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Morning Headlines: Cuyahoga leads the state in COVID transmission; All from Ohio missionary group freed in Haiti

A masked woman surrounded by renderings of coronavirus.
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The state reported around 10,500 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest daily total of the year. Cuyahoga County now has the highest coronavirus transmission rate in the state, with 1 267 cases per 100,000 residents.

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, December 17:

  • Cuyahoga leads the state in COVID transmission
  • All from Ohio missionary group freed in Haiti
  • Democratic state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman launches Ohio AG bid
  • Court rejects challenge of vaccination incentive lottery
  • Akron police seek thieves who stole pedestrian bridge
  • 2 Florida men guilty of running $35M COVID-19 fraud scheme
  • Browns’ COVID outbreak worsens

Cuyahoga leads the state in COVID transmission
(WKSU) -- The latest figures from the Ohio Department of Health show Cuyahoga County now has the highest coronavirus transmission rate in the state, with 1,267 cases per 100,000 residents. Portage, Summit, and Medina counties are seeing more than 900 cases per 100,000 people. The CDC defines a high transmission rate at 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Minus a backlog, the state reported around 10,500 cases on Thursday, the highest daily total of the year. Around 58% of Ohioans 5 and over are fully vaccinated.

All from Ohio missionary group freed in Haiti
(AP) — The remaining members of a Holmes County-based missionary group who were kidnapped two months ago in Haiti have been freed. Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement saying that the 12 remaining hostages "are FREE!” The missionaries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang on Oct. 16. There are five children in the group of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian, including an 8-month-old. No information was given as to whether a ransom was paid. The 400 Mawozo gang had initially demanded $1 million each for their release.

Democratic state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman launches Ohio AG bid
(AP) — A Democrat who helped lead the effort to expel former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder after his federal indictment in a bribery scheme is running for attorney general next year. State Rep. Jeffrey Crossman of Parma pledged in a video launching his campaign Thursday to “fight like hell” to clean up corruption in Columbus if elected. He would face Republican Attorney General Dave Yost. In a written statement, the Ohio Republican Party tied Crossman to President Joe Biden’s policies on vaccine mandates and immigration.

Court rejects challenge of vaccination incentive lottery
(AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit that challenged the state's first vaccination incentive lottery as unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought by Robert Gargasz, a Lorain County attorney representing individuals critical of Gov. Mike DeWine's early efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Gargasz argued that last spring's Vax-a-Million lottery was impermissible because it spent public funds without legislative approval. The lawsuit also called the incentive discriminatory because only vaccinated people could participate. The Supreme Court on Thursday said the group didn't have standing to sue in the high court.

Akron police seek thieves who stole pedestrian bridge
(AP) — Akron police are scratching their heads after someone stole a 58-foot long pedestrian bridge. The span once crossed a river in Middlebury Run Park near Goodyear’s world headquarters. It was removed years ago as part of a wetlands restoration project and had sat in a nearby field while the city planned to repurpose it. However, police discovered on Nov. 3 that someone had removed its treated deck boards and on Nov. 11 that the “entire structure was gone.” Police say the bridge has little value for recycling. But they say it could easily be taken apart and used for other projects such as landscaping.

2 Florida men guilty of running $35M COVID-19 fraud scheme
(AP) — Two South Florida men have pleaded guilty in Akron federal court to leading a nationwide scheme to fraudulently obtain over $35 million in COVID-19 relief loans. James Stote and Phillip Augustin each face up to 20 years in prison for leading a group that fraudulently obtained Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. A total of 25 people have been charged in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina with participating in his scheme.

Browns’ COVID outbreak worsens
(WKSU) -- The Cleveland Browns now have 21 players on the COVID-19 reserve list. That includes backup quarterback Case Keenum, who was slotted to start Saturday with Baker Mayfield sidelined after testing positive. Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens is now in line to start. While the NFL has no plans to reschedule the game, the league and the players' union have made changes to allow fully vaccinated asymptomatic players to "test-out" of quarantine and return to practice and games quicker. The Browns have until Friday at 4 p.m. to activate players in time for them to be eligible to play Saturday.