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Morning Headlines: Ohio Student Health Insurer Abruptly Closes, Hopkins Awaits Water Fountain Tests

photo of Concourse D
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, January 3:

  • Student health care provider abruptly shuts down;
  • Cleveland Hopkins airport awaits water fountain tests;
  • Signature requirements change for statewide ballot issues;
  • State Highway Patrol: 11 traffic deaths over New Years;
  • Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs despite shutdown;
  • Report: Construction boom to continue amid worker shortage;
  • More than 73,000 apply for rare bourbon lottery;
  • Homicides down last year in Columbus;
  • UA mascot Zippy, students to receive scholarships;

Ohio student health care provider abuptly shuts down
A student health care insurance provider has abruptly shut down, leaving hundreds of students in at least four Ohio colleges without coverage. Cleveland.com reports Westlake-based Student Educational Benefit Trust had notified the University of Akron less than two weeks before current coverage expired. Nearly 200 domestic students and 800 international students at the university had been enrolled in the program. The university is now working with students to apply for other coverage plans. Other colleges affected include the Hiram College, University of Toledo and Ohio Dominican University.

Update:  Hiram College says it uses an insurance broker who has moved its students over to another company until July 2019, when the current contract expires. Hiram tells WKSU its students were not impacted.

Ohio Dominican University has also reached out to WKSU.   A spokesman says SEBT primarily provided coverage for the school's student-athletes, not the entire student body. The university did secure identical coverage from a different partner for its student athletes that took effect on January 1.


Cleveland Hopkins airport awaits water fountain tests
Officials investigating what sickened six passengers on a Frontier Airlines flight to Florida are awaiting test results from drinking fountains at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The city of Cleveland said in a release Wednesday that it will be a day or two before testing on the water will be completed. It's not known yet what caused the illnesses. But the city said Frontier Airlines reported that each of the sick passengers might have used a public drinking fountain before the flight Tuesday to Tampa. The closed water fountains are located on airport concourse “A”. The Cleveland Department of Public Heath will test fountains and send water samples to an Ohio EPA-certified lab for evaluation.

Signature requirements change for statewide ballot issues
Ohio's elections chief has announced new signature requirements for statewide ballot issues. The numbers of signatures now required are based on total voter turnout for the governor's race in the November midterm election. Statewide ballot issue committees must follow the new requirements through the 2022 gubernatorial general election. Under the changes, a constitutional amendment will require about 443,000 signatures, or 10 percent of total votes cast for governor. A referendum will require about 265,000 signatures, or six percent of total votes cast for governor. A proposal for a new law will first require 132,887 signatures, or three percent of votes cast, to be submitted to lawmakers for consideration.

State Highway Patrol: 11 traffic deaths over New Years
The State Highway Patrol said provisional statistics show 11 traffic deaths were reported in Ohio during the New Year holiday. The patrol said the statistics show that six of those fatalities resulted from not wearing an available seat belt and four were related to driving under the influence. Troopers made 448 arrests for driving under the influence and 231 drug arrests. They also issued 952 safety belt citations. Six fatalities were reported in the four-day reporting period the previous year.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs despite shutdown
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is still rolling despite the government shutdown. While the government owns the tracks the go through Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Rockside station, the Peninsula Station is privately owned and the Akron station belongs to Metro RTA. The railroad will offer the first rides of the year on Jan. 19.

Report: Construction boom to continue amid worker shortage
A recent survey shows the construction boom in Ohio is expected to continue, but perhaps with fewer workers. The Associated General Contractors of America reports 90 percent of construction firms anticipate hiring more workers this year, but most of the firms say that hiring will be a challenge. More than a third of firms said that a shortage of qualified workers is driving up project costs and completion times. Nearly half of the surveyed employers said they have increased base pay to attract workers the past year, and almost 40 percent said they’ve provided bonuses or incentives.

More than 73,000 enter rare Bourbon lottery
If you’re hoping to score a chance to buy a bottle of rare Bourbon in Ohio’s most recently lottery, your odds are worse than the last time the state held a drawing. Cleveland.com reports there were three times as many applications in the most recent entry period – more than 73,000 last month. The winners announced later this month have a chance to buy a bottle from either the Pappy Van Winkle or Buffalo Trace antique collections lines. 

Homicides down last year in Columbus
Ohio's capital city logged 103 homicides in 2018, a 28 percent decrease from a record-high 143 homicides the previous year. Columbus officials said 73 percent of the homicides were caused by shootings, and more than 70 percent of homicide victims were black. The Columbus Dispatch reports the city's Hilltop neighborhood continued to be the city's deadliest, with 17 homicides in 2018 compared to 16 in 2017.

UA mascot Zippy, students to receive scholarships
The University of Akron's mascot, Zippy, and the students that bring her to life are being recognized with scholarships. The university says the James R. and Phyllis C. Barry “Zippy” scholarship fund will go to students who perform as the kangaroo, Zippy. The number of scholarships as well as the amount to be given out have yet to be determined.