What you missed in Columbus for Jan. 18

Learn how to get your free, at-home COVID tests, the process of redrawing House and Senate district maps begins and more from a long weekend

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
COVID-19 at home test kits at Davies Pharmacy in Canton.   Wednesday, January 5, 2021.

On Friday, the Biden administration launched a new website where Americans can request up to four free COVID-19 tests per household. You can place your order here beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 19. Administration officials said the tests would be delivered via the U.S. Postal Service between seven and 12 days after an order is placed.

Earlier this year, the administration announced it would purchase and distribute 1 billion at-home rapid tests as part of its efforts to curb the highly transmissible omicron variant, which continues to ravage the globe. 

Update: Orders can be placed here now.

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Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the landmark 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S., is running for a seat in the Ohio House, the Dispatch reported. Obergefell, a Democrat, moved home to Sandusky in 2021, which places him in the 89th House District, currently held by Republican D.J. Swearingen. The gay rights icon, the Dispatch writes, “would be well positioned to gain attention and raise serious money for his campaign.” Swearingen won election in 2020, defeating Democrat Alexis Miller with more than 57 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Al Swearengen (different spelling, no relation) continues to be one of the best characters ever brought to life on the small screen.

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The Ohio Redistricting Commission is set to meet today (Tuesday, Jan. 18) to begin the process of redrawing the state’s House and Senate district maps, which were struck down as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. The commission has until the end of the day on Monday, Jan. 24, to approve new maps. Republicans approved the previous maps on a party-line vote and over the objection of Democrats. The maps would have favored Republicans to win two-thirds of Ohio’s legislative seats, out-of-line with the 54 percent of the vote the party has captured in recent elections. You can read more about the redistricting process here.

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TAT Ristorante Di Famiglia announced on Facebook that it would be closed until further notice while repairs are made to its building, which was damaged when a car drove into it while attempting to hit a pedestrian on Saturday. “Everyone in the restaurant was OK and the young man who got hit is in stable condition,” the post read. “We are praying for him and his family and peace in our community.” The driver of the vehicle was arrested by police and faces two charges of felonious assault.

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Texas Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was one of four people held hostage by Malik Faisal Akram over the weekend, said the armed gunman became “increasingly belligerent and threatening” toward the end of the 10-hour standoff on Saturday, which ended with an FBI swat team rushing the building and the captor’s death. The FBI has not yet provided a possible motive for the attack, but early in the standoff Akram could be heard on a Facebook livestream demanding the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, currently serving an 86-year sentence in Fort Worth, Texas, following her conviction of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

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If you have time to get out before this snow inevitably melts, the Dispatch has compiled a list of 15 local sledding hills here.

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Rachel Nagy of rock band the Detroit Cobras died. The death was announced on Saturday via the band’s Instagram page. “There are no words to fully articulate our grief as we remember a life cut short, still vital and inspirational to all who knew and loved her,” bandmate Greg Cartwright wrote. “I know that I am not alone when I say that I was inspired by her vitality, her fierce intensity and her vulnerability.”

You can see all of this on display in the performance below.