Vaccinations vs. variants: Although a fourth of the state has received at least one dose of vaccine, the number of coronavirus cases isn’t plunging downward. Rich Exner and Laura Hancock dove into the numbers and talked to experts, learning that even though the state continues to hold steady in the level of new cases and hospitalizations, when broken down by age group, they have decreased among older Ohioans. Even as more Ohioans get inoculated from the virus, the state could see a fourth wave because the pace of vaccinations may not stay ahead of the spread of variants.
Rare result: Of the 400,000 Ohio coronavirus cases reported since the beginning of vaccinations in mid-December, only 34 are known to have involved people who were vaccinated before being infected, Exner reports. Among these 34 cases, five resulted in hospitalization, and there have been zero deaths, the state health department said in responding to a request form cleveland.com. It’s not clear yet how soon these people became infected after being vaccinated, and how many of the cases involved people who had received all their required shots.
School data: After a delay Thursday because of outages with the state’s dashboard operator, Ohio reported a small change in coronavirus increase numbers in K-12 students and staff. Emily Bamforth reports school numbers went up slightly for students, but down slightly in staff for the week of March 15.
Over the weekend: Friday saw 2,742 new coronavirus cases, which is much higher than the 21-day average of 1,556 cases. There were also 144 newly reported deaths of Ohio residents with COVID-19, Laura Hancock writes. Saturday’s new case total was 1,690, and Sunday’s was 1,019.
Vax traffic: In addition to using plenty of electronic message boards guiding people to the Cleveland mass vaccination site, the Ohio Department of Transportation is flying drones over the Wolstein Center to monitor traffic patterns and pedestrian flow, said ODOT’s Troy Onesti. Around 6,000 people a day are getting shots at the site.
Side effects: Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and county Health Commissioner Terry Allan say that state lawmakers are weakening efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Robert Higgs reports. They criticized the Republican-controlled legislature for overriding Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of legislation last week that will rein in the power of DeWine and local health authorities to do things like require people to quarantine or issue emergency orders. “Taking away these tools are akin to taking a fire hose away from a firefighter,” Allan said.
Say what? Lt. Gov. Jon Husted sparked a social media backlash after he tweeted on Friday: “So it appears it was the Wuhan virus after all,” while sharing an article describing former U.S. Centers for Disease Control Robert Redfield’s opinion that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab and was inadvertently released. Twitter users, including Sen. Tina Maharath, responded by saying Husted’s tweet was racist. Husted wrote Saturday: “To be clear, the tweet above referred only to the Chinese GOVERNMENT.”
Baring it all: Meanwhile, a video of a West Chester Board of Trustees meeting went viral over the weekend after Trustee Lee Wong removed his shirt, showing scars he received on his torso from his time serving in the U.S. Army. “Is this patriot enough?” Wong said in the video. “The past year has been particularly difficult for Asian Americans due to things like the coronavirus being called the ‘China Virus’ as well as the election season,” writes Briana Rice for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Lost Ohio jobs: Ohio lost 8,400 jobs from January to February and is down 314,000 full- and part-time workers from a year ago, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the state announced Friday. Yet the unemployment rate shrunk some last month because fewer people were considered in the labor market. The February unemployment rate of 5% is the lowest since it stood at 4.9% in March 2020, Exner reports. School and business closings related to the pandemic began in mid-March a year ago.
Pension relief: After eight years of fighting to restore pension benefits for roughly 1.3 million workers and retirees who faced cuts of as much as 70 percent, Mike Walden of Cuyahoga Falls was finally able to take a victory lap after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, Sabrina Eaton writes. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown made sure the pension fix was in the bill. “You never gave up,” Brown told Walden and other retirees on Friday. “I know that from time to time, some of you thought we were going to have to settle for something less and that there’d be 20, 30, 40 percent cuts.”
CSU commencement: U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge will speak at Cleveland State University’s commencement on May 15 at Progressive Field, President Harlan Sands announced Friday. The former congresswoman is a CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law graduate, Emily Bamforth reports.
Out of this world: A piece of Dayton natives Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first airplane has made its way to another planet. As the Associed Press reports, a swatch of fabric from the Wright Flyer airplane donated from the Carillon Historical Park is aboard the Ingenuity, NASA’s experimental helicopter that on April 8 will attempt to make the first powered, controlled off-world flight in history.
Mandel goes Hollywood: Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican running for Senate, has brought on Hollywood-based ad maker Fred Davis to produce his spots, NBC News’ Henry Gomez reports. Davis has produced some, to say the least, colorful ads in the past and worked for GOP former Gov. John Kasich’s super PAC during the 2016 presidential campaign.
$5M for fighting: 314 Action, the political group that recruits STEM candidates to run for office, is laying down a full court press trying to woo former Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to run for office. As the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jackie Borchardt writes, the group pledged $5 million to Acton’s potential bid.
Old guard: Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is headlining a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River on Monday, according to Politico Playbook. Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump, is facing a primary challenge from Max Miller, for whom Trump headlined a fundraiser at his Florida resort last week.
Five things we learned from the Feb. 18, 2020 financial disclosure form of state Rep. Kent Smith, a Euclid Democrat.
1. Smith’s only sources of income were his legislative salary of $73,325.75 and a state income tax refund of up to $999.
2. Smith’s reported investments were both retirement funds, one through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and one through the School Employees Retirement System.
3. At some point in 2019, Smith owed more than $1,000 to Ally Bank.
4. Smith received $8,151.52 in travel reimbursement from the Ohio House of Representatives. He also reported receiving travel expenses from the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus worth $630.67, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators worth $400 and the Public Leadership Institute worth $954.16.
5. The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission gave Smith entry into the MLB All-Star Reception worth $58.
Mollie Timmons has been hired as press secretary for Sen. Rob Portman, per Politico.
Peter Shipley was named communications director for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus last week. He formerly served as the deputy communications director.
“I think if President Trump did it, that would be great. But I honestly feel that, at least what we have learned and what we see, that it does come back mostly to your trust in your own doctor.”
-Gov. Mike DeWine, during an appearance on WaPo Live when asked if former President Donald Trump should cut a public service announcement about getting the coronavirus vaccine to try and persuade Republicans to do the same. Polling shows Republicans are more hesitant about getting vaccinated.
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