This article is part of the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative, a project composed of 16 Greater Cleveland news outlets including Eye on Ohio, which covers the whole state. To support us, please sign up for our free newsletter or text 216-867-6327. A cherry-colored 10-speed rests inside the door of room 123 at a hotel on the west side. It’s overturned, forks facing the ceiling, a deflated front tire slung over a pedal. Abel Currie has crisscrossed Cleveland on the vintage bike, sometimes on a shady park trail, other times packing a lunch and heading to the lakefront. Lately, his rides have been an escape from the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, which have created chaos, especially for those experiencing homelessness.
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.