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'We are Buckeyes. We are strong': Gov. Mike DeWine issues plea to Ohioans to do their part in stopping spread of COVID-19

"I am asking you, wherever you live, to wear a mask when in public," the governor said during his address.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Calling this stage of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, "the most critical point," Governor Mike DeWine addressed Ohioans on Wednesday night as the state's number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. 

As a surprise, DeWine did not issue any orders during his address. "That discussion is for another time," he said. "As your Governor, I’ll take any action necessary to protect Ohio citizens. But orders are not as important as what we all do in the days ahead. The future is in our own hands."

According to the governor, Ohio is now nearing its April and May peak of 1,100 hospital patients, with the Cincinnati and Dayton regions currently seeing more COVID-positive patients in the hospital than during any previous time during the pandemic. The Cleveland region is nearing a similar point.

"I know some say that our case numbers are increasing because we are simply doing more testing," DeWine pointed out. "Yes, our testing has gone up by 87%.  But our number of positive cases has skyrocketed by almost 200%. Clearly, our number of new cases is not just the result of increased testing."

DeWine pointed out that in 4 months, 3,075 Ohioans have been lost to coronavirus, nearly the same number from the Buckeye State who died in the Vietnam War.

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"Ohio is sliding down a very dangerous path, with our once flattened curve starting to sharpen and spike. This worrisome, disturbing reversal of our progress is a jarring reminder of just how quickly our fate can change. A matter of weeks can change our trajectory," DeWine pleaded. 

So how can Ohioans change this trajectory? Face coverings was the governor's first step. 

"I am asking you, wherever you live, to wear a mask when in public," DeWine said. "Some may question the wisdom of masks, but as we said when I was a prosecutor: 'The jury is back. The verdict is in.' There is broad consensus in medical, health, and business communities that masks are critical."

DeWine also challenged Ohioans to overcome the fatigue of coronavirus. "Let’s be honest, some have started to let our guard down. I know I sometimes have. We’re tired. We want to go back to the way things were – and that’s very understandable. But when our guard is down, we're playing Russian Roulette with our lives," he said. "Good decisions will protect the economy and save lives. Reckless ones will hurt and kill."

"We are Buckeyes. We are strong. And we will not relent as we forge our path forward - united - to build Ohio’s great future together," DeWine said as he closed his address.

Last week, both Summit and Lorain County were upgraded to Level 3 (red) on the state's current risk level for the coronavirus (COVID-19), triggering a state-issued order mandating masks be worn in public in both counties. 

Cuyahoga County and Trumbull County both remain at Level 3, meaning masks in both counties remain mandated. Additionally, Cuyahoga County has been marked as approaching Level 4 (purple) — the highest level on the state's scale, which denotes "severe exposure and spread" of the virus.

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Between June 24 and June 30, Cuyahoga County had 999 reported coronavirus cases — its largest uptick since the beginning of the pandemic. According to DeWine, the average hospital admissions per day more than doubled from seven on June 16 to 20 on July 2, with most of the cases in Cuyahoga County stemming from non-congregate settings during the last three weeks.

You can watch DeWine's address below.

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