YOUNGSTOWN — Dr. Amy Acton is well aware of the untold pain and despair that the current COVID-19 pandemic has brought, but her coping remedy has always been four: “C” and a “K” — communicate and be clear, concise, believable and friendly.
“It is not a mandate; It’s what Ohioans do to help each other.” Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, referring to how many people have outdone themselves since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Acton, whom many Ohioans remember for his reassuring and compassionate voice of direction and guidance during the height of the health crisis, spoke Sunday at the Youngstown Jewish Community Center, 505 Gypsy Lane, on the North Side. She shared many of her experiences before, during and after her role as an adviser to Governor Mike DeWine in the early days of the pandemic, when he delivered daily briefings from the House of Representatives.
His hour-long, sold-out performance likely resonated even more with the estimated attendance of 165 because he grew up on the North Side before moving to Liberty in seventh grade and attending Liberty High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. and back home. Queen.
Acton, who lives in Bexley, described her “tough childhood” that involved moving continuously over a 12-year period and dealing with his parents’ divorce and his mother’s illness, as well as being homeless, living in a tent and having little food.
Despite these and other difficulties, Acton attended Youngstown State University, earning a Bachelor of Science before earning a medical degree from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (now Northeast Ohio Medical University). ) at Rootstown in 1990, then a master’s degree from Ohio State University in public health. She also completed residencies at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
Acton, who said he had never read a script, told his audience that he always tried to be “brutally honest” in terms of disseminating information on how the pandemic was developing. That included helping craft what some saw as unpopular moves, like advising DeWine on stay-at-home edicts.
DeWine was the first governor to close schools and limit gatherings to 100 people or fewer, even though the state only had three confirmed coronavirus cases at the time, Acton recalled. Ohio was also the first state to temporarily close bars and restaurants with fewer than 40 confirmed cases.
Additionally, he advocated postponing Ohio’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary, set for March 17, 2020. The day before, DeWine canceled the election before a judge ruled he lacked such authority. Acton then ordered the closure of more than 3,600 public vote centers across the state due to the public health emergency.
However, Acton also received pushback from protesters who demonstrated against the stay-at-home mandates.
In addition, she and some of her family members were threatened on the dark web and harassed, Acton said, adding that the Ohio State Highway Patrol had offered the family protection.
The longtime medical professional and public health researcher said she never sought the spotlight, adding that she based her advice and measured decisions on determination and the latest science, not fear.
“I was a very ordinary person who found myself in the crosshairs of history,” Acton said.
“We all have moments in life when we can’t look away,” She continued.
In February 2020, he began preparing for the likelihood of a pandemic in the state and country before meeting at the White House. “with the best scientists in the world” because they realized the virus was not under control and would inevitably spread, Acton recalled.
She called the pandemic “a moment from 9/11”, saying that a greater sense of national and international unity was seen in its early days, the same dynamic that occurred in the days, weeks and months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Acton also noted a “Pandemic Playbook” was written during the administration of President George W. Bush, with the understanding that such a health crisis was the greatest threat to the country due to its spread, duration, and intensity, all of which gave it the ability to disrupt the lives of people. people for years.
Acton added that he hopes a commission on the pandemic will be appointed to present “the right people around the table and the best minds”, and operate similarly to the 9/11 Commission, which was created in November 2002 to investigate the circumstances and accurately account for the terrorist attacks.
Acton said he has also tried to help especially small businesses affected by the pandemic, but the political climate surrounding the health crisis hampered many of those efforts.
However, many people tried to derive meaning from their experiences.
For example, one woman painted a different color with water each day of the pandemic, which went viral before she contracted COVID-19 and resulted in some 250,000 prayers for her, Acton explained.
If there is anything positive to be learned from the health crisis that has resulted in the loss of many lives and continued pain, despair and sadness, it is to seize the “seeds of opportunity” that have been created. They include tapping into the shared humanity of others, as well as acting with courage, conviction and kindness toward others while refusing to succumb to complacency, Acton told his audience.
After resigning as director of the Ohio Department of Health, she worked for the Columbus Foundation, created to help donors and others strengthen the community.
He also helped found a Jewish preschool in Columbus.
This year, Acton was named President and CEO of RAPID 5, a collaborative nonprofit organization dedicated to further connecting people with nature, improving access to parks in the Columbus area and with the goal of creating a vision for a unique network of regional parks.
For her work, Acton received the 2021 COVID Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, as well as being this year’s USA Today Woman of the Year.