Ohio Governor DeWine, Director of Health Acton and Lt.
Governor Husted started handling the Coronavirus outbreak with faulty modeling, while ignoring critical real-time data. Now the trio suppresses critical data. Ohioans: aware, enraged and bracing to fight for the truth.
COVID-19 first made an indelible mark on Ohioans when
Governor Mike DeWine canceled the 2020 Arnold Sports Festival, which was
schedule to start March 5.
On March 16, Governor DeWine backed a lawsuit seeking to
postpone the primary election scheduled for the next day. The suit was filed by Ohioans who feared voting in person would expose voters and poll workers to COVID-19.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Fry declined to postpone the election, but Fry’s decision did not stop DeWine. On March 9, Executive Order 2020-01D declared a state of emergency. In the late
hours of election eve, Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton issued an order to force the polls closed. The Director’s powers are granted by the Ohio Revised Code.
On March 23, DeWine announced a two-week shelter-in-place
plan, made enforceable because Ohio was in a state of emergency. By that date, the world had seen horrifying videos and data on the COVID-19 outbreak in northern Italy.
If the Governor’s announcement and citizens’ compliance
constitutes a social contract, as DeWine has said in press conferences, then that contract was inked on March 23, 2020. DeWine promised to make decisions based on the best science, medicine, and data, and to deploy all necessary resources to flatten the curve and ramp hospital capacity. DeWine and his team also pledged to be transparent with data. Ohioans committed to stay home to flatten the curve and buy hospitals time.
Early data flawed
Nearly a week before the stay-at-home order was issued, Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson modeled the COVID-19 outbreak. Ferguson’s model became the point of reference for leaders across the globe, influencing lockouts and sheltering policies.
Ferguson himself backtracked on his model’s accuracy just
weeks later after the projections tanked. The swing and miss on COVID-19 is not Ferguson’s first projection whiff. Ferguson predicted 200 million would die from the bird flu in 2005–deaths totaled 455. In 2009 Ferguson predicted 65,000 people would die in the U.K. from swine flu—the death toll was 392.
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton delivered
early projections and modeling based on Ferguson’s wildly inaccurate Imperial College model. Acton guessed 100,000 Ohioans were already infected when she introduced her modeling. She also projected
the COVID outbreak would: peak in April, overwhelm hospitals, produce 62,000 new cases a day and infect 40% to 70% of Ohioans. Like Ferguson’s model, Acton’s projections were exponentially inaccurate.
The ODH model was revised twice, alongside researchers at
The Ohio State University. The first revision dropped new cases per day down to 10,000, while the second revision ratcheted new cases per day down to 2,000. Outside of sampling a full prison
with thousands of inmates, Ohio has never seen more than 100 cases in any given day throughout the health emergency. Ohio has tested approximately over 9,000 inmates and over 4,600 have tested positive.
Where Acton erred on projections, Ohioans extended grace
because COVID-19 was pitched as a novel virus without clear data on contagiousness, how it spreads, who is at risk and how many people would need hospital and intensive care.
Up-front information did exist—information directly related
to COVID-19, and studies related to the secondary impact of shut-it-all-down policies.
Early data ignored
Information out of Italy and China revealed two critical factors
DeWine and Acton could have used to laser-focus their response to Coronavirus: 1) people aged 79 and older with other diseases are most at risk for serious health outcomes, especially death; 2) People
above 30 with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease were at
accelerated risk, though much lower than risks to the age ranges 60-80 years and older.
Information out of Italy and China was available before ODH
Director Amy Acton signed the first stay-at-home order.
The perils of economic fallout and sheltering-in-place were
also documented for consideration as the administration formed policies.
After the first SARS outbreak, Studies on the secondary impact to mental health showed serious distress among those quarantined, causing PTSD and depression when the sick were quarantined for just two weeks or less.
The 2008 financial crisis spiked suicides due to unemployment : rates were four-times higher; a 1% increase in unemployment resulted in a 1% increase in suicides among males.
Instead of using a scalpel to carve-out policies to target
the most vulnerable, alleviate economic impact and spare the uninfected from sheltering, DeWine, Acton and Husted did the opposite—they swung a wrecking ball.
What we know today about COVID-19, we knew in March. Regardless, Acton, DeWine and Husted implemented draconian measures and then defended their decisions by pointing to data and case studies from the Spanish Flu pandemic, which happened over 100 years earlier.
Acton shared a tale of two cities: Philadelphia and St.
Louis. Philadelphia was not as diligent about sheltering, resulting in higher
infections and deaths. St. Louis was compliant and produced fewer infections and deaths. Ohioans were encouraged to be like St. Louis. nd deaths. Ohioans were encouraged to be like St. Louis.
According to the CDC, sheltering-in-place, social distancing, disinfecting, and practicing good hygiene made sense in 1917—it was, essentially, all the world had to combat the H1N1 outbreak. Influenza vaccines did not yet exist, did antibiotics for secondary infections did not exist (secondary infections drove the second surge of the Spanish Flu), nor did pharmaceutical interventions for therapeutic relief.
The Spanish flu killed children under five (5), healthy
adults aged 20-40 and elderly over age 65. A much larger percentage of the
population was at risk of death during the 1917 pandemic than people in 2020 exposed to COVID-19.
Technology, communication, vaccines, therapeutic drugs and
overall healthcare have made leaps and bounds forward since 1917 and have
enabled us to better navigate the dangers of a pandemic.
We did our part
If early models and comparisons to the 1917 pandemic did
anything to Ohioans, they manipulated emotions and produced compliance. And perhaps that was the intended consequence.
People stayed home. Owners of nonessential businesses
voluntarily walked away from livelihoods. Employees worked from home, while caring for their kids and becoming their ad hoc teachers. More than a million people accepted unemployment and waited, patiently, for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to catch up.
Hospital capacity, ICU capacity and positive cases never
came close to inaccurate projections. The health system we set out to save by flattening the curve has actually been negatively impacted—the broad
cancellation of all elective procedures (including things like cancer
screenings) has led to furloughs, layoffs and loss of healthcare capacity due
to the economic consequence of not having enough patients—COVID or otherwise.
Plus, there is a broader health consequence to the mental, emotional and
physical outcomes of Ohioans that is just now starting to be understood.
Much has changed since March 23. One thing has not: DeWine’s
commitment to his early draconian measures in the face of civil opposition and contradictory data. As numbers came in supporting the fact that the massive spike in cases, deaths and hospitalizations were off-target, DeWine did not decide to come out of the lockout quickly—in fact, he doubled-down on promoting preventative measures and commissioned the creation of best practices and mandates for every business sector that businesses are required to follow in order to re-open (and in the case of businesses that were deemed essential, to stay open).
Insiders report that DeWine vehemently rejects input that
goes against his administration’s mindset, models and policies.
Legislators stepped-up opposition to Governor DeWine during
an April caucus call. According to two legislators who wished to remain
anonymous, DeWine was not only closed to different views, he was defensive and volatile, yelling at the elected officials. At one point he shrugged off questions and opposing data as conspiracy theory.
In early May, amidst rapidly growing economic distress and
civil dissension, the Ohio General Assembly and Senate began drafting
legislation designed to limit the Health Director’s powers to 14 days before involving the legislature. Legislation also sought to reduce fines and criminal penalties waged against people who defy state orders issued under the state of emergency.
Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 55 were subsequently drawn up, but even before
they reached a vote DeWine threatened to veto any legislation designed to limit Acton’s authority.
Suppressed data: Daily death totals
During each presser, Amy Acton will review the Ohio COVID-19
dashboard. You may note that Acton reports deaths as “deaths reported in the last 24 hours.”
Deaths reported in the last 24 hours are different than the actual number of deaths in the last 24 hours. The number reported includes deaths over several days, perhaps as far back as January.
The practice of using “reported” data causes the public to
perceive more cases and more deaths than are occurring in the present. The
practice is confusing the press, the public and at times even the Governor and Dr. Acton seem confused.
On May 23, the Ohio Department of Health indicated there
were 84 reported deaths over the past 24 hours. However, the real number
of deaths seven (7)—a difference of 77.
This 77 death inaccuracy was found only after reviewing the
CSV file available for download on the state dashboard site. The CSV file lists the accurate daily number of deaths—and
can be found after much digging. The CSV file also changes daily. While this
article was written, the file listed a COVID-positive test result from December 2019 that has subsequently been removed.
Inflated and inaccurate data gets picked up and reported by unsuspecting
news outlets. That, in fact, happened on May 23 when an Ohio media outlet
reported the 84 deaths under the headline: Deaths more than double the previous 24-hour period.
Disclosing the death total as the “number of deaths reported
in the last 24 hours” neither a new practice, nor is it one without previous
contention. During a press conference on April 14 Governor DeWine repeatedly claimed 50 people died over the previous 24 hours. The actual
number of reported deaths was five (5). When confronted with the disparity, DeWine deferred to Amy Acton who said, “I think it might be a reporting lag.”
R-naught of COVID-19 in general population
The r-naught factor is a number indicating viral infectiousness. The r-naught (often expressed as R0) tells you how many people will, on average, be infected by one infected person. For example: if COVID-19 had an R0 of four, one infected person would, on average, infect four other people.
The r-naught of COVID-19 has become a data point of interest
during Governor DeWine’s daily pressers. Acton projects COVID-19 had an original r-naught of between 2.5 to 5.0. Acton and DeWine reported a current r-naught of 1 during one press conference and .8 during another.
DeWine warns if the r-naught ascends above the 1.0-1.2
range, it will set off alarm bells. Translated: an r-naught above 1.2 could trigger a rollback—shuttering businesses, locking Ohioans out of public spaces, further slowing a re-opening, while increasing pressure to comply with backdoor controls such as testing and contact tracing.
Given the importance of this measure, it makes sense to dig
into how it is reported. Not every part of the state has the same demography, population density, and the potential for a high secondary surge. The now famous ping pong ball commercial is a powerful visual, but it is based on faulty assumptions.
The video shows how one infection sets in motion a massive
chain reaction. The problem: not everyone is equidistant from each other; not everyone will contract the virus; some will not spread the virus; serious
symptoms and death will not result in over 99% of cases, once symptomatic and asymptomatic infected are counted in the mix. The video is a bogus visual representation of the spread of Coronavirus.
One solid first step to making the r-naught more meaningful requires
carving-out congregate living data sets. Congregate living includes facilities
such as nursing homes and prisons. Extracting, measuring and independently dealing with people who live in these close quarters will produce not only a more accurate r-naught for the general population, it will also produce policies that save lives inside prisons, nursing homes and long term care facilities.
Mixing congregate living with statistics from the general
population skews how infectious the virus may be to the general population. A spike in congregate living settings could equal a clampdown on the general population—it would be like punishing the entire class if one child is acting out. Like keeping the ping pong video in circulation, continuing to report and create policy with mixed data sets breeds misinformation and, frankly, panics people.
Common sense can derive that if the current r-naught is 1:1
with mixed data sets, the general population is experiencing a contagiousness that is a fraction the r-naught in congregate settings. What may be discovered once the congregate living numbers are backed out is that the r-naught is likely significantly lower in the general population than the current 1:1 or 1:.8 Understanding the difference between the r-naught in congregate settings versus the r-naught in the general population should drive more on-target mitigation and policy decisions.
On top of separating data sets for congregate living, it
also makes sense to look at each of the 88 counties differently—80 of the 88
counties will likely have r-naught values that are miniscule. Consequently,
their differences should be honored with county-varied policies that apply specifically to people in each county.
Nursing home deaths
Just two weeks ago Amy Acton estimated death rates in
nursing homes comprised just over 20% of the Ohio death toll. As reporters and citizen journalists investigated that claim, it was discovered that confirmed deaths were double Acton’s estimate. That number was based only on numbers reported since April 15. Further investigation found the percentage to be even higher. Continued digging reveals that,
as of May 21, confirmed deaths in nursing homes total 79% of the state total.
The errors in reporting and the disproportionate deaths in
long term care facilities seems to stem from mixing data sets, slow responses and an overall lack of focus on critical information. Mixing data sets from congregate settings for reporting and consideration may have been a fatal error.
The state has reported data broken-out by senior congregate
living and prisons, but did decision makers dig into the data well enough,
particularly pertaining to nursing homes, to see the magnitude of the
The administration was void of understanding on the total
number of deaths from nursing homes. This seems to signal a lack of tight focus on our senior living facilities. Consequently, was it this lack of focus that drove the less aggressive, non-compulsory tactics that could have been
What if the state had not only segregated the data sets, but
taken strong, aggressive and compulsory action?
The slow response to directives can best be seen in the
seven-day delay in DeWine’s response to a directive from Vice President Mike Pence that called on all governors to perform testing in all their long term care facilities—all nursing home staff and patients.
Pence announced the directive on May 12. On May 19, a week later, Governor DeWine took steps to ramp testing in nursing homes— deploying the national guard to aid in testing.
In the elderly population, the time from COVID-19 onset to
death is an estimated 14 days.
Information on how to best treat nursing home residents who
contract COVID-19 is hotly contested. Kay Ball, PhD, RN, CNOR, FAAN, a 71-year-old female, contracted Coronavirus despite masking, wearing gloves and following suggested protocols. Ball’s husband, a 73-year-old male, also contracted COVID-19. They both recovered.
During an interview, Kay Ball said during her visit to the
hospital, the drug hydroxychloroquine was administered. Ball began feeling
better almost immediately. Bell also pointed out that she received a shot in
her stomach to decrease the incidence of blood clotting; she was also given
zinc and high levels of vitamin C. Whether there was one treatment, or a
combination of many, there seems to be a growing body of evidence on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, zinc and vitamin C.
There are competing stories about the efficacy of therapeutic drugs. There are also real examples of the profound impact therapeutic drugs played in staving off the worst side effects of COVID-19.There is no better time to untangle the facts surrounding the efficacy of therapeutic drugs and to cut the bureaucracy surrounding their delivery, where appropriate.
During the May 21 press conference, DeWine, et.al. seemed to
pivot away from primary COVID-19 issues, (such as nursing homes) toward larger social issues: housing, education and transportation.
The Governor is trying to spin-up an entire social movement
that takes tremendous time, energy, money and effort—and doing it while our deadliest problem goes largely unaddressed.
The transition of focus to these social issues comes at a
time when Ohio still lacks a hard-and-fast solution to the crisis in nursing
homes and is without answers on other COVID-related issues such as education, daycare and other facets of life that still come with restrictions.
The nursing home crisis is condensed to less than one
percent of our population. Residents in nursing homes are the most immobile in our communities, they are easily identified and reached.
Yet we now turn our attention and money to gigantic
initiatives DeWine’s team will try to apply to the 44,825 square-miles
comprising Ohio and its almost 12 million citizens.
In early April, Amy Acton announced the Ohio Department of
Health would commission an antibody testing project that sought to randomly test 1,200-Ohioans. The purpose of the antibody testing is to determine how many Ohioans have COVID-19 antibodies. This study could tell us much about how far the virus has spread—especially since we now know it was here in early January (if not sooner), at a time when there were not mitigation strategies in place.
WMFD-TV has repeatedly requested copies of contracts with
companies chosen to do antibody testing and information has not yet been
Antibody tests could undermine the perceived severity of
COVID-19 in Ohio. Antibody tests could also prove how much more work still needs to be done to live with the presence of COVID-19.
Average age of death
During press conferences from March through May, Acton has
stated the average age of cases. That number was around 50—most recently dipping to 46.
Has she stated publicly that the median age of death is 81?
And if not, why?
A legislator, who wishes to remain anonymous says “they
[Ohio Department of Health] don’t want information that would cause people to not obey their orders.”
Surface spread and asymptomatic spread
Since the beginning of Ohio’s mitigation efforts, the CDC website listed information explaining that viral spread on surfaces may be
possible, yet not likely, and not the main way the virus spreads. Not a
single case has been discovered through surface spread.
On May 14, the Director’s Dine Safe Ohio Order was issued, extending mandates for restaurants and bars. In that order was language from the CDC. “The CDC reports that people are most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest) however some spread might be possible before people show symptoms although that is not the main way the virus spreads.”
New studies indicate asymptomatic spread is not occurring.
Instead of discussing the studies and possible implications to our daily
living, the administration continues to focus on messaging involving masks and other measures, while trumpeting the message that asymptomatic spread can kill grandmas and those most vulnerable.
Lake County Judge Eugene Lucci’s decision
During the Thursday, May 21 press conference, DeWine said Lucci’s
decision simply shortened mandates by six days. Common Pleas Judge Eugene Lucci actually said:
“The director (Acton)
has no statutory authority to close all businesses, including the plaintiffs’
gyms … She has acted in an impermissibly arbitrary, unreasonable, and
oppressive manner without any procedural safeguards.”
The judge ruled unconstitutional DeWine and Acton’s rules that shut down
businesses and kept people locked in their homes.
The phrase “all businesses” means just that—all businesses.
Information is valuable only when it is used
In science an experiment starts with a hypothesis and it is
either proven or disproven through experimentation. True scientists do not mold the data to a predetermined outcome.
The fact is, after approximately five months of the
Coronavirus circulating in the population, approximately 300 Ohioans have died outside of prisons and nursing homes, the high majority over 70 years old.
Asymptomatic transmission is a theory. The administration’s May 14 Order for restaurants and bars even states the CDC position on
“The CDC reports that people are most contagious when they
are most symptomatic (the sickest) however some spread might be possible before people show symptoms although that is not the main way the virus spreads.”
A recent study found “455 contacts were excluded from SARS-CoV2 infection and we conclude that the infectivity of some asymptomatic SARS-CoV2 carriers might be weak.”
The administration has engaged in the practice of
intentional selection of data to present to Ohioans—citizens who were promised data transparency and policies based on the best science.
To be clear: why DeWine is doing what he is doing is
not as important right now as how he is doing what he is doing. But input about why he is handling the crisis this way is not in short supply.
A person who has consulted with the ODH, who requested
anonymity, talked twice with high level officials inside the Ohio Department of Health and the DeWine administration. On both occasions, the advisor asked why data is suppressed and presented with a bias toward worst-case scenarios. On both occasions the advisor was told the message is packaged and delivered to change how people feel and think about Coronavirus. The end goal is to build compliance with the new normal.
Perhaps DeWine and Acton are like helicopter parents who are
alarmingly controlling and overprotective of their children. Whatever the reasoning for their overreach and unconstitutional rules, the unintended consequences of their actions now threaten to make the cure worse than the virus.
But like stubbornly protective parents, DeWine and Acton may
be hard to redirect. Judge Fry’s court ruling in March was ignored. Judge Lucci’s order from last week was ignored. The crew continues to ignore data and the unintended consequences of their policies.
It begs the question: will they ever be held accountable for
their misrepresentation of data? Remember, on March 23 we the people of Ohio accepted a social contract and we are still waiting for the faithful
delivery—but will DeWine uphold his end of the bargain?
We hear a lot about the new normal. We were doing just fine
with normal: roaring economy, no state budget deficit, kids in school and
protected, living life the way it is intended to be lived—in community.
Now we know that “normal” was happening while COVID-19 was
here from January (if not sooner) to March 23, without: unprecedented numbers of deaths, overrun hospitals and mitigation strategies to fight the virus.
How does the new normal look? The new normal is comprised of
masks, social distancing, business mandates, school shutdowns, and
The results: an estimated 2 million unemployed, more than 1,589 nursing home deaths, a startling number of businesses that will never re-open, and—if history repeats—a 20%-and-counting increase in suicide.
This is Jack Windsor with WMFD-TV in Mansfield. My question
is for the Governor: Sir, when will the administration target real issues
instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach and crossing their fingers?