What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/21
MN: Minnesota pork plant closes indefinitely
JBS USA said it is indefinitely idling its sprawling Worthington, Minnesota, pork plant as an outbreak of COVID-19 has spread among its workers. The Minnesota Department of Health recently found that 26 workers at the plant had been infected with COVID-19 and that five more relatives of employees had tested positive.
OK: Oklahoma facing $1.3B hole in coming budget year
The COVID-19 epidemic and collapse of the global oil markets has dealt a $1.3 billion blow to Oklahoma's revenue outlook for the next budget year, officials said. A state board met to certify a revenue shortfall of more than $400 million for the current budget year.
NJ: New Jersey names 425 nursing homes, facilities with outbreaks
The list includes the number of coronavirus cases and deaths at each New Jersey facility, as reported by the facilities themselves. The state has faced increasing calls to publicly disclose the names of the facilities.
MS: 10 years after oil spill, will BP funds help Mississippi make up losses from coronavirus?
Ten years ago, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform killed 11 people, the effects of the resulting spill reached South Mississippi long before the oil. Now, a portion of the damages could help Mississippi get through the economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.
PA: Governor vetoes bill that would have allowed more Pennsylvania businesses to reopen over public health objections
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed legislation that would have allowed more Pennsylvania businesses to reopen over the objections of the state’s top health official, hours after hundreds gathered at the Capitol to protest the coronavirus-driven closures.
GA: Georgia schools to remain closed as businesses begin reopening
Georgia schools will remain closed after businesses, places of worship and other public spaces open on a limited basis. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said he will relax some of the rules he put in place to halt the spread of the coronavirus, but schools will continue under their existing closure order “for the remainder of this year.”
TN: Surge in COVID-19 testing accompanies move to open Tennessee businesses
As he moves to reopen businesses in most Tennessee counties, Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s push to dramatically expand access to COVID-19 testing — seen as a key step toward a return to normalcy — is in full swing.
CO: Some Colorado businesses can begin opening next week
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said he expects Colorado retailers to have the option to reopen with curbside pickup next week, and to reopen to in-store customers May 1. Restaurants and bars might be allowed to open in mid-May.
WI: Governor releases three-phase plan to resume daily life in Wisconsin
Daily life in Wisconsin would begin to resume only after cases of coronavirus and flu-like symptoms declined for two weeks straight under a plan released by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
SC: South Carolina governor says some businesses can open
Rolling back an executive order issued just two weeks ago, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, reversed restrictions on some businesses, allowing some retail stores to reopen. He cited no data to inform his decision, rather, he said it was the public’s compliance with social distancing rules and “common sense” that guided him.
VA: Four Northern Virginia counties account for 42% of state hospitalizations
While hospitals throughout Virginia report having thousands of available beds and ventilators to treat patients as the number of people hospitalized for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 has taken a slight downturn, data from the Virginia Department of Health suggests that Northern Virginia has been hit hardest.
MA: Massachusetts hospital models show flattening curve; COVID-19 patients not expected to overwhelm the system during this week’s surge
Doctors and mathematicians at Massachusetts General Hospital, part of a little-known modeling team, are now optimistic that the number of coronavirus patients has plateaued at their institution, as well as in their larger hospital network, and will not overwhelm clinicians.
KY: Kentucky schools closed for remainder of school year, governor says
Students should continue their education at home through distance learning plans, Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told superintendents.
OH: Guardians in Ohio lose contact with wards amid coronavirus pandemic
A mother who was overseeing her injured son’s care in an Ohio nursing home is among those asking for a safe way to visit. Or to work there.
TN: Tennessee agency sued by kids who lost Medicaid
As coronavirus besieges Tennessee, a new class-action lawsuit seeks to force TennCare to reinstate insurance for thousands of children and disabled adults allegedly cut from coverage over problems with eligibility, paperwork and appeals.
MO: Missouri governor freezes $47M in spending
GOP Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he would withhold $47 million in spending from the state budget as unemployment rises and tax revenue declines. Parson announced another $180 million in budget restrictions earlier this month.
WI: Wisconsin Supreme Court hears arguments in cases to limit governor's veto power
The Wisconsin governor’s power to partially change state spending plans with his veto pen would be rolled back under two legal challenges heard by the state Supreme Court.
NE: Nebraska governor moves to lift elective surgery ban
Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced he will allow elective surgeries to resume in two weeks, marking the state's first easing of coronavirus restrictions.
IN: Indiana governor easing elective surgery restrictions
Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he was easing restrictions on hospitals from performing elective surgeries even as the state health commissioner remained concerned over whether coronavirus infections were slowing in the state.
LA: Medical clinics can resume time-sensitive elective procedures, Louisiana governor says
Louisiana took its first small step toward loosening restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, telling medical providers they can resume time-sensitive medical procedures that were put on hold.
MS: Mississippi reaching plateau in virus cases, governor says
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he believes the state is reaching a plateau in the increase of new coronavirus cases, and the Republican will consider in coming days how the state should ease into reopening parts of its economy.
TX: Texas plans for in-person July elections
Other states may be shifting to increased mail-in voting, but Texas' GOP leaders are fighting efforts to expand the practice. That leaves local elections officials to try to make polling places safe in a pandemic with measures like drive-throughs and disposable pencils.
MD: Maryland secures 500,000 tests from South Korea
Supplies from a South Korean company, LabGenomics, will enable Maryland to administer 500,000 tests. The tests cost the state $9 million — a “worthwhile investment” given how much revenue the state is losing with so many businesses closed, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said.
AK: Curbside pickup may soon be coming to Alaska’s marijuana shops
While many Alaska businesses have closed, pot shops are permitted to stay open under state health mandates. Right now, sales are allowed to take place only as they normally would — inside the store. That will change if Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy approves emergency regulations.
HI: Hawaii seeks to increase staffing for contact tracing efforts
About 70 Department of Health workers in Hawaii — half of them unpaid volunteers — are calling patients who test positive for COVID-19 and assembling a list of their close contacts who will need to self-quarantine. Officials say the team is "barely able to keep up."
FL: Florida among slowest to process jobless claims
As unemployment surged during the early weeks of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, Florida ranked at or near the bottom of all states in its speed of processing those claims. The state is already among the most inhospitable places to be unemployed, and the economic downturn has only added to the misery.
MI: Michigan deaths at two-week low
There were 77 new deaths reported in Michigan, the lowest new death count since April 5. Cases were at the lowest for a single day since March 26.
WY: In Wyoming, rising calls for return to normalcy
The coronavirus has largely spared Wyoming, which has the fewest known cases in the country. Amid protests to open up, some worry the worst is yet to come.
CA: California governor resists pressure to open state
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged that pressure from Californians and local governments is building to modify the statewide stay-at-home order, but he said restrictions will remain in place until the threat to public health subsides and adequate testing and other safeguards are implemented.
DE: Delaware med students join national effort to track down PPE
A group of University of Delaware medical students tracks down companies or organizations that might have surplus equipment that hospitals could put to good use and connects them.
DC: District of Columbia coalition wants massive tax breaks for businesses
A new coalition of some of the District of Columbia’s biggest developers and businesses are pushing lawmakers to consider massive tax breaks as part of any recovery plan, saying that without them, the city’s restaurants and retailers will struggle to hire back employees and reopen their doors.
CT: Advocates want parents of people with intellectual disabilities excused from Connecticut hospitals’ no-visit rule
Advocates in Connecticut are requesting that the parents of residents with an intellectual or developmental disability who live at home be given the same exemption from no-visitation rules in hospitals as caregivers from group homes.
AL: Alabama governor urges Congress to replenish tapped out business loan program
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, is urging Congress to approve new funding for the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, part of the federal relief act intended to help businesses keep employees on the job during the coronavirus pandemic.
KY: How abortion, guns, church closings made coronavirus a culture war in Kentucky, nation
The new patchwork of state and local policies designed to flatten the spread of the coronavirus is inflaming old passions over some of the most contentious issues in politics.
RI: Rhode Island studies virus impact on people of color
A disproportionate number of people of color in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus, Rhode Island’s top health official said. Even though 15% of the state’s population identifies as Latino, more than 40% of those who have tested positive, and for whom the data is available, are Latino.
NC: North Carolina protestors allowed; must practice distancing, governor says
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, assured a group that plans to protest his stay-at-home order in downtown Raleigh that its members can do so if they adhere to social distancing guidelines. That means six feet apart unless they are members of the same household.
ID: Amid school closures, Idaho teens are working agriculture jobs
With Idaho students completing coursework remotely for the foreseeable future, more are filling their days with farm labor and agricultural work. Teens say this is a good way to make money and help farmers. But educators and farmworker advocates worry it could take a toll on students’ education or even their health.
AZ: Hundreds protest stay-at-home order at Arizona Capitol
American flags and campaign paraphernalia for President Donald Trump were abundant as people streamed into the plaza before marching across the street to the Arizona Capitol, demanding businesses reopen and employees be allowed to return to work.
IL: Protesters demand Illinois reopening
Demonstrators in Illinois gathered in Springfield to demand a reopening and an end to the state's coronavirus stay-at-home order, which is scheduled to expire April 30 but will likely be extended.
VT: Vermont governor: 'No one will be untouched by this'
Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he remains wary of a short-term financial injection to save three Vermont college campuses that are facing closure. Scott warned that Vermont's state college system, which has struggled with budget woes since before the COVID-19 pandemic, is only the first institution that will be asking for financial relief in the coming months.
AR: Arkansas Democrats to host 'first in nation' virtual convention
Arkansas Democrats canceled an in-person special state convention where delegates to the Democratic National Convention were scheduled to be selected. Instead, the process will be conducted with the help of technology.