Montgomery: The stage is set for Alabama to resume parole hearings next month, but in a new way because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. An order issued Monday by Gov. Kay Ivey allows the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to hold hearings for inmates seeking early release without in-person participation from the public. The three-member board could meet by telephone or over the internet. Hearings will resume the week of May 18, and crime victims and others can submit comments in writing, Charlie Graddick, the director of the agency, said in a statement. People who can’t write can call. The agency had suspended hearings at its offices in Montgomery because of the pandemic and social distancing guidelines. Some had complained that the moratorium could lead to an increase in the state’s overcrowded prison system and present health risks for inmates at risk of contracting the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Bethel: Leaders of a tribal village have voted to adopt stringent measures to limit an upswing in the illegal transport of drugs and alcohol amid fears that the smuggled goods could prompt a surge in coronavirus infections. The Kwethluk Tribal Council tried to limit travel in and out of the village to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but the measures resulted in increased alcohol and drugs smuggled into the community where alcohol sales are prohibited, KYUK-AM reported Monday. The tribal council is worried the boxes and bottles smuggled into the village might spread the coronavirus, Kwethluk said Boris Epchook, commander for the Tribal Incident Management Team. The new penalties include fines of $1,000 and confiscations of snowmobiles or other vehicles used to transport alcohol and drugs. The tribe also plans to fine people traveling in and out of the village without authorization and for traveling during the village curfew hours of midnight to 6 a.m. Fines will increase by $1,000 with each additional infraction and confiscated vehicles will not be released until after the pandemic ends, the council said. The vehicles also will become available for use by the incident command team, the village security team and the Kwethluk Police Department personnel for enforcement work.
Phoenix: Arizona processed a record 82,771 background checks on would-be gun buyers in March, as fears of the coronavirus drove people to gun shops in what one shop owner called “panic time.” It was twice as high as any March in the state since FBI background checks began in 1998 and almost one-quarter of the total sales in Arizona for all of 2019, according to NICS Firearm Checks data, which showed a doubling of background checks from February. Gun shop owners said the only thing that has slowed down sales is a lack of inventory after March’s surge. The surge was reflected nationally, with background checks in March exceeding 3.7 million, a record for one month and more than a million higher than the 2.6 million checks in March 2019. Gun shop owners blamed the increase, especially for first-time buyers, on fears that police agency ranks might be thinned by coronavirus infections, as well as worries that gun shops might shut down along with other businesses. There’s no danger of that for now in Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey declared gun shops an “essential service” in his March 23 executive order that shut down many other nonessential businesses.
Little Rock: A wind turbine manufacturing plant in Little Rock is closing, affecting about 470 workers, the facility’s parent company said Tuesday. GE Renewable Energy said it was closing the LM Wind Power Plant because of declining demand for the specific blades made at the facility and the company’s need to streamline operations. The company said it is offering additional support for the plant’s employees, including continued pay for a minimum of four months and paying their health insurance premiums for another six months. LM Wind Power announced its $150 million facility in Little Rock in 2007 and opened it the following year. GE Renewable Energy acquired the company in 2016. Arkansas lured the company to the state with tax breaks and nearly $17 million in economic development incentives.
Palm Springs: The city on Monday issued an order that mandates all workers and visitors wear face masks, similar to Riverside County’s face-covering order that was issued earlier this month. Mayor Geoff Kors said although the majority of people are wearing protective coverings when they leave the house, not all are complying with the directive that’s meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. “We’re almost at the end of our second 14-day incubation period, and we’re continuing to have community spread,” he said. “If everyone was following the rules, those numbers would be lower, and we’d get through this faster.” Face coverings can include fabric masks, bandanas or scarfs without holes, or neck gaiters. City code enforcement and peace officers who enforce the order can issue fines for violations based on the severity, according to the order. Under the Palm Springs order, businesses also will have to post signs that remind people of the rule to wear a mask before they can enter a business. Kors said the city wanted to pass its own order after Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said last week that people will not be stopped and ticketed because they’re not wearing a mask. In Palm Springs, there’s a legal range for fines, and a general infraction usually starts around $100. Kors said although the city’s goal is to get people to comply with the order, businesses who are repeat offenders could see higher amounts or a suspension of their business license.
Windsor: Fort Range Fire Chief Mike West has turned to playing the bagpipe as a nightly rallying cry to ward off coronavirus blues. If you happen to be strolling along the peaceful Poudre Trail near Eastman Park, you are likely to hear his soulful melody. “This is a way of telling our friends and neighbors we are still here for another day,” West said. “It says we put up another good day of fight, and we are ready to put up another day of fight tomorrow.” West belongs to the 75-member Colorado Emerald Society, a band of Irish police officers and firefighters from 24 agencies across Colorado. He and other members of the society’s bagpiper ranks borrowed the idea from another band to head to different destinations near their homes and play for the last 20 to 30 minutes before sunset. He said the COVID-19 pandemic broke up the band for now, so instead of practicing together, members practice the same songs on their sunset tributes with the hopes that they will be ready to play together when the pandemic passes. West said members started playing March 29 and will play “until a reputable source tells them the coronavirus curve has flattened and the virus is under control.”
Bridgeport: Officials in the state’s largest city are seeking quick testing for the coronavirus for police and firefighters amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Mayor Joe Ganim said the city is working with the state Department of Public Health to secure serological blood tests, which detect antibodies for the new coronavirus and produce results in as few as 10 minutes. Eleven police department personnel and 22 fire department employees are in quarantine because of potential exposure to the virus, Ganim said. The tests would eliminate the need to quarantine first responders for 14 days, he said. From Friday to Monday, the city of nearly 145,000 people has seen COVID-19 cases increase about 40% to 786 and deaths more than double to 23. The city now has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the state after Stamford, which is approaching 1,500 cases. Ganim said the increase in cases was expected because of Bridgeport’s proximity to New York City, about 60 miles away.
Millsboro: Chicken producer Allen Harim Foods said the coronavirus outbreak has hit its staffing levels so hard that it cannot keep up with production. That means about 2 million chickens owned by the company be killed at the Delaware and Maryland farms where they were raised, but their meat will not make it to market, according to the Delmarva Poultry Industry. That announcement caught the attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is calling for Allen Harim to kill the chickens humanely. Allen Harim officials have not responded to requests for information about how they’re handling the coronavirus outbreak, or about their need to reduce flock numbers. “The impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. chicken industry is becoming more apparent as the disease continues to spread throughout the United States,” said Delaware Poultry Industry Executive Director Holly Porter. That includes Delmarva, where processing plants are seeing reduced staffing because of illness and absences from those concerned about COVID-19, she said.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Washington National Cathedral wanted to honor the men and women who are risking their lives every day to help the community in the fight to end the spread of the new coronavirus. So, it came as no surprise that they lit things up in blue with “Thank You” projected across the front of the cathedral, WUSA-TV reported. In conjunction with Atmosphere Lighting, the lighting starts at 8 p.m. every night this week through Friday. Buildings at the National Harbor, the Capital Wheel and Fleet Street are also lit up in blue to show solidarity with communities around the world. You can catch the lights driving across the bridge, on the property and on social media using #LightItBlue or #NationalHarbor. “The initiative is a way to say thank you to all of those fighting COVID-19 on the front lines,” said Jackie Saunders, AVP of marketing at National Harbor. “This effort is part of a massive ‘thank you’ to all of the healthcare professionals, first responders and essential workers who are risking their own health to save lives.” The National Harbor lighting coincides with communities clapping from their homes, windows and balconies at the same time to show their appreciation for healthcare and essential workers around the world.
Fort Lauderdale: A judge has one request for attorneys showing up for court hearings via Zoom: Get out of bed and put on some clothes! Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey made the plea in a letter published by the Weston Bar Association, news outlets reported. “It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera,” Bailey said in the letter. “One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers.” Bailey isn’t making any exceptions for lawyers lounging in the sunshine, either. “Putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit,” he wrote. Since courthouses shut down on March 16 to help slow the coronavirus pandemic, Broward County’s judicial system has held about 1,200 Zoom meetings involving some 14,000 participants, WPLG-TV reported. Bailey said he won’t hold a complicated trial over the video conferencing site, given the technology’s shortcomings. “Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes, or simply out the window, and cannot see the judge is hollering “Stop! Stop!” because an objection has been made and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge,” he said.
Atlanta: Police are seeking a woman they said coughed on a family in what investigators believe might have been part of a social media challenge. A family with four children was exercising outside at the Atlantic Station mixed-use development on April 5 when a woman approached on foot and coughed on them, Officer Anthony Grant said in an email Tuesday. The woman, who was holding her phone, said, “Corona,” and laughed, before walking away, he wrote. Investigators said the woman might have been participating in a coronavirus social media challenge. Police released a link to a video they said shows the woman they’re looking for. Police would like to speak with the woman about the incident and are asking anyone with information about her identity to call Crime Stoppers.
Wailuku: Hawaii has experienced a significant reduction in the use of electricity because of the coronavirus, with Maui’s use dropping the most among the three largest islands. Hawaiian Electric said the reduction is linked to a decline in tourism activities, business closures and residents staying home to slow the spread of the virus, The Maui News reported Monday. Maui had a 14% decline in average system peak demand, the point of highest energy use, during the week of March 22, the utility said. On Oahu and Hawaii island, the decline was by 7%, the company said. The change came after Democratic Gov. David Ige issued a stay-at-home order March 23 and then imposed a quarantine on visitors. The reduction in daytime peak electricity demand on Maui and Oahu came as schools, offices, government buildings, hotels and businesses closed. Peak daytime demand fell 21% on Maui and 16% on Oahu after March 22, Hawaiian Electric said. Maui experienced record lows for daytime electricity generation on sunny days when private rooftop solar systems supplied the majority of energy, the company said.
Boise: The state has enough gowns, face shields, gloves and other medical supplies to last for two weeks in dealing with the coronavirus crisis and that more supplies are on the way, officials said Tuesday. Republican Gov. Brad Little visited a Boise site where state officials are receiving and distributing medical supplies from donors, the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile and state procurement efforts. “The protection of our healthcare workers is a big part of preserving healthcare capacity, and ample personal protective equipment keeps them healthy and safe,” Little said in a statement. He also said in a video released by his office of the tour that the state must do more testing for the virus and that more personal protective equipment for healthcare workers is needed to boost that effort. Little said his March 25 statewide stay-at-home order is working to slow the spread of the virus. The order expires late Wednesday and Little is scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday morning about the order. He has not said whether the order will be extended, but has previously said he does not expect life to get back to normal in Idaho until there is a vaccine or a effective treatment for the virus.
Rockford: The COVID-19 Donations Center, a joint effort of the Winnebago County Emergency Operations Center and Salvation Army, opened Tuesday at 5460 E. State St. in Rockford, the Rockford Register Star reported. The center will be accepting donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. Area residents are being instructed to only bring items that are listed and to only bring them during the designated drop-off times. Items being collected for the general public in need are: paper products (paper towels, napkins and paper plates), personal hygiene items (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razors, lotion and body wash), baby care items (diapers, baby wipes, baby blankets, baby bottles and formula), cleaning supplies, laundry supplies and homemade face masks. Personal protective equipment for first responders and health care workers include N95 masks (NIOSH approved), procedure masks (ASTM II or III), isolation gowns, exam gloves (nitrile or vinyl), eye protection (glasses or goggles), face shields, hand wipes, TYVEK suits, sanitizing wipes, sanitizing sprays, anti-microbial hand soap, hand sanitizer, biohazard bags, gallons of bleach, touch-free thermometers and show covers. PPE donations will be distributed to local health care facilities. Items donated for the general public will be distributed to agencies serving area families and individuals in need. Volunteers wearing masks and gloves will retrieve donations from vehicles as they arrive at the center.
Indianapolis:Indiana residents are applying for unemployment benefits with every passing week of the coronavirus pandemic at a rate more than double the highest levels of claims filed during the Great Recession. That’s a significant strain on Indiana’s pool of money reserved for unemployment payments, which in January stood at $895 million. It’s unknown how long that money, which averages roughly $300 per person of the maximum $390, will last. But experts said it’s likely, if not certain, that the money will run out. When that happens, the state must borrow money from the federal government in the form of Title XII loans, just as Indiana and other states did during the Great Recession. It’s a process that once again adds debt to Indiana’s unemployment insurance fund, which had one of the lowest ratings in the nation for financial stability before the pandemic crisis. The state finally finished paying off federal debt from the Great Recession in 2015. Unemployment claims have skyrocketed in the past three weeks, as the economy reeled from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s first stay-at-home order that took effect on March 25. New claims have shot up to a high of 139,174 for the week ending March 28, and another 133,639 filed initial claims the next week. In the first few days of April alone, the department made 175,195 benefit payments, more than twice the 71,000 payments it made in the entire month of April last year.
Des Moines:Facing a 95% reduction in passenger traffic, Des Moines International Airport officials have closed a terminal, shut down services and delayed projects – including a planned Allegiant Air crew base – to save money during the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented decrease in travelers while Iowans are practicing social distancing follows three years of record-breaking traffic at the state’s largest airport. Officials said Des Moines International is in a good place financially, but the future of the airport industry once the pandemic subsides is unknown. “No one knows for sure what this industry is going to look like once we get past this,” Kevin Foley, the airport’s executive director, said at a virtual board meeting Tuesday. He and global airport officials expect the industry to enter a recession post-pandemic as they face a $252 billion passenger revenue loss and 2 million flight cancellations in 2020, according to the International Air Transport Association. Experts agree that international flights will be the slowest to start back up and passengers might still be hesitant to travel domestically for quite some time, Foley told the board. Des Moines International’s drop in passenger traffic began March 12, the same day the growing coronavirus pandemic prompted the closure of Walt Disney World and the cancellation of trips by Princess Cruises. It saw a 44% year-over-year decrease in March.
Mission: Health officials are urging store employees to cover their faces with masks or scarves at all times amid the coronavirus outbreak. Shawnee County health officer Gianfranco Pezzino also wrote Monday that retailers should limit the number of customers in a store at one time to no more than five customers for each 1000 square feet. He said that customers should be admitted on a “one-out, one in” basis once a store reaches its capacity, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. He also said that shopping carts should be sanitized before they are touched by customers and that hand sanitizer should be readily available. He also said the floor should be marked near cash registers to indicate where customers should stand.
Benton: The trial of a teen accused of fatally shooting two classmates and wounding 14 others at a high school might be postponed because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors and defense attorneys cited the virus in a Skype hearing on Monday as a reason to delay the trial of Gabriel Parker, 18, who is charged in the January 2018 shooting at Marshall County High School, news outlets reported. The trial for Parker, who was charged as an adult, is set to begin on June 1. Prosecutor Dennis Foust and defense attorney Tom Griffiths both expressed concerns about getting out-of-state witnesses to the trial. There also is a moratorium on most jury trials in Kentucky. Another issue discussed was how officials would accomplish social distancing during the proceedings, though different orders could be in place by June 1, the parties agreed. Marshall Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson said he would rule after getting more guidance from the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Lafayette: The Lafayette Regional Airport is receiving nearly $3 million in supplemental Airport Improvement Program funding as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins said Tuesday. The Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia is also receiving $30,000. “Coronavirus-related travel and economic restrictions have greatly injured our local airports as well as our larger economy,” Higgins said. “This funding will help offset some of those losses and ensure our local airports can maintain essential operations. Further, we’re working to deliver financial relief to individual Americans and businesses across the spectrum. This effort is ongoing.” The Lafayette Regional Airport is building a new terminal, with the total costs of the project being about $145 million. Much of the funding for the project is coming from federal and state agencies, though some is coming from a fee assessed to passengers. Passengers were also paying for the second security line the airport announced late last year. But passenger numbers dropped sharply in March, with the month seeing the airport’s lowest marks for outgoing and incoming passengers for the last decade. In March, the airport had almost 9,300 outgoing passengers – a decrease of nearly 57% from March 2019. The previous low was about 16,600 in 2016. There were about 10,500 incoming passengers in March, down about 51% from March 2019. The previous low was about 16,700 in 2016. The airport is coming off a record year, when it saw more than 267,000 outgoing passengers and more than 260,000 incoming passengers in 2019.
Portland: Health officials have been given high marks from the public for their response to the coronavirus pandemic, but the state lags behind others in the region in reporting some key pieces of data. Maine is the only New England state unable to provide daily reports on the number of people who have been tested for the virus, the Portland Press Herald reported Tuesday. And the state disclosed the number of nonresident COVID-19 cases only once, on April 9, even though Maine has the highest proportion of vacation homes in the nation. Two other states with large numbers of seasonal residents – Hawaii and Florida – post information on nonresident cases daily, the newspaper reported. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Robert Long said part of the problem with the lack of daily testing numbers is that outside labs are conducting tests, making it harder to get a handle on the figure. Because of “the varying frequency and formats that outside labs use in submitting negative test results,” the agency had decided that weekly reporting “ensures the reliability and accuracy of these data,” he told the newspaper in an email.
Annapolis: The state elections board decided Monday to allow three in-person voting centers for the special general election later this month to fill the rest of term for the seat last held by the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. The board voted Monday to allow one in-person voting center in each of the congressional district’s three jurisdictions on the day of the April 28 election. Those include the city of Baltimore, as well as Baltimore and Howard counties. The board is urging voters to cast their ballots by mail and leave the in-person centers for people who cannot vote by mail – such as the disabled and homeless – to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Initially, the election was going to be held entirely by mail. Ballots were mailed to all eligible active voters in early April with a return envelope and prepaid postage, the board said. Democrat Kweisi Mfume is running against Republican Kimberly Klacik in the special general election. The winner will still need to run in the state’s June 2 primary to win the party nomination to seek a full term to the seat in November’s election. Meanwhile,
Boston: The Boston-area transit system is projecting a $231 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30 caused in large part by a more than 90% decline in ridership during the coronavirus crisis. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials estimated a fare revenue plunge from $58 million per month to about $3 million per month for the next three to four months. The MBTA should be eligible for about $840 million in federal stimulus funds, chief financial officer Mary Ann O’Hara said Monday.
Lansing:The state will offer cash-strapped bars and restaurants relief by buying back their liquor inventory during the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order authorizing the program in a flurry of moves late Monday. She also delayed the expiration of valid driver’s licenses and state ID cards to June 30. And she extended a measure to keep intact a prohibition against dine-in service at restaurants and to continue the closure of many places of public accommodation through April 30 – when her stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire. Michigan’s 8,500 on-premises liquor licensees will have until Friday to request that the Liquor Control Commission buy back spirits purchased before March 16. Participating businesses are expected to keep their bottles for now to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Licensees will be able to buy the liquor again for at least 90 days after the states of emergency and disaster end. Whitmer said the program will help bars and restaurants “weather the storm through this challenging time in our history.”
Minneapolis: The state Department of Natural Resources has canceled this year’s egg-taking for walleye, northern pike, muskies and steelhead because of concerns over spreading the coronavirus. The agency said the work cannot be done safely under social distancing guidelines. According to the DNR, collecting eggs and sperm from spawning fish in the wild is labor-intensive and requires teams of six to eight people working in close proximity. The DNR looked at whether egg-taking could be reengineered, but determined it was not possible to safely handle fish during the egg take and protect staff from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The DNR collects fish eggs each spring to stock Minnesota waters that have low or no natural reproduction of those species. The agency said missing one year won’t hurt the fish population.
Jackson:A Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman inmate who died tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Department of Corrections. The unidentified man is the first reported inmate in the state prison system to test positive for the virus. MDOC issued a statement Monday night about the inmate, but didn’t provide details on when he died. Interim MDOC Commissioner Tommy Taylor told the Clarion Ledger on Monday night that he was informed Sunday of the inmate’s death. He said the inmate died at Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville. He said the inmate had been sick for weeks. Last week, MDOC announced three employees tested positive for COVID-19. The MDOC statement said the inmate, who had underlying health conditions, was tested when he began exhibiting symptoms and was immediately medically isolated pending results. The results did not come in until after the inmate had died. Whether the inmate died because of the coronavirus has not been determined, according to Taylor.
O’Fallon: The state has begun issuing $600 payments to more than 115,000 unemployed workers using funds approved as part of the federal stimulus package aimed at bolstering the economy left reeling by the coronavirus crisis. The Missouri Division of Employment Security said Tuesday that claimants should see payments within the next few days. The state said payments that began Monday will amount to $66 million in benefits. The congressional rescue bill added $600 a week, for a period of four months, to standard unemployment benefits. Some recipients will have to wait. The state can’t yet process unemployment claims from independent contractors and the self-employed, even though the federal government has temporarily extended benefits to those workers, St. Louis Public Radio reported. Anna Hui, secretary of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said the computer system for processing claims isn’t set up to take in applications from people who don’t have a direct employer. It’s unclear when the system might be able to process those claims.
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Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock said he does not have a timeline for when things can return to normal in Montana after the coronavirus outbreak, but Republican legislative leaders said he should start moving moving in that direction because the state’s economy is in a free fall. Bullock answered questions from residents during a Monday afternoon telephone town hall, saying he will continue issuing his stay-at-home orders in two-week intervals based on advice from medical professionals. Indicators such as a decline in cases over a two-week period or increased testing capability, could lead to easing restrictions. Bullock said even if he lifts the stay-at-home order, he might discourage large groups from gathering to avoid additional virus outbreaks, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. Republican legislative leaders, including Senate President Scott Sales and House Speaker Greg Hertz, wrote to Bullock Tuesday complaining that he hurt private businesses because by arbitrarily deciding which businesses were essential and could stay open, but apparently has not furloughed any state employees. The lawmakers suggested allowing local school districts to decide to reopen and letting businesses in counties with no recent COVID-19 cases to reopen while keeping areas with high numbers of infected people such as Gallatin County under heavier restrictions. They also suggest following the example of states like Florida, by directing at-risk populations, such as senior citizens and those suffering from chronic health conditions, to stay home.
Lincoln: Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday rejected a call from two state lawmakers to resume normal school and business activities in Nebraska right away, saying that could lead to a surge in new cases that might overwhelm the state’s hospitals. Ricketts said he will stick with the state’s current plan, which includes statewide school closures and restrictions on businesses and social gatherings until at least April 30. His remarks at his daily coronavirus press briefing came in response to a question about a newspaper column by state Sens. Steve Halloran and Steve Erdman, both conservatives who usually agree with the Republican governor. The senators argued that shelter-in-place orders across the U.S. have devastated the economy, put students at a disadvantage and “made the cure worse than the disease.” The senators contend that lifting the restrictions and allowing healthy people to contract the virus would create a “herd immunity” that would protect society as a whole. Epidemiologists and other public health experts said that approach would lead to a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, and social distancing is the only way to protect people who are most at risk. Ricketts said he agrees with the senators “100%” about the need to reopen schools and businesses as soon as possible, but he warned that doing so too soon could lead to a spike in cases.
Elko: The Great Basin National Park has been closed to all park visitors in response to guidance from county health officials in Nevada amid the coronavirus pandemic. The National Park Service made the announcement Monday after White Pine County public health officials encouraged park officials to take action to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, the Elko Daily Free Press reported. “The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority,” the statement said. “The National Park Service is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.” The park spans more than 120,500 square miles and is known for its ancient bristlecone pine grove and the Lehman caves. The park’s highest elevation is 13,063 feet at Wheeler Peak. Park officials are expected to notify the public when operations resume. Visitors have been encouraged to explore the park through digital tools already made available online until the park reopens.
Concord: The Prouty, an annual New Hampshire event to raise money for cancer research that involves people biking, walking, and doing other activities together, is going virtual this year because of concerns about the new coronavirus. Organizers said the Prouty will not be bringing 4,000 people together in Hanover in July for what traditionally has been a two-day event. Instead, participants will be encouraged to take part between June 1 and July 11 to bike, walk, row, golf, or do any other event from home or outdoors, allowing for physical distancing. Organizers have waived fundraising minimums except for the Prouty Ultimate bike riding event, which has lowered amounts. This is the 39th year of the Prouty, which supports cancer research and patient services at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon and in other locations across the state and in Vermont. The event has raised more than $40 million. More information is available at www.TheProuty.org, under “New for Prouty 2020.”
Trenton: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and at least a dozen other New Jersey natives will be doing a COVID-19 fundraiser for vulnerable victims in the state later this month, a relief fund announced Tuesday. The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund said the singers and celebrities will appear in videos from their homes at 7 p.m. on April 22. The other stars include New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, singer Tony Bennett, actors Danny DeVito and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as comedian Chris Rock. The celebrities will be directing people to the fund’s website so they can donate. The event will air on Apple Music and AppleTV apps, but will also be broadcast live and rebroadcast five times on E Street Radio on SiriusXM, according to the statement. The program will also be carried on WABC, WPVI, WPIX, News12, NJTV and radio outlets including 1010 WINS, WCBS 880 and others. The fund will provide grants to existing organizations that have a record of caring for vulnerable communities, according to the fund. All the money will go to groups that provide “essential services to those in need and to assist those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the fund’s statement said.
Albuquerque: A church has filed a lawsuit against the state after houses of worship were removed from an exemption of a public health order limiting gatherings to no more than five people to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Legacy Church is seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the order prohibiting people from congregating at places of worship, citing it violates the church’s First Amendment rights, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Legacy Church is holding online services that require about 30 people in the building, including the pastor, the band and others Pastor Steve Smothermon said, but there is ample space to social distance in the 2,500-seat church. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the order Saturday, a day before Easter. The order only prohibits places from bringing together more than five people into a space where they are within 6 feet of one another, governor spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said. Attorneys for the church and the state Health Department indicated Monday in a phone meeting with U.S. District Judge James Browning that they would be willing to compromise.
New York City: The city’s once-overwhelmed 911 system is now seeing a more normal volume of medical calls, a sign the crisis could be ebbing and people are heeding messages to call only in a life-threatening emergency. The fire department, which runs the city’s EMS system, said it received 3,932 calls requesting ambulances Sunday, down from a record high of 6,527 on March 30. The average volume in March and April of 2019 was just over 4,000 calls. Sunday was the sixth straight day that the city’s medical call volume was lower than the previous day. The fire department said it’s too early to know why volume has dropped. At the peak, operators were answering four new calls a minute. The fire department said the heavy volume of coronavirus patients had been pushing response times for the most serious calls to an average of more than 10 minutes, up from about 6½ to 7 minutes under typical circumstances.
Butner: An 81-year-old inmate at the Butner Prison Complex’s medium-security facility, has died after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Charles Richard Rootes died Saturday after receiving treatment for the virus for over two weeks, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a news release. He was diagnosed with the virus on March 26 after being taken to a hospital for respiratory failure. Roots was serving a 99-year sentence after being convicted last year of kidnapping, rape, and theft. As of Sunday, more than 80 people, including 22 employees, have been diagnosed with the virus in the prison complex that housed Rootes, The News & Observer reported. The facility, which houses 641 men, has more than 40 inmates who have tested positive for the virus. There are 10 other confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates at Butner’s low-security facility.
Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum stopped short of mandating that all polling places close during the state’s June 9 primary election, despite being urged by county auditors to do so out of concern for poll workers and the public amid the coronavirus outbreak. Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor wanted to give counties the option of having open polling places. “The bottom line is the governor wanted to provide flexibility to the counties to decide if they wanted to do mail-ballot-only elections based on their individual circumstances,” Nowatzki said. Conducting elections safely amid the pandemic has become an issue nationwide, most notably last week in Wisconsin, where Republicans insisted on holding in-person voting despite widespread health fears. It’s not clear who has the authority to change the format of an election in North Dakota. And the state’s top two Republicans said they think the decision should be left to counties. Burgum, at the request of the North Dakota County Auditors Association, signed an executive order last month waiving the requirement that counties have at least one physical polling site for the June election, while allowing counties to conduct the primary election entirely by mail.
Columbus: Three weeks into Ohio’s stay-at-home order, Gov. Mike DeWine is facing increasing pressure to restart some nonessential work across the state, especially in areas with few confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Republicans from rural Ohio who are worried about an economic collapse and owners of small businesses who fear losing their life investments are calling on DeWine to relax social distancing restrictions that brought many workplaces to a standstill. Although the Republican governor’s administration is working on a plan to gradually get people back to work, DeWine made it clear Monday that protecting the state’s residents is his first priority. So far, Ohio has avoided massive outbreaks like ones that crippled Detroit, New York City and New Orleans. DeWine said he has been getting advice from all corners, including the White House. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Democrat who represents parts of Cleveland’s east side, said it’s fine to begin talking about how to lift parts of Ohio’s stay-at-home order but too early to put that into motion. Those decisions should be made with input from public health officials who are relying on data, she said, noting there isn’t enough testing currently to know how widespread the virus has become, including in rural areas. “We’re all getting anxious,” Howse said. “It’s hard to stay still. But we need to stay still.”
Oklahoma City:The state’s health agencies no longer need approval before hiring additional employees after Gov. Kevin Stitt updated his executive order again on Monday in an effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oklahoman reported. Stitt also clarified the circumstances under which state-level first responders could take paid sick leave. First responders, who include correctional officers, law enforcement and fire personnel, have to be under a COVID-19 quarantine or isolation order or be experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus and seeking a medical diagnosis before they can get paid sick leave. The clarifications come about a week after Stitt made sure first responders would be guaranteed paid time off if they contracted COVID-19. “Our first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect their fellow Oklahomans,” Stitt said in a press release. “There’s no opportunity to work from home in these jobs, so they need our support. I also encourage cities and counties across the state to provide the same benefits to their first responders.”
Salem:More than 100 older and medically vulnerable homeless people have been provided hotel rooms to protect them from COVID-19 before the coronavirus pandemic spreads within Salem’s unsheltered population. Since mid-March, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency has placed 113 unsheltered homeless people in six hotels across Marion and Polk counties, paying for them to stay, delivering food to their doors and checking on them daily. Certain underlying medical maladies – including heart conditions, asthma, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, cancer and immune deficiencies –put people at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19, which makes it all the more important they limit contact with other people who might transmit the virus to them. For unsheltered homeless people, social distancing at home isn’t an option. So people with those conditions are being identified by ARCHES and moved indoors before they come into contact with the virus. There has been one confirmed case of the new coronavirus among Salem’s homeless community, which was identified in mid-March.
Harrisburg: Counties across the state have processed about 283,000 absentee and mail-in ballots for the June primary, and requests from Democrats are three times more common than from Republicans, state elections officials said Tuesday. The Department of State said 89,000 absentee ballot requests have been processed, with the June 2 primary still seven weeks away. During the 2016 primary, 84,000 votes were cast under the absentee ballot system, which is available only to those who offer an acceptable reason they would not be able to vote in person. Counties have processed 195,000 requests for mail-in ballots under a state law passed last fall that permits them for any voter who requests one. Pennsylvania has about 4.1 million registered Democrats and 3.3 million Republicans. Of the absentee and mail-in requests for the primary processed so far, about 209,000 are from Democrats and 73,000 from Republicans. Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said remote voting applications jumped after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued orders closing schools and businesses not considered essential to sustaining life.
Providence: The state Republican Party has raised concerns about the suspension of elections laws for the state’s June 2 presidential primary in response to the coronavirus crisis. The party in a letter to the state Board of Elections on Tuesday said it was concerned about mail ballot fraud as a result of the suspension of laws requiring two people, or a notary, to witness the signing by voters of mail ballots. “Don’t suspend laws that safeguard our elections,? the party said. The GOP also questioned whether the expense of sending mail ballot applications to all of Rhode Island’s roughly 789,000 registered voters for what is likely to be a “low-turnout” contest is necessary. In response, election board Vice Chairman Stephen Erickson told The Providence Journal that the GOP’s concerns appear to be centered on “false claims of widespread fraud.”
West Columbia: With hurricane season less than two months away, state officials said Monday they don’t yet have a good plan in place if a storm hits during the coronavirus outbreak, particularly for people potentially displaced from their homes. During the latest media briefing on the outbreak, Kim Stenson, director of the state Emergency Management Division, said his agency is still working to configure solutions for how to potentially handle thousands of evacuees in an age of social distancing. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, although Stenson pointed out that the state typically isn’t impacted until later in the season. According to the National Weather Service, most hurricanes affecting South Carolina have historically occurred from August through October, but there have also been “fairly active” periods as early as May. The earliest hurricane to impact the area was recorded nearly 70 years ago, in February 1952. Forecasters also note a “general increasing trend” of hurricanes either before June or after October, possibly because of better observation and record-keeping. With social distancing guidelines in place, Stenson said, the issue of how to shelter those displaced during hurricanes is being discussed now by officials who annually come up with plans for each storm season. As it is during the coronavirus outbreak, Stenson’s agency acts as a statewide clearinghouse for coordination of emergency response during hurricanes, a centralized hub for the tracking of shelters and resources, as well as the dissemination of information to media and the public at large.
Sioux Falls: The Falls Park Farmer’s Market is offering produce and products in an online market ahead of its usual May opening because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although the market hasn’t been approved as an “essential business” yet in Sioux Falls, vendors want to limit foot traffic if the market is able to have a physical location this year. Nathan Van Zweden, a market vendor and a member of the market’s board of directors, said he hopes the market will be included as an essential business. But the online shop will allow people to follow CDC recommendations while still supporting vendors, he said. Customers are able to order products online at 12 p.m. Monday through 5 p.m. Wednesday each week and pick up their orders in the Falls Park Farmer’s Market parking lot that Saturday. The market plans to offer a delivery option soon, Van Zweden said.
Nashville:Abortion providers have filed an emergency motion in federal court, asking for an order allowing them to continue serving women despite Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus. Their attorneys argued in a motion filed Monday that abortions should be exempt from the Republican governor’s order blocking “nonemergency health care procedures.” Delaying abortions will “impose extreme burdens” on women by forcing them to travel long distances out of state during the pandemic, or wait weeks for an abortion, exposing them to increased medical risks, they argued. It also runs counter to guidance from the American Medical Association, which issued a statement “denouncing efforts to ‘ban or dramatically limit women’s reproductive health care’ at this time,” court filings stated. Applying the executive order to abortions also goes against the stated purpose of the temporary ban: to preserve the supply of personal protective equipment and limit unnecessary patient-provider interactions. Attorneys for the providers stated that they attempted to resolve the issue without litigation but were unable to do so.
Austin: Texas businesses won’t all reopen at the same time, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday, even as President Donald Trump indicated he was itching to restore the nation’s economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott, a Republican, said he would provide more details this week of how he envisions Texas getting back to work, although he has set no timetable. He has issued what is effectively a stay-at-home order through the end of April, and officials in some of Texas’ largest cities said they don’t expect the number of COVID-19 cases to peak until May. Trump asserted Monday that it will be up to him to determine how and when to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country, though it is unclear what authority he has to overrule the states. Abbott said he spoke with Trump over the weekend and that the White House understands that “what may work for Nebraska may be different than what works for New York.” Hours later, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he was eagrer to get things going again also, but that doing so too soon could make the situation worse. Abbott also hinted at a decision coming later this week on whether Texas schools will remain closed for the rest of the year. Classes statewide are suspended through May 4.
Salt Lake City: The Legislature will hold a special session to address the coronavirus crisis starting on Thursday. The session announced late Monday will be held remotely for the first time to avoid spreading the virus that has infected one lawmaker. Democratic Sen. Luz Escamilla has recovered. Legislators will reexamine the state budget amid widespread economic fallout from business shutdowns to halt the spread of the virus. Other issues on the session’s agenda include ensuring access to medication, preparing for the June primary election and extending the state income tax deadline. Special sessions typically last one day, but this one could continue for 10 days. “We are navigating uncharted territory as a state and as a nation,” said Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson said, adding that the state has a robust rainy-day fund that will help officials manage the crisis. The state hasn’t be able to set up virtual viewings for committee hearings, so lawmakers are instead asking people to read bills and submit comments online. Those won’t be visible to everyone else. The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah raised questions about the transparency of that process, saying the comments should be visible just as verbal comments made in a typical hearing are open to all.
Burlington:The City Council is asking Gov. Phil Scott to halt the Vermont Air National Guard’s training flights in their F-35 fighter aircraft during the coronavirus outbreak while Vermonters are staying home. On Monday, the council passed a nonbinding resolution 11-1 in favor of the request. Progressive Councilor Perri Freeman, who sponsored the resolution, said her biggest concern is that more people are being exposed to the noise now that everyone is required to stay at home. She said she has heard from concerned citizens who said they’re distressed and anxious about the noise since the stay-at-home order began. Vermont National Guard spokesman Capt. Mikel Arcovith said the F-35 flights are part of the Air Guard’s federal mission. “We must continue training for readiness essential to respond to local and global defense,” he said.
Richmond: Unregulated betting machines in gas stations and bars have been granted a possible 11th-hour reprieve because of the coronavirus crisis. And casino legalization in the Old Dominion has taken a big step forward. Gov. Ralph Northam took action on several gambling-related pieces of legislation over the weekend, including a bill that would have banned “gray machines,” which have proliferated in restaurants, bars and convenience stores in recent years. The governor is now asking lawmakers to delay the ban, saying the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy requires a new approach. Northam wants to tax the machines and use the revenue to fund a virus relief plan aimed at helping small businesses and improving social services for individuals. Northam’s chief of staff Clark Mercer said banning the machines now would hurt the restaurants that rely on the extra revenue from the games and have been hit hard by mandated closures due to the coronavirus. The machines are called gray machines because they operate in a gray area of the law. The games look and play like slot machines, though the manufacturers said there is an element of skill involved.
Seattle: A Seattle-area doctor who got the coronavirus and spent more than two weeks on a ventilator is now at home recovering after receiving experimental treatments. “You realize there are times in life that it’s completely out of control and you have to put your trust and faith in another person’s hands,” Dr. Ryan Padgett told The Seattle Times on Monday after receiving treatment at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland and another hospital. Padgett, an emergency department physician, got sick in early March after becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Padgett was one of the first front-line health-care workers in Washington to test positive for COVID-19. He said he believes he likely became infected with during what he described as an “onslaught” of cases flowing into the emergency department.
Charleston: A nursing home already linked to a coronavirus death is now reporting an outbreak of 66 cases. At least 36 residents and 30 staffers of the Wayne Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have the virus, according to a statement posted on the facility’s social media late Monday. Ten tests are still pending. The nursing home on Saturday said a patient with the virus and several other underlying medical conditions had died. No other details were released. A statement from the center said it is working with local health officials and taking necessary precautions to prevent further spread. A spokesman for the facility declined to comment further Tuesday. Gov. Jim Justice said he is “really concerned” about the nursing home adding that the state health department and National Guard are assisting local health officials. The outbreak at the Wayne center is the latest in a string of cases tied to nursing homes, where a trade group leader said supplies are running dangerously low. Two deaths and about 30 positive resaults have been reported at the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown and local health officials in Charleston have said Eastbrook Center has eight cases and Brookdale Charleston Gardens has one.
Madison: The state Assembly overwhelmingly approved a sweeping coronavirus relief bill Tuesday during a virtual session, the first time state lawmakers have gathered since the pandemic began in the United States. The session took place in the Assembly chamber as usual, but because of concerns about spreading the virus, nearly two-thirds of the body’s 99 members attended via videoconference. The Senate was to hold a similar session on Wednesday to send the bill on to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. It marked the first time in Wisconsin’s 172-year history that lawmakers convened a session with members participating remotely. Legislative rules require lawmakers to be present to debate and vote on bills but a 2009 law allows for virtual sessions during disasters. The legislation l argely ensures that Wisconsin can capture the $2.3 billion coming to the state under the federal stimulus bill, including higher Medicaid payments and unemployment benefits. The Legislature’s budget committee would be allowed to allocate up to $75 million in funding during the public health emergency and up to 90 days after it ends.
Casper: Businesses and others in Casper who violate public health orders to limit the spread of the new coronavirus could soon face fines. The Casper City Council planned to take up the proposed fines Tuesday. If approved after three readings, the ordinance would impose fines of $250 for a first violation, $750 for a second violation and $750 plus possible jail time for subsequent violations, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Gov. Mark Gordon has prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people and ordered schools and many businesses, including bars and theaters, closed until April 30. Casper officials said they have warned several businesses in violation of the health orders. Elsewhere in Wyoming, the Cheyenne City Council planned Monday to consider suspending an ordinance so that businesses with liquor licenses could deliver alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic.
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