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Northeast Ohio seeing brunt of COVID-19 cases in omicron variant surge: Reporters Roundtable

A photo of a stack of newspapers on a desk.
A photo of a stack of newspapers on a desk.

We really wanted to start the first Reporters Roundtable of the year talking about something, anything other than COVID-19.  But we are starting this year as we ended 2021 and frankly 2020 as well, still up against the coronavirus.  This time it is the highly-contagious omicron variant that is driving cases and hospitalizations. 

The situation is dire in Cuyahoga County—which has one of the highest number of cases per capita in the state.  Based on this week's data the county is number 2 in the state--just behind Erie County.  Other northeast Ohio counties land in the top spots for highest spread of COVID-19.  Summit, Lorain and Lake county round out the top five. Currently, health officials say 90% of cases in the Cuyahoga County are omicron.

Ohio has set new case and hospitalization records almost daily since after Christmas.  Yesterday case numbers were again over 19,000. And the case number per 100,000--for the entire state of Ohio was 1,818.  Remember that was the metric that guided DeWine's decision to lift pandemic health orders in June 2021 when we came close to the metric of 50 cases per 100,000.

Cuyahoga County health commissioner Terry Allan says the unvaccinated are driving the surge.

2022 will be a pivotal election year at every level of government.  Voters in Ohio will elect a new United States senator, 15 Congressmembers, governor and statewide executives.  Voters will also elect Ohio House members and half of the Ohio Senate.  Three Ohio Supreme Court justice races will also be decided.   Here in Cuyahoga County, voters will decide a new executive.

This week, the two Democrats seeking the nomination for governor named their running mates.  Former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley chose Cuyahoga County council member and former Cleveland Heights mayor Cheryl Stephens. Former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley chose state senator Theresa Fedor of Toledo. Governor DeWine will face primary challengers in Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone.  And the field of Republican contenders could still grow.

One mayor has announced a campaign to run for Cuyahoga County executive while another suspended their campaign this week. Maple Height Mayor Annette Blackwell says she will halt her campaign for executive and said in a statement she will focus on  the remaining two years in her term leading that city.  Her announcement came a day before Warrensville Heights mayor Brad Sellers announced his campaign for executive.

Lisa Ryan, Health Reporter, Ideastream Public Media 
Kabir Bhatia, Senior Reporter, WKSU 
Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau Reporter, Ohio Public Radio/TV