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Morning Headlines: Ohio’s COVID Case Rate Climbs; Registration Begins for Summit Fairgrounds Vaccination Site

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OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
There were nearly 2,000 COVID-19 cases reported in Ohio on Wednesday, and health officials say cases of the UK variant have doubled in the past week. The new South African variant has been seen in two cases in Ohio. And, two "homegrown" Ohio variants, discovered in January by Ohio State University scientists, continue to spread. All are more contagious than previous strains.

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, April 1:

  • Ohio’s COVID case rate climbs
  • Registration begins for Summit Fairgrounds vaccination site
  • FirstEnergy refunds $26M as nuclear bailout repeal is signed
  • Asian neighbors pen letter of fear to Lt. Gov. Husted
  • Ohio pauses workplace vaccine clinics not open to public
  • Driver’s license renewals to go online in 2022
  • Stark commissioners stand firm against purchasing Dominion voting machines
  • Indians not allowing headdresses, painted faces at games
  • Akron declares April 1 “DEVO Day”

Ohio’s COVID case rate climbs
Progress toward lifting all health restrictions in Ohio has stalled as COVID transmission rates remain stubbornly high. Earlier this month Gov. Mike DeWine set a goal of 50 cases per 100,000 residents as the benchmark for lifting statewide emergency health orders. Just two counties, Holmes and Van Wert, are below that rate. Cleveland.com projects that when the new case rate is announced Thursday afternoon, it will be close to 167 cases per 100,000, up from the prior two weeks. There were nearly 2,000 cases reported Wednesday, and health officials say cases of the UK variant have doubled in the past week. The new South African variant has been seen in two cases in Ohio. And, two "homegrown" Ohio variants, discovered in January by Ohio State University scientists, continue to spread. All are more contagious than previous strains.

Registration begins for Summit Fairgrounds vaccination site
Registration is underway for the mass vaccination site at the Summit County Fairgrounds, which opens Saturday. The drive through clinic will also be open Wednesday and Thursday next week with a variable schedule beyond that Appointments are made through the statewide web portal gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. As of Thursday morning, the site shows no available appointments. It will only show the fairgrounds as an option on the website when slots are available.

FirstEnergy refunds $26M as nuclear bailout repeal is signed
Akron-based First Energy says it will reimburse $26 million to its Ohio ratepayers. Around 2 million Ohio Edison, Illuminating Company or Toledo Edison customers could soon start seeing a new credit on their bills. A spokeswoman says the refunds will average around $13. The payments mark a rollback of the utility’s controversial ‘decoupling’ provision which guaranteed profits despite drops in demand. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost last month had reached a deal with FirstEnergy to permanently end the provision. The refunds follow last week’s partial repeal of House Bill 6, the tainted nuclear bailout bill at the center of a federal corruption probe, which included the decoupling fees.

Asian neighbors pen letter of fear to Lt. Gov. Husted
Dozens of Asian Americans who live in the same Columbus suburb as the state's lieutenant governor have penned a letter expressing their concerns with his “Wuhan virus” tweet and their fears for the safety of their children. Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says the tweet was to criticize the Chinese government for what he says is its role in the spread of the virus. But a report from the World Health Organization says it is extremely unlikely that the virus emerged accidentally from a Chinese laboratory. It says it was likely spread from animals to humans. The letter signed by 69 residents reads in part: “Lt. Governor Husted, your choice of words has only raised the anxiety and fear that Asians and Asian Americans in Upper Arlington are currently experiencing.”

Ohio pauses workplace vaccine clinics not open to public
Ohio is working on guidelines that will spell out when private clinics will able to start giving COVID-19 shots at workplaces, churches and schools. Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration told health care providers last week to stop scheduling clinics that aren’t open to the public. A handful of these vaccination clinics have popped up in recent weeks at offices, union halls and factories in the Toledo area for employees and their families. State officials told providers to take a temporary pause with the nonpublic clinics because it first wants to make sure that there are enough doses for everyone.

Driver’s license renewals to go online in 2022
Gov. Mike DeWine has signed the state's $8.3 billion transportation budget bill. It includes $318 million for highway safety projects, $74 million in public transit and $2.4 billion for local road improvements. One lesser-known change: By mid-2022, many Ohioans will be able to renew their driver’s licenses online instead of having to wait in line at the BMV. The option will be available to anyone age 21-65 whose current license or ID was issued in person at a deputy registrar office, who have a photo on file with the state and who meet other criteria.

Stark commissioners stand firm against purchasing Dominion voting machines
Stark County Commissioners say they will not be complying with the county board of elections’ demand to pay for new machines from Dominion Voting Systems. The Canton Repository reports commissioners on Wednesday said the elections board has not submitted any new information or new analysis of all the available and state-approved voting systems or a side-by-side comparison. Commissioners earlier this month rejected the purchase following complaints from residents about the integrity of Dominion’s machines, fueled by false claims by former President Donald Trump. The elections board has threatened to sue over the matter.

Indians not allowing headdresses, painted faces at games
Cleveland Indians fans won't be allowed inside Progressive Field wearing Native American headdresses or face paint. While moving forward with a plan to change their name, the Indians announced a new fan dress policy for the 2021 season. The team said fans will either be ejected or denied admission for behavior that includes wearing headdresses or “face paint styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions.” The Indians said earlier this year that they are changing their name, joining a nationwide movement to ban racist symbols and slogans. The name change will not take effect until the 2022 season at the earliest.

Akron declares April 1 “DEVO Day”
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan issued a proclamation declaring "DEVO Day" on April 1 as part of an effort to boost the Akron-based new wave band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Celebrities such as comedians Jack Black and Fred Armisen and skateboarder Tony Hawk will appear with Horrigan in a video as part of the campaign. And another Akron icon, the Goodyear blimp, will also be part of the celebration. In addition, Goodyear provided tires for 50 sculptures that look like the group’s familiar energy dome hats. They’ll be placed around the city Thursday. Each one of these sculptures will include signs featuring QR codes that will link to a website where fans can register their backing for DEVO’s induction.