News from around our 50 states


Montgomery: More than 300 health care workers in the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to new data released by the state Department of Health on Tuesday afternoon. The ADPH data provides new insight into who has been most affected so far by the coronavirus pandemic, though the department only releases these numbers after an official vetting process, meaning the real-time number of actual infections and hospitalizations is constantly in flux. As of Monday, 272 people out of 2,007 confirmed coronavirus cases had been hospitalized. Of those 272 people, 116 were in the ICU, and 75 people were on “mechanical ventilation,” the most extreme treatment for coronavirus that allows people to breathe via ventilators to help their bodies fight the virus. ADPH says 315 hospital and doctor’s office workers have been diagnosed with the virus.


Anchorage: A tribe and city asked have the governor to shut down a prosperous fishery this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Curyung Tribal Council and the city of Dillingham requested the closure of the Bristol Bay fishery in a letter to Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday, Indian Country Today reports. The Bristol Bay fishery typically opens in June and harvests more sockeye salmon than anywhere else globally. Fish harvesters there caught 56.5 million salmon in 2019. The fishery brings about 14,000 people to the region for work with fish processing plant companies while drawing about 1,800 fishermen who have been named essential workers by the state. “Our community does not have the capability to control the movement of this group,” the letter to Dunleavy said. “This is unacceptable and places us in an impossible situation.”


Page: Authorities in northern Arizona have arrested a man for writing a racist social media post accusing Navajo people of carrying the coronavirus and calling for their deaths. The Page Police Department announced Tuesday that 34-year-old Daniel Franzen was taken into custody on suspicion of attempting to incite an act of terrorism. Police say they received reports of a Facebook post that urged people to use “lethal force” against the Navajo community because they were “100% infected” with COVID-19. Investigators say they traced the post to Franzen. In a statement, Page police said any unlawful hate speech will be “aggressively investigated.” Authorities also said anyone who makes retaliatory threats against the suspect would be subject to investigation as well. The city of Page borders the Navajo Nation, the nation’s largest Native American reservation.


Little Rock: The city is banning vehicle caravans during the coronavirus outbreak after a large crowd of vehicles gathered over the weekend. Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott announced the executive order in response to large crowds that gathered in vehicles at an intersection and nearby parking lots. “Let me make this plain and clear – COVID-19 is not a game,” Scott said. The order, which took effect Monday, defines a caravan as five or more vehicles traveling to a location with the intent of exiting them for recreational purposes. Little Rock already has a nighttime curfew in effect because of the outbreak. Arkansas has imposed other restrictions, including a prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people, but has stopped short of a broader stay-at-home order. Health officials said Wednesday that the number of coronavirus cases in the state has reached 1,000. Arkansas has had 18 deaths.


Riverside: A skilled nursing facility in Southern California where nearly three dozen residents are infected with the coronavirus is being evacuated after staff members failed to show up to care for them, officials said Wednesday. Riverside County public health officials said in a statement that 84 patients will be moved from the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside after staff didn’t show up two days in a row. One of 13 certified nursing assistants showed up to work, the statement said, which prompted the county to send in nurses. Five employees and 34 residents at the 90-bed skilled nursing facility have been found to have the virus, the statement said. It was not immediately clear which facilities would receive the residents, but they will undergo containment measures including closing to new patients and isolating sick residents, the statement said.


Denver: The city is opening a large, temporary homeless shelter and making about 300 hotel rooms available to homeless people who need to be isolated because of the coronavirus, moves the mayor said are essential to protecting the whole community. About 250 members of the Colorado National Guard are taking over staffing at the city’s existing homeless shelters, allowing the city to open an additional shelter for 600 men at the National Western Complex on Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock said. The new shelter, staffed by the Denver Rescue Mission and doctors from a homeless health clinic, will provide about 50 square feet for every person. It will also make it easier for people staying at the other shelters to practice social distancing, which has not previously been feasible, officials said. The city also has a 48-bed supplemental shelter for anyone with flu or cold symptoms, Hancock said.


Hartford: Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that there are indications the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state is “flattening out,” but he implored residents to remain vigilant and continue to adhere to the state’s strict social distancing measures. The Democrat warned that “this is no time for ‘Happy Days Are Here Again,’ ” referring to the upbeat song used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s campaign even though people were still suffering the effects of the Great Depression. Lamont said his administration is working with New York and Pennsylvania officials on a thoughtful and safe way the region can eventually emerge from the coronavirus crisis. “And that means starting with social distancing,” he said. “‘Hey dude – keep your distance.’ I want to hear that wherever I go.”


Rehoboth Beach: Rehoboth Beach Police announced they are monitoring cars with out-of-state license plates to enforce the governor’s mandate for out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for two weeks. The city said in a news release Tuesday that police have followed 59 out-of-state cars that entered the city limits since April 3. Police said they found 11 of the 59 drivers to be in violation of the mandate. Officials are also keeping a close eye on activities on Rehoboth Beach and the beach’s boardwalk. Despite its closure, police said they found six people at the beach. No arrests were made in any of the violations. The self-quarantine order by Gov. John Carney took effect last week. It does not apply to people who are only passing through the state.

District of Columbia

Washington: Pickup basketball games. Crowds gathering at an outdoor fish market. Family hikes along trails in Rock Creek Park. The warmer weather is bringing violations of social distance guidelines in the nation’s capital, even as health officials predict the city could become one of the next U.S. hot spots in the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,200 people have tested positive, with 22 deaths, in D.C. But national and local health officials predict the worst is yet to come. Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced models predict the virus would peak in the district in May or June and result in nearly 1 in 7 Washington residents infected by the end of the year and a high-end death toll over 1,000. Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has repeatedly mentioned the District of Columbia as a potential looming hot spot, noting that Washington appears to be in the early stages of a now-familiar pattern: a steady daily rise in reported infections that precedes a massive spike that overloads local health systems.


Tallahassee: Pressure mounted on Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday to make jobless benefits retroactive as the state’s newly unemployed continued to be mired in an unemployment system riddled with glitches and uncertainty amid the coronavirus outbreak. Amid rampant filing troubles, it remained unclear how quickly the state could begin issuing checks to hundreds of thousands of Floridians left without income because of stay-at-home orders and the economic downturn. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats called on Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, to extend unemployment benefits beyond the current 12-week limit and raise the $275-a-week cap, among the lowest in the country. “This combination of low pay and short eligibility is one of the least supported benefits programs in the country, despite our relatively high cost of living,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a South Florida Democrat.


Atlanta: Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday that he’s extending his order for residents to shelter at home through April 30 as the number of coronavirus infections confirmed statewide passed 10,000. Kemp also announced he’s requiring nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to do more to screen staff and patients for symptoms and keep facilities disinfected. He’s also placing a temporary ban on short-term vacation rentals starting Thursday in response to local officials who fear tourists are flocking to Georgia to visit open beaches and parks. “While I’m encouraged by some of the recent data, we still have incredible challenges ahead of us,” Kemp said during a news conference at the state Capitol. Confirmed deaths rose to 370 in Georgia, according to figures released Wednesday. Of those, 81 have come in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. Nearly 2,100 patients overall have now been hospitalized.


Honolulu: A mayor has a choice word for a Florida man accused of trying to flout Hawaii’s traveler quarantine: “covidiot.” Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami isn’t taking credit for coining the word borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic but said, “I may be the first elected official to bust it out in public.” The man was arrested last week after police say he landed on the island without proof of accommodations and “was exhibiting belligerent behavior toward airport personnel and toward officers,” police said. Earlier last week, Kauai police arrested another Florida man who stopped in Hanalei. A third man, from Washington state, was arrested and accused of violating the quarantine order, with police saying he didn’t have lodging plans in place. The arrests of three “covidiots” sends a message Kauai is fighting to protect its residents, Kawakami said. The three men have returned to the mainland, with help from the Kauai Visitors Bureau. The expense makes Kawakami upset, but he said it was necessary to get them out of Hawaii, and he plans to send them invoices.


Boise: Gov. Brad Little has ordered the creation of a committee to oversee the state’s $1.25 billion share of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue package approved by Congress last month. Little’s budget chief, Alex Adams, will head the 14-member committee announced late Tuesday that is responsible for using the money to support businesses, health care providers and struggling families during the pandemic. “I can assure Idahoans that the federal funds will not be used to create new government programs in Idaho,” Little said in a statement. The governor’s office said State Controller Brandon Woolf will report where the money is spent on his agency’s website. “Transparency in government spending is one of my highest priorities,” Woolf said.


Chicago: A Chicago firefighter who died Tuesday night from complications of COVID-19 is the first member of the department to be killed by the virus, a spokesman said. Mario Araujo’s death came just days after the city’s police department announced Officer Marco DiFranco had become its first member to die from complications of the virus. Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the 49-year-old Araujo joined the department in October 2003 and spent most of his career in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side. Langford said that as of Wednesday morning, 48 members of the fire department had tested positive for the coronavirus. It wasn’t known how Araujo contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but Langford said the department and the firefighters union would investigate the death to determine how it will be classified.


Indianapolis: For those who have been wondering whether they have the coronavirus but have no symptoms, Eli Lilly and Co. is seeking volunteers for a study of how many people in the city fall into that category. People interested in participating must be central Indiana residents over age 18 and cannot have undergone testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus or experienced any symptoms associated with COVID-19, the disease the virus causes. “The importance of asymptomatic carriers as transmitters for viral spread remains uncertain,” Lilly officials said in a news release. “As a first step towards understanding this better, this study will track the prevalence of asymptomatic infection in the Indianapolis area over time.” Studies have suggested that not everyone who has the virus will develop symptoms. Lilly plans to enroll 3,000 people in the study, which will run for a limited time.


Marshalltown: A union leader alleged Tuesday that a large nursing home for veterans is forcing some employees to work after they were exposed to a colleague who tested positive for coronavirus. AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan said the situation at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown is potentially putting employees and its more than 500 residents at risk of infection. Homan said asymptomatic employees were told Tuesday that they had to continue working even if they worked closely with an individual who recently tested positive. He said one employee received direction from a doctor to self-quarantine, but the home “refused to follow” that directive. “The state of Iowa must act immediately to ensure that veterans and the staff who care for them are not needlessly exposed,” Homan said. Home Commandant Timon Oujiri said late Tuesday that three employees have tested positive, including one last week, and four others await results.


Overland Park: Officials in one Kansas City suburb have postponed their popular farmers market amid concerns about the coronavirus, while another in Wichita is set to open Saturday. Like grocery stores, farmers markets have been described in stay-at-home orders as “essential businesses” that can continue to operate. But city officials in Overland Park announced the markets’ postponed opening Tuesday under pressure from the public, the Kansas City Star reports. City spokesman Sean Reilly said the farmers market will open after Kansas’ stay-at-home order is lifted. Meanwhile, in Wichita, the Kansas Grown Farmers Market Board decided to proceed. Tricia Holmes, the president of the market’s board, said April isn’t as busy for the market. She said extra steps are being taken to keep people safe, such as spacing booths at least 10 feet apart and barring distribution of free samples. The first hour will be for elderly and immunocompromised shoppers.


Louisville: Members of the Muslim community have joined forces to help the city during the coronavirus pandemic. This COVID-19 response team is composed of community leaders and representatives from the different language-speaking and ethnic demographics in the community, including the city’s Arab, Indo-Pakistani, Somali, Turkish and Senegambian congregations. The group formed in early March and delivers goods biweekly. “Our inspiration comes, clearly, from our faith tradition, which puts equal weight and importance on those who have faith and do good deeds,” Civic Engagement Committee member Hamza Foy said. Foy said since the team started, it has supplied food and hygiene products to more than 120 families and worked with Louisville Metro Government to translate content in Arabic, Bosnian, French, Turkish, Urdu, Wolof and other languages. It has also partnered with Americana FiberWorks to collect fabric donations to sew masks for health care providers.


New Orleans: A simple gift from a bitter political rival – a medical mask emblazoned with Louisiana’s state seal – has helped Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards pound home a bipartisan plea for people to stay at home and avoid spreading the new coronavirus. The token from Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, along with Landry’s pledge to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Edwards in the fight against the pandemic, marked a jaw-dropping truce in a state known for cantankerous politics. The rare show of unity comes in an era of deep political divides nationwide that have persisted and, in some cases, worsened amid the virus pandemic, even as some call for leaving such disputes aside in favor of working together. And it seems to be having a positive effect: The growth in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Louisiana appears to have slowed, and the number of patients on ventilators was down as of Tuesday afternoon.


Augusta: The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control used his daily briefing Wednesday to thank the state’s residents for the sacrifices they’ve made while abiding by the governor’s stay-at-home order. Dr. Nirav Shah said he wanted to thank “every person in Maine for helping all of us flatten the curve and keep the rest of us safe.” “No one thanks you for canceling your child’s birthday party. No one thanks for postponing your wedding. No one thanks you for not going to the prom. And no one thanks you for fundamentally changing the way you observe and celebrate important religious holidays. But I’d like to change that today. I’d like to thank each and every person in Maine for the personal sacrifices that they’ve made,” he said. “Three months ago, who would have ever thought that by canceling a birthday party or a pub crawl or a prom that you could help save lives? But that’s precisely what your actions, or inactions, have done.”


Baltimore: A police sergeant is under investigation after a video shared on social media appears to show him coughing toward a woman at a public housing complex amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Tuesday. The profanity-laced video shows the sergeant coughing without covering his mouth as he passes the woman recording it and at least two other people. The woman calls out the officer, who is white, and others begin to yell. “After watching the full video, in its entirety, it is not only disturbing, but incomprehensible, especially considering the high-level of strong and clear guidance that we have provided from the beginning, regarding COVID-19,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement. The video surfaced a day after a Baltimore police station reopened after it was sanitized because an officer tested positive for the new coronavirus, with more than 90 officers there cleared to return to work.


Boston: A Roman Catholic priest in a parish north of the city is taking drive-thru Holy Week confessions as the faithful combine social distancing and spirituality amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Rev. Brian Mahoney and fellow priests heard confessions this week while seated in the parking lot of the Chelmsford Catholic Collaborative, home to the St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist parishes. Cars pull up next to an orange safety cone in front of the priests, who keep a distance of 6 feet from those wishing to confess in keeping with social distancing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In our times of greatest difficulty, we need God,” Mahoney said Monday.


Elk Rapids: A local leader in northern Michigan is deeply troubled, saying activity in his community is similar to what’s seen around the Fourth of July as people visit second homes and put older year-round residents at risk for the coronavirus. James Janisse, village president in Elk Rapids, urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to bar people from traveling back and forth to second homes. He’s the latest official to express concern about a migration to northern Michigan from virus hot spots. Many school districts are on spring break. Janisse said propane companies are “overwhelmed” with requests from property owners for fuel. “At any other time, this would be cause for celebration, but right now it is not,” he said in a Monday letter to Whitmer. “People arriving here are not self-isolating. They are busy in our grocery and hardware stores and gas stations, increasing risk for our vulnerable population, in a county with no ICU beds and limited regional medical resources.”


St. Paul: Nurses at United Hospital are concerned that they’ve been asked to personally clean their own scrubs, putting them and their families at undue risk. Emergency room nurse Cliff Willmeng said they should be able to use hospital-issued scrubs so they don’t have to take their personal garments home, which could carry COVID-19 germs. Willmeng told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that it’s a “clear workplace safety issue.” He said the ER has seen a large increase in the number of patients with suspected coronavirus this week, when it was at near-capacity. Allina Health, which runs United Hospital, issued a statement saying it’s following policies and practices recommended by infection protection experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that disposable gloves should be used when doing laundry at home for a sick person, that garments should not be shaken and that hampers should be disinfected afterward.


Moss Point: The mayor says his online meeting was hacked with vulgar and racist words and images because of his recent comments about the new coronavirus in his city. Moss Point Mayor Mario King was leading a board of aldermen meeting Tuesday night on Zoom when someone interrupted the online gathering, which the mayor was also streaming on Facebook Live, news outlets report. The meeting was ended, and the mayor did a separate Facebook Live, lasting nearly an hour, addressing the hack. King said this was not a new experience for him because he often receives racist messages. The mayor has been an outspoken critic of the state’s and Gov. Tate Reeves’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. African Americans account for more than half of Mississippi’s coronavirus cases and deaths, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, but they make up only about 38% of the state’s population.


O’Fallon: The top elected official in the state’s largest county is seeking help from the Missouri National Guard in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus-related hospitalizations. Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a statement Wednesday that the National Guard “can play a critical role” in transporting patients and supplies, which would free up health care workers to focus on treating people. Leaders of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, made up of the region’s largest hospitals, said the peak of the pandemic in the St. Louis area is expected to occur in two to three weeks. Meanwhile, in neighboring St. Charles County, a new outbreak was reported at a psychiatric hospital. St. Charles County officials say 20 staff members and three patients at CenterPointe Hospital have tested positive. CenterPointe Medical Director Azfar Malik said admissions were halted March 29 but will resume after thorough disinfecting.


Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock has extended the state’s stay-at-home order, school closures and business restrictions through April 24 in a continuing effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while the Department of Justice confirmed Tuesday what is believed to be the first positive COVID-19 case in a jail inmate. Bullock also extended his other directives Tuesday, including restrictions for on-premises food and beverage businesses; a prohibition of gatherings larger than 10 people; consumer protections against evictions and the cancellation of utilities; and a continuing of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering the state on non-work-related travel. “For every person we take out of the chain of transmission of this virus, the more likely our health care facilities can handle the capacity to respond, and the more likely we can beat back this virus sooner rather than later,” Bullock said.


Lincoln: Officials are concerned the closure of schools, widespread job losses and social isolation could be driving an uptick in child abuse cases, the state’s child welfare administrator said Tuesday. Stephanie Beasley, director of Nebraska’s Child and Family Services Division, said the coronavirus pandemic is putting a major strain on the families her agency serves. Beasley said the pandemic is making it more difficult for children to get social services and for parents to get substance abuse treatment and counseling. Statewide school closures have also kept children at home and away from teachers, who are among the most likely to notice and report signs of abuse, she said. “These stressors can create a recipe for child abuse and neglect,” Beasley said at a press conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts. Beasley said the state’s child abuse hotline has seen a drop in calls, likely because fewer people are reporting abuse.


Las Vegas: Gov. Steve Sisolak says the state has received some parts from the federal government to make more test kits for the coronavirus but does not have anywhere near the supplies needed to test widely. Amid a nationwide shortage of test kits, the U.S. government has told Nevada its three pending requests for more kits are on an “indefinite backlog,” according to state officials. Sisolak said the state received 3,000 kits of the chemicals needed and 4,000 swabs from the U.S. government, which state health labs are using with other supplies to assemble test kits as fast they can, but it’s not enough. “While we appreciate whatever testing components we get from the federal government, at this time,” the Democratic governor said, the supplies so far “are not nearly the volume necessary for us to perform the desired amount of testing that we want and our citizens want.”

New Hampshire

Concord: State officials will issue guidance soon on the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on state elections, Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday. Executive Councilor Deborah Pignatelli, D-Nashua, told Sununu she wants to hear from Secretary of State Bill Gardner about the state’s primary elections in September and the November general election, including whether voting by mail is an option. Sununu said state election law doesn’t fall under the council’s purview. Meanwhile, legislative leaders are trying to assert their authority over spending federal money allocated in response to the pandemic. Sununu said Tuesday he will create “a bipartisan legislative advisory board” to ensure input and transparency. House Speaker Steve Shurtleff and Senate President Donna Soucy, both Democrats, responded by reminding him that state law expressly requires that the Legislature’s joint fiscal committee approves any expenditures during an emergency.

New Jersey

Trenton: A pizzeria that drew acclaim for borrowing heavily to keep its workers on the payroll during the virus outbreak has temporarily closed its doors. Federico’s in Belmar touched off a wave of pay-it-forward donations for those fighting the outbreak, including hospital workers, police, firefighters and emergency medical workers. Its two owners took out a $50,000 line of credit to keep their 20 employees on the payroll for at least two months. But in a Facebook post Monday, Federico’s operators said, “We will be temporarily closing our doors in order to keep our employees, families and customers safe.” Last month, the owners said the borrowed funds would be used to pay workers in the event of a temporary shutdown. They confirmed Tuesday they will keep their workers on the payroll as promised.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Coronavirus cases have surged in central and northwestern New Mexico as the illness takes a stronger hold on two Native American pueblo communities and a retirement home, officials said Tuesday. The New Mexico Department of Health reported one new death related to COVID-19 involving a man in his 30s with underlying health problems. The state has nearly 800 infections. Cases climbed to at least 52 in San Felipe Pueblo, a community of 2,200 people. At Zia Pueblo, there were at least 31 cases. Meanwhile, state labor officials took new steps to speed the distribution of unemployment benefits to tens of thousands of residents who have been left without work by the statewide public health emergency that closed many nonessential businesses. Unemployment call centers temporarily extended hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the rest of the week, though residents were still encouraged to file claims online.

New York

New York: Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged Wednesday that the city’s official coronavirus statistics have missed hundreds of people who died at home without ever being tested for the virus and said the city would start including such victims in its COVID-19 tally. “The blunt truth is coronavirus is driving these very tragic deaths,” de Blasio said on CNN’s “New Day.” “We’re not talking about, you know, 10 people, 20 people. We’re talking about something like 100, 200 people per day.” The city’s Fire Department has recorded as many as 200 deaths at home daily in recent weeks, far more than the average 25 deaths at home before the pandemic. City health officials reported 3,544 deaths from COVID-19 as of late Tuesday, a number that includes only people who were tested and found to have been infected with the coronavirus and not those who died at home without a test.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Day care employees and the families of first responders and other essential workers who need child care access during the COVID-19 crisis are getting financial help from the state government. The Division of Health and Human Services announced hospital, police and emergency workers and others required to work outside their homes can now get emergency child care subsidies from the state. Applicants must meet income restrictions and state that they have no alternative child care options. The department also announced workers in child care centers staying open to take care of these children will see April and May pay raises of $200 or $300 a month, depending on their position. “We want to be sure child care teachers and programs have support in providing safe, quality care,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a release.

North Dakota

Fargo: A Microsoft engineer who designed an app to track North Dakota State University football fans on their annual trek to Texas for the national championship has taken that concept and applied it to contact tracing for the coronavirus. The Care19 app is meant to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by retracing the steps of people who test positive for the virus, in order to find others who may have had contact with the sick person and also collect data to help with modeling, Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday during his daily briefing. “This is a way that every North Dakotan can save lives by downloading the Care19 app,” Burgum said. Tim Brookins, 55, a principal software engineer at Fargo’s Microsoft campus and CEO of sports app software company ProudCrowd, came up with the popular Bison Tracker app a half-dozen years ago. The new Care19 app is free and optional. It is anonymous and doesn’t ask for names, phone numbers or log-in information.


Columbus: The process is underway for a limited release of some prisoners to help provide room for social distancing. The just over 200 prisoners include pregnant inmates or women with children with them behind bars, inmates over 60, and prisoners eligible for early release because their sentences are nearly done. No violent or sex offenders would be released, nor would inmates with poor prison records or domestic violence convictions, or those who were previously imprisoned. Ohio houses about 49,000 inmates. Across the state, 14 inmates had tested positive as of Tuesday, most at Marion and Pickaway correctional facilities. At least 27 staff members at four prisons have tested positive, but most at Marion, state officials said. Five of the 28 prisons are now under full quarantine.


Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday again called for more residents to be tested for the coronavirus while saying the state has an ample stockpile of personal protection equipment for medical workers and others who treat infected patients. Speaking at a warehouse that state officials said holds millions of protective gloves and thousands of surgical masks, face shields and respirators, Stitt said anyone with symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, and a fever of 100.4 degrees or above needs to be tested to provide an accurate picture of the virus’s spread in Oklahoma. “We have plenty of tests in the state,” Still said, six days after first calling for more people to be tested. He noted that the state has 60 testing locations.


Portland: Gov. Kate Brown extended an order Tuesday prohibiting dine-in service at restaurants and bars. Her original order banning dine-in service was set to expire next week but now aligns with her Stay Home, Save Lives order. Both will remain in effect until lifted by Brown. Businesses can continue takeout or delivery service. “We all want to return to a day where we can frequent the restaurants and businesses that have given Oregon its well-deserved culinary reputation and provided so many jobs,” Brown said in a news release. “But it would be irresponsible to lift these restrictions in the middle of this outbreak.” Brown also said her COVID-19 Medical Advisory Panel met for the first time Tuesday. The panel of doctors, infectious disease experts and other medical professionals will meet twice a week and has been asked to comment on the needs of Oregon’s health care system, provide advice to the governor, and serve as a resource to the Oregon Health Authority.


Harrisburg: State emergency management officials will be permitted to commandeer N95 face masks, ventilators and other crucial medical equipment for use in the fight against COVID-19 under an order signed Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf. The order mandates that private and public health care facilities, manufacturers and other companies tabulate their supplies of personal protective equipment, drugs and other medical equipment, then provide an inventory to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency within five days. PEMA will make the supplies available to areas of the state hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, Wolf’s order said, and it will be up to state agencies to repay the entities from which the equipment was taken. “Combatting a pandemic means we all have to work together and that means we need to make the best use of our medical assets to ensure the places that need them most have them,” Wolf said in a statement.

Rhode Island

Providence: The state’s attorney general says police can file criminal charges against landlords who wrongfully evict tenants during the coronavirus pandemic. The attorney general’s office says it has received a growing number of complaints about landlords who are forcing tenants to leave, barring entry to properties or cutting off utilities without court permission. Landlords are required to get a court order to evict tenants, but the state has suspended most court proceedings until April 17, effectively barring new evictions. Attorney General Peter Neronha said that while the situation may be frustrating for landlords who are owed money, it “does not mean that they can simply ignore the law and take matters into their own hands.” His office told police that landlords can be charged with trespassing if they enter a tenant’s property without permission, and they can be charged with vandalism if a tenant’s belongings are damaged while being removed.

South Carolina

Columbia: Coroners are asking the state’s top lawyer whether they have to release the names of people who die because of COVID-19 to the public. York County Coroner Sabrina Gast sent a letter to Attorney General Alan Wilson asking for his office’s legal opinion on whether the typical information a coroner releases in an unusual death – names, ages and locations – needs to be released in COVID-19 deaths. “Most of the time, natural deaths are of no interest to media, however, you can imagine that in our current environment, the media is very interested. Our concern grows out of safety of the families left behind,” Gast wrote in her letter on behalf of the South Carolina Coroners Association. Wilson’s office has not published an opinion yet, spokesman Robert Kittle said in an email Tuesday.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: State health officials reported the largest day-to-day jump in confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday as 73 more people tested positive. South Dakota has tallied 393 confirmed cases, with 146 of those people reporting they have recovered. Six people in total have died from COVID-19, while 26 have required hospitalization. Minnehaha County, the state’s most-populated area, accounted for most of the cases. The Oglala Sioux Tribe says it has instituted a 72-hour lockdown on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation shortly after a school employee tested positive for the coronavirus. It was the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the reservation. The tribe is only allowing travel for essential jobs, medical appointments and emergency grocery runs. The tribe threatened that people will be fined if they are found to be traveling for nonessential reasons. Officials are also monitoring the borders of the reservation.


Memphis: FedEx Express is helping the U.S. government expedite shipments of protective equipment and other needed supplies as part of its COVID-19 relief efforts. The Memphis-based air cargo giant announced Wednesday that it delivered its first shipments as part of Project Airbridge, a federal government-managed public-private partnership. The equipment carried by FedEx’s fleet of aircraft will be distributed to health care facilities and workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. FedEx has a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to ship personal protective equipment from manufacturers worldwide to the United States. FedEx said it coordinated with DuPont this week for two shipments of more than 450,000 Tyvek protective suits from Vietnam to Texas, and the two are planning to ship more than half a million suits weekly. FedEx is also operating flights from China to Illinois containing PPE for Medline Industries.


Dallas: Two state prisons have been locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, while inmates at other facilities are making masks to fight the pandemic. Nearly 1,000 people have been confined to their cells on medical restriction at the Rufe Jordan Unit, in the Texas Panhandle, along with more than 1,100 at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. As of Monday, one person had tested positive for COVID-19 at Jordan and four at Murray, a women’s prison about 100 miles north of Austin. Inmates in 10 other Texas prison factories are making cotton masks that staff and prisoners can wear to help reduce the spread of the virus, according to the department. About 50,000 masks have been distributed from prison factories that typically manufacture shoes, clothing, mattresses and furniture.


Salt Lake City: Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah became the latest park to close its gates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The ongoing flow of visitors to the park noted for its spire-shaped red rock formations known as hoodoos made it difficult to maintain proper social distancing, park Superintendent Linda Mazzu said. She made the decision with the backing of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Garfield County commissioners, her news release said. Capitol Reef National Park remains the last of Utah’s five national parks still open, but its scenic drive and campgrounds are closed. Zion, Arches and Canyonlands national parks are already closed after they heeded requests from local government and health officials. In mid-March, Bernhardt announced he would waive entrance fees to make it easier for people to enjoy outdoor spaces.


Montpelier: Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday that he plans to lengthen his stay-at-home order for Vermonters, which has been in place for two weeks. “Your sacrifices are having an impact,” he said during a media briefing. “Staying home, washing your hands, avoiding contact – these steps are literally saving lives.” Vermont had a total of 605 confirmed cases, and 23 people have died of COVID-19, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Wednesday. The state’s biggest outbreaks have been at two Burlington nursing homes. Burlington Health and Rehab and Birchwood Terrace Rehab and Healthcare have had a total of 120 cases in patients and staff, he said. Meanwhile, the Vermont Senate met Wednesday at the Statehouse and approved remote voting. Sixteen out of 30 members attended and wore masks and other face coverings during the session.


Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam plans to delay some long-sought Democratic priorities until more is known about the pandemic’s effect on the economy, pushing back decisions on whether to give teachers and state workers raises, freeze in-state college tuition, and implement other new spending in a budget recently passed by lawmakers. Clark Mercer, the governor’s chief of staff, said Tuesday that too little is known about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on state revenues to move ahead now with billions of dollars in new spending, much of which would carry over into future years. He said the governor, a Democrat, is likely to request a budget reforecast this summer before calling lawmakers back into a special session to adjust spending priorities based on new numbers. The pandemic is pounding state governments nationwide with a one-two punch, costing them millions in containment efforts just as businesses shut down and tax revenue collapses.


Seattle: Gov. Jay Inslee says the Legislature may need to be called back for a special session because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Legislature isn’t scheduled to return until next January, but Inslee said it was probable lawmakers may need to return, “given the extent of the economic damage that we have suffered.” He said the timing of that is uncertain. He noted that the state had already dispersed $120 million from $200 million the Legislature allocated to COVID-19 response before adjourning last month. Inslee also announced the state is opening up an application process for grants that will provide up to $10,000 for businesses with up to 10 employees. Businesses can use the money to pay rent, utility bills, supplies and other operating expenses. Businesses can apply at

West Virginia

Charleston: Kanawha County staffers on the front lines of the coronavirus response are getting pay raises. The Kanawha County Commission approved a $4-per-hour “hero pay” increase for first responders and other county employees, retroactive to March 15. “This is a way for us to show our respect and gratitude,” Commissioner Ben Salango said Tuesday. The order includes “deputy sheriffs, prosecuting attorneys, emergency managers, custodians, maintenance workers, circuit clerks, county clerks, sheriff’s tax, and all others who are risking personal health and safety during this unprecedented pandemic.” The temporary pay raises will stop when the state of emergency ends or when the county commission cancels the program. Kanawha County has the most cases in the state, with at least 69 people testing positive, and outbreaks in at least two nursing homes.


Madison: University Hospital will join a national effort to transfuse antibodies from the plasma of people who recovered from the coronavirus to treat patients still struggling with it. The technique is a century-old treatment used to fight off flu and measles outbreaks in the days before vaccines and has been tried more recently against SARS and Ebola. With no approved treatment for COVID-19 and more than 11,000 deaths in the U.S., the unproven approach offers some hope against COVID-19. As of Tuesday night, Wisconsin reported more than 2,500 coronavirus infections and 92 related deaths – 49 of them in Milwaukee County. “We know that antibody has neutralized the virus in one person,” said Dr. William Hartman, a UW Health anesthesiologist heading up the effort at UW Hospital, which is part of a national study. “We assume that the antibody will neutralize the virus in another person. It’s an extra boost to help fight off the infection.”


Cheyenne: State elections officials say they have no plans to move the date of the primary election in August but are looking at how to protect voters and poll workers from the coronavirus. One option could be to prepare for more absentee voting. Wyoming has an advantage compared to other states because its primary isn’t until Aug. 18, secretary of state spokesman Will Dinneen told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “With that being said, we’re looking at facets of this fast-moving situation with COVID-19 to protect voters, poll workers and county staff, and to be able to respond nimbly as we move forward to that date,” Dinneen said. State officials are working on a plan to expand absentee voting to anyone who prefers that option, Dinneen said. Widespread absentee voting could change how candidates campaign. State law requires absentee ballots to be mailed 45 days before the primary.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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