Now it’s up to us. That’s what Gov. Mike DeWine told Ohioans this week after reporting 161,678 confirmed cases and 5,017 deaths due to COVID-19.

Since March, Gov. DeWine has worked with the Ohio Department of Health and other state experts to establish guidelines and issue orders to help stem the rising tide of coronavirus infections.

He issued a statewide stay-at-home order in March, closing schools and non-essential businesses, and then began opening the state up in May. The COVID-19 case numbers were steady for a while, but now the state has averaged nearly 500 more positive cases a day compared to the average recorded two weeks ago, according to the state health department. Many of the deaths included people over the age of 70 and younger people with pre-existing health conditions.

The upswing in cases might suggest a need to consider another closedown, but Gov. DeWine instead put the responsibility on the citizens of Ohio, for now, with words of caution.

Ohio has largely avoided large outbreaks of coronavirus, he said. “We can’t let our guard down now. We need to continue taking basic safety measures of wearing masks, keeping distance and avoiding large gatherings.”

We are concerned because it appears people are becoming less vigilant. In the last week, Ohio averaged 1,475 cases of COVID-19 a day compared to an average of 1,000 daily cases two weeks ago, according to state data. Ohio’s most recent positivity rate is 4.1 percent compared to 2.7 percent on Sept. 23 and 24.

Ohioans face more challenges as the winter flu season approaches.

Many individuals, including President Trump and other politicians in Washington, D.C., are pinning their hopes on a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine, but that timetable cannot be influenced or controlled by wishful thoughts or politics.

Though Gov. DeWine has offered steady leadership, he has been confronted along the way by state Republicans who have bitterly complained and introduced legislation to counteract the governor’s actions. Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township, began leading the charge in August to impeach Gov. DeWine, citing management of the coronavirus.

The Restore Ohio Now bill sponsored by state Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chester, is another example of irresponsible and needless legislation at a time when the state needs to focus on keeping people healthy and helping families impacted by COVID-19.

Rep. Grendell’s bill calls for terminating the governor’s current and future COVID-19 emergency orders. That would include the order limiting mass gatherings – like at football games or concerts – which remains in place until it is rescinded or modified. Rep. Grendell’s bill, if passed, would tie the hands of future governors facing unimaginable emergencies. Her bill is shortsighted and dangerous.

Rep. Grendell told the Times that her “legislation has the power to end the pandemic because the governor doesn’t have the authority.” Like other conservative state Republicans, Rep. Grendell said that the executive branch has overstepped its authority during this pandemic.

Rep. Grendell’s bill, if approved, would end emergency orders, but not the spread of COVID-19 or the mounting threat of sickness and death.

When asked about it at a recent press conference, Gov. DeWine said he would veto the bill. “Passing a law saying it’s not an emergency is not going to make it not an emergency,” Gov. DeWine said of the pandemic.

Rep. Grendell should withdraw the bill.

This is not just an Ohio issue. Worldwide COVID-19 deaths surpassed 1 million, taking more lives than influenza, malaria, cholera and measles combined in the last 10 months.

With school buildings and businesses opening across Northeast Ohio and people venturing out to restaurants and sporting events, residents must take steps to protect themselves, their families and other citizens.

Get a flu vaccine, wear a mask when going out, engage in social distancing and wash your hands frequently. These simple steps will save lives.

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