Birmingham: Older voters at risk for contracting COVID-19 shouldn’t have to comply with all the state’s requirements for casting absentee ballots, which disproportionately harm Black people during the pandemic, a federal judge decided Wednesday. Ruling in a lawsuit filed on behalf of voters with health problems that make them more susceptible to getting sick from the new coronavirus, U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon said that being forced to follow some provisions during the general election could wrongly endanger their lives. Voters 65 and older with health problems shouldn’t be required to have a notary or two witnesses sign ballot affidavits or to submit a copy of a photo identification, Kallon wrote. Also, counties that wish to allow “curbside voting” should be allowed to do so for those who need it, he ruled. Otherwise, Kallon wrote, voters face the “impossible choice” of jeopardizing their health or not voting.
Juneau: A state court judge plans to decide Monday whether to block enforcement of witness requirements for absentee ballots. Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby heard arguments Thursday in the case brought by Arctic Village Council, a tribal government; the League of Women Voters of Alaska; and two individuals who have cited health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. An attorney for the state, Lael Harrison, argued a change in requirements so close to the Nov. 3 general election could cause voter confusion. She also said the Division of Elections is concerned about its credibility with voters. “They’re concerned about voters saying to themselves, ‘How do we know they won’t change it back again later without telling us? How do we know they won’t change something else at the last minute?’ ” she said.
Lake Havasu City: Hospital officials and the state’s schools chief on Wednesday urged local governments not to lift their mask mandates, warning that moving too quickly could reverse the state’s progress in tamping down COVID-19. Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said schools play a critical role for children and families, and the state can’t ease up on efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak. “Our school communities are depending on continued steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” Hoffman, a Democrat, said in a statement. The Health System Alliance of Arizona, which represents most of the state’s big hospital chains, also warned in a statement Wednesday that eliminating mask mandates risks burdening the health care system.
Little Rock: The state on Wednesday reported 19 more people have died from the illness caused by the coronavirus. The Department of Health reported the total number of fatalities from COVID-19 now totals 1,369. That number includes confirmed and probable cases. The Arkansas Department of Corrections on Wednesday reported its second employee death from COVID-19. A department spokeswoman said Don Rigney, an education and program manager at the Riverside Vocational Technical School at the Ouachita River Unit, died Friday at a Hot Springs hospital. Forty-two inmates have died since the pandemic began. The state’s confirmed cases increased by 607 to 80,610. The state’s probable cases increased by 335 to 3,087. The number of people hospitalized remained unchanged at 490. Arkansas ranks seventh in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill late Wednesday that would have guaranteed most laid-off hospitality workers would be first in line to get their jobs back once those industries begin rehiring. When Newsom ordered people to stay home because of the coronavirus, California’s airports, hotels, event centers and janitorial services had to lay off many of their low-wage, mostly Latino, workers. The Legislature passed a bill at the end of August that would have required the companies to offer those workers their jobs back once they begin rehiring. “I recognize the real problem this bill is trying to fix,” Newsom said in his veto message. But he said the bill is written so broadly that it would apply “during any state of emergency for all layoffs, including those that may be unrelated to such emergency.” Moreover, he wrote, the requirements “place too onerous a burden on employers” who also have been hard-hit.
Colorado Springs: A federal judge denied a request to override the state’s 175-person limit on religious gatherings as a result of the pandemic. U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello wrote in her decision that allowing those gatherings would “present a high risk of harm to the state of Colorado as well as the public in general.” The request filed by Andrew Wommack Ministries attempted to obtain a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to override state coronavirus regulations. Liberty Counsel, a conservative advocacy group, is appealing the ruling. The decision was announced a week before the ministry’s planned Pastor’s Conference, scheduled to begin Monday. The event draws pastors and ministers from throughout the country and is required attendance for more than 600 students at Charis Bible College. State public health officials linked a spike in coronavirus cases to a Bible conference run by Andrew Wommack over the summer.
Bozrah: About 1,000 people who rely on food from the Meals on Wheels program won’t get new deliveries for the next two weeks because of precautions being taken after a worker was exposed to the coronavirus. The Thames Valley Council for Community Action said it has closed a warehouse through Oct. 13 because a staff member was exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. The organization says it is asking homebound customers in New London and Windham counties to use prepackaged meals that were provided as backup in the spring with instructions to save them in case deliveries had to be stopped during the pandemic. Each customer was given 14 nonperishable meals in April, Dawn Cwynar, an executive assistant with the nonprofit, told the Norwich Bulletin. Those who have already consumed their emergency stockpile will receive boxes of shelf-stable meals, which were kept in stock in case of emergency.
Wilmington: The state’s Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee released a report Thursday on steps Delaware needs to take to prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19 as well as lessons learned from the past six months. The committee, with representatives from the public and private sectors, made recommendations like increased testing for Black and Latino communities, ensuring health care providers and hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, deploying short-term financial support programs for disproportionately affected businesses, and extending funding for emergency sheltering, such as hotels. The report also noted how nursing homes, poultry plants and restaurants were affected by the pandemic. It said one poultry plant experienced a positive rate of 30% at one point during the pandemic. Some of the plants, the committee found, had difficulty implementing social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines.
District of Columbia
Washington: Some District of Columbia Public Schools students will soon have the opportunity to see their classmates in person again, WUSA-TV reports. The district is allowing 13 schools to set up “student support centers,” which will involve in-person programming for small groups of students. “School, as we know, is a place of hope,” Tyler Elementary School Principal Jasmine Brann said. “It’s a wonderful beacon of light in a community, so we’re eager to welcome our students back to their school, to their playground.” During her situational update Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said the programs are designed to supplement distance learning and range from tutoring to social-emotional support and outdoor engagement activities.
Miami: Faced with a state ultimatum, the Miami-Dade school board agreed unanimously to reopen schools for classroom instruction next week despite looming fears that they’re unprepared to prevent another spike in coronavirus infections. It was either share classroom air again or lose millions in state funding by scratching a reopening plan approved by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. He ordered the board in a letter last week to follow through on Monday and said the state would allow only case-by-case exceptions for certain schools. Corcoran’s letter objected to a previous board decision to postpone classroom instruction, perhaps until late October, so that more safety measures could be implemented and personal protective equipment obtained for teachers and staff. Miami-Dade has both the largest school district in Florida and the state’s worst coronavirus caseload.
Atlanta: The governor extended his emergency rules regarding COVID-19 again Wednesday as the state surpassed 7,000 deaths from the respiratory illness. Gov. Brian Kemp extended the underlying state of emergency that allows him to issue other orders, which had been set to expire Oct. 10, until Nov. 9. The Republican pushed back the expiration of a series of rules and guidelines related to the pandemic from Oct. 1 until Oct. 15. Georgia has recorded more than 318,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus overall. The state’s seven-day average of new cases has fallen below 1,200 a day, a level equal to where it was in late June but still above the lowest point in late May. Georgia has ranked 24th in the country for new cases per capita in the past two weeks, down from a point during the summer when it was worst nationwide for that measure.
Honolulu: A nursing home is trying to contain a COVID-19 outbreak involving 21 residents and six staff members, officials said. The state Department of Health is investigating the cases at the Liliha Healthcare Center in Honolulu, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. An employee tested positive Sept. 16, and the home tested all residents and staff two days later. Positive results were reported Sept. 20. The infected residents are isolated at the 92-bed nursing home, which is testing staff and residents every Friday and checking for symptoms twice daily. Officials said 17 residents who tested negative were transferred to Wahiawa General Hospital for further testing and monitoring. Liliha Healthcare Center said it is taking “precautionary measures” to contain the virus including routine sanitization, employee screenings, and temperature and oxygen-level monitoring among residents.
Boise: The state will remain in the fourth and final stage of reopening the economy during the coronavirus pandemic for at least another two weeks, Gov. Brad Little said Thursday. The Republican governor also said Idaho will receive 530,000 rapid antigen tests that will be prioritized for schools. Officials said the tests take 15 minutes, are 95% accurate and use a less invasive nasal swab. Little said infections and hospitalizations are too high to move out of the fourth stage, which allows all businesses to open as well as gatherings of more than 50 people as long as distancing of 6 feet and other precautions are taken. Little also announced the formation of the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee in anticipation of a vaccine that would be distributed by the federal government. An initial vaccine supply will likely be limited and in Idaho will likely first go to health care workers.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, which has been criticized for refusing to backtrack on its decision to postpone high school fall sports such as football and volleyball, delivered some tough news Wednesday with restrictions on Halloween festivities. Instead of trick-or-treating this year, parents could arrange outdoor gatherings where kids and a parent wearing face masks could pick out candy that is spread out on tables, suggested the state’s public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike. “For anyone wearing a costume, whether a child or an adult, a costume mask is not a substitute for face coverings,” Ezike said. “If face coverings are worn under the costume mask, please ensure that this does not create any breathing problems. And if it does, don’t discard your face covering. Put the costume mask aside.” The state’s rules forbid haunted houses but allow for hayrides and visits to pumpkin patches and orchards, with proper social distancing.
Indianapolis: State officials released to the public a new online tool Wednesday designed to help track coronavirus cases in schools. Health officials said the dashboard will reflect the new and cumulative numbers of positive COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and other workers in a given school. An early look at the data during Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon reflected at least 2,354 positive COVID-19 cases in schools around the state since the new school year started this fall. Data will be updated each week. Schools reporting fewer than five positive cases will have their data suppressed to protect privacy. The tracker’s release follows concerns from health experts about sharp increases in COVID-19 cases among Indiana’s younger population groups.
Des Moines: The city’s school board approved a plan Wednesday night to return to in-classroom learning, but it included metrics for allowable coronavirus infection rates that the district doesn’t currently meet, making it unclear if students will actually return to school as planned. The board voted 6-1 to gradually implement a hybrid learning plan, starting with prekindergarten on Oct. 12 and ending with high school students Nov. 10. Students can choose to remain in all-remote learning or opt for 50% instruction in classrooms with the remainder online. Des Moines is the only district in Iowa that hadn’t approved a plan that met Gov. Kim Reynolds’ demand that school districts hold at least half of their classes in-person. The state Department of Education had planned to begin a process that could find the district out of compliance with state law.
Topeka: The top public health official in the state said Wednesday that Kansas has yet to see its biggest wave of coronavirus cases, suggesting the pandemic could spawn an average of 800 or even 900 new cases a day in coming months. Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the state Department of Health and Environment, said Kansas is likely to surpass the record numbers of new confirmed and probable cases it has recently seen. The state had an average of 646 new cases a day for the seven days ending Wednesday, second only to the 667 cases per day for the seven days ending Monday. While the state’s most populous counties have continued to generate hundreds of new cases every week, rural areas also have been seeing spikes. And health department data released Wednesday showed that outbreaks have returned to the state’s prison system.
Paducah: The National Quilt Museum is now offering online subscriptions. Quilt Museum Digital was launched Tuesday as a way to reach quilting and fiber art enthusiasts around the world, museum CEO Frank Bennett told The Paducah Sun. Bennett said he felt the move was necessary given the continuing safety protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic. The museum in Paducah is getting only about 40% of its normal visitors, he said. “Museums have really had to pivot their model, and a lot of them have gone to different variations of digital formats, offering things online that they haven’t done before to keep people engaged, and, of course, we all need more revenue, as well,” he said. The subscription-based service starts out at $8 a month and includes videos of new exhibits as well as supplemental and exclusive materials, such as interviews with artists and curators.
Baton Rouge: House Republican lawmakers outlined their grievances Wednesday about the state’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ regulations are too strict, even as public health experts warned of another expected coronavirus spike in flu season. Legislators across two hearings complained about crowd limits on football games, mask requirements for cheerleaders and dance teams, restrictions on churches, closures of bars, constraints on nursing home visitation, and different treatment of bars, restaurants and casinos. “People are telling me they feel like their rights are being violated, that we are overreaching government,” said Rep. Jack McFarland, a Winnfield Republican. The criticism came in a special session that GOP lawmakers convened in part to consider rolling back some of Edwards’ rules and curbing the Louisiana governor’s sole authority to issue executive orders during disasters.
Portland: The state’s largest farm trade show will be a virtual event next year as the agricultural sector continues to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic. The Maine Agricultural Trades Show will be held online in January 2021, the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said in a statement. The department organizes the event, and department officials said the ability to gather in person “is still likely to be limited to a level that is much lower than the number of people who would regularly attend” the show. The trade show has taken place since 1941 and typically includes more than 100 exhibitors and dozens of conference sessions. It also serves as a networking and planning event for the state’s farmers, who use the show to get ready for the coming season.
Annapolis: The state has reported zero deaths from the coronavirus in a 24-hour period for the first time since March 28. The state said Thursday morning that there had been no deaths reported in the past day. That doesn’t necessarily mean that no COVID-19 deaths occurred in that time frame, as some deaths are not immediately reported due to a time lag in the submission of a death certificate. Still, Gov. Larry Hogan said it’s an “encouraging milestone” and a tribute to the efforts of health care workers. Maryland has reported a total of 3,805 deaths from the coronavirus so far. Officials reported that there have been 125,510 coronavirus cases confirmed in the state as of Thursday. That was an increase of 785 cases in 24 hours.
Boston: The city and nine other communities in Massachusetts are now considered to be at “high risk” for the coronavirus, a state designation that will delay the next phase of reopening. In all, 23 cities and towns are now in the “high-risk” category after their infection rates reached 8 or more cases per 100,000 residents. Besides Boston, the other communities newly designated as high risk are Attleboro, Avon, Dracut, Haverhill, Lowell, Lynnfield, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover and Springfield. The label means those cities and towns won’t be allowed to move to the next stage of reopening Monday. Gyms, museums and libraries will remain limited to 40% of capacity, and indoor performance venues will stay closed, among other restrictions. Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux said Thursday that 11 members of the city’s fire department had tested positive for COVID-19, and one was hospitalized in serious condition.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revised rules related to the care of nursing home residents with the coronavirus, saying they should be sent to facilities with solid federal staffing ratings. Currently, infected residents from homes without a dedicated COVID-19 unit go to one of 21 state-designated “hub” nursing homes when they leave the hospital or when they need a higher level of care but not hospitalization. Under an order issued late Wednesday, they instead will be transferred to “care and recovery” centers that will replace the hub network. A hub home can be a care and recovery facility but only if it meets certain standards. The facility has to have a staffing rating of at least three out of five stars, for instance, and cannot have an abuse or neglect citation. Whitmer did not, as Republican lawmakers have suggested, establish COVID-only facilities or buildings. She also lifted an outright ban on communal dining.
Minneapolis: A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a challenge by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis to the state’s coronavirus restrictions, turning aside the former congressman’s arguments that the rules unconstitutionally limit his freedom to campaign. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz acted within his authority to respond to the public health crisis when he imposed restrictions on crowd sizes, travel and other measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected over 99,000 Minnesotans and killed more than 2,000. Some of those restrictions already have been relaxed or rescinded, the judge noted. Lewis, a conservative former talk radio host who served one term in the U.S. House before losing in 2018, has been campaigning against the state’s coronavirus restrictions since the early days of the pandemic. He said he plans to appeal and make the ruling an issue in the race.
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves ended a statewide mask mandate Wednesday but said he will still require people to wear face coverings in schools to curb the spread of the coronavirus. “We should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified,” Reeves said at a news conference. Mississippi’s mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4. Reeves, a Republican, has chosen to extend the mandate several times since then. However, on Wednesday, he said the declining number of confirmed virus cases and hospitalizations are positive developments that call for the lifting of some restrictions. In addition to schools, people will still be required to wear face coverings while receiving “close contact personal care services” in such places as salons, barbershops and spas.
Kansas City: The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against a Missouri court order allowing some Kansas City-area evictions to continue during the coronavirus pandemic. Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge David Byrn issued a Sept. 3 order banning evictions as long as tenants give landlords a declaration that they’re struggling to pay rent because of the pandemic. But the order still allows evictions if landlords don’t receive that notice from tenants or if the eviction is based on tenants breaking the law, damaging property or violating a contract. Attorneys for the ACLU argue the Missouri court order goes against a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention temporary ban on evictions intended to help with social distancing and make it easier for sick or at-risk communities to self-isolate.
Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock urged local officials where coronavirus cases are surging to consider stricter measures including shutting down bars in some hot spots to halt the virus’s spread. But he stopped short Wednesday of any new statewide restrictions, as the state’s COVID-19 caseload continues to grow dramatically. Health officials reported 348 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, marking a new daily record for the third time in the past week. Montana has surpassed 13,000 known cases, 180 people have died, and 170 people are hospitalized. The governor said during a Wednesday news conference that six of the state’s 56 counties account for 65% of new reported cases: Yellowstone, Roosevelt, Missoula, Flathead, Cascade and Gallatin. Bullock said the increase “should cause us all some alarm.” He urged Montanans to follow guidelines and rules already in place.
Lincoln: Officials are defending the state’s $27 million contract with a Utah company to provide coronavirus testing services that some lawmakers have questioned because it was hastily arranged without taking bids. In early April, state labs were running short on testing supplies at the same time all states were trying to significantly increase testing for the virus, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Doug Carlson, with the state’s Department of Administrative Services, told Nebraska lawmakers Monday that the state was having trouble finding testing supplies from either federal agencies or private vendors until Nomi Health offered to step in. Lawmakers approved a resolution that Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha introduced calling for a study of the Test Nebraska program to determine what changes, if any, might be needed before the contract could be renewed next year.
Reno: A day after Gov. Steve Sisolak authorized relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings statewide, Washoe County health officials urged local leaders Wednesday to postpone any changes because of a dramatic spike in new daily cases in Reno-Sparks the past two weeks. Sisolak announced Tuesday night that he was lifting a mandatory 50-person cap on public and private gatherings statewide. As he has with previous directives, the Democratic governor said local governments are free to adopt stricter rules. Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said Wednesday he’s recommending to city and county managers that they stick with the current cap. “We have almost doubled the number of new cases that are occurring over two weeks,” Dick said. The daily average of about 106 new cases over a 14-day stretch is a record for the county – an 88% increase compared to two weeks ago, he said.
Concord: A total of $557,000 is going to the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund to support small businesses and promote economic growth in communities amid the pandemic, the state’s congressional delegation said Tuesday. “As the economic fallout spurred by this pandemic worsens, it is essential that New Hampshire businesses have the support they need to survive this crisis,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said in a statement. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said the fund “is providing critical financial support to communities in need, including to support affordable housing.” The award was allocated by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which enables organizations like the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund to increase lending and investment activity in low-income and economically distressed communities.
Hackensack: One of the first two jury trials in the state since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been suspended over concerns about the virtual jury selection plan put in place over the summer. The trial in Bergen County was to begin this week, but defense lawyers argued that the jury selection process implemented by the state unfairly excludes minority and older jurors. On Wednesday, an appeals court suspended the trial, and it’s expected to hear arguments this month. As part of a plan to resume jury trials on a limited basis – and reduce a backlog of thousands of cases that had piled up – the state Supreme Court released a plan in August that provided for jury selection to be conducted mostly online. In the Bergen County case, involving a Filipino defendant, the jury was predominantly white, said Matthew Adams, vice president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey.
Las Cruces: New Mexico State University has announced that classes will be entirely online after the Thanksgiving break and that the college’s fall commencement will not be held in person because of coronavirus restrictions. University President John Floros said Wednesday that the university surveyed students, faculty and staff at the Las Cruces campus to gauge their opinions on returning following the break. The university received more than 6,600 responses, with more than 70% of faculty and staff and 60% of students favoring online-only courses beginning Nov. 30, Floros said. Classes that are currently online are not expected to change. There will be two weeks left in the fall semester after the holiday, and the campus will remain open to provide housing, dining and other services, officials said. Floros said the university plans to return to in-person classes for the spring semester.
Albany: Schools across the state have reported that at least 1,200 students, teachers and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, though that number is almost certain to be an undercount. As of Tuesday, 693 public and private schools across the state had reported at least one infection since classes began to resume in early September. Schools reported more than 700 students and 400 school staff had tested positive for the virus. No information was available on whether the sick students had any opportunity to infect other members of their school community or whether they had even returned to in-person learning before they tested positive. State officials noted that the count, made public by the state through its online COVID-19 Report Card for schools, doesn’t capture the full extent of infections among either schoolchildren or teachers.
Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that bars, amusement parks and movie theaters can partially reopen starting Friday under a new Phase 3 order. The updated executive order that will remain in effect through Oct. 23 also allows fans to attend outdoor sporting events. Venues with more than 10,000 seats can operate at 7% capacity, while those with 10,000 or fewer people can open to 100 people or operate at 30% capacity, whichever is less. But the increased reopening comes with restrictions on businesses as the state’s coronavirus case numbers have held steady but at higher-than-desired levels. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, warned that the state’s progress in dealing with COVID-19 is “fragile.” Cooper acknowledged the concerns and pleaded with North Carolinians to comply with the state’s mask mandate and other safety measures.
Bismarck: Sanford Health opened a new unit at its Bismarck hospital Wednesday, adding 14 more beds. Sanford said it’s not exclusively for coronavirus patients, but it could be used to treat them if the need arises. Six of the 14 beds in the new unit opening Wednesday are designated for intensive care patients. The expansion at Sanford Bismarck gives the hospital 242 beds. The new unit is on the main floor, where the adult physical, occupational and speech therapies were located, the Bismarck Tribune reports. Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius employees listed concerns about hospital capacity at the Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force meeting last week. There have been nearly 678 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in North Dakota over the past two weeks, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Columbus: An aid package is coming soon for small businesses and people struggling to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ohio’s GOP Senate finance chairman. Lawmakers and Gov. Mike DeWine are figuring out the best way to provide the money – from federal pandemic relief funds – as quickly as possible, Senator Matt Dolan, a Republican from Chagrin Falls, said Wednesday. The governor and lawmakers are jointly working on a plan that would also provide assistance for companies experiencing difficulty making mortgage payments. Given the importance of the issue, moving the money through the state Controlling Board is one option, said Dan Tierney, a DeWine spokesman. The bipartisan panel approves larger state spending measures. The aid comes as unemployment claims have ticked upward in recent days after weeks of declines from their record highs at the start of the pandemic.
Tulsa: The City Council has voted to expand and extend a requirement that masks be worn in public when social distancing is not possible in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The council voted Wednesday to lower the age of those who must wear a mask from 18 to those 10 and older and to extend the mandate that was to expire Nov. 30 until Jan. 31. Oklahoma City has a similar mask mandate for those 11 and older that is to expire Oct. 20. Both cities allow exceptions such as bar and restaurant patrons who are eating or drinking and those taking part in athletic events. Oklahoma remains among the worst states in the U.S. for positive coronavirus tests per 100,000 people and the number of new reported cases, according to a report released this week by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Salem: COVID-19 infections in the state rose 32% last week, when 1,999 new cases were reported, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The percentage of positive tests remained at 6.2%. The number of tests administered the week of Sept. 21-27 rose to 24,243. Meanwhile, a lot of unemployed people in the state got big checks Wednesday, with many more still stuck in bureaucracy. The Oregon Employment Department made payments through the Lost Wages Assistance program, paying out an additional $300 weekly payment for the five weeks between July 26 and Sept. 5, officials said Wednesday. Acting department director David Gerstenfeld said $225 million was paid out to more than 48,000 people on a single day. But the department performed a tally of those whose unemployment claims were still in adjudication and found 49,000 people in Oregon were still waiting in that status as of Sept. 23.
Harrisburg: A Republican lawmaker’s positive test for COVID-19 on Thursday prompted legislative leaders to immediately cancel the day’s state House voting session, and human resources workers were deployed to trace his personal contacts to see if others should be quarantined. Rep. Paul Schemel, R-Franklin, issued a statement saying he began to feel sick Wednesday and got the positive test result Thursday. He then notified House officials. He was most recently in the Capitol on Tuesday. Although state House employees are all required to wear masks in the Capitol, that does not apply to the representatives themselves. Schemel’s press release did not say if he had been wearing a mask while inside the Capitol’s public spaces. A significant number of House Republicans have continued to be maskless inside the Capitol, and some have defiantly ridiculed mask-wearing as an overreaction or ineffective.
Providence: More than 100 students at Johnson & Wales University have been quarantined after 31 people who attend the school’s Providence campus tested positive for COVID-19. University officials announced the quarantine measures Wednesday evening, adding that the students who tested positive all lived in off-campus housing and are experiencing mild symptoms. Other COVID-19 clusters have been reported at Providence College and the University of Rhode Island, where students have gathered in groups off-campus. Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that irresponsible behavior by young people is a leading factor in a recent increase in infections. Officials said 170 people had tested positive earlier this week in the highest single-day number since last spring.
Columbia: Several parties and large gatherings coinciding with the University of South Carolina’s football game had to be broken up Saturday, as people celebrated the first game of the season, police said. Columbia Police told The State newspaper Wednesday that three social distancing citations and four warnings were issued to residences that house some USC students. Police said the largest gathering was at an apartment complex near the Gamecocks’ Williams-Brice stadium, where about 300 people got together after the game. Another citation was issued to a residence in the Five Points area, where about 100 people gathered before kickoff. Columbia police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said property owners were also cited for the social distancing violation. Each violation was a 10-point infraction, and if a property accumulates 15 points in a one-year span, property owners could get their rental permits revoked, according to city records.
Sioux Falls: State lawmakers on Wednesday worked to finalize their plan on how to spend more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds ahead of a special legislative session tentatively scheduled for next week. Lawmakers have been holding public input sessions in recent weeks as they discuss the best way to address the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic. But as the state looks to spend the bulk of the $1.25 billion in federal funds it received in the spring, Gov. Kristi Noem and some lawmakers have tussled over spending the money. Noem’s office has maintained that the governor has the authority to spend federal funds without a vote from the Legislature. Her office has described the special session as a way for lawmakers to offer input into how the money is used. Noem has announced that she intends to call the Legislature to convene Monday.
Nashville: A manufacturer of N95 respirator masks plans to set up a $25 million facility in Middle Tennessee that is expected to create 220 jobs over the next three years. The state Department of Economic and Community Development says Moldex-Metric Inc. is creating its first manufacturing center in Tennessee by retrofitting an existing building in Lebanon. Moldex also plans to build a distribution center on the 21-acre site in Wilson County. State officials say the company with headquarters in Culver City, California, is expanding to meet a surge in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moldex has been manufacturing respirators and hearing protection products for almost four decades.
Austin: The number of newly reported cases of the coronavirus in Texas took a jump Wednesday as state health officials reported 5,335 new cases, 40% more than the 3,812 cases reported Tuesday. That raised the total Texas caseload since the state began coronavirus tracking in March to 748,767. Of those, 69,767 cases were active, and 3,344 patients were hospitalized Wednesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported. The true number of cases is likely higher, though, because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The state also reported 107 new deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That’s a 51% increase from the 71 deaths reported Tuesday. The death toll in Texas now sits at 15,711.
Salt Lake City: After Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox criticized the Salt Lake City School District for not mandating in-person learning, the district reaffirmed its commitment to online learning during the pandemic until it is safe. “Many of our students are being left behind – especially those in low-income areas, students with disabilities,” Cox said in a gubernatorial debate Tuesday. “The Salt Lake City School District is the only school district in the state that has not gone back to in-person learning. And that’s a huge mistake. It is damaging our kids, and that needs to change right now.” District spokesperson Yandary Chatwin said that despite Cox’s comments, the district will continue with remote, online learning in order to keep faculty, staff, students and their families safe from the coronavirus. Interim Superintendent Larry Madde said state leaders have intentionally opted not to release a statewide response, instead deferring to local officials.
Rutland: A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gym owner against the state over whether he could operate during the COVID-19 business restrictions this past spring. Vermont’s attorney general had sued Sean Manovill in May for operating Club Fitness in Rutland in violation of state rules. Manovill countersued, saying the state violated the Vermont Constitution with an “unlawful taking” of his business, WCAX-TV reports. A judge on Tuesday ruled that the state, governor and attorney general did not violate Manovill’s constitutional or statutory rights. “This decision is a win for Vermonters and Vermont businesses who have done the right thing and complied with the Governor’s orders,” Attorney General T.J. Donovan said in a statement Wednesday. “The Court’s ruling confirms what Vermonters know and have done: We all have to do our part because we are all in this together.”
Norfolk: Efforts by the city to resume jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic have stalled because most of the people being called to serve aren’t showing up. Roughly 9 out of 10 possible jurors aren’t showing up for court in Norfolk, a jump from the usual no-show rate of about 1 in 3, The Virginian-Pilot reports. On paper, Norfolk began holding jury trials last week, almost exactly six months after the pandemic forced local judges to shut them down. The Norfolk Circuit Court is one of four in Virginia that has won approval from the state Supreme Court to restart jury trials. While four trials were scheduled for last week in Norfolk, none of them actually happened. Defendants in three of the cases set for trial pleaded guilty. In the fourth, the victim who would have testified against the defendant didn’t show. Still, court officials had summoned 120 people for possible jury duty in that case, but only 14 showed up.
Snoqualmie: At least 25 COVID-19 cases have been reported at the Salish Lodge & Spa, public health officials said Wednesday. The outbreak involves 23 staff and two guests, according to a news release sent by Public Health – Seattle & King County spokeswoman Sharon Bogan. Anyone who visited the popular lodge east of Seattle next to Snoqualmie Falls on Sept. 16-30 should get tested for COVID-19 and monitor for symptoms, the news release said. The lodge was used as the exterior of the Great Northern Hotel in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” TV series, and its adjacent waterfall is immortalized in the show’s opening credits. Salish Lodge & Spa is fully cooperating with Public Health to implement recommendations, is facilitating testing for staff and is currently closed, according to health officials. Alan Stephens, general manager of Salish Lodge & Spa, said the entire facility will be sanitized.
Charleston: Former coal CEO Robert E. Murray, who has fought federal regulations on the industry, has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Labor for black lung benefits, according to a published report. West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Ohio Valley ReSource report the former head of Murray Energy said on the form that he is still board chairman of the company but can no longer serve as president and CEO due to his health. Murray has fought federal mine safety regulations for years. His company filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in 2014 over regulations to cut the amount of coal dust in coal mines to reduce the incidence of black lung disease, saying they were overly burdensome and costly to the industry. In the black lung claim, Murray, 80, says he is heavily dependent on oxygen and is “near death.”
Milwaukee: Marcus Theatres has temporarily closed 17 of the 72 cinemas it reopened this summer, citing a decline in audience demand and the limited number of new movie releases. The coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of movie theaters across the state in mid-March. The Milwaukee-based Marcus began reopening many of its theaters in August, after test runs at a handful of theaters in June. Theaters Marcus has closed again include those in Appleton, Green Bay, Delafield and Menomonee Falls. Besides the anxiety about heading inside for a movie and the prospect of catching COVID-19, Marcus and other theater operators have grappled with a shortage of new studio releases. Theater owners hoped the thriller “Tenet” would bring people back, but besides that movie there haven’t been many other big movies released.
Casper: The University of Wyoming has announced that its wrestling program halted activities after the team confirmed six cases of COVID-19. The university said in a statement that the team won’t engage in any athletic activities and that members are being asked to self-isolate through Oct. 14, including attending classes remotely, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The announcement came a week after the cheer team stopped activities because three of its 40-member squad tested positive for the virus. The school also closed its law school last month to in-person classes after six students also tested positive for COVID-19. University officials reported 113 active confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and employees as of Wednesday. Fourteen cases involved students living on campus. Another 112 people were quarantined for possible exposure.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports