From USA TODAY Network and wire reports | USA TODAY
Tuscaloosa: After closing for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paul W. Bryant Museum on the University of Alabama campus reopened Thursday. Named for legendary Paul William “Bear” Bryant, longtime UA football coach and athletic director, the museum houses exhibits from decades of champions, archival materials about UA sports, and paraphernalia dating back to UA’s first gridiron team, in 1892, with films, uniforms, game balls and more on display. Since staff got the go-ahead last week, they’ve been cleaning and triple cleaning, said Ken Gaddy, director of the museum, as well as putting signage up on floors to indicate proper distancing. All patrons will be expected to wear masks at all times and purchase timed tickets in advance. “We’ll let in 30 people every 30 minutes, so a total of 60 people in the exhibit hall at a time,” Gaddy said.
Juneau: A larger than normal number of young bears and dwindling natural food supply for them are forcing the animals to head for the city’s garbage with unusual frequency, a wildlife official said. A poor berry crop and lackluster salmon runs this year mean more bears are looking for food among the city’s trash, KTOO Public Media in Juneau reports. Conditions have made bears desperate to fatten themselves before they hibernate for the winter, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said. Abby McAllister, a wildlife education and outreach specialist with the agency, said more bears are competing for the smaller amount of available food. A better berry crop and decent fish runs last year meant more new cubs survived the winter. Those young bears have recently been kicked out by their mothers and need to fend for themselves but are still inexperienced, McAllister said.
Phoenix: Despite sharply lower coronavirus case counts, state officials should not stop requiring that people wear masks in public as one Phoenix-area city did this week, an Arizona State University researcher said Wednesday. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane rescinded his city’s mask mandate Monday, citing a significant drop in virus infections and hospitalizations in the past couple of months. The city is still covered by a mandate issued by Maricopa County. Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, said Lane’s decision is short-sighted. “Mask-wearing is what is keeping this virus under control,” LaBaer said at his weekly virus media briefing. “It is probably the single best tool we have to prevent the spread of this virus. It is incorrect to think that the virus is gone – it is still here; it is widespread in the community.”
Little Rock: As it reported 20 more deaths from the illness caused by the coronavirus, the state asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss an effort by some Republican lawmakers to invalidate virus safety restrictions. Arkansas has seen its seven-day rolling average for new daily cases and deaths rise over the past two weeks, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The state’s seven-day rolling average for test positivity was the 13th-highest in the country, according to data collected by the COVID Tracking Project. In a filing Tuesday, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said a lawsuit challenging the state’s virus safety measures would effectively allow the Legislature to “micro-manage” the state’s response to the pandemic. Eighteen lawmakers asked a judge this month to invalidate 43 restrictions the state has issued since the pandemic began, including a mask mandate and limits on capacity for bars and restaurants.
Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday allowed health officials to hide their addresses under a state program designed to protect people from harassment or violence. Newsom’s executive order permits the secretary of state to make the Safe at Home confidentiality program available to local health officers and other public health officials. The order says those officials have been subjected to harassment and threats. Some threats targeted their homes, “which threatens to chill the performance of their critical duties,” the governor’s order said. The order is designed “to protect local health officers and other public health officials on the front lines of the fight against the virus,” said a statement from the governor’s office. A California community college instructor was arrested last month and charged with sending two dozen misogynistic and threatening letters to Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s top public health official.
Fort Collins: Sixteen confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three probable cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus have been traced to an outbreak at Pelican Lakes Golf Club, according to data released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. New outbreaks were also reported this week at two Colorado State University sororities, Chi Omega and Gamma Phi Beta. The state generally defines an outbreak as two or more cases reported within a 14-day period, although the guidelines for schools are different. The two sororities at CSU were responsible for eight positive COVID-19 cases among members or others attending events there. A CSU spokeswoman said the cases do not appear to be associated with any parties or other large gatherings. The university brought mobile testing to all affected sorority and fraternity houses, and all members of chapter houses with multiple cases are in quarantine.
Hartford: Rhode Island and four other states have reappeared on Connecticut’s COVID-19 travel advisory this week, given recent upticks in cases in those locations. As of Tuesday, anyone traveling from 35 states and territories with a positive case rate that’s higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or a higher than 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, is required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Rhode Island, the only neighboring state on the list, made a brief appearance in August but was removed a week later. The other four states added Tuesday – Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada and Wyoming – had recently been dropped from the list. The quarantine requirement applies to someone visiting Connecticut for more than 24 hours. There’s an exemption for certain workers traveling on business.
Wilmington: The state now has 19 permanent COVID-19 testing sites for those who believe they have the coronavirus or may have been exposed to someone who does. But some residents fear that if a plan is not in place to keep some of the testing sites in the low-income and diverse communities they now serve, those who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 will find it even more difficult to seek testing. “Historically and currently African American communities have a deep distrust of medical institutions,” said Aaron Bass, CEO of EastSide Charter School in Wilmington, which hosts a community testing site. But Bass doesn’t know if the testing site will remain past October, as the state has given him and other concerned community members mixed messages about what the plan will be. “There’s a lot of instability right now, a lot of insecurity,” he said.
District of Columbia
Washington: The taste of ballpark food is headed straight to homes. The Washington Nationals Best Ballpark Bites menu offers classic fare such as wings, pretzels and barbecue, as well as alcohol, with 100% contactless delivery, WUSA-TV reports. The Nationals say the food customers order will arrive temperature-controlled with cold packs and reheating instructions. Customers will get a free Victor Robles bobblehead with any Fan Pack order.
Tallahassee: Spring break may not be included on the spring academic calendar, Florida A&M University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maurice Edington told trustees Thursday. Edington said FAMU administrators have been working internally on the spring calendar, and their decision could come this week. He said FAMU is working on aligning its calendar with Florida State University because of the partnership at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Most institutions in the State University System are modifying their spring schedules, including the traditional spring break, “in trying to prevent what happened last year during the spring when students went away on some of our campuses for spring break, and they brought the virus back to the campus environment.”
Atlanta: Jobless Georgians filed 49,421 initial unemployment claims last week, up 7,341 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday. First-time claims had been on the decline for seven weeks in a row, as Georgia businesses shut down last spring by the coronavirus pandemic reopened and brought back many of their employees. More than 3.7 million Georgians have filed first-time unemployment claims since March 21, more than were filed during the past eight years combined. Meanwhile, eligible unemployed Georgians received a final round of supplemental $300 payments this week through the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, an initiative President Donald Trump announced last month after Congress failed to extend an earlier program that expired in July.
Hilo: Reports on the activities at a nursing home with a fatal coronavirus outbreak found various problems, including what one investigation called a culture of complacency among staff. The COVID-19 outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo has claimed the lives of 25 veterans and infected another 79 residents and staff as of Tuesday. Assessments were conducted separately by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the state Department of Health Office of Health Care Assurance. A Hawaii Emergency Management Agency report said staff members at the Big Island facility were reluctant to force residents to do anything against their will. Long-term care specialist and geriatrician Albert Yazawa reported he found multiple potential sources of infections at the home, with problems such as patient movement between units, wandering residents and staff gatherings at work.
Boise: Elections officials have said they are aiming for a million registered voters in the state this year, many of whom are expected to vote by mail during the pandemic. About 330,000 state residents have already requested absentee ballots, with at least a third of residents living in Ada County, where most of the state’s population resides, the Idaho Press reports. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney and county clerks from Ada and Twin Falls counties took part in a live Q&A on elections broadcasted by KTVB-TV on Tuesday. “I would expect that we would see at least 50% vote absentee in this election,” Denney said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the state’s normal voting process. Residents with a state driver’s license or Department of Motor Vehicles-issued identification card can register online and request an absentee ballot.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday continued to champion the state as a leader in testing for the coronavirus during a period when he faces some of the sharpest criticism for his social restrictions to stop the virus. Two days after announcing Illinois had become the fifth state to conduct more than 5 million tests, the Democrat said it is averaging 52,000 tests a day to become “the best testing state between the two coasts.” “Those accomplishments contribute mightily to our ability to monitor and squash the spread of the virus in our communities,” Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago. “Together with targeted mitigations, our testing leadership means that Illinois has had the lowest positivity rate among all of our neighboring states for the last few months.” Pritzker has faced withering criticism in recent weeks for refusing to backtrack on his decision to postpone some fall sports – including much-beloved high school football.
Indianapolis: Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush said Thursday that she is still dealing with her COVID-19 illness, as she joined the high court’s first arguments held since she tested positive for the coronavirus infection 11 days earlier. Rush and the four other justices all joined online as they heard arguments from attorneys in three cases Thursday morning. She opened the first hearing by thanking those who had sent her cards and messages of encouragement. “COVID-19 can present many challenging conditions, some of which I’ve been working through the last two weeks,” Rush said. “I can tell you I am very pleased to be here today.” Rush has remained under quarantine since Sept. 13 and has not needed hospital treatment, court spokeswoman Sarah Kidwell. Rush has been working from home. She is the highest-ranking state official to disclose a coronavirus infection.
Des Moines: More Iowans now disapprove than approve of the job Gov. Kim Reynolds is doing in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic – a significant shift since June, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll finds. Forty-seven percent of Iowans say they disapprove of the job Reynolds has done to address the pandemic versus 44% who say they approve. That marks a 15 percentage point drop in her pandemic approval rating since June’s Iowa Poll, when 59% of Iowans said they approved of the job she was doing to address the virus. Those saying they disapprove increased 11 percentage points, up from 36%, and those who are “not sure” also increased slightly since June, from 6% to 9%. The poll comes after Iowa has been among the states with the highest rates of new cases in the country in recent weeks and as schools across the state began to hold classes primarily in person to comply with guidelines laid out by Reynolds, a Republican, in July.
Topeka: The state set another record Wednesday for its biggest seven-day spike in new confirmed coronavirus cases, and Kansas’ top public health official said it’s a sign the state is seeing community spread of the virus even in “frontier” counties. The state health department reported 1,267 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2.3%, to bring the total to 55,226. The average number of new cases per day was 622 for the seven days ending Wednesday, surpassing the previous record average of 615 for the first seven days of September. The state also reported another 21 deaths, bringing the total to 621. Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s head, acknowledged the number of deaths as a total of positive cases has hovered around 1.1%. But Norman said a “worrisome concern” is that the state anticipates cases will continue to rise, and “1.1% of an ever-enlarging number is an ever-enlarging number.”
Louisville: Gov. Andy Beshear announced 796 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and five additional deaths. That brings the total to 63,517 cases and 1,124 deaths across the state since the start of the pandemic in early March. The governor said that 111 of the new cases were among people ages 18 and younger and that 194 of the new cases were from Jefferson County. Kentucky’s positivity rate was 4.59%, and Beshear noted that nearly 1.3 million tests have been administered since March. Wednesday’s death announcements included a 99-year-old woman from Christian County and an 83-year-old man from Marshall. Three deaths were from Jefferson: an 84-year-old woman, an 81-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man.
Baton Rouge: The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator on Wednesday hailed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 restrictions as helping to save lives, giving the Democratic governor a boost on the eve of a special session where Republican lawmakers will work to strip some of those regulations. Dr. Deborah Birx applauded Edwards’ leadership in responding to Louisiana’s coronavirus outbreak, which surged in the New Orleans area in March and then statewide in June and July. She described the statewide mask mandate, limitations on bars and other restrictions as appropriate to combat COVID-19. “Louisiana made changes that saved people’s lives, both in the March/April timeframe in New Orleans and in the summer post-Memorial Day surge throughout the state,” Birx said. “We’ve learned that masks work. We’ve learned that restrictions on indoor dining work. We’ve learned that closing bars at a time of high transmission definitely works.”
Portland: The state’s school systems will receive another $164 million in federal coronavirus relief to help with health and safety protocols, Gov. Janet Mills said. The Democrat said the money will be distributed to school systems using a weighted formula developed by the Maine Department of Education and school superintendents. The funds are in addition to $165 million provided earlier this year. “This funding helps ensure that our schools are best equipped as they can be to meet the challenges they face now as well as any that may arise this fall,” Mills said. The first round of funding was heavily used for facility and technology upgrades needed to safely return to school, said Eileen King, executive director of the Maine School Superintendents Association. The second round will help school officials address “continued needs that arise from evolving and flexible plans,” she said.
Baltimore: The Restaurant Association of Maryland says the governor’s recent order to expand indoor dining capacity to 75% doesn’t do enough. The Baltimore Sun reports struggling restaurants are still unable to pack their dining rooms because of distancing regulations. Marshall Weston, the association’s president, wants the Maryland Department of Health to allow restaurants to install physical barriers between tables and booths. The barriers would allow restaurants to skirt the mandate requiring 6 feet of distance between parties, Weston said. Currently, every other indoor booth cannot be used. The state health department currently allows for plexiglass or other barriers in outdoor booth seating, but not indoors. Fall is also approaching. “With these current table restrictions, many restaurants have found that they can’t even meet a 50% capacity of what they’re allowed to hold,” Weston said.
Lowell: Restaurants will soon be able to seat up to 10 people at a table and use their bar areas to serve food, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday. The moves that take effect Monday are intended to help the industry, which has faced severe restrictions intended to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. “We hope these updates also help Main Street shops and restaurants,” the Republican governor said during a news briefing at the Mill City BBQ & Brew restaurant in Lowell. The 10-person-per-table limit is up from six. Bar areas can be used for food service as long as proper distancing measures remain in place, he said. “No standing around the bar, OK?” Baker said. The changes were made based on the experiences of other states that “clearly” shows restaurants can safely use bar areas, he said. They also come as approaching colder weather makes outdoor dining less viable.
Lansing: A divided state House voted Wednesday to shield health providers and businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits filed by patients, employees or customers, advancing bills that majority Republicans said would give businesses more comfort to reopen and block frivolous complaints. Opponents have said the measures would make it too tough for negligence victims to sue. Many Democrats voted against the business-backed legislation, which was sent to the GOP-led Senate for debate. It would protect employers from liability if a worker is exposed to the COVID-19 virus during Michigan’s emergency despite the employer having substantially complied with health rules, retroactive to Jan. 1. Immunity would not apply if an employer willfully disregarded the regulations.
St. Paul: A Republican state representative and a GOP activist are challenging an agreement to accept mail-in ballots in Minnesota that arrive up to a week after the November election, adding to the nationwide legal fight over voting rules before the presidential election. Rep. Eric Lucero and Ramsey County activist James Carson, who both participate in the Electoral College, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit states the agreement by Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, violates federal law establishing Nov. 3 as the date of the 2020 election. Simon agreed to extend the deadline because of a legal challenge by groups who sought to allay concerns about voter safety during the coronavirus pandemic and ease mail-in voting requirements. State election officials agreed to accept mail-in ballots arriving a week late, even if they don’t have a postmark, the Star Tribune reports.
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday praised the Trump administration’s efforts to make a coronavirus vaccine available to the public in the next few months and asked residents not to allow political divisions to stop them from getting vaccinated when the time comes. “If you are anti-Trump, don’t let this stop you from getting a vaccine,” Reeves, a Republican, said during a press briefing Wednesday. Reeves has raised concerns about the politicization of the pandemic from Republicans and Democrats multiple times in recent weeks. He said Wednesday that politics, particularly from politicians on the left who dislike Trump, is “infecting” the scientific process of work on a vaccine. Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine could become available before November, despite scientists’ statements that one isn’t likely to be completed until at least the new year.
St. Charles: With bars and nightclubs limiting capacity and closing early in the St. Louis area due to the coronavirus pandemic, neighboring establishments in St. Charles are seeing so many large and unruly crowds that the city is taking a cue from the 1984 movie “Footloose” and banning dancing. City leaders met Wednesday with restaurant, bar and club operators and then announced a temporary ban on “music activities” after 11 p.m., starting Friday. The ban includes dancing and the DJ music that accompanies it. “I feel a little bit like the movie ‘Footloose,’ but that’s not what this is about,” Mayor Dan Borgmeyer told KTVI-TV. The move is in response to rowdy crowds that have been spilling into the streets, resulting in fights and creating enough concern that police presence downtown at night has tripled over the past five months. Borgmeyer said busloads of people are arriving on St. Charles’ Main Street at night.
Billings: Newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the state spiked to another record Thursday, as health officials reported that the number of infections tied to schools more than doubled in just a week. The state health department reported 333 new cases of the respiratory virus, topping the previous single-day record from less than a week ago. The number of schools with associated cases rose from 58 last week to 121 by Wednesday, with the overwhelming majority of those campuses reporting new cases in the past two weeks. Almost 500 cases have been tied to schools since classes resumed in recent weeks, including about 200 at universities and another 200 in K-12 schools. The remaining student and staff cases are still under investigation, and the school setting was not identified in Thursday’s release of data by the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Gering: Several western Nebraska schools are scrambling to deal with outbreaks of new coronavirus cases. About 70 students and staff at Gering High School were under quarantine this week after an outbreak, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reports. That came after at least four cases were confirmed last week in the school. School officials have since temporarily ended a policy allowing people to opt out of wearing masks inside its high school and on school buses, and officials postponed the homecoming dance until Oct. 17. Neighboring Scottsbluff Public Schools has had nine confirmed cases and 113 quarantines across its buildings, the Star-Herald reports. And in Alliance, the high school football game was canceled last week after a student tested positive and several team members were quarantined.
Carson City: As facilities throughout the nation prepare to expand the use of rapid coronavirus tests, Nevada officials are weighing how to incorporate them into the data they present to the public. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has relied heavily on molecular tests – nasal or throat swabs that detect the virus’s genetic material. The tests are comparatively expensive and time-intensive. Officials have expressed skepticism about tests found to be less accurate, including antigen tests, which check for viral proteins rather than the virus itself, and antibody tests, which check blood for proteins the body creates to fight the virus. But now they are reexamining these tests and how to best use them. Nevada officials expect the federal government to expand the use of antigen testing at places like nursing homes or schools. Cartridges needed to process them have already been provided to skilled nursing facilities in Las Vegas.
Portsmouth: Superintendent Stephen Zadravec told the School Board on Tuesday that city schools may be “looking to make some kind of shift” in October to increased in-person learning and live instruction. While several other Seacoast schools districts have already seen positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff, Portsmouth has yet to report any cases, Zadravec confirmed. The district has reestablished its reopening task force, which this summer created the four-phase reopening plan. The district is currently operating in a modified phase two – a mix of in-person and remote learning. Students in grades two through 12 are currently seeing one day per week of in-person instruction, being split into two cohorts based on the first letter of their last name. Kindergartners and first graders are participating in either a.m. or p.m. cohorts four days a week.
Trenton: The state is “well positioned” for an expected second wave of the coronavirus and serves as an example for other states to reopen sectors of the economy, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday. In a half-hour Facebook Live discussion with Gov. Phil Murphy, Fauci said New Jersey has been able since its peak number of cases in April to lower the infection rate and other parameters “down to a baseline.” For the past several weeks since reopening schools, gyms and indoor dining, for example, the state’s rate of transmission has hovered just above 1, meaning an infected person is passing the virus along to about one other person. Murphy has taken a cautious approach to reopening compared to many other states, often to the frustration of businesses and lawmakers. But that has helped to keep key benchmarks, such as new cases and the positivity rate, low.
Albuquerque: Fall in the city just isn’t fall without the annual international hot air balloon fiesta, with its massive morning ascensions filling the skies with colorful balloons from around the globe as spectators watch from the packed launch field below. Organizers had to cancel this year’s event due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Mayor Tim Keller said Wednesday that he wants to keep the tradition alive for residents by inviting local pilots to lift off from city parks, golf courses and other open spaces during the week of Oct. 3-11. Spectators won’t be allowed at the launch sites due to restrictions mandated by the state’s public health order, but officials said balloons still will be visible from around the city once they launch. Balloons will be widely spaced when preparing to launch, and crews will be limited to five people. Police also plan to patrol to ensure that traffic is smooth and that people are observing social distancing and mask requirements.
New York: A spike in COVID-19 cases in a handful of Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations is raising alarm bells even as New York City’s overall infection rate remains low, officials said Wednesday. The neighborhoods including Borough Park and Williamsburg accounted for 20% of the city’s COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, according to city Health Department numbers. “We have a lot to do because we’re seeing a serious uptick in multiple neighborhoods simultaneously,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Some neighborhoods have drawn scrutiny since early in the coronavirus pandemic for large gatherings that violated social distancing guidelines. Dr. Mitchell Katz, head of the city’s public hospital system, said health officials are meeting with religious leaders in the neighborhoods, making robocalls in English and Yiddish, and sending sound trucks to flood the streets with messages about virus guidelines.
Raleigh: N.C. State University students can take in-person classes for the spring semester and live in campus housing, the school’s chancellor announced Wednesday. Chancellor Randy Woodson said on the school’s website that classes will start Jan. 11 and finish April 29. There will be a mix of in-person, hybrid and online classes for undergraduate and graduate students. However, N.C. State will work to ensure students will have a chance to take courses remotely if they choose, according to the chancellor. Woodson also said the university will hold spring break March 15-19 and conduct final exams May 3-7. N.C. State has reported more than 30 clusters of COVID-19 since classes began in August, The News & Observer of Raleigh reports. According to the school, students contracted COVID-19 in residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, and off-campus apartments.
Fargo: Saying it’s time to “spring into action” to handle rising COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities, Gov. Doug Burgum is directing health officials to place those residents at the head of the line for testing and to shift medical personnel and supplies to congregate settings. The changes were outlined Wednesday after Burgum announced a “somber milestone” of topping 200 deaths due to complications from the coronavirus and “too many” fatalities in nursing homes. State health officials have reported 26 deaths in the past seven days, all of whom were men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s with underlying health conditions, he said. Burgum said 19 of those deaths have been in Burleigh and Morton counties, the state’s hot spot, many of them in one facility that he didn’t name at Wednesday’s briefing. Seven deaths were confirmed in the past day, four in those two counties that include the sister cities of Bismarck and Mandan.
Columbus: Both initial claims for unemployment and continuing claims rose slightly in the past week as the impact of the pandemic on the economy continues, Ohio’s human services agency reported Thursday. Ohioans filed 321,057 continued jobless claims last week, up by 1.6% from last week, according to the Department of Job and Family Services, which oversees the state’s unemployment compensation system. Continued jobless claims are considered a better indicator of the unemployment situation and until last week had been slowly falling. Last week’s figure is still less than half the peak number of continued claims earlier this year. The state also said 17,435 people filed initial unemployment claims last week, a 7% increase over the week before. That number had also been slowly falling. Ohio has reported nearly 147,000 confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus and 4,687 deaths.
Norman: The City Council voted to require that masks be worn indoors at house parties if more than 25 people are present to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the college town – a step that angry residents said would infringe on their rights. The council voted 5-3 on Tuesday night in favor of the ordinance, which took effect immediately and expires Nov. 30, despite the objections of some locals. “You can make any law that you want to. You come into my house telling me that I got to wear this stupid thing, and you’re going to have a firefight on your hands,” said Josh Danforth, who identified himself as an Iraqi war veteran while holding a mask. The state ranks third in the U.S. in positive tests for the coronavirus and sixth in new coronavirus cases, according to the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Salem: Economists presented a “shocking” and significantly improved revenue forecast Wednesday, which could leave the state’s current budget nearly unscathed by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Despite the forecast, which is $2 billion more than predicted in May, officials say that the “economic pain has yet to be fully reflected in Oregon’s revenue data” and that future budgets will still likely face cuts. “The substantial improvement in today’s revenue forecast highlights the uniqueness of a recession brought on by a global pandemic,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. “While we are in a better financial position than we expected to be, it is still an unpredictable road ahead.” Mark McMullen, the state economist, attributed much of the improved forecast to billions of dollars in federal aid, personal income tax payments that were filed near the extended July deadline, corporate income taxes and lottery revenues.
Harrisburg: Some school districts are letting more fans in the stands after a federal judge’s ruling that tossed statewide pandemic limits on crowd size, although legislative Republicans on Wednesday lost an effort to enshrine local control of school sports into law. The state Department of Education has asked schools to voluntarily comply with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s since-invalidated gathering restrictions, which had been set at 25 indoors and 250 outdoors until last week’s court ruling that such limits were unconstitutional. The Wolf administration is appealing that ruling, but a number of districts have already opted to go their own way. They include the Altoona Area School District, which will allow up to 3,400 spectators at Mansion Park Stadium – 33% of its capacity – for Friday’s game. If all goes well, Altoona would let more than 5,000 attend the following week’s rivalry game against nearby Hollidaysburg.
Providence: Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday blamed a surge of new coronavirus cases in the state on recent outbreaks among students at Providence College and the University of Rhode Island. The schools, between them, have had nearly 200 new cases in the past week or so, the Democratic governor said at a news conference. Many of the roughly 150 Providence College students who have tested positive lived off campus on the same street lined with multifamily homes. The state’s case investigators found that the virus spread through small gatherings of students moving from floor to floor within a house and moving from house to house, gathering in small groups on porches and in yards, she said. “There was no big party,” she said. The situation was similar at URI. Most cases there were traced to small gatherings at which students did not wear face coverings and shared food and drink, she said.
Columbia: State lawmakers agreed Wednesday on how to spend the remaining $693 million in federal money meant to help pay for COVID-19 expenses. Most of the money – $420 million – will go to replenish the state’s unemployment fund, keeping businesses from having to pay over years to repay the money spent on jobless benefits after the pandemic caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs. The state already sent $500 million to the unemployment fund. The bill sends $115 million to education, local government and state agencies, which have to get permission of a private grant company that runs South Carolina’s federal aid program to get any of those funds. The proposal spends $93 million on additional COVID-19 testing, $25 million in grants for approved nonprofit organizations and $40 million for relief money for approved minority and small businesses.
Sioux Falls: Another eight South Dakotans have died from COVID-19 as hospitalizations, rates of new cases and active cases continue to break records six months after the pandemic first hit the state. According to the Department of Health’s daily coronavirus update, the new deaths match the highest one-day total in South Dakota. Eight deaths were also reported Sept. 16. Thursday’s numbers show the deaths were accompanied by 463 new confirmed cases of the virus Thursday. That’s a single-day record for new cases, outpacing the previous record of 445 set Wednesday. “We need everybody working really hard to see any change in the numbers,” South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon told reporters during a press call Thursday. “If you’re not isolating, we’re going to continue to see high numbers.”
Nashville: State education officials on Wednesday predicted a big hit to student learning due to interruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Department of Education projected a 50% decrease in reading proficiency rates and a 65% drop in math among third graders. The estimates come as Republican Gov. Bill Lee and his administration continue to urge districts to hold in-person classes during the ongoing pandemic. “What we’re looking at is unprecedented,” Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said at a news conference Wednesday. “And I think that the drops that we are seeing in terms of learning loss as a result of school building closures is going to take more than a school year. So I want us to have realistic expectations for the hard work that’s happening with our superintendents, teachers, principals and more.” Schwinn said the third grade literacy rate is usually 33%, but it’s projected to now be 12% to 14%.
Austin: The number of Texas students testing positive for the coronavirus has risen every week since the start of classes, as more districts reopen schoolhouse doors, according to state data released Wednesday. There are 1,212 new confirmed coronavirus cases among students in the state and 660 new cases among teachers and staff for the week ending Sept. 20. The previous week saw 1,046 positive tests among students and 859 among staff. In total, an estimated 3,445 Texas students and 2,850 staff members have tested positive since the school year began. The percentage of students who are testing positive remains low, at 0.31% of the estimated 1.1 million who are back in school buildings or participating in-person in sports and other extracurricular activities. That number is based on in-person attendance provided by the state last week. The percentage of teachers and staff back on campuses who tested positive was 0.36%.
Draper: The Utah State Prison in Draper and the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison were placed under 24-hour lockdowns after authorities believe the general inmate populations were exposed to COVID-19. The state Department of Corrections said the facilities went into lockdown Wednesday about 3 p.m., the Deseret News reports. The department said in a statement that it was “coordinating with local health officials on quarantine and isolation procedures, conducting contact tracing, and ensuring that proper cleaning protocols are implemented.” Preventative measures at the prison include providing masks to all inmates and employees, increasing sanitation practices, social distancing and establishing quarantine spaces. The state prison had previously reported 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 14 of which have since recovered, department officials said.
Middlebury: Twenty-two Middlebury College students were “barred from campus” due to “significant COVID-19 conduct violations” this past weekend, the school said. In a message to the campus community, Dean of Students Derek Doucet said the school took “swift action,” but he could not share any details of what prompted the school to take the action. “I can tell you that these were very difficult decisions to make, but there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our community,” the message said. Students removed from campus because of COVID-19 violations are ordinarily eligible to return the following semester. Middlebury’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that so far during the current school year, 27 Middlebury students have been removed from campus due to violations of the school’s COVID-19 protocols and 44 students disciplined for COVID-19 violations. The school has reported two positive coronavirus tests.
Charlottesville: The president of the University of Virginia has announced new COVID-19 restrictions that he describes as mostly preemptive because students have been doing the right thing. UVa president Jim Ryan announced the new restrictions in a video Tuesday, and they went into effect Wednesday, The Daily Progress of Charlottesville reports. Ryan said the restrictions will last for at least the next two weeks. “As we’ve said from the very beginning, staying one step ahead of this virus will not be easy,” Ryan said. “It will require everyone doing their part – not just some of the time or even most of the time, but all the time.” Among the new restrictions is a reduction in the number of students allowed to gather from 15 to five. Ryan said if students don’t abide by the new number, additional measures may be taken, including imposing a curfew.
Olympia: Lawmakers received some good financial news Wednesday, with updated numbers showing an increase in state revenues over the past few months, cutting an earlier projection of revenue losses by more than half. But officials warned there’s still a good deal of economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. In June, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council showed that state revenues through mid-2023 were projected to be nearly $9 billion lower than previous projections had shown. On Wednesday, updated numbers increased revenues by $4.6 billion for that timeframe. Improved revenues over the past three months came in part from increased consumer spending in areas like retail and food services as restrictions on businesses began to lift.
Charleston: The owners of 12 restaurants and bars sued the governor Wednesday for indefinitely closing establishments in student-heavy Monongalia County due to the coronavirus. Gov. Jim Justice ordered bars closed there Sept. 2 after pictures were posted online of college students in Morgantown packing bars without masks. He defended his decision Wednesday and said the county may soon be able to reopen further if cases keep going down. In the lawsuit filed in federal court, the bar owners argue the governor’s executive orders related to pandemic restrictions are unenforceable. In addition to Justice, the suit also names the city of Morgantown and its interim city manager and the head of the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration Commissioner as defendants. Meanwhile, West Virginia University announced Wednesday it will resume in-person undergraduate classes in Morgantown next Monday.
Madison: The state’s daily count of COVID-19 cases hit its second-highest total to date Thursday, while the seven-day average topped 1,900 for the first time. To date, Wisconsin has seen more than 108,000 positive cases of the coronavirus and 1,265 deaths, the state Department of Health Services reported. The 2,392 new cases reported Thursday was second only to 2,533 new cases reported less than a week ago on Sept. 18. The seven-day average was 1,939, nearly three times the seven-day average of 665 a month ago. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Wisconsin has increased by 1,081, an increase of 122%. There were 389 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which ranks third in the country for new cases per capita. The total number of hospitalizations is the highest it’s been since the outbreak started and is up by 139 patients over the past seven days.
Laramie: Twelve student-athletes at the University of Wyoming have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. One athletic department employee has also tested positive for COVID-19, university spokesman Chad Baldwin told the paper. The school isn’t specifying which sports the athletes play. The number of positives among athletes is an increase of eight from a month ago, though the athletic department has conducted roughly 168 additional tests since then. As of Sept. 15, UW athletics has administered approximately 774 tests of athletes, coaches and staffers, with the “vast majority” of those being athletes, Baldwin said. That’s an overall positive rate of approximately 1.6% on tests administered by the athletic department. That doesn’t account for tests the university has conducted. Baldwin said “hundreds of tests” have also been administered to athletes as part of the university’s bridge testing program.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports