Shelter changes, stressed clinics, Statehouse planning: News from around our 50 states

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From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY
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Alabama

Montgomery: The state on Monday reached a new high for the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19, a record that comes before an expected spike in cases in the weeks following Thanksgiving gatherings. Alabama Department of Public Health numbers indicated 1,717 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number reported since the coronavirus pandemic began. The previous high was a little over 1,600 in midsummer. “The spread is out of control. That is probably the least inflammatory way I can describe it,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. “I try not to engage hyperbole, but I’m truly worried.” Williamson said the state is seeing more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and patients in intensive care units than in July, which previously had been considered the peak of the pandemic. “The problem is none of this is due to Thanksgiving,” he noted. He said it will take several more days to start seeing the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on cases and hospitalizations.

Alaska

Juneau: State health officials are asking Alaskans who test positive for the coronavirus to notify people with whom they have been in close contact because a surge in cases has strained public health resources and created a backlog in contact tracing investigations. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, said contact tracers “have been forced to triage cases to ensure they are reaching the people most at risk for severe symptoms and those most likely to spread the disease.” Health officials previously urged residents to help contact tracers by answering their phones and providing accurate information. Some people don’t want to participate in contact tracing, McLaughlin has said, possibly because of job-related pressures or COVID-19 “fatigue” – being tired of dealing with the pandemic. Anyone can get COVID-19, and there “should be no stigma associated with this highly infectious disease,” said Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink.

Arizona

Phoenix: The coronavirus outbreak’s current surge will present the state with a hospital crisis that could become a disaster unless it takes steps such as ordering a three-week stay-home shutdown and implementing a statewide mask mandate, university researchers said. Without such steps, “it would be akin to facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders,” members of the COVID Modeling Team at the University of Arizona said in a letter Friday to the state Department of Health Services. The team has tracked the outbreak since last spring. Other steps recommended by the team include providing economic aid to affected small businesses and families and preventing evictions and foreclosures. Many local governments have imposed mask mandates since Gov. Doug Ducey last summer lifted a prohibition on such orders. The local mandates cover an estimated 90% of the state’s population, but enforcement is lax or nonexistent in some places.

Arkansas

Little Rock: State health officials reported more than 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 21 more deaths linked to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Health authorities reported 1,030 Arkansas residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, 20 more than on Saturday. The state added 1,221 confirmed and probable cases of the virus Sunday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Arkansas has recorded a total of 156,247 COVID-19 cases and 2,470 fatalities, according to the department. The actual number of 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 past seven days, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

California

Los Angeles: As cases surge across the state, county officials enacted stricter restrictions Monday, a day after California broke a record with more than 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations. Health officials are preparing for a wave of virus cases over the next two or three weeks that could be linked to Thanksgiving gatherings. Los Angeles County imposed new rules Monday calling for its 10 million residents to stay home “as much as possible,” prohibiting them from gathering with people outside their households, except for faith-based services and protests. Mayor Eric Garcetti has estimated more than 4,000 residents could die over the next five weeks, the Los Angeles Times reports. San Francisco and San Mateo counties have moved to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s pandemic blueprint for the economy, forcing most indoor activities to close by noon Sunday and placing the residents under curfew starting Monday. In Golden Gate Park, the new 150-foot Ferris wheel named SkyStar closed Sunday. The wheel was supposed to be the centerpiece of the park’s 150th anniversary this year and was only approved to open in late October.

Colorado

Denver: Gov. Jared Polis has tested positive for the coronavirus. Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, both are asymptomatic, the governor said in a statement Saturday night. Polis had started quarantining Wednesday after he said he was exposed to the virus. Polis had tweeted late Wednesday that he tested negative the night after learning of his exposure but would be retested. The state has been hit with a substantial spike in COVID-19 cases. One in 41 residents is believed to be contagious. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, no one is immune from this virus,” Polis said in his statement. “Now is the time to be more cautious than ever before. There is more of the virus circulating across the country, including in Colorado, now than there even was in the spring.” He said he will continue to serve the state while isolating himself. He urged residents to wear masks and keep 6 feet apart in public.

Connecticut

Hartford: In the spring when the coronavirus first hit, state officials searched far and wide for personal protective equipment, relying on everything from Chinese bankers to a Cromwell lumberman to procure hard-to-find masks and gowns. This time, as the second wave of the virus hits the state, purchase orders show they are using a far more familiar tool to most American shoppers: Amazon. On one day in early November, the state spent about $134,000 ordering three-quarters of a million exam gloves from Amazon, according to purchase orders. State Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe, who oversaw the hunt for PPE in the spring, said the Amazon purchases were for a specific glove size. “We are actually well above all of our targets in terms of PPE, but for some reason we couldn’t find extra-large gloves, so we turned to Amazon,” Geballe said.

Delaware

Wilmington: The seven-day average for daily coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and the percentage of tests that are positive in the state each reached high marks for the fall surge Sunday. Delaware reported 591 new cases Sunday, the second-most reported in a single day. The rolling seven-day average for new cases, which officials use to help account for variance in how the data is reported, increased to an all-time high of 483.6. According to the state’s latest data, which reflects the virus’s spread as of 6 p.m. Saturday, there were 211 people hospitalized. That’s the most hospitalizations Delaware has reported since May 23. As more tests are conducted across the state around the Thanksgiving holiday, the seven-day average for the percent of tests that are positive is still increasing, showing that the latest case surge is not purely a product of more tests.

District of Columbia

Washington: The district hit a new record-high number of coronavirus cases Saturday, WUSA-TV reports. D.C. health officials reported 371 newly confirmed cases, topping the previous high number of 335 set May 1. The new record came on the heels of consecutive days with more than 200 new cases reported Friday and Thursday, which drove D.C.’s case average to 192 cases per day, also its highest average since May. Though some residents are heading out for testing as they look ahead to the rest of the holiday season, workers at the Nationals coronavirus testing site said the Friday after Thanksgiving saw shorter lines than usual – and people getting tested said the process moved exponentially faster than they experienced over the summer.

Florida

Tallahassee: The state’s public schools will remain open in 2021, and families will continue to have the option to keep students at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday. But the news came with one caveat: Parents with students who are struggling academically in remote learning situations will be notified by their school districts, and the students will be required to return to in-person instruction unless the family again actively elects to keep the student at home. The caveat is part of a new emergency order issued by Richard Corcoran, Florida’s commissioner of education. At a press conference held at a Kissimmee elementary school, DeSantis called closing public schools during the pandemic the “biggest public health blunder” in modern U.S. history and called his detractors “flat-earthers.” He said the effects of closing schools will be felt for years. The announcement comes as Florida has seen a surge in cases in past weeks and is poised to cross the 1 million-case mark Tuesday.

Georgia

The main classroom at Tweed Recording and Audio Production School in downtown Athens, Ga., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.
The main classroom at Tweed Recording and Audio Production School in downtown Athens, Ga., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

Athens: After seven years of preparation and 14 months of construction, any plans that the Tweed Recording Audio Production School might’ve had for a grand opening celebration were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but things will finally get rolling early next year. “The rug got pulled out from under us, and we couldn’t just invite everybody in,” said Andrew Ratcliffe, CEO and recording instructor at Tweed. “Thankfully, we have the space to cut classes in half and offer a safe environment for the faculty and students.” The downtown facility’s inaugural 18-week Audio Production Program will begin Jan. 11. Students will be instructed in 15 major areas of audio engineering and production using professional recording studios and a 24-space digital audio workstation lab.

Hawaii

Hilo: The mayor of Hawaii County has announced that trans-Pacific travelers who arrive without a negative coronavirus test must quarantine for 14 days. The new rule announced by Mayor Harry Kim on Saturday was approved by Democratic Gov. David Ige the previous day and is expected to remain in effect through Dec. 31. Trans-Pacific travelers awaiting test results previously were only required to quarantine until negative test results arrived. The new rule also allows Hawaii County to conduct virus testing on 25% to 100% of travelers who previously had negative test exceptions. Randomly selected travelers must take a second coronavirus test upon arrival on Hawaii island at a facility near the airport designated by the county, which will pay for the testing using federal coronavirus recovery funds. Ige on Friday also approved Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s request to temporarily allow the island to opt out of the state testing program.

Idaho

Boise: State officials approved spending $5 million of federal coronavirus relief money to help hospitals hire additional staff to help care for a crush of COVID-19 patients. The Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee also unanimously approved an additional $300,000 last week to train health care providers to administer a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes widely available, probably in 2021. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told the committee that many of the state’s hospitals are at the edge of their capacity. He said the state could have double the current number of COVID-19 patients by the end of December. “Running out of hospital capacity is really where we don’t want to be,” he said. “That is something we are desperately trying to avoid.” Jeppesen also said he expects the state will receive a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine as early as mid-December.

Illinois

Chicago: Fraudulent unemployment claims have soared, with scammers directing jobless benefits to their own accounts, even as record numbers of residents sought relief due to the coronavirus pandemic, state officials said. More than 212,000 fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits have been filed since March 1, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Acting IDES Director Kristin Richards said the agency “is experiencing fraud in an order of magnitude we’ve never seen before.” About 169,000 of those claims were filed under a program created through the federal coronavirus relief package that extended benefits to self-employed and gig workers, the Chicago Tribune reports. Nearly 42,500 other fraudulent claims were filed under the system for regular state benefits. Anyone who has been a victim of fraud is not liable for any unemployment benefits paid in their name, Richards said.

Indiana

Indianapolis: The state’s hospitals had more COVID-19 patients than ever before over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the number under treatment in intensive care units also continued its recent steep increase. The Indiana State Department of Health’s daily update Monday also reported 38 more coronavirus deaths occurring over the past several days. Those newly recorded deaths come as the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily COVID-19 deaths has surged to 56 per day as of last week – more than five times the rate in late September and pushing it well ahead of the early pandemic peak of 42 a day in April. November has been Indiana’s deadliest COVID-19 month, and health officials have repeatedly raised concerns about Thanksgiving gatherings leading to another surge in cases. Hospital officials across the state are worried about being overwhelmed by the quickly growing number of severely ill patients. Indiana hospitals were treating 3,401 COVID-19 patients as of Sunday.

Iowa

Des Moines: Coronavirus deaths continued to increase in the past two weeks as the state ended November posting 687 deaths. That’s a 34% increase from the 512 deaths reported in October. There were 1,200 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, according to data posted Monday by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The state’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 40.2% remained the third highest in the nation behind Idaho and South Dakota, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations continued a gradual decline after peaking at more than 1,520 patients two weeks ago. A spokeswoman for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City said the hospital’s decrease in COVID-19 patients – to 56 patients on Monday from 84 a week earlier – was mostly due to hospital discharges. But spokeswoman Laura Shoemaker warned of likely hospitalizations ahead following Thanksgiving gatherings.

Kansas

Wichita: Two recent Wichita State University graduates are among the finalists for a $1 million prize pool in a contest that seeks to design a better face mask. The Wichita Eagle reports Jared Goering and Spencer Steinert are in the top 10 after beating out nearly 1,000 other mask designs from 70 countries. They hope to win the $500,000 grand prize or a $250,000 secondary prize, and they also want to take their mask to market. Both men are graduates of Wichita State’s innovation design master’s program, and they’re both part of an apparel startup called Montana Shirt Co. The point of the XPRIZE contest is to solve some of the issues surrounding masks, such as slippage, fogging and heat, that have become common during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kentucky

Louisville: A federal appeals panel has upheld Gov. Andy Beshear’s order to stop in-person classes at religious schools amid the pandemic. A three-member panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Sunday issued a stay of a federal judge’s order from last week. U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled Wednesday that the Democratic governor’s order cannot apply to religious schools as the “First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.’ ” But the appellate court said Sunday that it is likely to rule that Beshear’s order was “neutral and of general applicability” in that all schools were affected. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, had supported the religious schools in their bid to stay open to in-person learning and said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: A spike in new unemployment claims has prompted the Louisiana Workforce Commission to investigate what it describes as potentially fraudulent activity. The commission, in a news release last week, said more than 32,000 claims are being “rigorously reviewed for validity,” and the agency has decided to halt payments for claims made after Nov. 5 until that review is complete. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the state agency has stopped more than 160,000 claims that are potentially fraudulent or possibly involve identity theft. “Our office remains conscientious in detecting and combating fraud,” said Ava Dejoie, secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. “We are tracking this data to identify any potential fraudulent claims that may have been filed. We apologize for any delay or inconvenience this issue may bring to our Louisiana families and workers, especially entering the holiday season.”

Maine

Portland: The federal Small Business Administration is asking Mainers to shop small in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The agency scaled back its typical Small Business Saturday efforts this year but said it remains important for residents to support local businesses during the holiday season. Maine has more than 13,000 small retail businesses, and they employ more than 36,000 people, the agency said. Retailers and shops in Skowhegan, meanwhile, are trying to turn Small Business Saturday into an entire week to prevent the pandemic from taking a toll on the critical holiday shopping season. Main Street Skowhegan is promoting Shop Small Week as a way to encourage people to patronize local businesses. The initiative includes a raffle, discounts and a guide to the dozens of businesses signed up to participate.

Maryland

Towson: School continues to be out for more than 100,000 students in Baltimore County following a ransomware attack on the district’s network. The Baltimore Sun reports Superintendent Darryl L. Williams said he has no timeline for when school will resume. School officials say an investigation into the attack is ongoing. They are working with state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The school system’s 115,000 students have been attending classes entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic. School officials said the attack has affected the district’s website, email system and grading system. Schools officials said offices will be open while school remains closed. “This provides much-needed time for our staff to continue working to set up the instructional platform and to communicate next steps regarding devices,” the school system said on social media.

Massachusetts

Worcester: Nurses at a local hospital plan to picket outside the front entrance to protest what they say is a lack of safe staffing, protection and support from management. The informational picket by nurses at St. Vincent Hospital is scheduled for Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., according to a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association. St. Vincent nurses have filed more than 360 official reports of conditions that jeopardized the safety of their patients, and more than 100 have left the hospital because of the conditions, the union said. St. Vincent is operated by Dallas-based Tenet Health. “We have tried for months to convince our administration and the Tenet corporation to provide us with the resources we need to keep the public safe, yet they only make things worse,” St. Vincent nurse and union official Marlena Pellegrino said in a statement. “Now we are taking to the streets with this picket to alert the public.”

Michigan

Lansing: Michigan mayors on Monday asked the Legislature to act quickly to ensure two dozen cities collecting income taxes do not lose revenue because nonresidents are working at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Officials warned that without the approval of bills in December’s lame-duck session, the communities could lose up to $160 million in 2020. The proposed “community stabilization plan” would prevent workers, who typically have city income taxes withheld from their paychecks, from seeking refunds. The Michigan Municipal League also requested that the Republican-led Senate and House let public bodies meet virtually beyond Dec. 31 and tackle “unintended interactions” between a tax-limiting state constitutional amendment and a 1994 overhaul of the tax and school-finance systems. Mayors warned that COVID-19 is permanently closing businesses and reducing occupancy for retail and office space, which could reduce property values and result in cuts to tax revenue. The legislative session resumes Tuesday.

Minnesota

The Minnesota Correctional Facility- St. Cloud.
The Minnesota Correctional Facility- St. Cloud.

Rush City: An inmate who was recently diagnosed with the coronavirus died Saturday, becoming the fifth state prisoner to die of the virus, according to the Star Tribune. The 57-year-old man has not been identified by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. He was incarcerated at the state correctional facility in Rush City and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, where he died, officials said. In Minnesota prisons, 702 inmates have active cases of COVID-19, according to the Department of Health. The Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud has reported 612 cases, which is 21% of the cases in the entire correctional system. Twelve inmates from across the state were hospitalized as of Wednesday.

Mississippi

Jackson: The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,485 new cases of coronavirus infections and one new death Monday. The state reported its second-highest number of new coronavirus infections Sunday with 1,845 cases along with 27 deaths. That daily case total was topped only on Nov. 21, when 1,972 new cases were recorded. The state totaled on average 1,229 new daily cases over the past week, reversing what had been a slight downward trend of new case counts based on a seven-day rolling average. To date, Mississippi has reported 153,270 cases of the coronavirus and 3,807 deaths. There are currently 199 outbreaks at nursing homes, according to numbers updated Sunday. So far, there have been 7,709 cases reported in long-term care facilities with 1,447 deaths.

Missouri

St. Louis: St. Louis County Executive Sam Page warned area residents Monday that the county is in “crisis mode” as COVID-19 cases keep rising and as hospitals strain to treat new patients. Page said area hospitals could run out of intensive care beds sometime this week, and the National Guard could be asked to help with the response to the pandemic. “We are in a crisis mode, and the virus is winning,” Page said. On Sunday, the St. Louis region had 994 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with an average of 660 new cases per day. Area hospitals were using 77% of the total staffed beds and 89% of their intensive care beds, according to the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. Statewide, Missouri reported 2,498 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Friday, with 27% of inpatient beds still available, the latest hospitalization data available on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Montana

Kalispell: Flathead County’s interim public health officer is resigning at the end of the year, saying she’s frustrated with the lack of support from county officials for any efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Tamalee St. James Robinson submitted her letter of resignation Friday to the county commission and the Flathead City-County Board of Health, saying it’s clear the actions of the commissioners and the health board “have been at cross purposes with the goal of maintaining our county’s public health.” The lack of support for measures such as wearing masks and limiting the size of gatherings “has not only increased public health risk, it has demonstrated a clear lack of support for the county health department,” St. James Robinson wrote. Numerous employees have resigned, leaving the agency understaffed as it deals with a spike in COVID-19 cases, she said. County commissioners in early November rejected a request for overtime pay going forward for salaried health department employees who had been working 80-hour weeks since the start of the pandemic, Deputy Health Officer Kerry Nuckles said.

Nebraska

Lincoln: Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday that he will extend the state’s current coronavirus restrictions through December as the number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 dipped below 900 for the first time in more than two weeks. The current restrictions require masks in certain businesses, such as salons and tattoo parlors, where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance between people. They had been set to expire Monday. Despite the decline in hospitalizations, hospitals remained strained across the state. Ricketts has faced growing pressure to impose a statewide mask mandate but has refused to do so, arguing that mandates breed resentment and may face resistance. Ricketts was also asked at a news conference why the state didn’t follow the White House’s coronavirus task force’s recommendation earlier this year that Nebraska require masks statewide. He said he viewed his less restrictive approach as better tailored to Nebraska’s needs, even though the task force’s report includes state- and county-level data.

Nevada

Las Vegas: Clark County officials have launched a new reporting tool allowing residents to make requests for service and bring attention to issues such as COVID-19 restriction violations. The FixIt Clark County application allows residents in Las Vegas and surrounding suburbs to report issues based on their location by submitting pictures and writing descriptions of their concerns. Residents can report issues such as potholes, graffiti, street lights, trash, short-term rentals and COVID-19 violations at county businesses and then track the progress of their reports. “Residents want to be able to report issues and have them resolved in a way that’s easy and convenient for them,” County Commissioner Michael Naft said. “FixIt will be an important tool for improving Clark County’s customer service.” County staff will be able to view and manage requests. It is unclear how quickly requests are expected to be resolved or how many staff members are dedicated to managing reports. Residents can download the app through the county’s website or the Google Play and Apple app stores.

New Hampshire

Members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives stand at the start of their session in Durham on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire. The Legislature, which suspended its work in March because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, gathered at the arena for the first House session held outside the Statehouse since the Civil War.
Members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives stand at the start of their session in Durham on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire. The Legislature, which suspended its work in March because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, gathered at the arena for the first House session held outside the Statehouse since the Civil War.

Concord: Hot days at the Statehouse traditionally feature a formal motion to allow men to remove their jackets. This week, a motion to permit extra layers of wool and fleece would be more fitting. Newly elected members of the Legislature will meet Wednesday for Organization Day on an outdoor field hockey pitch at the University of New Hampshire, where the forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 45 degrees. The session was originally to be held in an indoor gymnasium, but officials changed course over the weekend amid growing concerns about the recent surge in coronavirus cases. “In light of the recent spike in the pandemic, and sadly with fatalities and hospitalizations going up, we realized what was originally proposed was just not practical,” said Rep. Steve Shurtleff, a Concord Democrat whose term as House speaker ends Tuesday. “People will be bundling up. I think we could relax our dress codes so people can dress appropriately.”

New Jersey

Trenton: All indoor youth sports in the state will be suspended starting Saturday because of the climbing COVID-19 caseload, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. He said the pause would begin at 6 a.m. and go until Jan. 2. It covers all youth sports but excludes college and professionals athletics, Murphy said. The Democrat also said the outdoor gathering limit would be reduced from 150 to 25 people beginning Dec. 7. The change won’t affect outdoor dining, he said. New Jersey, like much of the country, has seen spiking cases and hospitalizations. The weekly average of new daily cases topped 4,000 on Monday, up from 3,500 earlier in November and above the nearly 1,000 seen in October. New Jersey’s hospitalizations reached nearly 3,000, Murphy said Monday, a level not seen since May.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: A rolling average of daily statewide deaths from the coronavirus surpassed 25 as New Mexico neared the end of a two-week period of heightened restrictions. Virus-related deaths on Sunday included 60-year-old middle school teacher Sylvia Garcia of the Las Cruces area. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in the state has risen over the past two weeks from 14.9 deaths per day Nov. 14 to 25.3 deaths per day Saturday, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. New Mexico also ranks among the worst 10 states in diagnosis rates for the virus, with 1 out of every 144 people diagnosed with the virus from Nov. 21 through Saturday. The state plans to switch to a county-by-county risk evaluation system Wednesday that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration said will allow communities to shed burdensome restrictions when public health data show the virus retreating locally.

New York

New York: Classroom doors will open for elementary school students next week, but middle school and high school students in New York City won’t return to in-person learning until after the holiday break, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. “Obviously, from now until the Christmas break, the focus will be on the younger kids,” de Blasio said on CNN. “When we come back, my hope is we can then move quickly to middle school and high school.” The Democratic mayor said the staggered approach is necessary because of the amount of coronavirus testing that is required to open schools safely amid rising infection rates across the city. De Blasio announced Sunday that school buildings will start reopening Dec. 7 for students whose parents have chosen a mix of in-person and remote learning. Schools have been shuttered since Nov. 19, but de Blasio said weekly virus testing in all schools will make it possible to reopen safely.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The state has reported its highest number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus. The Raleigh News & Observer reports there were 1,966 people hospitalized with the virus statewide Monday. The information comes from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Hospitalizations had already set new records Saturday and Sunday. The department also said Sunday that intensive care units across the state held 454 COVID-19 patients. That’s the second-highest number during the pandemic. The state also reported 2,734 new cases, marking the 22nd-highest number since the pandemic began. There has been an average of 3,617 new cases each day over the past week. The positivity rate’s seven-day average is now at 7.8%.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Plans to light the state Christmas tree have been altered this year to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Doug Burgum and his wife, Kathryn Burgum, plan to light the tree virtually Tuesday evening with a livestream on Facebook. This year’s Christmas tree theme is “creating connections,” a reminder to stay socially connected this holiday season through a video chat, phone call or staying physically distanced, according to the governor’s office. The public is invited to see the lighted tree from their vehicles along the driveway of the Capitol Mall. Hospitalizations due to complications from the coronavirus rose for a fifth straight day, according to data posted Monday by state health officials. Officials said there were 331 patients in medical facilities around the state, an increase of eight in the past day.

Ohio

Cincinnati: A handful of Republican state lawmakers on Monday filed articles of impeachment against Gov. Mike DeWine over his response to the coronavirus pandemic. DeWine said he wished his fellow Republicans would listen to the nurses and health care professionals who say conditions are getting worse at their hospitals and to families who didn’t take the virus seriously and have lost loved ones during the pandemic. “At some point this foolishness has got to stop,” DeWine said. “I’m not talking about most Ohioans – just a small number of people who for whatever reason just continue to think and act this is some big joke and this is all some fantasy.” Stacey Morris, COVID-19 unit nurse manager at Akron General Hospital, said the volume of patients coming in is taking a toll on health care providers. Nurses say the virus is unpredictable – they see people in their 30s struggle, while others with underlying health conditions don’t fare as poorly.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The state reported 2,200 more coronavirus cases Monday as overall cases in Oklahoma neared the 200,000 mark. The Oklahoma State Department of Health also reported seven more deaths, bringing the total to 1,743 since the pandemic began. All of the deaths reported Monday involved people who were 65 or older. So far, Oklahoma has reported 197,745 cases of COVID-19, the illness linked to the coronavirus. The actual number of COVID-19 cases is believed to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested, and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms. Also Monday, Tulsa Public Schools announced it would switch all students back to virtual learning beginning Wednesday through the winter holiday break. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Oklahoma has increased by more than 18%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Oregon

More than 100 people gathered in a Silverton neighborhood on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 to protest the $90,000 fine slapped on Salem's Courthouse Club Fitness for defying Gov. Kate Brown's COVID-19 closure order.
More than 100 people gathered in a Silverton neighborhood on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 to protest the $90,000 fine slapped on Salem's Courthouse Club Fitness for defying Gov. Kate Brown's COVID-19 closure order.

Silverton: About 50 protesters converged on the home of a state workplace safety regulator to protest a large fine levied against a Salem gym owner. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Silverton Police Chief Jim Anglemier identified the protesters who gathered Sunday afternoon as members and affiliates of Patriot Prayer, the conservative group founded by Joey Gibson. “There were no problems, no issues,” Anglemier said. “They stayed on the sidewalks, and they stayed off private property.” The controversy stems from a $90,000 penalty issued against a Salem gym and its owner, who refused to comply with Gov. Kate Brown’s economic “freeze” announced last month in an effort to stem the explosion of new COVID-19 cases. “As a result of the harm done to our business from the first shutdown, we will not survive another closure,” John Miller said in a statement before the freeze went into effect Nov. 18.

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg: The state’s coronavirus exposure notification app can now be used by mobile phone users as young as 13 as health officials work to stop the virus’s spread in schools around Pennsylvania, officials said Monday. COVID AlertPa, which had been limited to people 18 and over, has been available for two months. “By expanding the age range, middle and high school students will be able to add their phones to the fight and help in contact tracing that occurs in their schools if a positive case is identified,” state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine told a virtual news conference. A parent or legal guardian must approve the minor’s use of the app, she said. Some school districts continue to conduct in-person instruction, even though every county has passed the thresholds of new cases at which the state Department of Education recommended fully remote instruction.

Rhode Island

Warwick: People flying into T.F. Green Airport were given the option of a free coronavirus test over the weekend as the state looks to prevent a surge in cases following Thanksgiving. The voluntary, rapid tests were offered to anyone arriving at the airport in a roped area near the baggage claim. The free tests started Saturday and continued through Monday. The effort was led by the state’s Department of Health and the Rhode Island National Guard. Results from the rapid tests are available in about 15 minutes. Also, Gov. Gina Raimondo implemented a two-week “pause” of the state’s reopening plans, beginning Monday, to curb a rise in cases. The halt will require businesses including theaters and indoor sports facilities to close, and it reduces capacity at restaurants and houses of worship. The state has set aside $100 million to help affected businesses and employees.

South Carolina

Myrtle Beach: The mayor has extended the city’s mask mandate for enclosed areas until the end of the year. Myrtle Beach’s mask mandate will now be effective through Dec. 31 under Mayor Brenda Bethune’s extension of a local coronavirus emergency order, the city announced Monday. The order, which was put in place to curb the spread of the virus, requires customers to wear masks in retail stores, gyms and other enclosed areas. Retail and restaurant staff must also wear masks when they are working with the public. Masks are not required when they get in the way of activities like eating or drinking or when outdoors, The Post and Courier reports. Individuals can also get exemptions for religious or health concerns. Violators could be fined up to $100.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Doctors from the state’s largest hospital systems said Monday that they hope a recent downtick in virus cases holds steady after the Thanksgiving holiday, as the state concluded its deadliest month of the pandemic to date. Health officials reported three deaths from COVID-19, bringing November’s total to 521. That’s more than all other months of the pandemic combined. The total death toll from the virus sits at 946. During November, South Dakota had the nation’s highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita, with Johns Hopkins researchers tracking 59 per 100,000 people. The state has seen its average number of new cases reported over the past week decline to 976 a day. But it still had the nation’s third-highest number of new cases per capita over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. “For the first time in about three months, we’ve seen kind of a leveling off of cases and hospitalizations,” said Dr. David Basel, vice president for clinical quality with Avera Medical Group. “But they’re leveling off at a very high level still.”

Tennessee

Memphis: Hospitals in the city are enacting measures to maintain capacity for patients as record-high numbers of COVID-19 patients are being admitted. Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare officials informed employees Friday that the hospital would cancel elective procedures scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, as the system endures sustained high levels of patients ill with COVID-19. Dr. Richard Aycock, chief of staff at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, said Monday that the hospital system would revisit the decision to cancel elective surgeries after the two-day pause, noting that historically, hospitals experience a bump in admissions after Thanksgiving. A spokesperson for Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Ayoka Pond, said elective surgeries were being delayed at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, but other hospitals in the system were continuing elective procedures. Only surgeries requiring an overnight stay will be rescheduled.

Texas

Austin: Throughout the pandemic, health experts have encouraged people to avoid indoor crowds that could spread the coronavirus. But for those without homes, a shelter full of strangers is one of the few warm places they can sleep. As officials prepared to open the city’s cold weather shelters Monday night, they were making plans to reduce the contagion risks. “In years past, our primary shelters were churches in the downtown area that were staffed with volunteers – predominantly retirees or those who are elderly,” city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo said. “Obviously that’s not advisable.” Instead, Austin will open some recreation centers as its primary shelters this year. Masks will be required and provided, beds will be spaced farther apart, and people will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at entrances. Those who might have the coronavirus will be taken to the city’s isolation facility, a hotel where people with the coronavirus have opted to stay, and be tested for the virus, Bencivengo said.

Utah

Cedar City: A survey of more than 900 Southern Utah University students showed a negative impact from the coronavirus crisis on academic, financial, social, emotional and physical levels. The 64-question survey was administered from late July to October by Alan Hamlin, a professor of management in SUU’s business school, and Steve Barney, a professor of psychology at SUU. Hamlin said he’s read numerous articles on how the pandemic has affected teachers but feels there’s been very little written about its impact on students. The survey found 80.5% of respondents agree or strongly agree that they are under more pressure than before the pandemic, and 46% said the general quality of their course instruction after the university canceled live classes and implemented remote instruction has been negative or very negative. Meanwhile, 63.7% said they’re working more hours than before the pandemic, and 45% agree or strongly agree that they worry about their ability to pay for food more than they did before the pandemic.

Vermont

Montpelier: Some schools are moving to all-remote teaching this week, while others could be sending students home if they say they celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with people outside their households. On Friday, Gov. Phil Scott continued his call for children to stay home from school for two weeks or to quarantine for one week and get a negative test if they attended multifamily gatherings over the holiday in violation of state rules. He said students’ daily health checks Monday would include questions about whether they attended gatherings outside their households. But some schools said they would not include those questions, WCAX-TV reports. The Champlain Valley School District and the Mount Abraham Unified School District said they did not want to put the burden of investigating compliance on teachers and staff. The Rutland City Public Schools and the Williamstown Middle and High School will be remote for the week, with plans to return Dec. 7. But school leaders say they could then extend remote learning further if necessary.

Virginia

Richmond: For thousands of uninsured and Medicare patients, CrossOver Healthcare Ministry – the largest charitable clinic in the Richmond area – stabilizes a vital safety net punctured by a virus that has disproportionately impacted its patient population, which is more than 60% Black or Latino and 100% low-income. As COVID-19 cases surged, so did the shift to meet the increased need for patients at CrossOver. Like free and charitable clinics nationwide, however, CrossOver is balancing an issue exacerbated by the pandemic: volunteer and funding shortages. The clinic is operating at a 15% reduction in volunteers, the almost 400-person backbone of the South Side and Henrico County clinic operations who are nurses, interpreters, dentists and OB-GYNs. Some left due to being high risk, above the age of 65 or college students who were sent home. Others chose to retire.

Washington

Olympia: The state on Monday launched a coronavirus exposure app, joining more than a dozen other states that have already enlisted the use of smartphone technology in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People with iPhones can now enable the “exposure notifications” feature that is already in their phone’s settings, and Android devices can download the app, called Washington Exposure Notifications. Use of the app is voluntary, and users can opt out at any time. The statewide expansion comes after a monthlong pilot project used by 3,500 participants – including students, faculty and staff – at the University of Washington. “This offers Washingtonians another tool to help control the pandemic,” state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said of the program, which officials are calling WA Notify. Wiesman cited modeling for King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties done by Oxford, Stanford and Google that predicted significant decreases in both infections and deaths if at least 15% of people use the app. Washington officials are hoping to exceed that 15% threshold.

West Virginia

Charleston: Hospitals across the state will reduce elective surgeries to ensure there is enough space to accommodate coronavirus patients as the number of cases continues to surge, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday. Hospitals will be able to maintain their available bed capacities “at this moment,” Justice said at a news conference. “But the worst days are ahead of us.” The number of people hospitalized with the virus in West Virginia jumped 29% in the past week. There were a record 597 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, including 162 in intensive care units, according to state health data. That’s up from 463 people hospitalized Nov. 22. And it’s more than doubled since a month ago, when there were 240 virus-related hospitalizations in West Virginia.

Wisconsin

Madison: A high school student has died after a brief coronavirus-related illness, according to officials. In an email to students and families, East High School’s principal said junior Isai Morocho died unexpectedly during the Thanksgiving break. Principal Brendan Kearney described Morocho as “a caring friend and family member with a ready smile and great sense of humor,” as well as “an excellent student who enjoyed theater and had talked of becoming a chef and owning his own business.” The high school set up virtual meetings for Monday and Tuesday afternoons to provide support for grieving students and staff, the State Journal reports. On Monday, another 2,534 COVID-19 cases were reported in the state, bringing the total to date above 387,000. There were also six new deaths, for a total of 3,313. The seven-day average of new cases was 4,209, the lowest it’s been in a month but still twice as high as two months ago.

Wyoming

Casper: Legislative leaders voted last week to hold two swearing-in ceremonies for new lawmakers, one that will follow public health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and one that won’t. The 10-3 vote to hold separate ceremonies came as the Legislature’s Management Council met to set a timeline for the 2021 legislative session, which will be delayed until the spring because of the pandemic, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. However, lawmakers are constitutionally required to meet at the Wyoming Capitol on Jan. 12 to swear in new members, ratify leadership and hear a State of the State address by the governor. An initial plan strongly recommended lawmakers and their families comply with active public health orders. House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, suggested that lawmakers set an example and that those attending be required to comply with public health orders. Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said someone’s decision not to wear a mask could dissuade others from attending ceremonies that mark a milestone in their political careers.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shelter changes, stressed clinics: News from around our 50 states