Published Monday, July 20, 2020
By Pamela A. Popper

Guest Editorial

Mike DeWine is a former county prosecutor, state senator, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, lieutenant governor, U.S, Senator, and Ohio Attorney General. He practiced law for a while but has spent most of his career in politics. He was elected governor of Ohio in 2016 and declared himself the Emperor of Ohio in March 2020.

His current behavior and decisions are a major departure from a guy who was featured in a Columbus Monthly article titled “Mike DeWine: Making Ohio Nice Again.” The article stated that lawmakers, political allies, and even those who were opposed to his positions referred to him as “gracious, friendly, pragmatic – even nice.”[1] I voted for him, and for two years I thought I had made the right decision. And then the COVID debacle started.

I gave then-governor DeWine the benefit of the doubt when he locked down the state in early March for what was presented as a short-term strategy that would allow health officials led by Dr. Amy Acton to assess the COVID-19 threat and make appropriate plans.

Immediately then-Governor DeWine attracted an enormous amount of national attention, appearing on news programs on almost every major network. CNN described him as “one of the most proactive governors” who exhibited a “…calm tone and steady focus on transparency” when he became one of the first governors in the country to shut down almost all activity.[2]

DeWine still enjoys a favorable national profile and is lauded for the decisions he and his former sidekick Acton have made ostensibly to “protect Ohioans” and “save lives.” But DeWine’s decisions, starting with putting the lives of 11.6 million Ohioans under the management of a health director with a questionable background, poor judgment and limited capabilities, are ruining the lives of millions of Ohioans and have destroyed life as we knew it.

The Road to Hell Began in Mid-March

On March 9, DeWine and Acton declared that Ohio was “under a state of emergency.” At that time three people had tested positive for COVID-19. Over the next several weeks, businesses were gradually closed until only those deemed essential were allowed to remain open – mostly grocery stores and big box stores like Walmart. Restaurants, bars, gyms, arts organizations, libraries, schools, and everything else – shut down. Millions of people were put out of work, and many businesses failed due to the length of the lockdown. Suicides increased, drug overdoses increased, violence increased, food insecurity increased, homelessness increased; reports indicated that most children were not “schooling at home” since a significant percentage of children did not even have an internet connection that would allow them to access a teacher or assignments. Almost all medical care was suspended. And all of this was justified by Acton and DeWine as acceptable collateral damage in order to “flatten the curve.”[3]

On March 17, DeWine and Acton canceled Ohio’s primary election without calling a special legislative session as required by law.[4] And this was the date that former Governor DeWine started to transform himself into the Emperor of Ohio.

According to some of my contacts in the legislature, the emperor made it clear that if the legislature passed any bills intended to rein in his power he would simply veto them.

Was Any of This Justified?

Acton used the discredited Imperial College of London model to estimate that at the time the debacle started there were already 100,000 Ohioans infected with COVID-19 and to predict that there would be 62,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day in Ohio until as many as 70% of Ohioans would be infected. She issued an emergency order, which DeWine used to justify a two-week shelter-at-home order on March 23. At that time, DeWine promised Ohioans that he would use “…the best science, medicine and data, and to deploy all necessary resources to flatten the curve…” He also said that his administration would be transparent with all data.[5]

Ferguson’s model was shown to be significantly wrong – off by 96% – but Acton revised her projections only twice – once to 10,000 cases per day and the second time to 2000 per day. But with the exception of one prison at which all prisoners were tested, the number of cases never exceeded 100 per day.[6 IBID] In other words, Acton’s continued projections remained 20 times higher than the actual infection rate, and these inflated numbers were used to continue the state’s draconian measures which included a ban on visiting nursing home residents, religious services and gatherings, and even small groups in private homes.

During the daily press conferences, which I watched until I couldn’t stand it anymore, data on cases and deaths were reported – actually misreported. For example on April 14, it was reported that 50 people had died during the past 24 hours when there actually were only five, and on May 23 the Ohio Department of Health reported 84 deaths during the previous 24 hours when there were only seven.[7]

In addition to reporting false data on deaths, DeWine and Acton misled Ohioans by not disclosing who was dying. Acton insisted daily that nursing home deaths constituted only 20% of the total, but she must not have looked at any of the data before making those statements. By May 21 it was clear that there was no reason to continue restricting the activities of most Ohioans since 79% of the state’s deaths had been nursing home residents.[8] But the restrictions continue even today, July 17. Ohio schools will not be reopening normally, arts organizations remain shuttered, sports events are prohibited, and masks are required when leaving the house.

A Troubled Person in Charge

In my opinion, one of DeWine’s many questionable decisions was putting Acton in charge. In a televised press conference, Acton’s demeanor appeared much like that of a celebrity author at a Barnes and Noble book signing when she locked down the state until April 30. During this and many other press conferences, she seemed totally disconnected from the massive destruction she continued to inflict on the lives of Ohioans.

According to an investigation conducted by Operation Rescue, Acton has suffered from mental health and addiction issues. On her medical license application she checked off “yes” to this question: “Have you ever been treated but not hospitalized for emotional or mental illness, drug addiction, or an alcohol problem?”[9] Operation Rescue tried to obtain further details from the Ohio Department of Health, but was denied while Acton was still director.[10] To be clear this alone should not have disqualified Acton from being appointed Director of ODH. But this, along with other information uncovered by the Operation Rescue investigation should have been considered when giving Acton control over the lives of 11.6 million people for several months.

Acton has shared her personal background publicly, claiming that she was neglected as a child, experienced periods of homelessness, and often did not even have food to eat. She says that criminal charges were filed against her mother and her stepfather and indicated that she was abused. She survived all of this, she says and went on to become a medical doctor who was passionate about saving the world. In response to her story, DeWine once said, “She’s special, isn’t she?”[11]

But her mother, Donna Arthur, says that much of this is not true. Acton was never homeless, and always had food. The Operation Rescue reporter was able to validate Arthur’s claims by checking her educational and work history. And there is no evidence that criminal charges were filed against Arthur or her husband in Mahoning County, where Acton lived at the time.[12]

Again, to be clear, a background of addiction and mental illness should not disqualify anyone from public service or from holding most jobs. But the use of models proven to be wildly inaccurate, the refusal to adjust predictions, the reporting of false data; and instituting and maintaining a public health policy that caused harm to more people than could possibly be helped are signs of gross incompetence and someone who was not capable of doing the job for which she was appointed. Her mental health and addiction issues might explain her inappropriate demeanor and the appearance of being disconnected from the consequences of her actions. Certainly DeWine had the resources to investigate all of this before appointing her. And as her boss, he should have been monitoring her performance and fired her as it became clear that she had no idea what she was doing.

Acton resigned on June 17 2020.

Why Are Lawsuits Required in Order to Obtain Data?

DeWine pledged to be transparent when he started taking away the rights of Ohioans. But he has been anything but. Reporters repeatedly asked the administration to provide information about the number of deaths in long-term health facilities. ODH refused, citing “privacy concerns” but offered no real legal justification. In the meantime, reporters started checking with nursing homes to confirm data posted on the ODH website. For example, ManorCare Health Services in Parma was reported to have 63 cases and the actual number was 36.[13] Deadline after deadline for posting accurate numbers was missed.

The American Policy Roundtable requested information from the DeWine administration about models and projections used by ODH and Ohio State University to project the spread of COVID-19 and make policy decisions. By law, these records must be disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA). ODH denied the request, claiming that the department had immunity from all FOIA requests until the end of the pandemic.[14]

The Emperor has set up a perfect system for ruling his subjects. He has publicly stated that he will veto any attempt by the legislature to rein in his power and has blocked all access to data that could invalidate his claim that his policies are “saving lives.”

It’s Not Over, According to the Emperor

While the CDC reports that deaths have been falling for eleven weeks and that COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic,[15] the Emperor has decreed that masks be worn in several counties. He has threatened to lock down the state again if cases continue to rise.

The data supporting this? On Weds July 15, Clermont County in Ohio was designated as “red,” meaning that the county was classified as having “public health emergency.” One of our members called Clermont Mercy Hospital and found out that there were two COVID patients in a hospital with 147 beds and 16 ICU beds. This is overwhelming?

On Weds July 15 there were 160 COVID patients in the hospital, statewide;[16] hardly a reason for concern in a state that has over 27,000 available beds.[17] New cases on Thursday July 16, including those classified as “probable” which means that they are not confirmed – 1093.[18] Many of these people are likely asymptomatic since the state is sending large numbers of people into neighborhoods to knock on doors and randomly test people.

It appears that the Emperor is intent on continuing to ruin the Ohio economy, destroy businesses, deprive children of education, increase homelessness, maintain a police state and to issue edicts regularly until outside intervention takes him out. The options are a super-majority of the legislature overriding his veto, impeachment, massive lawsuits to vacate his orders, or the civil disobedience of millions of people who have just reached the end of their rope. In other words, the citizens might just have to force his hand and go back to living normal lives and if enough of us do it, he may just do nothing. It would be hard to take action against several million people who no longer care what the Emperor says or thinks or does.

I frankly don’t care which option it is. The Emperor must be deposed.

[1] Vitale B. “Mike DeWine: Making Ohio Nice Again.” Columbus Monthly April 21 2020
[5] Windsor J. “Governor DeWine Suppresses Data Disproving COVID-19 Policies.” Ohio Statehouse News May 26 2020
[6] IBID
[8] Kasler K. “Huge Percentage of Ohio COVID-19 Deaths Come From Nursing Homes.” Statehouse News Bureau May 21 2020
[10] Sullenger C. “Ohio Health Director’s Mother Comes Forward to Set the Record Straight About Daughter’s Troubled Past.” Operation Rescue June 11 2020
[12] Sullenger C. “Ohio Health Director’s Mother Comes Forward to Set the Record Straight About Daughter’s Troubled Past.” Operation Rescue June 11 2020
[14] Zanotti D. “Where Ohio’s COVID-19 Strategy Went Wrong.” American Policy roundtable. July 15 2020


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