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Campus quarantines, no spring break: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Published 5:27 AM EDT Sep 16, 2020


Auburn: Auburn University has reported a significant decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases, from 598 from the week ending Sept. 6 to just 109 the week ending Sept. 13. That’s the lowest number of new cases the university’s main campus has reported since the week prior to the start of the fall semester Aug. 17. The total reflects only self-reported positives and not the results of every test from the Auburn University Medical Clinic or at any other testing site. Auburn also reported a decrease in positivity rate during the second week of its voluntary testing program, from 6.4% of 621 tests to 1.8% of 329 tests. “It’s always a good thing to see the number of positive cases go down. You can’t see it behind my mask, but I’m happy,” AUMC director Dr. Fred Kam said in his weekly video update, while noting he also expects there could be another spike in the coming weeks because of the Labor Day weekend.


Anchorage: The Anchorage School District has established a target date of Oct. 19 to bring some students back into school buildings temporarily closed because of the coronavirus. District Superintendent Deena Bishop said officials plan to make an announcement this week about when and how in-person schooling could begin, Alaska Public Media reports. The district will start with elementary and special education students, Bishop said. The ability to bring students back largely depends on the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the state’s largest city, which Bishop said adheres to the most recent guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control. The target number of daily new cases averaged over 14 days is 29 and below. Last week the city’s daily average was 41. Prior to a full reopening, students in third grade and below will be able to visit classrooms in small groups to be tutored by volunteer teachers to build reading skills.


Tucson: The University of Arizona as a “last-ditch effort” will ask students to voluntarily shelter in place for the next two weeks, University President Robert Robbins said, citing a troubling uptick in coronavirus cases among students. “What changed? Students came back, and they started partying,” Robbins said during a briefing Monday. The school will urge students on campus and in certain nearby areas only to go out for essentials, medical appointments or classes that are conducted in person. The shelter-in-place recommendation will also apply to sorority and fraternity houses and some high-rise apartment buildings. Officials reported Friday that 176 students were quarantining in dorms, and 53 were quarantining elsewhere. The school has two designated quarantine dorms and may open a third. Since July 31, 770 students and four university employees have tested positive for COVID-19.


Little Rock: The state on Monday reported 399 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 10 more deaths from the illness caused by the virus. The Department of Health said 992 people have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, since the pandemic began. The Department of Health also reported that the number of active cases at the state’s public schools has grown to 574. And it reported 1,065 active cases at the state’s colleges and universities, with the vast majority at the University of Arkansas’ main campus in Fayetteville. There continued to be discrepancies, however, between the state’s figures and those announced by individual campuses. The state reported 735 active cases at UA, while the school on Monday said it has 334. Arkansas State University in Jonesboro reported 187 active cases, more than three times as many as the state’s tally.


Los Angeles: Fitness centers have filed a lawsuit alleging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus unfairly target the industry and demanding they be allowed to reopen more widely. The California Fitness Alliance, which represents nearly 300 businesses, filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Scott Street, a lawyer for the group, said Tuesday. The suit accuses state and Los Angeles County officials of requiring gyms to close without providing evidence they contribute to virus outbreaks and at a time when staying healthy is critical for California’s residents. The prolonged closure is depriving millions of people the ability to exercise as temperatures soar and smoky air from wildfires blankets much of the state, said Francesca Schuler, a founding partner of the alliance.


Aspen: A ski resort company announced job cuts for the first time in nearly 20 years as it anticipates decreased business because of the pandemic. Aspen Skiing Co. told employees 50 positions would be eliminated at its properties, which include the Snowmass and Aspen Mountain resorts, The Aspen Times reports. Vice President of Communications Jeff Hanle said the affected positions are across the company. President and CEO Mike Kaplan told employees in an email that many of the positions are already vacant or will lead to early retirements, but nine people were laid off. The company needs to “stay flexible given the ever shifting COVID landscape,” Kaplan wrote. Aspen Skiing Co. typically employs more than 3,000 full-time and seasonal employees at the height of winter. Kaplan said the company needs to spend more on operations to ensure safety during the pandemic despite bringing in less revenue because of fewer guests.


Hartford: The governor said Monday that he does not want to see schools closing their buildings because of isolated coronavirus cases and urged districts offering only distance learning to consider revisiting their plans. A third of Connecticut students between kindergarten and eighth grade will soon be going to school full time, Gov. Ned Lamont said, expressing hope the number will top 50% within a few weeks. While many have hybrid plans offering a mix of in-person and distance learning, Lamont said very few including New Haven are offering only distance learning. “Come on, New Haven, I think you ought to take a look,” Lamont said. Also Monday, Lamont, a Democrat, announced fines that local officials can impose for violations of orders intended to fight the pandemic. People can be fined $100 for violating mask orders, $500 for organizing events that exceed size limits and $250 for attending events that exceed size limits.


Lewes: Less than a week before the start of the school year, teachers in the Cape Henlopen Education Association issued a no-confidence vote against the district’s Board of Education and Superintendent Robert Fulton. The union said the district’s reopening plan and timeline do not take teacher concerns into enough consideration. The first day of school in Cape Henlopen is Wednesday. Teachers who have returned to buildings to prepare for the new year feel as if the hybrid-learning reopening plan is being followed inconsistently from building to building and say the district is behind schedule to welcome students Wednesday, union President Lacey Brown said. Some buildings lack signage to enforce social distancing. Teachers arrived at their classrooms in August to find cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer were not yet available. Others feel as if concerns about ventilation have not been taken into account.

District of Columbia

Washington: The Smithsonian will reopen four more of its D.C. museums to the public starting Friday, WUSA-TV reports. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum will reopen with new COVID-19 prevention measures. The museums will have reduced days or hours of operation, and visitors will need to reserve free timed-entry passes to visit most locations, according to the Smithsonian. Museum cafes and retail shops will not be open. All on-site public tours and events are temporarily suspended. Some exhibits, galleries, interactives, theaters or indoor spaces may be closed or operating at limited capacity, officials said.


Orlando: Universal Studios will make two of its previously canceled Halloween Horror Nights haunted houses available to theme-park goers starting later this week. The theme park announced July 24 that it was canceling the popular extra-ticket Halloween event due to the coronavirus pandemic. Universal’s premier-level passholders who register for the event will have an opportunity to preview the houses called Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives on Friday afternoon, theme park officials announced. Regular theme park visitors will be able to view the houses Saturday and Sunday for no additional charge. Face coverings are required at Universal, but no costume masks will be allowed for the event. The park also announced it will offer trick-or-treating at Islands of Adventure for children ages 12 and younger this weekend. For this event, “family-friendly” Halloween costumes will be allowed.


Athens: A study conducted by the University of Georgia found that 82% of farmers in the state have seen their revenue decline due to the coronavirus pandemic. The findings released this month come from a May survey of more than 800 farmers in Georgia. The report said some farmers have seen their revenue decline by more than $8,000 a week, while others anticipate an annual loss of nearly $50,000. The livestock industry was hit especially hard as livestock sales barns across Georgia closed down due to the virus, Mark McCann, an official at the university, told The Valdosta Daily Times. About 70% of the respondents were not participating in any coronavirus relief programs. More than three-quarters of the farmers also said they didn’t believe these programs will provide necessary relief for their businesses. “I think there’s more emotional stress than they attribute,” McCann said.


Kailua-Kona: A new coronavirus command post set up at an events venue will help enhance public communication and education on the Big Island, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said. Kim said the post located at Aunty Sally Kaleohano’s Luau Hale in Hilo should help ensure people affected by the virus do not fall through bureaucratic cracks, West Hawaii Today reports. The center is expected to have staff from state and county agencies to coordinate public education, contact tracing, incoming visitor monitoring, quarantine and isolation facilities, hospitalization, and care facilities. The county added 15 quarantine trackers to keep tabs on an expected increase in travelers as Hawaii begins to loosen health restrictions to allow in more visitors and improve the economy. The group started working at the command post Thursday. The county trackers are separate from those hired by the state Department of Health for contact tracing.


Boise: The state appears to have avoided a tough wildfire season so far with a combination of quick responses by state and federal firefighters and good luck with weather, Gov. Brad Little said Tuesday. The Republican governor said an early plan forced by the coronavirus pandemic to quickly attack all wildfires appears to have paid off. Avoiding large wildfires meant avoiding large accumulations of firefighters where the virus could spread. “The fact that we got on these fires early is one of the reasons we’re in such great shape,” Little said while presiding at the monthly meeting of the Idaho Land Board. Officials say wildfires that Idaho is responsible for fighting have burned about 6 square miles, only 18% of the 20-year average. The number of wildfires started is 217, which is 82% of the 20-year average. Of those 217 wildfires, 169 were started by humans and 48 by lightning.


Chicago: Officials announced dozens of community organizations Monday that’ll help with the city’s effort to hire hundreds of contact tracers in the fight against COVID-19. Mayor Lori Lightfoot first announced the $56 million initiative in May, saying the positions would be filled in August. So far, roughly 100 people have been offered jobs in the effort, and city officials insisted Monday they were “right on track.” Chicago will work with 31 community groups to hire 500 others for contact tracing and supervising positions that’ll pay either $20 or $24 hourly. Federal grants will pay for the program. Lightfoot said the effort, noting the new jobs, marked a moment of optimism during the pandemic that’s killed 8,314 Illinoisans, including five reported Monday. “This is really about a moment of hope,” Lightfoot said at news conference. State health officials reported 1,373 new confirmed cases Monday with 262,744 overall.


Indianapolis: Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush has tested positive for a COVID-19 infection but has not yet developed severe symptoms, the state Supreme Court announced Monday. Rush, who is quarantined, learned about her infection Sunday and underwent the test after a family member tested positive for the coronavirus, the court said in a statement. Rush has been working remotely and hasn’t been to the Statehouse, where the Supreme Court justices have offices, since Sept. 1, the court said. Rush is under a doctor’s care but has not gone to a hospital for treatment, court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said. The 62-year-old Rush has been Indiana’s chief justice since 2014. She was a Tippecanoe County judge before being picked for the state Supreme Court in 2012. Offices for the Supreme Court remain open, the court said.


Iowa City: At least three universities in the state have canceled their spring breaks in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on campus. The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa all announced changes to their academic calendars, canceling spring break, on Monday. Iowa and Northern Iowa are holding classes with fewer than 50 students in person, are requiring face masks on campus and have made testing available for their campus communities, among a number of other mitigation efforts put in place by university administrations. Iowa State has made the same efforts, but classroom sizes are limited to 50% capacity. But the coronavirus is still spreading at each of the three campuses. UI has recorded a total of 1,804 cases of the coronavirus. UNI has reported only 135 cases since classes began. Not including move-in testing, ISU has reported 900 student cases and 15 faculty or staff cases.


Wichita: Area health officials are cracking down on face masks and bar curfews to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Sedgwick County health officer Dr. Garold Minns made compliance mandatory in a new emergency public health order that took effect Tuesday morning. The Wichita Eagle reports the order runs through Oct. 21. The health order has required face masks, an 11 p.m. curfew on bars and a 15-person limit on mass gatherings. But previous versions of the order said that while it was lawful, compliance was voluntary. The update removed wording that the order “cannot be enforced through criminal charges, fines, or civil penalties.” Minns signed the order Monday, as Kansas health officials reported 1,513 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide over the weekend, for a total of 49,899 across the state. Kansas also had 23 new deaths, raising the total to 534 since the pandemic began.


Louisville: Responding to calls for greater autonomy by school administrators, Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled new coronavirus guidelines Monday for reopening. The Democratic governor also announced 342 new cases and five additional deaths, though the number is expected to rise later in the week due to reporting delays. The Bluegrass State now has a total of 57,282 cases and over 1,000 deaths. According to an emergency declaration signed by the governor Monday, all public and private K-12 schools will be required to submit coronavirus data. The data will then be reflected in a districtwide dashboard available to the public, as well as a color-coded state-map. Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, said the system will help school administrators determine the level of spread in their communities more easily.


Shreveport: Amid the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, State Fair of Louisiana General Manager Chris Giordano and the State Fair Board of Directors have decided to postpone the upcoming fair scheduled to run Oct. 29-Nov. 8. A smaller event will be held during those dates that will feature several of the highlights fairgoers enjoy, including the Junior Livestock Show and the National Brahman Cattle Show. The public will also be invited to a “Taste of the State Fair” food court that will feature a number of the unusual and iconic State Fair foods that people look forward to all year long. The new dates for the 114th State Fair of Louisiana are April 29-May 9, 2021. The 11-day run will feature all the food, rides, live music, free shows and attractions for which the fair is known.


Portland: Federal coronavirus relief money will pay for improvements to the passenger rail system that connects Maine to Boston. The $2.1 million is slated for the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Downeaster. The line runs from Boston to Brunswick daily and is running at limited capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic. The money will help the Downeaster make improvements that enhance safety, efficiency and reliability, said Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the chair of the House’s transportation appropriations subcommittee. She said the Downeaster is critical for Maine’s economic recovery from the pandemic because of its role “providing good jobs, supporting local vendors of goods and services, and strengthening our tourism industry.”


Baltimore: Amazon said it plans to hire up to 4,400 employees for its facilities in the state as part of a major companywide expansion accelerated by booming sales during the coronavirus pandemic. The Baltimore Sun reports the new hires will add to the Seattle-based online retailer’s 17,500-person work force in Maryland. Amazon has more than two dozen delivery, fulfillment and sortation centers, as well as Whole Foods Market stores, in Maryland, including large facilities in Baltimore, Sparrows Point and Cecil County. The company wants to hire a total of 100,000 new full- and part-time workers across the United States and Canada to handle shipping, packaging and customer orders. That’s in addition to 33,000 new corporate positions Amazon announced last week. In July, Amazon reported a 43.4% increase in North American sales in the second quarter and 33.5% worldwide revenue growth.


Boston: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials are beginning to envision a post-COVID-19 public transit system – one that may include changes to services given a possible looming budget gap. The main problem is ridership, which plunged at the beginning of the pandemic as riders fled the MBTA system in fear of being exposed to the coronavirus. Since then, ridership has ticked up, but not dramatically. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak credited some of that slight uptick to universities coming back into session that are located along the Green Line. But another, perhaps larger factor that continues to weigh down ridership is the reluctance of some of the state’s largest companies – particularly those in the greater Boston area – to require all their employees to return to their offices, instead letting them continue working from home. That means fewer public transit commuters, a trend that could continue into 2021.


Lansing: Ingham County on Monday ordered a two-week quarantine for 23 fraternities and sororities and seven large rental houses near Michigan State University after a coronavirus outbreak that a local health official said was turning into a “crisis.” The mandatory quarantine means students or others living in the buildings cannot leave except for medical care or necessities that cannot be delivered. Ingham County Heath Officer Linda Vail acted two days after she urged all MSU students living locally to voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks, citing at least 342 cases among people affiliated with the university during the previous 16 days. She said the outbreak was being fueled by a lack of cooperation and compliance from some students at the school, which is offering online-only instruction after encouraging students to stay home rather than in dorms. People who willfully violate the order could face six months in jail, a $200 fine or both.


St. Paul: Public health officials see some success in how the state has prepared for manageable spread of the virus, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Monday on a call with reporters. “But we really continue to be concerned about the degree of a virus that’s prevalent all over the state and the ease with which what’s a pretty controlled situation could escalate further,” Malcolm said. Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann echoed those concerns. “The analogy we’ve used is we’re really walking on the edge of the cliff. And we’re grateful that we haven’t fallen off, but we have not moved away from the edge of the cliff, so the potential for going over the edge is still there,” she said. Officials and medical professionals are asking parents to keep children home when they’re sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus to keep schools open.


Jackson: The Mississippi Department of Health reported 505 new cases of the coronavirus and 28 deaths Tuesday. The state totals now stand at 90,523 cases and 2,734 deaths. There were 138 outbreaks reported Tuesday at long-term care facilities. Health department statistics showed 5,693 Mississippians in long-term care have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 1,135 have died. Mississippians in the 60-to-69 age bracket make up the largest number of hospitalizations, with 1,234 as of Tuesday. Those in the 70-to-79 age bracket make up the largest number of deaths, with 733. By far, those in the 18-to-29 age group have the highest number of confirmed cases in the state, with 20,238. Twenty people in that age group have died of the virus. Eighty-six children under the age of 18 have been reported hospitalized due to the virus as of Tuesday, the latest information available. One death has been reported in the under-18 age group.


Clayton: Protests against St. Louis County restrictions on high school sports continued Monday, when hundreds gathered outside the county government center to demand that limits be lifted. Protesters urged Democratic County Executive Sam Page to rethink his policy prohibiting some high school sports such as football and hockey to be played due to the coronavirus. Among them was Elizabeth Schweppe, 47, of Town and Country, whose 14-year-old son is a freshman at a private school sidelined from his favorite sport, hockey. “There is zero proof that kids are transmitting this at school,” Schweppe said. “If kids can go to Six Flags and ride a roller coaster, why can’t they be on the ice playing hockey?” Page last week lifted some restrictions on youth sports. The county now allows those with little or no direct contact to be played, including cross-country, tennis, golf and swimming. But there’s still a ban on high-contact sports.


Great Falls: The Great Falls Public Schools district in conjunction with the Cascade City-County Health Department announced 14 active cases of COVID-19 among students and staff across the district Monday. The announcement came at a press conference about the sudden closure of Great Falls High School through Wednesday. GFH has 10 reported COVID-19 positive students and one positive support staff member, while Whittier Elementary, East Middle School and the Paris Gibson Education Center each have one confirmed positive case on their campuses. GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore said the temporary school closure is something students and parents who opted for in-person education should expect for the remainder of the year as long as there isn’t a vaccine available.


North Platte: A longtime doctor is one of the latest COVID-19 casualties in the state, with his death coming as officials confirmed more than 38,000 cases of the virus in Nebraska. Dr. Leland Lamberty died Saturday after weeks of fighting the virus, the North Platte Telegraph reports. Lamberty was hospitalized in late August with the virus and put on a ventilator about a week before his death. Lamberty, a physician at Great Plains Health hospital and Great Plains Family Medicine clinic in North Platte, was believed to have contracted the virus through community spread, hospital officials said. He always wore personal protective equipment while serving patients throughout the pandemic, hospital officials said. The seven-day average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen to 329 in the past seven days from an average of nearly 282 per day the week prior, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking project.


Carson City: State health officials said Monday that they expect to see an uptick in new coronavirus cases after President Donald Trump held political rallies in the state over the weekend. “We’re anticipating to see a growth in cases over the next few weeks, which is really unfortunate because right now we’re just beginning to experience – over the last couple of weeks – a decrease in positivity and cases statewide and a decrease in the burden on our hospital infrastructure,” Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said. Thousands of mostly maskless supporters attended Trump campaign rallies in Minden on Saturday and Henderson on Sunday that were held in violation of state directives capping at 50 the number of people who can attend public gatherings. If the rallies contributed to the spread of the virus, it’ll take time for the uptick to be reflected in state data, Nevada Health Department deputy administrator Julia Peek said.

New Hampshire

Portsmouth: The city is the latest community in the state to approve a face mask ordinance. The City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to approve the measure, which went into effect immediately and lasts until Jan. 4, 2021. The masks are required inside public places and outdoors when social distancing of 6 feet between people who aren’t in the same household can’t be maintained. The penalty for not wearing a mask won’t exceed $25. Those exempt from the ordinance are people with medical and health-risk conditions; children age 6 and younger; and people eating or drinking at a business licensed in the city for that purpose. Some of the other communities that have passed a face mask ordinance include Exeter, Newmarket, Durham, Concord, Nashua, Keene, Lebanon and Plymouth.

New Jersey

Atlantic City: Gamblers in the Garden State set a nationwide record for the most money bet on sports in a single month, plunking down almost $668 million in August on events including resurgent baseball, basketball and hockey seasons that had been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, figures released Monday showed. That smashed the previous record of $614 million set in Nevada in November 2019. The extra money helped cushion the blow of months of losses incurred by New Jersey’s casinos and two racetracks that offer sports betting, helping them start to rebound financially. The state Division of Gaming Enforcement shows the casinos and tracks collectively won $326.3 million from gamblers in August. All told, the casinos and tracks saw their revenue decline by only 7.5% compared to August 2019, when they were going full-blast and there was no pandemic.

New Mexico

Las Cruces: Mayor Ken Miyagishima caught flak from some city councilors Monday during a work session for suggesting the city temporarily decrease the minimum wage for tipped workers to help business owners ailing from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Restaurants are literally on life support,” Miyagishima said. But “low-wage workers are also on life support,” District 4 Councilor Johana Bencomo said. “I don’t want to take a living wage away from someone who’s living comfortably off that wage.” In Las Cruces, the minimum wage for tipped workers is, by ordinance, 40% of the city’s current minimum wage. On Jan. 1, that wage is set to rise from $4.10 to $4.20. Tips make up the rest of the employees’ pay, and it can lead some tipped workers to make more than the minimum wage. Statewide, the tipped wage will remain $2.35 an hour Jan. 1, according to city staff.

New York

Albany: Let them eat candy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he has no plans to ban trick-or-treating this Halloween amid concerns nationwide about whether kids going door to door could create a safety hazard during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I would not ban trick or treaters going door to door. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Cuomo told News12 on Long Island. “You have neighbors – if you want to go knock on your neighbor’s door, God bless you, and I can’t tell you not to.” Cuomo’s comments come after Los Angeles last week prohibited Halloween activities, such as trick-or-treating, but later revised its guidelines to say celebrations are permitted but not recommended. New York has tallied the most COVID-19 deaths in the nation but now has among the lowest infection rates, as mask-wearing, social distancing and business restrictions have limited the spread.

North Carolina

Charlotte: Mecklenburg County incorrectly told nearly 7,000 residents they had tested positive for the coronavirus due to what officials say was a technical glitch. The text messages were sent to more than 6,700 residents in the county Friday, The Charlotte Observer reports. More than 500 people also received a county email with the notice. The county told residents that morning that the messages were a “scam” and that their health department does not notify people of their COVID-19 test results through text message. A few hours later, the county said on Twitter that the messages had actually gone out due to a glitch “in the software system that has been addressed by the software provider.” County Manager Dena Diorio told county commissioners in an email Monday that the messages were sent through HealthSpace Data System, a company based in Canada, the newspaper reports.

North Dakota

Bismarck: An education campaign aimed at persuading North Dakotans to wear masks and practice social distancing still has not begun more than a month after $1.8 million in federal coronavirus aid was approved for the effort. The campaign had been set to start Monday, the same day North Dakota set a record for active COVID-19 cases statewide with 2,758. Nicole Peske, a state Health Department spokeswoman, said three of the 10 private firms that submitted bids for education effort had equal proposals under the state’s scoring system, which has delayed the effort for at least another week. “I don’t think anybody wants to move forward on this more than we do,” Peske said Tuesday. “We did have a rare three-way tie … every step of process is time-consuming, and there are time frames we legally have to follow.”


Cuyahoga Falls: A private high school has warned its students who recently attended a large house party that they have two choices: acknowledge they were there and quarantine for two weeks, or risk expulsion. The president of Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls said the party involving at least 100 students jeopardized the whole school community’s health and safety because of the risks of spreading the coronavirus. Photos and videos showed students not wearing masks and not social distancing, President Karl Ertle said. Adults were there, and the parents had contacted the school in advance to understand existing restrictions for student gatherings, but the event apparently got out of hand, Ertle said. College campuses around Ohio have reported more than 5,000 positive cases over the past several weeks. The vast majority of those involve students.


Oklahoma City: Several Democrats in the state House requested a legal opinion Monday on Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to spend federal coronavirus relief funds to send students to private schools. Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group requested a formal opinion from state Attorney General Mike Hunter. Stitt faced criticism in July when he announced his plan to spend $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to allow Oklahoma families to access $6,500 in funds for private-school tuition. State Rep. Andy Fugate said he believes there are questions about the legality of the governor’s decision. “We requested this opinion because it’s time to stop this ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to government funding,” Fugate, a Democrat from Del City, said in a statement, adding that the federal money isn’t “a slush fund for the governor to spend as he pleases.”


Salem: After six consecutive weeks of decline, the state’s positivity rate rose significantly last week. For the week of Sept. 6-12, Oregon had a 5.6% positivity rate, a significant increase over the previous week’s 4.3%. For in-person instruction in schools to commence, weekly test positivity for the state must stay below 5% for three consecutive weeks, according to Gov. Kate Brown’s criteria for reopening schools. The two previous weeks, Oregon had been below 5%. Last week saw the highest positivity rate in Oregon since the week of July 26-Aug. 1, when the state had a 6.1% positivity rate. Oregon’s cumulative positivity rate is 4.6%, lower than the national average of 8%. The number of tests administered in Oregon has dropped significantly since the peak of 41,497 the week of July 12-18 to 17,365 last week, though the number of tests is likely to rise as specimens are collected.


Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf vowed Tuesday that he wouldn’t heed the “irresponsible demands” of President Donald Trump and Republicans in the Legislature concerning the coronavirus response, hitting back hard after a federal judge appointed by Trump ruled many of Wolf’s pandemic shutdown orders were unconstitutional. In unusually sharp language, the Democratic governor accused Trump and Republicans who control the Legislature of promoting conspiracy theories and spreading misinformation about the virus and the status of the Pennsylvania economy, which he said is reopened despite the mitigation measures he has imposed. “I believe the vast majority of Pennsylvanians understand what we had to do in the beginning was necessary to buy the time to keep people safe before we got the capacity we needed to address this virus,” Wolf said.

Rhode Island

Scituate: A retired art teacher and sculptor has created a soaring tribute to health care workers, whom he considers the super heroes of the pandemic. George Grace, 67, sculpted two figures wearing medical scrubs, face masks and wearing red capes and hung them on a wire so they looked like they are flying through the trees in his yard. He also placed a sign near them to thank all essential employees. He told WJAR-TV that the response to his tribute has been wonderful.

South Carolina

Columbia: Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday and is recovering in isolation with her family at home, officials said. Evette had a sore throat and headache Thursday and was tested for the virus. She has stayed at her family’s home near Greenville since noting the symptoms, said Brian Symmes, the spokesman for Gov. Henry McMaster. “She is feeling better now,” Symmes said, adding that Evette plans to stay out of the public for two weeks. Evette’s positive test prompted McMaster and his wife to get COVID-19 tests, which both came back negative Sunday. It was the fifth negative test since the pandemic began for the governor and the third for his wife, Symmes said. Two members of Evette’s staff and some of her security detail are also isolating, Symmes said. Evette, 53, and the 73-year-old governor were last together Sept. 6 as they watched a NASCAR race at Darlington Speedway, Symmes said.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The number of South Dakotans hospitalized after being infected with coronavirus jumped 21% between Monday and Tuesday, the state Department of Health reported Tuesday. The 133 people hospitalized Tuesday represented 6% of the state’s total hospital capacity and 8% of intensive care beds. It was the largest number of people hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, although it remained well below spring estimates that South Dakota would need as many as 5,000 hospital beds to handle the pandemic. The state reported 195 new positive infections Tuesday. Those were from 2,454 test results reported to the Department of Health, a daily positive rate of 7.86%. No additional deaths were reported to the 184 South Dakotans who have died with COVID-19 since March.


Nashville: State officials said revenues for August came in $115.1 million higher than projections amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Tennessee Department Finance & Administration said last month’s revenues of $1.2 billion also topped the state’s August 2019 performance by $22 million. Finance Commissioner Butch Eley said the August sales tax receipts reflect consumer activity for July, which continued to outperform expectations, with federal stimulus money playing a big part. Eley said tax receipts from sellers of building materials, food, furniture and home appliances increased significantly compared to last August, while apparel stores, many small retailers, restaurants and bars continued to suffer losses amid decreased sales. August marked the first month on an accrual basis of a new fiscal year for Tennessee. The new budget year officially began in July.


Dallas: State health officials on Monday reported 2,595 new cases of the coronavirus and 21 additional deaths. The Texas Department of State Health Services said the total number of COVID-19 cases so far in the state is now 663,445, while the death toll is 14,211. The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher, though, because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. Health officials estimate that about 68,000 cases in the state are active. There were about 3,300 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Texas on Monday, health officials said. The number of hospitalizations has been decreasing since peaking July 22 at 10,893.


Salt Lake City: College students in Utah County are driving a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, health officials said Monday. Utah reported 563 new cases Monday, bringing the weekly average to nearly 490 per day. That’s the highest it’s been since late July, state figures show. Nearly 4 in 10 new cases come from Utah County, and the majority are college-aged people, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said in a news release. The county only accounts for 2 in 10 state residents. Utah County is home to Utah Valley University in Orem and Brigham Young University, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Provo. BYU students have received criticism for large off-campus gatherings. Dunn said college officials have implemented solid preventative measures for campus, but “they need help from their students to act responsibly while off campus.”


Montpelier: The nation’s top infectious disease expert on Tuesday called Vermont’s ongoing efforts to control the coronavirus a model for the nation. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the state’s continued emphasis on wearing masks, avoiding crowds, keeping physical distance and other simple measures are things he has been trying for months to communicate across the country. “They work in states with small numbers, like in Vermont, and they work in states with big numbers, like New York and Texas and California,” Fauci said during a video appearance at the regular virus briefing held by Gov. Phil Scott. Statistics show Vermont continues to have the country’s lowest rate of positive tests for the virus that causes COVID-19 – 0.2%, according to state officials – and the lowest number of cases per capita, with a growth rate of the cases of about 1%.


Lynchburg: Two local entertainment businesses are teaming up with area children to create entertaining and educational digital content by kids for kids as many spend more time at home. Appomattox-based nonprofit Wolfbane Productions and Lend Me a Princess, a Lynchburg-based business providing character appearances portrayed by actors at birthday parties and other events in the area, are joining forces to make the most of an unconventional, pandemic-induced social situation. They hope to help children and their parents find some fun and relief as numerous traditional life events, such as camps, after-school programs and school itself, have been disrupted, while expanding their own professional horizons by focusing on creating digital content. “I personally don’t have kids, but I can’t imagine the stresses parents are feeling right now, having to become parents and teachers,” said Ken Arpino, executive director of Wolfbane Productions.


Seattle: More than 2,000 people in the state have now died due to the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health. As of Monday afternoon, KUOW reports there have been 2,006 recorded deaths from COVID-19 and 80,138 confirmed cases since the pandemic began early this year. The state’s death rate, the percentage of people who die after getting infected, remains at 2.5%. Washington has seen a much higher number of cases and deaths than neighboring states and is still coming down from its July peak in cases. Most of the confirmed COVID-19 cases have been among people ages 20-39 (49%) and ages 40-59 (29%). Deaths from the disease are far more prevalent in ages 80 and older (51%) and ages 60-79 (38%). About half of all deaths in the state are linked to a long-term care facility. Pacific Islanders, Hispanic people, Native Americans and Alaska Natives are dying from COVID-19 at the highest rates.

West Virginia

Morgantown: West Virginia University’s president has apologized after a photo posted to social media showed him shopping in a convenience store without a mask on. Photos of President Gordon Gee that were posted to Twitter on Sunday appeared to show the college leader walking through aisles maskless. In one photo, he could be seen carrying a disposable mask in his hand. Gee apologized in a statement Sunday, calling it an “error in judgment.” “As president, I must hold myself to the highest of standards and set the very best example for our University,” Gee wrote in a tweet. “In this instance, I did not do that. As I have asked you to do the right things, so must you expect me to do the same.” Some West Virginia University students criticized Gee for violating Gov. Jim Justice’s executive order requiring masks be worn in indoor spaces, pointing out that students have been suspended for breaking similar health and safety rules.


Madison: The University of Wisconsin-Madison decided Monday to eliminate spring break next semester in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The university’s Faculty Senate voted 140-7 to erase the nine-day break from the 2021 spring calendar. Officials said the move is designed to discourage students and staff from traveling long distances and bringing the virus that causes COVID-19 back to campus, officials said. “I realize the slog of of going through a full 15-week semester with no break would be challenging, but given the vagaries of the pandemic, particularly in cold weather when people are indoors and the like. … I’m enthusiastically supportive,” Provost John Karl Scholz said. The proposal has classes starting Jan. 25, a week later than currently scheduled. Classes would not be held on the first day of Passover, Good Friday or the day before Easter. Classes would end April 30.


Cheyenne: The number of state residents killed by the coronavirus rose by four, while one of the state’s biggest school districts reported that an employee tested positive for the virus. The deaths of three people from Sheridan County and one from Natrona County brought Wyoming’s COVID-19 death toll to 46, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Monday. Three of the deaths occurred over the past couple of weeks, and one was in August, department spokeswoman Kim Deti said. The increase came as the school district in Cheyenne announced an employee at McCormick Junior High School tested positive for the coronavirus. It was the first known positive case among students or employees in the district since school began Aug. 31, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. Short-term school closure and isolation of students and staff will be possible under a coronavirus response plan, district officials said.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Published 5:27 AM EDT Sep 16, 2020

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