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Governor advises Ohioans to ‘improve your odds’ with masks

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Gov. Mike DeWine, the most visible figure in Ohio during the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, urged residents to continue taking precautions despite receiving a pair of mixed test results on Thursday.

DeWine received a positive result when he was rapid-tested prior to a planned meeting in Cleveland with President Donald Trump. The governor appeared in a video press conference later that afternoon from his family farm in Cedarville to address the situation.

DeWine assured the media he had no symptoms, saying he intended to continue his duties as much as possible during his 14-day quarantine. He also was awaiting the results of a second, non-rapid test — which proved negative.

In response to questions, DeWine said he did not know where he could have contracted the virus. He added he and his wife have remained largely isolated at their Cedarville farm since the pandemic hit in March.

He said he had not spoken to a doctor about the likelihood of a full recovery, considering factors such as age. DeWine has had asthma for decades.

DeWine reminded the public of the nature of the virus, adding precautions such as masks and social distancing are ultimately a way of improving the odds.

“It is very contagious. It is here. It lives among us,” he said. “When you wear a mask, you’re improving your odds dramatically, but that does not mean you won’t get it. You restrict the number of people you see.

:That improves your odds dramatically, but…there’s no guarantees in life.”

Other questions concerned the reliability of rapid tests, which test mucus samples and are often returned in minutes. DeWine said the state will continue to pursue all types of testing and continue to learn more about the novel virus.

Policies during the past weeks have included mandatory masks for students kindergarten through 12th grade when they return to school this fall, closing service in bars after 10, and limiting county fairs to junior fairs only. The state has also rated counties by case numbers and danger of the virus.

Locally, Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said there has been no change in Belmont County’s numbers since Wednesday, when he reported a total of 652 positive cases, 585 recoveries and 41 people with active cases in isolation. A total of three people remain hospitalized and 23 people have died with the virus, including nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution.

Sproul hopes to hear of new recoveries soon.

Sproul did not speculate on any changes in state policy that might result from DeWine’s testing status.

“From what we heard, it was a rapid test and he’s going back to Columbus to be retested,” Sproul said. “You can have people walking around, asymptomatic, nobody around you is sick. That’s the crazy thing with this virus.”

He continues to advise the school districts on their plans to reopen and have regular five-day attendance. His department has been consulting with cafeteria workers.

“They’re going to have to reduce the number of kids that are in the cafeteria. Some may go to a grab-and-go style. They’re going to have to think of a way to not have as many kids in the area,” he said, adding some options like a salad bar may have to go.

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