Pelham: A new health rule mandating face masks in public in Alabama was off to an uneven start Friday, with many people covering up to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, others refusing and authorities taking a generally hands-off approach to enforcement. The virus that causes COVID-19 is raging throughout the state, with more than 1,500 cases reported each day over the last week and hospital intensive care units more than 85% full. Officials described the mask requirement as an attempt to avoid another shutdown of the economy. At a strip mall in heavily Republican Shelby County south of Birmingham, most people coming and going from shops wore cloth face masks. A customer at a UPS store in Pelham apologized out loud for forgetting hers; everyone else inside wore a mask or a plastic face shield. A few miles away at a Home Depot store, most customers and employees wore masks, yet a few refused offers of a free mask as they entered the retailer, a worker said. The rule requires a mask for anyone older than 6 who’s in public and within 6 feet of someone who’s not a relative. Businesses are not required to prohibit people from entering if they lack masks, but they are allowed to refuse admittance. Gov. Kay Ivey announced the mask rule, which took effect Thursday afternoon, as cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, increased dramatically this week. She said violators could face fines of $500 and jail time, but added that enforcement would be difficult and penalties weren’t the goal.
Anchorage: The largest city in Alaska has mandated residents wear masks in public to limit the spread of COVID-19, but several other cities and boroughs declined to follow suit, arguing the mandates weren’t needed, would be difficult to enforce or were illegal. Anchorage, Cordova, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Seward, Unalaska and Valdez were the only large cities to require masks in all public indoor spaces, including stores and restaurants, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The Northwest Arctic Borough was the only borough to do so. Some smaller communities, such as Gustavus in southeast Alaska, have also issued mask requirements, but they are outnumbered. Dozens of lodges and hotels in the Lake and Peninsula boroughs require masks, but neither government has issued a general order. Borough and city officials have said they are following the lead of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who opposes a statewide mandate. Some local officials in rural Alaska have said case counts do not warrant a mandatory mask requirement and have opted for travel restrictions instead, and others have had challenges with legal authority and how to enforce such a regulation.
Eloy: Prison officials said 69 of 99 inmates from Nevada who are held at a private prison in Eloy have tested positive for COVID-19. A Nevada Department of Corrections statement said none of the inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center showed symptoms of illness when they were tested July 8. Results were received a week later. The prison is run by CoreCivic, a for-profit correctional company. Dr. Michael Minev, Nevada prisons medical chief, said the Nevada inmates are housed in one unit, apart from offenders from other states, with offenders who tested positive in cells separate from those who tested negative. Tests are scheduled again July 28.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that wearing masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus shouldn’t be about politics. When asked during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” about whether President Donald Trump was sending out mixed messages on wearing masks, Hutchinson said “that example needs to be set by our national leadership.” Trump didn’t wear a mask in public until a visit to a military hospital on July 11. “I’m a Republican governor. Democrat governors have all – we’ve put in mask mandates based upon the circumstances of our state,” Hutchinson said. “It’s not popular. It’s not something we want to do. It’s not the first lever we pull. But it is one that, when the data says it’s necessary, we do it.” Hutchinson last week signed an order requiring masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible. The order took effect Monday. Violators face a fine of up to $500 but can’t be arrested or detained. Hutchinson had resisted issuing such a statewide mandate. “No one wants to beat this virus more than the people of Arkansas. And so we’re asking them to – this is one thing they can do to help us to have school, to help us to keep our economy moving, and we’re asking them to do it. And we’re putting out the mandate to accomplish that,” Hutchinson said.
Los Angeles: Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city reopened too quickly and again warned that it was “on the brink” of new shutdown orders as the new coronavirus continues to surge in California. Appearing on CNN, Garcetti was asked about a Los Angeles Times editorial that criticized the rapid reopening of California, which was followed by a spike in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. “I do agree those things happened too quickly,” Garcetti said, adding that the decisions were made at the state and county levels, not by city officials. The mayor said Los Angeles was “on the brink” of new widespread stay-at-home orders as LA County, with a quarter of California’s population, continued to see the state’s largest increase in confirmed coronavirus cases. Last week Garcetti said he wouldn’t hesitate to again shut down all but essential businesses. Those comments came days after Gov. Gavin Newsom shut bars and indoor dining statewide, and ordered closures of hair salons, gyms, malls and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles and other counties experiencing the most significant surge of virus cases. Garcetti told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Los Angeles has adequate hospital capacity and a good supply of ventilators.
Fort Collins: A troubling increase in COVID-19 cases in Larimer County could result in stricter rules for how many people would be allowed in restaurants, retail businesses and at public gatherings. In May, the county received a variance from state public health restrictions because it demonstrated solid plans for slowing the spread of the coronavirus along with reduced numbers for new cases. But that variance could be rescinded by the state if risk indicators for the spread of COVID-19, such as the number of new cases per day and hospitalization rates, reach critical levels, said Tom Gonzales, public health director of Larimer County. If the county’s variance is revoked, state restrictions would be back in force. Public gatherings such as weddings would be limited to 10 people, and 50 people are allowed under the variance. Restaurants would lose some of their flexibility in providing indoor and outdoor seating. The number of people who can be in a salon or other businesses providing personal services also could be reduced. Under the variance, 50% of occupancy is allowed. Under state rules, the limit is 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer, including staff. On a positive note, the county’s hospitalizations for COVID-19 remain low, with 12 patients. Overall utilization of hospital space was at 59%, and intensive care units were at 65%.
Hartford: The state Department of Public Health said its public health laboratory has discovered a flaw in one of the testing systems it uses to test for the new coronavirus, resulting in 90 out of 144 people – many of them nursing home residents – recently receiving a false positive test. DPH said medical providers and all affected patients, who were tested between June 15 and July 17, have been notified. The state has also reported the flaw to the testing manufacturer and to the federal Food and Drug Administration. In a written statement, the agency said the exact cause of the false positive results is still being investigated. Any nursing home resident that had a false positive COVID-19 test result will be retested as soon as possible, DPH said. “Accurate and timely testing for the novel coronavirus is one of the pillars supporting effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford, adding that “adjustments have already been made to ensure the accuracy of future test results from this platform.” A news release issued by the agency did not identify the particular testing system, only describing it as “widely used” and one the state laboratory started using June 15. DPH said “to ensure accuracy moving forward” all positive results will be further analyzed by multiple laboratory scientists and possibly retested using another method.
Dover: Five free coronavirus testing events will be held in two counties this week, the state’s Health department said. The saliva tests will be held through Friday in Kent and Sussex counties, the Delaware State News reported. People planning to get tested shouldn’t eat, drink or brush their teeth 20 minutes before the test, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services said. The agency is also asking people to register before coming to the testing sites in order to reduce wait times.
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser and city leaders announced new metrics that will monitor the percent of positive cases associated with quarantine contact. The city is activating a contract trace force home visit team program next week focusing on high-risk populations and sharing COVUD-19 resources with residents. The District has been on a moderate upward trend in new cases for a few weeks. The mayor said the state of emergency, set to expire at the end of the month, will likely be extended into October, but the extension has not been made official yet. Bowser announced that D.C. Health is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about the spread of COVID-19 in the area. About 850 randomly selected households will be contacted to participate in the invite-only antibody testing. D.C. health officials are urging residents not to delay getting needed medical care. Hospitals are safe, ready, and waiting to help, officials said. As the District continues to monitor trends, officials said although the city has flattened the curve, they have not eradicated the virus. Large gatherings are still considered a high-risk activity and leaders are encouraging residents to seek guidance for hosting gatherings and attending events on the city website.
Tallahassee: The Florida Division of Emergency Management closed part of its facilities after 12 employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The areas where the employees work were going through a deep clean over the weekend and were expected to reopen Monday, said agency spokesman Jason Mahon. The agency has been going through biweekly virus testing of employees for several weeks. On Thursday, four tested positive, raising the total to 12. That prompted the closure, Mahon said. The closing came while the agency was at its highest activation level as a response to the coronavirus. It’s also in the middle of hurricane season in a year when there have been six named storms that have formed in the Atlantic. No storms were active over the weekend. Employees who remained on the job were told to work in other areas of the division’s complex or to work from home. None of those who tested positive showed symptoms of the disease, Mahon said.
Atlanta: Georgia’s largest school district has become the latest to move to all-remote learning to start the school year. Gwinnett County Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks said Monday that the 180,000-student district in suburban Atlanta will not offer in-person classes when it begins instruction on Aug. 12. Instead, all classes will be taught online. A number of other large districts had announced plans for all-remote instruction or delayed the start of school into September, including Atlanta, Bibb County, Clayton County, Cobb County, DeKalb County, Fulton County and Savannah-Chatham County. Forsyth County is now the largest district in Georgia planning to offer classes five days a week. “There is no replacement for face-to-face instruction, and that was our preferred model for starting the school year,” Wilbanks said in a statement. “However, out of an abundance of concern for our students, families, and employees, we made a very difficult decision based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases we are seeing in our county, as well as the concerns that have been expressed by our teachers, parents, and others in the community.” Gov. Brian Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods on Friday encouraged schools to open for in-person instruction, but indicated they didn’t plan to try to order schools to hold in-person classes. Many experts have voiced concerns about what students are missing with remote instruction.
Lihue: The Kauai Invasive Species Committee and other groups have conducted early detection, rapid response and control work this year on dozens of invasive plant and animal species as other activities and business operations have been restricted during the coronavirus pandemic. The committee has worked on 11 plant species, two tree pathogens, coqui frogs, little fire ants and other high-priority pest species, and have made strides toward controlling long-thorn kiawe and miconia, The Garden Island reported. Long-thorn Kiawe is a thorny shrub or small tree native to Central and South America, that has been listed on the Hawaii State Noxious Weeds list. The drought- and salt-tolerant weed has been found on the westside of Kauai and has grown aggressively in dense thickets, forming impenetrable barriers to access. “Long-thorn kiawe is armed with much larger, sharp thorns, up to 3 inches long, that can easily penetrate a truck tire,” Project Manager Tiffani Keanini said, adding that it looks similar to the more common kiawe found on the island. The group has nearly controlled the weed, with only one mature thicket remaining in Kauai, officials said, adding that the next step is to monitor the regrowth of native plants in the area. Miconia is another top target for the committee, officials said. It is an invasive forest pest that can crowd out native species and cause erosion by shading out understory forest plants.
Boise: An initial surge of coronavirus infections after young adults ignored social distancing and didn’t wear face coverings when the state started reopening is now playing out among older generations who subsequently became infected and are being hospitalized. “Many of these people said they were staying home, they were trying to be careful,” said Richard Augustus, chief medical officer at West Valley Medical Center. “But they had family members coming into the home to take care of them.” West Valley Medical Center is in the southwestern Idaho city of Caldwell. Augustus said most of the 41 admissions because of COVID-19 have been in the last week. He said ages range from the early 30s to 70s, but the majority are over 65. “We’re having outbreaks in nursing homes, and those are staff bringing it in,” Augustus said, noting nursing homes aren’t allowing visitors. “It has to be young folks who don’t know they’re sick.” Andrew Southard, medical director of the emergency department at Saint Alphonsus, which has two hospitals in southwestern Idaho, said he’s seeing the same. “I think the older adults, even if they try to play it safe, as the disease prevalence increases, you’re going to see it infect subgroups of people,” he said.
Chicago: A county sheriff in southwestern Illinois has tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said Sheriff Neal Rohlfing has been in quarantine since he had symptoms earlier this month. He received a positive test on Wednesday, according to a department statement. “The sheriff has been lucky and has experienced very mild symptoms,” the statement said. Officials said department operations have not been affected because of his limited contact with employees. County public officials said there has been a recent uptick in cases likely because of social gatherings around the Fourth of July.
Chesterton: The Indiana Dunes National Park has launched a coronavirus safety campaign urging visitors to the northwestern Indiana park to practice social distancing and other precautions when they hit the beach. The park’s “Think Before You Beach” campaign began Saturday with signs posted around Lake Michigan’s shoreline, and with social media posts and videos, reminding visitors to social distance, wear a mask and use public facilities with caution, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. Park spokesman Bruce Rowe said the campaign “reminds the public that they can catch the virus outdoors on a crowded beach if they are not wearing a mask or properly socially distancing.” He said visitors should stay 6 feet away from others or wear a mask if they’re unable to socially distance. That includes using the public restroom or the concession stands, where masks are required. Park officials are also urging visitors seeking to set up a spot to enjoy the sandy shores to spread out and seek secluded or spacious areas. Rowe said the best times to visit include late afternoons and early mornings and weekdays. The 15,000-acre park along Lake Michigan’s southern shore became the first national park in Indiana in February 2019. The park is about 50 miles from Chicago.
Des Moines: State health officials said a “significant number” of coronavirus tests were not reported over the weekend because of a backlog in the department’s electronic reporting system. The Department of Public Health said its COVID-19 website will continue to update, and noted in a news release that reported daily case counts from last week will be adjusted as it processes the backlog. The backlog does not impact notification of test results to individuals, health officials said.
Wichita: Spirit AeroSystems sent some employees notices about voluntary layoffs, citing the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the grounding of the 737 Max. The five-page notice that went out Friday said reduced overall demand for new commercial airplanes, and that as a result, “production rates for commercial aircraft have fallen from historic highs to much lower volumes,” the Wichita Eagle reported. The notice said there is “no expectation for a quick recovery.” It is unknown how many employees are affected. The layoff is available to employees represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace under the Wichita Technical and Professional Unit in “certain commercial” jobs. The voluntary layoffs were also open to managers, excluding those dedicated to the defense program, according to Spirit spokesperson Keturah Austin. The announcement follows months of layoffs and furloughs in the aviation industry.
Radcliff: A couple who refused to sign a self-isolation order when one tested positive for the coronavirus said they were placed under house arrest. Elizabeth Linscott of Radcliff told news outlets she was tested July 11 for COVID-19 because she wanted to visit her grandparents and received a positive result the next day. Linscott said the health department emailed her a form to sign that said she would check in daily, self isolate and let officials know if she has to be treated at the hospital. The form said the isolation order is to “prevent the introduction, transmission and spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus in this state.” Linscott said she declined to sign because of one sentence: “I will not travel by any public, commercial or health care conveyance such as ambulance, bus, taxi, airplane, train or boat without the prior approval of the Department of Public Health.” “I could not comply to having to call the public health department prior if I had an emergency or I had to go pick something up for my child or myself as a necessity and could not wait,” Linscott said. When she declined to sign the form, she said she was told the case would be escalated, and on July 16, Linscott said she and her husband were placed under house arrest with ankle monitors. Hardin County Sheriff John Ward said his office was on hand to execute court documents from a Hardin County Circuit Court judge. It was the first time his office executed such an order, he said. Lincoln Trail District Health Department spokeswoman Terrie Burgan declined to comment on the matter to protect the privacy of the family.
Baton Rouge: The state suspended an emergency rent assistance program Sunday to help with the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19 after more than 40,000 people started filling out applications for the help in less than four days. The Louisiana Housing Corporation set aside $24 million of federal money for the program and will try to find more money after the flood of applications, said E. Keith Cunningham, the agency’s executive director. “We are committed to doing everything we can to meet the needs of renters and landlords and are hopeful that additional federal dollars will become available as soon as possible,” Cunningham said in a statement. The agency estimated they had enough money to help about 10,000 tenants, paying the aid directly to landlords. The Louisiana Housing Corporation said it will continue to process applications and take more applicants once additional money is available. When the program was announced Thursday, housing advocates said it was a good start, but was far too little money, especially with the boosted $600-per-week federal unemployment payments expiring at the end of the month.
Brunswick: Amtrak’s Downeaster is adding more round-trip offerings between Maine and Boston. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said the Downeaster began operating four daily round-trip trains between Brunswick, Maine, and Boston starting Monday. Trains will be sanitized with enhanced cleaning between trips. The Downeaster, which suspended service on April 13 amid the coronavirus pandemic, began a phased-in reopening in mid-June with one round-trip train on weekdays.
Glen Burnie: About 100,000 pounds of food and two cars were given to community members at a coronavirus relief event held by a church in Glen Burnie. Hundreds of people showed up at i5 City Church on Sunday for the event put together by the church, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and several other organizations, The Capital Gazette reported. “The economic victims of this pandemic are our neighbors whose incomes barely cover monthly expenses,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman told the newspaper. “I am proud of the way that our public servants and our community leaders have stepped up to build a safety net, particularly through food distribution.” Church leaders gave away the two cars to two single mothers. One of those women, Danyelle Thomas, said she feels blessed. “I couldn’t hold a job because I couldn’t get the kids to daycare or pick them up on time,” Thomas said. “Now I can do that.”
Gosnold: The coronavirus pandemic has reached the smallest and one of the most isolated towns in Massachusetts. A seasonal resident of Cuttyhunk Island, one of several small islands that make up the town of Gosnold, tested positive for COVID-19 last week, Select Board member Gail Blout told the Cape Cod Times. The woman, who had been on the island for a little over a week, went to the mainland to get tested and was confirmed positive on Wednesday, Blout said. She said 25 test kits were sent to the island on Friday and administered by a visiting doctor from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston to people who came into close contact with the woman. Results are expected next week and all of the people who were tested are self-isolating. The town is working with the state Department of Public Health and is hoping to get more test kits, she said. The island between Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay has about 20 year-round residents, according to the town’s website, which swells to about 400 during the summer.
Hillsdale: A conservative college in southern Michigan defied warnings from state and public health officials during the coronavirus pandemic by holding an in-person graduation ceremony. Hillsdale College held graduation Saturday night, capping days of celebrations. “COVID obviously was a concern,” said David Betz, whose son, Christian, graduated. “For a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to come, it was well worth it.” Attendees had their temperature screened upon arrival and were required to wear masks throughout the entire ceremony, the Hillsdale Daily News reported. A livestream of the commencement was available in prepared buildings on campus for those who wanted to spread out further. The college of about 1,500 students had expected more than 2,000 people at the event, which Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel had called illegal with public gatherings capped at 100 people during the pandemic. Health officials had said the event, drawing people to Hillsdale restaurants and hotels, put the community of about 8,000 people at risk. Robert Norton, the college’s vice president and general counsel, said the college complied with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order and cited constitutional rights. Hillsdale County Sheriff Tim Parker said his office hasn’t enforced Whitmer’s executive orders related to the pandemic.
St. Cloud: Regardless of what the City Council decided Monday night about a proposed mask ordinance, at least a half-dozen more retailers in the metro area started requiring customers to wear masks Monday morning. Among those were Coborn’s, Cash Wise supermarkets and liquor stores, CVS, Kohl’s, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Walgreens. Other national retailers with operations in the area plan to take similar steps later this week and into August. Among those are Home Depot starting Wednesday, Bed Bath & Beyond starting Friday, Aldi on July 27 and Target on Aug. 1. Many other national chains with local operations have had mask requirements for weeks or longer, including Best Buy, Costco, Menards, Panera Bread and Starbucks. Amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases nationwide, the Retail Industry Leaders Association has asked governors to require mask-wearing nationwide, noting that different rules have made it confusing for shoppers and often lead to conflict between customers and workers trying to enforce store rules. Nearly 40 states have mask ordinances for public spaces in place. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has said he is considering a statewide mask mandate but he had not taken action as of noon Monday.
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said he is likely to extend the time for restrictions in counties with rapidly expanding cases of the new coronavirus, and he could add several other counties to the list. The current restrictions started June 13 in 13 of the 82 counties, and they include a requirement for masks in public and a prohibition on large gatherings. The existing restrictions are in some of the most heavily populated counties in the state: Hinds, Madison and Rankin in the Jackson area, DeSoto County in the north and Harrison and Jackson counties on the coast. The restrictions are also in smaller counties with high rates of the virus: Claiborne, Grenada, Jefferson, Quitman, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne. Reeves said Friday that he is also looking “very closely” at setting the restrictions in 12 other counties: Bolivar, Covington, Forrest, Humphreys, Jones, Lamar, Panola, Simpson, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate and Walthall.
O’Fallon: Students who attend the more than 100 Catholic schools in the St. Louis area will be returning to the classrooms starting next month under a reopening plan announced Monday by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The announcement comes as several public school districts also are weighing whether to return to class as new confirmed cases of the coronavirus rise around Missouri. Many districts are expected to offer parents the option of distance learning if they are uncomfortable sending their children back to school. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has stressed the need to reopen schools and get children back in classrooms. But on Monday, Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page encouraged parents to opt for virtual learning when possible. “I do believe that school buildings will be as safe for teachers, parents and students as the districts can make them, but my own recommendation is to choose a virtual learning option when that’s available,” Page said during a news conference, citing a big rise in new reported cases involving young people. The Archdiocese of St. Louis said the plan to return to in-person learning could change if the pandemic worsens. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that 34 Lutheran schools across the St. Louis region also expect to have students return to campus.
Wolf Point: Most of the rodeo riders and audience at the Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede appeared to skip masks, despite public health recommendations and increasing pressure to stem the spread of COVID-19 cases spiking across Montana and much of the U.S. Cowboys lined the metal chutes that released bucking horses and their riders into the arena, Miss Rodeo Montana signed autographs for fans and coronavirus warning signs ended with “Face mask usage is of personal choice.” “A lot of people, they’re trying to get back to life as normal,” said stampede competitor Dillon McPherson, from Wolf Point. “Having the rodeo is important to life as normal, or as close as it can be.” Rodeos are a summertime staple across the West, but the pandemic has presented a dilemma for cities and towns dependent on the economic and cultural boost the events give. Some decided the risk was too great. In Wyoming, Cheyenne Frontier Days – known as “the Daddy of Them All” – was called off for the first time after 123 years. But organizers of the rodeo in Wolf Point decided to carry on, despite the initial opposition of the tribal leaders of the Fort Peck Reservation, which covers the town of 3,000. Roosevelt County, a remote stretch of the Great Plains where Wolf Point is located, has seen relatively few COVID-19 cases – just nine of Montana’s 2,200 as of Wednesday . But tribal leaders feared the stampede, the oldest professional rodeo in the state and one of the region’s top annual draws, could lead to an outbreak. In Montana, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Native Americans, who make up roughly 7% of the state’s population. At least 204 confirmed cases –11% of the state total – are among Native Americans, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. And Native Americans make up 37% of the state’s COVID deaths.
Omaha: Ralston Public Schools canceled its in-person high school graduation ceremony scheduled for Monday after a member of the graduating class tested positive for COVID-19 and school officials learned students held several graduation parties. Ralston Superintendent Mark Adler said in a message Saturday to parents and others that the district has “significant concerns about the potential spread” of the disease, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The decision came after consultation with local health officials. The in-person graduation ceremony will not be rescheduled. A virtual ceremony was held June 20.
Las Vegas: Area hospitals are adding beds and staff to accommodate an increasing number of COVID-19 patients, officials said. Hospital occupancy was not high enough to require activation a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan developed in April to use the Las Vegas Convention Center for up to 900 patients, Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Acute-care hospitals in Clark County added 441 staffed beds as of Thursday, according to data from the Nevada Hospital Association. Another 49 were added in other parts of the state. Dan McBride, chief medical officer for the Valley Health System, said medical facilities in the region are not in danger of being overrun. Valley Health operates six hospitals. But McBride told the Review-Journal that conditions can change quickly. University Medical Center added 87 beds in underutilized space, hospital chief executive Mason VanHouweling said. The intensive care unit at the state’s only public hospital was 95% occupied as of Wednesday, with about one in three of those patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Concord: The state has launched a social media campaign urging residents to wear masks and take other safety measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The images designed to be shared on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms feature simple messages such as “Don’t go viral. Wear a mask.” One shows a photo of someone in a hospital gown with the words “This could be your #OOTD,” referring to the popular hashtag abbreviation for “Outfit of the Day.” Unlike other states, New Hampshire residents are not required to wear masks in public, though Nashua has enacted a city ordinance and Portsmouth is considering one.
Trenton: Large crowds have prompted several popular New Jersey shore towns to take steps to limit the numbers of people on their beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic. Belmar has capped the number of daily beach badges that can be sold to 7,500 per day, and Manasquan set a limit of 1,000 per day on Saturdays and Sundays for any type of beach badge, NJ.com reported. Mike Mangan, president of the Manasquan council, said if beach managers think it’s warranted, “certain beaches that have reached capacity will be closed to further access and patrons will be directed to less crowded beaches.” Message boards have been programmed to alert beachgoers arriving in town that badge sales have been halted and that the beach parking lots are at capacity when that occurs, he said. In Belmar, a notice from the borough’s office of emergency management said the new policy will “fluctuate to a lower number” depending on the number of seasonal badge holders on beaches, as well as the tides on any given day. Belmar officials said beachgoers are still being asked to practice social distancing and are being reminded that playing sports that involve a ball are “strictly prohibited.” In Long Branch, where beaches near the popular Pier Village shopping area were swamped a week ago, officials announced two measures aimed at stemming overcrowding. Officials said beaches would close earlier and more frequently and people would no longer be able to use an app to buy beach badges.
Santa Fe: Officials said the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University face the prospect of major budget challenges because of reduced state funding and other fiscal fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and reduced energy prices. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that UNM likely faces a $22 million cut in state funding and New Mexico State will have about $20 million less to spend in the current fiscal year because of reduced state funding, revenue losses from lower enrollment and other circumstances. The universities’ fiscal troubles stem partly from spending cuts approved last month by legislators and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to help close a budget gap caused by the pandemic and falling oil revenues. UNM President Garnett Stokes said it remains to be seen what the effects will be and that the numbers are subject to change partly because of uncertainties about possible losses of out-of-state and international students. However, New Mexico State Chancellor Dan Arvizu said the anticipated loss in revenue represent enormous budget challenges.
Albany: The number of people hospitalized in New York with the new coronavirus continued to drop to one of the lowest levels since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. There were at least 720 people hospitalized in the state, the lowest since March 18 and down slightly from Saturday, Cuomo said. The number of deaths in the state rose slightly to 13. Daily statewide statistics showed New York with more than 500 newly confirmed cases, representing about 1% of all tests performed. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. New York, once a pandemic hot spot, has avoided a surge in new cases like those hampering other states in the South and West. But the Democratic governor has repeatedly warned New Yorkers could be at risk if they abandon social distancing and other practices adopted to stop the spread of the virus. “I know it’s tempting to be tired of the many rules and guidelines the state has issued, but I reiterate that this pandemic is far from over, and the incredible compliance and fortitude of New Yorkers are key parts of our ability to fight COVID-19,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Greensboro: A judge is listening to arguments this week about whether the COVID-19 pandemic demands wholesale changes to the state’s voting systems this fall. U.S. District Judge William Osteen scheduled three days of hearings that started Monday involving a lawsuit by two voting advocacy groups and several citizens who fear current rules threaten their health if they want to vote. There has been a spike in mail-in absentee ballot applications, presumably by voters who prefer not to venture out to in-person voting centers and precincts. The plaintiffs want Osteen to block several voting restrictions like how mail-in ballots are requested, who can help voters with forms and the hours early in-person voting centers operate. They also want drop boxes for completed absentee ballots and later registration deadlines. A new state law eases absentee ballot rules. The State Board of Elections’ top administrator also ordered last week new safety rules for early voting this fall.
Bismarck: North Dakota oil and gas production plunged about 30% May, as oil companies idled wells and halted drilling plans after prices collapsed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Mineral Resources reported the state produced an average of 858,000 barrels in May, down from 1.2 million barrels in April. North Dakota’s natural gas production also fell from 81.3 billion cubic feet in April to 59.7 billion cubic feet in May. The May totals are the latest figures available and represent the sharpest monthly drop on record. There were 12,809 wells producing in May, down from 15,474 in April. North Dakota had 17 drill rigs operating in May, down from 35 in April. There were 10 drill rigs operating in the state on Friday.
Columbus: A state order requiring masks to be worn in public might include “a lot more counties” next week as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the state, Gov. Mike DeWIne said Sunday. DeWine said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he is still considering a statewide mask mandate. On Thursday, the Republican governor ordered Ohio residents in 19 counties, which include almost 60% of the state’s population, to wear a mask in public. “We’re going the wrong way. We’re at a crucial time,” DeWine said when asked about the possibility of a statewide order. “And so this week, you may see a lot more counties under that mask requirement. So we certainly would not rule out going statewide. We’re certainly looking at that.” DeWine said health departments in the state indicate that the increase is occurring in bars, churches and from people traveling out of state “but a lot of it, frankly, is just people in casual settings, 20, 30, 40, 50 people gathering together.” “And so it’s not all about orders,” he said. “Orders are important. But it’s also about getting people to understand, ‘Hey, this is, this is very, very serious. And now, while we did a great job early on in Ohio, we are now headed in the wrong direction.’”
Oklahoma City: The state Department of Health said Monday its counts of new COVID-19 cases for Sunday and Monday were incorrect. “Due to technical data entry issues, case counts for Sunday, July 19 and Monday, July 20 are low and do not reflect real-time data,” the department said in a news release. “OSDH’s Acute Disease Service is working diligently to resolve these technical issues and will continue to provide reporting of COVID-19 information that Oklahomans have come to expect from OSDH.” The Health department reported 209 new cases Sunday and 168 new cases Monday, both of which were sharply lower than any other day for the last several weeks.
Salem: With the grape harvest looming, an organization is providing preventive care and COVID-19 testing, readying some of Oregon’s 123,000 agricultural workers for the crush of 12-hour shifts required to make the 2020 wine vintage. For the past 25 years, nonprofit organization ¡Salud! has provided multilingual, multicultural health care to people who work in Oregon’s vineyards – in wineries, tending vines, harvesting grapes, and bottling. Although winery workers are often full-time staff with access to medical benefits, contract harvest crews are largely made up of migrant “guest” workers – Oregon issued 243,000 H2-A visas in 2018 – who often lack access to those same benefits. Through worksite clinics hosted in partnership with area wineries, ¡Salud! provides preventive care screenings, vaccinations, dental cleanings, nutrition counseling, patient advocacy and more to a workforce that might otherwise go without. In recent months, the organization has modified its mobile health clinics for COVID-19 safety, preparing to test as many farmworkers, and address as many underlying health conditions as possible before the bulk of harvest begins. Multiple coronavirus infection clusters in Oregon have been linked to agricultural and food-processing worksites. Among the state’s largest include one among workers harvesting fruit at Townsend Farms sites in Cornelius and Fairview, another at Newport’s Pacific Seafood plants, and a third at Lamb Weston, a potato processor in Hermiston. Vineyard workers, said ¡Salud! nurse Leda Garside, “have an advantage from other agricultural crops in that they are able to maintain social distancing at worksites.” But in the close quarters of indoor processing spaces, sorting and bottling lines included, she said “it’s a little more dicey.”
Pittsburgh: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in movies have been making a comeback. A company said a floating cinema allowing people to watch from mini-boats will be making appearances in a number of places across the country – including Pennsylvania. Beyond Cinema, an Australian production company, is bringing Floating Boat Cinema to cities worldwide with a stop in Pittsburgh in September. The location for the aquatic theater planned Sept. 16 to Sept. 20 hasn’t been released, and the movies to be shown haven’t been announced. The cinema will be made up of 12 to 24 mini-boats, each holding up to eight people. Tickets will require that the entire boat be purchased to ensure that groups will be seated with friends and family only to allow for social distancing on and between boats. Organizers said the movies will be a mix of golden oldies and new releases. Attendees will get free popcorn, and other movie snacks and drinks will be available for purchase before people embark on the boats. Floating Boat Cinema will also be heading to St. Louis on Sept. 9 and later to Houston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, New York, Austin, Texas, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Columbus, Ohio, and Cincinnati, as well as three cities in Canada.
Providence: The state is cracking down on crowding and illegal parking at the state’s beaches and asking residents from Massachusetts and Connecticut not to come for day trips to the shore amid the hot weather. “We are basically saying to folks … ordinarily (we) would love to have you come visit our beaches, but with COVID-19 and with crowding, it is just not a good idea,” said Mike Healey of the Rhode Island Department of Emergency Management. South Kingstown has increased parking fines to $150 dollars and Narragansett and Westerly also boosted fines to $75 dollars for parking in a tow or no-parking zone, WJAR-TV reported. Vehicle capacity at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly and Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett has been reduced to 25%. “If you can’t get into the parking lot you really just can’t get onto the beach,” South Kingstown Town Manager Rob Zarnetske said. Last month, Rhode Island had a nearly 80% increase in the number of visitors to the state beaches compared with June 2019, official said.
Columbia: A dog has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, the first confirmed animal detection of the virus in the state. A private veterinarian decided to test the Charleston County dog, an 8- or 9-year-old shepherd mix, after one of its owners was confirmed to have COVID-19, said Dr. Boyd Parr, state veterinarian and director of Clemson Livestock Poultry Health, in a news release Thursday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the virus in the dog July 9, according to the news release. Parr said there continues to be no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus to people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend routine testing of animals for the virus at this time. “It remains a good idea to restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you do with other people, if you are infected with COVID-19 in order to protect them from exposure to the virus,” Parr said. The dog was euthanized because of a chronic health condition. As of Thursday, lions, tigers, cats and dogs had confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus across seven states, according to the USDA.
Sioux Falls: A surge in coronavirus cases in other states is causing delays in coroanvirus test results in South Dakota. Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said they have seen a change in the last week in the length of time it takes for a result if the sample is sent to an out-of-state commercial lab. “They have quite a bit of capacity to do testing, but the volume of testing they’ve been asked to do has outstripped their capacity,” she said. It’s taking up to a week or longer to get results from the out-of-state labs, she said. It’s different for in-state labs and the state’s public health lab is still turning out lab results in 24 hours, she said. State epidemiologist Josh Clayton said the delay in test results doesn’t mean there’s an underrepresentation of confirmed positive coronavirus cases in the state. The delays mean some people are in isolation longer while waiting for test results, he said. The state wants to investigate positive cases as soon as possible and delays in test results affect the state’s ability to do contact tracing and case identification, Malsam-Rysdon said.
Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee said an additional $115 million will be available for local governments as part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The funds will be reserved for local governments that did not receive direct money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, a news release said. Shelby County and Nashville already received a combined $284 million that was subtracted from the state’s allocation.
Corpus Christi: Most of the 85 young children in Corpus Christi-Nueces County who are known to have contracted the novel coronavirus tested positive this month amid a surge in the state, a health official said Sunday. Nearly all of the children, most of whom are 1 year old or younger, are expected to recover on their own, Annette Rodriguez, the county public health director, told the Associated Press by phone. One of the children died, but officials are trying to determine if COVID-19 was the cause, she said. “There’s always that concern that you’re going to have that one baby like we did that passed away,” Rodriguez said. “How many more from this group? What percent will you lose possibly to this virus?” The county, which is home to about 362,000 people and sits on the Gulf Coast, is one of several COVID-19 hot spots in Texas, which has been hammered by the disease in recent weeks. On Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Department of Defense had sent five teams of Navy doctors to four locations in southern and southwestern Texas to help hospitals where capacity has become stretched. Rodriguez said Friday that 85 infants in Nueces County had tested positive, though she clarified Sunday that some of them were not infants – up to a year old – and were as old as 23 months. Her Friday claim prompted Nueces County’s top elected official, Judge Barbara Canales, to issue a statement Saturday saying the 85 figure reflected the cumulative total since mid-March. But Rodriguez stressed Sunday that although the oldest of the cases goes back to mid-March, most of them – 60 infants – tested positive from July 1 to July 16. The child who died was less than six months old and tested positive this month. The child was hospitalized and released before dying at home of what officials first believed was sudden infant death syndrome. Officials are now awaiting lab results to determine if the virus was a factor in the death, Rodriguez said.
St. George: In a meeting on June 14 with members of the Washington County School Board, Dr. David Blodgett, director of The Southwest Utah Public Health Department, warned that any preventative measures for in-person learning would not completely keep COVID-19 out of schools. Blodgett said that he expects to see the virus if in-person learning continues as planned, according to a recording of the meeting posted two days later on the school district website. “We’re not striving to get rid of 100 percent of COVID in school; we’re striving to not spread it as much as we can,” he said. Blodgett said the most important aspect of reopening is to make sure there aren’t sick persons in the classroom, both students, teachers and staff included. This aligned with what he mentioned earlier about curbing COVID-19, and the surefire way to prevent spread is to keep sick persons at home.”If you keep that principle to the forefront, that helps with all the rest of them,” Blodgett said. I think that’s the best we’re going to end up being able to do in a lot of ways: screening and being able to pull an infectious kid so they’re not infecting a whole bunch of other kids.”
Manchester: The state Health Department said 33 of 63 people in the Manchester area who tested positive for the novel coronavirus after taking a type of test not considered to be as accurate as that used by the department have been retested and only two were confirmed positive cases. As of Saturday, the Health Department had reached out to all but seven of the 63 people who had positive antigen tests. Most who were interviewed were not symptomatic and have not been linked to other possible cases, the department said. The Burlington Free Press reported that antigen testing provides rapid results and can be helpful as a screening tool for those who are symptomatic. But they have shown the potential for producing false negatives, according to Health Commissioner Mark Levine, and are considered less reliable than polymerase chain reaction tests.
Richmond: Virginia’s state-owned liquor stores said they won’t let anyone not wearing a mask into their stores as part of an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority will have greeters at the front of stores to prevent people without masks from entering and to offer curbside pickup options. The agency already requires masks be worn in stores but has not previously denied entry to people without them. Gov. Ralph Northam has issued a mandate that masks be worn in all types of stores and recently asked business owners to be more aggressive in denying service to people who refuse to wear them.
Olympia: Nearly $6 million in federal grants have been approved for five Washington tribes to pay for programs to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus and give financial help to tribal members for rent and utility bills. The Seattle Times reported the federal COVID-19 response grants are intended to assist in the many ways tribes are combatting the virus, from building tiny houses for quarantine, to building more housing to fight overcrowding and providing financial relief for tribal members strapped by the economic dropoff. The money is being distributed under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to five tribes: the Lummi Nation Housing Authority; the Muckleshoot Housing Authority, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Squaxin Island Tribe and Tulalip Tribes. The Tulalip will receive the most, with $1.5 million to provide rental and utility assistance for families financially hurt by the COVID crisis. The Lummi Nation Housing Authority is receiving almost as much, $1,494,909 to build 14 new housing units on the reservation, where many young families face a housing shortage and overcrowding adds to the risk of the spread of the highly contagious disease.
Charleston: The head of a West Virginia teachers’ union expressed doubt Monday that public schools can reopen with face-to-face instruction in early September based on recent trends with the coronavirus pandemic.“If we were to start school today, it’s not safe,” Fred Albert, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said at a news conference. He held out hope that the outlook will improve, but “we’re not there now.” Earlier this month, Gov. Jim Justice targeted Sept. 8 as a tentative date to open schools, noting that the timing could change depending on the state’s virus caseload. Many school districts had been set to start instruction by mid-August. Justice said Monday that he’s “absolutely not willing” to reopen schools unless he’s certain, based on expert advice, that it’s “safe and the thing to do.” Although the state has issued tentative guidance on school openings, the decision to hold in-person instruction, online classes or a combination of both is being left to individual counties, unless Justice decides not to let children return to classrooms at all. When Albert was asked what the proper criteria is to open schools, he said that first, “we’ve got to get the numbers under control.” However, “there’s nothing that teachers, parents and students want more than to be back in school,” he said.
Madison: Teachers unions for Wisconsin’s five largest school districts asked Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s top health and education officials Monday to keep schools closed at the start of the year because of the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The letter was signed by union leaders for teachers in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. It was sent to Evers, Department of Public Instruction Secretary Carolyn Stanford Taylor and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. “Our students need safe, equitable, well-resourced classrooms staffed with highly qualified educators, so they can learn,” union leaders said in the letter. “The classroom is where every single educator wants to be this fall, but with no containment of Wisconsin COVID-19 cases, a virtual reopening for public schools is necessary.” Evers and Palm did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Evers, the former state superintendent for schools, said last week that he did not plan to issue an order closing schools this fall, leaving it to each district to decide how to proceed. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in May struck down his “safer at home” order but did not rule against a separate order that kept schools closed through the spring 2020 semester. Department of Public Instruction spokesman Chris Bucher said the agency has no authority to require online-only instruction. He referred to guidance the department issued in June, laying out options for schools to consider as they looked at reopening, including how to make classrooms safe for in-person teaching.
Laramie: University of Wyoming officials have released a plan to respond to any surge in coronavirus cases on campus after students return in the fall. The plan includes options for targeted, short-term closures that would be less drastic than the monthslong closure of the entire campus that happened after the coronavirus began to spread throughout the state last spring, the Laramie Boomerang reported. Under the draft proposal presented last Thursday to the university’s Board of Trustees, the college could go into a so-called “targeted pause” of campus activities if as few as one person tests positive for the coronavirus or if people disregard the plan requirement such as mask-wearing. During a pause, specific buildings, floors or classrooms could be closed for three to five days for cleaning. University and public health officials would discuss whether a broader closure or policy change would be necessary. A short-term campus closure could happen during a significant increase of coronavirus cases or if evidence emerges of significant community spread of the virus. In that scenario, most on-campus teaching and other work would shut down for up to two weeks. University administrators and consulting firm Deloitte came up with the contingency plan. The university has hired Deloitte to manage the school’s campus reopening plan at a rate of $48,600 per week.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States