Montgomery: The state’s elections chief said Friday that he is telling local officials they cannot require voters to wear masks at polling places during this week’s election. The direction conflicts with local mandates, approved in several cities and counties, to wear masks in public places. Alabama in recent weeks has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and the total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. “While it can be ‘strongly recommended’ that an individual wear a mask, it cannot be required,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he told county election officials. “In our state, we will continue to see that the right for every eligible Alabamian to vote is protected.” Jefferson County Probate Judge Sherri Coleman Friday told al.com previously that the county’s health order requiring masks in public places would apply to polling places. Several organizations have expressed concern about health risks at the polls.
Anchorage: The Anchorage School District has announced a plan to begin holding in-person classes two days per week when schools reopen Aug. 20. The district announced Thursday that in-person classes are expected to resume a five-day schedule after two and a half weeks of reopening, The Anchorage Daily News reports. Schools likely will switch to a medium- to low-risk level in September, with students in school five days per week but for 51/2hours per day rather than the previous school day of 61/2hours, the district plan said. Deputy superintendent Mark Stock said the shortened schedule calls for students at each school to be separated into two groups, or cohorts, attending on opposite days of the week. The district will also offer a virtual school program in which parents concerned about exposure to the coronavirus can register children with neighborhood schools and participate in online classes.
Yuma: A man who was ejected from a frozen yogurt shop for not wearing a mask is facing charges for pulling out a gun in response. Yuma County Sheriff’s officials say the incident happened about 6:15 p.m. Thursday when 64-year-old Steven Covington entered Tiki Hut Frozen Yogurt. According to the staff, Covington was agitated when told to wear a face covering and gloves provided by the store. Covington then started dispensing frozen yogurt into his bare hands. A worker escorted him out of the shop. Authorities say that’s when Covington got a handgun from his car and followed the employee. The store was locked down, but Covington allegedly pointed the gun at the employee and tried to get inside the store and a neighboring business. He then fled, but responding deputies found him. They seized the gun and arrested Covington without incident.
Little Rock: The state reported a record 1,061 new cases of the new coronavirus Saturday but no new deaths related to the virus. State health officials reported the total cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, climbed to 27,864. The state said the death toll remained at 313 for the outbreak for which tracking began in early March. The true number of cases in Arkansas though is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. Arkansas’ virus cases have dramatically risen since May, when the state began allowing businesses to reopen. Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday delayed the start of school by nearly two weeks to give districts more time to prepare for the changes needed because of the virus. Hutchinson has said he wants schools to open for on-site education, but with plans to shift to other options if needed.
Sacramento: Officials will soon release another 2,100 inmates from state prisons in response to the coronavirus pandemic and in all now plans to release a total of more than 10,000 inmates, or nearly 10% of prisoners, as Gov. Gavin Newsom responds to intensifying pressure from advocates, lawmakers and federal judges. The latest step, outlined in a memo Thursday, is projected to soon free about 2,100 inmates by granting most a one-time three-month credit. It follows other measures that are expected to quickly bring the releases of about 8,300 inmates six months before they normally would have been paroled. Inmates with less than a year left to serve can be released if they are at one of eight prisons that have large populations of medically vulnerable prisoners. They can’t be sex offenders or serving time for domestic violence or a violent crime. Those age 30 and up are eligible for immediate release, while there will be a case-by-case review for younger inmates.
Denver: The state is experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as it gradually reopens its economy, health officials said Friday. Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said about 4% of people being tested have the coronavirus, and those who have the disease caused by the virus infect about one other person on average. The number of positive cases peaked in mid- to late-April and declined as health officials encouraged people to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing. Now, with a stay-at-home order lifted, Herlihy said Colorado is seeing a “steady increase” in infections – albeit at a much slower rate than when the pandemic gripped the state in the spring. “We believe that there is less social distancing happening in the state at this point,” she said. “We believe that Coloradans’ behavior has changed, and that is essentially contributing to some of the increased transmission we’re seeing.”
Hartford: Connecticut is in a “very fortunate place” with the coronavirus, the state’s epidemiologist says, as deaths have all but vanished, and the state’s transmission rate is among the lowest in the country. Dr. Matt Cartter told the Hartford Courant he’s grateful for the progress even as the testing situation in the state remains less than ideal. “We’re doing a lot of testing just to find very few cases,” Cartter said. Connecticut was seeing more than 100 coronavirus deaths a day in mid- to late April, with a peak of 204 deaths on April 20. But now businesses, including restaurants, have reopened across the state, and the state twice last week reported a daily death count of zero COVID-19 deaths. Meanwhile, traffic has picked up as people return to work, even though there are still fewer drivers on the roads than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
New Castle: New Castle County’s new approach to tracking the coronavirus estimates the amount of positive cases is more widespread than state testing has revealed. The strategy stems from a partnership between New Castle County Public Works and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup called Biobot Analytics, which searches wastewater samples for fragments of COVID-19 to estimate how many people in an area have the virus. Samples taken April 14 from the Wilmington Wastewater Treatment Plant, which catches sewage from more than 400,000 people, showed a large disparity between the number of laboratory-confirmed cases and the number of infected individuals estimated by Biobot. According to Biobot estimates, New Castle County had 28,665 positive cases as of June 24 – more than five times greater than the state’s official tally.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Washington Capitals are transitioning into Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan for the rest of the 2019-2020 season, team officials said Saturday. On Friday, the league finalized changes and agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement for the rest of the season, WUSA-TV reports. The NHL season was put on pause four months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead heading straight into 24-team format for the post-season. Formal training camps start Monday in preparation for an Aug. 1 start to the postseason. Twenty-four teams qualified for the extended Stanley Cup playoffs, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. That includes the No. 3 seed Capitals, whose Phase 3 roster will include 20 forwards, 10 defensemen and four goalies broken up into two squads.
Holly Hill: The maker of the popular Whac-a-Mole arcade game hopes its newest offering will help users smash a new target: the coronavirus pandemic. Holly Hill-based Bob’s Space Racers recently rolled out its new line of “Hands-Free Sanitizer Stations” in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak. The sanitizer stations, operated by a foot pedal, have quickly become the arcade game maker’s top-selling product. Since the Hands-Free Sanitizer Station’s launch in mid-May, the company has sold nearly 800 to customers throughout the world. “It’s been wild going from a few customers who buy (arcade) games to hundreds of customers that buy hand sanitizer,” said Jack Cook, president of Bob’s Space Racers. Retail prices for the company’s new sanitizer stations range from $595 for a base model to $850 for one that comes with custom art that can include the name and logo of the business.
Brookhaven: The state’s largest public transit system plans to require riders to wear masks to protect against the coronavirus, even though the governor insists that local mask orders aren’t enforceable because he hasn’t mandated them. MARTA, the main public transit system serving Atlanta and nearby suburbs, will require that riders wear masks on trains and buses beginning Monday. Several cities within MARTA’s service area – including Atlanta, Decatur and Brookhaven – have local orders requiring that masks be worn inside public spaces. But the requirement for riders will be systemwide and apply even in areas where there is not a local mask order in effect. A statement sent by MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher on Saturday said that masks will be distributed to riders who need one. “Customers will have every opportunity to comply but violators could be suspended from riding MARTA,” the statement said.
Honolulu: State lawmakers on Friday wrapped up a legislative session upended by the coronavirus pandemic that forced weekslong breaks in proceedings, the state Capitol building to close and some meetings to be held via teleconference. Among the challenges: an estimated $2.3 billion decline in state tax revenue through next June. This prompted lawmakers to raid the rainy day emergency fund, authorize the governor to borrow money from the federal government and look for savings by eliminating vacant job positions. They also faced social and economic crises as the pandemic shut down hotels and other businesses, pushing the state’s unemployment rate up to 22.6%, the second-highest in the nation after Nevada. To help, lawmakers appropriated $230 million in federal pandemic relief money to provide unemployed residents with an additional $100 per week beyond their normal unemployment insurance payments.
Twin Falls: Prosecutors from more than half of the state’s counties questioned whether Gov. Brad Little’s plan to use $200 million in federal aid for property tax relief is legal under the federal coronavirus aid package. Prosecutors in 16 counties signed a letter that asks Little’s office to request a legal opinion from the U.S. Treasury Department and the Idaho attorney general’s office before proceeding with the plan, The Times-News reports. The letter, written by Latah County prosecuting attorney William W. Thompson Jr. and chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney Bradley J. Rudley, contends that the governor’s plan “does not appear to meet legal requirements” of the federal rescue package. Little’s plan would send $200 million to participating cities and counties to cover public health personnel salaries on the condition that savings are passed to property taxpayers as a credit on their 2021 tax bill.
Springfield: Nearly 1,200 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the state, health officials announced Saturday. The Illinois Department of Public Health said 1,195 cases have been added to statewide testing results, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 152,962. Officials estimate 94% of Illinoisans who have tested positive for the virus later recovered. An additional 24 people have died of COVID-19, according to the state’s Saturday update, bringing the total number to 7,168 since the start of the pandemic. Saturday marks the third consecutive day that new confirmed cases in the state topped 1,000. Until Thursday, daily updates had not reached that threshold since June 5. The state’s seven-day average rate of positive tests out of all performed is 3%.
Indianapolis: The State Department of Agriculture plans to distribute a total of $300,000 in state funding to 11 Indiana food banks to provide assistance and services to Hoosiers in need. Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, the state’s food bank association, said the impact of the COVID-19 virus is estimated to increase food insecurity among Indiana residents by 40% this year. That puts 1 in 5 Hoosiers at risk of hunger and includes more than 414,500 children. Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana will receive the largest amount of funding, nearly $100,000. The funding was provided by the Legislature as part of the biennial budget. The distribution amounts were determined using the Emergency Food Assistance Program fair share percentage, which captures poverty and unemployment levels in each county.
Des Moines: The state on Friday registered its largest daily jump in coronavirus cases since May, leading health officials in the worst-affected parts of Iowa to warn people to take the threat more seriously and to stop congregating in bars and other places in large numbers. Among the 10 counties with the largest jumps was Scott County, on the state’s eastern border, where a local health official said the increase correlated with the state’s lifting of the final restrictions on bars, restaurants, casinos and mass gatherings in early June. Many who tested positive acknowledged they had been to bars. “I’ve had conversations with our case investigators, and they indicate that going to crowded bars is often cited as an activity they’ve engaged in,” said Edward Rivers, director of the Scott County Health Department. Scott County also may have seen increased traffic from Illinois residents crossing the Mississippi River to go to bars and restaurants because they weren’t yet able.
Wichita: Draft safety guidelines for school this fall from the Kansas State Department of Education say students, teachers and staff should wear masks, but students up to fifth or sixth grade shouldn’t be required to wear them unless local officials mandate it, the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle report. The draft guidelines about how to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic were shared with superintendents last week and are expected to be formally presented to the State Board of Education this week. The guildlines say everyone should wash their hands when arriving at school and every hour afterward. Space should be made in classrooms to allow social social distancing. Locker use is discouraged, and staggered transition time between classes is recommended for those schools that choose to use them.
Frankfort: The state reported more than 450 additional cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, part of a troublesome trend of rising confirmed cases of the illness caused by the new coronavirus, Gov. Andy Beshear said. Beshear said in a news release that Kentucky has confirmed more than 19,100 cases of the virus and at least 622 fatalities. “We have another day of really high numbers of COVID-19 cases,” Beshear said. “This is another day where it shows that we are no longer in a plateau but cases are increasing. We must act now.” Beshear on Friday said a new requirement for Kentuckians to wear face masks in public has taken effect, despite a county court’s restraining order related to pandemic restrictions. Beshear said the increase in deaths Saturday was “tough news for today.” “The positive news is we’re seeing better compliance and more people wearing face coverings than ever before,” he said. “It’s not a political statement. It’s a statement that you care.”
New Orleans: Gov. John Bel Edwards on Saturday ratcheted up Louisiana’s restrictions to combat the coronavirus’ spread, saying he’s instituting a statewide mask mandate, putting tougher limits on group gatherings and shuttering bars. The tightened requirements will take effect Monday, the Democratic governor said. The order is aimed at trying to curb a sharp rise in infections of COVID-19 that is sparking troubling surges in hospitalization rates. Masks will be required when entering establishments statewide, though some parishes – Grant, Red River and West Feliciana – can opt out if they meet certain thresholds for the virus. Bars will be closed to in-person consumption, regardless of whether they serve food. They will still be allowed to offer curbside pickup. Edwards also banned gatherings above 50 people, except at churches. That’s down from a 250-person limit currently in effect.
Portland: The state’s casinos are emerging from a COVID-19 closure. Hollywood Slots opened Friday, a day after the opening of the Oxford Casino. Both have limits on capacity and strict rules for disinfecting to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The openings come after the office of Gov. Janet Mills released safety protocols for casinos and short-term rentals that want to participate in the state’s latest phase of reopening. Mills, a Democrat, released “COVID-19 prevention checklists” for businesses Thursday. Her office also released updated safety guidelines for nail salons, community sports, day camps and overnight summer camps. The state is in the midst of its third stage of reopening its economy. The governor’s office said the “vast majority” of the state’s economy is now back in business.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration’s decision to make international students leave the U.S. if they intend to take classes entirely online starting this fall during an ongoing pandemic. The Baltimore private institution filed the lawsuit Friday against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in federal court in the District of Columbia, the Baltimore Sun reports. It argues that the agency’s decision “completely upended” the university’s reopening plans for next semester. ICE notified colleges last week that international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer if their schools operate entirely online this fall. New visas will not be issued to students at those schools, and others at universities offering a mix of online and in-person classes will be barred from taking all their classes online. The guidance says international students won’t be exempt even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term.
Boston: The city’s Housing Authority is extending its moratorium on nonessential evictions through the end of the year to give thousands of lower-income residents relief during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday. The Democrat said the moratorium, which was originally put in place in March, will also help reduce the risk of transmitting the virus through court hearings on eviction cases. “These are extraordinary times, and right now, we all need to come together to ensure that our city’s most vulnerable residents are able to continue to live and work in the city they call home,” Walsh said in a statement. Nonessential evictions include all eviction proceedings except for those related to criminal activity and those necessary to protect public health and safety, the mayor’s office said. The housing authority provides affordable housing to nearly 60,000 residents.
Lansing: The state’s health department is urging that children be caught up on their vaccines as soon as possible after a drop in immunizations due to the cancellation of appointments during the coronavirus pandemic. The state said the percentage of 5-month-olds fully up to date on all recommended vaccines was less than half in May, down from about two-thirds in recent years. Vaccination coverage declined in almost every other milestone age cohort below age 2, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy health director, said it is concerning that so many children are behind, making them susceptible to preventable diseases. Health care providers are putting in place safety procedures to ensure patients can come in for well visits and immunizations, she said.
Minneapolis: The state reported its highest daily COVID-19 case count since May on Saturday as 806 people were confirmed to have the virus. The state has been conducting many more daily tests since May. About 5% of the 16,087 tests reported Saturday were positive. Health officials also reported four more deaths of residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities. Three were in their 90s, while the other person was in the 80s age range. The state has recorded 41,571 cases of COVID-19. Nearly 86% of those have recovered, but 1,499 people have died. Most of the deaths have been among residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities.
Jackson: The state’s top public health official has ordered a temporary halt to all elective surgeries to try to save hospital bed space as the state sees a rapid expansion in cases of the new coronavirus. The order by the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, covers all medical facilities in the state. It took effect Sunday and lasts until at least July 20. His order, issued Friday, said elective procedures can be done only under “extraordinary circumstance” and “must be accompanied by an extensive and compelling justification.” Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday that he would set restrictions that take effect Monday in 13 counties with high levels of virus transmission: Claiborne, DeSoto, Grenada, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Quitman, Rankin, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne. People in those counties must wear masks in public, including in outdoor settings where it’s not possible for people to remain at least 6 feet apart.
O’Fallon: The rapidly rising number of confirmed new coronavirus cases has prompted facial-covering requirements in several areas of Missouri, including the state’s largest city. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Friday extended the requirement to wear a facial covering through at least Aug. 15. The original face mask order that went into effect June 29 was scheduled to expire Sunday, but the Kansas City area has averaged nearly 300 new cases per day over the past week, the Kansas City Star reports. Earlier this month, St. Louis city and county both began requiring face coverings when inside businesses and other public places, as well as outside when social distancing is not possible. The Joplin City Council voted last week to require face masks. St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray on Thursday issued an order requiring facial coverings in large retail stores. The Springfield City Council will consider a mask requirement when it meets Monday.
Billings: Two more people have died as a result of a coronavirus outbreak at a memory care facility in the city, bringing the number of deaths associated with the facility to five, Yellowstone County health officials said. The new deaths were announced Friday, as the state reported a single-day record of 127 confirmed virus cases, the third time the state set a record last week. Nineteen of the new cases announced Friday are associated with the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility, including nine staff members and 10 residents, Yellowstone County health officials said Friday afternoon. That brings the total number of known cases associated with the facility to 91 – 55 residents and 36 employees. All but four residents of the facility have now tested positive for the virus, according to RiverStone Health Vice President Barbara Schneeman.
Lincoln: The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in the state has fallen to its lowest level since mid-April, but residents still need to exercise caution to keep the virus from spreading, officials said Friday. Nebraska’s hospitals were treating 97 patients as of Thursday, down a high of 257 on May 27. The state has a total of 3,907 hospital beds, and 1,583 of those were available for patients as of Thursday evening. “We continue to see declining hospitalizations, so that’s good news,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said at a news conference. “Our cases have been relatively steady, so that’s good news, too. But this only (will continue) if we continue to practice social distancing.” Nebraska officials confirmed 198 new cases of the virus Thursday and two new deaths, bringing the state totals to 20,623 cases and 284 deaths since the pandemic began.
Carson City: Someone who works in the state legislative building has tested positive for the coronavirus as lawmakers debate emergency measures involving the pandemic, an official said Friday. The announcement by Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes came as statehouses throughout the country are confronting outbreaks. All 21 state senators were in chambers at the time of the announcement. The Assembly was in recess. Precautions had been taken in the Assembly and Senate before Nevada’s part-time Legislature converged on Carson City. Staffers cordoned off couches, set up hand sanitizer stations and erected plastic barriers to separate lawmakers from each other. The Legislature does not intend to recess or transition to remote voting, but alternative arrangements will be made for lawmakers who feel at risk. Meanwhile, access to the building has been restricted.
Concord: A fall fundraiser to help snowmobile clubs maintain upward of 7,000 trails throughout the state has been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association said Friday. The “Race into Winter, New Hampshire Grass Drags and Watercross” was scheduled for Oct. 9-11 in the town of Fremont. “This is the single largest fundraiser for snowmobiling in New Hampshire and the impact to club budgets will be substantial,” the association said in a news release. The powersports event has previously drawn more than 40,000 people from the United States and Canada.
Trenton: The state is reporting another 49 deaths associated with COVID-19, pushing the number of deaths linked to the virus to 13,578. Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday that more than 430 new positive cases had been reported, pushing the state’s cumulative total to almost 175,000. The state on Friday highlighted a slight drop in the positivity rate and the rate of transmission, which measure the rate of the virus’s spread. Fewer than 90 people were said to be on ventilators as of Saturday, a day after Murphy said the number had dropped below 100 for the first time in “many, many weeks, maybe months.” Meanwhile, Murphy and the state’s Democrat-controlled Legislature have agreed on a measure that would allow the state to borrow up to roughly $10 billion to address the financial crisis caused by the pandemic. Republican lawmakers have vowed to sue, arguing such a borrowing plan would lead to statewide property tax hikes, a charge Murphy has dismissed.
Las Cruces: State authorities have ordered a Walmart Supercenter to close after four employees tested positive for the coronavirus in a three-week span. The New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau posted a notice of “imminent and substantial endangerment to employees and the public” at the store Saturday. Health officials said the store’s management hasn’t taken the actions necessary to prevent spread of COVID-19, including ceasing operations to disinfect the establishment and testing staff to ensure additional employees are not infected. The store employs more than 400 people. Walmart officials said they don’t require employees who test positive to self-quarantine for 14 days, and they also don’t notify people who came into close personal contact with the employees to get tested. The Environment Department is urging customers who visited the Las Cruces location since June 22 to get tested for the virus.
New York: The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus fell to the lowest point in nearly four months, state officials said Saturday. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo is predicting a new increase in cases amid outbreaks in other states. “The only question is how far up our rate goes,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC radio Friday. “You can’t have it all across the country and not come back.” The governor acknowledged the limitations in enforcing quarantine rules for travelers returning from states with rising rates of transmission. “How do you catch somebody driving in, right? I mean, it’s very very difficult; it’s trying to catch water in a screen,” Cuomo said. “And there’s a certain inevitability to it. It was in China, got on a plane, went to Europe; people in Europe got on a plane, came here. Then it went down south, down west, and it’s going to come back.” The state on Saturday reported 799 COVID-19 hospitalizations – the lowest number since March 18.
Raleigh: A state senator on Friday said he’s contracted COVID-19, marking the first known public case for a General Assembly member. Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson County, 41, was on the Senate floor Wednesday as the chamber debated bills and cast votes. “This is just one of those things you can’t control,” he said of his diagnosis. Many legislators, especially Democrats, have sought more restrictions and criticized colleagues who have declined to wear face coverings indoors to discourage the virus’s spread. Britt, a National Guard officer, said he’s not always worn a mask on the Senate floor because doing so makes breathing difficult due to a condition stemming from his military service in Iraq and Kuwait. He said he believes some Democrats have turned wearing a mask into a political symbol. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order two weeks ago requiring people to wear face coverings in public places, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to government agencies that aren’t under his control. On Friday, he signed into law a bill that makes permanent a health exception to the state’s face mask ban that otherwise would expire Aug. 1.
Bismarck: Health officials on Saturday reported two more deaths from COVID-19, along with 90 new cases, as the state experiences a rise in cases over the past two weeks. The increase in cases comes as the state makes mass testing available while it lifts state-mandated business closures. The positivity rate of tests has remained under 5%, an indicator the state is aggressively testing for the coronavirus. Still, at least two businesses in Bismarck temporarily shut down again after reopening, the Bismarck Tribune reports. The businesses, the Sports Page bar and the Butterhorn restaurant, are testing their employees for COVID-19, according to their social media posts. The state has recorded 4,243 cases during the pandemic, according to the Department of Health. 83% of those people have recovered, but 87 have died.
Columbus: The spike in Ohioans testing positive for the coronavirus is not being matched in hospitalizations across the state, as hospitals are reporting they’re still doing elective surgeries and have plenty of capacity. Bed usage has remained at about 45% of the 43,197 maximum beds available in 250 facilities across the state, according to data provided by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and analyzed by the Columbus Dispatch. Medical experts warn that it’s difficult to predict when new positive cases will begin to fill hospital beds because hospitalization can lag a week or two behind infection. Available hospital beds are in short- and long-term acute centers, major hospitals, children’s hospitals, Veterans Administration, and psychiatric and rehabilitation hospitals, according to the data.
Oklahoma City: The state surpassed 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, with state health officials reporting 456 more cases and one additional death linked to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The new numbers brings the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s total counts since tracking of the outbreak began in March to 20,235 reported cases and 422 fatalities. The actual number of cases is likely much higher because many people haven’t been tested, and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms. Oklahoma passed the viral milestone after a week that saw the pandemic surge nationally and the state report its two highest daily counts of confirmed cases: 687 Saturday and 858 Tuesday. On Thursday, the state health department released a four-tiered risk measurement tool with corresponding color categories that identify the COVID-19 risk level by county. Tulsa’s mayor said Friday that he’s considering a local mask order.
Salem: State health officials urged people Friday to limit indoor social gatherings to fewer than 10 people during the next three weeks as coronavirus cases surge and reveal a “troubling” trend of exponential growth. New projections by the Oregon Health Authority predict that if transmission of COVID-19 continues at the current pace, the estimated number of new daily, confirmed infections could reach anywhere from 1,100 to 3,600. “Given these projections and the prognosis that they represent for our citizens, we are calling on Oregonians to take action, to help us bring down the spread of COVID-19 and get it under control so we can again bend the curve back down,” said Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority. Oregon smashed its previous daily record for confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday with a 389 new diagnoses and six deaths.
Harrisburg: Pennsylvania health officials have added four states – including neighboring Delaware – to the travel quarantine recommendation aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. Officials said people who have traveled to Delaware, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Pennsylvania. The state earlier issued the recommendation for self-quarantine for people returning to the commonwealth from 15 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. The health department also Saturday announced 17 more deaths attributed to the coronavirus, bringing to 6,897 the number of deaths associated with COVID-19.
Providence: Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday announced a $7 million effort to help residents facing eviction. The Safe Harbor program administered by the United Way of Rhode Island will help tenants and landlords reach a new payment plan for past-due rent in order to avoid the court eviction process. Qualifying households will be eligible for legal representation, as well as financial assistance for rent payments accumulated on or after March 1. To qualify, residents must have an annual income at or below 80% of area median income and have missed rent payments due to the COVID-19 crisis. The effort is being funded through the state’s share of the $2 trillion federal stimulus bill to address the coronavirus pandemic. Raimondo had issued a moratorium on the filing of new evictions through June, but that was lifted July 1.
Columbia: Officials reported the state’s first pediatric death from the coronavirus Saturday, announcing the death of a child under the age of 5. The state also had a record number of confirmed cases reported, as the outbreak continues to grow. “Today, we mourn the loss of one of our children to this virus. It is heart-wrenching to lose a child under any circumstances, and especially so during a time when we have all lost so much already,” Dr. Joan Duwve, Director of Public Health at the Department of Health and Environmental Control, said in a statement. South Carolina also saw its highest-yet rate of positive tests Saturday, with more than 22% of people tested coming back positive for the virus. In an effort to stem the spread of the virus, particularly among younger people, Gov. Henry McMaster has shut off the late-night sale of alcohol at bars and restaurants across the state. McMaster ordered sales of alcohol end by 11 p.m. beginning Saturday.
Sioux Falls: As bull riders attempted to hang on for eight seconds Friday night, they were encouraged by something they hadn’t heard in months: the cheers of a crowd. A little more than a thousand fans were on hand in the 9,000-seat arena to watch one of the first indoor professional sporting events since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Professional Bull Riders event ended a monthlong competition that until Friday has played out before silent stands. It’s a cautious step toward giving sports fans who have been cooped up for months a chance to leave their homes and watch a bull attempt to throw a man from its back as the rider tries to hold on. PBR tried to keep cowboys and fans alike safe from the spread of coronavirus infections by seating spectators apart from each other in a “pod seating” method, as well as regularly testing riders and their support staff. Tightly packed lines for the concession stand or bathroom were gone as well, with signs encouraging people to space apart.
Nashville: A state lawmaker says he has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. Republican state Rep. Kent Calfee said on Facebook on Friday that both he and his wife have tested positive. The 71-year-old Kingston lawmaker said his wife is receiving treatment, and he is self-isolating, though he is not experiencing symptoms. Calfee said in a statement that he has told legislative administration in Nashville, “so they can take any additional precautions to maintain a safe working environment for all within the Cordell Hull Building,” where the Tennessee General Assembly meets. Calfee attended two days of Joint Government Operations Committee meetings last week. Just a few lawmakers on the 24-member committee wore masks. Tennessee has reported more than 61,000 cases and at least 738 deaths from the virus.
Austin: The new coronavirus continues to cut its record-setting swath through the state as officials reported a record 10,351 new cases for the day Saturday. That brought the total cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, to just over a quarter-million dating to the start of tracking in early March. The true number of cases, though, is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. A record 10,083 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, while 99 new fatalities were reported Saturday. The total is second only to the record 105 reported Thursday and brought the state’s overall death toll to 3,112. Harris County had the most active cases with almost 27,000, with Dallas County coming in a distant second with almost 13,000.
Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has asked all its members in Utah to wear face coverings when in public, a request that comes as confirmed infections in the state increase. The Deseret News reports the Utah Area Presidency sent out the request in an email Friday evening. The area presidency operates under the authority of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Now we ask all Latter-day Saints in the Utah Area to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public,” the email said. “Doing so will help promote the health and general welfare of all.” About 62% of Utah’s 3.1 million residents are members of the church. Nearly 900 new cases were reported in the state Friday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Overall, Utah had 28,223 confirmed cases and 207 deaths due to the virus as of Saturday.
Montpelier: Statistics show the average age of people becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 is declining in the state, officials said Friday. In March and April, the average age of people testing positive was between 50 and 55, said Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, who has been overseeing the collection of data about the COVID-19 pandemic in Vermont. In May, the average was between 40 and 50. Over the past six weeks, it has been under 40. “This illustrates that more vulnerable Vermonters, at least by age, have done a really good job of protecting themselves during Vermont’s restart, and so have the many facilities across our state that house vulnerable Vermonters, nursing homes or other long-term care facilities,” Pieciak said during the regular virus briefing by state officials. Vermont continues to meet the metrics established to continue the reopening of the state.
Tazewell: The closing of courts in Tazewell County because of the pandemic has created a way to pay tuition for county students at Southwest Virginia Community College for the rest of this year, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports. “The regional jail expense decreased by $275,000 due to the COVID-19 shutdown of the court system,” County Administrator Eric Young said. That money will be used to fulfill a pledge to county students who attend the college to pay their tuition this summer and through the fall semester. Board of Supervisors Chair Charlie Stacy said last month that the county will have to pick up the cost for this year and search for money to extend the program into 2021, or end it if funding is not found. Stacy said Gov. Ralph Northam’s biennium budget, which kicked in Wednesday, does not include money for the free tuition program because of state revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seattle: COVID-19 isn’t going away soon, so people need to learn to make protecting one another’s health part of daily life, King County’s top public health official said Friday. “It’s just critical that, as a community, we understand the long-term nature of COVID-19,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said at a news conference. “None of us asked for this; none of us wanted this. But it’s with us, and we have to deal with it. And if we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.” King County saw an average of 118 new cases per day during the week ending July 9, according to the county. That’s nearly triple the daily average for the week ending June 9. People younger than 40 account for almost three-quarters of King County cases during the past two weeks, with more than one-third of those cases occurring in people in their 20s.
Charleston: The state’s tax department offices have reopened ahead of the income tax filing and payment deadline, officials said Thursday. The agency said its taxpayer service centers are accepting appointment-only visits at offices in Wheeling, Clarksburg, Charleston, Beckley, Martinsburg and Parkersburg. The state’s tax deadline is July 15. A news release from the tax department said face masks will be required, and visitors will have to answer screening questions and get their temperature taken before they are allowed inside. Appointments can be made online or by calling the taxpayer services office.
Madison: The state hit another high Saturday in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, breaking the record for the third day in a row. The state Department of Health Services reported 926 new confirmed cases, a day after there were 845 new positives. Cases in Wisconsin, as well as the percentage positive of all those tested, have been increasing since mid-June, mirroring spikes seen in most states. Health officials confirmed that six more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s tally to 821. Of the more than 12,000 test results in Wisconsin reported Saturday, 7.7% were positive. That was up from 6.6% on Thursday. Of the roughly 35,700 people who have tested positive, 78% have recovered, and 2% have died.
Casper: An employee at the University of Wyoming has contracted the coronavirus, the school says, marking the first time someone living or working on campus has tested positive. The school said in a statement Friday that the man went into self-isolation July 3 when he began feeling symptoms. He said he believes he contracted the virus at a private appointment off-campus. Officials told the Casper Star-Tribune that “there is little campus exposure risk.” According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, Wyoming on Saturday had 1,839 confirmed cases and 21 deaths due to the virus. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bull riding, Whac-a-Mole: News from around our 50 states