Updated: 4:40 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, 2020
Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday urged Ohioans to wear masks in the wake of news that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.
DeWine called the president’s positive test a reminder to pay attention to the virus, expressing frustration at what he called a “very alarming” number of new COVID-19 cases in the state.
“I think this is a powerful reminder to us that we have to do the basic things,” DeWine said in a Friday afternoon news conference. “We have to wear a mask, we have to social distance. We have to be careful. We have to avoid big crowds. It’s for all of us.”
State health officials reported 1,495 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the fourth consecutive day in which daily new cases exceeded 1,000. The number of confirmed or probable coronavirus deaths in Ohio grew to 4,905.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who attended the presidential debate in Cleveland Sept. 29, was still awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test as of the 3 p.m. press conference. He sat near the back of the audience at Samson Pavilion, and said he saw most attendees wearing masks.
Photographs from the event show Trump children Eric and Ivanka Trump, as well as U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, not masked during the debate.
The Cleveland Clinic, which co-hosted the event with Case Western Reserve University, required masks inside the debate hall, as well as negative coronavirus tests and a temperature check. But the Clinic acknowledged on Friday that some attendees removed their masks once they sat down. A doctor attempted to offer masks to some in the audience, according to the hospital.
The candidates and their teams received COVID-19 tests from their campaigns before the event, according to a statement from the hospital.
“I thought the Cleveland Clinic did really a fine job, along with Case Western, at creating an environment that was as safe as you could make something like that,” Husted said Friday.
The Ohio Department of Health is not involved in tracing the president’s contacts, DeWine said.
The state plans to distribute rapid COVID-19 test strips in the coming weeks, part of a White House contract with Abbot Laboratories, the governor said. The first shipment of the tests are expected in Ohio next week and the governor’s office considering how best to deploy them.
DeWine did not discourage in-person campaign events outright this fall, but said candidates should maintain physical distancing and try to hold events outdoors.
“I wouldn’t say that campaigns need to completely shut down,” he said. “I just think they need to be careful and to be compliant with what we request everybody to do, and that is just be careful, keep that distance, wear a mask.”
Before a Trump rally in Dayton last week, DeWine and his wife, Fran, visited Trump in his cabin on Air Force One, he said. Both DeWines wore masks, but Trump did not, the governor said. The DeWines have since both taken COVID-19 tests, he said.