Ohio governor's conflicting COVID-19 tests raise backlash

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FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2019, file photo, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during an interview at the Governor's Residence in Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio governor's positive, then false, results on COVID-19 tests threw fuel on the fire for skeptics about pandemic precautions and critics of the often-aggressive policies the governor championed. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio governor's positive, then negative, tests for COVID-19 have provided fuel for skeptics of government pandemic mandates and critics of his often-aggressive policies.

“I'm sure the internet is lighting up with ‘Well, you can't believe any test,' ” Mike DeWine said in a WCOL radio interview Friday, after a whirlwind of events the day before when the initial positive showing forced the Republican to scrub a planned meeting with President Donald Trump. And on Sunday, he told CNN's “State of the Union” that “people should not take away from my experience that testing is not reliable or doesn’t work.”

Instead of seeing Trump at the Cleveland airport, DeWine returned to this state capital for new testing with his wife, Fran, through Ohio State University's medical center They then went to their southwestern Ohio farm in Cedarville, where DeWine said he planned to quarantine for 14 days. But within hours, he had received Columbus test results that were negative. The first test, part of protocol for people meeting with the president, was a rapid-result antigen test, while the Columbus testing was a genetic, laboratory test whose results are considered more reliable.

The governor's office said Saturday another test for each by Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center again returned negative results for DeWine and his wife.

The conflicting results come as Americans have grown frustrated about access to testing and by slow results. Ohioans also remain divided over DeWine's actions to deal with the pandemic, with some saying his early shutdown actions unnecessarily damaged businesses. He was an early advocate of wearing masks to stop the COVID-19 spread even as other Republicans in Ohio remain unconvinced.

State Rep. Nino Vitale, a conservative GOP gadfly from Urbana, tweeted a photo of DeWine wearing a mask minutes after the positive test was announced Thursday.

“I think the question must be asked. Has he not been wearing his mask, or do masks not stop the spread?” Vitale said in his post, which also stated he wished the governor no ill will.

DeWine said he received some “not so nice” texts during the day Thursday about wearing masks. He reasserted Friday that while they might not be 100% effective, they do help prevent spread and have been made a noticeable difference in the state's most-populated cities.