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CORONAVIRUS NEWS

Back to School in the Time of COVID-19

BY Molly Martinez

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine provided new information on the fate of hundreds of thousands of Ohio students. Come fall, where and how these children will learn is largely dependent on where they live.

“Blue — that’s all remote. Those are students that are going all remote and you'll see a lot of our urban centers, our city schools, are going remote — online learning. Green — the green that you see there is a hybrid model — a mix of in-person and remote learning education,” said DeWine.

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Students Are Beginning to Find Jobs—It's Just Taking Longer

BY Olivia Wile

ADA, Ohio — "Three months out is a little early to know, but I understand with COVID and what's going on, it's important to kind of see where we’re at,” said Andrew Domachowski, about the Class of 2020 job rate.

Domachowski is the director of career services at Ohio Northern University. She’s in charge of gauging how many of the school's graduates are finding employment — especially right now.

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Looking to Move? Here's How to Do It Safely During COVID-19

BY Olivia Wile

COLUMBUS, Ohio — April through September are the busiest moving months, and COVID-19 hasn’t slowed that down. So, whether you’re getting ready to move or are still looking around, there are some things you can do to stay safe during the pandemic.

“Virtual tours are something that have been around for years. They were common practice in people that were looking at job relocations from out of state, but it’s something that has really progressed forward during the COVID pandemic,” said Brad Clapp, of Champion Companies.

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Reports: Canceling Fall College Football Seems “Inevitable”

BY Dale Greenstein
UPDATED 4:47 AM ET Aug. 10, 2020

Right now, it’s all locker room talk – but the conversation is getting a lot louder.

College football insiders are saying it’s more likely than not the upcoming season will be canceled because of COVID-19.

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New CDC Guidelines Advise People to Wear Masks Without Vents, Valves

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 4:25 PM ET Aug. 09, 2020

NATIONWIDE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidance on wearing face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, advising people not to use masks with vents or valves.

The CDC still encourages people to wear masks to curb the spread of COVID-19, but health officials say they should not have valves or vents that could allow the virus to escape the mask.

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Red Cross Advocates 'Hands-Only' CPR

BY Rodneya Ross

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the world, the American Red Cross is having to put certain programs on hold — including one that teaches life saving techniques.

Spectrum News talked with Sharon Nicastro, a Red Cross volunteer, about how you can still learn the techniques that can save someone, while still being safe.

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Family-Run Columbus Business Works to Meet Demands of Shifting Healthcare Industry

BY Dennis Biviano

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus-based Health in Motion Network is designed to create access to healthcare and where its needed most during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEO Brian Slusser says business has been expanding in recent months and their partnership with a company called Updox has helped streamline shifting telemedicine demand for customers.

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Growers Squeeze Out More Juice Profits Amid Pandemic

BY Cheryn Stone

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla.— The coronavirus outbreak may be giving the citrus industry a boost. People are looking for ways to stay healthy, and that’s driving demand for orange juice.

Local grower Ed White said he can’t say for sure COVID-19 is the reason for a spike in sales, but he does say the health benefits of fresh squeezed juice appeal to his customers at Red Hill Groves in Sanford.

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Gov. DeWine Tests Positive for COVID-19 Ahead of Visit with President Trump

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 3:00 PM ET Aug. 06, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a press release from his office.

DeWine took the test as part of the protocol before meeting President Donald Trump, which he was supposed to Thursday at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. He is returning to his home in Cedarville and will be in quarantine for 14 days.

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New Data Shows COVID-19 Antibodies Weaken Over Time

BY Rebecca Turco

STATEWIDE — New data shows coronavirus antibody levels begin to drop after seven weeks of recovery.

That means people may only be able to donate convalescent plasma twice before they run out of sufficient antibodies.

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Cincinnati Artists Display 'Signs of Respect' Throughout Community

BY Camri Nelson

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Over the weekend, a new installation lined the path to the Cincinnati Art Museum — dozens of small signs with little Cincinnati-themed adages about the importance of hygiene and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

They're called "Signs of Respect" — the latest project from a group of all-women artists known as ART HAGS. Liz Miller is one of the artists.

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'Their Hands Are Tied': Hilliard Football Team Reacts to Postponing Practices

BY Olivia Wile

HILLIARD, Ohio — Head Football Coach John Santagata isn’t sure if his Hilliard Darby Panthers will be able to ring the victory bell this season.

“We don’t exactly know and that’s the frustration because a lot of it depends on where is Franklin County what color are we red,” said Santagata.

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Columbus Metropolitan Library Donates Materials for COVID-19 Research

BY Olivia Wile

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ben Zenitsky, the communications specialist for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, said they’ve got the social distancing side of the pandemic down.

“We have suspended any and all in-building services, so now we are relying completely on curbside pick-up,” said Zenitsky.

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Experts: Mask Mandate Will Show Results in a Month

BY Michelle Alfini

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Masks have only been mandatory statewide for a few days but some of the counties hit the hardest by the coronavirus are going on their third week requiring face coverings.

Hamilton County is one of them. The mandate went into effect in early July, just a few weeks after Elise Delahanty reopened her Over the Rhine shop, the Candle Lab. "We were kind of on the back end of opening because we as a store wanted to have everything in place to be really comfortable (for) both our staff and our guests that come here,” she said. So far, she said the masks haven't changed the experience for the customers who have been making their way back. “I think people are just so happy to be out of the house and doing things again that they’re cooperating in any way,” she said. The important factor to Delahanty is the fact that they can make it back in the store for an in-person experience. Jessica Roy, another employee, explained the Candle Lab isn't just about the products; it's also about the experience of picking out the oils yourself, watching the candles get made and smelling that finished product. “All of your senses are really utilized here and so it can be done online—it’s definitely not as fun," she said. That's why the business is hoping their compliance with mask orders and their sanitation regime can keep their doors open. “If they happen to not have a mask but want to come in, we’ll provide them with a mask," Delahanty said. Hamilton County Public Health has been explaining the need for masks for a few months but most urgently over the past few weeks. "We do know, empirically, now the best way to prevent transmission combined with the other tactics that we have,” said Mike Samet, the public information officer for Hamilton County Public Health. He said it's hard to say how long this will last, but if the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's estimates are correct, Samet said masks should start showing a dramatic impact on the spread of COVID-19 in about 30 days. Samet said that would take widespread compliance and patience. “No one wants to wait for anything—it’s summertime, I’m right there with you," he said. "It’s hot, but again these are the tools we have right now until we can make a bigger dent in COVID-19.” Hamilton County's mandate went into effect on July 9. In the weeks since, the county's daily case counts have been trending down, though they're still higher than the county saw in early June. While the state looks for a long-term trend, Delahanty said the Candle Lab is willing to wait it out with masks in her store as long as it means getting back to business. “If all it took to be open was wearing masks we would," she said. "We’re planning on doing this for the foreseeable future until there’s a vaccine out there. It’s just the responsible thing to do.”

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Demand Surges Again at Ohio Food Pantries as Unemployment Bonus Expires

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — At the onset of the pandemic, the Dublin Food Pantry saw a massive 800 percent increase in new families, then stimulus relief arrived and demand subsided to a level closer to normal. But last week, when the federal government’s $600 per week unemployment bonus expired, the pantry saw a second surge just like the first.

“We anticipate that August will be like April was for us, meaning lots of new families and lots of families who came only one time and didn't come again because then they got assistance,” said Executive Director Denise Youngsteadt-Parrish. As officials in Washington clash over a second relief package, unemployed and underemployed Ohioans who have relied on the unemployment bonus since they lost their income now fear food insecurity as they brace for the possibility the weekly funds will be slashed or eliminated. At the Worthington Resource Pantry, demand has similarly jumped in the last few weeks. After seeing need increase from a pre-pandemic level of 150-175 per week to 225-300 people since March, numbers started to “level off” in June, Executive Director Nick Linkenhoker said. Now, they are back up. “Here in the last few weeks, we've jumped back up. Uncertainty is already fueling concern among our neighbors here. People don't want to be left behind,” he said. “Many of our neighbors will come back to us even before things get really tricky for them, and we're fine with that. We are very concerned about what happens in this community when those benefits expire.” Brenda Reiter, who was picking up food on Thursday from All People's Fresh Market, a free food resource in Columbus’s South Side, said lately people in her community have been talking with each other about where they can go for free food due to the benefits expiring. Much of her family works at an IHOP that her nephew manages, and they were all receiving unemployment insurance at the beginning of the virus outbreak. A number of her family members are still on unemployment. This is hard time for them, she said. They still have to pay rent and support their kids but now the money has expired, at least until Congress passes a new package. Reiter said she tries to help out family members by sharing the food she picks up from the free market when she has extra. She only has to support herself, while her niece has four kids. Yvette Rochelle, who was also picking up food from the market, has been out of work for a week. She had a job at Rally’s, a fast food restaurant, since March, but her work hours were not flexible with her responsibilities taking care of her daughter, making it impossible to continue working there. On August 10, her daughter goes back to school at South Columbus Preparatory Academy, a tuition free K-7 school, and she will be learning online. Rochelle said she has to stay home with her and does not see how she can work a job while doing that. She has not applied for unemployment insurance and has yet to decide if she will. She lacks a computer and worries it will be a challenge to apply from her phone. She said whether the $600 is continued or not, she would just be happy to have anything. “Any amount would help. The $600 does sound nice, but I’m not that picky about the situation. If I decide to pursue it, whatever they give me, I will be happy,” she said. “My grandma raised me to appreciate whatever help you get. If I ask for help, whatever you can help me with is fine.” For now, the free market offers relief to Rochelle and thousands of others like her who are in need during the pandemic. Michael Premo, director of engagement at For All People, said the market went from seeing about 300 families per day to 400 to 500 during the pandemic. He said the market is prepared to meet the demand amid the possibility of more Ohioans soon becoming food insecure. “We're hearing a lot about people who are concerned with what's going to happen next,” he said. “Our message is that we're doing our part. We're doing everything we can to support people in the community. What we are asking the state and the federal government to do is step up and do their part. And unfortunately, that's not happening right now. It's very concerning for the people in our community who are trying to survive,” he said. With the possibility of the federal government stepping aside, more and more are expected to become dependent on the charity of others—like the senior citizens who Youngsteadt-Parrish said donated their stimulus checks to the Dublin pantry. “Unbelievable,” she said. On top of unemployment benefits expiring, food pantry administrators said the July 31 sunset on the federal government eviction moratorium, reductions of operating hours for the service industry, and the news that schools will resume with e-learning in the fall will combine to create additional financial hardship for families that were living on the edge, leading more to depend on food pantries. Republicans in Congress argue that the stimulus unemployment bonus was too generous and made it difficult to bring employees back to work. Food pantries see it differently. Many of the people who now rely on them for food, or will soon turn to pantries as benefits expire, are in fact working, but they are making little in tips at restaurant jobs or earning way less than before with Uber. Some feel working is life or death due to age or a medical condition. Others who were eligible for unemployment and SNAP food assistance never pursued support from the welfare programs either due to fears regarding immigration enforcement or because they did not want to be a “burden on the system,” Youngsteadt-Parrish said. Premo said his organization is holding out hope that a deal will be reached. His organization is conducting outreach to elected officials, trying to illustrate the food security crisis and the expected severity of the problem “if something isn't done and done quickly” on unemployment.

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How Ohio Fairs are Adapting During the Pandemic

BY Olivia Wile

MARYSVILLE, Ohio — It’s the 174th Union County Fair, but like others around the state, things look a lot different this year.

“We have been working since the end of April, and it has been a constant daily job,” said Fair Director Michelle Kuhlwein.

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Even With Symptoms, 5 to 7 Day Waits for COVID-19 Test Results

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sick with a fever and sweats, Chapin Berk, 23, fears he has COVID-19, he said after getting swabbed outside the Columbus Public Health building. But he will not know for sure for five to seven days when his results come back, the drive-thru test site workers told him.

The Columbus Public Health building front circle testing location is one of several in the area for high-priority individuals who are actively experiencing symptoms common to COVID-19. Samples from the site are processed by one of Central Ohio’s three major adult hospitals, rather than being sent to private labs where delays are longer. As of last week, the site stopped testing asymptomatic individuals and the health department began referring those people away to CVS or test sites at a federally qualified health center, which typically use Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp to process tests. Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the move was intended to keep hospital testing resources available for those most in need.

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Exclusive: President Trump Talks COVID-19, the Economy, Hurricane Isaias and More

BY Holly Gregory

TAMPA, Fla. — Moments after landing in Tampa, Fla. for a private fundraiser, President Trump spoke exclusively with Spectrum News' Holly Gregory.

Holly Gregory: Mr. President, can we start off talking about this federal unemployment benefit extension? Our economy, tourism-based, has just been decimated by the virus, and that’s a lifeline for so many folks. Is it going to get extended?

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'Reforge Downtown Cleveland' Group Aims to Help Local Bars, Restaurants Survive Pandemic

BY Micaela Marshall

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — A new group in Cleveland is working to help bars and restaurants stay open, as they continue to struggle during the pandemic.

It usually would be a full house. But lately, it’s empty inside Sarita a Restaurant in Lakewood. "We're just trying to survive until the COVID goes away," said owner and Executive Chef Anthony Romano. Romano says he could always count on a steady stream of business, but for the time being, he’s just working to break even. The saving grace — patio seating. “Luckily for us, we had the additional space that we can expand the patio outside. And that's worked for us for summer, but inside, I haven't seen this restaurant full since March," said Romano.

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Second Round Of Checks to Go to Small Businesses

BY Sheena Elzie

CINCINNATI, Ohio — A second round of checks will go out to struggling businesses in Southwest Ohio.

The move could impact owners like Lincoln Lyle. He cuts hair for a living and owns a barber shop in Cincinnati, but he says business just hasn’t been the same. “The impact was tremendous, because a lot of my customers left, they were kinda scared to get this COVID-19,” said Lyle, owner of D1FF Hair Studio. He says he only makes just enough to keep the doors open and he worries how long that will last. “I still have to pay bills and still have to take care of family things, and without customers, there’s really nothing we can do,” said Lyle. He says he's tried for business loans and stimulus money with no luck. “These large corporations that have a hundred or more employees, they don’t need it, but I'm hearing they’re getting it, so us, we’re kinda just left out, hoping we get it,” said Lyle. But Hamilton County did get federal stimulus money through the CARES Act. So far the county used $1.6M of it to give grants to small businesses. “We allocated more, but because of the perimeters that we placed on that, we spent less,” said Hamilton County Presiding Commissioner Denise Driehaus. It’s part of the reason commissioners announced this week they’d be giving out more money — more than $5M in a second round of grants to small businesses. “The next round will expand those perimeters so that more businesses can apply be eligible and so more businesses can get more money,” said Driehaus. That means more small businesses, with less than 10 workers, will be eligible to get up to $10,000 in grant money.

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Dr. Fauci "Cautiously Optimistic" COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Ready Before End of the Year

BY Associated Press and Spectrum News Staff

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that he remains confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early next year, telling lawmakers that a quarter-million Americans already have volunteered to take part in clinical trials.

But if the future looks encouraging, public health alarms are still going off in the present. Officials testifying with Fauci at a contentious House hearing acknowledged that the U.S. remains unable to deliver all COVID-19 test results within two or three days, and they jointly pleaded with Americans to comply with basic precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and washing their hands frequently.

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COVID-19 Pushes Back 'Real ID' Deadline

BY Micaela Marshall

Ohio — Coronavirus means Ohioans now have an extra year to switch to a federally-mandated compliant driver's license.

“Absolutely, go get a driver's license, vehicle registration, plates, whatever you need,” said Charlie Norman. Norman is Ohio’s registrar of Motor Vehicles. He says the BMV is now fully operational. “We see between our offices about a million customers a month. So, if we're closed for three months, that gives you some sort of sense of what our backlog looked like,” said Norman. Ohioans can once again renew their driver’s license or registration, but they don’t necessarily have to. “The governor signed HB 197 which extends the expiration dates on all licenses and registrations throughout the duration in the declared emergency, plus 90 days. So, we're still in that that declared emergency. So, you know, technically, you know, even if your license shows expired, it's not. It's still perfectly valid and legal and will be for some time," said Norman. Norman says law enforcement and TSA are on board with accepting expired ID's due to delays caused by COVID-19. Coming soon is a requirement to carry a "Real ID." In the Buckeye State, you have options. "You can get a compliant ID or you can just get the standard license. You know, the only difference really is you're required to show a little bit more information in the form of documentation to prove who you are. That's not the same everywhere. Some states at this point are only issuing compliant ID's, but in Ohio, we thought it was, you know, worthwhile to give people the option," said Norman. If you want to avoid long lines, you can accomplish quite a bit online. In fact, the BMV recommends you hold off on coming in if possible. Additional cleaning procedures, a 50 percent capacity limit, and plexiglass barriers all add up to a slower process. But there is a "get in line” online timesaver option. “You're advancing through the queue at the deputy registrar's offices, as if you were physically there,” said Norman. Coronavirus changed the way you take your driver’s exam, too. The examiner now evaluates drivers from outside the vehicle on a closed course in order to keep in line with social distancing protocols. Plus, the pandemic led to an extension for you get a “Real ID.” Initially, October 1, 2020 was the deadline for the Real ID Act of 2005 to take effect for all 50 states. Now, you have until October 1, 2021. In Ohio, you have a choice to get either a standard ID or compliant ID. A compliant ID will allow you to fly within the U.S. If you go with the standard option, you will need your driver’s license plus your passport in order to fly, even domestically. “The Real ID Act of 2005, which was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, when they looked at 9/11 and they found that terrorists had any number of fraudulently issued state ID's, they looked around the country at how states issued driver's licenses and you can imagine that there was sort of 50 different ways. So, the federal government essentially said 'hey, look for these things that we regulate like air travel, we're going to have a standardized process,'”said Norman. The goal is to beef up security measures. More details on what documents you need to switch to a Real ID can be found at bmv.ohio.gov.

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Making Weddings Work During COVID-19

BY Jordan Vilines

CINCINNATI, Ohio — As the coronavirus pandemic continues and social gatherings are limited in size and in distancing, the wedding industry has experienced an understandable slowdown as well as a cultural shift.

Those in the wedding industry have always touted it as being “recession-proof,” saying that people will always get married and they will always have weddings.

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Dr. Birx: Plasma Donations Needed as Coronavirus Cases Spike Nationwide

BY Eva McKend
UPDATED 3:59 PM ET Jul. 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — As coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the country, the White House is highlighting the need for plasma donations.

In an interview with Spectrum News, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx says people who have previously contracted the coronavirus may donate their own plasma and help patients who are currently infected.

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Cincinnati Parks Volunteers Make Masks for Staff

BY Katie Kapusta

CINCINNATI, Ohio—As businesses reopened, many were worried about making sure all of their employees had the proper PPE to protect themselves. Thankfully, a group of volunteers in Cincinnati came together to sew masks for all of the staff at the Cincinnati Parks to make sure they could get back open.

Jean Buelterma's sewing machine hasn’t seen so much fabric in its 15 years with her. And now, 300 fabric masks later, she may be an expert sewer.

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Engage! Cleveland Keeps Young Professionals Connected

BY Taylor Bruck

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Through the lack of social connection during this pandemic, we all may have felt a bit of so-called brain drain. Connecting with others, even virtually, is an important part to staying sharp.

Joseph Bianchini, coordinator at Cuyahoga Community College agrees.

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Pandemic Forces Cleveland to Cancel In-Person Conference for the First Time in Nearly 8 Decades

BY Rodneya Ross

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the world, many conventions and conferences are being canceled or postponed to keep people safe. For example, every year, thousands of people gather in Cleveland to attend an annual Jehovah's Witness convention. This year, the organization had to change plans.

"Holding a public meeting during a pandemic is probably not showing love," said Robert Hendriks, the U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah's Witness.

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Inmates Used Bedsheet Tents as COVID-19 Shields in Crowded Pickaway Prison—Site of Country's Deadliest Prison Outbreak

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An inmate at the Pickaway Correctional Institution was recovering from a rough bout with COVID-19 when a confrontation with prison staff escalated in his dorm full of positive inmates. The next thing he knew, a prison staff member pulled out pepper spray and let “loose like there was no tomorrow.”

Dealing with the symptoms of COVID-19 is bad enough. "COVID-19 and pepper spray? Like torture," Dwayne Smith, 46, of Clermont County said.

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Study Reveals Effect of COVID-19 on Girls

BY Olivia Wile

COLUMBUS, Ohio — “I think that their fears are real, they’re authentic because we can't promise them that everything's going to be fine because we don’t know that ourselves,” said Dr. Lisa Hinkleman.

Hinkleman is the CEO and Founder of the nonprofit organization ROX or “Ruling Our Experiences,” the team that’s taking a deeper look into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on elementary and high school girls.

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Miami Marlins Postpone Home Opener Amid Virus Outbreak; Yankees-Phillies Also Postponed

BY Associated Press and Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 12:34 PM ET Jul. 27, 2020

MIAMI — The Miami Marlins have postponed Monday night's home opener against the Baltimore Orioles after reports of a coronavirus outbreak amongst the team. The New York Yankees game against the Philaelphia Phillies has also been postponed.

Major League Baseball announced the postponed games in a statement on Monday:

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Photographers Team Up To Take 10,000 Free Headshots Nationwide

BY Katie Kapusta
UPDATED 5:00 AM ET Jul. 27, 2020

CINCINNATI, Ohio—Photographers from all across the United States came together this week to offer free headshots to those that lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One photographer says even after struggling herself, she’s happy to help those who need it.

Kim Dalton has been in the photography business for ten years with her business K Dalton Photography. But Dalton still saw some trying times the past few months.

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'I Was Terrified': COVID-19 Targeting Healthy, Younger People

BY Sheena Elzie

DAYTON, Ohio — Justin Morgan, 38, was a healthy dietitian at a nursing home when his wife Anita Morgan said something went wrong.

“He is extremely sick, his fever's are high, he’s constantly just sleeping. He feels horrible,” said Anita. He was rushed to a Dayton hospital with COVID-19, was put into a coma and put on a ventilator to help him breathe. “I was terrified. I asked the doctor, he was going through—how dire this is. He is not breathing on his own, and I'm sobbing,” said Anita. As she watched her husband get worse, the 39 year old found out she, too, was sick with the virus. “I ran a low-grade fever for a couple days, but nothing like him,” said Anita. Doctors said they're not alone.

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Wellington Mayor Wants to Cancel Lorain County Fair Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

BY Enrique Correa

WELLINGTON, Ohio — Wellington Mayor Hans Schneider said he’s not taking any chances when it comes to his residents. He believes bringing thousands of people to the Lorain County Fair next month is dangerous and wants to cancel it this year.

“We can’t safely ensure everyone will follow proper techniques--wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing,” Schneider said. “There’s far too much risk versus reward to bring those people in the village.”

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New CDC Guidelines Put Emphasis on Reopening Schools

BY Spectrum News Staff

NATIONWIDE — The CDC guidelines on reopening schools are out, and the country's top health experts are putting a heavy emphasis on getting children back in the classroom.

In a statement released Thursday, the CDC says children don't suffer much from the coronavirus and are also less likely to spread it than adults. As of July 17, the U.S. reported children and teens under 18 years old account for less than 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and fewer than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.

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White House drops payroll tax cut after GOP allies object

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 5:05 PM ET Jul. 23, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday reluctantly dropped his bid to cut Social Security payroll taxes as Republicans stumbled anew in efforts to unite around a $1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package to begin negotiations with Democrats who are seeking far more.

Frustrating new delays came as the administration scrambled to avert the cutoff next week of a $600-per-week bonus unemployment benefit that has helped prop up the economy while staving off financial disaster for millions of people thrown out of work since the coronavirus pandemic began.

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Clean Committed Cleveland Program Aims to Bring Patrons Peace of Mind

BY Micaela Marshall

CLEVELAND, Ohio — There’s an effort underway in Cleveland to ensure businesses are in line with all coronavirus safety guidelines. The hope is that a visual commitment will give patrons peace of mind during the pandemic.

Kernels by Chrissie has been serving gourmet popcorn with a side of nostalgia in downtown Cleveland for the last seven years. “A lot of opportunity for small businesses, and we were just attracted to being in the middle of everything that Cleveland has to offer, being at the epicenter of commerce, tourism, the sporting and concert events, was just very appealing to us and we've been here ever since and we've loved it," said owner Chrissie Fahey. But it seems challenging events continue to pop up lately, from coronavirus closures and slow downs, to protests that turned violent, wrecking and looting some downtown staples. “Ruined our outer doors, broke quite a few of the windows, made off with just about all of our product...It’s a moment in time and it’s just unfortunate that all of this seemed to sort of happen right in the same period of time," said Fahey. Destination Cleveland wanted to help keep local favorites afloat by establishing the “Clean Committed” campaign. It provides a visual seal of approval that shows a promise to uphold a standard set of cleanliness practices. “What that does is it helps us responsibly reopen our economy here in Cleveland, gives businesses that sign up to be Cleaned Committed an opportunity to get cleanliness, cleaning and sanitation supplies at a very affordable price. We also offered what we called clean kits. Clean kits are a little individually-sealed pouch that a business can give to a patron if they come without a mask, for instance, with our new mask mandate," said Emily Lauer, senior director of PR/communications, Destination Cleveland Since the initiative began in mid-June, around 300 businesses like Kernels by Chrissie have made the pledge. Everything promoting tourism and hospitality — from hotels to restaurants to retail all over Cuyahoga County — can make the commitment. "Being a part of the Clean Committed movement really was important to us so that we could further demonstrate, again, a solidarity with other businesses in the area, and just reinforce that yes, we have, we were good before, we've even stepped up our efforts because we want our customers not only to be happy with our product, but we want them to be safe and healthy as well," said Fahey. People who frequent downtown Cleveland say they love knowing a business is Clean Committed. “Very safe, very safe. I would recommend the business to everybody else, as long as it’s following the guidelines. If they do the guidelines, it’s more business for them and the customer is happy," said John Hall, who says he comes downtown all of the time." If you’re a business interested in signing up, simply click here.

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3 in 4 Americans Back Requiring Wearing Masks, AP-NORC Poll Says

BY Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three out of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor requiring people to wear face coverings while outside their homes, a new poll finds, reflecting fresh alarm over spiking coronavirus cases and a growing embrace of government advice intended to safeguard public health.

The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds that about two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how President Donald Trump is handling the outbreak, an unwelcome sign for the White House in an election year shaped by the nation’s battle with the pandemic.

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Warren County Junior Fair Continues Despite COVID-19 Cancellations Statewide

BY Michelle Alfini

LEBANON, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic canceled eleven fairs across the state, including Ohio's state fair. In spite of that, many counties made a few exceptions to allow some staple events to continue.

Warren County got its fair underway Sunday, though things looked different. The Midway was closed, the crowds were minimal, and many events were canceled or postponed. Though the grounds were emptier than usual, the barns were as bustling as ever with 4H kids like Karissa, eager to show off their work. "Hard work, dedication," she said. "You gotta walk 'em every day, you gotta feed 'em every day, you gotta wash 'em every day.” That's what she said it took over the past eight months to raise her calves to get ready to show at the fair. For veteran 4Hers like Emma Pinnick, raising their show animals can take years. “All summer we get up early, go to bed late, stay in the barn all day," she said. “We get to see how much it paid off when we show and how hard we’ve worked.” That usually means a ribbon and a profitable sale at the county or state fair, and not every one in Ohio got the chance to see that work come into fruition. “I know there are a couple counties around us that they don’t get the opportunity to bring their 4H projects out,” Jonathan Collins, a member of the junior fair board, said. In his first year as a board member, Collins said he was eager to help prepare many of the 4H livestock shows and events, though he said the ultimate decision on the fair's future was out of his hands. “I thank the senior fair board so much for making sure that we have a fair," he said. While the animals seemed to outnumber people during the first day of events, the 4H kids didn't seem to miss the audience. "It’s different," Karissa said. "You gotta stay six feet apart but it’s a fair. At least we have it." Pinnick said she considers it a blessing just to get the chance to bring her prize animals into the spotlight while they're still in their prime. “In the end, it’s about being with family and working really hard and the rides and the food and that stuff don’t really matter as much,” she said. Neighboring Clermont County will also host a similar junior fair next week. Montgomery and Butler County Fairs remain canceled altogether.

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Statewide Mask Order Begins Thursday

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 5:30 PM ET Jul. 22, 2020

COLMBUS, Ohio — Beginning 6 p.m. Thursday, all Ohioans will be required to mask up.

DeWine announced a statewide mask order at his press briefing Wednesday afternoon, which mandates that masks be worn:

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Are You Suffering From 'Maskne'? If So, You're Not Alone

BY Alexa Maslowski

CLEVELAND, Ohio — There are a lot of things that can cause acne, but we know one of the big ones is bacteria.

When we go out and put our mask on, it creates heat and moisture, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow on the skin. But doctors say that isn't a reason to stop wearing your mask. You just need to put a little extra effort into the way you clean your face and your mask.

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Family Reunites as Nursing Home Visits Resume

BY Molly Martinez

MORROW COUNTY, Ohio — In Morrow County, Monday was four months in the making.

“It's emotional. It's difficult. You know, four months. Susan was here constantly. And for four months she only had contact by phone. You know, this is a big day for us,” said Bill Holtry.

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Cleveland Doctors Team Up to Study Impact of COVID-19 on Pregnant Women

BY Karlynn Wells

CLEVELAND, Ohio — While a lot about the novel coronavirus and its impact on various populations is still unknown, maternal health professionals and researchers in Cleveland say that there's even less known about COVID-19 and its impact on pregnant women. Dr. Ruth Farrell says having so little data is harmful to expectant mothers and their babies.

“Much of this data is lagging, it's finally coming out, we're getting more of an understanding, but still yet there's so much unknown. And what's remarkable is that there are proportionally far more studies in the non-pregnant population than the pregnant population. And there’s 4 million women in this country alone, who deliver each year. We need to step up our game and get more data out about how to best care for pregnant women and their families.” Farrell said. Farrell is one of the physicians leading a citywide collaborative among the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and MetroHealth, along with Case Western Reserve University. They are trying to understand if COVID-19 passes the through the placenta, when it occurs, and what the effects are for the pregnant woman and for the unborn baby. “What we're doing is recruiting women who have been COVID-positive at any point in time in the pregnancy. What we want to understand is not just at the time of delivery what this may mean for the baby, but also she gets a virus early in the pregnancy, say in the first trimester, and by the time she comes to deliver the virus has resolved, we still want understand what that means for her and for the baby, “ Farrell said. According to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the county saw its first COVID-positive case in a pregnant woman in March, and now approximately 100 pregnant women have tested positive for COVID-19 at some point in their pregnancy. Women taking part in the study are patients of participating doctors and those who volunteered after visiting a county testing site. Dr. Farrell says with womens' permission, doctors will collect samples at the time of delivery. “We’ll analyze samples to look both of the virus, but also evidence of the virus and footprints of the virus, both in the mother, the baby, and the placenta, which gives us so much information about the pregnancy,” said Farrell. She says this study will not only give insight into what this pandemic means for pregnant women and their children and better inform health care providers about how to best manage patients during this time. It will also shed light on the importance of including pregnant populations in trials moving forward. “We know that there are policies in place, instructions in place that make it possible to include pregnant women in studies, yet so often, they're not included. If we say that this population, we're going to hold out on research, then we won't be able to access data and new treatments. We hope that this pandemic ends soon, but it may continue in the future and there may be others, so developing an infrastructure to how to prioritize the interests of pregnant women now will help us model how to do it faster and better if and when we have to do in the future," said Farrell.

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Crossroads Outdoor Worship Brings Thousands to Cincinnati Riverfront

BY Michelle Alfini

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Sunday, July 19 was scheduled to be opening day for Crossroad's ten buildings across Ohio and Kentucky, but as coronavirus cases worsened in the region, the megachurch had to make other plans.

Instead, Senior Pastor Brian Tome hosted the first in-person Crossroads worship outdoors at Yeatman's Cove, along Cincinnati's riverfront. "The church was never meant to be confined to buildings," he said. "As soon as the move of Christ needs a building, it’s in trouble.” To slow the spread of COVID-19, the tens of thousands in the Crossroads congregation have relied on virtual services for their weekly worship, but on Sunday, Tome said it was time to come together. “Truth of the matter is in Christianity we need to one another one another," he said. "We need to love one another. We need to support one another and it’s just not the same when you’re looking at a screen.” So far, Tome has services at Yeatman's Cove planned for the next month, though he said Crossroads will continue offering online options. “If you want to come, great," he said. "If you don’t want to come, you’re not a second-class Crossroads citizen and you’re not second class before God’s eyes." To try and make the outdoor services as safe as possible, Crossroads staff set up flags throughout the park to mark places six feet apart and required anyone attending to wear a mask. “They told us to social distance, we’re doing everything we can to have people social distance. They told us to wear masks, we’re wearing masks," Tome said. "I think we’re being good citizens.” Crossroads worked with the Cincinnati Parks Department to secure the space and mitigate risks associated with coronavirus. "They thought that it would be good for their citizens, they thought that there was a constitutional requirement for First Amendment to be able to allow churches to meet outside and they’ve been very very supportive and encouraging," Tome said. With social distancing, the park has a capacity of about 4,000 and the first service on Sunday appeared to come close. For Joe Domiano, a parishioner from the Crossroads in Mason, the chance to gather was worth all the city and church restrictions. "It’s like ‘Oh we’re getting back to church!’ We’re getting back to some semblance of normalcy,” he said. Domiano said he'd been following the virtual services over the past few months but something was missing. "Even though it’s a big church, even though there’s a lot of people in the church, you still feel like you’re part of the family because we’re all there for the same purpose," he said. Domiano said Tome has been preaching since the buildings closed that church is not a building, but he said seeing that church family helped drive those words home. "It still is the church even though we don’t have four walls and a roof over top of us," he said. Crossroads announced buildings will remain closed through 2020 and the church is planning to continue outdoor and online services every week in the meantime.

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Walmart, Other Retailers Begin Requiring Masks This Week

BY Christie Zizo
UPDATED 2:49 PM ET Jul. 19, 2020

ORLANDO, Fla. — As a new week begins, more major retailers will begin requiring customers to wearing face coverings.

Walmart's mandate in its namesake stores and in Sam's Club begins Monday, as do mask mandates at Lowe's, BJ's Wholesale Club, Kohl's, Walgreens and CVS.

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Mask Shaming an Issue for Some Store Owners

BY Enrique Correa

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Many of the stores at Crocker Park have a sign requesting that masks be worn before entering their establishment.

“I’m wearing a mask right now and I just want to communicate to everybody that I am protecting you," said Dr. Harry Kestler.

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Months Later, COVID-19 Symptoms 'Won't Go Away'

BY Sheena Elzie

CINCINNATI, Ohio — It’s been three months, and Rob and Andrea Anderson said they can still feel COVID-19.

“A cough that’s been around since mid-March," said Rob. “I’m still trying to get my stamina back,” said Andrea. The lingering effects stem from what the couple now calls the “Zaandam” experience. They both caught COVID-19 while they were on Holland Cruise Line’s “Zaandam," the ship where hundreds got sick on board. They were the first COVID cases in the country and at first, no place would let the ship dock because of it. They were also stuck at sea for a month and thought they’d recovered when they finally got back to their suburban Cincinnati home, but there’s another lingering problem. “I thought that after I got the first battle on the ship, I thought OK, now things should go back pretty much to normal,” said Rob. “Now you’ve got this irregular heart beat spiking up and down and at different rates and different times.” said Rob. Andrea got the lesser of the effects, but is still battling fatigue and shortness of breath. “It’s scary, and it’s frustrating,” said Andrea. And they’re not alone. “Breathing issues would be one of the leading ongoing symptoms. This persistent fatigue is very common as well,” said Dr. Stephen Blatt, TriHealth Infectious Diseases Medical Director. He said those lingering effects from COVID-19 can also open the door to even more illnesses. “Some people that have had bad lung problems with COVID could be at risk for a secondary bacterial infection on top of their COVID infection, and we’ve certainly seen those in our intensive care unit, so the underlying COVID-19 can damage the lungs and that allows the second infection to move in,” said Blatt. And he said it also could make heart problems worse. “If people have underlying heart disease, we do see some heart issues. They have problems with atrial fibrillation or rhythm disturbances,” said Blatt. But for the Andersons, they said this is a first. “This is the first time I’ve had a major problem,” said Rob. And while they’re concerned, they still have plans for the next cruise. “We’ve booked two more—one of them we really doubt it’s gonna happen, but it was a great deal and I always wanted to see Antarctica,” said Andrea.

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Transit Authorities Implement New Measures as COVID-19 Cases Rise

BY Camri Nelson

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Since March, more and more regional transit authority operators across Ohio have contracted COVID-19. So far, nine Cincinnati Metro operators have tested positive.

“Only six of our 500 have provided service to customers during that time, and they were also behind plexiglass shields. Many of them were wearing masks, so we feel like the risk was pretty low,” said Brandy Jones, the Cincinnati Metro external affairs vice president. And Metro isn’t the only transit authority with operators testing positive.

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Lowe's and Home Depot Adopt Mask Requirement for Customers Nationwide

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 2:15 PM ET Jul. 17, 2020

NORTH CAROLINA – Lowe's and Home Depot announced Friday they will adopt a nationwide policy requiring customers to wear masks when shopping in their stores.

The policy will take effect on Monday, July 20 at Lowe's, and Wednesday, July 22 at Home Depot.

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Theaters Under Pressure During Pandemic with Low Turnout

BY Micaela Marshall

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The movie industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Major productions are on pause and many theaters still haven't opened.

Theaters are being forced to get creative and adapt in order to survive. "I’m going to see a classic from the past — The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," said Ronald Howard, a moviegoer in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Grabbing popcorn and enjoying a new release certainly is a different experience due to COVID-19, especially since Hollywood at a standstill. "Since this one has opened, I’ve come several times. Generally I’m the only one in the theater," said Howard, speaking of the Atlas Cinemas Eastgate 10 location. After being forced to close for months, Ohio movie theaters were given the green light to reopen in June, but many still haven’t. "If all their theaters are like this with hardly anybody inside, they certainly can’t stay in business," said Howard. In fact, in northeast Ohio, family-owned Atlas Cinemas is one of the few options for movie-lovers looking to sit inside an auditorium in front of the big screen. Director of Operations Chris Baxter said reopening has presented challenges. "Just letting people know that we're here and that we're ready for them and making sure that they're comfortable. That's really the challenge is making sure that that guests are comfortable in their time to come out and enjoy the movies," said Baxter. In hopes of bringing in more people and revenue, Atlas Cinemas got creative this July by offering a new auditorium rental special to family and friends. It’s a unique way to make getting out while social distancing a breeze. "We're seeing that people are just, you know, looking for that outlet — looking for that opportunity to do something, and they're really happy that they can. And so we've had anything from couples to large families rent their own auditorium," said Baxter. The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is also adapting. Now, for the first time, it's offering virtual screenings. "We're actually showing more movies than you know we normally would. We usually show five or six different movies in a weekend. Now we're open 24/7 and we're showing 20 films," said John Ewing, co-founder Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. For the last 35 years, the Cinematheque has filled a gap in the local movie market by showing classic, domestic and foreign, independent films that Ewing said aren’t shown anywhere else in the region — many of which were first screened at popular film festivals. "We're keeping up with new releases as much as we can because otherwise there's going to be a horrendous backlog, and we'll never be able to play it all," said Ewing. A major change has been the revenue sharing model with film companies. Ewing said it flip-flopped, and now places like the Cinematheque are seeing 50 percent of the revenue. "It's the absolute opposite of what it, you know, have been for in our case 35 years. You know, we booked the films, we play the films, we sell the tickets and collect the revenue and then we paid the distributor that a share of the ticket sales. Now, the film company, the distributor is collecting all the revenue through this through the whatever platform they set up, you know online," said Ewing. The 300-seat auditorium has been closed since March and likely will stay that way until after students return to the Cleveland Institute of Art campus this fall. For AMC Theatres, the website states the plan is to start reopening most locations on July 30. The latest announcement from Cleveland Cinemas indicated that all theaters will remain closed indefinitely due to COVID-19, but there is a virtual screening room to stream movies from home. Movie Scoop in Kent and the Great Lakes Science Center's Cleveland Clinic dome theater are also offering in-person showings.

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University Hospitals, NASA Collaborate to Decontaminate PPE

BY Alexa Maslowski

CLEVELAND, Ohio — While working with COVID-19 patients, the N95 mask is a must to keep health care workers safe. But with such high demand, supply can easily get low.

“Given that it happened all at once, I think, scarcity is the byproduct. But if everyone needs it at the same time, how do you handle this from a logistics standpoint?” said Kipum Lee, University Hospitals Ventures Managing Director of Innovation and Design.

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Cruise Ships Staying in Port as CDC Extends No Sail Order to October

BY Christie Zizo

ORLANDO, Fla. — No cruise ships will be setting sail until at least October after the CDC Thursday extended a No Sail Order because of the coronavirus.

The order was originally signed by the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, on March 14, and suspended embarkation from U.S. ports. It was extended on April 15 and was supposed to expire on July 24.

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Mail Delays Likely as New Postal Boss Pushes Cost-Cutting

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 2:53 PM ET Jul. 16, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mail deliveries could be delayed by a day or more under cost-cutting efforts being imposed by the new postmaster general. The plan eliminates overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and says employees must adopt a "different mindset” to ensure the Postal Service’s survival during the coronavirus pandemic.

Late trips will no longer be authorized. If postal distribution centers are running late, "they will keep the mail for the next day,'' Postal Service leaders say in a document obtained by The Associated Press. “One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that — temporarily — we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks,'' another document says.

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Small Cities Take Action on Masks

BY Ryan Schmelz

MEDINA, Ohio — It’s not just the major cities that are taking action to get people to wear masks in Ohio. In the heart of Medina, groups are socially distant, and some are wearing masks.

"I’d say overall, people are taking it seriously," said Medina resident Jessica Dannery, who was enjoying some time outside, while still adjusting to the new normal. "I have a lot of friends from California who live in LA, so I’ve seen it impact their lives, them lose family members over this, so I take it really seriously at home." Medina city leaders compromised on a mask recommendation as opposed to a mask mandate. The county currently sits at a Level 2 emergency, hoping to avoid becoming a Level 3, when masks would then become mandatory. "Because our health director was not suggesting we mandate them. And we’ve taken all the directions since the COVID from the health director locally here, both state and local, and it didn’t make sense to me if she was not supporting it that we would do so," said Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell. Mayor Dennis Hanwell says the cities in Medina County are taking on the mask recommendation, which encourages masks, but doesn’t include civil penalties, and encourages businesses to make customers wear masks. "Some of these business owners have elderly folks or compromised children with health issues, they don’t want to go home with something like this, so they have a right to protect themselves," said Mayor Hanwell. Some police departments have shown concern over enforcing mask mandates. The Bedford Police Department in Cuyahoga County, on its Facebook page, says it won't respond to mask complaints unless it gets clarification on enforcing the order, but adds that it would enforce trespassing if someone doesn’t listen to a business asking customers to wear a mask. The Village of Yellow Springs passed a mask ordinance back in June. "Part of our attitude from the beginning has been that this is a no-brainer. This is the right thing to do. We need to maintain public safety. We’re a small town, we have a small downtown," said Council President Brian Housh. The ordinance in the southwest Ohio city of less than 4,000 requires people to wear masks in the central business district. Not wearing one can result in a warning and fines. Housh adds that the city has a Mask Ambassador Initiative that encourages and gives away masks in the hometown of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. "We’re a small police force. We were concerned about the enforcement from the get go. But what’s happening is conversations," said Housh. "We’re hoping that the soft touch, a welcoming approach of putting masks in people’s hands, makes them do the right thing."

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Target, CVS Join Other Retailers in Requiring Face Masks in Stores

BY Dale Greenstein

NATIONWIDE — Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Face mask? Make sure you check twice.

More stores are now requiring customers and employees to cover their faces. Target and CVS joined the list Thursday, one day after Walmart made the same announcement for its stores and Sam's Clubs.

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Congress Discusses How Small Businesses Can Survive Pandemic

BY Taylor Popielarz

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Many of Ohio’s nearly one million small businesses are continuing to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic, as Congress tries to decide what more it can do to help. “We have a responsibility to secure funds to help America’s small businesses survive this crisis,” Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) said on Wednesday.

Expanded federal unemployment insurance is set to expire at the end of July; the Paycheck Protection Program is scheduled to stop accepting applications in August; and lawmakers have yet to reach a deal on a Phase 4 relief bill. Combined, it creates a potential recipe for disaster for small businesses. “Some have warned we could be in only the beginning of the worst wave of small business bankruptcies and closures since the Great Depression,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R, 1st Congressional District) said Wednesday. Chabot, who is the top Republican on the House Small Business Committee, took part in a hearing on Wednesday focused on what can be done in the long-term. Pete Blackshaw, the CEO of the Cincinnati-Based innovation hub Cintrifuse, testified that the government can help provide tools so small businesses can quickly adapt and restructure like the startups he works with. “The best way to help small business owners thrive in this very uncertain world is to help them think and act like startups,” Blackshaw said. A New York restaurant owner explained she’s only been able to hire 17-percent of her staff back and will need significant outside funding to stay afloat. “My PPP loan allowed me to reopen, but it is not going to allow me to stay open, even if it is forgiven,” Amanda Cohen, of Dirt Candy, testified. Cohen pushed for the RESTAURANTS Act, which Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D, 13th Congressional District) is cosponsoring. It would provide small restaurants, bars and food trucks with $120 billion in grants — not loans — to stay open. But restaurants are just some of the estimated 7.5 million small businesses at risk of permanently closing because of COVID-19. Those who testified on Wednesday said steady, long-term funding that won’t have to be immediately paid back is going to be necessary. “Access to patient capital is the core to many of the solutions to the challenges we face,” said Brett Palmer, with the Small Business Investor Alliance. Congress returns to session next week to begin formally negotiating what another relief package may include.

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Ohio Educators Sound Off on DeVos's Virtual Visit to Ohio

BY Tonisha Johnson

COLUMBUS, Ohio — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made a virtual visit to Ohio on Tuesday to talk education. But educators here in Ohio say that visit didn’t include those in the field from any organizations within the state. And that’s raising some eyebrows, as DeVos is already under fire for calling for schools to reopen fully.

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro and other educators around Ohio didn’t hold back on their feelings when it came to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s stance on the reopening of schools without guidance.

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Mutated COVID-19 Strain in Texas Could be More Contagious

BY Karina Kling

AUSTIN, Texas — There's growing evidence that a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus is more contagious than the original. The new strain is the main one circulating in Texas and the rest of the country.

A virus expert says it's actually been around since the early days of the coronavirus leaving China and is what we've known in the U.S. But it's getting more attention because new medical research was recently published showing why the mutation makes the virus more contagious.

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Walmart, Sam's Club to Require Masks at All its Stores

BY Associated Press and Spectrum News Staff

NATIONWIDE (AP) — Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam's Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.

The company said the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform stores and customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said that currently about 65% its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.

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First COVID-19 Vaccine Tested in US Poised for Final Testing

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 7:52 AM ET Jul. 15, 2020

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday -- as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

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Hundreds Turned Away After Mix-Up at COVID Testing Site

BY Jordan Vilines

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Hundreds of Cincinnatians hoping to get tested for COVID-19 Tuesday were turned away after a major mix-up at one of the pop-up testing sites.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s website, which has since been updated, showed this week’s times and locations for pop-up testing throughout Cincinnati. The website showed that Tuesday’s testing site was going to be located at Zion Temple First Pentecostal Church on Redding Road. Here’s where the confusion came in: the testing was actually being held about a mile down the road at Zion Baptist Church on Glenwood Avenue. Ennis Tait, the president of Avondale Clergy, was outside Zion Pentecostal Church throughout the morning helping to redirect hundreds of people who showed up at the wrong location throughout the day. “It’s nice that a person was here to tell me. Otherwise, if I came here and there was nobody here, I would’ve been like ugh, I don’t know what to do and I may have freaked out and gone home,” said Holly Birrer, who was turned away at the testing site. Late Tuesday afternoon, “Zion Temple” on Redding Road was removed from the COVID-19 pop-up sites on DeWine’s website. The website now shows that there will be testing Wednesday and Thursday at South Avondale School located at 636 Prospect Place.

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United Airlines Plans Significant Layoffs in Cleveland, Nationwide

BY Alexa Maslowski

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was once a hub for United Airlines. This past week, the company announced it plans to lay off as many as 450 employees in Cleveland and even more nationwide.

United Airlines wrote a notice letter to the state of Ohio which states, in part, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on travel demand and on our business. Governmental restrictions on travel, stay-at-home orders, and the lack of a medical solution for the virus brought bookings and demand for travel to a near standstill. And while demand has moved slightly upward from its April low, of down 95%, we have lost billions of dollars over this three-month period and are still spending far more than we are taking in. “ The airline said the payroll support program under the CARES Act helped protect jobs through September 30, but layoffs will begin October 1. “To me, as an economist, that the recovery for this recession is going to be much longer than we were hoping for,” said Economist Roman Sheremeta. He said the impact on airlines will cause job loss in other industries as well.

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Teachers Express Excitement and Concerns About Heading Back to School

BY Tonisha Johnson

OHIO — Heading back to school in the fall will certainly look and feel different this year. For staff in school districts, there’s a mixture of emotions as districts prepare for fall. While many teachers are excited, they're also concerned for students with the possibility of COVID-19 transmission in the classroom.

With a stopwatch in hand, Coach James Lautzenheiser is up and at ‘em early with his players at Crestview High School in Convoy, Ohio. He’s trying to set the stage early with strength and conditioning training in preparation for what they hope will be an upcoming football season. Although they've been practicing, the 8th grade American History teacher is a little anxious about the new year.

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4 More States Added to NY Quarantine List; Infection Rate Hits 1.5%

BY Nick Reisman

Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin were added to New York's 14-day quarantine list for out-of-state travelers, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced.

The addition of those states brings the list to 22 states, requiring travelers to New York from those areas of the country to self-isolate for 14 days or face a fine.

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Business Training Company ImprovEdge Embraces Digital Space

BY Olivia Wile

COLUMBUS, Ohio — "In two days, 95 percent of our clients postponed or canceled their business with us,” said Karen Hough, founder and CEO of ImprovEdge LLC.

As many businesses have been forced to operate from home during the coronavirus pandemic, ImprovEdge is no different, but Hough says restructuring a service as interactive as improv has had its challenges.

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Hospitals Operating Normally as COVID-19 Surges in Southwest Ohio

BY Tino Bovenzi

CINCINNATI/DAYTON, Ohio — Four counties in Southwest Ohio are at Red Level 3, a public emergency for very high exposure and spread of the coronavirus. And two other counties—Butler and Hamilton—are pushing into Level 4.

Greg Kesterman, the interim health commissioner for Hamilton County Public Health, said they are monitoring the spread of the virus with a close eye. “Some of this is absolutely attributable to more testing,” Kesterman said. “As you test more individuals, you’re going to find more cases of COVID-19. Although, the increase as well in hospitalizations and intensive care units admissions is certainly very concerning and something we’re watching closely.” Which poses this question: With cases on the rise, and hospital admissions on the rise, is there a cause for concern that hospital bed space in ICUs could soon become overrun? Tiffany Mattingly, MSN, RN and senior director of Clinical Initiatives of The Health Collaborative, said not just yet. “We are still in a very comfortable place, although we are starting to really pay attention to those beds and to reevaluate what our actual surge capacity is,” Mattingly said. She said the hospital systems in greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky are not currently in jeopardy of being overrun with COVID-19 patients. But if trends continue, they may have to activate the emergency surge hospital system. “That next step would be to use the Duke Energy Center to help decompress the hospital if necessary,” she said. "We’re not at that point yet, but it is something that we look at. We’re taking everything that we learned this past March and April and applying it to our current environment now to help us make the best decision."

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Do Outbreaks at Huron Co. Farms Mean COVID-19 is Foodborne?

BY Micaela Marshall

Coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the state, with some areas hit harder than others.

But what happens when there’s an outbreak where food is grown? Could the food be contaminated? Where is the safest place to get food during a pandemic? Huron County is a known COVID-19 hotspot, recently downgraded to from a Level 3 to a Level 2 emergency. The state released a scale where outbreaks are increasing, making Level 4 the worst.

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House of Representatives Protocol Called Into Question As Statehouse Staffer Tests Positive for COVID-19

BY Molly Martinez

COLUMBUS, Ohio — From the Governor’s Office to the House of Representatives, this week, the second surge of coronavirus cases is hitting close to home for those in the Statehouse.

That prompted Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) to issue a reinstituted work-from-home policy for legislative staff, saying, “I have decided to reinstitute Ohio House of Representatives Work From Home status. This will take effect the morning of Friday, July 10. Staff should not report to the Riffe Center for work. Work Fom Home status will continue until further notice.”

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Pandemic to Blame for U.S. Coin Shortage

BY Alexa Maslowski

CLEVELAND, Ohio — An unexpected result of the coronavirus is affecting businesses across the state. The Federal Reserve says we’re experiencing a coin shortage.

The Federal Reserve attributes the current coin shortage to two major factors. In a statement they said, “In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees.” Businesses like Meijer have posted signs alerting customers to use card or electronic payments only.

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Testing Shows Effectiveness of Cloth Masks Against Coronavirus

BY Rob Wu

NORTH CAROLINA – When it comes to turning the tide on COVID-19, health experts have touted one simple thing we can all do: wear a mask.

The virus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets, particles produced by infected people that are breathed in or touched by others.

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Big Ten Moves to Conference-Only Schedule This Fall Citing Coronavirus Concerns

BY Spectrum News Staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Big Ten Conference released a statement Thursday announcing the move to a Conference-only schedule this fall for all sports—men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

And that's if they can still participate depending on the status of COVID-19 in the next few months.

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New Study Shows Increase in Suicides in Ohio

BY Katie Kapusta

CINCINNATI, Ohio—The pandemic may be aggravating an already concerning issue among mental health professionals- suicide. A new study shows a major increase in suicides since 2009.

Living with suicidal thoughts is an everyday battle.

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United Way of Greater Cincinnati Helps Keep Community Safe From COVID-19

BY Camri Nelson

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Over the past couple of months, there’s been a growing need for more personal protective equipment (PPE) for Churches Active in Northside, also known as CAIN. This is especially the case as they manage to operate their food pantry on a weekly basis.

“Our food pantry typically serves between two and three hundred families a month, and we’ve seen a tremendous increase—about a 75 percent increase in pantry visits since the beginning of COVID here in Cincinnati,” said Melissa Meyer, CAIN executive director. And although they are serving the food outside, Meyer said it’s still important that people have masks. “We’ve become very worried recently about the increase in COVID cases in Hamilton County, so we’ve been providing masks to all of our pantry guests because they have close contact with staff,” she said. United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s newest initiative is helping organizations like CAIN. Every Wednesday until August 5, they are handing out boxes full of masks, sanitizers and other PPE to community members and organizations that registered in advance. This was all made possible through a donation from Procter and Gamble. “We’re trying to make sure we meet the needs of the community, particularly those who don’t have access to them so we can get them to them as soon as possible,” said Moira Weir, United Way of Greater Cincinnati president and CEO. Meyer said this donation will truly help keep the community safe. ”We really want to be able to protect all of our neighbors and community- our staff and volunteers and help prevent the spread of COVID,” said Meyer. And she’s very grateful for the support from United Way and hopes to help as many people as possible. “To be able to get masks, to be able to protect everybody is just a tremendous relief for us,” she said. “It takes just one less pressure off a very challenging time.”

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Cleveland Heights School District, Farmers to Families Distribute 340,000 Meals to Combat Food Shortage

BY Ryan Schmelz

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Food shortages have been a problem across Ohio as the coronavirus takes an economic toll on families.

Nancy Peppler is directing traffic and reminding everyone to wear a mask as they drive through the parking lot of Cleveland Heights High School. "I think the need is definitely there. People appreciate it and people are struggling," Peppler said. She’s organizing an army of volunteers, like school board member and lifelong Cleveland Heights resident Dan Heintz, who’s helping load boxes of food into cars for those who could use a helping hand. "I can say that I wasn’t aware. And that’s not to say that the need wasn’t there. But it was just to say me as an individual, middle class, middle-aged white man, this was not a part of the world that I was aware enough of," Heintz said. As volunteers continue to get some very tall stacks of donations, they’re eager to give them away to those in need. “It’s been very challenging. My whole family has suffered," said Christina Pease, who's driving through the donation line, thankful to get some boxes of food from her neighbors. "This is just amazing. I cried when I saw that this is going on," Pease said. The boxes of produce are full of food like fruits, vegetables and potatoes, which were donated through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The program acquires food that would have gone to restaurants or schools and sends it to nonprofits and schools for distribution. Peppler is happy Cleveland Heights was chosen as a distribution site. "It’s absolutely been rewarding. It’s wonderful to see that we can get food to people and they appreciate it. Everybody’s been very kind," Peppler said. Peppler has recruited younger Cleveland Heights High School alumni, like Julia O’Donnell, class of 2019. They're stepping up to load boxes and even direct traffic. "I really enjoy seeing the people, and when I tell them to have a good day, they seem genuinely happy to hear that from me, and also just when people ask for more boxes they are genuinely grateful that we can give it to them, so it’s really nice to see.”

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There's Much Ado About Contact Tracing. But Is It Reliable in Fighting COVID-19?​

BY Ryan Schmelz

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Contact tracing has been one of the most talked about strategies in the fight against COVID-19. But how reliable is it and how has it changed with cases rising in younger people?

Dr. Amy Edwards, with University Hospital's Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, says contact tracing — finding people who were exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID before they spread illness to other people — was handy when Ohio was flattening the curve. "One of the reasons that we wanted to flatten the curve is because if we wanted to get the case number down, then contact tracing can help bring it down the rest of the way," Edwards said. One of the issues right now though, according to the Cuyahoga County Health Department, is a shortage of contact tracers. "Back in June, we were looking at a low of somewhere between 20 to 30 cases per day, and then in the last few days, about a week or so, we’ve been looking at over 100 cases a day," said Romona Brazile, co-director of Cuyahoga County's Prevention and Wellness Services. "And so, it’s very difficult to kind of keep the number of contact tracers we need to match what the surge is right now." Brazile says the county has had success identifying people with COVID-19 through contact tracing. But the county is also seeing a spike in cases from a younger population, compared to March and April, which can be harder to track down if they’ve been to places with a lot of people. "People are more mobile than they have been. So, they’re around more people, they’re going to more places, they’re traveling again, they’re going back to work, they’re working for multiple days sick, so it’s made all of that contact tracing more difficult." And Division Director of Internal Medicine at MetroHealth Dr. Dave Margolius says contact tracing can sometimes come too late. "It'’s hard to remember who you were exposed to in many cases, and the other challenge is that the result doesn’t come back immediately," said Margolius. "With some of the pharmacies where it’s like a five- to seven-day turnaround to get the results, to then remember back to who you were exposed to, to talk to each of those folks, it might be too late." The Cuyahoga County Board of Health says the greater testing availability has helped the county connect people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 get the testing they need.

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12 Ohio Counties Are Now at Red Level 3 After Documenting Sharp Spikes in COVID-19 Cases

BY Spectrum News Staff
UPDATED 4:00 PM ET Jul. 09, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health has added six more counties to Red Alert Level 3, indicating an increased spread of the coronavirus: Summit, Pickaway, Lorain, Clermont, Wood and Fairfield.

That's now 12 counties in total in Level 3 compared to the seven identified two days ago. At Thursday's briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine said 18 counties went from Level 1 to Level 2 in the last 48 hours. Huron County was the only one to drop from a Level 3 to a Level 2.

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Who's In Charge of Mask Enforcement? A Local Bar Owner is Taking Matters Into Her Own Hands

BY Molly Martinez

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s been a few weeks since The Bottle Shop in Columbus resumed business. But once they opened their doors, owner Barbara Reynolds noticed that patrons disregarding the rules turned The Bottle Shop into a bottleneck.

So, she did something unorthodox. She voluntarily scaled back operations, noting fruitless enforcement didn't pair well with her business.

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'I Am Not the Mask Police': Some Southwest Ohio Law Enforcement Agencies Won't Enforce Mask Ordinance​

BY Tino Bovenzi

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Ohio's new red alert mask mandate is now in effect in seven counties seeing a rise in cases.

But some southwest Ohio law enforcement agencies are stating they will not be enforcing the ordinance. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones made waves at his press conference Tuesday evening. “I am not the mask police, I am not going to enforce any mask-wearing,” Jones said. “That is not my responsibility. I didn’t put this order out, and it’s getting to the point people are scared. People are calling and asking do we have to wear the mask in our house, in our cars, it’s getting kind of ridiculous.”

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Soup Kitchen Reopens After Volunteer Had COVID-19

BY Katie Kapusta

CINCINNATI, Ohio— With unemployment at the highest levels since the Great Depression, many are looking for ways to continue to take care of themselves and their family. Soup Kitchens have seen an increase over the last few months.



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Respiratory Therapist Connects Patient Care with Compassion During Pandemic

BY Tino Bovenzi

DAYTON, Ohio — We've heard a lot about the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, but respiratory therapists also play a key role in treatment.

At Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, the care you receive surpasses the surface level of taking care of your medical concerns. Vicki Laywell is a registered respiratory therapist at Kettering and works to make visits less scary for patients by being compassionate while providing care. “Sometimes you just need someone to talk to or someone to listen to them,” she said. She’s approaching her 11th year working a multifaceted role at the hospital that goes beyond the perception RRTs only give breathing treatments. “We actually assist in the ICUs with intubations, extubations of patients,” she said. “We round with the doctors and nurses in the ICUs, and it’s a team collaboration of figuring out what we’re going to do next as far as a patient is concerned.”

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Ohio Legal Help Provides 'Umbrella of Resources'

BY Dennis Biviano

COLUMBUS, Ohio —Nearly a year after it was launched, Columbus based Ohio Legal Help aims to guide, inform and connect the public with real-time data.

Executive Director Susan Choe says the website removes barriers to laws and helps to close the “justice gap” in Ohio, which has been widened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Masks Divide Ohio Statehouse

BY Molly Martinez

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is once again in the thick of a massive spike in COVID cases.

As the number of sick roll in by the thousands daily, to curtail the crisis, we’re going back to the basics.

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Black-Owned Business Beats the Odds During Pandemic

BY Camri Nelson

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Opening Cream + Sugar Coffee House has been a dream in the making for co-owners Taren Kinebrew and Crystal Grace, both of whom own other businesses in Cincinnati. “It’s amazing that we were able to take what we both love from two different businesses and figure out a way to make that merge into one,” said Kinebrew.

They had planned to open the coffeehouse back in March, but by that time most businesses had closed due to COVID-19. “Once everything happened and businesses started opening back up, we just made the decision to pull the trigger and see what happens,” said Kinebrew. “Honestly, we have been slammed every single day since we’ve been opened.” And one of the things that keeps people coming back is the plant-based and healthy food and drink options. “We know that in the African-American community we tend to suffer with diabetes, high cholesterol, things like that,” Kinebrew said. “So, we wanted to make sure that we gave or presented a food option that was not only tasty and good, but also healthy.” And this is something that customers seem to love. Kinebrew says she’s truly appreciative of all the support. “I think the community needed it,” she said. “We have a huge following, both of us independently, so we’ve gotten a lot of support there. The community has definitely supported us. People are intentional about spending their dollars and we’re just so happy that they’re spending their dollars with us.” Although they’ve received huge backing from the community, Kinebrew admits that there are concerns around how the pandemic could potentially impact their business. But she says they are doing all they can to make sure their employees and customers are safe. “Our customers understand the importance of safety,” she said. “So, we can only do what we can and hopefully everybody will stay safe during this time.” Cream + Sugar Coffee House is open Monday through Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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Researchers Recruiting Minorities For COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

BY Sheena Elzie

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Researchers are trying to get more minorities to test out the new coronavirus trial vaccine, but some might be hesitant to jump in.

Researchers had no idea who or how many would show up to get the first coronavirus trial vaccine, but they knew what they may not see: diversity.

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Kings Island Reopens with New Safety Measures in Place

BY Tino Bovenzi

MASON, Ohio — After months of having to stay closed, Kings Island has reopened to season pass holders.

Although the park is up and running, going to Kings Island for its 49th season looks a little bit different this year. Guests must pass through a health screening station where they will have to answer a quick health questionnaire and pass a temperature test.

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American Fireworks Co. Hit Hard By Pandemic

BY Rachele Mongiovi

HUDSON, Ohio — Many Americans won't get to see their favorite fireworks displays this Fourth of July weekend. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many cities to cancel Independence Day gatherings. For one Ohio company, that does both commercial shows and retail sales, it's seeing highs and lows this fireworks season.

Hudson-based American Fireworks Company was a major fireworks manufacturer from the 1920's to the 1980's before importing products from China. "Our business is pretty much fully-reliant on the Chinese market. They have the best products that we feel in the world, their safety, their quality has always been better than what we could do," said Roberto Sorgi, the owner of American Fireworks Company. Sorgi is the fifth-generation owner of American Fireworks. He said about 99 percent of what you see in the air is a Chinese product—something that became challenging to get during the coronavirus pandemic. "As China was opening up, the United States was closing down, but they're trying to get products out. Our industry had a lot of hazardous material on the water coming from China and domestically within the country, so we had this issue where we needed to actually get this freight in here or else our company and a lot of fireworks companies would see hazardous material stacking up in ports across the country," Sorgi said. Fortunately, fireworks companies were able to get approval from authorities to off load and secure these products. However, as product starting coming in, so did the calls. Firework displays across the country were being canceled or postponed. "Cities at this point were having double digit cancellations. Our company traditionally shoots anywhere from 550 to 600 public events to the community within a nine-state territory," Sorgi said. "We will still produce fireworks; it's just not near the volume, which is going to crush us." American Fireworks said its saving grace is retail sales. More people are buying fireworks for personal use since celebrations are no longer happening. "What we're finding is no one is traveling. They're thinking this Fourth of July, 'Hey, let's have a small home gathering' and we didn't see that coming—we were doomsday prepping. In the state of Ohio, you can purchase them, but you're supposed to take them out of the state within 48 hours to shoot them." Sorgi expects retail sales to be up by about 60 percent for the entire year. It's a silver lining to an unexpectedly explosive year. "The business side, it'll come back—we're not worried about that; we've been doing this for 115 years and we're gonna do it for 116 years. It's more so how do we get to next year, if the time's right next year," said Sorgi.

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Bipartisan Frustration With Lesser Known Small Biz COVID Relief

BY Taylor Popielarz

WASHINGTON, D.C. — You’ve likely heard of the “Paycheck Protection Program,” but there’s another taxpayer-funded relief program that is giving out tens of billions of dollars and not getting the same attention.

The “Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program” was the subject of a House Small Business Committee hearing on Wednesday.

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After 100 Days of Quarantine, What Have We Learned?

BY Josh Robin - Chief National Political Reporter

NOTE: This story is part of “Together/Alone,” a column from Spectrum News Chief National Political Reporter Josh Robin that explores life during these historic times.

When did this start?

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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)