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Morning Headlines: Cleveland to Announce Plan to Combat Lead Poisoning, Flu Hospitalizations Rise

Lead pipe map
Cleveland Division of Water
Lead pipe map of Cleveland, Ohio.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, Jan. 22: 

  • Cleveland to announce plans to combat lead poisoning;
  • Flu hospitalizations triple in Cuyahoga County;
  • Akron still digging out from winter storm, schools closed;
  • Plane crashes into front year of Wayne County home, 2 dead;
  • Interns work on prison inspections at short-staffed watchdog;
  • East Cleveland renovates civic center in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.;
  • Renacci creates new non-profit Ohio's Future Foundation;

Cleveland to announce plans to combat lead
Cleveland officials will announce new plans Tuesday to combat the city’s lead poisoning problem. A 2017 study found that 13 percent of Cleveland children under 6 years old had lead in their blood either at or above what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems a normal level — that’s about four times the national average. Consistent exposure to lead can cause damage to developing brains and can contribute to behavioral problems

Flu hospitalizations triple in Cuyahoga County
The number of flu-related hospitalizations have tripled in the past week in Cuyahoga County. Cleveland.com reports the number went from 72 hospitalizations earlier this month to 272 last week. The Chicago-based global executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas reports flu-related illnesses can cost employers more than $17 billion in productivity loss this season. No flu-related deaths have been reported other than the initial two earlier this month.

Akron still digging out from winter storm, schools closed
The city of Akron is still working to dig out from the weekend winter storm. Akron Public Schools closed all schools and activities Tuesday. The district said many residential streets still had not been plowed. City officials were planning to move into those neighborhoods Monday afternoon after completing work on the highways, primary and secondary roads. Mayor Dan Horrigan said a team of drivers, mechanics and others have been working up to 16 hours a day. There are more than 500 other school closings and delays across Northeast Ohio today, mostly due to the bitter cold temperatures.

Plane crashes into front year of Wayne County home, 2 dead
Authorities said two pilots are dead after a plane crashed into the front yard of a Wayne County home shortly after taking off from a private airfield nearby. The State Highway Patrol said initial reports indicate the plane had engine trouble Monday morning after departing. It hit trees and took down power lines, and the front of the aircraft was destroyed. Troopers said 55-year-old pilot Brian Stoltzfus and 56-year-old co-pilot Curtis Wilkerson died at the scene. Both were from nearby Apple Creek. No one else was hurt. 

Interns work on prison inspections at short-staffed watchdog
The legislative watchdog evaluating Ohio's prisons is so short-staffed that unpaid interns are working on inspections, prompting concerns from critics about oversight of the prison system. The committee inspects 30 state correctional facilities and reports to lawmakers on issues affecting inmates, such as prison conditions, health care and use of force. The committee's administrative staff shrunk over the past five years, from a handful of inspectors with criminal-justice backgrounds to a single full-time employee in recent months. The inspections at issue used to be posted online within a month. The online reports haven't been updated since 2017, but the panel’s interim chairman tells the Plain Dealer that the inspection reports are up to date. A prisons spokesperson wouldn't comment, nor would the committee's full-time employee.

East Cleveland renovates civic center in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
East Cleveland dedicated MLK day yesterday to renovating the place that bears his name: the Dr. Martin Luther King Civic Center. The space encompasses four basketball courts, a boxing ring and exercise equipment. The volunteers removed the gym floors, which has been sagging and missing in some areas. Renovating the center has been a long-time project, but the city became strapped for money. The total cost of the repairs would cost over $500,000. The two non-profits Birthing Beautiful Communities and East Cleveland RISE have been leading the renovation efforts.

Renacci creates new non-profit Ohio's Future Foundation
Former Northeast Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Renacci has created a new non-profit called Ohio’s Future Foundation in hopes of shaping the state’s public policy. Cleveland.com reports the non-profit plans to advocate for vocational education, funding infrastructure and promoting an efficient energy policy. Renacci’s former campaign political director Jeff Anthony will be the group’s executive director, with Renacci as the group’s chairman. Renacci lost to to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.