What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/16
US: Mask mandates catch on as states, businesses try to bypass a toxic debate
They have emerged as an unlikely symbol of partisan divide and a source of bottomless derision for President Donald Trump. But masks are moving moved ever closer to becoming a new national reality in America’s pandemic-scarred life.
OK: Oklahoma leader 'pretty shocked' to be first governor to test positive for COVID-19
Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt said he has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the nation’s first governor to contract the virus but remaining steadfast against a mask mandate. Stitt attended President Donald Trump's June rally in Tulsa without a mask.
AL: Alabama governor issues statewide mask order
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has issued a statewide mask order. The order states a face covering must be worn in public when in close contact with other people. Among its stipulations is a requirement that Alabamians must wear a mask when within 6 feet of a person from another household.
MD: Maryland uncovers fraudulent unemployment claims scheme
Maryland has uncovered an illegal scheme involving more than 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims totaling more than $501 million, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said. Hogan said the state quickly notified federal authorities when it learned about the scheme, which he called “massive identity theft.”
ME: Maine offers nonbinary option on birth certificates
With the option, Maine parents can opt to have an “X” gender designation for their child, if both parents show consent by signing the parent’s worksheet, according to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
NC: North Carolina city council OKs reparations for Blacks, but not direct payments
A city council in North Carolina unanimously passed a resolution to provide reparations to Black residents. The resolution also apologizes for Asheville’s role historically in slavery and discrimination. The resolution does not give direct payments to descendants of slaves, but instead allocates money to areas that traditionally see racial disparities.
NY: New York state troopers ask to be removed from New York City
The head of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association issued a statement "demanding" that state troopers be removed from New York City "and cease any law enforcement activities within that jurisdiction” because the city’s recent policing changes prohibit certain methods of restraint.
MA: Here’s what coronavirus testing on college campuses in Massachusetts might look like this fall
Thousands of college students on campuses across Massachusetts this fall will be required to swab their noses as often as twice a week, with samples shuttled to laboratories where the results will be quickly delivered back to campuses.
WA: Federal judge upholds Washington governor's emergency order
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has the authority to issue emergency orders shutting down businesses to control the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the order from a water park.
WY: Wyoming governor delivers emotional message: Care about your neighbor
A visibly angry GOP Gov. Mark Gordon urged Wyomingites to wear face masks and to not minimize the deaths and dangers facing the state's most vulnerable residents from the coronavirus. "When somebody sends me a note that says, 'Well these people are gonna die anyway, they're just dying sooner,’ I gotta say, I’m offended," he said.
HI: Clusters blamed as Hawaii sees more cases
A gathering among construction workers, workplace training at Hawaiian Airlines, exercise in indoor gyms, birthday parties, barbecues and other social gatherings are to blame for a surge in Hawaii's coronavirus cases, particularly on Oahu.
ID: As Idaho prepares to reopen schools, COVID closes 5 migrant Head Start centers statewide
Several Idaho day care programs for children from farmworker and low-income families have shut down across the state because of coronavirus, as state leaders discuss how to safely reopen schools in the fall. Five federal Migrant and Seasonal Head Start centers shut down this week because of the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak.
MA: New push to ban Native American mascots at Massachusetts schools
Native Americans and their supporters are planning a news conference in Boston to call for a change in Massachusetts. They're pushing for passage of three bills — one of which would ban public schools from using Native American mascots.
NJ: New Jersey movie theaters to remain dark, federal judge rules
A federal judge denied a request by New Jersey theater owners that would have stopped Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration from enforcing an executive order keeping cinemas dark in the Garden State during the coronavirus pandemic. The judge scheduled further arguments for next month.
MO: While other states put limits on cops, Missouri governor wants to give them more tools
Republican Gov. Mike Parson formally called Missouri lawmakers back to the Capitol, outlining plans for a special session on violent crime later this month. He wants a new law requiring courts to determine if a juvenile is tried as an adult, among other changes.
MS: Closing bars in Mississippi a ‘definite possibility’ as COVID-19 cases rise, governor says
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, appears to be moving closer to shutting down at least some bars in the state after hearing concerns in person from Dr. Deborah Birx, who is helping lead the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA: California county’s schools online only this fall
Public school campuses in Sacramento County, California, will remain closed when instruction resumes in the fall, leaving tens of thousands of families and teachers to begin planning for an extension of distance-learning programs.
LA: Louisiana AG: Mask mandate likely illegal
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, who is currently quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, issued a legal opinion saying the governor’s statewide mask mandate and bar restrictions to combat the outbreak appear to violate Louisiana’s constitution.
IA: Iowa governor: reopening schools ‘critical’ but must be safe
Returning children to Iowa classrooms will be “one of the most important milestones” in the state’s recovery from the coronavirus, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said.
MS: As pandemic worsens, Mississippi teachers plan to rally against reopening schools
Mississippi teachers are planning a rally at the state Capitol to urge state leaders not to reopen schools for the upcoming school year as the state’s coronavirus statistics continue to worsen.
LA: Louisiana bar exam canceled amid statewide coronavirus increases, law grads left reeling
The Louisiana Supreme Court announced the state’s July 27 bar examination has been canceled amid climbing coronavirus cases, setting off frustration among recent law school graduates whose careers are now in limbo.
NH: New Hampshire school reopening guidelines leave major decisions to local districts
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s guidelines for reopening New Hampshire schools call for in-class instruction in most circumstances but leave major decisions for how to resume teaching during the pandemic to local districts.
ND: North Dakota governor unveils plan for schools to reopen
Schools in North Dakota may reopen this fall for face-to-face learning amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic if districts approve and consult with local health officials, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum announced.
NE: New state guidelines: Nebraska teachers shouldn't focus on catching kids up from last year
Nebraska teachers should resist the temptation to catch up kids on everything they missed last spring because of COVID-19 shutdowns, new state guidance says.
IL: Illinois governor announces new plan to divide and conquer
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, announced that the state will be divided into 11 separate regions to allow health officials to apply a more focused approach to each area's coronavirus response as the pandemic continues.
MN: Minnesota falling short on 3 of 5 COVID-19 goals
Cases of COVID-19 with unknown community transmission sources have increased above Minnesota's threshold for progress amid the pandemic.
WI: Wisconsin duo wants stiffer penalties for wrecking statues
Two Wisconsin legislators introduced a bill that would make defacing or destroying statues a felony after protesters ripped down a sculpture of abolitionist Col. Hans Christian Heg and a statue embodying the state’s “Forward” motto at the state Capitol last month.
PA: Pennsylvania governor imposes new restrictions on bars, restaurants, businesses as coronavirus surges
As coronavirus cases continue to surge in certain parts of Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses statewide, as well as new limits on indoor gatherings.
CO: Colorado city pauses reopening
Denver will pause requests for exemptions from Colorado rules meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus as cases continue to rise in the city. Anything that’s allowed now will continue to be allowed for the time being, but allowing larger gatherings won’t be.
AZ: Arizona ban on evictions set to end as heat, infections soar
Housing advocacy groups in Arizona have joined lawmakers in lobbying Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his coronavirus-related moratorium on evictions. Advocates say it’s too early to end the ban because most of the government money set aside to help pay rents and mortgages still hasn’t been doled out.
CT: Hundreds of Connecticut state employees may have illegally filed unemployment claims
Hundreds of state employees may have filed illegal unemployment compensation claims for their loss of part-time work with “non-state,” outside employers in recent months, the Connecticut Department of Labor has reported to the state Auditors of Public Accounts.
IN: Indiana governor considering mask mandate in schools
Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he's considering making masks mandatory in schools at the request of the state's largest teachers' union. The union met with him and other state leaders and asked him to implement a mask requirement in the state's K-12 schools for students in grades 6 and above.
RI: Rhode Island governor promises help for small business, but it will take a while
Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she will provide $100 million in federal coronavirus aid to small businesses in the state but conceded the first dollars are not likely to go out the door for another six weeks.
NV: Nevada’s unemployment rate fell in June
Nevada’s unemployment rate plummeted by more than 10 percentage points from May to June, with the state bringing back nearly 73,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector in the first month that casinos were allowed to reopen.
FL: Florida shifts testing to faster labs
The Florida Department of Emergency Management will start sending work to labs with a track record of faster turnaround times. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis asked labs serving drive-through testing sites to produce results within 48 hours.
TX: Texas schools will have option of staying closed
Local public health officials will be able to keep Texas schools closed for in-person instruction this fall without risking state education funding. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would ease stringent reopening requirements as cases and hospitalizations skyrocket.
MI: Michigan considers reopening rollbacks
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said 'spotty' mask compliance could send the state backwards. Next steps will depend on whether mask-wearing improves before school begins in September.
NM: New Mexico faces long-lasting economic pain
The economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to reshape New Mexico’s economy for years, killing smaller companies and expanding the gap between high- and low-wage earners. As employment recovers, many small businesses won't make it.