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Montgomery: Preliminary reports indicated that more than 5,000 Alabama public school students haven’t shown up for any sort of classes, virtual or in-person, state Education Superintendent Eric Mackey said. The students are likely to have a hard time catching up and the enrollment drop could mean the loss of hundreds of teachers, he said. “It’s a very difficult year instructionally and that doesn’t even touch the surface on the issues we will have with these 5,000 students who are not in school and we don’t know where they are,” he said. Because the state funding formula is based on enrollment, losing the students could hit next year’s budget hard. Mackey told The Montgomery Advertiser he’s hoping the Legislature will make a temporary change to avoid that, perhaps basing allocations on average enrollment for the past couple of years. Mackey said some of the missing students might have enrolled in private schools. Others have returned, but too late for the official enrollment count, which ends each year 20 days after Labor Day.
Anchorage: A lab in Alaska failed to report over 1,600 positive coronavirus tests to the state health department in the past month, according to a state official. Dr. Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state, said Friday that Beechtree Labs did not report 1,636 positive test results out of 13,169 conducted, most of which were done in the last two weeks. Beechtree is a new commercial lab based out of Anchorage. The announcement is a sign that climbing daily case counts reported by the state reflect only a part of total cases, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Castrodale said that understaffing at clinics, labs and the state’s Department of Health and Social Services have also caused backlogs that have affected the entire coronavirus data system. The results not reported to the state include 357 positive cases in Anchorage and 880 positive cases in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Phoenix: Dr. Jill Jim, executive director of the Navajo Department of Health, has been selected as a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, according to the Biden transition team. For the past 18 years, Jim has served in nonprofit, state and federal agencies, the Biden team said in a news release. Jim became a Cabinet member in the Navajo Nation in 2019. According to the news release, Jim has dedicated her career to “preventing chronic diseases and addressing health care and health disparities among American Indians/Alaska Natives.” The Navajo Nation closed between March and August while recording the highest COVID-19 per capita infection rate in the country. In May, the Navajo Nation surpassed New York based on the number of cases per 100,000 residents. The nation ordered a new three-week lockdown earlier in November as cases rose again. In a statement posted on Facebook on Saturday night, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said he recommended that Jim be appointed to the board and is “very proud” of her accomplishment.
Little Rock: The number of people hospitalized in Arkansas with COVID-19 climbed again Friday. The state reported 1,011 people were hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, an increase of eight from Thursday. Arkansas health officials reported 1,052 newly confirmed and probable cases but no additional deaths Friday. The state has had 153,677 total cases and 2,436 deaths, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The actual number of coronavirus cases is believed to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms. More than 13% of coronavirus tests in Arkansas came back positive over the last seven days, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
San Francisco: More counties in California announced new COVID-19 restrictions Saturday to prevent rising caseloads from spiraling into a hospital crisis. San Francisco is joining a statewide curfew and Silicon Valley is banning all high school, collegiate and professional sports and imposing a quarantine for those traveling into the region from more than 150 miles away. Santa Clara County has the highest case rate in the Bay Area, leading to the stricter rules, said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. The changes in Santa Clara County are less strict than a statewide lockdown issued in March by Gov. Gavin Newsom but still ratchets up measures that aim to slow the expanding number of people who have become infected with COVID-19 and those ending up in hospitals. It stops short of a full business shutdown that could cripple the holiday sale season by reducing the number of people allowed in stores to 10% capacity. The order, which takes effect Monday and will last until at least Dec. 21, exempts church services and protests, which county health officials said are constitutionally protected.
Fort Collins: An act of vandalism that led neighbors to rally around and a Fort Collins resident and rebuild a COVID-19 memorial earlier this month. Sara Steen started working on the memorial a few months ago. It features circles roughly the size of small dinner plates, each with a different color scheme and, at their center, a small stick-figure person. There are 63 total, with each representing 63 people in Larimer County who had died from COVID-19 as of Nov. 14 – the last time Steen updated the memorial. Steen, a sociologist, said she wanted a way to visually represent the hole the virus was leaving in our community. But on the morning of Nov. 5, Steen said she walked outside to see the memorial vandalized with each circle marred with streaks of black spray paint. “Honestly, I kind of just curled up on the sidewalk,” Steen said. “It just made me so sad someone would choose to do that.” Steen posted a new sign to the fence announcing plans to start the memorial over again. She asked any interested neighbors to craft new circle emblems as replacements, and many did just that – dropping off newly designed circles at Steen’s home. One neighbor volunteered to laminate the new circles and another spent hours cleaning the paint off of Steen’s original emblems. By Nov. 15, Steen said the memorial had been fully rebuilt, featuring 63 handmade emblems representing a COVID-19 death in Larimer County. The emblems are now a mix of Steen’s originals that had been cleaned and 36 that had been submitted to her by neighbors.
Hartford: The number of Connecticut residents hospitalized with COVID-19 topped 1,000 on Friday, the first time it has been that high since mid-May. The new data also showed the number of nursing home residents who have been infected since the pandemic began has topped 10,000. The state reported 49 more people were in the hospital compared with Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,017. During the first wave, hospitalizations reached a peak of 1,972 on April 22. Gov. Ned Lamont has said the number of people in the hospital is one of the most important metrics he is watching when considering whether to impose more virus-related restrictions, with concerns about hospitals running out of space and staffing being inadequate. The Democratic governor said he would consider reimposing restrictions that were in place during the first wave in the spring “if I heard from the leading hospital executives that we’re getting close” to full capacity. Yale New Haven Health, which operates several hospitals in southern Connecticut, reported recently that only about 20% of its intensive care unit capacity was available.
Wilmington: Gov. John Carney said he’s canceling events after the director of the state’s emergency management agency tested positive for the coronavirus. Carney said in a statement Saturday that AJ Schall, the director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, tested positive for the virus on Friday. The Democratic governor said he spent time around Schall on Tuesday but was not in close contact. Still, Carney said he’s canceling his public events this week out of caution. Carney said Schall is at home with mild, cold-like symptoms.
District of Columbia
Washington: Officials of the Solidcore fitness center told WUSA-TV that it has closed amid a visit from DC officials, but want’s Mayor Muriel Bowser to do more for gyms and fitness centers that have to close. “DCRA did visit studios and we have temporarily closed DC studios while we continue conversations with the mayor’s office, advocating for her to reconsider the closures,” according to an email statement. The order suspending indoor group exercise and limiting outdoor groups to 25 people or less took effect on Wednesday. The CEOs of F45 Training on U Street, DC Hustle and Solidcore sent a letter to Bowser on Tuesday afternoon insisting they are not the source of community spread and their facilities should remain safe to continue operation. It is unknown if the other businesses that are a part of the letter have decided to stay open or will also temporarily close. Solidcore’s eight D.C. locations have been open since June with strict safety protocols, including social distancing, limiting classes to 10 participants, mandated masks, disinfecting everything in between uses and increased air filtration.
Miami: South Florida Congressman-elect Carlos Gimenez has tested positive for the coronavirus, his campaign said Friday. The former Miami-Dade County mayor and his wife, Lourdes, tested positive Thursday after having mild symptoms, according to a statement. They said they’re self-isolating at home, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and advice from medical professionals. Gimenez served as Miami-Dade mayor from 2011 until this month. The Republican won his congressional race in the Nov. 3 general election, defeating a first-term Democrat. He is set to assume office Jan. 3. “I will continue attending New Member Orientation virtually and preparing our office to serve the people of Florida’s 26th Congressional District from Westchester to Key West until I can resume my normal schedule,” Gimenez said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful for all of the incredible health care workers who are tirelessly dedicated to their patients.”
Savannah: Revenue losses and an uncertain economy because of the pandemic continue to be at the forefront of the city’s budget planning for 2021. Although revenue from sales and hotel/motel tax collections have dropped because of COVID-19, one revenue source the city has lost altogether is the preservation fee. The fee that was charged to sightseeing tour companies was ruled as a tax on free speech by a federal judge in a lawsuit against the city. The suit filed by Old Town Trolley Tours has now been settled by the city for $2.7 million. The fee brought in $786,000 in revenue in 2018. It was enacted in 1998. Those funds were used to help the city maintain elements of the historic district. Revenue for the city’s enterprise funds, water and sewer, parking and mobility have also taken a pandemic hit. Parking revenue is expected to be lower by $5.2 million, and hotel/motel tax revenue are projected to fall $9.8 million. Water and sewer collection impacts will be moderate, with losses from commercial closures being offset some by increases in home use from those working remotely.
Honolulu: Travelers to the island of Kauai will have to spend 14 days in quarantine regardless of whether they obtain a negative COVID-19 test, Gov. David Ige said. Ige approved a request from Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami to temporarily opt out of the state’s pretravel testing program. This program allows travelers to bypass a two-week quarantine requirement if they test negative up to 72 hours before arriving in the islands. The new policy will take effect on Tuesday. Kawakami said he would gladly repeal it once Kauai has the virus under control again. Travelers to Hawaii’s other counties will be able to continue to avoid quarantine with a negative test. Kawakami said the county’s pretravel testing moratorium will allow Kauai’s children to play in youth sports and businesses to stay open as officials conduct surge testing and contact tracing. Kauai had no cases of community spread of the coronavirus for several months starting in July. But it has had six cases of community spread since Oct. 15, when the state began allowing travelers to bypass quarantine with a negative test.
Sandpoint: Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw has proposed defunding the local health district after the district instituted a mask mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus as it surges in the area. The Bonner County Dailey reported that Bradshaw proposed the resolution Tuesday to pull about $250,000 from the Panhandle Health District. Commission Chairman Dan McDonald said the resolution will have to be placed on the agenda before it can be considered at this week’s meeting. The health district ordered the mask mandate on Nov. 19. Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said his agency won’t enforce the mask mandate. The Panhandle Health District covers five northern Idaho counties. The district reported the area has more than 9,000 virus cases and 106 deaths. The district reported 185 new cases on Wednesday, and that 74 people were hospitalized in the district because of the virus.
Springfield: The coronavirus pandemic has extinguished some traditional holiday cheer at the state Capitol. There will be no Christmas tree nor any holiday displays inside or outside the building, The State Journal-Register, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported. The Capitol for months has been closed to all but employees and others with permission. Tours were suspended months ago because of the pandemic. Lights on the Capitol dome won’t be used for the second straight year. Engineers have recommended that an observation deck, which is typically used to anchor the lights, should be fortified. Secretary of State Jesse White’s office typically puts up a giant artificial tree in the rotunda, stretching from the first floor to the second. Not this year because of public access restrictions, White’s office said. The prohibition on temporary holiday displays includes a Christian Nativity scene. Rabbi Meir Moscowitz said he’s looking for another place in Springfield to place a menorah to celebrate Hanukkah. “It’s a reminder of religious freedom and, I think in today’s climate, on so many levels, it’s very encouraging and important to have this symbol of light, this symbol of positivity even more than ever,” Moscowitz said.
Indianapolis: Mayor Joe Hogsett and his wife have tested negative for the coronavirus but will continue to quarantine after having close contact last weekend with an infected person, his office said Saturday. Neither the Democratic mayor nor his wife, Steph, have symptoms of the respiratory illness, the mayor’s office said in a statement. Hogsett announced Wednesday that the couple had started a 14-day quarantine period and would undergo testing. Hogsett, 64, will remain in quarantine through Dec. 4. Gov. Eric Holcomb and first lady Janet Holcomb tested negative Nov. 20 after several members of his security detail were confirmed infected with the coronavirus. The Holcombs planned to remain in quarantine until Tuesday.
Des Moines: Long-term care facilities in Iowa continue to see additional outbreaks. As of 10 a.m. Saturday, 153 facilities had coronavirus outbreaks, according to the state’s website. Last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that there were 120 facilities with outbreaks. A facility is considered to have an outbreak if there are three or more positive tests among residents. Outbreaks at long-term care facilities have preceded many of Iowa’s deaths, which total 1,059.
Lawrence: A study that tests for parts of the coronavirus in sewage is giving public health workers advance notice of virus surges. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that the city has been taking weekly sewage samples at both of its wastewater treatment plants to test for components of the virus shed in feces as part of a study contracted through the University of Kansas School of Engineering. The city has also been sharing that data with local and state health departments. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health spokesman George Diepenbrock said that the presence of the virus in wastewater has served as an early predictor of surges in positive cases, providing about a week’s notice and giving the health department valuable lead time. Research has shown that COVID-19 concentrations in wastewater rise about a week before a surge in new cases, and that symptomatic and asymptomatic people with the virus shed components of it in their feces.
Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear on Saturday announced 2,437 new cases of COVID-19 across Kentucky and 14 additional deaths, lifting the case total to 174,182 and the death toll to 1,885. “I know we’re tired. I know many of us are disappointed we couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or enjoy Black Friday shopping the way we usually do. But I promise you: we have come so far and we are almost there,” Beshear said in a written update Saturday afternoon. He urged Kentuckians to support small businesses, but to do so safely by shopping online if possible, and if not, by spending limited time in stores with other people, and always wearing a mask and practicing social distance. “Shopping small supports some of our local businesses that have suffered the most economically as we’ve battled COVID-19,” he said. “Let’s show them we have their backs.” Counties reporting the most new positive cases on Saturday were Jefferson, Fayette, Warren, Boone, Madison, Kenton and McCracken. The deaths announced Saturday included people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
Baton Rouge: The U.S. Supreme Court is for now staying out of a dispute involving the state of Louisiana and a Baton Rouge-area pastor charged with violating state coronavirus restrictions by repeatedly holding large church services. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Friday night turned away a request from Life Tabernacle Church pastor Tony Spell to get involved in the dispute. Alito denied the request himself, without asking Louisiana officials to respond and without referring the matter to the full court, as often happens when a case is particularly significant or contentious. Spell sued state and local officials in May after being charged with violating state restrictions. Lower courts ruled against him.
Portland: A memorial has been set up at Longfellow Square to honor lives lost to COVID-19. The tribute went up Friday, WMTW-TV reported. Organizers encouraged people who have lost friends or loved ones to the virus to bring flowers or other small remembrances. The temporary memorial was to be removed at the end of the weekend. On Saturday, public health authorities in the state reported one death from the virus, bringing Maine’s total to 191 since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day rolling average of daily new confirmed cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 170 on Nov. 13 to 186 on Friday.
Hagerstown: Washington County Public School students will continue virtual learning into 2021. District officials last week updated the “Return to Learn” plan in response to the continued rise of COVID-19 cases in Washington County, pushing back the date for in-person classes to resume by nearly a month and into next year. The date had been Dec. 7. In-person learning now will not begin before Jan. 11. The announcement said a decision on whether the Jan. 11 target comes to fruition will rest on community health metrics. “The reported positivity rate over the last week has ranged from 7.58% to 8.89%,” the update said. “The number of positive cases continues to rise. Based on these metrics, students will not return to in-person learning on the original anticipated December date. WCPS will continue to follow the governor’s guidance regarding the potential January return date. School systems are advised to follow these metrics when welcoming students back to schools.” Superintendent Boyd Michael expressed concern over the worsening statistics from the Maryland Department of Health on Washington County’s number of new COVID-19 cases and average daily positivity rates per 100,000 people. The announcement said WCPS will provide additional information on in-person learning on Jan. 4.
Boston: A shuttered mall is being considered as a site to hold jury trials when they resume early next year, officials said. The state Trial Court’s Chief Justice Paula Carey in a letter to Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said The Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough is a possible location for trials. “We have made some appreciable progress in identifying and obtaining space to conduct jury trials at the Berkshire Mall,” Carey wrote, according to a story Thursday in The Berkshire Eagle. “We are hopeful that together we can move the ball forward with respect to that location.” The retail outlet just outside of Pittsfield shut down last year. Jury trials have been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but the state court system announced a plan recently to resume six-person jury trials in January to deal with a massive statewide backlog, but only at sites that can be made coronavirus-safe. It was determined that Berkshire County courthouses could not be made safe.
Sandusky: A Big Boy restaurant in Michigan’s Thumb region has lost its name after the owners refused to stop indoor dining as part of statewide restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Customers were greeted Friday with Sandusky Diner instead of Sandusky Big Boy, the name for 35 years. The company that grants franchises took action. Big Boy restaurants are known by their statue of a boy in checkered overalls holding a burger over his head. The Sandusky location, about 88 miles north of Detroit, was one of four eateries cited this week for violating the state’s order against indoor dining. Three other establishments, including one of the restaurants, also had their liquor licenses suspended. Big Boy’s corporate office told the owners that they had 24 hours to comply with the state’s order, said Troy Tank, part owner and operations manager for the restaurant. “We had already decided we weren’t going to do that,” Tank told the Associated Press. “We would be open only for carry-out. We were not in a position to do that again. We had already done it for three months earlier in quarantine.” Tank said his restaurant struggled during that period.
St. Cloud: The state reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the past week, adding 41,071 new cases through Friday. That’s down 12.5% from the previous week’s total of 46,924, according to a USA TODAY analysis compiled Sunday. Meanwhile, the state’s latest daily totals reported Sunday showed 8,680 more confirmed cases statewide Saturday, along with 57 deaths, including eight in Stearns County, which tied a single-day record set Wednesday. The Minnesota Department of Health reported Sunday the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 306,603 and the death toll hit 3,507 since the pandemic began in March.
Pearlington: A Gulf Coast science museum is limiting hours and planning to close for a few months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sun Herald reported that Infinity Science Center in Hancock County will be open on the weekends only in December. It will close completely from Jan. 1 through March. Fred Haise, an Apollo 13 astronaut who serves on the board of Infinity, said officials are hoping to reopen when a coronavirus vaccine is available. Infinity Science Center is an educational museum with rides, exhibits and tours of Stennis Space Center, a NASA rocket testing facility. Like museums everywhere, attendance is down at Infinity because of the pandemic, Haise told The Sun Herald. Many museums that are able to stay open receive government funding. Staff members will be laid off during the closure.
St. Louis: Researchers at St. Louis University said preliminary evidence from a study suggests how effective masks can be, St. Louis Public Radio reported. Epidemiologists at the university said the rate of coronavirus cases significantly decreased in St. Louis and St. Louis County after government officials in July began requiring people to wear masks in public. Researchers compared data in the city and county to three neighboring counties without mask mandates – St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin. Preliminary findings showed that three weeks after the mask mandate, St. Louis city and county infection rates were 44% lower than those of the other counties. Missouri does not have a statewide mask mandate but several hospital and political leaders have urged Republican Gov. Mike Parson to require face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. Parson has steadfastly refused to do so but has urged Missourians to take personal responsibility.
Kalispell: A lawsuit against a long-term care facility in Whitefish has been amended to add claims that it was part of a multistate network of facilities that enriched corporate owners while residents received negligent care. The lawsuit was initially filed last month by the estates of three residents at Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation who died because of complications caused by COVID-19, the Flathead Beacon reported. The lawsuit initially represented the estates of Alton Johnson, Berton Pew and Stanley Webber, and said at least 13 people died at the facility because of the outbreak. The county had 23 coronavirus-related deaths. Court filings said Johnson died Sept. 7, a day before his family was set to remove him from the facility. Pew developed COVID-19 symptoms while at the home and was transferred to the virus wing without his family being immediately notified, the lawsuit claimed. Webber lost about 40 pounds before he died Sept. 14, the lawsuit said, adding that he was in good health before he was admitted to the facility. The lawsuit initially named the 100-bed facility and its administrator Reid Crickmore and has since been amended to include other plaintiffs and allegations.
Lincoln: More employees of the Nebraska prison system have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said in a statement Saturday night that four staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. Two of those work at the Omaha Correctional Center, one works at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution and one works at the department’s central office. The infected staff members are isolating themselves at home, and officials plan to notify anyone who had been in close contact with them so they can quarantine themselves. The latest cases bring the number of Nebraska prison staffers infected since the pandemic began to 325. Of those, 228 have recovered. The department also said Friday that 677 inmates have tested positive for the virus and four have died. Nearly half of the affected inmates – 312 – have recovered from the virus.
Las Vegas: The city welcomed nearly 1.9 million tourists in October, a greater total than September but only about half the 3.7 million it played host to throughout the month in 2019, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported this week. The slow and incomplete return of tourists continues to imperil the city’s overall economy and experts haven’t begun to analyze how new restrictions put into effect on Tuesday to contain the spread of COVID-19 could jeopardize efforts to bring back the concerts, conventions and trade shows that traditionally draw visitors to Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Tourists’ hesitance to travel has caused air traffic to plummet in most parts of the United States, including Las Vegas, however the market for tourists who live within driving distance grew in October, compared to 2019. Under Nevada’s current guidelines, events and gatherings are limited to 25% capacity and large events with more than 250 attendees are canceled while the state undergoes a three-week “statewide pause” to reel in the rapidly spreading pandemic. The National Finals Rodeo, which brings more than 170,000 fans to Las Vegas each December, relocated to Arlington, Texas, where coronavirus restrictions are less stringent.
Concord: The New Hampshire Food Bank is holding 19 drive-through mobile food pantries during December across the state to meet growing demand during the coronavirus pandemic. The food bank has held dozens of mobile food pantries since March. Food will be brought to Lakes Region Community College in Laconia on Dec. 1, 8, and 15 from noon to 2 p.m.; Runnings in Claremont on Dec. 1, 8, 15, and 29 from 10 a.m. to noon; the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine outlet parking lot in Colebrook on Dec. 3, 10, 17, and 31 from noon to 2 p.m.; Chapman’s in Gorham on Dec. 3, 10, 17, and 31 from 10 a.m. to noon.; the Comcast parking lot in Manchester on Dec. 4, 11, and 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and the New Hampshire Electric Co-Op in Plymouth on Dec. 4. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The New Hampshire Food Bank estimated an additional 71,000 people are now food insecure in the state, meaning 1 in 7 residents don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Newark: A convicted sex offender serving 19 years for traveling to Thailand and molesting young boys is among inmates seeking early release from a New Jersey prison that has experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. In recent court filings, Wayne Nelson Corliss has said his health is in danger at the federal prison at Fort Dix because he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. The facility had reported 255 cases through Wednesday, the most of any federal prison in the country according to data on the Bureau of Prisons website. “It is clear that Mr. Corliss is in grave danger at Fort Dix and that the COVID-19 outbreak at the BOP, coupled with his medical risks, are exceptional and compelling circumstances warranting compassionate release or home confinement in this case,” Corliss’s attorney wrote in a filing this week. Corliss, 71, is scheduled to be released in 2025. Messages were left Friday with his attorney and with the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark, which prosecuted him initially and is expected to file a response in coming days or weeks to his petition for early release.
Albuquerque: New Mexico’s daily count of confirmed COVID-19 cases has been trending down over recent days from the record highs reported earlier this month, but nearly every county remained deep in the red zone Friday as the state was just days away from launching its new “red to green” system for reopening. State officials announced that the transition will begin Wednesday to the tiered county-by-county risk system. Counties will be able to shed burdensome public health restrictions as soon as they meet key metrics related to positivity and spread rates within their boundaries. Only Los Alamos County in north-central New Mexico is anywhere near meeting the benchmarks. All other counties, including the state’s most populous, will have significant ground to make up, meaning it could be many more weeks before they see relief. New Mexico has some of the toughest public health restrictions in place, with closures extending to all restaurants and many other businesses. Essential businesses such as grocery stores are still open but can have only a certain number of customers inside at a time – a restriction that has led to waiting lines. Face masks are mandatory, gatherings of more than five people are prohibited and there’s no indication when schools will be able to bring students back to the classroom.
Buffalo: Coronavirus cases continued climbing Friday in New York and hospitalizations rose even as the state recorded a record high in testing. Western New York’s positivity rate spiked to a seven-day average of 6.28%, outpacing other parts of the state, according to figures released by the state. And Erie County, which includes Buffalo, reported more coronavirus deaths – six – than any other county in the state for a second straight day. The state reported 8,176 new cases and statewide hospitalizations climbed to 3,103. “We’re seeing an increase with the numbers across the country and within our own state,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “It started with the fall, and it’s going to continue and probably worsen in the winter.” Cuomo insisted this week that New York is “doing phenomenally well” compared to the rest of the country. The governor said 219,442 COVID-19 test results were reported to the state on Thursday – a record for the second straight day.
Fayetteville: The threat of COVID-19 is changing the way the holidays will be celebrated across the Cape Fear region. Although concerns of public safety have led to the shelving of several annual traditions in the region, several organizers are planning to adapt. In some cases, technology will blend with tradition. In others, social distancing and adjustments to holiday interaction (quick hint: holiday hugs and sitting on Santa’s lap are definitely out of fashion this year) have been necessary. “COVID has changed how we sing but not why we sing,” said Richard Suggs, music minister at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church. For more than 40 years, the church in Haymount has presented its Singing Christmas Tree as a gift to the community, and Suggs said the church is determined to continue as a ray of light in what could otherwise be a darkened season. There will be some changes. The tree, a three-story creation of green tinfoil and lights that towers over the church sanctuary, will not be built. Pews will be vacant, and the choirs and musicians won’t be packed together like holiday ornaments. Instead, the tree is going online – available to a worldwide audience. It’s a hybrid approach blending talent and technology and requiring months of preparation and production. Suggs said that health precautions were a major part of the process.
Bismarck: North Dakota has tens of thousands of COVID-19 antibody tests that still await a plan for their use, months after the state acquired them. The state acquired 178,000 COVID-19 antibody tests last spring using $3.68 million from the federal CARES Act coronavirus aid package, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Only about 8,000 have been used, health officials said. A forthcoming plan is dependent on a new, full-time state health officer coming on board. Four people, all chosen by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, have served in the role since May, but all have quit. Interviews for a new person are ongoing. The tests analyze patients’ blood for antibodies and identify how the virus is spreading. Experts said it still has its limitations, and they look to its usefulness long-term. If someone who has never had symptoms of COVID-19 tests positive for antibodies, it’s an indication they contracted the virus but were asymptomatic.
Columbus: The oldest inmate on Ohio’s death row has died, and a prison spokesperson said it was likely because of the coronavirus. James Frazier, 79, died Nov. 19 at the prison system’s Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, according to Cleveland.com. In recent months, his attorneys had sought to block execution, saying he suffered from dementia and had little idea where he was. Frazier had been sentenced to death in 2005 for killing 49-year-old Mary Stevenson during a robbery. She was killed in March 2004 when Frazier strangled her, cut her throat and fled with two of her purses, authorities said.
Oklahoma City: State health officials reported 1,721 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Sunday, and 19 more deaths linked to the disease caused by the coronavirus. The State Department of Health said the new counts bring the state to a total of 195,545 cases of the virus and 1,736 deaths. Over the last seven days, more than 21% of coronavirus tests in Oklahoma have come back positive, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Infectious diseases experts have warned that Thanksgiving could cause spikes in testing and delays in processing that might make the resulting figures erratic and difficult to interpret.
Salem: An Oregon hospital has placed a nurse on administrative leave after she posted a video on social media in which she said she does not follow safety directives meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when she is not at work. Salem Health said it is investigating the post by the nurse, in which she said she does not wear a mask in public, travels and lets her children have play dates. The nurse’s original TikTok video was deleted, along with her account, but a duet of her video with a side-by-side reaction by another user remained on the app. The nurse was wearing scrubs and had a stethoscope draped over her shoulders in her video, which appears to have been recorded in a break room. Salem Health released a statement Saturday saying the nurse’s views and “cavalier disregard” for COVID-19 safety measures do not reflect those of the hospital. The nurse declined an interview, KPTV reported. The hospital did not release the nurse’s name.
Erie: COVID-19 brought about a 3 1/2-month spring closure to the Erie Zoo, forced cancellation of the annual Zoo Parade, led to layoffs and furloughs, and put on hold a couple of new animal exhibit projects earmarked for completion later this year. And then there was the economic fallout induced by the pandemic and state restrictions. Scott Mitchell, CEO of the Erie Zoological Society, estimated the Zoological Society lost about $1.1 million in revenue this year, but that was offset somewhat by about $500,000 in zoo donations from individuals, businesses, nonprofits and corporations, and grants. Zoo visitors on Saturday viewed wildlife under sunny skies and cool temperatures. The zoo will remain open Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. before it closes for the winter. Its scheduled reopening date is Feb. 27. With more than 400 animals to care for and feed weekly, Mitchell said his organization will step up fundraising efforts and become creative in finding ways to generate revenue during the zoo’s winter closure.
Providence: A state-run psychiatric hospital has suspended all medical staff vacation in response to a rising number of coronavirus cases among patients and workers. “We regretfully are canceling all direct care patient support vacations” effective midnight Nov. 25, according to a letter to Eleanor Slater Hospital staff, The Providence Journal reported. The letter also said, “We hope this vacation hold is temporary as we recognize the hard work and dedication of our staff and the need for time off.” The letter was signed by Kathryn Power, director of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which oversees the Cranston facility. A Slater spokesperson earlier this week confirmed that 14 patients and 35 staffers had tested positive for the virus. Another hospital group, Lifespan, previously issued an appeal for retired doctors and nurses to return to work, and even sought medical students and interns, to help relieve the medical staff shortage. Lifespan operates Rhode Island, Miriam, Hasbro Children’s and Newport hospitals.
Columbia: The new rapid-result coronavirus tests promised to South Carolina schools by Gov. Henry McMaster should be at some districts by the start of school this week, education officials said. McMaster signed an executive order Wednesday giving state health officials permission to begin rolling out the program with tests provided by the federal government. The goal of the program is to give the rapid coronavirus tests to students, teachers and staff who are at school and show symptoms to quickly determine if they are infected and isolate them, officials said. The initial announcement earlier this month surprised education leaders, who said McMaster had not consulted with them before his news conference. But by the time McMaster issued his Wednesday order, the state Education Department said it would be able to start sending the tests to schools Monday. Schools will need to train employees – likely nurses or athletic trainers – how to administer the tests, which involve a shallow swabbing inside the nose. Parents will have to give consent for their children to be tested and districts are not required to give the tests, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said.
Rapid City: The City Council will consider a mask mandate at a special session meeting on Monday. The council will consider choosing between two ordinances and a resolution requiring face coverings, The Rapid City Journal reported. One ordinance specifies masks to be required in public indoor spaces. Officials said details of a second ordinance will be posted before the meeting on Monday. The resolution would require face coverings in certain situations, but would have no enforcement and no penalties. It also includes exemptions, including young children, law enforcement and those attending religious services. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem opposes mask mandates or other government interventions aimed at slowing the spread of infections. Cities across the state have moved to pass their own mask requirements. Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, approved a mask mandate earlier this month. The mandate applies to retail businesses and public buildings, but does not carry a penalty.
Nashville: The Nashville Metro Public Health Department reported 824 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours on Sunday. There are 2,900 active cases in Davidson County. No new deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours. So far, 368 people in Davidson County have died of COVID-19, including both confirmed and probable cases. A total of 46,099 people in the county have tested positive for the virus, and 42,831 are listed as inactive or recovered.
San Antonio: The surging coronavirus continued to strain hospitals in Texas as some hard-hit parts of the state remained under curfews aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 over the holiday weekend. State health authorities reported more than 8,600 Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, an increase from 8,500 on Friday, and more than a 50% increase from a month ago. State data showed limited intensive-care unit capacity in regions including the Texas Panhandle and El Paso area. Local leaders in El Paso and San Antonio have issued partial curfews through Monday morning. State health officials reported 6,041 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 48 more deaths linked to the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Salt Lake City: Hospitalizations in Utah set a record Saturday, with 573 coronavirus patients hospitalized in the state. In addition, The Salt Lake Tribune reported 2,043 newly confirmed cases Saturday, which is lower than usual likely because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Testing, too, declined significantly with 7,443 people getting a test. The Utah Department of Health reported 14 more deaths on Saturday. Three of the people were between the ages of 25 and 44. In the past week, 76 Utah residents have died from the disease – marking one of the deadliest seven-day stretches since the pandemic began. The state’s total death toll stands at 863.
Montpelier: The Vermont Health Department is urging people who attended services at the New Hope Bible Church in Irasburg on Nov. 22 to get tested for the coronavirus. At least one person who attended services that day was infectious, officials said. It can take as many as 14 days from exposure for symptoms to show, so the Health Department wants people who attended to take precautions now to help limit the spread. “Even if you are feeling well and don’t have symptoms, consider getting tested,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said in a written statement. “If you do have symptoms or concerns about your health, call your primary care provider.” Contact tracers have been unable to get all the information they need to inform other people who might have been exposed. Health officials also stressed the need for the public to provide full information to contact tracers. Testing is available every day at the North Country Hospital in Newport.
Fort Lee: It was a traditional Thanksgiving, just not the usual one. The COVD-19 pandemic forced a reboot of the annual meal at Fort Lee. The guest list was pared down considerably, with no family members or civilians at the table. The dinner times were staggered, and the tables and chairs were spaced 6 feet further from each other than in previous years. But the menu did not change, and neither did the camaraderie. More than 5,500 military students and some of their leaders chowed down Thursday on more than a ton each of turkey and ham, 1,800 pounds of prime rib, and hundreds of pounds of sides and desserts. Also different from previous years was the absence of local media to capture all of the festivities. However, the press center took photos and videos, and pooled them to the local news outlets. According to a statement from Fort Lee, more than 500 personnel worked the serving lines at the post’s five dining facilities. Crews began preparing for the dinner 36 hours in advance.
Spokane: Health officials in rural communities in the state are worried that Thanksgiving gatherings could take the COVID-19 pandemic from bad to worse and, in some places, overwhelm already strained health systems. The Spokesman-Review reported the small towns surrounding Spokane County have experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks, mirroring trends seen statewide. In the past two weeks, the Northeast Tri County Health District, which covers Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, reported more than 300 new COVID-19 cases, a record accounting for a third of their total cases confirmed during the pandemic. Similarly, Lincoln County has seen more than 50 cases in the past few weeks, which account for a third of the total cases recorded in the county. Lincoln County experienced a few larger outbreaks this month in long-term care settings and one larger family cluster. In the three counties north of Spokane County, outbreaks at social gatherings, workplaces, restaurants, bars and churches have led to a surge in cases. The state Department of Health announced this week that it’s hiring 350 more contact tracers and investigators to support local health jurisdictions by mid-December, which could help smaller health departments meet the challenge of tracing all contacts with cases surging.
Charleston: The governing body for high school sports in West Virginia has canceled the state football championship games because of the coronavirus pandemic and instead declared winners in each class. The Secondary School Activities Commission made the announcement Saturday night after the state Department of Education released its color-coded county map that determines whether athletic competitions can be played. St. Marys was declared the champion in Class A, Fairmont Senior in Class AA and South Charleston in Class AAA. “It is an unfortunate situation for everyone, but we knew going into the playoffs that this could be a possibility,” SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said in a statement. Ritchie County was supposed to play St. Marys for the Class A title this weekend, but Ritchie County is in the highest-risk red category where athletic competitions are barred because of the virus. Fairmont Senior advanced to the Class AA championship game over Bluefield on Saturday. But the Sunday Class AA semifinal game between Oak Glen and Robert C. Byrd was called off by the SSAC decision, as were the Class AAA semifinal games Sunday between South Charleston and Musselman, and Cabell Midland and Bridgeport. Those games had involved some teams from counties in higher-risk categories on the state virus map. The decision came a day after the SSAC decided to move the title games from Wheeling to Charleston because Ohio County remained in the higher-risk orange category under the state’s COVID-19 metrics map.
Milwaukee: Nearly 300 nursing home residents in Wisconsin died from COVID-19 in the most recent month, and The Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported that’s more than 10 times the previous month. Nursing homes in Wisconsin reported that 294 residents had died of the disease caused by the coronavirus between Oct. 12 and Nov. 8, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the previous month, the deaths of 28 residents were reported. Health officials reported 17 more deaths from the virus on Friday, bringing the tally of deaths to 3,257. The state also reported 1,300 more people have tested positive. The state has seen a decline in the average of new cases it reports each day, but still had the nation’s eighth-highest number of new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. One in every 145 people tested positive in the past week. The number of nursing home residents who have reportedly caught the virus has also shot up. In the latest four-week period, Wisconsin nursing homes reported 2,130 residents with newly confirmed cases, data showed. That’s up from about 387 new cases in the four-week period from Sept. 14 to Oct. 11.
Laramie: A high school teacher has received a national award for supporting students during the pandemic who struggle with attention and learning. The National Center for Learning Disabilities awarded the Everyday Champion Award to Whiting High School special education teacher Truman Solverud for giving an extra effort to help students navigate remote learning, the Laramie Boomerang reported. Whiting High School Principal Scott Shoop nominated Solverud for using every resource at his disposal to help students with their education and maintain relationships with families after the district moved to online instruction. Shoop said Solverud communicated with students through social media, by phone and hand-written letters from early morning to late-night hours, delivered meals, cleaning supplies and toilet paper to homes and transferred online assignments into hard copies for his students’ convenience. Everyday Champion Award winners were named in three categories: educators, school administrators and parents/caregivers. The award comes with a $5,000 prize. Solverud and the other winners will be honored by the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ annual benefit dinner in December.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States