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Morning Headlines: Gov. DeWine Urges Masks, Distancing As COVID-19 Cases Spike; Ohio Hits New High of Hospitalizations

Picture of hospital staff treating COVID-19 patients while wearing protective gear.
Ohio hit a new record of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, topping the high numbers of hospitalizations set in July. The Ohio Hospital Association reports 1,154 COVID patients taking up nearly 4.5 percent of the beds in the state.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, October 20:

  • Gov. DeWine urges masks, distancing as COVID cases spike
  • Ohio hits new high of COVID-19 hospitalizations
  • Summit County man ordered to pay $60M for alleged Bitcoin scheme
  • Thousands of absentee ballots remain delayed
  • Cuyahoga County jail releases inmates by mistake for the fifth time this year
  • Parma schools return to remote learning
  • Hudson parent sues school district over return to in-person classes
  • GOP's Karl Rove asks donors to help Ohio justice retain seat
  • Ohio GOP lawmakers favor remake of tainted energy bill

Gov. DeWine urges masks, distancing as COVID cases spike
Gov. Mike DeWine again urged Ohioans to wear masks and avoid gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus, as the number of new cases has doubled in less than three weeks, along with a near doubling of the daily positivity rate on tests. DeWine spoke during a visit to Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland on Monday, when the state recorded another 1,800 cases. He says the state Tuesday will release a new online dashboard where doctors and hospitals will be able to sign up now to administer a vaccine when it’s ready. DeWine also said shutting Ohio’s economy down would be a last resort, but says wearing a mask and social distancing is how to ensure schools and businesses stay open.

Ohio hits new high of COVID-19 hospitalizations
Ohio hit a new record of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, topping the high numbers of hospitalizations set in July. The Ohio Hospital Association reports 1,154 COVID patients taking up nearly 4.5% of the beds in the state. That’s almost double the number hospitalized a month ago. The numbers of people in intensive care and on ventilators are also up. The system still has about 31% capacity overall left, or around 8,000 beds. The 83 confirmed deaths on October 2 was the highest since late April, though the death totals have dropped since then.

Summit County man ordered to pay $60M for alleged Bitcoin scheme
A Summit County man has been hit with a $60 million penalty from the U.S. Treasury Department for running a Darknet operation that allegedly laundered more than $300 million worth of cryptocurrency. The Wall Street Journal reports the civil penalty levied against Larry Harmon of Bath Township is the first of its kind imposed by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network against a virtual currency “mixer." That refers to the process of sending bitcoin anonymously. Harmon, through his company Helix allegedly laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal drug proceeds and other criminal profits for Darknet users around the globe. He remains released on bail while facing federal charges.

Thousands of absentee ballots remain delayed
Thousands of voters are still waiting for their absentee ballots tied to delays with a Cleveland-based printing company. Summit County submitted a request for Midwest Direct to print and ship 14,000 ballots last week. The company, which says it’s been overwhelmed with requests, said it could ship them within 48 hours. That deadline passed, and the company said they’d be mailed Monday. The Beacon Journal reports it’s unclear if the ballots are in the mail. Stark County last week also reported a delay of about 63,000 ballots. The company gained national attention last week when The New York Times ran an article that reported that the company flew a Trump 2020 flag this year at its Cleveland headquarters, but took it down recently.

Cuyahoga County jail releases inmates by mistake for the fifth time this year
For the fifth time this year, the Cuyahoga County jail released two inmates by mistake during the weekend. Cleveland.com reports David Barnes, 39, is back in the county jail. Barnes faces a felony charge of possessing a weapon with a felony record. Another inmate, Bernard Moore, 21, of Warrensville Heights remains at-large. He faces a felony charge of improperly handling a gun in a motor vehicle. Jail officials say the county is investigating how both men ended up released despite orders that they remain jailed.

Parma schools return to remote learning
One of the state’s largest school districts is returning to remote learning after three weeks of part-time in-person classes. Cleveland.com reports that Parma City Schools will be switching to all online classes after a student and two staffers tested positive last week, resulting in 75 people needing to quarantine. The district had been using a hybrid teaching model but Cuyahoga County’s recent upgrade to red alert status factored into the decision. With more than 9,300 students, Parma is the state’s 11th largest district. Last week, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced that remote learning will continue through Jan. 1.

Hudson parent schools district over return to in-person classes
A parent in Hudson is suing to stop the school district from returning to daily, in-person classes for students in grades K-8. Jennifer Grega claims the move violates a resolution it passed in August to make instructional decisions based on Ohio’s public health alert map. Summit County last week returned to red, or level 3, alert indicating very high levels of exposure and spread of the coronavirus. In a letter to parents, Superintendent Phil Herman says that’s just one of several factors the district considered when it decided last Monday to resume in-person, daily instruction. Hudson High School remains on a hybrid schedule.

GOP's Karl Rove asks donors to help Ohio justice retain seat
Influential Republican strategist Karl Rove is soliciting donations for an Ohio Supreme Court justice's reelection bid, signaling the stakes involved in controlling the state’s high court when congressional maps are redrawn next year. This election determines whether the court retains a conservative majority. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Rove pleads with wealthy donors and Ohio law firms to support Republican Justice Judith French's campaign against state appeals court Judge Jennifer Brunner. Rove’s fundraising plea focuses on not wanting Republicans to yield power over redistricting to Democrats, whose own line-drawing effort has been joined by former President Barack Obama and his attorney general.

Ohio GOP lawmakers favor remake of tainted energy bill
There appears to be consensus among Republican lawmakers to replace a bill tainted by an alleged bribery scandal to provide $1 billion in subsidies to two Ohio nuclear plants. Some say they support most of what's in the bill known as HB6 but want its replacement to include audits proving the plants' owner needs the money before subsidies are paid. Democrats want the bill to be repealed outright. The Ohio Legislature missed an Oct. 1 deadline to repeal the bill, which likely will result in customer charges for the subsidies beginning in January unless an emergency repeal measure is approved.