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Morning Headlines: Just 17 Counties on Red Alert for COVID Spread; UA Launches Arts Initiative

A color-coded map of Ohio showing COVID cases and risk level by county.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Just 17 of Ohio’s 88 counties remain at Level 3 red for the spread of coronavirus. Portage County was downgraded this week to Level 2 orange, while Tuscarawas County has been moved to Level 1 yellow. Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Mahoning, Trumbull, and Ashtabula all remained on Level 3 red alert.

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, May 21:

  • Just 17 counties on red alert for COVID spread
  • UA launches arts initiative
  • Cuyahoga to focus resources on struggling neighborhoods
  • Voting law discussion gets contentious
  • Youngstown mob boss turned federal witness dies at age 90
  • Gates gets contract extension at Cleveland State thru 2027

Just 17 counties on red alert for COVID spread
Just 17 of Ohio’s 88 counties remain at Level 3 red for spread of the coronavirus. Portage County was downgraded this week to Level 2 orange, while Tuscarawas County has been moved to Level 1 yellow. Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula all remained on Level 3 red alert. This week, the statewide average number of cases was around 97 per 100,000 residents, down from just under 120 last week. Ashtabula County had the highest case rate in the state this week at 161.5 cases per 100,000 residents.

UA launches arts initiative
University of Akron President Gary Miller has introduced a plan drawing on the school’s arts programs to give downtown a boost post-pandemic. The AkronArts plan includes reimagining the Polsky Building with a 15,000-square-foot space opening directly onto Main Street featuring stages for music, theater, dance, literary, and other performances. It also includes relocating the Myers School of Art and building a mid-size performance hall. It also strengthens partnerships throughout the city, from Lock 3 concerts to the PorchRokr music festival in Highland Square. Community members are encouraged to give their feedback on the plan, which can be found on the university’s website.

Cuyahoga to focus resources on struggling neighborhoods
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish says there’s light at the end of the tunnel of the coronavirus pandemic. In a virtual address hosted by the City Club of Cleveland, Budish announced a new program to focus county resources on economically struggling places, so that help isn’t spread too thin. First on the list: Cleveland’s Central neighborhood. The two-term Democratic county executive did not attach a price tag to the program. But the county expects $240 million in new federal aid this year and next.

Voting law discussion gets contentious
Discussions got contentious during the first hearing on a Republican-backed bill that would make changes to election laws in Ohio. The proposal would allow ballot dropboxes only at boards of elections for 10 days before the election and would shorten the window to request early ballots. Democrats, such as Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, questioned the bill’s sponsor, Republican Bill Seitz, about the restrictions and timing of the bill. Seitz at times suggested their criticism was rooted in partisanship and made clear his disdain for early voting and for dropboxes, which he says have never been in state law. Republican chair Shane Wilkin cited an upcoming caucus meeting and cut off Democrats’ questions after an hour and 20 minutes, and Democrats walked out.

Youngstown mob boss turned federal witness dies at age 90
A former mob boss who helped Youngstown earn the name “Crimetown U.S.A” has died at age 90. Lenine “Lenny” Strollo's crime career ended in the 1990s when he agreed to testify at the federal trial of three men tasked with killing businessman and rival Ernie Biondillo. The men were found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. Strollo pleaded guilty to racketeering and tax charges in 2004 and was sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison. He was released in 2012. Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who Strollo's organization tried to kill, told The Vindicator, “His passing is an end of an era.”

Gates gets contract extension at Cleveland State thru 2027
Cleveland State has extended men's basketball coach Dennis Gates' contract through 2027. Gates led the Vikings to the NCAA Tournament last season, his second year. The Vikings won 19 games and shared the Horizon League title. Gates signed a five-year contract in 2019 and inherited a program in disarray. Before coming to Cleveland State, Gates was an assistant for nine seasons at Florida State. His salary, including incentives for the tournament run and the team having eight players on the Dean’s List, was around $350,000 this year. His new contract terms haven’t yet been released.