Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, March 24:
- Ohio COVID-19 deaths rise to 6;
- Stay-at-home order in effect;
- Kent State cancels May 4 commemoration;
- DeWine orders state government hiring freeze;
- Cleveland council approves relief for tenants, small businesses;
- Ohio lottery will continue operating;
- State to comply with federal request on unemployment numbers;
- Brown votes to block Senate pandemic relief package;
- Acton urges hospitals to report coronavirus cases quickly;
- COVID-19 pandemic takes toll on Ohio's economy;
- Leader of Amish beard-cutting attacks will get to go home;
- Ohio attorney general rejects recreational marijuana petition;
Ohio COVID-19 deaths rise to 6
Ohio health officials have confirmed six COVID-19-related deaths and 442 cases. Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said she believes the number is much higher due to limited testing and pending test kits in private labs. She's urging people to follow the new stay-at-home order. By Wednesday, 16 states will have implemented the order, which is more than 40% of the U.S. population.
Stay-at-home order in effect
Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order is now in effect until April 6. This means Ohioans can't leave their homes unless they’re an essential worker, or for things like groceries, doctor appointments or exercise. State officials are still working out details on how to enforce the order. At a press conference Monday, DeWine said police can issue citations because if residents don't follow the order, "it is a violation of the law."
Kent State cancels May 4 commemoration
The coronavirus pandemic has led to Kent State University cancelling all May 4 commemoration events for the 50th anniversary of the campus shooting. The school estimated around 15,000 people would be in Kent the weekend of May 1 through May 4. Events included a speech by activist Jane Fonda and a benefit concert featuring Joe Walsh and David Crosby. The school said it’s working on a virtual commemoration program.
DeWine orders a state government hiring freeze
Gov. Mike DeWine has issued a hiring freeze in state government and new contract services to help save money. On Monday, DeWine said the stay-at-home order will slow down commercial activity, which will affect state revenue. The only exceptions are for hiring people directly involved in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. DeWine has asked cabinet members to look for budget cuts of up to 20%.
Cleveland council approves relief for tenants, small businesses
Cleveland City Council has approved legislation to provide relief for tenants and small businesses that are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation will suspend evictions for 60 days. This only applies to evictions directly caused by a loss of income during the outbreak. It also will allow the city economic director to defer payment on interest for at least six months on loans given by the city. The legislation is awaiting Mayor Frank Jackson's signature and is likely to take effect this week.
Ohio lottery to continue operating
The Ohio Lottery Commission said it will continue to sell scratch-off tickets and allow entries during Ohio's stay-at-home order. The commission said it’s an essential business because it provides funding to public education. Those who win cash prizes of $600 or more are encouraged to make their claims through mail.
State to comply with federal request on unemployment numbers
Ohio will no longer release daily unemployment statistics during the pandemic. Unemployment benefit filings have skyrocketed to nearly 140,000 from March 15 through March 19. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Ohio will release its statistics every Thursday, the same day nationwide data is released. The U.S. Labor Department requested states to stop releasing daily unemployment updates to avoid shaking up the already vulnerable stock market.
Brown votes to block Senate pandemic relief package
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is among Democrats blocking the Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus aid package yesterday. On the Senate floor, Brown likened it to the 2008 bank bailout, saying it would aid corporations and not American workers. Ohio’s other Senator, Republican Rob Portman, backed the bill, saying it would provide funds to hospitals, states and workers. He added the package would give $1,200 checks per person, and $500 per child. Democrats plan to unveil their own bill this week.
Acton urges hospitals to report coronavirus quickly
Ohio's top health official is urging hospitals to report coronavirus test results to the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as quickly as possible. Department of Health Director Amy Acton confirmed 442 cases in Ohio Monday, but said it's likely there are clusters that aren't being reported. Acton said it's unknown how many people have been tested in the state and that tests from private labs are lagging behind. To save resources, she's urging public health workers to quarantine household members and treat them at home, even without a test.
COVID-19 pandemic takes toll on Ohio's economy
The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on Ohio's economy. More than 140,000 Ohioans have applied for unemployment benefits. California employee-scheduling company Homebase reported nearly 40% of 3,500 small to midsize businesses have closed since last week. Of the 27,000 employees the company tracks, 54% of them have lost their jobs. The statistics were compiled before Ohio's stay-at-home order took effect last night. More businesses have closed. To check what's open, click here.
Leader of Amish beard-cutting attacks will get to go home
The leader of a breakaway Amish group in Ohio who was sentenced to prison for beard- and hair-cutting attacks will serve the rest of his sentence at home because of the coronavirus. Sam Mullet Sr., 74, was moved to a halfway house on March 4 and was scheduled to be released in January. But his attorney argued in a filing last week that he should get to go home because his age and underlying health conditions increase his risk of getting sick. The Bureau of Prisons said in a ruling Monday that Mullet will be released as part of the Elderly Offender Home Confinement program.
Ohio attorney general rejects recreational marijuana petition
Ohio's attorney general has rejected another petition that would have asked voters to approve recreational marijuana. Dave Yost said the petition was shy of the required 1,000 valid signatures. The group Marijuana Rights and Regulations has been working toward the ballot issue to legalize marijuana use and possession for those 21 or older. It's separate from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is currently collecting more petition signatures after Yost rejected its ballot language.