What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/10
OK: Oklahoma attorney general wants 20 times more money in Johnson & Johnson opioid case
The Oklahoma Supreme Court was asked to order Johnson & Johnson to make a $9.3 billion payment to the state to address the deadly opioid crisis. "Nothing less than the fate of Oklahoma hangs in the balance," attorneys for the state told justices in an appeal brief.
IN: Indiana reinstates surgery limits amid COVID-19 surge
Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is suspending all elective surgeries from Dec. 16 to Jan. 3 so that hospitals can reassign staff and preserve beds for those in need.
NJ: Unemployment benefits extended by 20 weeks for thousands of New Jersey residents
Tens of thousands of unemployed New Jerseyans will be eligible for a 20-week extension of their unemployment benefits after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that will change requirements for claimants.
WA: Amid school closures, child maltreatment reports plummet in Washington
After school buildings closed last school year, the Washington state agency that investigates child abuse and neglect received 87% fewer calls from concerned teachers, counselors and other mandatory school reporters on average per week through June. This school year, reports are down 59%.
NM, OR: New Mexico dogs made homeless by COVID-19 find refuge in Oregon
Dozens of New Mexico dogs, left homeless by a coronavirus outbreak among employees at an animal shelter, hopped a "freedom flight" to Oregon. Some of the dogs have already been adopted.
PA: Pennsylvania governor tests positive for the coronavirus
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced. The announcement comes as daily COVID-19 cases in the state climb higher than ever and hospitals contend with severe staff shortages.
MI: Michigan high court refuses election fraud case
The Michigan Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, denied requests from voters who backed President Donald Trump and sought an election audit. Similar claims have been rejected by other Michigan state and federal courts.
OR: Oregon governor's budget slashes funding support for hospitals
The budget unveiled by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, slashes at least $245 million per biennium from various programs that support hospitals. The budget blueprint would cut hospitals’ Medicaid reimbursements, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars.
ID: Idaho health district postpones meeting as protesters show up at board members' homes
Idaho's Central District Health Board of Health meeting to discuss and vote on a public health order was adjourned shortly after it started because of the danger posed by protesters at the CDH office and at some board members’ places of residence. Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, called the protests at private residences "nothing more than a bullying tactic that seeks to silence."
HI: Hawaii will reduce traveler quarantine to 10 days
Hawaii will reduce the time incoming out of-state travelers must spend in quarantine from 14 to 10 days. But travelers to Hawaii, as well as to most islands, will still be able to sidestep the quarantine altogether by passing a COVID-19 test within three days of traveling.
MS: Mississippi governor expands mask mandate
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, extended his mask mandate to 62 counties and updated his regulations for social gatherings, including limitations on the people who can attend indoor high school sporting events. Under Reeves’ new executive order, social gatherings where social distancing is not possible will be limited to a group of no more than 10 in a single space indoors.
MO: Missouri stops printing income tax forms in bid to go online-only
GOP Gov. Mike Parson’s administration is ending the printing of paper income tax forms in a bid to get more Missourians to file their taxes electronically. A spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue said the maneuver will save the state money and potentially result in people receiving their tax refunds faster in 2021.
CO: Colorado revises COVID-19 vaccine plan to prioritize long-term care facilities
Colorado’s health department has revised its plans for administering the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine—which could arrive in a matter of days—to give the highest priority to health care workers who work with COVID-19 patients and people who live and work in long-term care facilities.
WI: US Army medical staff deployed to overwhelmed Wisconsin hospitals
Nearly four dozen U.S. Army medical workers are being deployed to Wisconsin to help hospitals and health care workers taxed by the continued surge of COVID-19 patients in the area. The facilities receiving help are in a region of Wisconsin with some of the highest and most sustained rates of COVID-19 infections.
NY: New York state pension fund may sell oil stocks
Fossil fuel firms that want to remain in New York state’s public employee retirement fund beyond 2025 will have to show they can thrive in the transition to a low carbon or carbon-free economy to fight global warming, the state comptroller said. New York’s $226 billion fund is among the nation’s largest.
MD: Coronavirus hospitalizations hit record high in Maryland
Maryland has 1,715 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, exceeding the state’s late April pandemic peak of 1,711. On Nov. 1, there were 523 people in the hospital with the virus.
WV: West Virginia urges residents to participate in contact tracing
COVID-19 is spreading at unprecedented rates in West Virginia, but state officials say there has been a decline in participation in contact tracing. For the first time, there are more than 20,000 active cases in the state—1 in every 90 West Virginians.
VT: Vermont extends judicial emergency until March 31
The Vermont Supreme Court extended until March 31 the judicial emergency it declared last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency order alters the way courts operate—how staff members work, and how the court will serve users and the public. Jury trials are extremely limited.
SC: South Carolina governor urges schools to open for in-person instruction
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, is continuing his push to convince K-12 schools to offer parents the option to send children back to schools in-person, five days per week. “We can’t afford to keep schools closed. We can’t afford to have them closed as long as we have,” McMaster said.
AL: Alabama governor extends mask order into January amid COVID-19 surge
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey extended a statewide mask mandate until Jan. 22—but declined to order additional restrictions—as Alabama experiences a record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
IA: Iowa governor extends mask requirements, gathering limitations for another week
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will extend Iowa’s mask requirements and limitations on some indoor and outdoor gatherings for another week.
CA: End-of-life care has boomed in California. So has fraud targeting older Americans.
Intense competition for new patients—who generate $154 to $1,432 a day each in Medicare payments—has spawned a cottage industry of illegal practices in California, including kickbacks to crooked doctors and recruiters who zero in on prospective patients at retirement homes and other venues.
WY: Wyoming public health doctor out after calling COVID-19 a biological weapon
A Wyoming Department of Health doctor, who at an event last month suggested COVID-19 was created by Russia and China to spread communism across the globe, has resigned from the state agency.
US: 17 states join Texas election lawsuit
President Donald Trump and 17 GOP-controlled states filed motions backing Texas’ longshot legal effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn results in four states that helped deliver the presidency to Democrat Joe Biden. They are effectively asking the nation’s highest court to negate 10.4 million ballots.