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Gov. Mike DeWine On Protesters Targeting Amy Acton: 'You Should Come After Me'

Protesters gather at the Ohio Statehouse to criticize the DeWine administration's coronavirus response on April 18, 2020.
David Holm
Protesters gather at the Ohio Statehouse to criticize the DeWine administration's coronavirus response on April 18, 2020.

Gov. Mike DeWine began his usual press conference Monday 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, including the most recent extension of the stay-at-home order.

At a demonstration at the Ohio Statehouse on Friday, a protester criticized a news reporter for wearing a mask, claiming she was promoting fear. The reporter asked the woman to stay six feet away to maintain social distancing guidelines, but the protester got closer instead.

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."

Last week, Acton and DeWine extended social distancing restrictions to May 29, renaming it the "stay safe" order as the state begins to reopen some businesses. 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 Bureau of Motor Vehicle locations are planning to reopen by the end of May. 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.

As of Monday, Ohio has 20,474 total cases of COVID-19. So far, 1,059 people have died and 3,809 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."

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.

The Department of Health 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."

Lydia Taylor is a news intern for WKSU. She is a junior multimedia journalism major at Kent State University with experience in print and visual journalism. She is currently working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism. During the school year, Taylor works for Kent State Student Media in The Kent Stater and KentWired. She is currently an assigning editor and a reporter in the Kent State University Student Media Newsroom for the spring semester.