Montgomery: Gov. Kay Ivey is not ready to issue a shelter-in-place order as other governors have, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, arguing the state has taken aggressive action to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia on Wednesday reversed course and issued stay-home directives after previously resisting such a statewide order. But Ivey’s office said Wednesday that the governor is not ready to follow suit. A spokeswoman for Ivey said the governor has not ruled anything out, but hopes the state will not have to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. Alabama last week announced the closure of nonessential businesses, such as salons, gyms and many retail stores and a prohibition of gatherings of 10 people or more that are not work-related where people can’t stay at least 6 feet apart. The previous limit had been 25. The state had earlier announced the closure of public and private beaches, on-site restaurant dining and that students would finish the school year by doing distance learning at home. Alabama’s “safer at home” policy urges people to stay home but does not order them to do so.
Juneau: The state accused an Anchorage man of buying respirators and selling them at “unconscionable prices” online to profit off coronavirus concerns. The complaint against Juan Lyle Aune alleged violations of a law barring unfair trade and commerce practices. It seeks financial penalties. Court records did not list an attorney for Aune, and a phone listing tried by the Associated Press didn’t work. The complaint alleged Aune generally bought 20-packs of respirators for between $17 and $23 from local stores. Between Feb. 10 and March 16, he sold respirators on Amazon at an average price of $89.25, the complaint states and alleged he made other sales on eBay. Reselling the respirators for “unconscionable prices during a time of increased necessity and high demand … offends public policy,” violates fairness concepts and and is unethical, the complaint stated. Assistant Attorney General John Haley, by email, said price-gouging involves taking advantage of an emergency. He said factors developed by the Alaska Supreme Court to help determine when an action is unfair under the law include whether it violates generally accepted fairness standards; is immoral, unethical, unscrupulous or oppressive; and whether it hurts people or businesses.
Phoenix: Some shooting ranges in metro Phoenix are closing to the public or restricting hours in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Arizona Game and Fish Department announced that Ben Avery Shooting Facility in north Phoenix, off Interstate 17 and the Carefree Highway, is closed to the public until further notice. The rifle and pistol ranges at Ben Avery are still open to law enforcement officers and user groups, which have mandated insurance and use ranges for firearms training and education. The Ben Avery archery range remains open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Only cash payments left in the drop box are accepted. Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday issued a statewide stay-at-home order, which will run through April. Although Ducey encouraged Arizonans to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19, he said it’s important for residents to be able to go outside for recreation, as long as they practice social distancing. Privately operated ranges are still open across the Valley, but many are cutting hours and services. The Usery Mountain Shooting Range, on Ellsworth Road near the Usery Mountain Regional Park in the far East Valley, is limiting services to curb the spread of the virus. The range, which is operated by the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club on land owned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is postponing all competitions, user groups and organized activities through the end of May, the range announced. The main public range, member range and sporting clays course are still open to the public. Indoor ranges, which often rent and sell firearms, are open with limited hours.
Little Rock:The Buffalo National River was temporarily closed Thursday because of coronavirus concerns. The National Park Service said the closure takes effect immediately and includes the river, trails, campgrounds and open spaces. “It breaks my heart to have to close this incredible public park,” Buffalo National River superintendent Mark Foust said in a release. “It is, however, the right thing to do to protect the people that work here, live here, visit here, and love this place.” Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday asked the federal government to close the park and imposed temporary restrictions on state parks, including prohibiting overnight use at them. Hutchinson, legislators and local officials have complained about large numbers of people crowding the Buffalo National River area.
Los Angeles: A British man accused of smuggling a phony coronavirus cure into the United States was charged with a federal crime, prosecutors said. Frank Richard Ludlow, 59, of West Sussex was charged in Los Angeles federal court with introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and could face up to three years in federal prison if convicted, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He was arrested last week on drug charges in the United Kingdom and remains in custody there, authorities said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney. Prosecutors alleged that Ludlow, who isn’t a doctor, had been selling people in California and Utah via mail a concoction called “Trinity Remedy” that he touted as a “miracle cure” for various ailments, according to a court affidavit. “This cure’ – later rebranded as ‘Trinity Mind, Body & Soul’ – allegedly contained vitamin C, an enzyme mix, potassium thiocyanate, and hydrogen peroxide. Consumers were instructed to add 18 ounces of water, say a prayer, drink half of the solution, take a probiotic along with bee pollen, and then ingest the remainder of the solution,” the U.S. attorney’s office statement said. Authorities said Ludlow sold between 300 and 400 of the treatment kits, but in February or March, as the coronavirus pandemic worsened, he began selling the kits under a new name: “Trinity COVID-19 SARS Antipathogenic Treatment.” The treatments haven’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for any medical use. “Every major health authority has warned that there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office. “Hucksters who hawk ‘treatments’ for this deadly disease put consumers’ lives at risk by peddling unapproved drugs.”
Colorado: In the past two weeks, Northern Colorado shelters and rescue groups have seen dramatic spikes in adoption and foster applications. As adoptions soar during the coronavirus epidemic, fewer pets are being surrendered to the Larimer Humane Society, said Tylor Starr, marketing and community outreach program manager. Although they have shut down adoptions through April 17 because of the stay-at-home order, the humane society is still providing lost-and-found, urgent owner surrender and end-of-life services to alleviate animal suffering, he said. Between March 18 and March 25, the humane society adopted out 83 animals, a 28% increase, and witnessed a 41% decrease in surrenders compared with the same time last year. The humane society still has 51 animals in foster homes and 53 more foster homes on standby. Starr said he doesn’t anticipate the need for more foster families at the moment. Bounce Animal Rescue in Fort Collins has seen a threefold increase in adoption applications and a flood of families stepping up to foster dogs, said executive director Anneliese Clark. Before the pandemic, Bounce typically received five to 10 adoption applications per dog. Now, it’s seeing 30 applications per animal and getting about 50 foster home applications a day. Weekly adoption events are on hold during the pandemic, but Bounce is still doing virtual appointments with potential adopters, “low-contact” handoffs for adoptions and a one-week trial for all adoptions to make sure the match is a good fit.
Hartford: Two members of the Connecticut National Guard are among the latest state residents to test positive for COVID-19. An airman assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing in East Granby tested positive March 27, and a soldier assigned to Joint Force Headquarters who works in Middletown tested positive the next day, National Guard officials said. The airman, between 20 and 30 years old, is hospitalized and the soldier, a woman between 40 and 50 years old, is recovering at home, officials said. On Wednesday, the National Guard also was transforming Southern Connecticut State University’s Moore Fieldhouse and Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center into mobile hospitals to help with the anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients. There will be 250 beds at Southern and 200 at Western.
Wilmington:Trout fishing season started Tuesday, instead of the traditional first Saturday in April, “to help minimize crowds and accommodate responsible outdoor recreation during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) period,” the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said in a release. Anglers can read regulations and find information about licenses on DNREC’s website. Coronavirus or not, the fish were biting. And anglers were eager to get out from isolation, return to a bit of normalcy and get one of those fish. Or, better: the daily limit of six. The DNREC encouraged safe social distancing, reminding anglers that a fishing pole can be about the length of the recommended minimum distance of 6 feet, and to choose less-crowded areas to fish. That can be the hard part, with the trout not practicing social distancing but clumping together in favored spots where they could be seen tantalizingly close in the shallow water. Fishing was a welcome change for Trampas Henderson of Stanton. “It is good to get out; recently I’ve been doing nothing but working and going home. The gym has been closed, restaurants and everything have been closed,” Henderson said. “It’s just nice to get out and do something different.”
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser said a COVID-19 testing site opens Friday at United Medical Center, WUSA-TV reported. The drive-through and walk-up facility is only open to D.C. residents with symptoms who are 65 and older, health care workers, first responders, and D.C. residents with underlying medical conditions. A hotline will be set up in the coming days so residents can call ahead and make an appointment.
Melbourne: The Brevard Zoo is welcoming a baby giraffe, which was born on Sunday. The calf weighed 125 pounds and was 6-feet tall at birth. Zoo officials said in a statement that it was the sixth consecutive male calf born there. It was the ninth birth for the calf’s mother, Johari, 20. The father, Rafiki, 21, has sired all 14 giraffe born at the zoo, the statement said. The veterinary staff said the calf is in good health and nursing well, according to zoo officials. Masai giraffe are endangered because of habitat loss and poaching, the statement said.
Marietta: A kitten stuck on a roof in the cold was saved by firefighters. The 6-week-old kitten was nursed back to health Wednesday after her rescue, Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services said in a post on Facebook. The female kitten quickly recovered after she was given milk, cat food, and was warmed in towels, a fire official told the Marietta Daily Journal. “A future fantasy life on the farm is in order for this adorable kitty,” the post added. The department decided to name the kitten “Shingles” after asking followers on social media to help name the feline, a fire official said.
Honolulu: A school has distributed laptops to students who need the computers to take part in online education during the coronavirus outbreak. Hawaii News Now reported Wednesday that Pahoa High and Intermediate School distributed about 200 Google Chromebooks during three drive-thru collection events. The public school’s students signed release forms allowing them to borrow the laptops. The school’s online learning program began this week and staff said teachers and students are adapting to the changes. Staff members said it was important to get the laptops to students quickly so they would have the technological capability they need to learn from their homes. The state Department of Education announced public and charter schools will remain closed to students through April 6 in response to the virus pandemic. Pahoa High and Intermediate teachers developed curriculum using Google classroom and other other online platforms.
Boise: U.S. officials are using the coronavirus pandemic to force a through long-delayed livestock grazing allotment decision in critical sage grouse habitat for a powerful agribusiness, an environmental group claimed. Wildlands Defense is asking the Bureau of Land Management to delay its March 20 decision approving Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.’s permit on about 94 square miles in southwestern Idaho for at least 10,500 cattle until the virus abates. The director for the Idaho bureau, John Ruhs, has refused. It’s not clear when the agency will issue a final decision, which would start a 30-day appeals process. Wildlands defense said the bureau’s appeal process requiring in-person trips to U.S. Postal Service offices to send or acknowledge receipt of certified mail by dozens of people puts communities at risk. The group said the bureau’s requirements also violate Gov. Brad Little’s March 25 stay-at-home order. The grazing allotment is in an area typically referred to as the Owyhees, which includes the Owyhee Mountains, canyons and rolling flats. Bureau spokesman Ken Frederick, in an email to the Associated Press, said the bureau’s “ability to modify grazing appeal procedures, which require certified mail receipts to confirm that interested parties received notice of a grazing decision and signed hard copies of appeals, is limited.” The agency hasn’t made public on its website the proposed decision. A copy obtained by the AP shows the agency is proposing to renew the grazing permit for 10 years. The average number of cattle on the range has been about 3,700 since Simplot acquired the permit in 1995. The proposed permit for 10,500 is roughly the same as 1995, but numbers typically fluctuate below that based on the condition of the range. Sage grouse are chicken-sized birds with an elaborate courtship ritual. Between 200,000 and 500,000 sage grouse remain in 11 Western states, down from a peak population of about 16 million. Experts generally attribute the decline to road construction, development and oil and gas leasing.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University has suspended the Delta Chi fraternity for violating the chancellor’s order banning in-person activities to slow the spread of COVID-19, officials said. The Southern Illinoisan reported Carbondale police over the past weekend responded to a house party hosted by Delta Chi, a violation of an administrative directive issued March 27 by interim Chancellor John Dunn and dean of students Jennifer Johns-Hall. The directive ordered compliance with Illinois Department of Public Health protocols requiring state residents to stay home except for essential trips for groceries or medicine. Gatherings of 10 or more people are also banned. “It was reported by the Carbondale Police Department that a fraternity in our community blatantly disregarded this message,” said Fraternity and Sorority Life assistant director Rachel Dunning said in an email announcing the suspension, adding it will stay in affect indefinitely. Jones-Hall said students found to have been involved in the incident will be referred to the student administration office.
Indianapolis: An April Fools’ Day prank making the rounds on social media suggested that Indiana students will have to repeat their current grade because of the coronavirus crisis. The joke, created by prank websites that can be used to generate social media posts that resemble real news stories, used Gov. Eric Holcomb’s image and claimed that he announced the move during a news conference. That did not happen. Holcomb addressed the prank and others like it Wednesday afternoon. Holcomb noted the date, then said he had received calls and texts asking about executive orders it was rumored he had signed Wednesday. “There were none today and get your information from the Department of Health’s website, that coronavirus website,” Holcomb said. “Don’t get it from someone who’s forwarding a forward that’s been forwarded. Get your information from the Department of Health.” Indiana isn’t the only state dealing with the spread of this fake news on social media. Posts mentioning schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and California are also being generated and shared. In Indiana, all schools will remain closed until at least May 1 and all state testing has been canceled. But students won’t be repeating the grade.
Des Moines:Lily Ungs, 17, of Urbandale performed a ballet for residents of the Summit House senior community in Des Moines on Wednesday night. Since the coronavirus epidemic began, Wednesdays are called “Balcony Night” in the community. Instead of gathering at each other’s apartments or various spots around the building, the residents have taken to standing on their balconies and chit-chatting across the gap. But Jon and Elaine Lindgren cajoled Ungs, their granddaughter, into performing a routine in the parking lot. Ungs studied at the prestigious Ballet West Academy in Salt Lake City, until her school year, like so many others, was shortened by the pandemic. Shortly before 6:30 p.m., Ungs warmed up, using the backs of parked cars to run through her routine stretches. She wore a white tutu and a silver tiara. The residents gathered on their balconies and folks from the other side of the building made their way over, doing their best to stay 6 feet away from their neighbors per coronavirus protocols. With scores of eyes upon her, Ungs twirled and tapped across the rough surface. Her performance included “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker.”
Topeka: The state expects an influx of coronavirus tests in the coming weeks that should help with efforts to bring the pandemic under control, the state’s top health official said. Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s secretary of health and environment, said that he expects to have up to 64,000 test kits that can produce results in 45 minutes, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. “Very clearly we need to do population studies, meaning testing people who are well,” Norman said. “It’s very fundamental work and will push the analysis (of the virus) upstream. But until that time, social distancing is the name of the game.” Gov. Laura Kelly has issued a statewide stay-at-home-order as part of efforts to slow the virus’ spread, but getting everyone to follow it has proved challenging. The Shawnee Mission School District, which is among the state’s largest with more than 27,000 students, announced that it would begin issuing trespassing warnings Thursday for people who violate social distancing rules at its fields and stadiums. Those facilities remain open so people can exercise. But officials said the district and local police departments have received numerous complaints about large groups playing organized sports. People are supposed to stay at least 6 feet from each other and not gather in groups of more than 10.
Frankfort: The Kentucky National Guard already has been posted at local hospitals, but they soon will be at food banks amid the coronavirus pandemic.Gov. Greg Beshear announced Wednesday that the National Guard will deploy 70 members to four regional food bank warehouses located in Louisville, Elizabethtown, Wilder and Lexington.”Deployment is going to help feed seniors, families and displaced workers,” Beshear said during his daily news conference. “The National Guard members will assist Kentucky’s food banks by sorting and packing food into bags and boxes and distributing that through no-touch food distributors.”
Shreveport:Gov. John Bel Edwards reported a “jarring” uptick in coronavirus cases Thursday, though the state health department’s top COVID-19 expert said the spike is the result of a logjam of test results finally released to the state. The state reported 2,726 new cases Thursday for a total of 9,150 in 61 of the state’s 64 parishes. “This largely reflects people who already knew their test results, but the reporting to the state lagged,” Louisiana Department of Health Dr. Alex Billioux said on a conference call with reporters. “What we want to be clear is … this isn’t a sudden 24-hour jump in cases that are a run on our health system; rather, it’s a bottleneck of reporting testing results,” Billioux said. Billioux said the backlog is largely from commercial testing, where he said 160,000 national tests results have lagged being reported to state. “There’s been pressure on those companies to get a better flow,” he said. He said the spike from delayed reports makes it harder to determine Louisiana’s infection trajectory. “These are cases newly reported, not necessarily new cases,” Billioux said. “The trajectory is still very concerning … but the extra element of lagging results makes it harder to (calculate) the trajectory.” Thursday’s number of hospitalizations rose less than than 10% to 1,638.
Portland: Unemployment claims in Maine have reached a new high, surpassing a previous record attributed to the coronavirus outbreak. There were about 23,800 initial claims for unemployment compensation during the week that ended March 28, the Maine Department of Labor said. The previous record was about 21,500 claims a week earlier. There had been fewer than 700 claims a week before that in Maine, which had been riding a long streak of low unemployment. The Maine Department of Labor said in a statement that the virus “has caused significant economic hardship for Maine people and job losses across the state, particularly in the food services and lodging, health care and social assistance, retail trade and manufacturing industries.”
Salisbury:In the span of a week, Hardwire went from building armor to help protect soldiers from improvised explosives to trying to protecting health care workers from an enemy invisible to the naked eye. Developing a new type of face shield required long hours, sleepless nights and many cups of coffee, CEO Geroge Tunis said, but in the span of about 10 days Hardwire designed, tested, refined, retested and now manufacturers thousands of shields a day. The shields came at a crucial time for Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, said Michael Franklin, the hospital’s president and CEO. “We were out of face shields,” Franklin said. “We were using goggles from Lowes and Home Depot. They had provided us with a lot of regular safety goggles and one of the paint stores in town also brought over all their safety goggles.” More than 100 face shields were assembled after the first day of production, Tunis said. Four days later, the company manufactured 12,000, with an additional 7,000 being built in one day alone. “This virus is spreading exponentially so every hour counts. So getting into production in meaningful levels is so important,” Tunis said. “You can’t make 10 of something and think you’re making a meaningful dent in it. The right number is 60,000-100,000 a day. You need to be at that level.”
Boston: The New England Patriots’ private team plane returned to Boston from China on Thursday on a rainy afternoon carrying most of an order of 1million masks crucial to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the new coronavirus. Standing in front of the plane on the tarmac at Logan International Airport, Gov. Charlie Baker thanked Patriots owner Robert Kraft, officials in China who partnered with the state, and medical workers who need the masks. “This shipment comes at a critical time as we prepare for an anticipated surge in the coming weeks ahead,” Baker said. “What we were able to accomplish with this particular mission will go a long way forward in this fight.” Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Baker said Thursday an earlier order for 3million masks had been confiscated at the Port of New York and this time he wanted a direct humanitarian delivery to the state. In an interview with Patriots.com radio Thursday, Kraft Sports and Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan said the Chinese government didn’t sign off on the trip until March 27. He said the hurdles included legal logistics that were only cleared thanks to cooperation involving multiple state, U.S. and international entities. Nolan said the Patriots received permission to land in China and got a waiver of a 14-day quarantine because the pilots didn’t get off the plane. Baker said some masks will go to New York and Rhode island. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Lansing:Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday urged state lawmakers not to come to the Capitol on Tuesday, as planned, saying it is too dangerous to convene a session during the coronavirus pandemic. But she later clarified her remarks through a spokeswoman, saying lawmakers should convene briefly and in a safe manner to extend her emergency and disaster orders, and then return to their districts. “They should come in, extend (the orders) 70 days, and return to their communities like the rest of us are doing to keep the public safe,” spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said. However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and other Republican lawmakers have said the requested 70-day extension is too long, and they plan to approve a shorter extension when they convene Tuesday. Earlier, at a news conference at the Capitol, Whitmer said: “The Legislature’s insistence on coming in next week is something I implored them not to do.” Whitmer’s original emergency declaration is set to expire Tuesday. However, she made a new disaster declaration on Wednesday, meaning she can continue to exercise emergency powers for another 28 days from Wednesday without the need for the Legislature to convene and vote on a resolution to extend the emergency or the disaster. She also has powers under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act to continue to act unilaterally, even without an extension from lawmakers.
St. Paul: Gov. Tim Walz said he will deliver his postponed State of the State address on at 7 p.m. Sunday, and added he’s looking forward to speaking directly to Minnesotans during this uncertain time. The governor said Wednesday that he will deliver the speech alone with a remote camera from the Governor’s Residence, where he was in his 12th day of self-quarantining since a member of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19. “It is appropriate at this time with the character of Minnesota shining so brightly that we address where we’re at, and more importantly, where we’re going,” Walz said in his daily briefing for reporters. Minnesotans can view the address on YouTube Live and participating media outlets. Walz was going to deliver his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on March 23, but had to cancel it amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Jackson: A nonpartisan special election to fill a state House seat is being delayed by two months because of concerns about the new coronavirus. Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday that June 23 is the new date for the election in District 88 in parts of Jasper and Jones counties. If a runoff is needed, it will be July 14. The original date was April 21 with a May 12 runoff. Three candidates have qualified for the race, and the qualification period will not reopen. Republican Rep. Ramona Blackledge of Laurel resigned Jan. 31, less than a month after the start of the four-year term. The freshman lawmaker said she had to choose between serving in the House and collecting her state retirement pay. She said she could not afford to relinquish the pension that she earned during 40 years of working for county government. In Mississippi special elections, candidates run without party labels on the ballot but they often tell voters their party affiliation.
Kansas City: Smaller local governments are issuing stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Missouri, where the governor hasn’t issued a statewide order. Such orders took effect more than a week ago in the state’s largest cities, including Kansas City and St. Louis, but smaller counties with few or no COVID-19 cases are now telling residents to leave home only for essential reasons, such as to buy groceries or medicine. The order in St. Francois County, in southeastern Missouri, takes effect on Friday, The Kansas City Star reported. The county had 10 cases as of Wednesday morning. Gov. Mike Parson hasn’t ruled out issuing a statewide order, but he has said he was hesitant to impose state control over what he believes is a local issue.
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Great Falls:Cascade County commissioners voted 2-1 to conduct an all-mail ballot election for the June 2 primary to reduce the chances of elderly election judges, county employees and voters from getting the new coronavirus. Clerk and Recorder Rina Fontana Moore recommended using only mail ballots out of concern that the coronavirus would be spread during the election at Montana ExpoPark. On March 25, Gov. Steve Bullock issued an order suspending a state law requiring that federal elections be conducted by poll and giving counties the options of all-mail ballot elections. The June 2 primary is a federal election. Commissioner Joe Briggs said he personally favored the mail ballot but voted against the resolution calling for the all-mail ballot election. He’s concerned that the governor doesn’t have the authority to suspend a state statute and that the Montana Association of Counties, which insures the county, won’t pay the county’s legal bills if the all-mail ballot election is challenged in court. Exhibition Hall still will be open on election day June 2 but voting will begin soon after May 8, when about 40,000 ballots will be mailed to residents.
Lincoln: The state saw another record-setting surge in unemployment claims last week as the new coronavirus forced more businesses to close and lay off workers, according to new data released Thursday. The state received 24,572 unemployment claims during the week that ended March 29, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The previous record of 15,700 was set in the prior week as state officials imposed tough new restrictions on businesses and residents hunkered down at home to keep the virus from spreading. Nebraska has now had about 40,000 jobless claims in the last two weeks, which is about as many as it usually gets in a year.
Las Vegas: More than 20,000 people registered to vote in March, but the rate of people signing up to vote slowed at the end of the month, when state Department of Motor Vehicles offices closed because of the coronavirus epidemic, according to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. The DMV closures have an outsized impact on voter registration numbers because of a new state law that automatically registers someone to vote when registering for a license with the DMV or making other transactions with the agency, unless the person opts out. Cegavske’s office said Wednesday night that for the first half of March, the state DMV saw 2,100 transactions daily, but in the second half of the month as the virus spread, it dropped to about 470 transactions a day. Overall Nevada saw the number of active registered voters grow by 1.27% in March. Democrats represent 39% of all registered voters, Republicans make up 33% and unaffiliated voters are 23%.
Concord: Some county jail inmates who were convicted or accused of nonviolent crimes have been released to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, state corrections officials said. New Hampshire Public Radio reported the jail in Rockingham County, one of the largert jails in the state, has released about a dozen people. County Corrections Superintendent Stephen Church said the release of a defendant often depends on specific restrictions or requirements, such as daily check-ins, electronic monitoring or participation in programming. The majority of inmates who have been released by county jails have been close to the end of their sentences, or have been on work or weekend releases. Correctional facilities across the state are putting new inmates under quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
Secaucus: Gov. Phil Murphy toured a 250-bed field hospital at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus. The facility will open early next week, according to the governor. The hospital is scheduled to field noncoronavirus cases. It’s one of four field hospitals that are supposed to open in New Jersey. There will be two 250-bed facilities in Edison, with the fourth a 250-bed field hospital in Atlantic City.
Doña Ana:Officials with the Doña Ana County Detention Center reported that there are no cases of COVID-19 at the facility, and that they have initiated a quarantine for new detainees. In a news release issued late Wednesday night, county officials stated that all new detainees will be held in a quarantined area of the center for 14 days to mitigate the potential spread of the novel coronavirus within the facility. New detainees will be housed together in order to limit their interaction with other detainees, officials said. This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. This new process will remain in place while the public health emergency is in effect. In addition, the county announced it will more thoroughly and frequently clean and disinfect the facility. Visitors of adult detainees are not allowed inside the detention center. However, they might schedule free calls and video visits from home, using a laptop or desktop computer at www.legacyinmate.com/Prepaid. Additional fee-based connections remain available, as well as texting, via www.gettingout.com. Visitation remains open for the Juvenile Detention Center, with restrictions. To schedule a visit, call (575) 647-7680. Also, juvenile detainees have access to two free 10-minute phone calls per week.
New York City: Veterinarians are answering the call to give up their ventilators to help fight the new coronavirus in humans. With city hospitals facing a ventilator shortage as coronavirus cases multiply, Mayor Bill De Blasio on Tuesday urged vets, plastic surgeons and others who might have the potentially life-saving equipment to lend it for the duration of the crisis. The New York Post reported the request is forcing some vets to prioritize human life over the animals for which they care. “There’s usually a distinct line between veterinary medicine and human medicine and there’s no crossover,” Brett Levitzke, the chief medical officer at Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group, told the newspaper. “That’s what makes the time we’re in so unprecedented.” A representative for Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners, which operates animal hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn, said the organization donated seven ventilators to New York-Presbyterian Hospital.But Levitzke’s practice has only one ventilator, and the decision to give it up is not one he makes lightly. Still, he said, “it’s just the right thing to do.”
Tarboro: A man has been arrested after deputies, who were responding to a call about a shooting, found more than 70 people at a barn, a sheriff’s office said. The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to Bynum Drive in Pinetops last Saturday in reference to shots fired into a residence, news sources reported on Thursday When deputies reached the scene, they saw vehicles leaving the area, and when they went to the back of the residence, they found more than 70 people, which is in violation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s order limiting gatherings. John Fitzgerald Taylor of Pinetops was charged last Saturday for violating the governor’s executive order. Authorities said Taylor was responsible for the gathering. As for the report of gunfire, deputies said the shooting happened on the street and that a stray bullet went into the back kitchen window of a nearby residence nearby. No one was injured and there have been no arrests in that incident.
Bismarck: One of the state’s largest oil producers filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, citing the coronavirus pandemic on top of plunging oil prices. Gov. Doug Burgum said he expected more might follow and would “create real pressure on state budgets.” Although Whiting Oil was filing for Chapter 11 protection, state leaders were looking at an expected $1.2billion in aid from the federal bailout package – possibly enough with rainy-day money to avert the need to radically rework the state budget. “There are so many unknowns right now but we can absorb a tremendous budget shortfall without a special session,” state budget director Joe Morrissette said. General fund revenue, which is funded largely by state taxes on income, sales and energy, was ahead of projections for the current two-year budget cycle by more than $106million, Morrissette said. The state also has $65million from the prior budget cycle and a record $726million in the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund that can be tapped by the governor when tax collections fall short of expectations, though only after agencies endure across-the-board cuts.
Columbus:Ohioans are confronted with an additional four weeks in isolation as Gov. Mike DeWine extended the state’s stay-at-home order Thursday to undercut the coming peak of coronavirus cases. The order issued by state health director Dr. Amy Acton will continue stay-at-home precautions until May 1. The initial stay-at-home order bought Ohio time to prepare for the onslaught of predicted cases, DeWine said. The two-week stay-at-home order issued March 23 – restricting many Ohioans to only vital travel for food and medical care and closing workplaces deemed non-essential – had been set to expire Monday night. The governor had signaled for days that the social-distancing order was near-certain to be prolonged with COVID-19 cases not projected to peak until later this month. DeWine said the new order would require retail stores, apparently including groceries, to post a limit of people to be admitted to stores at any one time to help reduce virus risk. The state is not setting a number. Although no limits remain on attendance at weddings and funerals, receptions are limited to no more than 10 people. Campgrounds are also being ordered closed under the new order, but those who live in a recreational vehicle at a campground can remain. State parks are not being closed, but social distancing must be practiced.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt called Thursday for a special session of the Legislature as part of his declaration of a health emergency in all 77 counties. Declaring a health emergency gives the governor broader powers to coordinate the state’s response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, including the ability to waive some statutory or regulatory requirements, said Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema. State law requires the Legislature to convene within two business days to either concur with or terminate the health emergency, so the Legislature is expected to convene at 8 a.m. Monday. Under Stitt’s order, the state’s Commissioner of Health Gary Cox is authorized as the primary public health authority. On Wednesday, Stitt extended his “Safer At Home” order until April 30 and included all 77 counties, rather than just those with a confirmed case. The order requires nonessential businesses to shut down and the elderly and medically vulnerable to stay indoors. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Salem: A doctor at a veterans home in Oregon used a malaria drug to treat eight patients there for the new coronavirus, but said a state rule enacted last month would prevent him from treating any more veterans there. After pushback against the Oregon Board of Pharmacy’s March 25 rule, the board amended it on Wednesday to allow the drug to be used not only in hospitals for confirmed COVID-19 cases, but also long-term care facilities like the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon. Hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug, chloroquine, showed encouraging signs in small, early tests against the new coronavirus but has not proved safe or effective for this in any major scientific studies yet. It’s approved now for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In the second week of March, the first cases of the coronavirus began emerging at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, when two men in their 80s fell ill with COVID-19. Then more got sick. After hearing that hydroxychloroquine could be effective, Dr. Rob Richardson began treating eight of the veterans with it and an antibiotic called azithromycin, also known as Z-Pak. On March 25, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy adopted a temporary emergency rule prohibiting the dispensing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine “for presumptive treatment or prevention of COVID-19 infection.” But late Wednesday, the pharmacy board changed its regulation, allowing “for a seriously ill patient in an institutional setting, such as Correctional Facilities and Long-Term Care Facilities, who would otherwise be hospitalized” to receive the drugs. Of the eight patients that Richardson treated with hydroxychloroquine and Z-Pak, seven recovered and one – a 91-year-old patient – died. Richardson has no conclusive evidence that the treatment led to their recovery but there were no negative side effects.
Harrisburg: As expected, demand far exceeded the capacity of Pennsylvania’s system of state-owned liquor stores to process online orders as sales resumed Wednesday. Brick-and-mortar liquor stores are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but nearly 278,000 people tried to place orders on the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board website during the first day of digital sales. By comparison, the site attracted 32,300 users when the liquor agency recently released several sought-after but limited-availability whiskeys. “As we expected, consumer interest and site traffic far exceeded our ability to accept orders,” a spokeswoman said Thursday. For now, the state is limiting website access to prevent the system from crashing, giving only a limited number of randomly selected consumers access to shop. All others get a screen indicating the online store is closed.
Providence: A coalition of labor unions and social justice organizations in Rhode Island is calling on state leaders to pass their own coronavirus relief package to help workers and the newly unemployed. The federal government’s relief package is not enough, the 14 groups said in a letter Wednesday to Gina Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, all Democrats. “Our state response must continue to fill the gaps left by the federal stimulus response packages to support the Rhode Islanders who are losing their jobs and the disproportionately low-wage workers who are heroically keeping us fed and cared for at great risk to themselves,” the group said, according to The Providence Journal. Some of the group’s proposals include double paid sick time from 40 hours per year to 80 hours and raising the minimum wage for some. The Gaspee Business Network also issued a list of recommendations for state leaders to consider during the pandemic, including giving businesses more time to remit sales tax; temporarily cutting the minimum wage; and suspending internet sales tax collections.
Columbia: Public health officials are creating a statewide database of addresses of known positive COVID-19 cases, a secure tool only made available to first responders who have argued the information could help protect them. Although solely intended for the emergency response community, it’s also a step toward the release of more specific information about the location of infections that officials have come under fire for resisting. The online matrix, according to Nick Davidson, acting director of public health for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, comes in response to local officials’ complaints that first responders were being left potentially vulnerable to the disease and also needed that information to conserve protective gear, which is in short supply. Starting next week, Davidson told the Associated Press, the agency will be live with a “secure, web-based system” that first responders can access to see if a home to which they’re being called has a resident who’s tested positive for the new coronavirus. Responders will be able to query the system, which will have known positive cases listed by the address on a patient’s driver’s license.
Eagle Butte: The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said it is setting up checkpoints on roads going into tribal land on Thursday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The tribe won’t allow people in noncommercial vehicles with out-of-state licenses unless they can prove tribal membership and that they live on the reservation. The tribe also will restrict people who are not members from hunting on tribal lands. The tribe will be monitoring all other traffic on the main roads going into the reservation. So far, no one living on the reservation has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the latest update from South Dakota health officials.
Memphis:The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state will retrofit the Gateway Shopping Center for a 170-bed hospital to help add capacity to the Memphis metropolitan area’s medical system in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Bill Lee said the Army Corps will construct a COVID-19 positive center at the shopping center along Jackson Avenue. He said the Corps is scouting other sites in Memphis, as well. Lee said the facility will be used for nonacute care patients. That would potentially save capacity at existing hospitals in Memphis. The portion of the shopping center that is vacant west of the existing Save-A-Lot grocery store would be retrofitted, according to city officials who learned of the announcement shortly before it was made public. According to a sign on the building, there is up to 105,000 square feet available to lease. Across the country, the Army Corps has been relied upon for its expertise to help combat the surge by retrofitting existing facilities. The Memphis and Shelby County joint task-force submitted more than a dozen sites to the Army Corps.
Laredo: Residents are being required to wear something that covers their nose and mouth when they’re out in public during the coronavirus pandemic – or face a fine of up to $1,000. Starting Thursday, all people in Laredo over the age of 5 will have to wear some kind of covering, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief, when entering a building open to the public. Residents will also have to cover their mouth and nose when using public transportation, taxis, ride shares or when pumping gas. The new rule doesn’t apply to people riding in their own vehicles or if they are outside for exercise and following social distancing guidelines. Laredo’s city council issued the mandate on Tuesday. The South Texas city of more than 261,000 residents along the U.S.-Mexico border is about 155 miles southwest of San Antonio. Residents are being encouraged to use homemade masks and leave medical masks, including N95 masks, for health professionals, said Dr. Hector Gonzalez, director of Laredo’s health department. There are nearly 4,700 cases of coronavirus in Texas and at least 70 related deaths, according to state health officials. Others across the country have also been updating their guidance on whether or not to wear some sort of facial covering.
Salt Lake City: As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths grew in Utah, the governor announced a freeze on evictions Wednesday and advocates demanded more inmates be released to prevent the spread in jails and prisons. With businesses closed across the state to prevent the spread of the virus that has caused a global pandemic, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered landlords to allow rent payments from affected workers to be deferred and evictions stopped until May 15. “This is designed to help people who, through no fault of their own, have lost jobs or lost income because of COVID-19,” he said. The ACLU of Utah is going to the Utah Supreme Court to demand more prison and jail inmates be released so the facilities can take steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, like social distancing and frequent hand washing. Authorities have not yet confirmed any cases among inmates, but attorneys said it could spread quickly in jails and prisons. Corrections officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Similar petitions have been filed in other states.
Burlington: Members of Chittenden County’s largest emergency response agencies have so far remained mostly healthy despite the spread of the new coronavirus in Vermont. But they are preparing for the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases as they are being told by health officials that the worst is yet to come. Contingency planning should emergency responders need to self-quarantine or be hospitalized in large numbers has been key. It has also helped that many Vermonters are heeding Gov. Phil Scott’s calls to stay home, said Vermont State Police Capt. Garry Scott, the director of Fair and Impartial Policing and Community Affairs. Despite the danger of COVID-19, emergency responders are committed to continuing to respond in person to calls that involve citizens’ physical safety, they said. Burlington police has reported one case of COVID-19 in a member who was not interacting with the community in an official capacity at the time. That employee has been quarantined, said interim Chief Jennifer Morrison in an email. Burlington police and fire departments, South Burlington police, and Vermont State Police have said that other members have self-isolated for various reasons, but no other positive tests have been reported.
Richmond: A long-term care facility with one of the nation’s worst known coronavirus outbreaks said Thursday that testing conducted on all residents had more than doubled the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to nearly 100 as the number of fatalities increased to 16. The Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in suburban Richmond tested all its residents and staff earlier this week after the virus began sweeping through the facility in mid-March, a time when limited testing supplies and strict policies on who could be tested meant such a response was not possible. Ninety-two in-house or hospitalized residents tested positive, the statement said, up from a total earlier in the week of 41. Only 35 tested negative, and 15 tests were outstanding, meaning approximately two-thirds of the facility became infected with the virus. Of the residents who tested positive, 53, or about 58%, were “asymptomatic carriers showing no sign of being ill,” the statement said. The facility’s administrator, Jeremiah Davis, said in a statement that the findings were consistent with other mass testing studies. Among the 16 deaths were five over the last 24-hour period, the facility said in a statement. Canterbury has faced a staffing and supply shortage amid the crisis, though officials have said both have improved in recent days. As of Wednesday afternoon, 25 workers had tested positive, according to Davis. The staff-wide test results were not yet available.
Seattle: Federal authorities have proposed a $611,000 fine for a Seattle-area nursing home connected to at least 40 coronavirus deaths. State regulators and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted an inspection of the Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 16, finding serious infractions that they said placed residents in immediate danger. Authorities said Life Care had at least partially fixed the most serious problems by the time they conducted follow-up inspection in last weekend. In a letter to Life Care on Wednesday, CMS proposed a fine of $611,000, but said that could be adjusted up or down based on how Life Care continues to correct remaining problems. Life Care, which can appeal the fine, did not immediately return an email seeking comment. The federal regulators said the most serious problems concerned a failure to rapidly identify and manage sick residents during an outbreak of respiratory illness that began by mid-February; a failure to notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infections among residents; and a failure to have a backup plan in the absence of Life Care’s primary clinician, who fell ill. CMS notified Life Care on March 18 that it had 23 days to remedy violations that placed residents at immediate jeopardy before it would be terminated as a Medicare provider. The agency on Wednesday extended that period, saying Life Care must fix all remaining issues by Sept.16.
Charleston: The state’s attorney general on Thursday said a ban on elective medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic will reduce abortions but will be upheld in an eventual legal challenge. The executive order, which went into effect this week, mirrors directives in other Republican-controlled states that have been temporarily blocked by federal judges. West Virginia’s order, which doesn’t explicitly include abortion, said that it applies to all procedures that aren’t “immediately medically necessary to preserve the patient’s life or long-term health” to preserve medical supplies and protective equipment. “We believe that this broad-based prohibition will be upheld because it’s designed to protect the public health and applies to all elective procedures and all elective facilities,” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told the Associated Press in an interview. Similar orders in Alabama, Texas and Ohio faced legal challenges soon after they were announced from pro-abortion groups who argued the directives violated existing rights to the procedure. Lawsuits were also filed in Iowa and Oklahoma, after governors in those states similarly ordered a stop to non-emergency procedures and specifically included abortion among them. Morrisey said the state’s order applies to abortion facilities despite a section that excludes “procedures that cannot be performed consistent with other law at a later date.” West Virginia bans abortions after 20 weeks.
Milwaukee: The United States’ top infectious disease specialist is getting his own bobblehead. The creation from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee features Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing a suit as he makes a motion showing how the nation needs to “flatten the curve” in the coronavirus pandemic. The museum picked Fauci because many people see the plain-speaking expert on the coronavirus as a hero right now, said co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar. “He isn’t trying to spin things,” he said. “He isn’t trying to make people happy and tell him what they want to hear. He’s actually telling them, you know, how he sees it as an expert. And I think that’s really what we need him this time.” Fauci’s face also appears on socks. And a Rochester, New York, shop is selling doughnuts with his face, surrounded by white frosting and topped off with red, white and blue sprinkles. Sklar said the bobblehead museum plans to donate $5 from every $25 Fauci bobblehead that’s sold to the American Hospital Association in support of that group’s effort to get masks and other personal protective equipment for health care workers. Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has served as an adviser to every president since Ronald Reagan. President Donald Trump has called him a star on his administration’s coronavirus task force.
Casper: Wyoming courts are extending measures to discourage spread of the coronavirus by another seven weeks. The series of measures announced by the Wyoming Supreme Court in March apply to all state courts in Wyoming. They include suspending many types of in-person proceedings, rescheduling trials, allowing for remote administration of oaths, conducting proceedings by video conference and making paper document filings optional. Set to expire April 10, the measures will now continue through May, Chief Justice Michael K. Davis said Wednesday.
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