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YEAR OF COVID

'The safety of Ohio’s children is paramount': Ohio health officials issue COVID-19 guidance for schools

BY Lydia Taylor

OHIO — The Ohio Department of Health released its guidance for the upcoming school year Monday, going along with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

ODH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the state's guidance has been carefully reviewed by many health officials, and reminded Ohioans that the recommendations are not mandates, but should be strongly taken into consideration.

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Cleveland Metropolitan School District will require masks for first few weeks of school

BY Lydia Taylor
UPDATED 8:03 AM ET Jul. 20, 2021

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) will require students, staff and visitors to wear masks for at least the first five weeks of school this fall, CEO Eric Gordon announced Monday.

The school district also plans to implement three-foot distancing where officials deem practical and touchless thermometer checks. Students will still be able to return full time for classes five days a week if they wish.

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Ohio Schools Address Learning Gaps After Year of Disruption for Young Students

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With all but one of Ohio’s K-12 public schools back to in-person learning as of Thursday, schools are now assessing the educational setbacks from a year of disruption.

After having to quickly switch gears when the pandemic began, going from classrooms to living rooms within a matter of days, students may have grown accustomed to learning in their own spaces.

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Hard Shifts, Complicated Patients: For Ohio Hospitals, Fight Still On

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While the state phases back to a more normal way of life — and possibly a summer without COVID-19 restrictions — health care professionals on the frontlines said a severe population of critically ill patients remains, and they warn the health crisis is anything but over.

Hospitals have more therapies at their disposal for COVID-19 patients a year into the pandemic. However, according to infectious disease experts, some patients infected with the virus don’t seem to respond to the treatments, and the health care workers remain busy in coronavirus wards.

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"Brighter Days Lie Ahead:" Looking Back on a Year of COVID-19 Nationwide

BY Jessica Yellin

It’s been one year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic — and at the time Dr. Fauci told lawmakers that "things will get worse."

This week he amended that statement. telling NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, "I did not in my mind think that 'much worse' was going to be 525,000 deaths."

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Year of COVID: Ohio's Ups and Downs

BY Jennifer Conn and Pete Grieve
UPDATED 10:45 AM ET Mar. 11, 2021

When the first COVID-19 warnings came out of China in December 2019, most Ohioans were still taking down Christmas decorations. But the Buckeye state was among the first in the nation to take the coronavirus threat seriously, announcing restrictions even before the first confirmed case.

The state quickly kicked into gear when COVID-19 made its way to the U.S., and state officials earned high praise for their swift response in March. As the summer approached, the pandemic worsened and hospitals began erecting ominous white tents outside emergency rooms to handle overflow.

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Pandemic Presidencies: How Donald Trump and Joe Biden Navigated a Year of COVID-19

BY Austin Landis
UPDATED 9:06 AM ET Mar. 10, 2021

The Biden administration has signaled a stark shift in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly when it comes to areas like transparency and boosting vaccine supply.

But while the difference in administrations is clear on the surface, a significant part of the operational and behind-the-scenes work from public health officials has remained in place from President Donald Trump’s time in office.

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DeWine Declares March 9 Day of Remembrance for COVID-19 Victims

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 12:51 PM ET Mar. 09, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has declared it a Day of Remembrance for the more than 17,000 Ohioans who have died from COVID-19.

All U.S. and Ohio flags are being flown at half-staff to honor the victims.

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A Year of COVID: A Spectrum News Special

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 9:30 AM ET Mar. 04, 2021

OHIO — Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement 12 months ago that the Arnold Sports Festival would not go on as planned sounded the alarm of the tsunami that would turn many lives upside down.

The novel coronavirus became real for Ohio that day, and its stranglehold on our economy, the political, educational and financial systems, as well as our homes has been unrelenting.

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CORONAVIRUS NEWS

White House to distribute 400 million N95 masks for free nationwide

BY David Mendez
UPDATED 8:16 PM ET Jan. 25, 2022

To help combat the widespread omicron variant, the Biden administration will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks available to Americans for free "at tens of thousands of convenient locations nationwide," according to a White House official.

The highly protective masks will be sourced from the country’s Strategic National Stockpile and are expected to become available at pharmacies and community health centers by late next week. The Biden administration will begin shipping masks at the end of this week.

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Ohio underreports COVID-19 cases due to processing error

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — COVID-19 cases in Ohio were underreported Tuesday as officials work to resolve a processing error, the Ohio Department of Health said.

Ohio reported 4,163 cases on Tuesday, well below the seven-day average of 16,043 cases.

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From pandemic to endemic: Doctors explain how COVID-19 moves to the next phase

BY Charles Duncan

The coronavirus, in all its various variants, arrived in the United States more than two years ago. The response from states and the federal government have evolved along with the virus.

It’s become clear that COVID-19 is not going anywhere, public health experts say. But the biggest question remains, when will the virus move from a pandemic to being endemic, similar to the annual flu?

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OSHA withdraws vaccine-or-test rule for large employers

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 12:57 PM ET Jan. 25, 2022

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that it is pulling the Biden administration's vaccine-or-test rule for large employers about two weeks after the Supreme Court blocked the rule from going into effect.

"The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is withdrawing the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard issued on Nov. 5, 2021, to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers with 100 or more employees from workplace exposure to coronavirus," the agency wrote in a release, noting the withdrawal is effective Wednesday.

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FDA halts use of antibody drugs that don’t work against omicron

BY Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — COVID-19 antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly should no longer be used because they don’t work against the omicron variant that now accounts for nearly all U.S. infections, U.S. health regulators said Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration said it was revoking emergency authorization for both drugs, which were purchased by the federal government and have been administered to millions of Americans with COVID-19. If the drugs prove effective against future variants, the FDA said it could reauthorize their use.

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Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose tests positive for COVID-19

BY Lydia Taylor

OHIO — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose tested positive for COVID-19 Monday after experiencing minor symptoms, according to his office.

“Fortunately, I feel fine,” said LaRose. “I even went on a 6.5 mile run on Sunday evening, but after continuing to experience some very mild symptoms, I figured it was best to take a test and be sure.”

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Ohio health care employees working with mild COVID cases

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Health care workers in some Ohio hospitals are working through mild COVID-19 cases due to the medical staffing crisis and high virus-patient volumes.

Hospital officials have adopted “crisis” strategies in accordance with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for health care facilities coping with severe staffing shortages.

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CDC studies demonstrate effectiveness of COVID booster shots, including vs. omicron

BY Ryan Chatelain
UPDATED 1:52 PM ET Jan. 24, 2022

A trio of new studies by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention give further weight to COVID-19 booster shots offering substantially better protection against both infection and severe illness, even against the omicron variant, than the primary vaccination series alone.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky discussed the three studies during a White House COVID-19 Response Team news briefing Friday.

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OSU: COVID vaccine hesitancy dropped among Black Americans

BY Justin Boggs

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University researchers showed that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy dropped more significantly among Black individuals than white people.

In a study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Black Americans were initially more hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But the researchers noted that within months, white individuals were more likely to be hesitant of the vaccine.

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Insurance companies begin reimbursing for COVID-19 home tests

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Insurance companies are now on the hook to pay for at-home COVID-19 tests, but accessing the tests remains a challenge.

Columbus resident Emily Gehring, 43, said she is in the process of seeking reimbursement for two tests that she’ll use to board a cruise next month.

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Study: No link between COVID-19 vaccines, fertility

BY Ryan Chatelain

COVID-19 vaccinations appear to have no impact on a couple’s ability to conceive a child, a new study says.

The study, published Thursday in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found no major difference in conception rates between unvaccinated couples and vaccinated couples in which at least one partner had received at least one vaccine dose.

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'Frustrating' to see schools close despite federal funds, WH COVID relief czar says

BY Austin Landis

It is “frustrating” to see schools close in 2022 due to coronavirus outbreaks, the White House coordinator for the COVID relief fund told Spectrum News on Thursday, despite billions of dollars allocated to schools for in-person learning

American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling said school districts have the flexibility to spend funds how they see fit, but the core purpose of the relief legislation was to fund emergency needs that will keep schools and states operating through the pandemic.

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Ohio health officials describe 'renewed hope' as COVID numbers decline

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio health officials said declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations give “renewed hope,” while reminding residents that hospitals are still very busy with virus patients.

“Thankfully, we are seeing many signs of improvement in some of Ohio's first and hardest hit areas during this historic and record-shattering surge in COVID-19 cases – the surge which of course has been fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant,” Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said during a news conference Thursday.

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FEMA sends medical response team to Summa Health as COVID hospitalizations remain 'extraordinarily high'

BY Pete Grieve
UPDATED 3:53 PM ET Jan. 20, 2022

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Federal Emergency Management Agency will send a medical response team to Summa Health in Akron, officials announced Thursday.

Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said this will be the second federal team in Ohio. Twenty U.S. Air Force medical professionals are currently undergoing training at the Cleveland Clinic to work clinical roles as the health system continues to face high patient volumes.

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Reinforcements arrive in Ohio hospitals inundated by COVID

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A hospital in Steubenville is opening a 20-bed “crisis unit" that will be staffed by travel nurses — one example of the state's new contract for temporary health care staff helping Ohio weather this period of the pandemic.

Next week, 25 nurses start working at Trinity Medical Center West in a ward of the hospital that has been closed since the pandemic began, hospital officials said.

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Updates: More than 20,000 Ohio school students infected with COVID-19 in 1 week

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 3:38 PM ET Jan. 20, 2022

Every Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health releases updated COVID-19 cases involving students and staff. The Department of Health says weekly case counts include full-time or part-time students and staff members who have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19. Staff members include teachers, administrators, support staff and coaches, the state says.

On Jan. 20, schools reported a record 20,587 new COVID-19 cases among students and 4,030 among staff. Last week, schools reported to the state a record 16,704 new COVID-19 cases among school students and 4,712 new COVID-19 cases among staff.

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Vaccination rates for children ages 5-11 stall as pediatric hospitalizations spike

BY Michelle Alfini

DAYTON, Ohio — Since the holidays, coronavirus cases have been surging across Ohio and the United States, impacting more children than ever before. Pediatric hospital admissions are rising as well, with the Ohio Department of Health reporting more hospitalizations of those younger than 18 years old than at any point during the pandemic.

For many though, those factors haven’t been enough to move the needle when it comes to getting the youngest members of the family vaccinated. Across the country, vaccination rates for kids ages 5-11 have plateaued.

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University Hospitals to celebrate departing National Guard members

BY Justin Boggs

CLEVELAND — As the National Guard prepares to shift its resources, Cleveland’s University Hospitals prepares to send off some Guard members on Thursday.

The hospital system said that some of the Guard members who have been posted at its hospitals will be celebrated with “clap-outs.” The clap-outs will occur at the UH Parma Medical Center.

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Cleveland Institute of Art to require booster shots

BY Ryan Schmelz

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Institute of Art is among one of the first schools in northeast Ohio to require booster shots for students and staff.

According to CIA, those who aren’t yet eligible for the booster by the spring semester deadline are going to be required to get one within seven days after becoming eligible.

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Organization works to raise COVID vaccination rates in Black community

BY Rodneya Ross

CLEVELAND — Health officials continue to urge people to get the COVID-19 vaccination and booster to help protect themselves from serious illness, but some health officials said vaccination rates in the Black community are lower than in others.

Kimberly Fields is a volunteer for Guardians Cleveland, a nonprofit organization that helps educate members of the Black community about the coronavirus vaccine. For Fields herself, it took a message from her pastor to convince her to get her shot.

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COVID hits Ohio colleges renewing calls for remote learning

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio schools are reporting unprecedented COVID-19 case volumes as winter terms get underway, prompting some students and faculty to call for remote learning.

Ohio State and Ohio University have both reported more than 1,600 cases among students, according to updates this week. The universities are requiring surveillance testing for many of their students.

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Study: 'Nocebo effect' may be behind most mild COVID vaccine reactions

BY Ryan Chatelain

About two-thirds of mild side effects blamed on COVID-19 vaccines are likely not related to the shots at all, but rather from what is known as the “nocebo effect,” a new study finds.

The study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, analyzed data from 12 placebo-controlled clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines, which included reports of side effects from 22,802 vaccine recipients and 22,578 placebo recipients.

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CDC study: Vaccination offers more protection against COVID infection, hospitalization than prior infection

BY Spectrum News Staff

A new study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that while vaccination and immunity from prior infection offered protection against new COVID-19 infections and hospitalization, vaccination provides the best defense in the longer term.

The study looked at case data from more than 1 million cases in New York and California between May and November of 2021, prior to the discovery of the omicron variant.

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WHO chief scientist: 'No evidence' healthy kids, teens need COVID boosters

BY Justin Tasolides

The World Health Organization's chief scientist said Tuesday that there is "no evidence" that healthy children and adolescents need booster shots to bolster their COVID-19 vaccination.

"There is no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters," WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said at a briefing on Tuesday. "No evidence at all."

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Free COVID-19 tests available to order as U.S. website launches Wednesday

BY Austin Landis , Spectrum News Staff and Julia Benbrook
UPDATED 10:49 AM ET Jan. 19, 2022

A new government website to order free, at-home COVID-19 tests is set to officially launch on Wednesday, allowing Americans to order four free COVID-19 tests on COVIDtests.gov.

The website went live on Tuesday one day early in a soft rollout to “address troubleshooting,” a White House official told Spectrum News.

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VA works to increase veteran vaccination rate

BY Jenna Jordan

CLEVELAND — The VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System is helping prepare veterans for the fight against COVID-19.

Even with virus' variants causing concerns, doctors at the VA said the original COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective protection from becoming hospitalized.

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Students across U.S. lead waves of COVID policy walkouts

BY David Mendez and Rachel Tillman

Last week, hundreds of students at Brooklyn Technical High School in New York walked out of school and off campus in a show of protest against COVID policies.

Just before noon on Jan. 11, students from one of the most prestigious schools in the city left to protest city policies that have stopped the closure of classrooms, forcing students to remain in class unless they are ill, and issuing rapid tests should students be immediately exposed to a COVID-positive classmate.

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Study: Genetic link offers clues to COVID-induced loss of taste, smell

BY Rachel Tillman

Scientists believe they may have found a reason for one of COVID-19’s most notable symptoms hidden within human genes.

A new study, published in the medical journal Nature Genetics on Monday, found a connection between a specific locus – i.e. a fixed position on a chromosome – and individuals who lost their sense of taste and/or smell after contracting COVID-19.

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Study: 4th COVID vaccine shot shows limited results with omicron

BY Spectrum News Staff and Associated Press

An Israeli hospital on Monday said preliminary research indicates a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine provides only limited defense against the omicron variant that is raging around the world.

Sheba Hospital last month began administering a fourth vaccine to more than 270 medical workers — 154 who were inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 120 others who received the Moderna vaccine. All had previously been vaccinated three times with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

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Ohio hospitals receive allocations of COVID-19 oral pills

BY Pete Grieve
UPDATED 5:35 PM ET Jan. 14, 2022

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dozens of hospitals in Ohio have received allocations of newly authorized oral antiviral pills to treat COVID-19, but the availability of the drugs are limited.

Adena Health System, based in Chillicothe, began dispensing Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid to patients last Thursday, the same day it received its first courses of the treatment. The health system also received Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’s drug Molnupiravir at the beginning of this week.

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Lack of reporting positive at-home COVID tests could cause skewed case numbers

BY Rodneya Ross

CLEVELAND-- As COVID-19 continues to rip through the nation, more people are taking at-home tests, and not everyone is reporting the results to their local health department.

In Cuyahoga County, residents are not required to report a positive test result to the health department. That could mean the number of actual COVID-19 cases in the county is higher than the county's figures show. Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan said the county has taken into consideration that actual cases may be higher than the number of reported cases and that's one reason why they track hospitalization numbers.

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Ohio is reporting inflated COVID case numbers due to backlog

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — COVID-19 case reports from the Ohio Department of Health will be inflated for several days beginning Friday due to a backlog caused by overwhelming numbers.

A system used to record cases reached its limits amid the ongoing virus surge, the Ohio Department of Health said in a statement.

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Double-fault: Visa revoked again, Djokovic faces deportation

BY Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No. 1-ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds — just three days before play begins at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.

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National Guard scales presence in central Ohio hospitals

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In central Ohio, members of the Ohio National Guard have been deployed to additional hospitals as the virus surge worsens in the region.

Members of the National Guard have been assigned to five additional OhioHealth hospitals — Riverside Methodist, Doctors Hospital, Dublin Methodist, Marion General and Berger Hospital in Circleville. Some of the teams began working in the hospitals on Tuesday, OhioHealth officials said.

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Your stay-at-home guide: Breaking down the latest on COVID-19 quarantine and isolation

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — COVID-19 is spreading fast as the year gets underway. And with omicron sending cases to record highs, more and more people are navigating what to do after a positive test.

The CDC recently updated its guidance on quarantine and isolation. The new timelines can get complicated, but taking the right steps is important to help stop the spread.

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Biden to buy 500M more at-home COVID tests, make N95 masks free

BY Austin Landis , Spectrum News Staff and Associated Press
UPDATED 2:45 PM ET Jan. 13, 2022

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his administration will acquire another 500 million at-home tests to send to Americans for free, and he previewed another announcement next week about making N95 masks available at no cost.

He also highlighted a new "surge" military medical personnel to help overwhelmed medical facilities weather the spike in coronavirus cases and staff shortages due to the highly transmissible omicron variant.

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Cincinnati mayor announces state of emergency, requires city employees to wear masks

BY Lydia Taylor and Casey Weldon
UPDATED 1:45 PM ET Jan. 13, 2022

CINCINNATI — Mayor Aftab Pureval announced a state of emergency Wednesday as COVID-19 cases and virus-related hospitalizations continue to go up in communities across the greater Cincinnati region.

The declaration requires all persons, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask while inside City Hall or any other city facility. The rule affects city employees, but also contractors and any visitors or guests.

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Here’s how you can help hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Health officials said Ohio residents can help hospitals that are strained from the COVID-19 surge by getting vaccinated and avoiding visits to the emergency room simply to get tested.

Dr. Daniel Bachmann, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s director of emergency preparedness, said that those two steps will help the state get through the virus wave.

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House lawmakers introduce bill to send free weekly COVID tests to Americans

BY Rachel Tillman

A group of House Democrats on Wednesday proposed a bill that would require the government to send two at-home COVID-19 test kits to every American per week, free-of-charge.

The bill, called the Free At-Home Tests For All Act, was co-sponsored by Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Dina Titus, D-Nev., Joe Morelle, D-N.Y., and Kaialiʻi Kahele, D-Hawaii, and aims to “make rapid at-home Covid tests more widely available to the American people,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement.

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Study: Hemp compounds may help prevent, treat COVID-19

BY Rachel Tillman

Chemical compounds found in the hemp plant may provide protections against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a study published in the Journal of Natural Products on Monday.

The laboratory study, conducted at Oregon State University, searched for potential botanical ligands – or a molecule that binds to other atoms – that could help block COVID-19 cells from infecting the human body.

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Cleveland Clinic extends postponement of nonessential surgeries

BY Justin Boggs

CLEVELAND — Despite decreasing COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region, the Cleveland Clinic said it needs to postpone all nonessential surgeries requiring a hospital bed through Jan. 30.

The postponement also extends to all nonessential outpatient/ambulatory surgeries. The postponement does not include its ambulatory surgery centers or ambulatory endoscopy centers.

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Ohio reports delay on 800K order for at-home rapid COVID tests

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's order for 800,000 at-home rapid tests has been delayed by the manufacturer due to overwhelming demand nationwide, officials with the Ohio Department of Health said Wednesday.

The health department has received 400,000 proctored at-home rapid tests so far in January out of the 1.2 million tests it ordered for the month. Officials still anticipate receiving the full order by the end of the month.

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Columbus City Schools to continue with in-person learning after union calls for pause

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Schools officials said Wednesday that the district will continue with in-person learning after 2,800 teachers signed a letter calling for two weeks of remote learning due to COVID-19.

District leadership said that Columbus Public Health recommends students be in person as much as possible, even amid the surge of cases.

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Study: 91% fewer deaths from omicron than delta

BY Ryan Chatelain

A new study has found that the omicron COVID-19 variant causes less severe disease than the delta strain, including a 91% reduction in deaths.

The researchers analyzed the medical records of 69,279 patients at Kaiser Permanente of Southern California who tested positive for COVID-19 from Nov. 30 to Jan. 1. Three-quarters were infected with the highly transmissible omicron variant, and the rest by delta.

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Biden sending more COVID tests to schools to keep them open

BY Spectrum News Staff and Associated Press
UPDATED 2:49 PM ET Jan. 12, 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is increasing federal support for COVID-19 testing for schools in a bid to keep them open amid the omicron surge.

The White House announced Wednesday that the administration is making a dedicated stream of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests available to schools starting this month to ease supply shortages and promote the safe reopening of schools. That's on top of more than $10 billion devoted to school-based tests authorized in the COVID-19 relief law and about $130 billion earmarked in that law to keep kids in school.

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Akron Children's Hospital places unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave

BY Justin Boggs

AKRON, Ohio — Akron Children’s Hospital said in a statement that employees that did not provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination have been placed on unpaid leave.

The hospital, which would not say exactly how many employees were placed on leave, gave employees until Jan. 11 to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

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Omicron may be headed for a rapid drop in U.S., Britain

BY Associated Press

Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19's alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.

The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

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CWRU sets up COVID test kit vending machines for students

BY Shannon MacNeil

CLEVELAND — Case Western Reserve University students can now obtain a COVID-19 test kit via vending machines, located on campus.

"The idea is that students, faculty and staff can access COVID-19 tests at anytime of the day," said Megan Koeth, executive director of the university's Department of Resiliency, which handles emergency management and emergency communications as part of Case Western's Division of Public Safety.

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New testing sites open in Ohio as residents struggle to find appointments

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — More COVID-19 tests are being performed than ever before in Ohio, but residents are still struggling to find appointments.

Kenneth Fox, 63, drove through a new Ohio State Wexner testing site in Columbus on Tuesday, located in a parking garage at the Chemical Abstracts Service, a division of the American Chemical Society.

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Cleveland, Cincinnati mayors come together to tackle pandemic

BY Katie Kapusta

CLEVELAND — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state with the omicron variant, the new mayors of Cleveland and Cincinnati are coming together to fight the pandemic, joining forces in a news conference Tuesday.

Aftab Pureval and Justin Bibb have only been in office for about a week, but the two are taking action against the rising COVID-19 cases in their communities.

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Fauci, Walensky defend Biden COVID response at Senate hearing

BY Julia Benbrook and Ryan Chatelain
UPDATED 5:43 PM ET Jan. 11, 2022

Federal health officials on Tuesday faced tough questions from senators from both parties over the Biden administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the omicron variant that is swamping the nation and filling hospitals yet again.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, were among the health officials who testified before the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

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Ohio National Guard to assist 13 COVID-19 testing sites

BY Justin Boggs

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine’s office announced Tuesday the additional deployment of Ohio National Guard members as the Guard prepares to assist a 13th COVID-19 testing site in the state.

In the last week, additional COVID-19 testing sites have opened, and an additional one, which will be located in the Dayton area, will open.

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University Hospitals nets $15.3M FEMA reimbursement for COVID-19 costs

BY Justin Boggs

CLEVELAND —The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Cleveland’s University Hospitals $15.3 million in costs relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an announcement made Tuesday.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency said University Hospitals will be reimbursed for costs to provide overtime labor, facility disinfection, personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and therapeutics, medical equipment, supplies and security.

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U.S. COVID hospitalizations hit record high amid omicron surge

BY Ryan Chatelain

More people are currently hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID-19 than at any other point of the pandemic, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS said Tuesday that COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record high of 145,982 amid a whopping surge of cases fueled by the omicron variant. That number is about double what it was two weeks ago and surpasses the previous record of 142,273 set on Jan. 14, 2021.

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UC Health opens drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

BY Lydia Taylor

CINCINNATI — UC Health has opened a drive-thru COVID-19 testing center on the Clifton Campus in an effort to make tests more available to those who need them.

Tests are available by appointment only and are available for those 2 years old and older. Hours of operation will be limited. For Tuesday and Wednesday, tests will be given between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. After Wednesday, testing center hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

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Cincinnati Public Schools to go remote due to COVID-related staffing challenges

BY Casey Weldon

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools will return to remote learning this Wednesday due to ongoing staffing challenges caused by a recent local surge in COVID-19.

The Cincinnati Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday night in favor of the plan proposed by CPS Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat and the district administration. Eve Bolton, a longtime board member, was the lone “no” vote. She favored a school-by-school approach and wanted to keep kids in the classroom.

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Stark County Fairgrounds COVID-19 testing site opens Tuesday

BY Lydia Taylor

STARK COUNTY, Ohio — A community COVID-19 testing site opens Tuesday at the Stark County Fairgrounds in an effort from local health officials to make tests more available.

Testing will be offered at a first come, first serve basis. Individuals must make an appointment, which they can do so by clicking here. As of Tuesday morning, slots are open from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through Jan. 14.

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Over-the-counter COVID tests to be covered by insurers starting Jan. 15

BY Spectrum News Staff and Associated Press

Starting Saturday, insurance companies must cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests for their members, per a Monday announcement by the federal Department of Health and Human Services

Beginning Jan. 15, people covered by private health insurance or group health plans may have the costs of over-the-counter COVID tests paid for by their insurers up front, or be reimbursed for the costs by submitting a claim to their plan.

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Pope suggests COVID vaccines a 'moral obligation'

BY Associated Press

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis suggested Monday that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus was a "moral obligation" and denounced how people had been swayed by "baseless information" to refuse one of the most effective measures to save lives during the pandemic.

Francis used some of his strongest words yet calling for people to get vaccinated in a speech to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, an annual event in which he sets out the Vatican's foreign policy goals for the year.

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Westerville City Schools to release some students early Monday

BY Lydia Taylor
UPDATED 12:38 PM ET Jan. 10, 2022

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Westerville City Schools announced Monday that it will release some students early.

All high school students will be released 30 minutes early, and all middle school students will be released 20 minutes early.

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Reynoldsburg City Schools alters bus schedule due to COVID-19

BY Lydia Taylor

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Reynoldsburg City Schools is implementing an altered bus schedule for the second week in a row as COVID-19 cases continue to plague the district.

For the week of Jan. 10 through Jan. 14, all high school and preschool students will be learning remotely. K-8 will still be in person, according to the district, and busses will be available for those students.

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Could your vaccination status impact your ability to land job interviews?

BY Spectrum News Staff

OHIO — As COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases make headlines, the pandemic continues to reshape how people get jobs.

Company vaccine mandates could be discussed as candidates go through the interview process. According to a recent poll by ResumeBuilder, 67% of hiring managers prefer recruits who are vaccinated.

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Stay home or work sick? Omicron poses a conundrum

BY Associated Press

As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the nation, millions of those whose jobs don't provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck.

While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though omicron has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick if they can't afford to stay home.

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Omicron explosion spurs nationwide breakdown of services

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 1:32 PM ET Jan. 08, 2022

Ambulances in Kansas speed toward hospitals then suddenly change direction because hospitals are full. Employee shortages in New York City cause delays in trash and subway services and diminish the ranks of firefighters and emergency workers. Airport officials shut down security checkpoints at the biggest terminal in Phoenix and schools across the nation struggle to find teachers for their classrooms.

The current explosion of omicron-fueled coronavirus infections in the U.S. is causing a breakdown in basic functions and services — the latest illustration of how COVID-19 keeps upending life more than two years into the pandemic.

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COVID-19 pauses have teams working to get back to 'game shape'

BY Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — When second-ranked Duke returned from a COVID-19 outbreak, it didn't take long for coach Mike Krzyzewski to see just how much work was ahead for the Blue Devils to get back into form.

“One of the kids, he was back for the first day" of practice, Krzyzewski said. “After two minutes, he threw up, and then he came back to practice and did well.”

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Ohio surpasses 30K COVID-19 deaths, mobile morgues used in some northern areas

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio surpassed 30,000 COVID-19 deaths on Friday as the state reports the second highest rate of new deaths among U.S. states.

The Stark County Coroner's Office is using two cold-storage trailers to hold bodies due to extraordinary numbers of deaths from COVID-19 and other causes, including suicides and overdose deaths around the holidays, officials said.

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Petition to ban vaccine mandates, passports rejected by Ohio AG for second time

BY Justin Boggs

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected a petition to ban vaccine mandates and passports throughout the state due to a lack of signatures, his office announced Friday.

Yost, who is among a group of state attorneys general trying to block the Biden administration from requiring employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccine, previously rejected the petition Dec. 9. Yost’s office said the language in the summary was not a fair and truthful representation of the proposed statute. It’s not uncommon for petitions to be rejected for this reason.

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Supreme Court skeptical of Biden’s workplace vaccine rule

BY Spectrum News Staff and Associated Press
UPDATED 2:21 PM ET Jan. 07, 2022

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical Friday of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. The court also heard arguments on a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers.

But the COVID circumstances did not appear to outweigh the views of the court’s six conservatives that the administration overstepped its authority in its vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees.

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As former Biden health advisers warn of COVID 'new normal,' the president promises more progress

BY Austin Landis
UPDATED 1:49 PM ET Jan. 07, 2022

A number of former health advisers to Joe Biden’s transition team on Thursday called for a major shift in the nation's COVID-19 response strategy to one that recognizes the virus as a “new normal” for society, an idea that the president pushed back on Friday, promising more improvements to the state of the pandemic.

The three doctors penned an opinion article in the American Medical Association's journal about the need for a new national approach to COVID-19 that does not make its goal zero cases.

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Patients in some Ohio hospitals are being seen in waiting rooms amid record virus surge

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hospitals in Ohio are so overwhelmed by COVID-19 that some patients are being seen in waiting rooms, health officials said Friday.

The Cleveland, Akron and Canton areas are reporting the highest patient volumes in the state, but central Ohio hospitalizations have also reached record levels, and officials expect the surge to continue to move south in the next couple weeks.

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Wright-Patterson Air Force Base upgrades health protections as COVID cases, hospitalizations rise

BY Lydia Taylor

DAYTON, Ohio — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base announced Friday that it's upgrading to its highest health protection level as COVID-19 ravages surrounding communities.

The highest level, which is called Health Protection Condition Delta, means the base has declared a public health emergency and has already begun following many of the HPCON Delta measures, such as wearing facial coverings, social distancing and screening for symptoms.

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Growing data shows cloth masks may not be as effective against omicron

BY Rachel Tillman

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 has raced across the world, emerging data from a number of studies indicate that cloth masks might not be as effective in preventing transmission of the highly-contagious variant as for previous strains of the virus.

Recent data has shown that the highly-transmissible omicron variant, with its numerous mutations, may have smaller particles that can further evade protection from cloth masks.

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FDA approves cutting booster wait time after Moderna vaccine to 5 months

BY Ryan Chatelain

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday recommended shortening the waiting time for COVID-19 booster shots for those who received the Moderna vaccine.

The FDA announced it has amended its emergency use authorization to cut the interval down to five months following the second Moderna shot in the primary two-dose series. Currently, people are required to wait six months.

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Mayor Bibb to announce new COVID policy, forms task force

BY Justin Boggs

CLEVELAND — Three days after taking the oath of office, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced he has formed a COVID-19 task force that includes many local government and nonprofit leaders.

Bibb’s office said the group “will meet weekly to address the surge in cases, review current data and provide the community with the information they need to stay safe.”

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Appeals court keeps vax mandate ban in place for 3 states

BY Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court has declined to lift a ban in three states on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers who contract with the federal government.

A judge in Louisville, Kentucky, issued the preliminary injunction in November that blocked the mandate for that state and two others — Tennessee and Ohio.

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Schools sticking with in-person learning scramble for substitute teachers

BY Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Principals, superintendents and counselors are filling in as substitutes in classrooms as the surge in coronavirus infections further strains schools that already had been struggling with staffing shortages.

In Cincinnati, dozens of employees from the central office were dispatched this week to schools that were at risk of having to close because of low staffing. The superintendent of Boston schools, Brenda Cassellius, tweeted Wednesday she was filling in for a fifth-grade teacher. San Francisco's school system asked any employees with teaching credentials to be available for classroom assignments.

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Cuyahoga, Summit counties 1st, 3rd highest for COVID -19 infections in Ohio

BY Jennifer Conn

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — As COVID-19 transmission surges across the nation, health officials are working to keep up with the increasing positivity rate in Summit County.

With 2,197.7 positive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, Summit County currently ranks third in the state for high infection rates, just behind Lake County, which counts 2,325.9 positive cases per 100,000 people.

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Where are COVID-19 tests and vaccines available in Ohio?

BY Casey Weldon , Jennifer Conn and Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio officials said they are working to make COVID-19 tests more available amid the omicron surge, while vaccination remains the state’s top priority in the fight against COVID-19.

“Demand for testing is as high as it has been throughout the pandemic,” Ohio Department of Health spokesperson Megan Smith said. “We continue to purchase tests and work to make testing as available and accessible as possible to Ohioans. That said, we know what the mitigation steps are to protect ourselves from the virus. The best thing that Ohioans can do is choose to be vaccinated, followed by a booster.”

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More Ohio National Guard members deployed to aid overwhelmed hospitals

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio officials described a desperate situation in Ohio’s hospitals as the state surpassed 6,500 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine met with members of the Ohio National Guard in Columbus who are being deployed to work in hospitals and expand COVID-19 testing. In total, 2,300 members of the Ohio National Guard are being deployed.

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Omicron surge vexes parents of children too young for shots

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 12:28 PM ET Jan. 06, 2022

Afternoons with Grammy. Birthday parties. Meeting other toddlers at the park. Parents of children too young to be vaccinated are facing difficult choices as an omicron variant-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases makes every encounter seem risky.

For Maine business owner Erin Connolly, the most wrenching decision involves Madeleine, her 3-year-old daughter, and Connolly's mother, who cares for the girl on the one day a week she isn't in preschool.

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WHO: Record weekly jump in COVID-19 cases but fewer deaths

BY Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization said Thursday a record 9.5 million cases of COVID-19 were tallied around the world last week, marking a 71% weekly surge that amounted to a "tsunami" as the new omicron variant sweeps worldwide. However, the number of recorded deaths declined.

"Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He said the WHO was certain that was an underestimate because of a backlog in testing around the year-end holidays.

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Teachers prepare for in-person classes despite COVID-19 surge 

BY Camri Nelson

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Dozens of school districts across Ohio have decided to go remote after the recent COVID-19 surge while others have decided to continue in-person classes.

One southwest Ohio teacher is doing all she can in hopes of keeping herself and her students safe while teaching face-to-face.

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CDC recommends COVID boosters starting at age 12 to fight omicron

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 6:44 AM ET Jan. 06, 2022

The U.S. is urging that everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they're eligible, to help fight back the hugely contagious omicron mutant that's ripping through the country.

Boosters already were encouraged for all Americans 16 and older, but Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed an extra Pfizer shot for younger adolescents — those 12 to 15 — and strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get it, too.

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Hamilton County reaches all-time highs in COVID cases

BY Casey Weldon

CINCINNATI – As COVID-19 continues its record-breaking spread across Hamilton County and places across the country, local officials are labeling it a “wake-up call” for people to get vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, the number of active cases in the county has nearly doubled over the past week, growing from 11,700 to 20,141.

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Cuyahoga County health officials: Vaccine mandates encouraged for entertainment venues

BY Justin Boggs

CLEVELAND — Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, officials from Cuyahoga County Board of Health are encouraging entertainment venues to mandate proof of COVID-19 vaccine or tests.

During a news conference Wednesday, Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan highlighted Playhouse Square’s policy, which requires visitors to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test. The theater also requires guests to wear masks during performances.

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Health officials: 'Do not have any plans' to change definition of fully vaccinated

BY Austin Landis

The Biden administration does not have "any plans” to change the definition of “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19, health officials said Wednesday, after questions about whether the addition of a booster shot would change the standard.

The term “fully vaccinated” — a requirement used by many businesses and for travel — will remain defined as someone who has gotten the full, initial course of shots: two doses for Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines and one dose for Johnson & Johnson’s.

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Xavier University requiring COVID-19 vaccine, negative test result for basketball games

BY Lydia Taylor

CINCINNATI — Xavier University officials announced Wednesday morning that the school is requiring fans 12 and older to be vaccinated or receive a negative COVID test to enter basketball games at the Cintas Center.

The Cintas Center is the first major sports venue in Ohio to implement the temporary policy. Other colleges in other states, including Big Ten schools Michigan State and Rutgers, have the same policy.

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Kettering Health becomes latest Ohio hospital system to postpone elective surgeries amid COVID surge

BY Lydia Taylor

KETTERING, Ohio — Effective immediately, Kettering Health is postponing all non-emergent, elective surgeries and procedures that require an overnight stay.

"Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in our region and around the state have increased significantly, putting strain on multiple health systems," officials wrote in a press release Wednesday morning.

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How COVID is still affecting small gyms

BY Kristen Anzuini

MASSILLON, Ohio — The new year is a time when many people set new fitness goals for themselves, and gyms typically see an uptick in memberships.

But with the pandemic continuing to rage on, many gym owners like Theresa Carson are not seeing that normal increase of holiday clients.

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CDC posts rationale for shorter isolation, quarantine

BY Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday explained the scientific rationale for shortening its COVID-19 isolation and quarantine recommendations, and clarified that the guidance applies to kids as well as adults.

The CDC also maintained that, for people who catch COVID-19, testing is not required to emerge from five days of isolation — despite hints from other federal officials that the agency was reconsidering that.

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Cuyahoga County court postpones jury trials

BY Justin Boggs

CLEVELAND — Surging COVID-19 cases prompted the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to postpone jury trials through Feb. 4, the court announced this week.

The court said other court operations will remain functional.

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LOCAL RESOURCES
Symptoms

The 2019 novel coronavirus may cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like:

  • cough
  • fever
  • trouble breathing and
  • pneumonia

The CDC believes symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus.

(Source: NYS DOH)