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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/24

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/24

US: Stopping virus a huge challenge at crowded US meat plants

apnews.com

Daily reports of giant U.S. meat-processing plants closing because workers tested positive for the coronavirus have called into question whether slaughterhouses can remain virus-free. According to experts, the answer may be no.

NY: Nearly 14% of New Yorkers tested positive for antibodies

timesunion.com

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed preliminary results of statewide antibody testing indicated 13.9% of the 3,000 New Yorkers who gave blood samples had antibodies associated with COVID-19. The latest data indicates 2.7 million people have been infected statewide, which means the fatality rate is about 0.5%.

AK: Alaska Native corporations can get tribal relief funds

apnews.com

More than a dozen Native American tribes have sued the federal government to try to keep the money out of the hands of the Alaska Native corporations. They contend it should go only to the 574 tribes that have a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

UT: Utah has already ordered $800K in malaria drugs

sltrib.com

Utah officials have already committed $800,000 on an initial order of 20,000 doses of malaria medication promoted as a possible treatment for the coronavirus, according to records that surfaced as state lawmakers looked at carving out $8 million for a second and much larger purchase of the unproven drug.

CA: Autopsies reveal coronavirus spread in California earlier than thought

latimes.com

Postmortem testing in California reveals that two Santa Clara County residents who died in their homes in February were infected with the novel coronavirus that now has killed more than 1,400 Californians. The new information, combined with antibody testing results, suggests that the coronavirus was circulating in California for at least a month before it first came to light.

NM: New Mexico city defies shutdown order

apnews.com

The mayor of Grants, a small New Mexico city, announced he will allow small businesses to reopen next week in defiance of a state order. City police were ordered to prevent state police from issuing citations for lockdown violations.

NJ: New Jersey governor rips restrictions on $1.8B in federal aid

nj.com

The Trump administration put conditions on state aid that could force New Jersey to give back some of the $1.8 billion it received. That prompted an angry Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy to vow he “will fight this to the death” and repeat a warning that there could be massive layoffs of public workers.

CO: Denver extends stay-at-home order, even as Colorado order lifts

denverpost.com

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a Democrat, will extend the Colorado city’s stay-at-home order to May 8, even as much of the rest of the state will begin to see a relaxation next week of similar restrictions. Other parts of the metro area are expected to follow Hancock’s lead.

MI: 3 Michigan health care systems beyond 80% full

mlive.com

Three Michigan health systems are more than 80% occupied as the coronavirus pandemic persists, new state data shows. One system in metro Detroit is at 89% of capacity in hospital beds.

PA: Pennsylvania removes more than 200 deaths from official coronavirus count

spotlightpa.org           

Twice in the past week, Pennsylvania’s official COVID-19 death count spiked. Then the number plummeted as the state Department of Health changed methods for calculating deaths.

AL: Alabama changes way it counts coronavirus deaths; numbers increase

al.com

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, the Alabama Department of Public Health has changed the way it accounts for some coronavirus deaths. Previously, the department’s dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases showed the number of reported deaths and the number of confirmed deaths. 

SD: South Dakota governor seeks flexibility to use relief funds to offset sales tax losses

argusleader.com

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, is anticipating "substantial" loss to state sales tax revenue, and she's looking to use federal funds to offer some relief, she said. Earlier this week, the state learned it would receive $1.57 billion in federal funding for its coronavirus response, but Noem said she's limited in how she's able to spend those funds. 

VA: Virginia governor extends ban on elective surgeries

richmond.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has extended Virginia's ban on elective surgeries, defying a call from more than 100 hospitals in the state that say they can treat coronavirus-infected patients and others. Northam announced that the ban, which was set to expire Friday, will now run until May 1.

OR: Oregon to resume nonemergency medical procedures May 1

oregonlive.com
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, announced health care providers will soon be allowed to resume non-urgent medical procedures. Brown said she will lift an order delaying such procedures, allowing them to resume May 1.

NC: North Carolina stay-at-home order extended through May 8

newsobserver.com

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced he is extending his stay-at-home order through May 8. Cooper’s executive order was scheduled to expire on April 29. The move keeps only essential businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, open.

SC: Governor reopens South Carolina businesses despite not meeting federal guidelines

thestate.com

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said he made the decision to reopen some businesses by looking at the “science” and “data” — even though the state hasn’t seen a steady decline in new coronavirus cases.

NV: Nevada board approves $5.1M in contracts to help beleaguered unemployment insurance system

thenevadaindependent.com

A Nevada state board has granted retroactive approval to $5.1 million in federal contracts aimed at helping the state’s unemployment insurance division deal with unprecedented growth in claims and call volume during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NJ: 3rd New Jersey corrections officer dies; union calls for widespread testing in prisons

nj.com

A third corrections officer who worked in a prison or jail in New Jersey has died from coronavirus, authorities said. Union members are demanding widespread and free testing of both workers and inmates at all of New Jersey’s prisons, whether they are symptomatic or not.

AZ: 4 Arizona death row inmates test positive for coronavirus, lawyer says

apnews.com

Four death row prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus, and another five are showing symptoms at the Arizona prison with the most confirmed cases, a defense attorney told The Associated Press. One of the ill inmates says he and the others are being isolated in a dirty, cockroach-infested building.

WA: Washington Supreme Court rejects lawsuit seeking release of prisoners

seattletimes.com

The Washington Supreme Court swiftly rejected a lawsuit seeking to force Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, to order the release of thousands of people from Washington prisons. In a 5-4 decision, following a hearing held over a Zoom call, a court majority found the emergency petition had not proven the state is failing in its duties to incarcerated people.

TX: Texas malls plan for retail-to-go

dallasnews.com

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “retail-to-go” phase of reopening the state’s economy is starting, but don’t expect to stroll into the mall. The governor’s guidelines include practices such as wearing masks and delivering packages to the customer’s trunk or back seat.

MD: Maryland governor envisions allowing businesses to reopen based on risk level

baltimoresun.com

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said he hopes to reopen the Maryland economy in phases. Businesses will be classified as high, medium or low risk based on factors such as its physical space and how much touch it involves for patrons and staff.

MD: Tens of thousands of Maryland students have missed lessons since schools closed

baltimoresun.com

A recent survey of Maryland school superintendents showed that as many as 25% of students in some districts either had not signed on to the internet to do lessons or hadn’t picked up a packet of papers to complete since schools closed last month.

FL: With a nod to safety, Florida businesses want to reopen

sun-sentinel.com

Feeling the crunch of the coronavirus, and with an eye toward public safety, Florida business leaders are pressuring Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to repeal some prohibitions. Leaders of industries including hospitals, farmers, airlines and cruise lines are facing devastating losses.

WI: Wisconsin labs nearing testing capacity needed to reopen

apnews.com

Laboratories in Wisconsin are closing in on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ goal of being able to test nearly 100,000 people a week for the coronavirus, a key benchmark for easing social distancing mandates, health officials said.

MN: Governor orders Minnesota classrooms to close the rest of the school year

startribune.com

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s order assures that Minnesota students and teachers will finish out the school year through distance learning plans.

RI: Rhode Island schools to remain closed for remainder of academic year

providencejournal.com

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that distance learning will continue until the end of the semester. Calling it a tough decision, she noted that 39 other governors have decided not to reopen school buildings this year.

GA: Georgia may spend election relief money on drop boxes and safety gear

ajc.com

Georgia is slated to receive nearly $11 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for elections this year, money that could be used for protective gear, high-speed ballot scanners and absentee ballot drop boxes. Election officials are also planning to buy sanitation supplies and equipment that can quickly determine voter intent on absentee ballots that are in question.

AL: Alabama legislative session won’t resume next week

al.com

The Alabama legislative session was scheduled to resume but will remain on hold another week. Lawmakers left for spring break on March 12 and have not been able to restart the session because of the coronavirus pandemic.

IL: Illinois governor extends stay-at-home order

nbcchicago.com

Illinois' stay-at-home order will now be in effect through May, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced. Pritzker said he plans to extend the deadline until May 30, though some changes will be put in place.

IA: How a tip from Ashton Kutcher led Iowa governor to hire testing firm

desmoinesregister.com

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said that a tip from actor Ashton Kutcher led her to the Utah-based companies she’s hired to run a $26 million coronavirus testing program.

GA: Faith leaders call on Georgia governor not to reopen businesses right now

ajc.com

Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta is calling for Gov. Brian Kemp to rescind his order to reopen some Georgia businesses. Public health experts have warned that Kemp’s move could lead to a spike in new infections. Kemp has said the businesses would have guidelines to follow.

TN: Faith leaders push Tennessee governor to return key powers to localities

tennessean.com

Faith-based coalitions across Tennessee are calling on Republican Gov. Bill Lee to return specific powers to localities that would, the coalitions said, allow the local governments to overturn restrictive and punitive state laws that hurt communities in myriad ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

IN: Indiana colleges are getting millions to help students in need but don't know how to spend it

indystar.com

Indiana colleges and universities are set to receive to roughly $200 million from the federal government’s coronavirus relief package. But most schools say they’re not sure yet how to spend it.

MS: Suspension of Mississippi teacher license test likely to ‘open up some doors’ for potential educators

mississippitoday.org

Teachers across Mississippi struggle to pass Praxis exams to become certified in state classrooms, especially in the Delta, where in some districts as much as a third of the teachers are not certified. This test will no longer be a barrier for candidates for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus.

MN: Minnesota nonprofit group to furlough 2,600 workers

startribune.com

HealthPartners is the latest in a series of prominent health care groups in Minnesota to announce furloughs and pay cuts as a statewide halt to nonemergency surgeries saps revenue.

DE: Fecal matter tests show virus more widespread than thought in Delaware county

delawareonline.com

Officials of a Delaware county sent raw sewage to researchers who compared the prevalence of genetic fragments from the virus in fecal matter against local population data and sewage flow rates. The company's analysis estimated a number of cases that is approximately 15 times the laboratory-confirmed cases in the county as of the sample date. 

ID: Idaho school leaders brace for budget cuts

idahostatesman.com

Idaho leaders are bracing for a new round of budget cuts of up to 5% in 2020-21. Using rough estimates and the $1.9 billion general fund K-12 budget as a baseline, a 5% holdback could translate to about $95 million.

MO: Missouri nurse practitioners want more autonomy

stltoday.com

 While Missouri has relaxed some of its rules, the state’s nurse practitioners are asking GOP Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to do more, arguing that many of the regulations are unnecessary and even harmful.

OK: League of Women Voters asks Oklahoma high court for absentee ballot changes

oklahoman.com

Ahead of Oklahoma’s June 30 primary election, the League of Women voters is asking the state Supreme Court to intervene in state election procedures to make it easier for residents to vote absentee.

VT: University of Vermont students file class-action suit for reimbursement after school goes online

vtdigger.org

Two University of Vermont students have sued the university, saying the university should provide reimbursements for services not offered to students since going remote in response to the coronavirus.

CT: School bus drivers across Connecticut have stopped getting paid

courant.com

Dozens of school districts across Connecticut have stopped paying thousands of school bus drivers despite strong encouragement from Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to keep them on the payroll.

OK: 'Zoombombers' taunt Oklahoma State Board of Education members

tulsaworld.com

An Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting was disrupted by racist and sexually explicit attacks posted to Zoom, the videoconferencing platform it is using to conduct public meetings while public gatherings are deemed unsafe.

ND: Nursing home sues North Dakota over banned beauty salon

apnews.com

A Minot assisted living facility is suing North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum and the state Health Department over an executive order that prohibits the use of an in-house beauty salon for its residents.

HI: Hawaii seniors see plans to attend college on mainland upended

civilbeat.org

High schools seniors in Hawaii are facing the possibility of being unable to attend the college of their choice come fall. For the thousands of students in Hawaii who head off to the mainland for college each year, the pandemic is a time of anxious waiting, uncertainty and serious contemplation of other options, like a gap year or in-state education.

AK: Food pantries report surge as more Alaskans lose their jobs

adn.com

Food pantries across Alaska have been reporting a significant increase in demand as more Alaskans lose their jobs or have their hours cut due to business closures.

WY: Wyoming receives more testing supplies, can process broader pool of samples

trib.com

The Wyoming state lab has received more of reagents — the chemicals needed on the back end of testing to confirm samples are positive or negative — and can expand its testing abilities again. The priority groups will remain at the top of the queue, as they have for weeks, and that may cause a delay for those non-hospitalized, relatively healthy younger or middle-aged people.

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