Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has tested positive for coronavirus, hours before President Donald Trump was set to touch down in the state and meet with the governor.
According to a statement from DeWine’s office, the GOP governor’s diagnosis was discovered “as part of the standard protocol to greet” Trump on the tarmac when he arrived in Cleveland to deliver a speech, tour a manufacturing facility and hold a fundraiser.
The statement revealed that DeWine, whose response to the pandemic had been widely praised, was asymptomatic but would return to Columbus, Ohio, where he will be tested again, and then quarantine at his home in Cedarville, Ohio, for the next two weeks.
DeWine is the second governor known to have contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, following Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s diagnosis last month.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who was also tested per the protocol for meeting with Trump, tested negative, DeWine’s office said.
DeWine is the second person in just over a week to test positive for the virus before meeting with Trump. Last Wednesday, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert was revealed to have coronavirus before he was set to travel to his home state with the president on Air Force One. Gohmert’s case was also caught by the White House screening process, as the congressman said he was asymptomatic.
Trump appeared unaware of DeWine’s positive test when he spoke to reporters briefly before boarding Air Force One. He also denied that he was visiting the swing state because of a slide in recent polling, saying that “I think we’re doing great in Ohio.”
He later addressed DeWine’s absence in a brief speech to supporters on the tarmac in Cleveland.
“Our great governor, governor of Ohio DeWine just tested positive — just here — and we wanted to wish him the best. He’ll be fine,” Trump said. “I just said ‘I look forward to seeing the governor,’ they said, ‘Sir, he just tested positive.’ But he’s a great guy, he’s done a fantastic job.”
DeWine’s decision to greet Trump on Thursday was itself a reversal — the governor did not meet with Vice President Mike Pence in June when Pence visited the state for the reopening of a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, despite initially being scheduled to join him. DeWine said “quite candidly” at the time that he and his wife had sought to avoid crowds during the pandemic.
The state has since seen a new spike in cases, and hit a record number of new daily infections a week ago, though that number has started to come down some.
DeWine has earned plaudits as one of a handful of Republican governors who has instituted aggressive coronavirus restrictions in his state, and has pressed the Trump administration for ramped-up testing and more personal protective equipment.
A Quinnipiac University poll in June showed DeWine’s approval rating at an all-time high, with more than three-quarters of voters approving of his handling of the virus.
In June, the governor agreed to receive a coronavirus test during a news briefing in order to message that tests were available to those who wanted one. Early last month, one of DeWine’s staffers tested positive in what was believed to be the first case in his office.
Just Wednesday, the governor issued a face mask requirement for kids returning to school in the fall. And after initially declining to issue a statewide mask mandate, a step other governors and the president have adamantly resisted taking, DeWine last month joined more than half of U.S. states in announcing a mask requirement.
Earlier this week Ohio became one of a half-dozen states to team up to jointly purchase three million rapid antigen tests in an effort to expand and speed up testing.
In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, DeWine repeatedly declined to criticize the Trump administration’s response to the crisis and its inability to provide the testing capacity health experts say is necessary for tracking the spread of coronavirus and scuttle major outbreaks before they get out of hand.
“We’ve neglected public health, at the state levels, all the states, we’ve neglected it at the federal level, we can’t let this happen again,” DeWine said.