Pick to lead Ohio health department withdraws

Gov. Mike DeWine’s pick for Ohio’s next Health Department director withdrew her name Thursday night, just hours after DeWine announced she’d be the successor to the state’s previous director who resigned abruptly in June.

Dr. Joan Duwve withdrew her name from consideration for the position for personal reasons, DeWine’s office said in a tweet Thursday night.

The Republican governor had announced earlier Thursday that Duwve would be the state’s new health director, saying she has extensive public health experience and shares his commitment to children’s issues and many other public health issues.

The state will continue its search for a full-time replacement to Dr. Amy Acton, who resigned amidst a torrent of conservative criticism over her coronavirus public health orders, including armed protesters outside her suburban Columbus house.

Duwve, from North Olmsted in suburban Cleveland, is a public health director for South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. She worked previously as chief medical officer with the Indiana Department of Health and medical director for the department’s Division of Public Health and Preparedness.

She graduated from Ohio State, received a public health master’s from the University of Michigan and her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Messages to Duwve’s office and South Carolina health officials seeking comment weren’t immediately answered Thursday night.

DeWine cautioned that “social gatherings” continue to be the main source of the spread of COVID-19, as several colleges and universities shut down in-person classes and other cases are traced to fraternal clubs around Ohio.

According to the state’s public health advisory system, as of Thursday, there were six counties designated red level 3, which indicates very high exposure and spread. Summit County was among the six, moving up from last week from orange level 2.

One of the sources of new cases in Summit County came from an unnamed “fraternal club,” DeWine pointed out.

“Two people who visited a fraternal club, not knowing they were contagious, caused the spread to employees, other club members and family members,” he said. “A total of 12 people tested positive (from ages 29 – 81 years old), four of them were hospitalized and two are seriously ill.”

“Out-of-class gatherings” are in part the cause for schools like Wittenberg University in Springfield to pause in-person classed for at least two weeks, the school’s president, Dr. Michael Frandsen, said.

Wittenberg has seen a surge of 76 new cases in the last week, he said.

“If you look at the cases so far in September, there is a significant rise in the number of cases between the ages of 20 to 29 years old,” DeWine said. In August, more than 22% of new cases were in that age range and nearly 34% of all new cases in September fall into that group as of Thursday.

With a positivity rate around 4%, Ohio has a much lower community spread than Alabama, Kansas, North and South Dakota, which are all above 15% triggering a travel advisory warning Ohioans not to travel to or from those areas.

The Sept. 10 report from the Ohio Department of Health indicates the state has 127,106 confirmed and 6,980 probable cases of COVID-19, for a total of 134,086. That’s an increase day-over-day of 1,121 new cases. Of those, 14,164 people have been hospitalized (increase of 81) and 3,070 of them in intensive care (increase of 16). There have been 4,009 confirmed deaths in Ohio and 289 probable related deaths, for a total of 4,354 fatalities in the state (increase of 30).

The state has tested a total of 2,483,371 people as of Sept. 8 and, with 18,847 positive test, has a 4.4% positivity rate.

DeWine, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted all received a flu shot during the beginning of the coronavirus update as the governor urged all Ohioans to do the same.

“While the flu can be deadly on its own, we are also concerned that Ohioans who get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time could become severely, if not fatally, ill,” DeWine said. “Anyone who can get a vaccinated against the flu should do so.”

Husted also stressed the importance of getting a flu vaccine early in the season in part to “free up” the supply chain for when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

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