Tuscaloosa: The city eased pandemic restrictions and began allowing bars to reopen with limits Tuesday, days after the University of Alabama reported nearly 850 new cases of the coronavirus, which has affected more than 2,000 students at the school. The change followed complaints from bar owners that a two-week shutdown, meant to stem the spread of the illness on campus, was unfair and hurting business. But critics charged that allowing bars to reopen after the closure would make it easier for the new coronavirus to infect people. School and city officials said the university appears to be headed in the right direction in combating the virus despite reporting 846 new cases Friday. That equaled 121 new cases daily from Aug. 28 to Sept. 3 as opposed to more 160 new cases reported each day Aug. 25-27. Some bars tried to lure patrons by announcing the reopening on social media with drink specials and games.
Juneau: A lawsuit filed Tuesday asks a judge to block election officials from enforcing during the COVID-19 pandemic a requirement that Alaska absentee voters have someone witness them signing their ballots. The plaintiffs are the Arctic Village Council, a tribal government; the League of Women Voters of Alaska; and two individuals who the lawsuit says have health concerns. The lawsuit seeks to have the witness requirement declared “unconstitutionally burdensome” on the plaintiffs’ right to vote amid the pandemic. Maria Bahr, a state Department of Law spokesperson, said the department needs time to evaluate the complaint. The lawsuit names as defendants Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who oversees elections; Gail Fenumiai, director of the Division of Elections; and the division. Meyer has encouraged voters to “think creatively” about how to fulfill the witness requirement “in a safe manner.”
Phoenix: State health officials reported just over 80 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths Tuesday, fueling some business owners to call for an end to operating restrictions. The Department of Health Services reported 81 additional cases statewide. The last time the state saw a daily case count below 100 was in March, according to online data. So far, 5,221 people in the state have died of the disease caused by the coronavirus, and there have been 206,045 confirmed cases. The state, once a national hot spot for infections, continues to see a downward trend in infections and hospitalizations. The number of reported infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Little Rock: State health officials on Tuesday said their biggest growth in new coronavirus cases is among college-aged people, with the number of active infections at the University of Arkansas’ main campus approaching 1,000. The Arkansas Department of Health on Tuesday reported 294 newly confirmed virus cases statewide, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 66,021. Cases among people 18 to 24 years old grew by nearly 17% last week, two to three times more than any other age group. The state Health Department said the school has 961 active cases. The spike comes days after the school moved to restrict on-campus events and off-campus parties over concerns about the outbreak. The school told students they would treat organizing or attending large parties without masks or social distancing as a violation of the student code.
Sacramento: Significantly fewer people are testing positive and being hospitalized for the coronavirus, but Gov. Gavin Newsom and his top health official said Tuesday that they won’t speed up the deliberate process they established last month for reopening the state. The system allows counties to reopen more businesses and activities as they meet thresholds for infection rates and cases. There are four color-coded levels, and five new counties – Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz – moved out of the highest tier, clearing the way for their restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and churches to resume limited indoor activities. Statewide, California’s infection rate has dropped steadily for weeks and now sits at 3.8% for the past seven days. Hospitalizations total about 3,100, the lowest since mid-June and down 24% in two weeks. “If those appear to be promising numbers, it’s because they are,” Newsom said.
Denver: Coloradans will soon be able to download or activate a free app that will notify them when they might’ve been exposed to COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis announced at a Tuesday press conference. Also at the press conference, Polis detailed plans for in-person attendance at the upcoming Sept. 27 Denver Broncos game, when an estimated 5,700 fans will watch the game at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. Paired together, the two pieces of news preview a return to “quote-unquote normalcy” if Coloradans can keep up social distancing, Polis said. The exposure notification app, called EN Express, will be available on smartphones at the end of September as an iOS update for Apple users and an app for Android users. The voluntary, free app won’t track or share people’s location or personal information, said Sarah Tuneberg, Innovation Response Team Lead for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Somers: Two schools have been temporarily closed, and staff members in several others have been sent home to quarantine following positive tests for the new coronavirus just days into the start of a new academic year. The Valley Regional High School in Deep River, which opened Sept. 1, was closed Tuesday and Wednesday after two students were diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Regional School District 4 Superintendent Brian White. The school continued classes online while staff worked to clean the building. Families of children in the Somers Elementary School, which opened Tuesday, received similar news after a staff member in a pre-kindergarten class there reported a positive test. That school announced it will be closed to in-person learning through Thursday for cleaning. Schools remained open in Waterbury, Glastonbury, Plainville, Newington, Washington, Cornwall and Coventry despite positive tests for the virus.
Wilmington: The state is investigating what might be behind a slight increase in coronavirus cases over the past week or so. The cities of Wilmington, New Castle, Newark and Dover in particular are seeing a rise in cases. Gov. John Carney said the state has made progress but still needs to do more. “We have an upper hand, but we’re not completely winning,” Carney said. “We’re not hammering down this virus like we need to. And that just requires everybody to lean in just a little bit more and to wear that mask when you’re in public.” Carney said the focus of the outbreaks are the young adults who are less concerned about the virus and have a “sense of invincibility.” He pointed to parties on college campuses as well as bars and restaurants. Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said the University of Delaware has reported 41 cases since Sept. 3. Investigators have been unable to find a single point of exposure.
District of Columbia
Washington: Unemployed D.C. residents are set to get more much-needed relief and money from the federal government, WUSA-TV reports. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services said federal officials approved the district’s application to participate in the Lost Wages Assistance Program, allowing D.C. to offer an additional unemployment compensation benefit of $300 per week to eligible unemployment insurance recipients. The LWA program has helped provide money for unemployment after the expiration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation’s $600 weekly benefit in July. Payments would be retroactive to Aug. 1, and the district expects recipients will start receiving payments by the first week of October.
Tallahassee: The number of Florida State University students testing positive for COVID-19 showed a marked increase in the past week. Figures released Tuesday show more than 700 Florida State University students tested positive in the past week, compared to the previous week. The latest numbers show 839 students and 14 employees testing positive. The university pointed to an overall positivity rate of 7.32% for cases collected since Aug. 2. That rate includes data from before many FSU students arrived for the first day of class Aug. 24. The spike in positive tests at FSU comes as Leon County was recently listed as a hot spot, having been on The New York Times’ online map of coronavirus cases. The vast majority of new cases have been in the school- and college-age group.
Savannah: Workers coming to the coast to cut apart and remove a giant cargo ship that overturned a year ago will be sequestered at a nearby resort, which will close to the public for up to four months, in an effort to prevent coronavirus infections among the salvage team. Tuesday marked a year since the South Korean freighter Golden Ray capsized off St. Simons Island. Experts determined the ship was too badly damaged to be floated out intact, so they plan to slice it into eight massive pieces for removal by barge. Cutting had been scheduled to begin in late July but was delayed after nine workers tested positive for COVID-19. The salvage team hopes to begin cutting in early October, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multi-agency command overseeing the salvage. He confirmed the command booked the resort Epworth by the Sea to keep about 100 salvage workers housed in a “bubble” for a four-month period.
Honolulu: Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday that he would extend the city’s stay-at-home order for two weeks to control the coronavirus but will modify the rules to allow solo activity at beaches, parks and trails. The stay-at-home order will be kept in place through Sept. 24. Individuals will be able to go to beaches, parks and trails to run, sit or eat by themselves beginning Thursday. Caldwell said he extended the order because the number of new COVID-19 cases hadn’t declined as much as he wanted to loosen rules more significantly. He said he wants to discuss over the next two weeks how to cautiously reopen more activities. Caldwell said the city relaxed restrictions too quickly when it lifted the previous stay-at-home order, contributing to a surge in cases. The mayor said he wants to avoid that outcome this time. The state Department of Health reported 66 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a lower figure than in recent days.
Boise: State tax revenue for August blew past predictions for the second consecutive month, state budget officials said Tuesday. Idaho’s state tax revenues came in $37 million, or 13%, over forecasts, and the state is looking at a potential $500 million in surplus tax revenue for the fiscal year that started in July. Republican Gov. Brad Little told the Associated Press the latest numbers bode well for his plan to reopen the economy while handling the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But he said he’s viewing the latest budget numbers cautiously. “We’re budgeting in a time of great uncertainty,” he said. “One or two months does not make a long-term trend, but it’s darn better than having to go the other way.” He attributed some of the good numbers to conservative budgeting and cuts to regulations.
Peoria: Bradley University is requiring its entire student body to quarantine for two weeks because of clusters of COVID-19 on campus and is reverting to remote learning, officials announced Tuesday. Officials of the private university said they have linked a spike of the coronavirus to off-campus gatherings. The Peoria school is requiring students to limit nonessential interactions; stay in their off-campus apartments, residence halls or Greek houses; and take classes remotely beginning Tuesday. In announcing the measure, the university said it has tallied about 50 COVID-19 cases so far, adding that emergency measures are needed to respond to the outbreak without disrupting academic progress. Most of those who tested positive are asymptomatic carriers, and others have experienced mild symptoms, Bradley President Stephen Standifird said.
Indianapolis: Mayor Joe Hogsett on Tuesday announced the city will devote millions in federal coronavirus aid to provide rehousing services to the homeless. About $7.1 million will be used to connect hundreds of Hoosiers who are currently experiencing homelessness with up to 12 months of rental assistance and wraparound services to help them find housing and stay housed long-term. A tenet of the city’s housing-first strategy to combating homelessness, rapid rehousing has three main components, said Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention: housing, rental assistance and connections to services, including employment, to provide long-term solutions to homelessness. An estimated 90% of those who have been housed through rapid rehousing programs remain housed after two years, she said.
Cedar Falls: The city approved a mask mandate Tuesday, joining with others in the state that have taken similar moves amid continued high numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases. Cedar Falls joins Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Mount Vernon, Muscatine and Waterloo in enacting mask requirements. Enforcement of the rules varies but is primarily focused on education, with police in some communities instructed to hand out masks to those not wearing them. Gov. Kim Reynolds has declined to approve a statewide mask order because she said it would be impossible to enforce. Reynolds has told local jurisdictions that because she hasn’t issued an order, they don’t have the authority to enforce their mask mandates. In Cedar Falls, the mask rule takes effect immediately and will last for six weeks. It requires masks for people older than 5 while in indoor public places and outdoors when it’s not possible to maintain a distance of 6 feet.
Olathe: Students and teachers facing an already challenging new school year dealt with technology issues as more school districts reopened Tuesday with many students working online. In Olathe, service was interrupted Tuesday when nearly 50,000 users on separate devices tried to log on to the district’s online teaching system that is designed for 30,000 students, school officials said. Middle and high school students were using only remote learning, while elementary students started with a hybrid of online and in-person classes. The district had previously increased its bandwidth. After more servers were added, the disruption was cleared by mid-morning, spokesman Cody Kennedy said. In Wichita, where students in sixth through 12th grades were only online and elementary students started with the hybrid model, the district had enough devices for online students but still needed hot spots for some, Superintendent Alicia Thompson told KAKE-TV.
Louisville: Leaders with the Metro Disability Coalition protested Tuesday what they called a “horrible situation” facing drivers with disabilities aboard Transit Authority of River City buses. Marcellus Mayes, president of MDC, stood in front of TARC headquarters and compared buses to a “nursing home on wheels.” He and Bobbie Jones, vice president of MDC, said TARC isn’t enforcing personal protective equipment on buses; isn’t providing drivers with enough cleaning supplies and PPE for their routes; is not making drivers coming in from hot spots or other countries quarantine before driving; and is not treating a personal care attendant as an individual who factors into the headcount. TARC has a 25-person limit on fixed routes, and TARC3, which provides transportation for people with disabilities, has a two-passenger limit on buses and a one-passenger limit on vans and cars.
Baton Rouge: Republican state officials’ reluctance to allow expanded mail-in voting this fall – despite having done so for summer elections – is at issue in a federal case unfolding this week amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Voting rights advocates have filed a lawsuit against the current, limited plan for absentee mail balloting drawn up by Louisiana’s Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. Ardoin, a Republican, has said he could not get needed approval from GOP lawmakers for anything more expansive. But Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ approval also is needed, and he has said Ardoin’s plan does too little to protect voter health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Edwards has asked U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in Baton Rouge to resolve what amounts to a stalemate by ordering broader mail-in voting in the state. Dick presided over an online hearing where preliminaries were discussed Tuesday.
Portland: Public health officials monitoring the spread of coronavirus in other states are no closer to easing travel restrictions put in place because of the virus. Maine requires travelers from other states to produce a negative coronavirus test or quarantine for two weeks. It exempted New Hampshire and Vermont from those requirements in late June and added Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to the exempt list in early July. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said Tuesday that the state recently reviewed case statistics in other states and “didn’t see anything that prompted us to move any states into the ‘can visit without negative test’ category.” That means the travel restrictions still apply to Massachusetts, which sends droves of tourists to Maine every summer and fall. But Shah said the number of new cases per million in Massachusetts was 769, more than three times the number in Maine.
Baltimore: Hospital workers out front in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic would receive “hero pay,” or bonuses, under a bill proposed by a U.S. representative. Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland’s Second Congressional District plans to roll out his proposal Thursday, The Baltimore Sun reports, citing a news release from the congressman’s office Tuesday. The plan would provide hazard pay to doctors, nurses, specialists and nonmedical staffs in hospitals such as custodians who work in close proximity to COVID-19 patients within federally designated virus hot spots, the news release said. It’s not immediately clear how much workers would receive or where funding for the plan would come from. Ruppersberger named the bill after Dr. Joseph Costa, the director of the critical care unit at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center who died of COVID-19 in July.
Boston: A coronavirus testing lab that counts dozens of nursing homes among its clients has been suspended by the state after it returned nearly 400 false positive tests, state officials say. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health opened an investigation in early August after it became aware of an unusually high positive rate of COVID-19 tests reported by Orig3n Laboratory, the agency said in a statement Tuesday. Retests found at least 383 false positives that were actually negative. The state late last month notified Orig3n of “three significant certification deficiencies that put patients at immediate risk of harm,” including failure of the lab’s director to provide overall management and a failure to document the daily sanitizing of equipment used for coronavirus testing. An Orig3n spokesman told Gannett New England, which first reported the story, that the false positives were due to “human error.”
East Lansing: More than 120 students last week reported positive results for the coronavirus – a “wake-up call to our community,” Michigan State University said Tuesday. The students, nearly all living off campus, had symptoms and were tested on campus or reported the results from tests performed elsewhere. President Samuel Stanley Jr. said the numbers were “disappointing but not unexpected.” “As students return to off-campus housing, some are attending large gatherings where people are in close contact without an appropriate face covering,” he said. “This is the easiest and fastest way for the coronavirus to spread.” MSU said 124 students and two employees tested positive. The Ingham County health department has limited outdoor gatherings in East Lansing to 25 people who aren’t from the same household. East Lansing also is requiring masks on streets and sidewalks in popular commercial areas.
Minneapolis: Winona State University quarantined itself for two weeks starting Tuesday amid an increasing spread of the coronavirus on the southeastern Minnesota campus, while most of the state’s elementary and secondary schools kicked off a school year that will test whether their preparations to teach amid the pandemic will pay off. The day after Labor Day marks the traditional return to school for most Minnesota school districts, though some started earlier. The state’s colleges and universities have been seeing a lot of coronavirus spread already, said Kris Ehresman, the infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. Besides Winona State, she cited Concordia-Moorhead and Minnesota State-Moorhead as collectively having a large number of cases. Minnesota State-Mankato has stabilized, she said, “but we’ll see what comes after the holiday weekend.”
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said it’s “unfortunate” that the coronavirus pandemic broke out during an election year, and the upcoming election has made conversations about the virus overly political. “It’s certainly unfortunate that if we’re going to have a pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in over 100 years, that it would happen to occur – maybe it wasn’t happenstance – but that it would happen to occur during an election year, which has made a large number of people look at every single decision from a political viewpoint,” Reeves said at a Tuesday press briefing. He said initiating those conversations “certainly hasn’t always been helpful.” The governor did not elaborate on what he meant when he said “maybe it wasn’t happenstance” that the pandemic occurred during an election year. He said he believes President Donald Trump has gone above and beyond in his response.
O’Fallon: A 34-year-old teacher has died after a three-week-long hospitalization with COVID-19. AshLee DeMarinis taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School in the Potosi School District in eastern Missouri. Superintendent Alex McCaul announced her death in a letter Monday that was posted on the district’s Facebook page. The letter didn’t cite a cause of death. But DeMarinis’ sister, Jennifer Heissenbuttel, said DeMarinis had been hospitalized with the coronavirus and died Sunday. Heissenbuttel said her sister had not yet begun teaching students when she became ill last month but had returned to the classroom to prepare for the school year. McCaul said contact tracing has found DeMarinis had no close contact with any other teachers or staff. The district’s school year began Aug. 24 with in-person classes, though students can opt to attend classes virtually.
Billings: A tribal college in southern Montana is waiving tuition and fees for the fall semester in an effort to ease hardships created by COVID-19, school officials said. Little Big Horn College on the Crow Indian Reservation announced the waiver last month, The Billings Gazette reports. Course registration closes in mid-September. The college plans to offer a mix of online-only and hybrid courses to limit the number of students on campus, President David Yarlott said. The college is using federal coronavirus relief funding to offset the loss of tuition, Yarlott said. Big Horn County, where the college is located, has been hit hard by COVID-19, with 735 cases and 19 deaths, two of which were announced by the county health department Wednesday. Montana reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, as the total number of known cases since mid-March neared 8,500.
Lincoln: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has suspended six sorority and fraternity chapters on its campus after photos and videos showed students in those organizations violating local public health guidelines and university policies. The suspensions were handed down Tuesday, the Lincoln Journal Star reports, to Alpha Omicron Phi, Alpha Xi Delta, Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, Phi Delta Thea and Sigma Phi Epsilon. During the suspensions, the Greek chapters may not host or participate in any activities or events, nor participate in universitywide events as an organization. UNL administrators learned several Greek houses had hosted large gatherings Monday, which was bid day for several sororities. Attendees were not wearing face coverings or observing social distancing guidelines, officials said.
Las Vegas: Area health officials said Tuesday that eight children under age 14 who tested positive for COVID-19 since March were also diagnosed with a rare inflammatory condition linked with the coronavirus. The Southern Nevada Health District said all eight children were hospitalized and released, and the district has begun adding daily tallies of confirmed cases of the illness dubbed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children to its daily online coronavirus response report. While there isn’t a known cause, many children with the illness had COVID-19 or had close contact with someone who did. Not all children exhibit the same symptoms. They can include fever, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and fatigue. Researchers say the illness can cause inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
Concord: The pandemic changed not just how candidates campaigned leading up to Tuesday’s state primary but the act of voting itself. Temporary changes to state law allowed anyone with concerns about the virus to vote by absentee ballot. Those who voted in person stood 6 feet apart in line and were greeted by volunteers sitting behind Plexiglas shields. Some communities required voters to wear masks, while setting aside separate areas for those who declined to wear a mask or couldn’t do so for health reasons. “It was as smooth as silk,” said Reed Cotton, of Concord, who wore a mask and gloves and was carrying her toddler grandson. She considered getting an absentee ballot but decided to go vote, instead, since the number of coronavirus cases was so low. “I’m free!” Mick Swanwick exclaimed to his wife, Susan, as they removed their masks after leaving the polling place. “It was needlessly elaborate, but it seemed safe enough.”
Trenton: Students across the state started school Tuesday, with most returning to hybrid in-person and remote lessons, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said. The school-year shake-up stems from the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in nearly 195,000 positive cases and more than 14,000 deaths. Murphy said 388 school districts opted for a hybrid model, which entails classroom and remote learning. There were 69 districts with all in-person learning and 238 with all-remote starts. Some 28 districts contain schools that went with a combination of those models, Murphy said. There were about 280 new positive cases reported overnight, the governor said, putting the total at about 195,000. There were five deaths reported, leaving the death toll at 14,213. The rate of transmission ticked up to 1.10 from 1.09 on Monday. The rate reflects the number of people to whom an infected person passes the virus.
Santa Fe: State officials clarified Tuesday that teachers won’t be on the hook for lawsuits that might stem from COVID-19 outbreaks. “In no way will teachers or school employees be held personally liable for litigation arising out of COVID-19,” said Richard Valerio, executive director of New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority. School districts can be on the hook for negligence that leads to students getting sick, however. The insurance agency sent a letter last week to districts urging them to follow safe COVID-19 practices to avoid getting sued. Valerio said it’s “wait and see” as to how much legal risk schools will face. No lawsuits have been filed in New Mexico, which has had some in-person learning for certain at-risk students. Teachers are immune from personal liability for virtually all lawsuits, such as a personal injury claim from a student who contracts a virus at school.
New York: Restaurants in the city can resume indoor dining Sept. 30 at 25% capacity with other restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. Cuomo said all customers will undergo temperature checks at the door, and one member of each party will have to provide information for contact tracing if needed. Customers will not be served drinks at bars, which will be used only to provide drinks for table service, and restaurants must close at midnight. Tables will be required to be 6 feet apart, and customers must wear masks while not at the table. Indoor dining is already allowed in restaurants elsewhere in New York state. “We knew that compliance was lacking in New York City. That was a reason for caution,” Cuomo said. He said the state could halt indoor dining if infection rates go up. But if it remains steady, New York City could lift more restrictions on indoor dining starting Nov. 1.
Raleigh: At least 1,000 East Carolina University students have tested positive for the coronavirus since fall classes began Aug. 10, according to the college’s COVID-19 case count. ECU’s COVID-19 dashboard, updated Tuesday afternoon, showed 1,084 students tested positive for the virus between Aug. 9 and Sept. 5, thus making ECU the first college in the state to eclipse 1,000 cases since classes restarted. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, which started in-person classes the same day as ECU, are also approaching 1,000 student coronavirus cases. UNC had more than 900 student cases through Sept. 3, while N.C. State reported nearly 800 through Aug. 29, according to their university dashboards. Police shut down several parties during ECU’s opening weekend, including one with about 400 attendees.
Bismarck: Several groups in the state are working to increase tribal participation in the 2020 U.S. census to ensure they are not undercounted or underfunded. Overall, North Dakota has an 86% response rate and about a 64% self-response rate. But participation of the state’s five tribal nations ranges from 21% to 40% for self-response, U.S. Census Bureau data shows. Census advocates credit many factors to the low response, most notably the coronavirus pandemic, the Bismarck Tribune reports. “The ability for workers going door to door, social distancing – that’s been a big, big part of it,” North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis said. “That’s probably been the biggest factor that I’ve seen experienced.” Davis also pointed out that reservations can be harder to count because of rural settings and a lack of housing.
Columbus: About 48,000 Ohioans have been notified they received an overpayment of unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, the state human services agency said. That’s about 6% of the nearly 800,000 Ohioans who have been paid regular unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic in March, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. About 1.7 million Ohioans filed jobless claims during the pandemic. The state has paid out $6.2 billion in state unemployment compensation to almost 800,000 people and distributed more than $5.4 billion in federal payments. In most cases, the overpayments are the result of individuals not reporting or underreporting money they made during weeks for which they filed claims, said Bret Crow, a Job and Family services spokesperson. Overpayments as the result of a state error don’t have to be repaid.
Norman: City Council members, torn between slowing the spread of COVID-19 and restricting struggling businesses, backed away from a plan Tuesday night to reduce Campus Corner bar and restaurant capacity by 50% on days when the University of Oklahoma football team plays at home. Instead, the council voted 7-1 to amend the city’s existing mask and social ordinance by allowing bars and restaurants to operate at 75% of capacity inside and outside, including patios and blocked-off streets, where patrons will gather Saturday for OU’s season opener against Missouri State. Mayor Breea Clark supported the amendment but expressed concerns about Norman’s rising infection rate, which she called “concerning.” The existing ordinance already limits most bars and restaurants to 50% capacity, but some that operate near the OU campus have struggled to meet those requirements, council member Kate Bierman said.
Salem: The positivity rate of COVID-19 tests in the state dropped for the sixth consecutive week, according to a new report from the Oregon Health Authority. The positivity rate was 4.3% the week of Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, when there were a reported 1,163 positive tests out of 25,855 tests administered. It was the lowest Oregon had been since the week of June 21-27, when the positivity rate was 4.8%. The rate was a drop from 4.4% the week before and 6.2% the week of July 26 to Aug. 1. The number of tests administered has dropped steadily since mid-July, when 40,887 were administered the week of July 12-18.
Lancaster: Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the Legislature to extend the statewide moratorium on evictions to avoid the ouster of thousands of tenants who have lost jobs because of coronavirus shutdowns. The commonwealth’s moratorium, which ended last week, legally cannot be extended by the governor alone. “Pennsylvania is still racing toward an eviction cliff when thousands of families will face months of unpaid rent and fees,” Wolf said at a press conference in Lancaster on Tuesday. Last week the Trump administration implemented a national four-month moratorium on residential evictions, but Wolf said that alone would not do enough for Pennsylvanians at risk of losing their homes. “It only helps some renters, not all,” Wolf said. “It doesn’t stop mortgage foreclosures at all, and it doesn’t assist landlords who are struggling to pay their mortgages and pay their taxes. So I am continuing to ask our General Assembly to act.”
Providence: A British company with a factory in the state has started manufacturing recyclable paper masks it says address two problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. MOO Inc.’s masks, made of heavy gauge cotton paper, can affordably help protect workers at businesses when customers forget to bring a mask, and they cut down on trash. “It’s a single sheet of paper with no plastic, no elastic, so it’s completely recyclable,” the company’s chief operating officer, Nicholas Ruotolo, told The Providence Journal. “It’s a great solution to the challenges that we face, both the health challenges and the environmental ones.” MOO, which prints business cards, letterhead, fliers and other business products at its Lincoln facility, can even customize the masks with a company logo. The company, which began production last week, is donating 5,000 masks to Crossroads Rhode Island, an agency that works with the homeless.
Columbia: The University of South Carolina says it has drawn among its largest freshman classes in history, along with increases in enrollment at its flagship campus for the fall semester, beginning amid the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s largest four-year college reported welcoming its second-largest freshman class, among more than 35,400 total undergraduate and graduate students, for the fall semester, The Post and Courier reports, citing preliminary data released this week. About 7,750 new students are on the Columbia campus, and more than half of the new students are South Carolina residents, according to the university’s data. While the flagship campus reported a slight increase in overall enrollment, most of its seven satellite campuses did see slight decreases compared to October 2019 data, according to the preliminary numbers.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration announced Tuesday that it is using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for a $5 million tourism ad campaign aimed at drawing people to the state, even as it emerges as one of the nation’s top hot spots for COVID-19 infections. The 30-second spot, which premiered on Fox News alongside Noem’s speech at the Republican National Convention last month, features the governor saying that “with our breathtaking landscapes and wide-open spaces, we’re a place to safely explore.” But the state currently ranks second in the country for new cases per capita over the past two weeks, with 439 new cases per 100,000 people. The ad, narrated by Noem, offers dramatic footage of South Dakota scenery such as Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, then concludes with the governor introducing herself and pitching a visit to South Dakota.
Knoxville: The chancellor of the University of Tennessee said Tuesday that COVID-19 cases are increasing “way too fast” and that specific actions to address the jump will be announced in the coming days. In an online message, Chancellor Donde Plowman said there are 600 active cases at the Knoxville campus. She said more than 2,100 people are in quarantine or self-isolation, the vast majority of whom are students split about evenly on and off campus. She said the university has added a hotel to isolate on-campus students who test positive and is doubling its number of contact tracers. Plowman cited reports of fraternity leaders communicating to houses how to have parties, avoid getting caught and avoid the police; stories of a fraternity renting space off-campus to have a party crammed with people in close quarters; and of frat members being told not to get tested or how to get tested so the results aren’t shared with the school.
Arlington: The marquee National Finals Rodeo is moving this year from Las Vegas to Texas due to coronavirus restrictions, event officials announced Wednesday. Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and Texas Rangers officials said the Western horse sports championship will be held Dec. 3-12 at Globe Life Field, a retractable-roof stadium in Arlington that opened this year and seats more than 40,000 people. Texas has 50% occupancy guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and rodeo officials project up to 17,000 ticket-buyers daily – with some seats empty, masks required and hand-sanitizing stations added. Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams called the event the Super Bowl of rodeo. Betsy Price, mayor of nearby Fort Worth, said Texas knows rodeo, and officials have roped a big one. Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson said no single event has a bigger impact on Las Vegas than the National Finals Rodeo.
Salt Lake City: The Great Salt Lake is shrinking every year, but experts are implementing measures to slow the water loss, according to a new report. The Great Salt Lake Advisory Council says the water depth has dropped about 11 feet over the past 10 years, KSTU-TV reports. “It will continue to decrease at about the same amount over the next couple of decades if more is not done to bring water to the lake,” Great Salt Lake coordinator Laura Vernon said. The lake is crucial to the region’s recreation, migratory birds and billion-dollar economy. The advisory council said the shrinking water level left unchecked could also cause increased air pollution from the wind blowing minerals out of the exposed lake bed. The council narrowed a list of 70 strategies to 12 “actionable” measures that could keep the lake from evaporating, Vernon said.
Montpelier: The state House has given preliminary approval to $5 million in stimulus payments amid the coronavirus pandemic for residents who did not receive stimulus checks from the federal government based on their immigrant status. Under the Vermont Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Equity Program approved Tuesday, eligible adults would receive $1,200 and $500 for each eligible child. They must have had adjusted gross income of less than $99,000 last year or, if filing jointly, an adjusted gross income of less than $198,000. The proposal was up for a final reading in the House on Wednesday before heading to the Senate. Vermont reported two new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday for a total of 1,656 cases since the pandemic began. One person was hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to the Health Department. The total number of deaths has remained at 58 since July 28.
Richmond: A regional jail is on lockdown after approximately 70% of its inmates recently tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Wednesday. James Willett, the superintendent of the Pamunkey Regional Jail, said there have been no deaths or hospitalizations as a result of the positive tests, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Willett said officials found out Monday that 124 of the 178 offenders tested were positive, and 20 of the 129 staff members tested were positive for the virus. Willett also said the “vast majority” of those who tested positive showed either mild symptoms or no symptoms. The virus made its impact on the jail despite precautions instituted in March that included isolation areas for the newly arrested, screening, temperature checks, enhanced cleaning, and the cancellation of all unnecessary visits and programs as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Willett said.
Bremerton: School districts in the state have distributed thousands of computers and other devices to students to assist them with remote learning during the pandemic, but many families are still facing connectivity issues in rural areas. Families in Kitsap County raised concerns about digital access as schools reopened online for the year to limit the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the risk of in-person schooling. “Supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly delayed a shipment we placed last spring,” the Central Kitsap School District said on its website Aug. 28 regarding delays in delivered devices. “Until we receive that shipment, we ask families who already have devices in their homes to wait before requesting a district Chromebook.”
Charleston: Children returned to classes for the start of the school year throughout the state Tuesday. In nine of 55 counties, students began the year with remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state issued an updated color-coded map Saturday night showing the nine counties in either orange or red, meaning public schools were prohibited from conducting face-to-face instruction. Meanwhile, in Huntington, Marshall University announced it will start picking about 60 students, faculty and staff at random daily to test for the coronavirus. The university is also testing more than 175 football players and staff several times a week. The school has contact tracers on staff to follow up with positive cases. Testing data is set to be posted on the university’s website.
Waukesha: Carroll University suspended three students for hosting an off-campus party with at least 20 guests. The three hosts are suspended for the duration of the fall semester. They were notified Aug. 26, and their appeal was denied Sept. 3. They will be refunded 80% of their tuition. The party occurred Aug. 22, two days before the start of classes. The 20 students found to have attended the party are in quarantine. As of Sept. 3, the university had 13 active cases of COVID-19. In total, 14 students have tested positive. University President Cindy Gnadinger said she does not know if any of the students who attended the party tested positive. The university’s COVID-19 rules – which Gnadinger said were communicated to students “extensively” and apply to off-campus settings – limit gatherings to 10 people and require social distancing and masks.
Casper: The beginning of the fall semester at local schools has been a masked, socially distanced affair still teeming with excitement, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. How long schools stay open is the open question. Most officials accept that it’s a matter of when, not if, the coronavirus makes its way into Casper schools. At Park Elementary, parents sent their kids through the gate into the playground, where they hung around or ran off to play, masks on. Parents weren’t allowed into the playground or the building itself – not without an appointment. Teachers handed out heart stickers for kindergartners and their parents to wear on their hands, so they could look down and think of each other throughout the bizarre first day.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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