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Dr. Amy Acton on early days of pandemic and how to move forward in the 'next phase'

Dr. Amy Acton spoke with 10TV’s Tracy Townsend about her time during those early months and where we are currently as pandemic-related restrictions ease.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thursday was the first day that the Ohio Department of Health will release COVID-19 data on a weekly basis.

It marked a big change from two years ago as Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio's health director Dr. Amy Acton greeted Ohioans every day at 2 p.m.

Though she stepped away from her role as director in June of that year, Dr. Acton continued to be a prominent figure, receiving honors across the county for her leadership during the early stages of the pandemic.

Dr. Acton spoke with 10TV’s Tracy Townsend about her time during those early months and where we are currently as pandemic-related restrictions and mandates are being lifted.

You can watch the full interview with Dr. Amy Acton below. 

While those changes are being made, Dr. Acton said she’s been telling people that we’re not 100% out of the woods yet.

“Something I'm focused on is that we feel the joy of it, but we don't want to leave anyone behind,” she said. “We're all coming out in’ different ways at different times, my hope is that we all have a little grace and mercy with one another.”

When asked about people choosing to still use masks and taking those extra precautions, Dr. Acton added everyone needs to find their own way into what is comfortable. She continued by saying we’re in a new phase and threw back to one of the early analogies she used.

"It's a lot more like a dimmer switch, than a light switch … The thing about a dimmer switch it is in our control and it's nuanced. So, each of us are going to have to pay attention and figure out what works for us,” she said.

Back in March 2020, Dr. Acton told Ohioans they would be facing COVID-19 for some time. She recalled being at the White House that February and recognizing that the virus was here and we didn’t know it yet.

As we look to one day getting out of this pandemic, Dr. Acton said the conditions are right for this to happen again and we could see it more often than we have but we can build off of working on the knowledge that we all have a common enemy.

“We have to learn to live with the knowledge that this is part of our ecosystem. And that's frightening but at the same time but we always were on the same team,” she said.

She discussed how there has been a focus on the hate and partisanship that came with the pandemic, but she focuses on the stories she heard about people trying to get to the other side together.

"This is a new phase and we have to live it intentionally. We have to, intentionally, move our way back, weave our fabric of our society back together again,” Dr. Acton said.

As an example, Dr. Acton discussed how life expectancy has increased 30 years in the last century and most of those years didn’t come from just medicine, but people solving problems together.

"There are things we have got to solve together. It isn't government alone ever; it is business and government and academia and non-profits coming together to solve problems."

While Dr. Acton said she has had the opportunity to work on a variety of things, she’s ready to get back to her life.

"I want to be in Ohio. Once you feel the weight of the responsibility of Ohioans, you fall in love and you don't want to stop and you don't let that go lightly."

She continued by saying we’ll all soon see her doing things, especially things that allow her to give back.

"I want to be part of healing and hope. So, I want to be part of helping us emerge and pull together and weave back."

When asked about her honors and accolades, including recently when she was named one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, Dr. Acton got emotional saying: "It was the honor of a lifetime to hold that space for Ohioans. I am a very ordinary person who found themselves in an extraordinary moment in time."

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