Montgomery: A lawsuit filed Friday challenges the state’s election procedures by arguing that restrictions on absentee ballots and a lack of other voting methods jeopardize the health of voters – especially older voters, black voters and voters with disabilities – during the coronavirus outbreak. The lawsuit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program alleges that Alabama’s rules will require people to choose between voting and protecting their health. Alabama absentee voters are currently required to submit photocopies of their photo identification as well as sign the absentee ballot before a notary or two witnesses. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to waive those mandates and also force the state to offer curbside voting. “No one should have to choose between their life or their vote,” LDF Senior Counsel Deuel Ross said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
Juneau: Organizers of the Southeast Alaska State Fair say the summer event in Haines has been canceled this year due to COVID-19. In a statement, fair officials said it was a difficult decision but the right one to make. “For us and many across Southeast Alaska and the Yukon, the Fair is something to look forward to at the end of the summer, a moment of congregation and fun separate from the rest of the year,” the statement said. “2020 has instead united us with the common goal of preserving the health and safety of loved ones and strangers alike.” Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Safety said it will not hold a ceremony next week to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, but a remembrance would be recorded and shared. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in a release, encouraged Alaskans to visit local memorials, while practicing social distancing.
Wickenburg: Two restaurants in this central Arizona community that allowed people to eat in the establishments in violation of an order issued by the governor to help stop the spread of the coronavirus will be reported to the town attorney for a decision on possible citations, police said Saturday. Police Lt. Kenny Lutkiewicz said both establishments that will be reported based on officers’ observations Saturday were presented copies Friday of Gov. Doug Ducey’s order barring dine-in eating during the coronavirus pandemic. Nobody was arrested or issued a citation Saturday, Lutkiewicz said. “Our goal is to educate,” he said. Lutkiewicz said there were strong feelings in the community about enforcement of Ducey’s order. People crowded sidewalks and were inside several restaurants that were open for business Saturday, said Jack Howell, a Wickenburg resident who observed the scene. “Everybody was well mannered … but there was no social distancing,” Howell said.
Little Rock: Two state prisoners died from the illness caused by the coronavirus, health officials said Saturday, as Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged residents to “tip very generously” when businesses shuttered due to the virus reopen in the coming days. The two inmates, both in their 60s, were from the Cummins Unit, where at least 860 prisoners have tested positive. Health officials announced the deaths as the state prepared to start rolling back its coronavirus restrictions this week, with gyms opening Monday. Restaurants can reopen their dining rooms May 11, but only at one-third their capacity. Hair salons, barbershops, tattoo shops and massage therapists can reopen Wednesday with new rules on customer interaction. Hutchinson said he hoped Arkansans would spend money at the businesses but follow the social distancing measures such as wearing a mask.
Antioch: A city official has been ousted after he suggested on social media that sick, old and homeless people should be left to meet their “natural course in nature” during the coronavirus pandemic. City council members in Antioch, a city of about 110,000 people 35 miles east of Oakland, voted unanimously Friday night to remove Ken Turnage II from his post as chairman of the city’s planning commission. NBC Bay Area reports there was a swift uproar after Turnage characterized people with weak immune systems as a drain on society. He wrote on Facebook: “the World has been introduced to a new phrase Herd Immunity which is a good one. In my opinion we need to adapt a Herd Mentality. A herd gathers it ranks, it allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature.” As for homeless people, he added that the virus would “fix what is a significant burden on our society and resources that can be used.” Turnage later deleted the post but refused to resign or back down from his comments.
Denver: Getting a haircut and shopping in person at retail stores were allowed again in much of the state starting Friday as Colorado continued to ease restrictions set up to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus. However, stay-at-home orders remained in place for much of the Denver area, with only essential businesses like grocery, liquor and hardware stores open there. Goodwill was reopening 16 stores around Colorado with changes to protect people’s safety. Dressing rooms will be closed, and one-way aisles have been set up to make it easier for customers to stay 6 feet apart. Elective surgeries and curbside pickup at retail shops were allowed to begin outside the Denver area Monday in the first wave of the relaxation of restrictions under Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ “safer at home” order. Offices can reopen starting Monday but only with half the usual staff to allow for social distancing.
Hamden: Beautiful spring weather brought people out to state parks Saturday, forcing officials to close many that became too crowded under the state’s guidelines for social distancing. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection had closed at least 11 parks because their parking areas were at capacity. Officials had urged residents to seek out lesser-used parks to avoid crowding. Among the parks to reach capacity were Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown and Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury. The DEEP has implemented lower capacity limits at parks to support social distancing. It says that the closures are temporary and that parks can be expected to open the following day.
Dover: Police say Gov. John Carney’s order requiring people to wear face coverings in public during the coronavirus pandemic is mostly being observed, but not everyone has been willing to comply. In Cheswold, a Valero patron who was rebuffed by a clerk for not wearing a mask kicked and shattered a glass door Tuesday. The Delaware State News reports multiple other police departments and businesses said most people were complying with the order. Delaware State Police spokeswoman Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said a person who continues to refuse management requests to leave a business could possibly be charged with third-degree trespassing or disorderly conduct. Jaffe said there are exceptions, such as if someone has a medical condition that precludes them from wearing a face covering.
District of Columbia
Washington: Amid the fight against coronavirus, city leaders plan to hire at least 200 additional people to join the Contact Trace Force and investigate local cases of the illness, WUSA-TV reports. Contact tracers play a key role in stopping the spread of a virus by speaking with people who have tested positive and figuring out with whom they have come in contact. “For us, it means that we get to it faster, and we contain it faster,” D.C. Department of Human Resources Director Ventris Gibson said. “You contain the spread by making sure you pull the group together that had the exposure.” Currently, the city’s trace force has 65 members. By hiring 200 additional members, Gibson said, the city could get an even bigger hold on the virus. “We are doing this to save lives, to save hospitalizations and to get us back to a healthy state,” she said.
Orlando: Deputies arrested a man who had been living out his quarantine on a shuttered Disney World island, telling authorities it felt like a “tropical paradise.” Orange County Sheriff’s deputies found Richard McGuire on Disney’s Discovery Island on Thursday. He said he’d been there since Monday or Tuesday and had planned to camp there for a week, according to an arrest report. The 42-year-old said he didn’t hear numerous deputies searching the private island for him on foot, by boat and by air because he was asleep in a building. He told the deputy he didn’t know it was a restricted area, despite there being numerous “no trespassing” signs. A security representative for Disney said she saw McGuire using a company boat Thursday. She asked the agency to press charges. McGuire was arrested on a trespassing charge and taken to jail without incident.
Atlanta: Georgians gathered in small groups atop parking decks, on rooftop patios and along normally busy interstates to see U.S. military fighter jets that flew over the Atlanta metro area in a tribute to health care workers battling the coronavirus. Spectators cheered loudly as the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds roared overhead Saturday afternoon. The jets flew in formation as they passed over the area’s major hospitals. At the historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, spectators generally adhered to social distancing guidelines, but few wore masks. Some carried lawn chairs and beverages while others pushed strollers. Statewide, two dozen more deaths of people with COVID-19 were reported Saturday by the Georgia Department of Public Health, bringing the state’s death toll to at least 1,174.
Honolulu: Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Friday that the state is moving into “Phase 2” of its effort against the coronavirus now that it has successfully reduced the rate of new infections and “flattened the curve.” Green said in a video posted on social media that low-risk activities like elective medical procedures are resuming, and officials in the next few weeks will consider authorizing medium-risk activities. “Can our gyms open? Can restaurants that do social distancing open? That’s what we’re working on,” Green said. The next step after these activities would be “higher-risk stuff” like large gatherings of people and bars, he said. Gov. David Ige has extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 31. A 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving in the state also remains in effect.
Boise: Three northern Idaho residents have filed a federal lawsuit challenging statewide restrictions ordered by Gov. Brad Little due to the coronavirus, saying it violates their religious freedoms. Two religious leaders and a churchgoer filed the lawsuit Thursday against Little and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen. The lawsuit targets Little’s stay-at-home order as unconstitutional and specifically cites restrictions on religious gatherings. That order expired Thursday and was replaced by one that allows church gatherings but still requires social distancing. But attorneys said Friday that the remaining restrictions on churches remain unconstitutional and that they plan to request a temporary restraining order to have them lifted. They also said they’re concerned Little could reinstate the stay-at-home order should Idaho see a spike in infections and deaths due to the virus.
Marion: A group of award-winning barbecue restaurants in southern Illinois is coming together to provide meals for health care employees and other workers battling on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hands of Hope foundation will collaborate with the eateries through a program called Operation BBQ’d Hope to provide meals for about 4,000 people at Heartland Regional Medical Center, Herrin Hospital, St. Joseph Memorial Hospital and Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. The group served its first meal last Tuesday at Heartland, The Southern Illinoisan reports. More meals are planned for Tuesday in Murphysboro and Thursday in Carbondale. The barbecue caterers raised money to fund the dinners, and the foundation provided the proteins and main ingredients. The restaurants share their knowledge, in addition to staples such as salt, sugar and spices. Volunteers prepare desserts.
Indianapolis: Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Friday the steps toward relaxing business and activity restrictions imposed to slow the coronavirus spread for much of the state, allowing more manufacturers, retailers and shopping malls to open their doors, starting Monday, under health and social distancing guidelines. The Republican governor’s plan aims to gradually ease rules with the goal of allowing nearly all activities to resume July 4, potentially opening the way for major summer events such as the rescheduled Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23. The new directive lifts travel restrictions under the statewide stay-at-home order that took effect March 25 but doesn’t allow restaurants to resume in-person dining or hair salon reopenings for another week. Fitness centers, movie theaters, bars and casinos are among businesses that will remain closed until at least late May.
Whiting: A couple who have been married for nearly 70 years are back home after they both recovered from bouts of COVID-19. Bert McCandless, 88, and his 89-year-old wife, Ardis, contracted the illness caused by the coronavirus in March, The Omaha World-Herald reports. They were hospitalized at Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy, where Bert nearly didn’t make it. Ardis spent three days in the hospital in late March, but as she started to get better, Bert’s condition worsened. He was placed on a ventilator for two weeks, and doctors estimated he had no better than a 20% chance of surviving. On April 24, though, Bert returned to the couple’s home in Whiting, where Ardis was so happy she climbed onto his lap. “She hasn’t done that in 30 years,” Bert said. “So I must be a hot commodity.” Both are still recovering, but they’re busy gardening and visiting with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Topeka: The state began releasing inmates last week as a way to check the spread of coronavirus in its prison system, but it stopped when an outbreak created a danger of returning infected offenders to their communities, Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday. Kelly said the Department of Corrections released only six inmates and put them under house arrest for the rest of their sentences. But confirmed coronavirus cases at the Lansing Correctional Facility have skyrocketed, and the prison is under quarantine. “We got the testing results at Lansing and realized that we had some other work to do before we could let anybody else go,” Kelly said. The Department of Corrections said none of the six released were from Lansing. Problems at the prison didn’t prevent Kelly from promising to lift a statewide stay-at-home order as planned at midnight Sunday or outlining a plan to gradually reopen the state’s coronavirus-battered economy by June 15, starting with restaurants and many other businesses Monday. However, her economic plan frustrated some business owners, who won’t be allowed to reopen until at least May 18 while others can.
Louisville: A federal appeals court on Saturday declined to block the governor’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services. The three-judge panel did clear the way for Maryville Baptist Church to hold drive-in worship services while adhering to public health requirements. That’s an alternative that Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has strongly encouraged throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But the panel stopped short of applying its order to in-person worship services. The Cincinnati-based appeals court panel urged a federal district judge to “prioritize resolution” of the church’s claims in its lawsuit. Beshear recently announced that places of worship in Kentucky will be able to once again hold in-person services starting May 20 as part of a broader plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy.
Baton Rouge: Gov. John Bel Edwards says he doesn’t foresee armed protesters disrupting lawmakers when a coronavirus-interrupted legislative session resumes Monday. Speaking at a news conference Friday, the Democratic governor noted that, unlike in some other states, visitors in Louisiana aren’t allowed to bring firearms into the state Capitol. “Obviously we have some individuals around the state who want to give voice to their opinions, which are different than mine at the moment, with respect to the necessity of the stay-at-home order,” Edwards said. “I would ask those individuals to do that in an appropriate and safe manner. If they do that, then there won’t be any problems like you saw in Michigan” – where hundreds of protesters, many without face coverings and some openly carrying guns, entered the state’s Capitol on Thursday in opposition to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restrictions put in place because of the pandemic.
Portland: Gov. Janet Mills acknowledged the pace of restarting the economy was testing people’s patience Friday as an angry restaurant owner openly defied her executive orders by reopening his restaurant for the day. Mills assured people she’s listening to their concerns but warned there won’t be unanimous agreement on everything as she grapples with the safest path forward during a pandemic. The first phase of reopening the state began Friday with restrictions lifted on the use of golf courses; visits to the dentist, barbers and hairdressers; and stay-in-your-vehicle religious services. Mainers also were required to begin wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible. But a restaurateur in Bethel used the megaphone of an appearance on Fox News Channel to criticize the governor, claiming she was going “rogue” and wasn’t listening to business owners. Rick Savage openly shared what he said was the governor’s cellphone number live on TV.
Frederick: Several dozen residents demonstrated against Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order Saturday by caravaning across the state. A group known as “ReOpen Maryland” organized the protest against the governor’s mandates for social distancing and other measures designed to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,100 people in the state. Hogan has also ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses. “We should’ve had the opportunity to adhere to certain rules and regulations rather than be shut down,” James Knowles, a Queen Anne’s resident, told The Baltimore Sun during a lunch stop in Kent Island during Saturday’s protest. Protesters made several stops as they drove from Frederick to Salisbury. Group members pledged to follow social distancing guidelines by remaining in their cars, but many did not.
Dartmouth: A group of about 10 federal immigration detainees who refused to be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 caused extensive damage to the center where they are being held, the sheriff’s office said in a release. The inmates involved in the incident at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center reported multiple symptoms of COVID-19, and when told they had to be tested, they rushed officers. A news release from the Bristol County sheriff said the detainees barricaded themselves inside the facility, ripped washing machines and pipes off the wall, broke windows and “trashed the entire unit.” A special response team restrained the detainees, the department said. One detainee was hospitalized with “symptoms of a panic attack,” another due to a preexisting condition and a third “for a medical incident after being removed from the ICE wing.” All three are expected “to be fine,” the sheriff’s department said.
Lansing: The governor said gun-carrying protesters who demonstrated inside her state’s Capitol “depicted some of the worst racism” and “awful parts” of U.S. history. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer told CNN that the protests featured “Confederate flags and nooses,” as well as swastikas. Members of the Michigan Liberty Militia protested the state’s stay-at-home orders last week, some with weapons and tactical gear and their faces partially covered. They went inside the Capitol, where being armed is allowed, then demanded access to the House floor, which is prohibited. Some went to the Senate gallery, where a senator said armed men shouted at her. The Republican-controlled Legislature has questioned Whitmer’s authority to extend stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the governor used an executive order to extend a state of emergency declaration and has directed most businesses statewide to remain closed. “This is a public health crisis,” she said.
St. Paul: State House Republicans have vowed to block Gov. Tim Walz’s proposal to borrow money for public construction projects unless the Democrat ends his COVID-19 emergency powers. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a Republican from Crown, said Saturday that it is “important that the Legislature be involved in the decision-making process” about how to address the coronavirus pandemic. “The Legislature is in session,” Daudt told the Star Tribune. “We believe we should be working with the governor on the response to COVID-19 and keeping Minnesota safe.” Walz declared a “peacetime emergency” March 13 aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. The declaration, set to end May 13, gave Walz the power to close schools and businesses. Last week, Walz extended the stay-at-home order to May 18, while loosening some restrictions on retailers to allow them to reopen for curbside pickup and deliveries starting Monday.
Jackson: Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Friday and asserted their control in a power struggle with the governor over who has the authority to spend $1.25 billion the state is receiving from the federal government for coronavirus relief. Republicans who lead the House and Senate say the Mississippi Constitution gives spending authority to the Legislature. But Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said a state law enacted 40 years ago gives the governor some spending power during emergencies. The House and Senate each voted by wide bipartisan margins to pass the same bill, which puts most of the federal relief money into a fund the Legislature controls. The governor would still need to agree to spending plans that lawmakers set. Reeves would not immediately say whether he will veto the proposal but said legislators were tying the hands of people responding to the pandemic, including the state health officer and the state emergency management director. “You care more about power than people,” Reeves said of lawmakers.
Kansas City: A team of teachers is collaborating with the University of Missouri to develop a high school curriculum about the new coronavirus pandemic to teach to students while schools are closed. Pat Friedrichsen, a professor of science education at MU, was awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help create a coronavirus curriculum aimed at informing Missouri high schoolers on the science of the pandemic and its effects on everyday life. “I think it’s really difficult for teenagers,” Friedrichsen said. “They’re very social. They want to be with their friends. And so we wanted them to understand why this policy is going to help us flatten the curve.” The team of teachers at MU uses online modeling tools to create and teach lessons about the virus. “Let’s say 20% of your population is physically distancing,” Friedrichsen offered as an example. “What does that do to your infection curve versus if 80% of people do this?”
Helena: A task force appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to make recommendations for how the state should spend $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding presented its guidance Friday, starting with immediate grants for “safety net” services such as food banks and homeless shelters, along with rent and mortgage assistance for individuals and nonprofits. The 20-member Coronavirus Relief Fund Advisory Council did not make specific monetary recommendations but outlined spending priorities to aid individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations, said council chairman Larry Simkins with The Washington Cos. The advisory council recommended prioritizing funding based on those who are affected the most and those who did not receive funding elsewhere, as well as deploying the funding quickly through existing channels such as economic development agencies, lending institutions or state programs, the report said.
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Gretna: A mall that pitched itself as a case study for how to reopen safely welcomed customers Friday for the first time since closing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer than a dozen customers were at Nebraska Crossing when it opened 11 of its more than 80 stores at 11 a.m. Those who were there wore masks and wandered the open-air mall’s mostly empty pathways, stopping at times to peek into shop windows. The opening coincided with other malls in the state allowing customers to return Friday, including Lincoln’s Gateway Mall and Omaha’s Westroads Mall. Nebraska Crossing resumed business with new safety measures in place, including signs to promote social distancing guidelines and Plexiglas barriers in restaurants. All but one of the entrances were taped off. Mall officials faced criticism for deciding to reopen before the virus was contained.
Carson City: A newly formed state Department of Education committee has been tasked with helping develop a plan and guidelines for school districts and charter schools to reopen for the 2020-2021 academic year. State Superintendent Jhone Ebert said the committee includes school district superintendents, health officials and safety experts. Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered Nevada schools in March to close because of the coronavirus outbreak. Sisolak directed that schools continue operations during the current school year by providing distance learning to students. Ebert said that has raised challenges that include access to technology, training teachers and quality instructional materials. A newly formed educational collaborative will use federal assistance to bolster distance learning capabilities, Ebert said.
Concord: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 31 while allowing the restricted reopening of restaurants, hair salons and other businesses throughout the month. “We’re not taking giant leaps forward. We’re just not at that point, but we do want to provide the opportunity to flex some of these things open, and we think it’s a great first step,” he said at a news conference. The state issued guidelines for all businesses on screening of employees, workplace cleaning and other practices to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Campgrounds, already allowed to operate under previous orders, are now limited to 50% capacity, and out-of-state visitors are prohibited unless they are members of a private campground. Golf courses also will be limited to residents and members when allowed to reopen May 11. Ocean beaches will remain closed, while state parks can open with some restrictions.
Island Beach State Park: Nearly everyone seemed to cooperate at a sprawling oceanfront park Saturday as New Jersey reopened its state parks to a populace itching to get sand between their toes after months of being cooped up due to the coronavirus outbreak. Island Beach State Park in Ocean County was among the parks to reopen, drawing several hundred people to a beach that routinely handles thousands during the summer. In the four hours that an Associated Press reporter watched the crowd, almost all complied with a requirement that they stay at least 6 feet apart to prevent the spread of the virus. A small group of people wearing Rutgers T-shirts over their swimsuits reclined on towels 6 inches apart instead of 6 feet. And a few people saw friends on the beach, went up to them and hugged. Still, more than half wore masks, even as strong sunshine bore down. Gov. Phil Murphy said he was pleased with initial reports from sites that reopened Saturday.
Gallup: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in one of the largest communities bordering the Navajo Nation, where a surging coronavirus outbreak has already prompted widespread restrictions and weekend lockdowns. She also required that businesses in Gallup close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the city of about 20,000 people along Interstate 40, which remained open to through traffic. Gallup is a hub for basic household supplies, liquor sales and water-container refills for people living in remote stretches of the Navajo Nation – often without full indoor plumbing – and indigenous Zuni Pueblo. The Navajo Nation has imposed evening and weekend curfews on the reservation. COVID-19 infection rates in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County make it one of the worst U.S. hot spots for the pandemic as patients overwhelm intensive care facilities.
New York: New Yorkers were mostly adhering to social distancing rules while outside enjoying the warmest weekend in a spring clouded by the coronavirus crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “The big story here is what New Yorkers have done right,” de Blasio said. Tens of thousands of people flocked to the city’s parks and public spaces Saturday as temperatures hit the low 70s. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said officers issued 51 summonses Saturday, including 43 in parks. Shea said he was aware of three arrests. Police had to break up some large gatherings and stop people from playing team sports, which are still banned. Officers were also handing out face masks, which people are required to wear when social distancing is not possible. “The vast majority of New Yorkers have really risen to the challenge,” de Blasio said, though he and Shea acknowledged some hiccups. De Blasio said he also asked police to increase patrols Sunday in Manhattan’s Hudson River Park after crowding issues there Saturday.
Raleigh: Several major shopping malls in the state are expected to reopen on the same day Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order is scheduled to end. The News & Observer reports Simon Property Group announced it plans to reopen the SouthPark and Concord Mills malls and Charlotte Premium Outlets on Friday. Simon is the largest mall operator in the U.S. Its other North Carolina property, Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, is also set to open Friday. The planned reopenings are based on “current state and/or local stay-at-home or closure orders, which are subject to change,” according to a statement on Simon’s website. The mall operator said all employees will be required to wear masks and take hand-washing breaks. The malls will also limit entrances, hours and the number of people in the buildings. Chairs in dining areas will be removed, and drinking fountains and play areas will be closed.
Fargo: The North Dakota High School Activities Association is canceling spring sports, fine arts and other state contests because of the coronavirus. The vote Friday by the group’s board of directors came after Gov. Doug Burgum’s order to keep schools closed and continue with distance learning for the rest of the academic year. The move also put an end to hopes of completing the Class A boys and girls basketball tournaments and the Class B boys basketball tournament. Board president Scott Privratsky cited social distancing guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and said the “health and safety” of those involved was the key factor in calling off the events. “This difficult conclusion did not come easy, as we understand the huge sacrifices students have made,” Privratsky said.
Columbus: Reopening the state is a “balancing” act between bringing the economy back and protecting people, Gov. Mike DeWine said Sunday, noting that he will be prepared to take action should the situation worsen again. State officials are monitoring the data on coronavirus in Ohio “every single day,” DeWine said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” On Friday, the Republican governor extended the state shutdown until May 29 while also allowing retail stores to expand their business earlier than expected. Construction companies, distributors, manufacturers and offices are allowed to reopen Monday and retail businesses May 12. Health care offices were allowed to reopen Friday. DeWine issued an order for people to wear face coverings in stores but quickly reversed himself, calling it a strong recommendation but not a requirement. He said Sunday the order “went too far” because “people were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”
Oklahoma City: The state went into its first weekend of a reopened economy during the coronavirus pandemic as residents were allowed to return to restaurants, mall and other stores. Tempers flared in some parts of the state over restrictions still in place. In Stillwater, city officials on Friday amended a local emergency declaration after businesses reported being threatened by customers who didn’t want to be forced to wear masks to enter. The changes now make masks optional for customers instead of mandatory, although they are still strongly recommended. Employees are still required to wear them. “Store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle said in a statement. “It is further distressing that these people, while exercising their believed rights, put others at risk.”
Salem: The state will launch an ambitious COVID-19 testing program and increase contact tracing as it prepares to reopen the economy, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday. People will be chosen at random for testing and asked to volunteer in a partnership with Oregon Health & Science University. The governor also said some rural counties where there are almost no cases could begin reopening slowly starting May 15. “This program is a game-changer,” Brown said. “It will give us a more accurate understanding of the true rate of infections in Oregon and to have ongoing precision monitoring of any new outbreaks.” Officials have said Oregon needs the ability to conduct 12,250 tests a week, for a rate of 29 per 10,000 people. That level would have to increase as stay-home orders are eased. In recent weeks, COVID-19 testing has increased to more than 9,000 tests
York: Hundreds of protesters chanted and carried signs outside the governor’s home to protest his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and call for an end to restrictions on business activity. About 100 to 200 people paced along the street Saturday afternoon outside Gov. Tom Wolf’s house in York, repeatedly chanting “open up” toward the house. Members of the governor’s security team wouldn’t comment on whether Wolf was home. “Open the doors as of Monday,” Joyce Cordell of Hamlin, Wayne County said from a motorized cart. “It’s not right to keep us closed up.” Her county was not among the two dozen of the state’s 67 counties that will have some restrictions eased May 8, although it had 105 cases and a handful of deaths. Karen Bosco, a 62-year-old retired safety consultant from York Haven, said the governor is “killing small business.”
Providence: A Brown University student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Ivy League school seeking reimbursement for tuition, room, board and other expenses associated with the campus closure in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The suit filed Thursday in federal court in Providence alleges breach of contract and unjust enrichment on the part of the school. “College students enrolled in classes when the COVID-19 outbreak struck were left with no access to their dorms, to classrooms, campus cafeterias or other facilities they paid to use,” Steve Berman, an attorney for the students, said in a statement. “We believe there’s absolutely no reason why they should continue to be stuck holding the bill for tens of thousands of dollars, only to be kicked off campus.” An email seeking comment was sent to a Brown spokesman.
Columbia: People flocked to state parks and beaches Saturday as the state prepared to end its coronavirus stay-at-home order. The parks were reopened Friday after more than a month, and many reported full parking lots. Picnic shelters, playgrounds and interpretive museums remain closed, and rangers required social distancing and other protective measures. Webcams of beaches showed hundreds of people sunbathing, tossing footballs or playing in the surf along the Grand Strand on Saturday, a day after hotels along the beach were allowed to reopen for people with existing reservations. But the number of cases keeps climbing. South Carolina is also starting to see hot spots in state prisons. Thirty-one inmates are infected with COVID-19, all at Allendale Correctional Institution or the Kirkland Correctional Institution, where all new inmates are brought, the Corrections Department said.
Sioux Falls: Smithfield Foods’ troubled location in the city will partially reopen Monday after being closed for more than two weeks, according to the workers’ union. The meatpacking plant asked about 250 employees to report to its Sioux Falls plant Monday to staff two departments – ground seasoned pork and night cleanup, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union local. The plant has been closed for more than two weeks after an outbreak infected 853 of its 3,100 workers. Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into worker complaints that the plant operated under unsafe conditions. The complaint filed April 20 was first reported by inforum.com. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toured the facility April 15 and recommended several changes to reduce crowding and improve health and safety.
Memphis: Gov. Bill Lee issued guidelines Friday for places of worship to operate, as the state moves forward with reopening locations where people can gather during the response to the new coronavirus outbreak. The new statewide recommendations contradict stricter rules issued Thursday by officials in Memphis, who now say places of worship should follow Lee’s guidelines instead. Lee said places of worship across the state should hold services under certain limitations, such as asking congregants to remain 6 feet apart and wear face coverings. Gathering rooms should only be used at 50% capacity, and people who are over 65 or have underlying illnesses should not attend services. Lee had earlier recommended that people avoid church gatherings, but he never mandated it. His new guidelines recommend for a “phased-in” process to increase access to places of worship.
Austin: The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in the state surpassed 1,000 for the fourth consecutive day Sunday, and the number of deaths increased by at least 20. State health officials reported 31,548 confirmed cases, an increase from 30,522 reported Saturday, and 867 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest that people can be infected without showing symptoms. This past weekend was the first of the state’s reopening the economy after Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide “stay-at-home” order for nearly 30 million people expired Friday. Residents were allowed to go back to malls, restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores in limited numbers, although some protests of the closings continued.
St. George: Officials at Zion National Park announced Saturday that they planned to reopen the park May 13, although they emphasized that it would only open in “select areas.” The most-visited of Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks, Zion was closed April 3 after Gov. Gary Herbert and the state’s top health officials requested it. Local officials, including the mayor and town council of the gateway community of Springdale, had written to park officials asking for the closure as well. The vast majority of Zion’s 4 million-plus visitors each year make use of its main canyon, where attractions like Angels Landing, the Zion Narrows and the Zion Canyon Lodge attract thousands of hikers each day. The park saw more than 370,000 visitors during April 2019, with the warm-but-not-hot weather and seasonal occasions like spring break and Easter weekend helping to generate some of the largest crowds of the year.
Marshfield: Gov. Phil Scott announced more gradual steps Friday to reopen the state’s pandemic-stricken economy by expanding the number of employees allowed to work at a manufacturing, construction and distribution business from five to 10 if the workers follow safety requirements. “I’m pleased to say we’re able to get thousands more Vermonters back to work starting Monday,” the Republican governor said. The workers must stay 6 feet apart and be screened, including for their body temperature, at the start of their shift, and they must wear cloth face coverings around others. Those businesses may expand to full operation May 11 if they comply with “additional, stringent” requirements, Scott said. But he warned that the state, which has seen relatively few cases of the coronavirus, must remain vigilant and recognize that other states nearby are still dealing with massive outbreaks. Scott also announced Friday a new requirement that public transit employees and customers must wear cloth masks.
Richmond: The state will receive three decontamination systems that can collectively sterilize up to 240,000 units of personal protective equipment each day during the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Saturday. Northam said in a news release that the decontamination systems will become operational in Blacksburg, Newport News and Chesterfield County within the next week. The units were approved for Virginia by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Northam said the technology will help address the national shortage of critical personal protective equipment to help protect health care workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. The system uses a concentrated hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate N95 masks.
Spokane: Yakima County has the highest rate of coronavirus cases of any county on the West Coast. Health experts point to a large number of essential workers, a large number of cases in long-term care facilities, and a large agricultural workforce living and working in close quarters as the causes. The county has about 250,000 residents. “We just haven’t been as much down as the rest of the state because our workforce is going to work,” said Lilian Bravo, a spokeswoman for the Yakima Health District. “Physically going to work every day is going to put you at a higher risk than others.” As of Friday, Yakima County had 1,203 positive cases, a rate of 455 cases per 100,000 residents, the highest in the state. Second was Franklin County at 326 cases per 100,000. The statewide average was 185 cases per 100,000 residents. Yakima County, 140 miles southeast of Seattle, also had a relatively high number of deaths from coronavirus with 47.
Charleston: Monday marks the second week of Gov. Jim Justice’s plan to push the state’s economy forward in response to the coronavirus. The governor’s plan includes the reopening of small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, restaurants with outdoor seating, barbershops and dog groomers. Physical distancing will be required. Last week, hospitals were allowed to resume elective medical procedures, while other services were allowed to reopen, including primary care physician and dental offices and physical and psychological therapy. Starting May 11, other businesses may be allowed to reopen based on available testing data. Those businesses include office and government buildings, specialty retail stores, dine-in restaurants, parks, casinos, gyms, and fitness and recreation centers.
Madison: The state Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear oral arguments early this week in a lawsuit seeking to block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order. The justices ruled 6-1 to accept the case and scheduled oral arguments for Tuesday morning via video conference. The arguments are expected to last at least 90 minutes. The ruling said the court will consider whether the order was really an administrative rule and whether Palm was within her rights to issue it unilaterally. Even if the order doesn’t qualify as a rule, the court said it will still weigh whether state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm exceeded her authority by “closing all “nonessential” businesses, ordering all Wisconsin persons to stay home and forbidding all “nonessential travel.” Conservatives hold a 5-2 majority on the court.
Casper: Two days after the state’s top health official loosened restrictions on businesses, at least two counties have already moved to further change the strictures on their communities. Park and Teton counties are on opposite ends of the coronavirus pandemic in Wyoming. Park has just one case, despite the virus’s early presence in the county. Teton, meanwhile, has 65 cases, the most per 100,000 people in the state. Earlier this week, Dr. Alexia Harrist allowed barbershops, tattoo parlors, gyms and select other businesses to open with restrictions; as part of that change Friday, various counties can make their own orders. Both Park and Teton counties have applied for changes that would allow them to address the pandemic in their areas, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Teton County wants the businesses that the state said could reopen Friday to instead be ordered closed through May 11. The request from the county has been approved, officials said. Park County’s health officer, Dr. Aaron Billin, told the Star-Tribune the county was asking the state for permission to allow for outdoor, in-person dining at restaurants there.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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