Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine traveled to Fort Wayne on Monday to deliver a message to Buckeyes living in counties that border northeast Indiana – an area with some of the highest coronavirus infection rates in his state.
“The end is in sight, the sun is going to be out, and we're going to get through this,” DeWine said at a news conference outside Fort Wayne Aero Center.
“We have to, though, get through it, and the next few months are really crucial in protecting everyone in our states,” he said.
The Republican governor earlier in the day announced that Ohio state inspectors had begun visiting retail establishments to ensure their employees and customers follow a mask mandate imposed in July. Compliance failures can result in the shutdown of a business up to 24 hours.
The Ohio Department of Health also has imposed new restrictions on banquets, wedding receptions and other mass gatherings. Dancing is prohibited, and guests must remain seated and mostly masked at the events.
DeWine hinted at new coronavirus guidelines he plans to disclose this afternoon.
“We're going to talk about how we slow this thing down without closing businesses,” he said. “It really is about each and every one of us limiting the contacts that we have every day and wearing a mask. Those are really the two essential things.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday that DeWine is considering a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily curfew for many businesses.
“The report today that came out was not 100% accurate, but we'll try to clarify that at 2 o'clock (Tuesday),” he told Fort Wayne news media.
DeWine conducted similar news conferences Monday in Lima, Ohio, and in Ohio media markets in the West Virginia cities Huntington and Wheeling. He said Ohio has seen daily coronavirus cases climb from 1,000 six weeks ago to between 7,000 and about 8,000 in the past week.
Of the 15 counties with the highest rates of infection last week, nine are in northwest Ohio. DeWine highlighted two: Van Wert and Paulding.
Van Wert's infection rate was 873 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period, and Paulding's was 626. DeWine said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 100 cases per 100,000 people a high rate of incidence.
Dr. George Trimble, chief of medicine at Van Wert Health, also sounded the alarm during Monday afternoon's news conference.
“We're a hot zone right now,” he said, adding that the outbreak is “creating great strain on the hospital system – logistical, emotional, infrastructure strain, financial strain.”
Trimble pleaded with people to wear masks, wash hands, socially distance, limit social gatherings and get inoculated when a vaccine is available.
“I ask that you do these things in the spirit of civic duty and not see it as an infringement of your personal rights. I ask that you protect your fellow citizens,” he said.
DeWine said later: “I think our greatest fear is the rationing of health care, and it should scare us to death. We're not there yet. We're not there yet, but we don't want to get there.”
The four Ohio counties that border northeast Indiana – Van Wert, Paulding, Defiance and Williams – reported a combined 3,055 virus cases, 235 hospitalizations and 36 deaths as of Monday.
DeWine caught the attention of President Donald Trump on Monday. Trump tweeted: “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!”
Trump's tweet was an apparent jab at DeWine for saying Sunday on CNN that Trump should begin the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
DeWine said about the tweet: “I think the president has done a very good job. I love his nominations to the Supreme Court as well as the district court and the circuit court. I intend to run.”
DeWine, 73, was elected governor in 2018 and would stand for re-election in 2022.
Also Monday, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., announced he will return to the Senate today after being self-quarantined since Nov. 9.