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Dear I-670 drivers, your lives may never be the same

614now Staff

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Notice anything different on your I-670 and/or I-270 commute lately? Could be the nine 600-square-foot, 110,000-pound digital signs towering over the freeway.

These signs display information about the first ever Ohio SmartLane.

The I-670 “SmartLane” is the left shoulder that will be open when traffic slows to a crawl. It begins just east of I-71 in downtown Columbus and extends to I-270 on the East Side.

The SmartLane will be closed most of the time, indicated by a red X. But when traffic dips below 50 mph, The Dispatch reports traffic monitors will send signals to the overhead signs to open the SmartLane. When open, the speed limit is 45 mph.

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“It might sound counter-intuitive, but studies have shown traveling at slower speeds actually keeps traffic moving better because it avoids the ‘stop and go’ conditions which can cause more accidents,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “Ultimately, we believe the combination of the extra travel lane and the reduced speed limits will allow for a more reliable commute for travelers along that route.”

ODOT has installed more than 30 traffic cameras to monitor the lane for any obstructions, reports The Dispatch. The right shoulder of I-670 will be free for disabled vehicles to use.

The $61 million project is officially complete. Visit ODOT.com for more information on the project and the new traffic patterns.

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By The Numbers: How COVID-19 has impacted Ohio thus far

Mitch Hooper

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While these numbers are subject to fluctuate and grow throughout the upcoming days and weeks, Ohio.gov has released its current numbers on COVID-19 and its impacts.

Currently, as of March 31, 2020, here are the reports:

  • 2,199 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio
  • 585 total hospitalizations
  • 198 ICU admissions
  • 55 total deaths

The median age of these cases was reported at 53 with a sex split at 49% males and 51% females with a less than 1% not reporting their sex. The age range, however, goes from one year olds to 99-years-old.

614Now will update this story with more information as it becomes available.

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Facebook to offer $100 million boost to small businesses

Mitch Hooper

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As more and more small businesses shift focus and find new footing amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Facebook is looking to assist with financial relief.

Through its Facebook Small Business Grants Program, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, announced the company is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits up to a maximum of 30,000 eligible small businesses in the 30 countries they operate. These cash grants and ad credits, as reported by Business Insider's Dominic Reuter, can be used by businesses to help cover operational costs, afford rent, and pay employees.

Currently, Facebook is still creating the criteria for which businesses can be approved for this grant, however, Business Insider predicts it will be modeled similarly to the Small Business Association. For more information, check out the SBA website.

To keep up-to-date with the Facebook Small Business Grant Program, visit the website where you can sign up for email updates. In the meantime, Facebook has provided tips for small businesses such as ways to stay in touch with your customers, how to host an online event, and advice on preparing a frequently asked question list for your page.

614Now will update this story as more information becomes available.

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City Health Dept to step up business inspections

614Now

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Beginning today, Columbus Public Health will step up inspections on businesses to assure they are complying with the Ohio Department of Health’s orders for social distancing and basic hygiene to slow the spread of COVID- 19.

“We are at a critical moment in slowing the spread of this highly infectious disease in our community,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “We have received hundreds of complaints that some businesses are not complying with the Ohio Department of Health’s orders, and we must assure that employees and residents are safe.”

Teams of sanitarians will visit businesses to assess the number of people working, if they are able to work at a safe distance from one another and if soap, water or hand sanitizer are readily available. Those not in compliance will receive a warning letter. A second violation will result in citations and could lead to criminal charges.

“We are pleased that most people and businesses are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by following the Ohio Department of Health’s orders,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Health Commissioner for Columbus Public Health. “However, we continue to receive complaints from residents that some businesses are not following these orders. We will be sending our teams out to investigate these complaints in order to protect the health and safety of our community.”

Columbus Public Health will not be weighing in on whether a company or workers are essential, only if the place of employment is in compliance with the order. Guidelines for Essential Businesses can be found at corona.ohio.gov.

“Businesses want to do the right thing, but may not know the full extent of the state’s social distancing and safe hygiene requirements. That’s why educating business owners and the public about how we slow the spread of COVID-19 is so important,” said City Attorney Zach Klein.

“Our ‘education first, citation second’ approach allows people to learn about the state’s order while still giving health officials and law enforcement the ability to issue a citation if someone refuses to cooperate.”

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