Morning Headlines: Statewide Mask Order Begins; White House to Send Federal Agents to Cleveland

Jul 23, 2020

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, July 23:

  • Masks must be worn statewide starting today
  • Dewine issues travel advisory for nine states and Puerto Rico
  • Coronavirus cases in Ohio up to third highest in single-day
  • White House to send federal agents to Cleveland
  • House Speaker Householder so far refuses to step down
  • Ohio governor supports nuclear bailout law despite scandal
  • Bipartisan support from Ohio lawmakers for repeal of House Bill 6
  • FirstEnergy stocks continue to plummet 
  • High school fall sports to go on in Ohio
  • Red panda missing from Columbus zoo habitat sought

Masks must be worn statewide starting today
Gov. Mike DeWine is ordering that masks be worn statewide to slow the spread of the coronavirus. DeWine says the mask mandate will go into effect at 6 p.m. Thursday for everyone age 10 and older. He said Wednesday that more counties are seeing an increasing number of cases. Residents will need to wear a mask when out in public or in a place where they are unable to follow social distancing rules. Up until now, Ohio had only required masks in counties that were considered hot spots. 

Dewine issues travel advisory for nine states and Puerto Rico
DeWine on Wednesday also issued a travel advisory for Puerto Rico and nine states: Florida, Texas, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi and South Carolina. Those state have a test positive rate that's above 15%. People traveling into Ohio from one of these states or returning Ohioans should self-quarantine for 14 days. This advisory is based on a seven day rolling average, and will be updated weekly.

Coronavirus cases in Ohio up to third highest in single-day
Ohio reported more than 1,500 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the third highest single-day total. The state also released the latest figures from Ohio’s nursing homes. At least 2,237 residents at long-term care facilities have died with the virus, accounting for more than two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio. The total is up 91 from a week ago. Overall in Ohio, 52% of the deaths have been to people age 80 and older.

White House to send federal agents to Cleveland
Cleveland is being discussed as one of the cities where federal law enforcement agents will be deployed in the coming weeks. President Trump during an event at The White House Wednesday announced the expansion of a program, “Operation LeGend,” to control violence in several cities. Cleveland.com reports that while Cleveland wasn't specifically mentioned during the event, The White House lists the city on its website, along with Detroit and Milwaukee where agents will be sent within the next three weeks. Cleveland.com says city officials contacted Wednesday said they were not aware of the anticipated surge.

House Speaker Householder so far refuses to step down
Despite a chorus of calls for him to resign, Republican House Speaker Larry Householder has not stepped down. In an 82-page affidavit, Householder is accused of conducting a $60 million corruption scheme to pass last year’s $1 billion nuclear bailout bill. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that when asked Tuesday whether he would resign, Householder said, “no.” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says House lawmakers can expel Householder with a two-thirds vote.

Ohio governor supports nuclear bailout law despite scandal
Gov. Mike DeWine says he wouldn't support a repeal of a nuclear bailout law as a scandal unfolds over the law's passage. DeWine says the state needs the non-carbon producing energy provided by the state's two power plants. The Republican DeWine says he's also concerned about the jobs that would be lost if the plants closed. DeWine said Wednesday it was obvious a lot of money was being spent supporting the bailout but no indications of anything illegal. The Republican speaker of the Ohio House and four associates were arrested Tuesday in a $60 million federal bribery case connected to the taxpayer-funded bailout. 

Bipartisan support from Ohio lawmakers for repeal of House Bill 6
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are preparing to repeal House Bill 6, the $1 billion nuclear bailout law at the center of Householder’s alleged corruption scheme. The bill adds a subsidy to consumer and business electric bills to provide $1.3 billion to the operators of the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants over seven years. Akron-based FirstEnergy was not named in the federal case against Householder, but prosecutors made it clear that the utility provided the money for the bribery scheme. Investigators say Householder and the four others arrested Tuesday called FirstEnergy their “bank.” Republican lobbyist Neil Clark is documented as saying the energy company would give them “unlimited money,” in exchange for passage of the bailout bill.

FirstEnergy stocks continue to plummet
Shares of Akron-based FirstEnergy continued their tumble Wednesday after company was implicated in a massive bribery scheme with Republican lawmakers. Stock prices have fallen 31% since the news broke on Tuesday. A private, Wisconsin-based law firm is opening an investigation into whether FirstEnergy issued false and misleading statements regarding its business practices, internal controls and prospects. The firm Ademi & O’Reilly specializes in stock frauds, antitrust and consumer fraud. FirstEnergy spent around $3 million on Larry Householder’s 2017 campaign. Federal prosecutors allege that Householder returned the favor by pushing through the nuclear bailout bill. FirstEnergy has issued a statement that it has received subpoenas in connection with the investigation surrounding Ohio House Bill 6.  The company says it’s “reviewing the details of the investigation” and intends “to fully cooperate.”

High school fall sports to go on in Ohio
High school sports will be played this fall, according to The Ohio High School Athletic Association. In a 22-page document released Wednesday, the association issued guidelines and recommendations for all 10 fall sports that stresses the importance of proper social distancing and the use of masks when not competing. The document urges schools to implement daily screening protocols and not sharing things like water bottles and towels, among other things.

Red panda missing from Columbus zoo habitat sought
Columbus zoo officials are looking for a missing red panda, but they say there is no danger to the public. Officials at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said the small nocturnal animal, which is about the size of a raccoon, was discovered missing from her Asia Quest habitat Wednesday. She had last been seen the previous evening. The panda recently gave birth to two cubs still nursing, and officials hope she will return on her own. Anyone who sees a small red mammal about 19 pounds with a long, fluffy striped tail — probably in a tree — should call the zoo immediately.