Gov. Mike DeWine: ‘Wear A Mask Every Time You Go Out In Public’

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOSU) — In a special address from the Ohio Statehouse, Gov. Mike DeWine urged all Ohioans to wear face masks no matter where in the state they live, but declined to issue any new statewide requirements.

“Tonight, I’m asking each of you to take action now,” DeWine said Wednesday. “To sacrifice now so that our kids can be in school this fall. So they can at least have a chance to play sports. So businesses can remain open. So that Ohioans can continue earning a living, a paycheck, and support their families.”

Mike DeWine wearing mask
[Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]
Speaking alone from inside the governor’s office, DeWine re-emphasized a point he’s been making for months: Face masks are widely accepted by health professionals and businesses as an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Wear a mask very time you go out in public,” he urged.

So far, DeWine has issued targeted health orders requiring face coverings in public in 12 counties, where the spread of COVID-19 is most extreme. But during Wednesday’s address, he declined to add any additional requirements or extend the face mask mandate statewide.

“That discussion is for another time,” he said.

More counties may be added to the list on Thursday, when DeWine is expected to update the state’s Public Health Advisory System, which rates individual counties on the severity of its outbreak.

DeWine repeatedly praised Ohioans for their actions early on in the pandemic, which he says helped buy critical time for the state’s health care system to build hospital capacity, obtain PPE and other supplies, and bulk up testing. He praised residents for taking a “collective leap of faith in a battle against an invisible enemy.”

Ohio was the first state in the nation to shutter schools and move to entirely online learning in the spring. It also led the way in shutting down restaurants and other businesses.

By mid-May, DeWine started to reopen Ohio’s economy again with outdoor dining, followed soon by indoor dining, bars, movie theatres, salons, zoos, offices and more. All those businesses have new safety restrictions in place, but in recent weeks, COVID-19 cases started trending upward again.

On Wednesday, DeWine acknowledged that the state is now losing ground in its once-promising fight against the coronavirus.

“Once things start moving downhill, they move very quickly,” he warned. “And it’s so very, very hard then to turn things back around.”

Ohio has reported at least 1,000 new COVID-19 cases every day for the past week, compared to about half that number just three weeks ago. DeWine called that reversal of progress “disturbing.”

Since July 5, the number of hospitalized COVID patients has increased every day, from 730 to 1,027. And on Wednesday, the Department of Health reported the highest single-day increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions in months, with 160 new hospitalizations and 36 new ICU admissions in just the last day.

DeWine says the state is now approaching the same number of hospitalizations as it did during the pandemic’s first peak in March and April.

“If all of us do not take immediate action to slow this virus down, the tragedy that we see on our television screens every day in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California may well be our reality in just a matter of weeks,” DeWine says.

Last month, when DeWine was asked if the state could once again close businesses if cases spiked, he responded, “We certainly are looking at that, but we hope not to face that choice.”