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Acton said political pressure led to resignation

COLUMBUS — Dr. Amy Acton, the former director of the Ohio Department of Health gave an interview this week in which she broke her silence on her resignation from her position in May.
Acton, whose leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic won her national acclaim and made her a staple of Gov. Mike DeWine’s daily news conferences on the pandemic, spoke with The New Yorker for an article published earlier this week.

According to the piece, Acton resigned as she was concerned she may be put in the position of signing health orders that violated her Hippocratic oath as a physician.

Acton came under fire from some Republicans in the legislature, who sought to strip her office of power, taking issue with shutdown surrounding the pandemic and pressuring DeWine to reopen the state.

Acton resigned as director, then continued as chief health advisor to DeWine, upon his request. She left the administration later in the summer to take a postion with The Columbus Foundation.

In the interview, which was conducted before the Nov. 3 election, Acton is asked about the possibility of Democrat Joe Biden becoming president. She said that, should he win, he should begin speaking immediately regarding the pandemic, rather than wait for the inauguration, forgoing a “quiet space.”

“We cannot wait two and a half months to start leading and messaging,” she said.

Acton, who had been the subject of protests near her home, was also asked about the words of some in the state, including by Mike Trivisonno, a conservative Cleveland radio host who has falsely claimed facial coverings are ineffective and said that, if he were governor and a key advisor resigned, he would want punch them in the face.

“I’m from Youngstown, and I’m kind of scrappy, and a part of me wanted to say, ‘All right, mister, you’re so tough — let’s go,’” Acton said, but said she did not want to contribute to escalated rhetoric. “But what echoed in my mind was the work that I did in Rwanda, post-genocide. The genocide started with these radio talk shows that built up this ‘othering’ of people. It dialed up and dialed up and dialed up.”

Acton said her critics “could have yelled forever about my policies,” but said “we need the hard discussions.”

“That’s the thing about kindness,” Acton said. “Kindness is saying, ‘I see the dignity in you at a humanity level. I’m not talking about punching you in the face.’”

DeWine announced a replacement for Acton’s position on Thursday, naming Stephanie McCloud as the new director for the department.