Fenway voting, teachers staying home, private school boom: News from around our 50 states


Montgomery: The city is struggling with maintenance at the historic Oakwood Cemetery amid the coronavirus pandemic. Montgomery has owned and maintained the cemetery since it started in 1819, cutting and clearing 120 acres of historic graves and mausoleums. It’s the final resting place for country legend Hank Williams as well as a wide swath of early Montgomery – governors, slaves, immigrants, anti-secessionists and Confederate generals. State inmates on work release usually do most of the maintenance. But work release details have been canceled since March because of the pandemic. That left the city with six employees dedicated to the cemetery. Since then, two have quit, one had heart surgery, and one had a stroke. That’s in addition to the pandemic’s effect on city staff. Tom Pierce, head of general services, returned to the job Monday after two weeks in quarantine. “Unfortunately, grass doesn’t care about COVID. It continues to grow,” Pierce said.


Anchorage: The municipal government has projected a $17 million revenue shortfall for 2020 because of the economic impact of the coronavirus. The loss represents 3% of the general government operating budget for Anchorage, The Anchorage Daily News reports. Lost tax revenue accounts for $14.4 million of the shortfall, the city said. Anchorage Chief Financial Officer Alex Slivka said the city plans to reroute federal coronavirus recovery funds to fill most of the gap. An ordinance proposed by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration would repeal part of the federal recovery funding package approved by the Anchorage Assembly, Slivka said. The ordinance would reroute about $61 million of those funds to the payroll for first responders, freeing up general fund dollars that otherwise would have been used for payroll costs.


Phoenix: Elections officials should suspend plans to help voters in nursing homes and hospitals cast ballots through video calls, Gov. Doug Ducey said in a letter to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Arizona provides what are known as special election boards to people in hospitals and long-term care facilities, allowing them to cast a vote in person without being in a traditional polling place. But with long-term care facilities hit hard by COVID-19, visitor restrictions can make the job more difficult for special election boards, so in some places they are adjusting with technology. Counties including Maricopa and Pima plan to let residents cast their vote in person or on a video call. A voter could tell the board how to mark their ballot, for example, if the voter cannot mark it himself or herself. But Ducey raised objections about this plan, pointing to a section of state law that says a special election board’s services must be “delivered to the elector in person.”


Little Rock: A lawsuit filed Tuesday asks a federal judge to require state election officials to give absentee voters a chance to correct their ballots before they’re rejected due to signature issues. The League of Women Voters of Arkansas argues in the lawsuit that state law regarding absentee ballots disenfranchises voters because they’re not given any notice or chance to cure any deficiencies. State law requires election officials to reject absentee ballots that are missing a voter’s signature or if there’s a mismatch between the signature, address or date of birth on the absentee ballot and the application materials. According to the lawsuit, Arkansas already provides notification to absentee voters if there are photo ID issues with their ballots. A spike in absentee ballots is expected in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month signed an executive order stating that concerns about the virus were a valid excuse to vote absentee.


Los Angeles: More of the state was cleared to reopen additional businesses Tuesday, including most of the San Francisco Bay Area and one of Southern California’s largest counties, as coronavirus infection rates have fallen to their lowest level of the pandemic. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state health secretary, also said nail salons could resume operations with restrictions statewide, though he cautioned that California’s reopening must remain “slow and stringent” and that residents cannot let their guard down as flu season arrives and cases rise in Europe and other parts of the U.S. The lifting of some restrictions in counties that have shown improvement comes as California tries for a second time to recover from the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on business. An earlier effort to reopen more quickly backfired with a surge in cases and hospitalizations in late spring and early summer.


Denver: Gov. Jared Polis announced mandatory furloughs of state workers due to pandemic-related budget cuts and warned Tuesday about a third wave of coronavirus outbreaks if the state’s upward trend continues. The number of days will be based on an employee’s annual salary with exemptions for those necessary for the COVID-19 response, assisting Coloradans in finding jobs, and protecting public safety and roads, as well as workers earning $50,000 a year or less. “The public sector, too, needs to tighten its belts to get through this,” Polis said at a news conference. Workers earning $50,000 to $70,000 will be furloughed for one day, $70,000 to $90,000 for two days, $90,000 to $140,000 for three days, and above $140,000 for four days. Polis also said that Colorado had 654 new cases of the coronavirus Tuesday. The largest number of cases in the state is among 18- to 25-year-olds, most from the University of Colorado Boulder.


Preston: The state is providing a $7 million loan to the Mystic Aquarium, a nonprofit that’s been hit hard financially after being forced to close for almost four months because of the pandemic. Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said the multipronged arrangement with the aquarium is part an ongoing effort to try to help the state’s important tourism industry, including nonprofit and commercial businesses. “We’re coming up with some state programs that get them through until we’re in an economy that’s a lot stronger for everybody,” Lamont said following a tour of Holmberg Orchards in nearby Gales Ferry. State lawmakers from eastern Connecticut, who had urged Lamont back in May to help the aquarium, have suggested that a pool of $20 million in state money is needed to help tourism as well as arts and culture attractions.


Dover: Delaware’s Emergency Management Agency is planning to add eight to 10 pop-up testing sites each week that will respond to COVID-19 outbreaks. The Delaware State News reports those sites will change weekly based on data from the Delaware Division of Public Health. “Our job is to try to make sure they’re convenient, effective, and they are where and when people need them,” DEMA Director A.J. Schall said Tuesday at a weekly COVID-19 press briefing. The state is still rolling out its new at-home test. The tests are mailed to a person and then performed over Zoom with a medical professional for instruction. They are then mailed to a lab with results expected in 48-72 hours. The at-home tests are recommended for people who are 60 years old or older and who might have trouble finding transportation to a testing site.

District of Columbia

Washington: Women’s Food Fest, running from Wednesday through Sept. 30, aims to help promote women-owned small businesses in D.C. that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, WUSA-TV reports. Women’s Food Fest grew from a James Beard Foundation program called “Let’s Talk DC” – a local forum bringing female food entrepreneurs together to support one another, take collective action, and help one another survive the present economic and health crisis, according to the organizer of the fest. “We are highlighting women entrepreneurs who took the leap to open their own businesses and have become the heart of their communities. They now need your support by your patronage as they navigate the new ‘normal’ and try to keep their businesses open during this pandemic,” food fest organizers said in a statement. Organizers will also distribute 700 meals to local communities in need.


West Palm Beach: The school district is scrambling to find substitute teachers after a large number of full-time teachers chose to stay home as students returned to brick-and-mortar classes for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Palm Beach County school district said 944 teachers did not show for work Monday when students who chose the in-school option returned to classrooms. The number was slightly lower – nearly 894 teachers, or roughly 1 of every 13 – on Tuesday. Officials said 387 substitute teachers were called in to assist Tuesday across the district, which consist of 180 campuses. Some 58,000 students were in classrooms Tuesday, officials said. Many principals asked teachers to supervise two classes at one time or sent other employees to monitor classrooms. In other cases, students were sent to overflow rooms until their next class.


Athens: COVID-19 infections at the University of Georgia declined for the second week in a row, the university reported Wednesday. UGA’s DawgCheck system listed a total of 163 positives, including 153 students, 10 staff member and no faculty members. Last week, UGA reported 446 positive tests, including 404 students, 16 staff and one faculty member. Meanwhile, UGA is listing higher numbers from earlier weeks than what was originally reported. For the week ending Sept. 13, UGA originally reported 421 new cases and now lists the figure as 446; the week prior to that, UGA originally listed 1,412 positives but now lists 1,500. “Numbers may be adjusted for multiple reasons,” UGA spokesman Greg Trevor said in an email. “For example, these results may be reconciled with final data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Adjustments also may reflect off-campus tests.”


Honolulu: Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday that the city plans to allow some activities that were shut down last month to control the spread of the coronavirus to resume under new guidelines. Beginning Thursday, the city will allow social gatherings of up to five people, including at beaches and hiking trails. Retail businesses will be allowed to open at 50% of capacity. Caldwell said Gov. David Ige verbally approved the new guidelines but had not signed them yet. Restaurants would be allowed to seat up to five diners at a table as long as the patrons provide their names and contact information so tracers can reach them later if necessary. Diners will have to wear masks when they are not eating. Honolulu again adopted strict restrictions a month ago after cases began to spike after hovering at low levels when the pandemic began. Honolulu’s new daily case count has since declined.


Pocatello: The chief medical officers of two hospitals recently warned state public health officials that their facilities are close to being overwhelmed by patients infected with the coronavirus. Dr. Daniel Snell of the Portneuf Medical Center and Dr. Ken Newhouse of Bingham Memorial Hospital told the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Board of Directors that the current rate of hospitalizations from COVID-19 is unsustainable. “We are on a razor’s edge where with exponential growth and with continued people doing things in the community, we could have a sudden uptick that could happen very, very quickly,” Newhouse said. “We could go into overload mode pretty quickly here.” Snell said his hospital could make accommodations for up to 50 patients, but that would put the facility in a “code black situation where we shut everything else down.”


Springfield: The state Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 1,531 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 30 more confirmed deaths, with Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate at 3.5%. The latest COVID-19 numbers come as the city of Chicago placed Wisconsin on its 14-day quarantine list. Placement on the list is triggered by averaging more than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period. Also joining the list are Montana, Idaho, Minnesota and Puerto Rico. Authorities say the surge of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin is being driven by students at the various campuses of the University of Wisconsin. Despite the threat by Chicago officials to levy fines, the travel advisory is more educational than real. Compliance is voluntary. So far, warning letters are as far as City Hall has gone to enforce the advisory.


Indianapolis: A statewide mask order will continue for another three weeks under a new order the governor announced Wednesday even as he has faced public discontent over coronavirus restrictions amid his reelection campaign. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would be dropping most other limits on businesses and crowd sizes as of Saturday. The mask order will be extended until Oct. 17. Holcomb said those restrictions could be removed because the state has seen progress in recent weeks in slowing the coronavirus spread. His action lifts statewide capacity limits for restaurants and bars and crowd limits for social events. The mask order was first issued two months ago and has drawn ire among conservatives who believe his executive orders in response to the pandemic have gone too far. That has complicated his reelection campaign against Democrat Woody Myers, with some saying they’ll support Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater.


Des Moines: Health officials are working to determine what is causing a spike in coronavirus cases in the northwest corner of the state where several counties are seeing a surge, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday. Sioux County has a 14-day positivity rate of 30%. Public health officials usually recommend mitigation measures including crowd restrictions, face coverings and business closures to slow the virus’ spread when an area surpasses 5% positivity. Two adjacent counties, Lyon and Osceola, have rates above 20%. The Republican governor acknowledged the rate of spread is very high but said she’s hopeful it is stabilizing. “I don’t know what’s going on up there,” Reynolds said. “It’s what we see a lot of times when we start to open things up, and I think we should expect that you’re going to see probably a little uptick in cases.”


Topeka: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s office blocked a legislative committee from obtaining a list of the state’s personal protective equipment suppliers, a Republican lawmaker told colleagues Tuesday. Sen. Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha released emails during a meeting of a House-Senate study committee showing that the panel’s request had been refused. The committee is considering whether the laws need to be revised in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The committee sought the list after state Adjutant General David Weishaar, who oversees the Division of Emergency Management, testified last month that some of the state’s personal protective equipment was defective. According to the emails, the department cited instructions from the governor’s staff in declining to release the list. Will Lawrence, Kelly’s chief of staff, said it was merely an effort to narrow the request to avoid wasting the time of agency staffers responding to the pandemic.


Frankfort: The state won swift federal approval for another infusion of extra unemployment payments for many people who lost work during the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday, one day after he announced his administration requested the supplemental $400 in weekly benefits for another three weeks. “It’s a win for those that have been struggling to get those extra dollars in,” the governor told reporters. “It’s also a win for our state because it continues consumer confidence. We see the money cycle through our economy, especially retailers and others that have been struggling.” Beshear also reported 824 more COVID-19 cases statewide and seven more virus-related deaths. Kentucky’s positivity rate – a rolling figure reflecting the average proportion of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 – rose to 4.52%, ending a recent trend in which it has been below 4%.


Natchitoches: A 136-year-old university has set an enrollment record in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused problems in higher education nationwide. The record “is remarkable and especially gratifying in the midst of the global pandemic,” Northwestern State University President Chris Maggio said. According to the newspaper, the school this fall has an enrollment of 11,447. That’s an increase of 5% or 547 students over last year’s enrollment of 10,900. In addition to the main campus in Natchitoches, Northwestern State has campuses in Shreveport and Alexandria and other sites that include online classes.


Madison: An employee at a nursing home where a coronavirus outbreak has killed seven residents worked an overnight shift while she had COVID-19 symptoms, a newspaper reports. The certified nursing assistant at Maplecrest Rehabilitation & Living Center in Madison documented her symptoms – a sore throat, cough, chills and muscle aches – in a written log but apparently didn’t tell her supervisors, and supervisors apparently didn’t review the log, the Bangor Daily News reports. She tested positive for the coronavirus a few days later. A coronavirus outbreak to which the employee is believed to have contributed has since infected at least 39 residents and employees, and seven residents have died. It’s one of several secondary outbreaks linked to an Aug. 7 wedding in the Katahdin region that’s responsible for about 180 cases of COVID-19 across the state.


Baltimore: State officials say fatal drug overdoses and alcohol-related deaths are rising. The Baltimore Sun reports that new data released Tuesday revealed that such deaths increased by 9.1% from January to June of this year compared to those months last year. Opioids were responsible for nearly 90% of the 1,326 deaths. Officials from the Maryland Department of Health and the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center said the pandemic is exacerbating people’s addictions as they’re quarantined. “Taken together, the associated social isolation, disruptions of support, impeded access to care, and economic distress have helped to create an extremely dangerous environment for those suffering from substance use disorder,” a report said. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan touted the creation of the Maryland COVID-19 Inter-Agency Overdose Action Plan to help address the connection between substance abuse and the pandemic.


Boston: Election officials in the city are expected to approve Fenway Park as an early voting venue when they meet Thursday, after Red Sox owner John Henry offered the storied ballpark for voters hesitant to cast ballots indoors. City officials toured the park and have said it meets their guidelines. If formally cleared as a venue, Bostonians could vote at Fenway on Oct. 17-18. Cities and towns trying to contain the coronavirus pandemic have been looking for large outdoor or well-ventilated alternatives to schools, libraries, community centers and municipal buildings traditionally used for voting. The Red Sox have been playing at Fenway during their truncated 60-game season, but fans haven’t been allowed inside.


East Lansing: Health officials are searching for answers after coronavirus cases linked to Michigan State University students and staff rose to more than 1,200. “I’m kind of feeling like I’m running out of tools in my toolbox. I’ll find some more,” said Linda Vail, Ingham County health officer. Vail could further restrict indoor gatherings and put more large apartments and housing complexes on quarantine. Fraternities and sororities close to campus already have restrictions. Since the semester started, 1,250 cases of COVID-19 have been tied to MSU students or staff. MSU cases comprise 40% of cases reported in Ingham County since March. The rate of positive tests connected to MSU has fallen to 10% from 20%, Vail said. All undergraduate classes are online, and MSU’s residence halls are closed except for a few thousand students.


St. Cloud: Gov. Tim Walz praised staff at South Junior High on Tuesday afternoon as part of his statewide safe learning tour. “We asked you to do what had never been asked before,” Walz said of the planning that went into creating learning models – in person, hybrid or distance – between which districts will transition based on COVID-19 case rates and localized outbreaks. His visit, the 10th on the tour, comes on the heels of the Minnesota State High School League’s decision to bring football and volleyball back for a fall season. “We’re going to have to do our best,” Walz said. “This is where I would put my plug: If you want to see your kids play football and go back to school and your businesses stay open, wear the mask and social distance. It is not a political statement. It is simply science.”


Jackson: The state Department of Health has reported 552 new coronavirus cases and 24 new coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday. According to state records, the total number of positive cases in Mississippi stands at 94,573. The total number of deaths is 2,870. The state’s highest number of deaths reported in a single day was 67 on Aug. 25. The current number of long-term care facility outbreaks stands at 128. The number of cases reported at long-term care facilities is 5,883. The number of deaths in long-term care facilities is 1,185. As of Monday, the latest information available, 507 people were hospitalized with confirmed infections, 147 in ICUs and 74 on ventilators.


O’Fallon: St. Louis County is relaxing some restrictions on youth sports as coronavirus positivity rates have decreased among children in the region, County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday. The new regulations fall short of allowing high-contact high school sports such as football and ice hockey to resume. But Page said if the trend continues to improve, there may be a “path forward” to allow play to begin later this fall. St. Louis County is Missouri’s largest jurisdiction by population, and the county has seen far more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other place in the state. Though Republican Gov. Mike Parson allowed Missouri to reopen in mid-June, Page, a Democrat, has maintained far stricter guidelines, including limits on youth sports. Those limits have drawn strong criticism from some parents, including protests outside Page’s home and outside the government center in Clayton.


Helena: The state is seeing a “remarkable increase” in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, Montana’s medical officer said Tuesday, as officials urged residents to step up measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and seasonal influenza. The increase in cases is caused by schools reopening, Labor Day weekend gatherings and the continuing spread of the virus in congregate living settings, such as nursing homes and jails, said Stacey Anderson, state epidemiologist. Montana’s COVID-19 level was stable at about 800 cases per week from when Gov. Steve Bullock issued a mask mandate for most counties in mid-July through early September, said Jim Murphy, head of the Communicable Disease Bureau within the state health department. But last week showed a “remarkable increase in cases,” he said. The 1,240 cases for the week ending Sept. 18 was an all-time high, Murphy said.


Omaha: An outbreak of the coronavirus has occurred at a nursing home in the Omaha bedroom community of Blair, with more than two dozen residents and staff infected, health officials said. The Three Rivers Public Health Department reported in a Friday news release the outbreak at Crowell Memorial Home. The facility is licensed for 108 assisted living and skilled nursing beds. Reached Tuesday, the health department said 24 residents and eight staff members had recently tested positive for the virus at the home, which provides senior apartments, assisted living, skilled nursing care and rehabilitation services. Another Blair facility was the site of one of the first nursing home outbreaks in Nebraska. Carter Place temporarily closed after 19 residents and staff tested positive in late March and early April.


Las Vegas: About 100 people gathered outside the governor’s private home in the city to protest a mask mandate intended to limit the spread of COVID-19. Political action committee No Mask Nevada planned the Monday demonstration after Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak implemented the order, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. “This governor is trying to destroy the global symbol of American prosperity,” co-founder Ian Bayne said. “The rules make no sense, and the mask just serves to deter and destroy tourism in Las Vegas.” Chair Melissa Blundo said the group wanted to “hit Sisolak at home like he hit us at home.” Surgical masks and cloth masks have been effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, said Brian Labus, a member of the governor’s medical advisory team. He said the order mandating masks in public is intended to protect people who can become infected from those who do not show symptoms.

New Hampshire

Concord: The state’s U.S. senators are joining several New England colleagues in seeking federal funding for bus, motorcoach and passenger ferry companies that are struggling because of the coronavirus. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both Democrats, signed a letter Wednesday led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island. They are seeking $10 billion in emergency funding for the industry. The cancellation of school field trips, tours and college sports seasons has forced motorcoach companies to furlough or lay off thousands of workers, they said, and privately owned school bus companies have faced significant losses as many states and communities move to remote learning.

New Jersey

Jersey City: Catholic, Jewish and Muslim day schools throughout the metro area say they’ve been inundated with calls from families who have had it with remote learning and are willing to pay hefty tuitions, ranging from $3,000 to upward of $25,000 annually for in-person learning at a smaller school. Public school districts in the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut suburbs have waffled about their reopening plans, which vary among districts and even within districts between strictly online learning, a hybrid of online and in-person learning, and some fully in-person instruction. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that public school would open for in-person learning but then gave districts the option to open remotely for a time until they could get their buildings ready for in-person instruction. About one-third of all New Jersey districts have started school on an all-remote basis.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: The state has depleted its unemployment benefits trust fund and begun to use federal loans to keep up with claims – spending that can trigger higher taxes if not repaid, a top labor official said Tuesday. Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said unemployment trust reserves were exhausted on Sept. 8, and the state has spent about $3 million since then in borrowed federal funds to maintain unemployment benefits. New Mexico’s unemployment rate of 11.4% in August exceeds neighboring states as health officials take gradual steps toward reopening the economy and schools, with most pupils still studying from home. McCamley said about 123,000 people were receiving unemployment benefits as of last week in a state of 2.1 million residents. The tourism and hospitality industry has been especially hard hit, along with oil production and construction.

New York

Albany: Family members of incarcerated New Yorkers and corrections officers are calling on lawmakers and the governor to ensure prisons and jails won’t again face a staffing shortage, barriers to social distancing and dangerous rationing of protective gear ahead of the next COVID-19 surge or pandemic. Testing of people with symptoms at the state’s prisons and New York City jails revealed thousands of COVID-19 infections among incarcerated individuals and guards, who called on the state and New York City to act at a Tuesday legislative hearing. Inmates struggled to socially distance, wash their hands, access hand sanitizer, and get their hands on masks and other face coverings in the early days of the pandemic, according to Jermaine Barrett, who said he was released July 28 from a maximum-security prison north of New York City. “Initially when everything was shut down, more or less we were left to our own devices,” he said.

North Carolina

Raleigh: College and professional sports teams may soon be allowed to host a few thousand fans in outdoor stadiums, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday. If the state’s coronavirus numbers continue to improve or remain flat, Cooper said he plans to ease the occupancy restrictions for large outdoor entertainment venues starting Oct. 2. Places that can seat more than 10,000 people outside would be able to operate at significantly reduced capacity, 7%, while adhering to the recommended 6 feet of physical distancing. “We plan to take another step toward Phase 3 in the coming days if our progress holds,” Cooper said. Under the updated executive order he plans to announce next week, the Carolina Panthers, whose stadium can seat more than 75,000 people, would be able to host more than 5,000 fans.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The state Department of Health said Wednesday that it’s adjusting coronavirus testing and contract tracing to address a recent uptick in cases among residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Health officials are prioritizing the testing of that population over all other testing, with every effort to return the results of those tests within 24 hours to fast-track potential isolation of positive residents and staff and quarantine close contacts. The Department of Health said it plans to use emergency medical technicians and others to administer the tests and will make about 200 nurses from its operations center available to staff long-term care facilities as needed. State health officials said Wednesday that seven more people have died of coronavirus complications, all in their 80s or 90s with underlying health conditions. The total number of deaths since the pandemic began is 203 in North Dakota.


Columbus: Indoor visits with residents of nursing homes will be allowed once again as cold weather approaches, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, lifting a ban instituted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican governor said at his twice-weekly coronavirus briefing that details will come within a week and that, in the meantime, the state is asking long-term care facilities to examine their air filtration and ventilation systems in preparation. DeWine also said it’s possible the state could institute real-time COVID-19 testing of visitors before they enter a nursing home, although the ability to offer that isn’t available yet. The state has allowed outdoor visits since late July after concerns grew about residents with memory issues such as those that come with Alzheimer’s disease declining because of a lack of interaction. Permitting the practice is up to individual nursing homes.


Oklahoma City: The number of reported coronavirus cases in the state rose by more than 1,000 for a seventh consecutive day Wednesday, and the total now surpasses 80,000, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The department reported 80,161 total cases and 970 deaths, increases of 1,089 cases and eight more deaths from Monday. The actual number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The department also reported 12,412 active cases and said that 66,779 people have recovered.


Ontario: An incarcerated man died Monday after testing positive for COVID-19, officials said. The Oregon Department of Corrections said the inmate between 80 and 85 years old died at a hospital. He had been imprisoned at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, officials said. As with all in-custody deaths, the Oregon State Police have been notified, and the Medical Examiner will determine cause of death, officials said. The man is the seventh inmate in the state to die after testing positive for the disease, according to officials. Since the pandemic began, the Department of Corrections has stopped releasing the names of those in custody who die in connection with the coronavirus. Previously, officials released the person’s name, county of conviction, sentence length and date of death. Officials said they changed the process to balance the desire for transparency with a legal obligation to protect personal health information.


Harrisburg: Legislation to loosen Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions on bars and restaurants easily passed the state Senate on Tuesday. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 43-6 for a bill that would end the requirement that customers buy food in order to purchase alcohol and would permit patrons to be served drinks at the bar. It also would permit taverns and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity – or more, if they can meet state and federal social distancing standards or erect appropriate barriers and make it easier for restaurants to adapt adjacent outside areas to serve customers. The bill will need another round of House approval before it can be sent to Wolf’s desk. Wolf’s press secretary, Lyndsay Kensinger, said nearly every state currently has occupancy limits for bars and restaurants, and she said the Democratic governor will veto the bill if he gets it in its current form.

Rhode Island

Providence: The state has been added back to the list of states whose residents are required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Those three states add states to their travel advisory lists if new daily cases hit 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day average, or if a state has a 10% test positivity rate. Rhode Island had been added to the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut travel advisory list in August but was taken off a week later. Rhode Island was added because the total number of new cases is on the rise, which is a result of the state’s aggressive virus testing, according to a statement from a spokesperson for the state Department of Health. “Rhode Island is doing more testing than any other state in country,” Joseph Wendelken said.

South Carolina

Columbia: Some teachers across the state took a personal day Wednesday to fight for safer classrooms amid the pandemic as well as an annual, small raise that was frozen after the economy crashed because of the virus. Unlike May 2019, when SC for Ed brought 10,000 people to the Statehouse for a rally in support of educators that garnered national attention, teachers on Wednesday stayed home and called and emailed legislators. “We didn’t want to put them at any more risk,” said Lisa Ellis, who founded the group. The governor and many lawmakers supported a $3,000, across-the-board raise for teachers in December. But then COVID-19 arrived, the money for the raises disappeared, and now teachers have gone from unappreciated to in fear of their own lives and their families’ lives as Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and others push for in-person teaching five days a week. Local COVID-19 case counts and positive testing levels are higher than the rates discussed for safe schools at the start of the summer.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The state on Wednesday reported 445 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number in a single day since the pandemic started. The state has seen the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita over the past two weeks. The rolling average of daily new cases has increased by nearly a third in that time. But Gov. Kristi Noem has continued to say the state is “in good shape” on hospital capacity. The Department of Health also reported a record number of people hospitalized by COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 192 needing hospital care. Those people are occupying 8% of hospital beds in the state, and 41% of hospital beds are open. In a Tuesday tweet, Noem said, “It looks like South Dakota’s #COVID19 spread peaked the latest of just about any state.” But coronavirus cases do not appear to be declining. The state’s seven-day average for COVID-19 test positivity remains among the highest in the nation.


Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee has announced that farm and forestry businesses are getting $55 million in aid funded by the federal coronavirus relief package. The Republican’s office says the Coronavirus Agricultural and Forestry Business Fund aims to help ensure the stability of the food supply chain and agribusiness during the pandemic. The state Department of Agriculture says more than 1,000 applications with more than $335 million in requests were received, and 80% of applications will receive funding. Officials say 60% of recipients were small businesses with annual revenue less than $1 million. The state made it a specific priority to help meat processors, forestry businesses, milk processors and agricultural fairs.


Austin: The death toll from the coronavirus in the state approached 15,000 on Tuesday as the total number of deaths across the U.S. topped 200,000, by far the highest in the world. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 3,964 confirmed new coronavirus cases and 77 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Health officials say there are more than 716,000 confirmed cases in Texas so far. The death toll is at 14,994. The true number of cases is likely higher, though, because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.


Provo: Utah County has implemented a face mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge in the state. The county’s health department issued a public health order Tuesday night that requires face coverings in public immediately and expires Oct. 20. The order does not carry any criminal penalties. Cases in Utah County have grown 81% in the past week, according to state health officials. The county accounted for 42% of the state’s cases, despite having only 20% of the state’s population. The mask order came hours after Republican Gov. Gary Herbert announced he would increase pandemic restrictions in two Utah County cities, Provo and Orem. The new rules limit social gatherings to a maximum of 20 people and limit in-person dining options. Herbert has urged residents to wear masks for months but has stopped short of ever implementing a statewide mask mandate. He has instead allowed counties to decide if they need requirements.


Montpelier: Schools are poised to move to the next stage of reopening Saturday, including allowing greater use of facilities, more mixing of students and the start of interscholastic sports, the state’s top education official said Tuesday. The Agency of Education chose Sept. 26 as the date to move to Step 3 of the reopening plan so the already-truncated fall sports season could have another weekend of competition, Education Secretary Daniel French said during a regular virus briefing held by Gov. Phil Scott. The move will also allow schools to resume use of common areas such as gymnasiums and cafeterias for their intended purposes, but with smaller group sizes, staggering the use of the areas and ensuring they are properly cleaned between uses, French said. The state’s schools are able to continue their gradual reopening because Vermont has maintained the country’s lowest rate of COVID-19 infections.


Richmond: Ten inmates at a prison that holds many elderly and otherwise vulnerable inmates have died from COVID-19, officials said. Deerfield Correctional Center – located in Capron, 69 miles south of Richmond – has an assisted living unit and infirmary and holds many of the state prison system’s elderly and medically impaired offenders, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Many of the inmates at Deerfield sleep in dormitories, making social distancing difficult if not impossible, the newspaper reports. Figures posted Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Corrections also showed that 36 staff members at Deerfield are positive for COVID-19. Lisa Kinney, a department spokeswoman, wrote in an email that “some staff have temporarily been moved to Deerfield from other facilities, both security staff and nursing staff.”


Bremerton: Kitsap County has received more than $4.1 million in federal and state funding to help renters and homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the most money that’s been available for such help in years. Now, local officials are working to make sure that money goes to those who need it, especially among people of color, immigrants and other communities that have been underserved by social services. “My goal is to have every single penny of all of those funding sources spent to help as many households as possible,” said Kirsten Jewell, Kitsap County’s housing and homeless manager. The funds need to be used by the end of the year. The various pools of rental assistance, each with its own eligibility requirements, will be largely distributed through nonprofit Kitsap Community Resources, which manages the county’s coordinated entry system for housing and homelessness services.

West Virginia

Charleston: The state’s former public health director and the majority leader of the state Senate say they’ve tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Cathy Slemp, whom the governor forced out of her role as state health officer in June, said she was quarantined after contracting the virus. The Republican majority leader of the state Senate, Dr. Tom Takubo, also said Tuesday that he had tested positive. The Legislature has been out of session. Gov. Jim Justice on Monday said he wants to ramp up testing to catch more asymptomatic cases as more counties on the state’s color-coded map turn red, the most severe category for virus spread. Slemp resigned June 24 amid a rise in outbreaks. In an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Slemp wrote Monday that residents need to take the virus spread more seriously, instead of the governor repeatedly tweaking the state’s map, as he has done multiple times this month.


Madison: State health officials are recommending against trick-or-treating as usual this Halloween because of the coronavirus pandemic. Going house-to-house and having in-person contact is not a good idea, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. If individual communities decide to go ahead with traditional trick-or-treating, health officials recommend leaving individual treat bags on the porch for children to pick up. “Even though being outside decreases the risk, being in close contact with people you don’t live with increases the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19,” the department’s guidance says. Some Wisconsin communities have scheduled trick-or-treat times as usual, with suggestions for taking precautions. Other communities are conferring with their local health departments before making a decision. At least one community in Wisconsin, Antigo, has already canceled trick-or-treating.


Cheyenne: News reporters on urgent deadlines will need to file a time-consuming public records request in order for the Wyoming Department of Corrections to answer any of their questions after the agency lays off its public information officer, a state corrections official said Tuesday. The policy change set to take effect with the spokesman’s Oct. 8 departure has raised questions about how the department plans to quickly inform the public about urgent safety matters such as escaped inmates or the spread of COVID-19 at correctional institutions. Public records requests in Wyoming usually take several weeks to months for state agencies to fulfill, assuming they aren’t denied for some reason. Wyoming has been struggling to adapt to a one-third drop in state revenue due to weak markets for coal, oil and natural gas – three of the state’s key resources and pillars of its economy – and because of the coronavirus.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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