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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Wishes Trump 'Had A More Happy Relationship With Masks'


The nation's attention is laser-focused on the presidential election. Both President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden have picked up electoral votes today. Vice President Joe Biden is leading, but the counting and the legal challenges continue.


Meanwhile, the coronavirus, a top issue for many voters, continues to rage throughout the country, including in Ohio, where Mike DeWine is the Republican governor. He took steps early on to contain the pandemic, steps that won widespread praise. The governor joined me earlier to talk about lessons learned so far and what he's doing now.

Governor DeWine, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MIKE DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you very much.

KELLY: Before we dive into what's going on with COVID-19 and Ohio, I do just want to acknowledge President Trump has won your state. I know you were planning to vote for him. Is it fair to say you're happy with the result?

DEWINE: Well, I was one of his co-chairs. I'm certainly very happy. It's interesting. The pollsters really missed Ohio. They had Biden winning by one or two or three points. Trump ends up winning by eight, which was pretty much what his margin was four years before.

KELLY: Well, let me just segue straight from the election and your vote for the president into how you have handled the pandemic because it's interesting to me. I mentioned you moved early on to lockdown your state. You closed schools and so on. Meanwhile, the president, as we know, has actively worked against many of the recommendations from his public health officials, things like wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings. Has that made your job more difficult?

DEWINE: Well, my message has been consistent. And that is we need to wear a mask. We need to keep our distance. We need to wash our hands. And now, as we move into winter or colder weather, we need to worry about our furnaces and making sure we're bringing in fresh air from the outside. So we try to make those messages...

KELLY: Sure. And before we get to where you're headed with the winter coming, I do just want to press you on this. The - your approach has differed so greatly from the president's on the pandemic. And I am really curious how you square what you just said, you know, calls for wearing masks and social distancing and all the rest with a president who is doing none of those things.

DEWINE: Well, I certainly wish the president had a more happy relationship with masks. You know, we know so much more today than we knew in March. We now know that these masks really work. I mean, we're seeing it in Ohio, for example, in our schools. We're not seeing a lot of spread directly in the classroom. And that's because we've required everybody, students and teachers and everybody else, to wear a mask once they're in school, and they're doing it.

KELLY: As you listen to warnings from public health officials, including Dr. Fauci, that we are maybe headed to a worse phase of this pandemic to a very dark winter, do you have what you need from the federal government to get through this?

DEWINE: Well, here's the real problem as we analyze the problem. And I talk with - there's 113 health commissioners, local ones in the state. And I talk to them every Monday morning at 7:15 for 45 minutes. Where we're seeing spread in Ohio is not in school so much, not in businesses so much but in the personal decisions that people are making not to wear a mask when they're around family, friends. We've seen huge spread come out of funerals. We've had significant spread from people, you know, watching a football game together or doing something where they just let their guard down. And so as we try to analyze, OK, what do we do? - you know, if Ohioans understand that they can't let their guard down, that realization, I think, is really what will make a difference because it's personal decisions that are being made, personal responsibility. And so...

KELLY: This is my question, though. As you talk about personal responsibility and personal decisions over things like mask compliance, what do you need from the federal government? Would it be helpful to have some kind of federal guidance, mandate, etc., to give you some cover in terms of enforcing this?

DEWINE: Well, look. I think most states or many states have done what we've done. They put on a mask mandate. Now, look. We didn't have a federal one. We put this on in July in our most hottest counties. And guess what? People started wearing masks more. So, you know, it can work at the state level, and it has worked. What we see now is rural areas where they have not seen the virus - now the virus is there. And so, you know, we got to get people to understand if you wear a mask, we can slow this virus down.

KELLY: Any just personal takeaways for you having now been at this since the start of year, essentially?

DEWINE: Well, I think - look. Part of the challenge for every governor in every state is people are sick of it, and there's a fatigue that has set in. And what I try to explain to Ohioans is, I get it. I understand. I feel it. We have grandkids that, you know, we're not going up and hugging either. But we got to get through this. And if we let this virus run wild, it's going to be horrible consequences and just gut-wrenching things for - and great tragedy for many, many people.

KELLY: That is Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine. He joined us via Skype.

Governor, thank you very much for your time.

DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.