What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/19
Latest State Action on the Coronavirus
US: State, local budgets take a hit; reserve funds come into play
States and cities across the U.S. are scrambling to quickly draw millions of dollars from their reserves to help cover expenses such as testing and unemployment insurance, while also bracing for steep tax-revenue declines.
CA: Unemployment claims double in California
California is seeing a big spike in unemployment claims as the state and nation hurtle toward a recession. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said that the state typically receives about 2,000 claims daily. “Two, three days ago we saw about 40,000 ... then 70,000.” he said. “Yesterday, 80,000 applications. It doubled in a 48 hours period.”
UT: Utah testing disrupted by earthquake
Utah reported 12 more cases as the state’s public health laboratory stopped testing samples due to a magnitude 5.7 earthquake. The Utah Department of Health said testing will resume today.
NV: Nevada mayor blasts 30-day shutdown, claims virus is similar to flu, other illnesses
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman wants Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, to shorten the 30-day shutdown of all nonessential businesses in Nevada to eight to 10 days, saying a longer shutdown would “cripple” the Las Vegas economy.
MD: Maryland state’s attorney to halt some prosecutions in Baltimore
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby ordered her staff to dismiss pending criminal charges against anyone arrested for possessing drugs including heroin, attempted distribution of any drug, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offenses, open container and urinating in public.
GA: Georgians are stocking up on guns, ammo
The shelves are bare, the lines are long and employees are working frantically to restock. Sound familiar? It’s not a pandemic-era grocery store — it’s a gun shop. And we’re talking firearms and ammo, not soap and toilet tissue.
WA: Washington puts statewide halt to evictions
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced a 30-day statewide moratorium on evictions for residential tenants. Inslee also waived the one-week wait period for people signing up to get unemployment insurance, and released $5 million from a reserve fund in order to give micro-grants to small businesses.
NC: North Carolina governor asks for Medicaid waivers
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s Department of Health and Human Services has asked the federal government to grant North Carolina numerous waivers on Medicaid rules. A DHHS press release said if the rules get waived, it will help both the state and local health care providers “address the urgent health care needs of beneficiaries during this public health emergency.”
SC: South Carolina car wash will cost more
South Carolina’s Autobell Car Wash is temporarily adding a “hospital-grade” disinfectant spray to all interior car cleanings amid the COVID-19 outbreak, president/CEO Chuck Howard said. Autobell was founded in Charlotte in 1969 and now has over 80 locations in the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. The disinfectant is mandatory and will add $3 to your bill.
VA: Local leaders struggle with open meetings laws
Black trash bags covered seats, separating attendees. Residents waited at home in a video chatroom to address elected officials. Those were some of the methods deployed by the Charlottesville City Council. While awaiting guidance from state leaders, local governments are determining how to strike the balance between open meetings and a pandemic.
SD: South Dakota lab ran out of supplies to process tests; hundreds pending
The South Dakota public health lab ran out of supplies to process COVID-19 tests, but Republican Gov. Kristi Noem says she hopes to have more supplies.
IL: Illinois adds drive-up testing spots
The drive-up testing sites in Illinois debuted last week and are only offered to those who have appointments after contacting a primary care doctor first.
WY: Wyoming governor recommends takeout; but local mayor says dining in OK
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, a Republican, said people should use delivery, take-out or drive through options when ordering food from local restaurants. Casper Mayor Steve Freel took a different perspective.
DE: Delaware rolls out aid for hospitality industry
Delaware is now giving out no-interest loans of up to $10,000 a month to hospitality-related businesses.
HI: Hawaii governor tells tourists to stay away
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, officially asked tourists to stay away for at least 30 days. Thousands — perhaps eventually tens of thousands — of workers in Hawaii’s tourism industry that may wind up jobless.
ME: Governor orders Maine eateries closed for dine-in service, bans gatherings of more than 10
Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced stricter limits on public gatherings, ordering restaurants and bars to stop dine-in service for two weeks, banning social gatherings of more than 10 people and urging many private businesses to close.
ID: 50 Idaho restaurant owners ask governor to close industry
Owners and managers of more than 50 restaurants and bars have asked Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, to shut down their industry immediately for 30 days and grant restaurant workers emergency unemployment compensation.
WI: Wisconsin puts limits on child care centers
Under an order from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, child care centers can now have no more than 50 children on site and no more than 10 staff members.
AK: Without mandate to close, Alaska child care centers face tough choices
More than 145,000 Alaska schoolchildren will be home until at least the end of March on a governor’s order meant to stunt the spread of the virus. Child care centers in the state have received no such directive, leaving them with wrenching choices about whether to stay open during an extraordinary global shutdown.
AR: Arkansas ups aid to child care centers
Arkansas Department of Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie said the state is providing extra money to child care centers and relaxing requirements on capacity. Over 800 child care centers have closed, and 1,200 are still open, she said.
WI: Democrats sue to extend Wisconsin's deadlines for online voter registration and counting absentee ballots
Democrats sued Wisconsin election officials to extend absentee balloting for the April 7 presidential primary because the pandemic has confined many people to their homes.
AZ: Arizona secretary of state wants all-mail voting in 2020
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, asked legislators to let counties run upcoming elections entirely by mail.
OH: Ohio Supreme Court moving to rule quickly on primary election dispute
While many concede that Ohio’s health director had the right under state law to shut down polling places Tuesday, legal experts and party leaders doubt the secretary of state had the statutory power to set an alternate election date.
VT: Vermont lawmakers look to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits
Vermont senators began discussions on how to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits, as applications skyrocket.
CT: Special education families fear that children in Connecticut will not receive enough help during a prolonged school delay
Special education advocates and families are calling on Connecticut’s top education officials to issue plans on how districts will provide crucial assistance to children with disabilities as lengthy school closures set in.
MN: Many Minnesota state employees urged to work from home
Thousands of Minnesota state government employees are under work-from-home orders and others could be shifted to new assignments. The work situation is being handled on an agency-by-agency basis, officials said.
DC: District of Columbia police to handle some calls by phone, change protocols
District of Columbia police announced "operational adjustments" that aim to minimize the potential exposure by officers who are responding to calls and interacting with the community.
OR: Oregon governor announces setup of 250-bed emergency hospital in Salem
Oregon is setting up a 250-bed emergency hospital at the state fairgrounds in Salem. The hospital should be operational by Friday and is part of an effort to increase by 1,000 the total number of hospital beds in the state.
CO: Colorado governor announces statewide relief fund
Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, announced a new statewide relief fund for those in need, urging corporations and regular citizens to donate as Colorado battles serious economic, social and health shortfalls spurred by the virus’ spread.
KY: ‘We can’t stop death.’ But funerals must change, Kentucky governor says.
Kentucky funeral homes are struggling this week to adapt to the pandemic that is bringing most everything in Kentucky — except death — to a screeching halt.
OK: Oklahoma low on testing supplies, will reserve tests for most vulnerable
Oklahoma State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said the Health Department tests were running low. They are being limited to those who have severe symptoms and have an underlying heart, lung or immune system condition and the elderly. Burnsed said the state has put in the maximum order, but “unfortunately there is no specific delivery date.”
MA: Long backlogs for test results frustrate Massachusetts doctors
Results can take as long as a week, forcing medical personnel to use up equipment that’s in short supply treating people who may not have COVID-19.
KY: Kentucky lawmaker warns legislature is ‘whistling past the graveyard.’ Session continues.
Controversy raged over whether the Kentucky General Assembly should still be meeting.
NJ: New Jersey will reopen hospital as state faces massive bed shortfalls
New Jersey is moving to reopen a hospital and add health care staff but could be short by upward of 300,000 hospital beds in the coming months, and doctors may be forced to make the "agonizing" decision to deny care to victims of COVID-19 if the state doesn't get federal help, according to state officials.
MO: Missouri House OKs $40M
The Missouri House approved legislation aimed at ramping up testing and providing more protective gear for health care providers. With most of the chamber’s 163 members sitting in their seats for much of the day’s session, Democrats decried the amount of money approved by the Republican-controlled chamber as too little.
KS: Kansas bars new evictions
Kansas issued strict quarantine mandates for people who have traveled or had close contact with those with confirmed cases, part of an effort to limit its local spread.
OH: Ohio motor vehicle offices, salons, spas closed; National Guard to help hospitals, food banks
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced that all salons, spas, tattoo parlors and nearly all Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices will close.
TN: Tennessee's next execution should be delayed, lawyers say
The next execution in Tennessee should be delayed six months, lawyers said in a motion to the state Supreme Court.