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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980000Day after day, week after week, the headlines in Northeast Ohio and across much of the country contain news of tragic loss: lives lost to opioids. It’s a problem that knows no bounds: geography, race, gender, level of education or income.The problem took on new urgency this summer as the powerful elephant sedative, Carfentanil, began hitting the streets. First responders armed with their only weapon, the overdose antidote Naloxone, have struggled to keep up with what’s become an overwhelming problem. It’s an issue that’s straining public and social resources. What has become clear is that business as usual is not going to fix the problem.WKSU news has been covering the unfolding crisis. Tuesdays during Morning Edition, the WKSU news team digs even deeper. WKSU reporters will examine what’s led us here and what might be done to turn the tide. Support for Opioids: Turning the Tide in the Crisis comes from Wayne Savings Community Bank, Kent State University Office of Continuing and Distance Education, Hometown Grocery Delivery, Mercy Medical Center, AxessPointe Community Health Center, Community Support Services, Inc., Medina County District Library and Hudson Community First.00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980001

Morning Headlines: Akron Makes Face Masks Mandatory; State Prisons Don't Have Needed PPE Gear

Akron mayor Dan Horrigan wears a mask at a June 6 protest.
Face masks, like the one worn by Mayor Dan Horrigan at a June 6 protest, are now mandatory in the city of Akron. Summit County Public Health will be charged with enforcing the order.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, July 14:

  • Akron makes face masks mandatory as COVID-19 cases continue to rise
  • Cleveland ranks as most stressed city in the country
  • Akron Schools push back school year start
  • Report blasts ex-Cleveland safety director for being lenient on officer misconduct
  • State prison employees say they don’t have the protective gear needed to safeguard against COVID-19
  • Cuyahoga County receives 500 mask complaints over the weekend
  • Ohio AG sues pharmacy middlemen over prescription overcharges
  • Akron Community Foundation to offer funds for opioid crisis solutions

Akron makes face masks mandatory as COVID-19 cases continue rise
Akron City Council has voted to make masks mandatory in the city. With passage of Akron’s ordinance, violators will face civil rather than the criminal penalties imposed by the state. Summit County Public Health will enforce the law. A broad effort to educate the community before the fines are issued is underway. Violators won’t face fines set at $50 per individual and $250 per business unless a second offense is committed. Residents can report violations through a portal on the health department’s website. The law will be in effect until city council votes to repeal it.  Masks became mandatory Friday after the state moved Summit County into red alert statusas cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.  

Cleveland ranks as most stressed city in the country
Cleveland is the most stressed city in the country, according to the personal-finance website WalletHub. Cleveland ranked first in divorce rate and second for poverty rate, and ranked poorly for traffic congestion, inadequate sleep, health and job security. WalletHub compared more than 180 cities to identify the Most and Least Stressed Cities in America. Akron ranked 12th. Other high-stress cities were Detroit, Michigan; Birmingham, Alabama; Gulfport, Mississippi; and Newark, New Jersey.

Akron Schools push back school year start
Akron Public Schools may push back the start of the school year due to the pandemic. The Beacon Journal reportsthe updated recommendation from the district’s reopening team suggests students should return a week later than previously scheduled, to the week of September 3. That would give teachers additional time to prepare. The current plan calls for younger students to return to class five days a week, older students would take a blend of online and in-person classes. Canton Schools unveiled a similar plan on Monday, and also suggested pushing back the start date from August 18 to August 24.

Report blasts ex-Cleveland safety director for being lenient on officer misconduct
Cleveland's now-retired safety director is facing sharp criticism for failing to provide consistent discipline to police officers who committed misconduct. That's according to a report filed Monday in U.S. District Court. The city is under a U.S. Justice Department consent decree to make police department reforms. Monitor Hassan Aden and his team reviewed 39 disciplinary decisions by then-director Michael McGrath or an assistant over the last two years. In only 24 percent of those cases did the director impose punishments within the department’s disciplinary matrix and with enough written justification. McGrath became Cleveland's director of public safety in 2014, after serving nine years as chief of police. He resigned last month.

State prison employees say they don’t have the protective gear needed to safeguard against COVID-19
Ohio prison employees say they are not being given enough personal protective equipment as they deal with inmates who have or have been exposed to COVID-19. The Columbus Dispatch reports the union that represents about 1,200 nurses, social workers, psychologists and others working in Ohio prisons says those workers are being told to reuse N95 masks for multiple days.  A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction tells the Dispatch that the department is “not aware” of staff members being forced to reuse masks and that it’s using Battelle’s service to sanitize masks. The state has nearly 8,000 prison inmates in quarantine as of Sunday.

Cuyahoga County receives 500 mask complaints over the weekend
Complaints about masks came flooding in to Cuyahoga County over the weekend. Cleveland.com reports the city has received at least 500 mask complaints since 3 p.m. Friday, when its complaint hotline and website first opened. Most of the complaints were related to violations of Gov. Mike DeWine’s mask order at businesses or public places around Cuyahoga County, as opposed to individuals failing to wear masks. The county says it plans to follow up with each complaint, either by contacting the subject of the complaint, the municipality where the violation took place, and the Board of Health. Complaints can be filed at cuyahogacounty.us/maskexperience.

Ohio AG sues pharmacy middlemen over prescription overcharges
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sued another pharmacy benefit manager – a private company that contracts with the state to manage prescriptions for people on programs including Medicaid. The lawsuit claims Express Scripts repeatedly misclassified generic drugs as pricier brand-name versions, silently pocketing millions of dollars in overcharges. Yost says the company victimized the pension fund for state troopers. Last year Yost sued Optum RX accusing that PBM of $16 million in overcharges to the state’s bureau of workers’ compensation. 

Akron foundation to offer funds for opioid crisis solutions
The Akron Community Foundation is creating a new fund to address the opioid and addiction crisis, which has not abated during the pandemic. The foundation cites data from Summit County Public Health that indicates there have been more than 500 drug overdoses in the county this year. The Foundation plans to award grants in September of between $75,000 and $150,000. It’s taking applications now from nonprofits, research and medical institutions offering solutions that can be replicated, including those that involve alternative pain management and medication assisted treatment.


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J. Nungesser is a multiple media journalist at Ideastream Public Media.