Gov. Mike DeWine left his home in rural Ohio at about 6 a.m. on Thursday, setting out early to meet President Trump when he arrived for a visit in Cleveland.
Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio Tests Positive for Coronavirus
During the three-hour drive up Interstate 71, Mr. DeWine prepared to speak to the president about an issue that had been on his mind: coronavirus testing. But before any discussions, the White House required him to get his own rapid-result test. He thought little of it until the results came back with unwelcome news.
Mr. DeWine, 73, had tested positive, becoming the second governor known to do so as infections spread across the country.
Though other Republicans and people close to Mr. Trump have tested positive, Mr. DeWine has struck a distinctly different tone than some in his party, taking an early and aggressive response to the virus and regularly wearing a mask. Critics within his own party quickly seized on the news as a sign that the strict measures he put in place, including a mask mandate, had not worked.
Mr. DeWine, who was waiting for the results of a second test on Thursday, said he did not know where he may have contracted the virus and had no symptoms other than a headache.
“The lesson that should come from this is, we’re all human,” he said, rejecting assertions that masks were not effective. “This virus is everywhere.”
Mr. DeWine was tested as part of a standard protocol in preparation for Mr. Trump’s visit to Ohio on Thursday. He did not meet with the president and left to get a secondary test.
“A very good friend of mine just tested positive,” Mr. Trump said in front of Marine One in Cleveland, before departing to visit a Whirlpool factory in Clyde, Ohio. He praised Mr. DeWine for doing a “fantastic job.”
“We want to wish him the best,” Mr. Trump said. “He’ll be fine.”
Mr. DeWine’s positive test result reflects the growing threat the coronavirus poses in states like Ohio, which is now averaging about 1,200 cases a day, more than the state’s previous peak in April. It is also the latest reminder of a point Mr. DeWine had made this week: The virus can spread quietly and widely, reaching even those who take the threat most seriously.
Several people have tested positive as part of regular screenings meant to protect the president. The easy access to tests and immediate results stand in contrast to the experience of many Americans, who have had to wait hours to get tested for the virus and continue to face turnaround times that stretch for days and even weeks, far longer than the 24 to 48 hours that experts recommend to effectively quarantine and contact trace to stop the spread of the virus.
Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has frequently refused to wear a face covering in the Capitol, said he tested positive for the coronavirus at the White House last week, before a planned trip with Mr. Trump on Air Force One. Campaign staff members who attended the president’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., in June also tested positive.
Separately, Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, a Republican, became the first governor known to test positive for the virus last month, a diagnosis he said was unrelated to his attendance at the president’s rally.
Among those Republicans who tested positive, Mr. DeWine stands out as the most ardent disciple of public health measures, taking a different tack than Mr. Trump, who initially denied that the virus was a threat and for months resisted wearing a mask in public. (The president wore a mask when visiting the Whirlpool factory on Thursday.)
Mr. DeWine was the first governor to shut down schools and issued an early stay-at-home order in March. He wakes up each morning to a fresh PowerPoint presentation from his staff that he reads on his iPad before 8 a.m. He issued a statewide mask order last month and often issues dire pleas to Ohioans to take the virus seriously.
“Don’t we all want to be around to meet our future children, our future grandchildren?” he said during a televised state address last month. “To attend their baptism, to watch our kids and grandkids graduate from school?”
A mild-mannered career politician, Mr. DeWine spent decades in public office — as a county prosecutor, state senator, congressman, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator and state attorney general — largely out of the national spotlight, until the pandemic turned him into something of a social media sensation.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 6, 2020
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
- Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise. Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
- Employers have to provide a safe workplace with policies that protect everyone equally. And if one of your co-workers tests positive for the coronavirus, the C.D.C. has said that employers should tell their employees — without giving you the sick employee’s name — that they may have been exposed to the virus.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
His daily 2 p.m. press briefings, where he took on a professorial air, speaking alongside graphs and charts while wearing round glasses and colorful ties representing Ohio universities, spawned a fan club. The briefings, known as “Wine With DeWine,” inspired T-shirts and wine glasses with the motto “It’s 2 o’clock somewhere.”
But his approach also drew uproar from protesters who gathered outside the State Capitol and from members of his own party. Amid the stay-at-home order and business closures, Republicans accused his administration of “micromanaging” residents and pumping up coronavirus statistics to scare Ohioans.
On Thursday, a Republican state representative, Nino Vitale, used the moment to question the governor’s policies. “I thought masks worked?” he posted on Facebook, alongside a photo of Mr. DeWine wearing a face covering.
By Thursday afternoon, Mr. DeWine said he had received several “not so nice” text messages suggesting that mask wearing did not matter.
“Look, we know it does,” he said, speaking from the porch of his home in Cedarville, Ohio. “If people take that lesson from the fact that I apparently have it, that would be the wrong lesson.”
In addition to being in a higher-risk age group, Mr. DeWine has had asthma since he was a teenager. As he and his wife, Fran, waited for further test results, he said he planned to work from home and quarantine for 14 days. Ohio’s lieutenant governor, Jon Husted, was also tested for the virus on Thursday and received a negative result.
“So far, my work is not going to be impacted,” Mr. DeWine said. “We’ll see. I don’t take anything for granted. This virus is a nasty thing.”
Julie Bosman and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.