- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Days after Ohio hosted the first presidential debate, the state’s Republican governor called President Donald Trump’s recent positive COVID-19 test a “powerful reminder” that anyone can contract the coronavirus.

At the same time, Gov. Mike DeWine again declined to call for restrictions like mandatory mask wearing at large political rallies or limits on such rallies altogether. He also would not criticize fellow Republican lawmakers who largely refuse to wear masks while conducting business in the Ohio Statehouse.

Instead, he repeated his long-held position that Ohioans can do two things at once: live with the virus in a newly reopened society as long as they follow safety measures.

“We can stop this trend if we wear a mask. Please wear a mask when you’re out there to stop it,” DeWine said. “We control this. This is not rocket science. This is not difficult. We know what works. Wearing masks work. Keeping distance works. Staying away from large crowds works.”

DeWine answered questions about Trump’s positive test following a whirlwind morning as states like Ohio, which had hosted the president and the first lady in the last two weeks, scrambled to contact trace everyone who may have been exposed.



“I think this is a powerful reminder to us that we have to wear a mask, we have to social distance,” DeWine said. “This virus does not discriminate. If the president of the United States can get this, the first lady can get this, we can get this too.”

Trump tweeted early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the disease that has infected millions and killed more than 208,000 in the U.S.

Several others in the White House have also tested positive, prompting concern that the White House or even Trump himself might have spread the virus further.

Trump supporters in Ohio have disdained masks at rallies. Last month, people attending a large Trump rally in Dayton booed GOP Lt. Gov. Jon Husted as Husted promoted the wearing of masks. The mention of DeWine’s name at Vice President Mike Pence’s rally in Zanesville last month also drew a negative reaction.

The cases in Ohio had been steady in recent weeks but reached nearly 1,500 daily cases Friday, the highest reported in the last 21 days. The Health Department also reported 88 new deaths on Friday.

“Frankly I’m worried,” DeWine said. “We were doing really well on many metrics. But now we’re seeing this go back up.”

Both the governor and the lieutenant governor were tested for the virus Friday but did not immediately receive their results.

DeWine had a false positive back in August before he was set to join Trump on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio.

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Associated Press Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report. Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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