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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.

DeWine: 'I Wish The President Would Wear The Mask More'

President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Alex Brandon
Associated Press
President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Gov. Mike DeWine says that President Trump's diagnosis and hospitalization should be a reminder that "no one is immune" from COVID-19.

"Ohioans should ask: What are the enduring lessons that we have learned from the president and First Lady's illness?" DeWine said. "What lessons are relevant to each of us?"

DeWine opened his coronavirus press conference on Tuesday by referring to remarks Trump made Monday following his discharge from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. After spending the weekend in the hospital, Trump returned to the White House while continuing to be treated for COVID-19.

"One thing that's for certain – don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it. You're going to beat it," Trump said. "We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines. All developed recently. And you're going to beat it."

DeWine agreed that "we should not let the virus dominate our life," but used Trump's words to urge health precautions that the president himself has often ignored – including the importance of wearing face masks, social distancing, and contact-tracing. 

"I made no secret of this: I wish the president would wear the mask more," DeWine said. "I wish he would wear it all the time he was in public."

Over the weekend, DeWine told CNN's State of the Union that he was not contacted by the White House about COVID-19 exposure or contact-tracing following Trump's positive diagnosis – even though the president had been in Cleveland for the presidential debate just days earlier.

Although the White House itself has required daily COVID-19 screening, the president and his staffers have declined to wear masks or keep six feet of distance. In addition to Trump and the First Lady, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump aide Hope Hicks, campaign manager Bill Stepien, former top adviser Kellyanne Conway have also tested positive.

While not specifically mentioning the Trump administration, DeWine said that even frequent COVID-19 screening can't substitute for the protections of masks and social distancing. "They have to go together," DeWine said.

The governor urged Ohioans not to be afraid of the virus, but rather to be "realistic and practical."

On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported an increase of 1,335 new COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths in the last day, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 161,299 cases and 4,947 deaths.

"This is trending upward," DeWine said, adding that Ohio is reporting an average of more than 1,000 new cases every day. That's a spike from this summer, when the average was closer to 800 cases per day.

Many of the counties with the highest COVID-19 rates are rural and in the Northwest corner of the state, DeWine said, as the state's coronavirus hotspots move away from urban areas.

Ohio also reported 132 more hospitalizations and 36 more ICU admissions in the last 24 hours, both of which are the highest single-day increase in the last several weeks. Hospitalizations, which had been declining since July, have since turned back upwards.

DeWine said that Ohioans 60 years old and above now account for 70% of COVID-19 hospital admissions – up from 50% in July. Rural counties also comprise more COVID-19 hospital admissions than do suburban and urban counties.

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News

Gabe Rosenberg