Lawmaker Calls on DeWine to Reopen Surgery Centers; Thousands of Ohioans in Medical Crisis

An Ohio representative is calling on the governor to reopen surgical centers and allow medical personnel to return to work so that Ohioans can get the health care they desperately need.

In an immediate call to action directed at Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Health Director Amy Acton, State Representative Nino Vitale said, “We cannot be so focused on one pandemic that we create three to five other health care pandemics.

“We should also be gravely concerned about the health and welfare of people who have heart problems, lung problems, colon issues, prostate or bladder surgeries, and other conditions that are not C19 related,” said Vitale.

Numerous pleas for help from constituents prompted the legislator’s email correspondence to DeWine and Acton, which was sent on April 10 but has not yet received a reply.

“There are many people waiting for surgeries that were once considered elective but have escalated into more serious issues, even critical issues,” said Vitale. “Most of these are done in outpatient surgical centers that have been shuttered.”

Vitale (R-Urbana) is serving his third term in the Ohio House and represents the 85th House District.

Read Vitale’s letter to DeWine and Acton here.

The state has been on a stay-at-home order since March 24. Medical professionals have not been told when they will be permitted to go back to work.

Vitale and some other lawmakers are starting to pressure DeWine to reopen parts of healthcare and the economy.

“We need to address the thousands of people that are really going off the deep end because of pain, cancer and other medical threats they need treatment for,” Vitale said.

Vitale said he has been contacted by general practitioners, orthopedic surgeons, a urologist and physical therapists asking when the order will be lifted, as there are patients that are being denied surgery, medical procedures, physical therapy and other medical care.

The mental health of some Ohioans is also becoming an issue, said the representative.

“When someone’s mental health starts to fail that has a presence on their immune system and this has been a really challenging time for a lot of people,” said Vitale.

Vitale said his constituents have turned to him, their government representative, for help.

“To some degree, we are pretty helpless because the governor and department of health have decided that they are going to do these things without any input from anyone else,” said Vitale. “I think that’s a dangerous place to put people in when we live in a representative republic where we expect people to represent us.”

In addition to putting the health of Ohioan’s at risk, Vitale said that the state risks losing its physicians.

“I also have doctors telling me that they have lost 85 percent of their practices and are either days or a week or so away from closing their doors permanently,” Vitale stated in the letter.

Vitale said that making health care unavailable to Ohioans is dangerous and unnecessary.

“What the doctors and nurses have told me is, ‘We are trained in disease mitigation. That’s what we do.’ To cite the spread of the coronavirus as a reason for not allowing them to work is not what we need.”

Vitale said he has been told by medical professionals there is plenty of room in hospitals.

“The hospital beds are empty. We have plenty of capacity. Word is that they are laying people off. They are laying off nurses and staff.”

Vitale said additionally there are people who had surgery before the stay-at-home order but have been unable to receive the aftercare that they need, like physical therapy.

Baldridge Sees Need to Expand Broadband Access

State Representative Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester)

By Del Duduit

Ohio State Representative Brian Baldridge has a unique perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down most of the nation, including his state.

Baldridge, a Republican from Adams County, is not only a legislator in his first term, but he is also a firefighter and paramedic. He was a four-term county commissioner and was in office during the national economic downturn in 2008. His experience, he believes, will guide him to help his constituents get through this current situation.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was one of the first in the nation to shut down his state and is being credited with getting ahead of the virus that has spread all over the world.

But as a result, many people have had to close their businesses, and the numbers of people filing for unemployment have skyrocketed.

“This is certainly new territory,” he said on Good Friday. “But we did see how the economic recession in ‘08 affected our communities. For some, it was devastating. When we get past this, we know how to work with local governments to help them and better assist our citizens.”

Baldridge represents the 90th District, which includes all of Adams and Scioto and a portion of Lawrence County. He was appointed by the Ohio Speaker of the House to serve on the Economic Recovery Task Force and will examine ways to help Buckeyes get back on their feet as soon as possible.

“We will discuss the economy with business owners and leaders and find a new direction to help bring everyone together and help each other,” he said. “This is our opportunity to move forward to help local communities and businesses lift themselves out of this financial problem.”

From a first responder standpoint, Baldridge said he is more aware than ever about making sure he takes precautions to protect himself and his family and friends.

“This is a very serious time in our nation, state and community,” he added. “This pandemic has changed me and how I do business. I am more safety cautious, and I make sure that I don’t wear the same clothes I had on at the fire department at home. When I make my transition toward home, I disinfect and make sure I don’t bring anything potentially dangerous to anyone.”

Schools in the area remain closed, and students are either learning online or from their parents. One area Baldridge said he will focus on as soon as possible is to put an emphasis to make broadband available to all Ohioans.

“A lot of my district is rural, and there are some people who don’t have access to broadband,” he said. “A big portion of my district has people who are off the grid and cannot work at the same speed because of this, and it’s not a good situation. We don’t want anyone to fall behind because they don’t have broadband, especially students and people who are encouraged to work from home.”

School districts are doing all they can to ensure students have what they need to complete assigned work, he added, but they are limited if there is no broadband access.

“Many districts are providing hard copies to students, and that’s great because they are doing their best,” he said. “But every student needs broadband access, and we are going to look at this issue right away.”

He added the current situation is a trying time in Ohio and the nation, but it’s also a good opportunity to connect with people who are close to each other.

“We are going to get through this,” he said. “And we will be wiser and stronger. But I am a firm believer in my faith, and this is a time to rely on friends and family and grow closer and stronger. That’s one big thing I see coming out of all this.”

Del Duduit is a guest writer for Ohio Statehouse News

Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.

Ohio’s Tiger King

Before Joe Exotic and Netflix’s Tiger King hit the airwaves, Ohio had its own Tiger King. Many still question his tragic end.


Netflix’s wildly popular Tiger King has sparked renewed interest in the tragic tale of a Zanesville man and the wild animal escape of 2011.

Before Joe Exotic and Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness hit the airwaves, Ohio had its own Tiger King, the late Terry Thompson. Like Joe Exotic, Thompson had an affinity for fast cars, guns and collecting wild exotic animals.

After purchasing two Bengal cubs in 1977, Thompson was hooked. The Vietnam veteran started a 73-acre wild animal sanctuary in Zanesville where he housed a wide array of creatures, from macaws to bears.

Ohio’s Tiger King, sadly, had a much more tragic fate than Joe Exotic. What happened on Thompson’s sanctuary would lead to the state adopting some of the strictest wild animal laws in the nation.

Police say that on Oct. 18, 2011, in an act of anger and revenge, Thompson set loose dozens of dangerous wild animals into the city of Zanesville, population 25,000, before committing suicide by shooting himself in the head.

In the hours that followed, law enforcement and an army of volunteers carrying high-powered weapons massacred numerous wild animals, including 18 tigers, 17 lions, 8 bears 3 cougars, 2 wolves and a baboon.

Terry Thompson

Thompson had recently been released from federal prison, where he served a year on gun charges, and his wife of 40 years left him, setting the stage for a mental breakdown that led to the release of the animals, said authorities.

Several of the animals were shot dead in their cages, including some young tiger cubs, according to sanctuary caretaker John Moore, who told his story to author Teresa Headley in the book, Eighteen Days to the Massacre. 

Thompson’s body was discovered on a horse trail in the sanctuary. It was reportedly was being eaten by a Siberian tiger. According to the sanctuary caretaker, police said Thompson used his left hand to fire the weapon, even though he was right-handed and his left arm had a fresh injury where he had been clawed.

Another interesting detail is that Thompson used a Muskingum County deputy’s pistol to shoot himself, said Moore.

There was no crime scene investigation and police did not follow up on other details, like who purchased the bullets for the pistol,  even though a receipt was found near the crime scene, according to Moore.

Other little-known details of Thompson’s death also are revealed in the book.

Many have disputed law enforcement’s claims that Thompson would jeopardize the lives of his beloved animals and commit suicide.

One of the people who spoke out on behalf of Thompson was Joe Exotic, himself.

Not long after the Zanesville massacre, Joe Exotic produced a video for Joe Exotic TV entitled The Lion Sleeps Tonight. In the video, he explained why he did not believe Thompson released the animals and committed suicide.

“There are so many questions people have that were never brought to light by the police department …” said Joe Exotic, including the timeline of the events, which he said do not add up.

Joe Exotic pointed out that Thompson’s leopards were the only cats that were not released that day. “Leopards are the most dangerous of the big cats,” said Exotic. “He would have let the most aggressive animals out if he wanted to cause mayhem for the town and community.”

Also, the valuable animals, like Celebes apes, which he said are worth about $10,000 each,  were not released from their cages.

Joe Exotic pointed out that authorities chose not to use tranquilizing or paralyzing agents, even though two Ohio zoos were called to help and that these would have been available. These and other questions have not been answered.

He said there also were no crime scene pictures taken.

Several years before Thompson died, he began selling firearms as a way to finance the feeding, housing and care of his animals. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives eventually caught on and charged Thompson with possession of 133 unregistered firearms.

While at the property, ATF agents said they noticed animals being kept in horrible conditions. However no charges were brought against Thompson for animal neglect or abuse. Thompson attempted to fight the firearms charges, but he eventually pled guilty as money ran out to defend himself in court.

Shortly after the Zanesville tragedy, Senate Bill 310 which contained new, stricter Exotic Rules and Regulations was enacted. Ohio went from having some of the nation’s loosest laws on private exotic animal ownership to having some of the toughest.

Owners had to register and micro-chip their animals, and meet strict standards on housing, training, transportation, insurance and enclosures. The law also prohibited the acquisition of more animals — except for certain species — and the state could seize animals from owners who failed to meet the standards. Animals that did not meet the new criteria were surrendered by owners or were seized by the state and taken to a facility in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

In 2013, the ODOA disclosed that the new $2.9 million, 17,920-square-foot Dangerous Wild Animal Temporary Holding Facility had been built to accommodate the animals.

People of Faith Deserve Better from the NYT

An op-ed piece in the New York Times recently did not blame the Chinese government for the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill.

The post did not blame Republicans, Democrats or Independents. Of course not.

Katherine Stewart instead tossed the responsibility and blame on people of faith.

After all, the religious right is anti-science, as she claimed, and they support President Donald Trump, who the “newspaper of record” clashes with at press conferences on a regular basis.

Stewart’s opinion article was published on March 27, 2020. It is titled “The Religious Right’s Hostility to Science is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response,” and Stewart makes her opinion clear that people of faith are the reason we are all might die.

She blathers that Trump came into power with the determined assistance that denies science and bashes government. She opines that loyalty is stronger than expertise.

If Trump had not chosen to align himself with anti-science Bible-thumpers, then we would not be in this mess, she suggests.

This is straight out of the leftist playbook. Blame the deplorables and the gun-toting Bible thumpers.

When all else fails and you are void of an intelligent argument, toss the blame and call names.

The editorial writer then made an appearance on MSNBC to further point the finger at Christians.

This is a prime example why many Americans do not trust the mainstream media. Journalism used to be a proud profession–one that held esteem and honor.

A Gallup poll recently released a piece, and the title said it all: “Most Americans say they have lost trust in the media.” A CBS poll in March said that President Trump is trusted more than the media.

Stewart’s unwarranted attack on people of faith is just another reason why Americans do not trust the outlets and the people who are supposed to be fair and neutral.

I would have expected the blame to be directed at Communist China for the release of the virus. After all, that is where it came from.

Instead, journalists and left-leaning members of Congress chastise the President as being a racist for calling the disease the “Chinese Coronavirus.”

I see nothing wrong with that characterization. I go to “Chinese” restaurants and “Italian” restaurants to dine. I speak the “English” language, and one of my pets was a “German” Shepherd. These assumptions of racism are ridiculous.

Stewart is fine with offending American people who are Christians but will not dare put the responsibility of this pandemic where it belongs out of fear of being labeled a racist or frustrating a country that has a documented history of population control – China.

Instead, she attacks Christians.

I remember when journalists were brave and sought to tell the truth no matter the consequence.

Stewart is neither. She puts a target on those she assumes have been taught to “turn the other cheek.”

Christians are not anti-science. I have many friends who are doctors, and I have put my trust in them. Just because I am a person of faith does not mean I don’t appreciate doctors and hospitals.

If I am sick or need attention from a healthcare provider, I go. I never ask about their religious background because that’s not really important to me when I am in an emergency room.

The fact that I rely on the “ultimate healer” is not a slap in their face. If an atheist is put in the position to save my loved one and has the skills needed to save lives, then I am ready to receive his help.

But Stewart’s attack on people of faith is deeper than what she claims. She must possess a deep hatred for Christians in order to blame them for this pandemic. Many in the media mock Vice President Pence for his Christian beliefs. But he handles it with class.

I believe there is more to this pandemic. Many high-profile people warned two years that this could happen.

Tragic events usually bring the country together, and citizens are more lenient and loving toward each other.

But in this case, this writer expressed disdain and blame for a certain population which only works to divide the country even more.

President Trump has been working hard to fight this pandemic and to encourage private and public entities to partner together to fight this enemy. Inconvenience is a way of life for now. He is criticized by the media for holding too many press briefings. If he didn’t make daily appearances, they would bang on him for that. The mainstream media cannot be satisfied or trusted.

But to scapegoat Christians because of this pandemic is a low blow, even for the New York Times.

Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartli

When Love is in the Air… but so is the Coronavirus

No one will ever know just how many weddings were cancelled, postponed or were never planned this year due COVID-19.

Few people realize the preparation, time and expense that goes into planning a wedding, not to mention the hopes and dreams of a young couple in love.

There’s the venue, the guest list and invitations, the cake, catering, music, flowers … and the list goes on.

But this is 2020 and there’s more than just love in the air. Enter the coronavirus.

With so many couples struggling to decide what to do, a website has been set up by a wedding planning service called The Knot to help couples navigate the crisis.

Here are the stories of two brides-to-be whose wedding plans were altered due to an uninvited and unwelcome guest: COVID-19. These young ladies are first cousins and both happen to be in the nursing profession.

“When all this started in February, we never thought our May wedding would be affected,” said Casie Contos, who works at the Cleveland Clinic. Casie and is engaged to medical student Tyler Karras. Tyler is about to start a residency at Mercy Health in Youngstown.

“Slowly, the realization came that this MIGHT cause us some problems,” said Casie.

The couple came up with a Plan B, to have an intimate backyard wedding ceremony. “We still didn’t take this plan B too seriously. This coronavirus thing would all blow over soon, right?”

Casie said there were so many things to consider when deciding if they should postpone the wedding.

“Will we be able to confidently hug our guests? Am I going to make someone feel uncomfortable if I get too close? Do I have to pay hundreds of dollars for new invitations? Will there be a different date available that works for us and our vendors?”

“How do you make a decision for an event in May when information on this virus changes daily?” the future bride questioned.

The fact that the couple works in health care added another dimension to the problem.

First, Casie decided that it would be best to cancel her March bridal shower. Then Tyler cancelled a bachelor party cruise. Then Casie called off her bachelorette party.

The couple continued to hang onto the hope that the wedding could still happen.

“Finally, today, we gave in to the inevitable and made the heartbreaking decision that it was no longer safe to move forward with our May 30, 2020 wedding,” said Casie. “This decision came after many sleepless nights, emails, long conversations, etc.”

The couple had already paid for or made deposits on a photographer, a DJ, a minister, a florist, a hair stylist and a chair rental company, each under a separate contract.

“Do you think every one of these vendors will have the same date open to reschedule for us? Probably not,” said Casie. And having their payments returned if they decided to cancel was also unlikely.

Then there was the venue that the couple had already paid several thousand dollars to reserve. “They said if we cancel our wedding, we will only get back 50 percent of what we have paid,” said Casie.

“There have been moments where we hope our venue just cancels on us. At least then we would get our money back. Isn’t that crazy? The biggest day of our lives. We planned for this day for two years. And we hope our venue cancels.”

In addition to this, some counties in Ohio are not issuing marriage licenses, so getting legally married may not even be possible anytime soon.

“We aren’t sad – we haven’t cried,” said Casie. “We’re just completely speechless and utterly dumbfounded.”

Planning a wedding around the coronavirus poses a challenge to these two Ohio couples and many others like them. Top: Casie Contos and Tyler Karras; Bottom: Brandy Contos and Nathan Nichols

Brandy Contos, who is Casie’s cousin, said she and her fiancé have not decided yet if they will postpone their July wedding in Nashville, TN.

Brandy  is employed at an outpatient surgical center that has temporarily closed. “I have applied to every site, willing to be on the front lines with my fellow nurses but have not been contacted,’ said Brandy.

“Obviously, we will have to make sure our bills are paid and food is on the table, over the costs of a wedding,” she added.

Brandy’s fiancé Nathan Nichols is from San Diego and works in the hotel industry.  Though Nathan’s line of work has been impacted by the coronavirus, Nathan is still working.

The couple resides in Chicago.

“I didn’t go through the extent of planning like Casie, so I really feel for her,” said Brandy. “We still have a number of months yet and the direction of this virus isn’t clear. For now, we are just staying informed regarding the virus and mandates/legislation and stay-at-home orders” said Brandy.

The future bride said the unknown course of the virus has prevented them from committing to floral arrangements, a bakery for the wedding cake and a justice of the peace, among other things.

“I can only imagine the economic stress this must put on those small businesses,” she added.

Another uncertainty is their venue, which is a hotel. Many hotels have now closed or have limited staff.

Brandy recently cancelled her May bachelorette party.

“And, of course, our honeymoon is booked so we will have to see what to do with that,” she said.

“I’m currently thinking that if we have to postpone or cancel the wedding, that we just won’t have a wedding,” Brandy said.

“I don’t want to start over. I just want to marry my best friend.”

The CDC also offered some advice for couples who choose to go through with their celebration on the original date.

“Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene and social distancing,” the new CDC guidelines said. “When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.”

Ohio Small Businesses Can Get up to a $10,000 Advance on Federal Disaster Loans

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), “small businesses can obtain up to a $10,000 advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan even if a previous application was denied.”

This loan advance will provide relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a loss of revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SBA has stated that the funds will be made available within 3 days of a successful application. This advance does not have to be repaid.

The application for this advance is online and Ohio small businesses can apply by clicking here. There is no word yet on how long these reviews will take or when these advances will take place.

Use Time at Home to Recharge, says Senator Johnson

Ohio Senator Terry Johnson

By Del Duduit

Terry Johnson is a medical doctor, a veteran of combat, and a lawmaker in Ohio.

He is a Colonel (ret) Senior Flight Surgeon in the Ohio Army National Guard. Johnson served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Kuwait, and he seen the ravages of war up close.

The McDermott, Ohio native has served on medical and humanitarian missions in Panama and Ecuador, and on military and diplomatic missions in Serbia.

Johnson, an Ohio native, was a senior flight surgeon in the Ohio Army National Guard.

He is Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine of nearly 30 years and now serves the people of the 14th district in the Ohio Senate. He has witnessed many historic events throughout his years of service, but even he admits he has never seen anything like the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid 19 virus is a pandemic taking lives all over the world and shutting down economies.

“These are extraordinary days,” he said. “This is something people may never see again for the next 100 years.”

Quick action by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his team might have saved many lives when this ordeal is over and after statistics roll in to be counted.
DeWine was one of the first governors to close restaurants and other businesses across his state to slow the spread of the virus, and he urged social distancing. His decisions are now being applauded, while some were skeptical at first.

“I despise armchair quarterbacks who criticize decisions people make, especially our leaders,” Johnson said. “The governor is setting the tone for Ohio, and he has a good heart and a genuine concern for people.”

The decisions were part of a strategy geared toward keeping the virus from spreading until there is a vaccine, or when it tampers down.

Unlike the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus in 2003 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus in 2014, this Covid 19 acts different.

“This got out of hand in China and spread fast,” Johnson said. “And now it has spread all over the world and came into the United States, and into Ohio.”

The Coronavirus is highly mobile, according to Johnson, and cannot travel unless the host is also mobile.

“It goes nowhere if we go nowhere,” he added. “That is why leaders encourage us to stay put for a while in our homes. Isolation is good from a healthcare standpoint, but there is a huge price to pay economically, but that is secondary when it comes to our health. This is unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

As a past state representative and now senator, Johnson is aware of the financial toll shutting down government might have on the residents of Ohio.

“It’s a risk/benefit thing we have here,” he said. “We have to keep people alive first – that is the main goal. But Ohio does not print money, and we have to watch the budget closely because you cannot stop this economy and expect us to continue.”

The next several days will be key, Johnson said, and he receives daily updates and pays attention to what DeWine and President Trump have to say.

“We could come out of this quickly,” he said. “We don’t know if this virus will continue as we approach summer when most influenza tampers down. There is a lot of uncertainty right now. But Americans are resilient, and I believe this economy is spring-loaded to roar back.”

Johnson noted that while Ohioans and Americans are home, now is a wonderful opportunity to examine oneself because time is available.

“What a great time to sit with your family and talk to them or sit with your pet that misses you all day when you go to work,” he said. “It’s a great time to recharge spiritually and read the Bible like I do as a Christian.”

He added that the primary defense the human body has against diseases is its own immune system.

“What a great time to start thinking about not smoking because smokers are at a greater risk of most diseases,” he said. “What a great time to shift from carbonated beverages to good clean water. And what a great time to eat better and think about planting a garden.”

He added that people can take advantage of time at home to get out in the yard and exercise or try to slip away from pharmaceuticals that assist with sleeping.

“This is the perfect time to examine yourself and think about getting well spiritually, respect yourself, forgive yourself and others, and the perfect time to reach out and help a neighbor,” he said.

Johnson also urged people to call the local board of elections. request an absentee ballot, and vote before April 28. The Ohio primary was shut down because of the pandemic, but residents who are registered can still vote.
There will be no in-person voting this primary, so the only way to vote will be via absentee.

“This is our greatest right and privilege we have as Americans, and we need to take advantage of this opportunity to vote,” he added. “Ohio and America will come through this battle, and we will be stronger than ever.”

Author Del Duduit

Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.