What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/22
MS: Mississippi on verge of ‘crisis’ as beds fill, cases surge
Armed with grim intensive care statistics after a record day for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Mississippi, the state health officer warned residents that COVID-19 could overwhelm the state’s health care system if people don’t follow social distancing guidelines.
FL: Florida could lose power under Trump plan
President Donald Trump’s desire to keep immigrants in the country illegally out of the count used to determine House seats could hurt Florida, a growing state with a large immigrant population. Florida would lose the one or two additional seats it's expected to get in the House based on population.
ID: Model shows Idaho needs stay-at-home order to handle case surge
A Harvard University-run analysis of coronavirus cases across the country shows several Idaho counties — and by extension, the rest of the state — are in the highest-risk “red zone,” for which experts suggest returning to stay-home orders. The severity of the outbreaks in some counties has bumped the entire state of Idaho into the red zone by this model.
UT: Utah politicians and business interests pushed health officials aside
Email correspondence and interviews with more than a dozen state and local officials in Utah show that the health of the state’s businesses was prioritized over the health of the public, as officials stopped slowing the spread of the virus and instead calculated how many sick people its health system could bear.
OH: Ohio House Speaker arrested in $60M
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, and four colleagues were arrested by federal officials as part of a bribery investigation involving the state’s $1 billion nuclear plant bailout and Householder’s maneuverings to secure support to lead the legislative chamber.
CA: California ‘contact tracers’ await assignments; counties struggle
Most California state workers trained to be COVID-19 “contact tracers” still haven’t started tracking down people exposed to the coronavirus, even as many counties say they don’t have enough staff to do the work.
MN: Deaths in Minnesota long-term care drop tenfold
Deaths in the state’s long-term care facilities have dropped tenfold since the Minnesota Health Department introduced a five-point plan to address the growth in COVID-19 outbreaks.
TX: Texas would suffer under Trump districting
If the effort passes Constitutional muster, it would rob states like Texas, with high numbers of immigrant workers without authorization, of representation in Washington, according to redistricting and demographic experts. Texas could lose two of the three seats it's projected to gain based on population.
WA: Antibody study will gauge prevalence of COVID-19 in Washington
The state Department of Health and University of Washington Medicine are setting out to discover how prevalent COVID-19 is across the state by studying the blood of 7,000 Washingtonians, to determine whether certain racial and ethnic groups, or people working particular types of jobs, have been infected at higher rates.
NV: Southern Nevadans falling behind on mortgages
Mortgage delinquencies in Las Vegas, Nevada, rose sharply after the coronavirus pandemic devastated the economy. But the share of local homeowners behind on their payments is still nowhere near the peak of the Great Recession a decade ago.
GA: Governor signs bills amending Georgia’s foster care system
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has signed into law a package of legislation that aims to make sweeping changes to the state’s foster care system and crack down on human trafficking in Georgia.
OH: As coronavirus cases spike in Ohio, some businesses closing voluntarily
In the face of rising coronavirus cases, some Ohio businessowners are closing their establishments to protect customers and staff members and hopefully head off another damaging lockdown.
MA: Governor extends moratorium on evictions in Massachusetts until Oct. 17
Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he is extending the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in Massachusetts through Oct. 17 in the hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and minimizing the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable residents.
NE: Nebraska legislature authorizes endorsement contracts for college athletes
The legislature gave final 37-6 approval to a bill that would allow college athletes in Nebraska to earn money through personal endorsement of products and use of their name, image or likeness.
OR: Oregon ties record with seven COVID-19 deaths
The Oregon Health Authority announced seven new deaths from the novel coronavirus, tying the state’s record for the most deaths reported in a single day. The record was previously set April 28 and repeated July 14.
WI: Wisconsin sets daily record for positive COVID-19 cases
Wisconsin's Department of Health Services reported yet another grim milestone of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the state seeing its highest single day increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
HI: Hawaii leaders want to reopen schools before tourists return
With tourists not expected to return in force until after Sept. 1, officials believe Aug. 4 is a safe time to open public schools in Hawaii so teachers and students can get rolling on the new academic year. “We do not want to reopen our schools and receive more travelers simultaneously,” Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, said.
AL: Federal appeals court upholds Alabama’s photo voter ID law
A federal appeals court has upheld Alabama’s photo voter ID law, affirming a lower court’s ruling in favor of Republican Secretary of State John Merrill and against advocacy groups who claimed the law discriminates against black voters.
GA: State of Georgia: COVID-19 cost $880M in first months of pandemic
Georgia incurred about $880 million in COVID-19 costs during the initial months of the pandemic, according to a report sent to the federal government, which is footing the bill.
LA: Louisiana to stay in Phase 2 amid continued coronavirus spread, governor says
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state will remain in Phase 2 for the reopening of Louisiana's economy for at least two more weeks and that hospitalizations for the coronavirus are again a huge concern.
CO: Colorado warns 15 counties that reopening is at risk amid COVID-19 spread
As coronavirus cases increase across Colorado, the state health department has warned 15 counties that they will have to reinstate restrictions if they are unable to curtail the spread of the disease. The warnings come as COVID-19 cases have increased in Colorado for five consecutive weeks.
CO: Last call for alcohol in Colorado will be 10 p.m.
Stating his frustration with young people getting drunk in social settings and increasing the spread of the coronavirus, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said that last call for alcohol at establishments statewide shall, for at least 30 days, be 10 p.m. The Colorado Restaurant Association was quick to criticize the governor’s move.
NH: As New Hampshire continues COVID-19 ban on reusable bags, some say politics is trumping science
New Hampshire and many other states are still not letting shoppers bring their reusable bags to stores. But is that actually helping to slow the spread of coronavirus?
VA: Virginia judge: Mask mandate is lawful
A Virginia circuit judge has denied a legal challenge to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's mask mandate. Judge Claude Worrell ruled that the governor's executive order, which stipulates that anyone over the age of 10 wear a face mask while inside a public building or business, is lawful.
VT: Vermont governor hints at statewide mask mandate
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, expects to issue a statewide mask mandate in the near future, possibly as soon as Friday.
CT: Connecticut, inmates settle COVID-19 suit
Prison inmates who sued Connecticut, claiming their confinement leaves them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection have settled after dropping a key demand — a substantial inmate release.
AK: Alaska restaurant group wants virus mandates from governor
A large Alaska hospitality group is asking GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy to implement binding, statewide mandates on the restaurant and bar industry, instead of its current, voluntary recommendations.
WY: How a Wyoming small-town protest became a movement
Over three weeks a crowd of mostly young and mostly white Laramie, Wyoming, residents marched every evening. The movement would draw armed opponents, spark dangerous escalations and result in arrests. It would test tempers in Laramie and drive a discussion about policing changes that could be historic for Wyoming.
DE: Delaware returns to states’ travel advisory list
Democratic Gov. John Carney said he is "mad as hell" that Delaware has once again been placed on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut's coronavirus travel advisory.
IN: Indiana Democrats call for special session
Indiana Democrats called for a legislative special session to deal with policing changes and COVID-19. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb so far has declined to call one, instead taking executive action on a number of issues largely related to the pandemic.
PA: More help may be on the way for Pennsylvanians struggling to pay utility bills
As regulators struggle to decide when to end Pennsylvania’s moratorium on utility shutoffs, a Republican lawmaker is seeking support to offer financial assistance to households and small businesses behind on their bills because of the pandemic.
AL: Alabama allowing more online drivers license renewals
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is allowing more online driver’s license renewals because of the pandemic. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey announced the agency is suspending a rule that allowed only one online renewal every eight years.
NC: North Carolina governor: Refusing to wear masks ‘infringes on the rights of others’
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, stressed the importance of wearing face masks in public spaces during a news conference, with strong words for those who have “refused” to do so.