YMCA hands out meals on the Brown Bag Bus in the Gibbs Village neighborhood in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Photo: Jake Crandall/ Advertiser)
Montgomery: Montgomery Public Schools will use school buses to deliver meals to students along nine bus routes twice a week, in addition to the current designated pickup sites. Every Monday and Wednesday, the buses will deliver meals at 7:15 a.m., or meals can be picked up from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 16 schools. The student’s name or cafeteria PIN is required.
Fairbanks: The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team and other student athletes are in quarantine or isolation after athletes tested positive for COVID-19 following an off-campus party, administrators said. The 37 University of Alaska Fairbanks students, including the entire hockey team, were placed in isolation after six hockey players and an athlete from another university team tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said. Multiple athletes from different sports attended the Aug. 22 gathering, University of Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White said. There were no university staff members at the party, but head hockey coach Erik Largen was also quarantined because he had close contact with players, officials said. The university does not know if every member of the hockey team was at the party. Officials expect hockey games and practices will be postponed, although that was not immediately confirmed.
Phoenix: Two popular bars in Old Town Scottsdale have had their liquor licenses suspended for violating requirements to reopen under coronavirus protocols. The Arizona State Health Department officials said Bottled Blonde and Casa Amigos were served noncompliance notices Saturday to immediately close as mandated by Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order issued June 29. Authorities said the bars were both in violation of social distancing, masking, dancing, standing and table occupancy limitations. “Detectives will continue to enforce public health orders and take immediate actions against licensees who are observed showing general disregard for the welfare and safety of others,” Department of Liquor Director John Cocca said in a statement.
Little Rock: The state reported 12 more deaths and 478 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as the state heads into the second week of in-person school for K-12 students. The total number of confirmed cases of the virus stood at 60,856 on Sunday, though the true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. A total of 784 virus deaths have been reported in Arkansas since the pandemic began. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Twitter that Sunday’s numbers were encouraging compared to Saturday’s, when nearly 800 new cases and 16 deaths were reported. “These are difficult times but so proud of our teachers, students, and athletes for a good start to the school year,” he said.
A mountain lion crosses a road in the Santa Monica Mountains. (Photo: National Park Service via AP)
Ventura: A study shows the state’s stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus seems to have saved some wildlife, as decreased traffic resulted in fewer collisions with mountain lions, deer and other large animals. A study by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis found traffic declined by about 75% after the emergency health regulation went into effect in March. The number of animals struck and killed by vehicles also fell, including a 58% decrease in fatal crashes involving mountain lions between the 10 weeks before and 10 weeks after the order was in place. The report was one of four released by the center concerning traffic-related impacts of the state’s stay-at-home order, including two studies of vehicle accidents and another of fuel use and climate change. Using carcass and crash reports, researchers found California’s count of 8.4 large wild animals per day killed by vehicles decreased 21% to 6.6 animals.
Denver: The state has reported more than 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to people who attended an annual motorcycle event in Sturgis, South Dakota, last month. The pandemic was expected to reduce attendance by about half at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, KCNC-TV reports. But the event drew some 462,000 people Aug. 7-16, down just 7.5% from the previous year. Some visitors wore masks and practiced social distancing in spite of the large crowds. State officials in Colorado are now asking those who attended the rally and have symptoms to be tested immediately, and they have recommended those without symptoms be tested a week after suspected exposure. “No one that we went with or knew up there has had any symptoms,” said Kevin Bolser, co-owner of Lucky Horsehoe Customs in Englewood. Bolser said members of his group took special precautions to camp in a remote area and self-quarantine after the event.
Hartford: The Connecticut Department of Public Health has fined two nursing homes for failing to test dozens of employees for the coronavirus. Avery Nursing Home in Hartford and Hamden Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Hamden were both fined $1,140, acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said. An executive order signed by Gov. Ned Lamont in June requires weekly testing of nursing home staff until no employees or residents test positive for the virus. Inspectors said Avery Nursing Home did not test 37 employees including nurses and dietary staff in late July and early August. Avery officials told inspectors they have since made testing mandatory. The home’s nursing director told inspectors that vacations had affected the testing process there. The Hamden nursing home failed to test 39 staff members during the same time period, according to the Public Health Department.
Attendees place photos of loved ones lost to addiction in a temporary memorial during an “Overdose Awareness” event at Banning Park Friday. (Photo: William Bretzger, Delaware News Journal-USA TODAY )
Wilmington: Events throughout the weekend commemorated the hundreds of people the state has lost in recent years to the disease of addiction – an epidemic that has continued to surge locally as COVID-19 has spread. So far this year, the state has recorded 254 suspected overdose deaths and seen record spikes in recent months as the pandemic stretches on. Throughout the weekend and at events slated for Monday, International Overdose Awareness Day, those lives were remembered. More than 100 people gathered Friday night at Banning Park, braving the torrential downpours to hang photos of their loved ones inside a covered pavilion and encourage others to seek help. The event, “Overdose Awareness – Remembrance and Prevention,” was largely put on by Delaware Recovery Advocacy Project and Banyan Treatment Centers, which is slated to open a location in Delaware soon.
District of Columbia
Washington: As of Monday, D.C. is averaging just 50 new cases of the coronavirus a day, WUSA-TV reports. That’s the city’s lowest average since July 10. However, the district has not been able to maintain the sustained downward trend it needs to move to Phase 3.
Miami: Some coronavirus restrictions started easing up Monday in parts of South Florida. In Miami-Dade County, restaurants were allowed to welcome back diners to indoor seating for the first time in almost two months, provided masks were worn and the establishments operated at 50% capacity. In Palm Beach County, officials issued an order allowing tattoo and body piercing parlors, as well as tanning salons, to reopen starting Monday. Miami-Dade County also is allowing casinos to reopen, provided food and drink are consumed in eating-only designated areas, and drinking and eating is prohibited at gaming tables and slot machines. Meanwhile, the state’s largest school district resumed classes Monday, though Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ classes will remain online for at least a few weeks. But the remote learning got off to a rocky start. The school district posted on Twitter that its website was having connectivity problems.
Atlanta: The state’s largest teachers group told Gov. Brian Kemp that teachers should be able to decide whether to return to school without being quarantined for COVID-19 exposure if the Republican governor decides to allow that. But the group said Kemp should make sure rapid coronavirus testing is available to teachers. It also wants districts to provide more paid leave, publish coronavirus testing results and let educators with high-risk health conditions work from home. The Professional Association of Georgia Educators sent recommendations to Kemp on Wednesday, a week after the Republican governor acknowledged he was considering declaring teachers “critical infrastructure workers.” Such a designation would mean they would be exempted from the legal requirement to quarantine for 14 days after COVID-19 exposure. The non-union group is still expressing skepticism about the move, in the face of a heavy push by local school superintendents.
Honolulu: Directors leading the state’s health and public safety departments are retiring amid a surge in coronavirus cases on Oahu and an ongoing outbreak at the state’s largest jail. Gov. David Ige announced Monday the retirements of Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson and Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda. Anderson will retire Sept. 15. Dr. Libby Char, an emergency physician, will take over. Espinda will take personal leave through September and will officially retire Oct. 1. Maria Cook, the deputy director for administration, will be interim director, and Espinda will be available for advice before October. The Department of Health has been criticized over its contact tracing efforts as Hawaii has seen an alarming surge in reported coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
Lewiston: Educational officials in the state have approved a temporary regulation allowing schools to use their full-time equivalent enrollment numbers instead of average daily attendance to calculate state funding as several students have started remote learning during the pandemic. The Idaho State Board of Education unanimously approved the change, which is already in effect, the Lewiston Tribune reports. The regulation will provide school districts the ability to count students who may not physically be in classrooms by measuring the amount of minutes students spend in their courses, Associate Deputy Superintendent Tim Hill said. Several legislators had previously disagreed with the approved change, arguing for a legislative decision. Others have said the districts can’t afford to wait until January for the next legislative session. The board is scheduled to revisit the rule after a 21-day comment period.
Springfield: Some road construction projects scheduled to be completed this year could be delayed until next year because of lower-than-anticipated gas tax revenues during the coronavirus pandemic. State Transportation Department Secretary Omer Osman said the department hasn’t yet assessed how many projects might be pushed back, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports. He told lawmakers during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Thursday that the department will prioritize projects related to safety improvements. “I can’t afford to lose a bridge, but I could live with a little bit of potholes,” Osman said. Gas tax revenues used to fund road projects were much lower than originally projected because people are driving less during the pandemic, Osman said. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, from March through June, motor fuel tax revenues are down $82 million from the same period last year.
Employer Wellness Solutions CEO Jennifer Sanner cleans up weeds on Washington Street, as civic and local leaders gather to beautify downtown, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. Beautification is part of the “Back Downtown” message. (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)
Indianapolis: A nonprofit group has launched a marketing and social media campaign aimed at luring people back to the city’s downtown, where businesses are suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest that left its mark on the area. The citywide “Back Downtown” initiative announced Thursday by Downtown Indy Inc. in partnership with Section 127 encourages residents to patronize downtown businesses to help reinvigorate the heart of Indiana’s capital. The campaign by the private, nonprofit group that works to boost downtown Indianapolis includes banners that will be installed around downtown and a short video to convince people to return to the area to shop, dine and play. “This concept serves as a rallying cry and inspires residents to discover downtown again,” Downtown Indy said in a news release.
Des Moines: The state continued Monday to record a high number of new positive coronavirus cases as it struggles with the virus spreading in several counties, including those with university campuses. Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health showed 611 new positive cases, sending the total to 64,713. Two additional deaths were reported, raising the total to 1,112 deaths. With many K-12 schools back in class, some districts also are struggling with high levels of county virus activity. Twelve counties had a positivity rate of 15% or higher, the threshold Gov. Kim Reynolds has set for schools to request to go to online teaching. The rate is three times the 5% rate recommended by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five counties have positive rates above 20%, the data shows. On Saturday, the state’s 14-day rolling total of positive cases reached an all-time high of 11,091.
Lawrence: The coronavirus is hitting fraternities and sororities in the state particularly hard, with 10% testing positive at the University of Kansas and outbreaks linked to four sororities at Kansas State University. The University of Kansas said Friday that it has conducted 21,719 tests, and 474 have been positive, for a positive rate of 2.18%. But among sororities and fraternities, there have been 270 positives among 2,698 members tested. The university began testing every student, faculty and staff member for COVID-19 as they returned to campus last month. At Kansas State, health officials announced six cases at Alpha Delta Pi, six at Alpha Xi Delta, five at Chi Omega and five at Kappa Delta, The Kansas City Star reports. The cases have resulted in quarantines.
Groom Cesar Abrego gives a bath to one of the horses being trained by Dale Romans following his morning workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., in 2017. Abrego came to the U.S. from Guatemala on an H-2B visa. (Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Louisville: The Trump administration’s immigration squeeze and the hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic threaten to leave the horse racing industry short of workers, officials warn as they prepare for a reconfigured Kentucky Derby. The racing world’s premier event, rescheduled to take place Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, hasn’t been severely hampered by the looming labor shortage so far. But trainers and advocates say President Donald Trump’s executive order extending the federal government’s March suspension of certain types of work visas has added to an air of uncertainty in a business that relies heavily on an immigrant workforce. The number of available workers is difficult to determine, as is the impact of the coronavirus. The visa ban through the end of the year and the pandemic have made crossing the border tougher, and the outbreak also has limited travel from countries like Mexico and Guatemala, from which many workers hail.
Monroe: The state reported 19 more COVID-19 deaths Monday, but hospitalizations declined for the first time since Wednesday. The Louisiana Department of Health reported 326 new cases Monday, the lowest single-day total since June 8, but the state closed community drive-thru testing sites last week because of Hurricane Laura. Louisiana has reported 148,193 cases since the first confirmed case was recorded in the state in March. Hospitalizations dropped by 21 Monday to 881, while the number of patients who needed ventilators dropped by 11 to 132. Louisiana’s COVID-19 death toll since March is 4,787.
Saco: Aquaboggan Water Park says “strict and inconsistent state regulations” have forced it to close for the season. Park officials said an update to Maine coronavirus safety guidelines reduced the number of people allowed in the park from 1,500 to 100. Police showed up Friday to serve managers with a cease-and-desist letter. Aquaboggan officials said the water park in Saco should be treated the same as beaches and other open spaces. But they chose not to defy the state. “We plan to confront the inconsistency of the guidelines by working to create policy change rather than operate against them, but unfortunately this takes time,” Aquaboggan posted on social media. The park was one of a handful of entertainment venues that had remained open this summer in Maine.
Belair: Harford County Public Schools will not be issuing laptops to most of its elementary school students when school starts this month, even though schools are starting the semester with online classes for all students. School system Superintendent Sean Bulson said Friday in a message to families that the district doesn’t have enough laptops because of high demand and a manufacturing shortage. As a result, computers will only be issued to those in fourth grade or higher. Teachers in kindergarten through third grade will still conduct live, online classes “for any student who can access it.” The school system learned last month that its laptop order couldn’t be filled on time. The system asked families who could do so to opt out of receiving a school-issued computer, but the system still faces a shortage, Bulson said. The school system hopes it will have more computers available by mid-October.
Boston: The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is joining the city of Boston and three suburban communities to create up to 14 miles of dedicated bus lanes it is hoped will improve reliability and reduce on-board crowding during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials said. Several of the bus routes selected for the project that includes Somerville, Everett and Chelsea provide critical connections for people heading to essential jobs and are among the agency’s busiest, the T said in a statement. Bus lanes can reduce crowding on buses and limit the amount of time riders spend in close proximity to others while on the bus, officials said. The new lanes will help the economy reopen and help the region recover from the pandemic. The program will start this fall and run through the spring, according to a statement from the T. Emergency response vehicles and school buses will also be allowed to use the bus lanes.
Delano Sparks of Detroit is comforted by his sister Jamie Cook of a Detroit as they get out of their car at a photo of their mother Asturd Sparks on display as part of photos of Detroit residents and people with connections to Detroit who died during the pandemic during the Memorial Drive on Belle Isle in Detroit on Monday, August 31, 2020. ”Driving through it was a lot to sink in because you realize that you’re nor the only person that’s hurt. Looking at all of these pictures and stuff make you realize that it’s a lot of people that were truly affected by this. This for me just means that we all just need to band together, vote and just make everybody as happy as you can while you’re here on this earth. We can be gone in five minutes. I know for a fact. I talked to my mom. It was the first time she ever told me she was scared when she was in the hospital,” Delano Sparks of Detroit said about losing his mother on April 14, 2020. Sparks said he wasn’t let into the hospital at the time in April to see his mother. “This is hard. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. It still hits me like it was yesterday and it’s been months.” (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
Detroit: An island park in the city has become an extraordinary memorial garden, with cars packed with families slowly passing hundreds of photos of residents who have died from COVID-19. Mayor Mike Duggan declared Monday Detroit Memorial Day to honor the 1,500-plus city victims of the pandemic. Hearses escorted by police led solemn all-day processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River after bells rang across the region at 8:45 a.m. Radio station WRCJ, which plays classical music and jazz, added gospel to its playlist and read the names of the deceased. “It is our hope that seeing these beautiful faces on the island today … will wake people up to the devastating effect of the pandemic,” said Rochelle Riley, Detroit’s director of arts and culture. More than 900 photos submitted by families were turned into large posters and staked around Belle Isle, revealing the crushing breadth of the virus.
St. Cloud: When K-12 students in the metro area return to school this year, upward of 2,800 will do so virtually, even if their school district is reopening in person. In the St. Cloud school district, roughly 1,600 students – more than 17% of the student population – are opting for distance learning this year. About 10% of students in Sartell-St. Stephen and 12% of students Sauk Rapids-Rice are choosing distance learning. When the state announced reopening guidelines for public school districts July 30, it mandated districts offer distance learning throughout the year regardless of which learning model districts implemented. Districts are selecting learning models – in-person, hybrid or distance – based on the 14-day case rates of COVID-19 in their respective counties, as well as other factors such as whether buildings provide enough space for social distancing.
Jackson: Health care advocates are renewing a push for Medicaid expansion in this state where Republican leaders have long been opposed. They say the changing tide has followed rising income inequality, joblessness and pressure from hospitals in economic turmoil – issues exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Medicaid is a government health insurance program for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, paid by state and federal money. Because Mississippi is poor, the federal government pays nearly 78% of the cost. Under expansion, the federal government pays 90% of the cost in any state. Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, said hospitals are in desperate need of the dollars. “Let’s face it, providers are businessmen. Despite their marketing, they are inherently out to make a profit, and they are going to have to wake up in Mississippi,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure COVID did a good job of doing that.”
Hillsboro: A county just south of St. Louis revoked a mask mandate just one day after passing it. The Jefferson County Health Center Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to revoke the ordinance. The county said the decision was made after residents raised concerns about whether the board had appropriately notified the public before discussing the ordinance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The board had approved the ordinance Thursday, 3-2, after a contentious meeting that lasted more than five hours. The board said it had not determined a date for a future meeting to consider the order again. State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, raised concerns Friday about potential Sunshine Law violations. She said she was preparing to file a lawsuit against the board Friday afternoon, before she learned about the emergency meeting to revoke the ordinance.
Great Falls: The first case of a rare, COVID-19-related inflammatory disease in the state has been reported in a child from Teton County, health officials said. The patient was treated at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C. It is a condition in which different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cause is unknown, but many of the children previously had the virus that causes COVID-19 or had been around someone with the respiratory virus, a CDC official said. The family of 14-year-old Kyona Yeager of Fairfield has reported she was hospitalized in intensive care in Salt Lake last month with a high fever and an enlarged liver, spleen and gallbladder and fluid in her lungs – an illness believed to have followed a COVID-19 infection.
Guards observe inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Neb. (Photo: Nati Harnik/AP)
Lincoln: The Nebraska State Penitentiary has been placed under quarantine after 29 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Sunday. The cases were identified by tests that were done Friday. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes said the cases included inmates in four different housing units, so the entire prison was placed under quarantine. Officials said roughly 600 inmates were initially offered tests under the voluntary program, and 332 agreed to be tested. Frakes said most of the inmates who tested positive have not had any symptoms. Warden Michele Wilhelm said the entire facility will be under quarantine for at least two weeks. Frakes said prisoner visits will remain on hold across the agency while the penitentiary is in quarantine. There have also been 64 corrections department employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began. Of those, 54 have recovered.
Las Vegas: Health officials in the city are launching a drive-thru coronavirus testing blitz, with help from the federal government and a goal of reaching 60,000 people. Appointments are not required but are encouraged at three “Stop, Swab & Go” sites that opened Monday at the Fiesta hotel-casino in Henderson, the Texas Station hotel-casino in North Las Vegas, and Sam Boyd Stadium in southeast Las Vegas. Tests are free, and no proof of health insurance or identification is required. Health officials have reported about 69,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 illness statewide and more than 1,300 deaths. More than 59,000 of those cases have been in the Las Vegas area, along with at least 1,125 deaths. Testing will be conducted 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, with self-administered nasal swabs. All three locations will be closed on Labor Day. Appointments can be made online at www.DoINeedaCOVID19Test.com.
Bedford: School is continuing as scheduled in the local school district after one student tested positive for COVID-19, triggering a contact tracing effort and cleaning at the school. WMUR-TV reports the Riddle Brook School student in Bedford who tested positive is suspected to have contracted the virus at a sports camp in another town. The student had been in the building Friday. Half of the class was at the school, which is on a hybrid learning system. The test for the student, who was asymptomatic, came back positive Saturday. Families were notified Sunday with an email and voicemail. None of the students at Riddle Brook met the exposure criteria of being within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more within a 4-hour period, officials said. Administrators believe protocols in place such as masks, distancing and reduced class sizes prevented further transmission.
Diners eat outside a restaurant in Montclair, N.J. Indoor dining in New Jersey will resume Friday, with limited capacity, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. (Photo: Seth Wenig/AP)
Trenton: Indoor dining will resume and movie theaters will reopen Friday, both with limited capacity, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Movie theater attendance will be capped at 25% capacity or 150 people, whichever is less. Restaurants will only be able to have 25% capacity under the new rules, which includes maintaining social distancing between tables. Masks must be worn except when eating or drinking. “Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19,” Murphy, a Democrat, wrote in a tweet Monday announcing the updated regulations. On Tuesday, gyms and health clubs are cleared to reopen, also at 25% capacity and with a mask requirement. The state is in the second of three stages of reopening.
Santa Fe: The Democratic Party of New Mexico hopes to broaden participation in the Nov. 3 election as it launches a daytime telephone hotline and online resources about balloting. State Democratic Party Executive Director Chelsey Evans said the initiative that began Monday aims to inform voters about new options and deadlines for requesting and casting absentee ballots. The coronavirus pandemic already reshaped voting in New Mexico, with absentee voting by mail or drop-off delivery soaring in popularity during the June primary. Evans said the voter education project sponsored by Democrats will publicize key deadlines such as Oct. 20, the last date when absentee ballot requests can be received by county clerks. Hotline operators won’t ask callers about party affiliation and are available to help anyone with voting questions, she said. The party has scrapped door-to-door canvassing operations in response to COVID-19.
Albany: Nurses on the front lines of the state’s COVID-19 pandemic are calling for the state to enact minimum staffing standards ahead of another wave of infections. Health care industry leaders, though, warn that passing such a law would saddle facilities with billions of dollars in extra costs they can’t afford. Under legislation now before a legislative committee, the state would for the first time set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, including a standard of one nurse for every two patients in intensive care units. California now has such a law. Other states don’t. Supporters say the legislation would boost the quality of care, reduce staff burnout and let the state hold health care facilities accountable for inadequate staffing. Minimum staffing ratios also might have helped last spring, they say, when hospitals and nursing homes in the New York City metropolitan area were overwhelmed with a flood of COVID-19 patients.
Charlotte: Four people who were at the Republican National Convention in the city have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials in Mecklenburg County said. WBTV reports those who tested positive at the event were immediately isolated. Meanwhile, one of the state’s U.S. senators, Thom Tillis, said he “fell short of my own standard” by failing to keep his face mask on in the White House crowd while listening to President Donald Trump accept the Republican nomination. Tillis, who is in a tough reelection bid against Democrat Cal Cunningham, has been consistently talking up face coverings as a chief method to slow the spread of COVID-19. At dozens of virtual town hall meetings, he’s urged participants to wear them when near others. But media outlets showed images of Tillis within the tightly packed, largely unmasked crowd, also not wearing a mask.
Grand Forks: The mayor has ordered bars to close early due to a spike in coronavirus cases among young adults. Mayor Brandon Bochenski issued an emergency declaration temporarily modifying closing hours for bars, bars/restaurants and off-sales to 11 p.m. The order took effect Saturday night. Normal bar closing in Grand Forks is 2 a.m. Bochenski attended a round table discussion in Fargo on Saturday with Gov. Doug Burgum and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, about how to stem the spread of the virus. The mayor said the recent spike has made it necessary to limit mass gatherings of people in close quarters. “With the exponential increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks among the 20-29 age population, this is a necessary action,” Bochenski said in a statement. He said his order “will help us slow the spread and get us back.”
Columbus: Performing arts groups financially devastated by the coronavirus shutdown received good news last week, tempered by a harsh economic reality. A public health order from Gov. Mike DeWine greenlighted performances again, while setting strict audience caps that theater groups say aren’t economically viable – a position with which even the governor himself agrees. Outdoor entertainment facilities are limited to at most 1,500 people or 15% of a venue’s capacity, whichever figure is smaller, according to a public health order issued Wednesday by DeWine’s interim health director Lance Himes. Seating in indoor facilities is limited to 300 people or 15% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is less. In reality, those indoor limits could be even smaller with social distancing. DeWine’s guidelines came despite recommendations by theater directors and arts advocacy group Ohio Citizens for the Arts that he should consider less strict limits or leave decisions up to theater groups altogether.
Oklahoma City: Despite warnings from state and federal health officials, a recent survey shows more than one-third of Oklahoma’s public school districts don’t require staff and students to wear masks. The informal survey of public schools released Thursday shows that about 65% of districts require either all or some students or staff to wear masks, but more than 35% of districts do not. A White House Coronavirus Task Force report, released last week by state officials, shows Oklahoma has the eighth-highest coronavirus positivity rate in the nation and 12th-highest number of new cases per capita. The report urges Oklahoma to impose a statewide mask mandate and order the closure of bars, but Gov. Kevin Stitt has resisted those calls. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister proposed a mask mandate for schools in counties with a high number of coronavirus cases, but the Board of Education voted to defer that decision to districts.
Salem: The statewide metrics required for in-person schooling to resume still have a ways to go when it comes to weekly COVID-19 cases. Though declining since July, the latest data show Oregon has about 40 cases per 100,000 people statewide, compared to the goal of 10, which has to be met three weeks in a row. The state is much closer when it comes to the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests. The state’s positivity rate is 5.1%, hovering just over the state target of 5% or less. This metric has also been declining since late July. Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, and Dean Sidelinger, health officer for the state, said the collective actions of Oregonians using face masks, isolation, limited social gatherings and social distancing have had a positive impact on lowering cases. The state is modeling its school reopening requirements after other countries that have done so successfully, without a resurgence of cases.
Philadelphia: Temple University announced a two-week halt of in-person classes as city officials called on all college and university students to avoid all social gatherings with people outside their households. Temple officials said Sunday that new test results over the weekend had pushed the number of active COVID-19 cases from the 58 reported Friday to 103 active cases, most of them among people with no symptoms and a small number with mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. University president Richard Englert said officials believe they are seeing “new cases that result from small social gatherings happening off campus.” He said that prompted the two-week “pause” on in-person classes and a contact tracing effort. Temple said in-person classes would go online starting Monday and continue online through Friday, Sept. 11, with only classes deemed essential by college deans held in person.
Providence: The Rhode Island Foundation has distributed another $1 million from its COVID-19 Response Fund to 19 nonprofits to help ensure that residents can pay for food, rent, utilities and other essential expenses during the pandemic, the organization announced Monday. The fund has now distributed more than $7 million. The Blackstone Valley Community Action Program in Pawtucket will use most of its grant to help clients with rental assistance and to stock its food pantry. Commercial Fisheries of R.I. in South Kingstown; the Refugee Dream Center in Providence; the Rhode Island Community Food Bank in Providence; the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport; and Westbay Community Action in Warwick are among the organizations receiving grants in the latest round of funding.
Columbia: City officials shut down a pool party Saturday at an apartment complex near the University of South Carolina, saying at least 200 people were crowded around without masks, violating rules meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The pool was fully loaded,” Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins told WLTX-TV. “They had people in the pool; they had people around the pool; they had people on top of the pool house.” Jenkins said he arrived at the Apartments at Palmetto Compress about 6 p.m. Saturday and, after talking to a security guard and the complex manager, persuaded them to close the pool for several days. “That was just a perfect storm to spread the virus. If someone in the crowd had it, it was just a perfect storm,” Jenkins said. Complex residents include a number of University of South Carolina students.
Sioux Falls: Active coronavirus cases continue to climb in the state, with 187 new positive results, the Department of Health reported Monday. At the same time, hospitalization rates remain well below their peak in May. The 76 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Monday’s report were two fewer than Sunday. No new deaths were reported, leaving the state’s total at 167. Kim Malsam-Rysdon, the Department of Health secretary, said fatalities in the previous week were 33% lower than the week before. “Our death rate is, in fact, on a downward trend,” she said. South Dakota hasn’t reported a decrease in active cases since Aug. 18. At the time, there were 1,163 active cases. As of Monday, there were 2,730. People under 30 accounted for 95 of the new cases, including 63 people in their 20s. State epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said 105 cases among South Dakotans have been connected with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Professional seamstress Doris McMillan and others made cotton face masks for health care workers at Williamson County Medical Center. (Photo: Shelley Mays/The Tennessean)
Franklin: In response to the county’s mask mandate expiring over the weekend, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore issued an advisory to city residents asking them to continue wearing face coverings in public. Overnight Saturday, the mandatory mask mandate expired in Williamson County, after Mayor Rogers Anderson said cases of the novel coronavirus were low enough to justify the change. Moore said he respected the decision but still wanted Franklin residents to consider wearing masks when out in public to combat the virus. “As mayor of Franklin, my first priority is to protect the well-being of our community,” he said. “As your mayor and as a medical doctor for more than 50 years, I am imploring Franklin citizens to continue to do their part to fight COVID-19.” Moore said the data in Williamson County showed progress in combating COVID-19, but there was “still work to do.”
Austin: State health officials on Saturday reported the number of deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has surpassed 12,500, and the number of reported cases is now above 610,000. There are 610,354 coronavirus cases and 12,510 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The number of reported cases rose by 3,759, and the total COVID-19 deaths were up by 90 from Saturday, the department said. The department also reported an estimated 98,326 active cases, a decline of 2,863 from the 101,189 reported Saturday.
Workers test Utah State University students for COVID-19 on Sunday in Hyde Park, Utah. Students from four dorms were tested and quarantined after the virus was detected in the wastewater from those buildings. (Photo: Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)
Logan: Utah State University quarantined nearly 300 students for COVID-19 after wastewater samples from four dormitories showed elevated levels of the coronavirus, according to school officials. The college said Sunday that 287 students would be tested who live in the Rich, Jones, Morgan and Davis dorms on the campus in Logan. There have been no reported positive tests for COVID-19 in those residence halls so far. Students in those dorms must quarantine until the test results are available, which could take up to four days. They are also asked to fill out a form to ensure they receive academic support, food deliveries and other resources. Classes were scheduled to begin Monday for about 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Utah State is among the schools around the country using wastewater sampling to help safeguard against a COVID-19 outbreak.
Montpelier: Public health officials said the state is considering becoming the second to mandate flu shots as a way to ease the burden of influenza amid the coronavirus pandemic. Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Friday that the rate of flu in the state needs to be as low as possible to avoid a situation he called a “twindemic.” He said last year less than 43% of children age 5 to 12 received the flu vaccine. “Our primary focus will be to increase the rate of vaccination, especially among children and teens,” Levine said. “We can and must do better.” Levine said a decision has not been reached about whether to require universal flu vaccines for all students. He said the decision about whether to require flu shots will be “driven, as always, by data and science.”
Charlottesville: The University of Virginia announced it is moving ahead with plans to offer in-person instruction for the fall semester. In a statement posted on the school’s website, UVA officials said they had initially delayed the start of in-person undergraduate classes by two weeks to allow for more assessment of the spread of COVID-19. They also said they delayed the decision in order to take a look at how other schools have fared since opening. UVA said it is now proceeding with plans to welcome students to residence halls starting Thursday and to begin in-person instruction for undergraduates Sept. 8. “We know some will be delighted to hear this news and others will be disappointed,” the statement said. Among other factors, including the value of in-person instruction, the school said a majority of UVA students will be in Charlottesville, living in private houses and apartments, regardless of how classes are conducted.
Pullman: The number of coronavirus cases in Whitman County has nearly tripled in the past week, one of the highest growth rates in the nation. The county is home to Washington State University, and students have been pouring into Pullman in the past week for the start of the school year. The Spokesman-Review reports the county’s COVID-19 case count rose to 422 on Saturday. The county said in a press release that of 58 new positive cases reported in the county Saturday, 22 were in people 19 or younger, and 36 were in people ages 20 to 39. Pullman ranks fifth in the United States for metro areas where new cases are rising the fastest, on a population-adjusted basis, according to a New York Times case tracker. The Times reported Pullman had only 14 new confirmed cases of the virus the week before last and 222 last week. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins has said officers will issue tickets for violations of pandemic restrictions.
Lewisburg: The State Fair of West Virginia is off this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the tradition of a limited-edition basket continues, officials said. The baskets are made by Jamit Baskets of Sinks Grove. Orders are being accepted through the end of September. “Even though there is a lot about this year we’d rather forget, it is a part of our history,” CEO Kelly Collins said. “This also gives a chance to celebrate and promote one of our local artisans, which is an important part of what we do.” This year’s basket is available in four different colors and may only be purchased ahead by special order. More information is available through the State Fair Office. The 96th State Fair is scheduled for Aug. 12-21, 2021.
Madison: A crucial Phase 3 clinical trial of a vaccine against COVID-19 begins this week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and its teaching hospital, UW Health. On Tuesday afternoon, the first of an expected 2,000 participants in the trial will be injected in the shoulder, either with the vaccine developed by the English drug company AstraZeneca or with a placebo. The trial of the vaccine, known as AZD1222, is taking place at scores of sites around the world. “It’s kind of a pivotal moment in attacking COVID-19,” said William Hartman, an assistant professor of anesthesiology who will lead the UW portion of the trial. “It’s an honor for UW now to be able to contribute to the effort to find a vaccine, to do our part in helping bring the world back to normal.” The vaccine being tested uses a manipulated version of a weakened virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees.
Laramie: Donations to the University of Wyoming were up last year compared to the year before but down compared to the five-year average. The $43.6 million raised over the fiscal year that ended June 30 was slightly more than $42.3 million in recently announced cuts to address declining state revenue due to downturns in the coal, oil and natural gas industries. The university foundation raised $41.6 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The five-year annual fundraising average is above $50 million, the Laramie Boomerang reports. “Even during these historic times of hardship and uncertainty, our alumni and friends, along with our corporate and foundation partners, continue to prioritize support for Wyoming’s university,” university foundation President and CEO Ben Blalock said in a statement.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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