Montgomery: The state’s death toll from the coronavirus neared 500 on Saturday. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported there have been more than 11,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and at least 485 deaths. That’s 12 more deaths than were reported Friday. Three counties – Mobile, Jefferson and Montgomery – accounted for 41% of all case growth in the last day. Meanwhile, the annual Memorial Day celebration at Veterans Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa has been canceled. PARA and the Veterans Memorial Park Association said there are plans to hold a joint Memorial Day/Veteran’s Day celebration in November. And in Auburn, city officials are working on a phased plan to reopen all city facilities by June 1. The move comes a few days after Opelika city officials announced they will open all city buildings Monday, under new guidelines to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
Juneau: A state lawmaker on Friday defended asking whether stickers that individuals may be asked to wear as part of a Capitol coronavirus screening process will be “available as a yellow Star of David.” Republican Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski said he was serious in making the comment in an email chain with other legislators. He was responding to proposed protocols aimed at guarding Auto Accident Attorney in West Palm Beach against the virus as lawmakers prepared to reconvene Monday. The protocols suggest stickers be worn to confirm someone at the Capitol had been screened. “The point is, tying it to the Star of David shows, who amongst the human population has lost their liberties more than the Jewish people?” he said in an interview. “And if there were more people standing up for the loss of liberties prior to World War II, maybe we wouldn’t have had the Holocaust.” Rep. Grier Hopkins, a Fairbanks Democrat, responded by calling the remark “disgusting. Keep your Holocaust jokes to yourself.”
Grand Canyon National Park: Tourists appeared ready to roam Grand Canyon National Park again after it partially reopened Friday, despite objections from Navajo officials and others that it could hurt efforts to control the coronavirus. By 7:30 a.m., more than two dozen people were enjoying viewpoints along the South Rim. Among them were friends Jack Covington from Texas and Judy Smith from Tucson. They had planned their trip to the Grand Canyon a year ago since Covington had never seen it. They changed their plans and were visiting other places in northern Arizona when they found out the park would be open. “We figured we’d go for an adventure, and we got lucky,” Smith said. The Grand Canyon had been closed since April 1, one of the last big national parks to shut down completely to visitors. At the time, health officials in Coconino County said keeping the park open put employees, residents and tourists at risk.
Little Rock: A state program that was created to process unemployment applications for self-employed individuals or gig economy workers appears to have been illegally accessed and has been shut down, officials announced Saturday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he learned Friday evening that an applicant for the program is believed to have somehow accessed the system, prompting an investigation of a possible data breach. The probe will determine if any personal data from applicants was obtained. If any individuals had their data compromised, they will be notified, and steps will be taken to address the situation, including possible credit monitoring, Hutchinson said. An outside IT expert was brought in to review the system. “We want to make sure that the system is in good shape before it goes back online,” the governor said.
Los Angeles: With ample coronavirus tests and not enough sick people seeking them, the mayor recently did something on a scale no other major U.S. city had done: allow anyone with or without symptoms to be tested as often as they want. A website to book a test was quickly swamped by residents in the nation’s second-largest city and the surrounding county who couldn’t get tested under more stringent guidelines and were concerned they were infected or could be asymptomatic carriers unwittingly exposing others. But despite overbooking to compensate for a third of the people who didn’t show up, the city still has thousands of tests that aren’t being used each week, according to figures provided to the Associated Press by the mayor’s office. “Wasted tests at a time when we still have insufficient testing is really unfortunate,” said Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, a San Diego-based medical research partnership. “I applaud what they’re doing. The more people tested the better.”
Denver: Gov. Jared Polis says he expects to see many K-12 public schools open this fall in his state and elsewhere despite the coronavirus threat, though “it’s not going to look like any other school year.” Polis told “Fox News Sunday” that Colorado schools will likely run in a “hybrid” fashion that limits social interactions in hallways and during lunchtime and has up to 20% of kids continue with online classes at home if that’s their parents’ preference. The Democratic governor said schools also may close periodically when “there’s an inevitable outbreak.” President Donald Trump has urged K-12 schools to reopen, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told Congress last week that it may be reckless to rush kids back before doctors have a better sense of the dangers.
Hartford: A federal judge is set to hear arguments this week in a lawsuit that attempts to force the state to take new measures to protect prison inmates from the coronavirus. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton will hold the hearing by video conference next Friday. The ACLU of Connecticut is asking the court to order emergency actions that could include releasing more inmates to protect them from the pandemic. Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director, said the organization is upset that many inmates, including some who are most at-risk for catching the virus, are still being housed in dormitories where social distancing is impossible. On Friday the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, which houses inmates in both dormitories and cells, was locked down after 105 asymptomatic inmates tested positive for the coronavirus.
Dover: A man is suing Democratic Gov. John Carney in federal court over restrictions he has imposed on access to the state’s beaches and his ban on short-term rentals. Patrick J. Murray argues in a complaint filed Friday that the restrictions imposed by Carney because of the coronavirus deprive him of his liberty and his property in violation of the Constitution. Murray is seeking restraining orders prohibiting Carney from restricting access to beaches in any way other than requiring face coverings and from continuing a blanket ban on short-term rentals and commercial lodging. Murray is being represented in the case by his wife, Georgetown attorney Julianne Murray. He swore in an affidavit that he will suffer irreparable injury if he is unable to rent the couple’s Dewey Beach condominium starting Memorial Day weekend because the rental income from the summer pays the mortgage for the year.
District of Columbia
Washington: Metro and Metrobus riders will soon be required to wear masks or other face coverings in an effort to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Washington Post reports the requirement begins Monday. Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said that bus and train operators had asked for the requirement. Customer surveys found that riders supported the idea as well. Wiedefeld said the mask policy will not be enforced with any criminal sanctions. But he said the agency is trying to determine if it has enough masks to provide to passengers if there are disputes over the policy. He said he hopes riders take responsibility and consider the health of others. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents most of Metro’s workers, tweeted: “This is necessary to keep transit workers and riders safe!”
St. Petersburg: Guests flocked to a theme park shopping district, a casino fired up its slot machines, and businesses prepared for serving customers Sunday. In Orlando, it was the first weekend since Universal CityWalk reopened Thursday. The Orlando Sentinel reports visitors entered wearing obligatory face masks, having their temperatures taken by workers as stickers marked the 6-foot space required between guests. The spinning Universal Studios globe at the far end of CityWalk was a typical selfie spot as guests flocked to take photos, many removing their masks to flash their smiles. On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a “full Phase 1” reopening of the economy, which include gyms, starting Monday. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure remain closed along with other central Florida theme parks as state officials and business leaders continue to evaluate before deciding when to reopen.
Atlanta: Officials reported Friday that the state has surpassed 300,000 coronavirus tests, though that still represents a small fraction of Georgia’s overall population. The state health department had received just under 301,900 test results as of Friday afternoon. Of those, roughly 36,700 were positive for the virus. The state’s death toll from the virus was just over 1,550. Gov. Brian Kemp said the state was “moving the needle on testing” everyday. Georgia went from 200,000 reported tests to 300,000 in a matter of ten days, according to Kemp. But the latest testing figure still represents less than 3% of the state’s population. And an Associated Press analysis found Georgia was among 41 states that are falling short of the COVID-19 testing levels that public health experts say are necessary to safely ease lockdowns and avoid another deadly wave of outbreaks.
Honolulu: Lawmakers plan to set aside more than half of the money the state received in federal coronavirus relief money to bolster the state’s unemployment insurance fund. The House Finance Committee on Friday approved legislation sending $635 million, out of $1.25 billion allocated by the U.S. Congress to Hawaii, to the state’s rainy day fund for this purpose. The bill next goes to the House floor for a vote. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sylvia Luke said this money is needed because the surge in joblessness during the coronavirus pandemic has severely depleted the unemployment insurance fund. It held $550 million before the pandemic hit, but the state has already distributed $200 million of that as claims have jumped, she said. At the current rate, the money will be depleted by the end of next month.
Boise: The state is holding an entirely mail-in primary for the first time as it works to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Ballots must be requested by Tuesday and returned by 8 p.m. June 2 to local county elections offices, with results announced that evening. The Idaho secretary of state’s office said 320,000 ballots have been requested and mailed out, with about 100,000 returned in what could be a record turnout. “It’s looking like equal or better than the presidential primary” in March, said Secretary of State Chief Deputy Chad Houck. Democratic voters will see one high-profile name on their ballot: Former 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan of Plummer is running against former congressional candidate Jim Vandermaas, a retired law enforcement worker from Eagle, for a chance to challenge GOP Sen. Jim Risch in November.
Chicago: State officials announced Friday that people working essential jobs can get tested for the coronavirus regardless of whether they show symptoms of COVID-19. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state has been able to conduct at least 11,000 tests daily since April 24. He said that total has nearly doubled in recent days, allowing tests for anyone with symptoms or working an essential job under the statewide stay-at-home order, including first responders and those working in nursing homes, grocery stores, restaurants, correctional facilities and child care centers. Anyone exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient also can get tested, state officials said. “Testing, testing, testing,” Pritzker said. “That’s what every epidemiologist, every immunologist, every responsible business owner and everyone who cares about safely opening up our economy says we must do to successfully maintain a high standard of protection.”
Indianapolis: Forty-six more residents have died from coronavirus illnesses, putting the state’s pandemic death toll from confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 above 1,700, health officials said Saturday. Meanwhile, there was a line of vehicles as long as 3 miles as people drove up to get boxes of meat, fruit and vegetables at the state fairgrounds. “It was worth the wait, honestly. It’s been very helpful for my family,” said Lyneca Sims, 37, who was put out of work when many retailers were required to shut down. “It’s really nice that they’re offering the fresh fruits instead of the canned.” Officials say people with symptoms of COVID-19 or who need a test to return to work after being exposed to the virus can be tested at state-run sites. The state also is encouraging those without symptoms but considered high-risk because of their age or health conditions to get tested.
Iowa City: University of Iowa researchers warned that the coronavirus would continue spreading through the state even before Gov. Kim Reynolds reopened restaurants and churches, a move they said would exacerbate the problem, documents released Friday show. The researchers, including some of the state’s top epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, also warned that hundreds more residents would likely die through the end of May even if widespread business closures remained in effect. Reynolds has downplayed the importance of such models and continued her push to reopen the economy, despite surging numbers of deaths last week. Restaurants, gyms, barbershops and salons reopened Friday in 22 counties, including the state’s largest metropolitan areas, where they had been closed for two months. Reynolds also warned that not reopening the state would have a “social cost,” including high unemployment, rising domestic abuse and food insecurity.
Mission: Data on COVID-19 infections that had been trending downward, leading Kansas to begin reopening its economy, is beginning to fluctuate and flatten, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday. “It demonstrates that the disease is still spreading in our communities,” Kelly said one day after slowing the reopening of the state’s economy by ordering bars and bowling alleys to remain closed at least through the end of the month. She said she hoped to stick with the state’s reopening plan as much as possible. “But,” she added, “I have always said that until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, manufactured and widely distributed, our future remains subject to the whims of this virus.” Some of the state’s biggest problems have been in meatpacking facilities, with 1,791 cases and four deaths, and in prisons, with 917 cases and five deaths, said Dr. Lee Norman, the top administrator at the state health department.
Frankfort: State parks will start reopening soon as Kentucky continues to ease restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday. The parks will reopen June 1 in an effort to revive tourism revenue, Beshear said at his daily briefing. People can make park reservations starting Tuesday, he said. Visitors will be expected to follow social distancing and health guidelines, he said. Reopening to the public will be state resort parks, recreational parks, lodges and cabins beginning June 1, he said. State resort parks designated to house some coronavirus patients won’t reopen to the public June 1, Beshear said. Those are Lake Cumberland, Lake Barkley, Blue Licks Battlefield and Buckhorn Lake.
New Orleans: After weeks of shuttered businesses and houses of worship, the city took its first steps Saturday to loosen restrictions in place for two months to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The rest of the state took that step Friday with many businesses and houses of worship allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. New Orleans is slightly more restrictive. Restaurants and certain other businesses such as nail salons are also required to take reservations. The city has also imposed caps designed to keep houses of worship and movie theaters at fewer than 100 people. Casinos, video poker, live entertainment and bars are still closed. Kirk Estopinal, one of the owners of Cane & Table in the French Quarter, opened Saturday afternoon after the two-month forced hiatus. To reduce contact as much as possible, guests can order their food when they make a reservation online, they’re asked to wear masks when they come, and the staff will do the same.
Augusta: The state Department of Education secured internet access and devices for all of the more than 20,000 students who needed them to continue their learning from home, Gov. Janet Mills and Education Commissioner Pender Makin announced Friday. The effort was launched to help students who didn’t have the tools to participate in online learning after the suspension of classroom-based instruction because of the pandemic. “It is our responsibility to ensure that Maine’s teachers, and all students, have the tools they need to stay connected during these unprecedented times,” Mills said in a statement. It was a combined effort of the Department of Education, Department of Administrative and Financial Services, ConnectME, and business and philanthropic entities. Makin said the pandemic drew attention to “extreme inequities” during the educational disruption. “The emergency provision of connectivity to all students allows for educational continuity,” she said.
Baltimore: State residents wanting to get married may now apply for marriage licenses by email, regular mail or at a drop-off as courthouses remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The one-page applications, which require couples to provide personal information such as Social Security numbers and any past marriages, are mandatory for couples to have their marriages recognized by the state, The Baltimore Sun reports. That information must be sworn under oath either before the clerk, by video conferencing or by an affidavit included with the application. Applications submitted by email should not include Social Security numbers. Applicants will later have to provide Social Security numbers by phone or video conference. Before the pandemic, couples were required to fill out applications in person.
Boston: Gov. Charlie Baker is urging companies to let as many employees as possible work from home to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, even after the state begins to restart the economy. About half of executive branch state employees who work under the governor’s office have been working remotely, Baker said Friday during a press conference. He said he’s extending that for the foreseeable future. Companies that call workers back into the office will have to demonstrate they can maintain social distancing in the workplace. “You need to respect the virus,” Baker said. Several large companies including Raytheon, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Takeda and Wayfair have successfully allowed many of their employees to work from home, the Republican governor said. He is set to unveil a plan Monday to reopen some businesses in the state.
Lansing: Nasal swabs, not wheel alignments, will be performed at a former Sears auto repair shop in the city. Sparrow Health System is opening a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in the vehicle bays. Sears closed earlier this year at Frandor Mall. “This is just a godsend,” Sparrow chief executive James Dover said. Starting Monday, people can drive up and be tested for the coronavirus or tested to see if they were already infected and have antibodies. No one needs to leave a vehicle, and health staff are protected from the weather. Sparrow can also take other routine blood samples. A doctor’s order isn’t necessary but would make the process faster, Dover said. People can provide insurance information or pay immediately. Antibody testing is $50, and the nasal swab is $70. Sparrow’s lab can run between 1,200 and 1,600 tests a day, said lab director Jon Baker.
Minneapolis: The state took further steps Friday to turn the dial on easing its restrictions meant to slow the coronavirus pandemic and to honor the victims of COVID-19. The state’s infectious disease director, Kris Ehresmann, told reporters in the department’s daily briefing that it’s important with the state’s stay-at-home order expiring Monday and some businesses reopening to continue to follow social distancing guidelines. “We want you to enjoy the weather, we want you to look forward to Monday, but we want you to stay 6 feet apart, wear a cloth mask when you’re outside of your home, and don’t gather in groups any larger than 10,” she said. Gov. Tim Walz ordered that flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Tuesday and on the 19th of every month through 2020 “to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.” He encouraged individuals, businesses and other organizations to join in.
Ocean Springs: Federal agents seized more than 280,000 masks from a pharmaceutical company last month under a law prohibiting the hoarding of in-demand equipment needed by health workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recently unsealed search warrant. FBI agents raided Gulf Coast Pharmaceuticals Plus LLC in Ocean Springs on April 17 and confiscated the supply of more than 6,500 N95 respirator masks, as well as thousands of lab coats, face shields, gloves and more, The Sun Herald reports, citing the warrant unsealed in U.S. District Court. The company is owned by developer Kenneth Ritchey. His attorney, Erich Nichols, said that they are working with the government in the investigation and that Ritchey has donated “hundreds, if not thousands, of PPE” to two local health systems.
St. Louis: City officials are handing out at least 75,000 masks as the region prepares to relax stay-at-home orders. Over two days, city officials say they handed out 42,000 masks to more than 30 senior living facilities, including nursing homes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Each employee and resident of the senior centers will receive five masks, Mayor Lyda Krewson said during a briefing Friday. The city also has distributed 15,000 masks to the city Housing Authority for its residents and 18,000 to the city’s Human Services Department, which is giving them to the people it serves. That includes recipients of its home-delivered meal program for the elderly.
Great Falls: U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., voted against the $3 trillion COVID-19 package passed Friday by the House, saying it was “careless” and a liberal wish-list. The bill, which would cost more than the four previous COVID-19 bills combined, has little chance of becoming law as written but will likely spark difficult negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans. Any product would probably be the last major COVID-19 response bill before November’s presidential and congressional elections. The proposal would bring almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals, and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling Postal Service, the Associated Press reported. “Montana businesses, desperate to reopen, shouldn’t have to compete with expansive unemployment benefits that run through next spring,” Gianforte said.
Omaha: The state will require long-term care centers to develop formal plans outlining how they’ll keep the coronavirus from spreading among the vulnerable residents who live in those facilities, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Friday. Facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers will have to submit plans to state regulators explaining how they intend to identify ill people and deal with visitors for the rest of the year. They’ll also have to discuss their disinfection protocols. The announcement comes as state officials scramble to keep the virus from spreading among long-term care facilities, whose residents are generally older and have underlying health problems. Long-term care residents are among the hardest-hit population groups in Nebraska, accounting for at least 75 of the state’s 113 coronavirus deaths. At least 82 long-term care facilities have reported coronavirus cases in Nebraska, including 35 with cases among residents.
Las Vegas: The city has announced that downtown restaurants and businesses operating under the first two phases of state reopening orders are allowed to extend operations to the sidewalk during regular business hours. Outdoor dining and sidewalk sales are now permitted. But each business must continue implementing social distancing measures by keeping tables, chairs and other furniture 6 feet from pedestrian paths, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Nonessential businesses stopped operations in March after Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak implemented a stay-at-home order and required essential businesses to follow additional guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The city added its own restrictions, including limits on the size of the public sidewalk frontage, maintaining access to fire hydrants, building entrances and exits, and sanitation.
Concord: Lawmakers say they’re returning for legislative sessions in June but meeting outside their respective chambers at the Statehouse – the first time since the Civil War. Instead of meeting at Representatives Hall, the 400-member House will meet at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on June 11. The arena is home to the UNH Wildcats Hockey and is used for other large events. “We need a place that is large enough to allow us to socially distance while not being so large as to create its own logistical problems,” Speaker of the House Stephen Shurtleff said in an announcement Friday. He said each member will have a temperature check prior to entering the arena. Also, per UNH guidelines, each member will be given an N95 respirator mask. Members will have to wear them inside, Shurtleff said. The 24-member Senate will meet in Representatives Hall. Lawmakers are working on a date.
Trenton: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is citing a 2005 emergency powers law enacted after Hurricane Katrina to block some information about the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Under New Jersey’s open records law, the Associated Press sought reports that Murphy required under a March executive order calling for hospitals and nursing homes to disclose their capacity and supplies during the outbreak. The AP also sought records on any commandeered medical supplies authorized under another order. Both requests were denied citing the 2005 Emergency Health Powers Act, which says reports and other records made during an emergency are not considered public. Other news organizations have been denied on the same grounds, including the USA TODAY Network. The state denied the network records showing how the state worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as on how it managed protective gear.
Santa Fe: The loosening of some restrictions imposed on nonessential businesses by the governor two months ago to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak took effect Saturday, along with a new edict that people wear masks in public under most circumstances. The loosening of restrictions applied to most of the state but not in the northwest region, where McKinley and San Juan counties are located along with Cibola County. Under the new guidelines, retailers and many services along with houses of worship could reopen at limited capacity. Also, in a new move to combat the spread, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered that face masks be worn in public, but with exceptions that included eating, drinking and exercising. Wearing masks is needed to help produce “a safe environment,” but police will not ticket people not wearing some sort of face covering, she said Friday.
New York: People who flouted coronavirus restrictions for a weekend night on the town got the mayor’s wrath Sunday. Mayor Bill de Blasio admonished people seen crowding outside bars, many with drinks in hand but no masks on their faces, for putting lives in danger. Officials may go so far as to shut down establishments that are violating social distancing rules, de Blasio said, asking residents to call 311, the city’s non-emergency hotline, if they see this type of crowding. Bars and restaurants in the city have been restricted to takeout and delivery service since mid-March, when coronavirus cases started to soar, but some in Manhattan were allowing people to dine and drink inside Saturday. Meanwhile, after a rash of violent social distancing arrests involving people of color, the city eased up on social distancing enforcement this week by no longer having police officers break up small groups of people or confront citizens about failing to wear a mask.
Greenville: A federal judge on Saturday sided with conservative Christian leaders and blocked the enforcement of restrictions that Gov. Roy Cooper ordered affecting indoor religious services during the coronavirus pandemic. The order from Judge James C. Dever III came days after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filed a federal lawsuit seeking to immediately block enforcement of rules covering religious services within the Democratic governor’s executive orders. Dever agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued that the limits violate their rights to worship freely and treat churches differently from retailers and other secular activities. Dever said he does not doubt that Cooper “is acting in good faith” to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but the restrictions applied to one group and not another do little to help the goal and burden religious freedom.
Fargo: While a task force of state and local officials wrestles with high COVID-19 numbers in the Fargo area, one shuttered business in the city is set to reopen Monday: a medical marijuana dispensary. The facility in North Dakota’s largest city closed down in early April when its operators cited slow sales and regulatory delays due to the coronavirus. It was the first of eight dispensaries in the state to open after voters approved medical marijuana in November 2016. The dispensary formerly known as The Botanist has new owners and a new name, Pure Dakota Health. Meanwhile, the effort to test targeted areas in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, metropolitan area bumped the coronavirus numbers to new daily highs in Saturday’s report, North Dakota health officials said.
Columbus: Recent law school graduates will have the ability to temporarily practice law in the state under the supervision of an experienced attorney while they wait to take the bar exam, the state’s highest court has decided. The Ohio Supreme Court’s announcement Thursday came on the heels of its decision to postpone the bar exam originally scheduled for July until Sept. 9-10, due to risks surrounding the new coronavirus. Recent law graduates can apply to use the supervised practice option beginning June 15. The attorney or attorneys who supervise them must be in good standing and have practiced for at least three years. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said in a statement that delaying graduates’ ability to practice law would create significant financial hardship for many. She said providing flexibility also acknowledges the need for lawyers in certain critical areas during the pandemic.
Oklahoma City: The state reopened bars Friday and allowed weddings, funerals and organized sports to resume under the next phase of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s statewide reopening plan. Stitt said last week that data supports moving forward, including a continuing decline in hospitalizations for COVID-19 and a steady decline in the percentage of positive tests since the state started to reopen April 24. “I want Oklahoma to be the first state in the nation to get its wings back and serve as an example,” Stitt said. Phase two of the governor’s reopening plan still calls for employers to close common areas, enforce social distancing, and wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves when interacting with the public. Not all employers were following the state guidelines. At the Capitol on Friday, members of the House and Senate met in large groups, frequently shook hands and violated social distancing guidelines. Most did not wear masks.
Pacific City: Two motel owners in the city are suing Tillamook County, saying coronavirus restrictions that stopped their businesses from fully operating in the past two months violate their constitutional rights. The motels contend the county’s March 22 resolution halting most overnight lodging violates Fifth Amendment protections against the “taking of property without just compensation,” as well as their due process rights, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports. The county lacked authority to issue the restrictions and adopted them in an “illogical and irrational” manner, the lawsuit says. The resolution called for closing all transient lodging – hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and short-term rentals including condos – “to all visitors who are not providing essential services or are here for commercial reasons such as construction, trucking, etc.”
Harrisburg: State health officials are being “misinformed” about the availability of personal protective equipment inside hospitals, one of the state’s largest nurses’ unions alleges in a letter that says hospitals have “resorted to severe rationing” even as they resume elective surgeries. The 8,500-member Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals said in a letter to the state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, that working conditions inside hospitals remain unsafe because of lax COVID-19 guidance issued by the Health Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pennsylvania health care professionals are scared, exhausted, starting to get sick, and some are dying,” wrote Mark Warshaw, the union’s co-executive director. “The CDC and DOH guidance have given hospitals an excuse and enabled them to ignore basic protections and safety standards for health care workers, and we are the ones suffering.”
Central Falls: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit Friday seeking the release of dozens of detainees at a federal lockup where it says the virus is spreading “uncontrollably.” The number of detainees who have tested positive for the virus has more than doubled in recent days at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls from 15 to 38, the civil rights group’s Rhode Island chapter said. Ten staff members have also tested positive. The lockup can hold as many as 770 inmates, but it’s not clear how many are currently held there. Detainees include those in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The ACLU argues in its suit filed in federal court in Providence that it’s not possible for detainees to follow social distancing guidelines because they’re in cells that measure 5 feet by 9 feet.
Columbia: With the reopening of close-contact businesses imminent, the governor urged the state’s residents to patronize local businesses shuttered for weeks during the coronavirus outbreak, albeit with appropriate safety precautions. “Be safe, but go,” Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday. “Our economy is not made to be shut down.” But the governor went on to note, “This virus is still here. It is still highly contagious.” McMaster spoke with reporters during a break in Friday’s meeting of a component of his committee tasked with making recommendations for reopening the state following shutdowns during the outbreak. Monday marks the date on which businesses like hair salons and fitness centers can reopen across South Carolina, where more than 486,000 unemployment claims have been filed in the past two months.
Sioux Falls: State health officials reported 28 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday but no new deaths tied to the coronavirus. Health officials said 3,135 of the state’s 3,987 coronavirus cases have been reported in Minnehaha County, which is South Dakota’s most populous county and the location of a large outbreak at a pork processing plant. Health officials said the number of deaths tied to the coronavirus remained at 44 on Sunday. The number of hospitalized patients was 77 on Sunday, up two from the previous day. A total of 312 cases have required hospitalization. Health officials have warned the the actual number of infections is higher because many people may not display symptoms or have not sought testing for mild symptoms.
Nashville: Restaurants and retail stores throughout the majority of the state will no longer need to limit capacity starting late this week. In addition, large attractions, including racetracks, amusement parks, waterparks, theaters, museums and auditoriums, will be allowed to reopen starting Friday, provided they practice appropriate social distancing to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Such changes will be allowed in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, with the remainder – Davidson, Shelby, Knox, Hamilton, Madison and Sullivan – following their own reopening plans. Gov. Bill Lee, along with the state’s Economic Recovery Group, made the announcement Friday, saying that “Tennesseans have worked incredibly hard to do their part and help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our state can begin to reopen.” Despite the new guidance for large attractions, Lee said restrictions on social gatherings of 10 or more people will remain in place.
Houston: More than 3,000 nursing home residents in Texas have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data released by the state Friday. The 3,000 positive tests represent about 4% of the estimated number of Texans living in nursing homes, the Houston Chronicle reports. By comparison, about 0.15% of Texas residents have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday ordered coronavirus testing for all Texas nursing home residents and staff after the White House urged governors to do so as deaths mount nationwide. While nursing home residents in Texas make up about 6% of the state’s positive cases, they account for about 38% of the state’s deaths related to COVID-19, the newspaper reports.
Kaysville: A Republican mayor will allow a country music concert protest event later this month, defying newly loosened health rules aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic. Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt acknowledged the May 30 event would violate current state directives but told the Salt Lake Tribune: “I believe I need to support people’s First Amendment rights.” She is also running for Congress, and her opponents questioned whether her approval of the show by well-known singer Nashville-based Collin Raye was politically motivated and could prove risky for public health. The event is sponsored by Utah Business Revival, which has also backed other protests calling on the state to lift restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert relaxed many of those restrictions and allowed businesses to reopen across much of the state Saturday outside of some hot spots.
Marshfield: Gov. Phil Scott relaxed his order for Vermonters to stay home and announced Friday that lodging and campgrounds may open May 22 if they abide by safety guidelines and cleaning requirements while also limiting the number of people allowed in. At the same time, the Republican governor extended a state of emergency until June 15 to continue to fight the spread – albeit at one of the slowest rates in the country – of the coronavirus pandemic in Vermont. “Because of the success we’ve had, we’re now asking Vermonters to be smart and stay safe,” he said at a news briefing, adding that “staying close to home and limiting the number of people you’re in contact with is still really important.” People over age 65 or with chronic conditions should still remain at home as much as possible, he said. The order encourages face masks in public but doesn’t require them, Scott said. Municipalities may implement stricter requirements, he said. Vermont has the lowest average three-day growth rate of coronavirus cases in the country, officials said.
Virginia Beach: Warm weather drew crowds to the Virginia Beach oceanfront even though the beach is considered closed under the state’s stay-at-home directives. Families ordered snow cones, bought hermit crabs and cramped gift shops while bikers pedaled on the boardwalk Saturday, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Tents, umbrellas and beach blankets were set up near the water. Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s first phase of a gradual reopening plan, retail stores are reopening with limited capacity, but indoor gyms remain closed, beaches are still off-limits, and restaurants cannot provide indoor dine-in service. The newspaper reports the beach was not jammed, and groups maintained their distance. Many people on the boardwalk wore masks. Kayla Thomas, serving scones at an oceanfront concession stand, said the crowds looked like those she might see at the beginning of summer. “I’m just shocked by the amount of people,” Thomas said.
Seattle: Two people in the state who recall being sick in December have since had blood tests showing they developed antibodies for the coronavirus, but health officials aren’t counting them in their official case counts. The positive serology tests can’t determine whether the people had the coronavirus in December, weeks before the disease was officially detected in the United States. They may have been exposed after the first recorded case. One of the people had lunch with a hospital nurse in Kirkland, for example, site of a large outbreak in a nursing home. “They are being considered ‘probable,’ ” Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman, told The Seattle Times. If any Washington cases predated the first known case, there were probably very few that didn’t multiply, Dr. Jared Roach, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology, a Seattle-based biomedical research firm, told the newspaper.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice stressed Friday that medical experts are leading his plan to lift coronavirus restrictions, days after he widened his strategy at the request of business owners. The Republican governor has expanded the most aggressive stage of his reopening plan to allow the reopening of gyms and tanning salons next week after he said the businesses bombarded his office with calls. Still, he said it’s “way out in left field” to suggest he is making decisions based on political pressure. “That noise or that pressure is not going to influence a decision in any way, no possibility,” he said. The governor has timed several reopenings around Memorial Day weekend. Gyms can open Monday. On Thursday, tanning salons, restaurants at half-capacity, big box stores and all-terrain vehicle rental businesses can reopen. Campgrounds can open for in-state residents Thursday, as can the Hatfield-McCoy trails, whitewater rafting and zipline businesses. The Greenbrier, a private resort Justice owns, is also set to reopen Friday.
Madison: Local health officials across the state began rescinding their stay-at-home orders Friday after attorneys warned the mandates could be vulnerable to legal challenges after the state Supreme Court wiped out Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide order. The Wisconsin Counties Association posted a message on its website after the court ruled Wednesday saying it’s unclear whether local orders mimicking the statewide mandate would stand up in court. Health officials in Kenosha County withdrew their stay-at-home order Thursday night in light of the WCA warning. Brown and Manitowoc counties as well as the cities of Cudahy and Appleton dropped their orders Friday afternoon. The ruling led bars, restaurants, hair salons and other businesses to open immediately or begin making plans to reopen. Fearing infections might spike as people begin moving around again, about a dozen counties issued their own stay-at-home orders.
Jackson: A ski hill that shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic plans to reopen starting Memorial Day weekend. Snow King Mountain has developed an operations plan and will open for summer season as scheduled May 23, officials at the ski hill in Jackson announced Thursday. The announcement came as Wyoming prepared to ease up on public health measures. Starting Friday, people could gather in groups as large as 25, up from 10 previously, and dine in at restaurants where servers wear masks and keep tables widely separated. Summer offerings at Snow King will include a scenic lift, mini golf, ropes course and zip lines. The Kings Grill restaurant will open for prepackaged snacks and drinks. Bikes, stand-up paddle boards and kid kayaks will be available for rent, and guided hikes will be available for small groups. Employees in close contact with guests will wear masks and enforce social-distancing guidelines.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Unlimited free testing, Canyon roaming: News from around our 50 states