AP NEWS

Ohio nears 1M unemployment claims over 5 weeks amid virus

April 23, 2020 GMT
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Healthcare workers wave and acknowledge members from the Crestview Presbyterian Church in West Chester Township, Ohio, as they participate in a prayer circle for front-line health workers Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the parking lot at West Chester Hospital. (Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
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Healthcare workers wave and acknowledge members from the Crestview Presbyterian Church in West Chester Township, Ohio, as they participate in a prayer circle for front-line health workers Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the parking lot at West Chester Hospital. (Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly 1 million people have filed unemployment claims in the past five weeks as Ohio’s stay-at-home order continues to depress the economy and lead to widespread layoffs, the state reported Thursday.

For the week ending April 18, 109,369 people filed jobless claims, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That’s down from the 158,678 claims filed for the previous week.

The numbers announced Thursday pushed total claims to 964,566, or almost 250,000 more than the total number of claims over the past two years. The state says it has now distributed more than $926 million in unemployment checks to more than 376,000 claimants.

Nationally, more than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, according to the government. Roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began sending millions of U.S. workers home.

Other virus-related developments in Ohio:

ECONOMY

“It is raining,” Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday, referring to the need to use the state’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund to balance the state budget in the next few months. However, he said he wants to wait as long as possible to tap it.

Honda, with about 8,000 manufacturing employees in Ohio, extended its national production shutdown an additional week, to May 8.

The approximately $2.7 billion in Ohio’s rainy day fund won’t be enough to balance the state budget over the next 15 months, according to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who said Wednesday that nearly twice that much will be needed to cover the budget hole created by the pandemic’s impact on state revenues, Gongwer News Service reported.

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PRISONS

Twelve Ohio prison inmates and one guard have died from COVID-19, according to the state prisons agency. More than 2,000 inmates out of about 2,500 at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive to date, while more than 1,500 of about 2,000 have tested positive at Pickaway Correctional Institution, where eight of the inmates who died were housed.

Inmates complain they aren’t being told their test results and have limited masks and supplies of soap. Prison guards, who are also seeing high infection rates, say they’re being forced to return to work quickly after recovery and are working 16-hour shifts because of the short staffing.

Positive test results are provided as they come back, making negative tests a lower priority, JoEllen Smith, Department and Rehabilitation Correction spokeswoman, said Thursday.

“Positive cases and those exhibiting symptoms are medically isolated from the remainder of the population, although they may be housed with other positive cases,” Smith said in an email.

At the Marion facility, the warden said in a Tuesday message to inmates that more soap and toothpaste was being distributed, and that a large shipment of hygiene supplies was expected Friday.

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CASES

Nearly 14,700 cases of the virus have been reported statewide, including 656 deaths and nearly 3,000 hospitalizations, according to figures released Thursday.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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LAWMAKER’S COMMENTS

DeWine, Senate President Larry Obhof and Ohio Republican Party chairwoman Jane Timken were among GOP officials who late Wednesday criticized Facebook posts by a state senator and his wife that likened the state health director’s Tuesday comments about immunity certificates to proclamations of Nazi Germany. The health director, Dr. Amy Acton, is Jewish.

“This is a time for cooperation, not inflammatory and overblown rhetoric,” Obhof said.

The lawmaker, Sen. Andrew Brenner, a Republican who represents portions of central Ohio, said Wednesday night his comments had been misreported but apologized to Acton. He apologized again Thursday while dropping the misreported contention.

“I have always had a strong relationship with the Jewish Community, and firmly believe using the holocaust as an analogy or comparison for a public policy debate is offensive and demeans the tremendous sacrifices and atrocities Jews endured during World War II,” Brenner said in a Thursday afternoon statement.

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CHARITY

A Cincinnati restaurateur will donate $10,000 to a southeast Ohio food pantry from sales of a steak created in honor of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who was expected to be the first player picked in Thursday evening’s NFL draft. The Jeff Ruby Foundation said a check will go to the Athens County Food Pantry, which Burrow talked about during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. The Cincinnati Bengals are expected pick the Athens County native.

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LAW ENFORCEMENT

In suburban Cincinnati, police said three teens honked at and taunted police officers and then sped away, mistakenly thinking the officers wouldn’t arrest them because of coronavirus concerns, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The teens were arrested after a pursuit ended with them crashing into a utility pole.

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ABORTION

Federal Judge Michael Barrett on Thursday once again held that a state order banning elective surgeries is unconstitutional if it prevents abortions from being carried out. His ruling came as he granted a request by Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics for a temporary restraining order against the state directive as it applies to abortions.

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Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, and Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.