DeWine names new state health director

DeWine announces new Ohio health director, chief medical officer 

Bureau of Workers’ Compensation administrator Stephanie McCloud is named state health director. (Photo: Fred Squillante, Fred Squillante)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appoints Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation administrator Stephanie McCloud to lead the Ohio Department of Health, which has gone without a permanent director for months. 

“There is no doubt we are heading into a tough chapter,” McCloud said at a Thursday news conference. “We will beat this virus by working together.”

DeWine praised McCloud as forward-thinking and forward-looking. 

McCloud is not a doctor. She holds a journalism degree from Ohio University and a law degree from Capital University Law School.

She previously worked as an assistant deputy legal counsel to Republican Gov. George Voinovich and worked at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. 

McCloud is also the daughter of conservative Christian activist Phil Burress, who previously led Citizens for Community Values.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff is named as chief medical officer. (Photo: OhioHealth)

DeWine also announced a new chief medical officer: Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, who currently serves as senior vice president and chief medical officer at OhioHealth. 

DeWine said having a physician with medical expertise at the Ohio Department of Health is vital, and he has called Vanderhoff for guidance throughout the pandemic.

“We need to have a key physician at the Department of Health that has a direct line to me and someone I can rely on every day,” DeWine said. 

Vanderhoff earned his bachelor’s degree and medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a master’s degree in business administration from Franklin University.

The changes come after months without a permanent director at the Ohio Department of Health, even as COVID-19 numbers surged.

Lance Himes, who has served as interim director, will continue with the health department as a senior deputy. Himes will lead the coordination of distributing a vaccine and will continue to work directly with Ohio’s local health officials.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, who led the state through the beginning months of the novel coronavirus, resigned from her role in June and left the DeWine administration in early August.  

On Sept. 10, DeWine announced Acton’s replacement after an extensive search: Dr. Joan Duwve, who worked on South Carolina’s COVID-19 response. But she rescinded her acceptance of the job just hours later. 

Duwve later told a South Carolina newspaper that she rejected the job because of the harassment that Acton and her family faced. 

Acton received both praise and intense criticism for public health orders closing schools, businesses and polling locations at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Protesters, some armed, gathered on the front lawn of her suburban Columbus home and she was ultimately assigned a security detail, which is unusual for a cabinet member.

Conservative groups also opposed Duwve’s nomination because of her volunteer work with Planned Parenthood decades before.

McCloud will need to be approved by the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate.

– Jessie Balmert

56 red counties – the highest since system started

Ohio is a red state – indicating “very high exposure and spread” of COVID-19. 

Across the state, 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties met that threshold for COVID-19 spread, an increase from 43 counties last week. Those counties comprise 86% of Ohio residents.

Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties were each designated red. 

No counties reached the highest designation of purple, which indicates “extreme exposure and spread.” 

– Jessie Balmert

Ohio breaks another new case record

Ohio reported 4,961 new cases of COVID-19 between Wednesday and Thursday, another daily record.

“This is an all-time high,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. He added that all 88 Ohio counties now meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control threshold for “high incidence” –100 cases per 100,000 residents over past two weeks.

Ohio has reported more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 for each of the past three days, according to state health department figures. Thursday’s figure was significantly higher than the 21-day average of 2,825 cases.

On Thursday, Ohio had 2,075 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, which was a 55% increase in hospitalized patients compared to two weeks ago.

Statewide hospital bed occupancy is at about 75%, but some regions are more full than others.

Ohio reported 33 deaths Thursday, an increase from the 21-day average of 20. New hospitalizations at 214 also outpaced the 21-day average of 152.  

The statewide total of cases since the beginning of the pandemic grew to 235,170 and 5,428 deaths. 

– Jessie Balmert

Earlier story: 

COLUMBUS – Ohio keeps breaking records for all the wrong reasons. 

Gov. Mike DeWine will address the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and a new county-by-county map on novel coronavirus spread at his 2 p.m. news conference. 

No counties are expected to reach the most serious designation of purple on today’s map, but some could be back on the verge of it. 

During a Hamilton County briefing Wednesday briefing, Dr. Dustin Calhoun of UC Health said hospitalizations and infection rates in Southwest Ohio were rising to all-time highs, adding that “the overall picture still is very concerning and worsening.”

DeWine has stopped short of imposing new, statewide requirements on Ohioans to stem the spread of COVID-19. He has asked residents to wear masks, wash their hands and maintain social distance. 

He has encouraged counties to take a local approach to address COVID-19, but others, including top House Democrat Emilia Sykes, have said the piecemeal approach is bound to fail. 

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