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Gov. Mike DeWine Tests Negative For COVID-19, After Positive Result

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, left, and his wife Fran, walk into the governor's residence on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Bexley, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete
Associated Press
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, left, and his wife Fran, walk into the governor's residence after he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Bexley, Ohio.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday evening that he tested negative for COVID-19, after a rapid test earlier in the day gave a positive result. 

DeWine initially tested positive in an antigen test Thursday morning as part of the protocol to greet President Donald Trump during his visit to Ohio. A PCR test, which is more sensitive, was administered at the Wexner Medical Center that afternoon when the governor arrived back in Columbus.

The PCR tests for DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and members of the governor's staff were run twice and came back negative both times, the governor said in a statement late Thursday.

"We feel confident in the results from Wexner Medical Center," the governor's office wrote. "This is the same PCR test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state."

The governor said he and the First Lady plan on taking another PCR test on Saturday "out of an abundance of caution, and at the direction of medical professionals." DeWine said the results of those tests will also be released.

DeWine was tested in order to greet Trump on the tarmac at Burke Lakefront Airportin Cleveland. The first test, which was arranged by the White House, was a rapid antigen test. 

"These tests represent an exciting new technology to reduce the cost and improve the turnaround time for COVID-19 testing," the statement says. "But they are quite new, and we do not have much experience with them here in Ohio.  We will be working with the manufacturer to have a better understanding of how the discrepancy between these two tests could have occurred."

At a briefing Thursday afternoon, the 73-year-old governor said he had no symptoms. DeWine said he has asthma, but it's under control, and he reported no other underlying conditions that would make him at greater risk from the disease.

DeWine said he planned to continue his work from his Cedarville home. 

"Anybody knows me, knows that I'm going to continue to do what I do. I spend most days right here anyway," DeWine says. "I'm on the phone a lot. I'm on conference calls a lot. And so far, my work is not going to be impacted."

DeWine has been cautious about COVID-19, but after his positive results came back, some questioned the safety measures he has long-advocated for. 

"You can contract it even when you're being very very careful and even when you're wearing a mask," DeWine says. "But your odds are just dramatically better, and my odds were just not good that day that I contracted it."

"There's just no guarantees in life," DeWine continued.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also took the rapid COVID-19 test, which came back negative. He joined Trump on Thursday afternoon in visiting a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Sandusky County, where the president also gave a speech. Trump then attended a fundraiser in Bratenahl on Thursday night.

At a briefing on Tuesday, DeWine was asked if he had concerns about Trump holding a fundraiser during the pandemic.

“I’m always concerned any time anybody gets together,” DeWine said. “If that is an inside event – I don't even know if it's an inside event or an outside event. I think it's the Shoreby Club. I just don't know. We always would worry, but I’m, you know, going to assume they’re taking very, very, very good precautions.”

An early advocate for face masks and other preventative measures, the governor has taken multiple COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began, including one that he took live on TV during one of his briefings. Last month, DeWine ordered a statewide mandate for face masks in public, and this week issued a public health order requiring students at K-12 schools wear masks if in-person classes resume this fall. 

On Thursday, DeWine pushed back against critics who falsely claim that face masks are ineffective: "If people take that lesson from the fact that I apparently have it, that would be the wrong lesson. It would be very very sad, and that would upset me quite a bit."

Instead, DeWine re-stated a line he's said many times throughout the pandemic: "It's very contagious, it is here, it lives among us." DeWine said the state will continue efforts to expand both rapid-result and conventional coronavirus testing.

As of Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health reports 97,471 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in the state. A total of 3,618 people have died, while just under 980 people are currently hospitalized.

This article was last updated Aug. 7, 2020 at 8:50 a.m.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.