Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/20

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/20

CA: Justice Department warns California rules may violate religious freedoms

latimes.com

The measures Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted to slow the spread of the coronavirus in California and his plans to unwind them may discriminate against religious groups and violate their constitutional rights, the U.S. Justice Department warned.

US: States accused of fudging or bungling testing data

apnews.com

Public health officials in some states are accused of bungling coronavirus infection statistics or even using a little sleight of hand to deliberately make things look better than they are. The risk is that Americans could be left with the impression that the virus is under more control than it actually is.

OH: Ohio governor lifts stay-at-home order

cleveland.com

More of Ohio’s mandatory restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including the state’s stay-at-home order and two-week self-quarantine period for travelers entering the state, will be cut short, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced.

MN: Minnesota nursing homes, already hotspots, continue taking in infected patients

startribune.com

Despite the devastating death toll, Minnesota nursing homes are still being given free rein by state regulators to admit coronavirus patients who have been discharged from hospitals. Minnesota leads the nation in the rate of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care.

AK: Alaska to open everything fully Friday

adn.com

Alaska will allow bars, restaurants, gyms, retail and all other businesses to open Friday without any capacity restrictions, said Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The state is still advising protocol such as keeping 6 feet apart while in businesses and wearing masks when near other people in public places.

MI: Governor issues emergency declaration after Michigan dam failures

mlive.com

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an emergency declaration and sent the National Guard to help after heavy rains caused two Michigan dams to fail. She also urged residents in evacuation zones to get out immediately.

US: COVID-19 data sharing with law enforcement sparks concern

apnews.com

Public officials in at least two-thirds of states are sharing the addresses of people who tested positive with first responders. At least 10 of the states also share the patients’ names. Civil liberty and community activists have expressed concerns of potential profiling in African American and Hispanic communities. 

MO: Missouri carries out 1st U.S. execution since pandemic began

apnews.com

A Missouri man was put to death by lethal injection for fatally stabbing an 81-year-old woman nearly three decades ago, the first U.S. execution since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

FL: Florida official who objected to deleting data says she was forced to resign

tampabay.com

One day before a top Florida Department of Health data manager lost her role maintaining the state’s COVID-19 data, she objected to the removal of records showing people had symptoms or positive tests long before the cases were announced, according to internal emails.

CO: Colorado lawmakers won’t be required to wear masks at the Capitol

coloradosun.com

Democratic and Republican leaders failed to agree on public health measures for the Colorado Capitol, which reopens May 26. The lack of mandatory protocols raises questions about whether the Capitol is a safe place to work.

WI: Mail, tech problems left thousands of Wisconsin absentee ballots uncounted

jsonline.com

Nearly 2,700 absentee ballots in Milwaukee were not sent and about 1,600 in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley were not processed because of computer glitches and mailing problems in the April 7 election. The Wisconsin Elections Commission report highlights the kind of difficulties states could face in the November presidential election.

NY: New York must hold presidential primary, court says

timesunion.com

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a lower court's decision this month that canceling the primary would be unconstitutional and deprive New Yorkers of their right to vote. The state's Board of Elections had called off the contest in late April, citing public health concerns. 

OK: Oklahoma governor signs 'anti-red flag' gun bill

oklahoman.com

GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation to preempt Oklahoma localities from implementing so-called red flag policies, which sponsors said is the nation’s first such law. It prevents Oklahoma cities and towns from enacting policies that would allow a court or other entity to restrict gun access to people deemed to be an imminent danger.

RI: Rhode Island governor unveils contact-tracing app

providencejournal.com

Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo rolled out a cellphone app, CRUSHCOVID RI, that health officials will use to help track cases of the virus and hopefully corral future outbreaks so the state can continue slowly reopening.

MD: Maryland to expand coronavirus testing to those without symptoms

baltimoresun.com

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced new guidance that allows people without symptoms to be tested for the coronavirus at select state-run testing sites. Hogan, a Republican, said more than 200,000 tests have been administered in the state, representing 3.5% of the population.

WI: Wisconsin governor announces $1B for testing, tracing

jsonline.com

Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced the state will direct $1 billion in aid from the federal CARES Act toward testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and local public health departments.

WY: Wyoming receives $50M for testing, contact tracing

jhnewsandguide.com

The federal $50.4 million will be given to the Wyoming Department of Health. Public health officials hope the money will then be distributed to the county and local level.

PA: Pennsylvania releases names of nursing homes with coronavirus cases

spotlightpa.org

Amid a growing death toll and mounting pressure from lawmakers and advocates, Pennsylvania officials released a long sought-after list of long-term care facilities where the coronavirus has infected or killed residents.

OH: 60% of Ohio coronavirus deaths occurred in long-term care facilities

dispatch.com

As the federal government urges governors to conduct coronavirus testing on all, new data from the Ohio Department of Health shows that 3 in 5 coronavirus deaths statewide have come from nursing homes and congregate care facilities.

WV: 1st West Virginia inmate tests positive

wvgazettemail.com

For the first time, a prisoner in a state-run West Virginia prison or jail has tested positive for COVID-19, Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced. Only 135 tests have been conducted on the more than 4,000 inmates in the state.

ME: Maine delays gym openings as CDC reports 3 deaths

pressherald.com

While the reopening of gyms, fitness centers and nail salons will be delayed because of concerns about virus transmission, campgrounds will be allowed to reopen this weekend to Maine residents, about a week ahead of the original plan.

VA: Virginia Supreme Court won’t hear gym’s challenge to governor’s closure orders

richmond.com

The Supreme Court of Virginia has declined to hear an appeal to a ruling against Gold's Gym's bid to reopen. The suit challenged Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's authority to close private fitness centers to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

MS: Mississippi governor says churches can gather again

sunherald.com

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves released new guidelines churches should follow as they resume in-person worship services during the pandemic. The Republican encouraged churches to wait until after June 1 to resume services. 

KS: Kansas movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys can reopen Friday

kansas.com

Kansas will take the next step in its reopening Friday when movie theaters, museums, nontribal casinos and other indoor entertainment venues will be permitted to reopen. Bars and night clubs, along with swimming pools, will stay closed.  

LA: Outbreaks at Louisiana crawfish plants highlight plight of migrant workers

theadvocate.com 

Coronavirus outbreaks at three crawfish facilities in Louisiana, infecting 100 people and prompting investigations by state health officials, have highlighted the precarious nature of crawfish processing in a pandemic, with migrant workers living and working in close quarters.

CA: Top California Democrat objects to governor’s COVID-19 spending power

sacbee.com

A top-ranking California Democratic lawmaker is pushing back against part of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal, arguing it would curtail the legislature’s power over COVID-19 spending decisions. Newsom is proposing to spend nearly $3 billion on the COVID-19 response.

GA: Furloughs likely as part of Georgia agencies’ budget cuts

ajc.com

Staffers in the agency that investigates child abuse complaints and signs up Georgians for food stamps and Medicaid found out they may have to take off a dozen days without pay in the second half of 2020 to meet state-mandated budget cuts.

TX: Texas scaling back child care subsidies for essential workers

texastribune.org

Texas will begin phasing out temporary child care subsidy programs for low-income parents and essential workers. The change came one day after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott reopened child care for all parents.

NM: New Mexico courts summon juries again

krqe.com

New Mexico courts are preparing for jury trials to resume any week now and some local residents already are getting summoned. Jury trials have been on hold since mid-March.

VT: Vermont Senate to begin discussions on statewide masking mandate

vtdigger.org

The Vermont Senate in the coming days will be discussing whether to require residents to wear masks in public, a top Democratic lawmaker said. Republican Gov. Phil Scott is requiring shop employees, but not customers, to wear masks.

OK: Domestic abuse reclassified as a violent crime in Oklahoma

oklahoman.com

GOP Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill reclassifying several domestic abuse charges as violent crimes. Advocates have pushed for the reclassification because sentencing and parole considerations differ for violent crimes in the state.

MS: Nonprofit officials spent $400K in welfare dollars to lobby Mississippi government

mississippitoday.org

A nonprofit at the center of what is now called the largest alleged public embezzlement scheme in Mississippi history spent at least $400,000 in welfare funds to “maintain governmental revenue streams or to lobby on behalf of their organization” from 2017 to 2019.

NV: Nearly 40K Nevadans apply for unemployment aid for independent workers

thenevadaindependent.com

About 38,000 people filed claims for unemployment in the first 48 hours of a new federal program that allows Nevada’s independent contractors and self-employed workers to seek benefits. The program helps workers who have historically been ineligible for benefits.

NE: Nearly 90% of Nebraska businesses report negative pandemic impact

omaha.com

A survey in April indicated that 87% of Nebraska businesses had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting loss of traffic and sales.  

SC: Hackers invade South Carolina high school virtual conference

thestate.com

A web conference held for roughly 300 graduating seniors at a South Carolina high school and their parents was hijacked by a hacker who displayed a pornographic video. The school district is investigating.

CO: 72K on pandemic unemployment aid in Colorado had private information exposed

denverpost.com

All people signed up for pandemic unemployment assistance in Colorado are eligible for a year of free credit monitoring after a system error gave six people approved for benefits access to everyone else’s private information.

HI: Hawaii fishermen stuck in port as federal aid falls short

civilbeat.org

For the past three months, much of Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet has been tied up in port, as a decline in restaurant demand has slashed prices. State and federal governments have done little to help, despite the fact that fish are a critical source of protein for the islands’ residents.

NJ: Defiant New Jersey gym owners issued more tickets, customer arrested

nj.com

A New Jersey gym reopened again in defiance of the state’s orders against workout facilities reopening during the coronavirus outbreak and again police arrived to issue tickets to the owners. At least one patron was arrested leaving the gym after refusing to give his name.

IL: Illinois bar defies governor, told to cease and desist

nbcchicago.com

A central Illinois bar owner has closed his doors, for now, after receiving a cease and desist order for opening in defiance of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's statewide stay-at-home order. The bar, JB's Hideout in Blue Mound, opened for what the owner called an "anti-corona party."

DE: Delaware to allow more beach access for Memorial Day

delawarestatenews.net

Activities such as swimming and sunbathing on Delaware State Park beaches can resume for Memorial Day weekend. Out-of-state visitors who have maintained a 14-day quarantine since entering the state also are allowed to resume activity.

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