Global Communities Board Chairman Dick Celeste to Co-Chair Ohio COVID-19 Testing Task Force

The article was first published here.

By Seth A. Richardson, cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that two former Ohio governors would lead a task force to help expand coronavirus testing in Ohio.

Former Govs. Dick Celeste (on the photo), a Democrat, and Bob Taft, a Republican, will lead a task force set up by DeWine, a Republican, to source material and expand coronavirus testing capabilities in the state, DeWine said.

“These two leaders have a depth of experience in Ohio and internationally,” DeWine said. “They know their way around Ohio. They know their way around the world. Simply put, these two leaders know how to get things done and make things happen.”

Separately, DeWine announced that the Food and Drug Administration had approved an application from Thermo Fisher for a new reagent used in coronavirus testing after DeWine personally lobbied the federal government.

“Most of the labs in Ohio use Thermo Fisher’s machines (for testing),” DeWine said. “The problem has been that there wasn’t enough reagent. Now they can use test kits with the new reagent.”

DeWine has made clear that easing current coronavirus restrictions is dependent on expanding COVID-19 testing. Testing across the country has lagged as production struggles to keep up with demand.

“We want to reopen the economy. We want to get people back to work. It’s important that we do it the right way. That we do it the safe way,” DeWine said Tuesday. “The ability to test and test people further is one of the components that will go into that safety.”

DeWine said he contacted both Celeste and Taft Tuesday morning about helping shore up Ohio’s testing shortage, to which they both agreed. Both former governors said they did not have any more information beyond what was announced at the governor’s Tuesday coronavirus briefing.

“This is essentially an all hands on deck time,” Celeste said. “To the extent that Gov. Taft and I can be helpful in an effort to get the kind of testing program that Ohio needs, we’re going to do all we can to help.”

They have not had a chance to meet and formulate exactly what the task force would look like or how it would operate.

“We’re just getting started on this process but willing to help in any way possible,” Taft said.

A spokesman for DeWine did not immediately answer a follow up text message seeking more information on specifics on the task force.

Celeste is a former director of the Peace Corps and served as governor from 1983 to 1991. President Bill Clinton tapped Celeste as U.S. Ambassador to India from 1997 to 2001.

Taft is also a Peace Corps veteran, having taught in Tanzania during the 1960s. He embarked on a political career in Ohio that included stints as secretary of state from 1991 to 1999 and governor from 1999 to 2007.