In Ohio’s coal country, pandemic pushes unemployment rate from bad to worse

As the novel coronavirus spread, Appalachian Ohio saw the state’s highest percentages of people out of work. Ohio’s coal mining counties have been hit even harder as unemployment surged following the country’s novel coronavirus outbreak. As the statewide unemployment rate moved from 4.7% in February to 5.6% in March, counties in Appalachian Ohio also saw rates twice as high — up to 12.2% in Monroe County. The six counties with the highest percentages of people out of work in March were all in the state’s Appalachian region. 

Job security has been an ongoing concern for coal miners and their communities, and the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse. As of April, the U.S. coal industry had lost one in seven jobs since January, when doctors diagnosed the first U.S. case of COVID-19.

CDC Reverses Course Again on Using Race As Testing Criteria

Minority Groups with Higher Case and Death Rates Deemed a Priority, Then Not

After changing the guidelines to test ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the CDC reversed course again Wednesday, saying that African Americans exposed to the virus could not get tested without symptoms.

A May 3 directive allowed physicians to test “persons without symptoms who come from racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by adverse COVID-19 outcomes—currently African Americans, Hispanics, and some American Indian tribes (e.g., Navajo Nation).” 

On May 6, however, all mention of race and ethnicity disappeared. The agency once again advised prioritizing persons with symptoms, especially if they were hospitalized, or were healthcare workers. Asymptomatic persons could be tested if  local health departments deemed it necessary for surveillance or monitoring, the CDC said. Nationally, CDC statistics reveal Blacks comprise 28 percent of the nation’s 1.5 million COVID cases and 21 percent of fatalities — more than double their percentage of the nation’s population. It’s a change that the National Medical Association, the nation’s oldest organization advocating for African American physicians and patients, has been advocating for since April 15.

Utilities, gas industry coordinate to oppose Ohio village’s clean energy goal

Emails obtained by a utility watchdog group reveal push by Dominion Energy and allies against a local resolution. Dominion Energy’s opposition to an Ohio village’s clean energy proposal appears to be part of a larger trend nationwide in which gas utilities are becoming more active at the local government level. Unlike other cases involving bans on new gas hook-ups, however, Bratenahl’s proposed resolution stated a general goal of achieving 100% clean energy, with no specific plan or enforcement provisions. The resolution would have set a goal of fully transitioning to clean energy for village-owned facilities by 2025 and for the general community of about 1,200 people by 2035. 

The proposal surfaced in November in the wake of state lawmakers gutting the state’s renewable energy standards last year. 

“In response, you have local communities stepping up to make commitments to 100% clean energy,” said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Cleveland and Cincinnati had already committed in 2018 to move to 100% renewable energy for electricity.

“It literally consumes everything I do”: Ohioans desperate to reach unemployment hotline as calls dropped, claims languish

Marcia Gassaway was in the first wave of Ohioans put out of work by COVID-19. The single mom from Cleveland went to the emergency room on March 15. Due to her coronavirus-like symptoms, doctors ordered that she be quarantined at a special facility. Now, she’s recovering at home with her children, calling the unemployment help line over and over again. “I call every day, every day,” she said.

Ohio hospitals remain mum on changes to local bed and ventilator counts; uncertainty affects local patients

The Ohio Department of Health gets daily updates on the total number of beds and ventilators that could be available for COVID-19 patients at hospitals throughout the state. But so far the agency hasn’t provided any hospital-by-hospital breakdown, and the agencies that collect capacity information on their behalf have also declined to release their assessments. The result: Ohioans don’t know how many beds and ventilators are available where they live. Timely and meaningful knowledge could benefit Ohioans from a health perspective, while also helping them understand the range of public policy issues surrounding the crisis. 

The availability of resources to care for COVID-19 patients could mean life or death for thousands of Ohioans. “It’s what keeps me awake at night,” said Ohio Department of Health (ODH) director of health Amy Acton, MD, MPH of her fear of running out of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Eye on Ohio Launches Project to Combat Misinformation and Disinformation on the Internet

Shana Black, Eye on Ohio's First Draft Fellow. On Thursday, a Cleveland man tweeted a picture saying that that local residents had taken to the streets to end COVID-19. The internet launched a vitriolic response, condemning the city for further spreading the disease. But no one, in fact, had marched. The tweet came from a satire account that had posted an old picture of a Cleveland Cavalier championship victory.

‘Unbuilding’: What might happen if dams are removed in the Ohio River watershed

The Ohio River watershed is dotted with thousands of small dams. Many are remnants of bygone days of grain mills and the steel industry, which used dams to pool water needed during production. The dams are no longer needed. And, because they can be a safety hazard to boats and a barrier to fish, there are efforts to remove them and restore free-flowing rivers. But not everyone is ready for it. A mayor’s vision starts with dam removal

After years of pushing for the removal of the old steel industry dam crossing the Mahoning River in his northeastern Ohio village near the Pennsylvania border, Lowellville Mayor Jim Iudiciani said it’s coming down this summer. 

“They call me the dam mayor, and for good reason, finally,” Iudiciani joked.