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Catholic guilt, pandemic rage room: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Published 5:47 AM EDT Sep 15, 2020


Birmingham: Crowds gather every year at 16th Street Baptist Church to mark the anniversary of the horrific day when a bomb planted by Ku Klux Klansmen went off just before worship, killing four Black girls. This year’s 57th observance will be virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. reports the downtown church is asking people this year to watch a video replay of the 2019 memorial service, which included an appearance by former Vice President Joe Biden, now the Democratic nominee opposing President Donald Trump. The replay will begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on the church’s Facebook page to coincide with the day of the bombing Sept. 15, 1963. Afterward, Pastor Arthur Price will lay a wreath at the site of the bombing. The church hasn’t resumed in-person worship since discontinuing in March because of the pandemic. “All of our services are virtual,” Price said.


Anchorage: The city will receive federal support to aid in the suppression of a coronavirus outbreak in its homeless population. There have been 168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Anchorage’s homeless shelters and one death as of Thursday. Roughly 100 of those cases are associated with an outbreak at the Brother Francis Shelter, said Anchorage Health Department Epidemiologist Janet Johnston. In response, the city was assigned three employees from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The four federal staffers will help with on-site epidemiology, contact tracing and other management of the city’s outbreak, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The staffers will be in Anchorage for at least two weeks and can stay longer if necessary.


Phoenix: Arizona State University President Michael Crow alleges several restaurant-bars near the school’s Tempe campus have violated the safety protocols by which businesses must abide to operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Crow sent a letter to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ and the head of the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control about the alleged violations by some Mill Avenue eating and drinking establishments. The letter was accompanied by photos and descriptions of people inside various bars who were not wearing masks or doing social distancing on Sept. 5 and 6. The alleged violations “represent the kind of undisciplined and risky activity which, if not properly addressed in a timely manner, could worsen COVID-19 spread among the ASU community and in the larger community surrounding the Tempe campus,” the letter said.


Little Rock: State health officials on Sunday reported 508 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 12 additional deaths. The Arkansas Department of Health said that the number of confirmed cases in the state is now at 69,050 and that there have been 976 deaths among those cases. The actual number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. As of Sunday there were about 370 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, health officials said. And more than 62,000 people have recovered.


Palm Springs: After the wheels fell off the state’s COVID-19 testing system in August, California announced Friday that it would begin testing whether a system designed by Apple and Google would provide a more accurate public health tool to track exposure to the coronavirus. An analysis of California Department of Public Health and COVID Tracking Project data found the number of COVID-19 tests around the Golden State and the country has fallen since its peak, even though the virus is far from eradicated. On Friday night, the state announced a partnership among its health department, the California Department of Technology and the University of California system to test Exposure Notification Express, an app designed by Google and Apple. If a smartphone user activates the app, it uses Bluetooth to track whether someone has come near an infected individual, assuming they’re also using the app.


Fort Collins: Gov. Jared Polis officially extended the state’s mask order Saturday due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The mask-wearing is a key part of continuing the forward progress, and it’ll be with us for the next 30 days,” Polis said at a news conference. He said “masks are working,” but he understands Coloradans are frustrated with mask-wearing. “I can’t wait until two things: The fire ban is over, and the mask requirement is over,” Polis said. “I think a lot of folks, including me, are going to be happy to have little bonfires to burn these things and never look back.” The mask mandate was first announced in July. Polis attributed the state’s progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19 to significant mask-wearing. The mask mandate is also the reason the state has been able to welcome students back to college campuses and resume youth sports, Polis said.


Hartford: An hours­long meeting Friday with the organization that oversees high school sports in the state failed to convince Connecticut’s top public health official that a fall football season should go forward, she said. Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting health commissioner, listened as the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference presented a plan to mitigate the threat of transmitting the coronavirus during football games, including requiring players to wear face shields below their helmets. Following the meeting, which also included the governor’s chief of staff, doctors and lawmakers, Gifford said not enough data exists to know if the the athletic conference’s plan would be effective. “I think the idea of pushing high-risk sports off until we have better data about whether these strategies will work is a good idea, and we would encourage the CIAC to continue to consider a later season for fall football,” she said.


Dover: The mayor says the city will move forward with plans to allow Halloween trick-or-treating and to host an annual holiday celebration in December. The Delaware State News reports Mayor Robin Christiansen said he expects participants to wear face masks and maintain social distance during the events amid the continuing health threat from the coronavirus pandemic. “One of the reasons I’m probably going against what is expected of us is because kids have been cooped up too long,” Christiansen said. He said the city will also host Home for the Holidays in December. The event includes a Christmas marketplace and other festivities downtown. The Dover Police Department recently announced the cancellation of two annual events due to the ongoing pandemic, including the National Night Out and the Safe Trick or Treat event.

District of Columbia

Washington: Gyms and boutique fitness facilities in D.C. are fighting to reopen in full, saying their facilities shouldn’t have the same restrictions as bars and restaurants, WUSA-TV reports. Metro area gyms said they’re using contact tracing to help curve the spread of the virus while still offering a safe way for their clients to exercise. “We have the ability to contact-trace the reported cases, better than any industry I know of,” said Bahram Akradi of Life Time. Petworth Fitness uses a similar method. Its class-style workouts created social distancing before the pandemic and required cleanliness. “Everybody has actually 10 feet of space. Everyone has to work out in their own box. Even before all of this, we made sure people wiped down all their equipment, they will wipe down their bars – anything they touched, they wiped down,” said Marcus Taylor, co-owner of Petworth Fitness.


Winter Park: A 70-year-old man was beaten after he asked a man who wasn’t wearing a mask to practice social distancing inside a central Florida gas station, police said. The two men began arguing about 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8, according to an Orange County arrest affidavit. The older man paid for his items and went outside the Citgo gas station in Winter Park. Rovester Ingram, 24, followed him outside and began kicking and punching the older man, according to the report. The man went back inside the gas station, and Ingram punched him again, grabbed him by the hair and dragged him back outside, where the beating continued, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Winter Park police confirmed the hospitalized victim’s account through eyewitness accounts and security footage. They found Ingram at his house, the report said. He is charged with kidnapping/inflicting bodily harm as well as aggravated battery, according to court records.


Albany: A man hopes to profit by giving people a guilt-free outlet for venting their frustrations amid the prolonged coronavirus pandemic. Quentin Collins of Albany is the owner of No Consequences Rage Room. For prices ranging from $25 to $80, Collins provides his customers in search of a stress-relieving outburst with TV sets, windshields, cups, bottles and other items to smash using a baseball bat or sledgehammer. Collins told WALB-TV he’s “giving people just a way to release through all that frustration.” “I am sure there are people who are still in the house or can’t leave,” he said. “So I think it is going to be a great turnout.” Similar “rage rooms” have opened across the U.S. as Americans have faced heightened anxiety from a deadly infectious disease, lockdowns, layoffs and children stuck at home in online classes.


Hilo: The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has sent a team of health care staffers to help contain a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans home. Ten residents have died at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, officials said Friday, and the majority of its 74 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus after an asymptomatic employee is thought to have brought it on-site, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Sen. Brian Schatz declared the outbreak a public health emergency and implored the VA last week to aid the home’s management of the situation. Schatz said the veteran’s home was understaffed and not equipped to halt the outbreak on its own. The federal team will recommend processes and procedures to manage the outbreak, as well as conduct investigations into infection control issues that occurred in the home.


Nampa: The city has announced a small-business grant program to help local businesses with COVID-19 expenses. To qualify, the business must have no more than 500 employees and be registered and located within Nampa boundaries.


Chicago: Schools reported roughly 84% citywide attendance for the first day of remote classes, but some schools had fewer than half of students log in. Attendance increased citywide over the first three days, with 90.2% citywide Thursday, according to The Chicago Tribune. Still, first-day attendance numbers were 10 percentage points lower compared with last year’s first day with traditional classes. Chicago schools shifted to online learning for the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the district’s more than 500 schools reported 100% attendance, but others lagged far behind. Teachers say some students lacked devices or reliable internet access. School officials say they’re still trying to close the digital divide by doling out 100,000 laptops. Ellington Elementary, on Chicago’s West Side, reported 66% attendance Tuesday. Principal Shirley Scott said she was optimistic about the coming weeks, as some parents were still picking up laptops.


Indianapolis: State health officials are developing the criteria they will use to decide who is entitled to receive a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available. Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box expects the supply of doses will be extremely limited once the federal government approves a vaccine for widespread human use – possibly just 10 million or 15 million doses for the 330 million people living in the United States, she said last week. If the vaccine is distributed to each state based on its share of the U.S. population, Indiana might receive only 300,000 doses initially for its 6.7 million residents, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports. Box said the State Department of Health is preparing to identify which Hoosiers should get vaccine priority and who can continue following COVID-19 prevention practices – such as mask-wearing, social distancing and regular handwashing – until vaccine doses are more widely available.


Des Moines: Another three people with COVID-19 have died, and there have been an additional 406 confirmed cases, the state reported Monday. Iowa has totaled 1,221 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the state’s website, and 74,767 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday morning. The state has been changing how it reports testing data, which has caused spikes in the rate of positive data. Before the changes, the state was consistently reporting a positivity rate below 10%. Iowa also is now counting the results of antigen tests, a relatively rapid type of coronavirus test that will increase the reported rates of infection in some counties. On Monday, the state noted a 10.6% positivity rate since the pandemic started. Of the tests the state had reported since Sunday morning, 12.6% were positive, according to a Des Moines Register analysis. Iowa’s 14-day average was 8.8% positive, according to the state.


Wichita: Several bars and nightclubs have been ignoring the city’s 11 p.m. coronavirus curfew, with one owner saying he has to do it for his business to survive. City and county officials say the venues that have been flouting the curfew put in place by Sedgwick County health officials could lose their liquor licenses and expose themselves to lawsuits if their patrons or employees get sick. Among the well-known bars that ignored the curfew Friday night were Heroes, Emerson Biggins, Revolution, 6 Degrees and Rock Island Live. Darren Greiving, the owner of the Blu Night Club in western Wichita, said staying open late is important to his business’ economic survival. “Our livelihoods have been taken away from us for over half this year,” he said. County Manager Tom Stolz said businesses that ignore the curfew could lose the legal immunity from coronavirus lawsuits that state lawmakers granted them earlier this year.


Louisville: Roughly a month after resuming in-person classes, the Archdiocese of Louisville has more students with active COVID-19 cases than any of the state’s school districts. Schools in the archdiocese had 80 active coronavirus cases among students as well as 13 active cases among staff, according to Friday data from the Kentucky Department for Public Health. But school officials said the state numbers do not paint an accurate picture of the current situation. Spokeswoman Cecelia Price said in an email Friday that none of the archdiocese’s 48 schools has been closed because of the latest numbers. Schools in Kentucky’s four Roman Catholic dioceses started the school year in August with in-person instruction despite Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation to wait until late September to begin in-person classes. The archdiocesan schools said they had precautions in place to keep students safe.


Baton Rouge: Elementary, middle and high school students in East Baton Rouge Parish are planning to resume on-campus learning five days a week in October. Elementary schools will resume on-campus classes Oct. 5, WAFB-TV reports. Middle and high schools will do hybrid learning from Sept. 28 through Oct. 16 before they resume on-campus learning five days a week Oct. 19. Social distancing rules will remain in effect, including wearing face coverings, monitoring symptoms, notifying close contacts and maintaining static groups when possible. Students who want to continue virtual learning will be able to do so under the system’s new plans, officials said.


Bangor: The state is preparing this week for the first trials since March. In Penobscot County, a man charged in a 2017 killing in Cherryfield is going on trial on a murder charge. In Kennebec County, two juries already have been selected for a couple of drunken-driving trials. Judges, clerks, attorneys and advocates are watching closely for potential pitfalls for trials held during a pandemic. “What happens or doesn’t happen will affect what happens or doesn’t happen across the state,” Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen told the Portland Press Herald. In Bangor, the clerk’s office summoned more potential jurors that usual. The questionnaire included questions about hardships caused by the pandemic. The court is excusing those who have concerns related to COVID-19, including any medical condition that puts them at higher risk.


Salisbury: Health officials say 50 crabmeat pickers on the state’s Eastern Shore contracted COVID-19 this summer. The outbreaks recorded by the Dorchester Department of Health sent one worker to the hospital but did not result in any fatalities. Workers’ rights advocates said a lack of personal protective equipment and a language barrier that kept workers from communicating their concerns to their employers contributed to the outbreaks. Advocates also said some sick workers also believed they had to go back to work before they were ready. About 40 of the cases occurred at Russell Hall Seafood in Fishing Creek. The entire company was on lockdown for two weeks, with positive cases isolated and everyone else quarantined. The workers, many of whom are Mexican citizens, are working in the U.S. legally through the H-2B visa program, on which the Maryland crab-picking industry has relied since the program was introduced in the early 1990s.


Dover: A second high school in the state is delaying the beginning of in-person learning after students held a house party amid the coronavirus pandemic. Andrew W. Keough, superintendent of Dover-Sherborn Public Schools, said in an email to parents Monday that school would begin remotely for all high school students as a result of the party held Friday night, WFXT-TV reports. Police responded to the party that had up to 150 people who weren’t wearing marks or social distancing and were “drinking in excess,” he said. “In choosing to flout the rules set down by society in the pandemic, they have now put us all at risk,” Keough said. Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School also recently announced it would switch to remote-only learning after dozens of students attended a party without taking proper coronavirus-prevention measures.


Lansing: The state on Monday launched a $5 million advertising campaign to urge people to wear a mask to fight the coronavirus, with a focus on appealing to those who believe the state’s requirement infringes on their rights. The “spread hope, not COVID” message includes three public service announcements. Two feature military members saying they wear a face covering to protect their freedom and the freedom of others, saying it can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by 70%. A sergeant puts on a mask showing the American flag. “The more we wear masks, the sooner this is going to end; the sooner we can return to normal,” Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said of the new ads. They are based on a survey of about 2,000 residents and are being funded with federal virus relief aid.


St. Cloud: Thanks to reinforcements to the federal dairy safety net and a generous coronavirus relief package, fewer dairy farmers are going out of business, and their outlook has brightened despite the pandemic. “People’s morale has definitely lifted,” said Shelly DePestel, one of the owners of the Lewiston Dairy in southwest Minnesota, among the state’s largest. “I do think a lot of dairy farmers support (President Donald) Trump, from my limited communication.” An irony of this new optimism in dairy is that the politician most responsible for the legislation that caused it is a Democrat, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the chairman of the House Agricultural Committee. “Collin Peterson is a champion to dairy,” DePestel said. Peterson was honored Friday in Perham by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association with the legislator of the year award for his work on the coronavirus relief package among other things.


Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves is extending a statewide mask mandate through the end of September, saying Monday he believes it is helping slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The rule about wearing masks in public is part of an executive order the Republican governor issued Sunday. The order eased some limitations on businesses. Restaurants may serve more dine-in customers, with the governor now allowing 75% capacity, up from the previous 50%. Restaurants may also seat up to 10 people at one table, up from the previous limit of six. Tables must remain at least 6 feet apart. Retail stores and gyms may operate at 75% capacity, up from the previous limit of 50%. Gyms may remain open 24 hours a day. “We have had a tremendous move towards progress in our state,” Reeves said Monday. He said that Mississippi “for the first time in many, many, many months” is seeing a seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases below 3,000.


Jefferson City: The state is temporarily making it easier for people to become substitute teachers in anticipation of a potential shortage because of the pandemic. The Missouri State Board of Education signed off on letting people with a high school diploma or equivalent complete a 20-hour state-approved substitute teacher online training to become eligible. Before, they needed to complete 60 college credit hours for a substitute certificate, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reports. Frontline Education, the vendor administering the training, said 734 people had participated in the online training as of Thursday. The training includes topics such as professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs and working with at-risk youth.


Missoula: As hunters brace for a 2020 field season in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic, they still have to deal with a more persistent wildlife disease problem: chronic wasting disease. “It still isn’t going away,” Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1 spokesperson Dillon Tabish told the Missoulian newspaper. “Hunters have been really invested in helping us with this – they know what’s at stake. We don’t want these concerns to stop people from enjoying hunting season, though. It’s not as if there weren’t enough disease issues in the world now.” Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a neurological disease contagious to deer, elk and moose. Infected animals show poor body condition, drooling, drooping heads and disoriented behavior. The disease is related to bovine spongiform encephalitis, or mad cow disease, although CWD has not been shown to be transferable to humans.


Omaha: A former TV weatherman and mayoral spokesman has taken a plea deal months after being accused of emailing death threats to a local health department director over her handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Ronald Penzkowski, 57, pleaded no contest Friday to two misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault, the Omaha World-Herald reports. He initially had been charged with a felony count of making terroristic threats. Penzkowski was arrested March 31 after investigators said he sent several emails to Dr. Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department. The emails threatened to “lynch” Pour and slit her throat and cited Pour’s public health measures and recommendations for residents to stay home to help slow the virus’s spread, investigators said. Penzkowski served as director of communications for former Mayor Jim Suttle a decade ago. Before that, he worked as a meteorologist under the name Ron Gerard.


Carson City: State health officials on Sunday reported 317 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. That increased the statewide totals to 73,537 cases and 1,452 known deaths. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by the Associated Press showed seven-day rolling averages for Nevada’s daily new cases and daily deaths dropping over the past two weeks. The average of daily deaths went from 488 on Aug. 28 to 299 on Friday, while the average of daily deaths dropped from 15 to nine. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

New Hampshire

Portsmouth: The 26th annual Portsmouth Halloween Parade, which draws as many as 25,000 spectators, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers say. “We have exhausted every possible option, including a reverse parade, alternate locations, a rolling parade and route changes, and we determined there is simply no way to keep the spirit of the parade and keep the spectators and participants safe during the pandemic,” parade Marshal Monte Bohanan told Organizers were hoping for a large crowd this year because Halloween falls on a Saturday. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced Sunday that the state has 44 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one additional death. There have now been nearly 7,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 436 deaths in the state.

New Jersey

Newark: NJ Transit on Monday announced a pilot program for its mobile app that allows passengers preparing to board to see how many other passengers are riding their bus or train. Green, yellow and red color-coded icons will indicate light, medium or heavy ridership, the agency said. “This innovative feature on our mobile app is yet another tool for customers to make informed travel decisions as they return to our system,” NJ Transit CEO and President Kevin Corbett said. “It also serves as another example of how we continue to invest in technology to improve all aspects of the travel experience for our customers.” The ridership information is collected on buses by automated onboard passenger counting technology. Handheld devices used to scan tickets will provide ridership data on Raritan Valley, Atlantic City and Morris & Essex Lines trains.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Health officials on Sunday reported 103 new confirmed coronavirus cases with two additional deaths in the state. The latest numbers from the New Mexico Department of Health raise the statewide total to 26,761 cases and the known death toll to 823. The new cases include 29 from Chaves County and 19 from Bernalillo County. According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by the Associated Press, seven-day rolling averages for New Mexico of new daily cases and daily deaths both dropped over the past two weeks. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

New York

New York: The 9/11 Memorial Museum opened to the public Saturday for the first time since cultural institutions across the city shut down six months ago to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The museum at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan first reopened to family members only on Friday, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attack that destroyed the trade center’s twin towers, before welcoming the general public Saturday. Visitors have to wear masks, and only 25% of the museum’s maximum capacity is permitted inside. The museum has always required timed entry tickets purchased in advance, which will continue. Hours at the museum, where artifacts from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks are displayed, will be restricted to five days a week, down from seven before the pandemic. The museum will now be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

North Carolina

Raleigh: An employee in the Wake County Sheriff’s Office has tested positive for COVID-19, a development that could cause a disruption in responding to an unprecedented number of pistol permit applications. Sheriff Gerald Baker said he was working to put together a modified crew to meet with the hundreds of applicants who had appointments scheduled for early this week. Baker told The News & Observer there may be delays. He said the office is processing about 2,000 permits a week and has a backlog of more than 4,000. The division has about 10 employees, who will have to be tested and isolated, he said. Baker said he is turning to staff who have been on leave or haven’t been in contact with the division. The Sheriff’s Office has issued 32,700 pistol purchase permits in 2020, compared to 10,499 during the same period last year. Baker has attributed the increase to the coronavirus pandemic and unrest tied to killings by police.

North Dakota

Bismarck: State officials on Sunday confirmed 431 new positive cases of the coronavirus, after more than 8,500 tests in the past day. The cases included 90 in Burleigh County, 87 in Cass County, 42 in Morton County, 38 in Stutsman County and 35 in Stark County. The report listed one new death, a woman in her 60s from Benson County with underlying health conditions. A total of 168 people have died with COVID-19 across the state since the pandemic began. The number of active cases went up by 220, to a total of 2,754. There have been 482 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks in North Dakota, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita, according to the COVID Tracking Project.


Columbus: There have been 20,597 fewer reports of child abuse and neglect in the state during the coronavirus pandemic than during the same period last year, but experts say that does not mean incidents are going down. It’s most likely that they are being reported less frequently than when children were around people required to report incidents since the COVID-19 shutdown, said Lindsay Williams, executive director of the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund. When schools closed in March because of COVID-19, there was a roughly 50% decrease in the overall number of child abuse and neglect reports from across the state, Williams said. “It was because children were no longer seeing teachers, school personnel, day care providers, coaches and those individuals that are ‘mandated reporters’ and would typically make those observations that would be indicators of potential concern and reporting those concerns,” she said.


Oklahoma City: The state reported 869 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday. That pushed the cumulative number of cases throughout the pandemic past 70,000. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported no new deaths from the coronavirus. Oklahoma’s death toll during the pandemic remains at 905. The number of active cases grew by 422 and now exceeds 10,000 – an all-time high in the state. More than 59,000 Oklahomans are considered to have recovered from the virus.


Salem: The Oregon Health Authority reported five new deaths Sunday related to COVID-19. The state’s coronavirus death toll has reached 509. OHA announced 185 new confirmed and presumptive positive cases Sunday, including 27 in Marion County and six in Polk County, bringing Oregon’s total to 29,337.


Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions that required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday. U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders in their lawsuit against Wolf, a Democrat, and his health secretary. The Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights, Stickman wrote in his ruling. The ruling means that current restrictions, including ones that limit the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings, can’t be enforced, according to attorney Thomas W. King III, who represented the plaintiffs.

Rhode Island

Providence: Children across the state returned to school Monday as the state launched its coronavirus testing program for students, teachers and staffers. Nearly all Rhode Island public school districts were given the go-ahead to resume full in-person classes, although parents have the option of keeping their kids home to learn remotely. The state has created a testing program that health officials say will provide quick results to any public or private K-12 school student, teacher or staff member who needs to be tested for the coronavirus. Tests will be provided to students, teachers or staff who have symptoms or have been directed to be tested because they were in close contact with someone who tested positive, the state health department said. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, said the state will be able to perform 5,000 school tests a day.

South Carolina

Columbia: As officials make plans for the future dissemination of a coronavirus vaccine, the state’s public health department is rolling out a new network to help manage all of South Carolina’s vaccine-related information. In a release Sunday, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said that the Statewide Immunization Online Network would help immunization providers keep track of inventory and give state officials the ability to address coverage rates. Officials said the system would also provide patient reminders and a portal where patients can access their immunization records. Interim public health director Dr. Brannon Traxler said the upgrade comes at a good time, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Officials have stressed that there is no confirmed date for when such a vaccine will be available to the general public.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The South Dakota Department of Health reported Monday that another 163 people in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus. The number of people actively hospitalized with COVID-19 remained at 110, while the number of people who died with the disease remained at 184. Another 125 people recovered from the disease. The plurality of the state’s 2,499 active infections are among people ages 20-29. The new infections were discovered from a total of 1,846 new tests, for a daily positive rate of 8.8%. With the exception of the day after Labor Day, when testing was light, Monday’s 163 total positive cases marked the lowest number of daily positive cases since Aug. 25. Still, it’s a total that is in contrast to the results in June and July, when the state routinely reported new infections in the double digits.


Nashville: The extra $300 unemployment payments available to the state’s residents amid the coronavirus pandemic are ending. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency informed the state that funding for the Lost Wages Assistance Program payments was slated to stop Sept. 5. The state says eligible claimants will receive the additional $300 for the weeks ending Aug. 1 through Sept. 5. Retroactive payments will be delayed at least two weeks, and the Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 payment periods will have a lag time. The $300 benefit is added to the current maximum state payout of $275. The state requested the extra unemployment funding after the end of a $600-per-week payout under the federal coronavirus relief bill.


Austin: More Texas homeowners are falling behind on their mortgage payments amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to a new industry report. Nationwide, more than 7% of homeowners with mortgages had missed at least one loan payment as of June, according to a new report from CoreLogic. Among major Texas cities, Austin had the lowest late loan payment rate at 6.2%, according to the CoreLogic report. That was nearly three times the late-payment rate of 2.6% in June 2019, according to the report. Texas overall is doing better than the rest of the country in terms of people in arrears “mainly because our economy is in relatively better shape, and our unemployment rate is a little lower,” said Bud Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University. He said the biggest threat to Texas’ economy would be “a second wave that leads to a shut down of the economy or a rollback of some of the openings that have occurred.”


Ogden: As if COVID-19 weren’t enough to worry about, flu season is gearing up, giving those already jittery about every cough and sneeze more to fret over. Accordingly, Utah health officials are urging the public, now more than ever, to get vaccinated against the flu, the Standard-Examiner reports. The added urgency stems in part from the symptoms the ailments share and concerns about confusing them. “Many of the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 are similar, and it can be difficult to figure out which infection a person has,” said Tamara Sheffield, medical director of community health and prevention for Intermountain Healthcare. “Symptoms that the two infections share are a dry cough, fever and chills, fatigue, achiness. People with COVID-19 sometimes have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing and sometimes have a loss of taste or smell, while people with influenza rarely have those symptoms.”


Montpelier: If the number of COVID-19 cases continues to remain low at the state’s colleges, universities and schools, Gov. Phil Scott may announce the easing of some restrictions on the hard-hit hospitality industry this week, he said. “But again, it all is reliant on the data and the science, making sure that it’s safe to do so,” he said Friday. Hotels and other lodging businesses are now limited to half of capacity, and restaurants, arts venues other entertainment establishments are limited to half of capacity for a maximum of 75 customers inside and 150 outside. State officials have said revenues at lodging and food and service industries are down about 90% from previous years. “We’ll be taking a look this week, and if everything continues to improve, those are the areas that we’d be looking at,” Scott said.


Ashland: In-person classes are expected to begin this week at a Hanover County middle school after the start of the school year was delayed when three employees tested positive for COVID-19. Liberty Middle School Principal Donald Latham posted on the school’s website Sunday that school officials have consulted with the Hanover Health Department and determined that in-person learning can begin Tuesday. After the three employees tested positive last week, the school shifted to virtual learning Thursday and Friday while the school was cleaned. At least 15 employees were also in isolation due to potential exposure and will remain in quarantine for 14 days. School officials said social distancing and face masks will be required at all times.


Bremerton: Three people’s deaths have been linked to the COVID-19 outbreak at St. Michael Medical Center, Kitsap Public Health officials said. The three deaths, all among patients at the Bremerton hospital, include two Kitsap County residents and a person from another county, according to a report from the Kitsap Public Health District. The two local residents are among 12 deaths stemming from COVID-19 reported in Kitsap County, which had 36 active cases as of Friday and more than 1,000 confirmed cases in total. The fatal cases associated with the St. Michael outbreak largely involved older patients who had been hospitalized for several weeks prior to their deaths. The report says the three patients’ median age was 78, and their median hospital stay was 35 days, which includes time before and after their COVID-19 diagnosis.

West Virginia

Charleston: The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra canceled the first half of its season this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. The cancellation affects the concerts scheduled for October through January. The organization said it hopes to resume with programs scheduled for February through May if possible. President Joe Tackett said the orchestra has received support from patrons, donors and corporate, foundation and community partners for 81 years but expects the cancellations will have “a tremendous impact on the finances of the orchestra.” The orchestra is looking into other options such as livestreaming, according to a news release.


Milwaukee: Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki is urging Catholics in strong terms to return to in-person Mass, provided they follow rules about wearing masks and social distancing. The order excusing Catholics from in-person worship expired Monday. The move coincides with the archdiocese lifting restrictions that limited churches to 25% of capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. Listecki’s letter to the 10-county archdiocese said the fear of getting sick is not an excuse, and Catholics “who deliberately fail to attend Sunday Mass commit a grave sin.” He also said that while livestreamed or publicly broadcast services have helped those at home remain connected, they do not replace in-person attendance. The archbishop said Catholics could continue to miss in-person church services if they are at risk because of age, underlying medical conditions or a compromised immune system, or caring for a sick person.


Cheyenne: The 1952 marquee on The Lincoln Cheyenne is lit up again downtown – no longer with movie titles but with names of bands and music artists to perform in concert at the 1928 building. Wyoming musician Jalan Crossland broke in the stage Aug. 14 with a sold-out first show for The Lincoln as live music venue. New owners have renovated and added state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment to the building, which previously housed a movie theater. “It was originally built as a live theater in 1928,” co-owner Jon Jelinek said. “So really we’re kind of bringing it back to its roots as a live theater again.” The venue seats 1,250, while restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic currently limit the audiences to 250. The owners and venue manager David Soules plan eventually to bring in major headliners once it’s possible, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Published 5:47 AM EDT Sep 15, 2020

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