News & Politics

Ohio Official Who Claimed 100,000 Covid-19 Cases in the State Says She Was 'Guesstimating'

Workers from a Servpro disaster recovery team wearing protective suits and respirators more toward equipment as they line up before entering the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. to begin cleaning and disinfecting the facility, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, near Seattle. The nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The director of Ohio’s Department of Health, Amy Acton, shocked a lot of people on Thursday when she said in a press conference that she believed 100,000 Ohioans had already contracted Covid-19.

The Hill:

“We know now, just the fact of community spread, says that at least 1 percent, at the very least, 1 percent of our population is carrying this virus in Ohio today,” Acton said. “We have 11.7 million people. So the math is over 100,000. So that just gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly.”

The Columbus Dispatch offered effusive praise of Acton for being a “voice of knowledge.”

Amid the increasing fear and confusion of the coronavirus pandemic, a voice of knowledge reassures Ohioans every day.

At daily live-streamed press briefings, Dr. Amy Acton follows Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement of orders and restrictions with calm explanations of outbreaks and community spread.

Speaking candidly but calmly, the director of the Ohio Department of Health translates complex medical theory to plain English, then immediately lets her humanity shine through.

“We all, myself included, need to learn to live through something we’ve never dealt with before,” she said at Thursday’s briefing.

What an incredible human being, to let her humanity “shine through” like that. Brings a tear to my eye, it does.

But Director Acton forgot to mention a small detail about her Apocalypse Now statement: it wasn’t true.

The Hill:

The director of Ohio’s Department of Health said Friday her statement the previous day that 100,000 people in the state currently have coronavirus was based on “guesstimating,” casting doubt on the high number.

“I am not saying there are absolutely for certain 100,000 people, I’m saying I’m guesstimating,” the director, Dr. Amy Acton, said at a news conference.

Now she tells us.

It’s one thing for an ignorant, empty-headed local TV news anchor to give their horse’s *ss opinion of how bad the epidemic is. But Dr. Acton is the fricking director of the state’s public health department! With people ready to panic at the drop of a hat, she tosses the sombrero into the fire.

So, maybe she wasn’t that far off in her “guesstimate”? Perhaps she might have “overstated” the number by just a little?

Tara Smith, a professor of public health at Kent State University, said Friday she thinks Acton’s number is “too high,” but said that there could be 1,000 undetected cases in Ohio right now.

On Friday at the press conference, Acton said once there is better data, modelers would go back and see if she was right.

“As modelers far smarter than I am put that together, we’ll look back at this and we’ll see where we were,” she said.

So, one expert says 1,000 undetected cases vs. Dr. Acton’s 100,000. That’s a hundredfold difference. Maybe she should brush up on her modeling skills a little.

It’s not just modelers who are “far smarter” than Dr. Acton. A chimpanzee hitting random numbers on a screen could have done a better job. It’s beyond inexcusable that someone whose main responsibility is to thoroughly inform the public about a public health emergency could have acted so rashly and unthinkingly.

In another day and age, Acton would have been fired by the end of the day. But you can’t do that today. You might hurt her feelings. Better to pat her on the head and tell her to do better next time.

Meanwhile, she can’t take back the panic she’s already unleashed with her irresponsibility.