What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/4
NY: After searing report, New York governor fights for his political life
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose meticulously managed public appearances during the pandemic turned him into one of his party’s most celebrated national figures, is confronting an existential threat to his political career following a searing report that said he had sexually harassed 11 women and violated federal and state law.
FL: Florida governor dismisses state’s COVID-19 hospital crisis as media ‘hysteria’
Despite a record number of COVID-19 patients at hospitals across the state and dire warnings from the Florida Hospital Association, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed capacity concerns as news media “hysteria” and insisted “our hospitals are open for business.”
CO: Colorado capital requires COVID vaccines for all city employees, hospital workers, teachers
The city of Denver, Colorado, will require all city employees, all workers at hospitals and nursing homes, all people who work in homeless shelters and correctional facilities, and all teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September. The new order is among the most sweeping in the nation issued by a city government.
WI: Republicans vote to block University of Wisconsin COVID requirements
University of Wisconsin officials who want to ward off a rising COVID-19 caseload now must get permission from the legislature to implement masking, testing or vaccination requirements, according to a plan Republicans adopted. Within hours, UW-Madison's chancellor tested the issue by imposing a mask requirement.
US: Biden tells governors to ‘get out of the way’ if they won’t help on vaccines
President Joe Biden denounced Republican officials who have blocked efforts to mandate vaccines, as he encouraged cities and states to require that individuals show proof of vaccination to visit restaurants and other public spaces. Biden called out Republican governors, specifically those in Florida and Texas, who have banned businesses and universities from requiring vaccines or defied masking guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MN: COVID caseloads accelerate among Black Minnesotans
As Minnesota continues to see COVID-19 cases edging higher, the latest data shows that new cases are growing far faster among Black Minnesotans, who are seeing nearly twice the per capita case growth of any other racial or ethnic group during this current wave.
AR: Special session on Arkansas' mask law begins
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the General Assembly into a special session to consider his proposal to loosen a ban on COVID-19 mask mandates in government by allowing public school boards to require students under age 12 to wear the face coverings.
UT: Over 82% of Utah ICU beds full as hospitals are stretched by COVID patients
Utah currently has the 12th-highest hospitalization rate in the country. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox sounded weary as he once again urged unvaccinated Utahns to go get the shot.
OR: Oregon reports one of its highest daily case counts of the entire pandemic
Oregon reported 1,575 new cases of coronavirus, one of the highest daily case counts reported over the entire COVID-19 pandemic, and an alarming number for public health officials due to the resurgence of the virus driven by the contagious delta variant. Even more worrisome, the number of Oregonians hospitalized with the virus across the state increased by 39 to 379.
AK: Biden administration goes back to the drawing board on oil leasing in Alaska's Arctic Refuge
The Biden administration announced it will formally reconsider a decision allowing oil lease sales across the northern coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The announcement will likely further delay or limit oil development in the refuge.
CT: Connecticut attorney general commits $300M from opioid settlement toward treatment, recovery and prevention
Connecticut’s attorney general doubled down on his pledge to direct the state’s portion of the funds from a $26 billion settlement with the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson toward mitigating the opioid epidemic.
MO: Missouri officials reject appeal of massive prison health care contract
In a decision affecting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration moved to bring on a new company to provide health care to Missouri’s prison inmates. The ruling rejects an appeal of the bidding process that saw the long-time prison medical vendor lose its contract to a competing firm.
DC: DC Council passes 2022 budget, curbs mayor’s request for more police
The Washington, D.C., Council adopted a scaled-back version of Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request to increase the city’s police budget, agreeing to spend an additional $5 million hiring new officers in one of its final votes on the city’s 2022 budget. Bowser had asked for more than twice that amount to expand the police force eventually by 170 officers.
HI: Hawaii has a ban on sunscreen chemicals, but no one’s sure who should enforce it
Selling sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate became illegal this year in Hawaii, but state lawmakers are relying on sellers to self-police and consumers to hold them accountable.
CA: California community colleges offer cash, textbooks to students who get vaccinated
While both the University of California and California State University are requiring students to be vaccinated for the fall term, community college districts are opting for a mix of mandates, incentives and encouragement.
ME: Maine’s largest employer will require COVID vaccination for all staff
Maine's largest employer, MaineHealth, has announced it will require all 23,000 of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 1. Chief health improvement officer Dr. Dora-Anne Mills says nearly 84% of staff are already vaccinated, but those numbers need to increase because of the highly contagious delta variant.
VT: Kids without COVID vaccines should wear masks at school, Vermont officials say
As Vermont schools gear up for full in-person instruction this fall, state officials are asking all students and staff members to plan to wear a face mask in the first several weeks of school. After the first weeks, the state's recommendations allow removal of masks in some circumstances.
MD: Maryland is not considering a mask mandate
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said reinstating a statewide mask mandate is not on the table. Some schools, local governments and businesses are requiring Marylanders to mask up again, leading to confusion and a fractured set of rules.
NH: New Hampshire hospitals will require COVID vaccinations for staff
Hospitals across New Hampshire will require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, officials announced. The New Hampshire Hospital Association said it supports the move by its 30 member hospitals to optimize the safety of care for patients and to protect the lives of health care workers.
MO: Missouri governor pardons couple who pointed guns at protesters
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has pardoned a couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters passing their St. Louis home last summer. Parsons did not act on longtime inmate Kevin Strickland, who several prosecutors now say is innocent of a 1978 Kansas City triple homicide. Parson could pardon Strickland, but he has said he’s not convinced he is innocent.