Birmingham: The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board reported a 10% increase in sales last month, and medical professionals say the spike in demand may signal struggles with mental health. The ABC Board made over $6 million more in sales in March 2020, compared to last March, WBMA-TV reports. The sales boost is being attributed to the new coronavirus, which has led to social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders. “When you can’t go out with your buddies, or you can’t have your friends in for a nice meal and an alcoholic beverage, then you tend to want to keep something out of that scenario normal, and that is the sale of alcohol,” said Dean Argo of the ABC Board. But measures in place to help prevent the spread of the virus could exacerbate mental health conditions that lead to some people consuming more alcohol, the television station reports.
Anchorage: Protesters have demanded that the mayor shut down a homeless camp they say is contributing to crime and threatening public health during the coronavirus pandemic. A group of 25 demonstrators gathered Friday across from the camp included people who live, work or own businesses nearby, The Anchorage Daily News reports. The group called for Municipality of Anchorage Democratic Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to close the camp as part of the enforcement of a statewide order to remain in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. People camping outside are a “difficult population” to deal with, but police are stepping up patrols, and Berkowitz said he is listening to the recommendations of frustrated residents. “We are doing what we can to reduce the number of people who are engaged in conduct that is criminal, and if there is a crime, that has been reported to (Anchorage Police Department),” he said.
Phoenix: With the state considering reopening its economy May 1, health experts said Arizona isn’t yet doing enough COVID-19 testing or collecting good enough data to responsibly lift stay-at-home orders. Arizona had done 51,000 tests through Saturday, a fraction of the COVID-19 tests needed to judge how widespread the outbreak is in a state this size. Measured in tests per million residents, the state was in the bottom 10 nationwide last week. And data the state provides is widely seen as inadequate. The state is missing demographic data about positive cases and deaths, its location data mixes hospitals with private residences, and the state won’t provide data about cases and deaths on Indian reservations or in nursing homes. “It just isn’t going to work unless you have crystal clear data,” said William Haseltine, an infectious disease expert and president of the global health think tank ACCESS Health International.
Little Rock: The first death of a health care worker in the state is among two additional deaths in Arkansas due to COVID-19, state officials said Sunday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson also said nearly 2,000 inmates will be considered for early release in response to questions about possible compassionate release of people in state prisons. The death of a worker at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff is one of two that bring to 40 the number who have died in the state due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to state Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith. The number of coronavirus cases rose by 42 to at least 1,781. Hutchinson said 348 inmates at the state’s maximum-security unit have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 118 from Saturday. The governor said he’s asked the state parole board to review 1,990 nonviolent, non-sex-offender inmates statewide who are due for release within six months for possible early release.
Los Angeles: The state reported its first prison inmate death from COVID-19 on Sunday as it steps up efforts to prevent outbreaks among vulnerable populations, including people living in nursing homes, on the streets or in homeless shelters. The inmate died at a hospital after contracting the coronavirus at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement. Statewide, 115 inmates and 89 corrections employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, corrections officials said. In recent days, California released for the first time details about nursing homes facing outbreaks as the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths across the state continue to rise. The information released by the Department of Public Health showed nearly 260 skilled nursing facilities with more than 3,000 total positive cases among patients and staff.
Denver: Thousands of people staged a peaceful protest outside the Capitol on Sunday against the state’s stay-at-home order and its closure of thousands of nonessential businesses as ways to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Horn-honking motorists lined up for several blocks on an avenue leading to the Capitol building, then circled it as pedestrians, some not wearing masks, congregated closely outside the building. Many waved American flags and held signs that read “End the Virus, Not the Economy” and “We need stability to stay healthy,” The Denver Post reports. Other signs expressed support for President Donald Trump, who has called for a rapid economic reopening, and against Gov. Jared Polis, whose orders shuttered thousands of nonessential businesses. Police officers wearing masks and gloves kept tabs on the protest.
Hartford: Two consecutive days of reductions in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state are a promising sign in its fight against the outbreak, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday. But Lamont, a Democrat, said people will need to keep up social distancing and noted infections are still accelerating in the greater Hartford area. “We are starting to flatten the curve,” Lamont said in an interview with WNPR. Statewide, more than 17,000 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 1,127 have died. The highest numbers have been reported in Fairfield County, on the New York state line. Lamont said widespread testing for the virus will be a key to easing some of the social distancing. He said he would like to set up more rapid testing centers like one in New Haven that he visited over the weekend. “There’s some nice smiles when the vast majority found out that they were not infected,” he said. “But overall I think about 15% did find they were infected, and that is troubling.”
Harbeson: Coronavirus cases have hit every corner of the state, including southern Delaware’s chicken processing plants, which employ more than 6,000 people and offer contract work for hundreds of local farmers. While industry officials last month touted safety measures, those who work there offered a different picture of what they’re seeing behind closed doors, citing a lack of social distancing. “We’re not giving people chicken,” one employee said, on condition of anonymity. “We’re infecting more people.” Nelson Hill, vice president and assistant to the president at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 27, said that “there’s a big fear with regard to those non-union plants. … You’re at-will. You can be terminated for any lawful reason that the company sees fit. So there’s a natural fear that folks will lose their position if they were to speak out.”
District of Columbia
Washington: The number of bad air quality days has plunged in the metro D.C. area since the start of March, WUSA-TV reports, citing data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The drop in bad air quality days likely comes in response to shelter-at-home orders linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Through April 18, COG data shows there has been only one “yellow,” or moderate, air quality day in metro D.C. The sole moderate air quality day since March 1 came March 19. In the same period in 2019, the district recorded 10 moderate air quality days in March and seven moderate air quality days April 1 through April 18. Car and truck pollutants, such as particulate matter and ozone, are major contributors to poor air quality, which raises the risk of respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer.
Dania Beach: As people across America make coronavirus masks with everything from T-shirts and pillowcases to vacuum cleaner bags, one Sunshine State resident is using python skin. Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator Products in Dania Beach, is crafting decorative mask coverings from the skin of the Burmese python, the infamous invasive species wreaking havoc on the native wildlife of the Everglades. “People are going to have to cover their faces, and unfortunately the situation may last longer than we imagined,” said Wood, owner of All American Gator Products in Dania Beach. “Some people want to make a fashion statement even during this pandemic, so I want to give them options.” The python skin itself doesn’t provide protection, but his mask design allows for a filter or a lining to be inserted and removed. The python masks will be made with holes framed by black, silver or gold metal rings, which will add a hint of luxury to the items, he said.
Atlanta: The governor announced plans Monday to restart the state’s economy before the end of the week, saying many businesses that closed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus could reopen as early as Friday. Georgia’s timetable, one of the most aggressive in the nation, would allow gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors to reopen as long as owners follow strict social distancing and hygiene requirements. Elective medical procedures would also resume. Bars, live performance venues and amusement parks will remain closed. But by Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets, and restaurants limited to takeout orders could return to limited dine-in service. Such a swift reopening runs counter to the advice of many experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top authority on infectious diseases, who warned again Monday that resuming business too soon risked a fresh spike in infections.
Honolulu: Transient vacation rental units are proving difficult for officials to regulate during the coronavirus pandemic as they serve as shelter for many of the state’s visitors. Many of the 2,970 visitors who arrived in Hawaii during the 23 days prior to Sunday are believed to have stayed in transient vacation rentals, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Transient rentals are defined as “a room, apartment, house, condominium, beach house, hotel room, suite, or similar living accommodation” rented for less than 180 consecutive days, according to the state Department of Taxation. Democratic Gov. David Ige issued 14-day mandatory self-quarantine orders for passengers arriving on trans-Pacific and interisland flights to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau plan to add extra verification steps to confirm information from arriving passengers, authority President and CEO Chris Tatum said.
Boise: St. Luke’s Health System says it’s significantly increasing its testing capacity for the coronavirus by using its own labs starting Monday. Hospital officials said they hope facilities in Boise, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Meridian, Nampa and McCall can start using their own labs that could boost testing capacity past 1,700 per day by May. But that depends on getting particular testing supplies that have been in high demand. St. Luke’s also said drive-up screening tents for the coronavirus would be operating from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week in Boise, Meridian and Twin Falls starting Monday. The screening tents had been operating to 6 p.m., but officials said volume is greater in the morning. Idaho has at least 1,668 virus cases and 44 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally Monday.
Rockford: Five northern Illinois mayors have asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker for the authority to reopen businesses next month, urging local control over restrictions and “common sense modifications” to a statewide stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic. Pritzker has said he’s continually evaluating an extension of the order, which expires April 30. The Winnebago County leaders – of communities ranging in population from roughly 1,300 to 23,000 people – said in a letter to Pritzker that thousands of employees, including in the restaurant, fitness and salon industries, are being unnecessarily harmed because they’re not considered essential workers, according to the Rockford Register Star. The leaders are from Loves Park, Machesney Park, South Beloit, Cherry Valley and Durand. However, the mayor of Rockford, the county’s largest city, disagreed with the effort, saying it’s not the time to reverse course.
West Lafayette: Purdue University students who operate a small community farm are raising crops for local food banks to help feed students and local residents alike during the coronavirus pandemic. The Purdue Student Farm usually sells its produce to Purdue food services, which serves those vegetables at the university’s dining service. But the student farm found itself without customers after on-campus classes were canceled and most students returned home amid the pandemic. “We didn’t want to stop producing the food because we know there would be a need in the community,” said Steve Hallett, a horticulture and landscape architecture professor and adviser to the student farm. Chris Adair, who manages the students who work at the farm, said they’re currently harvesting spinach and bagging it for donation to the Food Finders Food Bank, which serves residents in the area, and Purdue’s own food bank.
Iowa City: A beef processing plant that was idled after the coronavirus outbreak resumed production Monday, one day after the state said 177 workers there have tested positive. The Iowa Premium plant in Tama, owned by National Beef, had suspended production after the company confirmed multiple workers had the virus. On Sunday, the office of Gov. Kim Reynolds said 177 out of more than 500 National Beef workers tested were positive for coronavirus. A woman who answered the phone at the plant confirmed that production resumed Monday. The company closed the plant for what it called a regularly scheduled cleaning two weeks ago. The governor’s office also said Sunday that another 84 employees of Tyson Foods had tested positive. Tyson said its Waterloo pork plant remained open Monday, defying calls from local officials to suspend production. Its Columbus Junction plant remained closed, and its Perry plant was idled for a one-day cleaning.
Mission: The state has received more personal protective equipment and supplies to expand COVID-19 testing in communities with meat processing plants. Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday that the federal supplies will go to Finney, Ford and Seward counties in southwest Kansas and Lyon County in the east-central part of the state. As of Sunday, 247 people in those counties were infected with the coronavirus out of 1,849 statewide. Cargill, Tyson Fresh Meats and National Beef have said employees at their processing plants tested positive. Kansas Department of Health and Environment is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track clusters connected to the processing plants. Controlling the outbreaks is crucial: Plants in southwest Kansas account for 25% to 30% of beef processing in the country.
Louisville: The state’s public schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, capping off an unprecedented academic year. Students should continue their education at home through distance learning plans, Gov. Andy Beshear told superintendents Monday afternoon. “It’s been recommended Kentucky schools do not return to in-person classes for the rest of 2019-20 year,” the Kentucky Department of Education tweeted. State education officials will work with school districts to finish distance learning by the end of May, although many districts may finish earlier. The elongated closure means teachers will not get to say goodbye to their students in person. Graduating seniors likely won’t get to experience end-of-year celebrations before heading off to the next stop. But weeks of distance learning are taking a toll on educators and parents, many of whom are being asked to act in multiple roles as kitchens and living rooms become makeshift classrooms.
New Orleans: A 69-year-old prisoner at the Louisiana State Penitentiary is the first state prisoner known to have died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, state corrections officials announced Monday. Corrections officials did not identify the prisoner, who was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. They said he had an underlying health condition and had been hospitalized since April 15 before dying Saturday. Last week, the corrections department said an employee at the prison died with the disease. The coronavirus death toll in Louisiana was 1,328 as of midday Monday. Louisiana has started the process for temporarily furloughing up to 1,200 inmates, in a bid to decrease the virus’s potential spread in the close confines of prison facilities. The ACLU of Louisiana has called the process a start but far less than what is needed to reduce the prison population and protect public health.
Portland: About 200 people rallied in the capital Monday demanding the state open back up, despite officials’ insistence on a cautious approach in order to prevent another coronavirus outbreak. Similar rallies have elsewhere in the country, with participants including gun-rights activists, opponents of stay-at-home orders and supporters of Republican President Donald Trump. Maine’s event was organized by Republican state Rep. Chris Johansen, of Aroostook County, who urged participants to maintain social distance, wear masks and abstain from openly carrying guns. He also used social media to call on demonstrators to “fill up your gas tanks and get ready to rumble” in Augusta. Many directed their ire at Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who placed the state under a stay-at-home order starting March 31. Mills defended the order while acknowledging closures have been hard on people and businesses.
Baltimore: Doctors in the state say they’re worried that fewer people with symptoms of a stroke or heart attack are showing up at emergency rooms. The Baltimore Sun reports doctors believe some people have chosen to avoid the emergency room because of the coronavirus pandemic. Such behavior could put possible heart attack and stroke victims at even greater risk. Doctors say some people may be concerned they’ll contract the virus by visiting the hospital. Or there may be confusion over stay-at-home orders. Providers in Maryland say avoiding the hospital increases the chance of serious health complications for stroke and heart attack victims. Recoveries are often tied to how fast people are treated. Dr. Mark Vesely, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, said people will fare better if doctors can get to them more quickly.
Boston: Two more field hospitals set up to deal with a surge of COVID-19 patients opened in the state Monday. The hospitals at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne and at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Recreation Center can each handle about 100 patients who are not in critical condition but are not well enough to be sent home. Cape Cod Healthcare is managing and staffing the Cape Cod hospital, while Lowell General Hospital is managing the UMass site. Field hospitals have also opened at the DCU Center in Worcester and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. A fifth is expected to open at UMass Dartmouth in about a week. Massachusetts is in the middle of a surge of patients, Gov. Charlie Baker has said. The state now has more than 38,000 cases and has reported more than 1,700 deaths, including 146 on Sunday, according to the state Public Health Department.
Lansing: The governor said Sunday that she was eager to loosen businesses restrictions while also avoiding new flare-ups of the coronavirus illness that has killed nearly 2,400 people in the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said a lack of virus testing supplies is delaying such steps but maintained that most residents support her actions despite a protest drawing thousands of people to the Michigan Capitol last week. “Not going to the gas station to fill up your boat, so that you can go tooling around, is a sacrifice, but it is one that is worth it, because who among us wouldn’t rather forgo jet-skiing or boating right now if it’s going to save your grandparents or your neighbor’s life?” Whitmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Whitmer has faced pressure from protesters who don’t like her orders to keep people at home and businesses closed because of the outbreak.
St. Cloud: The coronavirus pandemic has limited the mobility of independent older adults in Central Minnesota, so they’re showing up online for yoga classes and lectures and tapping into meal programs at much higher rates than before the COVID-19 outbreak. “Older adults are really resilient,” said Laura Hood, aging services director for the city of St. Cloud. “They’ve been through wars. They’ve supported communities. They’ve built communities.” And the community programs that serve seniors adjusted quickly to do so after Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order and other precautions meant to limit spread of the virus. Staff at the Whitney Senior Center have been able to connect with 70% of members electronically, Hood said. And those who are not available online get phone calls. Every week, the center emails a newsletter with resources, including links to live, interactive exercise classes and lectures. Staff provide some technical support and schedule programs that allow for group engagement, include exercise and covering other topics such as container gardens and mindfulness.
Jackson: The chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians says he has tested positive for COVID-19, and he is urging people to follow the advice of health professionals to try to slow the spread of the highly contagious new coronavirus. Chief Cyrus Ben said in a video posted to the tribe’s Facebook page Saturday that he had not experienced any symptoms. He said he is quarantined with his family and continuing to work remotely. “It only takes one person who has been exposed to the virus to go out in public and expose everyone that they could come in contact with,” Ben said. “That includes their families, their friends. And that is why we say take precaution, be vigilant.” The Choctaws have 11,000 members in 10 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. The tribe’s Pearl River Resort in central Mississippi’s Neshoba County has two casinos and hotels. The resort is closed indefinitely because of the pandemic.
Kansas City: A growing national movement against stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus arrived in the Show-Me State this week. Protests were planned Monday in Kansas City and Tuesday in Jefferson City. A flyer advertising the Kansas City protest encouraged people to “flood the streets of downtown Kansas City and demand that businesses be allowed to open up, people allowed to work, and lives returned to normal.” The protesters contend the stay-at-home orders are unnecessary and are seriously damaging the economy. Government and health officials argue orders asking people to stay home except for essential business and to maintain social distancing are necessary to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Kansas City Mayor Quenton Lucas announced last week that he was extending the city’s stay-at-home order until May 15. Gov. Mike Parson said the state plans to take steps to begin reopening its economy May 4.
Helena: For the first time since the state lab started running tests for coronavirus, the health department reported no positive COVID-19 tests among the 153 tests that were performed Sunday. Toole County, in north-central Montana, reported its fifth COVID-19 death Monday, raising the state’s total to 11. The latest victim was a woman in her 80s who was not identified. All 29 of the cases in Toole County, population about 4,800 residents, have been traced to close contact rather than community transmission, said Blair Tomsheck, director of the Toole County Health Department. Nearly all are tied to an assisted living facility and to the hospital in the city of Shelby, officials have said. Montana has reported 433 cases of COVID-19, with just over 11,000 tests performed. Nineteen people were still hospitalized out of 57 who required hospital treatment.
Omaha: The state’s primary election next month could see strong turnout if most people who requested ballots by mail return them in time. Secretary of State Bob Evnen told the Omaha World-Herald that 340,000 Nebraskans had requested mail-in ballots as of Friday. Another 50,000 voters who live in rural counties where voting by mail is the only option will also receive mail-in ballots. That total of 390,000 ballots is approaching Nebraska’s highest-turnout primary in 1972, when 413,015 people voted. Nebraska voters can request mail-in ballots from their county election officials until May 1. Those ballots must be returned before 8 p.m. May 12, which is election day. Officials said more than 72,000 Nebraskans have already voted. State officials still plan to open the polls May 12 for anyone who wants to vote in person. Election workers will be provided protective gear, including masks and gloves.
Las Vegas: The agency promoting tourism in the city is quickly redoing its budget, with coronavirus casino closures and business shutdowns projected to result in a two-thirds cut in hotel room tax funding for the fiscal year starting July 1. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority chief executive Steve Hill said authority room tax revenue is expected to drop from $300 million to between $100 million and $120 million for the upcoming fiscal year, the Las Vegas Sun reports. At Hill’s request, the tourism agency board last week agreed to delay until next month consideration of a new budget. “Fiscal year 2021 was set to be an exceptionally strong year,” Hill said. “We were set to set records in a number of different ways.” Now, he said, “fiscal year 2021 is going to be a difficult year.” He said the authority was likely to lose another $60 million in income due to postponements and cancellations of conventions, meetings and trade shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other locations.
Concord: A judge is considering whether Republican Gov. Chris Sununu can spend the state’s $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief aid without legislative approval. The Democratic leaders of the New Hampshire House and Senate and its joint fiscal committee sued the governor last week to halt the new Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge David Anderson held a hearing on their request Monday, saying he will issue a ruling as quickly as possible. Representing the governor’s office, Solicitor General Dan Will pointed to a 2002 law granting the governor authority to take immediate action during a statewide crisis. Democrats argue that the governor’s general powers under the law Sununu cites do not override a more specific law that says during an emergency, “the governor may, with the advice and consent of the fiscal committee, authorize such expenditures, by any department or agency, as may be necessary.”
Trenton: The state’s COVID-19 outbreak is stabilizing, with the number of patients leaving hospitals outpacing those being admitted, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Despite the stabilization, 177 more people died since Sunday’s update, bringing the death toll to 4,377, Murphy said. There are nearly 89,000 people with the coronavirus, he said. There’s growing evidence that social distancing is helping contain the virus, according to the governor. It now takes three weeks for the number of cases to double in northern New Jersey, up from just three days over the past few weeks. For the first time, the number of people discharged from the hospital – 583 – outpaced newly admitted COVID-19 patients, which stood at about 460. Benchmarks to reopen the state’s economy will be coming in a number of days, the governor said. Murphy is allying with neighboring states to coordinate restarting the economy. More testing will be needed, among other things, he said.
Gallup: A high school is reopening its gym as a 60-bed alternative care facility to help hospitals treat an increasing number of coronavirus patients, a federal engineering agency said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was expected to turn over the keys to Miyamura High School to local and state health officials Monday, about two weeks after construction began, the Gallup Independent reports. Vinyl flooring and rubber pads were fixed to the gym floor, swamp coolers were placed on the roof to provide cool air, and two large exhaust ducts were installed to provide proper ventilation, said Lt. Col. Robin Scott, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Albuquerque District. The gym now features 60 patient pods separated by medical curtains, which each include one electrical outlet, an ethernet jack, lighting and oxygen, Project Manager Amanda Velasquez said. Laundry sinks are positioned throughout the gym as hand-washing stations.
New York: The city won’t allow public events in June, including three of the city’s major annual celebrations: the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Celebrate Israel parade and the Pride parade on its 50th anniversary. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that the events would be canceled or at least postponed, saying it was a painful but necessary step as the city continues to fight the coronavirus. “They will be back, and we will find the right way to do it,” he said, allowing that it’s not yet clear whether it will be realistic to reschedule the events this year. The Pride parade began in 1970 as a way to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion the year before, when a police raid at the Stonewall Inn bar sparked a resistance by gay men, bisexuals, lesbians and transgender people and led to the development of more extensive and militant LGBTQ activist groups than the U.S. had seen before. The Puerto Rico and Israel parades are also touchstones in a city that has the largest Jewish population outside Israel and the biggest Puerto Rican community off the island.
Indian Trail: A miniature donkey named Mambo is getting some online love in the state, where a farm is getting in on the idea of having animals spice up tedious virtual meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. Peace N Peas Farm will rent Mambo, the 8-year-old miniature donkey, and his friends to crash company conference calls, The Charlotte Observer reports. This camera-crowding donkey is “like a pesky little brother” that “doesn’t let anyone relax too long,” said Francie Dunlap, Mambo’s owner. Companies can choose other farm animals they want to invite as guests on their video calls. According to the farm animals’ meeting registration website, they include three horses, Heiren, Zeus and Eddie, along with some chickens and ducks. “I think it would get some laughs,” Dunlap said. Customers can reserve 10 minutes with the animals for $50, and Dunlap said co-workers can also choose a virtual meeting name for the farm animal. Since she created the website Saturday, Dunlap said she has also gotten requests from teachers who want the animals to crash their virtual classrooms.
Bismarck: The state’s largest manufacturer, Doosan Bobcat, resumed operations Monday after a two-week shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, putting some 2,300 people back to work. Doosan Bobcat restarted operations at plants in Gwinner, Bismarck and Wahpeton after making several changes aimed at protecting workers. The company said it is not aware of any workers who have tested positive for the virus. The equipment manufacturer says it increased cleaning and disinfecting at its facilities, implemented social distancing, and limited visitors while encouraging people to work remotely when possible. “The No. 1 goal is the safety of our employees,” company spokeswoman Stacey Breuer said. The company’s restart came as the state is wrestling with an outbreak in Grand Forks that has shut down LM Power, a wind turbine manufacturing plant, that as of Monday had grown to 128 employees or associated people.
Columbus: Inmates make up nearly 1 in 4 of the state’s coronavirus cases following a spike in identified infections as universal testing takes place inside three state prisons. Figures released Sunday show 1,828 positive tests at Marion Correctional Facility in north-central Ohio, out of about 2,500 total inmates, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. In addition, 109 employees at Marion have tested positive, out of a total of about 350 workers. One Marion prison guard died earlier this month. Systemwide, 2,400 inmates have tested positive, and six have died, including five at Pickaway Correctional Facility in central Ohio, where 384 inmates have tested positive out of a population of about 2,000. Even the head of the prison guards’ union, Christopher Mabe, is in self-quarantine after his wife, a guard at Lorain Correctional Institution, tested positive.
Tulsa: The term “artist in residence” has taken on new meaning as the populace confronts the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s probably safe to say that every artist these days is an artist in residence since they are having to stay at home just like everyone else,” Lauren Rogers, communications specialist at Gilcrease Museum, told the Tulsa World. During a discussion about how the temporarily shuttered Gilcrease might still find ways to connect with audiences, staff came up with a plan. The first call for artists to contribute to the “#ArtistsinQuarantine” project went out March 20, and so far, more than 50 artists have responded. Gilcrease staff members selected certain images that it features regularly on its various social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Rogers said artists wishing to submit their work for the “#ArtistsinQuarantine” project may do so on any of the museum’s social media sites using the hashtag.
Salem: Taproot Lounge & Cafe and its second location, TAO (Taproot Annex One), are both closed until further notice, but the staff is far from idle. Taproot owner Christopher “Toph” Holland and his longtime friend Brian Sullivan are mobilizing out-of-work restaurant employees and community volunteers to sew face masks. “We had a bunch of employees with nothing to do,” Holland said, “so if we can’t serve (at the restaurant), we’ll keep serving by doing something else.” The project came about when the Centers for Disease Control updated recommendations, instructing individuals to wear face masks in public places. The City of Salem asked for the public’s help sewing masks to be donated to local nonprofit organizations. In response, Sullivan and Holland reached out to friends, asking to borrow sewing machines and soliciting donations of fabric and notions.
Harrisburg: The state will ease some restrictions on building construction and vehicle sales, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday as hundreds of protesters defied a ban on mass gatherings to stage an anti-shutdown rally at the Capitol. Wolf announced a first, tentative step toward reopening the state’s economy after weeks of social distancing to combat the new virus, which has killed more than 1,200 Pennsylvania residents and sickened more than 33,000. Wolf said he was signing online-notary legislation that would pave the way for online vehicle sales. And limited building construction work may resume May 8, he said. “We are taking small steps toward regaining a degree of normalcy in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. As he spoke, protesters gathered outside the state Capitol to demand that Wolf reopen the state’s virus-battered economy.
Providence: The Rhode Island COVID-19 Response Fund has distributed another $2.1 million to nonprofits across the state to help people struggling to pay for groceries, rent, utilities or health care during the coronavirus pandemic. The fund, established last month by the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island, has now distributed about $6.7 million. Children’s Friend, the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Progreso Latino and Thundermist Health Center are among the organizations that received grants ranging from $10,000 to $75,000 in the latest round of funding announced Monday. The need continues to grow, foundation President Neil Steinberg said. “The need is beyond even what we expected,” he said in a statement.
Columbia: Retail stores and public beach access points that had been closed to halt the spread of the coronavirus will be allowed to reopen this week, The Post and Courier reports. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster was issuing an order Monday to allow for the reopenings to take place Tuesday, the governor’s chief of staff, Trey Walker, told the newspaper. The order will apply to numerous nonessential stores, including department stores, flea markets, florists, bookstores and music shops. Grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores and medical facilities have been allowed to stay open during the pandemic. Occupancy in each store will be limited to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% occupancy, whichever is less, the newspaper reports. Local governments will still be allowed to make their own rules about waterway access. Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Folly Beach are among those that have banned access to nonresidents.
Sioux Falls: Sanford Health says a critically ill patient has received a transfusion of plasma from a recovered coronavirus patient, the first use of the therapy by the health care provider. Sanford’s treatment is part of a national clinical trial to test the effect of blood plasma in treating COVID-19. The use of plasma is for hospitalized patients with severe cases of coronavirus. The plasma may lessen severity or shorten the length of the illness caused by the virus. “This is another step forward in our efforts to find effective treatments for this virus,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer for Sanford Health. “It’s still early, but we are optimistic that the disease-fighting antibodies found in plasma could potentially slow the progression of the disease in our sickest patients.” Because the therapy is still considered experimental, the plasma is being administered under a program led by Mayo Clinic.
Carthage: A truckload of medical masks and protective surgical gowns was destroyed when a tractor-trailer caught fire on a highway, news outlets report. First responders told WKRN-TV at the scene in Smith County on Saturday that N95 masks and special hospital gowns were among the items ruined. Shortages of these masks, which filter out 95% of all airborne particles, have created high demand among medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. It was unclear where the shipment was headed. Photos posted by news outlets on social media showed the frame of the charred vehicle smoking, with dozens of cardboard boxes strewn along the road reportedly carrying the masks. Green bundles that appeared to be surgical gowns were pictured laying in the wreckage. The fire started in a rear wheel and spread, officials told news outlets. The driver was not seriously injured, authorities said.
Corpus Christi: Many health care workers are taking precautions to protect their families from exposure to COVID-19, but one emergency room doctor is talking self-isolation to another level. Jason Barnes, 39, is a physician at Christus Spohn Hospital Beeville and Christus Spohn Hospital South. He couldn’t risk exposing his wife, Jenna, and sons, Stiles and Bentley, to the coronavirus, so he packed his things and made his kids’ backyard treehouse a temporary home. Working in the emergency room, Barnes has treated patients who came in for problems, such as a hurt leg, only to find out they were infected with coronavirus. Barnes has now spent nearly three weeks in the cabin treehouse. “Luckily the WiFi reaches the treehouse, so I have my laptop and my own little command center here,” he said. His living situation is similar to camping. He started with a bucket as a toilet but now has a camping toilet with biodegradable bags.
Salt Lake City: A day before a large weekend rally that drew hundreds of people to protest the city’s stay-at-home order, a man was arrested who police say threatened a “civil war” if Mayor Erin Mendenhall did not “open up the city,” according to charging documents. Marlin Richard Baer was arrested Friday on suspicion of making a terrorist threat and electronic communication harassment after he made the phone call to Mendenhall’s office demanding that she cancel the stay-at-home order she invoked March 29, police said. He was arrested before he could attend a rally Saturday at city hall that he referenced in his call that drew about 1,000 demonstrators. Baer mentioned the rally in his call and said if things didn’t change, a “civil war” would be coming, and police wouldn’t stop him, the charging document alleges. Baer also commented on Facebook that people should bring guns to the rally.
Montpelier: More than 8,300 checks for $1,200 were being sent Monday to people whose unemployment claims were delayed due to a variety of administrative issues, according to the Vermont Department of Labor. The checks were prepared over the weekend after officials were unable to resolve stringent federal requirements that kept those individuals from receiving regular unemployment payments. “Given the overwhelming demand on the system, being able to provide timely claims processing while meeting all federal standards became virtually impossible,” interim Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said in a news release issued late Sunday. “Ultimately, we needed to put people over process and get people their benefits.” The checks provide two weeks of federal benefits approved to help people affected by COVID-19-related layoffs. The department says the checks likely do not provide the full amount owed but serve as an initial installment.
Falls Church: For the third straight day, health authorities are reporting a drop in the state’s number of new coronavirus cases. Numbers released Monday by the Virginia Department of Health show 453 new coronavirus cases reported in the prior 24 hours, bringing the total to 8,990. The death toll increased from 277 to 300. The drop in new cases marks the first time since the virus arrived in Virginia that the state has reported three consecutive days of declines, according to data kept by the Virginia Public Access Project. Northam and federal officials have indicated they want to see a 14-day trend of declining cases before phasing in an end to the restrictions on businesses that Northam imposed in a series of executive orders to fight the spread of the virus. Also Monday, the Virginia Department of Corrections said it is stepping up coronavirus testing at state prisons. The state health department was sending staff into prisons Monday to facilitate the increased testing.
Seattle: Boeing this week is restarting production of commercial airplanes in the Seattle area, putting about 27,000 people back to work after operations were halted because of the coronavirus. The aerospace giant says it is taking extra precautions and has instituted comprehensive procedures at all of its sites to fight the spread of COVID-19. The new virus-slowing measures will include the use of face masks and other protective equipment, hand-washing sites, staggered shift times and employee wellness checks. Employees for the 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplanes were to return as early as Monday, with most returning to work by Tuesday, officials said. Employees for the 787 program will return next Thursday and Friday. Boeing’s shutdown went into effect March 25 after workers tested positive for the virus and a longtime inspector for the company died.
Huntington: An annual fundraiser at Marshall University to help feed needy families has moved online. Marshall says its art school is teaming up with a pottery studio for the Empty Bowls alternative event. The school said in a news release that the Pottery Place of Huntington has more than 500 bowls and T-shirts listed on its website. The bowls were made by Marshall ceramics students, but some were not finished before the school and the fundraiser were shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. The bowls and T-shirts cost $15 apiece. Purchased items can be picked up at the store. Proceeds will go to the Facing Hunger Foodbank, which serves 17 counties in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio. Last year’s fundraiser raised a record $18,000. Pottery Place owner Jessica Stone, a 2004 Marshall graduate, was part of a group of ceramics students who launched Empty Bowls 17 years ago.
Madison: The Tavern League of Wisconsin is calling on Gov. Tony Evers to allow bars and restaurants to reopen May 1, more than three weeks ahead of the end of the current stay-at-home order that has forced the closure of most nonessential businesses. The lobbying group argued in a statement late Sunday that bars, restaurants and supper clubs could reopen by implementing a variety of safety measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Those steps include requiring all employees to wear masks and gloves; not allowing anyone to be closer than 6 feet from one another; spacing all tables at least 6 feet apart; not allowing more than six people to sit at any one table; and reducing the number of people allowed inside by 50%. The group also said it would eliminate paper menus, all table condiments and salad bars in order to reopen early. There will have to be a decrease in positive coronavirus cases over 14 days before the state can start a phased reopening of nonessential businesses, Evers said Monday when releasing new criteria for when the state will begin to reopen.
Jackson: Since early March, the county’s top health official has been begging the state to support his restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus in Teton County. Emails obtained by the Jackson Hole News & Guide through the Wyoming Public Records Act show a back-and-forth that became heated as Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell pushed state officials to allow him to enact a stay-at-home order. Riddell initially sought the state’s blessing for an order narrowly tailored to just the most vulnerable people – seniors and those with underlying medical conditions. But Senior Assistant Attorney General Jackson Engels fought back. Jackson Hole, he wrote, was not as unique as Riddell’s order suggested. While stating “support” for county-level orders, Gov. Mark Gordon has avoided imposing a statewide stay-at-home order, leaving Wyoming as one of eight states without such a decree.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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