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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Morning Headlines: Polls Are Closed; UA Sends Students Home; DeWine Changes Gathering Guidelines

Voting booth at a polling place
M.L. SCHULTZE
/
WKSU
Ohio's primary has been postponed.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, March 17:

  • Ohio health chief orders polls closed amid coronavirus;
  • UA sends students home;
  • DeWine limits mass gatherings to 50;
  • Kent State limits operations at all 8 campuses;
  • Cleveland City Council to consider postponing evictions;
  • Cuyahoga County suspends food stamp work requirements;
  • Akron Community Foundation establishes $100,000 fund amid pandemic;
  • Cleveland Clinic, UH open second drive-thru coronavirus testing;
  • Ohio State Wexner Center quietly offers testing;
  • Dentists urged to postpone routine cleanings, other procedures;
  • Akron Soap Box Derby's unforseeable future;

Ohio health chief orders polls closed amid coronavirus
After a long evening of uncertainty, Ohio's primary Tuesday is postponed. It follows an order from Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton declaring a health emergency. A Franklin County judge earlier Monday denied Gov. Mike DeWine’s request to move the primary election to June 2 amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying it would set a “terrible precedent.” Poll workers are being told not to report to precincts. Absentee voting is available until the new proposed date. Vote.org has more information.

UA sends students home
The University of Akron has suspended in-person classes for the rest of the semester. President Gary Miller sent out statement asking all students to leave the residence halls by 11 p.m. Wednesday. Two cases have been confirmed in Summit County, although not on campus. The university is offering students who have no place to go alternative housing and will give refunds. The announcement comes a few days after Kent State asked all of its students to leave by the end of the week. A maintenance worker has tested negative for COVID-19, according to KentWired. 

DeWine limits mass gatherings to 50
Gov. Mike DeWine said he is following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in banning gatherings of more than 50 people in one place at a time. DeWine has also ordered the closure of fitness centers, gyms, movie theaters, indoor water parks, and trampoline parks. Ohio now has 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The first COVID-19 case was reported in Ohio just one week ago. Community spread is the main avenue of infection, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, not contact with someone who’s traveled. The ages range from 14 years old to 80.

Kent State limits operations at all 8 campuses
Kent State University has begun limiting operations at all eight campuses until further notice over the spread of the coronavirus. A limited number of employees are asked to report to campus in areas deemed low physical presence. Those areas include health services, public safety and information technology. All students must leave residence halls by the end of the week. Students who move out by Friday are eligible for a refund, but anyone who does not check out properly will need to request an extension, and they will not be eligible. KentWired reports a maintenance employee has tested negative for COVID-19.

Cleveland City Council to consider postponing evictions
Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley is requesting to immediately suspend evictions for at least two months amid the coronavirus outbreak. Council is expected to take action at its meeting next week. The announcement comes after local and state housing advocates have called for city leaders to suspend evictions. They even started a petition, which has collected more than 3,300 signatures. The city has already suspended water and power shutoffs. The state is also extending unemployment benefits for workers affected by the pandemic.

Cuyahoga County suspends food stamp work requirements
Cuyahoga County has suspended work requirements for people receiving food stamps and federal cash assistance amid the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program until further notice. The county was able to make the decision under new state rules that allows requirements to be waived for good cause. It allows the Department of Job and Family Services to address other priorities like processing applications for benefits.

Akron Community Foundation establishes $100,000 fund amid pandemic
The Akron Community Foundation has created a $100,000 Community Response Fund for those in need during the COVID-19 outbreak. It will give grants to nonprofits that provide food, medical assistance and shelter. Agencies involved in education, arts and culture, and health and human services programs will receive funds as well. It has also donated $25,000 to the Summit County COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund created by United Way. The foundation is still finalizing grant requirements.

Cleveland Clinic, UH open second drive-thru coronavirus testing
The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals has opened a second drive-thru testing site for COVID-19. It's at the UH Landerbrook Health Center in Mayfield Heights. The hospitals decided to open the second site after they received a high demand for tests at their other location in the W.O. Walker Building parking garage. Cleveland Clinic started offering the service Saturday and completed 530 tests by Sunday. Both sites are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and patients must have a doctor's order.

Ohio State Wexner Center quietly offers testing
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been quietly offering drive-thru coronavirus testing for more than a week. The Columbus Dispatch reports the two locations have not been disclosed because they aren't open for the general public. The university said it's to prevent a surge of patients in emergency rooms. Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are also offering the service. The test takes less than 30 seconds and patients need a doctor's order to receive one. Fifty cases have been confirmed in the state as of Monday.

Dentists urged to postpone routine cleanings, other procedures
The Ohio State Dental Board is asking dentists to reschedule any elective procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It's also a way to preserve protective equipment for the health care industry, which is facing a shortage nationwide according to Amy Acton, the Ohio Department of Health director. The state recommends canceling all routine hygiene appointments, any cosmetic procedures like bleaching and procedures that aren't for relieving pain. All appointments for high-risk patients should be delayed unless it's an emergency. 

Akron Soap Box Derby's unforseeable future
Akron's annual International Soap Box Derby is up in the air this summer. Rally races this month have either been cancelled or postponed, including in Akron, Cleveland and Columbus. It's unknown if they'll be rescheduled. Thousands of racers compete for a total of 600 points to qualify for the All-American Soap Box Derby in in Akron in July. The Beacon Journal reports the Derby is finding new ways to make qualifying fair for racers across the country.