Morning Headlines: UA Trustees Vote on Contract Today; K-12 In-Person Learning Continues to Expand
Here are your morning headlines for Monday, March 1:
- UA Trustees vote on contract today
- K-12 in person learning continues to expand
- Coronavirus UK variant reported in Summit County
- Vaccine supply increases
- Portman opposes American Rescue Plan approved by House
- Postal vehicle contract questioned
- Medical marijuana expansion plans
UA Trustees vote on contract today
The University of Akron Board of trustees will hold a special meeting this morning when they’re expected to consider a new contract with the faculty union. Union members voted last week to approve the proposed agreement which will last for 6 years. Union leadership recommended passage saying the lengthy contract provides much needed stability for the University, which has struggled with enrollment declines and financial issues. Last year, administrators laid off about 100 union faculty to cut costs. A clause that allowed that move has been modified in the new deal, which links wage hikes in the near-term to enrollment.
K-12 in person learning continues to expand
Today is the day Gov. Mike DeWine wanted all Ohio school districts to be offering some type of in-person learning for K-12 students. Akron Public Schools plans to reopen next Monday for Kindergarten through 2nd graders and the following week for the rest of students. Other local districts that have been offering hybrid plans are ramping up to have students return 5 days a week. Cuyahoga Falls plans to make the move April 6, when students head back to class after spring break. In a letter to families, Superintendent Todd Nichols said the decision is based on teacher vaccinations which will be completed March 12th and with C.D.C. guidance.
Coronavirus UK variant reported in Summit County
While cases of coronavirus continue on a downward trend in Ohio, concern is increasing about the U-K variant spreading in all parts of the state, including northeast Ohio. The state reported just over 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday, down from 1,700 reported Saturday. But there are now 19 cases of the U-K variant reported in Ohio, five each in Summit and Cuyahoga Counties, three in Lorain County, two in Medina and one each in Portage, Mahoning, Ross and Hamilton Counties. The U.K. variant, called B.1.1.7, appears to spread more easily and quickly than typical variants. It was first detected in London last September. It was first found in Ohio in early January, but the state health department’s chief medical officer has said it will likely become the most dominant variant here by late this month.
Vaccine supply increases
Now that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 has been approved, the state is expecting its first doses to arrive this week. The vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA over the weekend and Gov. Mike DeWine indicated last week that as soon as that happened, 90,000 doses would be on the way to Ohio. The one-shot vaccine will add to another 310,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines the state is expecting this week. The state’s dashboard indicates 14% of Ohioans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Portman opposes American Rescue Plan approved by House
Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House passed President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan over the weekend. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH 13) says the package includes $11 billion for Ohio and nearly $555 million for local education funding. No Republicans supported the package that totals $1.6 trillion overall. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) criticizes Democrats' push to approve the deal. On the ABC News program This Week Portman said he’d rather see Biden start off with a more bipartisan measure “so that we don’t poison the well, so that we can continue to work together. And in this case it would be very easy to get Republican support for a COVID relief package.”
Postal vehicle contract questioned
Consumers have been less than pleased with the U.S. Postal Service lately because of slow deliveries and backlogged mail. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) criticizes the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Trump administration holdover. Brown hopes Congress can restrain DeJoy until he can be replaced, which must occur by a vote of the postal service board of governors. Last week the postal service awarded a contract for new vehicles to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh, passing over Ohio’s Workhorse, which is affiliated with Lordstown Motors. Brown wonders about the decision. “We've seen this new Postmaster general make all kinds of political decisions. I don't know yet if he chose Wisconsin because that was a friend or a contributor or somebody instead of the company that I know could do the job in Ohio.” In a recent letter, 77 House Democrats urged President Biden to fill three open seats on the Postal Service Board of Governors. If those appointments are confirmed by the Senate, Democrats would hold oversight power over the postal service and the postmaster general.
Medical marijuana expansion plans
Ohio's medical marijuana industry is lobbying to significantly increase the number of licensed dispensaries in the state, which currently stands at 57. There are 52 dispensaries open according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy plans to add more medical marijuana retail stores but that won’t happen until a change in licensing procedure is approved. A public hearing on the proposed new rules is set for March 12. The state has had a medical marijuana program for five years. It capped dispensaries initially at 60 expecting up to 51,000 new patients over two years. Nearly 150,000 patients have made a dispensary purchase since January 2019.