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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: Portage Co. Has Strong Cluster of COVID-19 Cases; Smaller Surge Expected in Ohio

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GOV. MIKE DEWINE TWITTER
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OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
March to April comparison of where strong clusters of COVID-19 cases have been identified.

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, April 9:

  • Portage County has strong cluster of COVID-19 cases;
  • Smaller surge of cases expected in Ohio;
  • National Weather Service confirms 3 tornadoes in NE Ohio;
  • COVID-19 cases exceed 5,000;
  • Pandemic could dismantle plan to stop Lake Erie algal blooms;
  • DeWine announces coronavirus death of prison guard;
  • Akron Children's asking visitors to wear masks at all facilities;
  • Cleveland shoplifter falsley claims he has COVID-19;
  • DeWine urges faith leaders to rethink services ahead of Easter;
  • Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to hold drive-thru distribution today;
  • University of Akron puts summer classes online;
  • Employers could soon get checks from workers' compensation bureau;
  • Apple donates 100,000 N95 masks to Ohio;

Portage County has strong cluster of COVID-19 cases
Health officials are monitoring strong clusters of COVID-19 cases that are spread throughout Portage County. The Ohio Department of Health released a map Wednesday that shows where known clusters are in the state. Portage County is one of three areas epidemiologists have identified as high-risk, mainly because of the many nursing homes. Cases in state nursing homes have been rising nationwide including Ohio, particularly in Stark and Medina counties. Portage County had 108 positive cases as of Wednesday and eight deaths.

Smaller surge of cases expected in Ohio
Ohio's latest projections show the state could have a much smaller surge of COVID-19 cases than previous estimates. A week ago, health officials said 10,000 cases could be confirmed a day between later this month to mid-May. Now that number is down to 1,600. Dr. Amy Acton of the Ohio Department of Health said the steep decrease is because of Ohioans taking social distancing seriously and following other precautions. Without any social-distancing measures, officials estimated there could have been 62,000 new cases each day. The state is still under a stay-at-home order until May 1.

National Weather Service confirms 3 tornadoes in NE Ohio
The National Weather Service has confirmed three tornadoes touched down in Northeast Ohio late Tuesday night. An EF-1 tornado, meaning winds ranged from 86 to 110 miles per hour, caused damage in northern Lorain and southern Medina counties. Others touched down in East Sparta in Stark County as well as one near Barberton in Summit County. FirstEnergy reports there are still thousands without power, which may not be restored to some customers until late tonight.

COVID-19 cases exceed 5,000
Ohio has confirmed more than 5,100 COVID-19 cases and nearly 200 deaths. Mahoning County has reported the most deaths at 28. Mahoning Matters reports 43% of those who died were living in long-term care facilities. All but five of Ohio’s 88 counties have repeated cases. Those include Harrison, Hocking, Noble, Putnam and Vinton.

Pandemic could dismantle plan to stop Lake Erie algal blooms
Gov. Mike DeWine’s $172 million H2Ohio plan to combat algal blooms in Lake Erie could fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic. Cleveland.com reports the state has a $2 billion budget gap because of closed businesses and unemployed workers. The H2Ohio plan gives farmers money if they follow a 10-step phosphorus reduction program to prevent runoff into the lake. Pete Bucher of the Ohio Environmental Council said although the economic impacts from the coronavirus are understandable, he hopes the state will keep Lake Erie a priority. Nearly 2,000 farmers have enrolled in the program.

DeWine announces coronavirus death of prison guard
Gov. Mike DeWine said a state prison guard has died from the coronavirus. DeWine said John Dawson, 55, worked at Marion Correctional Facility since 1996. The governor said 48 prison employees and 17 inmates at seven different prisons have tested positive for the disease. DeWine said the state is aggressively testing people in prisons. The process is already underway for a limited release of just over 200 Ohio prisoners to help provide room for social distancing. DeWine also urged any institution with a mask not to throw it away, since a new sterilizing process can allow repeated reuses.

Akron Children's asking visitors to wear masks at all facilities
Akron Children’s Hospital is asking all visitors and patients to wear masks at all facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The hospital said it doesn't have a large supply and is asking for donations. Akron Children's has also closed offices and shifted hours at others. Its Quick Care office in Boardman and the Celeste Myers Dental Clinic in Akron are closed except for emergencies. It has also temporarily closed its urgent-care locations in Boston Heights and Montrose/Medina.

Cleveland shoplifter falsely claims he has COVID-19
A suspected shoplifter at a Cleveland Walgreens is facing inducing panic charges after claiming he has the coronavirus. Cleveland.com reports Johnny Garcia Jr., 36, told police during his arrest he had tested positive for COVID-19 recently at the Cuyahoga County jail. The Walgreens near West 34th Street shut down for an entire day to disinfect. A woman in Dayton is facing charges for a similar incident at a Kroger store.

DeWine urges faith leaders to rethink services ahead of Easter
Gov. Mike DeWine is asking faith leaders to avoid congregating for Easter this Sunday to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The state's stay-at-home order bans gatherings of more than 10 people, but DeWine hasn't specifically applied that rule to churches. But he's urging them to use other means of communication, like a live stream. Despite most stay-at-home orders in the nation, many churches continue to hold Sunday services. Most notably in Ohio is the Solid Rock Church outside of Cincinnati which has received widespread criticism in recent weeks.

Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to hold drive-thru distribution
The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is adding a distribution drive-thru from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday. The Beacon Journal reports more than 60% of the nearly 1,200 households who got food during a distribution last month were new to food bank. The food bank, meanwhile has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to temporarily suspend obtaining information from those receiving food. The food bank said collecting that data was putting staff and volunteers at risk because they’re unable to keep safe distances from people.

University of Akron puts summer classes online
The University of Akron will hold all summer classes online due to coronavirus concerns. Summer courses have also been expanded to include more classes required for degrees to help students graduate on time. Tuition will be the same, but students will end up paying less in fees since campus facilities are closed. Kent State is shifting to online courses for the summer as well. 

Employers could soon get checks from workers' compensation bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine has asked the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to give $1.6 billion in dividends to employers to ease the financial impact caused by the coronavirus. The workers comp board will vote tomorrow. An estimated $1.4 billion would go to private employers, and the other $200 million would go to local governments. Checks would likely be sent out later this month. 

Apple donates 100,000 N95 masks to Ohio
Tech giant Apple is donating 100,000 N95 masks to Ohio's health care workers. Gov. Mike DeWine said there's still a shortage of protective equipment and urges hospitals not to throw away their masks. He's asking them to send the masks to Columbus-based lab Battelle to be sanitized since the masks can be used up to 20 more times. Apple plans to distribute one million masks across the nation.