Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic has garnered national attention, particularly in contrast to President Donald Trump’s mixed messages and slow response as the pandemic has unfurled nationally.
DeWine has taken swift action to close schools, ban large gatherings, close businesses, and even this week to go as far as to defy a court order to keep voting locations open for this week’s scheduled election.
Ohio isn’t alone in enacting serious measures to slow the spread and combat the effects of coronavirus. Ohio’s neighboring states have been at work on similar measures, enacting a host of policies in this time of national crisis.
All of Ohio’s neighboring states have closed K-12 schools, mostly for about two weeks each. Major universities in Ohio and all of its neighboring states have suspended in-person classes in March, opting for to be determined virtual alternatives in the short term.
Banning Large Gatherings
Michigan has banned gatherings of over 50 people, the most restrictive large gathering ban in the region. On Monday, Ohio matched that number and Indiana has banned gatherings of over 250. Pennsylvania’s governor has discouraged large gatherings of 250 or more without going as far as a ban.
Kentucky’s governor has not banned large gatherings but has indicated he may soon if citizens do not avoid them on their own. West Virginia’s governor has been least aggressive on this issue, discouraging large gatherings in public remarks but taking little steps at this point to enforce a ban.
When DeWine ordered the closing of dine-in and bar services throughout the state on Sunday, Ohio led the region in closing of businesses. On Monday, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan followed in Ohio’s footsteps, and West Virginia followed on Tuesday.
Pennsylvania has banned business through another means, by blanket banning all “non-essential business” that doesn’t cover key categories and Ohio banned a number of recreational centers on Monday as well. As the week has gone on, states have closed more and more categories of businesses.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits as a way to support people hit by the economic consequences of the epidemic.
Michigan’s governor also enacted price controls in order to keep prices at non-emergency levels. While this may be popular with the public, it is likely to have the unintended consequence of further exacerbating the problem of shortages of supplies in demand during this time.
In what was a near stumble for DeWine, the governor ordered a postponement of the scheduled March 17 election then was overruled by a Common Pleas Judge. DeWine then defied the judge’s order, ordering polls to close anyway.
Michigan went ahead with its election last week and Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky can put off its decisions until late April to mid May when their primaries are scheduled, though may see Ohio’s battle between the branches as reason to think ahead as the epidemic is projected to be at its height in the region during those scheduled elections.
Currently, this is a moment of unprecedented exercise of modern power for Governors in the Midwest and across the country. Governors are balancing the traditional dual goals of security and liberty, a balancing act often reserved for textbooks.
The lives of the elderly and immunocompromised, the livelihood of service workers, the right to assemble, and the functioning of our elections are competing interests balanced by these crucial policymakers in this moment. I don’t envy the decisions they have to make.