Two former governors of Ohio – Democrat Richard Celeste and Republican Bob Taft – have agreed to lead a testing strike force team for Ohio to help the state combat the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his Tuesday briefing.
In these roles, Celeste and Taft will work with state leaders from business, academia, and public health to help secure the necessary supplies to expand testing in Ohio.
Access to testing is a consistent pain point in this pandemic, not just for Ohio but for states across the country. DeWine called testing "vital" to reopening the state's economy, which he has said he will slowly do starting May 1.
DeWine said he is grateful the two former governors agreed to help.
"I called each this morning and asked if they would do this, and each one without hesitation, said they would," DeWine said. "These two individuals know how to get things done and they know how to make things happen."
Celeste, a native of Cleveland, was first elected governor in 1982 and re-elected in 1986. Prior to becoming governor, he was the last Ohio lieutenant governor to be elected independently. He left that job in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter named him director of the Peace Corps. After his two terms as governor, Celeste became president of Colorado College, a job he held until he retired in 2011.
Taft, a Cincinnatian, is the great-grandson of President William Howard Taft. Prior to being elected governor, he was a state representative, a Hamilton County commissioner, and Ohio Secretary of State. He was elected governor in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. Since serving as governor, Taft has been teaching at the University of Dayton.
Minority Task Force Update
After technical difficulties during Monday's briefing, DeWine gave Ursel McElroy another opportunity to speak. The director of the Department of Aging spoke about her office's efforts to help communities of color in the state during this pandemic. Early indications show blacks and Hispanics are disproportionally affected by COVID-19.
"Like most things we've dealt with during this crisis, it is connected to so many other things," McElroy said. She will join Alisha Nelson, the director of RecoveryOhio, to co-chair the minority health strike force team, which will examine such issues as the underlying health conditions and social determinants of health, as well as expressions of hate and discrimination tied to the crisis.
"Tangible steps will be put in place—education, stronger data collection and recommended policy creation or changes that are needed," McElroy said.
Help For State Fairs, Small Businesses
Reiterating his love of county fairs, DeWine announced how this year the Ohio Department of Agriculture is waiving the requirement that agricultural societies must put up matching funds in order to receive $50,000 facilities grants. Fair managers have until May 30 to apply via the Ohio Department of Agriculture's website.
DeWine also noted how the first round of checks from the $1.6 billion in dividends recently approved by the Ohio Board of Workers Compensation are in the mail. The dividends are being sent back to Ohio employers to ease the impact of the virus on Ohio's business community and the economy.
Approximately $1.4 billion will go to private employers and nearly $200 million will go to local government taxing districts, such as counties, cities, townships and schools, DeWine said.
"A totally of 170,000 checks will be mailed over the next five days," he added. "So business owners, make sure that you get your mail."
Department of Health Director Amy Action provided the latest numbers on coronavirus in the state. Currently, there are:
- 13,725 cases in Ohio
- 87 counties reporting
- 557 deaths
- 94,000 tests done in in the state