Axios Columbus

Picture of the Columbus skyline.

☃️ Welcome to another new week! Don't forget your hat and gloves.

📍 Situational awareness: The Ohio Redistricting Commission failed again to pass state legislative maps with bipartisan support, this time after the state Supreme Court ruled the first maps to be unconstitutional.

Today's newsletter is 935 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: COVID hospitalizations drop

Data: Ohio Hospital Association; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Ohio's COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined for two straight weeks, suggesting the worst of the Omicron variant surge could soon be behind us.

Why it matters: Omicron has been the most contagious variant so far, straining health care systems and exacerbating staffing shortages since first detected in the U.S. on Dec. 1.

By the numbers: Ohio's hospitalization peak was Jan. 10, at 6,749 people. Hospitalizations have since declined 21% to 5,348 on Sunday, per Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) data.

The big picture: In South Africa and the U.K., which experienced their own Omicron waves before the U.S., cases spiked dramatically and then fell almost as quickly, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

Yes, but: We've yet to return to pre-Omicron numbers. Ohio is still averaging about 21,500 daily COVID cases over the past 21 days.

  • Sunday's hospitalizations were more than double what the state logged Nov. 1, on the downward slope after a fall surge.
  • And Friday's 742 COVID deaths reported were the state's highest daily total since it switched to reporting deaths twice weekly in March 2021.

What they're saying: "The signs of a downturn that we're seeing in some parts of the state — especially those that have recently been so severely impacted by COVID-19 — do bring us renewed hope," state health director Bruce Vanderhoff said during a news conference last week.

Between the lines: The Cleveland area, Ohio's hardest-hit hotspot, has seen hospitalizations drop nearly 51% since a Jan. 5 peak, per the OHA.

  • Central Ohio numbers have declined 14% since a Jan. 13 peak.

What we're watching: Ohio's vaccinations still lag behind the national average, so we're certainly not in the clear if the virus mutates into another variant, which experts say is likely.

The bottom line: "We're well premature of being able to say, 'Breathe a sigh of relief. We're out of the woods,'" Vanderhoff said.

2. 💉 Ohio vaccination rates by race

Data: KFF; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The percentage of white, Black and Hispanic residents in Ohio who have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine continues to lag behind the national average.

Why it matters: Vaccination remains our most effective tool at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID infection.

The big picture: Overall, about 56% of Ohioans are fully vaccinated versus 63% of Americans, according to the CDC.

Context: A recent Ohio State University study found that although more Black Americans were initially hesitant of COVID vaccines, they have been more likely than white Americans to later warm up to receiving one.

What they're saying: The researchers caution against making race-based assumptions.

  • "We must not lose sight of the significant access barriers that persist, including distant vaccine sites, lack of transportation and inflexible work hours," lead author Tasleem Padamsee said in a news release.

3. The mega Intel plant, by the numbers

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger holds up five fingers.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Horacio Villalobos via Corbis/Getty Images

The new Intel chip plant announced in Licking County, just east of New Albany, has plenty of eye-popping numbers: $20 billion in investment and an estimated 20,000 jobs generated by the project.

Other figures that stood out to us:

4. Nutshells: You pecan do it!

Illustration of a pattern made up of several copies of the Ohio flag.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏙️ An online forum Tuesday night will poll residents on their vision of the future of downtown. (City of Columbus)

🛏️ A MyPillow store in Clintonville has closed following the ongoing controversy with brand founder Mike Lindell. (Columbus Business First)

🗳️ Traci Johnson, a Columbus activist and tech executive, is the latest Democrat to jump in the U.S. Senate primary race. (AP)

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5. ⚾ No robot umps in town

Illustration of a robot dressed up in umpire gear
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For at least another season, Columbus baseball fans will get to participate in an American tradition: Booing the umpires.

Driving the news: The Automated Ball-Strike System, a "robo-ump" that determines if pitches are balls or strikes, is headed to 11 Triple-A baseball markets, Axios' Kendall Baker writes.

  • But Columbus is not one of them.

The big picture: Robot umps have been used in the independent Atlantic League since 2019. This news brings them just one step below the Major Leagues.

  • The experiment is part of ongoing tweaks in recent years meant to speed up games and increase action.

Looking ahead: The Columbus Clippers open their season in early April.

6. 🥣 1 Frosty to go (sort of)

A box of Wendy's Frosty cereal next to a bowl of the cereal with a spoon
A bowl of Wendy's Frosty cereal, a not-so-balanced breakfast. Photo: Alissa Widman Neese/Axios

👋 Alissa here. I snagged the last box of Wendy's Frosty cereal at Kroger last weekend and am here to offer my hot — well, I guess, chilly — takes.

Quick take: General Mills might want to have a word with Kellogg's. As a lifelong Ohioan, of course I'm a Wendy's fan, but this "limited edition" breakfast is just Cocoa Puffs sprinkled with quickly dissolving marshmallows.

The intrigue: I even stuck the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes, for what the box calls a "totally chill-icious eating experience," but still didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

Yes, but: Then I sipped the chocolatey milk from my cereal-less bowl. Ahh, there it is.

The bottom line: The cereal itself isn't anything special, but the milk is the cereal box prize.

  • Each box includes a coupon for a free small Frosty with a Wendy's app purchase, if you prefer the real thing.

🏈 Tyler is pumped about Joe Burrow's latest victory and totally isn't jumping on the Bengals bandwagon this postseason.

👌 Alissa is feeling grateful for her mobility and orthopedic surgeons on the two-year anniversary of a really bad wrist fracture.

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