Coronavirus in Columbus: Rating the Press Conferences

Dave Ghose
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine at a daily press conference

PHOTO CREDIT: Doral Chenoweth III

Somehow, Mike DeWine’s daily media briefings have turned into must-see television, even without slick production values, showstopping musical numbers or a single eccentric tiger owner. Since the press conferences began in early March, Ohioans have tuned into the live coronavirus updates in droves as the isolated populace looks to the grandfatherly governor and his white-coated sidekick, Dr. Amy Acton, for the latest news on our unprecedented crisis, inspiring memes, T-shirts and a boozy hashtag. Here are a few big televised moments, ranked according to Columbus Monthly’s five-point #WineWithDeWine Scale of Awesomeness. 

Information is critical. Read our latest reporting on the coronavirus response here.

Acton in Action (March 14)

The health director’s performance on this day was one of her best, charming viewers with her warmth, intelligence, frankness and colorful analogies. She even drew a chuckle from the usually stone-faced DeWine when she predicted quarantining couples could result in a baby boom in nine months. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 points

The Lumberjack (March 15)

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted usually lets his boss and Acton take center stage, as any good supporting player should, but when you’re dressed for chopping wood (jeans, flannel shirt, puffy vest) while everyone else is wearing their usual business attire, it’s distracting.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 points

Cooking with Fran (March 18)

Fran DeWine, who writes a food column for the Xenia Daily Gazette, suggested making chicken and noodles as an activity for families in isolation. Nice idea, except for the first lady’s bland recipe, later posted on her Facebook and Twitter feeds. Spice isn’t a bad thing.

Rating: 3 out of 5 points

Marla Has Left the Room (March 20)

It was an understandable social-distancing decision, but it was still a shock to see the sign language interpreters—especially the exuberant, bespectacled Marla Berkowitz—projected onto a split screen rather than in their usual place standing beside the speakers.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 points

Dodge City (March 21)

Both DeWine and Acton refused to offer direct answers to questions from reporters asking whether abortions are allowed under an order banning nonessential surgeries and medical procedures.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 points

The Bully Pulpit (March 29)

When DeWine found himself in a dispute with the Food and Drug Administration, he used his newfound popularity—and the power of his televised soapbox—to forcefully urge the federal government to lift restrictions on a machine that sterilizes used protective medical masks. By the end of the day, the feds had relented, giving medical professionals wider access to a potentially game-changing technology developed by Columbus-based Battelle. “We owe this to Ohioans,” DeWine said. “We owe this to people across the country.”

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 points

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.