COLUMBUS -- Saying the state has reached its "most critical point in the battle against coronavirus," Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday evening urged every Ohio resident to wear a mask in public.
"I am asking you, wherever you live, to wear a mask in public. Some may question the wisdom of masks, but as we said when I was prosecutor: 'The jury is back. The verdict is in.'
"There is broad medical consensus in medical, health and business communities that masks are critical," the governor said, though he didn't issue any new statewide mask mandates or issue any new state orders.
There was speculation about the governor's intentions on Tuesday when he cancelled his normal 2 p.m. and press conference and scheduled the 5:30 p.m. televised speech on Wednesday.
Rather than issue new orders, the governor used his speech to educate, motivate and rally the state's residents.
Residents in a dozen counties are already required to wear masks under the governor's county-by-county, color-coded system announced two weeks ago. An updated list is expected to be announced Thursday at 2 p.m.
DeWine also said just wearing masks are not enough and urged residents to come together in unity to battle against the virus.
"Our state's life is now in danger -- and our own strength lies in unity of purpose," the governor said. "Early in this pandemic, Ohioans came together. You showed extraordinary kindness, care and compassion for your families, friends, neighbors and strangers, alike.
"You rose to the occasion. You answered the call. I am calling on all Ohioans to again unite," DeWine said. "If we don't take immediate action, the tragedies we're seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California may be Ohio's."
DeWine praised the efforts of Ohio residents earlier this year when the coronavirus spread from China to Europe into the United States and then Ohio.
"You did what Ohioans do. You rallied together. You took a collective leap of faith in a battle against an invisible enemy -- the likes of which hadn't been seen in 100-plus years," DeWine said, referencing the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1917-1918.
He said some of the state's residents have relaxed in terms of social distancing, gathering sizes and other state directives.
"Let's be honest. Some of us have started to let our guard down. I know I sometimes have. We're tired. We want to back to the way things were -- and that's very understandable," he said. "But when our guard is down, we're playing Russian roulette with our lives, the lives of our family members and our neighbors.
"This virus is real. It's killing our family members, our friends and our co-workers. We must take the long view in our response and remember that Ohioans have always been a strong, resilient people, who know how to overcome adversity and beat the odds."
DeWine said his orders, and the orders of local officials, are not "nearly as important" as what the state's residents themselves can do "in the crucial days ahead."
He said the state is sliding down a "very dangerous path" in terms of the coronavirus spread.
"COVID-19 is spreading with a vengeance across parts of Ohio. It lurks, waiting to attack victims in all 88 counties," DeWine said, saying 3,075 state residents had died from the virus since the pandemic began in March.
He compared that number to the number of Ohio residents who died during the Vietnam War.
"As the Bible tells us in Galatians, 'Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap -- if we do not give up.' Ohioans never give up. And Ohioans will not grow weary of doing good and helping to protect each other," the governor said.