Montgomery: Gov. Kay Ivey should extend the statewide rule requiring face masks in public, which health officials credit with stemming the spread of COVID-19, the head of the Alabama Hospital Association said Monday. The number of new cases of COVID-19 confirmed daily has fallen since reaching a high in the summer, and the reduction in the spread of the new coronavirus is all but certainly tied to the masking rule, which took effect in mid-July and is set to expire Friday, said Dr. Donald Williamson, president of the association, which supports continuing the requirement through the end of the year and possibly longer. Ivey and state health officials are weighing their options and will announce a decision this week, the governor’s office said, but Ivey has indicated she plans to keep the order in place. “I don’t like the mask, either. My glasses fog up. It’s a pain in the rear. But at the same time it’s working,” Ivey told Alabama Public Television.
Juneau: Misdemeanor jury trials will resume in November after the pandemic forced an eight-month hiatus, the state’s top court said. Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger issued an order Thursday allowing jury trials for misdemeanors or lesser crimes to resume with rules in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Everyone in the courtroom must receive a daily health screening test and wear masks at almost all times. Plexiglass screens will serve as barriers between people, and social distancing rules will apply. No spectators will be allowed in-person, but they will be permitted to watch remotely. James Christie, a criminal defense attorney in Anchorage, said the victims of crimes and those accused of perpetrating them are both adversely affected by delays in trials. Bolger estimated thousands of cases have been sitting in limbo due to the delay in trials implemented in March.
Phoenix: Letters sent from inmates to the Arizona Republic over six months of the pandemic claim the state Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry was failing to protect staff and inmates as the COVID-19 outbreak continued. Some inmates asked for help by writing a group message. Others provided graphic details in personal narratives of surviving with the virus. Multiple inmates called on Gov. Doug Ducey to act. Department of Corrections Director David Shinn was not doing enough, they said. “We feel our Governor Ducey has no idea what’s truly going on,” an inmate serving a six-year sentence in the Eyman facility in Florence wrote in April. This year, 2,577 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus in Arizona’s prisons, and 15 have died as of Thursday, according to the department. The daily population Thursday was 38,865. Thirteen more deaths potentially were caused by the virus, according to county medical examiners.
Little Rock: The city’s schools remained open Monday despite some teachers saying they’d only work virtually because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus in classrooms. It was unclear how many teachers joined the local union’s call not to show up for in-person classes. The school district said 50 teachers told their principals Sunday that they would work virtually, while another 150 called in sick Monday. A school district spokeswoman said that was slightly higher than the number of teachers absent on a typical day. The 21,000-student district has about 1,900 teachers. The Little Rock Education Association cited several concerns about the schools since classes resumed Aug. 24, including facilities not being cleaned or disinfected properly and many teachers and students not wearing masks. Arkansas is requiring its public schools to be open for in-person classes five days a week, though they can also offer virtual or hybrid options.
Long Beach: Two prisoners have died at hospitals of coronavirus-related complications, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported Saturday. One prisoner was at the California Institution for Men in Chino, where he was the 22nd inmate to die of coronavirus complications, the department said. The second, at Avenal State Prison in Avenal, was the sixth inmate to die of complications from the virus at the facility, the department said. Meanwhile, all California State University, Long Beach students who live on campus have been placed in quarantine, and all in-person instruction will be halted for two weeks because five students tested positive for COVID-19, the school’s top official said Saturday. President Jane Close Conoley said the school became aware Friday of “a number of students who have not heeded our guidance related to COVID-19 precautions and congregated socially off campus earlier this month.”
Fort Collins: Colorado State University’s “A,” a giant rock emblem that has adorned the same hillside in western Fort Collins since 1923, won’t be getting its annual fresh coat of paint anytime soon, marking the first time it hasn’t been repainted by students in decades. The “A” is typically repainted by students during their first week on campus each fall. That tradition won’t continue, “at this time,” due to county and state public health guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, CSU spokesperson Dell Rae Ciaravola said last week. It’s unknown how long the emblem – a nod back in time to when CSU was Colorado Agricultural College, and its students were “Aggies” – will go unpainted, as that timing will be determined by county and state guidance, Ciaravola said.
Hartford: The number of state prisoners testing positive for the coronavirus has dropped substantially over the past three months, decreasing to 3% in a second round of mass testing from 9% during the first round, the Department of Correction announced Friday. The department tested more than 8,500 inmates in the state’s 14 prisons from July 23 to Sept. 8, and 241 tests came back positive. The first round of testing from May 13 to June 25 found 832 of the 9,500 inmates were positive. Seven prisoners have died from the virus since the pandemic began. Statewide, about 1% of coronavirus tests are coming back positive. Prison officials said no inmates have shown symptoms of COVID-19 since Sept. 2. All inmates who test positive are isolated and monitored by health care staff for 14 days. The Correction Department also has tested more than 10,000 employees since July 17, and 13 tested positive with no symptoms.
Wilmington: Division of Public Health officials say they are investigating coronavirus outbreaks at “several” Delaware long-term care facilities. The positive cases are among residents and staff members alike. The investigation includes “significant” outbreaks at three Delaware facilities. At Wilmington’s Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, 28 residents and 24 staff members have tested positive. At Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Talleyville, 19 residents and fewer than 10 staff members are among those recently infected. And at Country Rest Home in Greenwood, 18 residents and 14 staff members have tested positive. The Division of Public Health said staff members may include health care and non-health care personnel, such as facility vendors or other individuals working in the facility who may not be full-time facility employees.
District of Columbia
Washington: Some D.C. students will be allowed to begin in-person learning as early as this week throughout October to receive additional support during their virtual learning, local school officials said during a news conference Monday. WUSA-TV reports the in-person learning opportunity, also known as the Student Support Center and Career and Technical Education program, will not replace virtual learning, school officials said. The program will provide tutoring, social-emotional support, physical education and outdoor learning experiences. Starting this week, Ballou STAY High School will be open to students seeking additional help through the program, and the school will welcome back students for its cosmetology and barbering program.
Tallahassee: As coronavirus cases spike among Florida State University students, local police said Sunday that they broke up a party at an off-campus student apartment complex that involved about 700 vehicles and more than 1,000 attendees. Tallahassee police said it was one of a dozen large gatherings they broke up over the weekend, including one Sunday where two people were injured by gunfire. Police said the vehicles at the student apartment complex were blocking travel lanes, and a Leon County sheriff’s helicopter was used to help disperse the crowd. Florida State University reported that more than 1,400 students and 26 employees had tested positive for COVID-19 through Sept. 18. The university updates its coronavirus numbers weekly. Florida has more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 14,200 people have died from the disease, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health on Sunday.
Atlanta: Georgia State says the positive COVID-19 tests that caused Saturday’s football game at Charlotte to be postponed were the result of errors in reading the test results. Georgia State said Sunday that student-athletes were tested three times last week. All results from tests Monday and Wednesday were negative, and positive results from Thursday tests became available Friday, just before the team’s scheduled departure to Charlotte. The team was scheduled to return to practice Monday as it prepares for this week’s home game against East Carolina. The Georgia State-Charlotte game has not been rescheduled.
Honolulu: The Hawaii Department of Public Safety has said 19 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 a day after officials declared an outbreak in an Oahu jail was under control. The announcement followed another round of testing at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, Hawaii Public Radio reports. The department said 131 of 150 inmate tested negative, and tests on 22 staff members were negative. There have been 310 inmates at Oahu Community Correctional Center who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 93 staff have also tested positive, the department said. Mass testing continues at other facilities, officials said. Results from inmate testing at the Halawa Correctional Facility, a state prison in Honolulu, came back negative Friday, with 23 tests pending. All results were negative for 164 inmates tested at Kulani Correctional Facility on Hawaii island, and all results were negative at the Waiawa Correctional Facility on Oahu.
Ketchum: National park and forest officials have reported an increase in trash and waste at public lands across the state since the coronavirus pandemic pushed more people outside. The national parks and national forests around the United States are experiencing the same problem, including the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in central Idaho, east of Boise, The Times-News reports. The National Forest Foundation, Sawtooth Society, Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association and Idaho Conservation League have asked for volunteers to help clean up the area between now and Oct. 4. The volunteers will be able to pick how and where they help with a self-guided effort. National Forest Foundation Northern Rockies Program Manager Dani Southard said there is a lot of trash in the wilderness but even more around accessible lakes and rivers. Unattended campfires and unmanaged human waste have also been issues.
Charleston: Student enrollment at Eastern Illinois University has been growing for the past three years, continuing with a 10.5% increase this fall. Even during the global pandemic, enrollment numbers are at the highest point since 2014, at 8,628 students. The number of student-athletes has also increased, despite scholarship cuts that the athletic director was forced to make as a result of a budget impasse. The most significant factor in this fall’s double-digit enrollment increase is the university’s dual-credit program, according to The News-Gazette. EIU’s growing dual-credit program works with smaller, rural schools in East Central Illinois to provide opportunities that might not otherwise exist given necessary instructor requirements like a master’s degree. An emphasis on the dual-credit program helped boost the number of new admissions from 1,580 during the fall semester of 2019 to 2,228 in the numbers released earlier this month for fall 2020.
Indianapolis: The state’s public pension funds for state and local government employees, including teachers, have apparently weathered the financial markets’ volatility during the coronavirus pandemic, new data from the state shows. The General Assembly’s Pension Management Oversight Committee heard Wednesday that the Indiana Public Retirement System increased its pension assets by 2.56% to $30.6 billion during the 2020 budget year, which ran from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. According to INPRS, the state’s prepaid pension programs were 90.6% funded, an increase from their 88.1% funded status at the end of the 2019 budget year, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports. That means the fund currently has resources on hand to pay 90.6% of all the money it eventually will be required to distribute to pension program participants.
Des Moines: As the coronavirus continues its spread, a majority of Iowans think it is safe for students to return to school in person, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll finds. Fifty-four percent of Iowans believe it is very or mostly safe for students to attend school in person this fall, compared to 39% who feel it is very or mostly unsafe. Seven percent of Iowans say they aren’t sure. The poll comes as schools conduct their first few weeks of classes, at least 50% of which must be in person, according to a proclamation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in July. A handful of districts, including Des Moines Public Schools, applied for two-week waivers to begin the year teaching solely online. Requests by Ames and Iowa City were accepted; Des Moines’ was denied. The Department of Education’s criteria for granting waivers include a COVID-19 positivity rate of at least 15% for 14 days in the county and a school absenteeism rate of at least 10%.
Topeka: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has moved a Statehouse meditation room created by Republicans in 2012 as a place for prayer and reflection to a less-visible space to create more room for her staff to social distance during the coronavirus pandemic. The new meditation room is in the basement, down an out-of-the-way hall. A visitor must go through double doors marked as an exit, and pieces of scaffolding and two unused security scanning machines are stored in the hall. Until earlier this month, the meditation space was on the Statehouse’s second floor, where Kelly and her staff have their offices. It now houses the desks of three governor’s office constituent-services staffers. Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican and frequent Kelly critic, called the change “sad” and suggested the governor “increased government so much that staffers need to take over a long-standing room for prayer.”
Hickman: With Election Day rapidly approaching, a west Kentucky artist has teamed up state Rep. Charles Booker’s Hood to the Holler organization and other musicians from around the state and nation to promote civic engagement through a virtual music festival Oct. 1, The Paducah Sun reports. Shaina Goodman, a Hickman native who performs under the name S.G. Goodman, has put together Which Side Are You On?: Voices for Kentucky and Beyond, “an informative online music festival geared around voting in Kentucky.” The program will include ways to register and information about how to vote in the upcoming general election Nov. 3. Among other artists who have hopped on board are Jason Isbell, Jim James, Bright Eyes, Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Thile, Nappy Roots, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Ben Sollee and Durand Jones. Booker will host the event, speaking in between the 10-minute sets of each artist.
Baton Rouge: Haunted houses will have to seek approval from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration if they want to operate in Louisiana this year, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Edwards’ restrictions on businesses and activities keep indoor amusement sites like haunted houses closed. But the Democratic governor’s coronavirus proclamation allows them to submit a proposal seeking special permission to reopen. The Louisiana state fire marshal’s office, which must approve facilities for opening, has posted information online about what’s needed to seek permission for haunted house operators to launch this fall. Haunted houses allowed to open will be required to have no more than 25 guests inside at any time, not counting staff. Groups have to be limited to six people, and everyone will have to comply with the statewide mask mandate. The sites will have to sell advanced tickets or use reservations. They’ll also face occupancy limits.
Portland: The state’s top health official says the number of new cases of the coronavirus is growing, and he’s warning about a “geometric surge.” Another health official is worried about outbreaks “coalescing into one big fire.” Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that with community transmission, cases can keep doubling rapidly. “I am extremely, extremely concerned,” Shah told the Portland Press Herald. Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital network, said that in York County a lot of people are testing positive for the virus from all age groups and among people who are healthy and “not so healthy” who have no idea where they were infected. “It’s not just that we have several outbreaks there, but that they are coalescing into one big fire,” Mills said.
La Plata: Prosecutors say a man who disregarded police orders to break up a party has been sentenced to a year in jail for violating the state’s ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. After a trial without a jury, state District Court Judge W. Louis Hennessy on Friday convicted Shawn Marshall Myers, 42, of Hughesville, of two counts of failure to comply with an emergency order, Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington’s office said in a news release. After Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order that prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people during the pandemic, law enforcement officers found Myers among approximately 50 people at his home March 22. Myers argued with officers but eventually agreed to disband his party, prosecutors said. Less than a week later, however, officers responded to a report of a bonfire and another large party at Myers’ home, and he disregarded orders to disband it.
Boston: A steakhouse opened by a Turkish restaurateur and social media star known as Salt Bae has been ordered closed for failing to meet coronavirus safety rules. Nusr-Et Boston was ordered closed Saturday just days after it opened. Boston’s Licensing Board said the restaurant opened by Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gökçe, posed an “imminent threat to public health and public safety resulting from the ongoing and repeated failure to adhere to COVID-19 public safety standards,” The Boston Globe reports. The licensing board is scheduled to hold inspection hearings for Nusr-Et Boston on Tuesday. Gökçe didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the newspaper. Officials said inspectors who visited the restaurant found violations including a “long line of patrons and failure to socially distance.”
Lansing: The state reported Monday that Black residents are no longer being disproportionately infected and killed by the coronavirus, after they accounted for a staggering 40% of deaths and 29% of cases in the early days of the pandemic. For the last two available weeks of data, African Americans represented 10% of COVID-19 deaths and 8% of cases. They comprise about 15% of the state’s population. They still account for at least 38% of confirmed and probable deaths overall and at least 20% of cases. Some patients’ race is not always reported. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II chairs a state task force that is addressing virus-related racial disparities. He credited people of color for being more likely to wear masks and follow safety guidelines and said the disparities’ downward trend has been holding for at least a month.
Eitzen: The mayor is disputing state health department claims that a COVID-19 survey team was threatened in the city earlier this month. State health officials on Friday reported cases of health workers being subjected to hostility – including racial slurs – in several Minnesota communities, as the teams surveyed households to collect data on how the virus is spreading. They were forced to end the survey early, officials said. The mayor of Eitzen, one of the cities singled out, said Saturday that he doesn’t believe the health department’s account of the episodes and that city leaders were never contacted about survey teams working in the community, Minnesota Public Radio News reports. “Personally, I think they owe the city of Eitzen and its citizens an apology,” Mayor Jeff Adamson said, referring to the health department.
Jackson: The University of Southern Mississippi is offering a free online course aimed to educate the public about the coronavirus. The six-part “Understanding the Pandemic: A COVID-19 Public Service Short Course” is an effort of Dr. Douglas Masterson, senior associate provost for institutional effectiveness and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Southern Mississippi. Masterson said he was inspired to create the course when he realized how much misinformation and misunderstanding there was among the public about the novel coronavirus and pandemics in general. The six modules are the history of pandemics; social and economic impact of pandemics; coronavirus and epidemiology; spread, prevention, and treatment; vaccines; and personal health and wellness in a pandemic. More than 15 professors and public health professionals contributed to the project. The course takes about three hours.
Jefferson City: Health officials said Sunday that the state had confirmed nearly 1,400 more COVID-19 cases but no new deaths. The 1,392 new cases bring the state’s total of confirmed cases to 123,406 since the pandemic began. With no new deaths reported Sunday, Missouri has confirmed 2,063 COVID-19-related deaths. As of Sunday, 1,298,106 people had been tested for the virus, with 9.1% testing positive. And 1,125 people were hospitalized with the virus Sunday in Missouri. Despite the continued rise in cases, Missouri’s first lady, Teresa Parson, said she plans to host the Third Annual Parson Family Fall Festival on Oct. 3 outside the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City. Teresa Parson and Gov. Mike Parson are both in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. They said they would isolate for 10 days, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Billings: The coronavirus pandemic continued to grow as the state reported a record number of cases Saturday, surpassing the high marks reached two days earlier. Montana recorded 346 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday morning, an increase from 323 cases Friday and 333 cases Thursday, The Billings Gazette reports. Montana experienced a record number of new case totals in eight of the previous 11 days. State health officials reported one new death from the virus Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 171. As of Saturday, Montana had 2,987 people known to be currently infected by COVID-19, with 147 people hospitalized. The state reported 8,749 people have recovered from the virus.
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Omaha: The state reported 901 new coronavirus cases and two new deaths linked to COVID-19 over the weekend. The state’s online virus tracker on Monday showed 44,063 people in Nebraska have tested positive since the outbreak began, including 467 new cases Sunday and 434 new cases Saturday. A total of 470 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in the state. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 329 new cases per day Sept. 13 to 399.86 new cases per day Sunday, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking project. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Nebraska has also risen from 9.65% on Sept. 13 to 12.86% on Sunday. Despite those increases, the state said 36% of the Nebraska’s hospital beds, 34% of intensive care beds and 80% of the state’s ventilators remain available.
Reno: The Tesla Gigafactory is the job site with the highest number of Washoe County coronavirus cases since June, with 117, according to new data obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal. Renown, Walmart, the University of Nevada Reno and UPS round out the top five workplaces where coronavirus cases have occurred since June. The largest casinos in Reno and Sparks are also on the list of workplaces where employees have tested positive for the virus, as well as Saint Mary’s Regional Hospital and the VA Hospital. The data provided by the Washoe County Health District is the first glimpse into specific worksites with the highest number of coronavirus cases. Prior to providing the numbers, the health district spoke only in generalities, listing private gatherings, holiday parties and nursing homes as places where people were becoming sick with COVID-19.
Concord: The governor’s economic reopening task force has approved updated guidance allowing full capacity at retail stores, which have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Retailers have been limited to half-capacity, and while some sectors like garden centers have done well, some clothing stores have seen sales drop by 80%. Nancy Kyle, head of the state’s retail association, told the task force that allowing stores to return to 100% capacity will be critical to the holiday shopping season. Many stores will be starting holiday sales earlier than usual in hopes of recouping losses, she said. The task force sent its recommendations to the governor and public health officials for approval.
Trenton: The federal government has approved the state’s application for a $300 benefit for people who lost work because of COVID-19, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday. Murphy said it will take the state Labor Department until next month to come up with internal programming to distribute the funds. He said the money was originally intended to go out weekly but instead will be distributed as a lump sum. That benefit was announced in August by Republican President Donald Trump in the absence of a deal with Congress to renew jobless benefits. The state is not opting to chip in an additional $100 a week, as envisioned under the president’s proposal. Murphy cited the cost to the state as a factor.
Santa Fe: State health officials on Sunday reported 159 new confirmed coronavirus cases with no additional deaths. The latest numbers increased the statewide totals to 28,844 cases and 870 known deaths since the pandemic began. Of the 159 new cases, New Mexico Department of Health officials say 32 were in Bernalillo County, 29 in Eddy County and 20 in Dona Ana County. The spread rate has increased slightly since early September. Officials said the increase was expected after some restrictions were lifted, and it’s likely that increased travel around the Labor Day holiday had a role.
New York: The union representing New York City’s school principals called Sunday for the state to take control of the school system from the mayor for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic as hundreds of thousands of children are set to report back to classrooms this week. The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators declared a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza over their handling of safely reopening the nation’s largest school district. “All summer long, we’ve been running into roadblock after roadblock, with changing guidance, confusing guidance – often no guidance,” Council President Mark Cannizzaro said. He stopped short of saying a strike was on the table. “We’re right now in the middle of a pandemic. Our kids need us,” he said. Elementary school students are set to return to classrooms Tuesday, with middle and high schoolers back Thursday.
Charlotte: What is said to be the largest road running event in the state has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Charlotte Observer reports the city’s annual SouthPark Turkey Trot will now be virtual only. The event has become a family tradition and draws about 9,000 participants on Thanksgiving Day. The race is now in its 32nd year. “Without question, COVID-19 continues to challenge our community and nation,” SouthPark Turkey Trot organizers said in a news release. “With an abundance of caution, we have decided not to gather at SouthPark mall this Thanksgiving.” Organizers said participants can still register for this year’s event and walk or run at home.
Bismarck: A Republican state representative wants to become the next state health officer, a position from which three people have resigned during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Rick Becker, a plastic surgeon in Bismarck, has a plan for addressing COVID-19 that would be a major shift from the state’s practices so far. Becker calls for eliminating mass testing, contact tracing, guidelines for businesses, and marketing campaigns for masking and social distancing. In regard to education, Becker would allow students in kindergarten through high school to be back in the classroom full time, five days a week, with optional masking, plastic partitions for teachers and livestreamed classes for students whose parents choose to keep them home, the Bismarck Tribune reports.
Columbus: Outdoor dining kept many bars and restaurants alive over the summer while Ohioans avoided indoor dining during the coronavirus pandemic. As winter approaches and the window for outdoor dining grows smaller, eateries are turning to heated tents to extend the season as long as possible. Restaurants and bars advertise such tents as a way to stay warm and safe from the virus, which has killed more than 4,600 Ohioans since March. Doctors and epidemiologists, on the other hand, warn that tents may be only marginally safer than indoor dining rooms. “Big, wide-open spaces are better than anything that’s enclosed,” said Dr. Joe Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist at OhioHealth. An open canopy is better than a tent with four walls, he said. The stakes are high. Less than a third of Ohio restaurant owners expect to make a profit this year, according to Ohio Restaurant Association surveys.
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 861 new COVID-19 cases Monday. That brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in the state to 85,194. The Health Department also reported one new coronavirus-related death, of a Muskogee County woman in the 50-64 age group. The coronavirus-related death total in Oklahoma is now 1,007.
Salem: A ninth inmate in the state’s prison system died Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. The male inmate, between 65 and 75 years old, was in custody at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario and died at a local hospital, according to Oregon Department of Corrections officials. On Saturday, the DOC announced an eighth inmate who died after testing positive for COVID-19. The inmate, also in custody at the Snake River Correctional Institution, died Sept. 25 at a nearby hospital. Institutions continue to clean and disinfect numerous times a day. DOC asks inmates to report symptoms of COVID-19 to medical staff, officials said. Health screening processes are in place before staff are allowed to enter facilities. Visiting remains closed until further notice. DOC requires employees and inmates to wear masks if they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Cloth masks have been provided.
York: For 4-H students who had spent months raising swine, sheep and steer to show and sell at local fairs this year, it looked bleak for earning a profit. Many fairs canceled their events this year because of the coronavirus. Without a show, the youths faced the prospect of selling their animals at market value; taking them to butcher shops, which have been busy because of the virus; or keeping them past their prime. But a York County agricultural business stepped up and hosted a two-day show and sale this summer for students involved in 4-H in York and Adams counties. Len Lobaugh, president of TAM Systems Inc. in Franklin Township, said a parent approached him in July and asked what the 4-H kids were going to do with their animals. The company organized the two-day show with the help of 4-H parents and volunteers and donations from other businesses in the area.
Providence: The state will stay under its current coronavirus restrictions for another month. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has extended the restrictions under Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, which were supposed to expire Monday. Now the restrictions will remain in place until Oct. 28. Under Phase 3, indoor catered events are limited to 50 people and outdoor events to 100 people. Businesses can have up to 66% of workers on site at once as long as other virus guidance, such as physical distancing, is followed. Meanwhile, the state plans to dismantle two of three field hospitals it had set up early in the pandemic in case COVID-19 infections surged beyond what normal hospitals could handle. The Providence Journal reports the field clinics include one that had been set up at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
Columbia: A federal appeals court has reversed course and reinstated a ruling by a federal judge that would not require a witness signature for those wishing to vote absentee in the state. A majority of judges on the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday vacated a ruling from a day earlier by a three-judge panel of the same court to overturn U.S. District Judge Michelle Child’s Sept. 18 ruling that struck down the requirement and decided to reconsider the case, news outlets report. The latest decision means the final outcome remains to be determined. But for now, witness signatures are no longer required. Republicans have sought to maintain the witness signature requirement, arguing it guards against voter fraud. Democrats contend that the requirement has little impact on voter fraud and would force voters who are infected with COVID-19 to interact with healthy people in order to obtain the signature.
Custer: Thousands of people gathered to watch buffalo being herded into corrals at the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup on Friday. The event usually attracts between 19,000 and 20,000 people, the Rapid City Journal reports. Several participants in the roundup said the crowds this year looked bigger than in previous years. Officials at Custer State Park have not yet released an official estimate of the crowd size. The event draws people from across the region to watch park officials drive over a thousand bison across the open plains of Custer State Park. The state maintains the herd at roughly 1,000 bison and auctions off the rest. Gov. Kristi Noem rode in the roundup, as she did last year. She has aggressively promoted the state’s tourist offerings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nashville: A judge has ruled that state officials have to change the absentee ballot application again to reflect their promise to let voters cast mail ballots if someone in their household has an underlying health condition that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19. In her decision Friday, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle sided with arguments from the plaintiffs in a monthslong absentee voting lawsuit. They pointed out that a deputy attorney general made the eligibility commitment for co-habitants in response to multiple questions in front of the state Supreme Court last month. The change is the latest ordered in court for Tennessee’s excuse-based absentee voting system, which has drawn heightened attention due to the jump in demand for mail voting during pandemic times. Steven Mulroy, an attorney for plaintiffs, said it now appears roughly two-thirds or more of Tennessee voters can choose to vote by mail for November.
Austin: There were 1,292 newly reported coronavirus cases in Texas on Sunday and 37 additional deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to state health officials. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 735,132 coronavirus cases and 15,522 deaths, up from 733,438 and 15,485 deaths recorded as of Saturday. The true number of cases is likely higher, though, because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The health department also reported 67,234 active cases of the virus and said that 652,376 have recovered, while 3,217 people were hospitalized.
Salt Lake City: Enrollment at public schools in the state has declined as the coronavirus pandemic pushes some parents to home-school their children and make other decisions based on safety concerns. The state has counted 665,790 students enrolled this fall, a decline of 2,150 students compared to the same time last year, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The department says the deficit really amounts to about 9,000 students, since early projections had anticipated an increase of 7,000 students this fall. “It’s cause for real concern,” Utah Board of Education Chair Mark Huntsman said in a special meeting last week at which the department reviewed the preliminary fall head counts for K-12 grade levels. Enrollment numbers dictate how much state funding districts receive, so the decline could mean public schools lose millions of dollars, Huntsman said.
Montpelier: Gov. Phil Scott is praising the state’s lawmakers for putting politics aside to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In a message to House lawmakers at the close of the 2020 session Friday, Scott said he was proud of the way both the House and the Senate regrouped after the COVID-19 outbreak in March. “I am also grateful that each of you stepped up to share information with your constituents and communities,” Scott, a Republican, said in remarks that were distributed Monday by his office. “This came at a critical time in the emergency when misinformation was just as prevalent as the real facts, and when the right information was vital to slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives.” On Monday, the Vermont Department of Health reported three new cases of the coronavirus. The statewide total since the pandemic began is nearing 1,750. The number of fatalities remains at 58, where it has been for about two months.
Blacksburg: The Blacksburg Farmers Market has mostly kept moving throughout the pandemic, but the people who run the long-existing institution are working to ensure the operation continues to experience as few disruptions as possible. Fencing has been installed around Blacksburg’s Market Square Park, while several white circles have been spray-painted on the lawn area facing the pavilion-covered sections occupied by vendors, The Roanoke Times reports. Also, orange and diagonally arranged dots are being painted on surrounding sidewalks to keep patrons at a physical distance from each other when they are waiting in line to enter the market. Ian Littlejohn, the market director, said the recent additions to the park are part of an effort to reduce the risk of the coronavirus’ spread at what is a destination in town. He said the additions supplement other measures such as face covering requirements.
Port Orchard: A local woman has spent nearly all her time since the COVID-19 pandemic began creating masks for others. She’s spent so much time sewing that Rachel Finn has now made over 10,000 masks. The cloth masks are given away for free, though Finn does accept donations of cash or material to make more masks. She said it surprised her to see how much some places charged for masks. She said she’s helped bigger families who can’t pay $8 or so for a mask for each person. It began when a friend in Tacoma asked Finn if she could make a few masks. Finn posted a few extras on a Port Orchard Facebook page. “I just started getting slaughtered with people saying they wanted them,” Finn said. Finn normally works as a bartender but hasn’t worked since the pandemic began. She said working a 14-hour day, she can produce about 120 masks. She used most of her stimulus check to purchase supplies for masks, she said.
Wheeling: The Infernum in Terra haunted attraction has returned for its second year to find a world in turmoil, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing many aspects of society, and the scaring business is no different, The Intelligencer reports. Owner Sean Cooley said he was happy with how the changes to accommodate social distancing practices have come. Performers and guests all wear masks as they tour the facility, and groups will be kept small and sent through on timed intervals. No more than 40 guests will tour the building in a half-hour, he said. Cooley said he had been working for about five months reimagining the year’s scares, as restrictions and health concerns forced the haunt to abandon many staples of the genre, such as claustrophobic spaces and close encounters of the scary kind. Many actors have had their spots in the smaller rooms filled with animatronic or pneumatic props.
Madison: Conservatives asked a judge Monday to immediately put an end to the state’s mask mandate, arguing that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers doesn’t have the authority to issue such an order, as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge across the state. Attorneys for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the request in Polk County Circuit Court for an immediate injunction to block the order. It was part of an amendment to a lawsuit they had filed there in August against Evers’ first mask mandate. The original mask order ran from Aug. 1 through Monday. Evers last week issued a new public health emergency and extended the mark order until Nov. 21. Evers has defended the mask order despite the ongoing legal challenge, saying it is within his power to mandate and is following the recommendations of public health experts to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
Gillette: A coal mining company has not secured federal leases for two mines it bought and reopened almost a year ago in Campbell County. Eagle Specialty Materials and the U.S. Department of the Interior have been negotiating for months to resolve more than $50 million in unpaid federal royalties owed by bankrupt Blackjewel LLC, The Gillette News Record reports. Blackjewel and Contura Energy sold the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr coal mines to Eagle Specialty Materials as part of the bankruptcy last year, which involved closing the mines for three months. Eagle Specialty Materials is expected to continue operating the mines without owning the leases until there is an agreement on satisfying the payment. The negotiating deadline was recently extended by court order from the end of the September through Dec. 31.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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