What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/22
NJ: New Jersey could need 20K to 30K tests daily to reopen
New Jersey could need to administer 20,000 to 30,000 coronavirus tests a day to appropriately get a handle on the outbreak and reopen the state, the state’s top health official said. The figure dwarfs the 7,000 to 9,000 currently being administered in the state, and the turnaround time on results would need to drop significantly.
ID: Top Idaho officials clash over stay-at-home order
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a Republican, is listed as the keynote speaker for an “all jobs are essential” rally in East Idaho. McGeachin has sent a letter to GOP Gov. Brad Little opposing his continued shutdown, calling it “catastrophic to our economy" and grounds for a "constitutional showdown."
ND: North Dakota governor calls meeting to aid oil drillers amid coronavirus
Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum called an emergency meeting to discuss ways to aid the state’s oil producers that are wracked by falling oil prices amid the coronavirus outbreak.
NY: New York to reopen by region, governor says
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will look at restarting New York’s economy on a regional basis, a sharp turn from his earlier statements that opening some parts of the state before others could lead people to travel in large numbers to those locations.
NV: Nevada county faces $1B revenue loss
Nevada’s Clark County — home to Las Vegas — is projecting a $1 billion loss in revenue over the next 16 months because of the coronavirus. To balance its budget, the county may cut spending on police and other services and potentially shed 11% of its workforce.
MO: Missouri sues China over coronavirus
Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government over the coronavirus, alleging that nation’s officials are to blame for the global pandemic. Missouri Democrats called the lawsuit a stunt by a Republican attorney general who is up for re-election this year.
OH: Ohio governor calls reopening a ‘high-wire act’ that will result in more virus cases
As total coronavirus cases in Ohio neared 14,000 and deaths approached 600, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said the state can’t afford to keep its economy and its workforce shut down for up to 18 months to wait out the pandemic.
OK: All Oklahoma abortions can resume Friday, judge orders
U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin granted a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of Oklahoma’s coronavirus-related abortion ban while litigation continues on the issue. On March 27, GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt said abortions were included in his temporary ban on elective surgeries.
WI: Official links 7 Wisconsin COVID-19 cases to in-person voting
Milwaukee’s health commissioner says officials have identified seven people who appear to have contracted the coronavirus through activities related to the April 7 election in Wisconsin. Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said six of the cases involve Milwaukee voters and one is a Milwaukee poll worker.
MD: Maryland hospital system tells providers to save protective gear for coronavirus
The University of Maryland Medical System has sent a memo telling medical providers to preserve their protective equipment for COVID-19 cases and not to use it in treating some patients with potentially dangerous infections such as MRSA.
MA: Massachusetts firms lagged in receiving federal coronavirus rescue money
Massachusetts, New York and other states hit hard by the coronavirus came up short in the first round of federal rescue money for small businesses, while states with far fewer cases such as Nebraska and North Dakota got proportionally more money.
DE: Delaware medical supplier says FEMA seized masks, now he’s out millions
As pleas for protective masks continue amid the coronavirus pandemic, a Delaware supplier of medical equipment is disputing the legality of what he said were federal seizures of hundreds of thousands of N95 respirators.
GA: Georgia to mail out 323K new absentee ballot request forms
Thousands of Georgia voters may not have gotten the absentee ballot request forms the Secretary of State’s Office sent out recently for the June 9 primary. Elections officials initially mailed out the forms last month to active voters, encouraging them to avoid human contact at precincts.
MA: Massachusetts governor orders schools stay closed until at least September
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all Massachusetts public and private schools to remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, dashing any hope that 12th-graders will return for graduation and assuring that all students will continue the grind of online learning for two more months.
TN: Tennessee prepares to reopen
Republican Gov. Bill Lee said social distancing has worked and Tennessee is at a place where the economy can start to reopen. The White House criteria to reopen includes a 14-day downward trend in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, which Tennessee hasn’t met yet.
NY: New York to expedite claims process for gig workers, self-employed
The changes allow gig workers, self-employed people and many others in New York to fill out a single form to get unemployment benefits.
CA: California speeders rampant in pandemic
California accidents have dropped by more than half, saving the state an estimated $1 billion. But drivers pushing triple-digit speeds has jumped. The California Highway Patrol says between March 19 and March 29, officers have issued 543 citations for speeds over 100 mph statewide, nearly a 30% increase.
VA: Virginia to delay minimum wage hikes
Landmark legislation to boost Virginia’s minimum wage — long out of reach for Democratic lawmakers when Republicans controlled the legislature — faces further delay. This time, it's at the hands of Democrats grappling with the economic ramifications of COVID-19. The measure would gradually increase Virginia's minimum wage to $12 in 2023.
NC: More North Carolina workers eligible for unemployment
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed a new executive order allowing furloughed workers who received a severance payment from their employers access to payments through the unemployment system. Previously, such workers were ineligible to claim unemployment benefits.
CO: Colorado receives 15K unemployment claims from self-employed workers
Given that many self-employed Colorado workers have waited weeks to access unemployment benefits, one question is why more didn’t apply on the first day the state Department of Labor and Employment allowed them to do so.
AZ: Arizona legislature to pull plug on session
Republican leaders of the Arizona legislature who have been hoping to return to finish a coronavirus-interrupted session are instead planning to adjourn May 1 and come back at Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s call when state finances are more certain.
UT: Utah governor approves return to elective surgeries
As the rate of Utahns testing positive for COVID-19 dips lower, the state’s health care providers will resume elective surgeries, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said. The decision to lift it was made in collaboration with Utah hospital leaders, who say they now have the supplies they need, he said.
MS: Mississippi expanding unemployment benefits for coronavirus
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, announced the state is expanding unemployment benefits during the coronavirus crisis to cover people who did not previously qualify for assistance.
MO: Protesters gather at Missouri Capitol
Several hundred protesters converged outside the Missouri Capitol to demand that GOP Gov. Mike Parson lift his stay-at-home order. Many more protesters in vehicles participated, with drivers honking their horns and passengers waving signs.
AL: Alabama stay-at-home order remains in place, governor says
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey did not announce plans to reopen Alabama. Ivey said the state’s stay at home order will remain in place at least through April 30. Ivey is under growing pressure to reopen businesses and healthcare facilities shuttered for more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
IL: Illinois governor says virus will peak mid-May
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, is now saying the new coronavirus won’t peak in Illinois until mid-May. The virus’ peak had been expected in mid-to late April.
IA: Iowa rolls out new COVID-19 testing regime with online assessment, mobile testing sites
The state of Iowa rolled out a new online portal to help up testing capabilities for the new coronavirus. The program comes with increased testing capabilities of up to 3,000 additional tests a day.
MS: How Mississippi became a COVID-19 testing leader despite ‘bottlenecks,’ lack of federal help
Mississippi ranks No. 6 among all states in testing for the new coronavirus, state officials say, despite a lack of federal help acquiring needed supplies. The five states doing more testing than Mississippi all have dealt with more serious outbreaks of COVID-19, case records show.
WA: Washington governor bans utilities from cutting off water, energy and phone service
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has banned utility companies until May 4 from disconnecting water, energy and phone service to homes due to nonpayment. Some public utilities, serving hundreds of thousands of people, didn’t immediately make clear commitments to halt disconnections after Inslee's earlier urging to do so.
OR: Oregon governor may require counties to submit formal plans to reopen
Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s draft plan to reopen Oregon could include requirements that county officials submit formal requests to Brown and certify they have enough protective gear available for their first responders.
HI: Pandemic poses risk for Hawaii's renewable energy plans
Hawaii utility regulators are pushing to keep new renewable energy projects on track even as developers warn that the virus is likely to slow down their attempts to build big solar projects needed to wean Hawaii from fossil fuels.
SC: South Carolina lawmaker calls for loosening restrictions on state’s college loans
Under the South Carolina proposal, led by state Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Democrat, students graduating high school in 2020 would only need to meet one of three academic requirements to receive a $5,000 a year scholarship.
MN: University of Minnesota to freeze tuition next academic year
The University of Minnesota announced it will freeze tuition for most students at its five campuses in the next academic year to provide financial relief to current students and help lure in new students during the pandemic.
LA: New proposal for Louisiana elections amid coronavirus has a big change included in it
The Louisiana Secretary of State has submitted a new emergency election plan to lawmakers that rolls back voters’ access to absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, following Republican pushback over an initial plan that would have extended mail-in ballots to more people.
FL: Florida tourism, restaurant industries plan reopening
As the clock ticks toward a reopening of Florida, tourism industry leaders, and hotel and restaurant owners laid out the steps necessary for what they considered a safe restart. Proposals include sick leave for workers, tables on sidewalks and encouraging Floridians to take in-state vacations.
TX: Texas to resume elective medical procedures
A large part of the Texan medical community has been on hold to try to flatten the curve. Elective procedures can resume, allowing doctors and patients to begin mapping out their next steps.
MI: Michigan AG laying off 25% of staff
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is temporarily laying off more than 100 people because of the pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has also asked senior staff to take a pay cut.
MN: COVID-19 has changed the way the Minnesota legislature appropriates money
As part of the third COVID-19 response bill passed in a one-day session last month, the Minnesota legislature created the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund. The bill set up a new way of exercising the Legislature’s constitutional authority to appropriate money, creating a 10-member Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission.
AK: An Alaska engineer set up a mobile heat unit to sanitize PPE
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is experimenting with a new system to extend the life of N95 respirator masks. They’re cooking the virus out of the equipment and hope to eventually build a model that is easy to replicate across the state.
PA: Tight housing, lack of health care put migrant workers on Pennsylvania farms at high risk for the coronavirus
Pennsylvania is failing to adequately protect migrant farmworkers from the coronavirus, an issue that will become more critical as orchards and farms ramp up efforts to recruit laborers in the coming months, experts and advocates said.
WY: Wyoming archives, museums to preserve COVID-19 memories
The Wyoming State Archives, Wyoming State Museum, University of Wyoming American Heritage Center and Wyoming State Historical Society are working together to encourage residents to consider how they would tell future historians about their experience and memories of living through this pandemic.
VT: As traffic at food shelves spikes, Vermont launches 'mass feeding plan'
As the coronavirus pandemic inflicts a mounting toll on the Vermont economy, state officials have begun to develop a “mass feeding plan” for residents who can no longer afford to put food on the table.
NJ, PA: Golfers hope actions by other states might mean the sport’s return is closer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
New Jersey and Pennsylvania were among just 12 states as of Tuesday to ban golf as other states lift their pandemic-driven bans on the sport.
ME: Hunters will not need to tag turkeys during Maine spring hunt this year
Maine’s spring wild turkey season will open early and the required tagging of the big-game bird by hunters will be suspended this hunting season in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced.
LA: New Orleans opens walkup coronavirus test site
New Orleans opened a new coronavirus test site, part of an effort to expand testing in neighborhoods with high infection rates. Officials say the site, at Xavier University, is one of several walkup sites they plan to roll out in the coming weeks thanks to private funding and partnerships with area hospitals.
GA: House Democrats demand that Georgia governor reverse coronavirus rollback
Georgia House Democrats urged Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to immediately rescind an executive order that will allow some businesses and restaurants forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic to reopen later this week.