What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/29
US: Push to reopen economy runs up against worker, consumer worries
Nationwide, plans for a swift reopening of malls, factories and other businesses accelerated, but they quickly collided with the reality that persuading workers and consumers to overlook their coronavirus fears may prove difficult. Absent a federal mandate, state approaches to the speed and pace of their commercial revivals vary.
WI: Wisconsin Poison Center sees uptick in calls about household cleaners
The Wisconsin Poison Center reported an uptick in the number of people exposing themselves to household cleaning products. Its hotline also fielded more calls in the days after President Donald Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant could help treat the coronavirus.
CA: California reveals 40% of COVID-19 deaths were in elder care
Long-term care residents in California made up nearly 40% of the COVID-19 deaths, new public health data shows, making skilled nursing and assisted living facilities by far the deadliest hotspots in the coronavirus pandemic.
MA: Nearly 70 veterans die in Massachusetts elder care outbreak
An additional 82 veterans and 81 employees have tested positive for the virus at Holyoke Soldiers' Home, in Massachusetts, and federal officials were trying to determine whether residents were denied proper medical care as deaths continued to climb.
KY: Kentucky governor apologizes to Tupac Shakur over unemployment claim
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, and Tupac Shakur have squashed their beef. State officials are working to resolve an unemployment claim filed last month by Shakur, a Kentucky man not related to the iconic hip hop artist, after Beshear pointed it out as an example of fake claims.
NC: Masked North Carolina lawmakers return for session
The North Carolina legislature returned for the first time since the pandemic spread, to start a historic session like no other. Many lawmakers wore masks and sat apart from each other in a Legislative Building that was much emptier, and quieter, than usual. And their primary task is to pass COVID-19 relief.
AL: Elective medical, surgical, dental procedures can restart, Alabama health officials say
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s safer-at-home order will allow the restart of elective medical, surgical and dental procedures put on hold for more than a month during the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican’s new order is set to go into effect May 1.
WA: Washington discusses regional approach to reopening
Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said there have been discussions about reopening regional areas of the state that have fewer coronavirus cases.
OK: Oklahoma to test all nursing home residents, staffers
Oklahoma plans to dramatically ramp up testing in nursing homes in the next month using a new saliva test that is less invasive than a nose swab, doesn't require swab materials that are in high demand across the country and can be administered more quickly.
SC: South Carolina DMV to open; distancing in place
The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen its 66 branches, by appointment only, starting May 4.
GA: New changes to Georgia’s virus data confuse experts, residents alike
Death counts and other essential figures the Georgia Department of Public Health publishes on COVID-19 have ticked up and down as the state changes the way that it reports them. While the state has added to the metrics it publishes, it has stopped running others and shifted its method of counting cases. This has confused ordinary Georgians.
PA: Pennsylvania preps reopening without mass testing capacity
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration plans to announce Friday which parts of Pennsylvania will begin seeing a step-by-step relaxation of coronavirus-related shutdown directives. Wolf, a Democrat, and administration officials did not project when the state will secure widespread mass-testing capacity.
CO: Coronavirus-related calls dominate Colorado mental health hotline
About 60% of calls to Colorado’s crisis hotline this month had the same theme: the new coronavirus. Mental health experts are concerned that anxiety and depression brought on by the pandemic and so many weeks of isolation could lead to higher rates of suicide.
UT: Some Utah businesses can reopen Friday
Utah’s COVID-19 risk level will move Friday to moderate, allowing for some businesses to reopen, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert announced. Group gatherings of 20 or fewer will be allowed, Herbert said, up from 10. Businesses that had been ordered to close like gyms and salons will be able to reopen if they follow strict protocols and precautions.
ME: Some Maine businesses may reopen Friday under governor’s plan to restart economy
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills detailed a comprehensive reopening plan that brings Maine businesses online in stages over the course of the summer, but she cautioned that any surge in cases that threatens public health could lead to new restrictions.
AZ: First death from the coronavirus surfaces in Arizona prisons
The first fatality from the coronavirus in Arizona’s prisons came two weeks ago when a 64-year-old prisoner with diabetes died at a hospital in Tucson, according to Pima County’s medical examiner. Over the last week, Arizona corrections officials have declined to say whether any prisoners had died from the virus.
IN: Indiana to offer more government services amid pandemic
Indiana plans to offer more government services as the number of people seeking assistance skyrockets amid the coronavirus outbreak. Food stamp applications are up 250% and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families applications are up 200%.
RI: Rhode Island governor tries to eliminate health care barriers
Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo unveiled a slew of new rules designed to slash health insurance red tape, suspending regulations for health care providers and limiting insurance company restrictions.
MT: Montana governor asks USDA to expand local meat processing
Montana wants to loosen its meat processing laws to make it easier for farms and ranches to supply butchered livestock to food banks. In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said the state wants to allow select meat processors to butcher livestock given to food banks by farms and ranches.
ND: North Dakota set to reopen economy this weekend
North Dakota is set to fully reopen its economy Friday after 1 ½ months of closed bars and shut-down salons, if positive trends in areas such as coronavirus testing continue, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum announced.
WI: Wisconsin governor opens state parks, forests with conditions
Wisconsin parks will open Friday with special conditions to minimize crowding and allow visitors to follow social distancing guidelines.
KY: Kentucky AG calls governor’s COVID-19 travel ban unconstitutional
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, has filed a motion in federal court in which he calls Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus travel restrictions unconstitutional, according to court records.
OR: Oregon data given to lawmakers, public differs
The Oregon Health Authority has been knowingly sharing coronavirus statistics with state lawmakers that include test results that do not match the agency’s daily tallies to the public. The inconsistencies create confusion about testing trends in Oregon.
LA: Louisiana small businesses get some relief, much frustration from fed loans
Just over 17,000 Louisiana businesses had been approved for about $3.7 billion in federal loans. Nationally, over a million loans for more than $247 billion have been approved. While some businessowners were able to overcome initial glitches with the application forms and get their money quickly, other businesses have hit obstacles.
MS: Mississippi wants more people — even asymptomatic — tested for coronavirus as it reopens economy
As Mississippi moves toward reopening its economy and more coronavirus tests become available, state officials want more Mississippians — even those without symptoms — to get tested for the virus. This is a dramatic shift from the onset of the pandemic.
ID: Idaho's testing lags much of the West
Idaho has the second-lowest testing rate in the West, having tested 1 in 89 residents. Its positive test rate is near the top, while its fatality rate is still below many other states.
AK: Alaska ramps up testing
Alaska state researchers are working to understand where the coronavirus is, what symptoms people have and how to prepare for future outbreaks. To stop the spread of the coronavirus, public health workers must first know who has it.
WY: Gyms, day cares, salons can reopen this week in Wyoming
Wyoming businesses that may reopen are required to limit the number of people in their business to no more than nine at a time, screen the customers and staff for COVID-19 symptoms, require customers and staff to wear a face covering and do away with waiting areas.
NY: New York governor says regions must keep hospital capacity below 70% to reopen
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the benchmarks for New York regions to reopen include ensuring that COVID-19 hospitalizations do not exceed 70% of available beds; keeping rates of transmission low; and demonstrating a 14-day decline in hospitalizations.
HI: Hawaii nonprofits want more say in how state spends federal aid
Nonprofits want Hawaii to create an office dedicated to maximizing federal funding and adopt a slew of policy changes aimed at broadening the safety net for working families.
MD: Nursing homes account for more than half of Maryland deaths
Nursing homes in Maryland account for just 22% of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases but just more than half of the deaths related to the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus, according to new data released by the Maryland Department of Health.
FL: Florida governor plans reopening statement
During a meeting with President Donald Trump, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s reviewing plans for reopening the state and plans to make an announcement on what that will look like. The current stay-home order expires Thursday.
TX: Texas ends quarantine mandate for Louisiana travelers
Starting Friday, road and air travelers entering Texas from Louisiana will no longer have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine orders remain in effect for travelers from California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington state, as well as several cities.
MI: Michigan governor: Stores can now refuse to serve customers without masks
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said people who choose not to wear masks in public places will not face fines, but stores can refuse to serve them. One store chain is asking customers to buy a mask for $1 or leave if they arrive unmasked. Others are only reminding customers of the new requirement.
OK: Oklahoma governor defends $2M purchase of malaria drug touted by Trump
GOP Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said his first instinct as governor is to procure anything that might protect Oklahomans during this pandemic, especially as the federal government is reimbursing states for purchases related to COVID-19.
NJ: Governor says New Jersey property tax bills can be pushed back a month
New Jersey towns and cities can give residents another month to pay property tax bills due Friday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the state and ravage the economy, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced.
MO: Missouri counties could see federal aid money next week
Coronavirus aid checks worth a total of $521 million could be headed to Missouri counties next week under a plan to divvy up billions of dollars in federal stimulus money designed to be used by counties to help smaller units of government, such as cities and ambulance districts.
NH: New Hampshire hair stylists petition governor to reopen salons
Some New Hampshire hair stylists are petitioning Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to allow them to reopen and see one client at a time.