What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/26
Top Coronavirus News
NY: New York governor sees signs of progress
Though the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York has now topped 30,000, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that there were early signs that stringent restrictions on social gatherings and other measures could be slowing the virus’s spread.
FL: Florida gets disaster declaration
President Donald Trump declared Florida a disaster area, freeing up millions of federal dollars for the state. Republican Gov. Rick DeSantis welcomed the help but continued to resist calls for a statewide stay-at-home order.
LA: Even with coronavirus disaster declaration, Louisiana faces ventilator shortage
Louisiana is staring at an alarming shortage in ventilators that keep coronavirus patients alive when they make it to the ICU, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said he projects running out of the equipment by the first week in April as the state saw its largest one-day surge in cases yet.
MO: Missouri governor asks feds for disaster declaration
GOP Missouri Gov. Mike Parson requested crisis counseling and disaster unemployment assistance statewide under a Federal Emergency Management Agency program. The governor also wants FEMA to assist nonprofits and local governments with outbreak-related expenses, and said he wants federal help to dispose of any bio-hazard materials related to the outbreak.
CA: California governor: Shutdown could last 12 weeks
California’s shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic could very well last into the summer, as the virus has now resulted in at least 60 deaths in the state.
MA: Massachusetts governor unveils new rules for grocery stores
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker issued new rules on how grocery stores and pharmacies in Massachusetts should operate, including a statewide ban on reusable bags in stores and a temporary repeal of local plastic bag bans.
SC: South Carolina veterinarians make change to conserve supplies, limit exposure
Veterinarians in South Carolina say they’re changing procedures, including limiting their use of face masks and limiting interaction with people dropping off their pets, both to protect their clinics from the virus and to help alleviate potential supply shortages.
IL: Illinois police says it will ticket stay-at-home scofflaws
In Illinois, interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck warned that officers will be forced to issue citations if residents continue to flout the stat’s “stay-at-home” order.
GA: Immigrants, refugees in Georgia vulnerable amid coronavirus pandemic
Lacking health insurance or paid sick leave, one of the most vulnerable groups in Georgia are immigrants living in the shadows without legal status. Many work in the largest industries, including hospitality and farming.
NJ: New Jersey Assembly expands paid family leave in first remote voting session
New Jersey workers who fall ill from the coronavirus or who must care for a sick family member would be eligible for state paid leave benefits under a bill heading to the governor. The state Assembly passed a handful of bills in its first-ever remote voting session.
TX: Texas Republicans rebel against restrictions
With many cities in lockdown, Texas conservatives are fueling a divide over whether tight restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus are outweighed by the economic costs. Some right-wing leaders are saying that guidelines are fine but requirements are not.
MI: Michigan jails start releasing prisoners to slow virus
Officials in Michigan are reviewing cases of nonviolent offenders and those with medical conditions.
NM: New Mexico will use emergency alerts for virus updates
New Mexico alerts will be sent via text messages, radio, and television. The alerts will include public health information from the New Mexico Department of Health, Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the governor’s office.
OH: Ohio hotels prepare to offer emergency shelter in coronavirus outbreak
Hotel rooms in Ohio could be used to house those at high risk of infection such as the homeless, and those whose health issues mean they should be separated to avoid exposure.
MA: Massachusetts governor orders schools closed until early May
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker extended the shutdown of Massachusetts schools until early May in the latest measure to contain the coronavirus, as the number of diagnosed infections across the state jumped by more than half in a single day.
OR: Oregon governor blames feds for shortage of protective equipment
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said federal authorities have been too slow to authorize production of personal protective equipment by other than medical manufacturers and to insulate such producers from potential liability claims.
VT: Vermont organic farmers ask for farmers markets to get 'essential' designation
Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said that grocery stores can remain open, but the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont says it is not clear if farmers’ markets are being considered in the same category, or whether the 60 or so markets can open on schedule this spring.
IL: Illinois lawmakers cancel legislative session
Illinois state lawmakers have canceled their scheduled session for next week. The General Assembly was expected to come back to the Capitol on March 31.
MD: Maryland extends school closures
Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon announced that public schools will stay closed through April 24, leaving open the possibility that students might still return if the health emergency abates.
CO: Governor orders Coloradoans to stay home
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis ordered the majority of Colorado’s 5.8 million residents to stay home, the state’s most forceful attempt yet to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus.
ID: Governor orders Idahoans to stay home
Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, is ordering Idahoans to stay mostly at home. The 21-day order allows essential activities like picking up food and exercising near home.
UT: More Utah jails are releasing inmates
Utah’s county leaders are reducing the number of people behind bars — either through early releases or making less arrests — in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But that’s not happening at the Utah State Prison.
OK: Oklahoma Board of Education OKs distance learning for remainder of year
Oklahoma’s public school students will shift into a variety of distance learning models for the remainder of 2019-20, the state Board of Education decided.
AR: Arkansas to ban gatherings over 10 people
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the Arkansas Department of Health will soon ban indoor gatherings larger than 10 people as the number of covid-19 cases continues to increase.
WA: Experts say Washington's two weeks of stay-at-home just the beginning
Public health experts in Washington state say there’s nothing particularly significant about a two-week interval of the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. It will likely take longer to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in a meaningful way.
PA: Long-term care workers demand more protection as Pennsylvania reports first coronavirus cases at nursing homes
Health workers in Pennsylvania who care for seniors and people with disabilities are calling on the state to provide them with more masks, hand sanitizer and paid time off, as nursing homes begin to see cases of the coronavirus.
VT: Vermont sees ‘exponential growth’ in cases; Governor says Easter timeline unrealistic
Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said he wasn't sure how long his “stay home” order would remain in place.
AL: Alabama legislative meeting days in doubt
The Alabama House won’t resume the legislative session as scheduled and it’s unclear when lawmakers will pass state budgets or finish their other business this year.
CT: Connecticut seeing ‘unprecedented’ number of unemployment claims
Connecticut is receiving about 20 times the number of unemployment insurance claims they usually do, state Department of Labor officials said. Because of the latest surge, the department is now backed up to taking roughly three weeks to process them.
RI: Rhode Island extends Medicaid deadlines to protect subscribers
Rhode Island is extending deadlines for re-certifications — and potentially “adverse actions” — against the huge population enrolled in Medicaid. Approximately one-third of Rhode Islanders, 290,000 people, are enrolled in the program.
VA: Students can advance to the next grade as Virginia schools close for the year
Students who were on track to advance to their next grade before Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, ordered schools to close starting March 16 will be able to, despite the closures extending through the end of the academic year.
NC: North Carolina records first coronavirus death
North Carolina reported its first coronavirus deaths, and more municipalities told their residents to stay home. North Carolina had been an outlier prior to that, with no deaths recorded.
ME: Maine mental health workers brace for spike in clients whose lives ‘may never be the same’
As hospitals across Maine deal with the novel coronavirus, mental health professionals are thinking about the potential fallout from weeks of social isolation and the shutdown of life as most know it.
OH: Ohio governor hints at possible extension of stay-at-home order
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said that the number of coronavirus cases in Ohio now totals 704 and the virus could peak around May 1.
IA: Neighbors got word to Iowa Amish about COVID-19
One Iowa woman knew what exposure to the coronavirus could mean for a segment of society that hadn’t gotten the word about social distancing.
KS: Kansas governor, in fight to tame pandemic crisis, turns to executive orders
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has aggressively deployed executive orders over the past two weeks to contain the fallout from the coronavirus, which has killed two in the state.
NE: Nebraska legislature approves, governor signs $83M response
Nebraska lawmakers approved an $83.6 million emergency measure to help the state deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
OH: Ohio legislature adds absentee voting, delays tax-filing deadline
The Ohio House and Senate unanimously agreed to a sweeping bill that would extend voting in the primary election, prohibit water companies from shutting off people’s service, and give state income-tax filers and holders of expired state licenses a grace period.
KY: Kentucky budget could fall nearly $300M short
Damaged by the pandemic shutdown, Kentucky’s next two-year state budget could fall nearly $300 million short of the revenue forecast that was made in December, which would mean no pay raises for school teachers or state employees and no additional money for K-12 schools or state universities.
HI: Hawaii official banned from virus response effort
Several sources with direct knowledge say Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, has ordered his Cabinet officials and others to not consult Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is a medical doctor. Green is likely to run against an Ige ally in the race to succeed the governor in 2022.