.
Governor DeWine: (38:48)
Well, we’re grateful to have Stacey joining us today to tell us more about her experiences with COVID. If Stacey looks familiar, that’s because she joined us at one of our previous press briefings, I think in May, after a long stay in the hospital and some of that time on a ventilator. It’s been six months since Stacey was first diagnosed in March. Stacey, thank you very much for joining us. How are you doing?
Stacey Unsinger: (39:16)
Hi. Thank you for having me. I’m doing very well.
Governor DeWine: (39:22)
That’s great. You look like you’re doing well. That’s fantastic. Tell us a little bit about, maybe walk us through the experience that you’ve had.
Stacey Unsinger: (39:34)
Well, it started off and it was very quick when it happened. Diagnosed with double lobe pneumonia. Quickly progressed into having to be placed on a ventilator. I was in respiratory arrest. University hospitals quickly sent me downtown to the COVID unit that was just open that day, and they saved my life. I’m grateful for that, beyond words.
Stacey Unsinger: (40:12)
After I was released from the Hanna House, I came home on a walker, had to use a wheelchair for longer distances. I quickly recovered from that, started walking and challenging myself to do different things. Started driving. Recently, I had a follow-up visit with my pulmonary doctor, who, in his words, said my lungs look better than ever. No scarring, no damage. Very pleased with that report.
Governor DeWine: (40:49)
Oh, that’s great. That is absolutely fantastic. You got to be happy about that.
Stacey Unsinger: (40:54)
Governor DeWine: (40:55)
Yeah. Yeah, wow. Wow. Tell us a little bit about, you talked about maybe the physical side of this. What about the emotional side of this? That has to have been a scary process. What was it like?
Stacey Unsinger: (41:11)
Well, well, I will say the emotional impacts for me with COVID, now, looking back to everything, was the inability to comfort my family and my loved ones. They had to see me suffer. And as a lot of us know, our children look up to us as superheroes, and I wasn’t that for them. I couldn’t be that for them. And that was terrifying, that was scary. Scary to know that my parents were terrified that they were going to lose a daughter at a young age. And just the inability to be in control of the things that we think we can control.
Governor DeWine: (41:59)
Yeah. I can’t imagine how tough it would be for you, nor can I really imagine how tough it would be for your family. You said your parents and other family members, children. It’s just, yeah. It’s just got to be… And of course, they couldn’t see you during that period of time, right? Or you couldn’t really communicate, I guess?
Stacey Unsinger: (42:20)
Nope, nope. Just a few FaceTiming, from what I can recall. Honestly, my memory from that time period is starting to be less and less, and I’m grateful for that.
Governor DeWine: (42:34)
That’s probably a good thing.
Stacey Unsinger: (42:37)
Governor DeWine: (42:38)
Yeah. You, I would just say, had the courage to do this PSA announcement. I just thank you for doing it, but I wonder if you could just tell us why you did it? It had to have been tough, but why did you agree to do that?
Stacey Unsinger: (42:58)
Well, I agreed to do it because I feel very strongly that people need to know this virus is real. I know people are growing very weary of the mandates and the masks and the precautions that they have to take, because we’ve never lived through a time period that we’ve had to take these type of precautions so seriously. So, I really wanted to participate in that commercial to encourage people to not grow weary in doing what is right because, in the end, that mindfulness and that strength of not growing weary will get us to where we need to be, but we have to do it together.
Governor DeWine: (43:56)
Well, thank you very much for doing that, and thank you for coming on today. We were very, very grateful, and it’s great to see you and great to hear that you’re doing very well. That’s got to make you feel really good. I know everyone who loves you and all your friends have to feel great about that as well. So continued good luck.
Stacey Unsinger: (44:22)
Yes, God bless you. Thank you.
Governor DeWine: (44:25)
Thank you, thank you. God bless you. Thank you very much. Let’s turn to firefighter hall of fame, where we honor some of our first responders. Every year, the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of State Fire Marshall joins the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Division of EMS, the Ohio Fire Service Hall of Fame and Fire Awards. This year marks 40 years of the ceremony. Due to COVID-19, the celebrations look a bit different, but we still want to honor these heroes across the state of Ohio.
Governor DeWine: (44:59)
This year’s Hall of Fame and Fire Awards honors 11 firefighters and one fire department for their exceptional bravery and steadfast commitment to protecting their communities. To learn about each of this year’s awardees, I encourage you to visit the State Fire Marshal’s website, State Fire Marshal’s website. Congratulations. More importantly, thank you to the recipients of the 2020 Ohio Fire Service Hall of Fame and Fire Awards. And to everybody else who is a first responder out there, EMS, fire departments, our police, we thank you. We thank you for what you do each and every day.
Governor DeWine: (45:40)
Let me now turn to the Lieutenant Governor, who I believe is in Cleveland. Lieutenant Governor, how’s Cleveland?
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (45:50)
Governor, can you hear me? I’m doing great. I appreciate the Cleveland Clinic hosting me today. That’s where I am for the news conference. It’s indeed a big day in Cleveland. You mentioned the Indians and the Yankees playing baseball tonight. And there’s another little thing that’s catching some national attention, probably some global attention, the presidential debate, which will be held at the Cleveland Clinic, and I will be there for that. So it is indeed a big day in Cleveland. I appreciate the Clinic hosting me for the news conference.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (46:23)
A couple of things. First of all, I’ve had some questions about this, about prevalence testing. There was a study that we did back in July that will help assess how many people we estimate have had COVID and how many people had it during the course of that testing. We will give an update on that on Thursday. So you can plan for that to come out on Thursday. I just wanted to respond to some questions that I know people have in anticipation of that information being released. Couple of workforce-related issues starting out. In July, I announced that we had created an opportunity, something we’d partnered with the legislature on, called the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program, assistance program called IMAP for short. This program reimburses training providers up to $3,000 each for completed technology-focused credentials, and we will reimburse up to $250,000 per provider.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (47:32)
Today, what I am announcing is the opportunity for Ohioans who are low income, partially employed, or totally unemployed to access training through IMAP at no cost. Even though it’s at no cost, it has great value, believe me. This opportunity will help nearly 2,000 Ohioans earn a credential, and there are 12 training providers, including community colleges, University of Ohio, technical centers, private providers, and non-
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (48:03)
… Ohio technical centers, private providers, and non-profits have received awards to provide these services, between all of those providers. They will offer up to 71 different short-term, industry recognized, technology focused credentials that will help up skill Ohioans in our increasingly tech infused economy. Which COVID frankly, has only highlighted. Let me explain briefly how it works. If you’re interested, you can visit the IMAP.Development.Ohio.Gov website. I’ll go to that one more time, IMAP, I-M-A-P.development.Ohio.Gov.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (48:47)
You will see the 12 eligible providers there. You can learn how to enroll. Then you can select from one of 71 micro-credentials that you could apply for, 55 of those can be done online. So, there are many of them that if you have COVID issues, don’t want to go in person that there are 55 of them that you can do online, of the 71 credentials. And we think that this has great potential.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (49:23)
I can tell you that what we like about this, that this is paid for completion. We’re funding things. We want to see results. We want to see people leave with that credential in hand, we pay the providers upon completion. Every one of these credentials is in demand and we know employers are hiring for these skills today. So this IMAP program has a tremendous value in the marketplace, and we’re glad to get this kicked off and get more people enrolled.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (49:54)
Governor, and I will let you know, I got an email from a former academic advisor and a former governor this week to ask you and me to make an announcement about FAFSA. And I know that Governor Taft and Dr. Leslie, who had emailed me wanting to remind us that Ohioans and that there a free application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, that opens up on October, the first. All students, high school seniors, current students, and adults interested in attending or returning to college should complete the FAFSA.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (50:33)
Ohio families every year miss out on financial aid, simply for not completing this form. It’s estimated that approximately 39% of students eligible for financial aid do not currently complete the FAFSA. That’s 39% of students who are already enrolled, could get more financial aid simply by filling out these forms that would make leave of millions of dollars on the table that people are not drawing down to pay for their college education. And we urge students starting on October 1st, family, starting on October 1st to get those forms filled out, to help make college and your education a little more affordable.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (51:18)
And then finally, Governor, I know that COVID is a state led response; every state, all 50 States doing things a little bit differently because we have to have state level strategies. And I know we often ask ourselves, “How do we compare? What are other States doing? How do we compare to other States?” And there were a couple of national media stories yesterday that came out that I thought provided a great perspective on where things stand from both an economic point of view and a health point of view, and how Ohio fits into that.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (51:53)
First article was a Reuters story that led with the headline, “Positive COVID-19 Test Rates Top 25% in Some Midwest States.” So Midwest and a lot of Midwestern States are seeming to see an uptick during the past few weeks. It highlighted in this article, “North Dakota’s positive test rate has averaged 30% over the past seven days compared to 6% just the prior week. And the positivity rate has risen to 26% in South Dakota, up from 17% in the previous week, according to analysis done by the COVID tracking project.” The article stated that, “All Midwest States, except Ohio reported more cases in the past four weeks compared to the prior four weeks.” And that was according to the Reuters analysis.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (52:47)
Also, yesterday, on the economic front, Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business released a back to normal index. This is a economic index. Which has comprised of 37 national and seven state level indicators. And the index ranges from zero, representing no economic activity, to 100% meaning that they had returned to pre-pandemic levels in March. Ohio received a score of 88. We were ranked 10th in the country for the economic recovery. These were led by Maine 96, North Dakota at 92, Nebraska, Rhode Island and New Hampshire at 90, Wyoming, Idaho at 89. And then Connecticut, Michigan, and Ohio, all at 88.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (53:38)
If you’ll notice from those 10 States, only two of them are really large states with a lot of urban areas that would be Michigan and Ohio. The links to these articles are on all of our social media pages. I wanted to get that out there because we always want to know how we’re working as it relates to other States. And while nothing is permanent, we know that with COVID ,and much work remains on both fronts, on economic and health front, well, we have made progress. And Ohioans, they should feel good about the fact that they’ve done this. That they have done a good job.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (54:17)
And For many months now we’ve talked about learning to live with COVID in our lives and protecting our lives and livelihoods. And the data in these two articles, I believe, shows that that Ohioans have hit that balance, pretty well. We know. We always push every day, and I know you lead this Governor. It’s like, we want to get better on all of these fronts. But I do want Ohioans to just know that we appreciate how much they are sacrificing, how much they are getting this right on many occasions.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (54:47)
And we want to see continued good news in this area. We’ll continue to work at it. We’ll continue to refine. We’ll get better. We’ll innovate, but I know that we appreciate what Ohio have done to put us in a good spot on these two fronts, at least for now. Although we know that no victory is won permanently it’s where we stand now and we’ll keep getting better. Thanks, Governor.
Governor DeWine: (55:14)
Well, thanks for bringing those up. I had not seen those. So thanks for sharing. And it is, as you said, Lieutenant Governor, I think attribute to the people in the state of Ohio. We are doing two things at once. We are focused on health, we’re focused on keeping people safe, and we’re also focused on bringing our economy moving forward. So that’s good news. Thanks for sharing. We’re ready for questions.
Speaker 1: (55:38)
First question of the day is from Tom Bosco at WSYX in Columbus.
Tom Bosco: (55:44)
Hey, Governor. Latest polls are showing that Ohio is a toss up four years after Donald Trump won the state. Of course, with the debate tonight, many are saying that Ohio is in play for election day for the presidency. What’s your opinion on that? Do you think Ohio is in place, still a swing state? And what case for reelection do you think Donald Trump is going to make tonight?
Governor DeWine: (56:09)
Well, I don’t speak for the president. I support the president. I don’t speak for him. We’ll see what he says tonight. But, I think that if you look at what the president has done, a major commitment, and this was highlighted of course, by his nomination, Judge Barrett, what candidate ever listed who he’s going to put on the courts? He did. And he consistently put people who respect the constitution. People who don’t think they’re legislators. People who are focused on being referees, which is what we want judges to be.
Governor DeWine: (56:53)
And so I think that is something he should be very proud of. I’m very happy about his nominee, Judge Barrett, who from people who know her, who have worked with her, people who are on the left, people on the right, they all marvel at her intellect and her more important even than that, is her honesty and her integrity. So, yes, I think president will certainly talk about that.
Governor DeWine: (57:25)
Whereas Ohio, look, I never bought into this argument that Ohio would become a Republican state. I mean, Ohio is a swing state. President one last time by nine points, I think. That was a big, big surprise. I think he’s going to win this time in Ohio. I think it will be close, but I think he will win. So we’ll see. But sure, Ohio is certainly in play. And I think the President will carry Ohio.
Speaker 1: (57:58)
Next question is from Emily Hamilton, at WEWS in Cleveland.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (58:04)
Hi, Governor DeWine. Just going back now to our question last week, we’ve been reporting on one nursing home specifically in Lake County, but I’ve started to receive complaints and other relatives reaching out, nursing homes from really across the state. And one of their main complaints is that they really struggled to get any information from nursing home staff about their relatives. And sometimes the last, or the only point of contact, they get is there toward the end when a Hospice nurse tells them that their relative has contracted COVID and it won’t be much longer until they afford, unfortunately, pass away.
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (58:51)
I guess our question for you is what’s your response to these families who say they’re really struggling to get information from nursing homes? What more can be done to slow the spread at those facilities? And what would you say to family members who are calling for some sort of state intervention aside from just inspections from the Health Department? Such as a lot of them calling for the state to send in the National Guard at some of those facilities that they weren’t sent into beforehand.
Governor DeWine: (59:24)
Well, we don’t hesitate to send in the National Guard where the National Guard is needed. And we do check with nursing homes. If they have, for example, we had one nursing home a few weeks ago that a lot of their staff was off. They couldn’t staff it. And so for a day or so, we had National Guard in there assisting them. So we will send them the National Guard. We have doctors, we have nurses, we have people who, in their civilian life do this. So they are members of the National Guard. So we don’t hesitate to do that.
Governor DeWine: (59:57)
Second, as you may have seen, the president made an announcement yesterday about new tests, antigen tests, that are quick tests and they are less intrusive, and they also can be directly read. You do not have to take them into a laboratory to get them read. So we’re looking now, and coming up with, a plan that we were working on today about how do we deploy these tests?
Governor DeWine: (01:00:27)
I mean, these could be up to 228,000 tests, every shipment. And that’s going to enable us to do a lot of different things that we have not done in the past. So we are looking, for example, at making that available to nursing homes to fill in gaps were the testing is not adequate enough, or it’s not frequent enough with staff, for example.
Governor DeWine: (01:00:53)
We are also looking at using these tests as a extra layer of protection, but also to give some people in the nursing home confidence that the person who’s coming in to visit a loved one does not have COVID. So if you could get a test in 15 minutes… And we don’t have this worked out yet, we’re not ready to announce anything. We’re working with nursing homes to talk with them and working with others. But there’s a possibility that we could use some of those tests to enable you to see your mother more often.
Governor DeWine: (01:01:29)
I got a letter yesterday that was, I think, very eloquent from someone whose directly involved in nursing homes. And one of the things that she said was, “When we have visitation, sometimes we’re short on staff and we can’t do it. And that’s what slows the visitation down.” And so I wonder-
Director Annette Chambers-Smith: (01:01:54)
Governor DeWine: (01:01:57)
If I just finish that thought. We have opened up the nursing homes. We are now coming forward with a plan about how do we deal with it in winter? How do we deal with in house visitation? One of the tools that we are going to deploy, I believe, is this additional testing, which will be of assistance.
Governor DeWine: (01:02:20)
The other thing that you mentioned that I want to talk about for a moment, is the sanitation and following infectious disease protocols. We are reviewing these again, internally, to see whether or not, frankly, are we doing enough? I always ask this question with my team, are we doing enough in this area? Are we doing enough in that area? So we’re having another review of what we’re doing as far as the surveys, the inspections that are going on in the nursing homes. So go ahead. You wanted to follow up question?
Speaker 1: (01:02:53)
The next question is from Joe Ingles at Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Joe Ingles: (01:02:58)
Governor DeWine: (01:03:00)
Joe Ingles: (01:03:00)
Hi. Many in our business community, particularly bars and restaurants, continue to say that they’re having a real hard time making ends meet with the coronavirus mandates and restrictions that have been put on them. And they question why some States, like Florida, do not have the stiff restrictions.
Joe Ingles: (01:03:24)
Yet, the Ohio bars and restaurants have to continue with the distance spacing and all of the things that make it harder for them to quite frankly, make money and stay in business. What would be your answer to those businesses right now, who are saying, “Why can’t you ease up on this and give us some relief here?”
Governor DeWine: (01:03:51)
Well, I have family members going back a few generations who ran bars, and ran restaurants, and I get it. I understand that. I have close friends who run bars, and I understand it. And so I know this is tough for them. Let me point out one thing, starting with restaurants. The restaurant protocol was put together by people who run restaurants. And one of the things that they said to me is, “We do not want a limit. We don’t want limit to how many people.” 25%, some States went to 25%. Some States went to 50%.
Governor DeWine: (01:04:36)
And they said, “Look, we will go by, we will abide by the six foot rule, but let us get as many people in there as we can abiding by the six foot rule.” Now we did that. Now that obviously does constraint to some extent, and it would vary by the makeup of the room or how big the room, what angles the room has, et cetera. But we followed what they ask us to do in putting no 25%, or no 50%. There’s no limit on percentage that it’s limited by how close you can put people.
Governor DeWine: (01:05:10)
As far as the bars, look, I get it. I understand that 10 o’clock closing with alcohol off the table by 11 is difficult and directly into their bottom line. We’re going to look at that. We are looking at that. We’re in the process of looking at that. I have mayors of some of our major cities who told me, as recently as this morning, “Please do not change that.” I have another mayor who has told me, “Please do change that.” But we have a lot of mayors who don’t think that we should change this. I can’t compare us to other States.
Governor DeWine: (01:05:53)
I don’t know what other governors are doing. I don’t know what goes through their head. I mean, that’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is to the people of the state of Ohio. And as Lieutenant Governor pointed out, we’re trying to do two things. We’re trying to live with the virus. We’re trying to keep our economy moving. We’re trying to get people employed.
Governor DeWine: (01:06:11)
But at the same time, we know that if this thing flares back up again, [inaudible 01:06:17] anybody go never restaurants or bars, because they’ll be scared to do it. We can’t let it flare up. And I would say, and I’m bragging on the people of the state of Ohio, we’ve never had a big flare up, not a big one. We’ve never been like Florida was at one point. Texas was, California was at one point, and South Dakota. You go on and on, go through the different States.
Governor DeWine: (01:06:37)
We’ve not had that. We’ve had great tragedy. We’ve had people continue to lose their lives. We can’t seem to get the number under a thousand by very much, as far as new cases every day. We’ve got hotspots, certainly in the Western side of our state. So it’s not perfect, but we’ve done, I think Ohioans because the mask compliance and other things, they’ve done a very, very good job at this. What we constantly have to evaluate is exactly what you talked about, which is how this hurts small business versus what it does if you expand the hours in regard to potential spread. So we’re looking at it. We’ll be talking about that in a short period of time; not today. One of the points has been made very well from people is, “Hey, baseball playoffs are on,” Indians are on tonight, for example. NFL footballs on a number of nights, we have college football that’s on.
Governor DeWine: (01:07:44)
And so there’s ample opportunity for people to stay in a bar, eat what they want to eat, drink what they want to drink and watch the games that go on into the night. And so I fully understand that. We will try to have something shortly and I’ll tell you where we are on this as we continue to evaluate how we do this.
Speaker 1: (01:08:04)
The next question is from Andrew Welsh-Huggins at The Associated Press.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins: (01:08:11)
Hi, Governor. Apologies for the background noise, we’ve got a construction project in the neighborhood. This is a bit of a follow-up to Joe’s question. And this may actually be more for the Lieutenant Governor. But in terms of the economy, we did see last week that initial claims for unemployment compensation ticked up slightly as did continuing claims, which are considered I guess, a more reliable indicator of the job situations.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins: (01:08:38)
And Lieutenant Governor talked about some good news, but nationally 40,000 workers in the airline industry are facing layoffs Thursday. Just today, the Dayton Daily News reported that PF Chang’s Chinese Bistro is laying off 299 workers across the state with restaurants continuing to suffer.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins: (01:08:59)
So I guess I’m just wondering with what you’ve been talking about, what you just talked about and what the Lieutenant Governor’s been talking about, what are your concerns that as we recover from that huge economic downward swing, we could be facing a longer term decline? And again, what can be done about that short of additional reopenings or a vaccine?
Governor DeWine: (01:09:22)
Absolutely the right questions. Question we ask ourselves every day. We’re talking to the legislature, we hope to have announcement with the legislature, with the leaders shortly, about some specific help for small businesses, and some specific help in regard to people, to pay rent. Which directly impacts the people who are paying the rent, but also someone who might own the property and who is paying a mortgage themselves. So has a real significant impact. And second to people who have mortgages. So those are the three things that we’re looking at right now, talking to the general assembly. And I think we’ll be able to announce something, I hope, in the near future about what we can do in regard to those three things. Lieutenant Governor, I don’t know if you have anything to add to that.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (01:10:22)
Yeah. Governor right. Andrew, it’s a good question. We certainly know that we have a long way to go. We know that finding that right balance on the health and economic consequences is essential to do. So the people have confidence to go out, to go back to work and to do those kinds of things. So it’s the balance we’re trying to strike.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (01:10:43)
There’s a lot of disruption in the economy where some types of traditional businesses are laying off and will continue to lay off. And I expect we will continue to see those announcements for some time. As other businesses are hiring. For example, I saw the other day where I think Amazon is trying to hire over 3000 people in the state of Ohio at the same times that other types of businesses, perhaps who don’t fit into the COVID world as well, are laying people off.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (01:11:14)
There is an intense disruption that exists in the economy. That’s why you hear, like we did today, announcing about retraining opportunities. Because the types of jobs in our economy are changing and they will permanently in many cases. And so that’s why we got to continue to up skill people. That’s what the IMAP announcement was about today. Taking people who are unemployed, getting them retrained so that they can do a lot of the new jobs that are being created.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (01:11:43)
And I want to emphasize something. When we talk about technology, these skills, if you don’t consider yourself a tech person, believe me, you can still be retrained to do these things. You don’t even have to have a tech background to be able to enroll in some of these programs and get a new skill.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted: (01:12:02)
… to be able to enroll in some of these programs and get a new skill. So please, if you’re out there in the workforce, don’t be intimidated by this. Know that there’s some support services out there to get you skilled, to get you into the workforce, and for all of us to adjust to the changes and the disruptions that are occurring in the economy. A lot of these trends were already underway. COVID exacerbated them, and we’re just having to respond to that, and help get people the skills and match them to the new kinds of jobs that are being created.
Speaker 2: (01:12:34)
Speaker 3: (01:12:36)
Next question is from Jackie Borchardt at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Jackie Borchardt: (01:12:42)
Good afternoon, Governor. I have a followup on the Abbott testing. It’s been almost two months since you announced the six-state compact to require antigen tests. How come we don’t have a plan yet on how to implement these tests? With yesterday’s announcement, you said you’re still working on it. What are you really look at to come up with that plan, and what are some of the concerns about using these particular tests?
Governor DeWine: (01:13:15)
Well, thank you for the question. First of all, this is big news. This is separate and apart from any consortium that we’re involved in, and we’ve known that these tests were coming for some time, as the president has told us that they were coming, the vice president has told us they were coming. So we know a lot of different places where we’re going to deploy them, and we have two goals. We have two goals. One is to save lives, and that means you have to target those who are the most vulnerable, which are the older Ohioans, and Ohioans who have a medical problem. That’s where you save the lives.
Governor DeWine: (01:13:59)
Second, though, we have to do everything we can to slow the spread, and to slow the spread, that is vitally important. And so those two things. Third thing is, if we can use these tests to let Ohioans more fully-participate in their life, society, then we want to use them in that way, too. For example, we were working this morning on the deployment of some of these tests, possibly into schools, into the local health department. So the local health department could work with the schools. And again, these are strip tests. These are similar concept, broadly, as a pregnancy test. You don’t have to take them to the laboratory. It takes 15 minutes to get the results.
Governor DeWine: (01:14:58)
So we’re looking. We don’t have anything to announce, but we’re looking at how could we use these to get more kids physically in school, maybe kids who are online now, and maybe some way we could use them in that manner, or when kids who are in school now, physically … And candidly, one of the complaints we’ve heard and one of the concerns that have been raised is, you have a child who tests positive, and then you knock out a whole bunch of other kids. Maybe there’s a way to use these tests in regard to these other kids, so that they would not have to be knocked out for 14 days.
Governor DeWine: (01:15:36)
So that’s some of the things that we’re looking at. We’re looking at using some of these tests in our jails. Our jails many times do not have testing, and being able … It’s a congregate setting. It’s a setting you worry about. They’re either going to go back out into society, you don’t want them taking that out into society. You don’t want them taking it to the state prison system. So helping sheriffs manage their jail population certainly is important.
Governor DeWine: (01:16:08)
We also have other congregate living out there that we could use and deploy these. So we’re well on our way with a plan. We’re not ready to announce it yet. We want to talk to some of the people who are going to be deploying it, but we’re very excited about this. This is a big, big deal. We’ve known it’s been coming, but now, with these additional tests, it’s going to be very helpful.
Speaker 3: (01:16:34)
Next question is from Jack Windsor at WMFD in Mansfield.
Governor DeWine: (01:16:39)
Jack Windsor: (01:16:40)
Hi, Governor. Last week a Marietta mom was violently removed from a stadium after she was asked to mask and didn’t comply, despite being six feet away from others, not in her family and having a medical exemption. Today the mother of a high school student reached out to us after she was told her son’s medical exemption was not going to be honored by the school. And the school also questioned her religious exemption, asking for documentation from a church leader and materials that would establish the existence of longstanding beliefs. Essentially, the school is now adjudicating which religious beliefs are valid and which are not. So my question is, Governor, should schools simply be honoring exemptions allowed in the sports order and the statewide mask mandate from July 23? Why or why not?
Governor DeWine: (01:17:27)
Well, we created the exemption to take care of seriously held beliefs that would prohibit someone from wearing a mask. And it came about in a conversation that I had with a superintendent, where the superintendent said, “We have people in our community, and they, for religious reasons, feel that they cannot wear a mask.” That sounds reasonable. Throughout this we have tried to be very respectful of people’s religion. We never closed the churches. We never, ever, ever did that at all.
Governor DeWine: (01:18:06)
And so we put this religious exemption in there. We have 630 something school districts. We have private schools. And so each one of them has to make a determination. I can’t make a determination in these cases. I think our superintendents are doing a good job. I think our principals are doing a good job, and they’re making a case-by-case determination of what they can do. What you don’t want to have is a situation where you just say to people, “All you have to do is check this box and you don’t have to wear a mask.” That’s not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish.
Governor DeWine: (01:18:51)
We don’t have to have everybody wearing a mask, but we have to have a very, very significant number of them. And we’ve seen time and time again, out in society, out in different counties, that that does make a huge, huge, huge difference. And so this is something I trust our local schools, and they have leeway in this. We’re not going to second guess. We’re not going to tell them they were wrong. We try to give them broad guidance, so that we can say to parents and we can say to schools, “If you go back in person, if you follow these guidelines, this is the safest way that you can do this.”
Governor DeWine: (01:19:37)
And let me just say, they’re doing a bang up job. They’re doing a very, very, very good job in managing a difficult situation. And my hat’s off to the superintendents, the principals, the teachers, parents. I think by and large everyone is doing a very, very good job in a very difficult environment.
Speaker 3: (01:20:02)
Next question is from Mike Livingston at Gongwer News Service.
Mike Livingston: (01:20:08)
Hey, Governor. You kind of alluded this talking about nursing homes, but with colder weather coming, what other conversations are you having with your team on how the state’s approach might need to adust once everybody heads indoors for the winter? Thanks.
Governor DeWine: (01:20:23)
Well, we don’t know where this COVID is going, and we continue to learn things. And I say we. Look, I’m not the scientist. I’m not the medical person. But I’m talking about the experts, and they continue to learn. We’re putting a real push on flu shots, because we don’t know what happens if someone has COVID and flu, but we don’t want to find out. And so the more that we can reduce that number, people who get the flu, the more we can reduce the severity of the flu. We know that that will save lives. Flu can be deadly, particularly to the young, particularly to the old. And so it’s the right thing to do.
Governor DeWine: (01:21:04)
We hope that what they’ve seen in the Southern Hemisphere, some countries in the Southern Hemisphere where they’ve already had the flu season, that the wearing of the mask cut down the spread of that, but we don’t know. The other thing that we are looking at, and I have a working group, and we’ve not talked about this, I don’t think, but I put a working group together to look at what our director of DRC was talking about, what Annette was talking about, and that is ventilation and what we do in our public buildings, and we can do as people move back inside, and they’re inside virtually all the time.
Governor DeWine: (01:21:50)
The importance of that ventilation being right, bringing in outside air, making sure you have the right filters in place, all of those things are very, very important. And we had an expert from Ohio State who talked a week or so ago here, and we’re consulting with him, and we’re going to continue working on that. So that’s another thing that we’re working on as we move into the colder weather in Ohio.
Speaker 3: (01:22:19)
Next question is from Max Filby at the Columbus Dispatch.
Max Filby: (01:22:25)
Governor DeWine: (01:22:25)
Max Filby: (01:22:28)
So it sounds like that May was one of the deadliest months for opioid overdoses in Ohio. And moving forward, I’m just curious, what will your administration be doing to try to curb that and make sure that we don’t see another record month here before the end of the year?
Governor DeWine: (01:22:47)
We’re putting a real focus with Director Chris on that, and on mental health. Many times those are connected. We know that there’s been a lot of downsides to this COVID besides the COVID, and one of the downsides is an increase in mental health. We are, again, working with the state legislature, and I hope to have some announcements coming shortly in regard to the mental health, and more that we can do in this area to help our colleges, our universities, to help our high schools, our grade schools.
Governor DeWine: (01:23:28)
Fortunately, our K-12 schools have wellness dollars that the legislature set aside. We work with the legislature, and they did that. So those wellness dollars can be used in regard to mental health, but it’s something we’re very aware of. We’re seeing it out in the communities, getting more dollars out to the local communities. It’s something that’s very important, so we’ll have more to announce in the next several weeks.
Speaker 3: (01:24:00)
Next question is from Ben Schwartz at WCPO in Cincinnati.
Governor DeWine: (01:24:06)
Ben Schwartz: (01:24:07)
Hi, Governor. I’m wondering if you’ve at all considered loosening truancy laws in Ohio schools, or possibly requiring districts with kids who are feeling ill, to offer the option of virtual learning whenever they need, just so kids who don’t necessarily know if they have COVID-19 but might feel ill don’t potentially spread the virus at school.
Governor DeWine: (01:24:34)
Well, that’s an excellent question. We really want to encourage schools to do that. And if we’re starting to get into a problem, I’m sure the schools are going to tell us, in regard to absentee and there’s something we need to do at the state level in regard to that. But by-and-large we leave this up to the local schools. Again, if there’s guidelines or there are regulations that we need to change because of the COVID, that’s causing that kind of problem, then we’re certainly willing to take a look at that, because we don’t want children who don’t feel good coming to class.
Governor DeWine: (01:25:15)
And I know there’s schools that have done the hybrid. One of the things that they can do, or most of them, I think, can do, is make that switch a little easier back and forth. And hybrid means a lot of different things to a lot of different schools, but some schools the child is on for a couple days, off for a couple days. But they get used to using that remote learning. So again, I think those schools probably have an easier time to make that transition. But we’re open to doing anything we need to do to help them.
Speaker 3: (01:25:53)
Next question is from Kennie Bass at WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia.
Kennie Bass: (01:26:01)
Hi, Governor. We’ve seen, in our state and obviously in Eastern Kentucky and Southern Ohio, that a one size fits all approach doesn’t really work when dealing with COVID. So can you communicate to the people who live in our region, which is rural, and in many ways much more similar to Kentucky and West Virginia than to some of your more metropolitan areas like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Athens, Akron, et cetera? The differences in governing this thing in those areas, and the challenges the state is going through to try to be as effective as possible in these vastly different communities.
Governor DeWine: (01:26:35)
Well, one of the great things about Ohio is we have many different communities. We have our Appalachian communities, we have our cities, we have our suburbs, all kinds of different parts of Ohio. And I’ve traveled Ohio. My wife, Fran, has quite a bit in the last 30 or 40 years. So we get it. We get the difference. I think when you’re talking about a small, rural county, we still have some counties that don’t have a lot of spread. One of the reasons we put this list up on the board, with 88 counties, we can see, everybody can look and see what their spread is in their county.
Governor DeWine: (01:27:12)
On Thursday, in fact, we’re going to put some more data up. We’re going to put for the month of September, how many people have been coming out of cases, that actual number, what the number is of hospitalizations so far, what the number of deaths are. And so we’re going to try to continue to give people information. So I would say anyone who’s in your viewing area should try to continue to drill down on what’s going on in their county, and how many cases they’ve had, and what kind of report. We’ve had the virus everywhere, so you can’t hide from it, but there’s certainly some counties in Southeast Ohio, for example, that are not as high as many of our other counties are.
Governor DeWine: (01:27:57)
But I think people need to look at their own individual county. Wearing the mask, whether you’re in a rural county or an urban county, is just a way to dramatically slow this. So if you’re in a county where you don’t have a lot of spread yet, you can keep it away. It’s pretty simple. 80, 90% of the people wear a mask, you’re going to keep it away. You’re going to keep it way, way, way down. And it’s so much easier to keep it down than when it gets up to here, and it’s spreading out like that. And that’s a problem. So that would be my message. Wear a mask, keep it down, keep a distance. I think that’s the best way to deal with it.
Speaker 3: (01:28:37)
Governor, next question is the last question for today, and it belongs to Shane Stegmiller of Hannah News Service.
Shane Stegmiller: (01:28:44)
Good afternoon, Governor. How are you doing?
Governor DeWine: (01:28:46)
Shane Stegmiller: (01:28:48)
The legislature since you had House Bill 242, which prohibits local governments from placing taxes on containers, such as single use plastic bags, you’ve expressed concerns about it in the past. I just wanted to see what your thoughts are on the bill currently and going forward, because I believe it’s just a temporary ban.
Governor DeWine: (01:29:09)
Yes, this is a temporary ban, and I will sign the bill because it’s temporary, and because I think you can make an argument for it during the COVID period. It covers, for example, styrofoam. People can carry out food, et cetera. So it’s not just the paper bags. My general principle is that unless there’s a compelling reason why we need uniformity throughout the state of Ohio, we should stay away from telling local units of government what to do. They’re elected by the local citizens. They should be accountable to the local citizens. If the local citizens don’t like what they’re doing, they can get rid of them.
Governor DeWine: (01:29:52)
So unless there’s a compelling reason to do it, I would normally veto this bill, but we are in the COVID period. I think it makes sense during this period of time to have that uniformity, and that assurance that people have this ability to use styrofoam containers, to have carry out food and to use the plastic bags. So I will sign the bill, but if I get another bill like that in a year or so, I probably won’t sign it.
Governor DeWine: (01:30:28)
I’m told that we are done, and let me just do something kind of fun. I want to spotlight, really, some everyday heroes. You know them. They’re out there. Maybe you’re one of them, but you probably see them every day. And they’re doing the best they can to get us through this pandemic. Some of them are a shining light for others. We call them heroes of hope. Here’s one we’d like you to meet.
Governor DeWine: (01:30:54)
Abdul Ali, he is a hiring recruiter for Kroger in Columbus, at their Brewery District store. He has hired 190 people since the start of the pandemic. These are essential workers, on the front line, and we thank the for their service. Let’s take a look.
Abdul Ali: (01:31:17)
Hello, how are you doing today, Mam? Pretty good, thank you. My name is Abdul Ali, and I just love helping people. I’m a master store recruiter for Kroger, located in the Brewery District, Columbus, Ohio. How is your day going today? What I really love about being a store recruiter is knowing that I can change someone’s life in a second. And just knowing that I have the ability to say, “Hey, you got a job.” We hired about 109 people since the pandemic hit. Most of the applicants that I have employed were unemployed due to the pandemic, which was some of the main reasons why Kroger was an option for them, because the other companies that they were working for, as far as restaurants, maybe bars, salons, had to close due to the pandemic.
Abdul Ali: (01:32:07)
I just appreciate and I value how much of a family that we are, and how strong we are together during this tough time, because we all are scared. We’re still afraid, but I know in my role, I wake up every day and I tell myself, “You know, Abdul, you have a job to do, and there are people out there who are relying on you that need jobs.” Hey guys, how you doing?
Speaker 4: (01:32:31)
Good. How are you today?
Abdul Ali: (01:32:32)
I’m here to help you out a little bit. There’s not a lot of places that are hiring, and I’m just fortunate that Kroger itself, especially being an essential business, we’re able to not only provide the community with the essentials that they need, but also we’re able to employ people as well during this time. Ohioans are strong, courageous and just fearless. Hi, Jamie. How are you?
Hi, I’m good. How are you today?
Abdul Ali: (01:32:57)
Good. And just seeing that empowers me. We have to stick together, and we have to be strong to make it through this. Thank you, Sir. Have a good day. And I also have faith and belief in the fact that we will come out stronger. Thank you, Sir. Have a good day.
Governor DeWine: (01:33:13)
Well, we thank Abdul. We thank all our frontline heroes. We’ll see you all on Thursday. Good luck to the Indians tonight, and go Reds tomorrow.