Opelika: Bennie G. Adkins, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War, died from complications from COVID-19. The Bennie Adkins Foundation announced the death on social media Friday. He was 86. Adkins served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, with 13 of those years spent as a Green Beret. He was deployed to Vietnam three times and awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014 for heroism in a 1966 battle. According to the Medal of Honor citation, Adkins carried wounded soldiers to safety – sometimes drawing fire on himself to allow the wounded to be rescued – and fought off waves of attacking forces. Following retirement in 1978 at the rank of command sergeant major, he graduated from Troy University and founded an accounting firm in Alabama. He lived in Opelika.
Juneau: Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Alaskans soon could be making appointments at barbershops and nail salons again, as the state looks to further reopen parts of the economy shut down or restricted because of coronavirus concerns. Dunleavy said Monday that details are expected this week. Other areas he said were being looked at include restaurants and retail shops, businesses he said employ many people and could put in place safety protocols while meeting demand for services. He said Alaskans will be asked to continue washing their hands, cleaning surfaces, maintaining social distance and wearing masks, particularly when shopping. The state feels pretty good about its numbers and its health care capacity, equipment and ability to track cases, he said. The state has reported at least 321 cases of COVID-19, with 161 of those cases recovered and nine deaths.
Phoenix: Banner Health is setting up makeshift grocery stores for workers on the front lines tending to coronavirus patients. The provider announced Monday that select metro Phoenix hospitals will have on-site locations where health care workers can pick up provisions. Fruits, vegetables, bread, dairy products and eggs are among the essentials that will be available to physicians, nurses and other staff at a discounted price. Banner officials say they hope to ease the burden for workers who are putting in especially long shifts. The facilities that will offer groceries are in Queen Creek, Glendale, Scottsdale and Phoenix. In Mesa, Banner Desert Medical Center will instead have grocery boxes available to buy. Arizona-based Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems nationwide, owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals.
Little Rock: Nearly a third of the inmates at a state prison have tested positive for coronavirus, state health officials said Monday. About 600 inmates in the Cummins Unit tested positive for the virus, an increase of about 250 from a day earlier, state Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith said. Prison officials announced the first case at the facility a little over a week ago. Smith said the department has completed most of its testing of inmates at the prison. A health department spokeswoman said the agency has tested more than 1,000 inmates and is awaiting results from 25 more. “Until we have completely interrupted chains of transmission in the prison, I’m not going to say it’s over,” Smith said. “Once we know who’s positive, who’s negative, who’s exposed, who’s not exposed, then we can begin moving people around, and that, I would say, is the beginning of containment.”
Los Angeles: An estimated 320,000 adults in Los Angeles County may have been infected with coronavirus, according to preliminary results of a study that suggests the illness is far more widespread than current testing shows and the death rate is much lower. The study conducted April 10-11 by the county and the University of Southern California estimated that approximately 4.1% of the county’s adult population of 8 million has antibodies to the virus. When adjusted for margin of error, the infection rate ranged from 2.8% to 5.6%, or about 220,000 to 440,000 adults. The study, which was criticized by some outside experts, follows other research that has suggested more people have had coronavirus than previously determined through testing – many without symptoms or without feeling ill enough to seek a test. But it also means more people have been silent carriers of the virus that has killed more than 1,200 people in California.
Denver: Colorado will let its statewide stay-at-home order expire next week, allow a gradual reopening of nonessential businesses, and permit nonelective surgical procedures and other activity suspended by the coronavirus fight as long as strict social distancing and other protective measures continue, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday. Polis credited widespread compliance with social distancing and shelter-in-place orders for state information that suggests COVID-19 hospitalizations are leveling off, allowing the most severe restrictions imposed last month to expire April 27. He urged residents who can work at home to keep doing so and all to stay at home as much as possible, avoid large gatherings, and wear masks and other protective gear. Details on specific measures will be released this week, Polis said. State and local authorities are empowered to reimpose restrictions in response to health crises, he said.
Hartford: The state has teamed up with a group of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and other research institutions who’ve created a new app that will provide more information about the spread of COVID-19 as officials prepare to eventually reopen Connecticut. Gov. Ned Lamont said the state is the first to officially partner with the developers of the HowWeFeel.org app, which enables residents to report daily about how they’re feeling and their symptoms. He encouraged people to download the app, noting it does not require logging in or sharing any personal information, such as name or email address. It’s one of several ways the state plans to use technology to help inform officials on how and when to slowly restart parts of society. For example, Lamont said the state has received 3,500 “smart thermometers” that will upload data about residents’ temperatures to a cloud-based system.
Dover: A state panel has drastically lowered official government revenue estimates as the coronavirus outbreak continues to wreak havoc with the national and state economies. The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council on Monday lowered its revenue estimate for this year by $416 million, or 9%, compared to its March estimate. This year’s revenue total is currently predicted to be almost 6% less than the amount collected last year. The panel also lowered its revenue estimates for the fiscal year starting July 1 by $273 million, or 6%, compared to its March estimate. The downward revisions were largely due to significant declines in estimates for personal income taxes and corporate income taxes. But estimates were also down significantly for lottery and gross receipts tax revenue. The only increase was in insurance taxes and fees, along with a slight uptick in dividends and interest for the current year.
District of Columbia
Washington: Numbers from the D.C. Office of Unified Communications show a spike in calls for noise complaints and mass gatherings once the coronavirus pandemic came to the area, WUSA-TV reports. Overall, the amount of 311 calls handled by the city is up 7% since the city began modifying operations the week of March 15. According to statistics from OUC, dispatched noise complaints soared 17% beginning in March and continuing into April. Following the spread of the virus, OUC dispatchers also saw 2,150 service requests come in regarding concerns with mass gatherings, and 195 reported complaints of nonessential businesses being open or not in compliance with social gathering parameters. Dispatchers saw a 24% spike in 311 calls the week of March 15. “People were asking questions like where are the tests, are schools closed, are they going to give out meals,” Director of Unified Communications Karima Holmes said.
Tampa: Six Super Bowl rings may get you special treatment in a lot of places, but former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady learned Monday that it won’t get you anything when you’re caught working out in a park that is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said during a news briefing that the new Buccaneers quarterback was spotted working out by himself at a park downtown. A member of staff patrol went over to tell him he had to leave, and she recognized the man to be the 42-year-old Brady. The City of Tampa tweeted from its page Monday, “Sorry @TomBrady! Our @tampaparksrec team can’t wait to welcome you and our entire community back with even bigger smiles – until then, stay safe and stay home as much as you can to help flatten the curve.” The four-time Super Bowl MVP left the New England Patriots and signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Bucs in free agency, joining a team with the worst winning percentage in league history.
Pooler: America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia will host a drive-thru emergency food distribution event at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Tanger Outlet Centers in the city. It will be a first-come, first-served distribution while supplies last for residents of Pooler, Executive Director Mary Jane Crouch said in a press release Monday. In the light of the COVID-19 virus, strict precautionary measures will be taken to keep staff and the public safe during the distribution. Clients must remain in their cars and have a space cleared in the trunk of their vehicle available for the Georgia National Guard to load a box of nonperishable food, produce and protein into their vehicle. “We can only provide one box per vehicle, and no exceptions will be made,” Crouch said. A variety of nonperishable goods and fresh produce will be distributed.
Honolulu: The federal coronavirus relief funds for Hawaii residents are not expected to cover a single month of expenses because of the state’s high cost of living, an economic analysis found. The one-time, $1,200 payments from the government’s coronavirus rescue package are likely to be less effective in Hawaii because the average cost of living is 20% higher than the national average, Hawaii Public Radio reports. Beth Giesting, director of the nonpartisan Hawaii Budget and Policy Center, said when accounting for the local cost of living, the $1,200 payment is more like $960 elsewhere in the U.S. “In no case does it cover a full month’s expenses,” she said. How far the money goes depends on location. On Oahu, the most expensive island, $1,200 does not cover even half the average monthly expenses for a single person, Giesting said.
Boise: With students completing school work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, officials say more youths are filling their days by doing farm labor and other agricultural jobs. Educators and farm-worker advocates are worried that could take a toll on students’ education and health, the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Ed News report. The majority of child work-related fatalities occur in agricultural jobs, according to a 2018 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, as kids can encounter pesticide exposure, dangerous equipment or extreme temperatures. “This is definitely a concern,” said Sarah Seamount, migrant education coordinator for the Idaho State Department of Education. “Although these students are not at school, they are still in school and are expected to continue their education during this soft closure, just like all Idaho public school students.”
Chicago: The number of black Chicago residents becoming infected with the coronavirus and of those dying of the disease remains disproportionately high, city officials said Monday. Black residents made up about 46% of the 12,571 confirmed tests for the coronavirus and about 60% of the 500 deaths in the city linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, despite making up 30% of the city’s population. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city and neighborhood organizations working to share information about the virus and preventing its spread are focused on three neighborhoods: Auburn Gresham, South Shore and Austin. Health conditions that are more common among African Americans can make people more vulnerable to the virus, including diabetes and asthma. Experts also have pointed to higher uninsured rates and poorer access to health care.
Indianapolis: The governor said Monday that he was easing restrictions on hospitals from performing elective surgeries even as the state health commissioner remained concerned about whether coronavirus infections were slowing. Gov. Eric Holcomb said while he was extending the statewide stay-at-home order until May 1, hospitals would be allowed starting Tuesday to resume procedures to diagnose and treat medical conditions. A halt to elective procedures had been ordered last month to help preserve hospital equipment and protective gear if needed to treated people seriously ill with COVID-19 respiratory infections. State officials have not reported shortages of hospital beds and equipment such as ventilators even as Indiana’s coronavirus death toll has topped 550 in little more than five weeks since the state’s first known death.
Iowa City: Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday that the state’s meatpacking plants must stay open despite coronavirus outbreaks that have sickened hundreds of workers, saying shutting them down would be devastating for farmers and the nation’s food supply. Reynolds said at a news conference that the virus spreads quickly and easily at the plants because so many workers are in close proximity, acknowledging “we will continue to see clusters of positive cases” in them. “But these are also essential businesses and an essential workforce,” she said. Coronavirus outbreaks at Tyson Foods pork plants in Columbus Junction and Waterloo and a National Beef plant in Tama have contributed to a surge in positive cases in Iowa in recent days. Tyson resumed limited operations Tuesday at its plant in Columbus Junction, where more than 200 workers have become infected and at least two have died.
Topeka: The coronavirus has arrived at a third correctional facility as the state’s largest prison outbreak grows to include nearly 90 positive cases. Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Jeff Zmuda said in a news release that one staff member tested positive Monday at the Topeka Correctional Facility, which is the state’s only all-female prison, with a capacity of 948. Health officials are conducting contact tracing to determine who has been in close contact with the worker. The largest outbreak is at the Lansing Correction Facility, where 47 staff and 40 inmates are infected. An inmate at a work-release facility in Wichita also tested positive, prompting corrections officials to move 113 prisoners earlier this month to Lansing, where they are being quarantined. With advocacy groups demanding action, Gov. Laura Kelly has said efforts are underway to identify inmates who are close to finishing their sentences and can be released.
Louisville: A legal organization representing an area church that filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andy Beshear is calling on churches around the country to follow Maryville Baptist’s lead and reopen early next month. Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance in cases involving evangelical causes, has dubbed May 3 as “ReOpen Church Sunday,” according to a news release from the group, and is encouraging churchgoers to fill the pews as they did earlier in April at Maryville Baptist Church in Bullitt County. The call to action notes that families who attend services, which are currently banned in Kentucky as the commonwealth fights the spread of the coronavirus under Beshear’s “healthy at home” restrictions, should practice social distancing and “include appropriate measures of sanitization,” as well as including other options like reduced seating, live videos online and parking lot services.
Baton Rouge: Authorities arrested a pastor on an assault charge Tuesday after he admitted he drove his church bus toward a man who has been protesting his decision to hold mass gatherings in defiance of public health orders during the coronavirus pandemic. The police department in Central, a suburb of Baton Rouge, said on Facebook that Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church, turned himself in and was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and improper backing. Spell was taken to the East Baton Rouge Parish prison, where about 70 of his parishioners, dressed in their Sunday best, arrived in church buses to show support. Gathering in a parking lot across the street, they stood close to each other, praying and singing hymns. Trey Bennett, the protester Spell is accused of assaulting, also showed up at the jail, carrying his protest sign, which said “Close this church” on one side and “Danger: coronavirus incubator” on the other.
Augusta: Social distancing rules imposed to protect against the new coronavirus also appear to be reducing incidence of the flu. The number of flu diagnoses in Maine increased by 184 in the three weeks since late March when most of the social distancing policies began in the state. The number of flu cases grew by 1,812 during that same period a year earlier, the Bangor Daily News reports. “What those data suggest is that by staying inside and abiding by Gov. (Janet) Mills’ recommendations and rules, we’ve not only gotten a hold of COVID-19, but we’ve also dropped the number of influenza cases as well,” Maine Center for Disease Control Director Nirav Shah said. The state has still seen more flu cases overall this year than last. But the number of flu-related hospitalizations has dropped noticeably. As for the new coronavirus, Maine has now recorded more than 875 cases and 35 deaths from COVID-19.
Annapolis: The state has dramatically boosted its testing capacity for the new coronavirus with a shipment of 500,000 tests from a South Korean company, the governor announced Monday, noting his Korean-born wife played a major role in championing the $9 million purchase. As states have scoured the world for testing supplies, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said he asked wife Yumi Hogan on March 28 to help negotiate the purchase, tapping into the goodwill she has sought to foster between the state and South Korea. Hogan said 22 days of negotiations led to the shipment’s delivery by air Saturday. The governor noted that President Donald Trump had told state officials the states need to lead on boosting their testing capacity. The purchase was cited at Monday’s press briefing at the White House, with Trump opining that he didn’t believe it was necessary. Administration officials have been pushing governors to step up testing, while some governors have said testing infrastructure is inadequate.
Boston: School buildings in the state will remain closed through the end of the academic year, but remote learning will continue, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday. There hasn’t been any strong guidance about how to operate schools safely as the state works to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Republican governor said. “We believe therefore that students cannot safety return to school,” he said, adding that all non-emergency child care programs will remain closed until June 29. Baker’s announcement came a day after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, suggested schools would not reopen until September. “I also think next year when school comes back in September, it could be a very different looking situation in the classrooms,” Walsh said Monday.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday said the state is working with major retailers to open more drive-thru sites to test as many as 1,000 people a day for the coronavirus, especially people who don’t have symptoms but still are required to work outside their home. “Robust testing is essential to have confidence about our strategies for safely reducing risk and reengaging sectors of our economy,” Whitmer said. She said Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are part of the plan to open eight test sites across the state. Whitmer cautioned, however, that there’s a shortage of swabs and chemicals needed to complete tests. If labs had all the supplies they needed, 11,300 tests a day could be performed, the governor said. “The reality is we’re about half of that because we need additional swabs and reagents,” Whitmer said. “However, those supplies are in demand globally, and we are competing to get them and working incredibly hard so that we can ramp up to that 11,300 capacity and hopefully beyond.”
Minneapolis: Muslims in south Minneapolis will be able to maintain safe physical distance during the call to prayer throughout the holy month of Ramadan. The call to prayer will be broadcast by speaker five times each day in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to allow residents to pray together starting the first day of Ramadan and lasting throughout the holy holiday. Mayor Jacob Frey facilitated the noise permit after the community requested the service. The Council on American-Islamic Relations paid for the audio equipment for the broadcast from the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque. The broadcasts are expected to reach thousands of residents while allowing residents to maintain safe physical distance for prayer during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, Frey said the broadcast should offer “a measure of stability and reassure our entire city that we are all very much in this together.” Ramadan starts Thursday and ends May 23.
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he believes the state is reaching a “plateau” in the increase of new coronavirus cases, and he will consider in coming days how the state should ease into reopening parts of its economy. “We are confident … that our health care system is not going to be overwhelmed,” the Republican said during a news conference, joined by the state health officer. Many businesses deemed “nonessential” have been closed, and claims for unemployment benefits have skyrocketed. Reeves announced last week that starting Monday, some closed businesses, including clothing stores and florists, could sell items for delivery or curbside pickup. Some smaller businesses had said they were losing money to big chain stores that have remained open. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Monday: “Big box stores are still pretty crowded. It makes me very nervous. And I’m not seeing a lot of folks wearing masks in the community, necessarily.”
Columbia: The state filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Chinese government over the coronavirus, alleging that nation’s officials are to blame for the global pandemic. The lawsuit, filed in federal court by the state’s top prosecutor, alleges Chinese officials are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians.” “The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement. “They must be held accountable for their actions.” Lawsuits against other countries are typically fruitless because U.S. law generally prohibits them with rare exceptions, said Ashley Deeks, an international law expert at the University of Virginia School of Law. Missouri Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Gepford called the lawsuit a “stunt” by a Republican attorney general who is up for reelection this year.
Great Falls: A cloistered order of nuns, devout in their vows of poverty and seclusion, the Poor Clares are not often seen in public. For the vast majority of their time, the six sisters remain in anonymity, quietly praying that the blessings of God be granted to all, even during the most common of times. But these are not common times. For the first time in their 20-year history in the city, the Poor Clares have emerged from their monastery to raise their hands in blessing over Great Falls and sing the blessing of St. Clare. “We wanted to bless the city, especially the health care workers,” Sister Judith Crosby said. “We see the city, and we are very aware of its needs and continually pray for them,” added Sister Jane Sorenson. “It’s been strongly on our minds for as long as we’ve been here. But at this point in time with the pandemic, we just believe it would be good for us to (be) visible, let people know that they are in our prayers.”
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Lincoln: Five more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total deaths to 33 since the new coronavirus outbreak this year, health officials said. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release that three of the deaths reported Monday were in a hard-hit area of south-central Nebraska. They included a woman in her 60s from Hamilton County and a woman in her 80s and a man in his 60s, both from Hall County. The other two deaths came from the Omaha area in Douglas County, where a man in his 40s and a man in his 70s – both with underlying health conditions – died of the disease. Word of the new cases came after Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday that he will lift the state’s ban on elective surgeries for hospitals that have at least 30% of their beds, intensive-care unit space and ventilators available. Hospitals must also have at least two weeks’ worth of personal protective equipment in stock.
Las Vegas: A strip club business has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Small Business Administration after not receiving money from the $2 trillion federal coronavirus aid bill. Little Darlings owner Jason Mohney has struggled obtaining emergency funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act after Congress grouped the business into the category of operations of a prurient sexual nature, the Las Vegas Sun reports. Mohney argues the exclusion is discriminatory toward a class of workers who perform a legal and legitimate service through the Flint, Michigan-based company, which operates 200 exotic dance clubs in Las Vegas and multiple other cities. Not all companies in the sexual business have been denied funding. Bella’s Hacienda Ranch brothel owner Madam Bella Cummins received a notification that her funding application was approved for about $70,000, but the federal program had run out of money by then.
Manchester: Catholic Medical Center, one of the state’s largest hospitals, is furloughing hundreds of workers as it loses millions of dollars a month because of the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital said Tuesday that it will put 423 workers, or 13% of its workforce, on a 60-day furlough, starting Saturday. An additional 914 workers will have their hours reduced, leaders at the vice president level and above are taking a 15% pay cut, and executive directors are taking a 5% cut. Like other facilities, the hospital has eliminated elective procedures and scaled back outpatient visits to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients, to conserve protective equipment, and to protect other patients and staff. The hospital lost $11 million in March and expects to lose up to $70 million by July. Last week, the company that runs Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center announced 650 workers would be furloughed.
Trenton: The state’s COVID-19 death toll saw its biggest spike yet Tuesday, climbing by 379 deaths, Gov. Phil Murphy said. The increase comes as the number of new cases has been leveling off, the first-term Democrat said at a news conference. New Jersey has had 4,753 deaths from the virus and more than 92,000 cases, up from about 89,000. Despite some positive signs, like the leveling off of cases and the increasing time it takes for the number of people with COVID-19 to double, Murphy said there are still weeks to go of social distancing. “We cannot rush to reopen anything and risk undoing all the extraordinary work you’ve done so far,” Murphy said. Murphy also on Tuesday toured the state’s third and newest field hospital to open during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Atlantic City Convention Center field hospital is aimed at alleviating pressure on local hospitals and will treat non-coronavirus patients in 258 beds.
Santa Fe: A team of national defense scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory that studies contagions with award-winning accuracy has developed its own U.S. forecast for the spread of the coronavirus. It’s one model that states are utilizing as they consider the duration of directives on social distancing and restrictions on business. With support from the U.S. Energy Department, the Los Alamos model builds upon a decade of past experience in forecasting contagions, including the seasonal flu, the Ebola virus and mosquito-borne Chikungunya. Last year Los Alamos statisticians beat out more than 20 teams in a CDC competition aimed at improving flu forecasting using supercomputing power. The lab’s “Dante” model was most successful in predicting the peak and short-term intensity of the unfolding flu season – and became the basis for the new COVID-19 model.
New York: Hospitals in parts of the state will be able to conduct outpatient elective surgeries again, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday as he pledged to consider regional differences when reopening New York’s outbreak-stalled economy. The governor said elective treatments will be allowed in places where the outbreak is less severe. “We’re going to allow it in those hospitals and counties in the state that do not have a COVID issue or we wouldn’t need their beds in case of a surge,” Cuomo said. The hospital restrictions will remain in effect in New York City and suburban Westchester and Rockland counties, as well as Albany, Dutchess and Erie counties, he said. By Monday, more than 250,000 people in the state had tested positive for COVID-19 – a milestone figure that likely undercounts infected residents by a significant margin. People in New York City, a worldwide hotspot, were advised to seek testing only if they were ill enough to possibly require hospitalization.
Fort Bragg: It’s become a competition for the soldiers of 647th Quartermaster Company to see who can crank out the most face masks during a shift to protect against the coronavirus. The parachute rigging unit is essential to airborne operations at Fort Bragg. On any given day, the soldiers’ shed is filled with paratroopers in red ball caps, busy packing parachutes and readying supplies for jumps. While that work continues, soldiers across the room are laser-focused on tiny pins and buzzing sewing machines. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, riggers are now making cloth face masks to fight the virus for personnel around the sprawling Army base. Initially, Company Commander Captain Anthony Williams set a goal for his soldiers to produce 600 masks a week. “With the soldiers and their adaptability and their resilience, we’re actually producing 600 masks a day,” Williams said. North Carolina State University donated 4,000 meters of unwoven material that’s being used to construct new personal protective equipment.
Grand Forks: A local company is working with universities and a medical school on using unmanned aerial vehicles in the fight against the coronavirus. SkySkopes, based in Grand Forks, has launched demonstrations to show a variety of ways in which its drones could be used in the pandemic. KFGO reports SkySkopes CEO and President Matt Dunlevy says the drones can deliver supplies to hospital, check people’s temperatures from the air and even sanitize playground equipment. The company said it’s working with the University of North Dakota’s medical school and its Center for Innovation as well as North Dakota State University and Grand Forks County. The company had planned to conduct testing in Hillsboro but met with some opposition. City Commission President Terry Sando said a small number of people expressed concerns about the drone testing.
Columbus: Schools across the state will stay closed for the remainder of the school year while classes continue remotely, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. DeWine, who was the first governor in the nation to shutter schools statewide, said his latest decision stems from concern for the continued safety of students, teachers and communities. He said returning students to their classrooms could lead to new cases of COVID-19. DeWine said teachers and administrators also worried that another disruption to a school year already interrupted by the coronavirus might negatively affect students, who need continuity. “We have to think about the risk to teachers, students and our communities,” DeWine said. The governor said no decision has been made about the fall but said a blend of in-person and online learning might be an option for districts.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s attempt to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic cannot be enforced, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin issued a preliminary injunction late Monday after abortion providers sued Stitt over the ban. The injunction replaces a temporary restraining order that the same judge issued last week that allowed most abortions to continue. The injunction ensures abortions can be performed in Oklahoma while the case continues in federal court. Stitt’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he intends to appeal the decision. Stitt attempted to ban abortions as part of a prohibition on elective surgeries aimed at preserving personal protective equipment, such as surgical masks, gowns and gloves, during the public health crisis.
Salem: The governor’s office on Monday circulated its own version of a three-phase federal guideline to lift restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, including allowing child care facilities and possibly restaurants to reopen in the first phase. The Trump administration’s guidelines say there first must be downward trajectories, during a 14-day period, of influenza-like illnesses, COVID-19-like cases, documented cases or positive tests as a percent of total tests, as well as “robust testing and contact tracing.” Oregon, however, has some counties with no or few COVID-19 cases. The draft circulating among state leaders says Oregon will likely use modified metrics, especially for rural counties with small numbers. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s draft plan, which comes as Republicans in the Legislature ramp up pressure on her to lift economic restrictions in rural areas, offers no time frame, saying experience in other countries and modeling says reducing social distancing too quickly will create a spike in cases.
Philadelphia: Transporting bodies from a hospital to the medical examiner’s office in the back of a pickup truck is “unacceptable,” a city Department of Public Health spokesman said after images of a contractor stepping on the bodies while unloading them from the truck bed were captured over the weekend. A photographer for The Philadelphia Inquirer captured images of the delivery of five or six bodies that were enclosed in white body bags and covered by mats in the back of the pickup truck Sunday afternoon. The bodies were delivered to a facility where the city has secured several refrigerated trailers to help with an increased need for body storage from hospitals and private funeral homes. James Garrow, a spokesman for Philadelphia’s public health department, said Tuesday that the delivery was an isolated occurrence that was not up to the standard transportation protocols.
Providence: Brown University has made available at no cost 700 single-occupancy dorm rooms for front-line workers who need a safe place to stay during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Tuesday. The rooms are for health care workers, nursing home employees, public safety personnel and others at high risk of contracting the virus who do not want to worry about infecting family members by staying at home, the Democrat said at her daily news briefing. The rooms are not for people who have tested positive for the disease and need to stay in isolation. Laundry and meal service are available for a fee, she said. The Rhode Island Department of Health reported 394 additional cases of COVID-19 and 16 new deaths Tuesday. The 394 new cases, a single-day high since the pandemic began, bring the total number of positive cases in the state to 5,500. The state now has 171 deaths.
Columbia: Some beaches in the state reopened Tuesday, with mayors and other leaders enthusiastically telling people to soak in the sun while being careful and continuing coronavirus precautions like social distancing. But other beach towns took a more cautious approach, citing federal guidelines for determining whether the spread of the virus had slowed that have not yet been met in South Carolina. Part of the struggle for local governments is determining where the state is in terms of the pandemic’s spread. State health officials quietly changed their estimate of the peak over the weekend from April 30 to sometime the week before. But while the number of new COVID-19 cases from April 12 to April 19 dropped by nearly 17% in South Carolina, the number of coronavirus tests done over that same period fell more than 27%, according to data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Jefferson: Racing promoters plan to go ahead with an event at a track in Jefferson this weekend with some modifications for social distancing. Sprint car promoter and racing veteran Terry McCarl is bringing the Open Wheel Nationals to Park Jefferson Speedway on Saturday. But the drivers won’t be racing for a packed house. Instead only 700 tickets have been sold for a speedway that seats more than 4,000, KELO-TV reports. McCarl said that should give each person more than 6 feet of distance from the next fan. Concessions will be limited with distancing marks on the ground. And attendees are encouraged to bring a covering for their faces. Gov. Kristi Noem is one of the few governors who hasn’t issued a statewide stay-at-home order.
Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that businesses across the majority of the state will begin reopening as early as next week. The Republican governor said his mandatory safer-at-home order will expire April 30, which will pave the way for 89 out of the state’s 95 counties to begin opening businesses. However, Lee’s announcement does not apply to the state’s counties with the largest cities, including Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan counties – areas that are not overseen by Tennessee’s Department of Health but have their own public health districts. Some businesses will be allowed to reopen as early as April 27, but it’s unclear exactly which ones will be granted such clearance. Lee told reporters such details would be finalized by his economy recovery team later this week. Most state parks will reopen Friday.
Austin: Most state parks reopened Monday as the state began what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said will be a gradual unraveling of restrictions that were put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Eager hikers and fishermen lined up early as parks reopened for the first time since temporarily closing April 7 as part of statewide social distancing restrictions. At Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Hill Country, about 120 people made reservations Monday to enter one of Texas’ most popular park destinations, park ranger Tina Johnson said. Visitors had to remain in their car while grabbing trail maps, and signs reminded them to wear masks and keep 6 feet apart from other hikers. In Houston, dozens of families flocked early to Sheldon Lake State Park, where most but not all visitors wore masks as required.
Salt Lake City: All but one of the state’s 28 confirmed coronavirus deaths have been people over the age of 55, health officials said Monday. That breakdown mirrors national trends: More than 9 in 10 of the 15,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States were in that age group, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest reported death among Utah residents was a 68-year-old man who was serving as a senior missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Allen Dee Pace, of Willard, had been serving with his wife in Detroit when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early April, said church spokesman Daniel Woodruff. He died Saturday. Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said 27 of the state’s 28 deaths have been people over the age of 55. The vast majority had underlying health conditions and died in hospitals, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said.
Marshfield: The board of the struggling Vermont State Colleges system on Monday considered a plan to close three campuses because of added financial troubles brought by the coronavirus outbreak, while earlier in the day students and other critics protested in a car parade through Montpelier. Under a proposal announced by Chancellor Jeb Spaulding on Friday, the two campuses of Northern Vermont University in Johnson and Lyndon and the campus of Vermont Technical College in Randolph, which has another campus in Williston, would close. Liberal arts programs in Johnson and Lyndon would be moved to Castleton University. Not every program would be transferable, Spaulding said. The board and chancellor said they received more than 1,000 emails over the weekend from students, faculty and community members, with some painful stories. The schools’ faculty assemblies and unions voted no confidence in Spaulding, and a petition was started to keep the Northern Vermont University at Lyndon campus open.
Charlottesville: Staff at the University of Virginia Medical Center threw away convention to find a way to extend the life of personal protective equipment in the face of the highly communicable and deadly new coronavirus, The Daily Progress reports. With a pandemic raging, staff across the center’s departments worked to find ways of extending the life of protective gear as shortages of N95 masks and other equipment used when treating patients grew critical in other parts of the country struck by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Staff wound up playing MacGyver with a robot designed to clean hospital rooms of virulent organisms, turning it into a virus-killing, gear-cleaning, ultraviolet ray gun called Tru-D. Set at maximum power, Tru-D can disinfect hundreds of masks with each 20-minute cycle.
Pasco: The sheriff of a county in eastern Washington state is telling residents he will not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home orders or any guidelines “that infringe on your constitutional rights.” Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond sent a letter to constituents Monday in which he said he does believe the coronavirus pandemic is real and “needs to be dealt with appropriately.” “I believe that social distancing and taking appropriate and proper steps to slow the spread of the virus and control its transmission is important,” Raymond said. But Raymond, who has been sheriff for six years in the county of about 95,000 people whose biggest city is Pasco, also said he believes adults are capable of policing themselves, and “we have the capability of adjusting our habits to these trying times.” KOMO-TV reports Raymond thinks local businesses and houses of worship can reopen while adhering to strict social distancing standards.
Wheeling: The city responded Monday to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union that raised concerns with officials’ plans to clear a homeless encampment. Authorities in Wheeling began efforts last week to remove informal living setups erected in a section of city-owned property after receiving numerous criminal complaints from residents and contractors, The Intelligencer reports. The West Virginia ACLU chapter asked the city Sunday to commit to halting the removal of the encampments and instead establish housing options for the individuals who would be displaced, according to a copy of the letter obtained by news outlets. The organization contended that clearing the camp would go against the statewide shelter-in-place order meant to protect against the spread of the coronavirus – as well as Centers for Disease Control guidelines recommending homeless encampments not be vacated. Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said Monday that officials were reviewing the concerns but did not say whether they would be addressed, according to news outlets.
Madison: Republican leaders of the Legislature asked the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court on Tuesday to block an order from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration extending a stay-at-home order until May 26. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, a move that would skip lower courts and get a final ruling sooner. Evers on Thursday announced he was directing state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm to extend the order closing most nonessential businesses from April 24 to May 26. Vos and Fitzgerald said Tuesday that there was “immense frustration” with the extension. They argue that Palm exceeded her authority in issuing it. Evers has said he believes the order was made legally. Vos and Fitzgerald said the order is eroding the economy and liberty of people in the state.
Cheyenne: Flanked by bodyguards wearing virus-protection face masks, Gov. Mark Gordon told about 100 raucous protesters Monday that he didn’t know when Wyoming would get back to normal but was talking with state officials about how to reopen businesses. On the one-month mark after his orders to close schools and a variety of businesses to limit the spread of the coronavirus, he came out of the Capitol to engage with the group carrying the U.S. and the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and signs reading “Don’t Flatten the Economy” and “Defend Liberty.” Gordon began by reading a prayer but didn’t quiet the group, who demanded to know what businesses and jobs he thought were essential. “They’re all essential!” somebody else shouted before Gordon could answer. Wyoming’s measures set to run through at least April 30 aren’t as strict as those in neighboring states that have issued statewide stay-at-home orders, Gordon pointed out.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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