Montgomery: Alabama and much of the Deep South are seeing a spike in coronavirus cases as some have stopped heeding warnings of the disease, alarming public health officials and people who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, Alabama had the second-highest number of new cases per capita in the nation. South Carolina was fourth. Louisiana and Mississippi were also in the top 10. “We are extremely concerned about these numbers. We know if they continue, we will see more hospitalizations and more deaths,” Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said. The combination of preexisting health conditions and limited health care access in the region, along with pockets of public skepticism about health officials’ advice on the illness, complicate attempts to manage the virus. Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine, said the South has high rates of diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and high blood pressure – all illnesses that put people at risk for poorer outcomes with COVID-19. But Vickers said human behavior is the most difficult aspect of fighting the disease. “When you open the doors and you look at the beaches, you look at the restaurants and you look at cities that choose not to do masks, or individuals who don’t, … I would say our behaviors create the biggest challenge for us,” Vickers said. Vickers said people who won’t wear a mask for their own protection should “think about worrying about infecting someone else.”
Anchorage: The state government said child-care providers will receive an additional $10.5 million from the state’s portion of federal coronavirus relief funds. State Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said in a statement that the department and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy directed the additional funding to businesses providing child care, The Anchorage Daily News reported. “We found that the funding available to this sector was not coming fast enough,” Crum said. Child care is crucial to the economy because it allows parents to return to work, said Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread Alaska, which provides a child-care resource and referral network. The programs need government assistance to survive the financial impact of the pandemic and “to provide strong child care infrastructure when this is all over,” Berglund said. The state previously told licensed child-care providers to expect more federal relief money than they received. The state’s Division of Public Assistance announced enough funding would be available to cover revenue losses among providers for March, April and May. But the funds only covered March payments with $6.5 million in federal funds and another $2.6 million in state money. About half of Alaska’s child-care providers temporarily shut their doors in March, and others operated with severe reductions, Berglund said. About 69% are now open, but some have closed permanently, including at least five in Anchorage. Many of those remaining open operate at 30% to 50% capacity, Berglund said.
Phoenix: A mall that was once considered a perennial teen hangout and featured in the movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is closing. The owners of Metrocenter Mall announced that the north Phoenix shopping complex is shuttering after 47 years mainly because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The mall’s last day of operation will be June 30. But tenants have until July 15 to clear out. Metrocenter was facing declining foot traffic before the pandemic began. Several storefronts were already vacant. The mall closed in mid-March under a statewide shutdown and reopened May 9. But it never recovered, according to mall managers. Constructed in 1973, the mall was a popular hub over the years that included a movie theater, skating rink and arcade. The mall’s biggest claim to fame might be serving as a backdrop in action scenes in the 1989 time-travel comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” starring Keanu Reeves.
Little Rock: Some school districts are completing virtual learning options for students in kindergarten through 12th grades because officials are uncertain if schools can safely operate on a traditional schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Education Secretary Johnny Key have repeatedly said that they want schools to reopen since closing in mid-March, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. But schools have been warned that they might have to pivot among traditional and virtual educational programs. Last week, Hutchinson said districts want to teach in the classroom. But if someone tests positive for the new coronavirus or there are students with preexisting conditions, then districts need to be ready to have online instruction. Superintendent Mike Poore of the Little Rock school district said they intend to roll out their 2020-21 school year plan no later then the first week of July. It might change depending on guidance from state officials, but it calls for a virtual instruction and a more traditional learning option for its more than 20,000 students. “We’ll do everything that is humanly possible to follow recommendations … and requirements,” Poore said of safely reopening schools. Keith McGee, the interim superintendent at North Little Rock School District, said they have not made a final decision about school structure this coming year. But there are some ideas that are being considered, which include a virtual academy and a traditional learning environment that would require following safety directives. More information will be available to parents during the “Virtual Cupcake and Conversations” event on July 9.
San Diego: This year’s Miraramar Air Show in Southern California, billed as the world’s largest military air display, has been canceled over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The show, which usually draws more than 500,000 spectators, was scheduled for September at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. Col. Charles Dockery, the base’s commanding officer, made the decision as a safety measure because of “public health risks” in the midst of the continuing COVID-19 outbreak, a statement from the base said. “The Miramar Air Show brings in aviation enthusiasts from all across the United States and from every corner of the world,” Dockery said in the statement. “While we had initially hoped to host the show and help usher in a re-opened San Diego, there are still a great many risks posed with a mass gathering of this size and scale to do it in a way that ensures our guests’ absolute safety. It remains a prudent choice to look ahead to 2021 and make it better than ever.” The base said Miramar is the largest military air show in the world. It is one of many large events that have been canceled this year because of concerns over COVID-19, including county fairs, Comic-Con in San Diego and the annual Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals.
Pueblo: Gov. Jared Polis signed a slew of bills Monday aimed at sharing federal CARES Act dollars and bringing coronavirus pandemic relief to Coloradans as he urged residents to “build on the success” the state is seeing to avoid a virus resurgence that could hurt the economy. During a brief teleconference with The Pueblo Chieftain on Monday, Polis said he soon will sign health care legislation that will offer a 26% reduction in insurance premiums for residents and also pave the way for “absolutely critical access to telehealth and telemedicine” consultations that will prevent residents having to go out for routine health care. “We need to build on the success. If there is a virus resurgence, it will hurt the economy,” Polis said. “We need to continue to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing so we don’t experience growth” in coronavirus cases. The bills Polis signed will provide $20 million in housing assistance to help renters and homeowners unable to make payments; and $20 million for small businesses, especially rural businesses that have not previously received Payroll Protection Plan dollars as well as those that are veteran-, minority- or women-owned. Another $5 million was earmarked for basic utility services for those financially impacted by the pandemic. Polis also signed bills that provide additional behavioral health care dollars to assist those facing substance abuse and domestic violence issues; funding for unemployment, which is at a record level in the state; and paid sick leave for hourly workers.
New Haven: City officials have shut down a bar after more than 1,000 patrons were witnessed late Saturday, a violation of the state’s reopening rules for outdoor dining and outdoor events, as well as various health codes. In a statement released Monday by Mayor Justin Elicker’s office, Building Inspector Jim Turcio said he saw the patrons firsthand and asked the owners of 50’s Lounge LLC to close but they refused. Bars have not yet been allowed to open in Connecticut. “We spoke to the owners of this establishment and made a request that they shut down immediately, with which they did not comply, and we had no choice but to shut them down as a result of these violations,” Turcio said. Owner Joy Monsanto, who owns the establishment, told NBC Connecticut the event was held to celebrate Juneteenth and no one was inside the bar. “So there wasn’t a thousand people in the establishment,” Monsanto said. “There may have been people sprinkled throughout the parking lot.” The city’s health director issued a cease-and-desist letter to the owners, alleging numerous violations including failing to ensure the attendees at a large outdoor public gathering remained at least 6 feet apart; failing to ensure they were wearing face masks except when dining; permitting the sale of alcohol without the sale of food; and operating in excess of 50% capacity on an outside deck, among other violations.
Newark: University of Delaware students will return to campus in the fall, president Dennis Assanis said Tuesday, but with different class schedules, health protocols and a blend of online and in-person learning. Following the spring semester’s last-minute transition to online learning, in-person classes will resume Sept. 1. However, students will leave campus over Thanksgiving break and complete the remaining weeks of classes and finals remotely, a coursework schedule many colleges are adopting. Residence halls will also be operating, and move-in dates will be spread over the second half of August. “This reflects our decisions as of today, based on the information we have as of today,” Assanis told the Board of Trustees on Tuesday. “As Dr. [Anthony] Fauci says, we don’t control the timing, the virus controls the timing.” Plans for the fall semester are still subject to change, Assanis said, and the university will release weekly updates throughout the summer. Following the state’s limits on indoor gatherings, in-person classes will be capped at 49 students with one professor. These classes will operate on what the university calls an A/B schedule. For one week, half of classes will be taught in-person and half will be taught online. The next week, the classes will switch. This will continue each week through the semester. In order to lessen traffic on campus, there will be a 25-minute passing period between classes, and classes will operate from 8 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. In-person classes will meet for 75 minutes twice a week, spaced out Monday through Saturday. All classes are prepared to move fully online if necessary during the semester, and the university will make accommodations for faculty members and students who cannot attend in-person classes for health reasons.
District of Columbia
Washington: D.C. Metro will reopen 15 of its stations on June 29 after closing those locations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, WUSA-TV reported. Three stations on the Orange and Silver lines – Greensboro, East Falls Church and McLean – will reopen with shuttle bus service because of the ongoing platform reconstruction work at East Falls Church. Metro announced on March 17 the drastically reduced service as stay-at-home orders were issued, reducing the number of bus lines and rail stations in addition to scaling back on train frequency to every 30 minutes. Also on June 29, buses will be added to the system’s 14 busiest bus lines to provide more capacity and more frequent service as the region reopens, officials said. To make these additions possible, Metro will temporarily suspend bus service on four routes that have extremely low ridership: NH2, C14, G2 and M6. Metro is asking customers along these routes to use other Metrobus routes nearby.
Orlando: The state suspended the alcohol license of The Knight’s Pub, a popular bar where dozens of workers and patrons have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, after a state inspector found patrons weren’t socially distancing and following other rules meant to slow the virus’ spread. At least 13 employees and 28 patrons have tested positive for COVID-19 at the The Knight’s Pub, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation said late Monday in a statement. But the number of cases linked to the bar could be much higher. Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in Orlando, said without naming the establishment, that a bar near the University of Central Florida campus had been linked to 152 coronavirus cases.
Atlanta: Gov. Brian Kemp is giving lawmakers permission to spend $250 million from Georgia’s rainy day fund to decrease budget cuts in the year beginning July 1. Kemp agreed to tap the state’s piggy bank Monday as he set a new revenue estimate for the 2021 budget year because of the coronavirus pandemic, cutting the ceiling for spending state-collected revenue from $28.1 billion to $25.9 billion. The Republican governor’s power to set the maximum amount of revenue that Georgia’s government can spend in a year is one of his key influences over how the General Assembly writes a budget. His new estimate of $2.2 billion less in state funds is actually an improvement over earlier outlooks. It will equal a 10% funding cut for state agencies, K-12 schools, universities and colleges, down from earlier forecasts of as much as 14% reductions.
Wailuku: Democratic state House Rep. Tina Wildberger and her husband, Michael, are scheduled to be arraigned on charges of violating a coronavirus stay-at-home order for stretching on a Maui beach. Wildberger and her husband are scheduled to appear in Wailuku District Court on July 16, The Maui News reported Saturday. The citations issued by police said the couple was at Keawakapu Beach in Kihei on May 3 and were seen stretching without moving from a spot for more than 10 minutes. They told an officer they did the same thing the previous day without being cited by officers who passed by, the citations said. The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $5,000. Tina Wildberger said in an email that police officers on all-terrain vehicles were stopped nearby while she and her husband were stretching. One of the officers approached and said they were observed remaining in one place for 10 minutes in violation of health restrictions. “We responded that we are actively stretching and that beach exercise had been permitted by the mayor,” she said. Mayor Michael Victorino’s emergency order that took effect in mid-March prohibited sunbathing, sunset-watching and other sedentary activities at beaches, while other activities including exercise and fishing were permitted. Maui County beaches were reopened May 16 for all activities. When appearing in court, “we intend to present that while officers were put in a very difficult position trying to adjudicate various behaviors, all in an effort to keep residents safe, this case was clearly one of what-aboutism,” she said. Wildberger represents state House District 11, which includes Kihei, Wailea and Makena.
Twin Falls: The 2020 Idaho primary drew the state’s highest voter turnout in decades in an election conducted entirely though mail-in voting for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office said 335,037 residents voted in the statewide primary for which results were reported earlier this month, The Times-News reported. The voter turnout of 36.94% was the highest in an Idaho primary since a 41.34% turnout in 1980. There were 906,877 registered voters at the time of the election, an increase of about 19% from 2016. Idaho’s voting-age population increased by 11% over the same period. “I thought it was a thundering success,” Deputy Secretary of State Jason Hancock said. High turnout could be explained by increased media attention on the unique election, and voters might have had more free time, Hancock said. “There were a lot of people with the lockdown going on who were just sitting at home and didn’t have as much to do,” he said. Registered voters were required to request a ballot, but the state enabled online requests for the first time. About 170,000 of the 429,463 people who received a ballot submitted an online request. The state also sent mail-in requests with prepaid postage to all households for voters who did not apply online.
Chicago: A federal judge ordered the release from prison of an alleged organized crime enforcer who is said to have health issues that place him at heightened risk from the novel coronavirus. Mario Rainone, 65, has spent nearly half of his life in prison for extorting borrowers with death threats and throwing a grenade onto a theater roof to take over the business, among other crimes. He was serving time for gun possession. Rainone asked for release to home confinement last month, saying prostate cancer, liver disease and heart problems make him susceptible to COVID-19. Court records showed U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected prosecutors’ objections and granted Rainone’s request, ordering prison officials to release him for time served. “The court is optimistic that Rainone understands that given his long criminal history and his advancing age, he is likely to spend the rest of his natural life imprisoned if he breaks the law again,” Leinenweber wrote, noting Rainone’s last conviction for violent crime was more than 30 years ago. Rainone was released from prison in in 2006 after serving time for racketeering and extortion and was not allowed to have a firearm. Then, in 2009, authorities found a stolen Smith & Wesson revolver during a search of his home. Leinenweber gave Rainone a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu said Rainone’s prostate cancer had been successfully treated seven years earlier, and he accused Rainone of misleading the judge.
Indianapolis: The state’s public schools can apply for funding to improve their remote learning capabilities during the coronavirus pandemic through a $61.6 million grant program, Gov. Eric Holcomb said. The deadline is July 17 to apply for the needs-based, competitive funding through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief, which is financed by the federal CARES Act. Traditional public school corporations, public charter schools, accredited nonpublic schools, higher education institutions and other education-related entities are eligible to apply for the funding. The grants will go toward paying for digital learning devices, technologies to boost internet connectivity and to support partnerships that advance remote learning. The state expects to award dozens of grants through the program, which is a collaboration between the governor’s office, the Indiana Department of Education, the Commission for Higher Education and the State Board of Education.
Des Moines: Iowa State University economists estimated that Iowa farmers – corn, soybean, pork, beef and ethanol producers – will lose nearly $7 billion because of the coronavirus pandemic. The largest hits are to ethanol producers, estimated to lose $2.5 billion, and hog producers, shorted an estimated $2.1 billion. The Trump administration has sent $4 billion in payments to U.S. farmers to help cover losses because of the pandemic, part of $16 billion that’s available to provide direct aid to offset losses for farmers and ranchers. Iowa farmers have snagged $423.5 million of the pandemic payments, the most of any state nationally, based on USDA data through Monday. But critics said the coronavirus program addresses only a small portion of the losses farmers are experiencing. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other major ag groups are pushing Congress to include agriculture in the next federal coronavirus aid package.
Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly is recommending that communities wait a little bit longer before moving to the next phase of reopening as cornovirus cases increase. The “Phase Out” stage of Kelly’s Ad Astra reopening plan was set to begin Monday, but Kelly and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are now advising communities to stay in Phase 3 for at least two more weeks. The main difference is that Phase 3 limits mass gatherings to no more than 45 people. The “Phase Out” stage merely urges social distancing but doesn’t limit the size of crowds. The ultimate decision, though, rests with local officials. “Though many Kansans and communities have been social distancing, wearing masks, and working hard over the past few weeks to mitigate the spread of the virus, we have unfortunately seen an increase in disease spread,” Kelly said in a news release.
Louisville: The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to cancel the Kentucky State Fair, as it has several state fairs across the nation, but it will dramatically dial back the tradition-laden event scheduled for Aug. 20-30. Because of restrictions and social distancing requirements, the fair is expected to draw about half of the usual 500,000 visitors. And many vendors intend to sit it out this year because of the lack of coveted indoor spaces. Some companies and groups are predicting they will trim back their expenditures. “It’s going to be a very different fair,” Ian Cox, a spokesman for Kentucky Venues, said. In past years, the fair allocated 7 square feet per guest. This year, it will allot 15, which will require organizers to slice the normal attendance in half. Gates will be closed whenever necessary to limit the crowds. Aisles inside the Kentucky Exposition Center will be one-way and widened. To accommodate daily cleanings, hours will be reduced this year for the general public. The plan allows for several family friendly amenities, including midway rides, free concerts, roving entertainment and the 4H livestock competition. But much of what people have come to expect at the fair will be gone or drastically reduced. The World Championship Horse Show, usually a huge draw: It will be held at Freedom Hall in front of just 310 spectators. Also canceled: The Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Country Ham Breakfast and the champion ham auction, which typically raises $1 million. Nonlivestock competitions, everything from largest watermelon to the blue ribbon-winning cake and home brewed beer, also have been canceled. There were 20,807 entries last year.
Livingston: Laine Hardy, the 2019 winner of “American Idol,” said he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 but his symptoms are mild and he is recovering under home quarantine. “This wasn’t what I expected on the first day of summer,” the 19-year-old from Livingston wrote on his Facebook page and on Instagram. “My doctor confirmed I have Coronavirus, but my symptoms are mild.” He ended his tweet: “Y’all stay safe & healthy!” Hardly had performed Friday, singing the national anthem at swearing-in ceremonies for Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard’s third term, The Advocate reported. Hardy also recently completed a virtual tour that was watched by more than 2 million viewers. And his next livestream is scheduled Thursday night. Acoustic versions of his new songs “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Let There Be Country” will debut on Friday.
Freeport: A candy company found something sweet during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Diseaser Control and Prevention, has served as inspiration for the “Shah Bar” created by Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections. The candy bars feature an image of the smiling, bespectacled doctor, along with a big red heart in an outline of the state. The doctor “has been a big part of not only keeping Maine safe but also to convey a sense of warmth and caring for the people of Maine. He seems to really have a lot of compassion,” Kristin Frazier from Wilbur’s told WCSH-TV. He’s become the face of the state response to the pandemic through daily briefings that were held for weeks. He has been praised for his calm, reassuring demeanor. He has also reminded Mainers to take time to do things that bring them joy, such as eating soup and calling their mothers. Shah was the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health before coming to Maine. He had been on the job for less than a year when the pandemic struck.
Baltimore: Faculty members at Johns Hopkins University are demanding that the school provide a detailed report of its finances and put a moratorium on cuts to research funding and staffing salaries announced in April as a result of multimillion-dollar losses arising from the coronavirus pandemic. Six-hundred faculty from across the university, which has been at the forefront of the global response to the virus, made the demands last week in a letter to the school’s president and board of trustees, the Baltimore Sun reported Monday. They wrote that they believe the institution’s financial health can be maintained without “undermining the work it was created to enable.” The private research university has played a globally prominent role in tracking the spread of the virus. But like other colleges across the nation, it is facing financial challenges because of the public health emergency. University President Ronald Daniels in April announced that the university expects to lose more than $100 million by the end of June and as much as $375 million during the coming fiscal year. Before the outbreak, the university had projected a positive margin of $72 million this fiscal year on an overall budget of $6.5 billion. Daniels said furloughs and layoffs within parts of the university will be an “unavoidable consequence of the losses.” The school also imposed a hiring freeze on staff positions for the fiscal year starting July 1 as well as restrictions on hiring for academic positions. Base salaries for faculty and staff for the same period will not increase, with no annual merit raises. The school at the time said the reductions would have no impact on its data-gathering and research on the virus.
Boston: After thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Massachusetts following the killing of George Floyd, public health officials worried the mass protests could give the novel coronavirus a chance to spread. On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker said about 2.5% percent of those who were checked last week at dozens of pop-up facilities opened for demonstrators have tested positive for the virus. The test rate was in line with what the state has been experiencing in general, Baker said at a Tuesday news conference. About 17,600 were tested at the facilities. Baker said many of the protesters took steps to help lower the possibility of spreading the virus. “We’re obviously pleased to see that the percentage of positive tests was quite low considering the frequency and the size of those protests and demonstrations,” he said. “Vast majorities of the folks who participated in those demonstrations were wearing masks or face coverings of one kind or another. In many cases they were moving, which I think made a big difference, and of course they all took place outside, which we all agree is a far safer environment than indoors.” In general, officials say, Massachusetts is continuing to make progress in its efforts to curb against the coronavirus. There has been a 74 percent drop in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state since April 15, Baker said Tuesday.
Lansing: Republicans who control the Legislature proposed a $1.3 billion plan to help K-12 schools reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, saying districts should have flexibility to start when they want and to offer remote instruction as an alternative if necessary. The one-time funding, including an $800 per-pupil increase to address new costs related to COVID-19, would come from $3 billion in federal relief. Teachers would get a $500 bonus. Uncertainty remains because the state’s school aid fund is $1.2 billion smaller than expected this fiscal year and $1.1 billion short for the next budget year because of tax revenue declines from the monthslong lockdown. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is pushing Congress for flexibility to use bailout money to fill the holes and for an additional round of funding. But Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said GOP lawmakers put a proposal on the table now because superintendents and principals “need clarity sooner rather than later.” Their fiscal year starts next week. Although schools typically begin in late August or early September, some with year-round calendars start earlier. The governor previously issued an order giving schools flexibility to resume before the day after Labor Day without needing a state waiver. The Republican plan calls for redefining “attendance” to allow for online learning without reducing schools’ funding and cutting the number of snow day allowances from six to two so remote instruction occurs instead. Districts would work with local health departments on safety requirements for schools, sports and extracurricular activities. They also would do initial benchmark testing to assess if students need additional attention.
Shakopee: The Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee has one of the larger coronavirus outbreaks in a warehouse or distribution plant setting, according to state health officials. At least 88 of its approximately 1,000 workers have tested positive for the disease caused by the virus. Another 99 workers at other Amazon sites in the Twin Cities have also tested positive. Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for the Minnesota Health Department, said state officials are reaching out to employers when clusters at workplaces begin to emerge, the Star Tribune reported. “Anytime we have a situation in which a worksite is a critical workforce and they’re in a position where they don’t have the luxury of working from home, or working in a cubicle … you tend to see a greater likelihood of transmission,” Ehresmann said. Ehresmann said the state is providing guidance to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Jackson: The state Senate is working to limit lawsuits by customers who said they were exposed to the new coronavirus at businesses or medical offices. Senate Bill 3049 would shield businesses, health care providers, religious organizations and other entities from lawsuits related to COVID-19 if they show a “good faith” effort to follow public health guidelines. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has pushed for the bill. If it lands on his desk and he signs it, the bill would take effect retroactively to March 14. “In the beginning of this thing, nobody really knew what to do. Should you wear a mask, should you not, should you do this, should you do that? It provides some protection for our essential business who did remain open,” Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairwoman Sally Doty said during a hearing on the bill Tuesday. Doty, a Republican from Brookhaven, said fear of litigation has stopped businesses from providing services the last several months. She said the problem is still persistent now that state is reopening. The bill would still allow people to sue if plaintiffs can show “clear and convincing evidence” that a business owner acted with “actual malice or willful, intentional misconduct.” The bill is being introduced after Reeves suggested it during news briefings on the virus. It cleared the Judiciary Advisory Study Committee by a voice vote Tuesday and will move to the full Senate for consideration.
Springfield: The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is notifying the public of potential community exposures from two COVID-19 positive individuals, a news release said. Before being diagnosed, a Greene County case visited the following locations: on June 14, a Walmart Neighborhood Market at 3720 E. Sunshine from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (infectious but not symptomatic, masked); June 15, Pat Jones YMCA weightlifting area at 1901 E. Republic from 6 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. (infectious but not symptomatic, not masked) ; June 16: Pat Jones YMCA weightlifting area at 1901 E. Republic from 6 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. (infectious but not symptomatic, not masked). A case from another county spent about 15 minutes at each Walmart Supercenter and Lowe’s Home Improvement in Republic between noon and 3 p.m. on June 16. The individual was infectious and symptomatic and was wearing a mask, the release said. Anyone who was at these locations on these dates is at low risk for contracting COVID-19, but should monitor for symptoms, the release said. There is no need to self-quarantine or isolate unless symptoms develop.
Helena: Health officials reported 69 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and counted an additional death on Monday. A man in his 60s died in a Yellowstone County hospital on Saturday from complications of COVID-19, according to county officials. It is the 21st death in the state and the fourth in Yellowstone County. More than 2,800 tests were reported between Friday and Sunday, with 32 new cases announced Saturday, 20 on Sunday and 17 on Monday. The state amended the case count Monday afternoon, after six cases were duplicated as a result of repeat testing, officials said. The number of cases originally reported by the state on Monday was 23. The 32 cases reported on Saturday mark the second-highest single-day total, trailing the 35 cases reported on March 26. The number of positive cases is expected to increase as testing increases and as the state relaxes coronavirus-related restrictions, according Jon Ebelt, public information officer for the Department of Public Health and Human Services. “Through local contact tracing efforts, clusters of cases involving close associations have been identified in communities,” Ebelt said. Beginning earlier this month, the state implemented a policy of testing all close contacts of confirmed cases, both symptomatic and asymptomatic.
Lincoln: A number of bars and restaurants in Lincoln would be able to expand their outdoor areas under requests approved Monday by the Lincoln City Council, but a final decision will be left to a state agency. The council unanimously approved requests by Backswing Brewing, the Hub Cafe and five businesses in The Railyard entertainment district to offer more outdoor seating as they struggle to attract customers still concerned about gathering inside amid the coronavirus pandemic. The request now goes to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, which City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said has been supportive of temporary measures to help restaurants and bars that have been restricted to 50% capacity, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Those restrictions have ended, but businesses still must follow social distancing rules and require customers to be seated most of the time. Given that, Kirkpatrick said an expanded outdoor liquor license makes sense. Doug Dittman, owner of the Hub Cafe, said the change would “help people be more comfortable and safe.” Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Liquor Control Commission, said the agency probably would approve most requests but only for a limited period. Gov. Pete Ricketts said he hopes to end social distancing requirements by next month. If that happens, Rupe said the commission likely wouldn’t allow expanded outdoor licenses.
Las Vegas: A union representing workers in Las Vegas casinos again called for all customers and workers in reopened casinos to wear face masks and for daily cleanings of guest rooms and regular testing of all workers for the novel coronavirus. The Culinary Union said an order by gambling regulators last week protects dealers by requiring face masks to be worn by gamblers at table games. But the union said those same protections need to be broadened to protect bartenders, cocktail waitresses, cleaners and other workers who interact with guests. The union is calling for Gov. Steve Sisolak, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Clark County Commission, which oversees the Las Vegas Strip, to impose stricter safety measures. Yolanda Scott, a food server at a coffee shop at Treasure Island, estimated 10% of guests are wearing masks in public spaces at the resort. “That concerns me because I don’t feel safe. I do not want to bring the COVID-19 back to my family, my children. My partner has a bad kidney and a bad heart and we have to be extra cautious,” she said. Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said workers are afraid to go back to work because they know the number of virus cases is going up in Nevada. She said 17 union members or people in their immediate family have died from COVID-19 since the outbreak started in Nevada. Argüello-Kline questioned why Sisolak isn’t following the lead of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who last week required that people wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when they aren’t able to socially distance. Sisolak’s office did not immediately respond to a message seeking a comment. On Friday, Sisolak said in a tweet that he was asking a team of doctors who have been advising him to evaluate potential options for face-covering policies. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday that Atlantic City’s casinos will be able to reopen July 2 at 25% capacity and guests and employees will have to wear face masks and undergo some level of health screening. Nevada’s casinos reopened June 4, after being closed for more than 11 weeks.
Concord: Many parents, teachers and education officials are eager for students to get back to school this fall, but there’s a lot of concern about achieving social distancing and workable hybrid learning plans, a state education task force said. The School Transition Reopening and Redesign Taskforce plans to issue 10 preliminary recommendations by June 30 to the state. The group got through questions and suggestions on the first half, which deal with establishing district and school management communications plans; determining public health protocols; preparing the school environment; supporting student, family and educator wellness; and establishing hybrid learning capacity. Task force members recognized that it’s very difficult for students to social distance and that guidelines might work for one district, but not another. “We could write all the recommendations in the world, but kids are going to do what kids are going to do,” said member Phil Nazarro of Southern New Hampshire University. Students also have mixed feelings about whether the wearing of personal protective equipment, such as masks, should be forced on them, said student representative Ben Lambright. Members also expressed concern about teachers’ workload and well-being over balancing classes in school with remote learning. Member Keith Noyes, a teacher, said colleagues with young children of their own would be in “crisis mode” trying to follow a schedule where students are alternating days at home and school.
Trenton: Amusement and water parks, along with playgrounds across New Jersey can reopen on July 2, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday. The parks must limit capacity to 50% and face masks must be worn by workers and attendees “where practicable,” the governor said. The announcement includes rides at shore resorts, he added. The new openings come just a day after the governor said casinos and indoor dining could restart also on July 2, but at 25% capacity. The state is in Stage 2 of three of reopening from the coronavirus lockdown. Salons, barbershops and tattoo and massage parlors also reopened this week.
Santa Fe: New Mexico is under a state order for residents and travelers to wear masks in public places, but visitors to Santa Fe continue to stroll through the city’s downtown with uncovered faces. City officials plan to post signs by this weekend encouraging the use of face masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Monday. Randy Randall, executive director of Tourism Santa Fe, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, expects to have 50 signs posted downtown. “I think we’re guilty of not properly advising people yet,” Randall said. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spelled out the statewide rule in a May 15 public health order that said masks are required in public places, with exceptions for eating, drinking, exercising and medical requirements. The Santa Fe City Council approved a measure June 10 requiring everyone in the city over 15 to wear a mask in most public settings, including in public where maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others is not possible. Repeat offenders face a $50 fine for second and subsequent violations. Visitors often wear masks or other face coverings in Santa Fe stores but are reportedly lax about keeping them on outside, even in crowded public places. Downtown hotel and shop workers have attempted to spread the word about the rules, with many of their customers complying with requests.
Rochester: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given no indication when indoor shopping malls will be allowed to reopen with new safety precautions after they were closed in mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to more than 24,700 deaths in New York. In-person retail shopping was allowed weeks ago in Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. For malls, only stores with exterior entrances, such as department stores, were able to reopen. Stores inside the malls have been able to have curbside pickup for customers, but few are doing so – leaving mall owners, stores and customers wondering when the ban on indoor areas will be lifted. The uncertainty has been frustrating to mall owners who feel they have been without any clear sense of their immediate future. A spokesperson for Wilmorite, a company that owns four malls and major shopping plazas in the Rochester area, said that company leaders aren’t sure which phase their properties are in, and haven’t recieved any information from the state about when they move forward. Last week, Cuomo indicated no time frame for malls to reopen as five regions of upstate New York are expected to enter the fourth and final phase on Friday.
Raleigh: The state’s COVID-19 case trends have worsened since the economy has reopened in recent weeks, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said. But she wouldn’t say whether they would prevent more shuttered businesses from reopening when restrictions otherwise expire later this week. The number of virus-related hospitalizations remains near a record high for the pandemic, with 870 as of Monday morning, and the number of deaths exceed 1,200, according to DHHS data. Although the number of completed tests continues to grow rapidly – to more than 750,000 overall – the percentage of positive tests is on the upswing. “As we’ve reopened, we’ve seen our trends go in the wrong direction,” Cohen said during a media briefing. An executive order by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper that took effect May 22 lifted a stay-at-home order, allowed restaurants to open their dining rooms, and barber shops and salons to reopen. But bars, gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys remain closed. The order expires Friday. Cooper has said he would announce early this week how he will modify the current restrictions, which also prevent outdoor mass assemblies above 25 people. Cohen was reserved in response to questions about what the data means for Cooper’s upcoming decisions. She said the public can help reverse the trend by wearing face masks, washing hands regularly and practicing social distancing.
Bismarck: The state has collected about $43 million in online sales taxes since they were authorized two years ago, according to state revenue officials. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2018 ruled that states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. North Dakota began collecting from remote sellers that fall. “This was indeed a landmark decision for North Dakota and all states that use sales taxes as a vital source of state funding,” state tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said. The court’s decision leveled the playing field for local sellers who were no longer at a competitive disadvantage with their online competitors because of a sales tax requirement, Rauschenberger said. North Dakota cities and counties that impose local sales taxes have received nearly $15 million through the first half of this year, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine said earlier this month that every Ohioan who wants a coronavirus test can get one. On Tuesday, DeWine emphasized that point by submitting to a test on live TV. DeWine was swabbed for the virus by an Ohio National Guard nurse during his coronavirus briefing. His wife Fran and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted were also swabbed for the virus. On June 11, Ohio opened testing to anyone who wants one, even if they don’t have symptoms of COVID-19. Several “pop-up” testing sites are planned across the state, including 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at CityLink Center, 800 Bank St., Cincinnati. A list of testing sites is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Oklahoma City: The city’s metro area is witnessing an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections among young people that is being driven largely by “super spreader” indoor events like church activities, fitness classes, weddings, funerals and at bars, city officials said Tuesday. Mayor David Holt held his first news conference in weeks to discuss the dramatic increase in the number of new cases, especially among people in the 18-to-49 age group, and a spike in hospitalizations. Although evidence suggests young people are less susceptible to serious illness and death, Holt said he fears younger people could help facilitate a renewed outbreak of the disease. “People between the ages 18 and 50 don’t live in some sort of a bubble,” Holt said. “They are the children and grandchildren of vulnerable people. They may be standing next to you at a wedding. They might be serving you a meal in a restaurant. And people between the ages of 18 and 50 are more likely than ever before to be carrying the virus in Oklahoma City and giving it to vulnerable people.” The number of people hospitalized in the Oklahoma City area for COVID-19 jumped from 43 last week to 79 on Monday, and the number of people in intensive care units increased by about 50% over the same period, Holt said. “If hospitalizations continue to rise at the rates seen in the last few days or if deaths return to the rates seen previously, we will have little choice but to roll back to earlier phases of our reopening,” Holt said.
Salem: Oregon’s coronavirus case numbers increased by 514 people during the weekend and Monday, officials reported. A quarter of the new cases are based in Multnomah County, where officials said a majority of the spread is occurring among close social networks. “It’s human nature, I think, to expect that the people that might be more risky to someone would be strangers,” said Kim Toevs, who leads the Multnomah County’s infectious disease team. “And the people they feel more safe (with), are the people they know – especially family and friends.” However, authorities said when people are around friends or family they might opt not to wear a mask or not practice physical distancing. “Those are more likely the people to infect you because they are going to be closer to you, in your personal space and, usually, you are going to be interacting with them for a longer period of time,” Toevs said. Multnomah, which is Oregon’s most populous county and home to Portland, implemented Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan Friday. Hood River, Marion, and Polk Counties also entered new reopening phases Friday. Although health officials reiterated Monday they expect an increase in cases during reopening, the goal remains to minimize the number of people that are hospitalized. There are 93 people who have tested positive in Oregon who are in the hospital – 24 of those patients are on ventilators, according to data on the state’s website. “The measure of hospitalizations and hospital capacity is something that we are going to be watching very closely,” Jennifer Vines, the lead health officer for the Tri-county area, said Monday.
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Tuesday that its most recent count showed about 518 contact tracers are in place to investigate and monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus. Those tracers are following more than 4,000 contacts. The Health Department said more than 2,700 cases were added to the investigation total during the week that ended Thursday. The agency said it has been getting back nearly 14,000 test results per day over the past month.
Providence: A fund established to support Rhode Islanders struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic has distributed another $700,000 to 23 nonprofits across the state to help with food, rent, utilities and other expenses, the fund said Tuesday. The COVID-19 Response Fund created in March by the Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way of Rhode Island has now awarded nearly $8 million in grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. One of the organizations helped in the latest round of funding is Connecting for Children & Families in Woonsocket. In addition to a food pantry and help with utility bills, the nonprofit has expanded its services to include a food-delivery service for front-line health workers, older and disabled residents. The Trinity Episcopal Church Food Closet in Scituate, the Housing Hotline in Newport, and the African Alliance in Providence are also among the organizations that received funding. The fund has raised about $8.5 million, but there is still a need for donations, Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation said in a statement. “As a state we have begun to shift focus from COVID-19 response to relief and recovery, but even with that positive shift, need in the community continues to grow,” he said.
Greenville: The City Council voted Monday to require people to wear masks in grocery stores and pharmacies, becoming the first in the state mandating face coverings to fight COVID-19. The council passed the rule unanimously hours after placing it on its regular agenda. All employees in restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores and pharmacies will have to wear masks. Customers in grocery stores and pharmacies will need coverings over their noses and faces, but anyone who can’t wear a mask because of age or underlying illness is excluded. Anyone convicted of breaking the rule will be fined up to $25. Greenville has had some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the state in recent weeks. Mayor Knox White said the city carefully chose to require masks in only businesses that everyone has to use, whether they are trying to isolate themselves or not. “Anybody can choose or not choose to go to a certain retailer, like a dress shop or something. You really don’t have a choice for groceries,” White said. Gov. Henry McMaster again said Monday that he isn’t considering a statewide mask requirement because it might violate people’s rights. He has emphasized making the right choice and wearing face coverings voluntarily to slow a rise in cases that has the state in the top five in the nation for new infections.
Rapid: Gov. Kristi Noem made another stop Tuesday in Rapid City on her tour of the state and told local leaders that Rapid City would be able to access up to $17.5 million and Pennington County would get $7.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds. Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said the city plans to have money it spent on an emergency shelter and emergency services reimbursed. He said police and emergency medics have seen their work “dominated by COVID and the effects of it.” Noem made a similar announcement on Monday in Sioux Falls, which will be able to expense up to $41.5 million to federal funds the state has received. The governor said the federal funds can also be used to develop a program to help businesses hurt by the economic downturn, but that it would require action from the Legislature. She said that might be considered by lawmakers at a special session in the next several months. Noem has encouraged businesses to “innovate” rather than shutting down completely during the pandemic, a move she hopes will help the state bounce back from the pandemic.
Nashville: The state has started offering high school equivalency exams online, another option while many in-person testing locations remain closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the online testing option began Monday through a new online program, HiSET Exam at Home, through the ProctorU service. The online exams are the same as ones taken at testing centers in terms of content, format, on-screen experience and scoring. The state has a voucher program to cover all costs for the testing. Test takers must be at least 18 years old and ensure that their computer and testing room meet remote proctoring requirements. Those interested in taking the online test should contact their local adult education provider.
Corpus Christi: Del Mar College officials said three students have tested positive for COVID-19. College officials said in a statement late Monday they received information during the weekend that the students tested positive for the virus.The students are in different degree programs and the cases are not related. All three were immediately instructed to self-isolate. Thirty additional students and eight employees who were in close contact with the individuals have also been asked to self-isolate. Areas on Del Mar’s West Campus, where the exposures occurred, have been disinfected, the college said in the statement. Those identified as being exposed to the virus while on college property have been personally notified by a college representative as per guidelines devised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The health and safety of our students and employees remain our top priority at Del Mar College,” the college said in the statement. “All College facilities remain closed to the public. Only restricted access for approved employees and designated students is allowed at this time.”
Salt Lake City: Gov. Gary Herbert said he has no plans to shut down the economy even though he shares some of the concerns of the state’s epidemiologist, who warned a “complete shutdown” might be imminent if the state can’t stop a prolonged spike of coronavirus cases. Herbert tweeted late Monday that he appreciated the analysis by epidemiologist Angela Dunn in her memo. It detailed the seriousness of a spread of COVID-19 that has doubled the infection rate and daily case count since Herbert allowed many businesses to reopen in mid-May. “We will work to stem this tide, but I have no plans to shut down Utah’s economy,” tweeted the Republican governor, who isn’t seeking reelection after holding the post since 2009. Utah is one of nearly two dozen states dealing with rising case rates following reopenings. Herbert’s tweet came after his office issued a different statement Monday afternoon that expressed his shared concern but didn’t include the vow not to shut down the economy. He has pointed to his decision to gradually lift restrictions allowing restaurants, gyms, pools and salons to reopen as a key reason why Utah has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Herbert has said the state can begin to recover economically without risking people’s health.
Montpelier: Vermont businesses are going to be getting a break on the costs of their unemployment insurance, and people collecting unemployment benefits will be getting more money, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday. Starting July 1, the Vermont Department of Labor will change its rate structure, reducing individual employers’ rates. In the first full week of July, the maximum benefit for people collecting unemployment will increase from $513 to $531. The tax relief will help reduce the burden on employers who have had to make difficult decisions to protect the health and safety of workers while limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont, the Republican governor said in a statement. “We know Vermonters made a tremendous economic sacrifice in order to respond to this virus, and we will continue to pull every lever we can to help workers and employers recover from this pandemic,” Scott said. Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said the lower rates were based on 2019 information and do not include the effects that COVID-19 has had on the economy. “Unfortunately, we will feel the impacts of COVID in the subsequent year and for years to come,” Harrington said.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that he plans to further relax restrictions on businesses and public gatherings next week, saying trends related to cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and other key health metrics were moving in the right direction. Northam said at a news conference that he’s planning for the state to enter Phase 3 of reopening July 1. Under Phase 3, restaurants and nonessential retail stores would no longer have to limit indoor capacity to 50% of what their space can hold but would still have to keep customers 6 feet apart. Gyms could go from 30% capacity to 75%, and social gatherings of up to 250 people would be allowed. Outdoor swimming pools could operate with fewer restrictions at 75% their normal capacity. Recreation and entertainment venues at may operate at 50% occupancy, or a maximum of 1,000 people. Northam, who is a doctor, said Virginians are still “safer at home,” especially if they are elderly or have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus. “I want to reiterate that everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously. Cases are on the rise in many other states. … I do not want to see that happen in our Commonwealth,” he said.
Mount Vernon: State firefighters are preparing for a season of potential summer wildfires while adopting new health safety measures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has added a new layer of uncertainty to the work of preparing for wildfire season, The Skagit Valley Herald reported Sunday. A period of dry spring weather was followed by an onslaught of rain, sending mixed signals about the likelihood for major fires this summer. The emergence of the coronavirus has meant firefighters also have to rethink how to work without infecting each other. Firefighters are screened when reporting to work. Their temperatures are taken and they answer health questions such as whether they have had sore throats or fevers in recent weeks, and if they have traveled or been exposed to anyone with COVID-19. Care is taken in the field to avoid sharing tools, move individuals and groups in as many separate vehicles as possible and sanitize vehicle interiors and equipment at the end of each shift. Firefighters are also equipped with face masks for work that requires being in close proximity. “Fire season isn’t going away. We can’t just work from home or take the summer off,” Jason McMillen said during a state Department of Natural Resources annual training last week.
Institute: All in-person homecoming activities will be canceled this year at West Virginia State University because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. The university said that homecoming activities scheduled between Sept. 24-26, including class reunions and a parade, would be canceled, WCHS-TV reported. The only event not canceled is the Sept. 26 football game against Notre Dame College. That game will take place with reduced fan attendance, Details on the social distancing policy will be announced at a later date. The university plans for in-person classes this fall with a modified academic calendar that was announced earlier this month. The fall semester will begin Aug. 10 and conclude on Nov. 20. More safety precautions for the fall semester will be announced soon.
Madison: New state guidelines for reopening schools this fall are merely suggestions and local officials will ultimately decide the parameters for bringing their students back, Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday. The governor closed schools in March as the coronavirus pandemic seized the state. Districts finished out the year through distance learning. The state Department of Public Instruction issued reopening guidelines for schools on Monday. The guidelines call for face masks, a maximum of 10 students per class and keeping buildings open as few as two days a week. Evers, a former state schools superintendent, told reporters during a conference call that the guidelines are a list of options, not orders. Local school districts can make their own choices, the governor said. Local school boards have been pondering how to reopen since March, the governor said, and he has “confidence school districts will be able to figure this out.”
Cheyenne: Health officials worry an event in the state capital city last weekend could worsen a spike in coronavirus cases. The Cheyenne area went weeks with few new cases. Then on Monday, city officials announced 15 new cases, most of them people between 20 and 30. The cases preceded last weekend’s “Summertime On the Streets” event that brought hundreds of people downtown. Some went to Accomplice Beer Company, a microbrewery in the historic Union Pacific Depot where workers recently tested positive for COVID-19. The brewery shut down Monday for a sanitizing period and health investigation, owner Roy Sandoval told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Workers at no fewer than three restaurants in Cheyenne have tested positive or otherwise likely have COVID-19, Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department officials said. The crowds at “Summertime in the Streets” raised concern the Cheyenne-area spike could worsen, department executive director Kathy Emmons said. “It doesn’t appear like a lot of people were wearing masks,” Emmons said. “If people weren’t practicing social distancing – which, from the pictures I saw, I didn’t see that – that’s going to most likely lead to increased numbers in the county.” Elsewhere, health officials blamed a lack of social distancing at bars in Evanston around Memorial Day for a spike approaching 100 active cases.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States