PUTNAM COUNTY — When the Governor calls, you listen.

On Oct. 28, Governor Mike DeWine hosted a videoconference call with leadership in varioius capacities, calling on them to form a defense team to take the lead locally in reversing the rise of COVID.

As red alerts were taking over nearly every county in the state, Governor DeWine said it was time to take a new approach.

“I am today calling on the leaders of each county, each community, in Ohio to come together to create a COVID Defense Team,” he said. “This is what we need to fight back. The teams should assess their county’s situation, inventory assets, and focus on what steps are needed to turn this around.”

The Putnam County leadership call was one of the first in a series of calls the Governor and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted made to each county in Ohio with high incidence of COVID cases.

Local health agencies and public safety officials, long term care facilities, and schools have communicated regularly for months in an advisory capacity about the status of COVID-19. DeWine described his request to counties as an expansion. “To include more people. They have each committed to meet at least once a week, and they have … a specific goal to reduce the active new cases that are coming in each day.”

Several department leaders from the Governor’s office participated in the call to listen to needs and challenges specific to Putnam County, and understand how they might assist the defense team in the weeks and months to come. Putnam County Health Commissioner Kim Rieman said that a day prior to the call, her department sent a state request for assistance conducting contact tracing. The Governor responded by telling his staff to make the PCHD request their top priority.

The availability of local rapid testing was also discussed. Business leaders from several major employers on the call said rapid testing availability would be an asset to their workforce, especially when mixing new employees into their pool of existing employees. The health and availability of the labor pool in Putnam County was a major concern voiced during the call.

Before Governor DeWine’s call had even ended, several individuals committed to immediately initiate the forming of a local Defense Team. The team now meets virtually once a week to work on resources and messaging about why it’s important for people to be protected and protect others.

Participating in the Defense Team are:

• Health Commissioner Kim Rieman

• Gustavo Chohfi, Whirlpool, Ottawa Operations

• JoAnne Birkemeier, Whirlpool Ottawa Operations

• Amanda Kuhlman, Unverferth Manufacturing

• Amy Sealts, Putnam County Community Improvement Corporation

• Beth Keehn, Mercy Health, Lima

• Becky Fruchey, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce

• Bryan Niese, Kalida Manufacturing, Inc.

• Frank Croskey, Silgan Plastics

• Melissa Maag, Leipsic Area Chamber of Commerce

• Mike Klear, Putnam County Office of Public Safety

• Ken Pollitz, New Creation Lutheran Church

• Connie Niese, Sts. Peter and Paul School

• Michael Lammers, Putnam County Commissioner

• Joan Kline, Putnam County Health Department

• Angela Recker, Putnam County Health Department

The Defense Team is coordinating an outreach campaign called “My Why” which begins today. “My Why” showcases positive ways you are protecting yourself or others. Perhaps you’ve started a new tradition with friends or family. Perhaps a certain person in your life is why you’re taking the steps you to help reduce spread.

Would you like to share your own “My Why” story so that we can learn from one another and celebrate the positives happening in Putnam County? We invite you to use “My Why is …” when sharing your comments, stories, photos, and video.



By Chris Sautter

Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach

Columbus Grove Local Schools

Do you know where you were on the afternoon of March 12, 2020? I do. I was sitting in my classroom trying to console 8 young men after the OHSAA suspended the winter sports tournaments. If I said I didn’t cry with them, I’d be lying. We were 26-0. They never got to finish the season. My four seniors would never step foot on the basketball court again. We will forever wonder “what if”?

We weren’t the only ones. The first Division II girls state semifinal was 10 minutes from tip-off. The teams were on the floor warming up when they got the news and had to leave the court. I can’t even imagine. The state wrestling tournament was set to start the next day. It didn’t. Spring sports were just getting started. They would never play a game or have a meet.

We can’t let that happen again.

I want a season. I want a season for every kid that loves sports. I want a season for every kid that needs sports. I want a season for every kid that comes in early and stays late to be the best they can be. I want a season for every kid that is just happy to be part of a team. I want a season for every parent, grandparent and family member who has sacrificed to help give their kids an opportunity to play sports and be a part of something bigger than themselves. I want a season for every community that bleeds their school colors. Nothing brings a community together quite like the success of one of it’s teams. I want a season for all the little kids that look up to the high school athletes. They are role models. I want a season because I never want another kid to go through what happened last year, ever again.

So for every game that was cancelled last year, put your mask on. For every meet not run, practice social distancing. For every match not held, cancel the party. For every musical not performed, stay home if you are sick. And for every prom and graduation not held, quarantine if told to do so. Do your part so that our athletes can do theirs.

By Gustavo Chohfi,

Plant Leader,

Whirlpool Ottawa Operations

This year has been filled with challenges for our community. At Whirlpool Ottawa Operations we have felt many challenges along with our friends and family in Putnam County. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic may be the biggest manufacturing challenge that Whirlpool Corporation has faced in its 109-year history.

The health and safety of our employees and the community is our number one priority. It is extremely important for me that our team is safe and healthy, not just inside the plant, but in this wonderful community, too. As a home appliance manufacturer, our work is essential. Consumers have needed us like never before to make sure their home appliances could cook, clean and provide proper food and medicine storage during the pandemic.

Our 500+ employees have been working tirelessly as we have managed through COVID-19 to build freezers, trash compactors and under counter ice makers. Our team has implemented steps to make our plant COVID-safe.This can impact manufacturing lines and production rates. These adjustments, including social distancing, have impacted most manufacturers across many industries, including many of our suppliers and other appliance manufacturers. We are focused on working through these challenges and are hiring on all shifts to meet our customer demand.

It is critical that we continue to practice safe behaviors in every part of our lives. I am also wearing a mask, social distancing, washing my hands and being cautious about group gatherings so that I can stay healthy for myself, my family and all 500+ Whirlpool Ottawa employees. I want to be able to show up every day to support them and make sure they have what they need to be safe at work and continue to build products for our consumers who are our family, friends and neighbors. There are so many people in this community that are proud that their freezer was built here—in Ottawa! I am asking you, everyone in Putnam County, to follow CDC guidelines for your health, my health and the resilient team here at the plant.