As the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 55 here in Ohio on Tuesday, Governor DeWine issued orders for all available ventilators in the state to be tracked through an online database – in order to move the devices to areas where they’re expected to be a critical need in the near future. The Governor also announced a new testing system has been developed to address the growing need. Battelle Labs and Ohio State University have developed a new, rapid test for COVID-19 that can currently process 200 tests daily – but will be able to process more than a Thousand each day as the system gets up to speed.
Meanwhile, Lt Governor Jon Husted says the staff in Columbus have heard an earful from angry residents who suddenly found themselves unemployed as a result of the crisis. He says the folks at the Department of Job and Family Services are processing a staggering number of calls each day…and that they’re doing the best they can with available tools and manpower – both of which are currently being addressed. Husted says every person filing for Unemployment benefits will see their claims backdated to the time when they became eligible. He added that the staff in Columbus, over the past two weeks alone, have processed twice as many claims than they had seen over the past two years combined.
Akron Police are working to find and arrest the suspect involved in a robbery that went-down in the city’s Ellet neighborhood in board daylight on Monday afternoon – victimizing a young boy. Police responded around 5:00PM to the intersection of Landon and Salem Avenues, where they met a 14-year-old boy who said he was riding his bicycle nearby when two males approached – one pointing a gun at him while they stole his wheels and a cell phone. The bike was found ditched in some brush not far from the scene. Both black male suspects were between the ages of 17-19 and wore masks at the time.
The death toll in Summit County due to the COVID-19 pandemic took a jump on Tuesday, when Summit County Public Health Medical Director Dr Erika Sobolewski updated the numbers to report a total of 126 cases in the County – including eight deaths. That’s a 60-percent increase from the total of five that had been previously confirmed by County officials. She asked anyone who thinks they have the virus to please remain at home – and call your primary care doctor first before making any decision about heading to an Emergency Room – giving staff at the hospital time to prepare for your arrival so you don’t risk spreading the virus to others there.
County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda says there have been an “alarming number” of reported scams involving people taking advantage of the crisis for personal gain…and that anyone who receives such a knock at the door with offers of cures, treatments or other services needs to call police or the Sheriff’s office immediately.
Authorities are investigating the discovery of human remains that were found in Stark County’s Pike Township. The Sheriff’s office was called just after 11:00 Monday night to the 5200 block of Sandy Avenue SE, where skeletal remains were found by a contractor servicing an oil well in the area. Investigators arrived on the scene to begin the follow-up probe – but the Sheriff’s office says the remains were so badly decomposed that they could not be identified for age or gender. The County Coroner’s office will conduct forensic tests in an attempt to pin an ID on the find and determine cause and manner of death.
The city of Akron has announced its’ latest move of cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Dan Horrigan has announced the city is making 20-percent cuts in non-essential services due to the expected loss in sales and Income Tax revenue. Among the changes announced in a Press Release on Tuesday, City Hall has suspended all recreational programs through May 31 – cancelling any and all city events that were slated to happen during the period – with a tentative resumption of the schedule on June 1, depending where we collectively stand on the COVID-19 front. An across-the-board hiring freeze of full-time workers has been ordered and all vacant positions will be re-evaluated. Part-time, seasonal staff positions will not be impacted. Curbside service will be limited to “cart-only” pickups, while bulk trash collections will be placed on hold after current requests are handled.
The Better Business Bureau is going the social media route to help snare operators who engage in price-gouging during the current COVID-19 crisis. The Akron office of the BBB has announced that all eight Bureau locations here in Ohio have banded together to create the “Stop Price Gouging Facebook Group,” aimed at calling attention to businesses that are taking advantage of the crisis to line their pockets by way of exorbitantly-high prices on necessities that are becoming scarce on some shelves. The BBB reports that more than 350 new members are joining the group each week – many among them sharing photos that detail the underhanded business practices. You can find the group on Facebook.
A Trumbull County man has pleaded not guilty to arson charges filed against him in connection with a fire what damaged a garage in Warren. 31-year-old Cain MacGregor appeared via video link for his arraignment this week in Warren Municipal Court, following his Friday arrest at the scene in the 1800 block of Southern Boulevard Northwest. Someone who witnessed the incident recorded video that showed a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, pouring gasoline on the floor of the structure and igniting it. Authorities who rolled-up on the scene found the accused in a bedroom of the home with a similar article of clothing in the room with him. MacGregor’s bond was set at five-Thousand dollars and he’s due for another hearing next Monday, April 6.
One of 14 men who were arrested in a sex sting operation in Jackson Township has chosen to cop a guilty plea in Stark County Court. 48-year-old Adam Leidtke of Cleveland Heights pleaded guilty this week to a charge of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in a plea agreement with the County Prosecutor’s office. He was among a large group of men who were busted in the four-day sting dubbed “Operation Unsportsmanlike Conduct,” where undercover agents posed as kids between the ages of 12 and 15 and engaged in online conversation with the accused – who then hoped to meet-up with them for sex. Leidtke’s guilty plea earned him a one-year stint in the state prison system, starting in July, plus a label as a sex-offender. Five other co-defendants have also pleaded guilty to charges filed against them in the case.
There’s no shortage of people willing to drop a dime and rat-out businesses that have continued to operate in Summit County, despite orders to close their doors by orders from Columbus with the STAY AT HOME directive that came from the Ohio Department of Health. An investigator with Summit County Public Health has told the Beacon Journal that the local agency has received Thousands of complaints – with around 750 among them having been handed-off to environmental health officials. As of Monday, 28 business locations within the county’s borders had been ordered closed after being deemed non-compliant with the state order and not considered essential to public health and safety.
Some high-tech services for people driving electric vehicles will soon begin to take shape in the city of Canton. Members of City Council have given unanimous approval to a plan to build four fast-charge power stations for drivers to juice-up their vehicles and continue on their way down the road. The city will accept a grant from American Electric Power, which has pledged up to 300-Thousand dollars in reimbursement to the city for building the new charging stations. They’re expected to be up and running by July and will remain in operation for a minimum of four years, to be located on two separate city-owned lots.
The statements that were made to police after a fatal shooting in Dayton last year will be allowed into evidence when the accused man goes to trial. A judge in Montgomery County Court has tossed a motion from defense lawyers for 64-year-old Victor Santana, who claimed that a language barrier kept him from fully understanding his Miranda Rights before officers began questioning him about the incident. Santana admitted to authorities that he confronted two 17-year-old boys – Javier Harrison and Devin Henderson – who the man claimed were smoking marijuana and trespassing in his garage when he shot them both to death on August 28 last year.
The Knight Foundation in Akron has announced that it’s providing a big financial shot in the arm to a local fund aimed at helping others during the pandemic. The Foundation has announced that it’s donating 500-Thousand dollars to the Akron Summit County COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund. The Akron program director for the Knight Foundation said the Fund obviously represents a strong and unified response to the crisis that local organizations are facing as well as the needs of the community. The Summit County United Way last week issued Round One in a series of grants from the fund – which at the time had reached 400-Thousand dollars. The 170-Thousand dollars distributed in the first outlay were targeted at several agencies – including the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
The brakes have been pushed on trial proceedings for an Ohio doctor, charged in the deaths of numerous patients under his watch in a Columbus-based hospital group. Due to the ongoing concerns over COVID-19, the case of Dr William Husel remains on hold indefinitely. His trial was to start June 1 in Columbus, where he’s charged with 25 counts of murder after ordering excessive, potentially deadly painkiller doses for his critical-care patients who died shortly after they had been given fentanyl. Defense attorneys for the doctor, who was fired from Mount Carmel Health System after he was charged, claim he wasn’t trying to kill anyone – that he was trying to make them comfortable. A conference call will be held April 24 in an effort to pin a new start date to the trial proceedings.
The Summit County Executive’s office has announced that a special relief program has been initiated to help support small business entities that have been hard-hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Small Business Emergency Relief Grant Program was approved as a matter of emergency legislation through County Council and will be administered by the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce. County Executive Ilene Shapiro issued a statement saying the program, coupled with relief efforts initiated by the State and Federal governments, will provide resources to help small business owners through the rough times. Eligible business owners can apply to receive five-Thousand dollar grants through the county program. There are stipulations that must be met, however, in order to qualify and the program will remain active through the end of the year or until the funding runs dry. More information is available through the Greater Akron Chamber at 330-237-1213 or online at www.greaterakronchamber.org.
The Portage Area Regional Transit Authority has announced a series of changes to the system’s operating schedule – thanks to the ongoing issues that surround the pandemic. PARTA says that ridership has fallen significantly and a number of changes need to be made in order to abide by social distancing guidelines. Beginning Wednesday, fixed-route buses will run only between the hours of 5:15AM and 9:30PM, with less-frequent runs on the temporary schedule. Akron Express and Cleveland Express runs have been suspended for the time being and only one bus will service the Kent State University campus. Spot PARTA service will be suspended between Wednesday and next Monday as the schedule changes are uploaded. For detailed information, go online to www.partaonline.org.
Officials at Kent State University have announced creation of a special emergency fund, aimed at helping students who fall on hard financial times during the pandemic. They’ve dubbed the program the “Pay It Flash Forward Emergency Fund,” with the university President saying he’s confident that members of the Kent State family will answer the call for donations to help students with financial need. KSU reports that within the first 24 hours after it was launched, the Fund gathered nearly 16-Thousand dollars in donations after the President sent an email on March 26 to all alumni. Kent says the application process for those who need help is being streamlined and that the program is open to all current students at each of the school’s eight campuses.
Nearly every local county has joined the list among those in the state with fatalities attributed to COVID-19. Summit, Stark, Medina and now Portage County have all confirmed that patients who had contracted the virus had lost their battles to survive…among at least 39 people in the state to have died as of 2:00 Monday afternoon. The Portage County Combined General Health District was the latest in the area to report a death, with officials saying an older adult male died on Sunday at a local hospital. As of Monday, only Geauga and Wayne counties had managed to avoid being added to the list among those with Coronavirus deaths. Summit and Miami counties had each logged five fatalities by Monday – most in the state - but Summit County's number rose to eight by Tuesday afternoon.
Police have made an arrest in connection with a series of purse-snatching robberies over the course of one week. 27-year-old Michael Shoemaker was recently collared and booked as the bag-grabbing robber who committed seven crimes at grocery stores in and around North Olmsted between March 9 and 26. According to police, Shoemaker reportedly wore a mask over his face while snatching a woman’s purse at a store on Lorain Road – then ran into a restroom to empty the contents, taking credit cards and 100 dollars in cash. The plastic was then used at a nearby gas station to buy instant Lottery tickets. Rather than keeping him in jail due to Coronavirus concerns, Shoemaker was taken to a homeless shelter before allegedly hopping a bus, heading back to another store and committing yet another crime. This time, workers at the store held him for police to arrive.
The case of an area man accused of shooting his girlfriend to death last week has been bound-over to a Lorain County Grand Jury. 23-year-old Austin Altomare surrendered to police when they arrived at the scene of the incident around 11:45PM last Thursday. An officer was in the area and heard the gunfire along with several neighbors who made the 911 calls, bringing authorities to an upstairs apartment on East 29th Street near Grove Avenue. Altomare was standing outside, hands in the air, with a handgun on the ground nearby. Inside, authorities found 23-year-old Cyarah Vance and took her to Mercy Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. Altomare remains in Lorain County Jail under a Million-dollar bond.
A Canton man was tossed behind Stark County Jail bars after allegedly breaking into his former girlfriend’s home – twice – the woman awakened to see him standing over her with a knife. The Canton Repository reports the woman called police around 12:30 Sunday morning, reporting that the man had entered her home to steal her purse. An arrest warrant was signed on 28-year-old Troy Wallace II, who reportedly made a curtain call at the home shortly after 3:00AM Sunday when the victim woke-up to see him with the knife. Wallace was arrested about an hour later, booked on charges including aggravated menacing, aggravated burglary and domestic violence. His bond was set at more than 100-Thousand dollars.