Dropping mandates, hiking for stress, opening stadiums: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY
·51 min read

Alabama

Montgomery: Hospitals support an extension of a statewide face mask order, at least until more people become vaccinated against COVID-19, the head of the Alabama Hospital Association said Monday. Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to announce this week whether she will extend the face covering mandate and other health orders that are set to expire Friday. A spokeswoman for the governor expressed optimism about state coronavirus numbers. “All along, Gov. Ivey has made clear that she prefers personal responsibility to government mandates. We are optimistic that our state is heading in the right direction, and we still have some work to be done,” Gina Maiola said Monday. Alabama, like much of the nation, has seen a significant drop in daily COVID-19 cases, but medical officials cautioned that the virus has not gone away, and uncertainty remains about the impact of emerging variants and upcoming events like spring break gatherings. “It just seems to me until we get more people vaccinated, the most prudent thing to do is to stay the course and continue to try to drive these numbers down, especially because we are still worried about the U.K. variant and the South African variant,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.

Alaska

Anchorage: The state Department of Health and Social Services has reported fewer than 100 influenza cases during this flu season, down from close to 400 cases at this time last year. While 13 state residents died with the flu last season, so far this season, only two flu deaths have been recorded in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The 2018-19 flu season yielded almost 12 times more flu cases in the state compared to the ongoing 2020-21 season, said Carrie Edmonson, a state nurse epidemiologist who compiles the state’s weekly “flu snapshot” report. During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths across the country. “This is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the CDC. Health officials such as Edmonson have said that public health orders aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus have also prevented the flu from spreading. Officials also attribute the flu’s decline to less influenza testing and increased flu vaccinations, the newspaper reports.

Arizona

Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey and state health officials have announced a new hybrid approach that provides residents 55 and older eligibility along with front-line essential workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The state Department of Health Services opened 50,000 appointments Tuesday at two state-run sites – State Farm Stadium in Glendale and Phoenix Municipal Stadium – for the lowered age eligibility group. “As more vaccine reaches Arizona, we will continue refining our plan to maximize the benefits of this still-limited resource,” state health director Dr. Cara Christ said in a statement. “Moving to a hybrid approach will allow us to rapidly and efficiently administer the vaccine and provide all Arizonans with a clearer estimate of when they will be eligible to be vaccinated.” Since vaccine distribution began in December, authorities said more than 1.8 million doses have been administered, and about 600,000 Arizonans have received both shots. Meanwhile, Arizona’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 16,000 on Tuesday as the state reported 81 additional deaths and 849 additional confirmed infection cases, the fewest daily new cases in three months.

Arkansas

Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Republican lawmakers on Monday proposed overhauling the state’s Medicaid expansion to encourage recipients to work after Arkansas’ work requirement was halted by the courts and President Joe Biden’s administration. Proposed legislation would continue using Medicaid funds to place recipients on private health insurance, but those who don’t work or go to school could be moved to the traditional fee-for-service Medicaid program. More than 300,000 people are currently on the state’s Medicaid expansion. “No one loses health care benefits, but there are incentives to encourage that kind of behavior and that kind of progress in life,” the Republican governor said at a news conference. The work requirement had been approved in 2018 by former President Donald Trump’s administration, and thousands had lost coverage before it was halted. “These dollars are essential to keeping our rural hospitals and our health care infrastructure intact and stabilized,” said Republican Sen. Missy Irvin, a sponsor of the legislation. The proposal includes other changes, including a home-visiting program for at-risk moms and a new program to connect young adults in targeted populations such as veterans and former foster children with community organizations.

California

San Francisco: Indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms in the city can reopen within 24 hours, an upbeat Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday as the county officially moved into a less-restrictive tier of the state’s coronavirus strategy. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties in the Bay Area join five other counties in moving to the second-most restrictive operating tier. Much of the state’s population remains in the most restrictive purple tier. “This is the beginning of a new day in San Francisco,” Breed said from Pier 39, an area popular with tourists in picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf. But she warned residents to wear masks and maintain proper social distance even as she encouraged them to explore the city. “When your waiter walks up to your table, put your mask on. When you go to the restroom, put your mask on,” she said. Business activity in San Francisco shut down in early December after several Bay Area counties preemptively went into lockdown. Outdoor dining, outdoor museums, and some indoor and outdoor personal services reopened in late January after the state called off its regional stay-home order, but the economic toll has been grim. Rents plummeted as tech workers who could work from anywhere fled for cheaper homes with more elbow room. Tourism has also been dealt a massive blow.

Colorado

Fort Collins: The state has passed its goal of getting 75% of teachers and child care workers a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by March 5. The Colorado State Joint Information Center said Monday afternoon that as of its latest estimates, almost 78% of the 120,000 eligible teachers and child care workers had received a first dose. Pre-K through 12th grade teachers and child care workers were first eligible for the vaccine Feb. 8. At a late January press conference announcing their eligibility, Gov. Jared Polis said all teachers who wanted a vaccine would get one within a three-week period. Polis later said the goal was for 75% of those eligible to have a first dose by March 5. The Colorado State Joint Information Center said the state calculates its percentage based on updates from school districts provided to the Colorado Department of Education. Among educators, just pre-K through 12th grade teachers, support staff and child care workers are currently eligible for the vaccine. Polis announced Friday that student-facing staff in community colleges and universities will be eligible for vaccines when the state moves to Phase 1.B4, likely at the end of March.

Connecticut

Hartford: A package of tax changes, including a plan to prevent 110,000 commuters with out-of-state jobs from being double-taxed because they’ve been working at home during the pandemic, received final legislative approval Monday. The bill, which also includes provisions to help welfare recipients with liens on their properties and to steer more funding to communities with nontaxable property, cleared the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 28-7. The legislation, which already passed in the House of Representatives, now awaits Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s signature. Supporters of the bill, including senators in the western portion of the state, said it was unfair that many of their constituents who work in New York faced the prospect of having to pay both Connecticut and New York income tax when they were working from home during the pandemic. The issue also affects Connecticut residents who work in neighboring Massachusetts. “These commuters have not benefited from New York services over the last year,” said Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, noting that many have “not stepped foot” in New York since many employers told workers to stay home. The underlying issue is ultimately expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Delaware

Stephanie Sanford with her mom, Leslie Hudgon.
Stephanie Sanford with her mom, Leslie Hudgon.

Wilmington: With typical getaway options limited due to COVID-19, many have turned to camping for a safe, socially distanced vacation. Delaware state campgrounds reopened in June with new precautions like increased sanitation and masks required for children kindergarten-age and older. Stephanie Sanford didn’t camp much before the pandemic, but she’s recently planned several trips and found them to be a great antidote to pandemic-related anxieties. She has since been encouraging friends and family to turn to the outdoors as a way to process and relieve the stress of COVID-19. “I remember just feeling so alleviated from this pressure that was mounting from being a mom, being a wife, being a teacher in the house,” she said. The quiet of the outdoors, Sanford said, “really puts your mind at ease.” She has even gotten her friends to join her on her outdoor trips by starting a group called Black Girls Hike Too, which now has more than 1,000 followers. Amid the disproportionate impact of pandemic-related stress and anxiety on Black women, Sanford strongly urged friends and family to challenge the idea that the outdoors wasn’t for them.

District of Columbia

Washington: The process to book a vaccine appointment has become so strenuous that some are concerned it could create even more hesitancy among residents who are already skeptical or don’t have the technical experience or means, WUSA-TV reports. Katie Wall-Mansen, fearing technical hurdles to sign up online might be pushing more people away, started the group DC Vaccine Coalition in January after reading many comments on neighborhood-based social network Nextdoor about how confusing it was, especially for older citizens, to reserve a slot. “I fear we’re actually creating a new form of vaccine hesitancy, and that’s been so difficult for people to register for a vaccine that I understand people’s plight and that they may sit back and not want to do this again,” Wall-Mansen said. Her group has grown to include about 50 volunteers working to make the process easier by finding appointments online. They start by looking at avenues outside the DC Health portal system to find availability at hospitals or community clinics. Wall-Mansen said volunteers keep a resident’s information populated to quickly enter it into the system, use different browsers simultaneously and ensure they’re on the call line when appointments become available. “We organized chaos, but we are in and willing,” she said.

Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives in the state House of Representatives chamber in Tallahassee on Tuesday to give his State of the State speech on the first day of the 2021 legislative session.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives in the state House of Representatives chamber in Tallahassee on Tuesday to give his State of the State speech on the first day of the 2021 legislative session.

Tallahassee: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis reflected as much on the past year as on his priorities for 2021 during a State of the State address Tuesday that touted his response to the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis, a staunch opponent to lockdowns and business restrictions, said Florida is in much better shape than other states because it is open for business. “While so many other states kept locking people down over these many months, Florida lifted people up,” DeSantis said. “Florida’s schools are open, and we are one of only a handful of states in which every parent has a right to send their child to school in person. All Floridians have a right to earn a living, and our citizens are employed at higher rates than those in the nation as a whole. Every job is essential.” DeSantis’ speech marked the first day of the 2021 legislative session. Ironically, while he was talking about keeping the state open, the Capitol was closed to the public because of the pandemic. DeSantis credited his refusal to return to shutdowns and business restrictions for Florida being in a better financial situation than forecasters predicted last year. “Economic lockdowns are a luxury of the largely affluent Zoom class. Many Floridians can’t do their jobs over a computer. They need to show up,” he said.

Georgia

Savannah: More than 2 million Georgians have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but the numbers of positive cases and community transmission remain high. The state’s confirmed coronavirus case count rose by 1,214 since Sunday to reach 819,730 on Monday, while the statewide death toll rose by 80 to reach 15,148, according to figures posted Monday afternoon by the Georgia Department of Public Health. As of Monday, the state had administered 2,060,352 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for a rate of 19,388 vaccines administered per 100,000 Georgians, as reported by the state’s new vaccine dashboard. Of Georgia’s 56,089 confirmed COVID-19 cases in patients who were hospitalized when the case was reported to DPH or when interviewed, 50 patients included in that total were added Monday.

Hawaii

Wailuku: Maui Health plans to increase the number of first-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments it offers, while Kauai has widened the availability of vaccine doses. The nonprofit health care organization for Maui and Lanai said it will raise the number of weekly vaccines to 3,000 beginning this week and 4,000 next week, The Maui News reports. Maui Health was nearing completion of appointments that were rescheduled after clinics closed in January because of vaccine shortages, spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda said late last week. Maui Health opened a satellite vaccine clinic Wednesday at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Kihei that will operate Wednesdays and Fridays by appointment. “What we’re trying to do is really ramp up the number of appointments that we can take,” Dallarda said. The County of Kauai has opened its vaccine distribution to residents 75 and over, The Garden Island reports. The island’s clinics previously focused on vaccinating front-line essential workers. The Hawaii State Department of Health said 59% of Kauai residents in the older age bracket had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Idaho

Boise: The state’s suicide rate dropped steeply before the pandemic, but the trend may have reversed in 2020, according to federal data. Idaho had the biggest drop of any state from 2018 to 2019, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nearly 15% decline in Idaho meant 52 fewer suicides in 2019 compared to the previous year. “Some of the efforts that we had made were starting to show,” said George Austin of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, referring to statewide efforts to raise awareness and reduce stigma around asking for help. The drop in suicides came after Idaho’s worst reported year for suicide deaths in 2018. Idaho’s 2019 figures still put the state in the top 10 in the U.S. for age-adjusted suicide rates. Based on preliminary data, 2020 may be worse than Idaho’s 2018 peak, Boise State Public Radio reports. Austin said that could be due in large part to the pandemic, which has caused isolation, job loss, death of loved ones and relationship difficulties.

Illinois

Champaign: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it has authorized the emergency use of a coronavirus saliva test developed by the University of Illinois. Despite the lack of FDA approval until Monday, officials said the test, known as covidSHIELD, has been used more than 1.5 million times at the university’s campuses in Urbana, Springfield and Chicago. University officials also said that because the test had been properly lab-certified, dozens of organizations around the world were sold the test. In a statement, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the emergency-use authorization unlocks federal COVID-19 funding to provide 1 million tests to public universities in Illinois. “Even as we lead large-population states in vaccinations, widespread testing remains a critical tool in combating this pandemic, and I’m dedicating $20 million in CARES Act funding to provide 1 million tests to Illinois’ other public universities under the FDA’s emergency use authorization,” Pritzker said in a statement. There has been interest from school systems, universities and corporations in using the test because the process is less invasive that the nose-swab method, and results can be obtained within 24 hours.

Indiana

Indianapolis: Residents ages 55 to 60 are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, health officials announced Tuesday in the latest expansion of the state’s vaccine rollout. The Indiana Department of Health said the expansion is the first step in making the free shots available to the nearly 858,000 Hoosiers in their 50s. Indiana’s vaccine eligibility pool had previously included people age 60 and older, health care workers, long-term care residents and first responders. Additional groups will be added as more vaccine becomes available, officials said. The state’s current vaccine distribution plan indicates Hoosiers ages 50 to 55 are next in line to receive shots, although there are no specific timelines in place for when new eligibility expansions will take effect. The state health department also announced the opening of three mass vaccination sites through partnerships with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the University of Notre Dame and Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg. A fourth mass vaccination site is being planned in Gary, officials said. The clinics will offer the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, which was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday. To schedule a vaccine, Hoosiers can visit ourshot.in.gov and select a location from one of nearly 400 clinics around the state.

Iowa

The Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa, on May 27, 2020.
The Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa, on May 27, 2020.

Des Moines: Meatpackers will be vaccinated this week as newly approved shots from Johnson & Johnson arrive. The Iowa Department of Public Health announced Monday that the state will receive 33,400 doses of the single-shot vaccine among the 100,000 shots it’s getting this week and will send the new version to communities with a large numbers of workers in the food, agricultural, distribution and manufacturing sectors “who have been disproportionally affected by the virus.” Meatpacking workers, at the center of the state’s largest initial COVID-19 outbreaks last spring, will get vaccines beginning Wednesday at Tyson Foods’ Waterloo and Perry plants. The company said employees in Columbus Junction, Council Bluffs, Independence and Storm Lake will receive shots later in the week. JBS announced that its Marshalltown employees will get the shots Friday, and its Ottumwa workers will get vaccinated March 12. Both Tyson and JBS are offering incentives to workers to get the shot, with Tyson giving four hours’ pau to workers who have to come in on a day off and JBS offering a $100 bonus. Five Republicans have introduced a bill in the Legislature that includes a ban on extra payments for workers receiving the vaccine, contending companies should not treat workers differently based on willingness to be vaccinated.

Kansas

Kansas City: A local hospital has raised its minimum hourly wage to $15. The University of Kansas Health System said in a news release that the change will be reflected in paychecks beginning Friday. The announcement came nearly a year into a global pandemic that has hit hospital staffs around the country particularly hard and as President Joe Biden’s administration has been pushing for an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The hospital has not laid off or furloughed staff during the pandemic, it said in the release, adding that hourly employees who were already making $15 per hour or more also saw increases to account for experience and responsibility-based pay differences. “This pay increase is another step to support frontline workers and the critical role they play in providing care in our communities,” the release said.

Kentucky

Frankfort: Legislation that would provide broad protections to shield businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits won approval from the state Senate after a long debate Monday evening. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers described the measure as a necessary step to help businesses recover from pandemic-related setbacks without the fear of potential virus-related lawsuits. “We cannot afford to put another straw on that camel’s back that may break it,” said Stivers, the bill’s lead sponsor. “Because many are already broken, we don’t need to see any more become broken because they are in fear of litigation.” The proposal passed the chamber on a 24-11 vote and now goes to the House, which passed its version of virus-related liability protections for businesses in January. Republicans dominate both chambers and will try to reach agreement on a final version before this year’s session ends in late March. The Senate measure ran into resistance from some lawmakers who said it’s too broadly written and favors some Kentuckians over others. Republican Sen. Phillip Wheeler said the bill “devalues certain lives” by “creating a class of people who are protected and sacrificing other people who don’t receive protections but yet may be injured by the actions of the protected class.”

Louisiana

Hundreds of white flags line the lawn of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church as part of a memorial to people in Lafayette Parish, La., who have died from COVID-19.
Hundreds of white flags line the lawn of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church as part of a memorial to people in Lafayette Parish, La., who have died from COVID-19.

Baton Rouge: Bars can reopen indoors, restaurants can hold more customers, and churches won’t have capacity limits for worship services, under loosened coronavirus rules announced Tuesday by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The eased Phase 3 restrictions – which come as Louisiana’s new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to drop – will take effect Wednesday across the state, unless a local mayor or parish president enacts tougher limits. A statewide mask mandate in place since July will remain. The new requirements will stay in place until March 31. “We’re currently moving in the right direction and have been for several weeks now, and certainly we’re all gratified by that,” the Democratic governor said. “We know, however, we still have a lot of work to do before we get out of this pandemic.” Restaurants, cafes, spas, salons, movie theaters and other nonessential businesses that had been limited to 50% of their occupancy limit can move to 75% capacity. The exception is for gyms, which Edwards is requiring to stay at 50% capacity. Music will be allowed at indoor locations again, though with a long list of requirements for venues from the fire marshal’s office and no dance floors allowed. Conferences and other gatherings can restart at convention centers, if the events get fire marshal approval.

Maine

Portland: A new emergency rental assistance program designed to help tenants has started accepting applications. MaineHousing said the program launched Monday and is funded by the federal coronavirus stimulus package that passed in December and provided $200 million in rental assistance funding to the state. The agency said the program allows applicants to apply for funds to cover rent and utilities owed back to March 13, 2020. Saying it expects high demand at the beginning of the program, MaineHousing is asking tenants and landlords to communicate in advance of applying. Daniel Brennan, director of MaineHousing, said tenants are in need of the assistance. “We are all living under the direction to stay ‘safe at home.’ We need to make sure that every Mainer has a stable home for themselves and their families,” he said. Meanwhile, city officials said an updated outdoor dining and retail permitting program will be in effect from April 2021 to April 2022. Portland officials said in a statement that the program will allow retailers and restaurants to “apply to expand into public spaces, including closed streets, parklets, the public right-of-way, and parks.” City Manager Jon Jennings said the changes will allow businesses to operate safely for the coming year.

Maryland

Annapolis: Officials announced a plan Monday to improve equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Baltimore amid continuing criticism about the state’s rollout, particularly in its largest city. The Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital – a public-private partnership of the state health department, the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine – will put an emphasis on vaccinating the most vulnerable communities in Baltimore, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office announced. Leadership at the field hospital has been working closely with hospital-based community health teams to encourage eligible individuals who live in high-vulnerability ZIP codes to register for vaccinations, the governor’s office said. Meanwhile, lawmakers on a panel holding weekly hearings on Maryland’s vaccine rollout continued to criticize aspects of it. Sen. Mary Washington, D-Baltimore, asked the acting health secretary, Dennis Schrader, about a comment the governor made last week that Baltimore had received more vaccine than the city was “entitled to,” and she asked Schrader how he planned to address “the negative damage” caused by Hogan’s comment that outraged city officials. Schrader said Washington was asking him a political question, and he was staying focused “on process and facts.”

Massachusetts

Boston: Residents have increasingly been going online during the COVID-19 crisis to purchase nearly everything under the sun – including alcohol. State alcohol regulators have seen a 300% uptick in direct-to-consumer alcohol deliveries throughout the pandemic, state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said during a virtual hearing on the state budget Tuesday. Under state law, a direct wine shipper may send up to 12 cases of wine per year to a Massachusetts resident. As treasurer, Goldberg oversees the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which helps enforce liquor laws and has also been enforcing the state’s COVID-19 protocols. Since last August, inspectors visited more than 21,000 licensed alcohol businesses in the state and found 98% in compliance with Gov. Charlie Baker’s pandemic-related executive orders, Goldberg said. The Democrat also oversees the state lottery, which she said took a hit in the early months of the pandemic. Overall sales last March, April and May fell by a combined $244 million compared to the same period in 2019. “Since then, our revenues have stabilized and improved,” said Goldberg, who also said the use of contactless payment options has soared during the pandemic, and the lottery also needs to have the flexibility to expand cashless transactions.

Michigan

Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday announced the further loosening of Michigan’s coronavirus restrictions, easing capacity limits in restaurants and a host of other businesses while also allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings. The revised state health department order takes effect Friday. The Democratic governor also said families will be able to visit nursing homes after being tested for the coronavirus. Restaurants and bars, now limited to 25% capacity inside, will have a 50% restriction. A 10 p.m curfew will shift to 11 p.m. Venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, banquet halls and casinos will have higher capacity limits, too.

Minnesota

Minneapolis: More than 45,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should arrive this week, state health officials said Monday. Minnesota Department of Health spokesman John Schadl said the order for the first shipment of the single-dose vaccine was placed Sunday night. It usually takes a couple of days for processing and shipping, he said. “More doses of safe and effective vaccine in the state means more people can get protected more quickly,” the Health Department said in a release Monday. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a game-changer that will help us quickly provide immunity to even more Minnesotans.” Last week, Gov. Tim Walz said the state plans on vaccinating 70% of seniors in the state with at least one dose by the end of March before expanding vaccine eligibility. He said it could be done in less time with the new vaccine. “That was not factored in, and again the good thing on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is it’s one dose,” Walz said. Health officials on Monday confirmed 636 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 485,230 positive tests and 6,486 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

Mississippi

Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said as of Wednesday, he is getting rid of most mask mandates that he had imposed to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He is also lifting most other restrictions, including limits on seating in restaurants. “The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” the Republican governor said during a news conference Tuesday. Until now, most of Mississippi’s 82 counties had been under a mask mandate for months. Reeves said the number of people hospitalized because of the virus has decreased in recent weeks, and vaccination numbers are increasing. Reeves said rules for K-12 schools are not changing. Schools will still require masks where social distancing is not possible. There are also still limits on seating at K-12 school events: 25% capacity indoors and 50% outdoors. The new capacity for seating at indoor arenas for colleges is 50%. Club areas in arenas are limited to 75% of their seating capacity. Reeves said he is encouraging mask-wearing but not requiring it and is asking people to follow recommendations from the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Dobbs said it’s still a good idea for people to avoid large, unmasked gatherings. “There’s no way in heck I would go sit in a crowded bar right now,” he said.

Missouri

Columbia: Residents wouldn’t have to repay millions of dollars in federal unemployment benefit overpayments under legislation advanced in the GOP-led state House on Monday. At issue are mistakes by the state’s Labor Department as it was struggling to quickly handle a huge influx of unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency ended up doling out $146 million to 46,000 Missourians who didn’t qualify. Now Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration is trying to get those overpayments back. Republican bill sponsor Rep. J. Eggleston said many of the workers who got the federal aid spent already spent it on rent, mortgage payments, utilities and other needs and don’t have the money to repay the government. “What the financial recipients thought was a lifeline of survival has now become an anchor of debt,” he said. The House bill, given initial approval in a voice vote, would stop the state from collecting federal unemployment overpayments. The measure would only give amnesty to people who applied for unemployment help in good faith and received it because of a mistake by the state Labor Department. People who committed fraud would still have to pay the federal funding back. Missourians also would still be on the hook to repay unemployment aid received from the state.

Montana

Browning: The Blackfeet Nation on Tuesday began offering COVID-19 vaccines to people 18 and older. The tribe is holding two clinics this week. The Blackfeet Community Hospital is offering vaccines Tuesday through Friday, and the Southern Piegan Clinic was offering immunizations Tuesday. Both said they were accepting walk-ins, but vaccinations at the hospital can also be scheduled by appointment. The tribe expects to receive a shipment of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccines next week. The tribe on Monday reported eight active coronavirus cases on the reservation and has recorded 1,383 total cases since March. Forty-seven tribal members have died from the respiratory illness caused by the virus. More than half of Blackfeet Reservation’s 10,000 residents have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the tribe’s Public Information Officer Jim McNeely. “We’re moving along quite fast – faster than we expected,” said McNeely, who credits the successful vaccine rollout to the state and the Indian Health Service. “At the rate we’re going, it may be possible for our community to be fully vaccinated by mid-May.” He said the Blackfeet Nation is still encouraging people to get tested for the coronavirus by offering incentives at test sites, including food, cleaning supplies and gift cards.

Nebraska

Lincoln: More than 84,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered across the state last week. As of Sunday, more than 428,031 doses have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, as of Sunday more than 145,000 Nebraskans have completed vaccinations, which represents 9.8% of Nebraskans 16 and older. For more information and to register for a vaccine, residents can visit Finish Strong Nebraska, the state’s official vaccination campaign, at FinishStrong.Ne.Gov. Once registered on the portal, Nebraska residents will be notified when COVID-19 vaccination begins in their area. A Spanish translation of the website is also available. As of Monday, more than 220,409 Nebraskans have registered to receive the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov.

Nevada

Carson City: Officials are preparing to cede decision-making power over the state’s coronavirus measures to county officials. In the five rural counties that have passed resolutions condemning the restrictions, it’s unclear how much will change. “We just plan to continue as we’ve been. We want to be smart, but we want to protect freedom. In the resolution we passed, we give businesses restrictions as they see fit,” White Pine County Commissioner Ian Bullis said of the state’s plan to let counties control some guidelines starting May 1. To prevent deaths and keep hospitals from reaching capacity, Nevada has limited the number of people who can gather at places like churches, casinos and restaurants. Officials have mandated face coverings and, for most of the past year, not allowed conventions, trade shows and live entertainment. The restrictions, though not as stringent as those in some neighboring states, have stirred up anger in rural counties suspicious of government overreach, prompted debate about the extent of the governor’s powers and raised questions about consistent enforcement of coronavirus containment measures. In November, White Pine County became the first of five counties to declare an economic state of emergency rebuffing Gov. Steve Sisolak’s containment measures.

New Hampshire

Concord: New businesses that opened just in time to be slammed by the coronavirus pandemic would be eligible for more help under a bill before a state Senate committee Tuesday. The state distributed more than $400 million in federal funding through its Main Street Relief Fund for small businesses, but only those that were established before May 26, 2019, were eligible. “This cut out a large segment of new small businesses which fill new needs in our communities and create the most new jobs at a time when they were really struggling,” said Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth. Her bill would remove the cutoff date for future funding. “The newer the business, the more critical supporting it is,” she told the Senate Commerce Committee. Lizabeth Tompkins had worked at the Puttin’ on the Glitz boutique in Portsmouth for several years before becoming the owner in September 2019. While she was able to get a loan to help recover from being shut down for three months during the pandemic, she wasn’t eligible for the grant funding. “I don’t like asking for help. That’s not how I got here, but this is my only source of income,” she said.

New Jersey

A NJ Transit employee at the Hoboken Terminal disinfects areas around the terminal during morning rush hour in Hoboken, N.J., on March 16, 2020.
A NJ Transit employee at the Hoboken Terminal disinfects areas around the terminal during morning rush hour in Hoboken, N.J., on March 16, 2020.

Trenton: NJ Transit will receive 300 vaccines this week to distribute to its front-line workers at the agency’s vaccination sites in Maplewood and Camden thanks to an agreement struck with the state Department of Health. The vaccine will be available to NJ Transit workers who are currently eligible – including those 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions and smokers – but have not gotten it yet. The workers must also be customer-facing employees, such as bus operators, ticket collectors, train conductors and police officers. Eligible agency employees can begin signing up for appointments Wednesday, and the first doses will be given Thursday in Maplewood and Friday in Camden. “We are grateful to the DOH for providing 300 doses,” NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith wrote in an email. “We feel this is a great opportunity to initiate the vaccination process for eligible transit workers.” NJ Transit, which employs nearly 12,000 people, became an approved state vaccine distributor in January after securing freezers, getting its two vaccination sites set up and developing its own appointment system.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: The state Senate has advanced a bill that would require public schools to extend the academic calendar next year in an effort to help students catch up from the loss of learning during the pandemic. If passed, the bill would stretch the school calendar next year by 25 days for K-5 students and 10 days for most 6-12 schools by requiring them to participate in extended learning programs already paid for by the Legislature. Schools had been slow to embrace the programs, citing staffing issues, despite the fact that more work would increase teacher take-home pay by 6% to 14% depending on the grade level. Then the programs were canceled because of the pandemic. “Extending the school year is shown to be one of the best things you can do for student achievement,” said Democratic bill sponsor President Pro Tem Sen. Mimi Stewart, citing legislative research that drove the passage of the programs in 2019. The mandate for next year would only take effect if Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s current health order curbing in-person schooling is lifted, and it would only last for the 2021-2022 school year. On the other side of the Capitol Complex, the House is considering a measure that would allow for longer school days to use the funds without extending the school calendar.

New York

Olean: St. Bonaventure University President Dennis DePerro died Monday from complications of COVID-19, according to the university. He was 62. DePerro was hospitalized since late December after testing positive for the coronavirus on Christmas Eve. The university said it’s unknown how he contracted it. He had been on a ventilator since mid-January. “Words simply can’t convey the level of devastation our campus community feels right now,” said Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Zimmer was named acting president of the private Franciscan university late last month in DePerro’s absence. The university flag will fly at half-staff through the end of March on the western New York campus, where the spring semester began Jan. 25 with about 85% of classes taking place in person. DePerro became president June 1, 2017, and implemented new strategies that increased freshmen enrollment. He launched the “A Bolder Bonaventure” capital campaign to fund the university’s School of Health Professions and last year reconstituted a presidential commission to improve diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. “What I’ll miss more than anything was his uncanny ability to make you feel better even on your worst days. He had a unique gift,” university spokesman Tom Missel said.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that the state will more quickly open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those who are front-line essential workers or have serious underlying health issues. The state had been set to allow a broad group of workers ranging from mail carriers to elected officials to begin receiving vaccines March 10. But with approval of a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and more than 80,000 doses arriving soon, public health officials will now allow front-line workers to get shots starting Wednesday – a week earlier than anticipated. Meanwhile, North Carolinians under 65 with high-risk medical conditions that put them at greater risk of severe illness if they become infected with the virus will become eligible March 24. “We’ll open group 4 first to people with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe risk to COVID-19 illness,” Cooper said in a news conference. “The third vaccine and improving vaccine supply of the two we already are getting will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly.”

North Dakota

Bismarck: The state is rolling out another round of grants to help communities prevent suicides, and state officials say there’s more urgency with this funding, given the pandemic and its added stresses for many residents. The Department of Human Services’ Behavioral Health Division will award $750,000, to be shared by up to 19 community groups, local and tribal governments and nonprofits to develop or increase suicide-prevention strategies. While more people already may have reached out for help, division director Pamela Sagness said history shows that for others, it can take longer for the effects of a crisis to surface. “This is the time for us to be gearing up to really not only support individuals that are already feeling the mental health impact but those that will potentially be feeling those impacts for several years,” she said. The deadline for groups to apply for grant funding is Friday. Sagness said the most recent state data, from last spring, found nearly 70% of respondents reported an increase in mental health struggles. Nationally, the group Mental Health America reported nearly 180,000 Americans had frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm last year – the largest number in its reporting history.

Ohio

Columbus: An outdated reporting system that led to the undercount of more than 4,200 COVID-19 deaths will now be retired, the state’s health department director said Tuesday. The Ohio Department of Health will retire the manual system it used to provide a real-time death toll from the pandemic over the past year after a breakdown in the system led to a massive adjustment last month to the documented death toll. “We have been building the plane as we fly it,” Health Director Stephanie McCloud said Tuesday. “And unfortunately, we weren’t given all new parts to build it well. We did not have time to stop the plane to land it, get the new parts that we need and then take off again.” The department was switching Tuesday to relying exclusively on a slower but more reliable and accurate system to count virus-related deaths, McCloud said. The agency had used this slower process as a quality check to reconcile the data from the manual system that failed. The slower system is based on death certificates sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s infectious diseases database, which are confirmed as COVID-19 deaths before being added to the state’s database. The shift will result in only confirmed deaths being listed every few days instead of probable deaths listed daily.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association said Tuesday that he is encouraged and happy that the State Department of Health will begin using U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 death reports, which show about 2,500 more deaths due to the coronavirus than the department has reported. “As physicians we want to make sure that these numbers are accurate and timely, and certainly one of the best ways to look at COVID deaths is to look at death certificate information,” which is prepared by doctors and used by the CDC to report deaths, said Dr. George Monks. “I was encouraged by … our state epidemiologist, that he addressed that issue, that there was a big discrepancy.” State epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said Monday that the state health department would begin work to present the death toll reported by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. “The difference in death counts is that the CDC values they are citing are derived from death certificates,” Taylor said. “OSDH counts are derived from people who are first diagnosed as COVID positive, then die, and we do a full investigation” into the cause of the death.

Oregon

Portland: State health officials said Monday that they expect to receive 34,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week. The two vaccines that Oregon has had on hand – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – both have reported efficacy rates around 95%, require two doses and need ultra-cold storage. Johnson & Johnson’s is a single-dose vaccine and can be stored in a refrigerator for months but has a lower efficacy rate. “Having access to a third highly effective COVID-19 vaccine is a game changing development for Oregonians,” said Paul Cieslak, the medical director for communicable diseases and immunization for the Oregon Health Authority. “We believe this vaccine is effective against the virus, and a one-dose regimen will allow us to vaccinate more Oregonians more quickly.” For the past month, health officials have reiterated that although the vaccine supply is increasing, it’ll take time for everyone who wants to be vaccinated to move through the process. As of Monday, people who are 65 years and older became eligible to receive doses of the vaccine, joining other elderly residents, people in long-term care facilities, adults in custody, educators and health care workers.

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg: Fans will soon return to pro sports venues whose stands have been empty for a year or more after the state on Monday eased restrictions on large gatherings to reflect a sustained slide in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Under the relaxed gathering limits announced by Gov. Tom Wolf, outdoor venues are now allowed to host events up to 20% of their maximum capacity, while indoor occupancy will be 15% of maximum capacity, regardless of venue size. The Pittsburgh Penguins said the ice hockey team would allow 2,800 fans into PPG Paints Arena for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. It will be the Pens’ first home game with fans since a victory over Montreal on March 8, 2020. Pittsburgh Pirates President Travis Williams said opening day at PNC Park “will be much more than a game. It will mark a significant step in overcoming this pandemic.” In Philadelphia, the Wells Fargo Center said it would quickly allow fans into Flyers and 76ers games if city officials give the go-ahead.

Rhode Island

Providence: The city has received permission from state health officials to start vaccine registrations for residents 50 and older who live in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, the mayor announced Tuesday. Those eligible will get their vaccinations at neighborhood clinics, Mayor Jorge Elorza and City Council President Sabina Matos said in a statement. “The city is working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health and community partners to reach residents in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Elorza said. State-run mass vaccination sites and retail pharmacies will continue vaccinating eligible residents 65 or older. The city’s Clinica Esperanza has been granted authority to vaccinate residents 18 and older provided they also help register and bring an older adult 65 or older to be vaccinated, they said, but only if they live in certain hard-hit ZIP codes within the city. Clinica Esperanza primarily serves the city’s immigrant communities and saw a coronavirus positivity rate of 23% at the clinic in February. Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Vaccines are available to all eligible residents of any immigration status. Eligible residents can sign up on the city’s registration portal.

South Carolina

Columbia: The majority of the state’s residents will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting next week, officials announced Tuesday. The state will move to Phase 1B of its vaccine plan beginning Monday, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference. Teachers, grocery store employees and people with certain medical conditions can sign up for appointments then. Officials estimate 2.7 million people will be newly eligible for the vaccine in the state with a population of about 5 million. People 55 and older and those with increased risk for severe COVID-19, including people with certain developmental disabilities and individuals with medical conditions such as heart disease or sickle cell disease, will become eligible. Front-line employees who work in-person jobs that put them at increased risk of exposure also will be eligible. Those workers include day care and grocery store employees, manufacturing workers, and law enforcement officers. People who meet the age requirement can show vaccine providers an identification card, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Dr. Edward Simmer said. Otherwise, providers will have to rely on the honesty of South Carolinians who attest that they meet one of the other qualifications. “Please don’t jump ahead,” Simmer said.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: After nearly a year of being barred from visiting the incarcerated, families and friends will soon have the chance to visit their loved ones in the state’s prison facilities. Phased scheduling with COVID-19 screening procedures will start Monday and roll through March 15, according to a memo by the South Dakota Department of Corrections. Visits will be limited to allow for social distancing, and “several new restrictions” will be used to “protect the health and safety of offenders and staff during the public health crisis,” the memo said. Visits could be halted again should the facilities see an increase in cases. Approved visitors must pass a temperature check and wear a face mask when entering the building, after which they will be given a new mask. Two visitors will be allowed per inmate, and no children under 12 will be permitted. Visitations and many group activities at all of the state’s prisons and work centers were suspended March 12, 2020, including powwows and sweat lodges, which the men at the South Dakota State Penitentiary and Jameson Annex hold a few times each year. In January, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Spiritual Group at the South Dakota State Penitentiary donated what money would have been spent on a powwow to the Children’s Inn.

Tennessee

Nashville: More than 1 million Tennesseans will become eligible Monday for the COVID-19 vaccine after the Department of Health announced Tuesday that it was expecting a large supply of the immunizations. According to Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, the new eligibility will apply to people 16 and older who have high-risk health conditions – including cancer, hypertension, obesity and pregnancy – as well as caregivers and household residents of medically fragile children. “This is a massive population,” Piercey said. “There are a lot of people who will qualify.” Tennesseans should check with their counties to learn more about eligibility and registration. Residents in metropolitan areas may have different instructions. The age limit to receive the vaccine will remain 65 or older for people who don’t fall into other high-risk groups. Separately, state Health Department investigators are looking into whether anyone received expired vaccine doses in Shelby County, which encompasses Memphis. There was no indication Tuesday that anyone had received an expired dose, said David Sweat, the county’s chief of epidemiology.

Texas

Austin: The state is lifting its mask mandate, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday, making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans. The Republican governor has faced sharp criticism from his party over the mandate, which was imposed eight months ago, as well as other COVID-19 restrictions on businesses that Texas will also scuttle starting next week. The mask order was only ever lightly enforced, even during the worst outbreaks of the pandemic. The repealed rules include doing away with limits on the number of diners or customers allowed indoors, said Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. He said the new rules would take effect March 10, although leaders in Houston and other big Texas cities were already reacting with alarm. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” Abbott said in a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.” The top county leader in Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, called the announcement “wishful thinking” and said spikes in hospitalizations have followed past rollbacks of COVID-19 rules.

Utah

Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it has donated $20 million to help a program aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries around the world. The donation from the humanitarian arm of the Utah-based faith is going to UNICEF as part of the organization’s work with the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative, which last week sent its long-awaited first deliveries to Ghana and Ivory Coast. More than half of the 16.5 million church members of the faith known widely as the Mormon church live outside the United States, including 666,500 in Africa. Many serve faith outreach missions around the world aimed at recruiting new members. Church officials hope the program helps children in these countries, where programs run by other organizations that provide children with health, nutritional and educational services have been disrupted by the pandemic, Gerald Causse, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Charities, said in a statement. The faith doesn’t disclose information about its finances but commonly announces donations made through the humanitarian arm of the religion that has helped more than 1,000 coronavirus relief projects in 152 countries, according to the church.

Vermont

Montpelier: The state is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to teachers next week, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday. The expansion comes as the supply of available vaccine increased by the federal approval over the weekend of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which only requires one shot and can be stored with regular refrigeration. “Our first allocations in the month of March for the Johnson & Johnson will be … dedicated to the teachers, school employees and child care providers,” Administration Secretary Mike Smith said. While the first allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this month will be reserved for educators, teachers will be able to choose if they’d prefer the two-dose vaccinations. Gov. Phil Scott said he felt some people will prefer the easier-to-use and distribute Johnson & Johnson vaccine and worried the demand for it could exceed the supply. The state is also expanding eligibility to include people 16 to 64 who have preexisting medical conditions that put them at higher risk of complications or death from COVID-19. Starting Monday, people with those conditions in the 55-to-64 age group will be able to make appointments. The younger group will be able to register the week after that.

Virginia

Richmond: Lawmakers have approved a loosening of the state’s ABC laws to help businesses and local governments recover from the impacts of the pandemic. One measure would allow distillers and restaurants to continue offering cocktails to go. That’s been allowed for a while under an executive directive Gov. Ralph Northam issued in April. But the new legislation would allow sales to continue even if the governor’s executive order declaring a state of emergency due to the pandemic expires. The bill would allow a limit of two cocktails per meal and a total of four maximum, said Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association. He said the to-go provisions have been a “lifeline” for restaurants during the pandemic, when some customers have been reluctant to dine indoors. The bill as passed would sunset July 1, 2022. Terry said he hopes lawmakers might extend it in the future. Another measure would effectively allow local governments to seek state approval to create open-container zones. The bill expands a code section that previously dealt with special events. It will allow localities to seek approval from the state ABC board for an “outdoor refreshment area license.”

Washington

Renton: Public school teachers continue to resist returning to classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the urging of Gov. Jay Inslee. Educators in Renton voted not to return to in-person teaching. KIRO reports the Renton School District had planned for preschool, kindergarten and self-contained elementary special education teachers to return to school classrooms Wednesday. The teacher’s union said the district failed to address safety concerns from school nurses, special education teachers and staff considered to be high-risk. But the district said the union had already approved an agreement that said teachers would return Wednesday. There are about 15,000 total students in the Renton district. Earlier, teachers in Seattle – the state’s largest district with more than 50,000 students – had balked at plans to return some students to classes early in March. The Seattle public teachers’ union filed unfair labor practice complaints against the city school district over actions it took to try to return some students to classrooms. After getting authorization from the Seattle School Board last week, the district designated some 700 educators as “essential” to speed up the process of in-person instruction for special education students.

West Virginia

Charleston: The state expects to receive a surge in vaccine doses this week after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine gained emergency use authorization. On top of the 15,500 doses from Johnson & Johnson, the state’s allocation of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will mean the state receives nearly 93,000 total doses this week, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday. The state administered more than 60,000 total first and second doses last week. With the vaccine supply now increasing, it will test West Virginia officials’ claims that the state has the capacity to administer 125,000 shots a week. They have said vaccinations have already driven down deaths linked to COVID-19. There were 39 deaths reported last week, the first time with fewer than 40 deaths reported statewide since late October. On Monday the state reported no additional deaths. “I am so delighted by this it’s unbelievable,” Justice said. “We have lost nobody in the last 24 hours.”

Wisconsin

Madison: Teachers will be prioritized to receive the first shipment of about 48,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming to the state next week, a bolster in supply that won’t be matched again for several weeks, the state’s deputy health secretary said Tuesday. About 30% of Wisconsin public school districts – 131 out of 421 – will be done vaccinating teachers by March 15, said Julie Willems Van Dyke, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The state originally planned to prioritize schools for vaccine distribution but didn’t need to do that because initial supply met the plans for distribution submitted by schools, she said. “We feel really great about the way this all timed out,” Willems Van Dyke said. “The good news is we’ll get our teachers vaccinated quickly, and by doing that, it opens the vaccine pipeline for others in this eligibility group.” Republicans who control the Legislature continue to put pressure on Gov. Tony Evers to force all schools to resume in-person classes. Evers has left opening decisions up to the schools and said Tuesday that he can’t force the change. “I cannot order schools to open,” Evers said. “It’s not part of my ability as governor.”

Wyoming

Cheyenne: The governor announced a goal Tuesday to capture more carbon dioxide than the nation’s top coal-mining state emits, as he criticized plans taking shape under President Joe Biden intended to limit climate change. “They claim to follow the science, but they adopt policies that resemble science fiction,” Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, said in his State of the State address. Prioritizing renewable energy over technology to keep carbon dioxide from power plants out of the atmosphere is a “crazed pursuit,” Gordon said about Biden’s plans. A tumultuous year of the pandemic and low oil prices has forced Wyoming to make steep spending cuts, but better days lie ahead, Gordon said. He praised Wyoming’s response to the pandemic that has kept schools open and businesses viable and said vaccine distribution was going smoothly. Wyoming could see a tourism “bonanza” if pent-up demand for travel brings visitors to the state this summer, he said. Still, Wyoming isn’t out of the woods yet with the virus and economic turmoil, Gordon said. He urged lawmakers meeting in Cheyenne over the next month to find a way to fund public education amid declining revenue from the state’s coal, oil and gas extraction industries.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dropping mandates, hiking for stress: News from around our 50 states