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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/27

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/27

Top Coronavirus News

IL: Trump approves Illinois disaster declaration

wgntv.com

President Donald Trump issued a federal disaster declaration for Illinois.

NY: New York deaths increase sharply

nytimes.com

In 24 hours, 100 people died of the coronavirus in New York state, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing where the message was notably less hopeful than it had been the previous day.

MA: Massachusetts seeks disaster aid

bostonglobe.com

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts is seeking federal disaster aid for the fight against the pandemic and its deepening toll.

CA: California governor: States shouldn’t have to compete for protective equipment

sacbee.com

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, pointed to 100 million N95 masks — one of the most efficient facial masks at filtering out air particles — the state just procured. “We did that competing against other states, other nations and likely the United States itself,” he said during a call with Bay Area nonprofits. He called for the federal government to do the procurement, to ease competition.

TX: Texas governor orders self-quarantines for return travelers

texastribune.org

The order aligns Texas with federal guidance that aims to contain the spread of the virus outside New York, which has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Visitors flying to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans must self-quarantine for 14 days.

FL: ‘Essential’ Florida gun shops thrive

sun-sentinel.com

Gun and ammunition supply stores were listed as “essential” — along with grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and others — when South Florida officials ordered businesses to shut down. At least two dozen states have similar orders.

PA: Most confirmed Pennsylvania patients are under 50, new data shows

spotlightpa.org

Information provided for the first time by the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows 12% of patients are between 19 and 24, while another 39% are between 25 and 49.

DC: District of Columbia intentionally classified as territory in aid bill, lawmakers say

washingtonpost.com

The relief package expected to pass the U.S. House deliberately classified the District of Columbia as a territory instead of a state, which means the city will get less than half of the funding it was expecting, a Maryland congressman said.

VA: Thousands of students expected to return to Liberty University in Virginia

richmond.com

Liberty University officials are preparing to welcome back up to 5,000 students to its Lynchburg, Virginia, campus from spring break this week. Defying a national trend of campus closures, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has invited students to return to residence halls and has directed faculty members to continue to report to campus even as most classes move online.

State Action on Coronavirus
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State Action on Coronavirus

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State Action on Coronavirus

Local and state public health officials wield extraordinary powers in emergency situations such as the current coronavirus outbreak. They can close schools and private businesses. They can restrict or shut down mass transit systems. They can cancel concerts, sporting events and political rallies. They can call up the National Guard. They can suspend medical licensing laws and protect doctors from liability claims. And they can quarantine or isolate people who might infect others.

UT: Utah prison officials plan to release at least 80 inmates early

sltrib.com

Advocates have called for prisons to release elderly or sick inmates, but Utah officials at this point seem to be focusing instead on letting out those who already had a parole date in the coming months.

OK: Violations of Oklahoma 'safer-at-home' order can result in misdemeanor, AG says

oklahoman.com

Oklahomans can be charged with a misdemeanor for violating GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt's executive order that requires vulnerable populations to stay home and prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people, state Attorney General Mike Hunter said.

NJ: New Jersey cops break up more than a dozen gatherings

nj.com

Six disorderly persons offenses were issued, and New jersey officials stressed that they will continue to crack down on anyone violating the governor’s stay-at-home order — including people breaking other laws.

MO: Missouri union leaders fault governor’s handling of crisis

stltoday.com

Labor unions representing a wide range of workers who are providing essential services have fired off lists of demands to GOP Gov. Mike Parson. So far, labor leaders say they are not satisfied with his administration's response.

MI: Michigan governor asks more businesses to close

clickondetroit.com

Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said business licenses could be revoked and fines imposed if more businesses don't close per her order. Businesses that are not "life-sustaining" such as landscaping companies have been operating in defiance of the order, she said.

AR: Arkansas gavels into remote session

arkansasonline.com

The Arkansas House gaveled into session — at a college basketball arena — to consider emergency legislation.

MD: Maryland state universities to return some student fees

baltimoresun.com

A week after the University System of Maryland announced that its 12 universities will finish their spring semesters online, the system’s board of regents voted unanimously to allow its chancellor to approve plans for partial refunds of various student fees.

WV: West Virginia officials urge feds to waive telehealth restrictions

wvgazettemail.com

The federal government currently requires both video and audio communication between Medicare patients and their physician for telehealth services, but many elderly rural patients in West Virginia don’t have smartphones or enough internet access for video communication.

RI: Gun ranges in Rhode Island can reopen in compromise with state officials

providencejournal.com

Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration is allowing gun ranges to reopen, backtracking on a previous move to close them along with entertainment, recreation and close-contact businesses.

NM: New Mexico governor to extend school closures

koat.com

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan, a Democrat, said the extended closing dates would be announced this week after more deliberations. A three-week closing was declared earlier this month and many other states have closed schools for the term.

MN: Minnesota homeless shelters struggle to provide safety, distance

mprnews.org

Advocates for Minnesota’s homeless, bracing for surging needs, are pleading for more state resources to help protect the vulnerable population in crowded shelters and emergency centers.

WI: Attorneys try to block suit seeking to stop in-person voting in Wisconsin

apnews.com

The legal fight over how to conduct Wisconsin’s spring election intensified as the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit looking to ease absentee voting requirements and Republicans tried to block an action seeking to move to mail-only.

PA: Vacant Pennsylvania hotels could turn into field hospitals

pennlive.com

With the number of cases in Pennsylvania projected to rise sharply in the coming weeks, state officials are looking at all possible solutions to an expected shortage of hospital beds, including making use of hotels and convention centers.

VT: Vermont AG warns of price gouging, hoarding and scams

vpr.org

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, a Democrat, says his office is seeing a rise in scams. Some are promising remedies to the virus (which has no verified cure or vaccine), while others claim to be collecting money for bogus charities.

DE: Delaware orders gun stores to cease-and-desist

delawareonline.com

Several firearms stores in Delaware that defied Democratic Gov. John Carney's order closing all "nonessential" businesses were served cease-and-desist letters this week, telling owners to shut down their shops or face arrest.

WI: Wisconsin Republican leaders agree with governor's plans to proceed with April 7 election

madison.com

Republican leaders in the Wisconsin legislature say they support Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ current plan to proceed with in-person voting in the April 7 election — a decision that has drawn criticism over concerns that doing so could put people at risk of infection.

AK: Alaska’s remote villages work to keep out visitors

 alaskapublic.org

More than 20 villages in Alaska’s Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, usually best accessible by plane, are telling their residents not to leave and outsiders not to enter.

WY: Wyoming governor doesn’t want to shutter state, but urges people to stay home

wyomingnews.com

“We are not trying to shut down Wyoming,” Republican Gov. Mark Gordon said. “But your voluntary action and discipline will make the difference on whether we can slow the spread of COVID-19.”

AL: Alabama governor's stance on absentee voting criticized

al.com

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, is voting by absentee ballot in the July 14 runoff but opposes legislation to allow absentee voting in all circumstances, saying it could open the door for fraud.

GA: House speaker wants Georgia primary delayed until summer

ajc.com

House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, called for Georgia’s presidential primary to be postponed again, saying state legislators should weigh in before holding an election with large numbers of mailed ballots.

MS: Mississippi unemployment claims jump nearly 600%

mississippitoday.org

Nearly six times more people applied for unemployment benefits in Mississippi last week compared to the previous week as more businesses shutter.

MA: Massachusetts tax deadline still stuck on April 15

bostonherald.com

Amid a historic surge in unemployment, lawmakers still haven’t moved to push back the April 15 tax deadline, which critics say could render the federal extension useless.

MT: Montana counties can choose all-mail primary, governor says

billingsgazette.com

Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, under the powers of an emergency declaration he made earlier this month, told counties they can choose to conduct an all-mail election in the June primary.

TN: Advocates offer help to reach Tennessee immigrant communities

tennessean.com

With more than 300,000 residents of Hispanic or Latino descent, as well as thousands of refugees, some Tennesseans are concerned efforts to inform those living in the Volunteer State have left many out of the loop.

MA: Massachusetts real estate attorneys push for remote notarizations

bostonglobe.com

Much of Massachusetts may be standing still, but these lawyers are still busy, racing to complete deals that were initiated weeks before the raft of shutdowns took effect.

SC: Chemical shortages causes testing backlog in South Carolina

thestate.com

South Carolina now has 456 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but the true number of cases is probably higher amid a shortage of chemicals needed to process samples.

MD: Maryland will close child care for all but essential workers

baltimoresun.com

All child care centers in Maryland must close, unless they receive state permission to remain open, serve only the children of essential workers and conduct a thorough cleaning of their facilities.

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