Andalusia: Police charged a woman with violating the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order after she hosted a party at her home and coughed in the face of an officer who came to shut it down. Melanie Nicole Chambers, 39, hosted the party Monday night for one of her children, AL.com reports. When officers arrived to break up the soiree after they got a call about loud music in the area, Andalusia police said she became angry and told the responding officers to “worry about other things.” Police said Chambers then asked the nearly 50 partygoers if they had coronavirus before she purposefully coughed on an officer. This resulted in a charge of criminal assault with a bodily fluid, but Police Chief Paul Hudson has since said her actions don’t meet the standards for that charge. As of Wednesday morning, the state’s Health Department said there were 5,327 coronavirus cases and 144 deaths from the virus in Alabama.
Juneau: Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has announced plans to begin allowing this week the limited reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses that were shut down amid coronavirus concerns. Starting Friday, restaurants, retail outlets, hair and nail salons, and businesses that fell under the category of nonessential will be allowed to reopen, with limited services. Bars, theaters, bowling alleys and bingo halls will not be allowed to reopen yet, the state’s health commissioner, Adam Crum, said Tuesday. Under the plan, restaurants, which have been allowed to do takeout and deliveries, will be able to resume dine-in service. But restaurants will be limited to 25% capacity inside, with 10 feet between tables and only household members allowed at a table, Crum said. Limits also will be placed on outdoor seating. Crum said the state will continue to encourage takeout options.
Glendale: Republican leaders of the Legislature who have been hoping to return to finish a coronavirus-interrupted session are instead planning to adjourn May 1 and come back at Gov. Doug Ducey’s call when state finances are more certain. Republican Rep. T.J. Shope said the agreement was hashed out between Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers late Tuesday morning. Adjourning the session that was put on hold after lawmakers passed a bare-bones budget March 23 would kill hundreds of pieces of legislation that had been making their way through the chambers. But Fann said senators of both parties were OK with that. “They’re sad that their bills are dead at this point,” Fann said. “But they’ve all been pretty forward in just saying our goal here is we’ve got to get the state back up and going again.” But it would also allow members to campaign and freely raise funds, including from lobbyists.
Little Rock: A federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the state to ban most surgical abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved a judge’s temporary restraining order that allowed surgical abortions to continue after the Arkansas Department of Health told the state’s only surgical abortion clinic to stop performing the procedure unless it was needed to protect the life or health of the mother. The appeals court’s ruling said the Health Department’s “directive is a legally valid response to the circumstances confronted by the Governor and state health official.” The state said Little Rock Family Planning Services violated an order requiring health providers to reschedule elective procedures that could be safely postponed.
San Francisco: Two people with the coronavirus died as much as three weeks before the U.S. reported its first death from the disease in late February – a gap that a top health official said Wednesday may have led to delays in imposing stay-at-home restrictions in the nation’s most populous state. Dr. Sara Cody, health director in Northern California’s Santa Clara County, said the deaths were missed because of a scarcity of testing and the federal government’s limited guidance on who should be tested. The infections in the two patients, who hadn’t traveled out of the country to a coronavirus outbreak area, were confirmed by way of autopsy tissue samples that were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis. The county coroner’s office received the results Tuesday, officials said. “If we had had widespread testing earlier, and we were able to document the level of transmission in the county, if we had understood then people were already dying, yes, we probably would have acted earlier than we did, which would have meant more time at home,” Cody said.
Edwards: A customer at a grocery store was cited on suspicion of intentionally coughing on another shopper’s items after refusing to comply with social distancing rules, authorities said. Nathan Herries, 51, of Vail refused to follow a request by an employee at the Village Market in Edwards to stay 6 feet away from customers and employees as required by the store and a county health order, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. He ranted that the worker was falling for media hype about the coronavirus before getting between a customer and an employee and coughing on the products the other customer was buying, the office said. Herries was issued a summons for violating a public health order, disorderly conduct and tampering. He was not arrested. Herries said he believes the virus is similar to the common cold and is part of a “plandemic” by global central bankers to collapse the United States’ currency and bring about one world government.
Hartford: Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that plans are underway to greatly ramp up COVID-19 testing as officials consider how and when to safely reopen the state while avoiding a second wave of the disease. The Democrat announced a new partnership between Hartford HealthCare and Quest Diagnostics, which will allow the health network to boost its testing capacity from about 500 tests per day to 2,000, with results available in 24 hours. In recent weeks, there have been an average of 2,600 tests a day conducted across the entire state. “Right now, we are only able to test people who are showing symptoms, so we’re missing an awful lot of the folks out there,” Lamont said, noting that about 40% of people who’ve been infected by the coronavirus don’t show symptoms right away. “It’s important that we be able to capture that if we’re ever able to get back to work safely.”
Wilmington: The state paid more than $30 million in unemployment benefits last week. The figure is typically $1.5 million a week. Delaware’s labor secretary said the state is receiving a historic number of unemployment claims in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Labor Secretary Cerron Cade said 61,842 unemployment claims have been filed since March 15. He said that number is close to the number of claims filed in the past two years combined. Cade said about 20% percent of the claims are from people who are not eligible for unemployment. He said about 65% of total applicants have been approved. Cade said the department hopes to have a program for self-employed and independent contract workers. Those types of workers previously did not receive unemployment from the state.
District of Columbia
Washington: Nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic protested outside the White House on Tuesday morning to bring attention to the lack of personal protective equipment for health care workers taking care of patients who may be infected with COVID-19, WUSA-TV reports. Members of National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, practiced social distancing at Lafayette Park and read aloud the names of U.S. nurses who died of COVID-19 because of the lack of PPE. “With no federal health and safety standard, nurses and other health care workers in many hospitals across the country have not been provided with adequate PPE to protect them from exposure to the virus,” NNU said on its website. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least 9,200 health care workers have gotten sick, and at least 27 have died.
Fort Lauderdale: Beaches in Flagler County on the state’s eastern coast reopened for limited recreation Wednesday, and those in Sarasota on the western coast will follow suit next week as municipalities throughout the Sunshine State start allowing residents to swim, fish, walk and jog on the sand. However, distancing guidelines – including staying 6 feet apart – remain in effect. Most communities are keeping beach opening times to a few hours in mornings and evenings and are barring any lounging on chairs and towels with coolers. Officials want to prevent social gatherings with shared food and drink that could spread COVID-19, while promoting healthful recreation. “Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know what to do to protect yourself,” Sarasota County Commissioner Michael Moran said. “Now that everyone is educated on (health guidelines), now it’s time to open up our lives.”
Atlanta: Gov. Brian Kemp’s call to reopen shuttered businesses has left many business owners wary and confused as they consider how to protect themselves and their customers in a state where coronavirus deaths exceed 800 and confirmed infections have surpassed 20,000. Kemp’s plan to kick-start the economy is one of the most aggressive announced since President Donald Trump laid out benchmarks for states to start lifting restrictions. But Georgia’s testing system has lagged much of the nation, and public health experts warned that moving too quickly could fuel a resurgence in infections. “It’s concerning. I’m certainly not going to go to the gym or get a haircut,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta. “I’ll let people make their own decisions.” Kemp’s order lets gyms, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors open with restrictions Friday. Restaurants can resume dine-in service Monday, though bars and nightclubs must remain closed.
Honolulu: A liquor control commission has launched an investigation of a brewery for giving away hand sanitizer with purchases of its beer. Maui Brewing Co. is under investigation by the Maui County Liquor Control Commission for distributing the sanitizer during the COVID-19 outbreak. The state Department of Liquor Control prohibits distributing goods in connection with alcohol sales. “It’s considered an inducement giving away something to entice people to buy alcohol. We were giving away sanitizer with any purchase,” Maui Brewing CEO Garrett Marrero said. “Of course we’re trying to encourage some business, but is it wrong? I’m hearing stories that people are paying $10, $20 for an 8-ounce bottle,” Marrero said. “We were doing the right thing. That’s what is really disheartening.” The investigation “is in extremely poor taste given the situation surrounding the coronavirus,” he said.
Meridian: An anti-vaccine activist was arrested after she repeatedly refused orders by police to leave a playground that had been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sara Brady, who is affiliated with two groups that sponsored a protest at the Statehouse last week against Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order, was at the playground with several other families as part of what some dubbed a “playdate protest.” Video posted by another person shows officers repeatedly asking Brady to leave, telling her the play structures had been closed under an order from the mayor. They said Brady and the rest of the group were welcome to continue playing on grassy areas. Brady, there with her children, repeatedly refused. “Arrest me for being in the park. Do it,” she told the officer, telling another protester to continue recording as she was handcuffed. Brady, 40, was booked and charged with a misdemeanor but posted $300 bond a short time later. She and others gathered later in front of City Hall to protest.
Chicago: Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday said the state wouldn’t hit its highest level of COVID-19 cases until mid-May, weeks after originally projected, throwing into question whether the Democrat will extend his stay-at-home order past April 30. Pritzker wouldn’t discuss the data he’s using in adjusting the projected peak date, which had been predicted for the latter part of this month. But he said people are abiding by social-distancing rules, slowing the spread of the coronavirus. “We will be making some changes to the stay-at-home order as it is, but it is true that it is working, so to … remove it entirely is to simply open everything back up to infection,” Pritzker said. The Democrat’s stay-at-home directive is a month old. Last Friday, Pritzker announced that schools, empty since March 17, would continue with remote learning through the semester.
Indianapolis: State officials refused Tuesday to identify nursing homes where coronavirus outbreaks have occurred, even as they disclosed that at least 43 more deaths linked to those facilities have happened in the past week. The 162 deaths from 74 facilities that the state health commissioner said had occurred represent nearly 26% of Indiana’s 630 COVID-19 fatalities recorded through Monday. Almost 70% of Indiana’s deaths have been among people ages 70 and older, as elderly people and those with serious health troubles living in nursing homes are among the most at-risk from COVID-19 infections. Officials had earlier this month identified some nursing homes with multiple deaths, including an Anderson facility where at least 22 patients have died. But the health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, has declined in recent days to provide more than statewide totals of infections and deaths. “That’s where we’re going to leave that at this point,” Box said.
Iowa City: The state launched a $26 million program Tuesday to increase its lagging capacity to test for the coronavirus as the number of residents known to be infected continued to skyrocket. Gov. Kim Reynolds led a social media campaign urging everyone to voluntarily complete a health assessment at TestIowa.com. Those who have symptoms, have been exposed to the coronavirus or have traveled to hot spots will soon be eligible for free drive-thru tests. Those who are positive will be asked to share recent contacts and travel so the state can alert those potentially exposed. The state signed a $26 million contract to purchase 540,000 tests over the next six months from Nomi Health, a Utah-based startup. The governor’s office said the cost, $48 per test, is in line with commercial rates and would be paid for with federal funds.
Mission: Inspections are underway at a Kansas City, Kansas, rehabilitation facility where 25 people have died of COVID-19 and another 91 have contracted the disease. The outbreak at the Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation started after a staff member who wasn’t wearing appropriate personal protective equipment worked two shifts last month with a fever and cough before being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a report that local health officials released last week. State and federal inspectors are now looking into infection control measures that are being implemented at the facility, said Cara Sloan, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. The deaths at Riverbend, which provides short-term rehabilitation for people recovering from medical issues as well as long-term care, account for nearly a quarter of Kansas’ 107 deaths from COVID-19.
Frankfort: The state should resist the temptation of being the fastest to reopen its coronavirus-battered economy, instead focusing on being “the smartest and the best” to prevent any follow-up spikes in infections, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. The governor offered those cautionary words as he reported 17 more virus-related deaths in Kentucky, raising the statewide death count to 171 since the pandemic began. Total virus cases approached 3,200 statewide as the governor announced nearly 180 new cases. Beshear and other governors are at the center of a turbulent debate about how quickly to reopen businesses and ease guidelines meant to control the virus. Last week, protesters calling for businesses to reopen could be heard as Beshear gave his daily briefing at the statehouse. On Tuesday, the Democratic governor urged Kentucky residents to be “strong and resilient” in following guidelines meant to curb the virus’s spread. Easing restrictions too soon would risk secondary spikes in cases, inflicting another round of damage on the economy, Beshear said.
New Orleans: A hospital celebrated the discharge of its 1,500th coronavirus patient amid cheers from doctors and nurses more than a month after getting its first virus patient. A video on the Ochsner Medical Center Facebook page showed Kathleen Bennett, 57, as she was reunited with her granddaughter Monday while a musician who followed behind her played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Bennett was admitted to the medical center March 27. After her arrival, she was placed in the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator for 12 days, the hospital said in a news release. Doctors will continue caring for Bennett after she heads to Kansas to continue quarantining with the rest of her family. As of Tuesday, Louisiana’s health department reported there had been nearly 25,000 coronavirus cases in the state, and 1,405 people have died from the virus.
Portland: The state received less than a third fewer protective respirator masks per resident from the national stockpile than Vermont or Rhode Island but more than three times that of Texas, a newspaper reports. The Portland Press Herald analysis shows that the N95 masks, which filter out 95% of all airborne particles, including ones too tiny to be blocked by regular masks, weren’t allocated based on population, as the Trump administration had indicated. As of April 6, Maine had received 86,008 N95s from the stockpile, or 1 for every 15.6 state inhabitants. Vermont received 1 for every 4.7 of its citizens, while Rhode Island got 1 for every 5. Hard-hit Massachusetts got fewer – 1 for every 28 people – and Texas received 1 for every 48. “Whatever methodology this administration is using, there’s no transparency or accountability to it,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat. Partisan politics didn’t appear to have played a factor in which states got larger shipments, the newspaper reports.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University said it will halt contributions to employees’ retirement plans and cut salaries in its leadership. The school in Baltimore also said some employees are expected to be furloughed or laid off. The Baltimore Sun reports university President Ronald Daniels announced the changes in a letter posted online Tuesday. He said the university is projected to suffer significant revenue losses after a “dramatic and unprecedented contraction” because of the coronavirus. Daniels said he and Provost Sunil Kumar will cut their salaries by 20% in fiscal year 2021. Other deans and university officers will cut their pay by 10%. Contributions to employees’ retirement plans will stop for one year in fiscal year 2021. There will also be a freeze on employees’ salaries through June 2021.
Boston: The state has paused a program to test residents of nursing homes and long-term health care centers for the coronavirus after problems with the collection of samples, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said. The elderly are particularly susceptible, and more than half the state’s fatalities from the virus were nursing home residents, according to figures from the state Department of Public Health. The state announced this month that nursing homes could order test kits to be delivered and then administered by trained personnel. But after sending out 14,000 tests, only 4,000 were returned, and many were unlabeled or in leaking tubes, Sudders told The Boston Globe on Tuesday. The state will continue to offer mobile testing at nursing homes through the National Guard while officials work to solve the problems with the test kit program.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s plan to suspend immigration is distracting from efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and part of “inconsistent messages” that spread fear and put the public in “greater danger.” Trump’s pronouncements about freezing immigration are “scary” for immigrants, family members hoping to immigrate to the U.S., farmers who rely on seasonal migrant workers and Canadian nurses who work in Michigan, the Democratic governor said in an interview with the Associated Press. “These broad statements that come out I think are are so problematic and counter to, I think, what we need right now more than anything – which is fact-based, scientifically proven best practices and an optimistic vision of where we are headed and the thrust to make it a reality,” said Whitmer, who said the focus should be on making swabs for testing.
Minneapolis: COVID-19 has killed 19 more Minnesotans, marking the largest one-day death toll since the pandemic reached the state, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Wednesday. The new deaths raised the state’s total to 179. The department also reported 154 new confirmed cases, a big one-day jump that raised the state’s total to 2,721. Health officials have cautioned that the real number of Minnesotans infected with the coronavirus is likely much higher because most people don’t qualify for testing. The department also said 240 Minnesotans were hospitalized with the disease as of Wednesday, up three from Tuesday, while 107 were in intensive care, down 10 from Tuesday. Another 1,317 patients have recovered and no longer need isolation.
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that the state economy will reopen gradually after health officials and others say it’s safe to do so during the coronavirus pandemic. He cautioned that life will not immediately return to normal. A day after other Republican governors in parts of the South announced plans to start reopening some businesses in coming days, Reeves said he is still considering how to ease into more changes in Mississippi. “This is not going to be a light switch that we can turn on,” Reeves said. His statewide stay-at-home order began the evening of April 3 and remains in effect until Monday, after he extended it by one week. The governor’s first step toward reopening some businesses started this week, with those deemed “nonessential,” such as florists and clothing stores, allowed to sell items by delivery or curbside pickup.
O’Fallon: Two rural counties are seeing huge spikes in coronavirus cases, including many connected to meatpacking plants. Saline County on Wednesday reported 96 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Moniteau County reported 55 cases, citing 29 as confirmed and 26 as “probable.” Neither county has reported a death. Statewide, the number of confirmed cases topped 6,000 on Wednesday. Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which is monitoring cases worldwide, shows 6,210 cases in Missouri, up 247 from Tuesday. The number of deaths rose by 14 to 229. While the vast majority of Missouri cases have been in the largest cities and their suburbs, data provided by Saline and Moniteau counties showed they have the highest per capita rates of infection in the state – 419 cases per 100,000 residents in Saline County and 341 per 100,000 in Moniteau County.
Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock issued directives Tuesday to allow an increase in the number of medical providers in the state during the COVID-19 emergency and to expand insurance coverage for telehealth visits for routine medical care. One directive makes it easier for retired health care professionals and licensed out-of-state providers to practice. The other requires health insurers to provide the same coverage for telehealth services as they do for in-person routine care visits to allow for continued social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The directives are in effect until the end of Montana’s state of emergency. Bullock has said he plans to lift some of the restrictions that were put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus starting this weekend, but he has not yet said what will change.
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Omaha: An outlet mall that announced plans to reopen this week amid the coronavirus pandemic appeared to back away from those plans Tuesday with an online post that said the opening was primarily for employees to get their stores ready for business. Officials with Nebraska Crossing, an upscale outlet mall near Omaha, said the only venue that would be open for in-person customers was a medical uniform store. The rest of the mall would remain closed to the public, Nebraska Crossing said Tuesday on its Facebook page. The outlet’s owner, Rod Yates, had previously outlined plans for a “soft opening” Friday and described it as a case study of best practices for other malls. He later added that it was up to individual stores whether they chose to reopen. Nebraska is one of a handful of states without an official stay-home order in place. The state has seen a sharp increase in known cases over the past few days.
Carson City: Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday that he’s extending the closure of schools until the end of the school year and is not close to relaxing restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The Democratic governor and state experts said Tuesday that Nevada would take a gradual approach to easing business closures and stay-at-home rules, without giving any expected date for how soon that might occur. Sisolak also said it was too soon to say whether schools would remain closed for the start of the new school year in the fall. Nevada has had fewer cases and deaths than statistical models originally predicted, and they appear to be reaching a plateau. But the state still needs to see at least a two-week trend of drops in the number of hospitalizations and people testing positive before the state could start to inch open some restrictions. “Even though the models look good for Nevada right now, we are not out of the woods yet,” Sisolak said.
Manchester: Southern New Hampshire University is responding to the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn by accelerating new education models that combine online classes with on-campus living. The private college is launching a new program for the 2020-21 academic year in which students would take courses online while living on campus and participating in campus clubs, athletics and other activities. Students would still pay room and board, but tuition would be $10,000 per year, 60% lower than the current rate. And for the first year, the college is offering a one-time scholarship to all incoming freshmen covering the tuition costs. “We knew that a traditional college education was increasingly out of reach for a majority of Americans before the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said. “Students need access to high-quality, affordable degree pathways that are workforce relevant and won’t saddle them with years of debt upon graduation.”
Trenton: Two testing facilities that the state operates with the federal government are now taking residents who show no coronavirus symptoms. The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday that the centers in Monmouth and Bergen counties will no longer require state residents to have symptoms in order to get tested. The state operates the drive-thru facilities with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. One is at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, Monmouth County. The other is at Bergen Community College in Paramus. Beyond the two federally affiliated facilities, New Jersey has about 70 other testing centers across the state and conducts about 9,000 tests a day, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. He said Tuesday that he thinks the state needs to double the number of tests it does daily.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico scientists and clinical staff have started to sterilize and reuse single-use personal protective equipment in an effort to salvage dwindling supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, KOAT-TV reports. Personal protective equipment is running in short supply as an increasing number of people contract COVID-19, threatening employees at medical facilities around the world, officials said. Health care providers have used a method involving vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize and reuse protective gear for the past three weeks, an idea that came from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, professor of medicine D.J. Perkins said. The process can take up to four hours, but 1,000 masks can be sterilized at a time, officials said.
Albany: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will help create a “tracing army” that will help find people infected with the coronavirus and get them into isolation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday. New York will work on the massive effort with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut. Wide-scale testing, tracing and isolation are considered crucial to taming the outbreak in the hard-hit New York City region. “It all has to be coordinated. There is no tracing that can work with one jurisdiction,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. The governor said that “we will literally need thousands” of people to trace the contacts of infected people. The state currently has just 225 tracers with almost 500 more in New York City and its suburbs, and their efforts to contain the virus by finding people who had contact with the sick fell apart. Cuomo said officials will start to build a greater force of disease detectives by drawing from 35,000 medical field students at state and city universities.
Raleigh: All couples in the state should again be able to marry before a local magistrate after worries about the spread of COVID-19 had led several counties to halt such officiating. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley ordered this week that all counties resume performing marriage ceremonies but gave local court officials flexibility in how and where to do them. Some officiating became more difficult in recent weeks as churches and other venues closed, the state judicial system said in a release. Couples came in with large numbers of witnesses that made social distancing difficult. So some courts stopped performing marriages altogether. Beasley said it’s important the ceremonies continue because “marriage forms an important part of the family structure and establishes a number of rights and legal obligations.”
Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday that the state plans to increase widespread testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus in order to help protect vulnerable residents and meet White House guidelines to put people back to work. The announcement came after health officials reported 240 new tests for COVID-19, which Burum called a “disappointing low number” due to an expected lag in reporting and the fact that there were no targeted screening efforts as in previous days. The state reported more than 1,100 tests Monday, capping off a wide-ranging effort that included 424 examinations of people associated with an outbreak at a Grand Forks wind turbine plant. The state’s ability to meet the White House goal of a May 1 grand opening will depend on a “team testing effort,” Burgum said. While he’s confident the state will “make great strides” toward that objective, Burgum said he “can’t predict human behavior.”
Columbus: A federal judge gave state officials an early victory in a lawsuit challenging the shuttering of nonessential employers in response to the pandemic. The judge rejected a Columbus bridal shop’s bid for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed it to reopen. While another hearing on the lawsuit is set for May 11, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley said in his decision Monday that state officials have legitimate reasons for setting the restrictions on businesses. The bridal shop and its attorneys argue the state should give businesses a way to appeal individual closings. But Marbley said that isn’t practical. Meanwhile, Urbana University will be permanently closing its campus, making it the first Ohio college to fold as a result of financial pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to close the small, liberal arts campus near Columbus will affect 350 students and more than 100 full-time faculty, according to a statement from Franklin University, which acquired Urbana as a branch campus in 2014.
Oklahoma City: The number of coronavirus cases is now near 2,900 in the state, with 170 deaths due to COVID-19, which is caused by the virus, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Wednesday. There are at least 2,894 cases and six additional deaths, up from 2,807 reported Tuesday and an increase of six deaths. Each death was a person age 65 or older, according to the report, which said 298 people either with the virus or under investigation were hospitalized Tuesday morning. For most people, the 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, and death. Tulsa County reports the most deaths with 25, followed by Oklahoma and Cleveland counties with 24 deaths each.
Salem: The White House told governors their leadership is critical in testing for the coronavirus, providing a map showing that Oregon is among four states with the lowest testing capacity in the United States. Oregon, Montana, Oklahoma and Maine are able to test fewer than 30 in 1,000 people a month, according to an email sent Monday by the White House coronavirus task force. Rapid and efficient testing is needed to identify where the virus is emerging and allow authorities to track people who may have been exposed, according to the email, which Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s office released after a public records request by The Oregonian/OregonLive. The White House email “demonstrates clearly what we have been telling them for weeks: We need additional testing capacity, and we are dependent on the federal government to provide us with the testing materials we need,” said Charles Boyle, Brown’s spokesman.
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is boosting its efforts to get voters to cast their primary election ballots by mail, saying it would help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The administration sent 4.2 million postcards to primary voters and is mounting an awareness campaign on radio, television, social media, streaming services, mobile apps and email, officials said Wednesday. Wolf’s administration has resisted calls from several heavily populated counties to mail a June 2 primary ballot to every registered voter and move to an all-mail, or nearly all-mail, election. But the state’s efforts to get voters to apply for a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot have gotten traction. Republican and Democratic party officials in Pennsylvania have encouraged people to vote by mail amid concerns from county officials who fear the virus will make it difficult to find polling places and get poll workers to staff them.
Pawtucket: Two cities hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic are getting additional testing capacity. A testing site is scheduled to open Thursday at the now-closed Memorial Hospital property in Pawtucket, according to a statement from the cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls. The site will be operated by Care New England. Services at the site will be provided in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole and other languages. There have been 540 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pawtucket, the second-highest total in the state, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Health. There have been more than 200 cases in Central Falls. The cities have created CFP Beat Covid-19, a partnership committed to reaching out to every household in the communities so every resident knows what to do and who to call when they feel sick.
Columbia: The state has officially taken its public schools virtual for the remainder of the school year, extending a distance-learning environment implemented more than a month ago as the new coronavirus outbreak emerged in South Carolina. As expected, Gov. Henry McMaster announced Wednesday that all public K-12 schools will remain closed through the rest of the spring semester. He said a forthcoming executive order would provide flexibility to school districts, particularly for summertime instructional possibilities for special needs students. “We have been able to carry on really good instruction,” state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said during a briefing, even as she acknowledged that 1 in 4 districts have been unable to teach online, relying instead on worksheets and other paper materials. “The digital divide in South Carolina has become very apparent,” Spearman said.
Sioux Falls: A pair of speedways are forging ahead with plans to hold two auto races expected to draw hundreds of fans this weekend, even as the governor warns against attending them. Gov. Kristi Noem said she won’t be taking any action to shut down the events planned for Saturday and Sunday nights even though she thinks they are a bad idea and could lead to the spread of the coronavirus. The two race tracks, just over the border from Iowa, decided to sell limited tickets to give race fans a taste of “normalcy” after weeks of social distancing and canceled sporting events. The Republican governor said the crowds at the races would violate her guidance not to gather in groups of more than 10, but she has not said why she won’t stop the races from proceeding. Health experts have said eliminating group gatherings is crucial to curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which can be transmitted by people who do not exhibit symptoms.
Chattanooga: Two brothers who stockpiled thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and other highly sought after safety supplies during the coronavirus outbreak will not be fined, state officials announced Tuesday after reaching a settlement. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III launched an investigation March 14 into price-gouging allegations against brothers Matthew and Noah Colvin, who were featured in a story by The New York Times after they took a 1,300-mile journey through Tennessee and Kentucky to purchase hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes and face masks to sell online. Matt Colvin told the newspaper he posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer for sale on Amazon for between $8 and $70 each and immediately sold them all. “It was crazy money,” he told the newspaper. As part of the state’s settlement, the brothers will no longer be allowed to sell emergency or medical supplies at an excess price during the pandemic, Slatery said.
Austin: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday renewed his defense of coronavirus monitoring in the Lone Star State, which throughout the crisis has ranked near the bottom in the U.S. in testing, as he accelerates toward relaxing social restrictions before the end of April. Next Monday, Abbott is planning to issue new statewide orders that will further loosen Texas’ lockdown beyond the reopening of state parks and letting retailers sell items curbside, which take effect this week. Saying hospitals aren’t overwhelmed and pointing to a decline in fatalities in recent days, Abbott said the numbers are trending well as Texas marches toward reopening. But Texas has also lagged nationally when it comes to testing and ranks near the bottom per capita, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of data collected by the COVID Tracking Project.
Salt Lake City: The state will buy 200,000 treatments of malaria drugs widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus despite warnings from doctors that the medications shouldn’t be used until more testing is done, state officials said Tuesday. The government will purchase the treatments that include hydroxychloroquine from a Utah-based compounding pharmacy called Meds in Motion, said Tom Hudachko, Utah Department of Health spokesman. The company, which has been promoting use of the drugs along with several Republican state lawmakers since mid-March, was selected under emergency procurement rules that negate the usual bid process. The amount that Meds in Motion will be paid hasn’t been finalized because the contract is not done, Hudachko said, but he estimates the cost will be in the millions and said about three-fourths of the cost would be covered by federal funds.
Montpelier: About a dozen people showed up on the Statehouse lawn on a snowy Wednesday to protest against Gov. Phil Scott’s stay-at-home order. At the same time, four nurses from Central Vermont Medical Center wearing face masks turned out to speak against the demonstration. The protesters had planned to parade through the capital in their vehicles at 11 a.m. The Montpelier police chief had warned about possible traffic delays, but only a handful of protesters came. “We have essentially crushed our economy, and we need to be able to open back up and get back to work as fast as we can,” said protester Sarah Toscano, of Hinesburg, who was wearing a face mask but said the governor seems to be dragging his feet. Scott said he was also frustrated by the restrictions required to confront the pandemic and is also eager to reopen the state’s economy, but he would listen to the science and make decisions on what he feels is in the best interest of the health of Vermonters.
Richmond: The coronavirus pandemic upended a legislative session, as mask-wearing lawmakers met Wednesday under a giant tent outside the Capitol and car horns blared nearby from protesters unhappy with mandated business closings. House Delegates met under a canopy outside, while the Senate met at a giant event space at the Science Museum of Virginia a couple of miles away. Lawmakers were seated far apart and wearing masks instead of germ-carrying ties to help prevent the spread of the virus. Proceedings in the House quickly stalled for about 40 minutes when members encountered technical issues voting during an attendance roll call. One state senator with health issues was surrounded by plexiglass for added protection. Before the Legislature convened, protesters on foot and in vehicles converged outside the Capitol, leaning on their horns and shouting in the direction of the Capitol and governor’s mansion.
Seattle: Hundreds of inmates have moved out of state prisons as the new coronavirus continues to spread in facilities across Washington, and hundreds more are on lists for possible release, officials said Wednesday. At least 21 Department of Corrections employees and 13 offenders have tested positive for COVID-19, with most cases occurring at the Monroe Corrections Complex. That prison has seven workers and 13 offenders with the disease. Monroe inmates filed an emergency motion asking the Washington Supreme Court to force Gov. Jan Inslee and Secretary Stephen Sinclair to release inmates who were most vulnerable to the deadly disease. An initial order required the state to take steps to protect the health of the incarcerated population. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case Thursday. For the first time, the hearing will be conducted using remote technology.
Charleston: An infant has tested positive for the coronavirus as the state’s caseload continues to grow, officials said Wednesday. At least 939 people have the virus after nearly 26,000 tests, state health officials said. Twenty-six people have died. Logan County Health Department Administrator Steve Browning said a 4-month-old girl who tested positive is being treated at home. Gov. Jim Justice has canceled schools for the rest of the year over concerns about the virus. The Republican governor, turning his attention to reopening the state’s economy, has pushed to ease virus restrictions on hospitals if they can prove they have enough protective equipment and could handle an unexpected surge in cases. The move came as he and his administration said the state’s testing capacity has been dramatically increased through a partnership with LabCorp, a major lab testing company.
Madison: Nineteen people in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus after having voted in person in the April 7 election or after having worked at the polls, the state Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. Also, five Wisconsin National Guard members who helped staff polls on election day have reported symptoms of COVID-19, but the one who was tested came back as negative, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp said. The other four were not offered tests, he said. The state health department said it does not know if the 19 positive cases contracted COVID-19 at the polls or elsewhere. Several reported possible other exposures, the health department said. Health officials had said ahead of the April 7 election they were concerned about a spike in coronavirus cases due to in-person voting. Those concerns were heightened after voters had to wait in line for hours in close proximity at polling sites in Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Casper: The City Council has decided for a second time not to punish people who violate state health orders intended to limit spread of the coronavirus. The Casper City Council rejected the proposal Tuesday after a similar vote last week. One concern is where to jail violators. Sheriff Gus Holbrook has asked officers to avoid bringing people suspected of coronavirus exposure to jail to avoid spreading the virus within the jail, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. City staff will instead look for a way to house people suspected of violating health orders. The state orders in place through April 30 have closed down bars and other businesses while prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people at a time. At least six people in Wyoming had died of the coronavirus as of Wednesday.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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