Huntsville: A fundraising drive launched to help the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Space Camp through the coronavirus pandemic has pulled in more than $1.1 million in just a few days. The online effort that began Tuesday had brought in nearly $620,000 by Friday afternoon, and officials said Boeing contributed another $500,000. That brings total donations to nearly 75% of the $1.5 million that officials say is needed to keep the operation going after stiff losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 6,000 people and corporations worldwide have contributed, museum officials said in an announcement. The state-owned attraction shut down for weeks earlier this year to stop the spread of COVID-19. Officials say donations are needed to keep the museum open and to restart Space Camp sessions next year.
Anchorage: A new emergency order in the city will stop indoor service at restaurants and breweries, restrict gathering sizes and require people to work from home if possible to limit the spread of COVID-19. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced Friday that the order would go into effect Monday and last until Aug. 30. “By waiting for four weeks, we should see be able to judge whether these measures are helping to reduce transmission or whether we need to do additional steps,” Anchorage Health Department Medical Officer Bruce Chandler said. The newest regulation requires bars and nightclubs be closed except to provide takeout or delivery service. The order also limits indoor gatherings to 15 people and outdoor gatherings with food and drinks to 25 people. Outdoor gatherings without food and drinks are limited to 50 people. Berkowitz also extended the city mask mandate for all gatherings.
Phoenix: A music teacher who resigned after being told he’d have to be on campus to teach virtual classes amid the pandemic is facing a $2,000 fine. The Dysart Unified School District is set to charge Tavious Peterkin, a music teacher at an El Mirage school, to release him from his contract. Such a fee is common in Arizona school districts. Because the state is in a long-running teacher shortage, it’s harder to find educators to fill vacant positions. Districts charge the fee to educators who suddenly quit to cover the costs of hiring someone new. But Peterkin’s case raises questions about whether fees are fair in a pandemic. Peterkin said he thought he would be excused from paying to leave because of COVID-19. Renee Ryon, a spokesperson with the district, could not speak about Peterkin’s specific situation. She said the district can be flexible with the fee in the case of a medical situation. But it must enforce the fee if exceptions don’t apply.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson authorized high school football teams to begin no-contact practice with helmets last week as confirmed coronavirus cases topped 42,000 in the state. Hutchinson also instructed the Arkansas Activities Association to submit a plan to the state Department of Health to allow football, volleyball and cheerleading to proceed this fall. The Republican governor said that he heard from students and families across the state in favor of contact sports this fall and that he wanted to discourage students from traveling out of state to compete in sports. “As I have said on numerous occasions, we need school this fall, and part of school are the sports and other curricular activities that go with school,” Hutchinson said.
Sacramento: Health officials reported the state’s first coronavirus death of a child Friday as the statewide tally of fatalities surpassed 9,000, saying the victim was a teenager who had other health conditions. The teenager’s death occurred in the Central Valley, but officials at the state Department of Public Health released no other details, citing privacy rules. The Central Valley is the state’s major agricultural region and recently has become one of California’s hot spots for the virus. It’s extremely rare for children to die of the coronavirus. As of mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 228 children had died of the disease in the U.S., less than 0.2% of the nation’s deaths at the time. Only about 9% of California’s nearly half-million confirmed virus cases are children, and very few have suffered conditions serious enough for hospitalization, according to state data.
Denver: Four of the 10 largest ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks statewide are in correctional facilities, including two state prisons, according to health officials. Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Annie Skinner said the department’s facilities have conducted extensive testing to separate infected inmates from others and have required masks and staff screening, The Denver Post reports. “The vast majority of that testing has been for staff and inmates who are not demonstrating any symptoms,” she said. The largest outbreak in the state is at the Sterling Correctional Facility, which reported 605 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths, health officials said. The Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver has reported the second-largest outbreak with 467 confirmed cases but no deaths.
Hartford: The governing body of high school sports in the state publicly released its plans for restarting interscholastic sports this fall, proposing a shortened season that officials said will be “fluid” based on changing COVID-19 health metrics. The plan from CAS-CIAC, the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference was crafted in consultation with state education officials, the Connecticut State Medical Society, various athletic and coaching organizations, school principals and others. The start of the fall sports season will be Sept. 24, the first contest date. Before that, first practices will be held in cohorts of 15 student-athletes, beginning Aug. 27 for cross country, field hockey, soccer, swimming and volleyball and on Aug. 17 for football. Full practices won’t begin before Sept. 11.
Wilmington: If teachers can’t handle the risk of being back in the classroom, they should seek a new career, a Brandywine school board member wrote in an email to a district elementary school teacher. “Teachers are first responders to our future,” board member Ralph Ackerman wrote to fifth grade teacher Abby Sipress last week. “If they cannot handle the risk, seek a new career.” Up until that line, Sipress said she could tolerate her and Ackerman’s differences in opinion about reopening schools. Sipress, like so many other teachers across the country, said she worries for her health and safety, as well as for that of students and co-workers. Ackerman warned of the damage to society should school buildings stay closed. “Putting teachers on the front line, you’re also putting students on the front line. If I’m in school, so are they. Should they be the sacrifice?” Sipress said.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network have announced strict rules and restrictions to ensure safety during this year’s March on Washington amid the COVID-19 pandemic, WUSA-TV reports. The march’s protocols for participants include distribution of masks, thermometer check-in stations, restricting access to buses from states or cities that are “COVID-19 hot spots” and practicing social distancing. Sharpton, the National Action Network, Martin Luther King III, the NAACP, Attorney Benjamin Crump and families of police brutality victims, along with labor leaders, clergy, activists and civil rights advocates, will lead a Commitment March on Aug. 28 to fight for criminal justice reform in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police.
Miami: Hurricane Isaias’ imminent arrival forced the closure of some outdoor coronavirus testing sites Friday even as the state reached a new daily high in deaths. Meanwhile, the virus was complicating efforts to put contingency plans in place for evacuations and shelters. Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all East Coast counties from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville on Friday. The coming weather forced officials to halt testing in Miami, which has been worst hit by the coronavirus, for at least three days because many of the sites operate outdoors, in tents. Under normal circumstances, the sites have the capacity to test hundreds of people per day. “We had to put safety first,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at an online news conference Friday.
Atlanta: One of the nation’s largest convention centers will reopen Monday with “surge beds” to treat COVID-19 patients as critical care units across the state remain nearly full, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday. The Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta will begin receiving patients Monday with 60 beds initially and increase to 120 beds if needed, the Republican governor said. Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the facility would be able to take care of sicker patients than when 200 beds were initially set up in part of the mammoth convention center in April and then later dismantled after caring for only a handful of recovering patients who needed low levels of care. New capabilities will include administering oxygen and medication drips to patients. Hall also said staffing will “reflect the level of need for patients that we are seeing.”
Honolulu: United Airlines says it will resume service on 30 international routes in September and will include more flights to Hawaii. The Chicago-based airline said in a statement Friday that it intends to fly 37% of its schedule in September, as compared to last year. That is a 4% increase over what is planned in August. It is also adding flights to Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean. The airline says it plans to resume service between the U.S. mainland and Hilo and Kauai and increase service from the mainland to Honolulu, Kona and Maui.
Jerome: A beef processing company said it will open a new plant in south-central Idaho and hire 400 workers. Agri Beef announced plans Friday to build the plant that will operate as True West Beef in Jerome and be able to process 500 cattle a day. The Times-News reports the company already owns a mid-sized processing plant in Washington and since 1968 has operated feedlots in Idaho. It owns the Snake River Farms and Double R Ranch brands. The company said its workers make about $52,000 annually. The company said the plant will work directly with livestock producers who will have an equity ownership in the facility. “With an educated and motivated workforce, access to plentiful agricultural resources, and a vibrant community with a can-do spirit, Jerome and Idaho checked the box for everything we were looking for,” Agri Beef Executive Vice President of Business Development Wade Small said in a statement.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration on Friday urged additional vigilance by local officials in 11 counties where there are upticks in COVID-19 cases. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported there are 11 counties in “warning level” status because of the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the highly contagious and potentially lethal COVID-19. Online data shows there are 13: Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair and White. The health department uses a variety of indicators to determine warning-level status, including increased new infections per 100,000 people, a 20% increase in deaths two weeks in a row, availability of intensive care units in hospitals, hospital admissions and more. An area hits a new warning level by surpassing at least two indicators.
Indianapolis: The state reported 784 new confirmed cases of coronavirus Sunday and four additional deaths, health officials announced. The Indiana State Department of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state is at 67,857 with 2,775 deaths overall. Health officials said there are another 200 probable deaths. Public health officials have sent an Indianapolis barbershop a court summons for allegedly violating mask guidelines. The Marion County Public Health Department has investigated more than 300 complaints related to mask violations. Jack’s Barber Shop has been cited three times for coronavirus-related complaints. Owner Brenda Barrett told WISH-TV she doesn’t take issue with the requirements. “I have no problem with it, but when they keep changing the rules, and there’s no guidelines, I cannot comply. No, I want to keep everyone safe. I don’t want to get my customers sick,” Barrett said.
Des Moines: A day after officials launched an effort to increase enforcement of distancing orders in bars and restaurants, a state agency reported Friday that there had been nearly 700 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past day. The Alcoholic Beverages Division, which approves liquor licenses, and the Department of Inspections and Appeals, which issues restaurant permits, announced Thursday that a $1,000 fine will be imposed on bars that fail to enforce requirements that people stay 6 feet apart when more than 10 are gathered. Restaurants will get a warning. Repeat offenses could results in suspensions and revocations of food and alcohol permits and licenses. The numbers of hospitalizations, patients on ventilators and those in intensive care units have generally been on the rise this month. The overall state positivity rate – the percentage of those testing getting positive results – was 9.4% on Friday.
Scott City: A western Kansas mayor who had rejected wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic says he has tested positive for COVID-19. Scott City Mayor Everett Green said in a Facebook post that it is possible he contracted the virus at a reelection campaign event for state Sen. Mary Jo Taylor, R-Stafford, on July 18. Scott County health officials said in a news release that people who attended that event or the Scott County Fair on July 15-18 might have been exposed to the virus, KWCH reports. Green said he had what he thought were seasonal allergies for several days but abruptly lost his sense of smell and taste last weekend. Green had taken a public stance against face masks before his diagnosis. “But I think looking forward, when it’s appropriate to get out in public when the quarantine has lifted, it’s very possible you’ll see me wearing a face mask because the last thing I want to do is spread coronavirus to somebody else,” he said.
Louisville: The state’s coronavirus positivity rate is continuing to trend downward as Gov. Andy Beshear announced 572 new cases Saturday. The positivity rate – or the percentage of people tested for COVID-19 who have the virus – was 5.22% as of Saturday. It dropped from 5.81% Wednesday to 5.43% Friday. “Our positivity rate is again lower today than it was yesterday. Facial coverings work. They are our best chance of saving lives and protecting the health of our people, ensuring our economy can stay open, and getting our kids back in school,” Beshear said in a press release. Saturday’s 572 new cases put the Bluegrass State’s case total at 30,723 in the nearly five months since its first reported case in March.
Baton Rouge: Two federal judges have refused to immediately stop enforcement of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus order prohibiting bars from letting customers drink on site. In Lafayette, U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays on Friday denied the temporary restraining order requested by 11 Acadiana-area bar owners who have filed a lawsuit challenging Edwards’ decision to limit bars to takeout and delivery as a way to reduce spread of the coronavirus. In New Orleans, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman rejected a similar restraining order sought by 22 southeast Louisiana bar owners who have filed the same lawsuit in their regional federal court. “The court denies the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order because the plaintiffs have not ‘clearly carried’ their burden of showing that the requirements for obtaining this ‘extraordinary and drastic’ remedy are met,” Feldman wrote in his Friday decision.
Portland: Schools around the state are at relatively low risk for the new coronavirus, and that means all of them can open with in-person instruction this year, state officials said Friday. The state is using a three-tiered system for recommendations about how schools should function as they reopen, rating each county as “green,” “yellow” or “red.” “Green” signifies low risk and means in-person instruction is appropriate. The administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Friday that every county in the state is in “green” status. That means they can reopen in person as long as they follow safety protocols such as the use of face coverings and physical distancing. The guidance from the state is intended to be a recommendation, and individual school districts will craft their own plans, officials said. Maine education commissioner Pender Makin said she anticipates some school districts will begin the year with hybrid instruction models.
Annapolis: Gov. Larry Hogan says all of the state’s 24 jurisdictions have reached the goal of testing 10% of their populations for the coronavirus. The administration also reported Saturday that the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to 4.47%. The state said there have been 89,365 confirmed cases in Maryland. That’s up 1,019 compared to the day before. There have been 839,989 negative test results in the state. Maryland has conducted more than 1.2 million tests. That’s up just over 31,000 from the previous day. The state has reported a total of 3,374 deaths from the virus, an increase of 12 from Friday. Maryland reported Saturday that 592 people were hospitalized with the virus, an increase of two from the previous day. The state also reported that nearly 56% of new cases of the virus were in people under the age of 40.
Boston: Gov. Charlie Baker is warning residents that he’ll slash the number of people allowed to gather in house parties, backyard barbecues and other private social gatherings if virus cases continue to trend upward. The state is investigating at least eight new clusters of the virus, many of them linked to large social gatherings where people did not follow virus safety rules like wearing face masks, the Republican governor said Friday. Among the recent “troubling clusters” of the virus are a lifeguard party in Falmouth, a high school graduation party in Chelmsford, large house parties in Chatham and Wrentham, and an unauthorized football camp in Weymouth, according to Baker. A 90-person prom party in Cohasset is also being investigated, he said. “The ask is relatively small,” Baker said. “Wear your masks, respect the virus, and don’t do these large gatherings that can be superspreader events.”
Fort Gratiot Township: A man decided to get a job at his wife’s nursing home after he was unable to visit her because facilities restricted in-person visits due to the coronavirus pandemic. Larry and Carol Burnett were reunited for the first time in months. Carol Burnett, 80, is a resident at Regency-on-the-Lake in Fort Gratiot, where Larry Burnett, 83, now works in the activities department. When he visited his wife a few weeks ago, they spent most of the time catching up. He even said some tears were shed. “First, I said I was afraid I’d never see her again because of the virus,” Larry Burnett said of their reunion. “She said she agreed with that, she had the feeling that we’d never see each other again that one of us, one of the other, would have passed away.” He would see her through her room’s window and even tried video calls, but it wasn’t enough. He said they have been married 62 years and haven’t been apart for more than a week.
Minneapolis: State Attorney General Keith Ellison on Friday filed a complaint against an Itasca County company that organized and promoted a three-day rodeo that allegedly drew large crowds after the state imposed a spectator limit for the event. Ellison’s action came after the state Department of Health announced that one spectator at the North Star Stampede Rodeo on July 25-27 in Effie has tested positive for COVID-19 and was infectious at the time they attended the rodeo. Ellison said the owner of North Star Ranch LLC was upset with the governor’s executive order to limit the event to 250 fans and promoted the event on its Facebook page as a protest against government overreach. The complaint said there were “far more than 250 attendees” at each of the three events. Ellison is seeking unspecified damages against the company, as well as up to $25,000 in civil penalties for each of the numerous violations described in the complaint.
Jackson: The state reported its highest-ever single-day increase of coronavirus fatalities Friday, with 52 deaths. The record comes as Gov. Tate Reeves has expanded mask requirements to eight new counties, set to go into effect Monday. People are already required to wear masks in public in 29 of the 82 counties of Mississippi, covering more than half of the state’s population. Republican Reeves has resisted ordering a statewide mask mandate, saying he thinks targeted restrictions are more effective. With most students set to begin the school year in the next couple of weeks, district officials have expressed concern about returning students to the classroom. Corinth School District reported its first positive case of COVID-19 on Friday after returning to in-person classes at the start of the week, according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.
Joplin: A coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home has led to 21 deaths so far as confirmed cases increase across the state. The outbreak at Joplin’s Spring River Christian Village sickened 73 residents, 42 of whom have recovered, The Joplin Globe reports. The chief operating officer for Christian Horizons, which runs the home, told the newspaper that 54 staffers also tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and that 45 of them have since recovered. “During the past weeks, we’ve been able to bring this outbreak under control,” Ray Dickison said. The seven-day rolling average of new cases per day in Missouri has been increasing. In the past week, the state has added 1,582 newly confirmed cases per day on average, according to an Associated Press analysis of Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking project.
Helena: The state set aside $50 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to help people make their rent or mortgage payments during the economic upheaval caused by coronavirus. But through the end of July, the program has paid out just over $1.2 million, about 2.4% of the available funds, state figures show. So far, about 750 Montana residents have submitted valid applications for the funding, a fraction of the 131,000 who have applied for unemployment at some point since mid-March as the pandemic ravaged the global economy. Officials can’t pinpoint exactly why the program isn’t being used more, though Montana Department of Commerce spokeswoman Emilie Ritter Saunders said one of the holdups is that a few landlords are not providing information the state needs to process the claims.
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Omaha: Schools across the state are still scrambling to set attendance and safety policies in the wake of a global pandemic, with the start of the new school year less than a month away. Westside Community Schools in Omaha announced Tuesday that students will attend in-person classes only part of the week while distance-learning from home the rest of the week, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Westside’s school year is set to begin Aug. 18. Other schools, such as Papillion La Vista Community Schools, plan a full reopening of schools, while imposing mask and distancing policies. That has drawn objection from the local teacher’s union, which said in a statement this week that the district’s plan to fully reopen isn’t safe. Westside Superintendent Mike Lucas said the district’s plan could change, and all students could be required to stay home and learn remotely, if coronavirus conditions worsen by next month.
Las Vegas: Officials said Friday that unemployment statewide has risen again to 24.9%, with a wave of more than 18,000 people filing initial claims for benefits last week during an ongoing economic slump following mid-March coronavirus closures. The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported that the week ending July 25 was the fifth in a row of increases in regular initial unemployment benefit claims, up 18% from the previous week, and the second-highest weekly total in state history. The total number of filings for first-time benefits is approaching 600,000 since the business closures began. Nevada set a record jobless rate in April of 30.1%. The figure was at 24.9% on May 23. The troubled Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed, contract and gig workers logged more than 34,000 initial claims last week, up 74.2% from the week before, according to the department’s report.
Concord: Some teachers who squeeze in last-minute vacations or other trips just before school starts this fall would be able to bypass quarantine restrictions under public health guidance discussed Friday. The state’s general travel guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus say New Hampshire residents should quarantine at home for 14 days after traveling anywhere outside New England. “We have heard that this is potentially prohibitory for starting of schools because many teachers and staff may be traveling outside of New England to, for example, bring their own children to college,” state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan said. In light of those concerns, the state is recommending that teachers who have traveled be allowed to work if they traveled by private car, had no close contact with anyone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 and wear a face covering at work for at least 14 days.
Trenton: The state’s coronavirus caseload and the rate of transmission have climbed higher and are “setting off alarms,” Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday. There were 699 new positive cases reported Friday, up from 261 on Thursday, Murphy said. The rate of transmission, which indicates the number of people to whom an infected person passes the virus, climbed to 1.35 from 1.14. Murphy didn’t announce any rollback to the second of three stages of reopening, but he said the administration wouldn’t “sit and take it much longer.” Despite those figures headed in the wrong direction, Murphy said the state’s hospital reported zero COVID-19 deaths for the day ending 10 p.m. Thursday. That’s the first time that’s happened since March 10. Murphy called it an “extraordinary milestone.”
Santa Fe: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Mexico increased by 210 and deaths by nine on Saturday, state health officials reported. The deaths included three residents of Bernalillo County, two in Dona Ana County, and one each in Eddy, Lea, McKinley and San Juan counties. Most were in their 70s and 80s. The state’s total number of deaths since the pandemic began is 651. Lea, McKinley and Luna counties had the highest numbers of coronavirus cases per capita in New Mexico over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis of data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. De Baca county is the only one of the state’s 33 counties without a confirmed case. In all, New Mexico has recorded 20,796 positive coronavirus cases. The seven-day rolling average of daily infections has increased over the past two weeks by 11%, according to the AP analysis.
New York: The state broke a COVID-19 testing record Friday by conducting 82,737 tests, the highest number it has ever conducted in a single day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday. “Today is five months since we had our first case, and yesterday we hit a record number of tests – 82,737 – the most tests ever conducted in a single day in this state,” the Democrat said in a statement, noting 0.91% of the results were positive. State data released Saturday also show there were 581 total hospitalizations Friday and four deaths, for a total of 25,164. Cuomo urged residents to remain vigilant, practice social distancing, wear masks and not attend crowded parties. “Since (March), we have brought the infection rate way down through our collective action. Our future STILL depends on what we do today and everyday,” he tweeted.
Raleigh: The first wave of college students returning to their dorms aren’t finding the typical mobs of students and parents. What they found Friday were strict safety protocols and some heightened anxiety amid a global pandemic where virus infections are growing in dozens of states. North Carolina State University staggered the return of its students over 10 days and welcomed the first 900 students to campus, where they were greeted Friday by socially distant volunteers donning masks and face shields. Elon University mailed testing kits to all 7,000 students ahead of their arrival in a few weeks. At N.C. State, the university usually houses 10,000 students but will have 6,700 on its Raleigh campus this fall, said Chancellor Randy Woodson. And those students were arriving over an extended period instead of all at once over a single weekend as they normally would.
Bismarck: The state’s daily count of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases continues dropping after reaching a record high, health officials said Sunday. The North Dakota Department of Health reported 58 new infections Sunday, bringing the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state to 6,660 since the pandemic began. Health officials reported a daily high of 168 cases Friday. North Dakota recorded two new deaths: a man in his 70s from Grand Forks County and woman in her 50s from Burleigh County. Both had underlying health conditions. That raises North Dakota’s death toll to 105. Burleigh County reported 17 newly confirmed cases Sunday. A total of 50 North Dakota patients are currently hospitalized, up five from Saturday.
Columbus: More than 20 death row inmates in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak flaring up just this past week. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction confirmed the first case July 24 but by Friday said the number had jumped to 23. Thirteen of those inmates were tested based on their symptoms, and 10 were asymptomatic and tested through contract tracing, said prisons spokesperson JoEllen Smith. Medical staff are monitoring the inmates, who are being quarantined and isolated under the prison system’s coronavirus policy, Smith said. The inmates are all housed at Chillicothe Correctional Institution in southern Ohio, where the state’s death row is based. All inmates there undergo daily symptom screening, Smith said. Ohio has about 140 death row inmates, most housed at the Chillicothe prison. No executions are scheduled for this year as the state struggles to find drugs for its lethal injection process.
Oklahoma City: The state reported another 494 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and one more death linked to the illness caused by the new coronavirus. The state has seen 38,225 confirmed cases of the virus and 550 deaths, an increase from from the 37,731 confirmed cases Saturday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. More than 30,800 people are reported to have recovered from the disease. The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Portland: Officials said Friday that an administrative change will enable the state to offer early prepayments to “tens of thousands” of unemployed workers waiting to have their claims adjudicated. The state’s adjudication process has been clogged by a backlog that typically runs between 12 and 16 weeks, leaving many newly jobless Oregonians without income for months during the coronavirus pandemic, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports. Qualifying workers will receive prepayments while their claims work through the adjudication process. They will have to pay the money back if Oregon ultimately denies their claims, but the state says it chose participants who are likely to have claims approved. The prepayments will still take “several weeks,” according to David Gerstenfeld, the Oregon Employment Department’s interim director.
Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to the governor’s statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, leaving in place an order that shields renters from losing their homes for failing to pay rent during the pandemic. Two months after agreeing to decide the issue, the state’s high court, without explanation, abruptly dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association and individual landlords that challenged Gov. Tom Wolf’s constitutional authority to prevent evictions of nonpaying tenants. Housing advocates expressed relief and landlords frustration, while a dissenting justice had harsh words for the majority, which said in Friday’s unsigned, one-line ruling that the court had made a mistake by accepting the case in the first place.
Providence: School districts will need help from the state if they are to make classrooms coronavirus-safe for the return of students this fall, an expert said during an online forum hosted by Gov. Gina Raimondo. The most effective way to protect students, faculty and staff is to provide hand sanitizer and masks to everyone, install Plexiglas where appropriate, and ensure all schools have enough cleaning supplies to frequently sanitize classrooms, Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist and pediatrician Dr. Sten Vermund said during Thursday’s forum. “We’re going to need to have some investments in our schools … we teachers can’t do it all by ourselves,” he said. Vermund said children handle the coronavirus well, but the danger is that they can pass it on to teachers and other adults who are at greater risk.
Columbia: As state officials grapple with ways to carry out November’s general election amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, Democrats are again taking legal action to challenge limits on absentee voting, warning that poll workers and voters “are headed for calamity” unless changes are made. “The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the orderly conduct of the November general election by diminishing the number of election workers willing to expose themselves to certain harm and the number of available polling locations willing to welcome the public,” attorneys for the state Democratic Party wrote Friday in a petition with the South Carolina Supreme Court taking action against state House Speaker Jay Lucas. The filing asks the South Carolina Supreme Court to adopt a plan by state election officials that calls for no-excuse absentee voting, eliminates the absentee witness requirement and gives more time for counting absentee ballots.
Sioux Falls: As Gov. Kristi Noem pushes schools to reopen, a fundraising email from her campaign says she is discouraging school districts from requiring masks and telling parents they should send their children to school without face coverings. The Republican governor made the argument for schools reopening last week, saying research indicates the health risks are low for children. She has repeatedly cast doubt on the practicality and efficacy of wearing masks to prevent COVID-19 infections, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that “there is increasing evidence that cloth face coverings help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.” The fundraising email from Noem’s campaign said, “Governor Kristi Noem will not issue a state-wide mandate for distance learning, and is encouraging all families to send their children back to school – without masks.”
Nashville: Metro police on Saturday cited two “transpotainment” drivers on Broadway for continuing to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Transpotainment” vehicles, which frequently feature shouting, inebriated tourists and loud music, include but are not limited to converted school buses, hot tubs, barges or tractors. Pedal taverns are also considered “transpotainment” vehicles. They are largely found on Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville. The citations came after the vehicles continued to operate despite a public health order that took effect Friday directing such vehicles to stop operating as part of an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Prior to the Friday public health order, “transpotainment” vehicles were allowed to continue to operate without alcohol. But officials bolstered the order after photos emerged of people on such vehicles wearing no masks while holding plastic cups.
Austin: The state’s top teachers group criticized state guidelines for starting the school year Friday, saying they would unfairly punish districts that choose to stick with online instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic. The comments from the Texas State Teachers Association came after Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the state’s other Republican leaders on Friday endorsed the guidelines from Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Texas Education Agency that limit school districts to four weeks of exclusively online instruction unless a district gets a waiver from the agency. School districts would decide when and how to start their school year, but the state would set the number of days and hours of instruction required. Health officials are relegated to a purely advisory role unless a school is found to be contaminated by the coronavirus, in which case a health authority may close the school for disinfection.
St. George: The 2020 Washington County Fair is still on this week, despite the coronavirus pandemic, fair officials say. The 160th iteration of the fair is slated for Tuesday through Saturday, and no decision has been made by the board to cancel or postpone it based on the guidance of the governor or health officials. Earlier in the year, Gov. Gary Herbert implemented a ban on large gatherings like the fair in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but rules were eased later in the summer and now allow for gatherings of up to 6,000 people as long as they are held outdoors. Fair officials said they would install more handwashing stations and hand sanitizers throughout the Legacy Park area, with dedicated hours for seniors and one-way entrances and exits. There were no requirements for masks or face coverings.
Montpelier: Retail businesses were permitted to expand capacity from 25% to 50% starting Saturday at the same time that Vermont’s statewide mask mandate went into effect, Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday. The state will also give out up to 200,000 free cloth masks, to be distributed through emergency management factions of communities, at community action organizations and by the Vermont National Guard at food distribution sites, said Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. “The fact is we’ll continue to fight back against this virus until a vaccine has been developed and distributed, which is in all reality several months away,” Scott said. “So it’s up to us to protect the gains we’ve made and take steps forward when it makes sense to do so. If we all do our part to suppress this virus, we can get our kids back to school and keep our businesses open.”
Stuarts Draft: The Virginia Department of Health will be holding a COVID-19 testing event Tuesday in Stuarts Draft. The event will be appointment-only and allow those with appointments to get drive-thru testings. The testing event will happen at Stuarts Draft Park at the pool house at 96 Edgewood Lane from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. To schedule an appointment, call 1-855-949-8378. Registration closes Monday at noon. Tests are available for those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have had known close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case.
Seattle: The state’s embattled psychiatric hospital has seen a spike of more than 20 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. At least 57 workers at Western State Hospital have tested positive for coronavirus since mid-July, when that total was 38. Officials say two new patients also have the disease, bringing that total to 11. Hospital CEO Dave Holt told staff in an email that the uptick in cases reflects an increase in positive cases in the community and the state. The number of patients with the virus has remained lower, he said. “This confirms that the screening process works,” he said. Some workers blame the increase in cases on poor management and a lack of state or federal oversight.
Morgantown: Gov. Jim Justice has extended an order that closed all bars in Monongalia County for an additional 10 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. The latest order is effective until Aug. 13. The county includes West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus. Students will start moving back into campus residence halls Aug. 15. Monongalia County has reported at least 900 confirmed virus cases, by far the most in the state, according to state health officials. More than half of the county’s active cases are in the 20-to-29 age group. Statewide, there have been at least 6,850 confirmed virus cases and 117 deaths, health officials said. The state recorded 182 new cases Thursday, the highest daily total since the outbreak began. Officials also reported record highs in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients and virus ventilator use.
Lake Delton: A popular Wisconsin Dells attraction has closed until further notice after two employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Noah’s Ark Waterpark announced the closing Saturday on its website. In a statement, Noah’s Ark says it has implemented extensive safety protocols since opening this summer. The water park said it will be working closely with the Sauk County Health Department and other experts on how to move forward. “The first and foremost priority of Noah’s Ark is the health and safety of our Guests and Team Members,” the statement said. The closing came the same day that a statewide mask mandate ordered by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers took effect.
Douglas: Residents have raised concerns about a dozen piles of human feces and wads of used toilet paper found lining residential roads near a highway rest area that closed during the coronavirus pandemic. “I understand people need to relieve themselves,” said resident Jim Skeen, who owns property near Orin Junction, about 10 miles outside Douglas. “My wife and I have spotted people relieving themselves (along our driveway) on our way back home during daylight.” People have not been able to use rest area toilets after Republican Gov. Mark Gordon ordered the state Department of Transportation to close 10 locations earlier this summer due to budgetary concerns stemming from the pandemic, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. In addition to Orin Junction on Interstate 25, rest areas in Lusk, Guernsey, Greybull, Moorcroft, Star Valley, Ft. Steele, Sundance, Upton and Chugwater have all closed.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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