Montgomery: Gold’s Gym has been temporarily closed during the coronavirus pandemic, but the company announced this week that its three Alabama locations will not reopen after it’s over. The gym at 2300 Berryhill Road in east Montgomery is one of about 30 company-owned locations that the chain plans to shutter. Others include two locations in Birmingham. Gold’s Gym posted a statement on its social media sites that said the closings were related to financial problems caused by the pandemic. “While the COVID-19-related closures have caused us to reassess the viability of some company-owned locations and make the difficult decision to permanently close about 30 gyms, we know that we will emerge from this stronger and ready to grow. This decision affects only company-owned gyms, mainly in our St. Louis, Alabama and Colorado Springs markets, and does not have an impact on any of our franchise-owned gyms,” the company said in a statement. Gold’s Gym has nearly 700 locations in 29 countries. The company posted more information about the closures on its website at www.goldsgym.com/brand-faq.
Anchorage: Nearly half of the 1.4 million cruise ship passengers projected to visit Alaska have seen their plans canceled this year, with the biggest blow occurring this week when two industry giants all but set aside their Alaska seasons over concerns with the new coronavirus. The announcement by Holland America Line and Princess Cruises will leave hotels and motels flashing vacancy signs and owners hoping locals will fill empty tables in restaurants during the height of the summer tourist season. Each passenger spends on average $624 in Alaska during their cruise, according to state estimates, meaning Alaska businesses that survive on the tourism trade will be missing out on more than $433 million this summer. Princess Cruises canceled all Alaska gulf cruises and tours, and said its five wilderness lodges wouldn’t open. Trains and buses also won’t operate this summer. It said round-trip sailings from Seattle to Alaska on two ships, the Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess, would continue. Holland America Line canceled all Alaska sailings for the summer on five large cruise ships and axed overland journeys to Denali and the Yukon. In addition, it will not operate its McKinley Chalet Resort, its rail car or motor coaches. Before the virus changed everything, Ketchikan was expecting 608 port calls this summer from 52 vessels, said Patti Mackey, president and CEO of Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. Now, that count is down to 277 port calls.
Tempe: The Fashion and Business Resource Innovation Center is producing reusable protective gowns for health care facilities throughout the state with material delivered by the Arizona Air National Guard. The Arizona National Guard announced the completion of the mission in a Facebook post on April 10, a day after 20,000 pounds of material arrived on a flight from North Carolina. FABRIC traditionally provides resources for fashion designers and entrepreneurs to make products locally, but recently pivoted to mitigating the shortage of personal protective equipment. The organization obtained certification from the Food and Drug Administration to produce gowns for local health care facilities, and the expedited delivery of materials allowed the production of thousands of gowns to begin earlier than expected. The FDA recognizes four levels of isolation gowns, according to its website, from “Level 1” gowns that are for minimal-risk situations to “Level 4” gowns for high-risk situations. FABRIC is certified to make the first two levels of gowns, and is awaiting approval of a “Level 3” design created with the help of Dr. Ronald Gagliano, the chairman of the department of surgery for Dignity Health in Arizona and a former former Army surgeon.
Little Rock: The federal government has approved Arkansas’ plan to use Medicaid funds to pay bonuses to health workers at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. Officials said more that 26,000 nonphysician direct-care workers at facilities, including registered nurses and home health aides, will be eligible for the payments. “This is extraordinarily good news for those who have been on the front line,” Hutchinson said The governor said he will ask a state panel to approve using some of the money Arkansas is receiving in federal coronavirus relief for similar bonuses for direct-care workers at hospitals and nondirect-care workers at hospitals and nursing homes.
Redding: The California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved emergency measures to allow counties to self-regulate recreational and sport fishing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The measures from the commission will allow for “surgical and narrow implementation” in helping counties decide fishing regulations, according to California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar and Director Charlton Bonham. Members of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Eric Magrini were unavailable for comment on the commission’s action. Magrini issued a letter last week to the commission’s Executive Director Melissa Miller-Henson voicing support for the fishing community. He also stated in the letter that law enforcement would be difficult because “it would be almost impossible to differentiate between recreational fishing versus someone seeking a source of food.” Issues have been raised about out-of-state anglers going to Lake Shasta. Oregon has closed fishing and hunting to nonresidents. NorCal Junior Bass Club President Scott Alexander said fishing is needed to fight mental fatigue that has come through the state’s stay-at-home order.
Denver: Gov. Jared Polis urged residents to prepare for social distancing as a fixture of life even after restrictions on business activities are eased – at least until a vaccine or cure is found for the new coronavirus. In addition, any easing of stay-at-home orders, crowd gathering bans, business closures and other measures will be gradual, Polis said at a news briefing. To prepare, businesses should consider continued telecommuting where possible, staggered work shifts, barriers between work stations and other ways to contain the virus, he said. Before any rollbacks occur, Polis stressed that more data is needed to determine how effective social distancing has been in Colorado, where at least 357 people have died. Lacking a vaccine – which experts said could take 12 to 18 months to develop – there is no going back to life-as-normal in prepandemic times, the governor said. Polis also emphasized, however, that current restrictions on people’s movements can’t be sustained economically, socially or psychologically.
Hartford: Soldiers with the Connecticut National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve have begun caring for COVID-19 patients at Stamford Hospital as part of a military effort to support medical staff across the country during the coronavirus outbreak. The soldiers are working in a recently reopened building, which had been scheduled for demolition, on the campus of the 305-bed hospital, said Capt. David Pytlik, a spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard. The medical crews include 85 Army reservists and nine state guardsmen, he said. The Army has deployed about 15 medical units to help with patient care nationwide, including in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Last week, Connecticut National Guard soldiers and airmen set up 200 beds at Stamford Hospital and tents outside for a triage area. Stamford has been the hardest-hit municipality in Connecticut, with nearly 1,600 of the state’s 14,755 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Dover: The pace at which Delawareans are filing unemployment claim eased significantly last week but was still at record levels. The Delaware Department of Labor reported Thursday that more than 13,250 unemployment claims were filed last week. That’s down from more than 18,800 in the previous week and almost 19,000 in the final week of March. More than 60,000 Delawareans have filed for unemployment benefits since March 15, including more than 30,000 in March. The previous monthly record for unemployment claim filings in Delaware over the past three decades was a little more than 9,600 in January 2002. The huge spike in unemployment claims comes after hundreds of Delaware businesses including restaurants, bars, theaters and fitness centers, were forced to close or severely restrict operations under an emergency declaration by Democratic Gov. John Carney.
District of Columbia
Washington: All five of the Whole Foods stores within the city’s limits have employees who have tested positive for the new coronavirus, a company spokesperson confirmed, WUSA-TV reported. WUSA-TV was able to independently confirm six of the cases at the store, which include employees who were last in the store on the following dates: March 27, April 1, April 3 (at least two cases), April 8 and April 9. After asking a Whole Foods spokesperson if “there any other Whole Foods locations in the D.C. metropolitan area that the company is aware has had any employees test positive for COVID-19,” it was revealed all five locations in D.C. proper have employees with positive results. According to a Whole Foods spokesperson, the following stores have “team Members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19”: P Street (Logan Circle); H Street; Foggy Bottom; South Capitol Hill; and Tenleytown.
Orlando: More than 180,000 workers in Florida filed claims with the state’s overwhelmed and struggling unemployment system last week, raising the state’s total seeking jobless benefits to more than 500,000 since many parts of the Sunshine State went under lockdown last month. The U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday almost 181,300 Floridians filed for jobless claims, raising the total number of Floridians seeking unemployment benefits over the past three weeks to more than 520,000. And that only counts the out-of-work employees who were able to file for claims. Many of the state’s hundreds of thousands of newly jobless have reported problems with filing applications or getting help from hotlines. They have seen their online applications disappear in front of their eyes when the computer refreshes or they were bumped out of the system while filling out the forms, forcing them to start over. Gov. Ron DeSantis named Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter to oversee the unemployment payment system after weeks of saying it was turning the corner only to find most progress to be a mirage. “His mission is very simple: Get assistance out as quickly as you can,” DeSantis said.
Decatur: People who are spring cleaning while at home amid the coronavirus outbreak will soon be blocked from donating to a nonprofit organization in Georgia. Goodwill of North Georgia will stop accepting donations after Saturday, according to a statement on its website. The organization’s 65 stores across 45 counties have been overwhelmed with secondhand items, The Gainesville Times reported. The planned shutdown comes shortly after the group closed its stores last month for two weeks, according to news outlets. That closure was due to public safety concerns from the virus. Stores had since partially reopened and encouraged contactless donations, in which donors would pop their trunks, workers would take out items to be donated and then leave a receipt. Donors who insisted on unloading their own items could do so in a designated area, The Times reported.
Honolulu: State worker unions pushed back at what they said was a proposal from Gov. David Ige to cut employee pay by 20% to cope with a sharp drop in tax revenue brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Ige said at a news conference he was in discussions with unions and lawmakers about potential cuts but no decision has been made. He said the tax shortfalls meant the state needed to cut $1.5 billion from the state budget over the next 15 months. He noted the state has essentially shut down the tourism industry to slow the spread of the virus, which has hammered two major sources of state income: the hotel tax and the general excise tax. Ige said tax increases weren’t under consideration “at this point in time.” The governor said he and members of his cabinet would take a similar pay cut to any taken by employees. Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee told his fellow union members in an emailed message Tuesday night that it was unclear if the governor intended to implement the cuts as furloughs or as across-the board salary decreases. The reductions could come as early as May 1, he said. He said the proposal was unacceptable. The union represents 13,700 public school teachers statewide. The Hawaii Government Employees Association, which represents 40,000 state and county employees, objected to cuts, especially when workers are on the front lines in the fight against the virus. Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki issued a joint statement opposing a 20% cut. They urged Ige to obtain better data and analysis before he makes such a decision. Both unions urged the governor to find money elsewhere.
Boise: Idaho’s statewide stay-at-home order has been extended through the end of April, Gov. Brad Little said. Little said the extension was necessary to ensure the state continued to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, prevent health care facilities from being overwhelmed and hopefully hasten the end of the pandemic. He said some businesses that were previously considered nonessential, such as flower, jewelry and other retail shops, can reopen as long as they can offer curbside service and ensure social distancing. Little issued an emergency declaration on March 13 and followed with the 21-day statewide stay-home order on March 25. At the time of the order, Idaho had at least 91 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and two known instances of community spread, which means the source of a person’s infection can’t be determined.
Joliet: Twenty-two residents and one staff member at a nursing home in Joliet have died of the new coronavirus, a spokeswoman for the facility said. Symphony of Joliet, which reported a total of three deaths as recently as last week, became among the latest nursing homes across the United States to report a spike in the number of COVID-19 deaths. Since a widely reported outbreak at a nursing home in a Seattle suburb gained national attention – an outbreak that has claimed at least 43 lives – the Associated Press has found that more than 3,600 deaths across the country have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Symphony spokeswoman Lauryn Allison said staffing has been adequate and the employees have been following government guidelines for minimizing the spread of the virus. She said they began moving healthy residents from the facility to other locations in its network earlier this month. But a brother and sister of a 65-year-old woman who was one of the 23 to die said the care at the facility was inadequate. “She was complaining that she was in constant pain,” Michael Brooks told the Chicago Tribune after his sister, Diane, died. “Sometimes she would defecate herself without them changing her. We’d come visit her, and who knows how long she was like that.” Brooks and his other sister, Dorisell, said they also saw that Diane Brooks, who needed around-the-clock care after suffering an aneurysm and stroke, also had bed sores. They said that they were never told by anyone at Symphony that their sister had contracted the virus. A call to Symphony of Joliet by the Associated Press on Thursday morning went unanswered.
Indianapolis: An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer who was fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call was remembered Thursday during her funeral as a dedicated, compassionate officer and a devoted young mother, with a police chaplain calling her “a beautiful flower that was picked way too soon.” Numerous speakers, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, spoke during the service for Officer Breann “Bre” Leath, 24, which was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in adherence with pandemic social distancing rules that limited Leath’s family and guests to no more than 10 people per speedway suite. Hundreds of police cars lined the track as officers watched a livestream of the service on cellphones and laptops. Officers wearing face masks later stood next to their vehicles, lights flashing, and saluted during a playing of taps that preceded a planned procession through downtown Indianapolis. A funeral procession was scheduled to leave the speedway and travel past police headquarters, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department headquarters, downtown Indianapolis’ Monument Circle and the Indianapolis police East District headquarters before proceeding to Crown Hill Cemetery for burial. Leath was shot to death through an apartment’s door while responding with three other officers to a domestic violence call, police said. Elliahs Dorsey, 27, is charged with murder, criminal confinement and four counts of attempted murder.
Iowa City: Gov. Kim Reynolds is ordering residents in northeastern Iowa to stay home for everything but work and essential errands amid growing concern about coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants and nursing homes. Reynolds said Thursday that she is banning nearly all gatherings for social, community, recreational and leisure purposes in the region that includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Dubuque. Previously, the governor banned gatherings larger than 10 people statewide while recommending even stricter voluntary social distancing. Under the new order, Reynolds said residents in the region can only gather with household members, with few exceptions, and must do everything possible to socially distance in public. Violating the order is a simple misdemeanor. The move came after the region’s score increased to 10 on a data tool that the Iowa Department of Public Health is using to guide the state’s response. Reynolds said the region is seeing an “increase of virus activity,” including outbreaks at long-term care facilities and higher hospitalization rates. She confirmed the state suspected an outbreak at a second large Tyson Foods meatpacking plant. She said the state was sending supplies to test workers at the Waterloo facility. Tyson said Wednesday that two workers have died following an outbreak at its Columbus Junction plant, where at least 148 have become infected.
Topeka: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly faced increased pressure from the Republican-controlled Legislature to outline plans for reopening the state’s economy even as she extended a statewide stay-at-home order and prepared to send money to hospitals struggling in the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly is keeping her shelter-in-place directive active for all 2.9 million Kansas residents until May 3, an additional two weeks. It initially took effect March 30 and was to stay in place until Sunday, but Kelly said the coronavirus outbreak might not peak until April 29. Kelly called a teleconference meeting with top legislative leaders to get their permission to purchase another $10 million in personal protective equipment. She also informed lawmakers of plans to provide $17 million in state funds to hospitals to offset losses until aid promised by the U.S. government starts flowing. But more than 40 Republican legislators demanded in a letter that she provide a detailed plan for allowing businesses to reopen, saying “there is no excuse for us not to be prepared to rebuild.” And House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, admonished Kelly that the aid to hospitals helps only one segment of the economy. Kelly already faces strong criticism from Republicans for limiting in-person worship services and religious gatherings to 10 or fewer people, which GOP leaders see as restricting religious freedom.
Louisville: A donation fund run by the state that offers help during the coronavirus outbreak has raised nearly $2 million, with more than half coming from a Kentucky Colonels contribution. The Team Kentucky Fund has received funding from about 7,000 donors, Gov. Andy Beshear said. The fund offers financial aid for people adversely affected by the pandemic. The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels’ commanding general, Hal Sullivan, said the group’s board of trustees approved an immediate $1 million contribution to the fund this week. “Just think how many that’s going to help,” Beshear said during a daily briefing announcing the gift this week. The Colonels are a charitable giving group. “Demands are great and the time is now to step forward,” Sullivan said in a release. The Team Kentucky Fund has a website for donations.
New Orleans: The 2020 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was officially canceled Thursday, the latest economic and entertainment industry casualty in Louisiana’s fight to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. Festival organizers had postponed the festival, which usually spans two spring weekends, until the fall. But they announced on the festival’s website that they would not attempt this year to hold the event. The festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, draws more than 400,000 visitors to the Fair Grounds Race Course for music on multiple stages, a variety of cuisines at dozens of food booths and an arts and crafts fair. The plan now is to hold the 2021 festival during its traditional time, the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May.
Portland: Two licensing boards that govern Maine doctors are warning that prescribing drugs touted by President Donald Trump for themselves or for family members is considered “unprofessional conduct.” The boards also warned that the combination of one of two malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, along with the antibiotic azithromycin, should not be prescribed as a preventative measure for anyone. A joint statement by the Board of Licensure in Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Licensure said improper prescribing can harm the supply of drugs needed for COVID-19 patients “and may lead to improper use which can cause patient harm.” The statement comes just days after the Maine Board of Pharmacy issued similar guidance to pharmacists, the Portland Press Herald reported. For weeks, Trump and others have touted the benefits of the drugs to treat symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. There have been anecdotal reports that the drugs are helpful, but there are also serious side effects, officials said.
Annapolis: Gov. Larry Hogan said the state is beginning to transition more from containment and mitigation of the coronavirus to planning for a gradual reopening of the state and its businesses. Although the number of cases are still rising in Maryland, the Republican governor said there are signs to be cautiously optimistic. For example, the number of hospitalizations appear to be stabilizing and the state has increased its stock of protective equipment and the state’s capacity to care for the sick. Hogan emphasized that people must remain vigilant and continue staying at home and practicing social distancing for now. To drive home the point, the governor said he signed an executive order to require people to wear face coverings in stores and on public transportation. It will be effective 7 a.m. Saturday. He said people might have to become more accustomed to wearing masks in order to safely reopen the state. Hogan said experts have been working on a road map for reopening the state for several weeks. Maryland’s recovery plan will have four critical building blocks, Hogan said. They include the need to expand the state’s testing capability, which already has increased greatly in the past month, he said, as Maryland is on track to more than triple its current capacity up to 10,000 tests per day.. The governor said Maryland also will need to increase its hospital surge capacity by 6,000 beds. Third, the state will need to build on its rising supply of personal protection equipment. Hogan also said the state needs to build a robust contact tracing operation to enable the state to investigate every single positive case of the virus. He said about 250 people are focused on tracing cases, and the state plans to increase that force to at least 1,000 people.
Longmeadow: A World War II veteran and his wife of nearly eight decades who had tested positive for COVID-19 died together on the same day. David and Muriel Cohen died within hours of each other at a Longmeadow nursing home on April 10. Muriel, 97, had tested positive for the virus and David, 102, had been sick but his test results came back negative. The couple decided to remain together even as the Jewish Nursing Home tried to transfer residents who were infected to a separate unit. Fran Grosnick, their daughter, gave the nursing home permission to let her parents stay together. “The only time they’d ever been separated was when my father served in World War II, and when my sister and I were born,” she told The Boston Globe. “Otherwise they were always together.” David Cohen served as a radio operator in the Army during World War II. He was also a liberator at the Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany. Photos he took during the liberation are displayed at the United State Holocaust Museum in Washington. When he returned to the U.S. after fufilling his service, David became a history teacher in Queens, New York, where he and Muriel raised their two daughters. The couple moved to Longmeadow after retirement to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Grosnick said the last time she saw her parents in person was on March 12, when the facility halted visiting hours. “They did not suffer, and they were together,” she said. “I take comfort in that.”
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state’s revenue could drop by $7 billion over the next 18 months, as she urged President Donald Trump to work quickly with Congress to send more federal aid to states and municipalities. In a letter announced late Wednesday, written with other Democratic governors in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, she said revenue could drop by $3 billion this fiscal year and $4 billion the next budget year. State and local governments are being hit with a double-whammy: reduced revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic’s economic havoc and additional costs of fighting it. They received a total of $150 billion in a federal rescue law, along with added federal payments for state Medicaid budgets, but advocates for states and cities have said it will not be sufficient. Without additional aid, the governors wrote, “the damage to our state economies will be exacerbated by the cuts we know we will be forced to make.”
Moose Lake: The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is suing to release inmates endangered by COVID-19 at Moose Lake prison in northern Minnesota. The organization filed a petition Wednesday against the state Department of Corrections. According to a DOC database, 12 inmates in Moose Lake are confirmed positive for the coronavirus and another 31 inmates are presumed positive. The ACLU-MN said at least 11 correctional staff reportedly also have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The petition alleged the prison is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to keep people in custody safe. The ACLU-MN alleged the prison is still holding as many as eight men in a cell and permitting unrestricted access to showers, communal phones, vending machines and other facilities. The organization said there is no way for people in the prison to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The ACLU-MN is asking a court to immediately release inmates who are bringing the petition, and those like them, to safe locations where they can isolate and get medical treatment, if needed. The Department of Corrections said it has received the lawsuit and is reviewing it. State Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has said the release of some state prisoners because of the coronavirus could happen as early as this week.
Jackson: University of Mississippi Medical Center leaders said physicians and researchers there will conduct several clinical trials on potential treatment options for people infected with the new coronavirus. The clinical trials are in partnership with other institutions and with the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes for Health. The medical center will be one of 44 sites to test hydroxychloroquine, a drug that modulates the immune system and has long been used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. “The goal is to determine if it prevents death and respiratory failure from patients who have COVID-19 if it is instituted early in their course,” said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC. Mississippi remains under Gov. Tate Reeves’s statewide stay-at-home order until at least early next week. Many businesses are closed, and tens of thousands have applied for state unemployment benefits.
O’Fallon: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the city’s stay-at-home mandate will remain effective until May 15. Meanwhile, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said on Twitter that he is extending the county’s order indefinitely but will revisit it in mid-May. Both orders require residents to stay home except for essential activities such as purchasing groceries or supplies or seeking medical care. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a Facebook video Wednesday that the city’s order will be extended but a date hasn’t been determined. Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. was expected to announce Thursday whether his order will be extended. A leader of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said the St. Louis region has had success in “bending the curve.” But Dr. Alex Garza, during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, warned that relaxing social distancing restrictions too early could cause a second wave of infections, and he said stay-at-home orders should remain in place for at least another month.
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Missoula: Montana hospitals have canceled or reduced elective surgeries to make room for coronavirus patients, cutting revenue and triggering furloughs and layoffs at medical facilities across the state. The Montana Hospital Association, which includes 88 hospitals and other medical facilities statewide, has estimated that canceling prescheduled procedures could cost state hospitals up to $100 million after the first three weeks of the pandemic, the Missoulian reported. “Everything that we did right to prepare our state for a surge pays off in the fact that we have lower mortality than many other states, we have lower hospitalizations,” association CEO Rich Rasmussen said. “But the costs for doing that certainly will be borne out by the hospitals for this period and for some time to come.” A 2019 study found that Montana hospitals contribute $4.7 billion annually to the state economy.
Lincoln: A central Nebraska county with a major meatpacking plant and a lot of nursing homes and manufacturing facilities now has more coronavirus cases than any other county in the state, according to new public health data. Hall County confirmed 278 cases on Wednesday, surpassing the 263 known cases in Omaha’s Douglas County, even though Douglas County has nearly nine times as many residents. Hall County, which includes Grand Island, has seen a spike in cases at the JBS USA meatpacking plant, the McCain Foods frozen appetizer factory, nursing homes and a health clinic. Last week, the farm equipment manufacturer Case New Holland temporarily halted production to protect line workers who work in close proximity. The actual number of Hall County cases is likely much higher because the county has a “very limited” number of tests available, said Central District Health Department Director Teresa Anderson. The Nebraska National Guard helped test people last week, and Gov. Pete Ricketts said members will continue that work this weekend.
Reno: Following a last-minute sweep cancellation, the Nevada Department of Transportation has also suspended any major cleanups at homeless encampments until further notice during the coronavirus outbreak. The city of Reno had stopped doing cleanups March 11, citing Centers for Disease Control guidelines. And more than a month after the pandemic was declared a national emergency, NDOT was set to conduct a clean-up Wednesday morning at a bridge on Kietzke Lane, near Fisherman’s Park. The agency issued notices to people camping in the area that they needed to relocate. The notice also warned those who needed to relocate that any items left behind would be disposed of. According to NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese, notices are handed out 48 to 72 hours ahead of the cleaning. But the sweep, which was scheduled at 9 a.m. Wednesday, was canceled at the last minute. Ragonese said NDOT received a request from the Washoe County Emergency Operation Center within the past two days to cease clean-ups. “Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers,” the CDC said on its website. “This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.” Instead, individuals camping outside should be encouraged to sleep in tents that are at least 12 feet apart.
Concord: The impact of the coronavirus in housing, transportation, agriculture and more will be explored by a new subcommittee of the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. A stakeholder advisory board will meet by phone Thursday to begin discussing recommendations on relief efforts across New Hampshire’s communities and private industries. The group’s initial members include those representing farms, hospitals, community action programs, ski areas and other industries. Meanwhile, a hearing’s scheduled Monday in a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawmakers who insist the Legislature’s fiscal committee must approve how the state spends $1.25 billion in federal aid.
Trenton: New Jersey schools will remain closed through at least May 15 in order to keep people apart to slow the transmission of the new coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday. “I know this is hard. This is hard on all of us,” Murphy said. “But if we all keep working and pulling together, I hope that it will put me in a position in a month’s time to make a different announcement.” Murphy’s decision to keep schools closed for another month came as he named two members of a regional council that will determine how New Jersey and six other Northeastern states will reopen. Jeh Johnson, a former secretary of homeland security, and Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will serve on the council with Murphy’s chief of staff, George Helmy. The May 15 date for school closures should not be read as a possible statewide reopening, Murphy said. Instead, it is what Murphy and his education commissioner “feel is a comfortable enough window for us to be able to get one more shot to reassess” before schools let out for the year in June.
Rio Rancho:A Roman Catholic diocese said it will reopen churches and allow a small number of people to attend public celebrations of Mass in what could be the first move to alter a diocese-declared ban on public services in the U.S. Priests were encouraged to hold public Mass at Las Cruces Diocese parishes while having parishioners abide by social distancing restrictions ordered by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, diocese spokesman Christopher Velasquez said. That means churches can only hold Mass with five or less people in attendance and they must stay 6 feet apart, Velasquez said. “If you show up to your parish without calling first, you might be turned away,” Velasquez said. The diocese also announced it would allow priests to hold outdoor Mass services while people stay in their cars. The Santa Fe Archdiocese and Gallup Diocese – New Mexico’s other Catholic dioceses – are continuing a ban on gatherings and in-person Mass services. Las Cruces Bishop Peter Baldacchino made the decision about the limited opening of churches after hearing news reports about the spread of COVID-19 in southern New Mexico, Velasquez said. “We are hearing reports about divorces, drug abuse and now people losing their jobs,” Velasquez said. “The church is here to offer hope.” The Catholic News Agency reported Baldacchino is the first in the nation to modify a declared diocesan ban on public Masses.
Albany: The state will extend its stay-at-home restrictions at least through May 15 amid signs the initial wave of the coronavirus outbreak is slowing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that transmission rates still need to be tamed as he prolonged the restrictions that have left most New Yorkers housebound. The number of people hospitalized statewide has ticked down to around 17,000, far below initial projections. But there are still close to 2,000 newly diagnosed people coming into hospitals daily, Cuomo said. New York recorded 606 COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday, the lowest daily number in more than a week. “This is still continuing at a really tragic, tragic rate,” Cuomo said at a press briefing. The governor said the requirement for New Yorkers to wear face coverings when people are out and close by other people starting Friday will also help fight the outbreak.
Raleigh: A delivery driver arrived just in the nick of time to a beach wedding with a crucial piece of the ceremony. Savannah Kulenic and Dylan Perkins planned to get married April 10 in Hawaii, but their dream wedding was curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, WNCN-TV reported. So, the lovebirds organized a last-minute beach ceremony with a total of five people on the special day last week. The company making the groom’s wedding band had been shuttered by the virus outbreak, but said the day before the wedding that it could overnight the ring, Kulenic said. One problem: The wedding was scheduled for 3 p.m., but the ring wasn’t expected to show up until 4:30. The bride had the photographer, Amy Shores, leave a note on her door for the delivery driver telling him to come down to the beach, saying: “You have the ring.” FedEx driver Joe Engel answered the call of duty, marching down the sand to hand deliver the package during the ceremony. The handoff was captured on camera by Shores, owner of Seaside Topsail Photography, and shared in a Facebook post. “You know with all of the bad going on, there are still good people in the world, and in the end, love wins,” Shores said.
Bismarck: Federal officials said they are prohibiting recreational use of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The closure comes as the state reported 28 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state total to 393. The number of cases reported Thursday was the most since the first case was confirmed on March 11. The National Park Service said the park is closed to visitors until further notice. The park is the state’s top tourist attraction, drawing more than 700,000 visitors annually. The park closure comes a day after Gov. Doug Burgum extended an order to keep most businesses closed until at least the end of the month.
Columbus: Some Ohio businesses could begin reopening after May 1 as long as proper precautions are taken amid the pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine said. Social distancing, the cleaning of surfaces, frequent hand-washing and mask wearing must continue, he said. DeWine said he understands the importance of getting the economy moving again, but Ohio must be careful to avoid problems such as future COVID-19 spikes after society has reopened. The state will keep a close eye on supplies of personal protective equipment like gowns, masks and face shields, and also on testing, the governor said. “If we don’t do it right, the consequences are horrendous,” DeWine said.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt said he is looking to reopen shuttered businesses as the curve is flattening in the number of coronavirus cases in the state. A ban on elective surgeries will be lifted April 24, Stitt said, and his Safer at Home order that shut down nonessential businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people expires six days later, although he is extending the order to the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus.“We are working on plans to reopen our state, but let me be clear, we’re not out of the woods yet,” Stitt said. Social distancing and safety measures such as frequent hand washing should continue, Stitt said, and that he is conferring with state health officials on reopening businesses such as restaurants, barber shops and museums. Stitt said he is basing his decision on a decline in the number of hospitalizations during the past two weeks.
Portland: Weekday traffic on the four major interstates in the Portland area is down 46% from levels last year, according to a report compiled by the state Department of Transportation. Interstates 5, 405, 84 and 205 are seeing significant traffic declines, and the freeways are only becoming less congested as the weeks stretch on amid a stay-home order issued by Gov. Kate Brown to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Traffic on weekends is down even more precipitously, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. According to Oregon Department of Transportation’s first COVID-19 monitoring report, released April 10, the largest decreases occurred initially on highways and freeways to the coast and mountains. The report looked at the change in traffic patterns in the past month, starting with the week schools closed, then subsequent weeks under the stay-home order as well. I-5 is seeing the most significant declines of metro-area freeways. The average weekend traffic was down 64% for the most recent full week of data available (March 30-April 5).
Harrisburg: Many commercial buildings that serve the public will be required to make sure customers wear masks – and deny entry to anyone who refuses without a medically valid reason – under an order signed Wednesday by the state health secretary. Employees will have to wear face coverings, too, including those who work in warehouses, manufacturing facilities and other places that remain in business but aren’t open to the public. The mask mandate was included in a wide-ranging order that will govern many aspects of how a business operates – from how it arranges its break room to how many patrons it can allow inside at any one time – as the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf confronts a pandemic that has killed at least 647 in Pennsylvania and sickened thousands more. Wolf said the latest order is meant to protect supermarket cashiers, power plant operators and other critical workers who can’t stay home and are at heightened risk of contracting the new coronavirus. Wolf is ratcheting up pressure on retailers, warehouses and other establishments to enforce social distancing guidelines and minimize the virus’ spread just as majority Republicans in the state Legislature seek to ease his administration’s shutdown of businesses it doesn’t consider “life sustaining.” Wolf previously closed schools and nonessential businesses and ordered people to stay home.
Providence: A 19-year-old man has set up a program to help coronavirus patients who aren’t allowed to receive visitors while in the hospital stay connected to their loved ones. Kaya Suner helped establish the covidconnectors.org website that collects donated iPads, tablets and other devices that are distributed to patients. Suner got the idea from his parents, both emergency physicians, who told him of the need for devices to helped patients stay in touch with family. Suner’s effort drew a shoutout from Gov. Gina Raimondo, who called him a “superstar”at her daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. Raimondo said her son donated an iPad to the program and Amazon has donated more than 500 tablets. The devices have been used for last rites, celebrating an anniversary, meeting a newborn grandchild, a goodbye to a family member and church services.
Anderson: Gov. Henry McMaster said he believes the risks from the coronavirus pandemic will diminish enough by late June so that businesses and activities “may be safely resumed and conducted using personal safety precautions.” The Republican governor offered that assessment in a letter to leaders of the GOP-controlled General Assembly. In the letter, McMaster offered to call legislators into a special session before the fiscal year ends on June 30 so that they can pass a stop-gap budget measure to keep state government operating. Senate President Harvey Peeler said he is looking for a faster return. “I, like most South Carolinians, hope that our state and our legislature can be back at work much sooner,” Peeler said in an email statement. McMaster is facing mounting pressure from lawmakers in both parties to curtail some of the steps that he has taken during the pandemic that led to soaring unemployment claims in South Carolina. Three Republican legislators from the Upstate sent McMaster a letter last week urging him to let shuttered businesses reopen. This week the top Democrat in the state House of Representatives called for elective surgeries to resume at hospitals and the reopening of public boat ramps.
Sioux Falls: Federal health officials hope to take the first steps toward getting a Sioux Falls pork processing plant and coronavirus hot spot back up and running. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has staff in Sioux Falls touring the Smithfield Foods, Inc. plant. They are assessing conditions and developing an action plan needed to safely reopen the hog harvesting facility that has been shut down for nearly a week, according to Gov. Kristi Noem’s office. Noem said Thursday that the state expects to have a report from the CDC in the coming days, and that will be released to the public. The governor also said she has been in close contact with the plant’s CEO, as well as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Smithfield Foods did not grant a request by the Argus Leader to join the tour, saying nonessential visitors are barred from entering the plant during the shutdown. “Nearly 600 Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic started, with an additional 135 confirmed cases tied directly to the plant. That prompted the company last week to announce a three-day closure to clean the plant. However, after cases continued to surge there, Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken called for the plant to be shut down for 14 days. On Sunday, Smithfield said it was closing the plant indefinitely. That has caused worry among public officials as well as farmers and food consumers as the closure will choke the nation’s meat supply.
Nashville: Tennessee has ended months of work setting up its rules for an online-only sports betting law that passed last year and has yet to see its first wager. The Tennessee Lottery board’s vote Wednesday via teleconference because of the coronavirus pandemic highlights a bigger question: Will there be any games to bet on once sportsbooks are ready to go? “I believe today that we’re ready to finally adopt all of the rules, regulations and processes so that we can be ready for sports wagering in Tennessee, when sports resume in Tennessee,” lottery board chairwoman Susan Lanigan said before Wednesday’s vote. Although there still isn’t a clear picture of when pro and college sports could restart after the global pandemic subsides, Tennessee’s sports betting timeline isn’t set in stone yet, either. Sports betting operators and other vendors now need to go through the licensing application process, among other administrative check-offs.
Houston: A federal judge has reluctantly denied a motion to allow Harris County judges to release some county jail inmates on no-cost bonds as officials try to reduce jail populations because social distancing is nearly impossible behind bars. Attorneys for inmates had wanted relief from an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott that prevented state and county judges from releasing people accused or previously convicted of violent crimes on no-cost bonds. The attorneys said they want to lower the jail population to protect inmates and staff during the coronavirus outbreak emergency, calling it “a matter of life and death.” U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal clearly wrestled with the case.
St. George: Dozens of residents gathered Wednesday for a walk to protest the state’s closures of businesses and facilities because of the coronavirus crisis. St. George resident Larry Meyers created a Facebook group to organize the event to “assert our God-given, Constitutionally-protected rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, religious freedom, the right to contract, and the right to use our property as we see fit so long as we do not harm others” according to Meyers’ original post in the group. Meyers said he has received input from members of the community who felt that their rights have been taken away and that Gov. Gary Herbert and local officials should lift the coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and other organizations. Meyers said the goal of the walk was not to cause conflict but to signal to Herbert that the economic impact of the coronavirus restrictions is stark enough that Utahns want to see the rules lifted so they can continue to support their families and exert their freedoms.
Burlington: Vermont’s congressional delegation said the state’s 10 airports will share more than $9 million in grants to support them during the COVID-19 outbreak. U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said the flight cancellations caused by COVID-19 are having a severe impact on the state’s airports. The bulk of the money, $8.7 million, will go to the Burlington International Airport in South Burlington. Other grants range from $20,000 to $69,000 and will help the airports to meet operating expenses, continue current construction projects and fulfill ongoing needs.
Newport News: A shipbuilding company will start running two shifts instead of three to fight the spread of the coronavirus, officials said. Newport News Shipbuilding announced the shift change Wednesday, news outlets reported. Spokesman Duane Bourne said the change doesn’t involve layoffs and will take effect on May 4. The shipyard is also extending its liberal leave policy until May 18. Shipyard President Jennifer Boykin said the policy change was a safety measure to reduce “close personal contact” with workers, which would make social-distancing easier while continuing to run operations. The shifts will be from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. In between the shifts, the shipyard will clean high-traffic and high touch-point areas as another effort to reduce spreading the new coronavirus. A total of 23 people who work at the shipyard have the virus and are now in quarantine, The Daily Press reported.
Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee said that social distancing efforts in the state have been successful in “flattening the curve” of the coronavirus outbreak and that if the trend continues, the state should be able to transition away from the broad restrictions that have been imposed since last month to more targeted efforts to protect vulnerable populations. He said for industries like construction, it was possible they can be phased back in sooner if the curve continues going down dramatically. Several groups, including the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Associated General Contractors of Washington, sent Inslee a letter this week asking for the resumption of projects that had started before governor’s stay-at-home order was put in place last month. Inslee said they were working with the construction industry “to figure out protocols to get back to full construction” but said he couldn’t give a time frame on when that will happen. The stay-at-home order, which has been extended once, is in place through May 4, though Inslee has warned that it is possible the order might have to be extended again. Part of the equation is if the necessary testing and contact tracing is in place by then.
Huntington: Marshall University will be holding all of its summer classes online because of the coronavirus crisis. The college said it was also lowering fees for the online summer courses to help students who might be struggling financially. “We hope students who may be on the fence about summer school will decide that this is the time to take advantage of a cost savings and the convenience of online courses,” said Jaime Taylor, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. The online courses will be held from May through August. The only classes that will be offered are those that can be held entirely online.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers closed all K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year and extended Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order to May 26, keeping most nonessential businesses shuttered until after the Memorial Day holiday weekend to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Evers said the effort to date has saved between an estimated 300 and 1,400 lives, but it wasn’t safe to reopen everything in the state. He did loosen some restrictions, including allowing golf courses to reopen as of 8 a.m. April 24. “Folks, we’ve saved lives together,” Evers said. “At the end of the day, my bottom line is keeping people safe and we’re not out of the clear just yet.” News of the extension comes amid growing criticism from conservatives who are pushing Evers and some other governors to loosen restrictions. Opponents of the order planned a rally at the state Capitol on April 24, the end date of the original order. “Extremely disappointed with the governor’s extension,” tweeted Republican state Rep. John Jagler, of Watertown. “Its effects on our economy will be crippling. You don’t have to be unemployed to be safe.” Other Republicans were more harsh. Rep. Barb Dittrich, of Oconomowoc, called Evers a “tyrant” and Rep. Shae Sortwell, of Gibson, said he had crossed “the boundary from chaotic and arbitrary to lawlessness” and said Evers would be sued. Before the order can be lifted, there needs to be a “massive” expansion of testing, more contact tracing to determine the spread of the virus and additional public health measures to prevent another wave, Evers said. Evers also loosened restrictions starting April 24 on nonessential businesses, allowing them to make deliveries and have curbside pickup available. That includes arts and crafts stores making material available to produce face masks and other personal protective equipment. Libraries will be able to make books available for curbside pickup. Lawn care services are allowed, as long as the work is done by just one person.
Gillette: An international competition to capture carbon dioxide from a Gillette-area power plant and put it to profitable use has been suspended because of the coronavirus crisis, the Gillette News Record reported. Like much of Campbell County, the state and nation, the Integrated Test Center has been closed while travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have stymied teams of researchers, said Jason Begger, executive director for the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, which manages the ITC. Finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize competition are in a crucial phase of the contest where they were either moving their research modules or preparing to move them to the ITC at the Dry Fork Station power plant north of Gillette, Begger said. After years of research, development and construction for most was finally to begin as they tested their technologies using flue gas from the plant this spring and summer. Now that research is on hold for however long before coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted, said Marcius Extavour, executive director for the Carbon XPrize.
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