By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday appointed a new Health Department director and brought on a chief medical officer for the agency as the coronavirus raged in the state, hitting a number of ominous milestones.
DeWine also said without providing details that he planned to announce additional measures to slow the spread of the virus. Ohio already has a statewide mask order, a limit— with exceptions — on gatherings over 10 people, and a ban on alcohol sales in bars and restaurants after 10 p.m.
“We’re going to do what we can do wherever we can make an impact,” he said, calling the spread of the virus the number one threat to lives and to the economy.
Most of the spread, DeWine added, is coming not from children attending school or from businesses — where mask wearing is customary — but from unauthorized mass gatherings and parties.
Stephanie McCloud, currently the administrator of Ohio’s health insurance fund for injured workers, will become the new health director, DeWine said. She replaces Dr. Amy Acton, who led the agency’s initial response to the pandemic but then abruptly stepped down in June amidst a torrent of conservative criticism.
DeWine’s first attempt at replacing Acton fell apart immediately in September as his new appointee, South Carolina public health director Dr. Joan Duwve, withdrew her name within hours, citing concerns over harassment her family might face.
DeWine said he’s certain McCloud will also face criticism but said he’s confident in her ability to withstand it and do her job. He also announced the appointment of Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, a top executive at the OhioHealth hospital system, as the Ohio Health Department’s chief medical officer.
He said both officials will have his ear, but suggested McCloud, who is not a doctor, will work on more administrative matters such as creating systems for the distribution of a vaccine and overseeing personnel.
The announcements came minutes after DeWine rattled off a litany of dire statistics about the spread of the coronavirus in Ohio.