Ohio Prioritizes Coronavirus Testing, DeWine Comments on Protesters

May 4, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 press conference Monday started out with a moment of silence to remember the four Kent State students who lost their lives 50 years ago.

"Today is the 50th anniversary of the tragedy at Kent State," DeWine said. "A very sad day in Ohio history."

On May 4, 1970, community members and students gathered to protest the Vietnam War when the National Guard fired into the crowds. Nine others were wounded. 

DeWine segued to comment on protests against the state's decisions regarding COVID-19, such as the stay-at-home order and a stay safe order issued last week. 

At a demonstration at the Ohio Statehouse Friday, a protester criticized a news reporter for wearing a mask, saying it's promoting fear. The reporter asked the woman to stay six feet away to maintain social distancing guidelines and instead the protester got closer. 

DeWine said he doesn't normally comment on protests, but he said they should be directed at him. 

"It's not fair game to disrespect the news media, to be obnoxious to the news media," DeWine said. "You should come after me. Don't go after people who are exercising First Amendment rights."

He also commented on the group of protesters who showed up over the weekend at the home of Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton.

"I'm the elected official," DeWine said. "When you don't like the policy, again, demonstrate against me. That is certainly fair game. But to bother the family of Dr. Acton, I don't think that's fair game."

Acton and DeWine extended restrictions to May 29, calling it the "stay-safe" order to encourage social distancing guidelines as the state begins to reopen. 

Monday marked the reopening of construction, manufacturing and distribution companies. On May 12, retailers will be able to open for customers. Currently, they are available for appointments and curbside pick-ups. 

DeWine said an announcement on restaurants is expected sometime this week. 

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said all BMVs are planning to reopen by the end of May, one-by one. Five of them are open across the state in case in-person visits are needed. 

The state continues to ramp up testing. Acton on Monday released new priority levels for who should be tested. She expects the state to be able to conduct 22,000 tests a day starting next week. DeWine said partnerships with Thermo Fisher and Cleveland-based ROE Dental will help the state acquire the materials needed to conduct more tests in the coming weeks. Tests will be prioritized to residents who are hospitalized and showing symptoms, health care workers and high-risk areas, such as nursing homes. 

"It will give us a better ability to determine who's sick and how to respond," DeWine said.

Acton says a little over 1% of Ohio's population has been tested so far. That's roughly 41 in 100,000 people. By next week, she hopes it increases to 150 in 100,000.

ODH has also released data showing the trends in four areas over 21 days instead of five. Overall, the trendlines are remaining flat or declining.

DeWine and Acton said it depends on Ohioans to keep the numbers down.

"You're the ones who have got us here," DeWine said. "This is really up to you."

As of Monday, Ohio has 20,474 total cases of COVID-19. More than 1,050 people have died and 3,800 are hospitalized.

"We have to accept that we're living in a new world, and we have to accept that every one of us can be carrying it and not know it," Acton said. "Use your judgment."