What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/13
SC: South Carolina: Wearing masks works
South Carolina health officials released new data that showed that local mask ordinances are slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Areas with mask orders have seen a 15.1% decrease in new cases, while areas without mask requirements saw a 30% increase.
HI: COVID-19 data shows Hawaii in a 'very dire situation'
Hawaii has the fastest-growing infection rate in the country. Public health experts said Hawaii is in an alarming new phase of the pandemic.
AK: Feds question Alaska city’s plans for CARES Act money
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General thinks Anchorage, Alaska’s plan to buy buildings for homeless services is an ineligible use of COVID-19 relief funds. The plan has drawn intense criticism from nearby residents.
MD: Fraud probe deprives some Marylanders of unemployment benefits
Some unemployed workers whose Maryland unemployment benefits were taken away because of an identity theft investigation still have not had their money restored, a month after the probe was made public. It’s not clear how many people were unwittingly swept up in the fraud investigation.
RI: Rhode Island governor moves start of school
Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo postponed the start of public school by two weeks. School will begin on Sept. 14, and Raimondo will make a determination of whether schools will open in person, online or in a hybrid model.
CA: 56 inmates infected at California’s Folsom Prison
Dozens of inmates have active cases of the coronavirus at California’s Folsom State Prison, and a state prison employee who worked there has died. The prison reports 56 inmates with active COVID-19 infections, all confirmed in the last two weeks.
WI: Battle lines set for Wisconsin GOP's supermajority push
Wisconsin’s primaries set the battle lines for a push by Republicans to secure veto-proof legislative supermajorities, locking in high-stakes matchups against Democrats around the state.
PA: Penn State students forced to sign liability waiver
Pennsylvania State University, the behemoth public research university with enrollment nearing 100,000, is forcing students to sign a liability agreement and assume all risk of COVID-19 prior to returning to campus for the fall semester.
VT: Vermont breaks primary turnout records
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, attributed the high turnout to the pandemic and to contested statewide races on both the Democratic and Republican ballots.
NJ: New Jersey schools may start fully remote
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he will allow certain New Jersey districts to offer an all-remote option this fall, reversing course after growing protests over the idea of reopening school buildings. Murphy also issued an executive order clearing schools to resume in-person learning immediately.
MO: Businesses can sue insurer, Missouri judge rules
A federal judge in Missouri said a group of hair salons and restaurants can sue their insurance carrier over business interruption losses caused by the pandemic, which they say caused a "direct physical loss" to their premises.
OR: Oregon says 'uncertainty' precludes paying Trump's employment bonus
Oregon still hasn’t decided whether to pay the $400 weekly unemployment bonus President Donald Trump authorized last week, awaiting more clarity from the federal government over how the program would work and how much the state would owe.
WY: Testing program for Wyoming teachers in the works
Wyoming will implement a COVID-19 surveillance testing plan for teachers once school starts later this month. The plan will likely resemble surveillance testing already being done at long-term care facilities across the state.
DE: Delaware governor: We can’t afford Trump’s unemployment plan
Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, expressed frustration over President Donald Trump's recent executive order that extends federal pandemic unemployment assistance for those who've lost their jobs, but requires states to pick up a portion of the tab.
MT: Montana budget strong, but tax hikes on the table
Montana’s general fund balance is high enough to cover any coronavirus-related revenue losses in the coming fiscal year, state financial analysts said, but the budget deficit could surpass $250 million by 2023.
NM: New Mexico wants Trump deal
New Mexico is saying yes to President Donald Trump’s offer to extend a weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits — without increasing the state’s standard payout as suggested. The state applied for the program that would provide an additional $300 a week to jobless residents.
NY: New York City unions call for delayed in-person instruction
New York City’s influential principals’ and teachers’ unions called on Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to delay the start of in-person instruction by several weeks before phasing students back into buildings throughout the fall. Students are scheduled to return to classrooms one to three days a week starting Sept. 10.
WV: West Virginia governor orders second ban on nursing home visits
With a surge of COVID-19 outbreaks at 30 nursing homes across West Virginia, Republican Gov. Jim Justice ordered the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities closed to visitors for a second time. The first ban extended from March 12 to June 17.
SD: South Dakota revenue higher than expected
South Dakota brought in more in general fund revenue than expected in July, but the legislature's research agency is warning that things could worsen as the federal financial benefits boosting the state's economy come to an end.
NE: Nebraska agency applies LGBT ruling to housing
On the heels of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Nebraskans have scored another civil rights victory.