What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/8
WI: An election day unlike any other: Wisconsinites vote in the middle of a pandemic
After Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to delay it, and the state Supreme Court declared the vote must go on, Wisconsinites went to the polls in Tuesday's spring election and cast ballots carefully, deliberately and defiantly amid the pandemic.
MD: Maryland will start reporting race of coronavirus patients
Maryland health officials have faced pressure for about a week to release the racial breakdown of confirmed cases. State legislators and others are concerned that there are disparities in testing and care for people of color.
CA: Millions of Californians could lose health insurance in coronavirus recession
Hundreds of thousands of Californians have already lost their employer-sponsored health insurance since the coronavirus outbreak upended the national economy and millions more could follow, according to a new study by the health care consulting firm Health Management Associates.
AZ: Arizona seeks 500 ventilators instead of 5,000 as supply dwindles
With little hope of getting the 5,000 ventilators Arizona requested from the dwindling national stockpile, the state has revised its request down to just the 500 it expects to need soon. Most of the ventilators would be used to equip a Phoenix hospital that shut down last year but is being reopened as an acute care facility with all ICU beds.
KS: Kansas governor limits church and funerals to maximum of 10 people
Kansas churches and funerals will be limited to a maximum of 10 people, following an executive order by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, just days before Easter weekend and Passover.
MD: Maryland governor announces ‘strike teams’ to respond to outbreaks in nursing homes
The strike teams, composed of health care workers from local hospitals, Maryland National Guard members and other front-line public health personnel from state and local health departments, will provide immediate support to nursing homes experiencing outbreaks of coronavirus cases across the state.
WV: West Virginia governor says additional manpower is erasing claims backlog
WorkForce West Virginia was overwhelmed with more than 90,000 new unemployment claims in March, about 18 times what a typical month brings. By assigning additional government employees and 30 National Guardsmen to the task, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said WorkForce West Virginia was able to process 28,500 claims Monday.
OR: Oregon governor considering early release of prisoners
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has asked for information from state and local corrections officials regarding the possible early release of inmates. Brown has asked officials for numbers of inmates in a variety of circumstances, from medically vulnerable to those approaching the end of their sentences.
ID: Idaho's new case count drops again
The statewide total of new coronavirus cases in Idaho decreased for the fourth time in five days, with only 23 new cases reported.
HI: Testing will be key to restoring Hawaii tourism
Hawaii leaders say the key to restoring Hawaii's tourism economy is proving that Hawaii is safe to visit and conducting accurate testing of visitors. Such testing would have to be scaled up quickly, including antibody tests that could show whether a person already had the virus and recovered, as well as rapid antigen tests that detect whether the person is carrying the virus.
CO: Colorado lawmakers could return to Capitol in May
Colorado lawmakers are hopeful that they’ll be back at the Capitol as early as May, but they caution that it will depend on the advice of experts and whether the state’s state-at-home order is still in place. The state Constitution mandates that the Colorado budget be finalized by June 30.
NV: Nevada lawmakers approve disbursing $6M in emergency funds
Lawmakers on Nevada’s Interim Finance Committee met virtually to approve moving the funds out of a state Disaster Relief budget account to the state’s Division of Emergency Management.
AZ: Arizona lawmakers delay return to Capitol
Arizona lawmakers adjourned March 23 as a public health precaution with tentative plans to return April 13. But lawmakers will need to hold off.
UT: Utah governor urges small businesses to apply for federal relief
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is urging all small businesses in Utah affected by the novel coronavirus to start applying for federal relief as part of a push to help the state bounce back from the pandemic. Herbert sported a face mask, which people are being encouraged to wear when in public.
NH: New Hampshire governor creates office to oversee virus-related relief funds
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is creating a new office to oversee New Hampshire’s share of the federal relief and stimulus funds related to the coronavirus pandemic.
IA: Iowa auditor: Governor failing to ‘answer basic questions’ about assessment tool
Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' administration is using a 12-point scale that weighs age, hospitalization, population and long-term care outbreaks to determine if and when a stay-at-home order is necessary.
MA: New gut-wrenching Massachusetts guidelines issued on rationing equipment
Massachusetts health officials issued guidelines to help hospitals make gut-wrenching decisions about how to ration ventilators, should they become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and run out of critical treatments.
OH: Work to slow coronavirus pulls Ohio epidemiologists from tracking other illnesses
For both the city and county health departments in Ohio, it’s been an all-hands-on-deck approach as they conduct investigations — interviews, exposure assessments, contact calls — for all positive cases of COVID-19 reported within their jurisdictions. “We are not following up on any other illnesses,” one official said.
OK: Oklahoma governor proposes state agency budget cuts. Lawmakers say no.
Both Republican and Democratic Oklahoma lawmakers fired back at GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt after he said he believes 1% to 2% budget cuts are needed to deal with the state’s current revenue shortfall. Lawmakers passed three bipartisan bills that would pull over $500 million from the state’s rainy day fund to fill the shortfall without budget cuts.
NY: New York state union opposes workers positive for coronavirus returning to duty
One of New York's largest public labor unions is urging the state Department of Health to reverse a policy that calls for employees with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases to return to the workplace in the event of staff shortages.
NJ: COVID-19 starts to take a toll on New Jersey’s disabled residents
A dozen severely disabled people who live in state-funded New Jersey residences have died; another 74 have tested positive. As with hospitals, personal protective equipment is in short supply in group homes.
MO: Missouri isn’t yet able to process unemployment claims of ‘gig’ workers
Some Missourians who are expecting relief from the federal stimulus bill may have to wait. The state is not yet processing unemployment claims from workers who are normally ineligible for benefits.
TX: How social distancing could relieve Texas hospitals
Texans would have to cut at least 90% of their interactions to avoid overwhelming the state's hospitals with new cases this spring and summer. New university estimates show how much social distancing it would take to “flatten the curve,” or spread out COVID-19 hospitalizations over time, in 22 Texas metro areas.
FL: Florida cases could peak in late April
The latest coronavirus predictions for Florida show that the worst of the pandemic is two weeks closer because of a stay-at-home order issued by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Before the order experts predicted a peak in May.
MI: Michigan lawmakers extend emergency declaration
Massive adjustments were made in order for the Michigan Senate and House to have legislative sessions. Just to get into the building, lawmakers had to have their temperature taken and complete a healthcare survey.
NM: Border wall construction in New Mexico sparks virus fears
Some residents in southern New Mexico are raising concerns about an influx of workers in the community as part of the effort to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall during the coronavirus outbreak. They've asked the state's top elected officials to step in.
DC: In first virtual meeting, District of Columbia Council passes bill halting rent hikes
The District of Columbia Council unanimously approved an emergency measure that puts a halt on rent increases during the emergency and 30 days after it ends and requires some mortgage companies to offer property owners a 90-day deferral on payments.
CT: Deaths jump but hospital admission rates slow as Connecticut flattens its curve
Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said the state is seeing fewer new hospitalizations each day, perhaps a sign that social distancing may be slowing the spread. One of the state’s largest hospital systems has noticed the same trend.
OH: Ohio governor seeks release of 167 prisoners to slow outbreak
Around 141 of those inmates are serving time in minimal-security facilities, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said.
RI: Under tentative deal, Rhode Island would pay to use convention center as hospital annex
Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo's administration is seeking to “rent” the state Convention Center for $660,000 a month for use by Lifespan to treat COVID-19 patients if the hospitals run out of room.
MN: Minnesota nursing homes launch aggressive new safety measures to control virus
The new Minnesota safeguards include constant mask-wearing by staff; more aggressive segregation of infected residents; the end of group dining and many other congregate activities; and more rigorous screening of all doctors, nurses, aides and other workers who enter state facilities.
PA: Limited tech forces thousands of Pennsylvania state workers to still report for work
At least four Pennsylvania caseworkers have tested positive for the coronavirus and one is hospitalized, according to the president of the union representing the workers.
VT: New age data shows younger Vermonters are sick, too
About 40% of Vermont patients who tested positive were 60 or older, according to a dashboard the state Department of Health released that reveals new data on the demographic breakdown of cases.
NC: North Carolina firm that makes conference communication possible to add jobs; get tax breaks
Raleigh, North Carolina, tech firm Bandwidth Inc., which makes communications software that enables the voice conferencing offered by Zoom, Google and others, says it will create 1,165 new jobs over the next eight years. In exchange for the expansion, the state’s Commerce Department said it will give the company a grant up to $32.3 million over the next 12 years.
SC: South Carolina lawmakers plan to set aside $15M for voting
South Carolina legislators will meet briefly for an emergency session to adopt measures that include setting aside up to $15 million to cover costs directly related to protecting the health of the state’s voters and poll workers.
MT: Montana moves to mail-in ballot for its primary
In the span of two weeks in March, Montana business owners and travelers went from mild concerns about coronavirus and its impact on the state’s tourism economy to alarm as the effects of the pandemic became apparent.
AL: Alabama prisons look for extra space in case of coronavirus outbreak
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said no inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. The agency has conducted 43 COVID-19 tests, the commissioner said.
GA: Georgians stock up on alcohol as residents stay home in face of virus
Each time Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp announced efforts to limit the movements of residents, liquor store sales went up.
LA: Half of Louisiana oil, gas wells could be shut in, 70% of industry jobs lost within 90 days
Energy producers may have to shut-in more than half the oil and natural gas wells operated in Louisiana, potentially reducing their workforce by as much as 70% over the next 90 days without emergency relief. The glut is being exacerbated by reduced demand caused by the coronavirus.
MS: Women’s work makes coronavirus a ‘gendered crisis’ in Mississippi
Women dominate workforces of some of the hardest-hit industries in Mississippi. These include the health care workers directly tackling the virus, the retail store employees bagging items as folks hoard supplies and food service workers losing their jobs all together.
MS: Mississippi gives virus info by age and place but not race
The Mississippi State Department of Health has not released statistics showing the race of people testing positive or dying from the new coronavirus, but a top official says he thinks black residents have been disproportionately affected, as they have been in some other states.
AK: Locals urge Alaska governor to close Bristol Bay commercial fishery
The summer fishing season in Bristol Bay, Alaska, brings with it an influx of thousands of fishermen and processor workers into small communities around the region. The state has designated fishermen as “critical infrastructure,” and required processors to submit health and safety plans in order to operate.
WY: Wyoming recommends residents wear face masks
Wyoming state health officials followed the lead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in urging everyone who visits a place where people congregate — such as a grocery store or pharmacy — to wear a face mask.
GA: Loss of poll workers threatens in-person voting in Georgia primary
Poll workers are quitting and precincts are closing across Georgia because of the coronavirus pandemic, dimming the outlook for in-person voting in the state’s primary election. The primary is still scheduled for May 19, but the situation is deteriorating, say several county election managers.
DE: Leaked document shows Delaware’s request for supplies
As of last week, Delaware had been granted less than 1% of what it initially projected local hospitals, nursing homes and first responders would need for a prolonged outbreak.
MA: Massachusetts won’t release town-specific COVID-19 data, citing ‘stigma’ and privacy
Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration say they are not releasing town- and city-specific data on coronavirus cases and deaths in an effort to protect patient privacy.