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Morning Headlines: KSU to Issue $14M in Refunds; Lawmakers Ask Trump for State Disaster Declaration

Map of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Ohio had 1,933 as of Monday.
Map of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Ohio had 1,933 as of Monday.

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, March 31:

  • Kent State to pay $14M in refunds;
  • Ohio lawmakers ask Trump for state disaster declaration;
  • Voting rights groups sue Ohio over primary plans;
  • Portage County confirms first COVID-19-related death;
  • Juvenile corrections contractor tests positive for coronavirus;
  • Federal judge temporarily blocks efforts to ban abortions;
  • K-12 schools closed until May;
  • Battelle, OSU develop 5-hour coronavirus test;
  • Akron Art Museum extends closure, furloughs workers;
  • Prisons to make thousands of masks, gowns;
  • Knight Foundation donates $500,000 to pandemic fund;
  • Metro RTA confirms passenger has COVID-19;

KSU to pay $14M in refunds to students

Kent State University will issue a total of $14 million in refunds to students. Residence hall and parking fees will be refunded on a prorated basis from March 20. Any meal plans with remaining declining balances will carry over to the next semester and graduating seniors will receive a full refund. Kent State shifted to online learning amid the coronavirus outbreak. Students have since evacuated the dorms.  

Ohio lawmakers ask Trump for state disaster declaration

Ohio lawmakers are asking President Donald Trump to declare Ohio a major disaster area so the state can qualify for emergency federal funding. More than 20 states have received the declaration, including Michigan, Illinois and New York. The letter from Gov. Mike DeWine and the state’s congressional delegation says the funding will help fight the spread of the virus and offer relief. 

Voting rights groups sue Ohio over primary plans

Voting rights groups are suing the state over Ohio’s primary election. The League of Women Voters, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and four voters argue the plan to extend absentee voting through April 28 with limited opportunities for in-person voting that day is cumbersome and doesn’t allow enough time to complete ballots. They also say it violates federal law which requires voter registrations up to 30 days before the election. The complaint doesn’t suggest a particular date for the primary, but urges the judge to reopen registration and compel the state to automatically send ballots to eligible voters.

Portage County confirms first COVID-19-related death

Portage County has reportedits first COVID-19-related death. Health officials said it was an older male. Portage County now has 33 cases — it had four late last week. The state confirmed nearly 2,000 cases as of yesterday and 39 deaths spanning 19 counties. Summit County reported 116 cases Monday, which is a nearly 20% jump since Sunday.

Juvenile corrections contractor tests positive for coronavirus

A part-time contractor with Ohio's juvenile corrections system has tested positive for COVID-19. The Ohio Department of Youth Services isn’t saying where the woman worked, but said she hasn’t been in a facility since late last month.Cleveland.com reports health officials believe it's unlikely she spread the disease to other employees or juveniles.

Federal judge temporarily blocks efforts to ban abortions

A federal judge has temporarily blocked efforts to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked providers to prohibit abortions under Gov. Mike DeWine's order to stop nonessential surgeries during the pandemic. The judge's decision came hours after Planned Parenthood, Preterm Cleveland and many other providers asked the court to intervene. The ban will last two weeks, but the court may seek a preliminary injunction that would bar the state from restricting abortions until clinics pursue legal claims. 

K-12 schools closed until May

Gov. Mike DeWine says Ohio schools will remain closeduntil May 1 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. That extends his school-shutdown order another three weeks, after which it will be evaluated again. The latest numbers show more than 1,900 cases confirmed in Ohio, with 39 deaths as of Monday. Officials said nearly 500 people are hospitalized. 

Battelle, OSU develop 5-hour coronavirus test

Columbus-based lab Battelle and Ohio State University’s (OSU) Wexner Medical Center have created a coronavirus test that can produce results in as early as five hours. OSU plans to administer the tests under existing FDA approval. The new system can process up to 200 tests a day, and once technology is finalized, the goal is 1,000 tests a day. Other labs are testing new equipment to get faster results. Abbott Labs, which has a Columbus facility, said it may soon be using a test that could deliver positive results in under 10 minutes.

Akron Art Museum extends closure, furloughs workers

The Akron Art Museum is extending its closure to the end of June and is expecting to take a big hit financially. The museum is estimates it could lose more than $930,000 this quarter, along with $600,000 in memberships and donations. Six department heads with have a 10% pay cut. About a dozen employees will drop to part-time and many others will be furloughed. Health care benefits will be retained until June 30.

Prisons to make thousands of masks, gowns

Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio prisons are awaiting materialsto create protective equipment. They'll be able to create more than 2 million masks and bottle around 2,800 gallons of hand sanitizer. They've already made 650 hospital gowns. Ohio prison officials are also allowing staff and inmates to make and wear their own masks. As of right now, the makeshift equipment will only be used inside prison walls. As of Monday, no inmates in the state have tested positive for the virus. One staff member at Marion Correctional Institution tested positive. 

Knight Foundation donates $500,000 to pandemic fund

The Knight Foundation is donating $500,000 to the Akron Summit County COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund. The fund created by multiple Summit County organizations aims to help individuals affected by or fighting the pandemic. United Way said the fund will send out $170,000 in its first round of grants.

Metro RTA confirms passenger has COVID-19

Summit County’s public transit agency said one its passengers has tested positive for COVID-19. The Beacon Journal reports the Metro RTA the bus the individual was riding in has been sanitized and disinfected, and they are no longer taking any metro busses. Others who were in contact with the passenger have been notified. The Metro is encouraging passengers to take the busses only if absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the disease. Its ridership has decreased by 30%.

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Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.
Lydia Taylor is a news intern for WKSU. She is a junior multimedia journalism major at Kent State University with experience in print and visual journalism. She is currently working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism. During the school year, Taylor works for Kent State Student Media in The Kent Stater and KentWired. She is currently an assigning editor and a reporter in the Kent State University Student Media Newsroom for the spring semester.