COLUMBUS, Ohio – The message on COVID-19 testing couldn’t be more different between Gov. Mike DeWine and state Rep. Nino Vitale, a fellow Republican.
“We want those who want to be tested to be able to get tested,” DeWine said at a news conference last month, lifting limitations on whom could be tested. “By knowing who has the virus, we can better protect the vulnerable and work to prevent its spread.”
Tuesday, Vitale wrote on Facebook, “Are you tired of living in a dictatorship yet? This is what happens when people go crazy and get tested. STOP GETTING TESTED!”
Vitale’s post, which followed DeWine’s requirement for masks in high-risk counties, goes against public health best practices.
The strategy of testing, tracing those who might have been infected and isolating those who were infected is well-documented in containing diseases. President Donald Trump’s plan for reopening America included a “robust testing program.”
Rep. Nino Vitale
Vitale wrote that mass testing would give “the government an excuse to claim something is happening that is not happening at the magnitude they say it is happening.”
Vitale’s comments echo Trump’s from a rally in Oklahoma last month: “Here’s the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ ”
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Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told U.S. House lawmakers Trump never gave that directive and testing never slowed.
Some agreed with Vitale, posting that DeWine needed to be stopped and that they wouldn’t wear a mask in counties where they would soon be required. Others commended the GOP governor for keeping them safe.
As of Wednesday afternoon, almost 2,800 Ohioans had died of the novel coronavirus and more than 56,000 had contracted the disease, according to the state Department of Health. Of those, 174 cases and six deaths occurred in Champaign, Logan and Shelby counties, which Vitale represents.
The Republican lawmaker has been a long-standing critic of DeWine and former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton. He introduced a bill that would prevent DeWine from requiring face coverings in Ohio without legislative approval. He wrote that people’s faces shouldn’t be covered because they are “the image and likeness of God.”
Vitale is no stranger to provocative social media posts. When Black lawmakers introduced a resolution to declare racism is a public health crisis in the state, Vitale, who is Italian, posted a picture of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus with the comment “I am darker than MOST of the people in this picture.”
Vitale is running unopposed for his House seat in November, but that didn’t stop Ohio Democrats from fundraising off Vitale’s comments.
“This kind of leadership from Statehouse Republicans is dangerous and puts Ohioans’ health and safety at risk,” House Democrats’ fundraising leader Aryeh Alex wrote in a request for donations.
Follow Jessie Balmert on Twitter: @jbalmert
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: COVID-19: Ohio lawmaker says residents should ‘STOP GETTING TESTED’