"In Ohio she’s become something of a folk hero for her frank discussion of what we do and do not know about coronavirus. Her state orders and emphatic, empathetic check-ins have helped Ohioans pace the transmission of the virus. In a representative appearance in the first few weeks of the pandemic, she acknowledged, 'We all…need to learn to live through something we’ve never dealt with before.' Acton has been called the real MVP of Ohio’s coronavirus response. Outside of the state, she’s a model for a quieter, unusual kind of leadership—the rare public health expert who has appealed to and been able to establish an alliance with a conservative governor."She also discusses Acton's troubled childhood. The story talks about Acton's sexual abuse at the hands of one of her mother's partners, her time spent living in a tent, the kindness of strangers who gave her food when they saw she was dirty and hungry, the refuge and warmth of school, and how all of this goes in to her decisions when it comes to shutting down schools or ordering a shelter in place.
Still, success in public health is complicated, Acton admits. In a doctor’s one-on-one interaction with a patient, the task is not simple, but it is straightforward: to help the person heal. But to keep entire cities or states safe, part of doctors’ job becomes communication and messaging, and in our disinformation age, that’s a problem.Acton also discusses in her own words what it's like in the state's COVID-19 press conferences and the process of finding her own voice.
“When we do a good job, when we knock it out of the park in public health, people don’t see it, because we’ve prevented something bad from happening,” (Acton) says. With Ohio controlling the spread of the coronavirus relatively well, there are people who believe the entire pandemic is a hoax and “that what’s going on in New York couldn’t absolutely be happening here in Ohio.”
“I just hope anyone who reads this or listens to me realizes it’s a lifetime of becoming who you are and finding your voice and knowing where your compass is,” she says.
Channeling that basic instinct—and with the state’s case numbers and death rate guiding her—Acton will determine how Ohio navigates reopening businesses while also limiting transmission.
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