Spanish Fort: An Alabama police officer who stood at attention during a rainstorm to honor a deceased World War II soldier said he simply wanted to recognize a veteran from a small town. Wearing his regular uniform rather than rain gear, Officer Newman Brazier of the Mount Vernon Police Department got out of his police car and stood at attention as the funeral procession of Robert Lee Serling entered the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort on Monday, WPMI-TV reported. Serling died on June 5 at age 100. Soaked, Brazier didn’t get out of the weather until the procession had passed. Eddie Irby Jr., who leads a group for Black veterans in Mobile, said mourners noticed the gesture, which was captured on video. “It (had) an effect on those guys, especially those veterans, to see someone doing that.” said Irby Jr., president of the 92nd Division Buffalo Soldiers, a racially segregated fighting unit composed of Black soldiers. Serling, a private first class who was one of the relatively few Black soldiers who fought in the Pacific during the war, was from Mount Vernon, a small town located about 30 miles north of Mobile, and Brazier said he wanted the veteran’s death to be acknowledged. “It was my point to let everyone in that area know that he was there, he was passing through, even if it was for the last time,” Brazier said.
Anchorage: Health officials are seeking to boost plateauing vaccination numbers as COVID-19 cases climb in the state. The week of July 4 marked a month of week-over-week increases of infections in Alaska, according to the health department. That was the most recent weekly update available. State health officials said vaccines are the best defense against the spread of COVID-19. A new report from the department showed that between Feb. 1 and June 30, there were 656 cases of COVID-19 in residents who were fully vaccinated, which included 17 people who were hospitalized and two who died, Alaska Public Media reported. The report said 38% had no symptoms and described the two people who died as having “substantial” preexisting conditions. The cases represent about 4% of the 15,562 COVID-19 infections reported in Alaska during that time. Between February and June, 391 hospitalizations and 58 deaths were reported in people who were not fully vaccinated, according to the report. The health department did not provide further details on those cases. Those who were fully vaccinated but still got COVID-19 represent 0.2% of the roughly 300,000 Alaskans who were fully vaccinated as of June 30.
Grand Canyon National Park: At least four people were injured after being struck by lightning while hiking in the Grand Canyon on Tuesday. At about 2:50 p.m., the Grand Canyon Communications Center received a call that multiple people were struck by lightning at the Bright Angel Trailhead during a monsoonal thunderstorm, according to a press release. Upon arrival, officials found a 30-year-old man and 28-year-old woman unresponsive. The woman received life-saving measures before regaining a pulse. The male regained consciousness without assistance, officials said. Both victims were taken to the Flagstaff Medical Center as storm activity prevented air transport, officials said. The woman remained in stable condition at a regional burn center, officials said. At least two other people took themselves to the Grand Canyon Clinic with injuries from a lightning splash, an event in which lightning strikes an object and the current jumps to a person, according to the National Weather Service. With monsoon season continuing to bring heavy rain and lightning, officials reminded visitors that they should seek shelter or proceed to the nearest park shuttle if thunder follows a lightning flash within 30 seconds. Lightning strikes in Grand Canyon National Park approximately 25,000 times per year, according to officials.
Fort Smith: The Fort Smith Regional Airport saw a slight increase in flight activity from May to June as 162 additional people departed last month. From May to June, the airport saw a 3.4% increase in departures. That represents 4,950 passengers during June compared with 4,788 during May. Michael Griffin, director of the airport, said the increase is a result of people feeling safe to travel again because of the COVID-19 vaccine. He also said leisure travel picks up in the summer and should decrease once the summer ends. During June 2020, at the early stages of the pandemic, the airport saw just 1,622 departures. The Fort Smith Regional Airport saw a decline in cargo shipped out from the airport during the same time period. Only 11 parcels were shipped during June, a 98.9% decrease in cargo activity from May. Griffin said the amount of cargo shipped from the airport can vary from month-to-month. There are times companies ship cargo using air carriers and other times they might ship it through a delivery service such as FedEx. During June 2020, the number of cargo shipped out from the airport was 252.
Chula Vista: There was pumping music, dancing teachers and lots of hugs as one of the first public schools in California opened fully to in-person learning Wednesday, marking a major milestone in the fight to return to normalcy in the nation’s most populated state, though the masked students served as a reminder that the coronavirus pandemic is still far from over. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond welcomed students at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School in Chula Vista, south of San Diego near the Mexican border. Thurmond tried to calm concerns about the timing of the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s return to full-day, in-person instruction amid rising numbers of COVID-19 infections from the more contagious delta variant, including among younger children, for which a vaccine has not yet been approved. Thurmond said he was confident that masks, hand-washing and frequent testing of staff and students were enough to allow schools to reopen safely.
Rustic: A woman was found dead and three other people were missing after rain triggered flooding and mudslides in an area of northern Colorado burned by a large wildfire last year, authorities said Wednesday. The woman’s body was found near the small community of Rustic, about 100 miles northwest of Denver, after a mudslide sent a large amount of debris into a scenic, winding canyon Tuesday night, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said. At least five houses were destroyed, and a private bridge was damaged in the flooding, sheriff’s Capt. Joe Shellhammer told the Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins. Crews recovered the woman’s body from the Cache la Poudre River that runs through Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, and crews on foot searched for two missing men and another woman with help from drones, the sheriff’s office said. The area burned last year in a 326-square-mile wildfire, which likely contributed to the flooding and mudslides, sheriff’s spokesman Jered Kramer said. Fires torch vegetation that usually helps absorb rain, making those areas more vulnerable to flooding, especially in steep sections. The soil in burned areas can also repel rain.
Hartford: The schedule for state-mandated fingerprinting has been expanded to Friday to accommodate roughly 630 health care workers at long-term care facilities and other entities hired during the pandemic who still need to be fingerprinted for required criminal history checks. The Department of Public Health said expanded and extended schedules for fingerprinting services will be provided at Connecticut State Police Barracks A, G, H and I through Friday. Appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Troops B, C, D, E, F, K and L will continue to fingerprint people on a walk-in basis between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Health care workers across the state who were hired during the pandemic have faced termination if they didn’t meet a July 20 deadline to get fingerprinted for state-mandated background checks. An estimated 7,500 people were hired between March 23, 2020, and May 19 of this year, when Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order suspending the required fingerprint checks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Workers hired under the executive order who were not fingerprinted by Tuesday’s deadline are not eligible to work in direct-access positions, DPH said in a statement. The employees can return to direct access positions immediately after being fingerprinted, while they await the results.
Wilmington: A woman is suing Delaware State Police alleging that plainclothes officers in unmarked cars blockaded her in her car and held her at gunpoint before they realized she was not the person for which they were looking. As Martiayna Watson, 20, left a gas station in Wilmington on June 24, she said her car was cut off and surrounded by four cars and one car hit hers from behind, news outlets reported. The officers got out with guns drawn and pointed them at Watson, according to the suit. One officer broke the driver’s side rear window and another pulled her out of the car. “I thought I was about to be kidnapped,” Watson said at a news conference in which the lawsuit was announced. When Watson started to cry and ask what was going on, according to the lawsuit, an officer put a stun gun to her neck and said, “I’m going to –– you up.” But eventually, an officer said, “I think we have the wrong person,” and they drove away, according to the suit. The officers were searching for a Black man and woman in a dark gray Nissan Maxima, after a pawn shop robbery, and Watson, a Black woman, was driving a light gray Nissan Altima, according to her attorney, Emeka Igwe. A state police sergeant and lieutenant later apologized and offered money to help fix her car, Igwe said. Delaware State Police declined to comment to the Associated Press on the lawsuit.
District of Columbia
Washington: WUSA-TV reported four vehicles are being sought in connection with a reckless driving incident that occurred on July 17 at the intersection of 4th and Tingley Street SE, D.C. police said. At approximately 11:30 p.m., police allege that a maroon Dodge Charger, a blue Dodge Charger, a black Dodge Charger, and a black Ford Crown Victoria began recklessly driving in circles at the Navy Yard intersection, about two blocks away from the Nationals’ stadium. The suspect vehicles fled the scene before officers arrived, police said. Police neitehr provided vehicle license plate numbers nor descriptions of the drivers of the vehicles. In videos of the incident uploaded to social media, it appeared that at least two individuals grab on to the outside frame of one of the vehicles and hold on as it proceeds to do donuts. Another video showed fireworks being launched next to one of the cars. Anyone who can identify the suspect vehicles or who has information about the drivers should call MPD at (202) 727-9099 or text the tip line at 50411. DC Crime Solvers is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the people responsible for this incident.
Tallahassee: Florida’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, tweeted Wednesday that she has tested positive for the coronavirus. “Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms and my family is in good health,” Moody tweeted. “As I continue to self-quarantine, I want to encourage Floridians to be vigilant about their health.” The 46-year-old Republican said she had been vaccinated for the virus earlier this year. According to the Miami Herald, the news of Moody’s diagnosis came just four days after she traveled on the state plane with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senate President Wilton Simpson to the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, for a news conference with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. At the news conference, which was in an open-air airport hangar, Moody also came in close contact with dozens of state law enforcement officers. DeSantis’ office did not respond to a text message and email seeking comment late Wednesday on whether the Republican governor, who received a vaccine earlier this year, would get tested for the coronavirus or take any precautions after coming in close contact with Moody over the weekend, the Herald reported.
Atlanta: Atlanta Public Schools will implement a “universal mask wearing” policy in all of its school buildings when the new school year starts Aug. 5, the district announced Thursday. In a statement, the school system cited the dangers of the delta variant of the coronavirus and guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Just 18% of eligible students in the Atlanta school system are fully vaccinated and 58% of its employees have said they are either fully vaccinated or plan to be, officials said. The school system noted that the pediatrics academy recommends that all students and staff wear masks – regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. It also mentioned the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in announcing the mask mandate. About 50,000 students attend Atlanta Public Schools.
Lihue: Officials on Kauai have created a website to help tourists find transportation options as the island experiences a shortage of rental cars. Kauai’s Office of Economic Development partnered with the Hawaii Tourism Authority to launch a website to help visitors find ways to get around without a car, The Garden Island newspaper reported. They also hope the website, GetAroundKauai.com, will create a more sustainable long-term transportation structure. Officials said they hope the resource will help reduce traffic congestion created by tourists who are flocking to Hawaii as pandemic restrictions ease. With rental cars in high demand and no centralized way to search for other transportation options, county officials said the site will be a place people can find the best alternatives to rental cars. They said the website will be regularly updated as new transportation options become available. The website also will have a map with Kauai bus stops and routes, regional walking guides and weekly blog posts to help visitors understand airport shuttles, parking permits for state parks and details about accessing remote places.
Boise: Grazing fees for cattle and sheep on state-owned land in Idaho could rise about 50% next year. The Idaho Department of Lands presented a draft proposal to Republican Gov. Brad Little and four other members of the Idaho Land Board that would be the first change in the grazing rate calculation since 1993. The board could take action later this year. Land Board members are required by the Idaho Constitution to maximize profit from state lands over the long term, mainly to benefit public schools. But grazing fees the state charges are only about a third of what private landowners charge. That opens up Land Board members to potential lawsuits for possibly shirking their constitutional duty. The new grazing rate would still only be about 60% of what private landowners charge. The Idaho Department of Lands is taking public comments on the plan through Sept. 3. The Lands Department is seeking to “develop a new model for grazing that’s transparent, defensible and achieves a fair-market rate for endowment beneficiaries,” said Lands Department Director Dustin Miller. That rate is currently $7.07 per AUM, or animal unit month, and for next year under the current plan will drop to $6.86. Animal unit month is based on one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats grazing for a month. Idaho, in part, calculates sheep grazing fees based on the price of calves. The new plan would see that rise to above $10.73 per AUM on state-owned land in 2022. The current rate for grazing private land is about $18.50.
Chicago: An Italian-American organization has filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Chicago Park District to return a Christopher Columbus statue to its pedestal in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood, officials said. The statue in Arrigo Park on Chicago’s West Side, and two others elsewhere in the city, were removed last year after demonstrators swarmed a Columbus statue in Grant Park in a failed attempt to tear it down. The lawsuit filed by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans claims the removal of the Columbus monument in Little Italy violated a nearly 50-year-old agreement the group has with the Park District. Organization president Ron Onesti said the agreement stated any alterations of the statue or plaza must have the written consent of the Columbus Statue Committee, a precursor to his organization. At the time of the removal the Arrigo Park statue and the one in Grant Park, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said their removals were temporary and in response to demonstrations that had become unsafe for protesters and the police. A third statue of Columbus, which had stood on display on the South Side for nearly 130 years, was removed days later. The statues became targets during protests in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Protesters said the explorer doesn’t deserve veneration because of how he treated Indigenous peoples. The city’s Law Department declined to comment on a pending litigation and said it will review the lawsuit once received.
Indianapolis: Indiana’s environmental agency issued a statewide air quality alert this week urging Hoosiers to slow down and take other steps as smoke wafts across the state from wildfires burning in the western U.S. and Canada. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management said Wednesday it issued the air quality alert for Wednesday and Thursday because of microscopic smoke particles from the wildfires. That smoke has blanketed much of the continent, including thousands of miles away on the East Coast. The agency said it was encouraging Hoosiers to reduce how much time they spend outside doing various activities, and to avoid exercising near busy roadways. The agency was also urging people to avoid burning wood or making other unnecessary fires and to also avoid using gasoline-powered equipment or gas-powered recreational vehicles.
Osceola: A fire at Osceola’s small airport has destroyed a hangar and at least two airplanes, officials said. The fire at Osceola Municipal Airport was reported about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, television station KCCI reported. Osceola Fire Chief Byron Jimmerson said welding work was being performed in the hangar before the fire started, but it’s not yet known whether that started the fire. The hangar and at least two privately owned planes were destroyed, but no one was injured, investigators said.
Topeka: A major Kansas health system is declining to admit patients from other hospitals because it has too few open beds with the faster-spreading delta variant wiping out recent months of progress for the state in containing COVID-19. Dr. Steve Stites, the chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System, said the bed space problem at its main hospital in Kansas City is now worse than it was last fall, when the average number of new cases per day was climbing toward pandemic highs. He said the hospital had open beds then because people were wearing masks and social distancing, and doctors weren’t seeing other infections. Kansas is seeing its highest averages for new COVID-19 cases since late February, as confirmed cases of the fast-spreading delta variant surge, data showed. Stites said the University of Kansas Health System is turning down between one and six patient transfers per day, and the problem will get worse as new cases keep climbing.
Paducah: Authorities are investigating the cause of an explosion at a Dippin’ Dots factory that injured 10 people. Paducah Police received a call about the explosion at 4:03 p.m. Wednesday, police spokesperson Robin Newberry told The Paducah Sun. The explosion happened as a truck was unloading liquid nitrogen at the facility, but police are not yet sure what caused the blast. Ten people were taken to local hospitals, but Newberry did not know the severity of their injuries. Newberry said the building is owned by Dippin’ Dots but is not one where they manufacture ice cream. Instead, it is used to manufacture ingredients for a third-party company. Paducah Fire Chief Steve Kyle said fire crews at the scene were “working through the investigative process and making sure the scene was safe.”
Baton Rouge: New Orleans’ iconic Superdome might soon bear the Caesars Entertainment name and logo under a 20-year naming rights deal with the Saints that is nearing completion and won required legislative backing Thursday. Terms of the contract are still being completed, but the deal is estimated to be worth about $138 million through 2041, according to information provided to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, the House and Senate panel that approved the naming rights transfer without objection. The money will go to the Saints organization, as provided in state law as part of Louisiana’s contractual arrangement with the NFL team. But the Saints intend to spend the cash on renovations and upkeep of the domed stadium, said Evan Holmes, with ASM Global, the company that manages the state-owned Superdome and other facilities in the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District. The Superdome bore the Mercedes-Benz name and icon for the past decade, but that 2011 sponsorship expires July 31. Caesars wants to take over the naming rights starting in August.
Farmington: The federal government is going to help fund a dam removal project in Maine that conservationists have said is crucial to restoring fish habitat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is giving more than $300,000 toward the Walton’s Mill Dam removal project. The project would remove the only dam on Temple Stream, which is located in the Kennebec River watershed in Maine’s western mountains. NOAA said the removal of the dam would restore access to more than 50 river miles, helping endangered Atlantic salmon, which return to Maine rivers to spawn. NOAA said in a statement that the removal of the dam would “eliminate a key threat to Atlantic salmon in the freshwater environment and address other habitat-related factors that are inhibiting the recovery of the species.”
Baltimore: The city’s spending board approved more than a half-million dollars for a man who served four years behind bars after two members of a rogue police unit arrested him on a firearm charge following a traffic stop. It’s the 30th case settled by Baltimore in the wake of a federal corruption investigation into the crooked plainclothes police unit, costing taxpayers nearly $15 million in settlement costs in a city chronically struggling to respond to any number of serious challenges. The spending panel, which includes Baltimore’s mayor, unanimously approved the $525,000 settlement to Robert Johnson, who was in a car pulled over by two members of the police department’s Gun Trace Task Force. They claimed they found a gun in the car during the 2014 traffic stop. Johnson initially pleaded guilty to the charge but sued years later, alleging a gun was planted by members of the once-lauded plainclothes unit that was supposed to take guns off the streets but resold stolen drugs, conducted robberies and falsified evidence. The weapons charge against Johnson was eventually withdrawn.
Worcester: Striking nurses from St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester will resume talks with management in the hopes of ending the work stoppage. A federal mediator working on negotiations scheduled two days of face-to-face discussions at the hospital. Nurses at St. Vincent went on strike March 8 demanding better staffing ratios, which they said is necessary to ensure patient safety. The strike is now the nation’s longest nurses’ strike in more than a decade, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s bargaining unit at St. Vincent, said the nurses are hopeful the current round of talks will resolve the dispute. St. Vincent is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare. The company declined to comment to The Telegram and Gazette. Patients at the hospital are being cared for by temporary replacement nurses, but the hospital has also hired new permanent nurses. Some staff nurses have also crossed the picket line.
Corunna: Elected officials in Shiawassee County gave themselves $65,000 in bonuses with federal relief money related to the coronavirus pandemic. The money, described as “hazard pay,” included $25,000 for Jeremy Root, chairman of the County Board of Commissioners. The mostly rural county, between Lansing and Flint, has a population of 68,000. Commissioners – all Republicans – last week voted to award money to county employees. It ranged from $25,000 for administrators to $2,000 for cleaning staff. All workers got at least $1,000. Commissioners are paid $10,000 a year for their part-time job, plus a stipend for meetings. Besides Root, commissioners John Plowman and Brandon Marks each received $10,000 in extra cash, and the other four commissioners got $5,000 each, MLive.com reported.
St. Paul: The latest U.S. Drought Monitor showed 72% of Minnesota is experiencing severe drought – a big jump from last week, when 52% of the state was considered to be in severe drought. Minnesota Public Radio News reported the news is startling because at the start of June, less than 1% of the state had severe drought areas. The drought monitor showed the more intense “extreme” drought category has expanded from 4% of the state last week to almost 19% this week. The news means that more watering restrictions are likely, and there could be an elevated fire danger. Farmers could also see increased problems with crops and feeding livestock. The latest drought monitor was released Thursday and includes data through Tuesday.
Jackson: Two state lawmakers said they’re continuing to work on proposals to create a medical marijuana program, two months after the state Supreme Court invalidated one that voters approved. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of Southaven and Republican Rep. Lee Yancey of Brandon are the lead negotiators. Yancey said a House bill would be similar to Initiative 65, which voters approved in November to allow medical marijuana use by people with some debilitating conditions. Initiative 65 was overturned by the state Supreme Court in May when justices ruled that Mississippi’s initiative process is outdated and the medical marijuana measure was not properly on the ballot. The Senate Public Health Committee held a hearing about medical marijuana Wednesday. Blackwell said afterward that his draft is similar to a bill the Senate proposed during the regular legislative session earlier this year.
O’Fallon: Across the state, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts said the spread is largely the result of low vaccination rates – Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots. Now, many churches in southwestern Missouri, such as the North Point Church in Springfield, are holding vaccination clinics. Meanwhile, more than 200 church leaders have signed onto a statement urging Christians to get vaccinated, and on Wednesday announced a follow-up public service campaign that will include paid advertisements.
Helena: The state’s economy has largely healed from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic but is facing a labor shortage fueled partly by a lack of affordable housing, economists said. A commission tasked with distributing part of the $900 million in federal coronavirus relief that Montana received has named affordable housing as one of four categories it will consider for funding proposals. The others are business innovation, value-added agriculture and workforce development. The commission will meet again in three weeks to discuss proposals from the public. With housing values increasing by well over 20% in the past year in parts of the state, some workers are saying they can’t take low-paying jobs even with recent wage hikes, said Mike Foster, director of the state’s program for distributing coronavirus relief funds. Although Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office is open to funding affordable housing, Foster said it’s “a tricky challenge because we want to be respectful of the free market.”
Omaha: Nearly two dozen people, including several young children, living in a northwest Omaha home were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after walking into a hospital, officials said. The incident happened late Tuesday, when 22 people – all members of the same family – walked into an Omaha emergency room displaying symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, officials said. Among them were at least seven children under the age of 12. Firefighters were then sent to the home in the Irvington neighborhood, where they found toxic levels of carbon monoxide. Several Omaha-area fire departments and EMTs also helped transport various family members to nearby hospitals for treatment. All are expected to recover. The family is from Myanmar, officials said. Officials said firefighters and utility crews were working to determine the source of the carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can cause illness and death.
Carson City: Health officials have no plans to implement statewide measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and intend to continue allowing local officials to set guidelines as a variant-fueled surge grips the Las Vegas area. The governor retains the right to implement statewide restrictions, but for now “is supportive of local communities who are closest to the issues making those decisions themselves,” Meghin Delaney, a spokesperson for Gov. Steve Sisolak, said. The state’s efforts to encourage vaccinations were yielding success, said Candice McDaniel, a director in Nevada’s health department. Last week, Nevada administered more first doses than the national average and vaccinated 2.5% of the eligible unvaccinated population. Although the state has reported instances where vaccinated individuals have tested positive, McDaniel said the risk of breakthrough infections was minuscule and shouldn’t deter anyone from getting a shot.
Lincoln: A family of ill-prepared hikers from Florida was rescued on Mount Lafayette this week, and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is recommending that they be billed for the “preventable rescue.” A couple and their two children vastly underestimated the time needed to complete the Falling Waters-Old Bridle Path Loop and ended up in the dark without lights or water, officials said. One of the family members was suffering from exhaustion when the couple dialed 911 late Monday, and other hikers were assisting by the time a conservation officer arrived with lights and water, the agency said. The group reached the trailhead at 2 a.m. Tuesday, the agency said. The agency urged people enjoying the outdoors to be prepared. “The White Mountains are rugged and unforgiving,” the agency said.
Wildwood: A 13-year-old girl was hit in the face by a seagull on an amusement park ride. Kiley Holman was celebrating her friend’s birthday at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood when she was struck, NJ Advance Media reported. The girls were just seconds into their ride on the SlingShot when the bird flew into her. Video showed that after a moment of shock she was able to pull the bird off her face. “The seagull just flew away,” Kiley said. “The only thing that happened to me was a little tiny cut, that was all.”
Santa Fe: A lack of oversight within the Department of Health likely was a factor in high COVID-19 infection and death rates among residents at the New Mexico State Veterans’ Home, according to a review by legislative analysts. Members of the Legislative Finance Committee discussed the report, which was made public this week, during its meeting Wednesday. The report noted that multiple independent reviews found failure to follow proper infection control and personal protective equipment procedures at the nursing home despite early guidance from state health officials. Also, a pattern of deficiencies has cost the facility more than $180,000 in federal penalties since 2015.
New York City: The police department said just 43% of its workforce has been vaccinated against COVID-19. The New York Post reported Wednesday that about 23,000 of the NYPD’s 54,000 employees have been vaccinated. That trails the fire department, where about 55% of employees have been vaccinated. Thousands of police department employees were sickened with COVID-19 and 56 have died, including seven detectives and three officers.Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city was looking into mandating vaccines for its workers and that unvaccinated employees of the city’s health system must be tested weekly. The NYPD, the nation’s largest police force, has shied away from mandating the vaccine, citing possible legal challenges. An NYPD spokesperson told the Post the department is working to educate workers and combat misinformation about the vaccine.
Raleigh: State health officials and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said they will eliminate the statewide mask mandate and ease masking requirements in schools. The new recommendations urge K-8 schools to require masks for students and staff while they are indoors but allows fully vaccinated high school students and staff to be unmasked. The mask mandate expires at 5 p.m. July 30, which is the same time the updated school reopening guidance takes effect. Cooper and the state’s top public health official, Dr. Mandy Cohen, repeatedly declined to offer specifics on how they would enforce the recommendations and crack down on districts that move to let all students return to the classroom without a face covering. The North Carolina Association of Educators, the state’s largest lobbying group representing teachers, called the governor’s decision to eliminate the statewide mask mandate “very poorly timed.” It added that the decision “flies in the face of recommendations” from federal health officials.
Bismarck: Amid a deepening drought, North Dakota’s top agriculture official is asking the federal government to allow ranchers to hay idled grassland earlier than usual and while it’s still of good quality. The federal government is allowing limited emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program land, which is typically idled under a government program that pays farmers to protect erodible land and create wildlife habitat. North Dakota ranchers usually aren’t allowed to hay that land until after Aug. 1, when nesting season ends, to protect wildlife populations. Ranchers said that after that day, grass might not be of good enough quality to make it worthwhile to hay. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said his office is getting daily calls about the early release of emergency haying and he asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow it “starting as soon as possible to maintain some of the nutritional quality of the hay that is harvested. In order for our livestock producers to make it through this disaster, it is necessary to marshal every available resource.” The state Agriculture Department said in a statement that the federal government hasn’t responded. The USDA and the federal Farm Service Agency did not respond to the Bismarck Tribune’s requests for comment.
Toledo: A doctor who portrayed himself as an advocate for patients who need legitimate pain treatment has been convicted of overprescribing painkillers. A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Dr. William Bauer of Port Clinton on charges of distributing controlled substances to 14 patients, and health care fraud. Federal prosecutors said Bauer prescribed dangerous drug combinations and high doses of addictive narcotics that weren’t medically necessary between 2015 and 2019 at his office in Bellevue. Bauer’s attorney said he will appeal the verdict. Bauer testified that the medication allowed patients to resume some normal activities and that he closely monitored his patients to watch for any signs of drug abuse. Before his arrest, Bauer was a vocal critic of the crackdown on opioid pills for chronic pain patients, saying they were being hurt by moves to stop them from receiving large amounts of opioid pain pills.
Oklahoma City: The number of reported coronavirus cases in Oklahoma increased by 80% during the week ending July 17, and the seven-day average number of cases has nearly tripled in the past two weeks, health officials reported. There were 4,840 new cases for the seven days ending Saturday, according to the State Department of Health in its weekly report late Wednesday. Health officials have said the increase is likely the result of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus moving into the state. Oklahoma ranks 10th in the nation with 221.3 new cases per 100,000 population. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the seven-day rolling average of new Oklahoma cases increased from 260.6 on July 6 to 749.9 on Tuesday.
Eugene: A campfire ban went into effect Thursday for all areas in Oregon east of Interstate 5. The Oregon Department of Forestry said no campfires will be allowed in state parks and in state-managed forests east of Interstate 5, even in designated campfire areas. Restrictions will be in place until conditions moderate. “We are seeing record-low humidity in much of the state, and as forest fuels dry out, there is tremendous potential for fire to establish and spread quickly,” Oregon State Forester Nancy Hirsch said. “With months of fire season left, this measure will help us prevent one of the most common types of human-caused fires, which reduces the risk to our communities and natural resources.” The ban includes: charcoal fires, cooking fires, warming fires, charcoal briquettes, pellet grills, candles, tiki torches and devices that emit flames. Portable cooking stoves or propane lanterns using liquefied or bottle fuels are allowed, but propane fire pits aren’t. The ban covers all state-managed parks and forest lands east of Interstate 5 and includes prohibitions on fires in designated fire rings.
Harrisburg: State health officials defended their decision to award another no-bid deal for COVID-19 contact tracing after a serious data breach involving the state’s previous vendor, calling it an urgent priority with cases rising and schools preparing to reopen for fall. The Department of Health awarded a contract to Public Consulting Group that state officials expect to run about $9 million but could balloon to $34 million if the coronavirus becomes widespread again. Health officials hired the Boston-based company through an emergency procurement, allowing them to bypass usual contracting procedures. That’s the same process state officials used to hire the first vendor, Atlanta-based Insight Global, which the Health Department fired in May after company employees compromised the private data of more than 70,000 residents. Insight Global and the Health Department are facing litigation over the breach.
Providence: New cases of COVID-19 have ticked up slightly in Rhode Island following weeks of declines. Updated numbers released by the state on Thursday showed the percentage of positive coronavirus tests increased to 1% this week, up from a half-percentage point the week before. In addition, the number of new cases per 100,000 residents increased from 15 last week to 29 this week. One additional death from COVID-19 was announced Thursday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 2,739. Although the number of newly infected people is still relatively small, state health officials said they’re watching closely. New hospitalizations for COVID-19 fell again this week, from 21 last week to 16 so far this week. In all, 17 people in Rhode Island are now hospitalized with the virus.
Columbia: Smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada will drift across parts of South Carolina this week and could cause problems in people with chronic heart and lung diseases, health officials said. The exact timing of the smoke depends on winds, but the worst of it was expected to last through Thursday in areas north of a line from Abbeville to Columbia to Myrtle Beach, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a statement. Along with health problems, the smoke could also lower visibility, officials said. The smoke has drifted more than 2,000 miles from fires in the western U.S. and Canada.
Aberdeen: A South Dakota family enamored with the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski” is putting on its own festival to celebrate the cult classic, albeit with a different name from the other celebrations. The inaugural DudeFest is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at The Village Bowl in Aberdeen, an idea that Tony Zerr and some of his family members have tossed around for a couple of years. The Coen Brothers film starred Jeff Bridges as the main character, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski. A ne’er-do-well who does little aside from bowling, his easy-going life is complicated when he’s mistaken for a millionaire of the same name and the wealthier Lebowski’s wife is kidnapped. Lebowski Fests are common across the country but since that name is copyrighted, Zerr came up with a different moniker. But the idea is the same, the Aberdeen American News reported. Activities include a showing of the film, a Persian rug raffle, a photo shoot, a band concert and various contests for prizes, such as for crappy car, costume and trivia.
Nashville: A decadeslong effort to remove a bust of a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader from the state Capitol cleared its final hurdle, with state leaders approving the final vote needed to allow the statue to be relocated to a museum. The seven-member State Building Commission voted 5-2 to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust, as well as the busts of two other Tennessee military leaders. The Forrest bust was first installed at the Capitol in 1978 and has sparked protests and demonstrations since then. Some have called for adding more historical context to the bust, but others, including Gov. Bill Lee recently, fought to have it moved to the state’s history museum. Tennessee’s Black legislative caucus has been particularly vocal about how painful it has been to walk by the bust, displayed prominently between the House and Senate chamber, as they carry out their work each day. Forrest was a Confederate cavalry general who amassed a fortune before the Civil War as a plantation owner and slave trader in Memphis. After the war, he was a leader of the Klan.
Fort Worth: American Airlines said it hopes to hire as many as 1,350 pilots by the end of 2022 as demand ramps up coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fort Worth-based company told employees Wednesday that it hopes to bring on 350 more new pilots this year, adding 50 new employees to its plan to hire 300 by the end of 2021. And in 2022, the company plans to hire 1,000 aviators, increasing from its previous projection to add 600 pilots. More than 16 months after COVID-19 was declared a worldwide health emergency, demand is now nearly back to prepandemic levels and airports and planes are nearly full, even though airlines are still flying fewer flights than they did in 2019. Airlines hope to change that through the end of 2021 and into next year. Airlines across the country are now scrambling to find pilots after major cutbacks since the beginning of 2021. American Airlines lost about 1,000 pilots to early retirements through various buyout packages over the last year and a half. Those buyouts were aimed at reducing payroll costs while airlines hemorrhaged cash. But now that demand is recovering, airlines need pilots to ferry a growing number of passengers.
Salt Lake City: The state on Wednesday recorded its highest number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 in five months as the virus surges among unvaccinated people. State health officials renewed their pleas for people to get vaccinated as Utah intensive care units reached 81.5% capacity. There are 295 people who are hospitalized because of the virus in the state, the highest total since February. Utah has averaged about 622 confirmed cases a day over the past week, about triple the case rate the state was experiencing at its lowest point in early June. State health data showed the recent surge is almost entirely connected to unvaccinated people. About 66% of adults in Utah have had at least one dose of the vaccine and 60% are fully vaccinated.
Burlington: About a dozen beaches across Vermont, including several in Burlington, were closed Wednesday because of potentially toxic algae blooms. Those included North, Leddy and Texaco beaches on Lake Champlain, WCAX-TV reported. Cyanobacteria are microorganisms that are a natural part of fresh water ecosystems but under certain conditions they can multiple rapidly, creating scums and blooms on the water’s surface and along shorelines, according to the Vermont Department of Health. The blooms can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals, the department said.
Roanoke: A plaza where a marker recognizing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was toppled last summer will be renamed, the Roanoke City Council has decided. The west end of Lee Plaza will honor Henrietta Lacks, The Roanoke Times reported. The Roanoke native who died in 1951 was the source of the first immortal human cell line. The east half, where war memorials and monuments are located, will be known as Freedom Plaza. A timeline for putting the new names in place hasn’t yet been released, according to the newspaper. Next steps will include adding signs. People who have been pushing for recognition of Lacks have expressed support for adding a statue or bust of her. In 1957, the city council at the time decided to name the downtown plaza after Lee, the top Southern military commander during the Civil War and a slave owner. A 10-foot monument to Lee was added three years later. The marker was already scheduled for removal when a police officer noticed it lying on its side and broken into two pieces in July 2020. A man, William Clay Foreman, said he knocked it over to prevent civil strife. He awaits trial on a criminal charge. Monday’s council decision follows the removal of a statue honoring Lee in Charlottesville earlier this month.
Longview: The Cowlitz River sediment monitoring survey will be federally funded again this year, putting the project back on track after years when the federal government did not allocate the needed money. Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said an appropriations bill included two Southwest Washington projects: sediment monitoring of the lower Cowlitz River and a navigation improvement project on the Columbia River, the Longview Daily News reported. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been monitoring how much sediment still is sluicing off Mount St. Helens after the 1980 eruption and into local waterways, as it presents a flooding danger to downstream communities. In 2019, Cowlitz County, the city of Castle Rock, and the Longview, Kelso and Lexington diking districts paid the Corps $110,000 to survey the river after federal funds stopped. It was the first survey since 2015.
Huntington: Marshall University’s presidential search committee is seeking input from students, faculty and the public, as well as others, about the type of person needed to faces the challenges Marshall will be encountering. The committee is planning a second series of on-campus listening sessions for students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and community members, the university said. The sessions are scheduled for Aug. 3-4 on the Huntington and South Charleston campuses. Two days of listening sessions were held last week on the Huntington campus. President Jerome A. Gilbert announced in April he would not seek an extension of his contract, which ends in July 2022.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers urged anyone age 12 or older who will be attending school in the fall to get vaccinated as soon as possible as COVID-19 cases surge in the state as a result of the more contagious delta variant. The call from Evers and the state’s top health official comes amid a growing concern in Wisconsin and nationally about growing numbers of COVID-19 cases. In Wisconsin, the seven-day average of new confirmed cases was 242 as of Thursday, which was three times as high as 21/21/2 weeks ago. Only people 12 and older can get vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for children ages 12-17, but it requires two shots that are spaced 21-42 days apart. That’s why Evers and state Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake urged people to take action soon, since school starts in Wisconsin in early September.
Cheyenne: Desperado Depot owner Devon Von Krosigk said she expects this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days fashion to go above and beyond, as patrons look to make up for time lost last year after the first cancellation in the event’s history. Although traditional rodeo-goers will dust off their cowboy boots, jeans and button-down shirts, a number of red-hot trends and eye-catching accessories are sure to turn some heads this year. “My customers are doing the ‘Go big or go home’ type of thing,” Von Krosigk said. “Since no one got to show up and dress up last year, I’ve been telling everyone, ‘Why not go all out?’” That notion looks different for everyone, but a host of shops in town have items for everyone’s CFD fashion needs. Boot Barn in the old Wrangler building certainly has all the classics, whether you need a new pair of cowboy boots, a traditional western hat, or an eye-catching belt with fringe, rhinestones and studs. For those with a more feminine style wanting to step outside the confines of traditional rodeo gear, Desperado Depot and Just Dandy are two places downtown to check out.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States