This State's "Life Is Now in Danger," Governor Says
The governor spoke dramatically amid rapidly rising COVID cases and deaths.
The reality of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is that while there are four states with severe enough outbreaks to get the bulk of media attention—Arizona, Florida, Texas, and California—almost every state has seen a significant rise in coronavirus numbers, including cases, positive tests, hospitalizations, and COVID deaths. State officials and leaders across the nation have been making dramatic pleas to residents to wear masks and comply with social distancing measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. That includes Ohio governor Mike DeWine, who said, "Our state's life is now in danger," during a televised address about Ohio's coronavirus spike.
"If all of us do not take immediate action to slow this virus down, the tragedy that we see playing out on our television screens every day in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California may well be our reality in just a matter of weeks," DeWine said in his address, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch. "It does not have to be this way in Ohio."
DeWine did not announce any new measures, like a mask mandate or a return to lockdown. Instead, he suggested that it was up to residents to "redouble those efforts" to flatten the curve, just as they did in the early stages of the pandemic. "What your local health department, or the Ohio Department of Health, or I order is not nearly as important as what we all do in these crucial days ahead," DeWine said.
According to Reuters, last week Ohio saw a 23 percent rise in new COVID cases, along with a 41 percent increase in deaths. With a high infection rate of 1.16, cases are spreading quickly throughout the state. As of July 16, The New York Times reports more than 69,300 coronavirus cases in Ohio, and 3,075 deaths. That death toll, DeWine noted during his televised remarks, is almost as high as the number of Ohioans who died in the Vietnam War.
While Ohio may not be getting as much national attention as harder-hit states experiencing an exponential surge in cases, it has been cited as a state to keep an eye on. Last week, Ashish Jha, MD, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, named Ohio as one of four states on the verge of moving from a "yellow" to "orange" level of risk that need to "ratchet back activity" to contain COVID. "All of them should try to suppress virus—they still can," Jha said on Twitter.
DeWine's refusal to implement new restrictions on residents has frustrated other state officials. "As cases and deaths rise, he announced nothing that will change that direction," said David Pepper, chairman of the Democratic Party in the state. Pepper believes a statewide mask mandate is essential to slowing the spread of coronavirus in Ohio.
Nevertheless, DeWine spoke dramatically, echoing the words of disease expert John M. Barry in saying that there won't be a third chance to control the virus. "We want to go back to the way things were and that's understandable. But when we do, we play games with our lives," DeWine said. "Our way of life in Ohio is in danger. Our state's life is now in danger … This virus is real. It is killing our family members, our friends, our co-workers." And for more states trying to contain COVID outbreaks, here are 9 States That Have Reversed Their Reopenings as Coronavirus Surges.