Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Wishes Trump 'Had A More Happy Relationship With Masks'

Nov 4, 2020
Originally published on November 4, 2020 8:53 pm

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in multiple states, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is encouraging Ohioans to wear masks, socially distance and wash hands just as he has for months in an effort to contain the pandemic.

DeWine's approach hasn't been shared by President Trump. So how does he square his calls for masks and distance with a president who is not doing the same?

"I certainly wish the president had a more happy relationship with masks," DeWine told NPR's All Things Considered. "We know so much more today than we knew in March. We now know that these masks really work."

Still, Ohio is experiencing some of its highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases just as temperatures have begun to drop.

This week, the state has seen an average of 3,343 cases per day, more than double the number of cases in the state from three weeks ago. On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported a record daily case count of 4,229 — on Wednesday, they reported 4,071 additional cases.

As winter approaches and pandemic fatigue sets in, DeWine fears that it will only exacerbate the spread of the virus. He says the numbers of confirmed cases are "not going in the right direction" in his state right now. "They're very quickly going up, and we're very concerned."

DeWine told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly about how Ohio's approach differed from Trump's on the virus and how the state plans to attack the virus in the coming winter months.


Interview Highlights

On whether Ohio has what it needs from the federal government to prepare for winter

Where we're seeing spread in Ohio is not in schools so much, not in businesses so much, but in the personal decisions that people are making not to wear a mask when they're around family, friends. We've seen huge spread come out funerals. We've had significant spread from people watching a football game together or doing something where they just let their guard down. And so as we try to analyze, "OK, what do we do?" If Ohioans understand that they can't let their guard down, that realization I think is really what will make a difference, because it's personal decisions that are being made, personal responsibility.

...

Most states or many states have done what we've done. They put on a mask mandate. We didn't have a federal one. We put this on in July in our most hottest counties. And guess what? People started wearing a mask more. It can work at the state level and it has worked. What we see now is rural areas where they have not seen the virus. Now the virus is there. And so, you know, we got to get people to understand if you wear a mask, we can slow this virus down.

On his personal takeaways after months of trying to contain the virus

Part of the challenge for every governor and every state is people are sick of it. And there's a fatigue that has set in. And what I try to explain to Ohioans is: I get it. I understand. I feel it. We have grandkids that we're not going up and hugging either. But we got to get through this. And if we let this virus run wild, it's going to be horrible consequences and just gut-wrenching things for and great tragedy for many, many people.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The nation's attention is laser-focused on the presidential election. Both President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden have picked up electoral votes today. Vice President Joe Biden is leading, but the counting and the legal challenges continue.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Meanwhile, the coronavirus, a top issue for many voters, continues to rage throughout the country, including in Ohio, where Mike DeWine is the Republican governor. He took steps early on to contain the pandemic, steps that won widespread praise. The governor joined me earlier to talk about lessons learned so far and what he's doing now.

Governor DeWine, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MIKE DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you very much.

KELLY: Before we dive into what's going on with COVID-19 and Ohio, I do just want to acknowledge President Trump has won your state. I know you were planning to vote for him. Is it fair to say you're happy with the result?

DEWINE: Well, I was one of his co-chairs. I'm certainly very happy. It's interesting. The pollsters really missed Ohio. They had Biden winning by one or two or three points. Trump ends up winning by eight, which was pretty much what his margin was four years before.

KELLY: Well, let me just segue straight from the election and your vote for the president into how you have handled the pandemic because it's interesting to me. I mentioned you moved early on to lockdown your state. You closed schools and so on. Meanwhile, the president, as we know, has actively worked against many of the recommendations from his public health officials, things like wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings. Has that made your job more difficult?

DEWINE: Well, my message has been consistent. And that is we need to wear a mask. We need to keep our distance. We need to wash our hands. And now, as we move into winter or colder weather, we need to worry about our furnaces and making sure we're bringing in fresh air from the outside. So we try to make those messages...

KELLY: Sure. And before we get to where you're headed with the winter coming, I do just want to press you on this. The - your approach has differed so greatly from the president's on the pandemic. And I am really curious how you square what you just said, you know, calls for wearing masks and social distancing and all the rest with a president who is doing none of those things.

DEWINE: Well, I certainly wish the president had a more happy relationship with masks. You know, we know so much more today than we knew in March. We now know that these masks really work. I mean, we're seeing it in Ohio, for example, in our schools. We're not seeing a lot of spread directly in the classroom. And that's because we've required everybody, students and teachers and everybody else, to wear a mask once they're in school, and they're doing it.

KELLY: As you listen to warnings from public health officials, including Dr. Fauci, that we are maybe headed to a worse phase of this pandemic to a very dark winter, do you have what you need from the federal government to get through this?

DEWINE: Well, here's the real problem as we analyze the problem. And I talk with - there's 113 health commissioners, local ones in the state. And I talk to them every Monday morning at 7:15 for 45 minutes. Where we're seeing spread in Ohio is not in school so much, not in businesses so much but in the personal decisions that people are making not to wear a mask when they're around family, friends. We've seen huge spread come out of funerals. We've had significant spread from people, you know, watching a football game together or doing something where they just let their guard down. And so as we try to analyze, OK, what do we do? - you know, if Ohioans understand that they can't let their guard down, that realization, I think, is really what will make a difference because it's personal decisions that are being made, personal responsibility. And so...

KELLY: This is my question, though. As you talk about personal responsibility and personal decisions over things like mask compliance, what do you need from the federal government? Would it be helpful to have some kind of federal guidance, mandate, etc., to give you some cover in terms of enforcing this?

DEWINE: Well, look. I think most states or many states have done what we've done. They put on a mask mandate. Now, look. We didn't have a federal one. We put this on in July in our most hottest counties. And guess what? People started wearing masks more. So, you know, it can work at the state level, and it has worked. What we see now is rural areas where they have not seen the virus - now the virus is there. And so, you know, we got to get people to understand if you wear a mask, we can slow this virus down.

KELLY: Any just personal takeaways for you having now been at this since the start of year, essentially?

DEWINE: Well, I think - look. Part of the challenge for every governor in every state is people are sick of it, and there's a fatigue that has set in. And what I try to explain to Ohioans is, I get it. I understand. I feel it. We have grandkids that, you know, we're not going up and hugging either. But we got to get through this. And if we let this virus run wild, it's going to be horrible consequences and just gut-wrenching things for - and great tragedy for many, many people.

KELLY: That is Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine. He joined us via Skype.

Governor, thank you very much for your time.

DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.