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Week in review: Aug. 15, 2021

Written on Aug 13, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service


The efforts of agriculture advocates and livestock exhibitors led to a record-breaking Sale of Champions at the 2021 Ohio State Fair. Sunday's auction in the Ag-Pro Companies Taft Coliseum was extremely successful, according to the Ohio Expositions Commission. Participants set records for the highest overall total and the highest amount raised for the Youth Reserve Program, as well as new records for the Reserve Grand Champion Market Barrow, Reserve Grand Champion Market Chickens, Grand Champion Market Turkey and Grand Champion Swiss Cheese.


Office of Budget and Management Director Kimberly Murnieks announced Friday that Fitch Ratings, citing the state's superior financial resilience, affirmed the state's Issuer Default Rating at "AA+" and elevated the state's outlook to "Positive" from "Stable." Additionally, OBM released the state's July 2021 preliminary revenue data, which show the state's General Revenue Fund tax receipts finishing July – the first month of FY22 – $24.7 million or 1.3 percent above the budgeted estimate.

The state budget brings a number of changes to the Ohio Department of Development, starting with its name. The original DOD was restructured into the Development Services Agency as part of a bill creating JobsOhio in 2012 but it now returns to the DOD name. DOD Director Lydia Mihalik told Hannah News the change was sought "to more accurately reflect what we do here," echoing her House budget testimony in March.


The U.S. Census Bureau delivered data sets to states Thursday that will allow the redistricting process for Congress and state legislatures to begin. The numbers show Union and Delaware counties grew by the highest percentage of population in the state. The two Central Ohio counties were the only counties that had a percentage increase of 20 percent or more in population in the state over the past decade. They were followed by Franklin and Warren counties, showing increases of between 10 to 20 percent. Wood, Medina, Licking, Fayette, Pickaway, Butler, Clermont, and Miami counties all had population increases of 5 to 10 percent. Among cities, Columbus is one of 14 nationwide that gained more than 100,000 residents over the last decade.


Ohio recently placed among the top 10 states in five of Business Facilities' annual rankings, including second in automotive manufacturing behind Michigan. Several of the Buckeye State's major cities were also recognized in the report, including three of the top 10 most affordable cities. A release on the 17th annual rankings noted that the pandemic has accelerated a "diaspora of talent from large urban centers" as millennials increasingly move to mid-market metros based on affordability and quality of life. Climate change was also identified as the cause of an "unfolding calamity."


Gov. Mike DeWine returned to the podium Friday to address the state's surging Delta variant, now the dominant strain of COVID-19. In May, less than one percent of the lab sequenced COVID-19 test samples were identified as the Delta variant, DeWine said, but the most recent data from July 4 through July 7 show that 86.4 percent of lab sequenced cases were the Delta variant, and that number has only increased since then. Highlighting the effectiveness of the vaccines, DeWine said 18,662 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the first of the year. Of those, 18,367, or 98.4 percent, were people not fully vaccinated against the virus and just 295 of those, about 1.6 percent, were among fully vaccinated people.

Just more than half of all Ohioans have now started the COVID-19 vaccine – a threshold crossed Sunday – and 54.31 percent of those eligible have received a second shot when applicable. However, all but five Ohio counties now meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention level of "high" or "substantial" transmission, for which masks are recommended for indoor public settings regardless of vaccine status.

While 50.07 percent of all Ohioans have started their vaccines, 46.50 percent have completed them as of Monday. The starting number includes 58.52 percent of those eligible and 60.96 percent of all adults; the vaccine completion rate for adults is 56.95percent, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the state's chief medical officer and ODH director-designee, held his first press briefing in that new capacity Thursday. He focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant in particular, saying there is a continued "troubling increase" in cases statewide. ODH said 3,272 were reported in a 24-hour period Thursday, following 3,393 Wednesday. Those were the first two days above 3,000 cases since February, and Vanderhoff said the state's number of cases per 100,000 residents is "rapidly climbing toward 200." Noting that metric had fallen as low as 17.6 cases on July 7, he said ODH is adding additional data on that to its website to make such tracking easier. Hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and ventilator usage are climbing as well, with the ODH update listing 130 hospitalizations and 13 ICU admissions in the past 24 hours Thursday.


State elected officials took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Peloton manufacturing facility in Wood County's Troy Township Monday, following the selection announcement in May. The project is expected to create nearly 2,200 jobs and $138 million in annual payroll. "Peloton could've put this manufacturing facility any place in the world. They chose Ohio," Gov. Mike DeWine said.


Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley made his bid for governor official on Tuesday, launching his campaign with an agenda that includes paying a natural gas dividend to Ohio residents and legalizing recreational marijuana. Though Tuesday was the official announcement of Cranley's campaign, he has been raising money for a run over the past year, reporting in his most recent filing that he had raised $1 million through the first half of this year. He will face Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the Democratic primary.


The nation saw an increase of 943,000 jobs in July, as well as a 0.5 percent drop in the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. Job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; local government education; and professional and business services, industries that also saw gains in June. The number of unemployed persons fell by 782,000 to 8.7 million, down considerably from highs at the start of the pandemic but well above pre-pandemic levels of 3.5 percent and 5.7 million in February 2020.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Wednesday officially changed the name of its Plum Brook Station to the Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility. The facility, located on 6,400 acres in the Lake Erie community of Sandusky, is home to four world-class test facilities that perform complex and innovative ground tests for the international space community.


Individuals charged in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also proposed attacking Gov. Mike DeWine with improvised explosive devices, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge. "On June 6, 2020, [Adam] Fox and [Barry] Croft attended a meeting with 'militia' activists from multiple states, where they proposed attacking the governors of Michigan, Ohio and Virginia. Croft brought and displayed to the group an improvised explosive device he had constructed for the purpose. Croft referred to himself as a 'terrorist' who was going to 'burn … houses down, blow (things) up,'" Birge wrote in a new court filing. The case is being considered in a federal court in Michigan.


A slew of Ohio colleges and universities have announced the reinstatement of indoor mask mandates regardless of vaccination status in response to the spread of the Delta variant of COVD-19. On Aug. 2, The Ohio State University reinstated its mask mandate effective immediately and many other colleges have made similar announcements since then. In the Dayton area, Wright State University reinstated its indoor face mask requirement for all individuals, saying that the revised policy in due to "the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which has become the most common form of the coronavirus in Ohio and in the United States."


Following the brief first meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission Friday when House Speaker and co-chair Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said there was a tentative plan for nine meetings around the state to facilitate public input regarding the process, a series of 10 hearings was announced on Aug. 13 for the week of Aug. 23. He noted they face "an extremely tight timeframe in which to complete our task" due to the delay in Census Bureau data. The other co-chair, Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), said in his opening statement that Ohioans had voted twice in the past 10 years to reform the state's redistricting process and that his goal is to "cooperatively work" with the commission to give the voters what they want and end partisan gerrymandering. Sykes called for "fair districts that represent the citizens of this great state." The remaining commission members are Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor of State Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron).


The top tax bracket in Ohio will now pay only 3.99 percent in income tax after changes made by the General Assembly to the tax code in biennial budget bill HB110 (Oelslager). The bill also reduced the number of tax brackets from five to four. Under previous law, the top tax bracket affected earners making more than $221,301, who had to pay a marginal tax rate of 4.797 percent. Thanks to the changes, the top tax bracket now covers earners of more than $110,651, who pay a tax rate of 3.99 percent.


Litter in Ohio is low compared to the U.S. as a whole, according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Transportation, while discarded beverages here eclipse the national average and lead all classes of litter in the Buckeye State, "due, in no small part, to beer cans and bottles." ODOT conducted the study in February-April 2019, before the advent of COVID-19 and the resulting discarded personal protective equipment, releasing the 600-page report Friday.


For the week ending Aug. 7, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 10,581 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is slightly lower than last week when the department reported 10,740 jobless claims. Ohioans filed 143,802 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 4,805 fewer than the previous week, ODJFS said.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday that the June round of the TechCred program resulted in 3,149 credentials being approved for Ohio workers at 263 employers, including 109 companies working with the program for the first time. These include both large and small businesses. In total, the program has led to approval of 1,419 employers and 26,872 tech-focused credentials so far. The latest round began Aug. 1 and will close at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31. The budget also funds additional 20,000 credentials in this and the next fiscal year.