South Carolina Public Health Director Joan Duwve Named New ODH Director

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(UPDATE 9/11 9:06) Duwve retracted her decision and withdrew from consideration.

In a statement, the DeWine Administration says Duwve cited personal reasons for the decision.


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCPN) — Gov. Mike DeWine announced the appointment of Dr. Joan Duwve as director of the Ohio Department of Health during his Thursday press conference.

Gov. Mike DeWine
[Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]
Duwve is the permanent replacement for Dr. Amy Acton, who resigned the post in June shortly after launching the process of lifting Ohio’s sweeping coronavirus restrictions. Those rules led to accolades from some and death threats from others. Acton moved to a position in DeWine’s office before leaving for a nonprofit job in August. Lance Himes served as interim director since Acton’s departure.

Duwve comes to the job from South Carolina where she was the director of public health for the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. In that role she served as spokesperson delivering the state’s message on containing the pandemic.

“She’s been immersed in this battle just like we’ve been immersed in this battle,” DeWine said.

Duwve took the job in South Carolina in April, after serving for years in Indiana’s public health agency. She has Ohio roots – a graduate of North Olmsted High School and The Ohio State University.

DeWine said Duwve will start the job around October 1.

“I’d love to have her in here right now,” Dewine said. “But she’s got to give notice in South Carolina.”

The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,121 new daily coronavirus cases, slightly higher than the 21-day average of 1052. The number of deaths, 30, was also above the 21-day daily average of 20.

Overall, Ohio has had 134,086 cases to date and 4,354 deaths.

Among all age groups, the share of cases among Ohioans in their 20s remains highest. So far in September, they make up almost 33 percent of cases, in August they were 22 percent.

The state issued a new public health advisory map Thursday. Six counties are now in the red, meaning there’s a high risk of exposure and spread there.

One of those counties is Summit, which moved up one level from orange this week.

“Seeing a sustained increase, sadly, in emergency department visits for COVID-like illness,” DeWine said. “That is an early warning sign.”

Average daily emergency room visits in Summit County jumped from five on Aug. 20 to nine on Aug. 29. According to DeWine, contact tracers found that people returning to the workplace and an unnamed fraternal club were the main sources of the outbreak.

“Like many of the clubs that are found throughout our state — nonprofit, has a restaurant, has a bar,” DeWine said. “In this case, two people visited the club while they were contagious. Since then, employees, other members and family members got the virus.”

He said a total of 12 people have tested positive as a result, with four going to the hospital.

Officials are advising against travel to four states with high positivity rates of 15 percent or higher: North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Alabama.

“As we’ve advised, it’s not always about where you’re going, that’s part of it, but it’s what you’re doing while you’re there,” DeWine said.