Montgomery: Montgomery Public Schools has deployed school buses to provide Wi-Fi hot spots to students in need of internet access. The district said six buses would be parked across town, allowing students to get connected while learning remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic, news outlets reported. Most of the buses were expected to be available in various locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. The district said it had 11 buses capable of providing Wi-Fi. About 50 students within 100 feet of the bus will be able to connect to the hot spot at the same time, MPS Communication Director Jade Jones told the Montgomery Advertiser. The school bus hot spots were made possible through a partnership between the school district, the city of Montgomery and TechMGM, a cyber initiative, WSFA-TV reported.
Anchorage: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has opened the state’s sport fishing season while reminding participants to adhere to health restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Sport and personal-use fishing will remain open during the 2020 season “subject to compliance with health mandates,” the department commissioner’s office said in a letter Monday. Subsistence fishing remains open and unrestricted. A March 27 travel ban between communities issued by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy does not include Alaska residents traveling to “fishing locations,” the fish and game department said. Residents traveling to participate in sport or personal-use fisheries outside their own communities were asked to follow guidelines including remaining close to home, researching and abiding by local mandates and buying food, drinks and fuel before leaving their communities. The department also requested that anglers practice social distancing and use face coverings.
Phoenix: The Navajo Nation has announced plans to continue its weekend overnight curfew through the first weekend in May to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez announced the plan Tuesday after reservation officials first implemented the 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday curfew Easter weekend, The Arizona Republic reported. “The 57-hour weekend curfew was effective in reducing the numbers of people that went into the public,” Nez said, adding that officials are “developing a new order to implement similar curfews for the next three weekends for the entire Navajo Nation.” The order is expected to be finalized in the coming days, Navajo Nation spokesperson Jared Touchin said. The Navajo Police Department enforced the curfew by setting up checkpoints in multiple communities and issuing more than 170 citations to violators, which could include a fine up to $1,000 and 30 days in jail. The Navajo Nation also has a nighttime curfew requiring residents to stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. every day. Essential employees with official identification and people with emergencies are exempt from the restrictions.
Little Rock: A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Arkansas’ order preventing the state’s only surgical abortion clinic from performing the procedure during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted the temporary restraining order that Little Rock Family Planning requested against the state. Arkansas had ordered the facility to halt surgical abortions unless they’re needed to protect the life or health of the mother. The state accused the clinic of violating its order preventing elective surgeries that could be safely postponed. Other states have used similar orders to restrict abortions during the public health crisis. The clinic said 20 patients, who were not candidates for abortion-inducing medication, were scheduled for surgical abortions this week. The attorney general’s office said it would take “immediate steps” to have the ruling reversed.
Los Angeles: The Navy has removed 116 medical staff members from its hospital ship docked off Los Angeles after seven people tested positive for COVID-19, an official said. The personnel from the USNS Mercy were taken to a nearby base and remain under quarantine. None so far has needed hospitalization, said Lt. Rochelle Rieger of the 3rd Fleet. Rieger initially said 126 medical crew members were taken off the ship but corrected the number to 116. It’s unclear where or how the sailors became infected, Rieger said. The ship left San Diego on March 23 when all were screened before they boarded, Rieger said. It arrived at the Port of Los Angeles four days later to provide relief to the city amid the pandemic by accepting patients from hospitals who were not infected with the virus. None of the more than 1,000 personnel aboard was allowed to leave the ship once it departed San Diego. So far the ship, with 1,000 beds, has taken in only 20 patients from hospitals and none has tested positive for the coronavirus or showed any symptoms of the illness, Rieger said. Two medical personnel from the ship who tested positive came in close contact with a small number of the patients but they were wearing full protective gear, including gloves, N95 masks and eye goggles. The removal of the 116 crew members will not affect the ship’s ability to treat patients, Rieger said.
Denver: Vice President Mike Pence will travel to the Air Force Academy for its pared down commencement ceremony Saturday to address graduating cadets in person, and not by video as originally planned. Pence’s office announced his travel plans Tuesday and said additional details would be released at a later time. The event usually attracts a large crowd to Falcon Stadium and ends with a traditional aerobatics demonstration by the Air Force Thunderbirds. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the academy is closed to visitors and no spectators, including family, will be allowed at this year’s ceremony, which will only last about 30 minutes. The Thunderbirds will only perform a flyover. Cadets will march 6 feet apart and sit 8 feet apart during the event. Cadets will not march up to receive their diplomas and the typical high-fives and hugs are banned, The Gazette reported.
Bridgeport: The state has hit the pause button on setting up new hospital beds to care for any overflow patients during an expected surge in COVID-19 patients. More than 1,800 extra beds are in place at sites such as UConn Health, the Connecticut Convention Center and Western Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State universities. Josh Geballe, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday the state is cautiously optimistic it will need fewer than the 12,000 beds originally projected for coronavirus patients during the surge, which is expected to hit later this month. About 56% of the state’s 1,500 or so critical-care ventilators are in use, Geballe said, and an additional 300 are on the way. The state’s surgical mask supply also is in good shape, especially because a new disinfecting machine should be in place by the weekend, he said. That machine can clean about 80,000 N95 masks each day, and those masks can go through the process up to 20 times, he said. The state has received some shipments of protective equipment in recent days and is waiting for more to arrive, Lamont said.
Wilmington: The state’s court buildings will remain closed for at least another month. The News Journal of Wilmington reported that the state’s top judge announced the extension on Tuesday. Delaware Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. said that people are supposed to be at home and not coming and going from courthouses. Delaware suspended all pending trials a month ago because they often require juries and involve numerous court staff. Courthouses often see hundreds of people flow through them each day. But they are now reduced to a skeleton staff. Courts have been holding hearings in criminal cases over video and telephone. Routine civil court actions are also being done remotely. Bail motions and probation violation hearings have also been able to continue remotely.
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the District’s public health emergency until May 15, WUSA-TV reported. Stay-at-home orders will remain in effect for at least another month. It also means everything from schools to bars and restaurants will remain closed. “We’ll need until at least May 15 to help flatten the curve,” Bowser said. She also gave additional guidance for wearing masks in the District, saying masks are required in grocery stores, hotels, taxis, ride-shares and other private transportation, and strongly encouraged for workers and riders of public transit.
Tallahassee: The state’s teachers union called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to keep campuses closed through the end of the school year, saying the coronavirus outbreak “presents a threat we cannot control.” Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said in a letter to the governor that teachers have “risen to the challenge” of conducting their classes online since campuses closed last month and there is no reason to reopen them until the virus is under control. DeSantis suggested last week that he was considering reopening schools next month because children have little risk of dying from the disease, drawing criticism that such a move would endanger staff members and parents who are older or have health problems. Florida has more than 4,500 public schools serving 2.7 million children. They employ 180,000 teachers. DeSantis said at a Tuesday news conference that he is not going to reopen the schools until it can be done safely and any decision will be done in consultation with superintendents and parents. He said schools will be discussed by a task force on reopening the state that he intends to appoint this week.
Savannah: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp declared a pandemic exemption from a 1951 state law that prohibits wearing masks in public after some black officials warned that some African Americans, fearing harassment by police, might not cover their faces for protection. The anti-mask law makes it a misdemeanor to wear “a mask, hood” or other face covering to “conceal the identity of the wearer” on public property. Georgia passed the law to prevent Ku Klux Klan members from wearing hoods during public rallies and marches. With the federal Centers for Disease Control now encouraging Americans to wear masks that cover the mouth and nose in public, Kemp signed an order Monday that said the anti-mask law can’t be enforced against people covering their faces as protection against the virus. Kemp told a news conference he wanted to ensure that “people can follow the guidance of public health officials without fear of prosecution” amid the global pandemic. Kemp thanked Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for raising concerns about the anti-mask law. Last week, Bottoms ordered Atlanta police to suspend enforcement of the law
Honolulu: A state program providing free hotel rooms to health workers responding to the coronavirus crisis has been modified after the demand exceeded the number of available rooms. More than 870 room nights have been reserved through the Hotels for Heroes program, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday. The overwhelming demand forced organizers to make changes including limiting workers to seven-day reservations. Hotels for Heroes was established to use extra hotel rooms while helping financially support the visitor industry and the community. Hotels on Kauai, Maui, Hawaii island and Oahu with approved reservations are compensated $85 per room per per night from state tourism funds. The program was developed by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. The program does not accept health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been required to quarantine. Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Mokulehua said the program will help about 1,000 active department workers.
Boise: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the Federal Aviation Administration will distribute about $44 million in airport aid to 36 Idaho airports to help the facilities respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The money is from the $2.2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month. The airport funding is aimed at replacing revenue lost from the severe decline in passenger traffic and other airport business because of the coronavirus. The money can be used for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses such as payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments. The Boise Airport in southwestern Idaho is receiving just under $19 million, and the Idaho Falls Regional Airport in eastern Idaho will get about $2.3 million.
Chicago: Dozens of immigrant children in U.S. custody and living in three Chicago-area shelters have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said. The Chicago-based Heartland Alliance operates shelters where children in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement’s custody wait to be released to a relative or legal guardian. By Tuesday, 37 of 69 minors tested positive, according to a statement. Heartland officials called their prognosis “very good,” but declined to offer specifics on their medical treatment. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, tasked with the custody and care of immigrant children caught traveling alone across the U.S.-Mexico border, said Tuesday that 21 children in Illinois and Texas shelters are COVID-19-positive and six others recovered. None required hospitalization. They couldn’t immediately explain the discrepancy with Heartland’s data, saying they were still compiling figures. Federal officials have suspended placing children in states including New York and Washington over concerns with the outbreak. Officials with Heartland, which stopped taking new children last month, tested all children, added nurse practitioners and staff members are taking precautions like wearing gloves and masks.
Indianapolis: Democrats said they will hold the June 13 state convention virtually over concerns for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The convention had been expected to draw hundreds of party insiders and candidates to the Indiana Convention Center. At the event, state delegates select nominees for lieutenant governor, attorney general and national delegates to the Democratic National Convention, which has been pushed about a month to Aug. 17. Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said that all state delegates will be mailed ballots. The party is looking into online voting options. He said party officials still are working through details of how the process and timeline will work and it’s possible voting won’t be complete until after the convention. “We’re excited to hold the 2020 State Convention virtually and we’re confident we’ve found the safest way to bring Hoosier Democrats from around the state together,” he said. “There’s just too much at stake in 2020 to not adapt to maintain a critical element of the electoral process.”
Columbus Junction: Soaring numbers of workers at a Columbus Junction pork-processing plant who have been sickened by COVID-19 have sparked fears not only for the employees’ health but also for the vitality of this small town and the continuity of the nation’s meat supply. Officials from Tyson Foods have closed the Louisa County plant amid one of the state’s largest outbreaks of COVID-19: 186 employees have tested positive for the illness. The facility is one of the nation’s major pork processing plants and the rural community’s largest employer. The Columbus Junction plant is one of several meatpacking facilities across the state and the nation where business has been suspended after they were hard hit by the virus. In Tama County, where 108 positive COVID tests and three deaths have been reported, National Beef suspended production at the Iowa Premium beef plant after an outbreak. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, shut its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant over the weekend as the coronavirus spread among workers. Meat processing plants from Colorado to Canada have similarly suspended production after the virus spread. Tyson Foods officials said Tuesday that the company would keep its Columbus Junction plant, which typically has about 1,400 employees, shuttered. The plant, said to be responsible for 2% of the country’s total slaughtering capacity, has been closed since April 6. The company is diverting livestock originally scheduled for delivery at Columbus Junction to its other plants, when possible.
Mission: Amid a surge of complaints from out-of-work Kansans, state officials are making another effort to fix the state’s faltering system for filing unemployment claims as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on the economy. The Kansas Department of Labor said in a tweet that tech workers were taking the agency’s website down for an hour each at noon and at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday that the department has received more than 130,000 initial unemployment claims over the past three weeks. She said that initial claims are up by 3,400% for the year. But even those numbers don’t capture the full extent of job losses in the state, in part because a 43-year-old mainframe computer cannot keep up. Kelly said the system was the victim of of “decades of neglect” and already was scheduled for an upgrade. A team of dozens of experts worked over the weekend on a solution. “But it’s sort of like repairing a plane in the air,” Kelly said. Republican state Senate President Susan Wagle took the administration to task over the problems, saying people are complaining to her that passwords aren’t working, they aren’t getting money despite filing claims weeks ago and are facing other problems.
Madisonville: Those over age 60 might be more vulnerable to the coronavirus, but a 103-year-old Kentucky woman fought it and won. Virginia Harris, who lives in Hopkins County, was diagnosed with the virus in March after an aggressive fever and nausea, her family told WFIE-TV. Because she didn’t have respiratory issues, her family didn’t think it was coronavirus, but she was tested anyway. “We got the results back about five days later, and they were positive. We were very very distraught, upset,” grandson Adam Harris said. Her symptoms included a high fever and low blood pressure. “I was so sick, I thought I was going to die. But the good Lord took care of me, everybody was praying for me, and it just wasn’t my time,” Harris said. Her daughter-in-law, Jayne Harris, said one of the worst things was not being able to be with her as she fought the virus. “It’s just heart-wrenching to know she was going to be in there and do this on her own,” she said. Family members said they hope Virginia Harris’ story will give hope to others sickened in the pandemic.
Baton Rouge: Gov. John Bel Edwards said he intends to keep K-12 public schools shuttered through the remainder of the academic year because of the coronavirus crisis, but few details have been provided about how districts should judge student performance with classrooms closed for two months of the school year. Edwards’ closure of public schools was set to expire this month, but he said he will sign an order this week to continue the closure for the rest of the school year, which lasts until late May. The decision will have Louisiana’s 700,000 public school students out of their classrooms for two months of the school year. “School isn’t canceled. They just won’t be going to their campuses,” Edwards said. He said gathering students into packed classrooms isn’t safe because of the virus outbreak, with Louisiana among the hardest-hit states. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, school superintendents and school board leaders urged Edwards to keep schools closed. Local school districts have been using distance learning – and at least half are using some form of online teaching – to keep lessons going since schools closed in mid-March, according to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Portland: Even though many workplaces are empty, the state workers’ compensation system expects an increase in claims related to the coronavirus crisis. The system already is receiving claims from dozens of health care workers exposed to the virus, and more claims are expected in the coming weeks for injuries suffered at home by Mainers who are working remotely, the Portland Press Herald reported. “Spare bedrooms, basements and kitchen counters are newly transformed into eight-hour work spaces that often are not appropriately engineered for comfort or safety,” said Tony Payne, spokesman for MEMIC, the Portland-based workers’ compensation insurer. At least 208 Maine workers had filed notifications by Monday of workplace exposure to coronavirus since mid-February, when the system began coding reports to track COVID-19, said John Rohde, executive director of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board. Mainers who contract the virus on the job will be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits, while those who are quarantined and do not test positive will not, officials said.
Baltimore: Goldman Sachs is partnering with the city and Lendistry to steer $10 million in capital from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to help entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic, The Daily Record reported. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young along with Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Lendistry CEO Everett Sands joined Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon on the announcement call. Lendistry was founded in 2014, according to the firm’s website, with the goal of using the latest financial tech to provide loans to disadvantaged small businesses. The firm intended to make “a big splash in Baltimore this year,” Sands said. As a result of the crisis, the lender is now focused on getting federal stimulus dollars to businesses in need, he said, and that includes ventures not in Lendistry’s portfolio. Currently the lender is accepting loan applications for up to $250,000 from businesses in Maryland and five other states. In order to apply, businesses must provide 12 months of payroll, a first-quarter 2020 payroll summary, as well as tax, health care and retirement statements for 2020 and 2019. Under the Paycheck Protection Program businesses are allowed to borrow up to 2.5 times their precoronavirus payroll to cover eight-weeks of payroll, and 20% for expenses like rent and utilities. Those loans are eligible for forgiveness if a business keeps its workforce at its prepandemic level.
Boston: Massachusetts budget watchers are predicting a steep drop in revenue in the face of the coronavirus economic shutdown. Democratic House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said the House typically holds its budget debate in April, a timeline he said is no longer feasible. Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny said the state could see a decline of billions of dollars in revenue and massive layoffs as high as 570,000 that could push the unemployment rate to nearly 18%.
Lansing: Demonstrators drove thousands of vehicles – many draped with protest signs – to the state Capitol Wednesday, loudly protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order intended to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Police watched as horns honked and commercial and private vehicles from across the state jammed Capitol Avenue and other streets surrounding Michigan’s seat of government. “Liberty once lost is lost forever,” read a sign draped across a commercial van. “Security without liberty is called prison,” read another, stretched across the Capitol’s front lawn. Lt. Darren Green of the Michigan State Police estimated several thousand cars were part of the demonstration, with 100 to 150 people on the Capitol lawn. Green said traffic was backed up for more than a mile around the Capitol in several directions. “They’re doing a pretty good job of maintaining social distance,” Green said. “They’re being respectful and not causing any issues at all.” Meshawn Maddock, a board member of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, the nonprofit group that organized the protest, said the demonstration should send a strong message to the governor that it is time to allow Michiganders to return to work, in cases where they can do so safely. Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan on March 10 and announced a “stay-at-home” order March 23 that directed residents to stay inside, except for essential purposes, and told businesses deemed nonessential to stop calling employees in to work. Last week, she extended that order until May 1, while imposing tougher restrictions on nonessential travel and some retail outlets.
St. Paul: Businesses deemed nonessential during the coronavirus crisis have inundated Gov. Tim Walz’s administration with requests to open their doors again as a stay-at-home order continues. Walz recently extended that order until at least May 4, but said he and his administration would look at exemptions for more businesses over the coming weeks. State officials would come up with requirements for social distancing, hygiene and public health. An estimated 80% of Minnesota jobs are in essential fields that are still operating. And Walz has granted additional business exemptions such as lawn care. That exemption was crucial for Oak Marsh Golf Course, general manager Steve Whillock told the Star Tribune. Now he and other golf industry leaders are pressing the governor to open the courses to the public. The course had been operating safely with social distancing before Walz’s closure order, Whillock said. They had been sanitizing cart handles, allowing only a certain number of people in their pro shop and taking other steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he said.
Oxford: A community used some creativity to celebrate a woman’s 100th birthday amid the ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak. Friends and families of Catherine Alderson were escorted by police cars and fire trucks as they celebrated a century of her life in a car parade Friday, the Oxford Eagle reported. Alderson was able to wave to cars while sitting in her driveway, wrapped in a shawl and surrounded by bubbles and pink balloons. The idea to bring the celebration to her home came from Alderson’s grandchildren, and was made possible by the police and fire departments in Oxford. Long distance family members and Alderson’s friends from church also joined the party. “She didn’t know why the Lord had left her here this long,” Peggy Leister, Alderson’s daughter, said. “I told her maybe it’s because she lived for Him and worked hard and tried to do what He asked her to do in the Bible.” Officials in Lafayette County have also been hosting other car parades for children who are missing birthday celebrations because of the outbreak. Deputies said 14 parades with fire trucks and blaring sirens were held in the county since their office announced it will be hosting the drive-by parties last week.
Jefferson City: State data showed Missouri’s unemployment rate reached 4.5% in March, and that’s likely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the hit the coronavirus crisis has taken on jobs. Missouri unemployment was 3.5% in February. April unemployment data could reflect a much steeper increase in the state’s jobless rate. Gov. Mike Parson didn’t issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April 7, although many local governments had similar requirements in place by then. Unemployment claims shot up in response to the pandemic. Nearly 238,000 people filed new unemployment benefit claims in Missouri in the first three weeks after the coronavirus crisis began hitting the economy. That’s more than 1 in 12 eligible workers. Missouri’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Wednesday urged self-employed and gig workers to also file for unemployment. Missouri’s unemployment program doesn’t cover those individuals, but they are eligible for $133 to $320 a week through a federal coronavirus aid program, according to the state labor department. The agency expects to start processing those claims as soon as next week.
Helena: State agencies and courts are taking adequate precautions to protect inmates from exposure to the new coronavirus, the Montana Supreme Court said in rejecting a petition by Disability Rights Montana seeking the appointment of a special master to reduce the number of people incarcerated. The justices said there was no evidence that the Department of Corrections, courts or jail officials have violated any clear legal duty to reduce inmate populations. Authorities have implemented appropriate measures for prisons and jails to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including those issued by Chief Justice Mike McGrath, the unanimous opinion stated. On March 20, McGrath asked county and city court judges to “review your jail rosters and release, without bond, as many prisoners as you are able, especially those being held for nonviolent offenses” and to hear such motions on an expedited basis. Hours after Disability Rights Montana filed its petition on April 1, Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive that suspended new transfers into Department of Corrections custody, called for screening anyone who arrives at a facility and restricts in-person visitation. If the department director does approve a transfer, he said, the inmate must be quarantined for 14 days at the new facility. Bullock also directed the Board of Pardons and Parole to consider early release for inmates who are 65 or older, have medical conditions that put them at higher risk, are pregnant or are nearing their release dates – if they are not a public safety risk. Many of those steps were already in place. Justices said they believe the governor’s directives and his reliance on guidance from the Centers of Disease Control best addresses the crisis.
Lincoln: The state employees’ union will deliver more than 1,600 petitions to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office demanding that he give all state workers the option to work from home if their jobs allow it. The petitions also called for an extra $2 an hour in “hazard pay” for those who have to work in person during the coronavirus pandemic. “State employees are concerned and they are anxious,”said Justin Hubly, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees. “We need the governor to take action to ensure their safety.” Hubly said the only safeguard in some state offices is a bottle of hand sanitizer. The union has also questioned why call-center employees aren’t allowed to do their jobs from home. Ricketts has said it isn’t possible for all state employees to work from home because the state still has to provide essential services. He has said employees with concerns about their work environment should talk to their managers.
Reno: Renown Regional Medical Center has increased its ability to cope with the spread of COVID-19 by about 173% by retrofitting the regional trauma center’s Mill Street parking structure into a three-story temporary facility designed to hold 1,400 coronavirus patients at peak capacity. Construction of the temporary facility was “herculean,” according to Renown CEO Tony Slonim, a roughly $11 million precautionary effort that will help the region’s health care system cope with an expected influx of coronavirus cases. Just one of the temporary facility’s two 700-bed floors nearly matches Renown’s normal 808-bed capacity. Rows of dozens of neatly bedded cots crosshatch the structure’s expansive interior underneath a ceiling lined with the buildout’s exposed HVAC and electrical guts. There are no privacy partitions between the beds, and ventilated Sani-huts serve as backups for a handful of plumbed toilets on each floor. A partitioned staff area splits each patient floor into two sides. That staff area is full of computer monitors and other medical equipment. The first and second floor are for patients, with 700 beds on each floor. The third floor is where the vehicle-sized HVAC units are housed along with a break area for staff.
Concord: A hearing has been scheduled for Friday in a lawsuit seeking to block Republican Gov. Chris Sununu from spending federal COVID-19 relief funds without lawmakers’ permission. Democratic leaders of the New Hampshire Legislature sued the governor this week arguing that only the legislative fiscal committee has the power to spend the $1.25 billion the state is expected to get. Sununu countered that state law grants him authority to take immediate action during a crisis, including creating the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery to disburse the money. Lawmakers will have input via an advisory panel, which met for a second time Wednesday.
Trenton: March tax revenue was up 3.6% compared with 2019, but officials warned Wednesday that the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis would have a significant effect on state finances next month and beyond. The state collected $1.88 billion in March, up $66.3 million over March 2019, the Treasury Department said in a statement. “Treasury is closely monitoring factors such as the closure of businesses across New Jersey, the sharp increase in unemployment insurance claims, and the decline in the stock markets, which are expected to have a significant impact on tax revenue collections in the coming month,” the department said in an emailed statement.The development came a day after Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, and the Democrat-led Legislature enacted a bill delaying the income tax filing deadline from Wednesday to July 15. The delay could hobble state revenue in the future, the department warned. The governor and lawmakers also agreed to postpone the end of the fiscal year from June 30 to Sept. 30.
Las Cruces:Parents who want their children to have a special birthday party while still abiding by stay-at-home and social distancing measures can call the Las Cruces Fire Department to help out. “We will commit an engine to drive by their house with the lights on and then drive slowly through the neighborhood,” said Adrian Arias, deputy chief of administration for LCFD. Arias said fire department administration understands how challenging it can be for parents keeping children inside and away from others to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. “We’re realizing kids are at home and they’re not having a birthday gathering like they usually do. We’re just asking the parents if they wish to request that they call us ahead of time,” he said. Arias said the birthday shout outs are for children between the ages of 4 and 12 and will be conducted between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The fire department has done about eight “birthday shout outs” so far. “We’re calling them birthday shout outs, not necessarily parades, because we don’t want a line of vehicles driving around through neighborhoods even though traffic has slowed down quite a bit,” Arias said. “We’re trying to prevent large crowds from getting out of the house.” The fire department will cruise by “with a fire apparatus or one of our squad units, which looks very similar to an ambulance,” he said.
New York City: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out and coming in close contact with other people. The new mandate will require a mask or face covering on busy streets, public transit or any situation where people cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The executive order is similar to recommendations already in effect in New York City and will be in force Friday. “Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask when you’re going to come close to a person?” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “On what theory would you not do that?” The governor said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he’s urging merchants to enforce it among customers. Although hospitalizations from the outbreak are leveling off, state officials are trying to dramatically reduce transmission rates as the death toll rises. Cuomo’s announcement came hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for stores to make customers wear face coverings in order to protect store workers against exposure.
Asheville:The city is moving to slash millions of dollars from its budget, with bus system upgrades, a city worker pay boost and renewable energy the likely financial victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Asheville is facing potential losses of more than $6 million in taxes and other revenue in the next two months and millions more in the next fiscal year, starting July 1, financial forecasters the told City Council. The pandemic’s economic downturn will hit the city in its current budget year and the next, which starts this summer. Most losses will come from decreases in expected sales taxes and parking fees, according to numbers presented by Assistant City Finance Director Tony McDowell. Even during the “depths of the Great Recession“ 10 years ago, the worst quarterly sales tax drop was 10%, McDowell said. “By comparison, the League of Municipalities is estimating right now that for the last quarter of this year we may see a 20% decline,” he said. The drop could be even worse, at 35%, according Buncombe County government budgeters.
Bismarck: Health officials announced the largest single-day increase in cases of the new coronavirus. The Department of Health said 24 cases were reported Wednesday, bringing the state total to 365. Officials said 401 people have been screened since Tuesday, bringing the total number tested in North Dakota to 11,317. They said 10,952 of those tests have come back negative. There have been nine deaths related to the coronavirus in the state, but none was reported Wednesday. Health officials said there were 36 coronavirus patients who were hospitalized Wednesday.
Cincinnati: A judge dropped a charge that a man who recorded a large gathering in a Cincinnati neighborhood violated Ohio’s coronavirus quarantining orders. Hamilton County Judge Alan Triggs on Wednesday dropped the charge at the prosecutor’s request, and allowed 26-year-old Rashaan Davis’ release from jail to house arrest pending grand jury action on a felony count of inciting violence, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Davis was jailed April 5. Grand jury proceedings have been suspended for safety during the pandemic.
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma County jail has seen no cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, officials told county commissioners on Wednesday, The Oklahoman reported. Cpt. Gene Bradley with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said the jail’s quarantine measures, which include putting each new inmate into isolation for 10 days while monitoring their temperature and symptoms, has contributed to the success. Bradley said there had been five suspected cases, but that they did not amount to anything. This success separates the county jail from state correctional facilities, where at least one inmate and five staffers have tested positive for COVID-19. The largest issue for the jail has been personal protective equipment, but multiple organizations and individuals have donated masks and other equipment. Jail staff should be covered for up to the next 60 days, Bradley said.
Portland: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has suspended the license of a southern Oregon bar that officials said violated restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Cave Junction’s Sportsman Tavern is the first case in which an Oregon establishment’s license has been suspended for allegedly defying an executive order that bans on-premise food or drink consumption, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Business owner Kim Sanders told the Associated Press that the bar has not been open and that he was not trying to violate the order. The suspension happened Friday after an Oregon Liquor Control Commission inspector on Thursday checked out a citizen tip, agency spokesperson Mark Pettinger said. The inspector discreetly parked and observed people going in and out of the building, Pettinger said. The inspector went inside, Pettinger said, and there were drinks at the bar. The suspension is in effect indefinitely and can be challenged by the licensee. Sanders said that the bar has been closed since mid-March and that his employees were there cleaning, painting and generally revamping it while maintaining social distancing standards. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is also investigating other alleged violations of Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, Pettinger said.
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said it’s easing up on tax enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Revenue said it will pause payments on existing payment plans on request; offer flexible terms for new payment plans; suspend or reduce automatic enforcement of liens, wage garnishments and use of private collection agencies; and take other steps to offer relief to individual and business taxpayers. The measures will last through at least July 15, the agency said Wednesday. The Department of Revenue previously extended the deadline for taxpayers to file their 2019 Pennsylvania personal income tax returns from April 15 to July 15.
Providence: The city and its firefighters’ union have collaborated to buy 34,000 N95 face masks for first responders and front-line city staff dealing directly with the public to protect them from exposure to the new coronavirus. About 8,000 masks have been distributed, and others are on the way, according to the office of Mayor Jorge Elorza. “We have closely been monitoring our staff needs during this time and I am glad that we are able to provide these critical employees with the tools necessary to protect themselves and others during this time,” Elorza said. Firefighters are already required to wear masks and gloves when responding to calls.
Columbia: The state is still a few weeks away from a likely peak of coronavirus cases, but leaders at the state’s comprehensive teaching hospital said it’s time to plan for how to restart parts of society that have been shut down. The Medical University of South Carolina said their modeling shows they have enough beds to handle the peak in COVID-19 cases, now expected to hit around April 30. With the immediate crisis appearing under control, the hospital is turning toward what it can do to help get the economy and social life back on track without having another spike in cases that could lead to another massive shut down, MUSC President Dr. David Cole said Wednesday. Health officials said they’re still waiting for must-have developments, including a widely available COVID-19 test that can deliver results within a hour; a test that can determine if someone had the coronavirus and is now immune; a robust network of investigators to track down and quarantine anyone who has been in close contact with someone who just tested positive; and a plan to protect the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, Cole said.
Sioux Falls: Mayor Paul TenHaken is going ahead with a city-wide shelter-in-place ordinance, now that Gov. Kristi Noem has rejected his request to issue a county-wide order. TenHaken did not say how the ordinance would differ from his stay-at-home proclamation. The Argus Leader reported the first reading of the ordinance was scheduled for Wednesday night with a second reading scheduled for next week. TenHaken’s request for Noem comes as Minnehaha County saw its number of cases reach 768. The state has reported 988 cases, and 438 of Minnehaha County’s cases are workers at Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, according to the Department of Health. And 107 involve people connected to Smithfield workers, such as family members. TenHaken said residents would still be able to travel for work and to get groceries and other essential items. The ordinance also wouldn’t stop people from doing activities outside as long as they are social distancing.
Nashville: State parks will remain closed because of the ongoing threat of the new coronavirus. The announcement by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation keeps the 56 parks closed past the previously announced April 14 date to end the closures. State officials closed down the parks starting April 4. They have not set a new date to reopen them, saying they will closely monitor the pandemic and will notify the public when parks reopen. The department said the closure occurred because state parks saw staggering increases in visitor traffic, including from out-of-state visitors, making social distancing difficult to control.
Austin: Twice as many Texans applied for food stamps in March than during the same period last year, as out-of-work residents swarm to government subsidized programs to put food on the table amid the coronavirus crisis, the Statesman reported. About 231,000 Texans applied for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, in March compared to 114,000 applications in March 2019, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. During the first week of April, the state approved 83% more requests for benefits compared to the same period last year, with many of them likely coming from applications received in March. The state administers the program but the benefits are paid with federal funding. Last month, the state agency reported 3.3 million Texans were eligible for food stamps, more than a third of them children, and $370 million worth of the benefits were distributed. Since the pandemic hit, the federal and state government have relaxed some of the rules to qualify for the program, including suspending certain interview and employment requirements, but advocates see room for improvement. Texas has some of the most stringent conditions to qualify for food stamps, according to policy experts.
Salt Lake City: Utah joined more than 20 other states in canceling classes at public schools for the rest of the school year to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Students will finish the year doing mostly online assignments to avoid the risk of crowded classrooms, Gov. Gary Herbert said. “In order for us to continue to slow the spread and to get back on our feet socially and economically this is not the time to have our schools back open,” Herbert said. “This is not an easy decision to make. It is disruptive and it impacts our children, parents and families.” Public schools have been closed since March 16. Halting in-person classes has cast thousands of parents in the role of home school teachers as they guide students through online assignments created by teachers who often organize daily video meetings with students to help. About 667,000 children go to public schools in Utah, according to state figures. Utah joined states such as Arizona, Oregon and Washington that had made the same decision.
Burlington: State Attorney General T.J. Donovan is suing a Williston man suspected of price gouging on masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Donovan announced the lawsuit against Shelley Palmer and his company Big Brother Security Programs Inc. on Tuesday. Palmer is accused of purchasing surgical masks for 10 cents each, representing them as N95 masks to local health care providers, and selling the masks to the Central Vermont Medical Center for $2.50 each – an approximately 2,400% price increase. Palmer’s actions occurred during a shortage of personal protective equipment in March because of the global pandemic, Donovan’s court complaint stated. Palmer, however, said the masks were 3-ply non-woven KN95 masks – a mask that follows a Chinese standard for protection – and that he paid between 50 cents and 65 cents for each. He said he was not price gouging and that the hospital to which he sold the masks knew what he was selling and set the price. He is worried that Donovan’s legal action is going to ruin his business. This is the first COVID-19-related case alleging price gouging filed in Vermont, Donovan said Wednesday.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam said he is extending his executive order that placed temporary restrictions on restaurants, recreational activity, entertainment, gatherings and nonessential retail businesses for two weeks. The order was initially supposed to be in effect until April 23 but will now last until May 8. Northam said that data showed that the order needed to be extended to protect public health. The order closed recreation and entertainment businesses, as well as personal care businesses, Northam said. It also banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Northam said modeling data showed that social distancing is working to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the disease in Virginia. There are still many new cases and deaths, but many of these are cases that were contracted weeks ago. The stay-at-home order remains in effect until June 10. The state will continue to monitor health data to determine what needs to happen next.
Wallula: Dozens of workers at a Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Walla Walla County have tested positive for the new coronavirus, but officials said the plant will remain open. KEPR-TV reported this week that 42 workers had contracted the coronavirus at the meat plant in Wallula. Leaders with the Benton-Franklin Health District said they are working with staff at the plant to ensure it is a safe work environment. Officials with Walla Walla County Emergency Management said they are confident the employer is taking necessary precautions to prevent additional spread. The plant has about 1,400 workers.
Beverly: A wood flooring production facility announced Wednesday that it would temporarily lay off and furlough several employees after decreased demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. AHF Products said in a statement that the cuts would affect 215 employees at the Beverly plant, including supervisors, salaried operators and maintenance and support staff. “The past several weeks have been like no other that we have experienced in our lifetime,” plant manager Blaine Emery said. “The current pandemic situation has impacted hardwood flooring demand significantly, and as a result, has forced AHF to reassess its workforce needs.” The statement said the company had already cut back, including a reduction in spending on capital initiatives and reducing pay for employees not furloughed. “We understand the impact these layoffs will have on the families of those affected and look forward to getting people back to work as soon as we can,” the company said.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers signaled Tuesday that it might be another month before he starts relaxing social distancing mandates. The governor’s stay-at-home and school closure orders are set to expire on April 24. Evers told KSTP-TV that lifting the mandates won’t be “like flipping a switch.” He said he wants to be sure more coronavirus testing is available, there’s better tracking of sick people and there’s enough personal protective gear for health care workers before he will consider allowing businesses to open and easing social distancing restrictions. He added that it’s unlikely schools will reopen but he hasn’t made a final decision yet. “I would fully expect another couple of weeks, a month, before we are in a position to actually say we’re ahead of the curve here, and after that we can start thinking about how we can relax things,” Evers told the television station.
Cheyenne: The state has recorded its second known death related to the new coronavirus. The Laramie County man died Tuesday after being hospitalized in Cheyenne for weeks, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The Wyoming Department of Health announced the man’s death Wednesday. A Johnson County man hospitalized in Buffalo with the coronavirus died late last week. As of Wednesday, Wyoming had close to 400 confirmed and suspected cases of the virus. More than 160 people had recovered. Gov. Mark Gordon has urged people in Wyoming to stay at home except when absolutely necessary and to avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more. He has ordered the shutdown of schools, bars and dining-in at restaurants through at least April 30.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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