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Amy Acton Steps Down As DeWine's Chief Health Adviser

Andy Chow
Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health, pointing at chart forecasting the potential spread of COVID-19

Doctor Amy Acton, the chief health adviser to Governor Mike DeWine, is officially leaving the administration. This is another transition for Acton who resigned as director of the Ohio Department of Health in June, concluding a long, high-profile journey. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

When it came time for newly-elected governor DeWine to form his cabinet, some picks came faster than others. The last position he filled happened more than a month after taking office when he named Acton as director of the Ohio Department of Health. 

He said he wanted to make sure he made the best choice and felt confident Acton, the first physician to fill the role in five years, was the right pick. 

Acton, who was once homeless as a teenager from Youngstown, said she was going to make infant mortality and teen homelessness priorities. She added that she takes a holistic approach to health. 

"The food we eat is our health. Where we live, the zipcode we're born into is our health. All the things that surround us are creating the conditions in which we can lead flourishing lives," said Acton in February 2019. 

Acton also spoke out on lead paint’s effect on kids, teen vaping, and the use of e-cigarettes.

Just a year later, Acton took center stage with DeWine in leading Ohio's response to the coronavirus.

In February, she laid out the steps the state was taking to prevent the spread of the virus, saying that it was only a matter of time until it came to Ohio. 

Acton was also at the forefront when Ohio made one of the first major announcements nationwide in canceling the Arnold Sports Festival for spectators. 

"No one wants to make a difficult decision in times like this. But we have to keep going using what we know, as you know, has been evolving hour by hour," Acton said during a press conference announcing that decision in March. 

From there, Acton became a familiar face during DeWine's daily press briefings. She kept people up-to-date with the latest statistics on COVID-19 in Ohio and what the state was doing to prevent the spread.  

During that time, schools, bars and restaurants, hair salons and barbershops, and entertainment venues all were shut down. When DeWine made the major announcement that the state was closing all non-essential businesses for the "Stay At Home" order, it was Acton that called for calm and determination. 

"This is a war on a silent enemy. I don't want you to be afraid. I am not afraid. But I need you to do everything. I want you to think about the fact that this is our one shot in this country," Acton said. 

Watch: Acton addresses the state after DeWine announces "Stay At Home" order.

She garnered acclaim around the state and across the country for her approach in delivering detailed health information, in a personable way. 

The "Dr. Amy Acton Fan Club" Facebook page has more than 130,000 members.   

A video with a cartoon-drawn DeWine and Acton set to the "Laverne & Shirley" theme song has more than a million views on YouTube. And Acton even joined Elmo and Big Bird for a Sesame Street town hall with CNN, geared towards talking about the coronavirus with kids. 

Watch: A video created to be the "DeWine & Amy" theme song.

The attention was backed by the slow spread of the virus in Ohio in the spring, which saw lower case numbers per capita compared to other states with a high population. 

But Acton's presence and counsel drew critics as well. Demonstrators would gather at the Ohio Statehouse to protest the business closures, demanding Acton step down. The Ohio House passed a piece of legislation that would limit the powers of the health department director. And a small group of people even demonstrated outside her home. 

This drew the ire of DeWine, who said people should be protesting him since he's the elected official. 

"To bother the family of Dr. Acton. I don't think that's fair game. I don't think it's right. I don't think it's necessary to get your point across," DeWine said in reaction to protesters showing up at Acton's home. 

In June, as the state was beginning the process of reopening businesses, Acton announced that she was stepping down as director of the department of health but would remain with the administration as chief health adviser to DeWine. 

As she stepped down from that post she thanked state troopers who had become a presence in her neighborhood and she had one final message to the people of Ohio.

"Ohioans you have saved lives. You've done this and it is my honor to continue to work on this alongside of you and to witness what you have done already, what you are doing right now to get back into our lives and do so as safely as we can, and I look forward to what you are going to do next," Acton said. 

The former health director will be leaving the position as chief health adviser and return to her work in the non-profit sector with the Columbus Foundation.   

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