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A fond farewell: Mike Polk Jr. says goodbye to Dr. Amy Acton

A big thank you to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton as she steps down.

CLEVELAND — When Dr. Acton announced that she was stepping down from her position yesterday, many Ohioans got collectively bummed out. 

Even the sign language lady seemed a little depressed, and she’s usually unflappable. But it’s understandable.

RELATED: Dr. Amy Acton steps down as Ohio Department of Health Director

This is obviously going to mess up the DeWine & Company Good Time Afternoon Press Conference Hour that many of us have become such big fans of. Losing a major character like this mid-season is always a real setback for an established show.  

I just hope they don’t do anything desperate like replace her with Ashton Kutcher or something to try and keep the ratings up. That would just be a real disservice to the fan base.

Hey, speaking of fans, you know who has plenty of those? Dr. Amy Acton.

And why wouldn’t she? She’s a great story. She rose up from being homeless as a child in hardscrabble Youngstown to becoming Ohio’s Health Director, where she helped to steer our state’s widely-praised response to the pandemic. She did so while speaking directly to Ohioans in a measured and compassionate manner that helped to make a really bad situation seem just a little less hopeless and scary.

So, obviously, we all fell in love with her. We sent her fan-mail, kids dressed up like her, there are t-shirts and well-intentioned but fairly brutal musical tributes, and a way-above average cartoon.

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But, of course, Dr. Acton also has her share of detractors. She had to make tough choices to try and keep people safe, and that involved shutting down schools and business and preventing large gatherings. Some people were less on board than others.

She was condemned as being alarmist. She was protested, including at her own home. She’s even currently being sued by two Ohio music festivals for enacting the statewide ban that could prevent people from attending an Eric Church concert. Yes, that’s really why someone is suing her.

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RELATED: Ohio Rep. Nino Vitale criticizes Dr. Amy Acton, claims masks don't work in Facebook post

I do understand the frustrations that a lot of Ohioans are feeling right now. I just personally believe that that frustration is misplaced.

The anger aimed at Dr. Acton reminds me of a classic episode of The Simpsons, in which a comet is careening towards earth, aimed right at Springfield. The crisis is of course averted in the end and when it’s over, the townsfolk make a community decision:

I think that it’s actually the virus that people are mad at for disrupting all of our lives, and not Dr. Acton. But you can’t protest a virus and you can’t sue it. You can yell at a virus, or post mean things about it on Facebook. But it probably won’t care. So what’s the next best thing to get mad at? How about a government official in a lab coat that’s telling you you’re not allowed to go to Chilis? That’ll do. 

I don’t know if all of Dr. Acton’s decisions were the correct ones, but I’d assume that they weren’t. Given the unknown nature of the virus and all of the factors she had to take into account, I don’t think anyone could have batted a thousand, but I do know that while Ohio is the 7th most populated state in the nation it ranks 35th in total COVID cases. That’s about half the total of Michigan, our less-populous neighbor. So take what you will from those numbers.

So thank you for the effort, Dr. Acton. I think I can safely say that most Ohioans really appreciate everything you’ve done. You spoke to us in simple terms that we could understand but you never came off as condescending, and you were exactly what many of us needed you to be at a time when we really needed you.

Now go enjoy your next chapter, but please, don’t go on "Dancing With The Stars."

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