A vicious, widespread spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continued in Ohio Friday. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump entered the final days of a reelection campaign that a New York Times headline said “clashes with science, and voters’ lives” on the deadly disease.
Yet as he again pleaded with Ohioans to wear masks and take other steps to stop the out-of-control spread of COVID-19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine praised the president’s handling of it.
In some ways, Ohio on Thursday got its worst news yet on the coronavirus.
It smashed the old record for new cases in the past 24 hours with 3,590 — a 69% increase over the 21-day average. The number of new hospitalizations, 194, is a 56% increase over the three-week average.
That means all of the top-five totals for new hospitalizations from coronavirus in Ohio have occurred in the past week, DeWine said. Buckeye State hospitals haven’t yet been pushed to the breaking point as they have in some other states, and DeWine is furiously trying to keep that from happening.
As he has in the past, DeWine said much of the spread seems to be happening in private gatherings as people have grown tired of social-distancing practices and have been driven inside by cold, wet weather. Also as he has in the past, DeWine called on Ohioans to sacrifice for the common good.
Asked about the coming weekend, he said “Halloween parties are fun, but they make no sense this year.”
But as DeWine tries to get Ohioans to take steps against a deadly virus, Trump has been crisscrossing the country and holding large rallies with a very different message.
Last Thursday, DeWine described as “nuts” the claims by coronavirus skeptics that the only reason case counts are increasing is because more people are being tested. He explained that even though more tests are being conducted, the percentage of people testing positive has doubled since late September.
The same night, in the final presidential debate, Trump repeated a version of a frequent claim when he said, “We have the best testing in the world by far — that is why we have so many cases.” Fact-checkers rated the claim “misleading and false” — both because huge case counts are not due solely to increased testing and because scientists do not regard the U.S. testing effort as successful.
Last Saturday, at a crowded outdoor rally in Circleville, Trump reflected none of DeWine’s alarm about Ohio’s spike. He again said the virus is about to go away and he joked about kissing people in the audience.
And he said the media are hyping the coronavirus threat to hurt him politically.
“On Nov. 4 (the day after the election), you’re not going to hear about… the news, CNN, all they talk about, covid, covid, covid,” he said. “If a plane goes down with 500 people, they don’t talk about it because they’re trying to scare everybody.”
Holding such rallies before large — and often unmasked — crowds are themselves suspected of spreading coronavirus. USA Today last week reported that cases surged in the wake of Trump rallies in at least five places.
Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist who opposes Trump, on Sunday called on the Trump campaign staff to “turn off the rally recruitment machine.”
“You know the rallies are dangerous and are only about the Candidate’s ego, not winning this race,” he said in a tweet.
Note to Trump campaign staff:
You know it’s over.
You know COVID is surging.
You know the rallies are dangerous and are only about the Candidate’s ego, not winning this race.
Turn off the rally recruitment machine. The phones, etc. He won’t know. Protect people. It’s on you. 🇺🇸
— Mike Murphy (@murphymike) October 25, 2020
Those are precautions that DeWine has repeatedly said are essential to checking the spread of coronavirus. But as he has throughout the pandemic, DeWine on Thursday refused to criticize Trump.
Asked who, with the election coming Tuesday, DeWine believed would be the better leader to deal with the pandemic, he criticized the political nature of the question and said, “I think the President has not gotten enough credit for the job he did early on to spend big, big money on the virus.”