After a brief scare Thursday when he tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of greeting President Donald Trump at a Cleveland airport, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he had subsequently twice tested negative.
“A PCR test was administered to the Governor and members of his staff this afternoon. … The PCR test is known to be extremely sensitive, as well as specific, for the virus. The PCR tests for the Governor, First Lady, and staff were run twice. They came back negative the first time and came back negative when they were run on a second diagnostic platform,” the governor said in a statement on Twitter.
Though he said he was “confident” in the test results, he and his wife still plan to undergo another test on Saturday “out of an abundance of caution,” the statement said.
The news came after both DeWine and his wife, Fran DeWine, returned to Columbus, where they planned to quarantine for 14 days. DeWine was tested as part of the White House protocol to meet with the president.
More than 96,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ohio, with more than 1,100 new cases reported Wednesday. Nearly 3,600 people have died there since the state of the pandemic.
Health officials have in recent days disclosed a number of alarming clusters, including 91 cases after an infected man attended a single church service. The state says some 50 bars and restaurants, 11 day care facilities, and eight churches have been at the center of outbreaks since July 1.
The 73-year-old DeWine, who has held numerous elected offices in Ohio over the last few decades, has at times taken a far different approach than his fellow GOP governors during the coronavirus pandemic.
The statewide leader in Ohio took a faster approach to shuttering his state in March as the coronavirus overtook the country, drawing bipartisan kudos during a tense moment in American politics.
But in recent months, as the politics of the coronavirus have intensified, DeWine has frequently found himself the subject of scorn from some within the Ohio Republican party. In May, as tensions grew in the state over the length of coronavirus restrictions, one local GOP leader charged to The Daily Beast that the governor had “superseded the constitution of Ohio and the constitution of the United States.”
Weeks later, the criticisms from some GOP voices had only grown more intense amid Republican concerns that a mask mandate could come from DeWine’s office. The governor took a limited approach early last month, ordering masks in harder-hit counties, before announcing on July 22 a statewide order.
“We believe that requiring masks statewide will make a significant difference and will be key to making sure other counties do not progress to a higher level of increased spread,” DeWine said at the time, according to a statement from his office.
And while some Republicans were vocal about criticizing DeWine, with one local county leader saying last month he wasn’t committed to supporting DeWine in a possible GOP primary if a more enticing option primaried him, polling has shown the governor becoming more popular because of his coronavirus response. A June Quinnipiac poll noted the governor had hit a 75 percent approval rating in the state.