What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/26
US: States give few details on billions spent on virus supplies
More than two months into the buying binge, many states aren’t sharing details about how much they’re spending, what they’re getting for their money or which companies they’re paying. An Associated Press survey of all 50 states found a hodgepodge of public information about the purchase of masks, gloves, gowns and other hard-to-get equipment for medical and emergency workers.
MO: Missouri officials say state overcounted coronavirus testing
Missouri overcounted the number of people it claimed have been tested for COVID-19 by at least 17,000, state health officials said, raising the infection rate and muddying the state’s assessment of the viral spread even as regional officials ease restrictions.
NV: Nevada COVID-19 deaths in April dwarfed flu deaths over same period in past years
The number of Nevadans who died last month after contracting the novel coronavirus was more than four times the number of those who died from influenza and pneumonia over the same period in each of the past two years, according to an analysis by The Nevada Independent.
US: Coronavirus lockdowns prompt lawsuits against states
Lawsuits filed against states by residents, businesses and even lawmakers test where the lines are safely drawn as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has criticized state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.
NY: New York will pay benefits for frontline COVID-19 victims
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said local or state pension funds will pay the benefits for any public employees who worked in New York at the local, county or state level and lost their lives to the pandemic. Those covered include families of public health care workers, police, fire and emergency service workers.
HI: Hawaii schools under pressure to provide more data about remote learning
The Hawaii Department of Education has struggled to answer two critical questions: how many students are participating in online learning, and how many don’t have the tools or technology to access it? The system has provided only generalities up to now, and education advocates say it is crucial to collect hard data.
SC: Judge says no witnesses needed for South Carolina primary absentee ballots
A federal judge ruled that, because of the dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the state of South Carolina cannot require voters sending in absentee ballots for the June 9 primary to have their ballot mail-in envelopes signed by a witness.
AK: Alaska providers use testing machines despite concerns about accuracy
The state of Alaska’s public health labs are working to double-check results from rapid COVID-19 testing machines as concerns about their accuracy continue to swirl nationally.
GA: Georgia governments can’t hold online hearings under COVID-19
Many local governments in Georgia have moved meetings online since March or encouraged remote public comment throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But public hearings must be conducted in person, according to state law. So those have largely been on hold.
NC: North Carolina to proceed deliberately on presidential demand to hold full GOP convention
While President Donald Trump threatened to pull the Republican National Convention from North Carolina unless the state could provide “full attendance” in person at the event, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s spokesperson said state health officials will review any plans.
WY: Wyoming could face 30% budget cut
Wyoming state government will soon experience “profound” budget cuts, GOP Gov. Mark Gordon said, though to what degree, when and how they will be applied remain to be seen. Gordon has told lawmakers those cuts could be in the range of 30% of current agency budgets.
MS: As officials relax safety measures, Mississippi reports highest weekly average for coronavirus cases
As state leaders continue to relax statewide safety measures and businesses reopen, Mississippi reported its highest weekly count — 1,956 — of new COVID-19 cases.
OK: Oklahoma legislature OKs letting governor’s emergency powers expire
The Oklahoma legislature wrapped up its 2020 session after approving a resolution that calls for sweeping powers granted to the governor under a health emergency to expire at the end of the month.
CO: Colorado restaurants can resume in-person dining this week
Colorado restaurants will have to follow a number of rules, including limiting the number to half the facility’s occupancy, up to a maximum of 50 people. Groups of guests will be limited to a maximum of eight people and restaurants must space tables at least 6 feet apart.
IN: Unprecedented half a million Indiana residents to vote by mail
Roughly half a million Hoosiers requested absentee ballots ahead of the June 2 Indiana primary before the application deadline passed. Election officials have been imploring voters to vote by mail, because counties throughout the state have been struggling to find poll workers amid the pandemic.
MD: Maryland governor empowered local leaders to continue shutdowns. They wish he hadn’t.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan lifted Maryland’s stay-at-home order May 15 — before testing reached adequate levels, and before many of the hardest-hit counties had stockpiled enough gear and resources. County officials say the choice created a patchwork approach that stirred confusion and resentment among a restless public.
RI: Rhode Island governor hopes to start Phase 2 of reopening
Hairstyles, restaurant meals and workouts in Rhode Island should return to something approaching normal next month, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo announced. The state is on track to move to the next phase in its economic reopening plan, she said.
LA: New Orleans: Concern over coronavirus in Hispanic community
New Orleans officials are sounding the alarm after data from neighborhood testing showed that the city’s Hispanic community is being disproportionately infected with the coronavirus.
MN: Minnesota hospitalizations rise to new high
Minnesota hospitals are treating 605 patients for COVID-19 and 248 in intensive care units, both new highs, according to newly released data. State officials said last week that some hospitals had increased ICU capacity.
WI: Advocates say Wisconsin must act as surge of homelessness looms
With the COVID-19 pandemic savaging the economy and eliminating jobs, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness wants the state to take decisive action to address a surge in homelessness it says may be unrivaled since the Great Depression.
VT: Some Vermont restaurants say new guidelines make reopening ‘impossible’
Vermont restaurants can now reopen with limited outdoor seating and other restrictions. But some say that new rules will prevent them from turning a profit.
NJ: Lawmakers join rally calling for New Jersey to reopen
New Jersey lawmakers appearing at a rally called on Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy to reopen houses of worship and nonessential business that have been shuttered for more than two months under the pandemic.
IL: Illinois set to begin Phase 3 of reopening
Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released Phase 3 guidelines for retailers, manufacturers, barbershops, salons, health and fitness centers, and other businesses that will be allowed to reopen in coming days as the state enters the next phase of its reopening.
WA: Washington patients avoiding hospitals in fear of COVID-19
In recent weeks, as case counts dropped, a chorus of doctors, hospital executives and public officials have beseeched Washingtonians suffering from other maladies to return to hospitals for care. Doctors suspect there is a backlog of needed treatments.
UT: University of Utah plans to resume in-person learning this fall
Fall term at Utah’s public flagship institution will look different, with smaller classes to ensure safe physical distancing. That will mean more sessions throughout the day and evening. Some classes will be offered via a mix of classroom and online instruction.
MA: With Massachusetts reopening comes the threat of a second wave of COVID-19, scientists warn
Public health experts warn that without a vaccine or a heavy dose of caution, Massachusetts could easily be hit by a second wave of COVID-19 infections that rivals the first.
AZ: Arizona counties plan to send early ballot applications to voters
Election officials in Arizona are planning to send an application for a mail-in ballot to every voter who has not signed up to receive one. President Donald Trump has assailed similar plans in other states but he hasn't spoken about the plans in Arizona.
OK: Oklahoma lawmakers override six vetoes including rural broadband bill
Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled legislature resoundingly overrode six of fellow Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s vetoes, including two related to rural broadband access amid complaints the legislature has been shut out of talks on the issue.
ID: Idaho educators face uncertain negotiation season as budget cuts loom
Contract negotiation season is off to a slow start across Idaho, and budget uncertainty is a big reason for the delay. GOP Gov. Brad Little has trimmed $19 million from this year’s K-12 state budget and spelled out his plan to cut an additional $99 million next year.
CA: California veterans home eyed for closure under budget cuts
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to close a $54 billion state budget deficit includes one small but difficult cut for an underused state veterans home in the Mojave Desert. Now, residents and workers at the facility, with some help from state lawmakers, are rallying to prevent it from being eliminated.