Ohio Roundtable statement on DeWine’s July 15th speech: Once Again Governor DeWine is Wrong

VALLEY CITY, July 16, 2020 — The Ohio Roundtable today issued the following statement in response to Governor DeWine’s speech from the state’s capital.

Just as he started with the wrong definitions of COVID-19 back in March, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is still mistaken by equating COVID-19 with the Spanish Flu of 1918. Just as he stood behind COVID-19 models and projections that were “guesstimates” which all proved to be wrong, the Governor is now attempting to manipulate data and stoke fear in Ohio families. Just as he has done consistently throughout this virus, the Governor is using a passive/aggressive methodology to threaten Ohioans with sickness, death and financial loss unless they conform to his dictates.

Ohioans elected Mike DeWine to be a Governor, not the doctor for 11.5 million people. He was not elected to be the state’s psychological therapist either. He is surely not qualified to be the state’s historian as he consistently tries to convince Ohioans that 2020 is 1918 and COVID-19 is the Spanish Flu. As the Roundtable has consistently detailed, the Governor is leaning on a recent history text by John M. Barry titled, The Great Influenza. In the conclusion of his work, Barry clearly explains that isolation and quarantines are ineffective in a pandemic as are the use of surgical masks. The Governor conveniently avoids those specific passages in Barry’s work.

The Spanish Flu was deadly to young people and had devastating symptoms. The Spanish Flu killed 650,000 Americans out of a population of 100 million. Many of the deaths were caused not by the virus but by bacterial pneumonia. In 1918, America did not have antibiotics available to treat that pneumonia. None of these key realities apply to COVID-19 which Johns Hopkins University has consistently defined as a mild disease with mild symptoms for most people. Many Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19 have had few symptoms. Young people, especially school-aged children are proving quite resilient to the virus.

Ordering Ohioans to wear masks and guaranteeing as the Governor does, that masks will save lives is an irresponsible promise. To say that “the jury is in” on masks proves that the Governor has clearly fixed the jury. Not even the Governor’s primary source book agrees with the him on this point. On page 457 of The Great Influenza, Barry writes: “Surgical masks are next to useless except in very limited circumstances, chiefly in the home.” The Governor’s inflated promises that masks will save lives also opens the state up to serious liability litigation when masks fail to save the lives of Ohioans who wear them.

Research and real cases reveal that COVID-19 is dangerous to the elderly and especially to people with pre-existing comorbidities. Unfortunately, the DeWine Administration has not focused on Ohioans most vulnerable to this disease and instead continues to waste tremendous energy and resources attempting to quarantine and regulate healthy people who stand the best chances of overcoming this virus.

The Governor is pretending that Ohioans can control the spread of the virus by doing as he dictates. Viruses do not subject themselves to political speeches. At best, the Governor’s advice might slow down the spread of the virus but the virus will not cease to be a threat until the population has reached herd immunity by overcoming the disease with or without a vaccine. No one can control that time frame. No one can don a mask and wipe out the virus. The Governor never discusses this ultimate medical reality which has not changed from 1918 until today.

Ohio is not Florida. Florida’s death rate from COVID-19 has been and remains lower than Ohio’s death rate per 100,000 citizens. Ohio has a unique population and geography and medical system. Pretending this is 1918 or that Ohio is just like Florida is bad science and bad public policy.

The Governor is neither elected nor qualified to make these most important medical and economic decisions for every Ohioan. He does not have the legal authority to cancel elections or shut down schools or close Universities or cancel college or professional sports in Ohio. The decisions over the COVID-19 crisis belong in the legislative branch, in the Ohio General Assembly where the people have the right and duty to participate in the public debate. The state and federal constitutions make no place for governors to assume such authority over people’s lives, property, jobs and futures. Ohioans are capable of taking care of themselves and their families. It is time for the Governor to get back to the constitutional duties he swore on oath to execute. He should meet with legislative leaders immediately and craft a strategy to effectively navigate the balance of this crisis. And that should not be done behind closed doors, but in the full light of public hearings, debate and recorded votes by the Legislature.


The Ohio Roundtable is a division of The American Policy Roundtable, a non-partisan, non-profit education and research public policy organization founded in 1980.