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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/9

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/9

WA: Washington sends back field hospital to help harder-hit states

seattletimes.com

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced he would return to the federal government the field hospital assembled by soldiers roughly a week ago in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center. Inslee in recent days has cited more favorable projections for what’s to come next in the outbreak.

WI: Wisconsin worried about spike in virus cases due to election

apnews.com

The decision to forge ahead with Wisconsin’s election amid a pandemic has stirred fears about a possible spike in the state’s coronavirus cases in the face of stay-at-home orders and efforts to limit contact with others.

PA: Governor authorizes Pennsylvania to ‘commandeer’ needed medical supplies

spotlightpa.org

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed an order that allows the state to “commandeer” personal protective equipment and ventilators from health care providers and manufacturers, and transfer the supplies to another facility in need as Pennsylvania prepares for an “imminent surge” in cases.

KS: Kansas lawmakers revoke governor’s order limiting church gatherings

kansas.com

Kansas Republican leaders revoked Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s order limiting religious gatherings to 10 people, paving the way for churches to meet on Easter Sunday — a scenario health officials fear will further spread the deadly coronavirus across the state.

OR: Oregon health officials: 'You are your safest sex partner'

oregonlive.com

The Oregon Health Authority tweeted out some guidance for people wondering how to have sex in the time of COVID-19. The graphic encouraged practices that limit person-to-person contact, like masturbation and sexting, while restricting kissing to a "small circle of close contacts."

ID: Idaho seeks donated cloth for inmate masks

idahostatesman.com

The Idaho Department of Correction has asked for donations of materials so inmates can make cloth masks for themselves and staff members. The department needs to make about 30,000 masks, three for every inmate and staff member, and inmates have volunteered at every facility to help sew.

HI: Tulsi Gabbard demands resignation of Hawaii health leaders, wants lieutenant governor in charge

civilbeat.org

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, called on Department of Health leaders Bruce Anderson and Sarah Park to resign and for Lt. Gov. Josh Green to be placed in charge of the crisis. The health officials, Gabbard said, have been “negligent” in their response, and Gov. David Ige — who has been at odds with Green, a fellow Democrat, during the crisis — should step down and be replaced by Green if he refuses to fire them.

OK: Hours on hold and a 'clunky' website: Oklahoma tries to fix unemployment system

tulsaworld.com

Oklahoma's unofficial estimates place the current state unemployment rate at a record 11.5%. The sudden rise has left the state scrambling to handle a surge in phone calls and temporary crashes of the website where claims can be filed.

NJ: Everyone in New Jersey supermarkets, stores must wear masks

nj.com

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced he is now requiring all employees and shoppers at the businesses still open in New Jersey to wear face coverings until further notice and has limited the number of customers allowed inside stores to a max of 50% of their capacity.

MO: $6B coronavirus spending plan heads to Missouri governor’s desk

stltoday.com

Meeting under unprecedented circumstances, Missouri lawmakers approved a $6.2 billion emergency aid package. Approval came despite concerns from some members of the governor’s own party that Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, will have outsize power to dole out massive amounts of federal money.

CO: Many Colorado nursing homes were already struggling to control infections

coloradosun.com

There are now 44 outbreaks of COVID-19 in residential and non-hospital facilities in Colorado, according to the state Health Department. At least five nursing homes where residents have died from the virus were cited within the past three years by federal authorities for inspection-control violations.

AZ: First cases of coronavirus confirmed in Arizona prisons

apnews.com

The first two cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed among the 42,000 inmates in Arizona’s prisons, but authorities declined to say whether any of the thousands of corrections employees who cycle in and out of prisons each day has contracted the virus.

NV: Nevada officials warn of fake unemployment insurance websites

reviewjournal.com

The only place to file for unemployment online in Nevada is through http://ui.nv.gov, but state officials say websites are cropping up that “appear to look like legitimate government websites.”

NV: Limited early voting to still happen during all-mail Nevada primary

thenevadaindependent.com

Although state and local officials are preparing to conduct the June 9 primary election almost entirely through mail ballots, election officials say they plan to have some form of limited early voting available. Voters at early voting sites will be given an absentee ballot and asked to fill it out rather than using traditional voting machines.

UT: Utah awards $6M in bridge loans to small businesses

sltrib.com

The state of Utah announced it had awarded a total of $6.1 million in bridge loans for small businesses to help them pay bills as they apply for coronavirus-related aid through the U.S. government. 500 of the over 1,000 business owners that applied were notified that they’d receive cash.

MN: Minnesota secretary of state pushes COVID-19 election changes

startribune.com 

Secretary of State Steve Simon, a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, unveiled legislation to expand mail-in voting and reduce in-person polling places during the pandemic, which could stretch into the summer and fall elections.

WI: Wisconsin Republicans seeking broad authority to cut aid to schools and state programs

jsonline.com

Seeking to further curb Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ power, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are developing legislation that would give a handful of them the ability to cut school aid and slash state spending.

WI: Wisconsin city election panel to request USPS investigation of missing absentee ballots

jsonline.com

The Milwaukee Election Commission, in Wisconsin, will seek a formal U.S. Postal Service investigation into what happened to absentee ballots that did not reach Milwaukee voters, commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said.

AL: Alabama ventilator, PPE stockpile was depleted before COVID-19 hit

al.com

Over a decade ago, Alabama used federal grant funds to purchase 80 ventilators as part of its preparations for a potential influenza pandemic. But the ventilators went bad over the ensuing years and no money was ever allocated to replace them.

GA: Governor extends shelter in place order in Georgia through April

ajc.com

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia’s shelter in place order through the end of April and imposed new restrictions on senior care facilities as he faced criticism from local officials who urged him to take more drastic steps to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

LA: Newly released Louisiana coronavirus data shows early spread

nola.com

New data on Louisiana’s coronavirus cases has confirmed what many public health experts have long expected: The virus was widespread in the state much earlier than initially limited testing was able to show.

MS: Mississippi shows wide racial gap in impact of coronavirus

apnews.com

Numbers show the stark disparity in how the new coronavirus is affecting black and white Mississippians. The state Health Department said 72% of Mississippi residents who have died of COVID-19 were African American and 28% were white.

IA: Iowa small businesses already seeking $148M in relief amid coronavirus pandemic

desmoinesregister.com

Iowa’s small-business owners have filed 14,000 applications for grants totaling $148 million for relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced.

ME: Two more Mainers die of coronavirus as testing plan falters

pressherald.com

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency has not been able to obtain the rapid-response testing kits it expected from a Scarborough manufacturer and was going “back to the drawing board.”

CT: Some insurers to reduce premiums, offer credits for Connecticut drivers

courant.com

Connecticut’s insurance commissioner has urged insurers to reduce motorists’ auto insurance premiums as drivers avoid the roads and stay home. Several have agreed and cut premiums by 15% for a limited time.

IN: Indiana expands testing enough for 'those who are symptomatic'

indystar.com

Indiana's health commissioner said the state now has the capacity to test all the people who are showing symptoms, after struggling with resources to be able to do enough tests.

RI: Rhode Island judiciary closes courts to routine matters

providencejournal.com

The Rhode Island state judiciary shut down its courts to non-emergency matters through May 17, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo announced. All jury trials and grand jury matters shall be postponed until then.

CA: California won’t be lifting stay-at-home rules anytime soon

latimes.com

California officials expect months more of some social distancing policies and warn that lifting the strict rules too early could worsen the health crisis. The public should realize that coronavirus cases are likely to rise when stay-at-home orders are eased, officials also said.

VA: Virginia governor says elections scheduled this spring won’t go as planned

richmond.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said local elections set for next month will be pushed to November, pending action from the General Assembly. He is also pushing the June Congressional primaries back two weeks, from June 9 to June 23.

NC: Largest number of virus cases in North Carolina in people under 50

newsobserver.com

North Carolina had 3,326 reported coronavirus cases and 55 deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to state and county health officials. People ages 25 to 49 account for the highest portion (42%) of reported cases in the state, data show. But the numbers flip when it comes to recorded deaths — 80% were over the age of 65.

SC: South Carolina DMV switches to appointment-only system

thestate.com

The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will be using a reservation system to see some customers who need road tests or other DMV services as the coronavirus continues to spread, according to a statement from the department.

ND: Officials unveil mobile app to help with COVID-19 contact tracing in North Dakota

bismarcktribune.com

North Dakota officials unveiled a free mobile app that will help state residents voluntarily track where they've been, information that could be useful to health officials working to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

MT: Montana governor extends stay-at-home order, school closures

apnews.com

Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock extended the state’s stay-at-home, school closures and business restrictions through April 24 in a continuing effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while the Department of Justice confirmed what is believed to be the first positive COVID-19 case in a jail inmate.

NE: As Nebraska's state budget takes a hit, hopes for property tax relief dwindle

omaha.com

A key Nebraska lawmaker said that economic damage caused by the coronavirus wiped out the chances for major property tax relief this year.

AK: Alaska wants some reproductive health care delayed as part of nonessential mandate

alaskapublic.org

Alaska state officials put out a list that clarifies which procedures are classified as “elective” and guidance on how long they could be delayed — ranging from weeks to months. Abortion is on the list. According to the state’s guidance, surgical abortions needed to protect the life or physical health of the mother can still be performed.

WY: Wyoming receives some fast-response tests, but not enough to track virus

trib.com

Wyoming has received a batch of the rapid-response coronavirus tests that have been touted as game-changers by national leaders, but officials here say the shipments have been so small they’ll have a minimal impact on tracking the disease’s spread in the Equality State.

DE: Delaware will soon need agriculture workers

delawarestatenews.net

When the prime harvest season arrives, growers need an infusion of workers to come with it. “There aren’t any issues at this point, but in a couple months there will be a significant need for workers,” Delaware Department of Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse said.

LA: $600 a week unemployment payments to start in Louisiana, governor says

theadvocate.com

Louisiana has received its share of the federal dollars earmarked for coronavirus-induced unemployment claims and will begin paying out the $600-a-week benefits, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said. Louisiana has one of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country.

MN: Fatal crashes surge despite sharp drop in traffic across Minnesota

startribune.com

State officials say they have seen a troubling surge in traffic fatalities even though Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order last month has sharply reduced travel by motorists across Minnesota.

OH: Ohio House starts task force with the goal of getting ready to reopen the state

dispatch.com

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton are the ones with the authority to lift the state’s stay-at-home order, but state lawmakers can support them by moving funds, relaxing rules and creating aid programs that target specific areas of the economy such as child care providers or physicians in rural areas.

MA: Stricter guidelines issued for Massachusetts supermarkets

ncboston.com

The Massachusetts Department of Health issued an executive order requiring grocery stores to limit occupancy to no more than 40%. The occupant count includes customers and employees. Stores with a maximum capacity of 25 are exempt from the limit.

KY: Tips flood hotline for Kentucky coronavirus scofflaws. 18 companies closed so far.

kentucky.com

Tens of thousands of people have called a tip line Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear set up March 23 to let people turn in employers and neighbors who are violating the state’s orders to close “non-essential” businesses and cancel gatherings of all sizes to slow the spread of COVID-19.

PA: Pennsylvania facing $3B shortfall

spotlightpa.org

The coronavirus outbreak could cost Pennsylvania $2.7 billion in lost tax revenue over the next 15 months, according to a state report. And that’s assuming that businesses can reopen by April 27. If the shutdown remains in place for another six weeks, the financial hit could be $3.7 billion.

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