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‘We all wish we had more testing,’ says Ohio’s DeWine of pandemic response

Although the economy has regained some ground since the pandemic sent it reeling, millions of Americans are still jobless and struggling. Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who recently tested positive on one test and then negative on a second, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss unemployment aid, virus testing and long-term lessons for the U.S.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's hear about the fallout of all of this and how it's playing out in the heartland from the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine.

    He tested negative for the coronavirus last night, just hours after testing positive.

    And, Governor, we're glad to know that you did test negative.

    And I want to ask you about testing in just a moment, but let's start with the economy and employment, because we do have new unemployment numbers out today. They did slightly improve this past month.

    But, overall, as you just heard, a lot of Americans still feeling very stressed. Tell us what you're hearing from Ohioans about the jobs picture and unemployment.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Well, we have some people like those that you just interviewed who are very worried. They're worried about paying the rent.

    When we look at our state revenues that are coming in, one of the things that our economists say is that it's clear that this money that Congress — extra money, extra unemployment money, was very valuable for the individuals who got it and was also, frankly, very valuable for the economy and for other people, so it had a real ripple effect.

    People spent it. And it really was very, very significant.

    So, we hope Congress comes up with a compromise here and gets something done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor, let's talk about your test.

    As we said, you first tested positive yesterday, then negative. And I understand you're going to have another test tomorrow. What does this experience, though, tell you about the state of testing right now in this country?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    You know, Judy, the second test I had, which is kind of the gold standard, is the test that almost every one of your viewers who are watching this, at least those from Ohio, have gotten.

    About 1.3 million Ohioans have been tested. Over 90 percent have been this particular type of test. So, the first test I took was a quick test. And not all quick tests are the same. But this was an antigen test.

    I'm not a scientist, but what they tell me is that you're — basically, they're measuring the protein which is on the coronavirus itself. And they're not as reliable. I'm told they're roughly 70 percent reliable.

    Usually, if it's wrong, it's a false negative. I guess I'm one of the strange ones, I got a false positive. But the test that we took yesterday at Ohio State afterwards — and then they ran it twice — and my wife was tested as well — that really is the gold standard. And it's what most people, the test most people have received.

    I think all the states are really looking at, how do we improve the testing, but how do we ramp this testing up? And this antigen test may play a role. We're looking at it to see maybe how we can use it.

    But you have to accept the fact that you get a quick result, but the result is not nearly as reliable as it would be in a diagnostic test.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I know you and five other governors have just come together to sign I guess a kind of a compact where, you're going to work together, pool your resources to try to ramp up testing in all five or six of these states.

    But here we are, Governor, we are more than six months into when the first case of COVID was discovered in the United States, and we still are behind on testing.

    Should something have been done sooner at the national level or in some nationally coordinated way to get us to a better place than we are right now?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Well, Judy, we all wish we had more testing. It's been a problem for most states, maybe all states.

    We have lagged behind in testing. Frankly, we have never been a state that was red hot. So, the priorities have never been towards Ohio. And we like it that way, in the sense we don't want to be red hot. But we need more testing in Ohio.

    Now, we have tripled the testing in Ohio. We're averaging now about 22,000, 23,000 tests a day. Frankly, we need to double it again, and then we probably need to double it after that.

    So, we're moving. We're trying to grow some of our own, in the sense of expanding our labs in Ohio. I try to own some of that. We're also reaching out to a lot of different companies. The market is starting to move, finally. More companies are offering different types of tests that are out there.

    But the lesson, I think, from what happened with me is, we have got to be careful. We have got to make sure we have got reliable tests. And we have got to try to get our times down. It's two things, get our tests back quicker and also get more tests and more capacity.

    That, plus the social distancing and wearing the masks, those are the three things, the masks, the social distancing and the quicker tests, and get those tests back, that's the key to us being able to go out and resume our lives.

    I tell people, that's the — that's freedom. The masks are freedom. Social distancing gives us freedom, and these tests give us freedom.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Governor, there have been a couple of in-depth reports that have been published in the last few days looking at why the United States, with all of our resources and all of our wealth, is one of the worst countries on the planet with regard to COVID. And it points to mistakes made in the beginning and throughout.

    What do you look to here? I know we don't — you said a moment ago you don't want to spend a lot of time looking back, but could, should Washington, should the leadership at the national level have been more forceful in taking this seriously and getting people to respond and pouring more resources into it?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Judy, I think there's a couple of big lessons that we need to take away from this.

    One lesson is, we have to invest in public health. Democrats and Republicans alike have not invested in public health the way we should. We have got to do it at the national level. We have got to do it at the state level. And we have got to be committed to that for the long run.

    And the other, of course, long-term lesson is, we can't rely on other countries to manufacture all our products that we need in regard to medical care. We have got to make more of them right here in the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Governor, very quickly, presidential election.

    President Trump was in Ohio yesterday talking about the campaign. Among other things, he spoke about Joe Biden, said that Joe Biden is against the Bible, against God, that he wants to hurt God.

    Is this the kind of message that you think is the path to victory for the president?

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    I think the path to victory is for the president to focus on the basic things.

    The president — until this coronavirus came along, our economy was doing well. I'm optimistic, we get this thing behind us, we are going to see our economy flip back. I think the president needs to talk about that, his vision there.

    For those of us who are more conservative, we're very happy with his court appointments to the — to not just the Supreme Court, but to the circuit court and the district courts. I think those are the — some of the things that the president will focus on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We're going to leave it there, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, again, glad that test came back negative.

    Thank you.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Thanks, Judy.

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