COLUMBUS, Ohio — A familiar face in Ohio’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, is resigning from her position.
"It’s true, not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear a white coat embossed with the name Dr. Amy Acton," Gov. Mike DeWine said while announcing her resignation during the state's daily press briefing.
Part of her reasoning for stepping down from the position she has held since February 2019 is to spend more time with her family, in addition to making the state's overall public health her main focus.
"I have been reflecting a bit lately, not just today," Acton said. "To lead all the work as well as face the unprecedented pandemic and provide counsel to the governor, it's been three jobs."
Acton, who has more than 30 years of experience in medical practice, government and community service, said she didn't want to short-change any area of her duties, especially now during a pandemic.
In her new role as Chief Health Adviser for ODH, she will take a comprehensive and holistic approach to address health and well-being for Ohioans. In addition to advising on health issues, she will continue to focus on the COVID-19 crisis.
During the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, DeWine said she started to consult with him about how Ohio would respond, using her connections with health experts and doctors around the state and region. Ohio was one of the first state's to enforce social distancing, measures supported by the public.
“No one is more passionate about public health than Dr. Amy Acton. She always puts the health and safety of Ohioans first and foremost,” DeWine said.
On many afternoons over the last several months, Acton stood with DeWine during his briefings on the state’s response to the coronavirus. When it came her turn to speak, she explained medical jargon and complex concepts about COVID-19 in a calm and collected manner, offering clarity during a fluid situation.
Some, like Ohio Rep. Nino Vitale, seemed happy to see Acton go. Vitale has made comments that called for her to step down.
Rep. Diane Grendell, (R) District 76 -Chesterland believes Dr. Acton and the Ohio Department of Health painted an overly grim picture of the on-going pandemic, by not properly releasing all COVID-19 data to the public.
Grendell is sponsoring House Bill 624, known as the Truth in COVID-19 Statistics bill, which has now passed in the Ohio House.
The legislation seeks to gather more specifics on the figures being released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) as it pertains to the coronavirus, data like the number of people who tested negative, or those who were treated and released.
“How can we make decisions, policy decisions if we don’t know these facts,” Grendell said.
“The early modeling information coupled with the media drumbeat of fear and death created this huge atmosphere across our state.”
"This atmosphere of fear could have been abated in mid-April if we had started informing the public of the whole truth."
David Pepper, Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, defended Acton's efforts and told News 5 she was the subject of unfair bullying.
“For so many Ohioans she became the epitome of what we want in public service,” Pepper said.
“What’s happened to her has gone way beyond the bounds. The armed protesters at her home, offensive attacks on her and her background, by the way not just by average citizens, but by legislators."
“She became a target for very nasty, very ideological, very personal attacks that in some cases were physically threatening or worse, is appalling.”
Others, like Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko also defended Acton's actions during the pandemic. Yuko issued the following statement:
“Like everyone in Ohio, I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Amy Acton. Her calm and inspiring leadership saved many lives in the past few months and helped our state navigate one of the most challenging times in its history.
While I’m pleased that Dr. Acton will continue to advise Governor DeWine on health issues, I can’t help but be disappointed by her resignation as health director. She endured an incredible amount of unfair criticism, including some anti-Semitic attacks. All those who have insulted, harassed or threatened her and her family should be ashamed. I wish Dr. Acton nothing but the best.”
Lance Himes, who has served as a past ODH Interim Director, will assume the duties of Interim Director at the Ohio Department of Health.
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