Seaweed surplus, vaccine dose reductions, DC gets help: News from around our 50 states

·47 min read


Montgomery: Almost $2 million in grant money from coronavirus relief funds is assisting veterans who are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and directly affected by COVID-19. The money announced by Gov. Kay Ivey’s office will help fund four weeks of virtual group therapy for people in 11 counties. Veterans will have virtual, hourlong meetings three times a week to help them deal with PTSD and stresses from the pandemic. Sixty veterans already are enrolled in the program, which is run by Priority Soldier, a nonprofit group that assists veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Services are available in counties including Calhoun, Coffee, Dallas, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Montgomery, Talladega, Tuscaloosa and Walker.


Juneau: A female clinician not known to have allergies had a probable severe allergic reaction shortly after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a Fairbanks health system reported Friday. The woman began experiencing “a probable anaphylactic reaction” about 10 minutes after receiving the shot Thursday, the health care system Foundation Health Partners said. Symptoms included tongue swelling, hoarse voice and difficulty breathing – “traditional anaphylactic symptoms,” it said. She received two doses of epinephrine at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital emergency department and was discharged about six hours later, a statement from the health system said. An email seeking comment on the case was sent to Clinton Bennett, a state health department spokesperson. On Tuesday, a female health care worker at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau was hospitalized for what officials determined was anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, on Thursday said reports of reactions should be kept in context with the number of people being vaccinated.


Yuma: A warden at a prison that is in the midst of the largest coronavirus outbreak within the state's prison system, has died after being hospitalized over the weekend, the Department of Corrections said. Edwin Jensen was a warden at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Yuma, which houses more than 4,400 incarcerated people near the U.S.-Mexico border. The Yuma County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Jensen’s death but said it would not be determining the cause of death or making a report because of federal privacy rules. Yuma County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Sam Pavlak said Jensen was hospitalized at Yuma Regional Medical Center over the weekend. More than 600 inmates at the prison tested positive for the virus last week, officials said. More than 1,500 employees have also self-reported contracting the virus since the pandemic began in March and most of the employees at the Yuma prison have said they believe most of the staff had been infected. No official numbers are publicly available.


Little Rock: More than 4,000 health care workers have been vaccinated with the state’s initial allotment of the vaccine to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson. During his weekly radio address Friday, Hutchinson said he expects the number of people who can be vaccinated will increase now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a second vaccine, this one created by Moderna Inc. Arkansas expected to have the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday, Hutchinson said. The state received about 25,000 doses of its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which were sent to 18 larger hospitals, the Department of Health, and several pharmacies. “We are well on our way to vaccinating thousands of Arkansans, which is the only way we are ever going to beat this virus,” Hutchinson said.


Los Angeles: California hospitals are fighting to find beds to house patients amid fears the increase of coronavirus cases will exhaust staffing resources. As of Saturday, nearly 17,400 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections – more than double the previous peak reached in July – and a state model that uses current data to forecast future trends shows the number could reach 75,000 by mid-January. More than 3,600 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units. All of Southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have exhausted their regular intensive care unit capacity, and some hospitals have begun using “surge” space. Overall, the state’s ICU capacity was just 2% on Saturday. The enormous crush of cases in the last six weeks has California’s death toll spiraling ever higher. Another 272 fatalities were reported Saturday and in the last week nearly 1,600 people died. In hard-hit Los Angeles County, Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer implored people to stay home as much as possible, not mingle with others outside their household and wear a mask and social distance when around others.


Denver: Colorado’s economic outlook is brighter than previously anticipated in part because of the arrival of coronavirus vaccines, new job creation and strong online sales tax revenue, officials said, potentially providing lawmakers some wiggle room when they craft a state budget during the 2021 legislative session. Two economic forecasts presented to the powerful Joint Budget Committee suggest Colorado’s budget will rebound to prepandemic levels during the next fiscal year that starts July 1, The Colorado Sun reported. Lawmakers might see a surplus of up to $3.8 billion in the next fiscal year, according to forecasts. But the revenue forecasts don’t account for increased demand in government support for residents, businesses and services impacted by the pandemic. The quarterly forecasts from the governor’s office and legislative economists also show Colorado’s key restaurant and tourism industries and low-wage workers are getting left behind, the Sun reported. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has proposed a $1.3 billion stimulus plan that includes checks sent in December to more than 400,000 unemployed residents, future infrastructure spending, and restoring drastic cuts made this year to state spending and to reserves for the general fund, the discretionary portion of the state budget.


Hartford: Overdose deaths from opioids are on the rise in Connecticut as the coronavirus pandemic has compounded social stressors and increased isolation. Health officials said Friday the state is projected to record more than 1,300 overdose deaths by the end of the year, the Hartford Courant reported. That compares to 1,200 fatal overdoses in 2019. Through October, the state had seen a 13% increase in drug overdose deaths compared to the same period last year. Connecticut has recorded a 300% increase in opioid overdose deaths since 2012, said Dr. James Gill, the state’s chief medical examiner. The data reflected a national trend, the Courant reported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that about 81,000 people fatally overdosed on drugs between June 2019 and May 2020 – a record for a 12-month period. Fentanyl, a highly dangerous synthetic opioid, has been involved in about 85% of Connecticut’s overdose deaths this year, Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said at a virtual roundtable discussion. The horse tranquilizer Xylazine also is increasingly showing up in overdose deaths.


New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer says the county plans to use $136 million from its CARES Act allocation to help fund six statewide programs that benefit county residents.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer says the county plans to use $136 million from its CARES Act allocation to help fund six statewide programs that benefit county residents.

Wilmington: New Castle County plans to use $136 million from its CARES Act allocation to help fund six statewide programs that benefit county residents, County Executive Matt Meyer said. The county will contribute $67.5 million) to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Based on actual unemployment claims through mid-September and estimates through the rest of the year, the total statewide amount of COVID-19 unemployment claims paid from March 15 to Dec. 30 will be $273 million. Approximately 55% of the statewide claims are from residents in New Castle County, the county said. The Essential Childcare Program, which provides benefits to child care centers during the pandemic, will get $38 million. Also, the Statewide Testing Program, which provides access to coronavirus testing regardless of symptoms to all residents of Delaware, will get $20.6 million. The Statewide Contract Tracing Program is expected to get $3.1 million, the Enhanced Rent & Utility Program $4.7 million and the Hospitality Emergency Loan Program $1.8 million.

District of Columbia

Washington: After a shortfall hit the local allotment of new COVID-19 vaccine doses, Washington’s neighboring states pitched in to help make up the difference. In a heartening demonstration of interstate collectivism, Maryland and Virginia are each sending 8,000 vaccine doses, more than tripling the amount available for health care workers in the nation’s capital. D.C. health officials have complained for weeks that the initial allotment formula followed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided Washington with just under 7,000 doses – less than one-tenth of what would be needed for local health care workers. The dosage allotments were based on population, but many of Washington’s health care workers live in the intertwined neighboring communities of Maryland and northern Virginia. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had sent a letter to U.S. health officials claiming the “one-size-fits-all formula for distribution” would prove “woefully insufficient.” Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Ralph Northam of Virginia apparently agreed, and each state will send 8,000 vaccine doses to D.C. The donations are just the latest indication of the close informal partnership Bowser, Northam and Hogan have pursued for the region since the early days of the pandemic.


Matt Grutzik wraps a Christmas tree for a customer on Merritt Island, Fla. Dustin Grutzik, owner of Wisconsin Christmas Trees, says he has sold more than 1,200 trees since after Thanksgiving, and that he sold out his stock on Friday.
Matt Grutzik wraps a Christmas tree for a customer on Merritt Island, Fla. Dustin Grutzik, owner of Wisconsin Christmas Trees, says he has sold more than 1,200 trees since after Thanksgiving, and that he sold out his stock on Friday.

Cocoa Beach: Brevard County residents extracted maximum Christmas bang for the buck by getting trees early to enjoy them for as long as possible to soothe any blues from the coronavirus pandemic. Many told vendors that in 2020, an artificial tree just wasn't as appealing given that they weren't dashing off anywhere, and that that extra bit of cheer and Alpine fragrance seemed so much more necessary this Christmas. The upshot is that trees are in short supply this year. The Christmas tree industry is still reeling from the Great Recession in 2008, when demand sank. It can take a decade to raise a mature 6-foot Christmas tree, and fewer growers have been planting trees in recent years. On Merritt Island, Dustin Grutzik, owner of Wisconsin Christmas Trees, ran out of all but his smallest trees two weekends ago and sold out of his stock on Friday. He had trouble acquiring large trees, he said, because of a slump in tree planting more than a decade ago.


Atlanta: An 18-year-old college student from Loganville was sentenced to four months in a Cayman Islands prison after pleading guilty to violating a strict COVID-19 quarantine mandate in the Caribbean territory, according to several news reports. Skylar Mack and her 24-year-old boyfriend Vanjae Ramgeet were sent to prison last Tuesday after a judge set aside an earlier sentence by a lower court that entailed a $2,600 fine and 40 hours of community service. An attorney representing the couple criticized the punishment as too harsh, although the four months to serve was reduced from 15 months because of the guilty pleas, Cayman News Service reported. “There is no way that it can be right that a custodial sentence is imposed for a first-time offense on an 18-year-old defendant, who entered an early guilty plea,” said Jonathan Hughes, who attributed their actions to “youthful ignorance and selfishness.” The Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean south of Cuba, are a popular destination for vacationing Americans because of the pristine waters, lavish beach resorts and aquatic activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling and deep-sea fishing. Mack arrived there Nov. 27, reports said. Caymanian guidelines required her to quarantine-in-residence for a minimum of 14 days, according to the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran. Instead, she went out after only two days and removed a location tracking device from her wrist in order to attend a water sports competition for Ramgeet, who is a professional jet-ski racer. Local police arrested Mack and Ramgeet at the event after observing the couple mingling among the crowd for more than seven hours without masks or social distancing, according to the island newspaper The Cayman Compass and later confirmed in a report by People magazine. In addition to the jail sentence, Ramgeet, who won the jet ski event, was ordered to return the trophy and cash prize and will be banned from competing in several races planned for early 2021. Authorities also required him to write a formal apology to the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association.


Honolulu: The state Department of Public Safety said an additional 55 inmates and eight employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Halawa Correctional Facility, the state’s largest prison. The total number of active cases in the prison now encompasses 325 inmates and 43 staffers, KITV-TV reported. The Department of Public Safety had announced a lockdown and other measures to try to control the outbreak, which initially infected three inmates and 10 staffers last week.The outbreak at Halawa is the third major correctional facility in the state to face coronavirus issues since the pandemic began. The Oahu Community Correctional Center has 450 inmates who test positive and the Waiawa Community Correctional Center in Waipahu has reported 213 cases among inmates. More than 600 inmates from Hawaii have tested positive for the virus at a privately owned prison in Arizona. The state public safety agency said there were still three ongoing cases at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, six at the Waipahu correctional center and four at the private prison in Arizona as of Saturday.


Boise: An unexpected cut in the number of coronavirus vaccine doses Idaho will receive this week will disrupt distribution plans, a state immunization official said. State Department of Health and Welfare Immunization Program Manager Sarah Leeds said that the state had expected 17,550 but will only get 9,750. “That has some pretty significant implications for our vaccination program,” Leeds said during a meeting of the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee. State officials have detailed plans for distributing the vaccine, and will now have to recalibrate. Health officials said the reason for the reduced amount isn’t known. Leeds said the state has received all 13,950 doses they expected last week. Nearly 1,000 people have been vaccinated so far. Health care workers who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients are receiving the initial doses. The vaccine Idaho has received so far is from Pfizer-BioNTech. Officials during the meeting said the state could get another 28,000 doses from Moderna Inc. this week.


Chicago: A record number of Illinois nursing home residents with COVID-19 died in the past week as people in long-term care try to hold out until they can get vaccinated against the virus. An unprecedented 605 resident deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in the past seven days, state figures showed Friday – far more than the previous high of 480 two weeks ago. The number of recorded new infections in the state’s long-term care facilities also set a record with 5,063, surpassing the previous high of 4,536 from two weeks earlier. This second surge of the virus again exceeds the worst trends of the first wave of cases and deaths in the spring. The toll fell markedly in the summer but has risen again since November, following increases seen in the broader population. The Health Care Council of Illinois, which represents long-term care facilities, issued a statement looking forward to a “turning point” when vaccinations are scheduled to begin in nursing homes Dec. 28.


Indianapolis: The state’s daily rate of COVID-19 deaths has continued growing even as coronavirus-related hospitalizations have dropped to its lowest level in a month. The Department of Health’s daily update on Saturday added 73 coronavirus deaths that occurred over the past several days to the state’s toll. Those boosted the state’s seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 deaths to 77 per day after that average was in the low 40s in mid-November and below 10 a day during July. Indiana’s coronavirus hospitalizations and new confirmed infections have slowed in recent weeks following steep increases that began in September and raised worries among health officials about hospitals becoming overwhelmed. Indiana hospitals had 2,932 coronavirus patients as of Friday, the first day below the 3,000 mark since Nov. 16, according to the state health department’s online dashboard. The COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined about 15% since peaking Nov. 30 but remain nearly four times higher than in September.


Cedar Falls: Last year, Pastor Brian King delivered his sermon to 3,500 worshippers at Christmas Eve services at Nazareth Lutheran Church. This year, there will be seven live services, with attendance capped at 250 preregistered people per service. Masks are mandatory, and everyone is expected to maintain appropriate physical distancing. A variety of online and televised services also will be offered for members who are uncomfortable attending in person, King said. Doors are still closed to congregations at some Cedar Valley churches, and other churches are open but limiting the number of people at live services. Most churches will livestream or offer prerecorded Christmas Eve services at their websites, and may offer recordings of last year’s cantatas, concerts, celebrations and other sermons to view or download.


Quinter: The sheriff in Gove County, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, has died of the virus. The Gove County Sheriff’s Office described Sheriff Allan Weber as an “extraordinary public servant” in a Facebook post Friday announcing that he had died. He was transported to the Swedish Medical Center in Denver on Oct. 18 for COVID-19 respiratory complications. The county of 2,636 has recorded 18 deaths, for a rate of about 6.82 deaths per 1,000 residents, which is the highest rate in the state. The county’s emergency management director, the hospital CEO and more than 50 medical staff also tested positive. Shortly before Weber was taken to Colorado, he spoke to a reporter with the Associated Press. Occasionally coughing, he said he had been hospitalized in the past for asthma attacks, but the coronavirus symptoms were more pronounced. “You got body aches and headaches. The tightness in my chest is different,” he said. The county commission imposed a mask mandate starting Aug. 6, when only a handful of cases had been reported, but repealed it 11 days later. Officials subsequently issued a new mandate requiring masks.


Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear said he is using $51.5 million in federal coronavirus funding to provide relief from unemployment costs for more than 1,500 employers. In a news release Friday, the Democrat said those impacted will be public schools, universities, government entities and nearly 1,000 nonprofits. Beshear’s Labor Cabinet said that during the pandemic, the federal government has let states provide relief to employers that reimburse the state 100% on employment claims paid on their behalf, bringing their share down to 50%. Beshear’s action Friday covers the other half owed by the employers. Unemployment charges will resume to contributing and reimbursing employers starting Jan. 1, the news release said. Since the pandemic began, Kentucky has seen more than 1.3 million unemployment insurance claims.


Monroe: Louisiana’s newest member of Congress was admitted to a hospital for monitoring on Saturday, a day after announcing that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow was admitted as a precaution, spokesman Andrew Bautsch told The News-Star. Bautsch also is fighting the disease, the newspaper said. Letlow, who is from the northeast Louisiana town of Start, was elected earlier this month to the 5th District seat representing northeast and central Louisiana. He is scheduled to be sworn in next month. He had announced Friday that he had been infected by the coronavirus and was in quarantine at home. Letlow was the third high-profile Louisiana politician in two days to say he had been infected. Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving to become a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s White House staff, and Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Thursday that they had tested positive for the virus. Richmond will be a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Two Republicans in Louisiana’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson – have publicly said they have recovered from the disease.


Saco: The coronavirus pandemic has been a struggle for much of American seafood, but at least one sector of the industry has found a way to grow during the crisis – the seaweed business. Seaweed harvesting and farming, based largely along the rocky and chilly coast of Maine, has grown for several years as interest in foods and nutritional products made with the gooey marine algae have risen in popularity. Like many pieces of the seafood industry, seaweed is highly dependent on the restaurant sector, which made the pandemic a potentially major setback. But that hasn’t been the case, according to state records and members of the industry. Representatives for Atlantic Sea Farms, a Saco company that works with two dozen seaweed farmers and accounts for most of the seaweed aquaculture in the state, said it nearly doubled its harvest this year to 450,000 pounds. Other growers said they continued harvesting seaweed through the pandemic, though finding workers and buyers was more complicated than a typical year. The industry was able to pivot to selling more of its products via retail locations than restaurants, and that meant it avoided the trouble that befell other seafood industries, such as the hard-hit oyster business, said Tollef Olson, president of the Maine Seaweed Council. The statewide harvest of farm-raised seaweed in Maine grew from about 50,000 pounds in 2018 to about 275,000 pounds last year, state records showed. Atlantic Sea Farms alone thinks its farmers will harvest more than 800,000 pounds in 2021. The seaweed is processed into products such as seaweed sauerkraut and frozen kelp cubes for smoothies. The state’s seaweed industry also includes a wild harvest of rockweed, which is used for livestock feed and fertilizers.


Baltimore: A trade group for Maryland restaurants is suing to challenge local bans on indoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Restaurant Association of Maryland on Friday filed requests for court orders to have indoor dining restored “as soon as possible” in Baltimore, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the group’s president and CEO, Marshall Weston, said at a news conference. The association also wants to overturn Baltimore’s ban on outdoor dining. Weston said restaurant owners face an “impossible task” of trying to stay open with only carryout service, the Baltimore Sun reported. The association sued two days after an Anne Arundel County judge issued a temporary restraining order lifting that jurisdiction’s ban on indoor dining. Association attorneys claim there is insufficient evidence that restaurants carry a greater risk for COVID-19 transmission than other types of businesses. But public health experts said there are differences that make indoor dining riskier, such as customers removing masks to eat. Gov. Larry Hogan has limited restaurants statewide to 50% of their capacity for indoor dining, but local governments can impose stricter measures.


Boston: Massachusetts expects to receive 20% fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this year after the federal government reduced its allotment, state officials said. The state joins more than a dozen others that have been told their vaccine shipments will be smaller than planned in coming weeks. Instead of receiving 180,000, Massachusetts now expects to get 145,000. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he hasn’t received an explanation for the cutback. “We’re certainly frustrated,” Baker said. “We’re working to get clarity on what this means, what happened and how that bump will be dealt with along the way.” Baker said he expects to get more answers during a call with federal officials this week. Despite the reduced allotment, Baker said he expects the state to have “more than enough” doses in the first months of 2021. Vaccine cutbacks in some states have raised concerns about potential delays in shots for health care workers and long-term care residents.


East Lansing: Veterinary students at Michigan State University are pleading for a tuition rebate after months of online instruction. The students said they expected a mix of in-person and online courses, but in-person classes were quickly dropped when the fall term began, the Lansing State Journal reported. Lauren Phillip and Breanna Demaline, on behalf of the classes of 2023 and 2024, spoke to the MSU Board of Trustees on Friday, requesting a 30% refund. “We strongly believe our tuition must reflect our current circumstances we are facing and will continue to face if we receive doctorate degrees online,” Phillip said. Students pay more than $100,000 in tuition, she said. Students from outside Michigan pay more. “Even with time to plan, the online course structure has been less than ideal and seemingly very disorganized,” Phillip said. President Samuel Stanley Jr. said a partial refund isn’t practical, noting the university still has fixed costs. He said the change in instruction is “one of the unfortunate casualties of the pandemic.”


St. Cloud: A state senator from St. Cloud has died of complications related to COVID-19. Jerry Relph, 76, was the first Minnesota lawmaker to succumb to the virus. Relph was among a number of Republican legislators who contracted COVID-19 after contact with colleagues in mid-November. At the time, Rachel Aplikowski, the Senate GOP spokeswoman, said Relph tested positive after having had close contact with someone in the chamber who had the virus. Relph started quarantine on Nov. 10 and did not attend that week’s special session. He was also excused from a special session this week. In a statement confirming the news of Relph’s death late Friday, his wife, Pegi Broker-Relph, said her husband “dedicated his life to service.” First elected in 2016, Relph recently lost in a close race for reelection against DFLer Aric Putnam. Before serving in the Senate, Relph had a career as a small-business owner and attorney, and previously worked for 3M. Relph served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Shortly after the virus hit in March, Relph authored a $21 million COVID-19 response bill to buffer the state’s public health emergency response resources.


Jackson: The State Department of Health reported1,700 new cases of the coronavirus and 36 additional deaths on Saturday. The numbers come after a week of milestones for the state. On Dec. 8, the number of deaths related to the virus since the beginning of the outbreak in March topped 4,000. On Dec. 9 a record single-day total of cases 2,746 was reported. To date, the state has reported a total of 192,111 cases and 4,390 deaths. Residents, the health department said, should avoid social gatherings that include individuals outside the nuclear family or household. That includes weddings, funerals, sporting events and in-person church services. The rise in cases in Mississippi is part of a trend in new infections sweeping the nation.


St. Louis: A top St. Louis-area health official is warning that doctors and nurses are becoming exhausted as the coronavirus surges and that the tempo gives them “little room to maneuver.” Dr. Alex Garza, who leads a pandemic task force of 22 hospitals, said an average of more than 100 COVID-19 patients have been admitted every day to those hospitals for more than a month. He said they are filling 20% of general hospital beds and 30% of ICU beds, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The hospitals’ intensive care and medical units are about 85% full on average. More than 20 COVID-19 patients are dying every day. “You just can’t maintain this sort of operations tempo at this rate, because it gives us very little room to maneuver. Even the slightest uptick in admissions above what we are seeing as normal now can really tip us into crisis management,” he said. “Beyond that, we can’t keep up this tempo because we are burning our staff out.” Crisis management means doctors have to make difficult decisions on who gets the best care and who doesn’t. “Make no mistake,” Garza said, “we continue to be in the most serious and deadly part of the pandemic.”


Helena: More than two dozen people have gathered to protest against COVID-19 restrictions, then said the Pledge of Allegiance and prayed outside Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s office in Helena, officials said. Conrad Evarts and the Montana Liberty Coalition organized “The Great Escalation” event and posted it on Facebook, the Independent Record reported Friday. Thirty-two people showed up at Memorial Park on Thursday to peacefully protest before moving up to the state Capitol building. All of the protestors who were approached by the Independent Record declined to be interviewed.


Omaha: Nebraska will get 11,900 additional doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine this week that will be used to treat residents and employees at the state’s long-term care facilities, Gov. Pete Ricketts said. The announcement at a news conference came just days after state officials said they weren’t expecting any shipments from the company this week because of unspecified “logistical hiccups.” Other states have reported similar problems, but Pfizer issued a statement saying it wasn’t having any production or distribution issues. Ricketts said state officials still expect to receive about 32,000 doses of a separate vaccine developed by Moderna, as previously announced. Because of that, he said state officials will hold off on distributing the Pfizer vaccines until the last week of December so they can combine those doses with another expected shipment of 11,900 for use in Nebraska’s hard-hit long-term care facilities. “What we’re going to do is bank them,” he said at a news conference. State officials have identified front-line medical workers and people tied to the long-term care industry as the first groups that need to receive the vaccine. Other groups, such as teachers and meatpacking workers, will also get priority. State officials have predicted that the vaccine will be available to the general public in Nebraska by April.


Las Vegas: Restaurants and bars are turning to individual dining tents, food trucks and contactless takeout to survive extended coronavirus restrictions limiting indoor dining. The hospitality industry has been especially hurt by the pandemic, first seeing total shutdowns and then shifting restrictions on capacity and other operations. Amid a surge of reported coronavirus cases hospitalizations and deaths in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak in late November tightened restrictions on casinos and restaurants, which had been operating generally at 50% capacity since the summer. Sisolak ordered them to reduce capacity to 25% or 50 people, whichever is less, and extended the limits until at least Jan. 15. To cope with the new rules as chilly weather has made its way to southern Nevada, one Las Vegas restaurant, Esther’s Kitchen, has expanded into its parking lot in the city’s Arts District with eight cabana-style structures. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported each individual dining tent has floor coverings, lighting, a sound system and a heater. The tents are arranged around a fire pit sitting on artificial turf.

New Hampshire

Manchester: The Currier Museum of Art is planning to close for a month during the coronavirus pandemic, but it will hold its traditional “Noon Year’s Eve” event for children online this year. The museum is closed until mid-January, when it will evaluate whether it’s safe to reopen. “Our region has recently experienced an alarming spike in cases and the Currier Museum is doing all it can to contain the spread of COVID-19 and avoid burdening local health resources,” museum officials said in a news release. “Many museums in Massachusetts and Maine have also temporarily shut their doors as a precaution.” The museum usually has more than 600 guests for its Noon Year’s Eve celebration. Participants in the virtual program this year will get a guided tour of an exhibit called “Open World: Video Games in Contemporary Art,” with performances. Participants also will get art kits to make a pixilation-inspired collage, party hats, festive masks, and bubble wrap fireworks.

New Jersey

Trenton: The federal government is telling New Jersey to expect thousands fewer COVID-19 vaccines next week and for the rest of the month, though it’s not known why, the state’s health commissioner said. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that New Jersey expected to get about 87,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for this week but instead will get about 54,000, a reduction of 38%. She added that New Jersey was told it would get 273,000 doses for the month but instead will get just 183,000, down 33%. Murphy said he expects there will be an explanation during a video meeting with the White House set for Monday. “I don’t think we’ve gotten a satisfactory reason why,” Murphy said. “It’s nothing personal. Apparently, every American state has received an expectation of a smaller allocation.” Several states have reported smaller allocations. Pfizer, the co-maker of the first vaccine approved for emergency use, has said as far as production goes, nothing has changed. “Pfizer has not had any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed,” spokesperson Eamonn Nolan said in an email. “We are continuing to dispatch our orders to the locations specified by the U.S. government.” The vaccine was first administered last week in New Jersey on Tuesday. A second vaccine, made by Moderna, was approved for an emergency roll-out Friday night. There have been 2,149 health care workers vaccinated in New Jersey, Persichilli said.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Labor officials said local governments have shed thousands of jobs in New Mexico amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Workforce Solutions said the overall statewide unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5% in November, down from 8.1% in October. Payroll employment is down by 58,300 jobs since November 2019, excluding agriculture. Most employment losses are in the hospitality and petroleum sectors, but local government also reduced employment by 6,500 jobs, mostly in public education. New Mexico is delivering relief payments of $1,200 to at least 120,000 unemployed people and offering $100 million in small business grants tied to federal relief money received by the state. An emergency health order continues to require face masks, ban gatherings of more than five people, forbid indoor dining at restaurants and restrict capacity at most businesses to 25% or less.

New York

Albany: The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus has risen to the highest level since mid-May, according to state figures released Saturday. Officials said 6,208 people were hospitalized with the virus as of Friday – the largest number in the state since May 15. The state on Saturday also reported 127 new deaths and 9,919 new cases. Still, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York “can see the light at the end of the tunnel” with the arrival of the first vaccines. “If we stay tough and be smart by socially distancing and wearing masks, we can avoid the holiday surge the experts are predicting and finally win this war,” the governor said in a news release. The numbers were announced as Cuomo sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling on the Republican to ensure Congress passes an “urgently needed” relief package with support for not only families but state and local governments. Also Saturday, Cuomo signed an executive order lifting the requirement that low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities must appear in person to renew their property tax exemptions. To claim or renew benefits, eligible seniors and people with disabilities typically line up at city and town halls across New York to file the required documentation, raising concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19.Cuomo’s order allows local governments to automatically renew 2021 benefits for all property owners who received the benefit in 2020 unless local officials believe the person is no longer eligible.

North Carolina

Graham: Judges in North Carolina have announced new procedures for reporters to access hearings less than two weeks after a newspaper publisher was handcuffed and ordered out of a courtroom. The News & Observer reported that Alamance County judges announced the policy after the newspaper and two other news outlets, the Alamance News and Triad City Beat, asked the North Carolina Court of Appeals to force the courts to let in journalists. Friday’s order by the judges said reporters must request permission in advance to attend hearings, and up to five journalists will be allowed in a courtroom. Journalists have been barred from attending recent Alamance County court hearings, even when they requested permission in advance. Courthouse staff cited COVID-19 as the reason for limiting access to victims and defendants. District Court Judge Fred Wilkins barred reporters from attending a plea hearing for Sandra Warren Brazee, a white woman accused of driving her pickup truck at two 12-year-old Black girls. Tom Boney Jr., publisher of The Alamance News, was handcuffed and ordered out of a courtroom as he objected. He was then released. The news outlets’ petition to the Court of Appeals is pending.

North Dakota

Fargo: Nearly 200 nursing and pharmacy students at North Dakota State University are helping administer the coronavirus vaccine to front-line health care workers over the next several months. The upper-level students have received training to administer the shots at health care systems in the region and are being supervised by faculty members in the clinics, the university said. NDSU Nursing at Sanford Health students were the first to assist in administering the COVID-19 vaccination to front-line workers in Bismarck. In Fargo, NDSU pharmacy and nursing students are assisting Essentia Health and Sanford Health in providing vaccinations to front-line health care workers.


Dr. Stephen Polley draws out a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during distribution to health care workers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center East in Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Stephen Polley draws out a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during distribution to health care workers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center East in Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus: The state’s supply of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will be less in the second full week of delivery than initial estimates, the Department of Health said. Previous estimates were about 123,000 doses, but the current allocation is actually 70,200 doses, said Melanie Amato, a Health Department spokesperson. The “allocation for the second Pfizer shipment was lower than previously estimated by our federal partners,” Amato said. Ohio received about 98,000 vaccines last week for hospital workers and nursing home residents. Several other states said this week they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution. The federal government has said there is confusion among the states between planning and training numbers provided in mid-November, and actual allocations, which are only provided the week prior to shipment. Ohio began vaccinating front-line medical workers at 10 hospitals across the state Monday and Tuesday. Vaccinations of nursing home caregivers and residents started Friday at 10 facilities across the state.


Oklahoma City: Bars and restaurants have effectively won a temporary reprieve from a curfew that has been forcing them to close early since November to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. A state judge sided with a group of bar owners Friday, granting them a 12-day stay on Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s order that bars and restaurants not serve food or alcohol on their premises after 11 p.m. “It’s 12 days of freedom,” Daniel Capps, the owner of Redneck Yacht Club and a plaintiff in the case, told The Oklahoman. “It’s the 12 days of Christmas.” Stitt said in a statement that he looks forward to a hearing on the issue and that his order “maintains the right balance between protecting public health and keeping businesses open safely.” District Judge Susan Stallings said the stay only applied to the six plaintiffs in the case, according to The Oklahoman. But Keith Burt, the state’s director of the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, told the paper the agency would not enforce the curfew at any bars or restraints until there’s a hearing on the issue Dec. 30.


Portland: Multnomah County commissioners have voted to extend the county’s residential eviction ban until July 2, providing assurance that tenants won’t lose their homes even if Oregon doesn’t extend its statewide eviction moratorium past the end of the year. The commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to extend the ban until July 2, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Friday. State lawmakers are set to meet in a one-day special session this week to consider extending the statewide moratorium and provide aid to landlords whose tenants are behind on rent. Commissioners in Multnomah County – which includes Portland – said they acted urgently because it remains unknown whether the statewide measure will pass this week. The extension retains a six-month grace period for paying back rent, beginning July 2. Oregon’s largest county issued its eviction moratorium in March, at the pandemic’s outset, and extended it in September. The moratorium would have expired on Jan. 8 had the commissioners not acted. As many as 150,000 Oregonians could be behind on rental payments by January, according to a report from the National Council of State Housing Finance Agencies.


Pittsburgh: Local hospitals received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and have begun administering it to front-line workers. UPMC Jameson and Passavant received the vaccine Thursday and began inoculating priority hospital staff by Friday. Heritage Valley Health System also received doses of the vaccine for its front-line workers at the Beaver and Sewickley locations. According to a press release, 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were received Thursday. Heritage Valley has developed an automated tool that allows individuals to schedule their first and follow-up dose and copy the appointments to their calendars. At UPMC's Jameson location in New Castle, as well as its two Passavant locations in Cranberry and McCandless townships, vaccines were administered first to hospital staff who will be giving out the vaccines to others. Early this week, mass vaccinations are expected for other hospital employees, according to Lisa Lombardo.

Rhode Island

Providence: A 66-year-old inmate with COVID-19 has died, the state Department of Corrections said late Saturday. The inmate, whose name was not released, died at Rhode Island Hospital, the department said. He “had other complicating comorbidities that likely contributed to his death,” the department said. The man was serving a sentence of life without parole in the maximum security facility at Adult Correctional Institutions since 1988 for the sexual assault and resulting death of a 73-year-old woman, the department said. The department said Friday that there had been 390 confirmed coronavirus cases at the facility, including 331 among inmates and 59 among staff, the Providence Journal reported.

South Carolina

Pictured is one of the rooms available at an emergency quarantine shelter for homeless persons with COVID-19 at Whitehorse Academy in Greenville, S.C.
Pictured is one of the rooms available at an emergency quarantine shelter for homeless persons with COVID-19 at Whitehorse Academy in Greenville, S.C.

Greenville: Homeless people infected with the coronavirus or showing symptoms will soon be offered a new place to stay in upstate South Carolina. A 32-bed quarantine shelter will open Dec. 28 near Greenville, United Housing Connections and the Upstate Continuum of Care told the Greenville News. Tim Brown of homeless service ministry Miracle Hill said people have no place to go. “They have no shelter and when they’re starting to feel symptoms, they don’t know what to do,” Brown said. “There’s nobody to care for them. That’s what this facility is all about.” United Housing Connections CEO Lorain Crowl said last week that her group and the continuum were awarded $2 million in grants to develop the shelter. That includes $157,000 in federal coronavirus relief from Greenville County that can be used immediately to start buying supplies. A $1.7 million state grant will pay for staff salaries, support services, food and more. The shelter is a joint effort between United Housing Connections and others. PRISMA Health will provide medical care, oxygen, protective gear and testing. Telehealth consultations will also be available.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The number of COVID-19 cases in South Dakota over the last two weeks continued to fall compared to the rest of the country. State health officials on Sunday reported 391 cases in the last day, for a total of 94,727 infections since the start of the pandemic. The state that had been among the worst in the country for the coronarius in late summer and fall now ranks 16th for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The update showed 11 deaths in the last day, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,361, of which 415 have been in December. The state is ranked No. 7 per capita at 153 deaths per 100,000 people, Johns Hopkins University researchers reported. Three of the deaths reported Sunday were in Minnehaha County and two came from Lincoln and Union counties. There was one fatality each confirmed in Beadle, Brown, Day and Yankton counties. South Dakota had vaccinated 6,311 residents with the Pfizer vaccine as of Sunday morning.


Tennessee first lady Maria Lee has tested positive for the coronavirus and has mild symptoms, says Gov. Bill Lee, who added he has tested negative.
Tennessee first lady Maria Lee has tested positive for the coronavirus and has mild symptoms, says Gov. Bill Lee, who added he has tested negative.

Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee disclosed Saturday afternoon that his wife has tested positive for the coronavirus and has mild symptoms and he has tested negative. Lee tweeted that the positive test for his wife Maria was confirmed in the afternoon. “I am feeling well with no symptoms and have tested negative for COVID-19,” the Republican governor wrote, adding, “Out of an abundance of caution, I will be quarantining at the Governor’s Residence and still plan to address Tennesseans about the COVID-19 surge” on Sunday night. Lee wasd scheduled to make a rare prime-time address on Sunday night about the COVID-19 surge.


Houston: Texas on Saturday surpassed 25,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, the second-highest total in the country. State health officials reported 272 new deaths, bringing Texas’ death toll to 25,226. Cases of COVID-19 and virus-related hospitalizations continue to rise in the state. On Saturday, the state reported 9,796 people hospitalized with the virus, an increase of nearly 23% over the last month. Officials reported 12,914 new cases on Saturday. That comes two days after the state set its one-day record of new cases – 16,864 – on Thursday. One in every 262 people in Texas tested positive for the virus in the past week, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The increase in cases and hospitalizations comes as state health officials announced Friday that Texas will receive 620,000 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next week. More than 224,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered in Texas. The new round of vaccines will go mainly to front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.


Salt Lake City: Utah is one of more than a dozen states that have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution, the state’s health department said Friday. Instead of receiving the expected 23,400 doses, Utah will instead receive 16,575 – 30% fewer doses. The health department said it learned of the lowered allocation Friday afternoon and is working to determine the cause. The federal government has said there is confusion among the states between planning and training numbers and actual allocations, which are only provided the week before shipment. Pfizer has said it has not had any production issues and no vaccine shipments are on hold or delayed. The company said in a written statement that last week it “successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them. We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.” Utah hospitals began administering vaccinations on Tuesday to front-line health care workers with the highest risk of exposure. There have been 1,347 doses administered this week, according to state data.


Montpelier: Vermont officials are again asking residents to avoid holiday gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Vermont avoided a feared spike of new cases after Thanksgiving because people largely followed the recommendations to keep celebrations within residents’ immediate households. Although much higher than it was several months ago, the number of new infections being reported in Vermont has largely plateaued, but there is not enough evidence yet that would allow the state to loosen the restrictions, Gov. Phil Scott said Friday during his regular virus briefing. “I understand the emotional need here, but at the same time, we have to take care of ourselves, take care of our families, take care of others surrounding us,” Scott said. For people who do gather, the events should be kept as small as possible, people should wear masks and keep a 6-foot distance from others. People who gather and travel should get tested immediately after and then again seven days later, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said earlier in the briefing. “The fact is we need to acknowledge that some people will choose these higher risk activities,” Levine said.


Virginia Beach: Scientists said that tests of sewage in the Hampton Roads region indicate that coronavirus cases in the area will continue to rise. Raul Gonzalez, an environmental scientist with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, told WAVY-TV that “wastewater signals right now are higher than they were during our last wave in July.” WAVY reported Friday that samples of sewage are taken each week at local wastewater treatment plants in parts of Hampton Roads and tested for the presence of the virus. The samples are taken to laboratories where genetic material is extracted. “We’re sampling the entire community at once,” Gonzalez said. “We get an idea of whether the COVID-19 are increasing, whether they’re going down, whether they are just plateauing. Right now by the way, we’re definitely increasing.” The findings are passed off to local health departments, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data can also be used to warn officials and medical providers that there could be an influx of patients. “That’s really where some of the strength of this work comes in,” Gonzalez said. Studies are also occurring in Charlottesville, Stafford County and in other parts of the country.


Seattle: As Boeing scrambles to conserve cash in the dramatic aviation downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Dave Calhoun told nonunion employees last week the company has this month given them shares of company stock instead of pay raises. Boeing said it awarded the stock to about 82,000 employees, excluding executives and those engineers, machinists and others whose pay is determined by union contracts. The stock will vest in three years, on Dec. 14, 2023, provided the employee doesn’t leave the company through that date. However, according to an internal company memo, if an employee is laid off or accepts a voluntary buyout in that period, they will keep a proportion of the allocated shares: one-third if leaving in the first year, two-thirds in the second year and all of the shares in the third year. The amount of shares granted depends on the employment level. According to the internal memo, managers will get 100 shares, which today are valued at about $226 each. Senior nonmanagerial employees get 75 shares, worth almost $17,000; lower-level salaried employees will get 50 shares, worth just over $11,000; and nonunion hourly employees will get 25 shares, worth about $5,600.

West Virginia

Charleston: Officials said the state will receive about 44% fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week than initially expected, in line with several other states.“They had some hiccup,” said Gov. Jim Justice about the federal government’s distribution of the vaccine. “I don’t really know what it is. Hiccups are not really permissible when people are dying.” The state expects about 11,700 doses to come in this week, down from 21,000. Pfizer has said its production levels have not changed and the Trump administration has downplayed the risk of delays. Several states have said they are receiving a smaller allotment of doses than first projected, with little explanation for the shift. West Virginia officials said they were informed of their allocation on Thursday. Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, head of the West Virginia National Guard, said he was still optimistic in the state’s drive to vaccinate all long-term care centers within three weeks. An expected 32,600 doses of a second vaccine from Moderna are expected to ship to the state. By Saturday morning the state planned to have administered about 8,000 shots at 50 nursing homes and assisted-living communities. Justice said that about 85% to 95% of residents at homes are taking the shots. But participation drops to about 60% among staff. “That’s not good enough,” he said. “But as far as the residents, we’re doing well.”


Green Bay: The Green Bay Packers honored workers who have been on the front lines caring for coronavirus patients during Saturday night’s 24-16 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field. The team said it welcomed about 250 health care employees, first responders and their families to Lambeau Field. The honorees sat in socially distanced pods, in compliance with Lambeau Field's COVID-19 protocols, the team said. “We are so thankful and appreciative of all they have done for our community during this challenging time,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. “While we cannot invite large numbers of these special guests due to the pandemic, we want to express our community’s collective appreciation for all their great work.”


Cody: Some bars in northwestern Wyoming are defying a statewide public health order to close earlier than usual to discourage spread of the coronavirus. They include the Elkhorn Bar and Grill in Meeteetse and Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill in Powell, the Cody Enterprise reported. Public health orders announced by Gov. Mark Gordon on Dec. 7 require bars and restaurants to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through at least Jan. 8. The goal is to discourage people from gathering in situations that make virus spread more likely while stopping short of closing bars and restaurants completely. “This is not an anti-authority grab here for us. This is nothing to do with the local town council, or sheriff deputies, or the Park County sheriff or anything – we respect all those people,” Elkhorn co-owner Magnum Faust said. “This is about this ridiculous mandate." The Elkhorn also wasn't enforcing a statewide mask mandate Gordon announced on the same day as the overnight-hours restriction, the newspaper said. Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill, meanwhile, has begun claiming to be a “travel center” in an attempt to be exempted from the health restrictions. “We’ve been charging electric vehicles all summer,” owner James Andrews said. Law enforcement officers have visited both establishments but said they will focus on public education rather than citations to get people to follow the public health orders.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States