From USA TODAY Network and wire reports | USA TODAY
Auburn: White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx met with Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday and praised her for issuing a statewide mask mandate. Birx said she believes the order, which is set to expire Oct. 2, should be extended. “Within two weeks of the mask mandate, you can see the dramatic decline in cases here in Alabama,” Birx said. She said it is important for people to maintain their mitigation efforts in the fall. As Birx urged the extension of the mask order, a new lawsuit was filed challenging it. Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on Thursday announced a new federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the mask mandate and past state health orders that closed businesses or directed people to stay home. The lawsuit was filed by Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law on behalf of seven plaintiffs.
Juneau: Alaska Native corporations are not eligible to receive a share of the $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding set aside for tribes, a federal appeals court panel ruled Friday in overturning a lower-court decision. The three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit found an Alaska Native corporation cannot qualify as an Indian tribe under the federal Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act unless it has been “recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” None have been recognized as such, according to the ruling. The decision parses the language from the 1975 law and delves into what it says have been shifting positions on the “political status” of Alaska Natives by the federal government since the Alaska Purchase of 1867.
Flagstaff: More than 120 Northern Arizona University students living in on-campus apartments had less than two weeks to move so the university could use their rooms to quarantine students exposed to COVID-19. Following the notice, some students said they were confused and frustrated when they learned they had to move a month after settling into the semester and felt the university did not take their welfare into consideration or plan ahead adequately. “Our well-being was not put into perspective nor was it heard out. We are now being forced out of our settled work environments and homes. Our compensation? $300 cash and an apology with moving boxes and people to help move us,” said an online petition created in response. University spokesperson Kimberly Ott said in an email that Campus Heights will be used as quarantine space and that students who received an email make up 2% of students currently living on campus.
Little Rock: The number of reported coronavirus cases in the state has topped 80,000 after the addition Saturday of 809 cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, the Arkansas Department of Health reported. Those new cases brought the state’s total caseload since tracking of the pandemic began in March to 80,755, including 2,495 probable cases. Active cases rose by 165 to 7,414. There were also 19 COVID-19 deaths reported Saturday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,285. Arkansas ranks third in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. A White House task force last week applauded the state’s mitigation efforts but said stronger compliance was needed. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said with the latest figures the test had exceeded its goal of 200,000 tests for the month, and the state was working to increase its testing capacity.
Sacramento: The state has begun to see concerning upticks in coronavirus data after a sustained period of decline, the state’s top health official said Friday, urging people to renew efforts to prevent spread. The increases include the rate of cases per capita, hospital emergency department visits for COVID-19, and new hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected cases, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said. The trends appear to be attributable to gatherings and activities around the Labor Day holiday, Ghaly said. Other factors could include the recent reopening of businesses and massive wildfires that forced evacuations and millions to change their routines because of unhealthy air. Ghaly also said California will conduct its own independent review of potential COVID-19 vaccines, signaling its distrust of the Trump administration’s accelerated initiative.
Fort Collins: Two Colorado State University residence halls were placed under quarantine Thursday night after high levels of COVID-19 were detected in their wastewater. Students living in Braiden and Summit halls were notified of the mandatory quarantine and the need to undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 in messages from CSU President Joyce McConnell and the university’s pandemic response team. Residents were told they cannot leave the dorm or visit floors other than their own for any reason other than to pick up meals at a tent set up outside each dorm and for mobile COVID-19 testing outside the two buildings Saturday. CSU will make medical care available to students who are sick and develop symptoms, McConnell said. A CSU team has been working with city and state officials to monitor wastewater at various locations on campus and elsewhere in the city and region as an early indicator of potential outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Hamden: Quinnipiac University has sent home or suspended more than 20 students in recent days for violating visitor and other policies, both on and off campus, that are aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to a top school official. Tom Ellett, the school’s chief experience officer, said in an email sent Thursday to students that 11 undergraduates have been sent home for four weeks, and a dozen off-campus students were suspended. He said they’ve been accused of violating the school’s no-visitor policy for residence halls, having non-Quinnipiac University guests on campus and/or exceeding capacity limits on indoor gatherings. As of Friday, there has been only one positive case of COVID-19 at the school. More than 11,500 tests have been conducted since Aug. 5. The university’s COVID-19 dashboard says the school is currently at low risk level for infection.
Dover: The state has seen its 630th COVID-19-related death. The Delaware State News reports a Kent County man, 65, passed away. He had a known underlying health condition and was not a resident of a long-term health care facility. The Delaware Division of Public Health reported that the state’s total of virus cases is 19,947. That includes 57 people who are hospitalized. The state’s seven-day rolling average of percentage of positive tests decreased 2 percentage points to 6.6%. It was more than 7% for most of the previous week. For reference, the World Health Organization recommends a seven-day rolling average of 5% for the percent positive rate. The state has also reported 44 additional recoveries from the virus, bringing that total to 10,487.
District of Columbia
Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a pilot that will allow a limited number of venues to host live entertainment during Phase 2 of D.C.’s reopening amid the pandemic, WUSA-TV reports. The pilot creates an opportunity to resume live entertainment in a controlled environment that can be scaled up or down and from which district officials can learn for future guidance. According to officials, any participating venues are required to submit and execute detailed plans for operating under COVID-19 safety guidelines and will be monitored closely by the district. The pilot will go through 11:59 p.m. Oct. 30. In addition to the pilot, limited to six venues, the district is inviting operators of outdoor entertainment venues who have already submitted plans to the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency through its waiver process to review the criteria for live entertainment and resubmit their plans.
Tallahassee: Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in the state Friday and banned local fines against people who refuse to wear masks as he seeks to reopen Florida’s economy despite the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican governor’s order unleashed fresh debate in the politically divided state, where pandemic responses have become intertwined with the upcoming presidential election. DeSantis, a major ally of President Donald Trump, acknowledged that the pandemic is far from over but said the threat has eased and the time has come to reopen for business after six months of “people twisting in the wind.” The governor’s announcement allows restaurants across the state to immediately reopen at full capacity and prevents cities and counties from ordering them to close or operate at less than half-capacity, unless they can justify a closure for economic or health reasons. “We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said.
Atlanta: A Georgia woman is one of several property owners suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the CDC’s Sept. 1 moratorium on evictions. The case, filed earlier this month in federal court in Atlanta, alleges that the CDC order improperly denies landlords access to normal court processes. The federal agency, backed by President Donald Trump’s administration, says evictions would likely increase the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness. The lawsuit says Sonya Jones owns a rental property in Jesup in southeast Georgia. Among other plaintiffs are landlords from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as the National Apartment Association, a landlord group. Jones tells WABE-FM she owns a chicken farm that produces eggs and has been buying rental homes over the past 22 years to provide a retirement income.
Honolulu: A state-owned health care organization will take over a veterans care home where 26 residents have died of the coronavirus. The arrangement announced Friday will see Hawaii Health Systems Corporation take over as the operators of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo. The previous operator, Utah-based Avalon Health Care, will relinquish all control over the facility. Avalon experienced additional outbreaks in June and August at its Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center facility on Oahu, where 42 residents and 40 workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Five residents died of the disease. The veterans home has had a history of falling short on health standards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the home a health inspection rating of one star out of five.
Moscow: Three people have been arrested after a church held a maskless psalm singing event in a city hall parking lot in violation of the town’s mask order. Christ Church pastor and event organizer Ben Zornes said Wednesday’s event was intended at criticizing what he called “largely groundless” laws like the mask order issued by the Moscow City Council in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. “We wanted to make a statement we’re ready to head back to normal,” Zornes told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Five people were issued citations for violating the city’s mask and social distancing order, and two of them were also arrested on suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer, said Moscow Police Chief James Fry. Most of those who attended the singing event didn’t wear masks or social distance, ignoring colorful circles that city workers had painted in the parking lot to indicate where people could stand to maintain social distance.
Springfield: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has extended expiration dates for driver’s licenses another three months. White announced this week that expired licenses need to be renewed by Feb. 1, 2021. The previous extension was until Nov. 1. White extended the deadline to prevent the need for visiting a driver’s license facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those 75 and older need only ensure to renew driver’s licenses by their birthday in 2021. The extension for renewing driver’s license plate stickers remains Nov. 1. They can be renewed online. White continues to encourage motorists to conduct business on the secretary of state’s website to the extent possible. Other business that can be conducted online includes obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card, obtaining a driving record abstract or renewing a standard driver’s license through the Safe Driver renewal program.
Indianapolis: State health leaders say the wearing of face masks will be as important as ever to stem the coronavirus spread, even as most of the statewide restrictions imposed by the governor were lifted as of Saturday. The new executive order from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb continues the mask mandate that has angered some conservatives around the state who maintain they won’t support his reelection over it. Holcomb’s order removes the 75% capacity limit for restaurants and the 50% limit that bars, movie theaters and other entertainment venues faced. But they must continue maintaining at least 6 feet between unrelated patrons, which could diminish capacity in many of those businesses. Limits on crowd sizes for social gatherings and meetings are being removed, but those who organize events with more than 500 people must submit a safety plan to health officials. The executive order dubs the regulations as the “new normal during a global pandemic.”
Des Moines: The state reported a jump of 1,086 new coronavirus cases Friday, the second consecutive day of new cases exceeding 1,000. Four more people died, pushing the state’s death toll from the virus to 1,303. Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed a new emergency proclamation that continues bar closures in Johnson and Story counties, where the University of Iowa and Iowa State University are located, for at least another week. Data from state health and education departments indicate the virus is circulating in schools and nursing homes. East Sac County Superintendent Jeff Kruse said in a note posted on the district’s website that more than 80 students are in quarantine, and 15 more students and staff are awaiting test results. State health data shows 6,917 children under age 17 in Iowa have tested positive for the virus, an increase of more than 800 in a week. It also shows 3,372 educators testing positive.
Topeka: The state reported Friday that it had more than 1,300 newly confirmed coronavirus cases over two days, and most of the biggest spikes over the past two weeks occurred in rural counties in the central and western parts of the state. The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas has had 56,592 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, an increase of 1,366, or 2.5%, from Wednesday. The state saw an added average of 615 confirmed cases a day during the seven days ending Friday, a figure second only to the average of 622 for the seven days ending Wednesday. The health department also reported an additional 11 virus-related deaths over two days to bring the pandemic total to 632. The biggest spikes for the two weeks ending Friday were in Cheyenne and Pawnee counties. Cheryl Hoberecht, Pawnee County’s health officer, said most of its positive cases came from an outbreak at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility.
Louisville: The state saw a high daily total of new coronavirus cases for a second consecutive Saturday, with 973 new cases announced. Gov. Andy Beshear reported 1,002 cases last Saturday in one of the highest daily totals yet. The commonwealth has now seen 66,036 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The new cases Saturday included 132 in children under 19, including 18 kids under age 6. Beshear also announced five more deaths caused by the virus, bringing Kentucky’s total count to 1,154. “That’s five additional families who are suffering during this time,” Beshear said in a press release. Kentucky was on pace to have the single highest week of positive cases, the governor said. “We simply have to do better,” he said. “Please wear a mask. Sadly, sometimes I’m seeing less of these out there than more. This will save lives.” The rate for positive tests over the past seven days was 4.42% as of Saturday.
Baton Rouge: The state will start borrowing money from the federal government in early October to keep paying benefits to jobless workers, as Louisiana’s once-healthy unemployment trust fund is nearly empty because of the coronavirus outbreak, labor department officials said Friday. Lawmakers meeting in a special session that starts next week are scrambling for financing options to refill the fund that topped $1 billion before the pandemic, rather than relying on federal loans long term. The fund balance Friday hovered around $49 million, and the fund is expected to run dry the week of Oct. 5. Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder refused Friday to officially acknowledge the near-bankruptcy of the trust fund in a state forecasting meeting. That formal recognition would, in 2021, trigger increased taxes for business that pay into the fund and a drop in jobless benefits for unemployed workers.
Augusta: The state Department of Education has downgraded another county’s schools from green to yellow because of an outbreak of the coronavirus. Oxford County joined York County with yellow rankings Friday. The rest of Maine’s counties have a “green” ranking indicating low coronavirus risk. Oxford County is dealing with an outbreak associated with a paper mill, and York County is still dealing with an outbreak in Sanford. Education and health officials said they’re also closely monitoring Androscoggin County, as well. “These changes are made out of an abundance of caution and for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions to deliver instruction,” the administration said. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported an additional 20 cases of coronavirus Friday, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 5,235 cases in Maine since the pandemic started.
Baltimore: State health surveyors who’ve been visiting nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic are not required to be tested for the virus. The Baltimore Sun reports the lack of such a requirement concerns some in that industry. “We have long advocated for the state to require the testing of health care inspectors, the same way they require testing of those who provide the health care,” said Joseph DeMattos Jr., president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, which represents some of the centers. “They are going to multiple centers at the same time we are telling operators to discourage employees from working at more than one center.” Charles Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health, confirmed that the surveyors are not tested by the state. But he said the surveyors “are screened upon entry to the office,” he said. The department would not disclose whether any surveyors had self-reported positive tests.
Boston: Inmates at all state prisons are being allowed in-person visitors again. The state Department of Correction in a statement Thursday said in-person visits would resume Monday at all its facilities. Visits were suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, although some minimum-security and pre-release centers started allowing visitors in July. Starting Monday, visits must be scheduled in advance, and prisoners will be limited to one visit per week, up to two people at a time. Visitors will undergo a health screening, and visitors and inmates will be required to wear face coverings. Barriers will be placed between visitors and inmates, and no physical contact will be permitted. The agency said it has had just four inmate COVID-19 cases at its facilities since July 1, all of whom contracted the virus before incarceration. The new rules do not affect attorneys visting clients.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that movie theaters and other venues can reopen in two weeks after nearly seven months of closure during the coronavirus pandemic, and she relaxed a cap so more people can attend funerals and other indoor events. The governor also issued an order requiring students in kindergarten through fifth grade – not just those in sixth grade and up – to wear masks in classrooms outside northern Michigan beginning Oct. 5. She mandated that public and private schools publish information about confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases. Masks continue to be required in school hallways, in common areas and on buses. Indoor cinemas, performance venues, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities and trampoline parks – which have been operating in less-populated northern counties since June – can reopen statewide starting Oct. 9 with occupancy requirements to allow social distancing.
Minneapolis: State officials have stopped a COVID-19 testing study after multiple reports that state and federal public health workers were greeted by racial and ethnic slurs as they went door-to-door. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled federal surveyors out of Minnesota last week after they experienced verbal abuse and intimidation. In Eitzen, along the Iowa border, one survey team was boxed in by two cars and threatened by three men, one with a gun. “The team felt the intent was clearly to intimidate and scare them,” said Stephanie Yendell, who supervised Minnesota’s role in the survey. The survey teams were going to 180 neighborhoods this month to offer free testing for COVID-19 and for antibodies and to try to understand how the virus was spreading, particularly among people with no known symptoms. Yendell said teams that included people of color reported more incidents than teams with only white people.
Jackson: The University of Mississippi Medical Center is offering free COVID-19 testing for college and university students, staff and faculty at locations around the state. According to a University of Mississippi Medical Center release, testing will be available on scheduled days at the Mississippi Department of Health’s county locations throughout Mississippi. The drive-thru location at the West Street Farmer’s Market in Jackson will offer testing Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to that group, workers from licensed child care centers, K-12 teachers, and staff and administrators at public or private schools may come for testing regardless of whether they are presenting symptoms of COVID-19 or have come into contact with an infected person. Appointments are required to be tested. Any other resident can be tested but must complete a questionnaire to determine if they have symptoms.
Columbia: The University of Missouri has disciplined an additional 20 current or former students with suspensions, probation or other sanctions for what it called “egregious violations” of policies meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus. All the violations were for hosting gatherings of more than 20 people in violation of the Boone County public health order, the university said Friday in a news release. Five students were suspended for the rest of the academic year, 14 were placed on probation for two consecutive semesters and given additional sanctions, and one former student will not be able to enroll until the violations are addressed. The school earlier this month expelled or suspended five students for violations of safety policies amid coronavirus pandemic. Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said the university is “extremely pleased” that the vast majority of students are complying with policies.
Great Falls: The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council on Thursday authorized a mandatory 14-day shutdown of its reservation, beginning Sunday at midnight. The announcement came the same day the Blackfeet Nation reported 83 active COVID-19 cases on its reservation. As of Friday morning, the tribe reported 90 cases on the reservation. The tribe said public health officials recommended a two-week shutdown due to a high infection rate. Law enforcement will cite and fine people who do not comply, according to a news release. “This is a critical point in our time. (COVID-19) is not going to go away. … The vaccine isn’t here, and we are heading into flu season,” Tribal Chair Tim Davis said in a Facebook live video last Monday, when he urged tribal members to stay home, practice social distancing and wash their hands.
Omaha: State public health officials have confirmed 453 new cases of the coronavirus but no new deaths, according to the latest available data. The total number of known cases has reached 42,731 as of Thursday evening, according to the state’s online tracking portal. Of those cases, 462 people have died since the pandemic began. Nearly 438,000 people have been tested so far. Despite the increase, the number of available hospital beds has remained stable. State officials say 33% of Nebraska’s hospital beds, 27% of its intensive care unit beds and 80% of its ventilators are still available for coronavirus patients if needed.
Reno: Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Friday that he will be modifying the current restrictions on group gatherings and youth sports this week in response to changing coronavirus trends. Sisolak’s administration did not provide any details on what those changes will be but said the governor will hold a press conference to publicize the modifications. “Under the governor’s direction, state officials with expertise in public health and oversight have been working over the past weeks with his office to review current Statewide Standards and develop updates that will allow Nevada to continue lifting restrictions in a safe and responsible manner,” spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said in a press release. “This has included outreach to businesses, industry groups, faith leaders and more.” Under Sisolak’s current directive, gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited. Youth sports are allowed to practice outside, but tournaments and games are prohibited.
Concord: Nursing homes in the state will be in charge of testing their staff for the coronavirus starting next month. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has been operating a surveillance testing program in long-term care facilities but in mid-October will start transitioning that to individual facilities, Commissioner Lori Shibinette said. The state is recommending facilities test all staff during the same week once a month and then every other week test 10% of staff chosen at random. The state will reimburse them at $100 per test, she said. Having the nursing homes run their own programs will allow the state to start similar surveillance programs elsewhere, including in assisted living communities and correctional facilities, Shibinette said. As many as 20 New Hampshire nursing homes once were dealing with coronavirus outbreaks at the same time, but now there is only one facility with an outbreak.
Atlantic: The city firefighters union filed a lawsuit against the city and state over their handling of the pandemic, saying scores of firefighters have been exposed to the coronavirus. The Press of Atlantic City reports lawyers for Local 198 allege in a complaint in Atlantic County Superior Court that the “ineffective approach” of government officials to containing the virus’s spread has jeopardized the health and safety of firefighters, their families and the public. The suit says the number of city firefighters exposed to the coronavirus has ballooned to about 65. The union is calling for those exposed to be placed on paid leave and to self-quarantine for 14 days and for stations to be disinfected between shifts. On Friday, the union posted an “urgent” warning on Facebook to “residents, businesses and visitors” that firefighters directly exposed to the virus would be responding to their calls for service.
Santa Fe: The number of tips law enforcement has received about adults making online sexual solicitations toward children has doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, an expert on human trafficking told a legislative committee Thursday. “We’ve seen a huge increase (in tips) over the past couple of years and specifically during the pandemic when schools began sending children home,” Anthony Maez, a special agent for the state Attorney General’s Office, told members of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee. He said the amount of cyber tips to his agency has doubled from 100 to 200 per month “because more children have access to (computer) devices. That’s definitely a concern for us because those children are being enticed.” Rep. Tara Lujan, D-Santa Fe, said after the hearing that Maez’s comments serve as a “red flag for schools to get involved and get some training.”
New York: Expanded outdoor dining for New York City restaurants will be extended year-round and made permanent, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday. The program allowing restaurants to seat customers on sidewalks and parking spaces has been seen as a lifeline for cash-strapped businesses trying to survive through the pandemic. More than 10,000 restaurants are taking part in the program. “I want us to really take this model and make it part of the life of New York City for years and generations to come,” de Blasio said on WNYC public radio. With cooler weather coming, the city will allow electrical heaters on sidewalks and streets as well as propane and natural gas heaters on sidewalks. Restaurants also will be able to use partially or fully enclosed tents. Occupancy will be limited to 25% in full tent enclosures, mirroring rules for indoor dining.
Raleigh: The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause economic hardship for some of the state’s universities. The Raleigh News & Observer reports N.C. State has announced new employee furloughs and salary cuts. And administrators at the University of North Carolina warned of similar actions as revenues drop. Leaders at N.C State said temporary furloughs and salary cuts are the result of a “sharp reduction in revenue” this fall in areas that include university housing, campus dining facilities and transportation. The school in Raleigh shifted to online learning and closed dorms this fall. So far this semester, revenue is down $75.4 million, a 61% drop for affected departments. UNC is facing potential revenue losses of $300 million this fiscal year. It has been trying to save money by limiting new hires and restricting spending on events and travel. There also have been some furloughs and salary reductions.
Bismarck: Dr. Paul Mariani resigned as the top state health officer Friday, one day after Gov. Doug Burgum reversed himself and rescinded a new order that would have enforced quarantines for close contacts of coronavirus patients. The announcement from Burgum’s office included a comment from Mariani that the way the new order was dropped made it impossible for him to continue as interim state health officer. He became the third person to resign the position since May. The upheaval comes as North Dakota battles one of the nation’s highest per-capita rates of spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Republican governor had described Mariani’s expanded order Wednesday as bringing the state in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in a statement late Thursday announcing the order was rescinded, Burgum said the state needs a “light touch” from government in managing the virus.
Cincinnati: The state has surpassed 150,000 cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic. The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,115 new cases of coronavirus in the state Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 150,009. There were six deaths, increasing the state’s coronavirus death toll to 4,740. Hospitalizations increased by 58, bringing the total number of hospitalizations to 15,185. Another four patients admitted to intensive care units were reported Saturday. There have been 3,247 Ohioans total in the ICU.
Oklahoma City: The city’s public school district announced Friday it is returning to distance learning for at least two weeks and canceling indoor athletics amid a continued rise in coronavirus cases. In an email to parents, district officials say they made the decision after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased from 15.8 per 100,000 population the week before last to 26.2 cases last week. All athletics and extracurricular events and practices will be canceled until further notice beginning Monday. Oklahoma currently ranks fifth in the nation for the number of new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The number of deaths in Oklahoma from the illness caused by the new coronavirus topped 1,000, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday.
Salem: The Oregon Health Authority reported 457 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday – the state’s largest daily total since the start of the pandemic. Officials attributed the rise in cases to Labor Day gatherings, the return of college students to campus and the interruption of testing during recent wildfires in Oregon. “Today we find ourselves at another crossroads,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said. “After weeks of steady decline in COVID-19, cases have begun rising.” For six weeks, Oregon’s COVID-19 cases and rate of transmission were heading down. However, Allen said the most recent data provided by the Oregon Health Authority shows that the percentage of positive tests has increased from 5.6% to 6.2% and hospitalizations increased by 28%, revealing “how fragile our progress against the virus is.”
Harrisburg: A day before a rally in Middletown, Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday accused President Donald Trump of blatantly disregarding social distancing and mask requirements during his frequent campaign rallies in the battleground state, calling it dangerous and disappointing. Wolf, a Democrat, criticized Trump in a strongly worded statement and asked the Republican president to ensure Saturday’s rally would abide by guidance designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus. While Wolf’s mask order still stands, a federal judge – a Trump appointee – recently ruled that Wolf’s pandemic restrictions, including size limits on gatherings of people, are unconstitutional. Those limitations had been 250 people outdoors and 25 people indoors. Wolf is appealing it, and the state attorney general’s office filed paperwork Friday with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia asking it to put the district judge’s ruling on hold.
Kingston: The University of Rhode Island has joined a growing number of U.S. colleges canceling spring break to reduce travel and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. University officials announced the measure Friday evening, a week after the Faculty Senate approved the change, according to The Providence Journal. It was also supported by university President David Dooley. Classes will continue from March 22 to 28, the period originally set aside as spring break, and the semester will end April 27, a week earlier than initially planned. In a statement announcing the change, officials cited “uncertainty” created by the virus “and the need to prepare for the likely persistence of existing outbreaks and potential for a new wave of infections.”
Columbia: For the second time in a week, state health officials said a lab failed to report thousands of COVID-19 tests over several months. Urgent care clinic chain Doctors Care reported the results of more than 7,000 COVID-19 tests from July through last week. About 400 of them were positive, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a news release Friday. The delay in testing both prevents the agency from tracing any contacts that a person testing positive had and prevents DHEC from getting an accurate picture of the spread of a virus on a particular day, the agency said. The health agency reminded labs they are required to report COVID-19 test results to the state within 24 hours or face punishment if they repeatedly delay. South Carolina continues to rank in the top 10 in the nation in new COVID-19 cases adjusted by population, and a monthlong decline in new cases stopped in late August.
Sioux Falls: The coronavirus is infecting more women in the state’s prison system in Pierre, despite efforts to control an outbreak, with the Department of Corrections reporting Friday that mass testing had detected 51 additional women with the virus. The infections have spread into two housing units at the main women’s prison after a nearby minimum-security prison called the Pierre Community Work Center saw 102 cases last week. The Department of Corrections had tried to contain the outbreak to that prison by moving women with the virus there, but the latest report from the prison system showed four prison units with active cases. In total, 172 inmates in Pierre have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, 93 of whom have recovered, according to the Department of Corrections.
Nashville: A week after Gov. Bill Lee wrote to the mayor criticizing his management of federal coronavirus relief funding, Tennessee’s House speaker is now seeking to take the city’s leader to task, prompting Democrats to call the effort a “witch hunt.” House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, on Thursday wrote to the state comptroller of the treasury, Justin Wilson, asking that his office conduct a “thorough review” of how Nashville has spent federal COVID-19 relief money. In the letter, Sexton noted how Mayor John Cooper, despite receiving $121 million in direct federal funding to help with pandemic-related expenses, recently asked Lee for $82 million from the state’s share of federal aid. The letter was also signed by other members of House Republican leadership.
Austin: State health officials reported 3,283 new cases Saturday of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, along with 121 new deaths from the illness. The newly reported cases raised the total number of cases since tracking of the virus started in March to 733,438, with an estimated 68,373 cases now active and 3,209 of those requiring hospitalization, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported. However, the true number of cases is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. Meanwhile, the Texas death toll for the outbreak rose to 15,485.
Salt Lake City: An outbreak at a homeless shelter has resulted in 72 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, officials reported. The rapid increase in cases at the Gail Miller Resource Center in Salt Lake City coincides with a rise in cases in the state as a whole. Utah reported 1,404 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Thursday, up from 306 new confirmed cases Sept. 8. There are currently 93 confirmed cases in Salt Lake City-area homeless shelters, officials said. Homeless people are thought to be more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus than the general population because those who live in encampments typically have limited access to hygienic services and find themselves in cramped rooms packed with dozens of others, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Montpelier: A system to provide child care to the state’s children during the COVID-19 pandemic so parents can return to work on days their children aren’t in school is continuing to expand, officials said Friday. Speaking at Gov. Phil Scott’s regular virus briefing Friday, Holly Morehouse of the organization Vermont Afterschool says that in just over four weeks, they have established 35 hubs in 87 locations serving more than 5,000 children from almost 110 towns and more than 130 schools. The system was designed by officials at after-school programs, parks and recreation departments, child care centers, and others working with state officials. “We knew that after months of being out of school, children needed access to programming opportunities to play and learn with others in safe, caring spaces,” Morehouse said. “We also knew that parents and family members needed to be able to return to work.”
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that he and his wife have both tested positive for the coronavirus, though he said he is showing no symptoms. He’s among four governors around the country who have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, but one of the others turned out to be a false positive. Northam and his wife, who has mild symptoms, plan to isolate for the next 10 days, and the governor will fulfill his duties while working remotely, according to a statement from his office. The Democrat, the country’s only governor who is also a doctor, has previously been criticized by some Republican lawmakers who say his restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus are too stringent. Northam said in a statement that his test result shows the virus is “very real and very contagious.”
Bremerton: Kitsap Public Health officials are investigating a handful of new COVID-19 cases among CHI Franciscan employees, including two staff members at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, though health officials say they are not linked to an earlier outbreak at the hospital. CHI Franciscan officials reported Wednesday that two employees at the Franciscan Medical Group cardiothoracic clinic in Bremerton tested positive for COVID-19, along with two cases among staff at St. Michael hospital, formerly known as Harrison Medical Center. The employees at the cardiothoracic clinic were infected after “interacting with a patient” who entered the facility for testing before a procedure and was found to be positive for the virus, CHI Franciscan said in a public statement.
Charleston: The Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston won’t accept Gov. Jim Justice’s offer to allow private and religious schools to reopen in “orange” counties – based on their rating on the state’s color-coded COVID-19 map – if students and staff get tested for the new coronavirus. Diocese spokesman Tom Bishop gave several reasons for the decision, including an opposition to forcing students and staff to take coronavirus tests, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. Bishop said five schools are not allowed to have in-person instruction because their counties are orange on Justice’s color-coded school reopening map. Justice provided the exemption to private and religious schools Wednesday, only if they agree to pre-test students and staff. Public schools in orange counties are not being offered the same choice.
Madison: The state on Saturday hit a record for coronavirus cases reported in a single day as health officials said 2,817 more people have tested positive for the virus. The state has seen some of the nation’s fastest coronavirus spread over the past two weeks. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 950, an increase of nearly 97%, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. In that time, the state has reported the nation’s third-highest number of new cases per capita, with about 423 per 100,000 people. In another troubling trend, the positivity rate for coronavirus testing has also been among the country’s highest. That’s an indicator that many more people have infections than tests are revealing. The seven-day positivity rate is currently over 17%, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Saturday’s positivity rate for testing was even higher at 22%.
Cheyenne: The state is planning on adding seating capacity at restaurants after current coronavirus restrictions expire Sept. 30, Gov. Mark Gordon said. The announcement came one day after the state reported its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began with a record 137 on Wednesday, the state Department of Health said. The number of new cases again grew by more than 100 on Thursday. “One place we are not seeing large numbers of cases emerge is from restaurants, so we are looking at expanding the seating capacity of restaurants,” Gordon said. “We want to ensure those businesses can adjust to the coming fall and winter, when outdoor dining will be more difficult.” State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said the state was also planning on easing restrictions on visitations to long-term care facilities, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports