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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: Kent State Issues Warning About Gatherings; Ohio COVID-19 Cases Drop

a graph showing decrease in coronavirus positivity.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Ohio's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases has dipped below 3%, an all-time low for the state.

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, September 23:

  • Kent State warns students to avoid gatherings
  • COVID-19 cases, positivity rate drop
  • State unveils new COVID-19 demographics dashboard
  • UA reports 7% enrollment drop
  • Ohio to permit indoor nursing home visiting as winter nears
  • Knight Foundation awards $8M to Akron projects
  • Court, COVID, race are topics for first Trump-Biden debate
  • Akron creates new position to ensure minorities get more city contracts
  • Summit County offering $6.5M to help non-profits
  • Two popular Summit County haunted houses to remain closed

Kent State warns students to avoid gatherings
Kent State University has reported 25 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, the second-highest jump since the university began using its coronavirus dashboard. Portage County is currently under Red Level 3 on the state's alert map, attributed to off-campus parties and Greek housing. The dashboard only reflects students tested at the campus health center or tests that are self-reported. In an email to the campus community last night, President Todd Diacon asked students to avoid all gatherings and parties and warned that the university will take disciplinary action that could result in suspension or dismissal. Diacon said that the city of Kent is prepared to take stringent action, including a zero-tolerance policy for any off-campus gatherings to potential mandatory quarantines for various off-campus housing areas. More information can be found here.

COVID-19 cases, positivity rate drop
There were 685 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Ohio Tuesday, the lowest in the past two weeks and well below the three-week average of around 1,000. The state’s positivity rate has also dipped below 3%, an all-time low. Gov. Mike DeWine has made it a goal to keep the rate of positive tests below 5%, and he credits the current rate to people continuing to wear masks.

State unveils new COVID-19 demographics dashboard
Gov. DeWine has unveiled a new demographics dashboard on the state's COVID-19 website that provides case data by race or ethnicity. The data can be broken down by age and county and compared to the overall Ohio population. DeWine says the dashboard will help better track health inequities and disparities, and will also help put critical decisions into context for policymakers.

UA reports 7% enrollment drop
The University of Akron is reporting a roughly 7% drop in enrollment this fall, less severe than expected. In the spring, Akron projected fall enrollment could drop as much as 15-20% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decrease means a loss of nearly $11 million. The university has not yet released a revised forecast for its total expected loss this fiscal year. Last week, Kent State reported a fall enrollment drop of about 3%, much less than anticipated.

Ohio to permit indoor nursing home visiting as winter nears
Gov. Mike DeWine says the state will allow indoor visiting at nursing homes as cold weather approaches after stopping the practice at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. DeWine says he expects an announcement with more details within a week. The governor said Tuesday that allowing the visitation requires balancing the safety of residents with their need for more contact with families. The state allowed outdoor visits in July as concerns grew about patients doing poorly without such family contact. The coronavirus has hit long-term care facilities hard, with residents accounting for six of every 10 COVID-19 deaths in the state.

Knight Foundation awards $8M to Akron projects
The Knight Foundation is investing $8 million in grants to help fund projects expanding Akron’s public spaces. A project to redesign Lock 3 has been awarded $2 million to expanded seating and shaded areas, as well as upgrade the performance space. A new park project at Summit Lake’s north shore is getting $4 million. Nearly $2 million will go to support Downtown Akron Partnership and to restore the John S. Knight House in West Akron. 

Court, COVID, race are topics for first Trump-Biden debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will face off on the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic and race and violence in the nation’s cities next week when they meet for their first presidential debate. The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has announced the six topics for the first face-to-face event scheduled for Sept. 29 in Cleveland. The topics were selected by the debate’s moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, and will each be the subject of 15-minute “blocks” in the debate. The topics are: “The Trump and Biden Records,” “The Supreme Court,” ”Covid-19,” “The Economy,” “Race and Violence in our Cities,” and “The Integrity of the Election.”

Akron creates new position to ensure minorities get more city contracts
The city of Akron is looking to fill a new position that will oversee a program to award more city contracts to minority-owned businesses. The position of “contract compliance and supplier diversity officer” was among recommendations in an 18-month report that was released in June. Mayor Dan Horrigan said last year that minority-owned businesses received 5% of the city’s purchasing budget, which he deemed “unacceptable.”

Summit County offering $6.5M to help non-profits
Summit County is reaching out to help the county’s non-profits struggling during the pandemic. County Council has authorized $6.5 million in federal CARES Act funding to establish the Summit County COVID-19 Non-Profit Emergency Relief Grant Program with the Akron Community Foundation. The county is allocating $5 million to nonprofits that help provide for basic needs and $1.5 million to arts and cultural service providers. Grant applications will be accepted beginning Oct. 5-19. More information can be found here.

Two popular Summit County haunted houses to remain closed
Two popular Summit County haunted house attractions have announced they won't be opening this fall due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The announcements from Ghoul Brothers Haunted House in Coventry Township and the Carnival of Horrors at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls come just a week after Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio health officials asked that haunted houses and hayrides consider remaining closed. The Beacon Journal reports opening beginning this weekend are Forest of Screams in Medina and the Forest of Fear Scream Park in Alliance. The Factory of Terror in Canton and the Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory in Akron will open the first weekend in October.