Cavs outlast Oklahoma City | News, Sports, Jobs

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley (4) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder’s Darius Bazley (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Darius Garland collected 23 points and 11 assists and rookie Evan Mobley had 15 points and a season-high 17 rebounds to put the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Oklahoma City Thunder 94-87 on Saturday night.

Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 13 rebounds for Cleveland, which built a 74-57 lead in the third quarter and never allowed the Thunder to pull closer than six points in the fourth. The Cavaliers have won six of their last seven.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced Oklahoma City across the board with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Kenrich Williams scored 12 points and Luguentz Dort had 10 points before being ejected for elbowing Kevin Love in the head.

Mobley, the third overall draft pick from USC, has nine double-doubles in 39 pro games.

Garland posted his sixth double-double in the last seven games and is averaging 21.0 points and 12.3 assists during that timeframe.

Cleveland lost forward Lauri Markkanen to a sprained right ankle in the second quarter; he was helped to the locker room and did not return.

Dort received a flagrant 2 for striking Love after the whistle on a scramble for a loose ball. Love received a personal foul prior to absorbing the elbow.

The Thunder, who wrapped up a four-game road trip, have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11 games. Oklahoma City’s starting frontcourt of Dort, Darius Bazley and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl shot a combined 5 of 25 from the field.

Cedi Osman had 10 points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who went 18 of 35 from the foul line and missed 21 of 27 3-point attempts.

Cleveland jumped out to the largest lead of the first half at 47-37, but Oklahoma City answered with eight straight points heading into intermission, capped by a Gilgeous-Alexander 3-pointer.

Mobley scored seven points and Allen had six in the first quarter as Cleveland took a 24-22 lead. Bazley had four points and six rebounds for Oklahoma City.


The Thunder didn’t check into their downtown Cleveland hotel until 8 a.m. due to winter travel delays in Charlotte following their 121-98 loss to the Hornets on Friday.

Oklahoma City’s team bus became stuck on an icy road en route to the airport, forcing several members of its traveling party to disembark to help push it to safety. The Thunder also had to change planes at 5 a.m.

“It was grueling for the guys, but these experiences are a little unifying,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “When we got off the elevator at the hotel, people were already eating breakfast, so that kind of reinforced how long we’d been trying to get here.”


Thunder: Oklahoma City is assured of finishing January with a losing record, marking the eighth straight month it has done so. … Rookie G Vit Krejci (right ankle sprain), who has two points in nine minutes this season, missed his fifth straight game. … G Theo Maledon, C Aleksej Pokusevski and C Isaiah Roby are on G League assignments with the Oklahoma City Blue, along with two-way G Paul Watson. … The Thunder lost at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for the first time since Jan. 29, 2017.

Cavaliers: G Rajon Rondo (right hamstring soreness) missed his sixth game in a row. Rondo has only appeared in three games since being acquired from the Lakers in a three-team trade on Jan. 3. … G Lamar Stevens (left knee soreness), who had started seven straight contests prior to being hurt at Oklahoma City on Jan. 15, returned from a two-game absence. … Two-way G RJ Nembhard scored 33 points for the Cleveland Charge of the G League earlier in the day at Raptors 905.


Thunder: Host Chicago on Wednesday night.

Cavaliers: Host New York on Monday night.

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Cramer and colleagues travel to Ukraine | News, Sports, Jobs

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined colleagues in traveling to Ukraine this week to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Ukraine.

They were scheduled to meet with Zelenskyy and other Ukraine officials on Monday.

“Russia continues to challenge Ukraine’s sovereignty, democratic values and way of life. This is unacceptable and we must reaffirm our commitment to the Ukrainians in the face of this aggression,” said Cramer. “Our bipartisan delegation demonstrates to Vladimir Putin the United States’ resolve and sends the message we stand with Ukraine.”

The bipartisan group traveling to the Ukraine include Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Robert Wicker, R-Miss.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

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Beavers overcome travel woes, sweep Arizona trip to open second half | News, Sports, Jobs

Ryan Ladika/MDN
Jared Hamm scored two goals and notched four total points in the Beavers’ three games against GCU and Arizona last weekend.

“It was kind of the day from hell, for sure, in terms of travel.”

Head coach Wyatt Waselenchuk’s Minot State men’s hockey team was expecting a challenge from its second half-opening road trip through Arizona, but perhaps not until the Beavers actually stepped foot on the ice.

That the second-ranked Beavers completed their three-game sweep of Grand Canyon University and No. 15 University of Arizona coming off 26 consecutive days off was impressive enough. Not even two hours removed from a travel fiasco in arriving in Arizona did Minot State hit the Arizona Ice Arcadia rink for its matchup with the Lopes.

After the team’s flights out of Bismarck the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 5 were canceled, the Beavers scrambled by bus to fly out of Minneapolis early Thursday morning. Half the team caught a connection in Houston and the other half in Chicago. The Chicago group, including Waselenchuk, experienced more technical issues and was forced to de-plane after sitting on the tarmac for two hours.

Finally, after arriving in Phoenix at 4 p.m. Jan. 6 and leaving the airport an hour later, the reunited Beavers reached GCU for a delayed start time past the 7 p.m. hour.

All things considered, Waselenchuk could not have asked for much more out of his team that night. The Beavers shut the Lopes out by a 4-0 final score, peppering netminder Scott Kasaboski with 54 total shots while allowing Riley Wallace to face 27, including just nine and six in the final two periods of play. Sophomore Carter Barley potted his first hat trick and fourth multi-goal effort of the season, and Justin Metcalf added a third-period insurance tally to put the game out of reach.

“I think that we worked really hard. I was proud of our group,” Waselenchuk said. “Obviously having three weeks off, systematically we could definitely clean some things up. Overall, we had a really good effort through three tough games.”

Barley’s first goal of the night marked the first of three in two games for the Minot State power play, a group that had struggled away from the Maysa Arena in the first half. Reece Henry and Jared Hamm added consecutive goals on the man advantage during the Beavers’ Jan. 7 win against Arizona, improving on a power play that had cashed in on just five of 22 chances on the road entering the road trip.

“I think that we have so much skill and we’re so offensive-minded that my thought process is not to over-coach that,” Waselenchuk said of the power play. “The best power plays in the game of hockey are the ones that are creative, and players are making plays. I think we’re just kind of overthinking things.”

The Beavers also exercised a skill that will prove beneficial for inevitable challenging matchups in the national tournament this spring. Minot State fell behind in both matchups with the Wildcats last weekend and clawed its way back to top Arizona in both games, by respective 3-1 and 3-2 final scores.

“That’s been my message from day one, is we’re never too high and we’re never too low,” Waselenchuk continued. “You’re never out of a game, and you’re always working to protect your lead, and you don’t do that by just sitting back.”

Minot State will now prepare to trade the warmth of the desert for the frigid North Dakotan winter as it headlines a seven-game outdoor schedule on the University of Jamestown’s campus Jan. 21-22 for Hockey Day in North Dakota.

The Beavers faced the Jimmies in the event two years ago on Jan. 17, 2020, weathering a torrential blizzard and sub-zero temperatures that forced the cancelation of the scheduled high school games, all to come out on the losing end of a 14-round shootout that went in the record books as an official tie.

“Obviously we have a great in-state rival and they’re a fantastic team,” Waselenchuk said of the Jimmies. “To add even just a little bit more on the line, if you will, to give us a little extra motivation in terms of a pretty cool setup and scenario, and to get to do it in their backyard was of interest to me. I know that our guys are looking forward to it.”

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Winter storm snarls travel, gives some schools the day off | News, Sports, Jobs

Postman Josh Ashley fights the driving snow and cold weather, as he make his way up Main Street in Fairhaven, Mass., using a cart to deliver mail on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. A winter storm that has already left areas of the South with more than 6 inches of snow moved into the Northeast during the morning commute and prompted many school districts to close for the day. (Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times via AP)

BOSTON (AP) — A winter storm that had already blanketed parts of the South in snow moved into the Northeast on Friday, snarling air travel, crushing morning commutes and giving hundreds of school districts struggling to keep kids in the classroom during a wave of new coronavirus cases an excuse to shut down for a one-day respite.

Schools in Boston closed, and Providence, Rhode Island, public schools switched to distance learning, but New York City kept the nation’s largest public school system open.

“Children need to be in school. We don’t have any more days to waste” after the many closures and remote-learning days of the pandemic, said Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat dealing with his first major storm after taking office Saturday. He also noted that many children rely on in-school meals and that some working parents can’t stay home.

But there was a sense of relief for some educators.

Michael Gow, a middle school social studies teacher in Medfield, Massachusetts, called Friday a “snowvid day” and acknowledged it gave parents and teachers a reprieve from the daily dilemma of whether to continue with in-person instruction as the pandemic rages.

“This is a well deserved break for all of the teachers, staff, and students dealing with the surge of omicron,” Gow tweeted.

In central Pennsylvania, Ericka Weathers, a Penn State University education professor, scrambled to finish a fellowship application while her two kids were home from school because of the snow. She started working around 5:15 a.m. to try to ensure she’d have enough time to finish by the deadline Friday evening.

“I’ve been trying to juggle,” she said as her 7-year-old sledded on the hill outside and her 4-year-old didn’t want to go out. “Every five minutes, someone’s asking me a question.”

By midday on the East Coast, airlines had scrubbed more than 2,400 flights, with the largest numbers at airports in Boston and the New York City area, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Airlines have struggled with staffing shortages caused by an increase in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. In the U.S., cancellations had eased a bit this week after peaking at more than 3,200 on Monday.

By midday Friday, some spots in New England including Danielson, Connecticut, Norwood, Massachusetts, and Burrillville, Rhode Island, had received well above a foot (30 centimeters) of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Drivers were urged to stay off the roads, but there were reports of crashes around the region.

Plow driver Michael D’Andrea got a firsthand look at the mess on the roads. He saw plenty of vehicles spin out as the thick snow fell.

“The first storm is always a bit more dangerous,” said D’Andrea, 34, of Norwood, Massachusetts. “No one has driven in this weather for like six months. People have to relearn how to drive in this. And it’s usually not a foot of snow the first one. This is almost a blizzard with how fast it came down. 2022 is off to a bang, but I suppose we were overdue.”

A driver died at about 7:30 a.m. when a car went off Route 140 in Freetown, Massachusetts, state police said.

A commuter bus spun out of control and blocked lanes on the Massachusetts Turnpike just outside Boston early Friday. No injuries were reported, but the bus caused a huge traffic jam.

A tractor-trailer jackknifed in Greenwich, Connecticut, and forced a temporary closure of southbound Interstate 95, state police said. There were no indications of mass strandings on the major north-south thoroughfare, as happened after snow in Virginia earlier this week left hundreds of motorists marooned for hours.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday night declared a state of emergency and delayed opening state offices for nonessential employees until 11 a.m.

But the snow had ended by 10 a.m. in New Jersey, allowing plows to do their thing. Preliminary snowfall amounts showed 6 inches had fallen in Berlin, with 5 inches in Howell.

The National Weather Service said 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) of snow fell on New York City’s Central Park and 8.4 inches (21 centimeters) at LaGuardia Airport.

Snowfall totals were much more modest in northern New England, with about 4.5 inches (11 centimeters) in Nashua, New Hampshire, and about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) in Hollis, Maine, by late morning, according to National Weather Service spotters.

The storm also affected coronavirus testing sites, many of which have been overwhelmed with long lines and waits for days. Some testing sites in Rhode Island delayed their openings until later in the day, when the storm was expected to start tapering off.

In Connecticut, most state-sponsored testing sites that are usually open on Fridays closed because of the storm, but some sites run locally and by pharmacies, remained open.

The storm brought record-setting snow to some areas of the South on Thursday.

Nashville saw 6.3 inches (16 centimeters) Thursday, shattering the city’s previous Jan. 6 record of 4 inches (10 centimeters), which had stood since 1977, the weather service said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear closed state offices at noon Thursday and later extended the closure through Friday.

The largest snowfall in Kentucky was nearly 10 inches (25 centimeters) in Lexington, according to the weather service.


This story has been updated to correct that not all testing sites in Connecticut were closed.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz in New York; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Dave Collins in Glastonbury, Connecticut; Philip Marcelo in Norwood, Massachusetts; and Bill Kole in Warwick, Rhode Island; and AP Business Writer David Koenig.

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TOP STORIES OF 2021: Construction Clogged Ohio Valley’s Traffic Arteries | News, Sports, Jobs

If the Ohio Valley had a regional flower this year, it might as well have been an orange traffic cone.

Road construction seemed to be everywhere, from interstates to downtown streets. Drivers throughout the Valley were pushed onto more circuitous routes to get to and from various destinations.

Sometimes they led to traffic clogs. Often, they led to longer trips in the car. Yet the results of that work ­– fortified and rejuvenated roadways — made the hassle a little more palatable.

The most visible example came along Interstate 70 with the I-70 Bridges Project, the single-largest highway project in West Virginia in terms of scope and cost.

The $215 million project closed the eastbound side of the Fulton Bridge — along with a stretch of I-70 East from the Wheeling Tunnel to Mount de Chantal Road — for months.

Drivers trying to travel east in that area had to exit in downtown Wheeling and head up Wheeling Hill on National Road before being able to get back onto the interstate at Mount de Chantal Road. I-70 would reopen, to the joy of motorists, in October, but the exit off the Fulton Bridge to downtown Wheeling would close, sending drivers through Wheeling Tunnel and around to the other side of the city to get downtown.

As frustrating as the detours and delays might have been, state Division of Highways officials said they were necessary, and would keep construction vehicles from coming back for a long time.

“These bridges were built back in the 1950s,” West Virginia Division of Highways District 6 Engineer Tony Clark said in September. “It was time for them to be rehabilitated or completely rebuilt. At the end of the day we’ll walk away with 26 new bridges that we won’t have to worry about for another two to four decades.”

The project also allowed the Fort Henry Bridge to get a facelift of its own. The faded green that drivers had seen for so long was replaced with blue. The paint job was completed in stages, which left the bridge two-toned for a short while.

Back toward the Pennsylvania state line on I-70, drivers saw slower speed limits and lane reductions after longwall mining projects in that area returned in September and were in progress through the end of December.

City streets also saw their fair share of work during the year, especially in downtown Wheeling. In March, the city started replacing its water main, which originally was installed in 1886. Construction vehicles were a staple along downtown streets for months, as they dug underneath to fish out the old pipes and replace them with new ones.

That project was necessary before an even bigger one could begin — the Downtown Streetscape project, which will revamp the streets and sidewalks of downtown Wheeling.

Beyond the city’s downtown, the Bedillion Lane sewer improvement project led to some lane closures and diverted traffic, but that work should alleviate basement flooding and sewer backflow in several areas of Edgwood and Woodsdale.

Yet, just because the calendar is turning to 2022 doesn’t mean the construction work will be over. West Virginia Department of Transportation District Construction Engineer Mike Witherow said recently that deck work on several bridges near Elm Grove and the Middle Creek neighborhood of Triadelphia are on the docket.

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Road closure, incoming winter storms could make travel difficult | News, Sports, Jobs

Ashley Franscell, Daily Herald file photo

A winter storm slammed Utah County during rush hour on Feb. 20, 2008.

The National Weather Service issued warnings for winter storms that are set to sweep through Utah before the New Year that, combined with a road closure, could make holiday travel an issue.

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, I-15 northbound and southbound is closed at exit 284 to State Road 92 in Lehi due to a light pole that came off of its base early Monday morning.

“Thankfully there was not a lot of traffic in the area… I’m not aware of any damage or injuries at this time,” said Geoff Dupaix, regional communications manager for UDOT. “Our crews also came out and inspected the other lights along the corridor and we identified four other light poles that were showing signs of distress … we wanted to make sure that the road was safe and that these poles were removed.”

Crews worked into the afternoon to fix this light pole, as well as the four others that showed signs of wear and tear. It is anticipated that the exit will open at some point during the evening commute, although drivers in this area should still expect major delays and consider an alternate route.

As a cold front moves through Utah, drivers along the Wasatch front should prepare for two to four inches of snow accumulation set to fall around 5-6 p.m. Monday.

“We have a strong cold front moving through the state this afternoon through this evening, it’s going to bring a heavy band of snowfall through the Wasatch Front… it will move southward into the Salt Lake and Utah Valley areas by about 5 to 6 p.m.,” said Mike Seaman, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “The roads are going to be slick, so be prepared for that. Basically your typical winter driving conditions, definitely want to reduce speeds and be prepared for reduced visibility. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, and if you don’t need to be out traveling maybe just postpone those plans.”

A winter storm warning was called for Monday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for the Wasatch Mountains I-80 North, Wasatch Mountains South of I-80, and Western Uinta Mountains. These areas could experience a total snow accumulation of 10 to 18 inches, as well as winds as high as 50 miles per hour. This includes the cities of Mantua, Logan Summit, Alta, Brighton, Mirror Lake Highway and Moon Lake. A cold front set to begin in these areas from 4-7 p.m. is anticipated to disrupt the Monday evening commute.

According to the National Weather Service, travel during these storms could be difficult, and traction restrictions are likely. The NWS recommends that those who must travel during winter storms carry extra food, water and a flashlight with them in case of emergency.

Low temperatures are expected throughout Utah on Tuesday according to a forecast from the National Weather Service, which could mean particularly icy road conditions.

“Maintain a safe travel speed. We don’t have to bump our speeds to freeway speeds and above freeway speeds, there’s still going to be ice and slush on the freeway,” said Sgt. Cameron Roden of the Utah Highway Patrol.

The Utah Department of Public Safety website provided the following tips for driving in the snow safely:

  • Slow down and drive under the speed limit.
  • Increase your following distance and avoid rapid starts, stops, and turns even if you have a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.
  • Buckle your seatbelt and remove children’s winter coats before buckling them in.
  • If you begin to slide, ease off the gas and turn in the direction the back of your car is going.
  • Watch for black ice and use extra caution on bridges, as they will freeze first.
  • If you find yourself behind an active snow plow, stay behind it, or pass on the left side with caution.
  • Clear the snow and ice from your car to optimize visibility.
  • Avoid using cruise control.
  • Watch for deer and other wildlife that can become more active after storms.
  • Keep your gas tank full and dress for winter weather.
  • Give yourself more time to avoid rushing to your destination.
  • Stay home during inclement weather if possible.

For the official National Weather Service forecast, visit, and for more information on road conditions throughout the state, visit


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Winter storm affects travel in SW MN | News, Sports, Jobs

MINNEAPOLIS — A winter storm system was building steam in South Dakota Sunday and prompted weather alerts in eastern North Dakota, northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said.

As of Sunday afternoon, the storm moved quickly from southwest to northeast and could dump up to a foot of snow in some areas of eastern North Dakota and Minnesota. The heaviest snow was expected to begin in the late afternoon in North Dakota and overnight in Minnesota, the weather service said.

Motorists in southwest Minnesota were already dealing with blizzard-like conditions by late afternoon on Sunday. A total of 1.5 inches of snow fell by 6 p.m.

“Generally, we should see accumulations ranging from 5 to 8 inches on the low end, and upwards of 12 inches where stronger bands develop,” the weather service said in a release.

Potential drifting could make travel nearly impossible with blowing snow becoming more of a factor today, forecasters said. There’s a possibility of rain and freezing rain and drizzle in southern Wisconsin.

In addition, lake-effect snow along Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota coupled with winds up to 40 mph “will have to be monitored closely” for a potential blizzard warning, meteorologists said. Some lakeside communities could see up to 18 inches of snow.

Another system on a similar track will follow for Tuesday into Wednesday with dangerous wind chills possible the remainder of the week.

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Winter storm affects travel in SW MN | News, Sports, Jobs

MINNEAPOLIS — A winter storm system was building steam in South Dakota Sunday and prompted weather alerts in eastern North Dakota, northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said.

As of Sunday afternoon, the storm moved quickly from southwest to northeast and could dump up to a foot of snow in some areas of eastern North Dakota and Minnesota. The heaviest snow was expected to begin in the late afternoon in North Dakota and overnight in Minnesota, the weather service said.

Motorists in southwest Minnesota were already dealing with blizzard-like conditions by late afternoon on Sunday.

“Generally, we should see accumulations ranging from 5 to 8 inches on the low end, and upwards of 12 inches where stronger bands develop,” the weather service said in a release.

Potential drifting could make travel nearly impossible with blowing snow becoming more of a factor today, forecasters said. There’s a possibility of rain and freezing rain and drizzle in southern Wisconsin.

In addition, lake-effect snow along Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota coupled with winds up to 40 mph “will have to be monitored closely” for a potential blizzard warning, meteorologists said. Some lakeside communities could see up to 18 inches of snow.

Another system on a similar track will follow for Tuesday into Wednesday with dangerous wind chills possible the remainder of the week.

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DOH cautions against large gatherings, travel amid surge | News, Sports, Jobs

A sign outside the Kaiser Permanente clinic in Wailuku reminds patients that “COVID-19 doesn’t take a vacation.” Hawaii reported 1,511 new cases on Thursday, not far behind the record-high 1,678 cases it saw in August during the summer surge.
The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

Hawaii’s health director urged residents to reconsider their travel plans and scale back their gatherings as new COVID-19 cases statewide shot up to 1,511 the day before Christmas Eve.

“If you can avoid travel right now, avoid travel right now,” Department of Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said during a news conference Thursday morning. “Don’t put yourself in those situations. Postpone it. Let’s see where we are in the spring. Maybe that might be a better time to have gatherings and get together.

“We want people to celebrate,” Char added. “There’s great value to that, just to people’s mental health and well-being, but please do it safely, do it smartly, do it in smaller groups.”

The 1,511 new cases, including 1,293 on Oahu, 98 on Maui, 66 on Hawaii island, 29 on Kauai, three on Lanai and 22 Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state, was not far behind the record-high 1,678 cases the state saw in August at the height of the delta variant-fueled surge.

The current wave, Char said, seems to have started with delta, based on the timeline, but is now being spurred on by the omicron variant that’s spread quickly since it was first discovered in South Africa in November.

Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char discusses a rise in COVID-19 cases during a news conference on Thursday. With Christmas around the corner, Char warned residents to weigh the risks and benefits of travel, hold smaller gatherings outdoors and get vaccinated and/or a booster shot.
The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

“That’s why we’re so concerned,” Char said. “If up till now there’s been a fair amount of delta, and omicron’s just going to take off and push delta to the side, we are going to see the numbers rise.”

State Laboratories Division Administrator Dr. Edward Desmond explained Wednesday that because of the length of time it takes to collect and confirm suspected cases of omicron, the data the state has will likely be “a couple of weeks behind reality.”

Two cases on Maui have molecular clues indicating they may be the omicron variant and are pending confirmation.

“By the time we get results to confirm, it’s sort of a moot point for the person that’s infected,” Char said Thursday. “So I think we should just assume that it’s omicron, and going forward within a couple weeks, everything’s probably going to be omicron.”

Like delta, omicron has shown a tendency to take over as the predominant variant in other locations, including California, the first state to report a case, where it’s been evident in 50 to 70 percent of new coronavirus cases in some areas, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Across the U.S., omicron now accounts for 73 percent of all cases, federal officials said Monday.

While early studies coming out of the U.K. suggest people who catch the omicron variant are less likely to be hospitalized, omicron still worries local health officials because it spreads so rapidly and widely that many people could still require hospital care and because it has “such effective immune-evading mutations,” Char said.

She pointed out that people who are fully vaccinated are still catching the virus and urged people to get their booster doses to help increase their level of protection against omicron.

Char said that the state is in talks with the county mayors and that “from a public health standpoint, it just does not make sense to have large gatherings right now.”

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino did not announce any new changes Thursday but urged residents to get their booster shots and to consider smaller outdoor gatherings during the holidays.

With many residents planning or taking trips interisland or out of state for the holidays, Char said people have to decide for themselves whether it’s worth the risk.

“It’s a real risk-benefit question for people to answer themselves,” she said. “And that is, do you need to travel right now? What if you were to postpone a little bit? Why are you traveling? There’s benefits to seeing family and friends, right? There’s clearly benefits to that. Is now a good time?”

She said if people do travel, they should get vaccinated and/or seek out their booster shot, keep their mask on the entire time and get a COVID-19 test after traveling.

The winter travel season, while not as busy as the summer when the delta variant ran rampant, still brings plenty of visitors to Hawaii. Char said the state has been discussing the question over whether to require travelers to be vaccinated with three doses or the booster shot, though she acknowledged “it’s a little bit more difficult to actually implement.”

While Neighbor Islands have been less impacted than Oahu, every county has seen its cases on an upward climb. Maui County went from 61 new cases on Wednesday to 98 on Thursday and is now averaging 41 new cases per day, a 139 percent increase over the 17 cases it was averaging on Dec. 8, according to Health Department data as of Thursday.

Maui County also had 10 active clusters under investigation, according to the latest cluster report released Thursday by the Health Department. There were three clusters of 20 cases connected to restaurants; two clusters of seven cases in travel, lodging and tourism; two clusters of seven cases in construction and industrial; one cluster of four cases in other occupational settings; one cluster of three cases among food suppliers; and one cluster of three cases in educational settings.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at [email protected]

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UPMC launches travel staffing agency | News, Sports, Jobs

LOCK HAVEN — UPMC is taking steps to combat a nationwide nursing shortage which is effecting hospitals in the Clinton County area.

The healthcare system has created UPMC Travel Staffing, a new in-house travel staffing agency as a solution the shortage and to attract and retain highly skilled nurses and surgical technologists to its workforce, UPMC announced in a press release.

Building on its global reputation as health care innovators and leaders, UPMC is believed to be the first health system in the country to launch its own staffing agency — initially for registered nurses and surgical technologists, with the potential to evolve to include additional job roles, the release said.

UPMC, like virtually every health care system in the nation, has brought in external travel nurses and surgical technologists to help at the bedside and in operating rooms throughout the past year. The goal of UPMC Travel Staffing is to rely less on outside agency staff and empower UPMC employees who would like to travel to UPMC hospitals across Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York — wherever and whenever the need is greatest. This new program will provide needed support for frontline caregivers and career growth opportunities for UPMC nurses and surgical technologists interested in travel. Not only will the program be a retention tool for current staff, it is expected to fuel a new pipeline to recruit nurses to UPMC and to bring people back to the healthcare system.

“The immense value of this initiative is those hired into UPMC Travel Staffing are our UPMC employees — they are mentored by us and consistently trained to create high-quality clinical and service excellence,” said Tami Minnier, senior vice president, Health Services Division, and Chief Quality and Operational Excellence Officer, UPMC. “The premise behind and priority to launch this program is firmly rooted in living each of our values of Quality & Safety, Excellence & Innovation, Caring & Listening, Dignity & Respect and Responsibility & Integrity.”

This program is expected to bring advantages such as competitive wages and excellent benefits that are unmatched by outside travel agencies, such as tuition assistance, a press release from UPMC said. The program also offers vast career growth opportunities and diverse clinical experience working and living temporarily in communities across UPMC’s footprint.

UPMC Travel Staffing will rotate nurses and surgical technologists to different facilities for six-week assignments.

The program will be open to nurses and surgical technologists who have left UPMC and have an interest in coming back, are working for outside travel agencies, are already employed by UPMC, or who have not yet worked at UPMC and would like to join the team.

UPMC can hire two UPMC travel nurses or techs for the price of one outside agency nurse. This cost savings can be turned into staffing at optimal levels, the release said.

Nurses and surgical technologists interested in this opportunity can apply at and search “UPMC Travel Staffing.”

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