Surprise vacation, yard sale reprieve, teacher sick day: News from around our 50 states

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From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY
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Montgomery: State health officials are urging people to serve up a heaping side of precaution at Thanksgiving, as the holiday comes amid a national surge in COVID-19 cases. Officials say people should skip large family gatherings in favor of scaled-back events. “We all want to see our family at holiday time, and yet this is a special year. This is a year unlike any we’ve ever had,” Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said. “Many things maybe could be done virtually, which is not nearly as much fun but certainly safer.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines. Suzanne Judd, an epidemiologist from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health, said Thanksgiving is particularly problematic because it’s a holiday celebrated by family gatherings indoors. “Gatherings greater than 10 people pose a substantial risk of one of the people being COVID-positive and not knowing,” Judd said.


Anchorage: The spread of the coronavirus at the state’s largest prison has accelerated beyond an initial outbreak, with 110 inmates testing positive for the virus as of Monday. Goose Creek Correctional Center first announced a virus outbreak at the facility Nov. 2, when the Alaska Department of Corrections said 22 inmates and five staff members tested positive, The Anchorage Daily News reports. The prison west of Wasilla near Point McKenzie housed 1,317 pretrial and sentenced prisoners as of Monday, department spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher said. Staff are required and inmates are strongly encouraged to wear masks, she said. The outbreak began in one of the prison’s housing units, known as mods. Each mod has 64 prisoners, indicating the outbreak has expanded beyond a single unit, Gallagher said. Each mod continues to operate as a “family unit” in order to minimize the risk of further transmission, Gallagher said.


Phoenix: With the state reporting a daily average of 1,900 new COVID-19 cases over the past week, Gov. Doug Ducey has urged residents to be careful. In a video posted Tuesday, Ducey urged Arizona residents to wear face coverings, wash hands, practice social distancing and stay home when sick. “Gatherings of families and friends from outside your household are no safer than going to the grocery store,” he said. Ducey, a Republican, has not implemented a statewide masking requirement, while many local governments in the state have done so. He announced no new virus prevention initiatives in the video posted on social media and his office’s website. He cited past moves that included increasing testing and providing money to hospitals for protective gear, staffing and ventilators. Ducey said he wants to protect public health “keep our economy safely open and moving, We know that both are important to the health and well-being of Arizonans.”


Little Rock: The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations again hit a new high Tuesday, as Gov. Asa Hutchinson resisted calls for new restrictions on businesses or gatherings to combat a surge in coronavirus cases. An outbreak of the virus among state legislators also grew to 11 on Tuesday, with a lawmaker testing positive. The Department of Health reported 24 more people were hospitalized because of COVID-19, bringing the state’s virus hospitalizations to a new high of 810. The state’s confirmed and probable virus cases rose by 1,424 to 124,235. “The numbers aren’t good, the trend is not good, and we have a lot of work to do here in Arkansas and across the nation,” Hutchinson said at his weekly news briefing on the virus. The state’s COVID-19 deaths rose by four to 2,112. The Republican governor said many of the state’s cases are coming from smaller gatherings at homes that he said can’t be regulated.


Los Angeles: The city will study the feasibility of using its enormous convention center as a temporary shelter for the increasing number of homeless people living on the streets. City Councilman Curren Price introduced a motion Tuesday seeking a report on what it would take to transform the 720,000-square-foot LA Convention Center in his downtown district. The property has not been used for conventions since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, the pandemic has forced more people into homelessness, Price said. With more than 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, encampments have gone up throughout the region on sidewalks, in empty lots and under freeway overpasses. “We’re in a panic situation along with a pandemic situation. Folks on the streets are just suffering,” Price told the Los Angeles Times. “We have to do a better job of housing individuals who are homeless.”


Denver: The state Department of Public Health and Environment has routinely deleted emails related to the coronavirus pandemic even though the state archives has asked that they be saved, a newspaper has found. The Denver Post reports it discovered that emails sent and received by state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy were deleted after the newspaper requested documents. The department said it would provide some records, including emails. But it said emails “from May would have already been auto-deleted unless otherwise preserved, or they were previously deleted by Dr. Herlihy as part of a normal business process,” said Monica Wilkerson, the department’s records and legal services liaison. As of last year, the department deleted most employee emails after 90 days. The policy mirrors similar practices by the state government. The Colorado State Archives posted a notice in June asking agencies to “keep all records related to COVID-19.” Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Jeff Roberts said it is important to keep records so that journalists can report on a crisis affecting the health and safety of residents.


New Canaan: More than 350 students and 20 teachers in a wealthy suburb are in quarantine after a new round of coronavirus testing turned up 15 infections, according to the local school district. New Canaan schools on Tuesday reported 13 students and two teachers tested positive, days after all 540 tests of students came back negative, the Stamford Advocate reports. There were also 26 new positive tests last weekend, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said. “We continue to see cases spread from gatherings, dinner parties, out-of-town caregivers, house cleaners and, not unexpectedly, within families,” Moynihan said. “This rapid case increase over the weekend illustrates how fast community transmission spreads and accelerates.” The most recent testing resulted in quarantines for 213 students at New Canaan High School, 70 at Saxe Middle School and 70 at three elementary schools. People in quarantine are told they must stay home for 14 days.


Dover: Attorneys for a cleric say they’ve reached a settlement with Gov. John Carney over the coronavirus restrictions he imposed on worship services. The Rev. Christopher Allan Bullock filed a lawsuit in May claiming Carney’s restrictions were unconstitutional and discriminatory. Carney then rescinded many of the restrictions, and his lawyers argued Bullock’s claims were moot. But Bullock’s attorneys asked for an injunction prohibiting the governor from imposing similar limitations in the future. Lawyers representing the New Castle County pastor and community activist said Wednesday that the settlement requires the governor to treat houses of worship in a neutral manner in any future emergency. Among other things, if certain businesses or activities are considered essential, that definition will include churches. Attorney Thomas Neuberger said the state also agreed to pay the plaintiffs $150,000 in lawyer fees and $7,200 in court costs.

District of Columbia

Washington: D.C. reported 206 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday – its highest single-day total since late May, WUSA-TV reports. Daily test data lags behind and is only available up to Nov. 7, so it’s unclear what, if any, connection to the weekend’s celebrations these numbers may have. The city is now averaging more than 100 new cases a day for the first time since May 30.


Miami: More than a dozen Miami nurses and front-line health care workers are finally getting a well-deserved break. The group was scheduled for an upcoming, mandatory – aka boring – 48-hour training but was instead surprised with an island vacation to the Florida Keys. Jackson Health System supervisors were asked to choose staff who went above and beyond during the pandemic. Many of the staff, including respiratory therapists and lab techs, have not been able to take any time off during the pandemic to relax or spend time with their loved ones and have been working tirelessly treating COVID-19 patients, the hospital said. The 50 workers were told they had to attend a two-day training, but when they gathered at the hospital Tuesday, they were handed gift boxes with gift certificates. Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys donated two-night stays to its island on Duck Key, surrounded by sparkling waters and swaying palm trees, as part of its Heroes Salute program.


Atlanta: The state is again hitting a new peak in public high school graduation rates. The state Department of Education said Tuesday that 83.8% of seniors graduated on time in the spring. That’s the highest level recorded since Georgia began calculating according to current methods, which require a student to graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, and rose from 82% in 2019. The state says part of the increase came from a waiver allowing the state to count students with significant cognitive disabilities, about 1% of students overall, as graduating on time even if they take more than four years to complete high school. Because of the pandemic, many high school students did not have to take end-of-course exams last year, which would have counted for 20% of their overall grade. Most students take the courses that require the exams before their senior year, so it’s unclear whether the lack of tests influenced Georgia’s graduation rates.


Honolulu: Bankruptcies declined in October for the eighth time in 10 months as state unemployment reached a national high of 15.1% and as tourism was in the beginning stage of reopening after a major economic downturn. There were 125 bankruptcy filings in October, a 22.6% decrease from the 162 during the same period in the previous year, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Data provided by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Hawaii, showed bankruptcy filings were down 9.8% to 1,274 for the year through October compared to 1,412 during the same period in 2019. Chapter 7 liquidation filings, the most common type of bankruptcy, fell 19.8% in October to 93 from 116 in the year-earlier period. Chapter 13 filings, which allow people with regular income sources to establish installment payment plans to creditors over three to five years, dropped 27.3% to 32 from 44 in the year-earlier period.


Boise: A judge dismissed a case against a woman who was cited for holding a yard sale authorities said violated the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. Judge Van Valin on Friday dismissed the case brought by officials who said the yard sale was not an “essential business,” The Idaho Statesman reports. Valin ruled the yard sale conducted in April by Christa Thompson of Rathdrum was not a business. Defense attorney Edward Dindinger said in a statement that the judge ruled the language of the stay-at-home order issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic did not apply to Thompson. The Rathdrum Police Department said in April that the event was a “large nonessential yard sale” that filled the front yard and spilled into the back yard of her home. Thompson held the sale “to liquidate her late father-in-law’s estate,” Dindinger said. Thompson faced a possible sentence of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.


Springfield: The state set another single-day record for coronavirus infections Tuesday, pushing the total number of people who have tested positive in the state since the pandemic began past 500,000. Gov. J.B. Pritzker presented statistics to show that hospitalizations are nearing their spring peak, when the initial wave of infections had officials scrambling for hospital beds and professionals to tend them. State public health officials reported 12,623 newly confirmed cases of the virus, nearly 15% higher than the previous record set Saturday, when cases also topped 12,000. In Chicago, officials reported a daily average of 1,686 new cases, roughly four times higher than a month ago. “There are no signs of slowing,” Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. Hospitalizations jumped 7.5% in one day to 4,742. The seven-day average of 4,207 in hospital beds is creeping toward the 4,822 average hit May 5.


Indianapolis: The state is continuing its record-setting increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections, health officials said Tuesday as the state once again surpassed 4,000 new cases and reported 63 more deaths. The newly reported deaths raised Indiana’s pandemic death toll to 4,731, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections, the Indiana State Department of Health said in its daily statistics update. The 4,879 infections reported Tuesday were Indiana’s second-highest daily count of newly reported coronavirus cases and marked the sixth straight day the state reported more than 4,000 new cases. Indiana’s seven-day rolling average for newly confirmed cases rose to 4,490, according to Tuesday’s daily update of the state’s coronavirus dashboard. That is the highest level Indiana has seen during the pandemic and more than five times the seven-day rolling average of 858 newly confirmed cases the agency reported Sept. 22.


Des Moines: Two more state prisons are reporting outbreaks of coronavirus infections, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. Recent testing has revealed outbreaks at prisons in Clarinda, where 377 inmates and 16 staff members are positive, and Rockwell City, where 254 inmates and four staff members are positive, a DOC report updated Sunday shows. The Clarinda prison has about 900 inmates, and Rockwell City has 426. The department released data Friday showing an outbreak at the Anamosa prison, and the updated numbers show 485 infected inmates of the 982 inmates at the prison. An additional 50 staff members tested positive. Additional smaller prison outbreaks are reported at Mount Pleasant, where 18 inmates and five staff members are positive, and the women’s prison in Mitchellville, where four inmates and 10 staff members are positive.


Topeka: The state’s largest public school district, in Wichita, has scrapped plans to allow its middle and high school students to attend some in-person classes, and three counties have imposed new restrictions inspired by the coronavirus pandemic. The moves by local officials come as the state works to expand its overall testing capacity so under a “unified” statewide strategy announced by Gov. Laura Kelly in late September. The strategy calls for regular testing of at-risk populations, including first responders, prison inmates, nursing home residents, and K-12 students and staff, as well as more aggressive testing in virus hot spots. The state plans to spend at least $53 million in federal coronavirus relief funds on contracts with private laboratories. But Kelly said Tuesday during a Statehouse news conference: “It won’t work if people are not abiding by the other safety protocols, particularly wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.”


Frankfort: Kentuckians should avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings as a safeguard to protect extended family and friends from a surging COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. Instead, in-person get-togethers should be limited to people from the same household, he said. While the health guidelines might be tough to swallow, the guidance can save lives as Kentucky struggles with its worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Democratic governor said. “That person that you may think that you will really miss sitting across the table from you this year, I want to make sure is across the table from you next year,” Beshear said at a news conference. “And this right now is the most dangerous time we’ve had in this virus.” The Thanksgiving guidance came as the state reported 2,120 new virus cases – its highest total for a Tuesday and fifth-highest day overall, Beshear said. He also reported 14 more virus-related deaths.


Baton Rouge: Shoppers will see state sales taxes suspended for two days this month, under a bill passed by lawmakers in their latest special session and signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican, sponsored the measure to help residents and businesses recovering from hurricanes Laura and Delta and coping with the coronavirus pandemic. The state sales tax holiday will be held Nov. 20-21. Louisiana’s 4.45% state sales tax will not be charged on the first $2,500 of a purchase. The holiday doesn’t cover car, truck and other vehicle purchases. And it doesn’t apply to local sales taxes. The state is estimated to lose $4.5 million in sales tax collections because of the tax holiday, according to a nonpartisan financial analysis of the bill.


Augusta: State lawmakers plan to hold their first legislative sessions at the Augusta Civic Center instead of the Statehouse as coronavirus cases grow. The city-owned, 49,000-square-foot civic center, about 3 miles from the Statehouse, is typically used for events such as concerts, agriculture conventions and conferences. It would provide more space than the Statehouse, and that would make it easier to observe social distancing, a spokeswoman for outgoing Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon told the Portland Press Herald. The full Legislature last met in March. The top priority for lawmakers will be crafting a new, two-year state budget at a time when Maine’s finances have been stressed by the pandemic. New Hampshire lawmakers took a similar approach in June when they met in the University of New Hampshire Whittemore Center Arena.


Annapolis: The state will reduce indoor operations for bars and restaurants from 75% to 50% in response to rising coronavirus cases and increased hospitalizations, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday. The new limits took effect Wednesday. “Last week, I said that the warning lights were starting to blink on the dashboard and that it appeared we were approaching a critical turning point in the fight. Today, I’m reporting that we have now crossed over into the danger zone,” Hogan said at a news conference. “Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue and have begun letting their guard down.” State health officials also have issued a public health advisory effective immediately to strongly discourage indoor gatherings of 25 people or more at family gatherings or house parties. Contact tracing data has shown an increase in cases resulting from such gatherings.


Boston: An increase in the number of COVID-19 cases could force the state to once again open field hospitals to care for a possible overflow of patients as intensive care units fill up, Gov. Charlie Baker warned Tuesday. Hospitals are also prepared to make an additional 400 beds available for COVID-19 patients by converting acute care beds to ICU beds to deal with an expected rise in cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus during the fall and winter, Baker said at a press conference. “The trends obviously are going in the wrong direction and show no signs of changing,” he said. When and where field hospitals might be set up depends on space and need, Baker said. Massachusetts residents had done a good job controlling the virus after an initial spike in the spring but are getting careless and allowing the virus to get a toehold again, leading to a second surge, he said.


Lansing: The state on Tuesday posted a record number of daily confirmed coronavirus cases, near 6,500, and reported 59 deaths within the previous 24 hours – its deadliest day in six months. COVID-19, which subsided over the summer after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed sweeping stay-at-home and other restrictions, has rebounded this fall. Asked if she might again order people to stay home, the Democrat said she was talking with the state health department about potential next steps. Mask requirements and gathering limits remain in effect despite a “confusing” state Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a law she used to issue orders, she said. Whitmer said she will not see extended family in person for Thanksgiving and said it is “inherently dangerous” to have more than one household in an enclosed space without ventilation and open windows. The state’s latest average positivity rate is 9.4%, up from 4.9% two weeks ago.


Minneapolis: State health officials reported a record 56 new deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz said. Walz told Minnesota Public Radio the daily report shows positivity rates above 20%, an important measure of how fast the disease is spreading. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Minnesota has nearly doubled over the past two weeks from just under 7% on Oct. 27 to nearly 13% on Tuesday, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The governor made the comments a day after warning Minnesotans that the state is approaching the worst phase of the pandemic and that conditions will get dramatically worse unless people start changing their behavior. He said it won’t be unusual for people to open their newspapers and see 50 to 60 new deaths. “This is just inevitable if we do not change our behaviors and take some mitigation efforts.” Walz told MPR. Minnesota’s previous record was 36 deaths, reported Friday.


Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that he, his wife and their three daughters are in isolation after the youngest tested positive for the coronavirus. Maddie Reeves, 8, attends a private elementary school in Jackson. The Republican governor said in a social media post: “She feels OK, but could still use prayers! Please pray for her momma too!” Reeves also said everyone in his family is being tested for the virus. The governor announced his daughter’s infection shortly after he canceled his coronavirus news conference that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. An executive order issued by Reeves requires children and teachers to wear masks in public and private schools. Sixteen of Mississippi’s 82 counties have been under a mask mandate that was set to expire Wednesday.


O’Fallon: Twenty-eight employees of an election board have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks, and a director believes they most likely got infected from voters, though local health officials aren’t convinced. The Jackson County Election Board’s Republican director, Tammy Brown, said Tuesday that eight full-time and 20 part-time employees tested positive for the virus in the past 21/2 weeks. Most are doing well and recovering at home, but two are hospitalized, including one in intensive care, Brown said. Jackson County is Missouri’s second-largest county, behind St. Louis County. While Kansas City is part of Jackson County, the city has its own election board. The Jackson County board handled votes cast by nearly 200,000 people. Jackson County Health Department spokeswoman Kayla Parker said community transmission is so widespread that determining the source would be next to impossible.


Billings: As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, the state’s chief epidemiologist said the spread of the coronavirus has stressed medical services to the brink, and he predicted the situation will get worse as winter sets in. “We’re kind of preparing for the worst here,” Jim Murphy said. “We have pretty spooky numbers for COVID, going into a fall respiratory season. It’s not a position that anybody would like to be in.” Murphy said the increase in cases across the state has led to a shortage in health care workers, in addition to a shortage in hospital beds. “You can have a lot of beds. But if you don’t have the staff to support those beds, that’s a problem,” he said. U.S. officials have dispatched a team of nearly 30 physicians, nurses, paramedics and other health care workers to Montana’s largest city. The National Disaster Medical System team arrived Friday and will work in Billings for two weeks, The Billings Gazette reports.


Omaha: The state continues to set records with the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus, and health care providers expect that to continue because of the recent surge of cases. Cliff Robertson, CEO of CHI Health, said his group of 14 hospitals in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa is preparing for COVID-19 cases to keep increasing over the next three to four weeks. He said COVID-19 patients already account for about 25% of all the patients in his hospitals. “We highly encourage folks to take this seriously because … this virus is rampant in our community right now,” Robertson said. The steady increase in cases raises the concern that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed, said Dr. James Lawler, an infectious diseases specialist at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha. “In three weeks’ time, our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and we will no longer be able to deliver optimal and effective care for COVID, and we will also no longer be able to deliver appropriate care for everyone who comes in with a heart attack or a stroke.”


Carson City: Although the coronavirus is spreading at record rates, the state will not need to tighten restrictions if individuals commit to preventive measures like mask-wearing and working from home, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Tuesday. For the third time in three weeks, the governor referred to “alarming trends” and said Nevada was almost at the point where stricter measures would be necessary. But unlike in the past, when he has hesitated to commit to benchmarks or timelines, he provided a deadline: If Nevada doesn’t show signs that it’s containing the virus in two weeks, he will be forced to tighten the state’s prevention measures. “If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out. Reduce your time in public to what is necessary, and limit any and all exposures to those outside your household,” Sisolak said. “Think about changes like ordering groceries for delivery instead of going into the store, or picking up dinner curbside.”

New Hampshire

Amherst: Officials say an Election Day voter at a polling place tested positive for the coronavirus, but the town had safety precautions in place. WMUR-TV reports town officials in Amherst said they were notified by the state that a voter tested positive for the virus. They said the infected person was at Souhegan High School between 10:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on Election Day. Amherst town moderator Steve Coughlan said it wasn’t crowded. The town is now contacting election volunteers who may have had direct contact with the voter. Coughlan said plexiglass shields separated voters from election workers. Volunteers had to wear masks, but voters did not. “I think we provided a very safe environment,” Coughlan said. “It would be crazy for us to have thought that there would be zero infected voters out of everyone coming in. So we took precautions that were appropriate.”

New Jersey

Bernard Waddell Sr., a Hudson County corrections officer, died Wednesday, April 1. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said he had COVID-19.
Bernard Waddell Sr., a Hudson County corrections officer, died Wednesday, April 1. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said he had COVID-19.

Jersey City: The family of the state’s first law enforcement officer to die from COVID-19 has filed a claim to sue Hudson County, saying he did not receive any masks or other personal protective equipment while working at the county jail. Bernard Waddell Sr., a corrections officer with 32 years of experience, was forced to work within close proximity to inmates who he believed were infected, said family lawyer Paul da Costa. “Up to his last day on the job, he was not provided with any PPE,” da Costa said. The virus devastated the jail in Kearny. Along with Waddell, it claimed the lives of two nurses, a commissary director and another corrections officer. Waddell, 56, died April 1. The Jersey City resident is survived by his wife and two sons. Around the time of his death, New Jersey was experiencing a severe shortage of face masks and gowns, prompting hospitals to ask the public for donations.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Santa Fe Public Schools is ending a short-lived soft opening of in-person learning as the coronavirus pandemic hobbles the state. “I am announcing today a hiatus of our volunteer hybrid program due to the rampant rise in COVID-19 cases in Santa Fe County and New Mexico and SFPS’ philosophy to always prioritize the safety and well being of our students and staff,” Superintendent Veronica Garcia said. The volunteers included 58 teachers who went to work despite the pandemic, enabling about 200 elementary students to attend school in person at least part of the week. The program started Oct. 26 and will hold the last day of classes Nov. 20. “If parents are able to keep their children home next week, I urge them to do so,” Garcia said. The announcement comes as the state sets records for COVID-19 cases amid dwindling space in hospitals and as students are failing classes at much higher rates.

New York

New York: Restaurants, bars and gyms will have to close at 10 p.m. across the state in the latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday. He said people will also be barred from hosting private gatherings with more than 10 people. Cuomo said the new restrictions, which go into effect Friday, are necessary because new coronavirus infections have been traced to those types of activities. Businesses can reopen each morning. “Bars, restaurants, gyms, house parties – that’s where it’s coming from, primarily,” Cuomo said. The governor spoke as rates of coronavirus infection continued to rise. He said 1,628 people were hospitalized across the state for COVID-19 on Tuesday, and 21 people died. “What we’re seeing is what they predicted for months,” Cuomo said.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The state will remain paused in its current reopening plan for an additional three weeks, with indoor gathering limits reduced from 25 people to 10 people starting Friday. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced the tightening of gathering restrictions during a Tuesday news conference. The decision not to further reopen ahead of Thanksgiving comes at a time when the state is concerned about increases it has seen in COVID-19 cases and the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive. “The science shows that the transmission of this virus is much greater indoors, and the more people are gathered, the easier this virus can spread,” Cooper said. Cooper, who won reelection last week, noted that churches and restaurants would be unaffected by the updated guidance. The executive order will remain in place until Dec. 4.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The state continues to lead the nation in daily new coronavirus cases per capita, with 1 in 83 residents testing positive in just the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. In the past two weeks, there were 2,265 new cases per 100,000 people in North Dakota, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita, according to the COVID Tracking Project. State health officials reported a dozen new deaths due to complications from the coronavirus Wednesday, down from a record 30 deaths Tuesday. The deaths reported Wednesday increased total fatalities to 696 since the pandemic began. The report said 123 deaths have occurred in November, matching all of September. October has been the deadliest month so far in North Dakota, with 292 deaths. State health officials reported 1,039 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and a daily positivity rate of more than 18% for the second straight day.


Gov. Mike DeWine speaks to Ohioans on Wednesday about rising COVID-19 cases.
Gov. Mike DeWine speaks to Ohioans on Wednesday about rising COVID-19 cases.

Columbus: Republican Gov. Mike DeWine beseeched Ohioans on Wednesday to take the surging coronavirus spread seriously, issuing new orders on mask enforcement in businesses, limiting gatherings across the state, and threatening to close bars, restaurants and fitness centers if cases continue to rise. “Throughout our country’s history, each generation has faced unique sacrifices,” DeWine said in the statewide address. “Today, we all must do something far less dramatic but very important: Wear a mask so your friends and family members can live.” DeWine shifted the authority of mask enforcement from the local counties to the state. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will be responsible for inspections across the 88 counties. If a business receives more than one violation, it will have to close for 24 hours. “We must do this to protect our front-line workers,” DeWine said.


Oklahoma City: The number of people hospitalized with confirmed and probable coronavirus in the state shattered the previous one-day record by nearly 200 on Wednesday, and more than 2,100 new cases were reported, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The department reported 1,248 hospitalizations to surpass the previous record of 1,055 set last Thursday. The department reported 2,177 new cases and 19 additional deaths since Tuesday for totals of 142,334 cases and 1,470 deaths since the pandemic began in March. The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day average of the percentage of people who tested positive has risen from 9% to nearly 16% in Oklahoma, and the average number of new cases each day increased from 1265.8 per day to 1,947.3.


Salem: Gov. Kate Brown and state health officials warned Tuesday of the capacity challenges facing hospitals as COVID-19 case counts continue to spike. The Oregon Health Authority recorded a record 285 confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals Tuesday – a 57% increase in just the past week and an 83% increase in the past four weeks. “There are limitations to what Oregon’s health care system can handle,” said Dana Hargunani, the health authority’s chief medical officer. “Even with regional planning and the hard work of all of our hospital partners, we cannot handle ever-growing high daily case counts and widespread hospitalizations.” Currently out of Oregon’s 703 listed intensive care unit beds, 27% are available, and about 18% of non-ICU adult hospital beds in the state are available, based on data on from the health authority’s website. “Our fear that this virus would spread out of control as the colder months set in is now becoming a frightening reality,” Brown said.


Philadelphia: The city’s public school students will continue to attend classes virtually for the foreseeable future, district officials announced Tuesday. The announcement came on the same day Philadelphia public health officials saw a peak in confirmed virus cases and increased hospitalizations. The school district had planned to begin bringing back younger students for a hybrid in-person instruction model starting Nov. 30, with plans to phase in instruction for students with complex instructional needs and then older students next. “We hope to see these students back in school before the spring,” Philadelphia district Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said, adding that it would ultimately depend on health experts and infection trends. About one-third of parents with students who would have been eligible to return had opted for in-person, part-time instruction that would have put students in classrooms two days a week.

Rhode Island

Providence: Employees of the state Senate are being told to work from home after three workers tested positive for the coronavirus, state officials said. The Senate’s roughly 50 workers were instructed to start working remotely Monday after three staffers tested positive over the weekend, The Providence Journal reports. They were told to work remotely for two weeks. The directive came from Gov. Gina Raimondo. Senate spokesman Greg Pare said the Senate president is “following that guidance and wants to do all he can to keep Senate staff members safe.” The House said it has no plans to shift to remote work. The new cases in the Senate were reported as the General Assembly looks for ways to gather for its first full sessions since July. Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio previously said he is exploring whether meetings can be held at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

South Carolina

Woodland Elementary School student William Gordon, 8, does compound sentence exercises at home Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
Woodland Elementary School student William Gordon, 8, does compound sentence exercises at home Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

Greenville: Officials in the state’s largest school district say the number of students who received an F in at least one class tripled this year, as the district adjusted learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. First-quarter report cards show a little more than 16,000 students in Greenville County Schools had an F. That compares to roughly 5,300 students with at least one failing grade in the first quarter last year. The pandemic has limited in-person teaching for the district’s 75,000 students, and Associate Superintendent of Academics Jeff McCoy said that likely was a factor in the jump in Fs. He also cited the stress of the crisis on families and the emergency shutdown of schools in the spring. Still, the district wasn’t expecting such a big increase in the number of struggling students. McCoy said the report cards show a much larger proportion of virtual students are receiving failing grades compared to in-person students.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The mayor cast the tie-breaking vote that defeated a proposed mask mandate in the state’s largest city Tuesday night. After more than two hours of public comment, Mayor Paul TenHaken rejected the mandate after the City Council tied 4-4 on the ordinance. The mandate would have required face coverings to be worn by people in most indoor public places where 6-foot social distancing was not achievable. Violations carried a $50 fine. “I believe the small uptick we’ll see in compliance is not worth the community division that this will create,” TenHaken said as he ended debate. Councilor Greg Neitzert said he did not want to live in a city where people are calling the police because someone isn’t wearing a mask. “It’s not just about health,” Neitzert said. “We also have to look at principles.” The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce opposed it. Several faith leaders in the city supported the mandate.


Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday that he’s looking to include “meaningful” teacher pay raises in next year’s budget despite facing financial crunches brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee had originally proposed funneling an additional $117 million to K-12 teacher salaries earlier this year before the virus outbreak began rippling across the state. If approved, the starting minimum annual salary for teachers would have increased from $36,000 to $40,000 over the next two years. Yet months later, Lee was forced to strip the teacher funding boost, as well as many other budget initiatives, as officials braced for funding shortfalls. However, Tennessee’s revenues have come in slightly higher than originally projected over the past three months, allowing Lee’s administration to remain slightly optimistic that it will be able to fund some new measures rather than have to dip into rainy day funds.


Austin: The state has become the first with more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases as the nation continues to face a surge of infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University early Wednesday. The nation’s second-most populous state has recorded 1,010,364 coronavirus cases with 19,337 deaths since the pandemic began in early March, according to the count on the Johns Hopkins website. Texas recorded 10,865 new cases Tuesday, setting a new daily record that surpassed by 74 cases an old mark set July 15, state officials said. According to state figures Tuesday, an estimated 132,146 cases are active, the most since Aug. 17, and 6,170 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, the most since Aug. 18. There were 94 new deaths Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Meanwhile, cases of the coronavirus are surging in the Laredo area, health officials said.


Salt Lake City: A group of teachers has organized an event to encourage educators across the state to call in sick and use the day off to get tested for the coronavirus amid a surge in confirmed infection cases. “There are no testing requirements for teachers or students currently,” Granite School District teacher Lindsay Plummer said. Some teachers believe the “test out” planned for Thursday will prompt state leaders to do more to limit the spread of COVID-19 and increase safety protocols in classrooms, FOX13 reports. Plummer said the group was inspired to act following remarks made by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert on Sunday, when he put in place a statewide mask mandate. “The goal of doing something like this is we want to push them to do more,” she said. The Utah Education Association said it is aware of event but is urging teachers to be patient. Herbert’s office has said all teachers have universal access to testing.


Montpelier: The state on Tuesday suspended a program that allowed people from across the Northeast to visit Vermont without quarantining if they come from a county with a low rate of coronavirus infection. Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday that the number of counties eligible – listed on a map that uses red, orange and green to indicate eligibility – has continued to shrink. As of Tuesday only two counties between Maine and Ohio were listed as green. “The fact is, along with social gatherings, travel to and from other states without the proper quarantine continues to be one of the common denominators in our rising case counts,” Scott said. Essential travel – such as work, school, medical care, personal safety, shared child custody or buying groceries – is not affected, but people should only do what they need to do and then return home, he said. Vermont determined eligible counties as those with virus rates of less than 400 cases per million residents.


Richmond: As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced plans to significantly increase statewide testing capacity and to launch a media campaign in southwest Virginia, which has seen a sharp rise in cases over the past month. The moves came three days after Virginia reported 2,103 new cases – its biggest single-day increase in new cases since the start of the pandemic. On Tuesday, the state reported 1,435 new cases. The state’s seven-day moving average of new cases is 1,462. The seven-day testing positivity rate has also climbed from just under 5% a few weeks ago to 6.2% on Tuesday. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has recorded a total of 194,192 cases, with 3,726 deaths. Northam said he is focusing on mitigation efforts and continuing to encourage people to wear masks and practice social distancing. He said he is not currently considering ordering new restrictions.


Seattle: Two hospitals near the city are struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks within the facilities. The Auburn Medical Center reported at least five employees and eight patients tested positive for the coronavirus, after an outbreak on a fourth-floor unit. The hospital said in a statement Tuesday that one patient died after the outbreak was detected late last week, The Seattle Times reports. The MultiCare hospital system, which owns the hospital, tested all 40 patients in the unit and 212 staffers who had worked there in the two-week period before the first positive test was reported, officials said. At St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, at least six people have been infected since early November. CHI Franciscan, the hospital system that owns St. Michael, announced Tuesday that four patients and two employees have been infected to date. State health officials have reported 350 outbreaks in health care settings, including hospitals, since Oct. 24, a statewide outbreak report said.

West Virginia

Charleston: The state reported a new high of 642 coronavirus cases Wednesday and seven deaths as the pandemic continued its march into rural enclaves. There are 277 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, slightly down from the peak of 290 last week. A total of 553 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. Virus-related deaths have increased 45% in the past month. The daily positivity rate is up to 5.9%, the highest it has been in about two months. “The enemy is at our borders, and the enemy is coming at us right now,” Gov. Jim Justice said at a press briefing. Twenty-five counties had the most severe designation of virus spread, with 25 or more cases per 100,000 residents. Justice said all options are on the table for bringing new travel and business restrictions, but nothing is planned yet. “Legally, I can’t go out and start arresting people” for not wearing masks, Justice said in urging people to follow guidelines and get tested for the virus.


Madison: Gov. Tony Evers renewed his pleas Tuesday for people to stay home to avoid the coronavirus in an unusual prime-time speech hours after the state set new records for infections and deaths. The governor announced he was advising people to stay in their houses and businesses to allow people to work remotely, requiring masks, and limiting the number of people in stores and offices. He said projections show that if nothing changes, deaths could double to 5,000 by January. Evers has been imploring people to stay home and wear masks for months during twice-weekly afternoon news conferences to little avail. This time his office streamed his remarks live on his Facebook page and YouTube channel. “So I want to be clear tonight: Each day this virus goes unchecked is a setback for our economic recovery,” Evers said. Republicans and their conservative allies have worked to block every Evers initiative to stop the virus.


Gillette: The son of a state representative who opposed COVID-19 public restrictions said his father was positive for the coronavirus when he died. Roy Edwards, 66, died Nov. 2 at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper after being hospitalized for more than a week with illness that was not immediately disclosed, The Gillette News Record reports. Edwards continued to oppose public restrictions resulting from the pandemic during his recent campaign to retain his House seat. He was reelected the day after he died. Mitch Edwards said his father initially experienced minor virus symptoms. He was told by a medical professional that he had sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses, and did not need to be tested for COVID-19. Roy Edwards was not advised to quarantine, but he did so as a a precaution, Mitch Edwards said. His symptoms worsened, and he had trouble breathing Oct. 23, when he again sought medical attention.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Surprise vacation, yard sale reprieve: News from around our 50 states