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Coronavirus and the States: Several States Increase Testing; Wisconsin Governor Delays Primary

Coronavirus and the States: Several States Increase Testing; Wisconsin Governor Delays Primary
Stateline Apr6
Firefighters wait for drivers to pull up to a COVID-19 testing center in Hayward, California. The test is free to the public, no matter where they live or their immigration status.
Ben Margot / The Associated Press

Read Stateline coverage of the latest state action on coronavirus.

California, which recently had a backlog of 65,000 tests, is attempting to deploy five times more tests each day, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat. The state’s testing task force will create five to seven high-capacity testing hubs in order to speed the process. Although most of the state’s backlog has been cleared, Newsom accepted blame for the long wait times and said testing has been “frustrating” and “challenging.”

Meanwhile, more mobile testing sites are opening in Los Angeles County. CVS Health is opening drive-thru sites in Georgia and Rhode Island, offering real-time results. Kentucky, too, has upped its capacity, partnering with a company to offer 2,000 more tests per day. As Florida’s case totals have grown rapidly, the state has tested more than 100,000 residents, second only to New York.

The testing approach still varies widely by state. In Ohio, officials plan to start testing randomly in an effort to model how much of the asymptomatic population has COVID-19. Inequalities still persist: In Philadelphia, for example, high-income residents have gotten tested at a rate six times higher than low-income residents.

Serology testing, which identifies antibodies in the blood and shows who has had the virus and acquired immunity, is drawing increasing attention. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently started conducting antibody testing, looking to find people in hotspots who were never diagnosed. The CDC’s future efforts will survey people from around the country, with another survey focused on health care workers and other special populations.

One laboratory organization is warning that the market is flooded with “crappy” and inaccurate antibody tests, which might falsely lead people to believe they are immune. 

Wisconsin Governor Delays Primary to June

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order Monday that will delay the state’s presidential primary until June.

State voters were scheduled to go to the polls Tuesday. The delay by the Democratic governor is likely to trigger legal challenges and add even more confusion to a primary that has seen record numbers of absentee ballot requests.

With a possible legal challenge from Republican lawmakers, state election officials and municipal clerks are still preparing for the possibility that the state Supreme Court will overturn the executive order and keep the primary on Tuesday.

As states across the country decided to delay their presidential primaries, Evers and state lawmakers had been steadfast in their desire to go ahead with Wisconsin’s April 7 election. But after mounting pressure from public health officials and voters, Evers changed his position late last week and called for a special legislative session over the weekend to delay the primary.

The Republican-dominated state legislature, however, refused to take up Evers’ proposal, which would have sent mail-in absentee ballots to all voters by May 19. The legislation would have given voters until May 26 to turn in those ballots.

This legislative effort came after U.S. District Judge William Conley, a nominee of President Barack Obama, last week ordered the deadline for voters to file absentee ballots be extended to April 13.

Conducting an in-person primary in the middle of a pandemic led to several challenges for the state. The Wisconsin National Guard was slated to assist at polling locations to fill a statewide shortage of poll workers.

More than 1 million voters in the Badger State requested an absentee ballot for the presidential primary.

Stateline March23
Stateline March23
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States Begin Prep for Mail-In Voting in Presidential Election

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Stateline Story

States Begin Prep for Mail-In Voting in Presidential Election

Any absentee ballot expansion needs to consider security and access.

Illinois Extends Help for Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care

Last week, Illinois child welfare officials agreed to extend services to teens and young adults aging out of foster care, said Jassen Strokosch, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

The state is calling every youth who’s scheduled to age out of foster care and those who aged out within the past six months to see whether they want to continue to receive services, Strokosch said.

Foster youth can continue in the child welfare system and remain in their current homes, Stokosch said.

Rhode Island and California are considering similar moratoriums, according to officials and advocates in those states.

“When young people leave the system, they are being forgotten,” said April Curtis, a former foster youth and current board chairwoman of the Foster Care Alumni of America, who pushed for the Illinois moratorium.

Stateline Apr6
Stateline Apr6
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Some Shelters Shutter to Protect Homeless, Staff

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Some Shelters Shutter to Protect Homeless, Staff

Homeless shelters are running out of money, supplies and staff.

Foster Club, an Oregon-based network and resource center for foster youth, recently conducted a survey of young adults who’ve been involved in the foster care system. The survey was conducted by Facebook and email from March 21-24; 172 young adults ages 18-24 responded.

Nearly 40% said they were either forced to move or feared being forced to move as a result of the pandemic; 27% said they were laid off because of the outbreak and 40% said their hours at work had been slashed. Another 23% said they felt isolated and needed help navigating the crisis. And 28% said they were low on food.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, a federal law enacted in 2008, allows states to extend foster care benefits to youth up to age 21 and receive federal funding for it.

About 28 states and the District of Columbia had extended foster care beyond age 18 before the outbreak, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nearly a quarter of the approximately 440,000 children in foster care are age 14 or older, and more than 17,000 young people age out of foster care at age 18 each year, according to the organization.

Stateline staff writers Matt Vasilogambros and Teresa Wiltz contributed to this report.

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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.

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