Morning Headlines: State Expands Vaccine Eligibility; SCPH Vaccine Rollout Plans
Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, March 2:
- State expands vaccine eligibility
- SCPH vaccine rollout plans
- Ohio recognized for economic development efforts
- State leaders seek stimulus bill change
- UA Trustees approve faculty contract
- Judicial proposal hearing planned
- ODJFS Director Stepping Down
- New federal prosecutor named
- Input sought for Exchange St. project
State expands vaccine eligibility
Gov. Mike DeWine has expanded the list of Ohioans eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. DeWine says Ohio this week will receive nearly 450,000 doses of all vaccines including the recently approved Johnson & Johnson single shot version. Starting Thursday he says people age 60 and older can now get in line for shots. He also is adding pregnant women, people with Type 1 diabetes, law enforcement officers, firefighters, prison employees, funeral directors, and preschool teachers to the list. DeWine says the new vaccines will be sent to an expanded number of pharmacies as well as to local health departments, hospitals, and chain pharmacies. DeWine says more than 900,000 Ohioans fall under these new eligibility guidelines for receiving the vaccine.
SCPH vaccine rollout plans
Summit County Public Health will prioritize the homebound and difficult to reach people to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses it receives this week. Health Commissioner Donna Skoda says they expect to get a few hundred doses in the coming days. She says since this vaccine requires just one shot it’s easier to administer to populations that might be more difficult to reach with a second dose, such as homeless encampments. Skoda says this vaccine will also be easier to transport and administer because it does not require extremely cold temperatures to store.
Ohio recognized for economic development efforts
Ohio received top marks for the number of projects per capita in a national survey of corporate real-estate markets. Site Selection Magazine, in its annual survey, found that despite the pandemic, Ohio also earned the number two spot behind Texas for the overall number of economic development projects. Some of the projects cited by Site Selection include the massive battery plant in Lordstown being built by GM and LG Chem; the planned expansion of the Ford auto factory in Avon Lake , and the new downtown a headquarters and R&D facilty in Brecksville planned by Sherwin-Williams. Gov. Mike DeWine credits the state’s private economic development arm JobsOhio for part of the success, along with the rapid switch to producing personal protective equipment by the state’s manufacturers.
State leaders seek stimulus bill change
Gov. Mike DeWine is one of nearly two dozen mostly Republican governors who have signed a letter to Congress asking for changes in how the COVID stimulus bill allocates money for states. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted in Monday’s press briefing says the House version of the stimulus would cost Ohio around $800 million in federal relief because of the way states are ranked in the bill. He says relief, in the House bill, is distributed by unemployment numbers not by population. Husted says that he is asking Senators Portman and Brown to change the Senate version of the bill to allocate state relief funds by population rather than jobless numbers.
UA Trustees approve faculty contract
The University of Akron’s Board of Trustees has approved a new faculty contract after a contentious year of negotiations, layoffs, and protests. The school and the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors began negotiating a new contract last year, just as the coronavirus pandemic began. Soon after, close to 200 faculty members were laid off, union members protested, and an arbitrator sided with the school. The layoffs were completed through a "force majeure” clause in the old contract. University President Gary Miller says that phrase has been removed and replaced with a modification. “We were able to retain our ability to reduce force if we need to, but we now also include the non-tenure track faculty,” Miller said. “We have a process that we all agreed to.” Union leaders say the six-year deal provides stability for UA, which has struggled financially in recent years. The union had asked for benefits for the people laid off last year, but Miller says the university “did not want to move forward with that.”
Judicial proposal hearing planned
A first hearing is scheduled today on a bill that would require judges running for statewide seats to list their party affiliation. Senate Bill 80 is co-sponsored by state Senator Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland). He says the goal is to give voters more information about judicial candidates so they will make a choice on their ballots. Cirino says people sometimes skip casting a vote for these positions. “I know that that's largely because people don't know who these judges are and, so I think it's valid since we have partisan primaries in the first place to let people know a little bit about the candidates,” Cirino said. Cirino says he’s focusing on the State Supreme Court and Appeals Courts since it’s easier for judicial candidates at the local level to get to know their constituents.
ODJFS Director Stepping Down
The head of the state agency that oversees Ohio’s embattled unemployment system is stepping down. Gov. Mike DeWine says Department of Job and Family Service Director Kim Henderson plans to move to North Carolina with her new husband and will step down March 8. She will serve in an advisory role until the end of April. DeWine has appointed Administrative Services Director Matt Damschroder to take the job on an interim basis. The agency has been overwhelmed trying to process over two million COVID related unemployment claims, more than the total in the last six years and many thought to be fraudulent.
New federal prosecutor named
A new federal prosecutor has been named for the southern district of Ohio. Vipal Patel will replace David DeVillers, who stepped down last month at the request of the Biden administration along with other U.S. attorneys nationally. DeVillers had been leading the probe into the $60 million scandal alleging political corruption influenced the passage of House Bill 6, a controversial energy policy approved by the state legislature in 2019. Patel is a long-time assistant U.S. attorney from Dayton with experience in the office's criminal, civil and appellate divisions. The 53-year old Patel , immigrated from India to the United States with his parents in 1970. He became a naturalized citizen in 1981. He will oversee federal criminal prosecutions in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and most of Appalachian Ohio.
Input sought for Exchange St. project
The City of Akron is looking for public input on improvements planned for a key stretch of East Exchange Street that runs past the University of Akron. The plans include repaving the road, reconstructing sidewalks and crosswalks and adding bike lanes in both directions. City of Akron Engineering Bureau project manager Christine Jonkee encourages people to let them know how they can make Exchange St. easier to use and safer for all constituents from drivers to walkers, bicyclists and bus riders. Residents can submit their comments through the City of Akron Engineering Bureau website through March 29th. The project is expected to begin in two years.