DeWine pleads with Ohioans to mask up to slow virus spread

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

DeWine pleads with Ohioans to mask up to slow virus spread

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Democratic leader says Ohio should take more aggressive steps.

Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday pleaded with Ohioans to wear masks in public, limit contacts, and make sacrifices now to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus — or risk Ohio seeing the same spikes that Florida, Arizona and other states are experiencing.

“Ohio is sliding. We’re sliding down a very dangerous path. With our once flattened curve starting to sharpen and to spike. This worrisome and disturbing reversal of our progress should be a jarring reminder just how quickly our fate can change. A matter of weeks can change our trajectory,” DeWine said. “My friends, this is not a drill. It certainly is not any hoax.”

CORONAVIRUS: COMPLETE COVERAGE

The governor did not issue any new public health orders to shut down businesses or implement a statewide mask requirement. A new national poll from Quinnipiac University says 71% of American voters polled think everyone should be required to wear masks in public and 80% believe they are effective at slowing the spread of the virus.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the “pep talk” fell short of what’s needed.

“Other states, led by leaders of both parties, are moving forward with statewide mask mandates and other more decisive steps. Kentucky and West Virginia did so last week, and they have fewer cases than Ohio …. More must be done. Immediately. And a broad, bipartisan majority of Ohioans strongly supports more being done,” said Pepper, who previously lost a race for attorney general against DeWine.

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DeWine’s stern warning came as Ohio’s coronavirus cases sharply rise and residents in 12 counties are under orders to wear masks when out in public. On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 69,311 confirmed and probable cases, an increase of 1,316 over Tuesday, and 9,209 cumulative hospitalizations, an increase of 160 over Tuesday.

While many Ohioans are wearing masks, washing hands and practicing social distancing, others are not. DeWine urged a renewed vigilance — short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.

DeWine said if Ohioans don’t change course, case numbers could spike as is happening in Arizona and Florida and that could jeopardize jobs and the ability for students to return to classrooms this fall.

Nationwide, major measures of the pandemic are going in the wrong direction: new infections, hospitalizations and deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The seven-day average of reported cases in Arizona, California, Florida, South Carolina and Texas has risen 51% since June 8, the project reported.

“Outside the states being hit hardest in the second surge, we are increasingly concerned about steep increases in cases and hospitalizations in Ohio, where the seven-day average of new cases reported is more than two and a half times what it was a month ago, and the seven-day average for people hospitalized is 49 percent greater than in late June,” the COVID Tracking Project said.

Over the past week, more than 1,000 new cases have been reported each day in Ohio.

More than 1 million Ohioans have been tested for the virus and in recent days the “positivity rate” has hovered just above 6%. That rate has gradually been rising over the past month. A dozen counties are labeled as “red” in the DeWine administration’s new public health advisory system, indicating a high level of exposure and spread.

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In Montgomery County, more than 63% of the virus cases are not in congregate settings such as prisons or nursing homes, signaling transmission in the broader community, according to the state’s coronavirus website.

In Butler County, the average new cases per day doubled from 15 to 29 and ER visits for COVID symptoms tripled each day from mid-June to July 3, according to coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Nationally, more than 128,000 people have died from COVID-19. In Ohio, the disease has claimed 3,075 — nearly as many Ohioans who died in the Vietnam War, DeWine said.