Montgomery: The state will begin requiring face masks in public as health officials try to quell a surge of new coronavirus cases that is filling up hospitals, Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday. In an announcement made a day after the state reported a high of 40 deaths in a single day from the pandemic, officials said masks would be required starting Thursday afternoon for anyone older than 6 who’s in public and within 6 feet of someone who’s not a relative. The rule, which makes exceptions for people who have certain medical conditions, are exercising or are performing certain types of jobs, will last through July 31, meaning it is set to expire before most public schools reopen. But other health orders have been extended to fight COVID-19. Ivey said statistics showing a precipitous rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in Alabama over the past two weeks “just do not lie.” “We’re almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,” she said.
Anchorage: Alaska Health Department officials are partnering with the UAA Center for Rural Health and Workforce to quickly train 500 contact tracers needed to help limit coronavirus outbreaks. Alaska officials initially hoped to train 500 contact tracers by June 30, but only 177 people had completed the training through July 10, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Another 480 were registered, and 990 people had expressed interest in becoming a contact tracer. When Alaska began seeing its first cases of coronavirus in March, most individuals had only been in contact with a handful of other people, which meant the potential contacts could be traced fairly quickly, Rural Health and Workforce Director Gloria Burnett said. Now, however, some people who have tested positive for coronavirus have been in contact with 50 to 100 people, which makes the tracing immensely more time-consuming and challenging, she said.
Phoenix: Housing advocacy groups have joined lawmakers in lobbying Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his coronavirus-related moratorium on evictions, which will expire next week and allow authorities to start removing hundreds of renters in a state that’s a national hot spot for infections and scorching summer weather alike. “It’s so hot in Arizona, you cannot live outside if you lose your home,” said Meghan Heddings, executive director of Family Housing Resources in Tucson, which is among the groups advocating for an extension. “And, of course, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.” Arizona’s 120-day order ending July 22 was supposed to ensure people wouldn’t lose their homes if they got COVID-19 or lost their jobs during pandemic restrictions. But advocates say it’s too early to end the ban because most of the government money set aside to help pay rents and mortgages still hasn’t been doled out.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson left open the possibility of a statewide mask mandate to prevent coronavirus but said the state is making progress encouraging their use as the number of virus cases surpassed 30,000 on Wednesday. Hutchinson, a Republican who has resisted mandating masks, applauded Bentonville-based Walmart’s decision to require customers to wear them. Hutchinson said such a requirement “remains a tool we can implement as we need it.” The governor has allowed cities to enact their own mask restrictions, but under an ordinance that doesn’t spell out penalties for not complying. Hutchinson said he hears both from people who want a mask mandate and from those who call it an infringement that wouldn’t be enforceable. “We’re moving in the right direction. As to whether we need a statewide mandate, that will continue to be evaluated, and if we do it, you’ll know about it,” Hutchinson told reporters.
Pasadena: The 2021 Rose Parade has been canceled because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on planning for the New Year’s Day tradition and the risk of spreading infections among its huge audience and participants, organizers said Wednesday. The Pasadena, California, Tournament of Roses Association said the decision was put off until organizers were certain that safety restrictions would prevent staging of the 132nd parade. Planning for the Rose Bowl college football game that traditionally follows the parade is continuing, the association said. The parade is held every Jan. 1 except when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, in which case the event is pushed to Jan. 2. Since its inception in 1891, the parade has only not occurred during the wartime years of 1942, 1943 and 1945, the association said.
Colorado Springs: Health officials have warned that tougher restrictions on restaurants, gyms and other businesses could be coming to El Paso County, citing an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations. El Paso County Public Health has said residents must wear masks and take other preventive measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to maintain the state variances allowing greater activity and operations, The Gazette reports. “Even though it’s difficult to accept for some of us, it doesn’t make it any less real,” Deputy Medical Director Leon Kelly said. As of Tuesday, El Paso County has had 115 new confirmed cases for every 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, up from about 25 confirmed cases for every 100,000 residents over two weeks in mid-June, according to Public Health data.
Hartford: The state’s two tribal casinos on Wednesday reported strong slot revenues for June, the first month they’ve been partly open since closing for nearly three months because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s unclear, however, whether it will be the start of a trend, considering competitors to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun have begun to reopen, and cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in other parts of the country. Both casinos, located about 7 miles apart in southeastern Connecticut on sovereign tribal land, opened June 1 despite opposition from Gov. Ned Lamont, who had the state’s Department of Transportation erect electronic signs near the entrances on state highways, warning visitors of the potential dangers of COVID-19 in large group settings. Neither casino has yet to report any infections.
Dover: The state Department of Education released its long-awaited guidance Wednesday afternoon offering requirements and steps schools should take to safely return to buildings in the fall. Requirements schools must meet if they are to hold in-person classes in the fall include mandating masks for students in fourth grade and up, holding outdoor classes when possible and social distancing on buses. It is still not clear if school buildings will open. While the state hopes to resume in-person teaching at the start of the school year, what the semester will actually look like still hangs in limbo. The state plans to announce whether students may return to buildings in early August. The department’s guidance offers recommendations for three different COVID-19 scenarios: minimal community spread, minimal-to-moderate community spread and significant community spread.
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday that there will be no decision on the reopening plan for schools until July 31, WUSA-TV reports. While the start date for the school year is Aug. 31, the plan on what exactly reopening D.C. Public Schools will look like is not yet final. City officials said the decision on how schools will operate in the fall depends on health indicators. Recent data shows it is not ideal for making plans for the upcoming school year. “We need more time to observe what is happening with the virus,” Bowser said. D.C. Health officials are monitoring three metrics of concern before they can determine which scenario will work best to safely have students return to school: rate of transmission, ability to see declines in community spread and how connected new COVID-19 cases are.
St. Petersburg: The state reached another ominous mark Thursday with a record 156 deaths from the coronavirus reported in a single day as Florida continues to experience a swift rise in cases. The state Department of Health reported 13,965 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total throughout the pandemic in Florida to nearly 316,000. In Miami-Dade County, the state’s most populous and the current epicenter of the outbreak, there were more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases reported. The 156 deaths statewide eclipsed the previous record set Tuesday of 132 reported deaths. On a seven-day average, Florida is now at more than 100 deaths per day – well above previous months. Hospitalizations also have been surging, filling up ICU units at several hospitals. Statewide, the number of patients being treated in hospitals for the coronavirus was at 8,809 Thursday morning, up from 8,276 at the same time the day before.
Atlanta: Mayors in Atlanta and other Georgia cities deepened their defiance of Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday, saying they want their requirements for people to wear masks in public to remain in place, even after the Republican governor explicitly forbade cities and counties from mandating face coverings. Officials in at least 15 Georgia cities and counties, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, had ordered masks during the coronavirus pandemic, and many are venting outrage at Kemp swatting down their efforts. “The mayor’s order remains in effect, as science and data will continue to drive the city’s decisions,” Michael Smith, a spokesperson for Bottoms, wrote in a text. “Masks save lives.” Kemp doesn’t disagree, saying he strongly supports mask-wearing to combat the spread of COVID-19 infections. But he has maintained for weeks that cities and counties don’t have the power to require masks in public places.
Honolulu: Scientists planning to build one of the world’s largest telescopes on a mountain in the state said Wednesday that construction won’t begin until at least next year. TMT International Observatory Vice President Gordon Squires told Hawaii News Now that the coronavirus pandemic presents a complicated and unsafe situation for moving ahead. “With the pandemic and other factors that have come in, winter seems like a long ways away, but it’s not that far away, and for us to resume construction activities on site, winter on Mauna Kea just isn’t feasible,” Squires told the TV station. He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that it takes a minimum of three months to gear up for the start of construction during optimal times. But bringing equipment and personnel from the U.S. mainland could now require double the preparation time, he said.
Boise: A lawsuit filed by a county against Republican Gov. Brad Little and other state officials could upend plans for distributing $1.25 billion in coronavirus rescue money the state received from the U.S. government. Bonner County in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court contends that Treasury Department guidelines require the state to simply distribute the rescue money to cities and counties based on population. State officials instead have tied allocations to payroll expenses for first responders as a way to reduce property taxes. In addition, to receive the rescue money, cities and counties cannot increase their property tax budgets by the allowed 3% next year or use any balance from previous years. Local governments face a Friday deadline to sign up to receive the money.
Lake Zurich: At least three dozen high school students in northern Illinois have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after some attending summer sports camps showed symptoms of the disease. Investigations and contact tracing of the infections are tied to the camps held last week at Lake Zurich High School and multiple prior social gatherings, according to Lake County health officials. Health officials said health screenings were conducted at the start of the camps July 6, and some students who showed symptoms were turned away. But other students experienced symptoms during the camps and were sent home. Health and school district officials met the next day and decided to close the camps. All camp participants have been told to self-quarantine for 14 days from their last possible exposure to the virus.
Indianapolis: The state’s current limits on crowd sizes for restaurants, bars and public events will remain in place until at least the end of July as the state faces a growing number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday. Holcomb lifted Indiana’s stay-at-home order and started easing coronavirus restrictions in early May but halted those steps two weeks ago as the state started seeing infections grow again in a reversal of steady declines seen since April. The governor, however, said he would not issue a statewide mask-wearing mandate or direct school districts on whether they should have children return to classrooms. Holcomb’s decision means restaurants will continue to be allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, museums and movie theaters can be open at half-capacity.
Des Moines: A longtime spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health has been ousted from her job, and she thinks it was because she aggressively shared information on the coronavirus outbreak and other issues with news organizations. Polly Carver-Kimm had been the department’s lead media relations liaison for 12 years, until she was called in Wednesday and told to resign or be fired. Health Department director Gerd Clabaugh told her the position was being eliminated as part of a restructuring, Carver-Kimm said, but she believes her dismissal was the culmination of a pattern to diminish her role, starting in March when she was told she would no longer handle any media inquiries about the coronavirus. Carver-Kimm said Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office has recently required most media requests to the department – including routine open-records requests – to be routed to the governor’s office.
Lawrence: The University of Kansas said Wednesday that it will test for COVID-19 all students, faculty and staff who return to campus for the fall semester. Chancellor Douglas Girod said in a video message that some logistics still have to be worked out, but the university has made arrangements with the Clinical Reference Laboratory in nearby Lenexa to conduct the saliva testing, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. “This is the safest way to get our campus open,” Girod said. “We want to make sure we start the year out with as healthy of a campus as we can in the fall.” On-campus housing at the university will be setting aside rooms to quarantine students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for it, he said. Girod also confirmed masks will be required on campus in the fall.
Frankfort: Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a motion Wednesday to block all of Gov. Andy Beshear’s past and future executive orders under the current COVID-19 state of emergency, alleging the governor’s actions are arbitrary and violate Kentuckians’ constitutional rights. The motion was filed in Boone County Circuit Court, where a judge recently issued a restraining order against Beshear’s public health orders related to auto racetracks and day care centers. The governor on Wednesday asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to uphold his emergency public health orders in this case and a related one involving agritourism businesses. Beshear fired back at Cameron on Twitter on Thursday. “With no rules, there is no chance of getting kids back to school, we will lose over $10 billion in our economy, and many Kentuckians will die,” he tweeted. “I hope everyone understands how scary and reckless this is.” Cameron responded by criticizing Beshear for not collaborating with his office and Republican legislators on his public health orders.
Baton Rouge: State Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, issued a legal opinion Wednesday saying the governor’s statewide mask mandate and bar restrictions to combat the outbreak appear to violate Louisiana’s constitution. The Republican attorney general’s office said Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ order requiring most people to wear face coverings, limiting bars to takeout and delivery, and banning indoor gatherings of more than 50 people is “likely unconstitutional and unenforceable.” Landry’s assessment doesn’t carry the force of law, but the opinion could be used as the basis for a lawsuit. A group of eight Republican lawmakers asked for Landry’s assessment. Edwards defended the order, in effect since Monday, noting the opinion comes a day after Vice President Mike Pence, in a visit to Louisiana, complimented Edwards’ response to the pandemic and suggested residents should comply with the mask mandate.
Portland: The number of state residents filing new unemployment claims went up last week after it had been trending downward. About 8,000 initial claims, including claims for both state and federal benefits, were filed last week, up from 5,100 claims the previous week, the Portland Press Herald reports. The Maine Department of Labor said Thursday that an uptick in unemployment claims in July is expected because of temporary mill closures. However, the department said it’s analyzing the increase in claims because of concerns about fraud attacks on unemployment insurance around the country. The department said it has also extended the date when unemployed Maine residents who are permanently separated from their employer must start searching for work to Aug. 9.
Annapolis: Maryland uncovered a massive criminal enterprise involving identity theft and more than 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims in the state adding up to more than $501 million, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday, saying the case relates to activity in at least a dozen other states. The governor announced that employees at the state’s unemployment insurance website detected an unusual increase in out-of-state federal pandemic unemployment assistance claims and reported it to federal authorities. “It is obviously a coordinated criminal enterprise because this is not just random people in their basement,” Hogan said. Maryland Labor Department Secretary Tiffany Robinson said the activity was found over the Fourth of July weekend. “We will continue to work with our state and federal partners to prevent fraudsters from capitalizing upon the hardships caused by the coronavirus during these already difficult and uncertain times,” Robinson said.
Boston: Trustees of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke have endorsed multiple recommendations made in a highly critical state investigation into dozens of coronavirus-related deaths at the facility for aging veterans. The board of trustees met by teleconference Tuesday for the first time since the report’s release June 24, Masslive.com reports. Members passed 13 resolutions to make widespread improvements to the home’s operations and management. They also passed a second package of reform plans calling on state officials to update the building to meet infection control standards, fill the now-vacant state director of Veterans Services position quickly with an experienced health care leader, and fund a new electronic record-keeping system. The leadership of the home made several “utterly baffling” decisions that allowed the disease to run rampant, investigators said in the report. In all, 76 veterans who contracted COVID-19 at the home have died.
Detroit: Police on Thursday arrested at least 11 protesters who tried to block buses from picking up students, on the fourth day of demonstrations against voluntary summer classes during the coronavirus outbreak. The Detroit school district this week began offering online or in-person instruction to students. Students and teachers must wear masks, and class sizes are smaller to reduce virus risk. But a group of people has appeared each day to protest the program, saying officials are putting people at risk. A lawsuit has also been filed. “We are out here to prevent the spread of a deadly disease in our schools, to prevent that from spreading from the schools back into the community,” said teacher and protester Benjamin Royal. Eleven people were repeatedly warned before they were arrested for blocking operations at the bus company, police Commander Arnold Williams said.
Minneapolis: The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units dipped to a three-month low Thursday as the state continues its downward trend in hospitalizations for COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Health reported 103 patients in intensive care, a total last seen April 16 in the early weeks of the pandemic. It also reported 249 total hospitalizations, continuing a downward trend from a peak in late May. The state reported eight new deaths. Minnesota’s daily death toll has been mostly in the single digits for more than three weeks as part of another slow decline. But there are also concerning signs as Minnesota leaders debate next steps. According to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, the state’s positivity rate – an important measure of whether the spread is accelerating – has inched up from 3.4% two weeks ago to 4.3%. And the trend in new cases has been rising, from 422 on a seven-day rolling average two weeks ago to 523, with 611 cases reported Thursday.
Jackson: The state on Thursday had a record single-day increase in new coronavirus cases reported by the Health Department, with numbers jumping by more than 1,200 from the day before. It was the fourth time the state has recorded a day-to-day increase of more than 1,000 cases and the first time the number had topped 1,200. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said this week that several hospitals have no beds or very few beds available in their intensive care units. He and other health officials are imploring people to take precautions such as wearing masks in public, avoiding large crowds and keeping distance from others. The head of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, posted Wednesday on Twitter: “No vacancy. Help us, Mississippi!” Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he might put restrictions on bars, but he didn’t say when that might happen.
St. Louis: City officials are considering whether to restore some of the restrictions that were imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus after the state reported its second-largest single-day increase in new cases. Mayor Lyda Krewson said that “COVID numbers continue to not look very good” in announcing Wednesday that meetings were taking place to discuss possible changes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The state reported 888 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the overall number to 29,714. The only other day with a bigger jump was Tuesday, when 936 new cases were reported. Dr. Alex Garza, director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, which includes the area’s four major hospital systems, said that there are “very few levers to pull, outside of then pulling back on those societal restrictions.” A primary driver of new COVID-19 cases is infections among teens and young adults.
Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive Wednesday requiring face coverings at indoor public spaces and at larger outdoor gatherings in counties where four or more people are known to be infected with COVID-19. In the past month, the number of residents known to be actively infected with the respiratory virus has risen from 55 to more than 1,000, the governor’s office said. Too many people continue to meet in large gatherings, and too few are wearing masks, Bullock said in announcing the directive, which took effect immediately. “We’ve been working over the last few weeks to get community acceptance of masks,” Bullock said, pointing to collaborations with football coaches and business associations to increase acceptance of masks. “But it isn’t enough.” The directive currently applies in about two dozen counties, but it can change on a daily basis. Masks will be required at public gatherings of more than 50 people if social distancing isn’t possible.
Omaha: About 90 people staying at a homeless shelter have been put in isolation after another guest there tested positive for the coronavirus, according to officials with the Siena Francis House. The shelter north of downtown Omaha made the move after becoming aware of the positive case Tuesday, the Omaha World-Herald reports. The unit where the infected man was staying has been deep-cleaned, and other common areas of the shelter have been sanitized, said Siena Francis’ chief development officer, Chris Knauf. Shelter guests are now also required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken daily. “We take the health and safety of our clients very, very seriously,” Knauf said. The state’s online virus tracker showed 262 cases were confirmed Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to nearly 22,000. On Tuesday, Nebraska recorded 318 confirmed cases of the virus – the highest daily total since May 29. Officials say 291 Nebraskans have died from the virus.
Las Vegas: Several casinos are limiting smoking as a way to keep patrons from removing the protective face masks they are required to wear. Las Vegas Sands Corp. in mid-June updated its policy to ask that table game players and spectators do not smoke or vape. Sands spokesman Keith Salwoski told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the change was made when the state required face coverings at table games, but he declined to offer more detail about the reason for the change at the Venetian and Palazzo resorts. Wynn Resorts Ltd., which owns the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, has designated any table games without a Plexiglas barrier as nonsmoking areas. For table games with the barriers, gamblers are required to wear a mask unless they are smoking. Some groups had urged gambling regulators to ban smoking outright in casinos.
Concord: Laconia Motorcycle Week, one of a few big events in the state that hasn’t been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, is taking on a different look this year. The event, traditionally held in June, was postponed until Aug. 22-30. The City Council this week voted to ban vendor booths, with the exception of ones for the Motorcycle Week Association and some nonprofits, the Laconia Daily Sun reports. “We’re moving ahead,” Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Motorcycle Week Association, said after the vote. “Things will look different,” he conceded. “But people (who rely on the event) will be thrilled they will be able to move on.”
Trenton: Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that parents and guardians of residents at pediatric long-term care facilities can now begin indoor visitations under specific conditions. Murphy, a Democrat, said facilities with zero new positive COVID-19 cases over a 28-day period can begin allowing indoor meetings by appointment only. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said officials realize it’s been difficult for parents and loved ones to be away from their children for more than three months. “Reuniting families … is a critical step for the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of these children, but we need to be vigilant,” she said. Visitors must be screened for symptoms and exposure to the virus, and a designated area in the facility must be designed, she said. Anyone with symptoms won’t be allowed to visit, she said.
Albuquerque: The largest school district in the state has proposed a hybrid learning plan for the upcoming school year to provide flexibility as schools attempt to safely reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. The Albuquerque Public Schools board announced the school year is scheduled to begin online Aug. 12 and then switch to in-person learning Sept. 8 under the plan. Teachers and staff are expected to return Aug. 5. The district plans to provide electronic devices for all K-12 students who need them and allow students to opt for an online-only learning model, officials said. Masks, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer will also be provided. Students will be divided into two rotating groups to meet the 50% capacity rule, where one group will work from home while the other is in the classroom, district officials said, adding that Mondays will be designated online learning days so schools and classrooms can be deep-cleaned.
New York: The city won’t open malls and museums Monday even if it’s allowed to move into the next phase of reopening, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo promises more crackdowns on bars and restaurants. Cuomo said New York City is on track to move to the fourth phase of his gradual reopening plan, but his administration will review the latest infection data and decide by 4 p.m. Friday. The rest of the state is in Phase 4, which typically permits opening malls and certain arts and entertainment centers and restarting professional sports games without fans. But Cuomo said no “additional indoor activity” will open in New York in the fourth phase because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus indoors. Cuomo hasn’t allowed New York City to open up indoor dining, unlike the rest of the state. “You see the inside, interior spaces, air conditioned spaces, where the virus is tending to spread,” Cuomo said Thursday.
Buxton: Nearly 400,000 people visited Cape Hatteras National Seashore in June, the second-highest total for the month in the history of the park and coming despite the COVID-19 pandemic, park officials said Wednesday. A news release from the seashore said 399,364 people visited the park last month, which was an increase of almost 4% over June 2019. In June 2002, the park recorded 410,366 visitors. The Virginian-Pilot reports the record comes despite months of closures and isolation brought on by the coronavirus. Many shops and restaurants offer limited services. State museums on Hatteras Island are closed, and visitors cannot climb either the Cape Hatteras or Bodie Island lighthouses. However, park officials note that the 70 miles of beaches allow people to spread out, and the fishing and sunbathing are still an attraction.
Bismarck: State health officials said Wednesday that another 72 people have tested positive for the coronavirus. The new cases were confirmed in 15 counties and raised the state’s total since the pandemic began to 4,565. But the number of active cases in North Dakota declined by three, to 717, The Bismarck Tribune reports. No new deaths were reported, leaving North Dakota’s death toll at 88. Cass County reported 19 new confirmed cases, while Mountrail County had 15 and Burleigh County nine. The number of patients currently hospitalized in North Dakota remained at 42 on Wednesday, unchanged from the previous day.
Cincinnati: The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is trying to offset some of the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic by offering employees “separation packages.” Thirty-eight employees, some from every zoo department, took separation packages, spokeswoman Michelle Curley said Wednesday evening. The separations cut about 1 in 8 employees from the zoo’s workforce, reducing it by 14.6% to 222. The employee reduction came from a combination of early retirements, role eliminations and voluntary departures, Curley said, adding that “all received packages.” The zoo reopened June 10 after being closed nearly three months because of state-ordered shutdowns of certain types of businesses. During the time the zoo couldn’t have guests, which started March 15, the Avondale facility lost almost $6.8 million in revenue, officials said.
Oklahoma City: Tulsa city leaders have adopted an ordinance requiring face masks be worn in most public places, while Oklahoma City councilors are to vote on a similar plan Friday. The Tulsa City Council voted 7-2 Wednesday night to require people 18 and older to wear face coverings in places such as grocery and retail stores, churches, restaurants, bars and public places. The vote came hours after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he tested positive for the coronavirus and is isolating at home but is still not considering a statewide mask mandate. Exceptions in Tulsa include people with medical conditions as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, personal offices or vehicles, and outdoor activities with social distancing. The ordinance provides no penalty for refusing to wear a mask, but those who do not wear a face covering could face charges such as criminal trespass, disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, according to a city news release.
Bend: More than 20 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Mt. Bachelor Memory Care center in Bend, health officials said. After four days of testing staff and residents, contact tracers are working to determine the origin of the infection, according to Deschutes County Health Services director Dr. George Conway. One person tested positive Saturday, The Bulletin reports. Over the weekend, county health officials started testing residents and staff as they came to work. Conway said not all the test results are in, but most who have tested positive are residents, along with some workers. None of the people who have tested positive are clinically ill or needing hospitalization, Conway said. Now that a positive case has been identified there, new residents will not be accepted, and additional limits will be placed on visitors, according to the human services website.
Harrisburg: The state reported 781 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing Pennsylvania’s total to more than 98,000, as new, statewide pandemic restrictions took effect. The state Department of Health said there were 16 additional deaths for a new statewide toll of 6,973. Gov. Tom Wolf reimposed restrictions Thursday on bars, restaurants and larger indoor gatherings – now limited to 25 people, down from 250 – in response to what he called an “unsettling climb” in infections. Critics questioned the need for statewide restrictions when only a few areas of the state have been seeing rising case numbers. Wolf warned that a “new surge is in the offing” that could eclipse what happened in the spring, when the virus killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians. Disease modeling from PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows infections rising sharply in Philadelphia and the suburbs in coming weeks.
Providence: State health officials are coordinating a second round of coronavirus antibody testing to better understand the prevalence of the disease in people in high-contact professions. First responders, National Guard members, state Department of Health staff, prison workers, and hospital and nursing home staff will be able to schedule a test online starting Friday, the health department said in a statement Wednesday. The program is voluntary, and results will be made available in about four days. The testing, called serology testing, looks for proteins in the blood called antibodies, which are produced in response to the presence of a virus. Antibody testing does not tell whether someone is currently infected with the virus but rather whether they were infected in the past. By testing broad populations for antibodies, researchers hope to learn how widely the virus spread and how deadly it really is.
Charleston: The mayor is asking for spiritual help for people who died in the COVID-19 pandemic, people fighting the virus and their families. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg declared Thursday a day of prayer and remembrance in what for centuries has been nicknamed the Holy City for the number of church steeples that dotted its Colonial skyline from many different faiths. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest test of that faith. In a state that is among the worst in the nation for the rate of new cases, Charleston is one of the biggest hot spots. In the ZIP codes that make up downtown Charleston, more than 3% of residents have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which estimates the total number of cases could be eight or nine times more. By nearly every measure, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage in South Carolina. Nearly 39% of its more than 62,000 known cases have been diagnosed in the past two weeks. The state has set records for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 nearly every day in July.
Sioux Falls: New unemployment claims in the state increased during the most recent reporting period as the U.S. economy struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, but the number of continued state claims has decreased from its highest mark in May. The Department of Labor and Regulation reported Thursday that 1,160 people made new claims for unemployment benefits during the week ending July 11. That’s 325 more than the previous week, an increase of 40%. A total of 18,687 people were receiving unemployment benefits statewide July 4, according to the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. The number of continued claims has decreased by 6,500 from a historic high in May as the coronavirus pandemic caused mass layoffs. About 4.5% of all eligible employees in the state are still unemployed, according to the latest report.
Nashville: Vanderbilt University Medical Center is looking for up to 1,000 volunteers to participate in the late-stage trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital says it will begin recruiting people at the end of the month. The vaccine is being developed by Moderna Inc. with the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. The randomized, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial will be open to people 18 or older. They will receive two shots of either the vaccine or an inactive placebo and will be followed for two years. The trial aims to determine how effective the vaccine is in protecting against COVID-19 and how long the protection lasts. Officials say several U.S. centers are participating in the nationwide phase 3 trial. Those interested can contact Vanderbilt University Medical Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Austin: Signs in the Texas Panhandle urged voters to wear masks. Polling precincts were already staffed thin because some election workers backed out of the state’s primary runoffs, cautious about the coronavirus that socked the rural meatpacking region in May. By and large, most voters covered their faces, even though Texas’ mask mandate exempts polling locations. Others adamantly made clear they wouldn’t. Two weeks after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered most of the state’s 30 million residents to wear masks, Texas is still scrambling to contain one of the biggest coronavirus surges in the U.S., and Abbott is stressing that the widespread use of face coverings could avoid another lockdown – one he hasn’t ruled out. On Wednesday, Texas again set a new high with nearly 10,800 new cases, along with a record 110 deaths.
Provo: County commissioners postponed a meeting Wednesday at which they were expected to discuss mask mandates after people packed the room and ignored social distancing guidelines. The Utah County commissioners cited public safety concerns as the reason for abruptly canceling the meeting, Fox-13 reports. The commission had to postpone a vote on whether to ask for a partial exemption from the statewide mask mandate for schools. Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee had proposed writing a letter to the county’s health director, directing him to ask state officials for a “compassionate exemption” from the mandate Gov. Gary Herbert issued last week. Attendees booed after the commissioners opted to push the vote to a later date because of health concerns. Video footage shows the meeting was packed with people who opposed the mandate, very few of whom were wearing masks.
Burlington: The suicide rate in the state has remained relatively consistent with the five-year average amid the coronavirus pandemic. But mental health professionals say people are suffering. According to a report by the Vermont Department of Health, it’s unclear if there has been a statistical change in suicide deaths this year or in the past few weeks. The number of patients being admitted to Brattleboro Retreat and other psychiatric units in Vermont is about the same as it was before the coronavirus pandemic, Brattleboro Retreat President Louis Josephson said, “but I worry that people are suffering silently and that we will see an uptick.” What also worries Josephson are the patients who are coming in. The symptoms new patients exhibit seem to be worse than before, he said. “I worry about what they call the ‘pent-up demand’ for all health care services during the pandemic and particularly in psychiatric care,” Josephson said.
Richmond: The city’s school board has decided to hold only virtual classes during the fall for all grade levels because of coronavirus concerns. The Richmond School Board decided in an 8-1 vote Tuesday to have virtual lessons this fall as COVID-19 cases rise in the state, news outlets report. Superintendent Jason Kamras gave the board five plans to choose from that included hybrid lessons or allowing certain students and grades to go back to in-class learning. Kamras said the virtual instruction will be broken down into live-teaching and playlist-teaching, where students could watch and respond to video lessons. Teachers and staff will get additional training on how to work in a virtual environment. The district also plans to buy an additional 5,000-8,000 Chromebooks, WiFi hot spots and 250 laptops.
Seattle: Officials at the state’s largest psychiatric hospital are trying to get control of the latest coronavirus outbreak after four workers and one patient tested positive. To date, 38 employees at Western State Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, while nine patients got the disease. One patient died. The 800-bed facility also recently had a bacteria outbreak in its water system, which meant no staff or patients could shower or wash their hands. The health department has since cleared that notification. Last week, a hospital security guard became symptomatic and tested positive, CEO Dave Holt told staff in an email. That guard was the first employee to test positive since May 27. On Friday, a patient on the criminal ward also tested positive. The patient is being held after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, Holt said. He was the first patient to test positive since April 30.
Glen Jean: The Boy Scouts of America have postponed next year’s National Jamboree in West Virginia, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The increasing number of cases and the pandemic’s persistence and unpredictability made it impossible for the Boy Scouts to comply with its “Be Prepared” motto, according to an announcement on the organization’s website. The quadrennial Jamboree had been scheduled for July 21-30, 2021, at the Scouts’ Summit Bechtel site. Nearly 40,000 Scouts attended the 2017 event, and President Donald Trump gave a controversial speech there. “Planning, preparations and decisions regarding National Jamborees take place months, and even years, in advance,” the Scouts said. “Given the current situation and the uncertain nature of future conditions, we determined we could not prepare in a manner that would provide the safest possible environment for all those involved.”
Madison: The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% in June – a bit of good news that came Thursday as Democratic lawmakers released proposals to remove obstacles and broaden access to unemployment benefits. The jobless numbers also came as Gov. Tony Evers’ administration temporarily reassigned 100 state workers to help address a backlog in claims. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate last month was far below the national rate of 11.1% and was down from the state’s high of 13.6% in April. That figure reflected the height of businesses closing across the state in response to a “safer at home” order issued by Evers to slow the spread of the virus. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 12.1% in May. While April’s unemployment rate had not been that high since the Great Depression, June’s 8.5% was last seen 10 years ago as Wisconsin was climbing out of the Great Recession. Unemployment then topped out just shy of 10%.
Cheyenne: The governor and the state’s top public health officer spoke firmly in support of wearing face masks in public amid accelerating spread of the coronavirus and doubt among some that masks are necessary. “We need to behave in a way that is conscientious to one another. There is no constitutional right to go infect somebody else,” Gov. Mark Gordon said at a news conference Wednesday. With a face mask hanging around his neck, Gordon blamed a “casual attitude” about mask-wearing and social distancing for Wyoming’s growing number of cases and his recent decisions to extend health orders affecting public gatherings through at least the end of July. “We were well on our way – well on our way – to relieving all of our orders,” Gordon said. On Saturday, President Donald Trump was seen wearing a face mask in public for the first time – a possible shift in what has become a political issue nationwide and in heavily Republican Wyoming.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Eviction fears, no Rose Parade: News from around our 50 states