Latest State Action on Coronavirus
Small businesses and workers would get additional protections and renters would be spared evictions and utility cutoffs under an emergency bill the District of Columbia Council will take up next week in response to the state of emergency declared by Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wyoming’s Democratic presidential caucus scheduled for April 4 is canceled. Instead, the state Democratic Party will set up locations for voters to pick up and drop off ballots March 28 and April 4. Voters still can mail in ballots; they must be postmarked by March 20.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said that the state should be prepared for thousands of cases of COVID-19 as coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state. Brown’s administration has announced a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 250 people.
More than 270 complaints have been filed against businesses that are illegally raising their prices amid the spread of coronavirus in New Jersey. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the Division of Consumer Affairs is cracking down on price gouging by sending out 55 investigators to inspect storefronts around the state.
In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, the website for a local Illinois health agency was hacked. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District gave people in their district a phone number and email address to contact the agency for any coronavirus concerns.
The Arizona legislature approved tens of millions of dollars in emergency coronavirus funding on the same day legislative leaders announced measures to help prevent the disease from spreading around the Capitol, starting with the closure of the public galleries.
Colorado lawmakers are worried about what the spread of coronavirus portends for the state budget as the legislature faces a nearly certain shutdown due to the public health emergency. Lawmakers are preparing to scale back spending plans dramatically.
Ohio elections officials are rushing to recruit additional poll workers ahead of Tuesday primary as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have led hundreds to drop out before Election Day.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, announced that for at least the next two weeks, mass gatherings should be limited to no more than 100 healthy people. Herbert said people over 60 or who have compromised immune systems should avoid gatherings of more than 20 people.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, ordered the closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties for more than a month. State schools chief Chris Reykdal hinted that schools may remain closed even longer and perhaps well into the fall.
Citing concerns over the coronavirus, Idaho’s legislative leadership is pushing hard to adjourn the session before the March 20 target date. Legislators have begun fast-tracking budget bills and moving more quickly through their reading calendars, but key budgets have yet to pass.
A University of Hawaii economist predicted only about half of Hawaii’s hotel rooms will be filled with travelers over the next few months “if we’re lucky” as the new coronavirus depresses tourism. Carl Bonham told members of an advisory committee to the House that he expects tourism industry workers will soon start losing jobs and having their hours cut.
Citing the continued spread of the coronavirus, the big metro Atlanta school districts announced they will close buildings and shift to online learning for at least a week. Most districts, including DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton counties, said buildings will remain closed “until further notice.”
Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said to avoid a surge of patients that could overwhelm health care systems, the state would limit nursing home and prison visitors, while warning of more steps to limit public gatherings in the coming weeks.
As colleges and universities across the nation are beginning to close their campuses and shift to online learning in their effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, Mississippi’s institutions are following suit.
Virginia now has 17 presumptive cases of novel coronavirus, state officials said. That is nearly double what the state had reported one day earlier, prompting Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to declare a state of emergency across the state. Most the state's cases are in Northern Virginia, including five of the eight new cases.
North Carolina health officials have loosened, but not eliminated, requirements for patients to get tested for coronavirus as testing capabilities at non-state-run labs has increased. The state had at least 16 cases of COVID-19. the biggest problem, the state’s top health official said, is a lack of supplies needed to conduct the tests. North Carolina’s state lab has enough supplies to test 700 people.
New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel announced a temporary ban on public gatherings of 100 people or more, as the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have rapidly intensified. The ban, which took effect immediately, will apply to stadiums, arenas, conference centers and theaters.
Michigan senior care and residential facilities are putting visitation restrictions in place to protect residents from the spread of coronavirus. Some facilities suspended all non-medical visits to nursing homes as well.
Between 10% and 20% of Connecticut’s population could contract COVID-19 over the next month or two, the state’s chief epidemiologist said. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont issued executive orders banning gatherings of 250 or more people and waiving the state’s 180-day requirement for public schools following a wave of announcements that schools would be shut down.
To limit the spread of the coronavirus in New York state, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced restrictions on gatherings of 500 or more people until further notice. Schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit facilities are exempt from the new rule.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland’s public schools to close Monday for the next two weeks. Hogan also ordered large gatherings to be canceled, closed senior centers and activated the National Guard.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin as seven people in the state tested positive with the coronavirus. Evers’ announcement came just hours before two more cases of the virus were found in Dane County, bringing the total number of cases in the state to eight with one fully recovered.
Pennsylvania’s governor closed schools and other facilities in a suburban Philadelphia county that has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said the order applies to all schools as well as community centers and entertainment venues. Critical infrastructure, including health care facilities and pharmacies, will remain open.
Acting lab director Helen Reid said Vermont is gearing up its capacity from currently 78 tests a day. The state lab, which is responsible for all Vermont’s testing, is doubling its testing staff to 12. Administrators and lab staff are also working longer hours.
Maine's first positive test was announced by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who also recommended against any gatherings of 250 or more people and banned all non-essential out-of-state travel by state employees.
The Kansas State School Board of Education announced it has suspended rules for local school districts because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The board voted and approved that schools will not be penalized if they shorten their school days, suspend or cancel classes, how they deliver educational courses to students and the graduation requirements.
The Montana University System is moving from in-class instruction to online instruction in every class where it’s possible because of coronavirus concerns, Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced major changes in schedules and delivery of coursework.
Three state lawmakers questioned whether state and local officials are prepared for a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in Arkansas, but two other lawmakers defended the planning efforts of GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration.
Alaska’s first confirmed illness caused by the new strain of coronavirus was disclosed by state officials, who said the person arrived in Anchorage on a cargo flight, was tested and treated at a local hospital and is now in stable condition and in quarantine here.
Other State News
The Oklahoma Senate voted 36-8 for the bill, which now heads to the House for consideration. The bill would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion, beginning at six weeks of pregnancy, if a fetal heartbeat or brain waves are detected.
The Georgia House has passed a bill updating the state’s HIV laws for the first time since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. House Bill 719 lowers or eliminates criminal penalties for having sex, sharing needles and donating blood without disclosing a positive HIV status.
Missouri lawmakers took a pivotal step toward becoming the final state to adopt a statewide prescription opioid tracking database, despite years of resistance to the idea by some Republicans over patient privacy. State senators voted 21-10 to pass a House bill to create a database that provides physicians and pharmacists with patients’ prescription histories.
Indiana legislators approved a measure opposed by the state's own Department of Environmental Management that would end state protection of certain wetlands. The bill passed each chamber largely along party lines.
The New York state Assembly unveiled a five-year, $450 million plan to address homelessness by providing money to localities to secure permanent housing for individuals and families, instead of emergency shelter alternatives like hotels and motels. The number of homeless New Yorkers has exceeded 250,000 over the last 12 months.
The Maryland House approved a measure that would ban plastic carryout bags in most cases. The bill exempts bags used in grocery stores for bulk items like nuts and candy, seafood and meat, bakery goods and flowers; bags for produce used by farm stands; as well as newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags and ice bags.
A plan to allow people in Alabama to use medical marijuana products for chronic pain and more than a dozen other conditions and symptoms is under consideration in the Alabama Senate.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, proposed a scaled-back supplemental budget that leaves nearly $1.2 billion unspent, warning that state dollars should be used cautiously to expand public reserves, recover from emergencies and prepare for the coronavirus outbreak.
Children will have swifter access to dental care under a proposal approved by the Maine legislature. The Maine Senate enacted the proposal that would prohibit insurance plans from implementing waiting periods before they will cover tooth decay treatment in children. The bill has been sent to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.