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Morning Headlines: DeWine Calls for “COVID Defense Teams” in Each County; First Energy Fires CEO Amid Nuclear Bailout Fallout

a photo of governor Mike DeWine
JO INGLES
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
Nearly every county in the state is at a high-risk level for coronavirus infections. Gov. Mike DeWine is calling on leaders of each county to create a “COVID defense team” to assess how to stop the spread of the virus infection on a local level.

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, October 30:

  • DeWine calls for “COVID defense teams” in each county
  • FirstEnergy fires CEO amid nuclear bailout fallout
  • 2 Ohio political operatives plead guilty in bribery probe
  • Final Quinnipiac poll has Biden in the lead
  • Ohio nursing home COVID-19 deaths reach 3,270
  • Ohio unemployment claims remain constant over 2 weeks
  • University Hospitals joins AstraZeneca COVID vaccine study
  • Cleveland to form new division to address racial health disparities
  • Judge orders far-right robocallers to make another call
  • CWRU names new president
  • Surgeon general visits Ohio to urge residents to get flu vaccines

DeWine calls for “COVID defense teams” in each county
Gov. Mike DeWine is giving a grave warning Thursday as nearly every county in the state is at a high-risk level for coronavirus infections. DeWine is calling on leaders of each county to create a “COVID defense team,” to assess how to stop the spread of the virus infection on a local level. The state set a new record for COVID-19 cases on Thursday at nearly 3,600, surpassing by more than 25% the record set on Saturday. DeWine said the infection spread is happening mostly in social gatherings and less in bars, businesses and schools.

FirstEnergy fires CEO amid nuclear bailout fallout
Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. has fired CEO Chuck Jones and two senior vice presidents after a review determined the executives violated the company’s code of conduct. Jones’ termination comes on the same day that two people pleaded guilty in the $61 million HB6 energy bill racketeering case. Federal investigators say an unnamed utility, listed as "Company A" in the affidavit—and widely believed to be FirstEnergy--funneled millions of dollars into a dark money group which went on to put pressure on legislators to vote for HB6. The dark money group, Generation Now, also funded an aggressive campaign against an attempted citizen's referendum on HB6. The investigation accuses former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder of creating and controlling the activities of Generation Now. Prosecutors say Householder used that money to help political allies get elected to the House, which helped him become speaker in 2019. Chuck Jones, an Akron native joined the company as an engineer in 1978, and worked his way up to becoming CEO in 2015. FirstEnergy President Steven Strah has been named acting CEO, effective immediately.

2 Ohio political operatives plead guilty in bribery probe
Two Ohio political operatives have pleaded guilty for their roles in a $60 million bribery case that investigators allege helped prop up two aging nuclear power plants. Juan Cespedes is a lobbyist who’s been described by investigators as a “key middleman.” Jeffrey Longstreth is a longtime political adviser to ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Both pleaded guilty in hearings Thursday before federal Judge Timothy Black. The hearings were held by video conference because of the coronavirus pandemic. Messages have been left for attorneys with both defendants seeking comment. Sentencing dates weren't set.

Final Quinnipiac poll has Biden in the lead
The final pre-election poll from Quinnipiac University shows Joe Biden leading President Trump by five points in Ohio, 48% to 43%. Another 8% of likely voters are undecided. Biden was ahead by a single point, 48-47, in a survey of Ohio released Sept. 24. The poll also shows Biden leading in Florida and Pennsylvania and Trump ahead by one point in Iowa.

Ohio nursing home COVID-19 deaths reach 3,270
The number of nursing home residents who have died with COVID-19 continues to climb. The latest state figures show at least 3,270 nursing home patients have died with coronavirus this year, with 56 in the last week. That accounts for more than 62% all COVID-19 deaths in the state, a percentage that continues to drop. It was over 70% in late May.

Ohio unemployment claims remain constant over 2 weeks
Ohio says initial claims for unemployment compensation during the coronavirus stayed about the same the past two weeks. The Department of Job and Family Services oversees claims for the state. The agency said Thursday that Ohioans filed 17,531 claims for the week ending Oct. 24. That's just down from the 17,598 filed the previous week. While the number of claims is gradually falling, they're still more than twice as high as the same week a year ago. Ohio has announced a series of financial steps recently to help individuals and businesses hurt by the pandemic.

University Hospitals joins AstraZeneca COVID vaccine study
University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University are joining a global COVID-19 vaccine study. UH will be one of about 80 investigational sites across the country that will collectively enroll up to 30,000 participants for AstraZeneca’s Phase 3 study. UH is also part 120 sites around the world in a Phase 3 vaccine study sponsored by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

Cleveland to form new division to address racial health disparities
The city of Cleveland is creating a new position to address institutional racism and inequalities. Mayor Frank Jackson on Thursday says he'll ask council to approve legislation creating a new division in Cleveland’s Department of Public Health. Cleveland.com reports the city already posted a job opening for a commissioner of health equity and social justice. The new division will work with businesses and other groups to find solutions. Cleveland declared institutional racism a public health crisis in June.

Judge orders far-right robocallers to make another call
Two far-right activists who face charges for making thousands of robocalls intended to suppress Black voters are being ordered to make another call. A New York judge on Thursday ordered Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman to call back all 80,000 affected people in Cleveland and four other states with a new message, explaining their intent to intimidate voters with false information. They were both charged in Cuyahoga County this week and face similar charges in Michigan.

CWRU names new president
Case Western Reserve University has named a new president. Eric Kaler is former president of the University of Minnesota. He replaces Barbara Snyder who left Case to lead the American Association of Universities in Washington. Kaler has large shoes to fill at Case after Snyder’s 12-year tenure where she eliminated a $19 million deficit, and helped raise $1.8 billion in donations. Kaler has a background in chemical engineering, with 10 patents and a reputation for fostering research in advanced manufacturing, robotics and neuroscience.

Surgeon general visits Ohio to urge residents to get flu vaccines
The U.S. surgeon general was in Northeast Ohio Thursday encouraging people to get their flu shot. The Canton Repository reports that Dr. Jerome Adams met with local officials today at Mercy Hospital in Canton. Adams says increased flu vaccination rates will help boost the number of people getting a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available. Thomas Strauss, Mercy’s interim CEO told Adams that coronavirus testing remains a problem here and across Ohio. He says Mercy is running short of testing supplies as COVID-19 cases spike, and could run out of them by the end of the week.