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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/21

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/21

FL: Florida knew a pandemic was likely but didn’t warn public

miamiherald.com

Three months ago, Floridians were unaware that the novel coronavirus posed any real threat to their lives. But top state officials were scrambling to come up with a plan for a crisis they knew was upon them, according to internal state data and communications.

US: Experts warn of second wave in South

washingtonpost.com

Dallas, Houston, Southeast Florida’s Gold Coast, the entire state of Alabama and several other places in the South that have been rapidly reopening their economies are in danger of a second wave of coronavirus infections over the next four weeks, according to a research team that uses cellphone data to track social mobility and forecast the trajectory of the pandemic.

MN: Minnesota buys warehouse to store bodies of COVID victims

startribune.com

Minnesota has purchased a cold storage facility in St. Paul for an emergency morgue, bracing for a peak in COVID-19 deaths that could strain morgues and funeral homes. 

MI: Massive Michigan floods add to virus woes

freep.com

Life now has gotten much harder for an estimated 10,000 Michigan residents who have homes that were destroyed in a record flood amid a pandemic. Moreover, the costs to recover for cities like Midland, which were underwater, will be staggering — and long-lasting.

CA: Defying California order, a thousand pastors plan in-person services

latimes.com

More than 1,200 California pastors have vowed to hold in-person services May 31, Pentecost Sunday, defying a state moratorium on religious gatherings that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

NJ: State failures worsened New Jersey nursing homes crisis

nj.com

Facing the biggest public health crisis in more than a century, New Jersey failed to react fast enough or take forceful, aggressive actions to slow the rampage in nursing homes as the virus preyed on the state’s most vulnerable patients, according to more than a dozen public health experts, industry officials, family members and advocates.

IA: Iowa mask order was canceled amid FEMA order

desmoinesregister.com

An Iowa agency’s order of nearly 100,000 high-quality masks to aid in its coronavirus response was canceled last month after President Donald Trump invoked his authority to give the federal government priority for obtaining and distributing those supplies. 

VA: Virginia governor says state can help clinics with PPE — but only as backup

richmond.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, says the state stands ready to supply protective equipment to nursing homes and clinics that need it, but only after they have “exhausted” private supply chains. 

NY: New York’s minority communities on front line of pandemic, governor says

timesunion.com

Antibody testing shows that the highest rate of COVID-19 infections are occurring in minority neighborhoods and public housing complexes in New York City, prompting Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ask local governments across New York state to intensify testing and anti-spread efforts in minority communities.

MD: Maryland will test all detainees, staff at prisons and juvenile facilities

baltimoresun.com

Following calls from prisoner advocates and employee unions, Maryland will undertake universal testing at state prisons and juvenile centers, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced. Six prison inmates have died from the virus and hundreds of inmates and employees have tested positive.

NV: Nevada reports first case of coronavirus among prisoners

reviewjournal.com

The Nevada Department of Corrections has announced a plan to test prisoners for the new coronavirus, shortly after the first case of a Nevada prisoner testing positive for the virus was reported. Eighteen Department of Corrections employees have tested positive for the virus so far.

NM: New Mexico's Medicaid enrollment rises during pandemic

apnews.com

New Mexico health insurance regulators say statewide enrollment in Medicaid is increasing as businesses shed workers in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The state expects more people to shift from employer-based health insurance to the federally subsidized plan for those in poverty.

HI: Despite social needs, Hawaii legislators decide to bank state and federal funds

staradvertiser.com

Lawmakers are poised to stash more than $1.6 billion in state and federal funding in the state’s rainy-day fund at a time when Hawaii residents are hurting from the highest unemployment rate in generations.

CT: Recovery centers Connecticut opened have attracted few people

courant.com

Some of the four COVID-19 recovery centers Connecticut opened are so empty that the provider hired to run them has asked the state to either close them or expand the patients they can accept. On many days there have been as few as four patients in one of the centers.

WY: Wyoming announces testing plan for nursing homes, care facilities

wyomingnews.com

In an effort to monitor potential outbreaks of the coronavirus, Wyoming health officials have announced a plan to test a portion of staff members and residents in every nursing home and assisted-living facility across the state.

PA: Lobbyists become essential as Pennsylvania debates who gets to reopen

whyy.org

As businesses across Pennsylvania have been shut for weeks under orders from the governor, members of at least one profession say they’re busier than ever: lobbyists. And many of their new clients are trying to amend the shutdown order.

IN: Indiana governor moves up date for next reopening stage

indystar.com

Stage 3 of the Indiana’s reopening will begin later this week for most of the state, which is earlier than previously planned, announced Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. Under the next stage, social gatherings can go up from 25 to 100 people.

NY: Small religious ceremonies to be allowed in New York

buffalonews.com

Religious gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed to resume Thursday in New York state, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. All participants at these small gatherings should follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks, and Cuomo is encouraging drive-in and parking lot services.

RI: Rhode Island high schools confused about what’s allowed for graduation

providencejournal.com

School districts across Rhode Island are struggling with how to stage this year’s high school graduations: stuck between a strict reading of restrictions issued by the state and Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s urging superintendents to “get creative” and use common sense.

SC: South Carolina governor says youth sports can play

thestate.com

Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is signing an executive order that youth sports such as baseball, softball and soccer can begin practice May 30 with games returning no sooner than June 15, all with health restrictions and social distancing guidelines in place.

WA: Washington to allow some fitness activities to resume

seattletimes.com

Some small-group indoor fitness activities like weight training, yoga and martial arts can resume under the second phase of Washington's reopening plan. Currently, 10 small counties have been approved by the state to move to the second phase, with two more small counties eligible to apply.

MT: Montana further reopening economy; travel quarantine to end

billingsgazette.com

People will be able to gather in groups of up to 50 and capacity will increase to 75% at restaurants, bars, breweries and other businesses June 1 as Montana moves into the next phase of a gradual reopening. That same day the state will also lift a 14-day travel quarantine requirement on out-of-state visitors. 

NH: Career and technical schools in New Hampshire slowly reopen for small groups

nhpr.org

New Hampshire high school career and technical schools are slowly reopening to students studying for jobs deemed essential during the pandemic.

AZ: Arizona city approves aid for refugees

apnews.com

The Phoenix, Arizona, City Council has approved $3 million in federal relief funds for area refugees caught up in the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Over 400 refugees were resettled in Arizona this year, the bulk of them in Phoenix and surrounding communities.

ND: Legislative session at North Dakota Capitol may be impossible, agency warns

apnews.com

The North Dakota legislature’s research agency cautioned lawmakers that it may be impossible to safely convene the legislative session in January at the state Capitol in Bismarck because of the coronavirus pandemic.

GA: Georgia senators to hold first live meetings since mid-March pandemic shutdown

ajc.com

The Georgia Senate will begin holding live Capitol meetings next week for the first time since the General Assembly shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.

OK: Oklahoma to begin sharing coronavirus aid with cities, counties

oklahoman.com

Oklahoma municipalities can begin applying for federal aid to cover COVID-19 expenses. The state has launched an online portal where city and county leaders can request reimbursements for expenses related to the pandemic.

OR: Oregon projects nearly $11B hit to state revenue

oregonlive.com

Oregon’s economy is heading into its steepest downturn since the Great Depression, state economists predicted. Economists estimate the state will lose $10.5 billion in revenue over the next five years, a massive budget hit that will trigger sharp cuts in Oregon’s spending on schools, health care, law enforcement and other social services.

TX: Texas governor orders spending cuts

texastribune.org

Certain state agencies and higher education institutions face a June 15 deadline to submit 5% spending cut plans to Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislative Budget Board. Some agencies, including health, employment and police, were exempted.

VT: Vermont governor calls for 8% spending cuts in ‘skinny’ budget bill

vtdigger.org

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, is asking much of state government to cut spending by 8% in the first quarter of the next fiscal year as tax revenue plummets during the pandemic.

CO: Colorado lawmakers cut higher education funding by 58%

chalkbeat.org

Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee slashed $493 million from next year’s higher education budget, a 58% cut from this year’s funding levels. The impact will be softened by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to give $450 million in federal CARES Act money to the state’s public colleges and universities.

CA: More unemployment benefits going to California’s gig workers

sacbee.com

More emergency benefits have started going to California’s gig workers, self-employed people and others who lost their jobs or had their hours cut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

MD: Maryland expanding child care for families returning to work

baltimoresun.com

Over the past two weeks, Maryland has expanded child care to 125 sites with capacity for 21,500 additional children than are presently being served. State officials said child care for school-aged children would continue through the end of the school year for essential workers.

WI: Wisconsin governor announces farmer, rental assistance program

madison.com

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced $75 million in funding for programs aimed at Wisconsin renters, farmers and those in need of food assistance, all part of the state’s use of federal pandemic funding.

DE: Delaware farmers uncertain about summer workforce

delawareonline.com

Most temporary workers from outside the country arrive in mid-July to harvest produce in Delaware. Farmers don’t know whether the workers can come or if they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days as other newcomers to the state must do.

IL: Illinois SNAP recipients OK’d to grocery shop online

wsiltv.com

Illinois’ plan to enable 1.8 million SNAP recipients to purchase food from participating grocery retailers online has been approved by the federal government. This new purchasing option will begin June 2.

AK: Alaskans to receive dividend payments ahead of schedule

alaskapublic.org

GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Alaska will pay Permanent Fund Dividends, the interest residents earn on minerals royalties, July 1, three months ahead of schedule. The announcement came just hours after the Alaska legislature approved the spending of more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid.

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