DeWine tests positive, and then negative, for coronavirus

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in a Zoom Thursday outside his Cedarville home. DeWine said he had tested positive that morning when being screened before meeting President Donald Trump in Cleveland. Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

After earlier testing positive for coronavirus, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office Thursday night said he had tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

DeWine, 73, received a routine test that morning before meeting President Donald Trump in Northern Ohio. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted tested negative, DeWine said, and accompanied Trump on a tour of a Cleveland-area Whirlpool plant.

DeWine went back to Columbus, where he and his wife, Fran, were tested again and then traveled back to their Cedarville home. From that test, DeWine tested negative as did Fran DeWine and various staff members who were also tested.

A news release said the second test was a PCR test that looks for the specific RNA for the SARS CoV-2 — in other words, the genetic material specific for the virus that causes COVID-19.

“This test is known to be extremely sensitive, as well as specific, for the virus. The PCR tests for the Governor, First Lady, and staff were run two times. They came back negative the first time and came back negative when they were run on a second diagnostic platform,” the release said. “We feel confident in the results from Wexner Medical Center. This is the same PCR test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state.”

The test administered Thursday morning in Cleveland, as part of the protocol required to meet the president, was an antigen test, the release said.

“These tests represent an exciting new technology to reduce the cost and improve the turnaround time for COVID-19 testing, but they are quite new, and we do not have much experience with them here in Ohio,” it said. “We will be working with the manufacturer to have a better understanding of how the discrepancy between these two tests could have occurred.”

Out of an abundance of caution, and at the direction of medical professionals, Mike and Fran DeWine plan on having another PCR test on Saturday, the governor announced, with the results also slated for release.

“I feel fine,” DeWine said in a Zoom call with reporters about 30 minutes after arriving in Cedarville Thursday afternoon. “I have a headache. But I get a lot of headaches throughout my life, so that is not anything that unusual.”

The 73-year-old governor was was credited early in the pandemic for taking swift, decisive action to slow the spread of the virus — including by canceling a large Columbus fitness expo in early March and then ordering bars and restaurants closed. After that, DeWine, who said he’s had asthma since he was a teenager, said he’s taken pains to practice what he’s preached: wearing a mask in public and by maintaining social distancing.

As news broke of DeWine’s positive test result. People took to Twitter to mock him, saying the result proves that the masks DeWine has been urging Ohioans to wear don’t work. They include state Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, who tweeted, “DeWine tests positive! Thought Masks Worked?”

DeWine said that misunderstands the reason for wearing a mask.

“The experts have told me that you wear a mask primarily to protect others,” he said. “There is some evidence — and look, we’re continuing to learn about the spread — but there’s some evidence that they protect you as well. But everybody I’ve been around has had a mask on and I’ve had a mask on. That’s been our protocol.”

Many officials from both sides of the political aisle wished the governor well following his initial positive result.

President Trump said in Cleveland that he wishes DeWine “the best” and that “he’ll be fine.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said in a statement the party is “saddened” to hear the news.

“We are saddened to hear of Gov. Mike DeWine’s test result,” the statement reads. “We know how hard he’s been working to keep Ohioans safe, and this is just one more reminder that this virus can impact everyone. As fellow Ohioans, we stand with and support our governor and his family at this time.”

Other reactions poured in on social media:

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio:

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina:

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron:

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights: 

State Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark:

Meanwhile, the coronavirus continued its spread in Ohio Thursday in the wake of the gradual reopening of the state that began May 1. There were 1,166 new cases reported over the last 24 hours, down a little from the 21-day average of 1,280. There were 22 more deaths over the same period, bringing the state’s total to 3,618.

Capital Journal Reporter Tyler Buchanan contributed to this story.