Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/18

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/18

US: As states expand testing, a new problem: Not enough people to test

washingtonpost.com

A Washington Post survey of governors’ offices and state health departments found at least a dozen states where testing capacity outstrips the supply of patients. Many have scrambled to make testing more convenient, especially for vulnerable communities, but the numbers, while rising, are well short of capacity — and far short of targets set by independent experts. 

LA: Privacy worries could derail virus tracking plans in Louisiana

apnews.com

Worries about the breach of individual privacy rights could undermine Louisiana’s ability to quickly pinpoint those who have encountered someone infected with COVID-19, a tracking plan that public health experts say is critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus disease.

TX: Texas high court nixes virus-related mail-in voting

dallasnews.com

The Texas Supreme Court granted Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion to temporarily deny mail-in ballots to people who fear catching the virus. The ruling overturned an appeals court order granting election officials the power to give mail-in ballots to people afraid of the coronavirus.

NY: More New Yorkers eligible for tests as state increases capacity

timesunion.com

Anyone who would return to work during Phase 1 of New York state’s reopening process is now eligible for a COVID-19 test, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Employees who work in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and retail are the latest additions to a growing list of people who can be tested at one of New York's more than 700 testing sites.

HI: Hawaiian visitors charged with breaking quarantine

staradvertiser.com

Special agents with the Hawaii Attorney General’s office helped track down a tourist and charge him with violating the state’s mandatory quarantine after citizens reported he posted images of himself at various locations across Oahu. His arrest came the same day a Colorado woman was arrested in Maui on charges of violating emergency orders related to the coronavirus. 

WI: Local officials toss restrictions following Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling

jsonline.com

Leaders of cities and counties who raced to implement restrictions in the wake of a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are now tossing those orders, many citing uncertainty over whether they are legal.

FL: Florida cases high as reopening ratchets up

tampabay.com

On the eve of Florida’s first phase of a statewide reopening, the state reported an above-average daily case increase. It comes at a time when health officials have assured Floridians that the state’s curve generally is beginning to flatten.

ME: Maine reopening despite missed benchmarks, inadequate testing regime

pressherald.com

Experts say more widespread testing of Mainers without symptoms is essential to beating the pandemic and restoring the economy.

MA: Hundreds of Massachusetts workers say companies failed to protect them

bostonglobe.com

As they risk their own well-being to care for infected patients or rush to keep store shelves stocked, workers across Massachusetts have filed hundreds of complaints with the federal government in recent weeks, alleging their employers failed to keep them protected from the coronavirus.

KS: Republicans want to curb Kansas governor’s broad pandemic powers

kansas.com

Opposition to Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly will culminate this week when Republicans attempt to pass a bill limiting her authority during the pandemic. GOP leaders indicate it will focus on whether her orders can be enforced with criminal penalties and if the legislature has the power to review her decisions when not in session.

AZ: Arizona attorney general investigates county public health rules

azcentral.com

Arizona's second-biggest county has adopted several public health rules for restaurants, such as requiring restaurants operate at no more than 50% indoor capacity. But those rules go beyond the state’s guidelines for restaurants, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive orders have expressly prohibited local governments from adopting stricter policies than the Arizona government.

MD: Maryland governor criticized as problems mount

baltimoresun.com

In recent days, some who once praised Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s leadership have criticized Maryland’s response to the pandemic. Problems have mounted on several fronts ― most notably, a balky unemployment website that’s frustrating thousands of workers who lost their jobs amid Hogan’s shutdown orders.

PA: Pennsylvania will allow 12 more counties to ease coronavirus restrictions

spotlightpa.org

State officials will allow 12 more counties across Pennsylvania to ease coronavirus restrictions, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf urged areas still under strict lockdown orders to stay the course.

CA: Some California restaurants open with restrictions

sacbee.com

As some parts of California move ahead with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s timeline for reopening the economy, restaurants embraced new precautions that come with dine-in business. The state released a list of 99 requirements and suggestions for restaurants in those select counties.

CO: Colorado governor expects many schools to open this fall

apnews.com

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis told “Fox News Sunday” he expects to see many K-12 public schools open this fall in Colorado and elsewhere despite the coronavirus threat, though “it’s not going to look like any other school year.”

VA: Weekend crowds show up at Virginia’s closed beaches

pilotonline.com

Warm weather drew crowds to the Virginia Beach oceanfront even though the beach is considered closed. Under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s first phase of a gradual reopening plan, retail stores are reopening with limited capacity, but indoor gyms, beaches and indoor dining are off-limits.

NC: North Carolina church holds indoor service after judge blocks state restrictions

newsobserver.com

New Life Baptist Church held its first indoor worship service in weeks, the day after a federal judge blocked North Carolina restrictions on religious services in the pandemic. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office said it would not appeal the ruling.

SC: Tension between bosses and workers in South Carolina sparks lawsuits

thestate.com

With her children needing help and the coronavirus spreading, Jennifer Andrews decided to stay home from work in South Carolina. Her employer fired her. She filed one of the first lawsuits to question whether companies are following new federal rules; a flurry of similar suits is expected.

CT: Connecticut health department, sidelined during crisis, facing staff shortages, low morale

courant.com

An internal employee survey obtained by The Courant shows broad dissatisfaction and frustration inside Connecticut’s Department of Public Health. The survey, conducted in January and February, said the department was beset with inadequate staffing, disorganization, poor leadership and a lack of communication.

UT: Utah’s no-bid contracts draw scrutiny

sltrib.com

In the war on COVID-19, Utah has doled out more than $84 million in no-bid contracts and supply orders outside the normal purchasing process. Some lawmakers and whistleblowers are demanding more information about how the state awarded lucrative contracts during the emergency.

WY: Wyoming lawmakers protect businessowners from COVID-19 lawsuits

wyomingnews.com

After a bill to grant businessowners immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits faltered during the first day of the Wyoming legislature’s special session, a renewed effort to provide those protections was successful in the second and final day of the session.

OR: Oregon will distribute experimental virus drug to hospitals

apnews.com

Oregon hospitals will be provided with an experimental drug that has shown some promise treating extreme cases of COVID-19, state health officials said. The first shipments of remdesivir from the state will provide enough doses to treat all hospitalized patients who met the medical criteria for using the drug.

AK: Alaska governor extends quarantine mandate two more weeks

alaskapublic.org 

The required two-week quarantine for people arriving in Alaska will remain in place for 14 more days, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced. The mandate has been credited with helping to keep Alaska’s COVID-19 case count the lowest of any state’s, though it has posed a challenge to tourism businesses.

TX: Rural Texas counties have opened faster, tested less

star-telegram.com

For many of the North Texas counties permitted to reopen faster, fewer cases have been coupled with far less testing. Many have conducted far fewer tests per capita than some of the region’s more populous counties.

NM: New Mexico faces election delays

santafenewmexican.com

A last-minute flood of absentee ballots in New Mexico and problems recruiting enough people to staff polling sites could lead to delays in June primary election results. Delivery delays also have caused setbacks.

VT: Governor eases restrictions as Vermont’s cases lowest in nation

vpr.org

Vermont now has the lowest coronavirus growth rate in the country, a success that Republican Gov. Phil Scott attributes to Vermonters faithfully following health guidelines even as they sacrificed their jobs and businesses.

GA: Coronavirus sickening more of Georgia’s poultry workers

ajc.com

Dozens more workers in Georgia’s $41 billion poultry industry have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and a second worker has died from the disease since last month. State officials are rushing new resources to the area to try to prevent a larger outbreak.

MO: Missouri lawmakers approve new vote-by-mail options

stltoday.com

Over the objections of the state’s top election chief, Missouri lawmakers moved to expand mail-in voting options during the global pandemic.

MS: Tattoo parlors can reopen, fishing tournaments OK, Mississippi governor says

clarionledger.com

As the number of coronavirus cases in Mississippi continues to grow, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced he was further loosening restrictions from his safer-at-home order.

MT: Montana lawmakers: Revenue shortfalls could overwhelm state budget reserves

billingsgazette.com

State budget officials presented Montana legislators with a mixed prediction of the state’s budget over the next two years, with some lawmakers saying the effects of the pandemic were being underestimated.

NE: Nebraska tax receipts down sharply in April

journalstar.com

Nebraska's tax receipts for April showed an expected dip as a result of the pandemic and the delay in income tax filings from April 15 to July 15. 

MA, ME, NH: Shutdown foes stage rallies in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire

apnews.com

Protests broke out in the state capitals of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire over the weekend, as crowds rallied against shutdowns aimed at curbing the novel coronavirus outbreak.

ID: Idaho’s first mail-in primary moves ahead

apnews.com

Idaho is holding an entirely mail-in primary for the first time as the state works to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Idaho secretary of state’s office said 320,000 ballots have been requested and mailed out, with about 100,000 returned in what could be a record turnout.

IN: Indiana election officials tell Hoosiers: Please vote by mail

indystar.com

Counties throughout Indiana have been struggling to find poll workers amid the pandemic, meaning fewer polling places, longer lines and greater risk of transmission of COVID-19. So far, an unprecedented 312,000 residents plan to vote absentee during the June 2 primary election.

AL: Group buys Alabama abortion clinic to keep it from closing

apnews.com

Conservative lawmakers in Alabama last year tried to enact the nation’s most stringent abortion ban, but the attempt may have had one ironic twist. An Alabama-based group used a flood of donations from across the country to purchase the state’s busiest abortion clinic to ensure it stays open.

SD: South Dakota state park usage skyrockets

argusleader.com

Hundreds of thousands of South Dakotans headed into the outdoors as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, causing state park visitor numbers to bounce back after last year's rough weather.

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