Morning Headlines: Ohio Coronavirus Cases Top 1,000 Again; Summit, Medina United Way Groups Merge

Jul 2, 2020

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, July 2:

  • Ohio coronavirus cases jump again, topping 1,000
  • Nursing home deaths top 2,000
  • Dayton to require masks, Akron will consider ordinance
  • Four Cleveland court employees test positive for COVID-19
  • Ohio’s shutdown could cut gas tax revenue by 30%
  • Ohio State to require campus community to sign mask pledge
  • Columbus statue comes down in Ohio’s capital city
  • Cleveland approves funding to install safety measures in buildings
  • Ohio State passes criminal justice reform bill
  • Summit, Medina County United Way groups merge
  • Dominion Energy Ohio has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for a gas pipeline explosion in Pepper Pike last November.

Ohio coronavirus cases jump again, topping 1,000
The Ohio Health Department says confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 1,000 for the first time in two months. Nearly 800,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Ohio, meaning around 6.7% screened for the disease were positive. Despite the case increases, deaths, hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units across Ohio were all down Wednesday. Ohio recorded another 13 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to nearly 2,900. Ohio’s total COVID-19 cases stands at 52,865.

Nursing home deaths top 2,000
The number of nursing home deaths associated with the coronavirus are up 73 from last week. The Ohio Department of Health reports at least 2,022 long-term care residents have died with COVID-19, representing 70% of all deaths from the virus in the state. Overall in Ohio, 53% of the deaths have been to people age 80 and older, with another 24% in their 70s. Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday announced that beginning July 20, outdoor visits will be allowed when certain safety standards are met, including having all residents and staff tested.

Dayton to require masks, Akron will consider ordinance
The debate over masks is intensifying in Ohio. On Wednesday, Dayton became the first major city in the state to require masks in public. Dayton’s ordinance says anyone inside an enclosed space with other individuals present would be required to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth or an outdoor space where 6 feet of social distancing is not possible. Meanwhile, WEWS TV reports Akron city councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples has drafted an ordinance that would require masks at all public locations, unless a person is eating, works in a place that prohibits facial coverings, working alone in an assigned area or has health reasons. Samples plans to intro the ordinance on July 13.

Four Cleveland court employees test positive for COVID-19
Four Cleveland Municipal Court employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. Cleveland.com reports co-workers who came into close contact with the people who tested positive are being notified. Hearings in civil and criminal cases have been delayed since March, except for cases involving a jailed defendant. Initial appearances in criminal cases have been conducted by video. Masks are required for in-person hearings, and judges rotate the days they hear cases.

Ohio’s shutdown expected to result in 30% drop in gas tax revenue
Fewer drivers on the road during Ohio’s stay-at-home order this spring cost the state in gas tax revenue. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency found that Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Medina and Geauga counties saw a 71% drop in fuel consumption, losing nearly $40 million from the region. The report says The Ohio Department of Transportation expects a 30 percent loss in gas tax collection between February and June. That tax helps fund road and bridge projects.

Ohio State to require campus community to sign mask pledge
Ohio State University this fall will require students, faculty and staff to wear masks indoors and sign a pledge to assure that they “do their part.” Ohio State’s coronavirus transition task force is still finalizing the pledge. The campus community will also be required to complete health and safety training modules. OSU athletes who have returned to campus have already signed a form. President Emeritus Michael Drake told lawmakers in a Senate committee hearing Wednesday that the pledge would not be used for potential liability protection for the university.

Columbus statue comes down in Ohio’s capital city
In a city named for Christopher Columbus, a large statue of the explorer was removed from outside of city hall Wednesday. It's been described by the Columbus mayor as a symbol of divisiveness and oppression. Recent national outcry over racial injustice has amplified criticism that monuments to the explorer honor a legacy linked to the decimation of indigenous peoples. Columbus State Community College also recently removed its statue of the namesake. Another statue of Columbus remains, outside the Ohio Statehouse. The board that oversees those grounds is set to meet later this month to consider whether that statue should go, too.

Cleveland approves funding to install safety measures in buildings
Cleveland City Council has approved the use of some federal coronavirus pandemic funds to stop the spread of the disease in city buildings. Cleveland received $31 million in CARES grants, and will use $2 million of that to buy dividers, signage, hand-washing stations, temperature sensors and disinfecting equipment.  The city has been hard hit by COVID-19, with about 39% of the city’s cases among 20- to 40-year-olds. But more than 70% of those who died were 70 or older. Council’s next meeting is on July 15.

Ohio State passes criminal justice reform bill
The Ohio Senate has passed what supporters are calling a critical bill to address criminal justice reform. The legislation lowers the penalty for many drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. The bill, which was backed by every Democrat and most Republicans reduces penalties for low-level, non-violent drug possession offenses and allows judges to dismiss cases if a defendant completes rehabilitation. Democratic Senator Cecil Thomas says this bill fixes injustices in Ohio's drug laws. The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association opposes the bill saying the possibility of a felony conviction would incentivize treatment.   The measure now heads to the Ohio House.

Summit, Medina County United Way groups merge
The Summit and Medina County branches of United Way have merged. The new nonprofit will have headquarters in both downtown Akron and Medina. Medina County residents will have access to programs previously limited to Summit County, such as free financial coaching through the Akron Financial Empowerment Center, poverty simulation workshops, and more.

Dominion Energy Ohio has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for a gas pipeline explosion in Pepper Pike last November.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio found that Dominion workers failed to follow established procedures, and that poor construction practices and lack of oversight contributed to the pipeline failure. Under the agreement Dominion will improve its gas safety program with an outside consulting firm. No one was hurt in the explosion.