Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, speaks during a news conference in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo: Jake Crandall/Montgomery Advertiser)
Montgomery: With a possible vaccine for COVID-19 still more than two months away, state health officials said Thursday that they are already working to combat the reluctance among some to accept an immunization that’s become politically divisive. Small amounts of vaccines currently in trials could begin arriving by the end of the year, and a communications program to overcome hesitancy by some to receive the shot is a key part of the planning, Dr. Scott Harris said at a briefing on the program. Treatments for the new coronavirus have a “political dimension” that, when combined with long-standing resistance to vaccines and historical distrust of public health by groups including Black people, will present a challenge to getting as many people as possible to accept vaccination, he said. The Department of Public Health, which Harris heads, is in contact with medical practices and groups, faith leaders, local officials and legislators in hopes they can help pave the way for acceptance, he said.
Anchorage: The organization overseeing the state’s high school competitions has canceled state championship events for all fall activities because of concerns about increased coronavirus cases. The cancellations announced Tuesday by the Alaska School Activities Association affects football, swimming, volleyball, gymnastics, riflery, eSports, music and drama, debate and forensics, The Anchorage Daily News reports. The organization postponed the start of winter activities until its board can adopt a revised calendar. The association’s board of directors met with Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, Department of Education Commissioner Michael Johnson and Division of Public Health physician Liz Ohlsen on Tuesday concerning rising case counts and the growing need for contact tracing. Regional championships can be held before Nov. 22, the association ruled.
Phoenix: The average number of daily coronavirus cases in the state has risen over the past two weeks, prompting one public health expert to warn Wednesday that the situation was reminiscent of when cases started to increase exponentially during the summer. The state’s average number of cases increased from 476 per day on Sept. 29 to 685 on Oct. 13. Arizona averaged more than 4,000 additional cases per day when it was experiencing its most serious surge of the virus in late June and early July. In the recent spike, authorities reported 902 additional confirmed cases and five deaths as of Wednesday morning. Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, told reporters he is worried about the recent rise in cases. “I’m a little nervous about the state,” LaBaer said. “It looks a lot like it did at the beginning of June.”
Little Rock: A judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by some Republican legislators challenging a mask mandate and other restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson was within his authority under state law and legislative rules when his administration issued the restrictions. The lawsuit filed by 18 GOP lawmakers argued the restrictions required legislative approval. Arkansas was among a handful of states that didn’t issue a stay-at-home order in response to the pandemic, but the governor has mandated wearing a mask in public and other restrictions including capacity limits on bars and restaurants. Hutchinson said he was pleased with Griffen’s decision, which he said would reassure the public. Republican Rep. Dan Sullivan, who led the lawsuit effort, said the plaintiffs would appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Redding: Health officials in Shasta County, which has the highest rate of new coronavirus infections in the state, on Wednesday criticized an evangelical church leader who mocked face masks as “worthless” in a social media video, calling her comments infuriating misinformation that people should ignore. The criticism was directed at Beni Johnson, a high-ranking official at the Bethel Church in Redding, a city at the epicenter of a countywide spike in coronavirus cases. A college affiliated with the church has seen hundreds of cases that have helped drive a spike in the county. “There is only growing evidence around the benefits of face coverings and mask use to mitigate the spread of this virus,” county health officer Karen Ramstrom said during an online briefing Wednesday. Shasta County officials say 274 recent cases in the county were tied to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.
Boulder: Boulder County health officials have eased restrictions on gatherings of college-aged adults after coronavirus case numbers and positivity rates in the county declined. Previously, anyone from 18 to 22 years old was limited to gatherings of no more than two people after a coronavirus outbreak at the University of Colorado’s main campus surpassed 1,100 cases. County officials are now amending the order so young adults can gather in groups of up to six, Colorado Public Radio reports. The amended regulations went into effect Tuesday. The order does not affect people living in the same dorm room or household. “This is such good news. This means that our community is safer from the spread of this disease, and young adults can connect with a few more of their friends,” County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach said. The University of Colorado also announced a return to hybrid and in-person instruction.
Hartford: As of Wednesday, the state Department of Labor has received more than 1 million state, federal and extended unemployment benefit applications since March 13 totaling about $2.2 billion. Currently, there are about 232,000 weekly filers, and the amount of time to process an application is one to three days, down from a high of six weeks during the height of the pandemic. “We’ve reached a milestone no one wanted to get to,” Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said of the 1 million mark, adding that the agency has received more applications in the past seven months than it usually gets in eight years. To date, the state has borrowed $370 million from the federal government to cover insufficient reserves in Connecticut’s unemployment trust fund account, which is typically funded by unemployment taxes paid by employers.
Dover: The number of people who are hospitalized with the coronavirus in the state is rising. The Delaware State News reports the state has 116 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Wednesday. The Delaware Division of Public Health said that is the highest number since there were 117 hospitalized on June 5. DPH said 22 of those hospitalizations are considered critical. Hospitalizations rose by 11 over the previous two days and by 38 compared to the end of September. The DPH also announced one additional death. The state’s total is now 660. The death was of a 77-year-old New Castle County resident who was in a long-term care facility and had an underlying health condition. Statewide, the total number of virus cases is 22,465. The total number of recoveries is 11,665.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Women’s March will return to D.C. on Saturday with numerous safeguards meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19, WUSA-TV reports. The march plans to focus on supporting voting rights, with an emphasis on women. It will also protest President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court during an election year. “The whole point of the march, this year, is to really build and mobilize the political power of women,” Women’s March Executive Director Rachel O’Leary Carmona said. “And so we want women contacting women, and we want women voting. And we think that this election is going to be decided by women.” A permit, recently approved by the National Park Service, shows organizers expect 6,000 to 10,000 people to attend. They plan to set up LED screens along the march route to provide information about social distancing, mask usage and hand sanitizing.
Tallahassee: The state’s online bar examination, delayed several times to the consternation of hopeful attorneys around the state, went off largely hitch-free this week, the bar exam board said Thursday. Over Tuesday and Wednesday, 3,137 examinees took the test remotely due to gathering restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is expediting the grading of the exam, with results promised for Nov. 20 – cutting in half the normal wait time. Once character and fitness reviews are completed, successful test-takers will be admitted to practice. Michelle Gavagni, the board’s executive director, said there were few issues with the remote exam and likened it to the same problems that could arise during an in-person exam. “There were very few people who had actual technical problems,” she said in a phone interview.
Cartersville: The entire population of a jail is under quarantine due to COVID-19. Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap, in a post Wednesday on Facebook, said the county jail is being quarantined because of positive tests among some of the jail’s population. Most of those affected are asymptomatic, but “we think it is prudent to quarantine to prevent further spread,” he said. Millsap did not say how many inmates are housed at the jail or the number under quarantine. He also did not say how long the quarantine would last or provide details on how the quarantine process would work inside the jail. In his announcement, Millsap said people will still be able to do video visitation, make telephone calls and exchange emails with those currently in custody. He cautioned relatives not to contact the sheriff’s office to inquire about an inmate’s status, noting that due to federal health care regulations, the sheriff’s office is not permitted to release that information.
Honolulu: Prices have risen for most goods and services on Oahu since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a new federal report said. The latest inflation report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated consumer prices for Honolulu have risen more than the national average this year, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Honolulu’s consumer price index is up 1.9% over 12 months through September compared with 1.4% nationally, the bureau said in the report released Tuesday tracking 87 major metropolitan areas. The Oahu increase was driven largely by the cost of food and beverages, which was up 7.8%, the report said. Honolulu’s food cost increase included a 9.6% hike for food at home and 5.2% more for food away from home. Other increases included 1.9% for housing, 4.1% for education and communication and 4.9% for recreation.
Boise: A school district has banned from its property and other school-sponsored events a right-wing political activist recently arrested for leading anti-mask protests. Ammon Bundy was handed a no-trespassing order until the end of the 2020-21 school year after he went to a high school football game this month to watch his sons play and refused to wear a mask or leave the property despite being asked by school officials and law enforcement. The Caldwell School School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to ban Bundy. The vote also allows district officials to ban anyone else who violates health and safety protocols. In August, Idaho State Police gave Bundy a similar no-trespass order that banned him from the State Capitol. “They want to control people so bad they just can’t let it go!” Bundy wrote on his Facebook page about the school board’s decision. He also wrote that sports are the only reason his kids attend public school.
Springfield: The state’s public health director urged residents Wednesday to celebrate the holidays with limited activities and greater precautions because of the persistence of COVID-19. Dr. Ngoze Ezike said people who are sick should not attend celebrations at all. Her cautionary note came as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has risen all across the state, to 4.2%. Officials announced 2,862 new cases of the highly contagious illness Wednesday and 49 additional deaths. COVID-19 has now claimed 9,074 lives among 327,605 confirmed cases in Illinois. Ezike suggested that holiday celebrations be planned carefully, from modes of travel to dinner-table seating arrangements. She said air travel could mean sitting close to others in airports, while driving means stopping for gas and rest, so people should consider options carefully and wear masks.
Governor Eric Holcomb answers questions for the media after the MonoSol Lebanon Facility ribbon cutting, Thursday, July 16, 2020. (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)
Indianapolis: Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has tested negative for COVID-19, his office said Thursday, a day after the state health commissioner announced she was infected. Holcomb and some of his staff members underwent two types of coronavirus tests, and all came out negative, according to the governor’s office. Holcomb has advocated the use of masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus but has resisted calls to reimpose tougher business and crowd-size restrictions despite a recent sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections. Holcomb, 52, wore a mask during an online briefing with reporters from his Statehouse office for the first time Wednesday. He said he would be undergoing a coronavirus test later that day and planned to quarantine at the governor’s residence until he had the results.
Des Moines: More than 1,500 residents have died of the coronavirus, the state reported Thursday amid a continuing surge of virus cases. The Department of Public Health reported that in the prior 24 hours, there were 1,410 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths. The number of Iowans who have died of the virus climbed to 1,505. Hospitalizations also continued to increase as the state set a new high of 482. Virus outbreaks were reported in 61 long-term care facilities. Of Iowa’s 99 counties, only four had a positivity rate below 5%, a level at which many public health officials recommend mask-wearing, social distancing measures and limits on crowd sizes. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen in the past two weeks from 17.18% on Sept. 30 to 19.58% on Oct. 14, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa’s rate was sixth in the nation.
Topeka: The state on Wednesday reported its largest seven-day increases in both COVID-19-related deaths and new coronavirus cases. The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas had another 67 deaths since only Monday, an increase of 8.7%, to bring the total for the pandemic to 838. The state has reported 115 additional deaths over the past seven days, for an average of 16 a day. Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s top administrator, said 60 of the new deaths were reported as it reviewed death certificates from previous weeks and added ones it had previously missed to its count. Deaths as of Wednesday represented 1.2% of reported cases, slightly higher than during the previous month. The state also said it had 1,293 new confirmed or probable cases over two days, a 1.9% increase that brought the total for the pandemic to 69,155. “The numbers are getting worse,” Norman said during a Statehouse news conference.
Frankfort: The state’s surging coronavirus outbreak reached another high Wednesday with more than 1,300 new cases, the governor said, calling that a “shock to the system” and an incentive for stepped-up compliance with the health guidelines intended to bring the pandemic under control. It was the highest single-day virus caseload in Kentucky when excluding one day last week when the total included large numbers of backlogged cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said. The high number indicates some people have been “a little casual” in following health guidance, Beshear said. It’s a signal to “step it up” in adhering to those guidelines, he said. “Everybody ought to be concerned, and everybody ought to be doing the right thing,” Beshear said. “And those that are out there that try to confront you for wearing a mask or being a jerk, that’s all they are. And they’re putting your health at risk. So do the right thing. The vast majority of people are with you.”
Baton Rouge: Lawmakers edged closer Wednesday to inserting themselves into the decision-making of high school sports, a response to parents’ criticism about the state athletic association’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. State Sen. Stewart Cathey’s proposal would add two lawmakers to the governing board of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, a private institution that regulates two dozen sports such as volleyball, track, swimming, wrestling, golf, tennis and basketball. But the impetus for the bill was mainly high school football. Lawmakers say they were inundated with complaints from disgruntled parents about the athletic association’s delays in starting Louisiana’s football season because of the pandemic, while neighboring Southern states resumed practices and games. Amid the pressure, football season began earlier this month.
Portland: The state has awarded more than 2,300 economic recovery grants to small businesses and nonprofit groups in the state to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic. The grants totaled $105 million and were supported by federal coronavirus relief funds allocated by Congress, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday. More than 2,000 of the awards went to small businesses. “While these funds will not make them whole, they offer some lifeline to keep afloat those small businesses that are at the core of our economy,” Mills said. A little more than a third of the grants went to businesses that work in the hospitality sector, Mills said. A second round of recovery grants in forthcoming, she said.
Baltimore: Baltimore City Public Schools will begin welcoming back some students this fall, reopening 25 schools with a focus on a number of groups, among them those experiencing homelessness, officials said. The system will reopen 25 schools, adding to the 1,000 students who have returned to schools in centers that provide supervision and internet access for them to do their online classes, The Baltimore Sun reports. The plan will be implemented in the second quarter, which begins in November, and will start with those who are most at risk of falling behind academically. It includes students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, special education and those students who are showing up less than 20% of the time for online lessons. The Baltimore Teachers Union expressed anger with the plan, saying it’s unsafe to risk the health of staff and students while no COVID-19 vaccine exists. The union calls for no return to schools until at least January.
Boston: Housing activists marched to Gov. Charlie Baker’s home in Swampscott on Wednesday to call on him to support more robust protections against evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic. About 100 to 150 protesters said the Republican governor and Democratic leaders in the Legislature need to back a comprehensive eviction prevention measure intended to help stabilize renters, homeowners and small landlords for a year as Massachusetts weathers the ongoing crisis. The bill would ensure tenants cannot be evicted because of missed rent if the nonpayment was because of COVID-19, giving them time to get owed rental payments and other assistance in place. It would also prevent “no fault” evictions and rent increases for 12 months following the state of emergency, guard against foreclosure and strengthen forbearance protections.
Lansing: The state health department and Michigan State University on Thursday launched a voluntary smartphone app to notify people if they have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus, a step toward potentially taking the technology statewide. MI COVID Alert, which is available for download, is starting as pilot in the Lansing area. A person testing positive for the virus is given a PIN by contact tracers that allows them to share their result anonymously on the app, which uses cellphone location information and Bluetooth technology. Other app users who possibly were within 6 feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes are notified and urged to monitor for symptoms, be tested and self-isolate. They are not told who tested positive. Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the technology is an additional way to contain COVID-19 besides traditional tracing efforts, masking and social distancing.
Minneapolis: State health officials reported 29 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday – the state’s highest one-day death toll since early June – as the coronavirus spreads at high levels across the state. The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 1,254 new coronavirus cases, a number boosted by the department’s decision to start reporting probable cases, as determined by newer technology antigen tests, in addition to confirmed cases identified by the more common and more accurate PCR tests, also known as molecular tests. The grand case total reported Wednesday included 40 probable cases on top of 1,214 new confirmed cases, which raised Minnesota’s total case count since the pandemic began to 115,943, including 180 total probable cases to date. The state’s death toll rose to 2,180, including six deaths from probable cases.
Jackson: The state reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday for the first time since mid-August, after Gov. Tate Reeves instituted a statewide mask mandate. The day of high case numbers comes just two weeks after the Republican governor repealed that same mandate, citing declining numbers of virus cases. For most of the past two months, Mississippi has seen lower infection numbers, ranging from roughly 200 to 800 cases a day. In mid- to late July, the state was regularly reporting 1,000 to 1,500 cases a day on average. The count has slowly been rising again. The state health department reported more than 1,300 new cases Thursday. Mississippi has reported a total of more than 108,000 virus cases and at least 3,152 virus-related deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations were also rising slightly, with 500 people reported to be hospitalized in the state Tuesday, compared to 393 on Oct. 3.
Jefferson City: New numbers posted on the state’s coronavirus dashboard Wednesday after a four-day shutdown show Missouri has averaged 1,861 cases a day over the past week. The total number of cases statewide jumped Wednesday to 148,679, up from 135,651 on Oct. 7. The number of deaths jumped over that span by 184 to 2,420, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The dashboard has been shut down since showing a massive spike in cases Saturday that officials blamed on a “database extract error.” Meanwhile, 56 residents of Missouri veterans homes have died of COVID-19 since Sept. 1, including 25 at one facility in southeast Missouri. A spokesman for the Missouri Veterans Commission told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday that the deadliest outbreak was in Cape Girardeau, where 20 residents died in September, and five more have died in October, through Monday.
Great Falls: The state posted 735 new cases of COVID-19 early Thursday, with large gains seen in Cascade and Glacier counties. Montana has now had 20,933 confirmed reports of the coronavirus. Of those, 12,854 people have recovered, and 7,849 remain active, according to the state website covid19.mt.gov. There are now 230 deaths, five more than what was reported Wednesday. There are 301 people hospitalized out of 959 total hospitalizations. Cascade County reported 83 new cases of the respiratory illness. It now has 736 active cases, 436 recoveries and 14 deaths. Cascade City-County Health Department officials have called a news conference for Friday. Glacier County had 85 new cases. There were 299 active COVID-19 cases on the Blackfeet Reservation as of Wednesday.
Omaha: The state reported nearly 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, and doctors in rural areas expressed concern about the high rate of infections across the state. Nebraska’s positivity rate ranked sixth-highest across the nation. The state’s rate of new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks registered at 461.47 on Wednesday, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Rebecca Steinke, medical director of the Central District Health Department in Grand Island, said virus cases in that area have been rising in the past few days, so it’s important that people take precautions. “I know people are tired of being told to wear a mask, and they don’t want a (mask) mandate,” she told the Omaha World-Herald. “But they also want their kids in school and their businesses open.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks wearing a face mask themed after the Vegas Golden Knights’ mascot Chance the Golden Gila Monster during a news conference in Las Vegas. (Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Carson City: Trick-or-treating at the governor’s mansion has been canceled this year due to the pandemic, and state health officials are advising people marking Halloween and El Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings. Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Wednesday that his official residence in Carson City will be decorated, but the annual festivities will not take place to help keep staff and visitors safe. Nevada’s COVID-19 response office issued guidelines in English and Spanish saying costume masks do not count as the type of face coverings that must be worn in public. “Participating in virtual activities is the safest option,” the recommendations said. “The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services encourages alternatives to traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating this year to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.”
Derry: Pinkerton Academy has ended its fall sports season and is moving to remote learning through the rest of October because of “significant community exposure” to people with COVID-19, the headmaster said in a letter to the school community. Headmaster Timothy Powers said a person who was last on campus Oct. 8 tested positive for COVID-19. He said another person who had been exposed to that person went to the campus Wednesday, despite being told to quarantine. Powers said the school was aware of significant community exposure to the cases linked to activity outside of the school’s daily operations. He said the cases all stem from people not following quarantine guidelines. He said so many staff members and students might have been exposed that the school could not remain in its hybrid model with so many people possibly needing to quarantine.
Trenton: The state’s unemployment rate, driven up by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, fell by more than 4 percentage points to 6.7% in September, state officials said Thursday. The Labor Department attributed the decline to workers leaving the job market and not to job gains. New Jersey has regained about 467,000 jobs that were lost because of the outbreak, or about 56%. About 60,000 jobs were added in September, according to the department, mostly in the private sector. The leisure and hospitality industries had the biggest growth, followed by the trades, transportation and utilities. The information sector in New Jersey saw a decline of 100 jobs for the month. The coronavirus has resulted in more than 216,000 positive cases and 14,402 deaths in New Jersey, according to state health officials.
Santa Fe: Health and school officials can continue to restrict in-person learning for the vast majority of young children based on countywide coronavirus outbreaks after a federal judge denied a sweeping request for an injunction on behalf of school leaders and children from 10 New Mexico counties, mostly Republican strongholds. In a 167-page decision, U.S. District Judge James Browning wrote that plaintiffs likely can’t sue the governor and that the regulations ordered by the state are likely to be upheld. On Sept. 8, the state gave most school districts the option to reopen, as long as they were located in counties with low rates of COVID-19 infections. Parents in counties forced to remain closed were livid. Meanwhile, New Mexico has shattered its previous record for new single-day confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 577, amid fears the state is experiencing a second wave of the deadly virus, health officials said Wednesday.
Albany: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that the state would seek $20,000 in fines against the promoters who organized a July concert by The Chainsmokers that saw widespread violations of social distancing rules. The Democrat also threatened to take away state funding from schools in coronavirus hot spots that are ignoring orders to shut their doors, saying their defiance was endangering public health. “This is a last and final warning,” Cuomo said. The governor’s office said the promoter of The Chainsmokers concert, In the Know Experiences, violated public health law at the Southampton event by holding a nonessential gathering and failing to enforce rules requiring people to wear masks if they couldn’t stay 6 feet apart. Crowds gathered near the end of the concert despite the presence of private security and town police officers. Cuomo called the concert, attended by more than 2,150 people, “an egregious violation” of the rules.
Raleigh: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest traded jabs over reopening the economy and dealing with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic during the state’s lone gubernatorial debate Wednesday night. As Forest highlighted his ambitions to more aggressively get kids in physical classrooms and adults back to work, Cooper noted Forest’s skepticism of masks and holding of large, in-person campaign events with little to no mask-wearing or physical distancing – moves Cooper said contributed to a debate that looked unusual to viewers. “Tonight’s different because of the plexiglass separating Dan Forest and me,” Cooper said. “It is there because for the last eight months, including last night, Dan Forest has been having in-person events with no masks or social distancing. That’s reckless, and it endangers North Carolinians, including the staff in this room.”
Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum on Wednesday raised the coronavirus risk level in several counties but issued no mandated restrictions, even as the state’s number of active COVID-19 cases has risen to record levels every day for the past week. Burgum moved 16 counties from moderate risk to high under the state’s five-level plan to set coronavirus management protocols for everything from businesses to family gatherings. The guidance for high-risk counties includes limiting businesses occupancy to 25% with a cap of 50 people and encouraging businesses to require masks. The guidelines are only recommendations and not enforced. “The goal is decreasing transmissible moments,” Burgum said at his weekly coronavirus update at the state Capitol. The guidance for moderate-risk counties includes cutting capacity at businesses to 50%, with a cap of 100 people.
Columbus: The state set a new single-day record for confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in a single day, breaking a record set just the day before. The Ohio Department of Health reported 2,178 cases Thursday beyond those in Wednesday’s report. The previous record was 2,039, set on Wednesday. Gov. Mike DeWine said 52 of 88 Ohio counties now meet or exceed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention high-incidence rate. “We’ve gone up dramatically in a relatively short amount of time,” DeWine said. “As we see more cases, we assume we’re going to see more hospitalizations.” An estimated 1,041 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday, according to the Ohio Hospital Association. That’s the highest number since Aug. 2 and an increase from 700 just two weeks ago. Another record set Thursday: 29 of Ohio’s 88 counties were shaded “red” on the new coronavirus map, signifying “very high exposure and spread.”
Oklahoma City: The state’s four-week average of unemployment claims has fallen below 100,000 for the first time since the jobless rate skyrocketed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state employment security commission reported Thursday. The rolling average for the week ending Oct. 10 was 90,445, down from 100,464 the previous week, and the unadjusted number of initial claims was 4,840, down by 940 from the prior week’s revised total 5,780. A record of more than 182,000 continuing claims were reported in late June as the state reopened following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s shutdown of many businesses to stem the spread of the virus. The state health department on Thursday reported 1,122 additional virus cases and 13 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the disease, for a total of 102,615 cases and 1,132 deaths since the pandemic began.
Eugene: The University of Oregon said Tuesday that winter term courses will continue to be largely remote and online. The university in Eugene said it will continue to offer some classes in person, such as science labs and physical education courses, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Those in-person courses will require face coverings and physical distancing, according to the university. “We made this decision based on our careful monitoring of COVID-19 indicators and prevalence in Lane County and across Oregon,” said a message from University President Michael Schill and Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips. “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of the entire UO community remains our top priority.” The university in October has reported nearly 200 cases of coronavirus in university employees and students living on and off campus.
A photographer moves amongst a sea of cardboard cutouts of Eagles fans Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Rams defeated the Eagles 37-19. (Photo: Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal)
Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Eagles will be allowed to have a limited number of fans in the stands after the city relaxed some restrictions on crowd size. As many as 7,500 people will be permitted into Lincoln Financial Field, city officials said Tuesday, a number that includes fans, players, referees and support staff workers. The Linc has a capacity of more than 69,000. “If people are intending on going to the game, bring a mask, and expect to be asked to wear it throughout the game,” said the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley. The Eagles host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Under the city’s new rules, indoor venues may host events and gatherings at 10% capacity, up to 250 people. That will benefit larger venues, but for small theaters and other small venues, the new rule will mean fewer people are permitted. Outdoors, venues may host events and gatherings at 15% or 20% capacity, depending on their size, up to 7,500 people.
Providence: The state’s unemployment rate fell to 10.5% in September, down from an adjusted rate of 12.9% in August, state labor officials said Thursday. The state has recovered nearly 60% of the jobs it lost in March and April, when coronavirus restrictions shut down large sectors of the economy, according to the Department of Labor and Training. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate remained well above the national September rate of 7.9%. The number of unemployed Rhode Island residents – those available for and actively seeking employment – was 59,000, down 10,500 from August. The number of employed Rhode Island residents was 502,000, up 31,100 from August. The health care and social assistance; professional and business services; retail; and accommodations and food services sectors saw the largest job gains in September, the agency said.
Columbia: There are a few bits of good news in the state’s economy as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into more months, but economists told the officials responsible for predicting how much the state will collect in taxes and fees they can’t guarantee the economy has turned the corner. The South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors met Thursday to listen to experts share data from tax collections, unemployment, traffic counts, COVID-19 infection rates, the amount of time people are spending at home and several other diverse measurements. They will meet next month to give a revised prediction on how much money South Carolina can expect to have to spend this budget year. The board last made an educated guess at the end of August that South Carolina would collect about $86 million more in taxes and fees in the 2020-21 budget year than the previous fiscal year. Before the pandemic, the extra revenue was estimated about $800 million.
Sioux Falls: Active cases of the coronavirus topped 7,000 for the first time in the state as hospitalizations also reached a new high Thursday. As the virus surges across South Dakota, the Department of Health reported 797 new cases, bringing the number of people with active infections to 7,132. Health officials also reported one of the highest single-day death tolls of the virus to date, with 13 new deaths. Roughly halfway through October, the state has already had more deaths from COVID-19 than it has any other month. Health officials reported 81 people died this month, bringing the total number to 304. The rise in cases has put a new toll on the state’s hospitals, with 304 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. Hospitals are also handling patients who have health needs besides COVID-19. About 32% of hospital beds and 41% of intensive care units statewide remain available.
Nashville: After months of gaining ground on the coronavirus, the city saw a rise in infections and positive tests over the past two weeks, prompting concern that its fragile progress against the virus has begun to crack. Nashville officials suggested the virus bled into the city from surrounding counties that have done less to combat the pandemic, and many new infections spread to families with school-age children through parties, church gatherings and youth sporting events. The recent uptick of infections began before students resumed in-person classes Tuesday and before a Christian concert was held downtown Sunday in violation of Nashville’s social distancing rules. If these events spread the virus further, it will occur in addition to the rise that has already begun. Mayor John Cooper said Thursday that Nashville’s current situation was similar to its position in mid-June – immediately before the outbreak surged to peaks in July.
Austin: While bars in much of the state were allowed to reopen Wednesday, county judges in most of the most populous counties are keeping taps closed. Gov. Greg Abbott delegated to the county leaders the option of allowing taprooms to reopen Wednesday with occupancy limited to 50% capacity. Taverns in most of the counties in the eastern half of the state and some in the western half may reopen. Nevertheless, with coronavirus case number escalating, county judges in most of the state’s most populous counties have joined the leaders of most West Texas counties in opting out of allowing drinking establishments to reopen, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website. Republican-led Tarrant County is the only major Texas population center to allow taps to flow. In Galveston County, Republican County Judge Mark Henry hosted a “happy hour” at a San Leon distillery Wednesday to mark the reopening of bars there.
Draper: The families of inmates in the Utah State Prison gathered outside the state Department of Corrections headquarters Tuesday to protest the handling of a coronavirus outbreak at the facility and call for improved safety measures. “No matter the mistakes they have made on this Earth, our loved one matters to us,” Beth Thompson told the Deseret News, adding that her husband, inmate Keenan Thompson, has an autoimmune disease that could make contracting COVID-19 dangerous. The group joined advocates with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and held signs that said “Every Inmate has Rights” and “Keep Prisoners Safe During COVID-19.” As of Tuesday, the department reported 278 prison inmates had tested positive at the Draper facility, with about 264 of the cases considered “active.” No deaths were reported. State health officials believe the outbreak can be traced to a health care provider who treated several inmates.
Barre: A change in contractors for a federal food distribution program has led to thousands of meals not being provided in September, according to the Vermont Foodbank. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program is aimed at helping people in need and farmers during the pandemic. The USDA recently changed from using the Abbey Group, a contractor located in Vermont, to two out-of-state companies, Costa Fruit & Produce and Sysco. The Abbey Group had set up a system to ensure deliveries arrived directly to recipients, even in rural areas. Costa and Sysco do not use the same system and were not really designed to operate in such a small state with limited refrigerator and freezer space, said the Foodbank’s Nicole Whalen. And they don’t buy from Vermont growers for the program, the Foodbank said.
Norfolk: Administrators in a school district have told some teachers who chose to work from home during the first semester that they must return to their schools in November. The order came from the Chesapeake school district, but some teachers are worried that the forced return in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic will put their health or the health of vulnerable family member at risk, The Virginian-Pilot reports. The decision comes as the district begins to bring back more students over the next two months. noting downward trends in coronavirus cases. A division spokeswoman said she would check on how many teachers were affected by the order. But an email obtained by the newspaper and interviews indicated that at least two high schools received word over the past week. Other districts, including Hampton and Suffolk, have required teachers to come in at least part of the week while students learn from home.
Tri-Cities: About 40 employees in three school districts in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 since the school year began in August. The Kennewick School District was the only one to publicly report how many staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 and where they work, the Tri-City Herald reports. The other two districts, Pasco and Richland, released updated confirmed case figures Tuesday. District officials say Kennewick had reported 14 employees and one student tested positive for the virus, Pasco had 17 staff members test positive, and Richland had six staff members test positive. The Pasco and Richland districts are still teaching nearly all students remotely and have yet to decide when students should return to in-person classes. Pasco Public Affairs Director Shane Edinger said district officials have cleaned the work areas and other parts of the school the sick employees visited.
Charleston: Newly confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations hit new highs in the state over the past week as outbreaks grew in some of its most rural pockets. There were nearly 240 cases reported statewide on average over the past seven days Thursday, the highest ever. As Gov. Jim Justice frequently urges more residents to get tested in order to catch infected individuals not showing symptoms, positive cases are on the rise. Statewide, there are a record 180 people currently hospitalized for the virus, including 31 on ventilators. After a dip, the state’s positive testing rate has been rising for more than a week, up to 3.64% over seven days. The state recorded about three deaths a day on average over the past seven days, down from the high of more than six in late September. There have been a total of 393 coronavirus-linked deaths.
Madison: The state hit a new daily high for positive coronavirus cases for the second time this week Thursday, a surge that the state’s chief health officer called a crisis. There were 3,747 new cases reported Thursday, breaking the record of 3,279 set Tuesday. To date, there have been more than 162,000 positive cases and 1,553 deaths. Hospitalizations were at a daily high of 1,017 on Wednesday, the same day the state opened a field hospital outside of Milwaukee to handle overflow patients. As of Thursday, the hospital had yet to admit anyone, said Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. Wisconsin’s surge began in early September, when the seven-day average of new cases was about 700. Two weeks later that had doubled, and it is now 2,927, Palm said. “This is going to get worse before it gets better,” Palm said. “Wisconsin is in crisis, and we need to take this seriously.”
Casper: The state’s largest hospital has admitted so many patients with COVID-19 that it has begun diverting out-of-county patients unless they’re suffering the most critical emergencies, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Wyoming Medical Center, in Natrona County, is treating 21 patients for coronavirus complications, according to the paper. “This is not going to go away for the next several months,” Dr. Mark Dowell, the county’s health officer, told reporters Wednesday, when the center also opened first the first time a surge unit for COVID-19 cases as it instituted a “code orange” protocol, the Star-Tribune reports. People from outside Natrona County are only being admitted if they’re dealing with strokes, heart attacks or traumatic injuries.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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