CLEVELAND — In a conversation with News 5's John Kosich Wednesday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine talks about the latest on COVID-19 and what schools should be doing at this stage of the crisis.
KOSICH: You see the COVID case numbers on a daily basis before we do, record-breaking numbers on a daily basis, your reaction to where things stand in the state?
DEWINE: Our real focus right now is on our hospitals and our hospitals in Northeast Ohio are overflowing. I was on a call this morning at 6:30 with hospitals around the state. There is some good news and good news is it would appear that the cases in Northeast Ohio may have plateaued, they're not going down yet but we're hopeful that we will in fact see that. As of tomorrow morning, we'll have over 2,200 members of the Ohio National Guard in hospitals around the state and in testing sites. We're putting emphasis on testing sites frankly to elevate the push of people going into the emergency rooms which is another thing that is overcrowding our hospitals.
KOSICH: The legislature took away your ability to issue health orders in March, overriding your veto, safe to say if they had not done that would you have issued at this point a mask mandate for schools?
DEWINE: Well I've recommended, strongly recommended but more importantly, children's hospitals have strongly recommended that every school in the state at least during the month of January mandate masks and we are seeing some of those going back to mandating masks and I think it should be a realization that we're in a very difficult time. We're seeing more children in our hospitals than we have seen in the past, and frankly, our children's hospitals are very concerned about that. So, strong recommendation, we're not going to mandate anything but if the schools want to be able to stay open in January and be able to have bus drivers and be able to have teachers in the classroom and kids in seats, the safest way to do that at least for the month of January when we're dealing with this omicron surge is for the kids to be masked.
KOSICH: Cleveland schools went virtual this week, they'll make a determination on next week in the next day or two based on the health data, your advice to them?
DEWINE: Well, I think that's a mistake frankly. I think schools, kids need to be in school. And if they're masked, people are careful, we've demonstrated that the spread in schools is not great when kids are masked and we've also found out the difficulty that kids have when they're not in school, so I'm concerned if schools today are starting to close again. That would be I think in my opinion a mistake. I think we should go back and look at what the pediatricians have told us. We should look at what children's hospitals have told us. They have all said kids need to be safely in the schools. So masking, distance, being careful but in school.
KOSICH: New cases, we're seeing about 20,000 a day over the course of the past week give or take a few hundred. Do you think that's really where we are in this state or is that merely the ceiling that is now set based on the limits of testing?
DEWINE: Well, we're recording I think about 70,000 tests every day but we also know that there are a lot more tests that are going on that are not being reported and frankly that's OK. We want people to have the information. We invested in the state in 5.5 million test kits that we have been getting out to people through the libraries and through the health departments and we know that in many cases people do not report the results but we think having that citizen informed, knowing whether he or she is in fact infected with or if they do have coronavirus is very, very important and outweighs any concern about getting it reported. So we know there have been a lot more tests than are being reported.
KOSICH: Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't wish you a happy birthday. If I may be so bold, as you stand before the candles on the cake tonight, what might be your wish?
DEWINE: Well as far as candles, we'll do a clap I think tonight. I think we've learned not to be blowing on our cakes during this pandemic. Look, my wish is for my kids and my grandkids and everyone's kids and everyone's grandkids to have a great future, that's what this is about. That's what we do every day, what I do every single day is try to make a better Ohio. An Ohio where people can grow and raise their families and do well and that's really my goal.