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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Commentary: Thank Goodness For Our Governors

mike dewine andy beshear
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Monday, I did something on social media I probably don't do enough of. I unfriended some knucklehead on Facebook.

No great loss; I didn't really know him anyway; he was one of those countless cyber-friends we tend to accumulate along the way.

I had good reason.

This guy was whining, crying and name-calling; he was furious that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is going on TV and the internet nearly every afternoon at 2 p.m. to brief the people of Ohio – the people he reports to – on the latest information about the battle to defeat COVID-19.

All he does is repeat the same things over and over, the Facebook guy said – which is blatantly untrue. He said he was sick and tired of hearing it.

Makes you wonder why then he just didn't shut it off.

But that would have meant he would have had nothing to complain about.  

The fact is, DeWine's briefings waste no time and are always on-point.

With his brilliant state health director, Dr. Amy Acton, filling in the blanks on the medical side, the Republican governor is avuncular when it is appropriate, stern and serious when that is needed.

Always, it is factual; it is important; and if there were ever such as thing as Must See TV, this is it.

His counterpart across the river in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear, is doing the same with his daily briefings.

The Kentucky governor's 5 p.m. briefings have become just as much an event as the Ohio briefings. They have, in fact, turned the handsome 42-year-old governor – who barely won election last year over incumbent Republican Matt Bevin – into something of a sex symbol for the Commonwealth.

And he is the subject of dozens of internet memes and a popular T-shirt that says Govern Me, Daddy, a line from a recent Salon article.

My friend Kakie Urch, a professor of multimedia at the University of Kentucky, recently mail-ordered a doggie bandana for her beloved hound Banjo Ann Mandolin. It is made up of row after row of identical Beshear heads and was made by a woman named Kristyn Humphrey in White Plains, Kentucky, near Bardstown.

Some Ohio entrepreneur is making money on T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring a caricature of DeWine with the words Wine with DeWine….It's 2 o'clock Somewhere.

But far more important than the fact that the Ohio and Kentucky governors are becoming rock stars is the fact that they are among the first state governors to understand the implication of the coronavirus spreading and acted on it.

Unlike the president of the United States, who wasted precious weeks in denial, telling the American people over and over again that this was no big deal.

On March 6, Beshear became one of the first governors in the country to declare a state of emergency, at the same time he announced the state's first confirmed case.

On the same day, Donald Trump was at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control bragging that "I really like this stuff. I really get. People are surprised that I understand it." Then he told an out-and-out lie, saying that anyone who wants a test for the virus can get one.

Four days later, DeWine declared a state of emergency after three positive cases were confirmed, all of them in Cuyahoga County.

Trump was still in his state of denial.

Trump has changed his tune since then; even he can't dismiss the growing number of deaths. But he has consistently stood in the way of governors trying to get help for their states.

For some unknown reason, he put his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a position of responsibility on the COVD-19 task force. He immediately stuck his foot in his mouth by proclaiming that the stockpile of ventilators held by the federal government are not meant for the states.

Nonsense like this is spewing out of the White House on a daily basis.

In the meantime, governors such as DeWine and Beshear go about the difficult business of saving lives.

So, former Facebook friend, don't watch those afternoon briefings.

After all, ignorance is bliss.

Until, that is, it isn't so blissful anymore.

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Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

  Read more "Politically Speaking" here. 

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.