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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on managing COVID-19 as the state reopens

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is one of many state officials across the country weighing the trade-offs between public health and a functioning economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the COVID-19 trends Ohio is seeing, the challenge of supporting so many unemployed residents and how he would like to see police reform implemented.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There are urgent issues that governors are having to confront all at once, the balancing act between the economy, as we just heard, and the spread of COVID-19, and the outcry to address racism and police misconduct.

    Ohio's Governor Mike DeWine joins us now.

    Governor DeWine, thank you very much for joining us again.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I watched your news conference today where you spoke about the spike in COVID cases in the Southwestern part of the state around Dayton and around Cincinnati.

    You said you think it's due to community spread, hard to pinpoint. What do you know about what's going on there?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Well, as we open up the economy, of course, the concern is, as people are getting out more, great weather, you know, people trying to get back to normal. So there's a lot more activity.

    And if you look at the driving statistics, I showed that today, and you know, people are driving more today than they were when the economy was shut down. So, you know, some of this is to be expected.

    The way we can combat that is for Ohioans to continue to distance, wear masks when they're out in public, you know, do the basic things. And, also, we're increasing the testing in Ohio. Ohio has been low in testing, and we have said that. We have said we have got to get the testing up. We hit a new high today in testing.

    And we're going to continue to push that. When we looked at Dayton in the Cincinnati area, I talked to both mayors today, and what we're going to do is help their local health departments, help them, or bring in the National Guard to do additional testing.

    We're going to go right into the zip codes that have the biggest problem, where we're seeing the biggest spike. And that's how we can be on the offense. It is the testing, and then you go out and you — the health department does the tracing, and you try to isolate that.

    So, it's — in a sense, it's not rocket science. It's basic, but you have got to execute every day. And that's what we were talking about today, is how we go about and do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I heard you say you are urging everybody in several zip codes to go get tested. You said everybody, because it's enough of a concern.

    Are you having second thoughts, though, about reopening? Because it's been several weeks now since businesses have gone back, restaurants. You're even going to open up amusement parks, I think, tomorrow.

    Any rethinking of that?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Well, it's always a balance.

    As your last piece — I was listening to it. As your last piece clearly said, it is a balance. And there is a real price to pay when the economy is down. And, you know, you see mental health problems go up. You see all kinds of other problems that do, in fact, occur.

    So you're trying to achieve a balance. I have explained to Ohioans what I believe. And what I believe is that, for our economy to move forward, we have to stay safe, and we have to keep the coronavirus from really spiking up again, because, when it spikes up, it won't matter what Mike DeWine says or what my health director says.

    If people are scared, they're not going to go out, and they're not going to go do things. So, if people are concerned about the economy, I said, look, you know, we have got to stay healthy, we have got to wear masks, we have got to keep the distance, we have got to do the testing, we have got to do all these things that matter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of your economy, the unemployment rate in the state of Ohio was at 16.8 percent in April.

    We learned that the Ohio Compensation Fund ran — has run out of money. The state has now had to borrow from the federal government.

    Are you going to be able to pay all the workers who are entitled to unemployment benefits? And I know the legislature, I guess, is — has gone home, state legislature, without a full-time fix for this. What are you going to do?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Well, we have had a structural problem with unemployment for a long time that, frankly, needs to be fixed.

    But over and above that, then you come in with the coronavirus and the crash in the economy. We have had over — well over a million people apply for unemployment compensation. So, the borrowing of money is pretty expected. I think Texas and several other states have done that.

    The government is doing this with no interest, the federal government is, for a while. So we're not going to have trouble paying this back. We certainly will pay it back.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor, I want to ask you about police-related incidents, police incidents involving black men.

    I know that you this week announced a number of steps aimed at curbing and overseeing law enforcement. I'm just naming a few. You said you're prepared to see choke holds banned, except where life is at risk, requiring more officer training, a database, more transparency.

    But my question is — I mean, Ohio, like other states, has had a number of these incidents. Why not do this before now?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Well, it's been tried before.

    But I think that, you know, this is the opportunity. This is the time. If we cannot get these things done now, I don't know when we will ever get them done. I'm convinced we can do it. I think there is the public sentiment to do it. And we need to strike right now.

    And so, you know, we came forward with proposals that I think will make a difference. If there's a police officer-involved shooting, have an agency, not that department, investigate it. Have prosecutors from not that area do the prosecution.

    Psychological testing. There are some police officers — the vast majority of police officers do a great job. I started as a county prosecuting attorney. I love the police, and they do a great job.

    But everybody knows, everybody knows who is close to law enforcement there are some people who should simply not be police officers. And they should be weeded out very early. They should be weeded out before they even have the opportunity to go through the testing and to go through the courses. We can do that.

    The other thing that we see a lot, or at least we see — and I don't know if it's a lot, but we see police officers who get in trouble in one department, and they move to another department. We have over 800 police departments in the state of Ohio.

    We need a central control agency. And so what we have proposed is to license police officers and have a regulatory body, just like we do for doctors, just like we do for nurses. We also have proposed that there should be an affirmative obligation to report.

    Today, if a doctor sees another doctor doing something that is bad, they have to report it to the state medical board. It should be the same way with a police officer. If one police officer sees somebody else, another officer, and they're doing something they should not be doing, that needs to be reported, and there should be an affirmative obligation to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor Mike DeWine, hope to continue this conversation at a future time.

    Thank you very much.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Thank you. Appreciate it.

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