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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/15

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/15

WI: Judge blocks Wisconsin governor’s order limiting capacity, public gatherings

jsonline.com

A county judge has, for now, blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' latest order to curb the spread of coronavirus in Wisconsin by limiting public gatherings and the number of customers bars and restaurants may serve at one time. It leaves much of the state without any restrictions on public interaction at a time when the virus is surging.

VA: Federal judge orders Virginia voter registration deadline extended

richmond.com

A federal judge extended the deadline for registering to vote in Virginia in light of a construction accident that shut down the online voter registration system for several hours Tuesday, which was originally the last day to register.

PA: Pennsylvania could hold up outcome of presidential election

latimes.com

Pennsylvania, one of the states most likely to decide the presidential election, is bracing for one of the slowest ballot counts in the country.

DE: Delaware election officials practice transporting ballots

delawarepublic.org

Because of the big increase in absentee and mail-in voting, as well as the paper ballots generated by the new voting machines, Delaware election officials will need to transport many more ballots to the courthouses for the canvass of the vote after the election.

UT: Utah’s contact tracers are getting stonewalled

sltrib.com

With record-high coronavirus caseloads, Utah’s contact tracers are getting overwhelmed — and a Salt Lake County epidemiologist says that infected patients are increasingly refusing to participate, in part out of protest against what they think is a manufactured threat.

NJ: New Jersey launches state-run marketplace for health insurance

northjersey.com

A new state-run marketplace for New Jersey residents who buy their own health insurance — getcovered.nj.gov — is going live, and many consumers are expected to pay less for coverage than in previous years. The new website replaces the federal marketplace.

WA: Washington state health officer is stepping down

seattletimes.com

Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington’s top public health officer, will leave the state’s health department at year’s end. Lofy said she is moving on for personal reasons, and it was an honor to lead the state's COVID-19 response.

MD: Maryland county has given out millions in pandemic hazard pay

washingtonpost.com

Maryland’s largest county has distributed about $50 million in hazard pay to essential workers risking exposure during the coronavirus pandemic. Montgomery County employees since March 29 have been able to claim an additional salary of up to $800 per two-week pay period if they perform “front-facing” essential services, such as policing, firefighting or working on public transit.

AK: After early success, virus spreading rapidly in rural Alaska

alaskapublic.org

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many rural Alaska communities acted quickly to impose strict quarantine measures to try to keep the virus out of their tight-knit towns. And that was largely successful in stalling the spread of COVID-19 throughout the spring and summer. But in the past several weeks, clusters of cases have flared up in dozens of villages across the state.

IA: 45,000 Iowans convicted of felonies have had their voting rights restored since 2016

desmoinesregister.com

A new report estimates that more than 45,000 Iowans with past felony convictions have had their voting rights restored since 2016. Most of those restorations were the result of an executive order signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds this year. 

IN: Indiana governor says state will stay at current phase of reopening plan

indystar.com

Despite record highs in new coronavirus cases and increasing numbers of hospitalized patients in recent weeks, Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state would remain in the current phase of his reopening plan. He said the state's mask mandate remains in effect as do requirements that people maintain a distance of at least six feet with those outside their households.

IL: COVID-19 test positivity rates rising statewide in Illinois 

chicagotribune.com

Illinois' top public health official urged residents to prepare for holiday celebrations differently this year as the state continues to see an uptick in newly diagnosed cases and hospitalizations of people with COVID-19-like symptoms. The seven-day statewide positivity rate was 4.6% for the period that ended Tuesday, up from 3.5% a week earlier.

OR: Oregon sets new case record

oregonlive.com

The Oregon Health Authority announced 390 new suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases and three new deaths linked to COVID-19. The case count pushed Oregon’s daily average from the past week to 361, a new record.

CA: California GOP pushes back against state election officials on unofficial ballot boxes

latimes.com

California Republican Party officials doubled down on their efforts to use private ballot boxes to collect votes, arguing that the practice was within the bounds of state election law and vowing that they will continue to use the unofficial containers.

OH: Ohio reports new single-day record high of 2,039 COVID-19 cases

dispatch.com

The new record comes a day after Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine warned that new cases, deaths and hospitalizations were up and would likely get worse.

ID: Idaho breaks new case record again

idahostatesman.com

Idaho marked a record-high number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases, with 714 new cases in one day. The state also broke records for new total cases, which includes probable cases, with 798, and for the seven-day case average, at 627.7.

KS: Kansas records first death from a school cluster

kansas.com

Kansas public health officials reported updated coronavirus cluster information, including the first COVID-19 death connected to an outbreak at a school.

SC: US Supreme Court foils South Carolina’s bid to stop federal money for Planned Parenthood

thestate.com

In a blow to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, the U.S. Supreme Court has dashed — at least for the time being — his years-long legal effort to eliminate Medicaid funding for South Carolina’s Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide medical services for eligible people in need.

NV: Nevada writes off nearly $12M in federally funded clean energy loans

thenevadaindependent.com

Nearly $12 million in federally funded loans earmarked for clean energy projects in Nevada stemming from the 2009 federal stimulus package has been written off as unrecoverable by the state. Between 2010 and 2012 the Governor’s Office of Energy issued eight loans for a variety of clean energy projects, but none was completed, and the funds have essentially disappeared.

AR: Arkansas judge dismisses lawsuit challenging virus mandates

apnews.com

An Arkansas judge dismissed a lawsuit by a group of Republican legislators challenging a mask mandate and other restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NH: New Hampshire first responders get rapid testing, new disinfecting sprayers

nhpr.org

New Hampshire first responders now have access to COVID-19 test results within 15 minutes. Health officials say there’s not a lot of opportunity for social distancing among first responders, and expanded rapid testing should help with staffing concerns.

NY: New York audit shows lapses in state oversight of school bus safety

timesunion.com

The New York State Education Department must do more to ensure that school districts hire qualified transportation staff and school bus drivers, and that transportation employees get required safety training, according to an audit.

GA: Voter check-in system to blame for slow-moving lines in Georgia

ajc.com

Voting slowed to a crawl across Georgia this week in large part because of check-in computers that couldn’t handle the load of record turnout at early voting locations.

ME: Record number of Mainers have already voted

pressherald.com

More than 133,000 Mainers already have voted by absentee ballot with three weeks left before Election Day, and Democrats are far outpacing Republicans in both requesting and returning ballots. Both public health experts and election officials have encouraged voters to use Maine’s no-excuse absentee voting system as a way to eliminate the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 during in-person voting.

HI: Hawaii's island-by-island COVID-19 rules could confuse visitors

staradvertiser.com

Testing rules for visitors to Hawaii vary across the islands. Hawaii’s passenger entry program requires so many steps that even some members of the visitor industry weren’t entirely clear what to tell travelers.

KY: Kentucky AG gets security in wake of threats over Breonna Taylor case

courier-journal.com

State legislators approved of an armed security contract for Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, his wife and members of his family, citing detailed threats against him in the wake of his handling of the Breonna Taylor case.

AZ: Arizona town could ban recreational marijuana sales if voters approve Proposition 207

azcentral.com

If Arizona voters choose to legalize recreational marijuana sales on Nov. 3, it will still be illegal to buy or sell in Gilbert, with one exception. Gilbert's only operating medical marijuana dispensary, Curaleaf, could get a license to sell recreational marijuana — cornering the market in the town of over 250,000 residents southeast of Phoenix.

TN: Tennessee governor in quarantine after security staff catches coronavirus

tennessean.com

During a video news conference, Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he tested negative for the virus since his exposure and currently felt no symptoms or illness.

WV: West Virginia governor denies sitting on CARES Act funds

wvgazettemail.com

West Virginia is sitting on a cash balance of more than $983 million of the total $1.27 billion of federal CARES Act funding received in April. But Republican Gov. Jim Justice said all the funds have been committed to be spent.

VT: Vermont’s Burlington Airport opens rapid testing site

vtdigger.org

A Vermont medical company has opened a rapid COVID-19 testing site at Burlington International Airport in an effort to limit the potential spread of the virus through one of the region’s most active travel hubs. However, unlike in other states, the testing won’t let travelers skirt their quarantining responsibilities if the test results are negative for the virus.

MS: 4 win special elections for Mississippi legislative seats

apnews.com

Three Republicans and a Democrat won special-election runoffs to fill seats in the Mississippi legislature and will serve the rest of four-year terms ending in January 2024. The winners of the runoffs are in the same parties as the people who previously held the seats.

MA: Massachusetts governor doesn’t plan to vote for President Donald Trump

masslive.com

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s not sure how he’ll vote, but one thing is certain: He doesn’t plan to back Donald Trump’s reelection.

MN: Minnesota demographer: Last call for 2020 census

kare11.com

The Minnesota state demographer is urging people to make sure they're counted before the 2020 census concludes.

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