Huntsville: Madison County is delaying all capital murder trials because the courthouse doesn’t have enough room for would-be jurors to stay away from one another during the pandemic. Attorneys typically call a larger-than-normal number of potential jurors for capital cases, and the presiding judge in the county, Ruth Ann Hall, told WHNT-TV the courthouse in Huntsville doesn’t have enough space to allow for proper social distancing in those instances. So capital cases will be on hold until 2021, delaying justice for both crime victims and defendants. “I indicated to the judges that we simply could not try any capital murder cases this year, because you know, we have one courtroom we can get 30 people in for voir dire and jury selection. For capital murder you need three to four times that, minimum,” Hall said.
Jack Little poses for a photo Aug. 21 in Anchorage, Alaska. Little asked friends to send him how much money they could spare so he could start a fund to give generous tips to waiters and waitresses going through tough times amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Mark Thiessen/AP)
Anchorage: A local man has been handing out $500 tips to restaurant workers hit hard by the pandemic. Jack Little, who works for a telecommunications company, heard about a tip challenge based on the Venmo app and decided to see what he could do for servers in Anchorage. “I have a lot of good friends that are in that industry that have personally been affected by this, and so I just wanted to do something to help them,” he said. Little took to Facebook and Instagram, asking friends to send 50 cents or a dollar, whatever they could spare, to his Venmo account. “My friends have been incredibly generous,” he said. The account to help wait staff has reached nearly $7,000. Little started by giving $500 tips to five separate waiters or waitresses across the city. One of his latest totaled $1,000 – an amount that could cover rent, a car payment or phone bill.
Phoenix: About 100 people gathered at the Capitol for a pair of rallies on Labor Day, calling to end COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and arguing the pandemic is no longer a threat. Multiple Republican lawmakers and candidates gathered at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, where not a mask was in sight as they criticized Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive orders, protested the use of masks and lamented the economic fallout of the pandemic. “We are here to defend our freedom. We’re here to speak and advocate for workers on Labor Day who can’t work because of regressive, overreaching emergency orders,” said Bill Crawford, a Scottsdale gym owner who organized the rally. Republican State Rep. John Fillmore compared mask mandates to the tattooing of victims of the Holocaust. Tattoos were used in part to dehumanize victims of the Holocaust, while mask mandates are public health measures intended to keep people healthy.
Little Rock: The state reported 350 new cases of the coronavirus Monday and 14 additional deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. The Arkansas Department of Health said the state’s total number of reported cases so far sits at 65,727. There have been 908 deaths in the state due to COVID-19. The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Palm Springs: A stretch of Palm Canyon Drive will close to vehicle traffic starting Thursday, a move that will allow some downtown Palm Springs restaurants to accommodate outdoor dining while abiding by public health protocols meant to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The road will close to traffic between Tahquitz Canyon Way and Baristo Road, creating more space for restaurants in that area to set up tables 6 feet apart. The new configuration will begin at 7 a.m. Thursday, while restaurants with the proper permits will be able to start their al fresco dining Friday. Palm Springs City Council authorized the plan at its last meeting in late August after having several discussions with downtown restaurant owners and retailers. Earlier ideas centered on closing Palm Canyon to fewer lanes, but the decision to close to two blocks was made after some restaurateurs said they’d prefer to see the street closed to traffic.
Fort Collins: Residents of a nursing home may be displaced due to what the operating company calls insurmountable financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit Estes Park Health system is projected to lose about $1.4 million this year as occupancy drops and Medicaid reimbursements lag. The financial difficulties may force the 52-bed Estes Park Health Living Center in Fort Collins to close. The center has 29 residents and has never been fully occupied. The health system, partially funded by about $3 million a year generated through a special taxing district, estimates a 20% drop in revenue this year and next year, necessitating about $7.5 million in cuts “to break even,” CEO Vern Carda said.
Hartford: One of the worst cyberattacks yet against the city forced officials to postpone the first day of school Tuesday, disrupting the day for thousands of families as city computer experts rushed to restore systems vital for school operations. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the hacker or hackers indicated it was a ransomware attack but only left an email address to contact and made no specific ransom demand. The problem was discovered Saturday, and numerous systems were affected, including one used to communicate transportation routes and live information to school bus drivers. Tuesday was supposed to be the first day of school for the district of about 18,000 students. Both in-person and remote learning have now been pushed back by the attack, officials said. A new start date has not been announced.
Dover: Applications have opened for the first round of grants from a $100 million COVID-19 relief fund for small businesses and nonprofits in the state. The state said in a news release Monday that grants of up to $100,000 will be available. The Division of Small Business will begin accepting applications online starting Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. “These have been unprecedented and challenging times. Delaware’s small businesses have shown resilience in navigating them,” Damian DeStefano, director of the Delaware Division of Small Business, said in a statement. “This program is a way to support them in continuing to serve their customers and help the state’s economy as a whole.” Business owners are urged to have the required documentation ready: a 2019 tax return, a Delaware business license and receipts for qualifying expenses. More details about eligibility and how the money can be used are available online.
District of Columbia
Washington: D.C. has updated its list of “high-risk states” from which travelers will be required to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival to D.C. due to the coronavirus, WUSA-TV reports. The states added to the list are Montana and Ohio. Alaska and Arizona have been removed, according to D.C. Health. Officials added Montana back to the list after removing the state a few weeks ago. The travel order applies to people coming to the district for nonessential activities. Those entering the region for essential travel or after essential travel are urged to monitor any potential symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days. If they have any symptoms, they must self-quarantine and get tested or seek medical attention. The order does not apply to neighboring states such as Virginia and Maryland.
A classroom sits empty at Miami Community Charter School in Flagler City, Fla., during the first day of class Aug. 31. (Photo: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)
Orlando: A high school is shutting its doors for two weeks after it had six confirmed cases and one suspected case of the coronavirus. Officials with Orange County Public Schools said over the weekend that Olympia High School’s campus will be closed to students until Sept. 21, and all students will take online classes. There will be no athletic events nor extracurricular activities during the two weeks, the school said on Twitter. The decision to temporarily close the school comes more than two weeks after in-person classes resumed for the Orlando-area school district. More than a third of Olympia’s 3,300 students were taking classes on campus, with the rest of the student body taking online classes. Florida on Tuesday reported more than 1,800 new coronavirus cases, raising the state’s total to 650,092 cases since March. Florida had 12,067 residents and nonresident deaths as of Tuesday, a daily increase of 44 deaths.
Atlanta: An economic forecaster says the state should expect to see substantial recovery of its tourism industry next year after hotels and other businesses that rely on travelers lost billions to the coronavirus pandemic. Adam Sacks, president of the firm Tourism Economics, made the prediction during a virtual summit hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. His presentation last week showed that travel spending in Georgia dropped $8.6 billion between March and August compared to the same period last year. That’s more than 20% of the $39 billion that visitors spent throughout Georgia in all of 2019. Still, tourism spending has steadily begun to recover in the months since Georgia began lifting its coronavirus lockdown in late April. Sacks predicted that will continue. According to Sacks, Georgia lost 17% of its travel and leisure jobs since February – making it the state’s hardest-hit job sector during the pandemic.
Honolulu: The use of an Oahu hotel to quarantine people will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal coronavirus recovery funds each month, officials said. The cost could run into millions of dollars for the partnership between the 130-room Pearl Hotel Waikiki and the state Department of Health, which manages the hotel quarantine and isolation program, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The 30-day contract cost the city $379,375 for exclusive use of the hotel and includes a minimum of four hotel workers to support the health department, Honolulu spokesman Alex Zannes said. The city will pay for the hotel services from the nearly $400 million allotted by the federal government under the coronavirus recovery program. The city’s contract with the hotel equals about $97 per night per room, whether the space is occupied or not. The nightly room cost at the property is free to those in quarantine or isolation.
Boise: An earthquake in March is threatening caves at the Craters of the Moon National Monument, officials said. Two National Forest Service cave experts found two structural concerns in the national preserve after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake near Boise on March 31. Wade Vagias, superintendent of the Craters of the Moon, said one fracture has the potential to collapse. Eric Bilderback, a National Park Service geomorphologist, said the agency must balance intervention with letting nature run its course. He said his office will plan additional evaluations throughout the fall to determine how to proceed, Boise State Public Radio reports. The monument typically hosts public tours but halted them in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Springfield: The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday reported 1,381 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in eight confirmed deaths. The latest reported fatalities bring the statewide death toll due to the virus to 8,179 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 250,961 confirmed coronavirus cases during the same period. Within the prior 24 hours, laboratories reported 28,975 tests of specimens for a total of 4,447,347 tests conducted in Illinois. That brings the seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests to 4.2%. Heading into the Labor Day weekend, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said Illinois and a half-dozen other states with increasing COVID-19 numbers are at risk for a surge in cases over the holiday. As of late Sunday, 1,484 people in Illinois were reported hospitalized with COVID-19.
South Bend: Some high school athletic programs are turning to pay-per-view broadcasts of their football games and other fundraising efforts to help make up revenue they’ve lost due to a drop in fan attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic. Athletic directors have had to be resourceful while trying to adhere to health department guidelines. Northern Indiana’s Mishawaka High School, for example, is charging fans $9.99 to view broadcasts of its football games, with the school receiving 60% of the revenue from each purchase. The broadcasts, run by Mishawaka students and faculty, had been free to watch for the past three years. They’re produced by the school’s Mishawaka Network and streamed on the IHSAA Champions Network. Concord High School and LaPorte High School are among the several dozen schools statewide that have partnered with the IHSAA Champions Network to create pay-per-view broadcasts of their home games.
Des Moines Public School students and supporters march from Roosevelt High School to the governor’s mansion at Terrace Hill on Monday to protest the cancellation of fall and winter extracurriculars, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Olivia Sun/Des Moines Register)
Des Moines: Hundreds of students from Des Moines Public Schools and the Ames Community School District marched to the governor’s mansion Monday to protest the decision to suspend sports and start the school year online. The “Student March for Fairness” comes after the Iowa High School Athletic Association told the schools last week that all in-person activities and sports would be suspended starting Tuesday. “My senior year and my school life should not be a pawn in a political game,” Tabith Keith, a Roosevelt High School senior who has been active in marching band and volleyball, said in a news release. The students say they want fairness and equity to compete in fall and winter activities. The march came as students awaited a court ruling on whether to allow the Des Moines district to temporarily move completely to online classes rather than comply with a state order intended to ensure children return to at least partial in-person classes.
Olathe: Five high school golfers who sued after their suburban Kansas City districts put the brakes on fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic have failed to convince a judge to let them play while the case works its way through the courts. The golfers, all girls, and their parents sued the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley school districts last Tuesday, arguing that they should be allowed to play because golf poses a lower risk of spreading the virus than other sports, The Kansas City Star reports. Blue Valley officials on Friday, though, announced the district would resume high school sports this weekend. Attorney John Duggan, who is representing the families, was not immediately available to comment on how Blue Valley’s decision will affect the lawsuit. Four of the golfers play for Shawnee Mission East High School, which won the Kansas Class 6A state girls golf tournament last year. The fifth plays for Blue Valley West High School team.
Frankfort: State Sen. Gerald Neal, a longtime lawmaker from Louisville, is hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, a Senate colleague said Tuesday. Neal, a Democrat who has served in the Senate for 30-plus years, checked himself into the hospital as a “precautionary measure,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. Neal is upbeat, and his prognosis is good, McGarvey said. “I talked to him three times yesterday, and he is still asking about bills for next session and meetings he’s got this week that he wants to attend virtually,” McGarvey said. “Gerald is a fighter. He’s been fighting for his community and for civil rights for over 30 years, and he is not going to let this slow him down.” Neal is the second Kentucky lawmaker in the past week to contract coronavirus. State Rep. Attica Scott, also a Louisville Democrat, announced Sunday that she tested positive for the virus and will quarantine for 14 days.
New Orleans: Large crowds over the Labor Day weekend prompted city officials to issue a warning that the activity could cause a spike in coronavirus cases and that businesses will face citations for violating rules. “The city is aware of large crowd activity in violation of the public health guidelines, and of the images circulating online. This behavior is unacceptable, and it is dangerous. COVID-19 is not taking a holiday this weekend,” a city hall spokesperson said in a statement. City officials said Friday and Saturday that they had had 36 calls about large gatherings and another 46 calls for businesses not following rules. The city said code enforcement officers would be performing door-to-door checks. Public health officials have expressed concern that Labor Day gatherings could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, similar to what happened after Memorial Day and July Fourth celebrations.
Augusta: The state’s seafood industry could get a $20 million boost this fall through funds made available under federal coronavirus relief. Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said state and federal officials are nearing final agreement on exactly how to allocate the funds. Maine Public reports individual fishing license holders and shellfish growers who qualify will get the same lump-sum payment, no matter how large or small the operation. The funds will go to seafood-sector businesses that lost at least 35% of their revenues compared with the same period in previous years. A document the Department of Marine Resources produced for the federal government shows that commercial fishing license holders, boat-for-hire operations and aquaculture farms that qualify could get more than $2,100 each, while seafood dealers and processors are projected to receive just over $6,000 each.
College Park: The University of Maryland said Monday that its bus drivers can enforce mask usage, several days after a driver reported two students who were denied boarding retaliated by throwing rocks at the bus, breaking some windows. The university issued a statement Monday to WTOP calling the incident “unfortunate” and saying it fully supports the driver “who put first the health and safety of everyone on the bus.” The statement said drivers can refuse to let people on board if they feel there are too many people on board already or if passengers refuse to wear a mask. The development came after the bus drivers’ union posted a lengthy Twitter thread over the weekend about the incident. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1072 said the driver who didn’t let the students on board had been admonished. Under emergency orders from Gov. Larry Hogan, anyone on public transportation must wear a facial covering.
Somerville: This Boston suburb on Tuesday became the last community in the state to allow gyms, martial arts studios, music classes and some other businesses to reopen under the third phase of Massachusetts’ coronavirus recovery plan. While virtually the entire state moved into the third phase in July, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone proceeded with caution, twice pushing back Phase 3, citing a rise in the number of cases and the continued dangers of the virus. Businesses reopening Tuesday must meet strict safety requirements and have a city-approved health and safety plan, the mayor’s office said in a statement last week. Museums, movie theaters, and interactive attractions are still not allowed to reopen. Somerville also continues to limit the number of people allowed to gather in one place either indoors or outdoors to 10.
People march in protest with members of GEO AFT 3550 in front of Angell Hall on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
Ann Arbor: Graduate students who teach classes were on strike Tuesday at the University of Michigan over in-person instruction during the coronavirus pandemic and other issues. The strikers chanted and held umbrellas while marching in the rain. “I do not want my students and colleagues to get a chronic illness because this university decided it was most important to collect tuition,” Surabhi Balachander said on Twitter. The Graduate Employees’ Organization, which represents more than 1,000 instructors, has called for a four-day strike. The vast majority of classes at the University of Michigan have shifted to online. But the union said the university isn’t doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also wants the campus police budget cut by 50% and an end to cooperation with Ann Arbor police. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the strike is illegal under state law and the union contract.
Minneapolis: Gun dealers in the state attribute a surge in firearms sales to anxiety over the coronavirus, civil unrest and the uncertainties involving the presidential race. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says there were about 21,900 background checks for gun purchases in Minnesota in August of 2019. This year, there were nearly 35,000 in the same month. The surge in gun and ammunition sales began in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic lead to panic buying, as it did with some household supplies, according to gun shop owners. George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May and the protests and violence that followed only accelerated gun and ammunition purchases. The coronavirus outbreak has also led to limits on the supply of ammunition. Factories can’t make as many bullets due to COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing restrictions on the number of employees working at once, Amon said.
Jackson: Eighteen men died in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections in August, making it the deadliest month on record going back to at least 2014. One inmate has been confirmed dead of COVID-19, and 12 others are presumed to have died of the disease since the pandemic began, said Grace Fisher, a spokeswoman for MDOC. However, she would not say whether the spate of deaths in August is related to the coronavirus. MDOC responded to the pandemic in March by cutting off all visitors except lawyers and halting transfers of prisoners. The agency said it has implemented other measures meant to slow the spread of the disease, including screening employees for fevers, providing masks and hand sanitizer to inmates and staff, and quarantining symptomatic individuals. As of last Wednesday, more than 670 inmates and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, MDOC reported.
Cubbies hold students’ belongings at the new Delaware Elementary on the first day of school Aug. 24 in Springfield, Mo. (Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader)
Springfield: One of the state’s largest teacher unions wants the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to track – and publicly report – all the COVID-19 exposures logged in public schools. The Missouri National Education Association called on Gov. Mike Parson to require all districts to track COVID-19 cases and make that information available through a public registry. A letter sent last week to Margie Vandeven, the state’s education commissioner, asks for the state’s education department to collect that information and create an up-to-date public exposure report. “To make the best decision possible, parents and educators must have accurate and timely information about COVID-19 exposures in schools,” Phil Murray, president of the Missouri NEA, wrote in the letter. “However, there is no centralized repository of COVID-19 information for listing COVID-19 incidents in schools, nor is there a requirement for districts to publicly report any COVID-19 information.”
Missoula: Laboratory results and law enforcement reports indicate methamphetamine use increased in the state during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. Millennium Health reported a 34% increase in urine samples testing positive for methamphetamine after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency March 13, The Missoulian reports. The lab company compared results from Jan. 1 through March 12 with results from March 13 through May 31. The report authors analyzed more than 500,000 urine samples from various health care settings, although how many were from Montana was unclear. The samples did not include drug testing done in the workplace or under court order. Meth became more scarce and more expensive as the pandemic disrupted the illegal drug trade, with local prices doubling, U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme said.
Omaha: Hospitals are asking for more federal aid to help recover from the financial toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken. Nebraska Hospital Association officials say it has meant increased costs and a decline in revenue for hospitals, the Omaha World-Herald reports. The revenue drop happened partly because Nebraska temporarily banned elective procedures to save hospital resources when the virus first hit the state. Some patients also avoided hospitals out of fear of catching COVID-19 there. Increased costs for hospitals included protective gear, COVID-19 testing sites, and medical equipment and medicine to treat the virus. Outpatient surgeries dropped by 70% in April vs. the same time last year, according to data from 80% of the association’s members. Emergency room visits declined by 44% in April. Hospitals have already received some federal aid. But the association’s vice president for advocacy, Andy Hale, said it’s not enough.
Carson City: The Carson City School District is temporarily suspending student bus transportation after employees of the transportation department were advised to isolate because of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the department. According to a release from the district, transportation services will resume after the isolation period – Sept. 15 at the earliest but possibly later if more employees test positive. The district said it is working with Carson City Health and Human Services on contact tracing and will follow the enhanced cleaning protocol in all schools including additional cleaning and disinfecting of the transportation facilities and all buses. Families are being asked to arrange their own transportation for students on their in-class learning days. Students whose families are unable to arrange transportation will be able to take fully remote online classes until transportation resumes, the district said.
Durham: More than 10 cases of COVID-19 have been traced to a fraternity party where people did not follow public health guidelines, the president of the University of New Hampshire said. In a Sunday letter to the university community, UNH President James Dean said more than 100 students and nonstudents attended the Aug. 29 party at the Theta Chi fraternity. “Let me be clear: this is reckless behavior and the kind of behavior that undermines our planning and will lead to us switching to a fully remote mode,” Dean said in the letter. He called the party “reprehensible” and said student conduct charges would be pursued against the organizers of the party and all students who attended the event. The fraternity was placed under interim suspension, and Dean ordered a moratorium on any in-person gatherings of any size within the fraternity, or sorority system or other social groups.
Michele Acito works as a nurse practitioner at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, N.J. (Photo: Jeff Rhode, Holy Name Medical Center special to NorthJersey.com)
Englewood Cliffs: Holy Name Medical Center’s nursing school saw 380 applications this year – a 90% increase over last year’s number – amid the coronavirus pandemic. The school’s freshman class typically has 70 or 80 students, but this year the school accepted 90. Holy Name’s Teaneck hospital was at the epicenter of the pandemic when COVID-19 first reached New Jersey in March. A few miles away, Bergen Community College also played a central role when the pandemic began: A line hundreds of cars deep snaked around campus when a testing site there opened in March. “They had all the COVID testing right here,” said Darlene Zales-Russamano, who leads the college’s nursing program. “Students and faculty volunteered. We did a lot of community work.” BCC’s nursing program had high application rates before the pandemic, so Zales-Russamano said it’s hard to tell just how much of the interest stems from the pandemic.
Santa Fe: State officials approved the start of production work by film crews in a sign the industry could soon be back in business after a suspension because of the coronavirus. Film companies will follow specific guidelines created by an industry task force as they resume, The Santa Fe New Mexican reports. The companies will also be required to adhere to public health rules for all businesses in the state, including a face mask mandate, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. “You’re going to start to see some activity” at studios statewide, said Liz Pecos, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480. Pecos said “several hundred” of the 1,500 crew members in the film workers union have returned to work. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not yet announced when public health restrictions will be eased to allow filmmaking to fully resume.
Albany: The state marked a milestone of progress in fighting coronavirus infections Monday, with a full month of less than 1% of virus tests coming back positive. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the 30-day stretch of good news while urging people to remain cautious during Labor Day weekend get-togethers. He attributed the state’s progress to its statewide mask mandate and an approach to reopening that’s been slower than in many other states. “It took the work of all of us to get here, and to protect this progress we will need to all continue to wash our hands, wear our masks, remain socially distant and above all, stay New York tough,” Cuomo said in a statement. There is concern that case counts could rise as schools, college campuses and more businesses reopen. Throughout New York’s 64-campus state university system, more than 900 students and employees have tested positive on campuses over the past two weeks.
Wilmington: The University of North Carolina at Wilmington said Tuesday that it is splitting roommates in on-campus housing in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. A news release from the school said its housing and residence staff is contacting first-year students living on campus with a roommate about arranging for one of them to move into a single-occupancy room. The school says the new student assignment will be to another residence hall or apartment on the UNC-Wilmington campus, and it will be their assignment for the remainder of the academic year. About 800 students will be affected by the move, the school said. The move comes after the school was approached by the New Hanover County Health Department because it said 18- to 24-year-olds represent the largest source of new COVID-19 cases in the county.
Bismarck: State health officials said Tuesday that the number of active COVID-19 cases has dropped for two straight days, including 301 fewer cases in the past day. Active cases in the state reached a record number of 2,653 on Sunday. That has been reduced by 389 in the past two days, for a total of 2,264. Hospitalizations have dropped by five in the past day, to 63, and for the second straight day there were no new deaths. North Dakota ranks first in the country in the number of new cases in the past two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Officials on Tuesday confirmed 75 positive tests for the coronavirus, for a total of 13,877 cases. The number of tests that have been processed took a dip over the holiday weekend. After more than 7,300 tests were recorded Saturday, the numbers fell to about 4,800 on Sunday, 2,400 on Monday and 1,400 on Tuesday.
Mason fans keeping their distance in the game between Fairfield and Mason High Schools. (Photo: JIM OWENS FOR THE ENQUIRER)
Columbus: State Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Paris Township, said he has introduced a bill that would allow an uncapped number of immediate family members of participants to attend high school games. He said at least 10 people have contacted him out of frustration because the entire family of athletes can’t attend, and local school districts are often effectively limiting the number of family members of participants to two to four per game. They are only issuing two to four tickets to each participant, he said, as part of their efforts to comply with state health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stoltzfus declined to identify the school districts. If passed, the bill would apparently set aside state health order limits on the number of spectators allowed at the games. According to the health order issued last month, any school athletic contest can not have more than 15% of the capacity of the venue.
Oklahoma City: A state prison inmate being treated for the illness caused by the coronavirus has died, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said. The inmate at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft died Saturday at a hospital, the department said Monday. The woman, whose name wasn’t released, suffered other, undisclosed, health issues, and the state medical examiner will determine whether COVID-19 was a factor in her death, the DOC said. The department said it hasn’t gotten any reports from the medical examiner citing COVID-19 as the cause of a prisoner’s death. Meanwhile, Saturday’s football game between Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa was postponed for one week. Tulsa’s athletic director said they weren’t physically prepared after canceling practice for nine days due to multiple positive coronavirus tests.
Salem: The Oregon Republican Party did not gather enough signatures by the deadline to recall Gov. Kate Brown – its second failed recall of the governor in less than a year. Republicans have accused Brown of abusing her power and destroying the state’s economy through shutdowns imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The governor has said shutdowns were in keeping with the advice of public health experts and intended to save lives. For the recall to proceed, the state GOP needed to gather and submit 280,050 valid signatures to the Secretary of State’s office by Aug. 31, 90 days from when the recall effort was initiated. Oregon GOP Chair Bill Currier said their campaign gathered 277,254 signatures, just short of the required number. The Oregon GOP also did not gather enough signatures for its recall that ended in October 2019.
Harrisburg: Restaurants will be allowed to seat more patrons inside after Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that he is relaxing restrictions on indoor dining, providing some relief to an industry that’s been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. Eateries may increase indoor occupancy from 25% to 50% of capacity starting Sept. 21, more than two months after the Wolf administration imposed a new round of restrictions on the state’s beleaguered hospitality industry, citing rising infection rates in some virus hot spots. “The move to 25% … was an attempt to flatten the curve in Pennsylvania. We were starting to see a troubling rise,” Wolf said at a news conference in Lancaster. “Now I think we’re at a point where we are ready to lift that, partially.” Bar and restaurant owners have said they were unfairly blamed for rising virus case numbers, challenging the Wolf administration to provide evidence.
Providence: Two key indicators of how well the state is containing the coronavirus are heading in the right direction, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The seven-day rolling average of daily new confirmed cases in the state dropped over the past two weeks, going from about 104 on Aug. 24 to 42 on Monday. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island fell over the past two weeks, going from 1.71% on Aug. 24 to 0.89% on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins. The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported 180 new confirmed cases of the disease over the past four days and four additional coronavirus-related deaths. There have now been nearly 22,600 known cases in the state as well as 1,059 fatalities. The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 fell to 73 as of Sunday, down from 82 on Friday.
Columbia: State senators will likely consider whether to restore the annual raises most teachers get each year to the state budget when they return to Columbia next week for a special session amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate Finance Committee is working on a proposal to spend $40 million out of about $775 million saved up over the past two years on what are called step increases – pay raises of usually about several hundred dollars a year given to teachers as they gain experience. Lawmakers suspended the raises in the spring because of the uncertainty of what the COVID-19 pandemic might do to the economy. Senators also will likely consider setting aside $15 million in federal COVID-19 relief money for hazard pay bonuses for state workers who make under $50,000 a year and whose jobs are more risky during the pandemic.
Watertown: When the coronavirus began taking its toll on Americans in March, Brooks Jacobsen at Lake Area Technical College took note of the use of 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment, items in critically short supply across the U.S. Jacobsen initiated the idea of creating face shields and received approval from LATC officials. Health care workers at Prairie Lakes Healthcare System gave him input on the type of face shield they preferred. “I put out an email to our 3D printing community here in town,” Jacobsen told the Watertown Public Opinion. He linked up with Mark Iverson at Watertown Middle School on the project. Five months later, the volunteers had created 37,000 to 40,000 face shields that went to the front-line heroes of the pandemic. “It’s a surreal thing,” Iverson said. “It’s a hobby of mine that I teach to students, and then it turns around to be something that’s saving lives.”
Nashville police began enforcing the city’s mandatory mask requirement on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Metro police said the mask mandate will be enforced throughout the city, but added there will be teams dedicated to patrolling Broadway because “the most recent heat map of active COVID-19 cases shows a high concentration in the downtown core.” (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
Nashville: From people throwing massive house parties and not wearing masks to bars staying open late and “transpotainment” vehicles operating with alcohol, Metro Nashville police issued 61 health department citations and made three arrests downtown over Labor Day weekend. According to police, officers cited 12 people Friday evening for not wearing face masks. About 2,500 others were reminded of the requirement by police and safety ambassadors hired by the police department. People in Davidson County are currently mandated by the Metro Public Health Department to use face coverings or masks in public settings in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Residents and business that want to host concerts, political fundraisers, sporting events or other private gatherings can potentially have up to 125 people in attendance if they get approval by city officials, according to a public health order that took effect last week.
Austin: Gov. Greg Abbott has extended the state’s disaster declaration in response to the coronavirus pandemic as the state approaches nearly 13,500 deaths. The extension of the disaster declaration came as three of the state’s largest school districts experienced technical problems Tuesday as their students started the new school year virtually because of concerns about the pandemic. When Abbott first issued his emergency order March 13, state officials hadn’t yet reported any confirmed deaths. Abbott has renewed his order every 30 days since and did again Monday. Although hospitalizations for COVID-19 have steadily declined since a peak in mid-July, Abbott said Texans should remain vigilant in helping to prevent virus spread. “I urge Texans to take precautionary steps to protect their health by wearing a mask, social distancing and sanitizing their hands,” Abbott said.
Ogden: A group filed a lawsuit against the governor and Department of Health alleging that restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic infringe on “their most sacred and fundamental rights.” The lawsuit was filed in Utah’s 4th District Court in Provo on Sept. 3. It lists 29 ways Gov. Gary Herbert has deprived the group of their rights, including denying children of their right to education, depriving residents the right to worship freely, and preventing citizens their rights to “human contact and touch.” Morgan Philpot, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, has asked a judge to nullify all state executive orders related to the coronavirus. The governor’s office could not be reached Monday to comment on the lawsuit, the Standard-Examiner reports. Utah has experienced 55,033 confirmed cases, 3,225 hospitalizations and 423 deaths as a result of the coronavirus, the state Department of Health reported Monday.
Montpelier: The state on Monday started offering $30 to Vermonters to spend at local businesses to help residents and businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The Legislature allocated $500,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds for the Buy Local Vermont program, and awards will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. As of midday Tuesday, more than 10,000 Vermonters were trying to get signed up, and the website was having some trouble, said Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle. “The system is working, but I understand that the codes are a still little delayed, but we’re just asking for folks’ patience, and hopefully those codes will be coming your way very shortly,” Kurrle said. When the offer is activated, residents are matched with local businesses where they can use the funds.
Stafford: An analysis of sewage in Stafford County indicates it has 10 times as many people walking around with the coronavirus as test results suggest. The Free Lance-Star reports the county has been conducting experimental testing at two wastewater plants since April. The Stafford facilities are among more than 100 wastewater treatment plants across the country that are participating in a no-cost pilot program. Sewage can provide an early indicator of a disease spreading before people start seeking health care. Sampling of households hooked up to the county sewer system showed that up to 18% of North Stafford’s population may have the virus. “That means 1 out of every 5 people in Stafford may be infected,” Deputy County Administrator Michael Smith wrote in a letter to the county’s board of supervisors. Smith stressed that the number is still in the testing phase.
Bremerton: COVID-19 spread quickly throughout Kitsap County’s primary hospital to at least 65 people in August, a state Department of Health report said, and its springboard may have been certain procedures that swelled the air with lingering particles of coronavirus-carrying respiratory fluid. Suctioning or intubating a patient’s airways, CPR and other “aerosol generating procedures” at St. Michael Medical Center are being zeroed in on as the culprit for transmission – all while a growing body of research by scientists says aerosols may be the most effective way to spread COVID-19. At St. Michael, state health officials said some staff did not wear N95 masks during aerosol-generating procedures, limiting their protection to just surgical masks and eye protection. They were performed in rooms without key ventilation known as negative air pressure, a violation of the hospital’s policy.
Morgantown: In-person classes were canceled at West Virginia University on Tuesday, with nearly all undergraduate classes moving online Wednesday through at least Sept. 25, according to a news release. The changes at the Morgantown campus are a response to a recent increase in positive coronavirus cases among students and a concern that cases may increase even more following reports of parties over the holiday weekend when groups should have been in quarantine. WVU placed 29 members of a fraternity house on suspension for not following health and safety orders related to the pandemic. A Theta Chi fraternity member, who tested positive for the virus and had been ordered into isolation, attended a party at the fraternity house Friday, the university said in a statement. The school also is investigating photos and videos from a large party hosted by another non-school-recognized fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi.
Milwaukee: The chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Monday canceled all in-person social events and ordered undergraduate students to restrict their movements for the next two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order from Chancellor Rebecca Blank comes as the number of coronavirus cases among students has continued to rise. Among the restrictions, from now through Sept. 21, all student gyms and recreational facilities will be closed, dining halls will offer carryout only, and visitors will not be allowed in dorms. Blank also warned that the campus might shut down if the situation gets worse. In-person classes have not been canceled, and study spaces remain open. The restrictions also don’t apply to graduate students, faculty or staff members. The number of cases among students at UW-Madison has grown daily for the past five days.
Gillette: The United States’ largest coal-producing region, the Powder River Basin, is on pace to produce less than 200 million tons of coal for the first time in three decades, The Gillette News Record reports. The Wyoming basin has experienced a nearly 25% decrease in production from this time in 2019, according to the Energy Information Association. Last year, the U.S. produced its lowest amount of coal since 1975. So far this year, 568 jobs have been lost in the basin, or over 12% of the workforce. Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, said lower natural gas prices and the coronavirus pandemic are to blame for the decline in coal production. The pandemic in particular has exacerbated a trend of declining demand for coal, Godby said. Public health restrictions and economic concerns from the pandemic have reduced the demand in electricity.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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