Warren County, Ohio Sheriff Larry Sims agreed to talk with The Ohio Star about Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s COVID policies.
Sims was very respectful in his tone toward the governor and quick to point out sitting down for an interview on such a sensitive topic is outside the norm.
The sheriff said he has communicated with DeWine over the years – dating back to his time as Ohio attorney general and has offered insight on situations, issues and even legislation.
According to Sims, DeWine and he have been respectful in their communications. Sims believes his insight has either fallen on deaf ears or that DeWine agrees to disagree.
COVID policies, however, and the executive branch’s management of COVID, strikes a chord with Sims.
Sims said he and the members of their office deeply about everyone’s health and they have deep sympathy for those who have lost loved ones. Yet the bottom line for Sims is what he is seeing in his community – suffering from government policies is far outweighing suffering from COVID.
Sims acknowledges early on the virus looked extremely dangerous to large numbers of people. Even now, he understands the governor is not in an easy position – Sims said he does not underestimate the pressure DeWine is under or the magnitude of his decisions.
The sheriff does not understand why information that can be found on the Ohio coronavirus website, the CDC website and from other reliable medical sources that rounds out the picture of COVID in Ohio gets left out of press conferences.
“We are seeing only the fear side of this issue. It began with crazy high numbers – the first few weeks, we were being cautious but looking at what was happening. Within a few weeks, we saw real numbers and it should have been apparent to a lot of people early on. But, a lot of people trust the governor, the government and what they’re being told. Many people don’t do research” said Sims.
“From the very beginning we’ve been scolded, but it doesn’t make sense” said Sims. He continued with most recently “[t]hey’ve restricted drinks after a certain hour but increased the number of drinks you can pick up with your to-go orders – a violation of open container laws.”
“With respect to cutting off drinking at 10:00 p.m., that can result in someone piling up five-or-six drinks before 10:00 p.m. and sitting there drinking them until 11:00 p.m. How does any of that make sense?” Asked Sims.
The sheriff is concerned about the long term effects of COVID, beyond the health impact – “[w}e are putting a stranglehold on businesses with restrictions, restrictions that will result in businesses in Warren County shutting down – for good.”
In Warren County the sheriff’s office has made it the modus operandi to reach out to the county prosecutor, the primary legal counsel of the office, seeking understanding and interpretation of the orders. Complaints and reports involving the orders are turned over to the health department.
Sheriff Sims indicated that if the health department found someone in violation, the department could file and action with the court. If the court issued an order then the Sheriff’s office would be responsible to serve and execute the order.
Sims said of the health department “they have been outstanding and they are phenomenal people. They have been working with businesses to get them reopened and are not being heavy-handed; but of course, their orders come from above.”
Inconsistency is a trigger for Sims. After DeWine tested positive and then twice negative for COVID Sims had some hard questions he delivered in an email to the governor:
“You test positive. But, for some reason, once you are back in Columbus, you test again. You didn’t have faith or trust the test?
Do you even know how many of Ohioans’ positive numbers are from the antigen test? How many of the positive numbers in the U.S. are from the antigen test?
Now that you may have been a false positive, do you have any idea how many of the Ohioans tested are a false positive?
Of course, you do not know. Because if you knew, you may have to stop all of the restrictions across Ohio and let us live our lives, wouldn’t you?”
What is also difficult for the sheriff to reconcile is how Warren County is assigned a code orange threat level given the area’s COVID numbers compared to the population.
Warren County has recorded 1,962 cases the entire epidemic. As of August 18, 79%, or 1,555 people, are counted recovered. This leaves only 407 people positive in Warren County in a population of 230,000. More perspective on that number: in the last 14 days the county has seen only 10 hospitalizations involving COVID (it is not certain whether this number includes people in the hospital primarily because of COVID or primarily for other medical reasons but with COVID).
“It’s hard for me to see the justification in these policies when you see the real numbers. What is the end game here? Is it zeros across the board? Whatever it is, I hope we know and it’s here soon” concluded Sims.
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Jack Windsor is Managing Editor and an Investigative Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an Investigative Reporter at WMFD-TV. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Larry Sims” by Re-elect Ed Wade.