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As Pandemic Continues, Acton Resigns As Health Director But Stays As Advisor

Dr. Amy Acton speaks at a press conference on April 2, 2020.
Dr. Amy Acton speaks at a press conference on April 2, 2020.

The director of the Ohio Department of Health, who drew national praise and criticism from some members of the state legislature for the state's pandemic shutdowns, has resigned.

Dr. Amy Acton, the last person appointed to Gov. Mike DeWine's cabinet last year and the first woman to head the Ohio Deparment of Health, has stepped down as its director. She'll stay on as an advisor on COVID-19 related issues.

"No one that I've ever met has more passion for helping people, has more passion for public health than Dr. Amy Acton. She's always put the health of Ohioans first," said Gov. Mike DeWine in announcing her resignation.

Acton thanked DeWine for appointing her, and talked about some "long and hard days" in the job. But she said "books will be written about this" pandemic, and said Ohioans "have saved lives" by acting on the orders and policies put into place.

"And it is my honor to continue to work on this alongside of you and to witness what you have done already," Acton said.

Acton has signed several major orders that have been put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the stay-at-home order on March 23.

As the pandemic continued, Acton became a lightning rod for critics.

There were protests outside her Columbus-area home from people who called for businesses to be allowed to reopen. She was singled out in larger protests at the Statehouse as well. Acton extended her appreciation to several people including the members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol who provided security and protection in the last few months.

And critics in the state legislature attempted to restrain her authority with public health orders. The House passed a bill that would require lawmakers to vote to extend orders after 14 days. Other lawmakers blasted her personally, including Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), who has called her a "dictator".

Lance Himes will take over as director of the Ohio Department of Health. Former Gov. John Kasich appointed him director in 2017, after the departure of Rick Hodges. He stayed on after Kasich left office.

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.
Andy Chow
Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.