Ohio Approved for Additional Unemployment; Schools Must Report Positive COVID Cases
Ohioans who qualify for unemployment benefits will receive a federal extension of $300 a week. During the bi-weekly briefing on the coronavirus today, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted reported that Ohio's application for $717 million federal funds to pay the benefit has been approved by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Husted says the state department of Jobs and Family Services will administer the payments that will be retroactive to August 1. Gov. Mike DeWine previously indicated those payments could begin to be issued next month.
Husted also spoke about efforts to help Ohioans struggling with unemployment or underemployment during the pandemic. He shared a website where he said Ohioans can find all available information about upgrading job skills.
The president of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Alex Johnson, also spoke during the briefing about the campuses return to classes this past Monday and its efforts to continue workforce training programs.
Johnson said 80% of students are learning remotely, but the college is working to increase locations where it can provide access to hands on training. Besides current locations on the east and westsides of Cleveland, Johnson said Tri-C is looking to add locations in Slavic Village and the Euclid area.
Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel said his campus is nine days in to the fall semester and things have been going well, but they've been urging students to continue to take precautions. "They're excited to be here, and we want to keep them here," Tressel said.
University of Findlay President Katherine Fell said classes there began August 17. Currently, five students are in isolation on campus following positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing has led to ten additional students being placed in quarantine.
Data from schools
Many K-12 schools across the state are returning to classes this week. Gov. DeWine said he's issuing an order that schools must report positive cases while not identifying those affected by name. "Prompt reporting will prevent further spread among students and staff and let the public know what's going on," DeWine said. "I think information in the hands of parents is always good."
The governor said it's up to local school districts to define the mechanism by which parents must report a positive case. But he said the school district must report that information to the local health department within 48 hours.
Local health departments will notify the Ohio Department of Health about reported cases on a weekly basis and the state health department will post that information on its website. "We just feel the more information that's available out there, the better," DeWine said. "The better the information that can come from the school, they're going to be able to manage that better and the school will have a much better chance of staying open."
Pause in testing
DeWine said the state is pausing a new type of testing it began last week in assisted living facilities that relies on collecting saliva samples instead of utilizing a nasal swab. He said some facilities reported inconsistent results. "We've paused collection temporarily in order to do controlled validation testing," he said. He expects results by early next week and says they will make a decision about continuing the tests at that point.
He says efforts to expand testing continue and the state will continue relying on its current protocols in regards to testing. "We're not where we need to be nor certainly where we want to be," DeWine said. "It is a work in progress."
DeWine also said the state health department is working to extend an agreement with Massachusetts-based nonprofit Partners in Health for an additional three months at no cost. The organization has shared its expertise with the state on conducting contact tracing and best practices to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The state reported 1,244 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 118,828. The death toll stands at 4,076.
Currently, six counties are on red alert for extensive spread of COVID-19, including Lorain and Erie in northeast Ohio. Trumbull County is among four that dropped this week from red to orange. DeWine said the number of Ohioans living in red alert counties currently is the smallest since the alert system launched. Counties that are seeing the fastest spread remain in rural areas of the state.