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Morning Headlines: Doctors Issue Warning as COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise; 2 More FirstEnergy Executives Out Amid Bribery Probe

photo of FirstEnergy building
TIM RUDELL
/
WKSU
Two more top executives are out at FirstEnergy Corp. in the wake of a bribery scandal. The Beacon Journal reports that the Akron-based utility has parted ways with its top lawyer Robert Reffner and chief ethics officer Ebony Yeboah-Amankwah.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, November 10:

  • Doctors issue warning as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise
  • 2 more FirstEnergy executives out amid bribery probe
  • Columbus, Dayton sue to force fix of gun background checks
  • Cuyahoga postpones trials to Dec. 1
  • Cuyahoga to use federal coronavirus money for payroll
  • DeWine congratulates Biden
  • Ohio AG weighs in on absentee ballots in Pennsylvania
  • Inmate fight leaves one dead at Cuyahoga jail
  • Ohio’s gambling industry continues to thrive

Doctors issue warning as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise
Health officials across Ohio warned of a dark winter, with limited intensive care unit beds if the new surge in cases is not curbed in the next few weeks. Gov. Mike DeWine appointed doctors to lead three zones across the state during a briefing Monday, in an attempt to combat the continuous spread of the virus and maintain hospitals’ ability to respond to the pandemic in the coming weeks. There are currently an all-time high of 2,533 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Hospitalizations are averaging 169 a day this month, a 46% increase from October and 142% higher than September.

2 more FirstEnergy executives out amid bribery probe
Two more top executives have been forced out of FirstEnergy Corporation in the wake of a legislative bribery scandal. The Beacon Journal reports that the Akron-based utility has parted ways with its top lawyer Robert Reffner and chief ethics officer Ebony Yeboah-Amankwah. The separation comes 10 days after former CEO Chuck Jones and two senior executives were fired by the FirstEnergy board of directors. The company has become embroiled in a $60 million dark money corruption scheme with top GOP lawmakers to ensure passage of last year’s nuclear bailout bill. FirstEnergy also gave its acting chief executive a $150,000 raise, with CEO Steven Strah now making $950,000 per year. FirstEnergy has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but the company has acknowledged that former executives could be charged in the federal probe.

Columbus, Dayton sue to force fix of gun background checks
The cities of Columbus and Dayton have sued Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to force improvements in the state background check system for gun purchases. The lawsuit wants a judge to order the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to address counties' underreporting of people with criminal convictions. The lawsuit says the incomplete reporting could allow thousands to improperly buy guns. The lawsuit alleges many counties don't report the full number of criminal dispositions to the state, creating the loophole.

Cuyahoga postpones trials to Dec. 1
Days after Summit County announced trials would be postponed through the end of the year, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is delaying trails at least through Dec. 1. The decisions come as the state is seeing high spread of the coronavirus. Cuyahoga jury trials were suspended earlier in the year due to the pandemic and resumed in September, using space in the nearly vacant Global Center for Health Innovation.

Cuyahoga to use federal coronavirus money for payroll
Cuyahoga County plans to use about half of its federal coronavirus aid for payroll to help balance the budget without cuts. Cleveland.com reports Executive Armond Budish proposes using about $100 million to pay public safety employees, including corrections officers and medical services at the jail, along with COVID-19 leave for employees. The county is projecting a $56 million revenue loss this year due to the pandemic. It must spend its federal CARES Act funding by the end of the year.

DeWine congratulates Biden
Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden, one of the first Republicans in the state to do so. DeWine’s statement also said that President Donald Trump’s lawyers “have every right” to challenge election irregularities. Earlier on Monday, the Ohio Republican Party in a tweet encouraged President Donald Trump to push forward with his legal challenges in key battleground states where he has alleged election fraud without evidence. Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has not commented on Biden's victory in a statement or on Twitter as of Monday night.

Ohio AG weighs in on absentee ballots in Pennsylvania
Among the lawsuits challenging late-arriving mail ballots to be counted in Pennsylvania is one filed by some Republican state attorneys general. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has filed a friend of the court brief in a lawsuit arguing to overturn the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision allowing ballots to be counted if they arrived within three days of the election. Yost says state lawmakers, not courts, should set the rules on picking presidential electors.

Inmate fight leaves one dead at Cuyahoga jail
The Cuyahoga County Jail says an inmate was beaten to death on Monday by another inmate. Cleveland.com reports the inmate has been identified as Shane Trawick, 48, of Cleveland. It’s the third death at the jail this year. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections recently said oversight at the troubled jail was no longer needed after a string of deaths and poor conditions in 2019.

Ohio’s gambling industry continues to thrive
The state’s 11 casinos and racinos are continuing their booming comeback amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gambling revenue totaled nearly $170 million for October, up 6.7% from the same month a year ago. The facilities were closed for three months early during the pandemic and have been setting records every month since. Revenue at JACK’s Cleveland casino and Thistledown Racino were up more than 10%, while MGM Northfield Park was down 5% in October from a year ago.