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DeWine makes unexpected trip to Tri-State

(HUNTINGTON, W.VA.) —Gov. Mike DeWine made a visit to the Tri-State region Monday to discuss the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions in southern Ohio.

“Sadly, the virus is spreading throughout southern Ohio at a rapid pace, just like it is throughout the state of Ohio. Today, there’s nowhere to hide. You could live in Lawrence County, you could live in Gallia County, Jackson County, Vinton. You may not know anybody who had COVID, you may not think it’s even in your county. But today, it’s there and it’s at a high incidence,” DeWine said. “In Ohio, we had 1,000 people in the hospital a month ago, a week ago we had 2,000, today we have 3,000, so it’s going up at a very, very fast rate… The human toll on our health workers, we’re frankly very concerned with.”

DeWine also addressed the possibility of a vaccine, saying the Trump administration has told him that they think Ohio and the rest of the country should start getting the vaccine sometime in December.

He was joined by Dr. Michael Canady, the CEO of Holzer Health System in Gallipolis, who spoke on the dramatic shift in COVID-19 cases in the past six months.

“The spring and the summer was a little different for southeastern Ohio, living in rural communities we were relatively spared from the virus it seemed, but that has changed dramatically in the last few weeks,” Canady said.

“I feel personally that there has been a laxity in wearing masks in social areas, retail businesses and things over the last several months in our part of the country particularly, in our part of Ohio,” he said. “We have been worried for quite some time that that might lead to increased spread in our community and I think we’re seeing the results of that at this point.”

Looking toward the future, Canady said, “We will get back to a normal way of living life, and my hope is that we have as many of our family members and friends with us to live that normal life again. The only way that we do that is by taking care of ourselves, each other, and wear our masks and do the right thing.”

When speaking of the upcoming holidays, Canady advised avoiding large events.

“Don’t go to big parties. Don’t have huge family gatherings. We all like to get together with as many family as possible over Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays… hopefully, next year we’ll get back to that. But this year, I’d stay with small groups and try to do social distancing and masking as best you can.”

“I was on the phone this morning with the local health departments. Every Monday morning, I do a call at 7:15 for 45 minutes and let me just say, I came away from that call this morning just feeling that these health departments are being pummeled, beaten up by the number of cases. This is a courageous group of people, they’ve been through this for eight straight months, God bless them for what they’re doing, but I think they feel overwhelmed at this point. As they reported to me, county by county, what is going on in each county, it was scary for me, quite candidly. For the first time I told my staff coming off this call, ‘they’re scared for the first time at what they’re seeing, and the increase going up so very, very fast,’” said DeWine.

While local health departments and law enforcement are able to enforce the mandatory mask-wearing order in retail locations in Ohio, Monday was the first day of the Retail Compliance Unit employees working in the field on behalf of the Ohio Department of Health.

“When you go into stores now in some of our rural areas and only 20 percent of people are wearing masks, that’s just a problem,” DeWine said.

He emphasized the importance of taking care of retail employees.

“It’s not fair. It is not fair to that clerk there that may be compromised medically some way. It’s just not fair to her or to him,” the governor said. “They’re out there making a living, they have to do it, they have to work. They’re serving us and we need to take care of them. By wearing a mask, that’s how we take care of them.”