Alexander City: A central Alabama school system and a Birmingham elementary school are shifting to online learning because of surging coronavirus infections. Alexander City schools will go online beginning Monday and stay that way until after Thanksgiving, Superintendent Keith Lankford announced Wednesday. He said the 3,000-student system northeast of Montgomery has 17 students and 15 teachers who have tested positive in recent days. After contact tracing, another 241 students and 18 faculty members are in quarantine. Lankford said students who do not have access to an electronic device at home will be issued one by the school system. The district will provide breakfast and lunch for parent pickup during the period. In Birmingham, 500-student Tuggle Elementary School will move to remote learning for the rest of the week after reporting five coronavirus cases over the past two weeks.
Anchorage: When a Tlingit elder dies, leaders from the Alaska Native tribe’s two houses, the Raven and Eagle clans, typically come together along with family and well-wishers for a memorial ceremony featuring displays of traditional tribal regalia. After elder, tribal leader and college professor David Katzeek died last month, the tribe scrambled to find a way to observe its sacred traditions while keeping everyone safe during the pandemic, as coronavirus cases surge in the state. The first president of what has since become the Sealaska Heritage Institute, Katzeek is credited with helping to revive Alaska Native culture in the state’s southeast, encouraging oral histories and efforts to preserve the Tlingit language. To honor him safely, the institute turned to Zoom video conferencing to bring people together while broadcasting live on its YouTube channel.
Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered hospitals, testing labs and other health care facilities to keep reporting detailed information about COVID-19 to the state so officials can gauge the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and availability of hospital beds and other resources. Ducey on Wednesday issued an executive order that extends the so-called Enhanced Surveillance Advisory for 60 days as the state experiences a renewed surge in cases amid increased testing positivity and a rising death toll. The advisory was originally issued in March and was revised in September to include reporting of influenza data. The continued flow of data will provide state Department of Health Services officials “with the real-time information they need to make informed decisions and allocate critical resources while keeping the public informed,” Ducey, a Republican, said in a statement.
Little Rock: The state’s coronavirus cases continued to surge Wednesday, with the state posting a new record one-day spike in cases for the second time in less than a week. The Department of Health reported probable and confirmed cases rose by 1,962 to 126,197. The state’s COVID-19 deaths rose by 14 to 2,126. COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by nine to 801, a day after reaching a new high. Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the spike “a profoundly serious reminder of the emergency that continues.” The White House Coronavirus Task Force said in its latest report on Arkansas that 76% of the state’s counties have moderate or high community transmission. It said the state last week ranked 20th in the country for new cases per capita and 27th for test positivity. The panel recommended that colleges ensure there’s appropriate testing and that students take enough steps to prevent the virus’s spread before they head home for the holidays.
Fresno: Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer has tested positive for the coronavirus after attending an election night dinner with a few officials, including a Fresno County supervisor whose diagnosis late last week prompted the Board of Supervisors to close its offices and postpone its meeting by a week. Dyer, a former police chief, told the Fresno Bee he went into isolation after receiving the test result Tuesday. He said he took the test after experiencing a light cough, and his symptoms developed with a headache, body aches, chills and a mild fever. “I would equate my symptoms, at least at this point, to a severe cold or mild flu,” he said. “I consider myself very fortunate, as I know others experience severe sickness and unfortunately, death.” Dyer attended the dinner Nov. 3 with Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, City Councilman Mike Karbassi, county Supervisor Steve Brandau. and several others at the home of Kaiser Permanente government affairs manager Serop Torossian.
Denver: Inmates at the El Paso County jail were not routinely given masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus until last week, when the facility turned into the site of the state’s second-largest outbreak, a jail spokesperson said. The jail in Colorado Springs, which lately has has held 1,200 detainees on average daily, previously only gave inmates masks if they were moving around the facility or going to court or if recommended by medical staff, El Paso Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Deborah Mynatt told The Denver Post. The jail initially did not issue masks to all inmates because there was a limited supply of face coverings suitable for detention facilities. Mynatt said she did not know why suitable masks were not procured later. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises detention facilities to provide all inmates with masks at no cost and to wash them frequently.
Storrs: The University of Connecticut is placing five dormitories that house more than 500 students under quarantine after 11 students who live there tested positive for the coronavirus. Combined with another 23 students who live off campus testing positive, it was the highest daily total of new student infections since testing began in August, UConn officials said. More than 250 residential students have tested positive for the virus since returning to campus in August. School officials say 30 students who tested positive or have symptoms are currently in isolation on campus.
Dover: In-person visitation for some state prisons has been temporarily suspended as a precaution to protect inmates and staff from COVID-19, officials said. The Delaware Department of Correction said in a news release Wednesday that the suspensions would take effect Thursday at all its Level V prison and Level IV work-release and violation-of-probation facilities. The suspension comes as public health officials report rapidly increasing numbers of positive coronavirus test results in the general population and indications of significant community spread. The department cited aggressive cleaning, screening and mitigation measures dating back to the spring as a factor in the report of only two isolated cases of COVID-19 among inmates. Both cases are from Sussex Correctional Institution, the news release said. There have been no new positive inmate coronavirus test results since Oct. 29, the department said.
District of Columbia
Washington: The D.C. Council is inching closer to approving a bill that would allow children as young as 11 to get recommended vaccines without a parent’s approval, WUSA-TV reports. There would be some requirements, but direction overall would come from a doctor. A final vote from the council is expected Tuesday. Under the bill, introduced last year by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the doctor would determine if the child meets a certain standard of “informed consent” before administering the vaccine. To prevent the parents from knowing, health providers would be required to bill insurers directly and send vaccination records to the school. According to a July 6 letter to D.C. school leaders from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, fewer families have paid visits to the doctor’s office because of the coronavirus pandemic. Officials cite a lack of access to care and families avoiding offices overall.
Tallahassee: The state Department of Health reported 5,607 new coronavirus cases and 72 newly verified deaths Thursday. The cumulative number of Florida cases is now 863,619, and the reported death toll for state residents since the pandemic began is 17,372. The number of residents who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at some point since the pandemic began is 51,272. The Department of Health said the total figure is cumulative and does not reflect the number of COVID-19 patients currently in hospitals. The daily testing positivity rate stands at 7.35%. The positivity rate is calculated by the state by using the total number of people tested for the virus and the total number of people who have tested positive. Health officials have said the positivity rate should stay at or below 5% to ensure a large enough group of the population is being tested.
Atlanta: A Catholic high school switched to online learning this week after about 50 students tested positive for the coronavirus, which they may have contracted at a Halloween party hosted by a student’s family, officials said. St. Pius X Catholic High School went fully virtual Monday and will remain so throughout the week with no extracurricular activities, news outlets report. The DeKalb County school had nearly 50 positive cases as of Monday, an increase of 19 since last Friday, according to officials with the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Archdiocesan spokeswoman Maureen Smith said the school was performing contact tracing to determine who can return to school Monday. Smith said the school is assuming a “bulk” of the cases came from the Halloween party. School President Steve Spellman said 80 students, mostly sophomores, were at the student’s house for the party. “The brief enjoyment of some has created hardship for all,” Spellman said.
Wailuku: Lanai residents will be the first in the state to participate in a pilot project to test a smartphone app that provides notifications of possible coronavirus exposure. The state Department of Health said Lanai residents would participate in the AlohaSafe Application Pilot Project, which was scheduled to launch Wednesday, The Maui News reports. The app is an alert tool to help reduce the notification time of potential exposure to the virus. AlohaSafe, the only official exposure notification app in Hawaii, is part of the national Google Apple Emergency Notification protocol, health department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said. Lanai residents were placed under a stay-at-home order starting Oct. 27 after coronavirus cases quickly rose from zero to about 100. Democratic Gov. David Ige has allowed the stay-at-home restriction to be lifted beginning Thursday.
Boise: The state’s unchecked spread of the coronavirus has become so overwhelming in some areas that medical care providers are struggling even to answer all the phone calls from would-be patients, a health care executive said Wednesday. Dr. David Peterman, the CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, said the company’s 20 clinics normally get about 1,800 phone calls a day. But with the pandemic raging in southwestern Idaho, the clinics are now getting 3,000 calls a day. Meanwhile, he said, nine Primary Health care providers and 38 staffers are out because they are sick or in quarantine. Six clinics have had to close at various times in recent weeks because of low staffing. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported more than 77,000 state residents have been infected with the virus – including a record-high 1,693 new cases reported Wednesday – and at least 733 have died.
Springfield: Leaders of the General Assembly announced Tuesday the postponement of the Legislature’s veto session due to the surge of COVID-19 in the state. Senate President Don Harmon said it’s no time to bring together hundreds of people from around the state. The session was scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3. “It’s not safe or responsible to have a legislative session under these circumstances,” Harmon said. House Speaker Michael Madigan said the health and safety of the people who work for and serve in the General Assembly and their families is paramount. Health officials urged residents Wednesday to stay home and strictly limit travel and social gatherings over the next three weeks, after Illinois recorded its sixth-deadliest day of the pandemic and new highs for hospitalizations and daily new confirmed infections. “I want to remind everybody how deadly this virus is,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “It hasn’t abated.”
Indianapolis: The governor announced Wednesday that he would reinstate some coronavirus restrictions after several weeks of refusing to take such action, as the state has recorded sharp increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. The new steps being imposed by Gov. Eric Holcomb will limit social gathering sizes in counties at the higher-risk levels of coronavirus spread and would cover 87 of the state’s 92 counties as of Wednesday’s update from the state health department. A new executive order starting this weekend will limit crowd sizes to 25 people in the highest-risk red counties and 50 people in the next-riskiest orange counties, with larger events needing approval from local health officials. The new order will also limit capacity at K-12 indoor sports and extracurricular events to 25% capacity in orange counties and only parents or guardians as spectators in red counties. Religious services, however, will face no crowd restrictions.
Iowa City: A Republican congresswoman-elect who flipped a seat in last week’s election said Thursday that she tested positive for the coronavirus. Ashley Hinson’s campaign said in a statement that the current state representative and former television news anchor feels great and is quarantining at her home in Marion. Hinson, 37, will attend an orientation for incoming members of Congress virtually, her campaign said. Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, where she received 51.3% of the vote, is one of the nation’s worst coronavirus hot spots, with rapid community spread happening in Cedar Rapids and other cities and a huge outbreak at a state prison in Anamosa. Hinson was often – but not always – seen wearing masks at events when she was not speaking, including an indoor one Oct. 26 with Donald Trump Jr., where hundreds of mostly mask-less supporters listened as the president’s son said the COVID-19 death rate was “almost nothing.”
Topeka: The state set records again Wednesday for new coronavirus cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations as some local officials reported having trouble getting people to cooperate in finding those who may have been exposed. Several counties reported that some people won’t provide complete – or any – information about their close contacts, making it more difficult to trace the spread of the virus. A state privacy law enacted in June allows people to refuse to do so. “Our case investigation is only as good as what the people give us,” said Jenette Schuette, administrator of the health department in Hodgeman County, which had one of the nation’s highest per capita increases in cases over the past two weeks. In Shawnee County, at least 10% of the exposed people contacted refuse to talk to contact tracers, said Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, the county health officer. “There is not a lot of incentive for people to be honest and transparent,” Pezzino said. “They’re just too afraid to put their friends in trouble and to cause more disruption to their lives.”
Frankfort: The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related orders putting restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to the contain spread of COVID-19. The ruling delivered a victory for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in a legal fight with the state’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, over the breadth of the governor’s emergency powers. The decision comes amid Kentucky’s worst virus outbreak since the pandemic began. Beshear properly declared a state of emergency and validly invoked his emergency powers under state law to combat the public health crisis, the Supreme Court said in its unanimous ruling. The pandemic is “precisely the type of emergency that requires a statewide response and properly serves as a basis for the governor’s actions” under state law, Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes wrote for the court.
New Orleans: A judge on Thursday rejected an effort by Republican state House members to force an end to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide mask mandate and other restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At issue was a petition signed by 65 GOP members of the House, ordering Edwards to, in effect, rescind a proclamation ordering the restrictions. The petition was issued under an obscure section of a 2003 state law allowing a majority in either the House or the Senate to sign a petition forcing the governor to end a public health emergency declaration. State District Judge William Morvant in Baton Rouge declared the provision unconstitutional. Lawyers for the House and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry were expected to quickly appeal to the state Supreme Court. “The House acting alone – I think it’s unconstitutional,” Morvant said.
Portland: Workers at local stores who encounter people who won’t comply with mask requirements shouldn’t have to enforce the rules themselves, Gov. Janet Mills said. The Democrat issued an executive order last week that requires people in the state to wear a mask in all public places, regardless of their ability to socially distance. She said during an appearance on Maine Public that too much of the burden of enforcement often lands on store employees. Mills recommended residents who encounter people who aren’t following the mask rules talk to store managers or local authorities. “I don’t want to put it on the front-line workers who are often young people working at minimum-wage jobs. They’re not the COVID cops, and I don’t want to put that on them,” Mills said. “But they can call the police, and they can call the local code enforcement officer or health officer.”
Edgewater: Police say they’re looking for a man and a woman who attacked employees of an ice cream store after they were asked to wear masks because of the coronavirus pandemic. WBAL-TV reports the two employees ended up in the hospital. One was still there with broken bones as of Wednesday. Anne Arundel County police said the incident took place inside a Cold Stone Creamery early Saturday evening. Police said the mask request turned into a sidewalk beating. “Just asking someone to properly put on their mask, and with that conversation it just escalated,” Sgt. Kam Cook said.
Fitchburg: Another school district is abandoning plans to return to in-person instruction this calendar year as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the state. Fitchburg Public Schools announced Tuesday that it will continue with remote learning until Jan. 4. The district previously planned to institute a mix of online and in-person instruction next Monday. In a letter to parents, Fitchburg Superintendent Robert Jokela cited a rapid increase in COVID-19. Cases in Fitchburg have increased from 16 to more than 220 in the past three weeks, Jokela said, and officials recently learned of “additional community-spread clusters.” Last week, Worcester Public Schools similarly delayed plans to bring some students back for in-person learning in November. The district now plans to begin that process Jan. 25. Learning in many districts remains online, even as state officials including Gov. Charlie Baker push for a return to in-person instruction.
Lansing: Hospital leaders warned Thursday that more than 3,000 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in the state – a rate that is doubling every two weeks and is expected to soon top the spring peak of about 4,000. “It’s very serious,” said John Fox, president and CEO of Beaumont Health, the state’s largest system. Unlike six months ago, COVID-19 is surging statewide, not just in the Detroit area – making it tougher for hospitals to manage by transferring patients or staff elsewhere. Hospital executives echoed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s calls to wear a mask, socially distance and wash hands. Some reported continued resistance to face coverings from some visitors to their hospitals. They said they want to avoid a new ban on nonessential procedures, pointing out that such a government-issued prohibition early in the pandemic delayed care, hurt patients and had financial implications.
Minneapolis: Gov. Tim Walz said he wishes the neighboring Dakotas would take more aggressive steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus, singling out South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem for criticism. Walz lamented that Minnesota is catching up with its neighbors to the west, which lead the country in new cases per capita. The Democrat said he’s not blaming other states for that, but this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was “absolutely unnecessary,” and data shows it helped spread the virus beyond that state. Singling out Noem, a Republican, he said he wishes the state would have canceled the rally and imposed a statewide mask mandate, as Minnesota has. “And this one’s a little bit personal because the governor of South Dakota has taken to traveling to other states and criticizing others – now at a time when that state’s hospital capacity is overwhelmed,” Walz said. The Minnesota Department of Health Minnesota on Wednesday reported a record 56 new COVID-19 deaths and 4,900 new coronavirus cases. The daily toll represented a more than 55% jump from Minnesota’s previous record of 36 deaths, reported last Friday.
Jackson: A coronavirus vaccine could be available to health care workers and first responders as soon as next month, the state’s top health officials said Thursday. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Mississippi has been tentatively approved to receive an initial round of 183,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and partner BioNTech, which officials are hoping to see delivered by mid-December. Supplies are limited, so those who are the most high-risk will get the vaccine first, Byers said. “We need to make we get them protected,” Byers said of the state’s health care workers. “Those are the individuals who are taking care of the COVID-19 patients in the hospital, in the clinical setting. That’s going to be the first push.” Residents who have health conditions or are over the age of 65 will be next in line to receive the vaccine. It will likely be a period of months before it is more broadly available to the general public.
O’Fallon: Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday announced new guidance aimed at keeping more kids, teachers and staff in school, even those who have been exposed to the coronavirus, citing concerns that quarantines interrupt learning and create staff shortages. Currently, anyone in a K-12 setting who is directly exposed to the coronavirus must quarantine for 14 days. The new guidance does not require quarantining if both the infected person and the person exposed wore masks. The change comes as the virus continues to surge, with Missouri reporting 4,603 confirmed new cases Thursday, 16 more deaths and a record 2,248 people in hospitals. The current positivity rate of 22.4% is more than four times the benchmark recommended by the World Health Organization. Missouri has no statewide mask mandate, and the state does not require masks in schools, although some districts do.
Helena: A week after winning the race to become the next governor, Republican Greg Gianforte unveiled a 21-member coronavirus task force that will help him manage the COVID-19 crisis. The team includes health care experts, business owners, school administrators, law enforcement, and local and tribal leaders. Gianforte said in a statement that he will prioritize protecting the most vulnerable while also trying to safely and fully open the economy. Gianforte, currently Montana’s lone member of the U.S. House, defeated Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, a Democrat, in last week’s election. Two of the people Gianforte selected worked on COVID-19-related task forces created by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock: Montana National Guard Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn and Montana Nonprofit Association Executive Director Liz Moore.
Omaha: The state reported more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row Wednesday, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 remains at record levels in Nebraska. The state said 2,209 new virus cases and one death were reported Wednesday for a total of 89,942 cases and 731 deaths. And the number of people hospitalized with the virus increased to set another new record at 885. The surge in cases has significantly increased demand for testing. At sites run by the state’s main testing service, TestNebraska, the wait to get a test increased to 48 hours this week at most sites in Omaha and Lincoln. Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services said testing capacity was recently increased in those cities to help meet the demand. Over the past week, 1 in every 137 people in Nebraska was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Las Vegas: The Clark County School District has announced that most of its employees will work remotely after Gov. Steve Sisolak urged people to stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19. The district was expected to transition to working from home Thursday and continue through Nov. 30, with only certain positions reporting to their work locations. The decision comes as the school board is considering a plan to bring students back to classrooms two days a week starting in January after switching to remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools in Reno and Sparks will continue to combine in-class teaching with distance learning. The Washoe County school board voted Tuesday to keep full-time instruction available for elementary students and a hybrid plan in place for middle and high schools, with alternating in-class and remote teaching.
Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday praised the efforts of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation and state and local leaders for continuing to work on funds and programs for veterans during a difficult year marked by the coronavirus pandemic. “We actually had two new veterans homeless shelters open up this year,” he said at the annual Veterans Day gathering at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery. “We found a way to do it, and it really was a team effort.” Many participants at the event wore masks and practiced social distancing. “Veterans Day looks a lot different this year than it has in the past. Our current state of affairs and the protective measures implemented across the country to stop the spread of COVID-19 have forced us to think creatively to ensure we stay safe while honoring our nation’s heroes,” said Andy Patterson, commander of the Disabled American Veterans of New Hampshire. Patterson said the same was true a century ago, as the world was recovering from the Spanish flu.
Newark: Residents in some parts of the state’s largest city are facing a 9 p.m. curfew for at least the rest of the month as officials seek to stop a surge in coronavirus infections. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka imposed the new measures Wednesday, and they went into effect immediately. They include a mandatory 9 p.m. weekday curfew and 10 p.m. weekend curfew for parts of three zip codes where virus cases have spiked recently. Gov. Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, said Thursday that he will sign an executive order to give towns and cities the option to limit hours at nonessential businesses after 8 p.m. Murphy’s decision is a change from the spring, when he ordered statewide closures and declined to adopt a regional approach. In Newark, indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, and all sports are suspended for at least two weeks. The city also is banning visitation at long-term health care facilities.
Albuquerque: An alternate care overflow facility designed to house coronavirus patients has remained locked and unused as hospitals across the state are increasingly slammed. The state of New Mexico and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers invested $3.6 million to renovate the now-closed hospital in Albuquerque, promising it would be “operational” by April 27 for non-acute patients recovering from COVID-19, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The state signed a one-year lease to use 360,000 square feet of the privately owned Gibson Medical Center for $8.6 million a year. But it is still unclear when or if the space will be used for COVID-19 patients, even as the confirmed number of cases and hospitalizations continue to break records. State health officials said opening the 200-bed backup unit now will be difficult because of a shortage of medical staff.
Syracuse: Two big upstate colleges, Syracuse University and the University at Albany, said they would switch to fully remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic continued its resurgence around the state. The University at Albany switched to fully remote learning Tuesday. Syracuse said it would immediately suspend all in-person events sponsored by school or student organizations and move classes online next Monday, making it easier for students to leave campus before the Thanksgiving break. The move does not affect intercollegiate sports. Syracuse administrators attributed its increasing rate of infection to rising caseloads in surrounding central New York and the “understandable fatigue but ill-advised complacency on the part of some in our community who are not fully adhering to public health guidelines.”
Charlotte: The CEO of Atrium Health said he anticipates the Charlotte-based hospital system will be chosen as an “early site” to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. CEO Gene Woods said at a board meeting Tuesday that Atrium has already purchased refrigeration units that could store 300,000 doses, The Charlotte Observer reports. Refrigeration is necessary because the Pfizer vaccine, which the company said has 90% effectiveness based on early and incomplete test results, needs to be kept at low temperatures. Woods did not say how much money they cost. Atrium Health has taken a financial hit this year as it responded to the coronavirus outbreak, initially postponing many nonessential surgeries to conserve resources. On Tuesday, it reported an operating income of $22 million for the first nine months of the year, compared to a budgeted income of $177 million.
Bismarck: The North Dakota Nurses Association said it does not support a move to allow health care workers who have tested positive for the coronavirus but do not have symptoms to remain on the job. Gov. Doug Burgum supports the idea as part of an effort to ease stress on hospitals and medical personnel trying to keep up with skyrocketing coronavirus cases. The nurses association said the move is not a long-term solution to the problem of staffing shortages. Instead, the group said all other “scientifically proven preventative measures such as mandating mask-wearing” should be “deployed before implementing this particular strategy.” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the move “was never meant to be part of a long-term strategy.” North Dakota has been one of the nation’s worst hot spots for daily new cases for weeks. On Thursday, the state reported 1,801 new cases, with 11 deaths, including a man in his 20s.
Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine’s statewide address urging Ohioans to take the coronavirus more seriously included threats to close bars, restaurants and gyms for a second time. The Republican governor and health officials had previously said bars, restaurants and fitness centers are not the source of major community spread. Instead, they’ve said, the spread is coming from private gatherings, including parties, weddings and funerals. DeWine reissued an order Wednesday limiting public and private gatherings to 10 people. “What you do in your private lives affects everyone,” he said. His warnings about public places, though, angered the Ohio Restaurant Association, which said another shutdown would devastate the industry. About 7 in 10 Ohio voters approve of how DeWine has handled the pandemic, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,900 voters in the state. Similar majorities of both Republicans and Democrats think DeWine has done a good job with the public health crisis, the survey showed.
Oklahoma City: The White House Coronavirus Task Force has again recommended a statewide mask mandate for Oklahoma amid a surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that includes an increase of nearly 1,000 cases per day during the past seven days. Data from Johns Hopkins University on Thursday shows Oklahoma’s seven-day rolling average of new cases per day has risen from 1,185 to 2,080. The task force report, released late Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said urgent action is needed. “The unyielding COVID spread across Oklahoma continues with new hospital admissions, inpatients, and patients in the ICU at record levels, indicating deeper spread across the state,” according to the report. Gov. Kevin Stitt has opposed a statewide mandate and, on Tuesday, joined with physicians to call on residents to voluntarily wear masks, socially distance and frequently wash their hands.
Salem: The state recorded 876 new presumptive or confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday and five new deaths. The daily number continues Oregon’s trend of high case tallies as health officials struggle to contain a surge in coronavirus transmission mostly fueled by small indoor gatherings as the weather turns colder. There were 298 reported cases alone in Multnomah County, which is home to Portland. Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury pleaded with her constituents to wear a mask, work from home if possible and avoid even small social gatherings. “We slowed the spread before, and together, we can do it again,” she said. Hospitalizations are also on the rise, state health officials said Tuesday. The Oregon Health Authority reported a record 285 confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals Tuesday – a 57% increase compared to last week and 83% higher than the number of people hospitalized four weeks ago.
Philadelphia: With coronavirus running rampant, a suburban Philadelphia county said Wednesday that it will consider ordering schools to pause in-person instruction for two weeks. The state’s largest teachers union, meanwhile, demanded that school districts in nearly two dozen counties with the worst outbreaks tell students to temporarily learn from home. The state recommends virtual instruction in counties with a “substantial” level of community transmission – a number that has been rising rapidly. Twenty-three Pennsylvania counties were deemed to have substantial levels of community spread for two consecutive weeks in the state’s latest weekly survey. Some districts have gone their own way in spite of the state guidance, offering classroom instruction five days a week or using a hybrid model in which students go to school part time and learn from home part time.
Cranston: The state’s second-largest school district has halted all in-person learning amid an “abundance” of coronavirus cases, administrators said. The Cranston Public Schools announced the decision to move to distance learning in a letter to families Wednesday. Administrators said the closure of schools is temporary, and they will reassess the return to the classroom in the coming days. “The move to distance learning is a result of the abundance of cases of COVID-19 that have been reported to us in recent days and even just today alone,” the letter said. The district said that “as cases of staff who are positive, quarantined or in the process of being tested, have increased greatly, staffing has become difficult to maintain and predict.”
Columbia: Although the recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has strained South Carolina’s unemployment trust fund, the state won’t raise unemployment taxes on most businesses next year, Gov. Henry McMaster announced Thursday. Instead, the Legislature has replenished the fund through $920 million of federal pandemic aid to keep tax rates at their current levels, and state leaders are urging South Carolinians who have lost their jobs in the pandemic to get back to work sooner than later. McMaster and other state leaders gathered at the Statehouse said the decision would help small and large businesses. “We’re in good shape, with all engines intact except for a few,” McMaster said. “We will rev them up soon, and our economy is going to leap forward.”
Sioux Falls: The state broke a record Thursday for the number of new coronavirus cases in one day, with more than 2,000 people testing positive. The Department of Health reported 2,019 people with coronavirus infections – a troubling marker for a state that has already spent weeks suffering through one of the worst virus outbreaks in the nation. South Dakota has the nation’s second-worst rate of new infections per capita over the past two weeks. There were about 1,893 new cases per 100,000 people in those two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. That means that that roughly 1 out of every 53 people has tested positive over that period. No new deaths were reported, keeping the death tally at 567. But the number of hospitalizations rose slightly to 551. Universities in South Dakota are encouraging their students to get tested for the virus before returning home for Thanksgiving.
Nashville: The head of Meharry Medical College, the nation’s oldest historically Black medical school, on Thursday urged Black and Hispanic people to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials to ensure the treatments are effective in communities that have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus. At the same time, Dr. James Hildreth – Meharry’s president and CEO – acknowledged that minority populations have at times been used as “guinea pigs” in medical research and that overcoming hesitation with new medical treatments remains a battle today. Meharry pointed to the so-called Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which the federal government let hundreds of black men in rural Alabama go untreated for syphilis for 40 years for research purposes. Medical officials say the chilling effects of the study linger to this day, and it’s regularly cited as a reason some Black people are reluctant to participate in medical research or even go to the doctor for routine checkups.
El Paso: El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego is extending his shutdown order, which was set to expire Wednesday. The extended order, which closed all nonessential businesses in response to a record-breaking surge in new COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations, will be in effect until midnight Dec. 1. “Every day that the county’s order remains in effect is another day that we can save lives,” Samaniego said. The announcement came as the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday opted to stay out of an ongoing battle over the legality of El Paso County’s shutdown order as litigation continues in a lower court. The Attorney General’s Office earlier this week requested that the state’s highest civil appellate court put Samaniego’s order on hold until the appeals process is completed in the Eighth Court of Appeals. But the high court said Wednesday that the Eighth Court of Appeals is already working on an accelerated timeline.
Provo: School district officials in northern Utah have said a public meeting in American Fork was disrupted by protesters who characterized the use of masks and facial coverings in schools as “child abuse.” Alpine School District Superintendent Assistant Kimberly Bird said the protesters were welcomed to participate in the public board meeting Tuesday, but many refused to wear masks inside school office buildings, The Daily Herald reports. “The comments of abusing children were really quite hurtful and the opposite of what our mission is as Alpine School District, (which is) to help students in any way we can,” district spokesperson David Stephenson said. “The board is following the mandate that has been put out statewide from the government officials.” Stephenson said all the comments made about masks during previous meetings were peaceful, but police were called to Tuesday’s meeting to prevent confrontations.
Burlington: K-12 teachers and staff will have the opportunity to receive routine coronavirus testing starting next week, an effort state officials hope will allow them to track spread of the virus in communities. The state set a single-day record for new infections Thursday for a second straight day. “Testing of school personnel is a public health surveillance strategy,” said Mark Levine, state health commissioner. “Surveillance testing is done in a population to assess how much virus is present in people who are otherwise feeling quite well and don’t know that they may be.” Levine said while teachers and staff were no more at risk of contracting COVID-19 than other workers, they “represent a large group of individuals in an organized setting” and could help the state better identify cases ahead of an outbreak. The tests will be administered voluntarily, starting Monday and resuming after the Thanksgiving holiday break on a monthly basis.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam has urged Virginians to exercise precautions when gathering together for Thanksgiving, noting that coronavirus cases are trending upward again. However, he stopped short of saying whether any post-holiday case jumps will result in a second shutdown of the state. In recent weeks, Virginia’s statewide virus growth rate has risen to 6.2%, more than a percentage point higher than it was prior to the beginning of fall. With Thanksgiving about two weeks away, the governor used his latest COVID-19 news briefing not to dissuade families from gathering but to persuade them to do so safely, including wearing masks among relatives, especially those in other households. “There’s no genetic immunity,” said Northam, the only governor in the nation who is also a doctor. “You can give it to your mom, or you can give it to your grandfather. I’m not saying don’t celebrate, but think about ways to do it safely.”
Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, on Thursday urged people to forgo gatherings and holiday travel plans as COVID-19 cases spike across the state, and the governor said further measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will be announced in the coming days. The state set a record for newly confirmed coronavirus cases Saturday, with 1,777 additional cases reported. As of this week, more than 123,000 cases have been confirmed statewide, and there have been 2,507 reported deaths. “We are in as dangerous a position today as we were in March,” Inslee said during a brief statewide televised address. “We cannot wait until our hospitals’ halls are lined with gurneys waiting for rooms before we take decisive action.” The Inslees said they would be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas virtually with their family and urged the rest of the state to do the same.
Keyser: Mineral County Schools will remain all-virtual next week, and all extracurricular activities – including football playoff action for both Keyser and Frankfort – are suspended. Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft made the announcement mid-afternoon Thursday in a message to parents followed by social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. The decision, he said, was made due to the escalating numbers of positive coronavirus tests in the county and the expectation that Mineral County will remain in “red” status on the West Virginia Department of Education’s School Alert System map when it’s updated Saturday. Many county parents and football fans had held out hope that the county’s status might improve on that map Saturday evening so Keyser and Frankfort could play Sunday afternoon. The numbers, however, steadily got worse.
Eau Claire: Mayo Clinic Health System says its hospitals in the state’s northwest region are full to capacity. System officials say 100% of their beds are full at hospitals in the region, which encompasses Barron, Bloomer, Eau Claire, Osseo and Menomonie. Eighty-three patients have COVID-19, WQOW-TV reports. “The public urgently needs to treat COVID-19 as the health emergency it is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. We are pleading for everyone’s help to wear a mask and follow all public health guidelines to limit the spread of this disease,” regional vice president Richard Helmers, regional administrator Jason Craig and chief nursing officer Pam White said in a joint statement. They say 50% of the patients in intensive care have COVID-19, and 40% of their medical or surgical beds are filled with coronavirus patients. In addition, 300 workers are on work restrictions due to COVID-19 exposure.
Casper: The state has recorded its highest number of hospitalizations from the coronavirus for the sixth straight day. The state reported 183 current hospitalizations Wednesday. The figure is an increase from Tuesday’s report, when the state Department of Health recorded 178 hospitalizations from the virus. Wyoming had set a new all-time high for COVID-19 hospitalizations last Friday with 147 patients, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The state has surpassed that figure on each subsequent day since. There are only two available intensive care unit beds at the Wyoming Medical Center, with 17 of the hospital’s 19 beds filled. There are no intensive care unit beds available at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center or the SageWest in Lander. As of Wednesday morning, there have been 16,518 confirmed cases and 127 deaths from the coronavirus in Wyoming since the pandemic began.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Zoom memorial, pleas for caution: News from around our 50 states