COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his Thursday news conference and via Twitter that Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is stepping down from that role and into an advisory role with the governor.
“Dr. Acton has told me that she felt that it was time for her to step down,” said DeWine. “I have asked her to now serve as my Chief Health Advisor where she will continue to serve the people of Ohio in a meaningful way.”
The announcement about Acton capped a contentious few months as the target of frustrations during the coronavirus pandemic that included gun-carrying critics showing up at her home.
Acton was most recently sued by organizers of music festivals and restaurant owners as the slow reopening unfolded.
“I really want to say most of all to Ohioans: Ohioans, you have saved lives. You’ve done this,” she said at a news briefing.
Acton, who called her time as the state health director an “honor of a lifetime,” faced House Republicans seeking to restrict her authority last month due as frustrations grew over aggressive stay-at-home orders.
The governor has defended Acton, saying his fellow Republicans should be focused on increasing coronavirus testing, dealing with a $775 million budget deficit and reopening the economy.
“I will always believe and know that many lives were saved because of her wise advice,” DeWine said Thursday.
DeWine said, “Let me say how very grateful I am for Dr. Acton’s selfless and tireless service to the people of Ohio as our Department of Health Director. No one is more passionate about public health than Dr. Amy Acton. She always puts the health and safety of Ohioans first and foremost. Her knowledge, compassion, and determination have set an example for all of us, and Dr. Acton’s extraordinary bedside manner and wise counsel have helped us all get through this pandemic.
“In her new role, she will take a comprehensive and holistic approach to address health and well-being for all Ohioans. In addition to advising on health issues, she will continue to focus on the COVID-19 crisis, while remaining committed to the vision of the Ohio Department of Health.”
DeWine added, “It’s true, not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear a white coat embossed with the name Dr. Amy Acton.”
DeWine said, as of Thursday, Lance Himes, who served as a past ODH Interim Director, will again assume the duties of Interim Director.
Testing for all
DeWine announced, “Anyone who wants a COVID-19 test can now receive a test — even if you are low-risk or not showing symptoms.” He said you can find the interactive map of testing locations at https://bit.ly/2Y5Lw5C .
“We’re encouraging anyone that wants a test to talk to their health care provider or contact a testing location to arrange a test,” DeWine said. “By understanding who is sick, whether they are showing symptoms or not, we are able to better prevent the spread of the COVID-19.”
He said pop-up testing across Ohio will begin Friday in Columbus and “soon in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Xenia, Portsmouth, Columbiana, Akron, and elsewhere.”
“Although we never closed churches, synagogues, mosques, or other places of worship during this pandemic, we know that most of them stopped holding their traditional in-person services and found other ways to worship, such as broadcasting online,” said DeWine. “Just as we did with industry, outdoor activities, and entertainment, we have put together some suggested best practices for places of worship to keep in mind as they reopen. These are just suggestions, not requirements.
“Some of these suggested best practices include having families sit socially-distant from other families; encouraging members to wear face coverings; and eliminating the touching of common surfaces.”
This guidance can be found at http://coronavirus.ohio.gov .