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COVID-19 and what comes next for Ohio | An exclusive interview with Gov. DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine joined WTOL 11 for a live interview, answering questions on how we got here and where we go next with the rise in cases of COVID-19 in Ohio.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Every day, there's a new record for cases in Lucas County and across the state - it's not a broken record, it's just been the reality of the COVID-19 situation in Ohio over the past few weeks.

Tonight we're working to get answers to how we got here and what comes next. 

Governor Mike DeWine joined us live during our newscast for an exclusive interview.

Two days since you said you would look at possibly closing bars, restaurants and gyms if things don't get better. Things haven't gotten better. Where do you currently stand on that possibility?

"Well, we're talking to some of the folks who run bars and restaurants and the Restaurant Association to see if there's anything we can, frankly, get worked out. I mean, look, the problem is not the people who run the bars or who run the restaurants - it's the nature of being inside now, it's the nature of being in a situation where people can't wear masks. We know the importance of these masks, so we're trying to work on this and see what we can do. 

"But, I think the most important message is that all of us can really slow this thing down, just by what we do. By wearing a mask out in public, by not having that party, not having that, y'know, if you've got a bunch of friends to watch football, if you've gotta do that in your basement, at least put a mask on. It's just people needing to be more careful. 

"I mean, if you look at the numbers, about six weeks ago, we were at a thousand cases a day. As you reported earlier, we broke 8,000 cases today. We're seeing the same thing in northwest Ohio. For example, Lucas County, if you go back six weeks? Doing really well. But it's just shot up. Lucas County now has four times what the CDC says is the high incidence of cases. 

"But it's all over. We're really seeing tremendous spread in our rural counties as well. So, it's what we do in our individual lives. If we really want our kids to be in school, which we do, we want them to be in - I think most of us want our kids - or in my case, grandkids - to be in school, in person. But, if the schools are going to be able to stay open, keep teachers in the class, kids in the class, we gotta slow this virus down. 

"Same way with our nursing homes. If we want to keep our grandparents safe in nursing homes, we gotta tamp this virus down. And we can really control it by what we do as individuals."

If you close the bars and restaurants, that jeopardizes small business, it puts low income people out of work right before the holidays. That's a call nobody wants to make. 

"Look, I didn't run for governor to close anything. What we do believe, and I think the evidence is clear, is that for us to keep businesses open - which is what we want to do - and keep the economy moving, we gotta keep the virus down. And so, what really threatens business is the virus is now flaring up, higher than it's ever been before. Much higher than it was in the spring, much higher than it was in the summer. And what happens, people start to get scared, they pull back, they don't go out to the businesses. And so that really is a huge - it's a huge threat. 

"And as I said, it's a threat to our schools. We have kids who we want to be in school, but I've talked to a number of superintendents today, and you know, their concern is that the virus kicks up so high that they've got so many kids quarantined, they've got teachers who are out, who have COVID or they're quarantined and they won't be able to keep the schools open. So that's what's at stake. 

"Our hospitals as well. In Lucas County, but throughout northwest Ohio, throughout the state we're starting to see some of these hospitals making tough decisions. Some of them are already saying, 'we're not going to do some elective surgeries. If someone has to stay overnight, we can't spare that bed.' So that's the consequence of this virus continuing to flare up."

The spike we're having right now, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department says it's related to Halloween. So here comes Thanksgiving, people are hurting right now. How do you balance the need to stop the spread of the virus with the knowledge that people are lonely and depressed and probably need time with family more than ever?

"I think we all try - Fran and I, you know - we walk down the road here and see some of our grandkids. But we still try to see them outside, we have a mask on, they have a mask on. Thanksgiving is going to be very different for the DeWine family than it's ever been in the past. We usually have a big gathering in this room where I am. But it's just gotta be different. 

"But the good news is, the vaccine's on its way. And you know, the sun's gonna come out again. We're gonna be able to see our family again. We're gonna be able to do the things we want to do. But we gotta get through the next through months. And the next few months are extremely dangerous. And the virus threatens lives, it threatens our ability to stay in school and do all the things we want to do. 

"So we gotta tamp it down, but the virus - we're gonna knock it down, eventually, when we get the first shipment - not the first shipment, but we get many shipments in and get more people immunized. The first shipment, we hope, is coming in December. And then we hope it just continues to come after that and we continue to get people vaccinated into the spring, into the summer."