Montgomery: The first Alabama prisoner has died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, the state Department of Corrections reported Friday as it confirmed two other COVID-19 cases among inmates. Dave Thomas, 66, whom the prison system described as already terminally ill, died Thursday at a hospital within 24 hours of testing positive for COVID-19, the department said. Thomas, who had been housed at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, had been hospitalized since April 4 to receive critical care related to his preexisting conditions. Another inmate at St. Clair and an inmate at Bullock County Correctional Facility have also tested positive for COVID-19. The state said it has quarantined a group of inmates out of one dormitory at St. Clair and quarantined an entire dormitory at Bullock.
Juneau: Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state will chart its own course in deciding how to reopen parts of the economy restricted or shut down because of concerns about the coronavirus. “We’ll continue to look at this through the lens of Alaska and what Alaska needs,” the Republican said late Thursday, noting unique aspects of the state, including isolated communities that lack the health care infrastructure of other places. Dunleavy said the state continues to build up its testing capacity, and its chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, has said that testing – and testing broadly – will be important as the state weighs easing restrictions. State officials have announced plans to lift in phases restrictions on health care activities, a process that includes calls for testing ahead of certain procedures and testing to the extent possible of patients admitted to facilities such as hospitals and long-term care centers.
Tucson: The University of Arizona is implementing furloughs and pay cuts for most of its employees as a result of economic strains brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. The university posted details about the furloughs on its website, saying the changes will begin May 11 and remain in effect until June 30, 2021. The amount of furlough days will be based on an employee’s annual salary. For example, those who make less than $44,450 a year can expect 13 furlough days, while those who make more will have to take off without pay between 26 and 39 days. Employees who make more than $150,000 will see pay cuts ranging from 17% to 20%. The university, which projects it could lose $250 million as a result of the pandemic, is one of southern Arizona’s largest employers.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced the creation of a task force to help the state recover economically from restrictions that were put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The task force will be led by Steuart Walton, the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Walmart is based in Bentonville, Arkansas. The group will focus on helping small businesses because “that’s where we want to be able to get back to work,” Hutchinson said at a news conference Saturday. During the pandemic, the governor did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order but imposed other restrictions that closed businesses such as gyms and casinos. He also prohibited sit-down service at restaurants and bars. On Friday, Hutchinson said he hoped to lift some restrictions imposed on businesses during the pandemic if Arkansas meets certain criteria. The task force will hold its first meeting this week.
San Francisco: Fears of getting infected with the coronavirus have prompted authorities in Northern California to allow some sexual assault victims to collect evidence with a nurse directing them in the hourslong process through a video call. The temporary measure put in place in Monterey County after shelter-in-place orders were issued last month to stop the spread of the virus raises issues of evidence contamination and other problems that would be challenged in court, defense attorneys said. Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Lana Nassoura said the temporary measure doesn’t apply to victims of sexual assault who are children or who have been injured and is allowed when the victim is comfortable and able to conduct the forensic examination on themselves. She said the measure also aims to protect the nurses who lack the proper equipment to protect them from exposure to the virus.
Colorado Springs: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has announced the Colorado National Guard will be sent into three of the state’s largest nursing homes to conduct coronavirus testing. The state Department of Health and Environment identified COVID-19 outbreaks at 100 different facilities across the state, including 10 in Colorado Springs where 13 residents have died from complications due to the new virus and another five are suspected, The Gazette reports. More than 520 patients have tested positive at nonhospital health care facilities, and at least 138 patients have died, department officials said last week. Colorado began visitation restrictions and started implementing screenings into senior facilities last month. “I think the toll would be far worse had that not been put in place,” Polis said. “The protocols that we’re putting in place are really about providing additional education and training to staff to keep the facility safe.”
Bridgeport: A lawyer said Saturday that he is suing Gov. Ned Lamont over his executive order requiring people to wear face coverings in public places “wherever close contact is unavoidable” to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Stamford attorney Lindy Urso said he filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the order announced by Lamont on Friday is unconstitutional because it infringes on people’s “individual freedoms and liberties.” Urso claims the number of deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID-19 is “artificially inflated” and accuses government officials and the media of stirring up fear about the virus. A spokesman for the Democratic governor declined to comment Saturday. Lamont’s order on face coverings takes effect at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Dover: State authorities say the death of a 73-year-old inmate is the first they’ve seen from complications of the coronavirus. Joseph Russo died Thursday at Bayhealth Hospital’s Kent campus. Initially, though, authorities were unsure if his death was attributable to the coronavirus because two previous tests had come back negative. The state Department of Corrections said Friday that a third test showed Russo was indeed infected with the virus. Russo was an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, the state’s largest prison. He was at the prison until Monday, when he was transferred to the hospital. Russo was part of a minimum-security housing unit of 45 inmates that has been closely monitored by security and medical staff since April 8. State figures show 20 inmates and roughly 20 staffers at Delaware prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus so far.
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser and education officials say distance learning will continue throughout the 2019-2020 school year in response to the coronavirus crisis, WUSA-TV reports. The D.C. Public Schools and public charter schools academic year will end early May 29. Bowser has extended the district’s stay-at-home order and public health emergency until May 15 to aid in flattening the curve and to save lives from the coronavirus. The extension applies to distance learning for D.C. schools, telework for D.C.’s nonessential employees and the stay-at-home order. Nonessential businesses are to remain closed until May 15. Bowser also gave additional guidance for wearing masks in the district, saying face coverings are required in grocery stores, hotels, taxis, ride-shares and other private transportation, and they’re strongly encouraged for workers and riders of public transit.
Tallahassee: A man encased himself in concrete Friday outside the Governor’s Mansion in the state capital, apparently to protest prison conditions related to the coronavirus. Tallahassee police spokesman Kevin Bradshaw said the man, identified as 28-year-old Jordan Mazurek, put PVC pipes horizontally into two 55-gallon plastic drums filled with concrete, with some sort of mechanism that locked his arms in place. Mazurek was first spotted about 6 a.m. outside the fence surrounding the mansion and was eventually freed about 10:30 a.m. One of Mazurek’s drums was painted in white letters with the words “Stop the massacre.” The other read, “Free prisoners now.” The man also wore what appeared to be a surgical mask. Mazurek is a sociologist originally from Forth Worth, Texas, who now lives in Florida and is a co-creator of a group called Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons. Mei Azaad, a spokeswoman for the group, said it did not organize the protest but was aware of it.
Albany: A brewery in one of the communities most affected by the coronavirus is thanking police with donations of home-brewed hand sanitizer. The Pretoria Fields Collective donated 200 bottles of the alcohol-based sanitizer to the Albany Police Department, the Dougherty County Police Department and the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, WALB-TV reports. The county of roughly 90,000 residents has seen rates of infection from the new virus that far exceed those in Georgia’s more densely populated communities such as metro Atlanta. Pretoria Fields typically brews craft beer but pivoted to producing hand sanitizer to help offset shortages during the pandemic. “We wanted to do something to show the law enforcement our appreciation for putting their lives on the line,” Pretoria Field manager Tony Singletary said.
Honolulu: Gov. David Ige on Friday ordered a moratorium on evictions of people from their homes for failure to pay rent as the negative economic effects of the fight against the coronavirus deepen. Evictions in Hawaii have effectively been on hold since mid-March because the state judiciary had curtailed court proceedings to limit the virus’s spread. But Ige said he believed the prohibition needed to be more explicit. “It strengthens the intent and ensures that evictions cannot occur and that those trying to evict someone would be subject to a fine or a penalty,” Ige said at a news conference. The social distancing requirements instituted to slow the virus have closed hotels, restaurants and retail stores across Hawaii. The state has received more than 240,000 unemployment benefit claims since March 1, which amounts to more than one-third of Hawaii’s labor force.
Boise: More than 1,000 protesters gathered at the Statehouse on Friday afternoon in defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s extension of the statewide stay-at-home order. Little announced Wednesday that the order would extend to the end of April in the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, although he lightened some restrictions so nonessential businesses could begin providing curbside service. Still, the news was met with derision by some members of the far-right in Idaho, and some libertarian, gun-rights and anti-vaccine organizations began directing members to defy the order. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian think tank and lobbying group, emblazoned its social media feeds with “Disobey Idaho” graphics and announced it would host Friday’s rally along with Health Freedom Idaho and the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance.
Chicago: The University of Illinois has allowed medical students to graduate early as the pressing need for health care workers has increased amid the coronavirus outbreak. Graduates could start their residency programs early, the Chicago Tribune reports. “When we saw the way the pandemic was affecting the nation, we asked how we could provide physicians to the workforce as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, executive dean of the college. “And when you look at the type of students we have and why they went to med school in the first place, it’s to help people.” Earlier this month, Shivam Vedak marked his early graduation from the College of Medicine on a Zoom call. He and a cohort of the 191 graduates pledged to dedicate their lives to the service of humanity. “I’ve never felt so validated in my decision to become a physician,” Vedak said.
Evansville: A southwestern Indiana hospital is fitting newborns with tiny plastic face shields to protect them from the coronavirus. Berry Global, the Evansville-based plastic packaging company, delivered a working prototype to Deaconess Women’s Hospital on Tuesday. The next day the hospital began using the shields. Officials expect to have about 100 on hand. “I can’t believe how fast they picked up on the idea and had something for us to try,” hospital CEO Chris Ryan said. She said officials are doing anything possible to shield babies from exposure to the virus, given that newborns are susceptible to airborne germs when they travel around the hospital in an open bassinet for routine postnatal procedures. “We’d rather err on the side of being more cautious than not,” she said. Berry has also adapted the shield design to fit toddlers and younger children.
Des Moines: State officials will not call schools back into session this year, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday. The state has not reached its peak of positive coronavirus cases yet, and data doesn’t indicate it’s safe to reopen schools, Reynolds said. “I regret to say that Iowa schools will not reopen for this school year. But school districts will be required to continue to provide continuous learning opportunities for their students until the end of the regular school year,” she said. “Believe me, I would like nothing more than to stand before you today and announce that Iowa will be open for school in May.” Most school districts would have held classes through late May, and some end their year in early June. The announcement also cancels spring sports activities. State education officials say they will release information June 1 about whether school-sponsored activities, including summer sports, can resume.
Topeka: The state plans to start using 3D printers to manufacture its own swabs to test for the novel coronavirus as officials look to improve the state’s near-bottom national rank in testing before lifting a stay-at-home order. Gov. Laura Kelly and her top public health administrator, Dr. Lee Norman, have complained for weeks that Kansas isn’t a priority for testing supplies and personal protective equipment from the federal government or even private vendors, making it difficult to get them. The state’s struggles have continued with the Democratic governor under increasing pressure from the Republican-controlled Legislature to lift restrictions hindering economic activity, with her stay-at-home order set to remain in place until May 3. But Kelly said Friday that testing people both with and without symptoms is key. Kansas as of Friday had reported testing about 5.8 of every 1,000 residents, the second-lowest rate among all states, just behind Virginia.
Louisville: A federal judge has denied Maryville Baptist Church’s motion for a restraining order blocking enforcement of Gov. Andy Beshear’s order barring faith-based mass gatherings. The church filed a lawsuit Friday saying that enforcement of the order discriminates against its rights under the First Amendment and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act by prohibiting “mass gatherings” that are “faith-based.” But U.S. District Judge David Hale said Beshear’s order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 bans all mass gatherings – “i.e., any event or convening that brings together groups of individuals, including civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events as well as concerts, festivals and conventions.” For that reason, Hale said it doesn’t discriminate against religion. In a seven-page opinion, he also noted that other forms of group worship are permitted, such as drive-in, online, video or telephone conferencing and radio and TV broadcasts.
New Orleans: The state is working to make more clinic and hospital space available again for elective surgeries and other nonemergency medical care before May 1, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday. Elective surgeries and other procedures were largely put on hold as state hospitals converted space and clinic personnel were diverted to other jobs as Louisiana ramped up to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The state has the third-highest rate of cases in the country, Edwards said. But the number of those requiring hospitalization and ventilators has declined in recent days, raising hopes that an easing of economically devastating stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns may soon be in sight. Edwards said details on the return of more nonemergency services would be released this week.
Northeast Harbor: It wasn’t the destination wedding they’d planned, but a couple found a way to tie the knot in the middle of a pandemic. Bradley Gray and Teresa Norwood Gray got hitched Thursday at a drive-thru window at a local bank in their hometown. “I threw it out there kind of as a joke at first. Then the more we talked about it, we’re like, oh, maybe that’ll work,” Bradley Gray said. The officiant was inside the bank, behind the glass at the teller window. The happy couple stood outside, where they exchanged their vows. Guests in the parking lot practiced social distancing. Teresa Norwood Gray’s son walked her down the “aisle.” Local teens provided the music. Passing motorists stopped to watch. “Everyone needs a little lifting up right now. So the community really came together,” she said. “It gave them something to smile about.” The novel coronavirus also ruined their honeymoon, as they were supposed to be departing Saturday on a cruise to the Caribbean, but the happy couple is making the best of it, heading to the groom’s cabin in Maine. “It’s not quite as warm as the Caribbean, but we’ll make it work,” Bradley Gray said.
Baltimore: The NAACP in the city has started circulating a sound truck blasting requests to “stay at home” during the coronavirus pandemic. The truck, which features messages from local celebrities, politicians and athletes, has started driving around areas where residents have continued to gather despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order, The Baltimore Sun reports. The messages tell people to remain in their homes when possible, practice social distancing guidelines, wash their hands frequently and wear masks. Spokesman Joshua Harris said the 40-foot sound truck made its first rounds Wednesday and will target low-income and “hard-to-reach” areas of the city for 6 to 8 hours a day in the upcoming weeks. Baltimore Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said there has also been prevalent misinformation that the virus does not affect African Americans, who make up 60% of the city’s population and have in fact been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
Chelsea: Physicians with Massachusetts General Hospital said they’ve found widespread evidence of exposure to the new coronavirus in this small Boston-area city. Nearly a third of 200 Chelsea residents who gave a drop of blood to researchers last week tested positive for antibodies linked to the virus, the Boston Globe reports. The participants seemed to be healthy, but half told doctors they experienced at least one symptom in the past four weeks. Massachusetts has been hit hard by the virus. More than 1,500 people have died, and a total of 36,372 people have tested positive for the virus. The state hit a new high for deaths in a single day on Friday with 159. Dr. John Iafrate, vice chairman of MGH’s pathology department and the study’s principal investigator, told the Globe that Chelsea is in the midst of a “raging epidemic” but is also probably further along in the outbreak than other communities.
Detroit: A prisoner who declined to be paroled earlier this year after decades behind bars has died from COVID-19 complications, officials said. William Garrison is one of at least 17 Michigan prisoners who have died from COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, the Corrections Department said. Garrison, 60, could have left prison on parole weeks ago. But he decided to wait until September, when he would be eligible for a complete release without the rigors of parole supervision. After nearly 44 years in prison, “he was trying to get free,” said sister Yolanda Peterson. Garrison, however, changed his stance during the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 500 inmates in Michigan prisons. The parole board approved his application in March. Garrison died Monday while waiting to see if prosecutors would challenge it, a standard step that can take weeks.
Wayzata: About three dozen residents have been moved from a Minneapolis-area senior living facility after an outbreak of the coronavirus made many staff members too sick to care for residents. The Minnesota Department of Health told the Star Tribune the decision to relocate residents from Meridian Manor in Wayzata on Saturday came in consultation with state and local officials. The department said a majority of staff members and administrators at the 50-bed facility became sick and were unable to care for residents. Five residents were sent to a hospital, some residents were relocated with family, and others were being moved to a nearby long-term care facility. In a statement, Meridian Manor said residents began testing positive for the coronavirus at the hospital April 7. As of Saturday, 18 of 55 had tested positive. On Friday, one resident died because of complications with COVID-19, the facility said.
Jackson: The state is reporting a dozen more deaths from COVID-19 as its total cases approach 4,000. The state Department of Health reported the new numbers Saturday, bringing the total number of deaths in Mississippi to 152. Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday that he is extending his statewide stay-at-home order by one week to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order has been in place since the evening of April 3, and it originally was set to expire Monday morning. The extension expires April 27. Reeves said Mississippi is in the “worst, hardest” part of the curve of virus cases. “I know we cannot stay in this position for much longer, but we are still in the eye of the storm,” Reeves said. He said he will allow lakes and beaches to open starting Monday, but people will not be allowed to go in large groups.
O’Fallon: A lawsuit filed by civil rights groups Friday seeks to allow all Missourians to vote absentee in upcoming elections to help reduce the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson City by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and several residents. It claims that requiring voters to appear at traditional polling places during the pandemic puts lives at risk. “No one should be forced to choose between staying safe and voting,” Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. Missouri law allows absentee voting, but only for people with certain reasons, such as illness or travel away from home on the day of the election. Municipal elections will be June 2, Missouri’s primary election is Aug. 4, and the general election is Nov. 3.
Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that he plans to begin a phased reopening of the state’s economy after April 24, when the current stay-at-home directives expire, but he didn’t provide specifics about what that means. Details about plans to begin easing restrictions that have been in place for several weeks will be announced by the middle of this week, Bullock said. The governor said he’s been working with business leaders and public health experts to determine how the state’s economy could be reopened while keeping people safe and avoiding another outbreak of coronavirus. Because Montanans took the stay-at-home and social distancing directives so seriously, the state is in a position to begin reopening its economy “in a time when a whole lot of states still won’t be able to,” Bullock said. But “even as we reopen facets or remove some of these directives, there will be expectations of things like social distancing and masks.”
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Lincoln: Local farmers markets likely will focus on solo shoppers and not be their traditional family affair when they open this spring, a health department official said. Recommendations from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to allow operation of these markets include more hand-washing stations, increased space between vendor booths, a ban on free samples and stricter money-handling guidelines, among others. “I know it totally changes the tenor of the thing,” said Scott Holmes, environmental public health director for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. But the department wants to allow these key access points for healthy food to be open while also reducing the transmission risk of the coronavirus in Lincoln, he told the Lincoln Journal Star. Health officials plan to soon review the recommendations with market managers, who remain uncertain when they’ll be able to convene their vendors for the start of the seasonal attractions.
Carson City: Hundreds of people protested at the State Capitol on Saturday, demanding that Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak reopen the state’s economy and lift a stay-at-home order that he imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. News media video showed protesters parading on a sidewalk carrying U.S. flags and signs displaying messages such as “Open Nevada” and “Stop the Tyranny.” Meanwhile, others in cars honked the vehicle’s horns. In other coronavirus developments, the Clark County School District has announced graduation will be postponed for the class of 2020. The southern Nevada school district made the announcement Friday in a districtwide email sent to families stating that each school will develop its own celebration plans following federal and state health guidelines and restrictions.
Concord: A few hundred demonstrators cheered and waved signs outside the New Hampshire State House on Saturday during a call to reopen the state. Members of the crowd carried signs with slogans such as “Live Free or Die,” the state’s motto. Others included “Restore Jobs” and “Kiss My Constitution.” One demonstrator, talk show host Ian Freeman, said that the government was guilty of fear-mongering over the state of the virus and that it was time to restore individual rights. “Even if the virus were 10 times as dangerous as it is, I still wouldn’t stay inside my home. I’d rather take the risk and be a free person,” he said. Meanwhile, the ACLU of New Hampshire and national ACLU said they have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court seeking the release of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement civil detainees from Strafford County Department of Corrections in Dover. The ACLU said it’s impossible to maintain safe social distance at the facility.
Trenton: The state says more than 4,000 people have died during the coronavirus outbreak, but the governor is reporting signs of progress. Gov. Phil Murphy announced Saturday another 231 deaths among those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 4,070. Another 3,026 cases were announced, bringing the statewide total to 81,420, he said. “We are flattening the curve,” Murphy said, presenting charts showing the rate of growth of new cases over the previous 21 days as well as daily rates of new hospitalizations since the beginning of the month. “The slower the rate of new cases, the slower the rate of infections, the slower the rate of new hospitalizations, ICU beds required, ventilators required and, please, God, fatalities that result,” Murphy said. “We’re now reporting more people leaving the hospital than entering – please, God, it stays that way.”
Albuquerque: Nearly 40 of the city’s police officers have been placed on quarantine after being exposed to a law enforcement officer who recently tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the department. Police said two civilian workers with the department also were exposed. Police officials said the 39 officers experienced different levels of exposure to the infected officer over the course of several days, including during a multi-agency operation. The officers who may have been exposed to the virus were tested and placed into quarantine. Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told KOB-TV that officials still are waiting for the test results. Mayor Tim Keller announced a new three-tiered system last week to help protect police officers from the coronavirus. In addition to current protocols, area commanders were directed to spend time over the weekend ensuring their officers are wearing masks during encounters with the public.
New York: The coronavirus death toll in the state has dropped again, a sign Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday means that New York is “on the other side of the plateau” and that ongoing social distancing practices are working to stem the spread of the virus. Cuomo said 507 people died Saturday, down 43 from the previous day. Hospitalizations and other medical indicators are trending downward. But Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained their warnings that people in New York City and the rest of the state need to stay vigilant to curb the spread of the virus. “We showed that we can control the beast, and when you close down, you can actually slow that infection rate, but this is only halftime,” Cuomo said Sunday. We still have to make sure that we keep that beast under control, we keep that infection rate down, we keep that hospitalization rate down as we all get very eager to get on with life and move on.”
Goldsboro: A COVID-19 outbreak at a state prison has spread to more than 250 inmates, prison officials said Friday. State prisons Commissioner Todd Ishee said during a media briefing that 259 inmates had tested positive as of Friday afternoon at Neuse Correctional Institution, a state prison in Goldsboro. He said none required hospitalization, and 98% of those testing positive were asymptomatic. All 700 inmates have been tested, but some test results are pending. Ishee said no coronavirus-related deaths had been reported at any of the state’s prisons. “The outbreak at Neuse CI is no doubt a cause for concern but not for panic. We have medical protocols in place to handle this,” Ishee said in an earlier statement. Inmates testing positive are being separated from others, and the state is sending additional medical and security staff to the facility.
Bismarck: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state has risen to 585, with the biggest jump coming in northeastern North Dakota, where a wind turbine plant has been temporarily idled during an outbreak of COVID-19. The North Dakota Department of Health on Sunday reported 34 new cases in Grand Forks County, where the LM Wind Power facility is based in Grand Forks. Health officials did not report how many of the new cases are connected to the plant, where 110 cases were reported in early testing. Statewide, the number of new cases rose by 57, with Cass County second with 15 new cases. North Dakota also reported one new death, a woman in her 70s from Cass County with underlying medical conditions, bringing the state’s total to 10. Fifty-one people have been hospitalized, up four from Saturday. The state has tested 13,630 people since the first test was confirmed in early March.
Columbus: The governor is calling on the federal government to help provide crucial materials that would allow a dramatic increase in testing for coronavirus in his state. Gov. Mike DeWine said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Ohio hospitals doing the testing lack needed chemicals known as reagents, and help from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is needed. “I could probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight,” said DeWine, who called on the FDA to “prioritize companies that are putting a slightly different formula together for the extraction reagent kit.” In a more direct appeal, he said: “Anybody in the FDA is watching, this would really take our capacity up literally … overnight.” DeWine, a Republican, referred to his having sought help several weeks ago with an issue involving sterilization of masks, and he said President Donald Trump “got that done.”
Oklahoma City: If the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state continues to trend downward, some businesses could begin to open back up as early as May 1, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday. Stitt said at a news conference that the state is continuing to ramp up its testing capacity and dedicating more resources to contact tracing, in alignment with guidelines released by the Trump administration for reopening the country’s economy. Contact tracing involves interviewing those who have the coronavirus about their movements and contact with others. University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University medical students are assisting with the project. “If our positive trends continue, we hope to share more details next week on how to roll that out,” Stitt said. He said churches, retailers and restaurants are all working on plans on how to safely reopen their establishments.
Salem: Dozens of people protesting the state’s stay-at-home order drove around the Capitol on Friday, horns blaring, and a lawmaker asked the governor to ease restrictions for medical procedures for non-coronavirus patients. The protest in Salem was one of several happening across the country as conservatives push back against restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. State Rep. Cheri Helt, a moderate Republican from Bend, credited Gov. Kate Brown for imposing the stay-at-home order and social distancing. But she said in a letter it’s time to “slowly and carefully begin lifting regulations that have essentially shut down access to health care and medical procedures in Central Oregon for anything unrelated to COVID-19.” Helt noted that the order has affected the health care industry and patients who must wait for procedures.
Harrisburg: The state is starting curbside pickup at liquor stores a month after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered them closed as part of a broader shutdown of businesses deemed nonessential. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced on its website Saturday that stores will begin taking orders by phone Monday, with each customer limited to no more than six bottles. Curbside pickup will be available at more than 175 of the state’s 600 stores. The closure of the state-owned liquor stores had been widely unpopular, especially with the state’s online ordering system largely unable to keep up with overwhelming consumer demand. The liquor board, which has a virtual monopoly on retail sales of hard alcohol in Pennsylvania, has been repurposing some of the stores to help fulfill online orders.
Providence: The state is taking extra steps to protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities who are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus, state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Friday. More than 90 of the people who have died in Rhode Island lived in what Alexander-Scott called congregate-care facilities. “We are doing everything we can to keep them safe,” she said. Measures either already in place or set for launch soon include isolation at the first sign of symptoms; aggressive and more frequent testing of residents and their caregivers every seven to 10 days; and the creation of “strike teams” that can be deployed to nursing homes that are experiencing outbreaks to aid the staff. The state will also provide support for families taking care of elderly relatives at home, she said.
Hilton Head: A theater that’s closed because of the coronavirus is making a switch to showing movies online. Larry Mann and his wife have owned the Park Plaza Cinema on Hilton Head Island for more than a decade. Like other movie theaters in the U.S., they’ve had to shut down amid efforts to prevent the new virus from spreading. The Island Packet reports the couple is revamping the theater’s website to stream films not yet available on platforms such as Netflix. Mann says streaming movies on his site will generally cost about $12. Initial offerings will include “The Roads Not Taken” starring Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning and the rock documentary “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band.” “If we could figure out how to get everyone popcorn, we would do that, too,” Mann said.
Sioux Falls: An employee at the Minnehaha Juvenile Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19, the facility’s director said Saturday. Detention center director Jamie Gravett told the Associated Press that the Sioux Falls facility was informed of the positive test Friday “and immediately began informing guardians, our partners and contractors while caring for our youth and keeping them safe.” Staff and juveniles are being monitored for symptoms and have their temperatures taken twice each day, she said. The center in March put restrictions on visitors and began using “enhanced sanitation procedures,” Gravett said. The facility currently has 29 juveniles and 50 staff members. With statewide cases on the rise, the National Guard said it has selected locations for two 100-bed temporary hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients, one in Sioux Falls and one in Rapid City.
Chattanooga: The mayor is reversing course to allow drive-in church services during the coronavirus pandemic after the city was sued over its ban. Mayor Andy Berke confirmed the change in policy Saturday on Twitter. The conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom recently filed a federal lawsuit over the drive-in church ban on behalf of Chattanooga-based Metropolitan Tabernacle Church. “Every week I sign a new executive order. I have spoken to pastors who assured me they could operate drive in church safely, with spaces between the cars and no collection plates,” Berke wrote on Twitter. “This week’s order therefore permits drive in church. Please observe safely.” The lawsuit followed Berke’s declaration that drive-in religious services would violate the city’s shelter-in-place directive that has been in place since April 2.
Austin: The state is easing restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday, starting this week by letting retailers sell items for curbside pickup, resuming elective surgeries and reopening state parks. But Texas’ tiptoeing toward restarting one of the world’s largest economies immediately ran into new questions and skepticism and came as Abbott faces pressure from both conservatives who are eager to get Texas back to work and Democrats who are wary of going too quickly. Texas ranks last in the U.S. in coronavirus testing per capita, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of data collected by the COVID Tracking Project. Abbott said future decisions on reopening more of Texas would be guided by testing, and although he assured that testing would “go up quite a bit” in late April or early May, he did not provide a number.
Salt Lake City: Salt Lake County officials reported a COVID-19 outbreak Friday at a homeless center for men near Salt Lake City where 94 of 205 people tested positive. Six of the men were taken to a hospital, two were treated and released, and four remained hospitalized in stable condition, said Ilene Risk, epidemiology manager at the Salt Lake County health department. “While this finding is truly unfortunate, it’s not especially surprising because the group living setting like this one is similar to a big household,” Risk said. “We tend to see household transmission at rates of about 25-50%.” Officials had hoped to prevent an outbreak by doing extra cleaning of the facility and daily temperature screenings of residents. The county health department said in a statement that it is putting a plan in place to prevent other cases but acknowledged that maintaining social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading is difficult in a building that has up to 300 people.
Montpelier: The New England Foundation for the Arts has awarded $47,000 to the Vermont Arts Council to support artists struggling financially amid the coronavirus outbreak, the council said. The funds will supplement an artists’ relief fund the council started last month to provide grants of up to $500 to artists who are having financial difficulty due to the loss of a job or cancellation of concerts, festivals, theatrical performances and other arts events due to COVID-19, the council said. The council received 183 requests for emergency relief funding in the first week and by April 15 had awarded 164 grants totaling more than $64,000. The applications are temporarily closed and will reopen for a new round of requests Wednesday. “From touring musicians who have lost all gigs for the foreseeable future to teaching artists whose residencies have been canceled this semester, Vermont’s working artists are hurting,” Executive Director Karen Mittelman said.
Richmond: The state has reduced its jail population by 17% in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday. Northam said the jail population in the state was 24,000 on April 7, down 17% from March 1. Virginia has also seen a 67% decline in the number of new commitments for misdemeanors across the state. Northam said the reduction was achieved through various steps, including decreasing the number of low-risk offenders being held without bail in jails, diverting offenders from being admitted into jails before trial by using summonses in lieu of arrests, and using alternatives to jail such as home electronic monitoring. Critics, however, say the state hasn’t moved quickly enough to reduce the number of people being held in state prisons, which are considered high-risk locations for the spread of the virus.
Seattle: A King County Metro bus driver who worked in a highly populated area that includes Seattle has died after contracting the coronavirus. Metro in a statement to The Seattle Times confirmed the death Thursday of 59-year-old Samina Hameed. “Metro and our entire community are deeply thankful for their service,” Metro officials said. “Our thoughts are with their family, friends and colleagues, as we look to do everything we can to support them.” Hameed had been a Metro employee since 2017. Her husband is also a Metro operator, and the two have three children. Hameed is the first Metro bus driver to die during the pandemic. Transit is deemed an essential service, but drivers typically come in contact with the public and have an increased chance of contracting the virus.
Charleston: Another nursing home resident has died due to the coronavirus, pushing the state’s confirmed death count to 19, officials said Sunday. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department confirmed the death of a male patient from the Eastbrook Rehabilitation Center in Charleston. The patient tested positive for the virus earlier this month and had been receiving care at a hospital, Eastbrook operator Stonerise Healthcare said in a statement. On Saturday, the state Department of Health and Human Resources reported the virus-related deaths of an 83-year-old man and an 88-year-old woman from Eldercare Health and Rehabilitation in the Jackson County community of Ripley. The number of reported deaths in the state from the coronavirus has more than doubled in the past week.
Milwaukee: There was new testing and protesting in the state Saturday as the number of COVID-19 cases rose to nearly 4,200 and the death toll increased to 212. Hundreds of demonstrators stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Brookfield to protest Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to extend Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order through May 26. The group is calling for the reopening of churches, parks and the state economy. Some wore masks and elected to participate in parking lots, while the majority stood together on the sidewalk waving. Several showed off campaign signs, flags and bumper stickers for President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, two separate teams were busy investigating COVID-19 cases, one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another from the state National Guard. Brown County officials said the CDC was making its way to the Green Bay area to look into a more than fourfold surge of COVID-19 cases in just 10 days.
Cheyenne: Testing ability and statistics rather than a schedule will determine when places in the state ordered closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus will be allowed to reopen, Gov. Mark Gordon said Friday. Gordon has prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people and ordered the closure of schools and many types of businesses through April 30. Gordon hasn’t said whether he would extend that date or when on the calendar he might begin lifting restrictions. “It’s not really so much date-driven; it’s data-driven. It’s more about how many tests we’ll be able to give, how many positives, how many of those positives are community spread versus something else,” Gordon told the Associated Press. Most of the U.S., including Wyoming, still lacks widespread testing capacity toward meeting newly outlined federal goals. “We aren’t adequate on testing. That’s been one of our biggest bugaboos,” Gordon said.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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