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Morning Headlines: Omicron variant detected in Cleveland; Ohio has third-most COVID hospitalizations nationwide

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CLEVELAND CLINIC
The omicron variant has been identified locally through genomic sequencing at the Cleveland Clinic’s laboratory. Officials declined to provide any further information about the patient affected, such as whether they were vaccinated.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, December 14:

  • Omicron variant detected in Cleveland
  • Ohio has third-most COVID hospitalizations nationwide
  • Justin Bibb spent $1.6M in Cleveland mayoral bid
  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium accreditation loss appeal denied
  • Gas prices drop in Ohio

Omicron variant detected in Cleveland
(Ideastream Public Media) -- The omicron variant of the coronavirus has been officially detected in Cleveland. The variant was identified through genomic sequencing in Cleveland Clinic’s laboratory. Clinic researchers sample a small percentage of positive tests administered in the health system each week. Officials declined to provide any further information about the patient, such as whether they were vaccinated. There has been some concern over whether COVID-19 vaccines will work as well against the omicron variant due to its mutations, but health officials say they will likely hold up. Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday said he’s strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated but adds that there will be no new COVID-related regulations. Legislation passed by state lawmakers prevents DeWine from issuing any public health orders.

Ohio has third-most COVID hospitalizations nationwide
(New York Times) -- Ohio currently ranks in the top three in hospitalizations per 100,000 people nationwide, according to data from The New York Times. Michigan leads the country with 47 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, followed by Indiana and Ohio tied at 41. There are currently around 4,750 people hospitalized with COVID in Ohio, up 25% in the last two weeks. The Times’ data show Summa’s Akron and Western Reserve hospitals and Akron General all at 95% ICU capacity or more, with just a handful of beds open at each facility.

Justin Bibb spent $1.6M in Cleveland mayoral bid
(Ideastream Public Media) -- Justin Bibb raised and spent nearly $1.6 million in his successful campaign for the Cleveland mayor’s office. The latest campaign finance reports cover the weeks leading up to and following the Nov. 2 general election. Bibb began raising money in September 2020, bringing in about $207,000 ahead of the early January launch of his mayoral bid. Bibb’s greatest fundraising strength was his ability to bring in two- and three-figure contributions from a large number of donors. For example, in the final days of the race, Bibb received $7,500 from the campaign committee of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. Bibb, meanwhile, is among a group of newly-elected mayors headed to the White House today to meet with Biden administration officials about the president’s domestic agenda.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium accreditation loss appeal denied
(AP) — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has lost an appeal to reinstate its most important accreditation. The decision came from the board of directors of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which stripped the zoo of its main accreditation in October. The zoo has dealt with several scandals that included the misappropriation of funds and resources by former top management, and accusations that former zoo director Jack Hanna had inappropriate ties to the big cat trade. Losing accreditation impacts eligibility for certain funds, animal exchange, and conservation programs, and can determine whether a facility is subject to certain state laws.

Gas prices drop in Ohio
(WKSU) -- Gas prices are dropping in Ohio. AAA says the price of a gallon of regular is three cents lower this week in Northeast Ohio to $3.09 a gallon, and about 20 cents lower than the national average. There’s been a recent steep drop in oil prices due to fears over the omicron variant. But AAA says the variant’s impact on pricing appears to be fading, so it remains to be seen if oil prices stabilize or move higher. AAA’s price map shows Summit, Portage, and Stark counties have among the lowest gas prices in the state at $3 a gallon or less.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.
Jon Nungesser is a multiple media journalist at Ideastream Public Media.