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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/27

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/27

FL: Florida cases surpass New York

tampabay.com

The number of Florida coronavirus infections and deaths showed little sign of slowing Sunday as the state surpassed New York for the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the United States. Only California, with a population nearly twice as high as Florida’s, has more cases.

TX: Texas virus cases plateau

statesman.com

There are some promising signs that new Texas coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are leveling off. It’s been more than three weeks since Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shuttered bars and mandated masks in most of the state.

PA: Pennsylvania moves to add staff, app to trace the coronavirus spread

spotlightpa.org

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Pennsylvania, the state health department has received approval to spend nearly $27 million to ramp up contact tracing efforts, warning of potentially dire consequences if it’s unable to do so quickly.

CA: Testing delays thwart California contact tracers

sacbee.com

A surge in COVID-19 cases and a shortage of contact tracers has for weeks hampered efforts to contact and warn people exposed to the coronavirus in Sacramento County, California. Now, an additional hurdle is inhibiting the county’s contact tracing: testing slowdowns. Across the state, officials and contact tracers in hard-hit counties report similar problems.

GA: New COVID-19 cases push Georgia hospitals to capacity

ajc.com

From metro areas to rural counties across Georgia, hospitals are trying to manage a new surge of patients with COVID-19. As many hospitals reach or exceed capacity around the state, concerns are rising about whether they will be able to safely care for all patients.

NJ: Health experts say New Jersey governor is ignoring them

northjersey.com

At least three of New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's biggest decisions in the reopening process — the pause on indoor dining, requiring face masks outdoors and plans to reopen schools in the fall — were made with little or no consultation with public health experts, according to multiple interviews with people in the administration.

TN: Most Tennessee nursing homes forbid visitors once again

tennessean.com

As the coronavirus tightens its grip on Tennessee, hundreds of nursing homes and long-term care facilities in 72 counties have been required by the state government to once again close their doors to visitors. 

SD: South Dakota federal coronavirus funds go to law enforcement

apnews.com

As South Dakota looks to use $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds, one of the largest expenditures has been for law enforcement. The money sent by Congress as part of a $2.2 trillion stimulus was equivalent to roughly a quarter of the state budget, but the funds came with the stipulation that they be used in addressing the pandemic and anything unused would be returned at the end of the year.

OR: Oregon schools vary in plans for the fall

oregonlive.com

School districts across Oregon have begun releasing their tentative plans for the coming academic year. So far, few Oregon districts have announced plans to have all their students physically return to classrooms full-time, and many of the state’s largest districts are tentatively opting for a hybrid option, with classes split in half and attending school in person at alternating times.

NC: Majority of North Carolina students will start school with distance learning

newsobserver.com

Most North Carolina public school students – 51.7% – will start next school year continuing to learn from home instead of going back to school for face-to-face classes, encompassing at least 46 school districts and 30 charter schools. More may come.

LA: Who controls when schools reopen? In Louisiana, local educators have the final say

theadvocate.com

While Louisiana's top school board and other state leaders are providing guidance, when public schools start and what formats they use for instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic is strictly up to officials in 69 local school districts.

OK: More younger Oklahomans dying of COVID-19 raises concern

apnews.com

The head of coronavirus response at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center said that an increase in the number of younger Oklahoma residents dying as a result of the virus has become a worry.

CO: Coronavirus cases on the rise in Colorado

denverpost.com

Following five weeks of increasing cases across the state, Colorado reported 2,217 new coronavirus infections between Monday and Thursday last week, or 554 a day — a higher daily rate than the state reached during the peak of the epidemic in late April. So far, hospitalizations and deaths have remained well below the April peak.

VT: Vermont governor issues statewide face mask mandate

vpr.org

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, issued a statewide mandate that will require all people over 2 years old, with some exceptions, to wear facial coverings in public areas when physical distancing is not possible. The mandate will go into effect Aug. 1.

MN: Little transparency in Minnesota debate over policing reform

startribune.com

Minnesota lawmakers repeatedly said the eyes of the world were on them in the two months that followed George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. But in the end, only a handful of eyes saw a sweeping package of police accountability proposals crafted in response to his death before legislators approved it in the dead of night.

HI: Hawaii is not collecting and sharing enough COVID-19 data, report says

civilbeat.org

A new report by Prevent Epidemics found that Hawaii was only publishing about 13% of the information researchers thought the state should be publishing. Hawaii is not reporting some critical data points, including COVID-19-like illness trends and average testing turnaround times.

VA: COVID-19 hampers Virginia voting registrations

richmond.com

The registration of new voters in Virginia has dropped significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, months before a presidential election expected to draw a high turnout. June saw a 40% decrease in the number of new voters registered compared with June 2016.

NV: Up to 200,000 potentially fraudulent jobless claims filed in Nevada

reviewjournal.com

Nevada’s agency overseeing unemployment insurance suspects that anywhere between 133,748 and 185,484 possibly fraudulent jobless claims have been filed. Fraud is further contributing to delayed payments as thousands struggle to cover basic expenses.

NM: Revenue from New Mexico gross receipt tax defies expectation

abqjournal.com

New internet taxes helped keep New Mexico's gross receipts taxes stable in May, down only about 1% from 2019, despite the pandemic. Tourism suffered but the taxes on construction also increased.

OH: Will sales tax holiday draw out Ohio shoppers amid pandemic? 

dispatch.com

Ohio’s annual sales-tax holiday is set for the weekend of Aug. 7-9. Consumers won’t have to pay state sales and use taxes on clothing items, school supplies and school instructional materials up to a certain price.

NV: Nevada governor to convene second special session

thenevadaindependent.com

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is expected to call Nevada lawmakers back to Carson City for a second special session to address a number of pressing policy issues, including criminal justice reform, worker protections and election law changes.

KY: Top White House doctor says Kentucky should shut down bars.

kentucky.com

In meetings with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky health officials Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, recommended Kentucky close bars and reduce restaurant capacity to help prevent the increasing spread of COVID-19.

LA: Louisiana municipalities being reimbursed for virus spending

apnews.com

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will send millions of dollars to Louisiana’s local government agencies in August to reimburse their coronavirus spending, but that reimbursement money is slated to run out this fall without another influx of federal aid.

WA: Washington legislators will face excruciating decisions

seattletimes.com

When Washington lawmakers return next year, they will likely face excruciating decisions on taxes and spending to balance an $8.8 billion projected state budget shortfall through 2023. The new class of legislators will also consider policing reforms in light of the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, and they must also grapple with Washington’s persistent preexisting problems, such as homelessness and housing affordability.

ID: Idaho sees 3,000 cases in a week, reaches 17,000 total

idahostatesman.com

Idaho surpassed 17,000 total coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, according to numbers reported by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Eastern Idaho Public Health. That’s an increase of 3,000 cases in the space of a week.

AK: Seafood processor outbreak drives another new record in Alaska

alaskapublic.org

Alaska again set a one-day record for new coronavirus cases, with 231 reported on Sunday, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. Of those, 158 were in residents of Anchorage, where a seafood processing plant reported 56 cases on Friday.

WY: Gun rights group draws ire of top Wyoming Senate lawmaker

trib.com

A growing group of Wyoming lawmakers — including the vice president of the Senate — are coming after one of the state’s most aggressive gun rights groups after it lodged efforts to discredit incumbent Republican lawmakers in a number of vulnerable districts ahead of next month’s Republican primary.

DE: Gun sales still soaring in Delaware

delawarestatenews.net

Scared and uncertain as the calamities continue, Delawareans are still rushing to purchase firearms at a record pace, gun sellers report. And with a potentially volatile presidential campaign season upcoming, they say, firearms and ammunition will likely keep flying off the shelves.

AZ: Coronavirus a challenge for crews fighting Arizona wildfires 

apnews.com

Not only have crews had to battle some massive fires around Arizona, they have had to deal with changes in their routine due to the pandemic. Every meal is pre-packaged, and firefighters have to eat 6 to 10 feet apart, crew members wave at each other instead of shaking hands and attend virtual briefs on their smart phones or radios instead of in-person ones.

SC: South Carolina’s budget was flush – before COVID-19

thestate.com

This year was shaping up to be a boon for many South Carolina employees and agencies, some long neglected since the Great Recession led to massive budget cuts. But that was before the COVID-19 outbreak that led to lost jobs, skyrocketing unemployment and a giant decline in tourist travel and economic activity and slashed state revenues. Now, the state has less to spend.

CT: Connecticut’s young adults now account for nearly 25% of recent COVID-19 cases

courant.com

While Connecticut as a whole continues to see a decline in coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, public health experts say the virus is now spreading among a new demographic: teens and young adults.

IN: Indiana governor removes criminal penalties from mask order

indystar.com

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order mandating masks statewide, but in a major departure from his original plan, he didn't include criminal penalties. Holcomb did not elaborate on why he changed his mind, but in the days since his original plan was announced, leaders from his own party had pushed back.

MO: Battle over Medicaid expansion in Missouri pits uninsured against cost concerns

stltoday.com

On Aug. 4, Missouri voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid, the federally subsidized health care program for the poor, after a decade of repeated rejections by the Republican-controlled legislature. The outcome of that vote could decide whether more than 230,000 other Missourians gain health coverage or not.

MS: How many Mississippi kids are poisoned by lead? Massive undercounts, inconsistent testing provides officials few answers.

mississippitoday.org

Knowing exactly how many Mississippi children are affected by lead poisoning has been rendered impossible after years of massive undercounts in data, decreased and inconsistent testing and dwindling focus on the issue by officials at the resource-strapped State Department of Health.

NE: State of Nebraska ignored drug manufacturers demands to return execution drugs

journalstar.com

Less than three weeks before the fentanyl made by a company based in London was used to carry out an execution in Nebraska in 2018, its top executive fired off a letter to Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Corrections Director Scott Frakes. The letter was to "remind you again" on Hikma's position on the misuse of their products.

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