Montgomery: Hospitals in Montgomery and Prattville have a total of one ICU bed remaining and are now being forced to send acute care patients to Birmingham for treatment. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said he called a news conference to reveal the sobering situation at the urging of overwhelmed area doctors and with the Memorial Day weekend ahead. “Many people in Montgomery hospitals are not from Montgomery,” Reed said. “They’re suffering because they don’t have the rural health care system in place that they need. Right now, if you’re from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you’re in trouble. If you’re from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one.” The days ahead are crucial, city Emergency Management Agency Director Christina Thornton said. She pleaded with people to be kind to front-line workers while staying home as much as possible. “This isn’t the time to have big block parties,” Thornton said.
Juneau: The Legislature adjourned Wednesday after the Senate gave final approval to plans for using more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid. The House adjourned Tuesday after passing a ratification bill, and though the Senate passed an identical bill Tuesday, it still needed to consider the House-passed version to finalize matters. Lawmakers were spurred by a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the plans. Gov. Mike Dunleavy submitted plans to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee through a process that allows a governor to submit plans to accept and spend additional federal or other program funds on a budget item. The committee agreed to more than $1 billion in plans despite concerns that some of the items fell outside the scope of what can go through that committee process.
Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday that people in the state are acting responsibly since he loosened restrictions on businesses, but he’s not ready yet to open new sectors of the economy. Ducey said he has an “aspirational” goal for schools to reopen on schedule in August, and he’s hopeful summer camps and youth activities will be open soon. Schools have been closed since March, when Ducey and schools chief Kathy Hoffman shut them due to staffing concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. Hoffman has formed a task force of education leaders to write plans for the safe reopening of schools. The Republican governor said he sees “zero evidence” that Arizona will have a surge in coronavirus infections as social distancing measures relax. But he suggested he’s willing to reimpose restrictions if necessary. “I am going to use every tool that’s available to a governor to do what’s in the best interest of Arizona,” Ducey said.
Little Rock: Although many high school seniors are missing out on traditional graduation ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic this spring, the virtual sendoff for some Little Rock high schoolers will include words of encouragement from a former president. Bill Clinton, who served as Arkansas governor for 12 years before he was elected president, recorded speeches for the graduating classes at J.A. Fair, Parkview Magnet, Hall, John L. McClellan and Central high schools, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. He encouraged them to look toward the future with optimism and said the COVID-19 outbreak has reinforced the importance of people unifying despite tough circumstances. “We need each other. When there is a challenge, run toward it; don’t run away from it,” he told Fair High’s graduates, whose ceremony was the first broadcast on various websites and platforms Tuesday night. The initial showing of the Hall graduation followed Fair’s ceremony.
Sacramento: More than 1,200 pastors say they will resume in-person services May 31 in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Newsom has gradually allowed some businesses to reopen as the state’s number of virus-related hospitalizations has flattened. But churches are still banned, along with hair salons and sporting events. Newsom said Monday that churches could reopen in weeks, not months. But many churches are tired of waiting. Wednesday, a lawyer representing a church in Lodi that has sued Newsom said more than 1,200 pastors have signed a “declaration of essentiality” that announces their plan to reopen while observing physical distancing and other precautions. Attorney Robert Tyler said some pastors represent multiple churches. He expects as many as 3,000 churches across California could have in-person services May 31.
Denver: Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials urged residents to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend responsibly by sticking to existing social distancing restrictions, wearing masks, and staying in groups of 10 or fewer people to fight the coronavirus pandemic. “This isn’t exactly a normal Memorial Day weekend. It’s a Memorial Day weekend in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” Polis said. “It’s not the time for big family reunions and massive cookouts and celebrations” but about “solemnly honoring the fallen.” Colorado has reopened campgrounds and transitioned from a stay-at-home to “safer-at-home” directive that has eased restrictions on retail businesses while urging residents to limit travel. It has flattened the growth curve of the virus and guaranteed there are enough intensive care beds at hospitals to treat the sick. But that progress can easily be undone, said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado, Ryan said, is “a victim of our own success” in flattening that curve. “But we are not out of the woods,” she said. “The disease can easily get away from us.”
Hartford: The state’s two federally recognized tribes on Wednesday announced plans to begin reopening portions of their sprawling Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun attractions June 1, despite calls from Gov. Ned Lamont to remain shuttered to prevent another wave of infections from the coronavirus. The Democratic governor said it’s “too early and dangerous” to reopen the casinos, and he hopes to persuade the sovereign nations to hold off in order to protect their employees, patrons and the greater community. But when pressed, Lamont said Connecticut has “a number of options,” including talking to unions that represent some of the casino workers about the potential dangers and warning casino patrons. Mohegan Tribal Chairman James Gessner said the tribes’ plan makes it clear they’ll advise older customers to take specific precautions and to stay home if they are part of an at-risk group.
Dover: The number of initial unemployment claims filed by Delawareans ticked up slightly last week even as businesses begin to prepare for a gradual reopening of the state’s economy amid the coronavirus epidemic. The Delaware Department of Labor reported Thursday that just under 5,600 initial unemployment claims were filed for the week ending May 16. That’s up from about 5,200 the previous week and the first increase in seven weeks. Officials said almost 96,000 jobless claims have been filed since March 15 and more than $234.7 million in unemployment benefits paid. That total includes $142 million in federal funds and almost $92 million from Delaware’s unemployment insurance trust fund. Gov. John Carney has already loosened some restrictions on economic activity under pressure from the business, tourism and agricultural communities but has kept others in place, including a ban on hotel room and beach home rentals. The official first phase of a gradual reopening of the state’s economy is to begin June 1.
District of Columbia
Washington: Some D.C. students could head back to school as early as Aug. 10, according to members of the ReOpen DC Committee on Education and Childcare. That’s about two weeks earlier than normal, WUSA-TV reports. D.C. officials offered the earlier return as one possibility as they consider how and when to safely return students to the classroom. Three possible options for return have been confirmed with several school principals: an extension of the distance learning model for as long as two months, alternating groups of students every other day based on need and grade, and a socially distant classroom model with 10 students sitting 6 feet apart.
Orlando: The number of Floridians who filed new unemployment claims last week remained almost unchanged from the previous week, suggesting some stabilization in job losses as businesses have started reopening after being closed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, according to labor figures released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Floridians filed 223,927 jobless claims last week, compared to 223,082 claims filed in the previous week. Only California and New York had more new claims filed last week. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has received more than 2 million claims seeking unemployment benefits from Floridians, though only 1.6 million claims have been verified. Just under 1 million jobless workers in Florida have been paid more than $2.6 billion in benefits. Florida’s workforce before pandemic-related business closures stood at 10 million workers.
Atlanta: The state set a new all-time high for unemployment in April, with the jobless rate rising to 11.9% as waves of workers lost their jobs due to COVID-19. The state only in February hit an all-time low of 3.1% unemployment and now has surpassed its previous all-time high of 10.6% set in December 2010. The jobless rate had begun to climb in March as the first effects of coronavirus related shutdowns showed up, rising to 4.2%. The number of Georgians in the labor force fell from almost 5.2 million in March to less than 4.9 million in April, as many people gave up looking for work. The U.S. Department of Labor has said the actual unemployment rate may be higher because some people who have been furloughed are answering survey questions as if they’re still getting a regular paycheck.
Honolulu: A newly formed policy group has announced an effort to reboot the state’s tourism-based economy following the coronavirus outbreak using Native Hawaiian cultural values. The Aina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration sent to Democratic Gov. David Ige seeks to create an economy based on centuries of island-based values, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The group’s organizers seek input from community members to urge decision-makers to create a new economic road map for the state. The declaration was authored by 14 community members who want “to reboot the entire operating system of our economy,” said Kamanamaikalani Beamer, associate professor at the University of Hawaii’s Center for Hawaiian Studies. A new, post-coronavirus economy for Hawaii needs to be based on values “that have sustained life in these islands for centuries,” Beamer said. Before the pandemic, Hawaii faced another year of “10 million people marching across our land,” said Joseph Lapilio, president of the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.
Boise: State election officials botched the mail-in primary process, says a Republican candidate for Congress who has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to extend the deadline for requesting a ballot until next week. Nicholas Jones in the lawsuit filed Tuesday said the secretary of state’s website became overwhelmed and failed to meet the demand for ballot requests as the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline loomed, denying some people their only opportunity to prepare to vote. In the lawsuit filed against Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, Jones asks for the deadline to be extended until 8 p.m. next Tuesday. Jones, who owns several board game shops and burger eateries, is challenging first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher. Idaho shifted to its first-ever entirely mail-in primary this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections officials said they couldn’t secure in-person voting venues or enough volunteers.
Springfield: Legislators approved extraordinary safety rules Wednesday as they convened for the first time in 10 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, prompting the highly unusual step of removing a Republican from the House floor when he refused to wear a face mask. Rep. Jim Durkin, the House GOP leader, called on members to approve and follow an emergency House rule requiring members to wear masks, saying it’s important to protect members’ families, as well as each other and legislative and convention center staff. Among the “no” votes was GOP Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia, who has said he’s speaking on behalf of residents who feel “captive” and “burdened” by state-ordered restrictions on movement. Moments before he was escorted out after refusing to comply, Bailey voted against the face-covering requirement. “The representative has shown callous disregard for life, callous disregard for people’s health,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said later at his daily COVID-19 briefing. “Clearly, the representative has no interest in protecting others.”
Indianapolis: The state’s coronavirus restrictions will ease in parts of the state Friday, two days ahead of schedule, to allow for more activity over the Memorial Day weekend, the governor said Wednesday. The state health department reported 38 more coronavirus deaths, raising the state’s death toll from confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 to 1,864. A new state order will allow social gatherings of up to 100 people and retail stores and malls to operate at 75% capacity, Gov. Eric Holcomb said. Gatherings have been limited to 25 people and stores to 50% capacity under the state’s first easing of restrictions that took effect May 4. Gyms, fitness centers, community pools and campgrounds will also be allowed to open under rules limiting the number of people and for distancing and cleaning. Holcomb pointed to a decline in the number of COVID-19-infected people hospitalized and the continued availability of intensive care unit beds to treat those most seriously ill. “We’ve earned the ability, I should say, the ability to continue to move forward,” Holcomb said.
Cedar Rapids: A top health emergency response official in eastern Iowa told Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration this week that local officials struggled to get basic data from the Test Iowa coronavirus testing site in Cedar Rapids, which made it difficult to make smart public health decisions. In an email sent to key Reynolds deputies, Tricia Kitzmann, the incident commander for Linn County Public Health’s COVID-19 response, included the subject line: “Test Iowa Concerns.” It presented a dire portrait of communication between the governor’s office and officials representing one of Iowa’s largest counties. Kitzmann said she was concerned about the “lag time” between testing at the Test Iowa Cedar Rapids site and results being sent to officials; the lack of county-specific information about how many people were qualified to be tested and how many had received negative test results; and the “high” number of inconclusive test results. “When we receive timely results, we begin contact tracing and isolation measures to mitigate spread of the infection,” she wrote. “Due to the lag time between testing and results, we are delayed in our response.”
Topeka: The state softened its quarantine guidelines for meatpacking plants after industry executives repeatedly pushed state officials to allow employees who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus to keep working, text messages and emails show. The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle report they obtained messages through an open records request showing that executives at Tyson and National Beef pushed Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam to advocate more-lenient federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Beam told the Associated Press on Wednesday that his role was to “emphasize internally” in Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration that there would be major problems with the nation’s food supply if the plants shut down. Beam worked for the Kansas Livestock Association for 38 years before becoming agriculture secretary in 2019. “It was a balancing act, and I basically was feeding that into the mix,” he said.
Frankfort: Looking to deflate resistance to wearing masks, Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday called it “basic public health guidance” to combat the coronavirus that shouldn’t spark political divisions. Beshear starts his daily televised briefings by removing his mask before starting to speak. He donned his mask again when stepping away from the podium to allow someone else to speak. He called it an extension of practicing his religious belief in looking out for one’s neighbors. Beshear also invoked the science behind wearing masks in public amid the global pandemic. “Every scientist out there says that this helps us protect our neighbor,” the governor said. “It is a choice to protect your neighbor. It’s also a choice not to.” At a gas station and convenience store in Manchester, a “no face masks allowed” sign was posted at the front of the store, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, citing social media posts. After the sign drew complaints, the eastern Kentucky store responded that it was a joke. “We wear face mask, but we dont require our customers to, its their choice,” the store said in a comment.
Baton Rouge: The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in the state has dropped below 1,000 for the first time since late March. “Just over a month ago, we had 2,134 individuals in the hospital from COVID-19,” and Wednesday’s number was 931, Gov. John Bel Edwards said on his monthly call-in radio show. Louisiana Department of Hospitals data shows 927 were hospitalized March 28, and the figure jumped to 1,032 the next day, with the peak Edwards noted April 13. The 110 patients on ventilators Wednesday was the lowest since March 25 – the second day for which the state coronavirus website shows such reports. It showed 94 patients needing mechanical help to breathe March 24 and 163 on March 25. The number of ventilated patients peaked nine days before hospitalizations, at 571 on April 4. Edwards eased pandemic restraints on some businesses Friday and noted it takes a week or two to see whether the increased movement has increased the number of cases.
Windham: The state Department of Corrections says it doesn’t intend to expand coronavirus testing beyond the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. So far, there have been no additional positive tests after an inmate at the prison fell ill with COVID-19 on Sunday. As of Wednesday, 148 samples from inmates and staff had been tested, and another 39 were pending. More samples will be taken from additional staff and inmates Thursday and Friday, officials said. Health officials worked to determine who had come into contact with the individual in recent days, and test results will guide further steps to prevent the spread of the virus, said Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty. Over the past several months, the Department of Corrections has taken steps to deal with the pandemic with enhanced cleaning measures and the suspension of all visits from family and friends.
Baltimore: All large public events in the city have been canceled through Aug. 31, including the Fourth of July fireworks and the Artscape festival, officials announced Wednesday. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young made the announcement as the city continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, The Baltimore Sun reports. The city is still under a stay-at-home order issued in March in response to the pandemic. Baltimore is one of the largest cities in the U.S. to officially call off its July Fourth celebration. Asked if he would reconsider the move should conditions improve before July, Young said he couldn’t rule it out. “It’s always a possibility to take a second look at something, and I am open to that. But I will also be guided by our health professionals and the data they provide to tell us whether it’s safe to do that,” he said.
Boston: The New England Patriots and the New England Revolution are planting a flag garden near Gillette Stadium to honor some of the state’s residents who have died in the service of the nation. The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund usually plants about 37,000 U.S. flags on the Boston Common every Memorial Day to honor state residents who have died in wartime dating to the Revolutionary War, but this year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The organization instead asked people to plant flags on their lawns or post flags in their windows. The Patriots’ and Revolution’s foundations in response planned to gather volunteers Thursday to plant more than 2,500 flags to honor the men and women from Foxborough who have lost their lives defending the country. The flag garden will remain on display through May 28. Social distancing will be enforced during the planting process.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday further relaxed stay-at-home restrictions, lifting a ban on nonessential health procedures late next week and letting residents immediately gather socially in small groups before the Memorial Day weekend. Retail businesses can reopen by appointment only, starting Tuesday, as long as there are no more than 10 customers inside at a time. People are required to continue adhering to social distancing. Her new stay-home order, which remains in effect through May 28, will likely be extended, she said. “This will not look like business as usual, although it will start to look at little more normal,” Whitmer said in a news conference. Restaurants, except in northern Michigan, will remain closed to dine-in customers. The closure of places of public accommodation such as casinos, gyms and hair salons remains in effect statewide. The state has reported 5,060 confirmed deaths due to coronavirus complications, fourth-most in the U.S.
Minneapolis: The Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod say they plan to hold services next week despite a ban on in-person worship of more than 10 people. The two denominations sent Gov. Tim Walz separate letters this week to tell him they plan to open their doors to worship Tuesday, May 26. Some politicians and business leaders say Walz has not done enough to get the state back on track amid the coronavirus outbreak. Walz on Wednesday permitted restaurants and bars to reopen June 1 for outdoor dining with social distancing and other safeguards, while salons can resume cutting hair at partial capacity. It drew sharp criticism from those who had hoped for faster steps to help struggling businesses. The churches said their reopening plans come after “weeks of dialogue” with the governor, and they will resume services at 33% capacity Tuesday with Pentecost the following Sunday, the Star Tribune reports.
Jackson: Some casinos in the state reopened Thursday for the first time in two months, following state guidelines to try to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus. At least three dozen people stood in line waiting to get into WaterView Casino in Vicksburg as it opened. A manager came outside to do a countdown until opening. Customers were allowed to enter one at a time. They were screened for COVID-19 symptoms and offered masks, although many already had their own. Notes were attached to video games and slot machines, reminding customers and staff to sanitize the machines before each use. Stickers were placed on the floor to tell people to remain at least 6 feet apart. Plastic shields have been installed around cashiers’ stations. The state Gaming Commission limits the numbers of players for blackjack and other table games. Casinos are required to set up hand sanitizing stations.
O’Fallon: The Missouri Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday urged Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session so lawmakers can take action to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. In a letter to the Republican governor, the chamber called coronavirus liability an “emerging problem in Missouri.” The organization cited lawsuits filed by those who believe they contracted COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, on the premises of a business. The chamber said under current state law, the lawsuits can move forward regardless of whether businesses were taking precautions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Chamber President Daniel P. Mehan said companies “that are making a good faith effort and taking the necessary precautions should not face crippling COVID-19 litigation.” Parson, during his afternoon news conference, said any special session would need to involve multiple issues. But he also expressed concerns about coronavirus-related lawsuits. “We’re not going to let attorneys go out here and sue everybody because they were doing their jobs,” Parson said.
Helena: Armed demonstrators were among a group gathered at the Montana Capitol on Wednesday to protest the state government’s response to the coronavirus. About 60 protesters convened outside the Capitol building in Helena, The Independent Record reports. Some demonstrators carried guns, and others held signs, including many that referenced Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. The governor enacted travel restrictions and a stay-at-home order March 28 in response to the spread of COVID-19. Bullock lifted the stay-at-home order for individuals April 26 and for many nonessential businesses April 27 as part of a phased reopening plan, while keeping some social distancing requirements in place.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Omaha: Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday that he’s “very pleased” with a coronavirus testing program established by out-of-state contractors, despite uncertainty that it will meet a goal of 3,000 tests per day by the month’s end. Nebraska announced the $27 million, no-bid contract with Utah-based Nomi Health and other firms April 21. They hoped to hit the testing target within five weeks. TestNebraska conducted just 1,197 tests Tuesday, said Dr. Gary Anthone, the state’s chief medical officer. That’s an increase since the beginning of May, when the program was averaging about 337 tests per day. With just 12 days left until month’s end, Ricketts has said he still believes the program will reach its goal “at some point,” but he backed away from earlier stated goals. “We’re pushing the team hard to get that done by the end of the month, but a lot of that will depend on people signing up,” he said at a news conference. Ricketts said the problem stems in part from residents who qualify for a test after filling out an online questionnaire but don’t show up as scheduled. As many as 15% of the people who are deemed eligible are no-shows, he said.
Las Vegas: Signs of change with a gambling theme will greet tourists and employees when traveling ramps up following closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, McCarran International Airport officials said Wednesday. “We’re Doubling Down on Cleaning and Sanitizing,” says one of 10 advertisements that Clark County Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis said the facility is using on signs, digital boards, audio messages, social media and its website. “Don’t Roll the Dice: Stay 6 (feet) Apart!” and “Hand Hygiene? Bet On It!” are other messages that officials hope will catch the eyes and ears of travelers while stemming the spread of the virus causing COVID-19. Another advises that only ticketed travelers and employees should enter airport terminals, and passengers will be urged to wear masks.
Concord: The state is adding new coronavirus testing sites while taking away some of the eligibility restrictions. Testing facilities will open in Londonderry and Keene on Sunday, bringing the total number of state-operated sites to nine, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday. Currently, anyone with at least one symptom can get tested, as can asymptomatic health care workers, those over age 60 and people with underlying health conditions. Starting next week, that group will be expanded to include child care workers and those living in the same household with members of the vulnerable populations, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette. Meanwhile, New Hampshire health clinics are getting nearly $700,000 to expand testing in rural communities. Fourteen clinics in New Hampshire will receive the funding from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Bellmawr: Health officials have shuttered a gym in southern New Jersey that reopened this week in defiance of a state order that shut down nonessential businesses to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. Orange stickers from the Camden County Health Department declaring an embargo and a four-page notice from the state Department of Health were found Thursday taped to the door of the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr. The gym’s owners said the signs were placed on the storefront overnight. The gym reopened Monday and had continued daily operations, receiving summonses each day for violating the state order. Ian Smith, a co-owner of the gym, told WTXF-TV in Philadelphia that he and partner Frank Trumbetti plan on “dealing” with the notices and reopening Friday. Smith said the gym could have opened Thursday, but they did not want to violate the health department’s order.
Santa Fe: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham set a June 1 target date to restart dine-in service at restaurants and reopen gyms, hair salons and shopping malls at limited capacity. Those businesses have been shuttered since March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The first-term Democratic governor and two Cabinet secretaries on health issues said Wednesday that a seven-day average of daily infections appears to have peaked around the start of the May and that progress has been made on several fronts toward meeting the state’s so-called gating criteria for reopening the economy. In an online news videoconference, they also cited an expansion in the number of daily tests to about 4,400 and complimented state residents for largely embracing a requirement that face masks be worn in public.
New York: The state is now allowing religious gatherings of up to 10 people as hospitalization rates continue to decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Those small religious gatherings will be allowed statewide as long as participants wear masks and practice social distancing. The state also is allowing drive-in and parking lot services. Weddings will count as religious ceremonies. The state will work with an Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to safely bring back religious services. The council consists of dozens of religious leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts. “I understand their desire to get to religious ceremonies as soon as possible. As a former altar boy, I get it,” Cuomo said. “But we need to find out how to do it and do it safely and do it smartly. The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.”
Wilkesboro: Meat producer Tyson Foods is reporting 570 cases of COVID-19 at a poultry processing complex. Tyson said in a news release that it tested more than 2,000 staff members and contractors who work at its facility in Wilkesboro. Tyson said most of the 570 didn’t show symptoms. Tyson said it’s increasing testing and health care options at 30 of its facilities. Tyson said it’s also providing face masks, putting physical barriers between work stations and implementing social distancing practices. “We are working closely with local health departments to protect our team members and their families, and to help manage the spread of the virus in our communities,” Tom Brower, a Tyson health and safety executive, said in a statement. Tyson had temporarily closed parts of the North Carolina complex that houses multiple plants for deep cleaning, including a multiday closure announced last week.
Bismarck: State health officials reported a single-day high of 134 positive COVID-19 cases Thursday and two more deaths. Statewide, there were 2,229 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday. Cass County, which remains the epicenter of the state’s coronavirus outbreak, had 93 cases, bringing the county’s total to 1,370. The two deaths reported Thursday bring the statewide total to 51. Health officials said the victims were Cass County men in their 70s and 90s with underlying health conditions. Officials said 74,760 people have been tested for the coronavirus in North Dakota, up 2,757 from Wednesday. Health officials say 59,050 people so far have tested negative for the virus. Thirty-nine people are currently hospitalized with the virus, up one since Wednesday. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
Columbus: Nursing home residents continue to make up the vast majority of coronavirus-related deaths in the state, according to new Department of Health statistics. At least 1,246 residents of Ohio’s long-term care facilities have died as of Wednesday from the virus, or nearly 70% of the total COVID-19 deaths statewide, show the latest data, which arrived as Ohio was hit with both good and bad news. This year’s Ohio State Fair, scheduled in July and August, was canceled Thursday to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But Thursday also marked the day when indoor restaurant dining restarted, along with staying at campgrounds. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also announced training for all sports, including contact sports like football, can resume May 26. Wedding receptions are now allowed again as well, with limits of 300 people and subject to the same social distancing rules governing bars and restaurants.
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is taking custody of healthy inmates from one county jail that reported it was ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. Inmates at the Comanche County Detention Center who have two consecutive negative coronavirus tests began being moved to state facilities Wednesday, the department said in a statement. County inmates who have tested positive for the virus remain quarantined at the jail in Lawton, about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Male inmates were taken to a state facility in Sayre, about 85 miles away, while female inmates were taken to McLoud, abut 95 miles away, where they will remain until at least June 1. The state plans to take 180-190 inmates, according to Johnny Owens, chair of the Comanche County Facilities Authority that oversees the jail.
Salem: Restaurants, bars, salons, gyms and other businesses in Marion and Polk counties have been approved to reopen starting Friday with strict safety measures meant to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday approved a plan for easing of restrictions that allows some businesses and services to operate while keeping sanitation, physical distancing, face covering and crowd size measures in place. The counties are required to remain in the first phase for at least 21 days and can only advance to more advanced phases if public health monitoring indicates it is safe. The later phases of the plan allow for increased gathering sizes and resumption of nonessential travel, nursing home and hospital visits, and additional seating at restaurants, bars and other venues. Only three counties have not had applications approved for the first phase. Clackamas County is awaiting approval, while Washington and Multnomah counties have not yet submitted their plans.
Harrisburg: The state Department of Health on Thursday reported 102 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, raising the statewide total to 4,869. Two-thirds of the state’s deaths have been among residents of nursing homes and other facilities that care for older adults. State health officials also reported that 980 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus. The state has recorded fewer than 1,000 new cases for 11 consecutive days. Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 65,000 people in Pennsylvania. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. There is no data on how many people have fully recovered. With the number of new infections slowing, Gov. Tom Wolf has been easing social distancing restrictions and allowing many businesses to reopen in lightly impacted areas of the state.
Providence: Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis partnered with the Frontline Foods nonprofit to sponsor 100 meals for staff at two hospitals helping in the state’s fight against the coronavirus. Davis, who grew up in Central Falls, was joined by members of the cast of “How to Get Away With Murder,” which stars Davis, in sponsoring the meals Wednesday from South Kingstown’s Matunuck Oyster Bar for workers at Hasbro Children’s and Rhode Island hospitals, The Providence Journal reports. Frontline Foods is a national organization that pays local restaurants through donations to prepare meals for front-line workers. Davis and her fellow cast members were the first to sponsor a delivery from the Rhode Island chapter, according to Frontline Foods Rhode Island.
Columbia: Clemson University plans to hold in-person classes in the fall but synchronize them with online instruction so if a student is infected with COVID-19 – or a second wave of infections closes campus – learning won’t be disrupted. Also on Wednesday, Gov. Henry McMaster announced he is allowing the reopening Friday of mini golf courses, go-kart tracks, museums and amusement parks just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. Beaches were packed last weekend, and authorities blamed large crowds on few things other than the beaches being open. Clemson leaders didn’t provide specifics on their plans in an online presentation to university trustees Wednesday. But everyone who spoke – from Clemson University President Jim Clements to campus safety, academic and financial leaders – all gave a rosy outlook. One thing that wasn’t mentioned was athletics, but Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has said he is confident the Tigers will play this fall.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday that she is appealing to President Donald Trump’s administration in her standoff with two American Indian tribes over coronavirus checkpoints they set up on federal and state highways. Noem said at her daily briefing that she has sent affidavits and video to the White House, the Department of Justice, the Interior Department and her state’s congressional delegation, asking for help resolving the dispute. “This is not taking sides. This is simply upholding the law,” the Republican governor said. The tribes set up the checkpoints last month to keep unnecessary visitors off the reservations. Earlier this month, Noem threatened to sue the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe if they did not remove highway stops within 48 hours. She backed away from that plan last week, offering to negotiate on the issue if they would take them off of U.S. and state highways. “I know there are questions out there about respecting (tribal) sovereignty,” Noem said Wednesday. But she contends the checkpoints cannot legally be on those highways.
Nashville: The country music capital has begun to loosen restrictions on live music performances that have been curtailed during the coronavirus outbreak. Cities across the state have begun a gradual process of reopening businesses shuttered for safety reasons under orders from local governments and the state. Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced Thursday that the city will move to the second phase of its reopening plan starting next week. That means restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to open at 75% capacity Monday. Salons, barbershops, gyms and other close-contact businesses can reopen at half-capacity, Cooper said. Live music will also be allowed at restaurants, but only if there are no more than two performers on the stage and they remain at least 6 feet apart. However, bars and dance floors will remain closed. Gov. Bill Lee has already lifted similar restrictions for most of the state.
Austin: A Texas Supreme Court justice said Thursday that she and her husband have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, making her the highest-ranking state official known to have tested positive for COVID-19. Justice Debra Lehrmann tweeted that she and her husband, Greg, tested positive after showing symptoms last week. She told the Dallas Morning News both had fever and body aches and went to a drive-thru testing center in Austin. Lehrmann said her health has not interfered with her job because the state Supreme Court is working remotely. She said the couple have “strictly adhered” to stay-at-home orders since early March, cooking all their meals at home and wearing masks and gloves to the grocery store. They did get visits from family, which included an infant grandson. “We were just extremely careful – and then we get it,” Lehrman told The Morning News. “How in the world would that happen? We have no idea. All I know is it must be very contagious.”
St. George: Southern Utah could see a surge in coronavirus cases after the area experienced its most contagious two weeks since the pandemic hit, the state epidemiologist warned Wednesday. The five counties in the southwestern health district recorded 55 new cases this week and 56 cases the week before, the largest number of new cases since tracking began in mid-March. The uptick can’t be explained by increased testing, epidemiologist Angela Dunn said. “We’re asking the community to be a little more diligent in terms of social distancing recommendations and following health guidance,” Dunn said. “There is a potential for a surge in southern Utah at this point.” The Southwest Utah Public Health Department confirmed its fourth death Tuesday from the virus. It causes flu-like symptoms that many people recover from but can be fatal, especially for older people or those with underlying health conditions. Overall, 90 people have died from the virus in Utah.
Marshfield: Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday proposed a $400 million economic relief and recovery package funded by the federal economic rescue law known as the Cares Act to help employers and small businesses, including dairy farmers, struggling from the pandemic-induced shutdown. “I know this has been a significant sacrifice for far too many families who struggle with unemployment and businesses and entrepreneurs across the state who’ve seen their world and dreams evaporate right before their eyes through no fault of their own,” he said at a press briefing. The first phase is $310 million to help businesses survive right now, he said. It includes grants for those most affected, such as food and accommodation services, retail and agriculture; funding to assist landlords and renters; technical help for business owners; and an in-state marketing campaign to boost local buying, he said. The second phase will be a $90 million investment to help the economy survive and be better equipped to thrive in the future, he said.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam says almost 30,000 adults have enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program since he declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Northam said Wednesday that more than 420,000 Virginians have enrolled in Medicaid since the state voted to expand it two years ago. Medicaid is a publicly funded health care program whose costs are shared by the federal and state governments. Expanding Medicaid to low-income, able-bodied adults was a key part of former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and is one of Northam’s top legislative achievements. Northam said that thousands of adults enrolled in Medicaid have received treatment for underlying conditions that have proved fatal during the pandemic, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
Seattle: The state has trained more than 2,100 people to work as contact tracers during the coronavirus outbreak, people who will call every person who tests positive for COVID-19 to find out who they have had close contact with. They then call the contacts to urge them to get tested and quarantine for 14 days, seeking to stop the spread of the virus. About 630 employees of local and state health departments are working on the assignment, The Seattle Times reports. The state has also trained 723 members of the National Guard and 769 employees of the state Department of Licensing to help out. “Case investigations and contact tracing are key pieces of the effort to keep Washington residents safe,” state Health Secretary John Wiesman said. “Both have been critical tools to suppress the virus in other parts of the world.” Of the more than 2,100 trained contact tracers, about 700 are currently active, the Health Department said.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday expanded his aggressive plan to lift coronavirus restrictions after announcing new hot spots in the state’s eastern panhandle. The Republican governor said he is considering a mandatory face mask order for Berkeley and Jefferson counties after at least 35 new cases were reported there in a single day. He has dispatched the National Guard to the region to assess the situation. “We’ll do whatever we have to do, and we’ll pull on the reins until we turn it and it starts flowing back our way,” Justice told reporters. Clay Marsh, a West Virginia University official leading the state’s virus response, said emerging cases in Berkeley and Jefferson counties aren’t surprising, given their proximity to Washington, D.C., and its surrounding suburbs. Justice, right after detailing the spike, set the timeline for the next steps of his reopening strategy. He will allow swimming pools, bowling alleys, spas and video lottery retailers to reopen May 30. On June 5, movie theaters and casinos can open.
Madison: Business owners, candidates for office, a pastor and one of the organizers of last month’s “reopen Wisconsin” protest at the Capitol have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that local stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed by 17 Wisconsin residents Wednesday in federal court in Milwaukee, challenges the local orders that took effect after the state Supreme Court last week tossed out Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide “safer at home” order as unconstitutional. The new lawsuit names 21 state and local Wisconsin public safety and health officials, including Evers and all members of the state elections commission, as defendants. The lawsuit asks the judge to declare the local orders unconstitutional and void them all, claiming violations of the constitutional rights of assembly, free speech, exercise of religion and equal protection. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said last week that the local orders, many of which have already been rescinded, were legal. Ryan Nilsestuen, Evers’ attorney, said Thursday that he was confident the new lawsuit will “go nowhere,” noting the Kaul opinion.
Hulett: Devils Tower National Monument will partially reopen Friday after an almost two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Park Service announced on the Devils Tower website that roads, trails, rock climbing and a picnic area will open for Memorial Day weekend. A visitor center and campground will remain closed. Roads and trails in Fossil Butte National Monument in western Wyoming have remained open, but the visitor center there is closed. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks began a limited reopening Monday after a seven-week closure. Most facilities including lodges and campgrounds remain closed. Devils Tower is an igneous rock formation almost 1,300 feet high. Native Americans consider the tower sacred, but it’s a popular destination for rock climbers.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/50-states/2020/05/22/casinos-churches-contact-tracing-news-around-states/111843478/
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe