Written By Elijah Smith
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Amy Acton was the face of Ohio’s response to the virus. When other states and their respective public health officials were struggling with how to address the health crisis, Dr. Acton declared, “I don’t want you to be afraid. I am not afraid. I am determined.” Under Dr. Acton’s leadership, the state took unprecedented actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic; Ohio was the first state to issue a state-wide school closure order.
However, due to public backlash, racial slurs, protests, and death threats against her family, Dr. Amy Acton resigned on June 11, 2020. Once a prominent figure in Governor DeWine’s daily news conferences, Dr. Acton faded into the background, taking a role on the Governor’s advisory board.
Suddenly, Governor DeWine was faced with a dilemma: how do you replace the very face of your response to the one of the greatest crises in Ohio history? The answer: not very easily. Governor DeWine named Lance Himes to serve as the interim director of public health, a role that he had held twice before. Unlike Dr. Acton, Lance Himes is not a doctor; however, he has extensive public health experience as the head lawyer for the Ohio Department of Health.
Nevertheless, everything changed when Governor DeWine announced that a new director of public health was selected. Dr. Joan Duwve was nominated to fill the open seat on September 10, 2020. Unfortunately, just a few hours later the nominee announced that after much consideration, she decided to withdraw her name from consideration for the position. Dr. Duwve withdrew from the job offer because, “In conversations preparing for the transition to the Ohio Department of Health, I was informed that the former director’s family had faced harassment from the public…. My family is off limits. I withdrew my name from consideration to protect my family from similar treatment.” The announcement and quick reversal came as a shock to many throughout the state. After more than 3 months without a permanent, full-time director of public health, Dr. Duwve’s nomination gave many people hope that the tide could be turning in the fight against COVID-19. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
Now under 40 days until the election, the state still has no director to oversee the public health aspect of November 3rd. The governor’s office claims that they are still actively searching for a permanent replacement for Dr. Acton; however, after Dr. Duwve’s nomination and withdrawal, very few have hope that a suitable replacement will be found.