Dr. Acton says she’s an ‘ordinary person in an extraordinary moment’


(WKBN) – On Wednesday, we were able to talk to Dr. Amy Acton about her rise from the streets of Youngstown to becoming the face of Ohio’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. She also shared with us why more people might be dying from the coronavirus in Mahoning County, as opposed to other areas.

Acton, now the director of the Ohio Department of Health, grew up on the north side. She lived in 18 different places by the time she was 12.

“I remember walking the north side and people seeing us walk by — because everyone walked then — and giving us breakfast, my brother and I, because they knew we were hungry. Just random neighbors,” she said. “I also remember people looking the other way, not wanting their kids to play with me because we were dirty and smelly.”

By 7th grade, she had settled into a more stable situation and attended Liberty Schools. She eventually became the homecoming queen of Liberty High’s class of 1984.

Then it was on to Youngstown State and the Northeast Ohio School of Medicine. Acton worked various jobs and paid her way through college.

“Don’t laugh, but I worked at the Western Sizzlin’ Steakhouse on Belmont Avenue.”

As far as why more coronavirus patients are dying where she grew up than anywhere else in the state, she didn’t have a definitive answer — only a hunch.

“We also have more elderly. The average age in Mahoning and Trumbull is older than other counties.”

In one of her earliest news conferences, Acton said she hopes Ohio gets this 80% right. Now she says we’re doing at least that well.

“We can’t measure an exact percent on social distancing. We’ve looked at fascinating cell phone usage, traffic data. We’re looking at the actual results of it.”

You’re used to seeing Acton every day at 2 p.m. during Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus briefings. Her latest message has been, “We’re making a difference, but we cannot let up.”

A month ago, Acton was just a doctor in DeWine’s cabinet. Now she’s a household name in Ohio.

“I can tell you, it is not something I can fully take in. I’m a very ordinary person in an extraordinary moment.”

And before we let her go — we had to talk Youngstown food.

“I just had, last night, mint chocolate chip from Handel’s because we do have Handel’s in Columbus and they dropped some off on my door.”

She said her favorite pizza from Youngstown was the Golden Dawn’s — with a schooner of Genesee.

She’s also a fan of Kravitz Deli and specifically mentioned the spinning bowl salad at what used to be the 20th Century restaurant on Belmont.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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