Montgomery: A federal judge has refused to temporarily block the state’s mask mandate and other health orders issued during the pandemic. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins on Tuesday refused to grant the temporary restraining order requested by plaintiffs represented by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Watkins said there is no urgency because the health orders were first issued this spring, and the mask order followed in July. “So, at least, Plaintiffs delayed more than two months in filing their motion; at most, they delayed more than five months. Either way, plaintiffs waited an impermissible amount of time to seek the ‘extraordinary and drastic remedy’ of a temporary retraining order,” Watkins said. He asked the two sides to file briefs on whether the case should be dismissed. Gov. Kay Ivey last week extended the state mask order through Nov. 8, saying it has proven effective even if some people do not like it.
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Juneau: The state has released a plan to divide $50 million in federal coronavirus relief funding payments among fishing industry workers affected by the pandemic. The state Department of Fish and Game proposed a split among charter guides, the commercial fleet and seafood processors of 32% each in a draft proposal released Monday, CoastAlaska reports. Federal guidance suggests the state set aside more than half of its relief funds for processors, about a third for commercial fishermen, and 5% for sport fishing guides and lodges. The state also proposed setting aside portions of the funds for subsistence and aquaculture at 3% and 1% respectively. The two groups were not included in the federal guidance. Relief applicants will be required to document significant losses over the course of the pandemic compared to previous years.
Phoenix: A state lawmaker ill with COVID-19 who is on a ventilator at a Maryland hospital’s intensive care unit is showing some signs of improvement, his wife announced Wednesday. Democratic Rep. Lorenzo Sierra of Avondale was visiting family in Washington when he fell ill. He went to a hospital Sunday and was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Monday. His wife, Rhonda Cagle, tweeted Wednesday that Sierra was “taking small but mighty steps.” “Ventilator usage reduced from 100% to 40%. Slowly reducing sedation; he is following basic commands,” she wrote. “He opened his eyes for me. When I told him I love him, he nodded. It is the best gift. Pls keep praying,” she wrote. Cagle also was infected and is recovering in isolation with relatives, according to House Democratic caucus officials. Cagle and Sierra tested negative before leaving for Washington and took extensive precautions but still got sick, Cagle wrote on Facebook.
Little Rock: The number of people in the state’s hospitals because of the illness caused by the coronavirus rose to a new high Wednesday. The Department of Health reported the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 rose by nine to 538 – a record high for Arkansas, a day after the state hit its highest point since early August. About 27% of the state’s 9,112 hospital beds and 10% of its 1,002 intensive care unit beds are available, according to the state Department of Health. Sixty-five percent of ventilators in the state remain available. The state reported 242 COVID-19 patients are in ICUs. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, based on a pattern the state has seen recently, cases may rise further at the end of the week following people going in for testing after a weekend. “If the trend holds, cases may go up again toward the end of the week and then decline from there,” Hutchinson said in a statement.
Sacramento: The state’s embattled unemployment benefits agency said Wednesday that it has cleared about 246,000 of its more than 1.6 million backlogged claims following a two-week “reset” in which it stopped taking new applications so it could improve its technology. But the agency said it would be January before it clears the backlog, frustrating state lawmakers who questioned the agency’s director during a legislative hearing Wednesday. Sharon Hilliard, executive director of the Employment Development Department, said some people have been waiting as long as five months to get benefits. “To be honest, it’s very hard for us to tell our constituents that we have 100% certainty that this will be resolved in the next couple of months given the track record,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco.
Greeley: Two women who were hired to screen employees after a coronavirus outbreak at a beef plant say the owners did not take screening protocols seriously and were negligent. The two say in affidavits that JBS USA Holdings provided screening equipment that did not function properly, forced employees to pay for coronavirus tests and encouraged noticeably sick employees to continue working. Hundreds of workers at the JBS plant in Greeley were infected with the coronavirus, and at least six died, officials have said. One of the women who signed the affidavit, Sarah-Jean Buck, alleged JBS was negligent even as case numbers continued to rise. Buck said she quit her job after she was told she should have cleared an employee for work whom she sent home for having symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. Buck said supervisors told her she should have cleared the woman because the worker could not afford a $100 coronavirus test.
Hartford: The state’s third reopening phase was set to begin Thursday, a milestone during the coronavirus pandemic that is getting a lukewarm reception from some business owners and arts aficionados. A number of restaurant owners say they won’t be able to reach the new 75% capacity limit for indoor dining because they don’t have the space, primarily due to the requirement that tables be at least 6 feet apart. The indoor capacity maximum is being increased from 50%. Indoor performing arts venues will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, while outdoor event venues will be allowed to increase their capacity from 25% to 50%, with required masks and social distancing at all locations. But many theaters and concert venues have decided not to open this week, as shows already have been canceled, and many say they can’t make money with half-full facilities.
Dover: More than a month into Wesley College’s school year, COVID-19 testing is still not available on campus. The school, which has about 1,600 students, is primarily teaching courses in person. There is one school nurse. The University of Delaware and Delaware State University – which are both using remote learning – are providing regular, aggressive on-campus testing for students, staff and faculty. If a Wesley student or staff member feels they need a COVID-19 test, they must go to a community testing site about a mile and a half away. The college says it provides a free taxi service for students who don’t have cars. In Delaware, people ages 18 to 34 continue to see the highest rate of infection. Wesley President Robert Clark said he believes on-campus testing could occur in the next month. The state health department is providing at-home testing kits, he said, which should be available to students in the next week.
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that the district’s public health emergency order has been extended until Dec. 31, WUSA-TV reports. The previous emergency order was set to expire Oct. 9 but was extended as D.C. remains in Phase 2 of reopening. Telework is still encouraged within the district, and mass gatherings are permitted up to 50 people. Certain activities, such as those at churches, are allowed to increase that number if requested and approved from a waiver. A number of restrictions still remain in place in order to slow the spread of the virus. D.C health officials reported 45 cases of coronavirus Wednesday, closer to the district’s average number, following Tuesday’s report of more than 100 cases. D.C. is now averaging 53 cases of the virus per day, up from 43 cases two weeks ago.
Tallahassee: After Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, restaurants and bars across the state, students didn’t hesitate to take full advantage of the city’s resurrected nightlife. Bajas Beachclub, which was closed by the state in late June for violating closure orders, held its grand reopening Saturday, and students arrived in droves, eagerly standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the parking lot. “I’m here tonight because I want to hang out with my friends and get absolutely [expletive]-faced,” said Chase Rodriguez, a junior at Florida State University. Consensus from the crowd suggested many students don’t see COVID-19 as an immediate threat. In fact, every student who spoke with the Tallahassee Democrat claimed to have already had the virus. Despite the lack of definitive information about the effectiveness of antibodies once recovery, many students say it’s why they feel they can hit the clubs without worry.
Atlanta: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows hosted a large wedding for his daughter that appeared to violate a state order and city guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, a newspaper reports. Photos of the event show that social distancing guidelines were not followed during the May 31 nuptials at the Biltmore Ballrooms Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. About 70 guests wore tuxedos and ball gowns but no masks at the indoor wedding, and photographs show groups of people clustered closely together in the same room throughout the evening, the newspaper says. Gov. Brian Kemp’s orders at the time banned gatherings of more than 10 people. The governor later loosened some coronavirus restrictions. The Biltmore Hotel was one of Atlanta’s most lavish gathering places for many years after it opened in 1924.
Honolulu: Despite increasing coronavirus cases across the U.S., state officials hope to reboot tourism next week by loosening months of economically crippling pandemic restrictions, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers. The plan, which was postponed after the virus surged in the summer, will allow travelers who provide negative virus test results within 72 hours of arrival to sidestep two weeks of quarantine. But the Oct. 15 launch of the pre-travel testing program is causing concern for some who say gaps in the plan could further endanger a community still reeling from summer infection rates that spiked to 10% after local restrictions eased. State Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Technology, said one problem is that travelers can choose not to get tested and instead quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, which means those with a negative test could get infected on the plane.
Boise: The way the state’s residents live and work is being changed forever by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday. The Republican governor said in a speech about the future of work that it’s important for employers and workers to be flexible and innovative and to “respond to challenges thoughtfully as they arise.” Little also announced the creation of the Youth Apprenticeship Program funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. It pairs young people, mainly juniors and seniors in high school but also workers up to 24 years old, with businesses to give them workforce experience. “It might sound a little strange to be starting this new initiative during a pandemic, but the realities are that Idaho employers desperately need skilled employees across the board,” Little said. The program is part of a statewide effort to have 60% of 25- to 34-year-old workers obtain a postsecondary credential.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed confidence Wednesday that Congress will put together another coronavirus pandemic relief package despite President Donald Trump’s instructions to shut down talks until after the election. The budget the Democratic governor signed last spring left a $5 billion gap for what lawmakers hoped by late summer would be a second federal stimulus grant. But Congress has been unable to agree on a package for states to relieve the economic damage done by the highly contagious coronavirus, which has slowed or shut down commerce nationally. Pritzker said the need is too great for Congress to disregard it. “Every state is going to need support from the federal government even though the president has apparently thrown the talks into disarray now that he’s on a cocktail of steroids coming out of the hospital,” Pritzker said.
Indianapolis: Local health officials warned Wednesday about a growing number of COVID-19 illnesses in the Evansville and South Bend areas as the state health department reported rates of new infections and hospitalizations across Indiana much higher than two weeks ago, when Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb decided to lift most statewide precaution rules. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Woody Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, lambasted Holcomb’s move as putting lives as risk, while Holcomb’s top health adviser defended the step by pointing out that nearly half of the state’s counties are at the lowest risk of infection spread under statewide tracking guidelines. The hospital beds designated for COVID-19 patients were nearly full in Elkhart County, just east of South Bend, said county Health Department spokeswoman Melanie Sizemore.
Johnston: Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday evoked President Donald Trump in saying, “We can’t let COVID-19 dominate our lives,” even as cases surge in the state. She acknowledged Iowa is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases and record hospitalizations but said the health care system could handle the increase, and no further action was needed to reduce infections. While Reynolds said the state has taken action to slow the spread of the virus, she argued it must balance safety precautions against moves to open businesses and schools and return to normal life. There were 444 people being treated for the coronavirus in hospitals as of Wednesday, a record number. In the past 24 hours, the state had 919 new confirmed cases and 15 more deaths. The White House Coronavirus Task force told Iowa officials Thursday that many virus-related deaths in the state were preventable.
Topeka: Top Republican legislators signed off Wednesday on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s request to extend a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic as the state set another record for COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Eight leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature, six of them Republicans, quickly and unanimously approved Kelly’s plan to extend the state of emergency until Nov. 15. Under a law enacted in June, top lawmakers must consider an extension once a month, and without their approval, the state of emergency would have expired Oct. 15, possibly hindering the ability of the state to move supplies and personnel around. Wednesday’s meeting was in sharp contrast to a contentious one last month, when top Republicans extracted a public promise from Kelly not to try to close businesses statewide again as she did in the spring. GOP leaders and the governor have been at odds for months over her handling of the pandemic.
Frankfort: Day care facilities will receive a one-time grant of $130 per child from federal coronavirus funds to help pay wages and other expenses, a state official said Wednesday. “It’s been a difficult year for child care,” Kentucky Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said. “The coronavirus closed all licensed, certified and registered facilities and impacted children, families and employees of these facilities as well as the owners of these businesses.” The funds will go to licensed day cares and certified homes to help pay wages; mortgage or rent, utilities and insurance payments for the facility; and other costs. The announcement came as Gov. Andy Beshear said there were 2,398 newly reported cases, although 1,472 were from a backlog of data from Fayette County. There were five new deaths, Beshear said.
New Orleans: Service workers who were laid off because of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy are earning a living again by helping others survive during the pandemic. Unemployed bartenders, musicians and casino employees who were among the thousands of service industry workers left without jobs when the city closed its bars and nightclubs in late March have been recruited to train and work with Resilience Force. The national nonprofit puts people to work in disaster recovery programs that focus on Black and other minority communities. As a member of the New Orleans Resilience Corps pilot program, former French Quarter bar manager Dazmine “Daz” Allen spends his days handing out COVID-19-safety flyers and personal protective equipment to residents and Hurricane Laura evacuees sheltering in the city. Allen said he filed for unemployment and food stamps and was “barely getting by” when he was recruited. “I feel like I can provide for myself, help my family … and working for an organization that has the primary goal to provide health care, health services to the community, to me is everything right now,” Allen said.
Portland: The state is moving to the next stage of reopening from closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Janet Mills announced this week. Beginning next Tuesday, indoor limits for indoor seated activity will increase to half of capacity or 100 people. For nonseated indoor activities, such as gyms, the limit remains 50. The order Mills signed Tuesday also expands statewide a mask requirement that currently applies only to coastal communities and bigger cities. “With winter weather approaching, we must support businesses across the state as outdoor service becomes less viable and people move inside,” Mills said in a statement. The expansion of the mask requirement makes clear that it includes locations such as private schools and local government buildings, as well as employees and customers in restaurants, lodging and retail establishments. Businesses that violate the orderscould face fines and the loss of licenses.
Westminster: The coronavirus pandemic is contributing to more people choosing to have cremations instead of funerals. The Carroll County Times reports Maryland’s cremation rate has gone from about 35% in 2010 to more than 50% in 2020. Jack Mitchell, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said the nation’s turn away from religion has helped fuel the number of cremations over the years. But he said COVID-19 restrictions on funeral size and fear of the virus have also prompted many to opt for it. Tom Fletcher, funeral director of Fletcher Funeral & Cremation Services in Westminster, said cremation can also be more flexible than an immediate burial with a viewing. At the same time, he said, more people are starting to come out for funerals, but people are still cautious. “It’s a very tough situation for families, especially those that have lost someone to COVID,” Fletcher said.
Video: Here’s a timeline of President Trump’s week preceding the Covid-19 diagnosis, and after (CNBC)
Boston: Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard are teaming up for a six-month study of 10,000 people to help them better understand the prevalance of COVID-19 in the area and identify potential surges in the fall and winter, they said in a joint statement. The TestBoston study will provide monthly at-home kits for the virus and antibodies against it. Participants, selected from Brigham and Women’s patients and reflecting the demographics of greater Boston, will also complete routine symptom surveys and be able to seek extra testing if they develop symptoms. Study results may reveal critical clues and warning signs about how COVID-19 cases are changing in the area, while helping investigators establish a model for at-home sample collection, the statement said. The study will also help clinicians learn more about whether prior infection provides any protection against subsequent reinfection.
Lansing: Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II called Wednesday for Republican legislative leaders to enact and enforce a mask requirement inside the House and Senate chambers at all times, saying he fears for the safety of his family and others when lawmakers do not wear a face covering. The Democrat presides over session in the Senate, which returned Thursday to start passing bills following a state Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus orders. The state health department requires masks at indoor nonresidential gatherings, but the Legislature is seen as exempt from that order because it is a separate branch of government. Though legislators have been encouraged to wear masks, many Republicans either do not wear them at all or remove them to speak or while seated alone at their desk. Democrats are more vigilant about using masks, though some remove them to give formal remarks during session.
Minneapolis: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis left the campaign trail for the second time in less than a week Wednesday after learning he had been in contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. The Lewis campaign issued a statement saying the person, who was not identified for privacy reasons, tested positive Wednesday morning. So the former congressman began self-quarantining and making plans to get tested again, in keeping with federal guidelines. The statement said Lewis was feeling fine and displaying no symptoms. One campaign staffer who had been in contact with Lewis since Monday was also self-quarantining and getting tested, the campaign said. Lewis had just returned to the campaign trail Monday. He went into self-quarantine and stuck to virtual events Friday when it was announced President Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. Lewis greeted Trump on his arrival in Minneapolis last Wednesday.
Jackson: Those entering a school, a Wendy’s or a Walmart in the state must wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but those entering packed polling places don’t have to don one. “This is absolute insanity,” said Dr. Claude Earl Fox III, a Mississippi native and former head of public health in Alabama. Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson says masks can’t be mandated at the polls because it’s a federal election. Some governors in other states have stepped in anyway and received the backing of federal judges in enacting the requirement. Hinds County is requiring voters to wear masks on Election Day. People can’t be denied the right to vote, Hinds County Circuit Clerk Zack Wallace said, but when it comes to masks, they have to wear them as a matter of public health and safety. Failing to do so, he said, “is not taking care of people.” Last week Gov. Tate Reeves became the first governor to rescind a mask mandate.
Jefferson City: The state on Thursday reported an increase of more than 1,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and the highest number of hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected cases since the pandemic began. Data from the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services showed a total of 137,156 confirmed cases and 2,259 deaths since March. That was 1,505 more cases and 23 more deaths than reported Wednesday. The department also reported 1,344 Missourians were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases Wednesday – up from 1,241 the previous day. Also Thursday, the state labor department reported initial unemployment claims rose last week, after falling steadily in the previous three weeks. The department said 8,797 Missourians applied for unemployment assistance, up more than 1,400 from the week before.
Bozeman: Yellowstone National Park officials say 16 employees tested positive for COVID-19 in September, marking a significant uptick in cases. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the number of positive cases in September quadrupled from the number reported between May 18 and Aug. 30. During that time, four park employees and one contractor tested positive for the virus and have since recovered. Seven of the employees who tested positive in September work for the National Park Service, and nine work for concessions. Eight of the 16 employees have recovered. Park officials say all employees who have tested positive have been isolated according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Out of the estimated 2,000 Yellowstone employees, a total of 0.08% have tested positive for the virus. Testing also ramped up significantly in September.
Grand Island: Public schools in the city report they’re having a hard time finding substitute teachers to fill vacancies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Grand Island Public Schools is experiencing a rapid rise in teachers and staff having to quarantine after testing positive or being exposed to the virus, television station KSNB reports. District personnel chief Wayne Stelk said about a quarter of the district’s certified teaching staff have been sidelined “due to COVID-related situations.” Many substitutes are retired educators who are in a high-risk category, leading a number of them to decline requests to teach in schools where exposure is an issue, Stelk said. The district could have to move some schools to remote learning if the staffing shortage worsens, he said. Officials with Northwest Public Schools in Grand Island also report having trouble finding substitute teachers this year.
Las Vegas: Gov. Steve Sisolak has tested negative for the coronavirus a day after a positive COVID-19 test came back for one of his staff members working at his office in the state Capitol in Carson City, his spokeswoman said Wednesday. Sisolak has not had in-person contact with the staffer since mid-September but was tested Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution,” communications director Meghin Delaney said in a statement. Sisolak departed northern Nevada on Sept. 17 and has been working from Las Vegas since then, she said. He had planned to return to Carson City next week, “but travel is on hold for the time being,” Delaney said. The unidentified staffer received a positive result Tuesday after developing symptoms over the weekend. The staffer was last in the Capitol office Friday, she said. Contact tracing is underway, Delaney said.
Nashua: Seven people connected to a church have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and health officials are asking anyone who attended a multiday prayer session and other events to get tested. The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that it is investigating a potential outbreak associated with events hosted by Gate City Church, including a Sept. 19-28 prayer session. Health officials said anyone who attended events associated with the church since Sept. 19 should seek testing. According to a notice on the church’s website, services will be online for the next few weeks. “We have had a few of our members test positive for COVID-19 and while we do not operate in fear, we want to take every step necessary to mitigate your exposure and to be safe. Please know that these are not large numbers and understand that these are not Gate City Church Staff,” the website says.
Trenton: The state added 1,300 new coronavirus cases overnight, more than 1.5 times more than the previous day’s figure and the highest level since late May, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday. The biggest increases are in Ocean and Monmouth counties, the Democratic governor said during a news conference. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said most of the positive cases in Ocean County stem from Lakewood, predominantly among white men ages 19-49 and possibly related to religious services or celebrations in late September. Hospitalizations also climbed to 652, the highest level since early August, Murphy said. Eleven people were reported to have died overnight, bringing the statewide total to 14,373. The positivity rate for testing stood at 3.69%, while the rate of transmission fell to 1.22, down from 1.27. “We are anticipating a second wave, and we are preparing based on our prior experiences,” Persichilli said.
Santa Fe: Newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped to 426 statewide in the second-highest single-day tally of the pandemic, state health officials said Wednesday. Two fatalities were announced as virus-related deaths approach the 900 mark. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is showing no signs of infection as she self-quarantines in response to one positive test result by a custodian at the governor’s mansion in Santa Fe. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in New Mexico decreased over the past two weeks, going from four deaths per day Sept. 22 to three deaths per day Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. At the same time, the average positivity rate has climbed over the past two weeks from 2.1% to 3.65%, and daily positive tests have nearly doubled from 120 on Sept. 22 to 235 on Tuesday.
New York: Hundreds of businesses in neighborhoods where COVID-19 cases have spiked were supposed to be closed Thursday by order of the governor, but questions remained about how effectively officials would be able to enforce shutdown rules in areas where they’ve been met with resentment. In Brooklyn’s Borough Park section, the scene of two nights of protests against the restrictions, some merchants subject to the shutdown order appeared to be operating as usual at midday, including a barbershop, cellphone stores and a toy store. Mayor Bill de Blasio said 1,200 city workers would be out on the streets Thursday doing enforcement, though some of those efforts involved trying to educate businesses about rules imposed with little warning in hastily drawn zones with confusing borders. The restrictions involve parts of Brooklyn and Queens, sections of Orange and Rockland counties in the Hudson Valley and an area in Binghamton.
Raleigh: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper tested negative for the coronavirus last month and has never had a positive result, his office confirmed Wednesday. The governor’s Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, said Monday on Twitter that he “tested negative a few days ago ahead of my mother visiting.” Forest said he wanted to spend time with his family over the past weekend ahead of a final 30-day push to the Nov. 3 general election. He also urged reporters to question Cooper’s health, claiming the governor has spent “the past 207 days in hiding” at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh. Cooper went 16 days without a news conference in September – the longest gap between press conferences since the start of the pandemic. The confirmation of a negative test result comes as Cooper sharpens his criticism of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and his decision to return to the White House shortly after testing positive.
Bismarck: A state legislative candidate who won the June primary over the longtime incumbent and who was a target of Gov. Doug Burgum has died due to complications from COVID-19, his mother said Tuesday. David Andahl, 55, died Monday. His mother, Pat Andahl, told The Bismarck Tribune her son had been hospitalized and died after being sick for about four days. Pat Andahl said her son had been “very careful” about the pandemic and was passionate about the idea of serving in government. “He had a lot of feelings for his county … and wanting to make things better, and his heart was in farming. He wanted things better for farmers and the coal industry,” she said. Andahl and fellow District 8 House candidate Dave Nehring won the Republicans’ endorsements and voters’ nominations to defeat one of North Dakota’s most powerful lawmakers, Rep. Jeff Delzer, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Columbus: A voting rights group keen on expanding access to ballot drop boxes in November’s election is getting a second chance to make its case, after a federal judge agreed Thursday to reconsider his earlier ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster had dismissed the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s case Tuesday because he said Secretary of State Frank LaRose had issued a new order a day earlier that permitted ballot drop boxes at multiple locations within a county, as the institute’s lawsuit sought. But LaRose’s office said by allowing drop boxes “outside” boards of elections, his new directive was meant to restrict them to board property just outside the building – not to allow them off-site. The dispute comes as ballot drop boxes have become an appealing option for voters seeking to address worries about voting in person due to the pandemic and worries that voting by mail may not be reliable, a misstaken idea promoted by President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma City: The number of hospitalizations in the state due to the illness caused by the coronavirus surged above 700 on Wednesday to a new record one-day high. The number of people hospitalized, either confirmed with COVID-19 or under investigation for infection, reached 738, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health, an increase of 39 from Tuesday. While Oklahoma has seen a slight decrease in both new cases and test positivity over the past week, the state still far exceeds the national average in both categories and remains in the red zone with high levels of community transmission and “many preventable deaths,” according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report released Wednesday. State officials are working with hospitals to move patients to facilities with more bed capacity, said Oklahoma National Guard Lt. Col. Matt Stacy, who has coordinated the state’s surge plan.
Salem: Several workplace outbreaks have contributed to Marion County’s rise in COVID-19 cases, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The OHA identified new workplace outbreaks at Oregon State Hospital and Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem on Wednesday. The outbreak at Oregon State Correctional Institution was identified as having 41 new cases dating back to Sept. 28, and the outbreak at Oregon State Hospital was identified as having 20 cases, dating back to July 13. Workplace outbreaks were also identified with 20 cases at New Season Foods Company in Washington County, though it didn’t specify which location, and McDonald’s in Medford with 21 cases. The OHA said the outbreaks may include family members or other close contacts with employees.
West Manchester Township: It was a long, boring spring and summer for the four-footed members of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, who couldn’t visit nursing homes and hospitals. The coronavirus paused the professional canine therapeutic interactions with patients and hospital workers. “You could actually see him falling into a depression at home,” said Wendy Kadish of York Township, describing her 8-year-old Rottweiler, Roman, who was unable to do his “job” as the pandemic wore on. On Tuesday, Roman stood at the end of a long-stretched leash, absorbing delighted squeals and scratches from several hospital workers. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs was visiting UPMC Memorial for a pet parade on the sidewalks. Pet therapy has been suspended at the campus during the pandemic. The parade offered a chance for hospital workers to take a break with 12 furry visitors.
Providence: Some Providence College students resumed in-person classes Thursday for the first time since the school switched to a remote-only plan because of a coronavirus outbreak that affected more than 200 people. Only students who live on campus will be allowed to return to in-person classes at first, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Steven Sears said in a letter to the campus community. Students who live off campus will be allowed to resume in-person classes Monday, he said. The school’s stay-at-home order remains in effect. The school was given the go-ahead by the state Department of Health on Wednesday after there were no positives out of 293 student tests. The private Roman Catholic school moved to remote learning late last month after a surge in cases that affected mostly off-campus students who had been gathering in small groups. Gov. Gina Raimondo called the students selfish.
Columbia: The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a program created by Gov. Henry McMaster to allocate $32 million in federal pandemic aid to private and religious schools is unconstitutional because the public money would directly benefit the schools. In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Don Beatty acknowledged the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the lives of South Carolinians and the state’s education system, as well as the “unprecedented challenges” faced by state leaders including McMaster. But the difficulties of the pandemic could not dictate the court’s decision, Beatty wrote. The ruling comes days after congressional leaders called on the U.S. Department of Education to review the program, which they labeled “a voucher scheme,” arguing it violated “the plain text” of the coronavirus aid package and guidance provided by the federal department.
Sioux Falls: A small hospital serving the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has sent two coronavirus patients to an out-of-state hospital in recent days, the tribe’s health department said Wednesday, even as South Dakota’s top health officials insist the state has plenty of hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients. The Cheyenne River Sioux Health Department reported it tried to find better-equipped hospitals to transfer coronavirus patients, but 14 facilities said they were also diverting COVID-19 patients. Eventually, the tribal health department found a hospital in Burnsville, Minnesota, that would accept patients. Gov. Kristi Noem has made the state’s hospital capacity the bottom line of her coronavirus response strategy. But as hospitals feel the squeeze of a rising number of cases and hospitalizations, the state’s hospital systems have seen ripple effects. South Dakota experienced all-time highs for active coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths Thursday.
Memphis: The University of Memphis will begin staff reductions to offset a loss of $50 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, President M. David Rudd told faculty and staff in an email Wednesday. The reductions will affect facilities management and support services along with the following auxiliary groups: housing, the Holiday Inn, parking and transportation services, Tiger Copy and Graphics, mail services, dining services, conference and event services, and other “smaller units,” Rudd said. Colleges, academics and research groups are not affected by the reductions. Some administrative positions had already been consolidated and reorganized, while some vacant administrative positions are also being eliminated. The core leadership team, such as the President’s Council members, are taking a 10% salary reduction through the end of the fiscal year. Rudd is taking a 20% reduction through the end of the year.
Austin: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday allowed bars to begin reopening for the first time since June, ending a lockdown that began during a massive coronavirus outbreak that became one of the deadliest in the nation. However, the move doesn’t allow bars to fully reopen, nor everywhere in the state. Dallas and Houston leaders quickly made clear they would still keep bars sidelined, pointing to recent upticks in cases and hospitalizations. And bars that are given local permission to open starting next week can only do so at 50% capacity. Texas this week surpassed 16,000 virus deaths and is closing in on 800,000 confirmed cases. New cases in Texas have dramatically fallen since summer, and the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has leveled off around 3,200 – three times lower than July’s grim peak, but also a patient load that has stopped falling in the past two weeks.
Salt Lake City: The state surpassed the grim milestone Thursday of 500 deaths from the coronavirus as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations continued to break records. Utah has been in the midst of a record-setting surge in reported coronavirus cases over the past month. The state now ranks fifth in the country for newly confirmed infections per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Utah set a daily case count record with 1,501 new cases reported Thursday, as well as a record 237 patients who are currently hospitalized. Dr. Emily Spivak, an infectious diseases physician at University of Utah Health, said the intensive care unit at her hospital had reached 95% capacity. She issued a plea to residents during the governor’s weekly briefing to follow medical recommendations and wear masks so the state’s hospital systems don’t become overwhelmed.
Burlington: A low number of cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 means students in the city will be able to spend more time in class rather than study online. WCAX-VT reports Burlington officials say starting Oct. 19, students in kindergarten through second grade will transition from two days of in-person learning to four days. On Oct. 26, student in third through fifth grades will make the same transition. In a virtual meeting Wednesday, Mayor Miro Weinberger said the low number of virus cases in the city in September was better than officials could have expected. “The numbers in our schools, in the city and the state are suggesting that it’s time to move back to more in-person instruction,” Burlington School Superintendent Tom Flanagan said during the meeting with the mayor. Since August, the University of Vermont and Champlain College have conducted nearly 70,000 virus tests with 27 students testing positive.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he’s putting an additional $220 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds toward the state’s public schools. Northam said in a statement that the extra money would be used to help schools pay for testing supplies, personal protective equipment and technology needed for virtual learning. Virginia schools are currently operating in a mishmash fashion, with some districts offering in-person instruction while others are mostly virtual. The governor said the money would be distributed to all 135 school districts at a rate of $175 per pupil. He said every district would get a minimum of $100,000. The extra money comes on top of about $300 million in federal funds the governor has directed toward public schools during the pandemic. The state received $3.1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and has roughly $1.3 billion still unallotted.
Seattle: COVID-19 cases among students in more than a dozen sororities and fraternities at the University of Washington have topped 200. As of Thursday morning, 215 positive cases have been confirmed among 15 fraternities and sororities, spokesperson Victor Balta said on the school’s website. That’s up from 179 cases as of Tuesday and 131 cases Friday. According to the UW’s case tracking system, as of Oct. 6, 476 students, 63 staff and 10 faculty have tested positive since Feb. 27. Students who have tested positive or have COVID-19-like symptoms are being told to isolate in their current place of residence, according to the university. The university is not aware of any students who have been hospitalized or reported severe symptoms of the virus. An outbreak in June infected 154 students in 15 fraternity houses at the university.
Charleston: Two hospital nurses in the state have died from the coronavirus, officials said. West Virginia University Health System President and CEO Albert Wright said Jeannette Williams Parker was a nurse at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, news outlets report. According to her obituary, Parker, 48, of Rivesville, died Sept. 30. “Jeannette’s passing is also an unwelcome reminder that COVID-19 remains with us,” Wright said. Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said Wednesday that a nurse at Mildred-Mitchell Bateman Hospital, a state-run facility in Huntington, also died from COVID-19. “This was one of ours, and we are just deeply saddened,” Crouch said. Gov. Jim Justice said during a news conference Wednesday that “we should continue to remember all of these first-line responders. These are the real heroes. Now we have lost two nurses within our state.”
Milwaukee: Health officials say the city will enforce its own coronavirus orders for bars and restaurants, which doesn’t necessarily limit the businesses to 25% capacity imposed under Gov. Tony Evers’ new restrictions. The Milwaukee Health Department said in a statement that Evers’ order permits local municipalities to have more restrictive orders in place, and the city determined its plan fits that criteria. Even though the city’s current order “permits a larger threshold of individuals in certain places than (Evers’ order) allows, the additional restrictions listed under the local order do more to prevent COVID-19 transmission than Governor Evers’ Emergency Order #3,” health officials said in a statement. The local order requires restaurants and bars to submit an 80-point COVID-19 checklist to the health department in order to operate. Under the order, capacity limits are waived if a bar or restaurant has an approved COVID-19 safety plan.
Cheyenne: Coronavirus hospitalizations in the state reached a new high Wednesday as a fall surge in infections continued unabated, raising concern that small hospitals could run out of room to treat intensive-care patients. Forty-seven people were hospitalized with the COVID-19 illness, up from 24 a week ago, which at the time was the most since hospitalizations peaked at 23 in April. The 47 patients were at 14 hospitals around the state. Wyoming health officials aren’t worried that COVID-19 patients are about to overwhelm any specific hospital, department spokeswoman Kim Deti said. The small intensive-care capacities at most Wyoming hospitals were a general concern, however. “Any of the small ones would be of concern because with their capacity, it just doesn’t take much,” Deti said Wednesday. ”None of our hospitals are terribly large.”
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Post-COVID partying, therapy dogs, rising hospitalizations: News from around our 50 states