Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/29

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/29

NJ, NY, CT: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut quarantine expands to 34 states

nj.com

New Jersey, New York and Connecticut added three states to their coronavirus quarantine travel advisory, bringing the list to 34 states that qualify as COVID-19 hotspots. The three new states are Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota. They also added Washington, D.C.

SD: South Dakota governor pushes schools to remain open, disparages masks

apnews.com

South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said she will push for schools to stay open this fall, but disparaged any requirements for children to wear masks in classrooms.

IA: Awaiting state guidance, some Iowa school districts revise reopening plans

desmoinesregister.com

A week and a half after Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declared that the state's schools must conduct at least half of core instruction in person — and with just a month until classes begin — the state has yet to explain how school districts can request temporary exceptions.

TX: Schools, not health officials, will rule on Texas school openings

star-telegram.com

How and when schools start classes is up to school officials, not public health authorities, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. Paxton, a Republican, said schools should not close “for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections.”

FL: Florida milestone: 5,000 captured pythons

tampabay.com

Florida pays trackers to remove Burmese pythons, an invasive species, from the Everglades where slithering constrictors have upset the ecosystem. Pythons, which eat native populations of possums, rabbits, raccoons and other animals, are thought to number in the tens of thousands.

WA: Washington AG to review 30 investigations of police deadly use of force

seattletimes.com

Following a mishandled investigation into the death of 33-year-old Manuel Ellis, Democratic Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office will review at least 30 investigations of police use of deadly force to ensure they followed a state law that took effect this year. That’s how many times police in Washington state have used force in 2020 that resulted in death or serious injury to suspects.

KY: Kentucky leading among states in Medicaid enrollment as it works to sign up those eligible

courier-journal.com

Kentucky leads the nation in the rate of people gaining coverage through the federal-state plan as people lose jobs and health insurance during the pandemic, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

DE: Delaware likely to see hybrid reopening of schools

delawareonline.com

New criteria released by Delaware indicates that schools will likely reopen under a hybrid model. However, schools also have the flexibility to start the year remotely should districts find they cannot meet health and safety requirements, such as social distancing in classrooms and on buses. The state has paired each district with a liaison from the Division of Public Health to help determine if reopening is possible.

MA: Massachusetts schools to reopen up to two weeks later than scheduled this fall

masslive.com

The Massachusetts school year will be reduced from 180 days to 170 to allow school districts an additional 10 days to prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

TN: In-person learning is 'best option,' governor calls for Tennessee schools to reopen

tennessean.com

"Make no mistake, extended time away from the classroom is harmful for children," Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said at a news conference. 

UT: Utah COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise

sltrib.com

There were 211 patients hospitalized in Utah concurrently as of Tuesday, for a seven-day average of 209 — a new weeklong record. And the Utah Department of Health announced 42 new hospital admissions, one of the biggest daily increases so far.

GA: Georgia governor withdraws request for emergency injunction against Atlanta’s mask mandate

ajc.com

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, withdrew his request for an emergency injunction against Atlanta’s mask mandate and other measures focused on fighting the spread of COVID-19, while citing progress in his talks with Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

MO: Missouri tops daily COVID-19 high for ninth time this month

stltoday.com

Missouri topped its daily high for new COVID-19 cases for the ninth time this month, adding 1,773 cases Tuesday and raising the death toll by 12. The state has attributed daily spikes to backlogs in entering test results into state databases, but the state's 7-day average for daily cases, which can flatten spikes, also significantly increased this month.

NV: Nevada to expand contact tracing

apnews.com

Nevada health officials and the subcontractor the state has hired to assist with contact tracing, Deloitte, plan on hiring additional staff, rolling out a mobile app and asking 25 questions to better trace the origin of cases as the state pivots to a new reopening plan.

WI: Wisconsin GOP bill could pose 'huge challenge' for unemployment system

jsonline.com

Wisconsin's massive backlog for unemployment benefits could get far worse if Congress passes a new relief package from Republicans in the U.S. Senate, a top official in Gov. Tony Evers' Democratic administration says. Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman said the state's system to process unemployment claims — which has been overwhelmed since the pandemic hit — would all but grind to a halt.

CO: Colorado Republican lawmakers request special session to address education

denverpost.com

Colorado Republicans are calling for a return to the Capitol to address education issues during the pandemic. But some Democrats say it’s a political stunt as the presidential election draws closer.

AZ: Twitter limits Arizona GOP chair for spreading COVID-19 disinformation

azcentral.com

Twitter has "temporarily limited" the account features of Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward after determining she violated its policy on spreading misleading and "potentially harmful" information about the pandemic. Ward shared a viral video of a group of physicians making false and misleading comments.

MS: Mississippi barbers get mental health training to aid Black communities

clarionledger.com

The barber’s chair may be the new therapy couch for parts of the South where mental health care is in short supply. In Mississippi, approximately 60 Black barbers have been trained to engage their clients in mental health discussions that may not otherwise happen.

AK: Village outbreaks signal virus’s spread in Interior Alaska

alaskapublic.org

In Alaska’s Fairbanks North Star Borough, the COVID-19 case positivity rate — the number of cases divided by the number of tests — has reached over 15% in some three-day periods according to state figures. While it has improved in recent days, it is still above state averages of about 2-3%. The World Health Organization says that positivity rates should be below 5%. 

OH: Ohio judge grants 14-day restraining order halting Columbus early closing for bars and restaurants

dispatch.com

An ordinance requiring the early closure of bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Columbus, Ohio, was put on hold by a Franklin County judge less than six hours before it was to go into effect.

LA: $250 one-time payments to Louisiana workers begin this week

apnews.com

Payments start going out this week to Louisiana’s frontline workers who remained at grocery store checkouts, in health care facilities and on bus routes in the first months of the coronavirus outbreak, the revenue department said.

VT: Vermont governor moves mandatory school start date to Sept. 8

vtdigger.org

Vermont school districts will reopen Sept. 8 this year, a week later than many had planned, under an executive order Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced. It will be up to the school districts to decide whether to offer remote learning, in-person instruction or a combination of the two — although state officials strongly recommended in-person instruction for children under 10.

CA: California recession could worsen with cut in extra unemployment benefit, studies show

sacbee.com

Unemployed California workers stand to lose about 43% of their weekly benefit — and the state’s already-reeling economy is likely to lose billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs — if the Republican plan to dramatically cut jobless payments becomes law, new studies reported. The nonpartisan Century Foundation estimated the state’s economy would lose about $1.4 billion weekly, among the nation’s largest.

VA: Virginia governor announces new restrictions as COVID-19 surges

richmond.com

Amid a rising number of new COVID-19 cases in Virginia, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced new public restrictions aimed at lowering a dramatic surge in the Hampton Roads area. While the rest of the state will remain under the Phase 3 guidelines, gatherings in the state’s eastern region will be limited to 50 people from the current statewide limit of 250 and bar activity will be curbed.

OR: Oregon officials commit to racial justice bills

oregonlive.com

Black leaders in Oregon have the commitment from Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, and regional and local officials to pass a slate of racial justice bills in the next year and reinvigorate programs that address racism in housing, health care and other areas. As early as this year, the Oregon legislature could begin passing bills to “demilitarize” the police.

ID: Idaho lawmaker criticized for disputing nurse's COVID-19 death

idahostatesman.com

Idaho state Rep. Tammy Nichols, a Republican, is under fire from local health system employees after she shared a Facebook post about a Caldwell pediatric nurse practitioner who died from complications of COVID-19. The Facebook post implied that the nurse’s death was being misrepresented by the news media to scare the public.

HI: Hawaii has huge stake in aid negotiations

civilbeat.org

Hawaii has a huge stake in the negotiations over federal support, which is expected to include another round of $1,200 individual cash stimulus payments. The extra $600-per-week unemployment payments have been a lifeline for thousands of laid-off hotel, restaurant and other workers as the Hawaii tourism industry shut down.

NJ: New Jersey residents wary of a vaccine, in no rush to reopen, poll finds

northjersey.com

A new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, dating to the second half of June, found that roughly two-thirds of adult New Jersey residents were in favor of continuing restrictions designed to control the spread of the coronavirus, provided that a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine remains unavailable. 

AL: Arrests at Alabama Capitol protest for Medicaid expansion

apnews.com

Several people, including a former longtime state senator, were arrested for attempting to paint “Good Trouble” and “Expand Medicaid” on the street in front of the Alabama Capitol.

WY: Public health orders extended in Wyoming

wyomingnews.com

The three orders in Wyoming, which have been in place since June 15 after a gradual loosening of earlier restrictions, allow for enclosed gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 250, with some exemptions for faith-based groups.

MN: Minnesota senator says medical board drops probe over his comments questioning COVID-19 deaths 

startribune.com

A Republican state senator who questioned whether federal and Minnesota health officials inflated the number of COVID-19 deaths said that the state medical board has dismissed complaints challenging his medical license. State Sen. Scott Jensen, a family physician, disclosed in early July that the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice was investigating two complaints sparked by remarks comparing COVID-19 to the flu and questioning state and federal guidelines related to tallying deaths.

OK: Oklahoma governor loses tribal gaming lawsuit

oklahoman.com

An Oklahoma City federal judge handed GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt another defeat in his effort to restructure Oklahoma's nearly three dozen tribal gaming compacts. Stitt wants the tribes to renegotiate and agree to pay the state more in exclusivity fees.

PA: Pennsylvania health secretary denounces transphobic attacks: ‘Our children are watching’

spotlightpa.org

Pennsylvania’s top health official denounced a recent series of transphobic attacks against her, saying she felt compelled to personally address the discrimination.

ME: As safety net disappears, out-of-work Mainers plead for more help

pressherald.com

Maine labor advocates warn of deep economic pain as the $600 extra weekly benefit is set to expire, but business groups expect losing added jobless pay will encourage people to go back to work.

NC: Limits on alcohol sales imposed in North Carolina

newsobserver.com

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced a statewide curfew on alcohol sales beginning Friday, with sales ending at 11 p.m. Cooper said the move is intended to lower coronavirus transmission.

MI: Michigan landowners seek repairs to flood-implicated dams

mlive.com

A group of property owners wants control of a system of dams that released catastrophic floodwater across mid-Michigan. Repairs could cost $340 million.

SC: Judge to hear arguments on whether South Carolina can use federal COVID-19 money for private schools 

thestate.com

A South Carolina judge will hear arguments on whether Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, can legally spend $32 million in federal COVID-19 money on private school tuition grants. A temporary restraining order is already in place to block McMaster from spending the money, part of $48.5 million in federal aid McMaster has in a discretionary account intended for education.

NH: New Hampshire governor lifts ban on reusable bags during pandemic

nhpr.org

Reusable shopping bags will be allowed again at New Hampshire grocery stores, after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu lifted the state’s COVID-19 ban on reusable bags. The ban, one of the first like it in the country, had been in place since March.

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