Clanton: The local school system is using a new cleaning tool to combat the coronavirus, without having to scrub desks, chairs and chalkboards. WBRC-TV reports Chilton County School custodians will be armed with 18 backpack decontamination foggers for the 16 school buildings. “The foggers are a game changer as far as sanitizing,” Chilton County School Maintenance Director Freddy Smith said. “It’s got a 5-minute COVID kill, that’s what you’re looking at.” Smith said the foggers usually are used in agriculture farming but are safe to use around students. He plans for custodians to spray bathrooms, common areas and door handles after every class change. “Anytime that you take a chemical and atomize it out of a fogger, it’s more effective and doesn’t take near as much chemical,” Smith said. The school system bought the foggers at $500 each using federal coronavirus aid dollars.
Juneau: The state Department of Transportation has released a draft winter ferry operating plan with long service gaps for some coastal communities, and others won’t have any service during the season. The department said the expected gaps and stoppages stem from the impact of the pandemic on Alaska Marine Highway System revenue, KTUU-TV reports. Hoonah, Gustavus, Angoon, Pelican and Tenakee will not have ferry service Feb. 15-April 11 because of the mechanical overhaul of the ferry M/V LeConte. A crew member on that vessel has tested positive for the coronavirus. There will also be a service gap for Prince William Sound, Homer and Kodiak from Jan. 7 through mid-March. Chenega Bay, Tatitlek, Valdez, Seldovia, Ouzinkie and Port Lions will not have ferry service from Oct. 1 until April 30, the department said. Service to Prince Rupert has been put on hold indefinitely, the department said.
Phoenix: Gyms, bars and water parks that were ordered closed six weeks ago by Gov. Doug Ducey due to the pandemic will be able to reopen at a limited capacity and with health precautions once the spread of the virus within their county is downgraded to moderate or minimal, state officials said Monday. The Ducey administration unveiled the standards as the state’s coronavirus outbreak has slowed and it faced a Tuesday deadline for creating an application process for reopening gyms. Some counties have already reached the moderate spread phase, such as Yavapai County, while Maricopa and Pima counties are weeks away from reaching that point. Once a county reaches the moderate phase, gyms can open at 25% capacity, and bars that convert to providing restaurant services can reopen at 50% capacity. Bars and nightclubs that don’t want to convert to restaurant services must remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday said he needs more guidance before he’ll decide whether the state will help pay for extending unemployment benefits under an executive order President Donald Trump signed last week. Hutchinson said it will cost about $265 million for the state to pay for a quarter of the $400-a-week unemployment benefit, and it would require legislative approval. The number of coronavirus cases in the state since the start of the pandemic surpassed 50,000 on Monday. “The state of Arkansas can make that happen, but it would be challenging and would take some time,” Hutchinson said. “We will have to adjust some of our priorities.” He said the state could tap into $250 million in federal coronavirus relief funds that it has set aside in reserve. The state could reallocate coronavirus funds in other areas, he said.
San Quentin: A veteran guard at San Quentin State Prison has died as a result of the coronavirus, marking the first COVID-19 death of an employee at the lockup where a large outbreak has infected staff and inmates, corrections officials said. Sgt. Gilbert Polanco, an Army veteran and guard at San Quentin since 1988, died after being hospitalized for more than a month, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. Of more than 260 staff members infected by the virus at San Quentin, Polanco is the first to die. He’s the ninth corrections employee to die of the virus statewide. Also Sunday, corrections officials announced the death of San Quentin inmate Pedro Arias, 58, from “what appears to be complications related to COVID-19.” Officials said in a statement that a coroner will determine the exact cause. At least two dozen inmates at the prison near San Francisco have died from COVID-19 complications.
Fort Collins: With at least part of the 2020-21 school year being taught remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Poudre School District will distribute laptops to most students, but it doesn’t have enough for everyone. The first quarter of the school year will be taught remotely during the pandemic, the district announced Tuesday. And about 2,400 students had registered for the district’s 100% online option as of Thursday morning. All PSD students will start school Aug. 24. Students will be given laptops from their home schools, but the district doesn’t have enough laptops for every K-12 student, the district said in an email to families Friday. Due to global supply chain delays, the district may not receive devices for some younger kids until later this fall.
Hartford: The Connecticut Department of Public Health issued its first $1,000 fines Monday to two individuals who Gov. Ned Lamont said failed to comply with the travel advisory for residents who return home from states with high COVID-19 infection rates. The Democrat said the two unnamed people had flown back to Connecticut from Louisiana and Florida, and neither filled out a health form that’s required from anyone entering from any state with a 10% or higher positive rate over a seven-day rolling average or a new daily positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents. Besides not filling out a form, one of the people also refused to quarantine for the required 14 days and was fined an additional $1,000. Lamont said a co-worker had notified state officials that the person was not complying with Lamont’s executive order. Officials received a tip about the other person as well.
Rehoboth Beach: A jazz festival has been postponed for a year due to the safety concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, which was slated to be held in October, has been pushed back to October 2021, the festival’s organizers announced Monday in a Facebook post. “We will always put the safety of our fans, artists, volunteers, sponsors and all the production crews that make it happen year after year first, which is why we know this decision had to be made and that it is the right thing to do,” the statement said. Next year’s event, which will benefit a hospital in the Rehoboth Beach, will have the same lineup of artists. Organizers said people can transfer their purchased tickets to the postponed festival, give them to another person or request a refund.
District of Columbia
Washington: The National Symphony Orchestra has been serenading health care workers virtually during the pandemic, WUSA-TV reports. NSO performances came to a standstill as a result of the public health crisis, and the orchestra is now focusing on lifting the spirits of health care heroes on the front lines. The musicians are unable even to practice together, so they started recording their music and sending it to local hospitals. The performers said music has healing powers, exactly what health workers need right now. For the musicians, it’s something that feeds their soul too, said Alex Jacobsen, who is entering his eighth year with the orchestra, a position he calls his “dream job.” “It’s a gratifying job to play for large crowds, but we can’t do that, so it’s the perfect opportunity to use our powers for good,” he said. Each video is introduced by a different musician with a personalized message to the essential workers.
Miami: A South Florida man has been accused of fraudulently obtaining $60,000 in federal coronavirus relief loans. Judlex Jean Louis, 32, of Lauderhill, was arrested and charged last week with bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said. Louis received proceeds from three fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans in early June, according to a criminal complaint. Each loan application hid Louis’ identity as the true loan recipient, the complaint said. Louis had PPP loan money deposited into accounts he controlled, prosecutors said. Authorities said surveillance cameras caught him withdrawing cash from one of these accounts after the loan money was deposited. The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Savannah: A 7-year-old boy with COVID-19 has become the youngest known person to die in the state since the coronavirus pandemic began, health officials reported. The boy had no other chronic health conditions, according to data released by the state. The case is from Chatham County, which includes Savannah, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported. The child is Black, but state data lists no other details about him or the death. The boy’s death comes amid nationwide debate about the risks that children face in getting infected or spreading the coronavirus, particularly as the school year begins. There is no indication in the health department’s reports about where or when the child contracted the virus. Before the boy’s death, Georgia’s youngest death was that of a 17-year-old African American in Fulton County who had undisclosed health issues in addition to COVID-19. More than 30 people in their 20s also have died, state data shows.
Honolulu: Mayor Kirk Caldwell closed city hall Monday after several people who work at Honolulu Hale tested positive for COVID-19. Employees including Caldwell are being tested for the disease. The mayor has entered quarantine at least until he receives his results. All city workers have been instructed to work from home until Sept. 6 if possible. City Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson has postponed upcoming council and committee meetings because of the positive tests. Satellite city hall offices will remain open only by appointment and with stringent safety protocols. Tax payment collection and other critical business will continue to be conducted at Honolulu Hale with a new check-in system in place. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, 48 people who work for the city have tested positive.
Twin Falls: The growth of the elk population in parts of the state has caused wildlife officials to step up efforts to reduce the number of animals damaging private property with various methods, including nighttime sharpshooters. Idaho Fish and Game said wildlife officers killed 206 elk last year in an effort to prevent the animals from eating thousands of dollars worth of crops, The Times-News reports. Some hunters said Fish and Game should have used sportsmen to shoot the elk instead of allowing sharpshooting staff members to target elk grazing at night. Fish and Game officials said they cannot allow hunters onto private land without permission, and many landowners are reluctant to allow hunters onto their property. Night hunting also is illegal by private citizens, preventing the state from using hunters as sharpshooters to kill the animals.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Housing Development Authority on Monday announced an emergency housing assistance program for Illinoisans financially affected by COVID-19. The announcement came as the state Department of Public Health reported 1,319 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, with one death. That brings the state’s total to 195,399 confirmed cases and 7,637 deaths. The statewide positivity rate for the period of Aug. 3-9 is 4.1%. The Housing Development Authority will allocate $150 million to help income-eligible residents pay rent. Tenants whose applications are approved will receive a one-time grant of $5,000 paid directly to their landlords to cover missed rent payments beginning from March 2020 or to alleviate rent debt through December 2020. The Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program will get underway Aug. 24 to assist homeowners who have experienced a loss of income or employment.
Indianapolis: Businesses not following the city’s coronavirus restrictions will face a greater chance of fines as officials said Tuesday that they will ramp up enforcement. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed, as Marion County Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said those ages 20-29 represented the fastest-growing age group for new COVID-19 infections during July. Mayor Joe Hogsett said several businesses flouted the city’s rules on crowd sizes, distancing and face masks over the weekend. In one instance, the Indianapolis Speedrome race track on the city’s east side was issued a $1,000 fine for exceeding the 25% capacity limit Saturday. “The time for warnings is over,” Hogsett said. Health department inspectors will begin issuing $1,000 fines against violators, Caine said. “We take this seriously. We know that we’ve got to step up our enforcement,” Caine said. “The education and the warning period is over.”
Waterloo: The family of a fourth worker who died of coronavirus during an outbreak at Tyson Foods’ largest pork processing plant is suing the company over his death. Isidro Fernandez died April 26 from complications of COVID-19, leaving behind a wife and children, the lawsuit says. Filed last week, the lawsuit is similar to one filed in June by the same lawyers on behalf of the estates of three other Waterloo employees. The lawsuits allege Tyson put employees at risk by downplaying concerns and covering up the outbreak to keep them on the job. They allege the company failed to implement safety measures, allowed some sick and exposed employees to keep working, and falsely assured the public the plant was safe. The company says the workers’ deaths are tragic but vigorously disputes the allegations. Fernandez is at least the sixth employee at the Waterloo plant reported to have died during the outbreak, which infected 1,000 of its 2,800 workers.
Topeka: A Republican leader in the Legislature on Monday accused Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s top public health administrator of using a misleading presentation to bolster their argument for requiring people to wear masks in public as a debate rages over imposing mandates to get the coronavirus under control. House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins’ criticism of Dr. Lee Norman, head of the state Department of Health and Environment, came after the CEO of the small-government, free-market Kansas Policy Institute think tank suggested in an online article that Norman had “deceptively doctored” a chart used in a news conference last week “to justify mask mandates.” Norman acknowledged in an interview that the chart might have caused confusion but said the central point – that requiring masks checks the virus’s spread – remains valid. Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, has said he dislikes wearing a mask because it’s uncomfortable.
Frankfort: Declaring that “we shouldn’t want our kids to be the canaries in the coal mine,” Gov. Andy Beshear urged schools to delay reopening in-person classes until late September to provide more time to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Democratic governor said Monday that he wants to get children back in school safely during the pandemic but acknowledged that the state doesn’t have the virus under control. “Getting them back (in school) at the height of the pandemic, I think, would be irresponsible,” Beshear told reporters. The governor recommended that school districts wait until Sept. 28 to resume in-person classes. Beshear, the father of two children, called it a tough but necessary step as the state comes off an escalation of virus cases in July. “Masks are working, but we do not have control over this virus,” he said.
New Orleans: The state is reopening cabins and camps at a state park in the area that was used to isolate people who didn’t need hospitalization but either were homeless or needed to protect others in their households while waiting for COVID-19 test results or after testing positive. Bayou Segnette State Park’s overnight facilities have been fully sanitized and will reopen Friday, Office of State Parks spokeswoman Rebecca Rundell said. The state is taking reservations, and the promotion code “welcomeback” will get four nights for the price of three through Sept. 7, a news release said. Bayou Segnette was one of three parks used for pandemic “isolation overflow” of people who didn’t need hospital care but either were homeless or couldn’t return home. Chicot State Park, in Cajun country near Ville Platte, fully reopened June 26. Rundell said there’s no date set for reopening overnight facilities at Lake Bistineau State Park.
Portland: The federal government must renew waivers for programs that increase access to school meals amid the coronavirus pandemic, Maine’s Democratic congresswoman said. Rep. Chellie Pingree joined more than 100 members of Congress in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that called for the department to extend flexibility in school food programs through the coming school year. Pingree said that “school meals programs are an essential lifeline” for students in Maine and that the pandemic has worsened food insecurity for children. The letter specifically calls for the USDA to renew waivers that enable the implementation of the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option. The lawmakers also want the department to waive area eligibility requirements for the entire coming school year.
Annapolis: Officials are reopening a coronavirus special enrollment period for people to enlist in the state’s health insurance exchange. Officials said Friday that the special enrollment period will run through Dec. 15. More than 54,000 Maryland residents enrolled for health coverage during an initial special enrollment period that began March 16 and concluded July 15. Officials said that in allowing enrollment on the exchange through December, Maryland will offer the longest special enrollment period in the nation related to the coronavirus emergency. “The people of our great state have endured so many personal, medical and economic challenges, and this crisis is not yet behind us,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “Reopening the special enrollment period is another way we are helping Marylanders weather this storm, get back on their feet and recover.”
Medford: The mayors of Somerville and Medford are asking Tufts University to reconsider its reopening plan. In a statement issued Monday, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said they have serious concerns about the university’s reopening plan given the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts in recent weeks. The mayors are making a series of requests of Tufts, including reducing the student population both on and off campus; staggering the returns of students while refining protocols, procedures and enforcement measures; and increasing on-site faculty and staff testing on par with testing for students. “We believe we are at another critical juncture in this ongoing and evolving crisis, where decisions that can markedly impact the transmission of this virus must be taken,” the mayors said in the statement to Tufts University President Anthony Monaco.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would have given additional health providers and facilities legal protection from lawsuits in any state-declared emergency and have continued the immunity for longer during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The governor, a Democrat, said she would have considered signing the bill if it only had attempted to “mop up” an issued created when the GOP-led Legislature refused to lengthen her declared COVID-19 emergency. The measure goes “much further,” however, she wrote in a letter to senators. “For example, this bill would give health care providers and the facilities that employ them broad immunity every time an emergency or disaster is declared, regardless of whether the circumstances demand this extreme measure,” Whitmer said.
St. Paul: Long-term care facilities soon will be allowed to open up more to visitors during the coronavirus pandemic but will have to follow the state’s strict guidance. The Minnesota Department of Health on Monday outlined the new visitation guidelines, which take effect Aug. 29. The guidance includes several factors, such as the latest COVID-19 case numbers in the surrounding community; the number of active, confirmed cases among the facility’s residents, staff and visiting service providers; and whether staff are working at other long-term care facilities, Minnesota Public Radio News reports. “This guidance helps facilities keep their COVID-19 guard up while taking cautious steps toward ensuring residents have more social connections and interaction,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a news release.
Jackson: Most legislators wore masks and practiced social distancing Monday as they returned to the Capitol for the first time since the start of the largest coronavirus outbreak in any statehouse in the U.S. “Please separate yourselves. I know it’s tempting to congregate and talk,” Republican Speaker Philip Gunn told members of the House. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Monday that 49 Mississippi legislators have tested positive for the virus – more than 25% of them. Legislative leaders say most cases have come from the House. Dobbs said at least four legislators have been hospitalized, with three requiring intensive care. At least 12 other people who work in the Capitol have tested positive, and one has died, Dobbs said. Lawmakers were in session Monday to finish parts of the state budget. They left the Capitol on July 1 after working throughout June, many without wearing masks or following social distancing recommendations.
Kansas City: The state’s top health official has insisted a statewide mandate for masks and social distancing doesn’t make sense, even though the federal government has designated Missouri a “red zone” for new coronavirus cases. The designation is cause for concern, said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “The red is a warning that we take very seriously,” he told KCUR-FM. But “Missouri is a very diverse state … it doesn’t lend itself to that kind of one-size-fits-all strategy.” He argued that most new cases are in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas and that a statewide stay-at-home mandate like the governor ordered in April wouldn’t be as effective as a “clinical” strategy that supports local officials. But Chris Prener, a sociologist at St. Louis University who has been tracking the COVID-19 data, countered that the virus has now spread far more across the state than in the spring.
Helena: The Crow Tribe ordered its members to lock down for two weeks beginning this past Friday as tribal leaders moved to slow a sharp spike in coronavirus cases and deaths on yet another reservation in the country. Crow Tribe Chairman Alvin Not Afraid said the lockdown is necessary because a stay-at-home order in effect since mid-March has been ineffective. “We cannot afford to risk our future, and the risks are just too great for the Crow people,” Not Afraid said. Big Horn County, where the reservation is located, is on pace to record more confirmed virus cases in August than the previous two months combined. The county reported 85 new cases during the first week of August, compared to 249 in July and 44 in June. Seven of its 12 confirmed virus deaths were recorded over a recent 10-day period.
Lincoln: The state’s public and private colleges are forging ahead with plans to resume in-person classes this month but will take new steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, top administrators said Monday. Representatives for Nebraska’s three state colleges and 13 private colleges said students will see socially distanced classrooms, less-strict attendance policies and mask mandates on campuses throughout the state. Colleges are also planning on-campus temperature screenings. “Overall, I’m extremely optimistic that we’re going to do the right things,” said Paul Turman, chancellor of the Nebraska State College System. The system includes the publicly funded Chadron, Peru and Wayne State Colleges. The University of Nebraska, which is separate from the state colleges, outlined similar plans last month. Turman said the state colleges won’t penalize students for not coming to class.
Las Vegas: Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske asked a judge Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign that challenges a new state law sending ballots to all active voters amid the coronavirus pandemic. Though Cegavske, a Republican, opposed the new law and said her department did not have the budget for the changes, she serves as the state’s top elections official and was named in the lawsuit by the Trump campaign and Republicans and is now defending the new law in court. Trump’s campaign and national and state Republicans filed a lawsuit last week in Nevada to try to stop the new law, contending it would undermine the election’s integrity. In a court filing Monday, Cegavske’s attorneys asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit and contended that the lawsuit addresses a policy debate that should occur outside a courtroom.
Manchester: The school board in the state’s largest city has approved remote learning for students entering grades two through 12 for the first quarter of the year. Manchester’s Board of School Committee voted Monday that students in pre-kindergarten through the first grade will be returning to school for two days a week, at the superintendent’s recommendation. Online learning for students in grades two through 12 will be held during regular school hours. Teachers will use video conferencing technology for classes. The superintendent and health officials will evaluate the situation in October and decide whether to move to a hybrid model. Parents will be given a choice to stay fully remote or switch to hybrid.
Trenton: The state’s COVID-19 trends are going in the right direction after rising slightly for about a week, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. The rate of transmission, which measures how many people to whom one infected person spreads the virus, fell below 1 to 0.98, down from about 1.5 at the start of last week, Murphy said. “The decrease in (rate of transmission) is definitely a positive sign, but no one should look at that and think it means that coronavirus is no longer with us or that you can go ahead and leave your mask and home or join a big crowd waiting to get into a bar with your friends,” Murphy said. The governor also said there about 250 new positive cases reported since Sunday, putting the total at 185,000. There were four deaths, putting the death toll at 14,025. Despite the declining transmission rate, Murphy did not announce any new reopenings.
Albuquerque: The New Mexico State Fair is going all virtual. Organizers in June had decided to cancel the annual event due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, they announced that the fair will instead be held entirely online Sept. 14-20. State Fair General Manager Dan Mourning said the event has always been a celebration of innovation, and fair staff had to pivot this year to come up with creative ways to bring the fair home for New Mexico residents. There will still be 4-H and Future Farmers of America virtual competitions. There will also be online contests in cake decorating, flower arranging, photography and designing a poster for next year’s fair. Video entries for the various competitions will be accepted until Aug. 31. Musicians who would have performed live at the fair will do so digitally. Vendors will also be selling merchandise on the fair’s website.
Syracuse: A federal judge has ruled in favor of two couples who sued for the right to have more than 50 people at their weddings in western New York, despite the state’s pandemic-related restrictions. U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby issued the preliminary injunction Friday in a case involving couples who had booked weddings at Arrowhead Golf Club in Akron. The ruling allows the venue to operate under the same 50% capacity rule as restaurants. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has not released guidance specific to weddings but has said they are subject to the state’s limit of 50 people at all gatherings. The injunction allowed the couples to wed at that venue but was seen as having broader implications. In Syracuse, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said he interprets the federal ruling to mean wedding receptions can now be larger than 50 people in his county, according to the Post Standard of Syracuse.
Raleigh: Liquor sales in the state jumped 12% during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to data from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. The increase largely came in March after Gov. Roy Cooper shut down bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Fayetteville Observer reports. Charles Hill, who owns multiple liquor stores in the state, told the newspaper that customers said they purchased large amounts of alcohol because of fears Cooper would also shut down liquor stores. It was “panic buying, just like before a storm comes in,” Hill said. “People were buying a lot more half-gallons, which are the 1.75 liter bottles.” The liquor stores never closed down, but with the continued restrictions on bars, customers continue to make their drinks at home, said Hill, who is also the manager of the New Hanover County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Fargo: State Department of Health officials on Monday kicked off a campaign to convince residents to wear masks in an effort to reduce spread of the coronavirus, five months after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in North Dakota. Gov. Doug Burgum has not issued a mask mandate, even though he has used his weekly press briefings to give emotional pleas supporting face coverings. He said Monday that he doesn’t plan on joining 34 states in requiring masks, instead emphasizing individual responsibility, local decision making and a “light touch” by government. The state has set several records for active virus cases in recent days, including Monday’s health department update showing that 1,116 people are currently infected. There have been recent spikes in the Bismarck-Mandan area and on the state’s American Indian reservations, as well as an increase in positive tests among rural residents.
Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine said he’s disappointed that the Buckeyes won’t be playing football this fall. “It certainly is not good news. Ultimately this is a decision that must be made by the schools,” DeWine said, adding that player safety was a factor. “It’s a disappointment for Buckeye nation. Probably more importantly, it’s a disappointment for the young men who play football.” DeWine spoke with Ohio State University Atheltic Director Gene Smith on Tuesday about the possibility of moving football to the spring. Asked whether the college decision would affect K-12 sports, DeWine said that “the basic facts don’t change because of what the Big 10 has decided to do.”
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt, the first governor in the nation to test positive for the coronavirus, said Tuesday that he has donated plasma to help other virus patients recover. Stitt made the donation recently at an Oklahoma Blood Institute center in Enid, the Republican governor said in a statement. He said that “donating convalescent plasma is the easiest way Oklahomans who have recovered from COVID-19 can help their friends and neighbors.” Convalescent plasma is being researched as a potential treatment or preventive measure for the virus that as of Tuesday had infected a reported 44,728 people in Oklahoma and left 618 dead. Stitt announced in July that he’d contracted the virus and quarantined himself for two weeks. Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith also was infected with the virus and said she, too, donated plasma.
Bend: The clean, clear waters of Crater Lake National Park are being threatened by contamination brought in by visitors after the coronavirus pandemic spurred sharp cutbacks in park staffing. Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman said he’s concerned visitors are ignoring signs prohibiting the use of gear that could result in invasive species being introduced into the lake, The Bulletin reports. Rangers are attempting to turn back people with illegal items, “but we can’t have someone there 24 hours a day,” he said. The 1,943-foot-deep lake is one of the most pristine large water bodies in the world. It formed about 7,700 years ago when a volcanic eruption collapsed a peak and left a crater that filled with water. After the park was closed from March until June because of the virus, visitation has since exploded, with staff calling the surge “like spring break on steroids.”
Harrisburg: Republican state lawmakers say they want to give parents more power to let their children repeat a year of schooling if they feel their child didn’t get the education they needed or missed out on a year of athletics amid shutdowns during the pandemic. Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Fulton, said Monday that his forthcoming legislation applies equally to parents motivated by education or athletics. Currently, schools and parents make a joint decision as to when a student can repeat, Topper said. But he said his legislation gives that sole decision-making power to the parents. So, for instance, a parent whose high schooler misses a season of football, baseball, basketball, soccer, field hockey or some other sport – and a chance to make their case for a college scholarship – can have them repeat a year, Topper said.
Providence: Hundreds of calls have been made to a new state hotline set up for people to report others violating the rule against large gatherings. The hotline manned by Rhode Island State Police had received more than 400 calls as of Sunday, Lt. Col. Kevin Barry said. Troopers responded to 56 of the calls and found four events violating the 15-person limit on social gatherings, including a reception after a funeral and a college party, police said. Barry said officers reminded people of the restrictions and asked them to comply. Rhode Island registered one more death from COVID-19 and 176 newly reported positive cases over the weekend, state health officials said Monday. The state Department of Health also said 93 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, the highest total in more than a month. The new cases bring the state’s coronavirus death toll to more than 1,000 and its total cases of COVID-19 to nearly 20,000.
Columbia: Fans can watch September’s NASCAR race at Darlington in person and have a four-course meal while watching a medieval jousting tournament thanks to exceptions granted to the state’s rule banning gatherings of more than 250 people during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 71 events have been given permission to draw the larger crowds, according to the South Carolina Department of Commerce, which reviews the requests. Some are multiday versions of the same event or concerts. Some are shows at Myrtle Beach like the Medieval Times dinner and jousting competition. There are sporting tournaments for children and the Showstopper Dance Competition. A bridal expo in Florence is a go, as well as the South Carolina Farm Bureau’s annual meeting. Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the ban on gatherings of up to 250 people Aug. 3 but allowed anyone who wanted to have more people to ask the state’s business agency for an exception.
Rapid City: Students and staff at Rapid City Area Schools will be required to wear masks when classes resume next month. The school board voted Monday night in favor of the requirement. Superintendent Lori Simon said teachers will have to wear a mask when 6 feet of physical distance isn’t possible. School board member Kate Thomas abstained from voting on the matter, saying if there are no repercussions for failing to wear a mask, the mandate looks like a joke. Assistant Superintendent Mark Gabrylczyk said the board doesn’t have a choice to forgo a mask requirement, the Rapid City Journal reports. “We have a duty to keep everyone safe who’s on our campuses,” he said. The Rapid City Education Association held a demonstration outside of the building before the board meeting where more than a dozen teachers held signs in support of masks for students and staff. Students return to classrooms Sept. 8.
Nashville: A Vanderbilt University analysis of daily COVID-19 hospitalization data in the state shows a stark difference between counties with mask mandates and counties that do not require face coverings. The Vanderbilt Department of Health Policy analyzed statewide hospital admissions and found that those in areas requiring most residents to wear masks recorded a 30% increase in new admissions in July. Hospitals in areas where most residents are not required to wear face coverings saw a 200% jump in the same time period, researchers said. Large urban hospitals that treat a mix of patients were somewhere in the middle. The Vanderbilt analysis did not fully attribute the decline in hospitalizations to mask mandates. Some places that require masks also have other public health orders that likely had an effect.
Austin: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that coronavirus testing in the state could increase as schools reopen amid a sharp drop-off in the number of tests in recent weeks. Texas has averaged more than 34,000 tests a day over the past week, down from a daily average of more than 60,000 in late July. At the same time, Texas’ rolling positivity rate has rapidly increased to nearly 20%, nearly double its rate of just over a week ago. New cases and hospitalizations have stabilized and decreased, and coronavirus deaths in Texas have reached nearly 8,500. Asked about the decrease in testing, Abbott pointed to “surge teams” previously deployed to hot spots that he said drove testing numbers up. He also said colleges should continue trying to find ways to have a college football season that would protect player health in the coronavirus pandemic.
Salt Lake City: State health officials reported nine more confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, but the weekly average for new cases dropped to the lowest level in two months. The state has averaged 400 cases per day over the past week – the lowest weekly average since mid-June, state data shows. Cases spiked up to a high of 671 per week in mid-July but have been steadily falling in recent weeks. State leaders have stopped short of implementing a statewide mask mandate but allowed counties to make that move while imploring residents to wear face coverings when out in public. Salt Lake County’s mask mandate has been in place since late June. The positive rate for tests was 8.9% Monday – down from 10.4% on July 16, state figures show. The decline comes as schools prepare to start again in a few weeks with a mix of in-person and online learning.
Montpelier: A record number of people have voted early in the state’s primary, taking place during the threat of a pandemic, and more ballots were expected to be turned in before polling places closed Tuesday, the state’s Secretary of State Jim Condos said. As of late morning Monday, Condos said more than 104,000 voters had already cast their ballots. He said more than 152,000 ballots were requested for the primary. “While the core tenets of our democratic process remain in place, this is certainly like no election we have ever experienced in recent history,” said Condos, the state’s top election official. There is an increased emphasis on voting by mail or early voting this year to help make the process safer during the coronavirus pandemic. But voters may also cast ballots in person, although Condos said some locations could look different from elections past due to changes made to protect voters and poll workers during the health crisis.
Farmville: The governor says a team of federal scientists has arrived at an immigration detention center in the town to address the worst coronavirus outbreak at any such facility in the nation. The Washington Post reports the 10-person team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived Monday. One detainee died at the privately run facility last week. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said nearly all of the 298 detainees are being monitored for infection. Gov. Ralph Northam as well as both of Virginia’s U.S. senators, all Democrats, had appealed to President Donald Trump for help last month because the center is operated under a federal contract. “After pushing for months, I’m relieved to see this necessary – and long overdue – action,” Northam told the Post in a statement. A federal lawsuit alleges that detainees were made to sleep in crowded conditions, even after some of them tested positive.
South Kitsap: South Kitsap School District will start Sept. 9 with remote learning only for at least nine weeks. Parents will have the choice of enrolling their students in the district’s “Flex” model that includes the possibility of part-time, in-person instruction, if health indicators related to COVID-19 permit. Families’ other options include all-online instruction or the district’s Explorer Academy (home-school support and enrichment). The school board on Monday reversed its 3-2 decision from last week to offer in-person learning under the Flex model, even as local health officials advised against doing so because Kitsap County does not meet the state’s recently established thresholds for reopening schools. South Kitsap now joins all other districts in Kitsap and North Mason counties, which announced similar plans July 28.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that the state must find a way to retest residents and staff at nursing homes and people at state correctional facilities for the coronavirus after recent outbreaks. The Republican governor also floated the possibility at a news conference that visitations to nursing homes might have to temporarily stop. Health officials over the weekend reported eight more deaths at the Princeton Health Care Center in Mercer County. The deaths occurred over the past few weeks but weren’t officially reported due to personnel changes at the Mercer County Health Department, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph on Monday reported two more deaths at the nursing home on top of that, bringing the death toll there since the pandemic began to 13.
Madison: A suburban coffee shop that declared itself a “mask-free zone” is suing local officials over an ordinance requiring the wearing of face coverings inside businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Helbachs Coffee Roasters and Kitchen, located in downtown Middleton, filed the lawsuit Monday in Dane County Circuit Court against the city, county and local officials who attempted to enforce the mask rule. Dane County’s mask ordinance took effect July 13. A statewide mask ordinance took effect Aug. 1. Helbachs is only challenging the local ordinance. The lawsuit is the first in Dane County to take on the legality of the mask ordinance. It comes after a federal judge last month struck another lawsuit down on a technicality that challenged a variety of other local ordinances related to the coronavirus.
Casper: The Wyoming Department of Health has reduced the official number of probable coronavirus cases in the state. On Sunday, the department had listed 517 probable cases, which officials define as those who have been in close contact with others with lab-confirmed cases and who have symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. On Monday, that figure dropped to 477, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Wyoming Department of Health spokesman Kim Deti said the decrease was simply a case of data cleanup, which involved going through all the probable cases to ensure they met its definition. The number of confirmed cases in the state rose by 32 on Monday, but the total amount of cases fell by eight because of the change in probable cases. There have now been a total of 3,042 cases in the state – 2,565 confirmed and 477 probable – as well as 28 deaths.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Event exceptions, school foggers: News from around our 50 states