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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Morning Headlines: Colleges Postpone Commencement; Clinic Limits Testing; Cities Close Offices

a photo of a test kit
Coronavirus test kit

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, March 18: 

  • NE Ohio colleges postpone commencement;
  • Cleveland Clinic limits coronavirus testing;
  • Cities declare public health emergency;
  • Hospitals postpone elective surgeries;
  • Two Akron hotels to give discounts to health care workers;
  • Ohio Democratic Party files lawsuit over canceled primary;
  • Hospitals preparing for surge in COVID-19 cases;
  • Cleveland Hopkins TSA agent tests positive for COVID-19;
  • Akron asks nonessential employees to stay home;
  • ACLU creates email for coronavirus reports in prisons, jails;
  • Akron Public Schools handing out meals to families;

NE Ohio colleges postpone commencement
Universities in Ohio are postponing spring commencement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including The University of Akron, Youngstown State, Cleveland State, Ohio State and Capital University. Students will still have their degrees conferred on graduation day and will receive their diplomas in the mail. The schools are following the latest recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which asks to have no more than 50 people in one area.

Cleveland Clinic limits coronavirus testing
TheCleveland Clinic is limiting its drive-thru coronavirustesting to high-risk patients due to an overwhelming demand. High-risk is defined as people who are currently hospitalized or are 61 and older. The Clinic is asking patients with a doctor's order to go the W.O. Walker facility in Cleveland. Patients will no longer be tested at the Clinic’s Landerbrook location in Mayfield Heights. Meanwhile, the MetroHealth Medical System announced Tuesday it can nowtestsamples with results in two hours. Supplies are limited and testing is reserved for only the sickest patients.

Cities declare public health emergency
The cities of Kent and Barberton have declared a public health emergency. The declaration will temporarily suspend public access to any city offices until further notice. In-person visits are no longer allowed. City services are not being cut. Fire and police departments will still be responding to incidents. A number of Northeast Ohio cities have closed offices to the public. 

Hospitals postpone elective surgeries
Ohio's top health official is ordering all hospitals to stop elective surgeries to preserve equipment. Ohio Department Director Dr. Amy Action said procedures will be canceled unless they are intended to save a life or prevent pain. Acton said hospitals nationwide are currently seeing a shortage of protective equipment like gloves and masks. She's asking all schools and offices to donate any resources they may not be using to their local emergency management agency. There are now 67 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio, and more than half are in Northeast Ohio.

Two Akron hotels offer discounts to health care workers
A local firm that owns hotels in the Akron area is giving discounts to health care workers and first responders who are afraid of spreading COVID-19.The Beacon Journal reports Copley-based Radius Hospitality will make The Residence Inn in Fairlawn and the Holiday Inn in North Canton available at discounted rates. Gov. Mike DeWine in hisTuesday afternoon pressbriefing called on hotels to consider such an idea.

Ohio Democratic Party files lawsuit over canceled primary
The Ohio Democratic Party is suing over Secretary of State Frank LaRose's decision to postpone Tuesday’s primary election. The party argues the power to set a new election date rests only with the Legislature. Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued a public health emergency on the eve of the election, and set a new date of June 2. A judge earlier that night struck down DeWine’s request.

Cleveland Hopkins TSA agent tests positive for COVID-19
A TSA agent at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. He worked the 4 a.m. to noon shift Saturday at the airport’s North Checkpoint. The worker is receiving treatment and is in quarantine. TSA said they're working with the CDC and Cuyahoga County Board of Health to monitor the situation. Eight TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 across the U.S.

Akron asks nonessential employees to stay home
About 600 Akron city workers are being told to stay home. Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said only essential employees will report to work beginning Friday. Those include anyone providing direct public services, such as police, paramedics and firefighters. The city will continue to provide services like 911 dispatch, EMS, and trash and recycling. Nonessential employees will be able to use their personal paid leave for apply for unemployment benefits.

ACLU launches email hotline for prison, jail inmates
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has created a email hotline to report coronavirus-related problems in prisons, jails and juvenile centers.  It's covid19@aclu.org. It's a way for the ACLU to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in those facilities. It'll also help determine how correction officials should respond. The ACLU says they're mostly concerned with jails because they're overcrowded and don't have state-implemented strategies to follow.

Akron Public Schools handing out meals to families
Akron Public Schools is handing out free meals to families amid concerns that children could go hungry at home. The meals will be handed out at more than 40 schools Monday through Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Around 5,000 meals were given to families yesterday. Gov. Mike DeWine ordered K-12 schools to shut down Monday afternoon for three weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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