From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Published 3:45 AM EDT Aug 24, 2020
Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama has issued a prohibition on student gatherings, including off-campus parties and fraternity and sorority events, as the school tries to curb the spread of COVID-19. The university on Friday announced a 14-day moratorium on all in-person student events outside of classroom instruction. Social gatherings are prohibited on and off campus and the common areas of dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses are closed, according to the new guidelines. Visitors are not being allowed in dormitories and sorority and fraternity houses. The announcement came less than a week after city and school officials raised alarm about large crowds waiting outside bars. The university said the hosts of gatherings will receive heightened consequences, even for a first offense, and that serious and repeated violations could result in suspension by the university. “While we are appreciative to those who have taken these expectations seriously, I am deeply disappointed that those guidelines are not being followed by each and every member of our student body,” University of Alabama President Stuart Bell wrote in a message to students.
Anchorage: RavnAir Group, which halted operations in April, laid off staff and filed for bankruptcy because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, hopes to begin renewed service to its former hub communities in September under a new leadership team. Ravn Alaska CEO Rob McKinney said there is no set starting date as the airline tries to stage a comeback from a $9.5 million bankruptcy asset sale earlier this month, The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported. The airline plans to focus on safety and customer service as it gets back off the ground, McKinney said. The company operated more than 400 flights per day with a fleet of 72 aircraft, but passenger traffic dropped more than 90% after the pandemic outbreak. RavnAir Group is also owned the Corvus and PenAir carrier services, and flew passengers from Anchorage to the Aleutian Islands, the Kenai Peninsula and various rural Alaska destinations. Ravn Alaska will need about 400 employees and is actively recruiting staff. All employees, including former staff, will take courses before restarting, McKinney said.
Phoenix: Possible exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 means some students at Kyrene del Milenio Elementary School must quarantine, the school’s principal has told parents, azfamily.com reported Saturday. It wasn’t immediately known how many students were required to quarantine. But a letter sent by Principal Michael Lamp said the possible exposure happened in one teacher’s classroom and on one bus to school and another bus after school. The 14-day day quarantine will run from Wednesday when the last possible exposure occurred and the children involved can return to school Sept. 2, Lamp wrote. Kyrene has been using remote learning for most students since beginning the new school year on Aug. 17. But it has some students at school as required by a state mandate for districts to provide services to at-risk and certain other students.
Fort Smith: In her 28 years of teaching kindergarten at Fort Smith Public Schools, Cami Stancil had never made her students sit at desks. That will change Monday, when Arkansas Public Schools open with rules about students are supplied, where they are allowed in the school and how they are allowed to interact with each other amid the coronavirus pandemic. “While every year has been a little bit different, this one has by far been the greatest challenge,” Stancil said as she looked over rows of desks placed in taped-off grids in her Cook Elementary School classroom. The kinds of limitations schools should put on in-person teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has been debated throughout the U.S. State officials last week released a threat assessment map of the state, which lists school districts in one of five threat levels based on how many people per 10,000 are infected with the virus in the past 14 days within the geographic boundaries of a school district. With 30 to 49 infected people per 1,000, Fort Smith School District was listed in the second-highest of the five threat levels. Schools within the district have taken advantage of the virtual teaching option. At Cook, 115 of the roughly 550 students are going to use the virtual option to start the school year, Principal Marta Boltec said. For the students who will be taught in-person, district officials have mandated students to wear masks unless appropriately socially distanced. They also have assigned students numbers that correspond with their desks and other places they can go in the school.
Ukiah: Schools in Mendocino County were forced to close this week when state officials said their coronavirus cases had been higher than previously reported, and several hundred students were sent home from class, officials said Friday. Michelle Hutchins, superintendent of schools in the county, said she learned this week the county had been placed on a state monitoring list for coronavirus infections with a date retroactive to July 25, and that as a result schools should have not been allowed to open for in-person instruction after that point in time. Hutchins said on Wednesday she sent home 300 to 400 students who had already started the year off in largely rural schools. It’s possible elementary school students will be allowed to return under special waivers offered by the state but middle and high schoolers will remain on distance learning until virus conditions meet the state-mandated thresholds for the Northern California county to fall off the state’s monitoring list, she said. The situation comes after California faced a problem in late July with electronic lab reports that were getting backlogged at the state. The state said it has since fixed the data issue but it led to a delay in reporting about 14,000 virus cases.
Fort Collins: Windsor Middle School has quarantined 37 students and 11 staff members after learning a student tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty-seven seventh-grade students in the same A-group cohort as the student who tested positive were asked to quarantine and switched to remote learning through Sept. 10, said Lisa Relou, a communications specialist for the Weld RE-4 School District. Seven teachers who had direct contact with the student are also working remotely through Sept. 4, she said, as are four paraprofessionals who had contact with the student. The school was notified Thursday afternoon of the positive test result of a student who had been in class that day, Relou said. Students in Weld RE-4’s middle and high schools are attending classes in person two days a week and receiving remote instruction on the other three, Relou said. Group A attends classes in person on Mondays and Thursdays, she said, and Group B on Tuesdays and Fridays. All students receive remote instruction on Wednesdays while schools are cleaned and disinfected. Windsor Middle School has 686 students, Relou said.
Danbury: Residents are being urged to take precautions after what officials have described as a “serious outbreak” of the coronavirus. State health officials issued a COVID-19 alert Friday night that recommended that residents stay home, avoid unnecessary outings, limit indoor gatherings and avoid attending church services. It also urged people to cooperate with contact tracers and get tested immediately if they feel they have been exposed, and self-quarantine for 14 days if they test positive. “This is a serious outbreak in Danbury and we really need an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford said in a statement. The alert came days after a spike in cases led the city to cancel youth sports leagues. The state reported the city of roughly 85,000 has had nearly 180 confirmed cases from Aug. 2-20, compared to 40 new confirmed cases in the previous two-week period. Mayor Mark Boughton told the News-Times that 44 new cases were reported on Friday alone. Acting city health director Kara Prunty told the newspaper the seven-day average of new cases went from 2.3 in the week of July 19 to 8.4 last week. City officials have blamed the recent uptick on neighborhood gatherings such as barbecues, travel and youth sports.
Dover: Delaware is joining the list of states taking up President Donald Trump’s offer of additional unemployment benefits to millions of American affected by the coronavirus pandemic. While announcing that Delaware will accept the offer, Labor Secretary Cerron Cade on Friday nevertheless criticized it as “a Hail Mary that is unnecessarily complicated and will be a nightmare to implement quickly.” “Furthermore, with the stability of the funding source and overall legality of the president’s memorandum in question, it is unclear if or when the additional benefits will be available,” Cade added. Trump acted by executive order to extend additional unemployment payments of up to $400 a week to cushion the economic fallout for people affected by the pandemic. The move came after negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House failed to reach agreement on extending a program that provided for supplemental payments of $600 a week, which expired Aug. 1. Trump’s plan calls for a weekly benefit of $300 a week, or $400 if states chip in $100 per claimant to provide the higher amount.
District of Columbia
Washington: A new giant panda cub is sparking pandemic-fueled panda-mania, and officials at the National Zoo said traffic on their livestream spiked 1,200% over the past week. “I’m pretty sure we broke the Internet last night,” National Zoo Director Steve Monfort said Saturday. The zoo’s Panda Cam traffic has been crashing since venerable matriarch Mei Xiang’s pregnancy was announced this past week. When she gave birth Friday night, zoo officials said they had a hard time getting into their own livestream, and they’re now working to boost their capabilities. On camera, the moment of birth at about 6:35 p.m. EDT is obscured, but the results become immediately obvious from the new cub’s robust squealing. The massive mother immediately picks up and cradles the infant, which officials said is the size of a stick of butter. “We can tell the cub is doing well from its vocalizations and the mother’s behavior,” Smith said. Zoo staff remain ready to intervene if something seems wrong, but Smith said Mei Xiang, who has reared three cubs to adulthood, “knows exactly what she is doing.” For now, zoo staff are letting the new pair share some private time. Mei Xiang will remain with her baby (gender still unknown) in a small indoor enclosure where she has built a modest nest. For about a week, the new mother will not leave the baby’s side even to eat or drink. The cub, who will not be named for its first hundred days in accordance with tradition, will remain in the den for its first few months of life. For now it is pink and hairless; the distinctive black and white fur markings come later. Meanwhile father Tian Tian seems blissfully oblivious, rolling around his outdoor enclosure. Giant pandas are almost entirely solitary, and in the wild it would be normal for Tian Tian to never meet his offspring.
Miami: The COVID-19 pandemic has done what 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew couldn’t do: It forced The Miami Book Fair to cancel its annual weeklong book frenzy at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus for the first time in 37 years. But the show will go on virtually – and it will go on for free. The transition from live to virtual fair, which will feature programs in English and Spanish, has been a painstaking process, said program director Lissette Mendez. Some events will be available on the website for one night only; others might linger online longer. All the usual genres will be represented – fiction, politics, history, memoir, comics, poetry, Caribbean works with a focus on Haiti – in addition to robust children’s programming. Mendez envisions it as “Netflix for books” accessed through a new and upgraded website. Participants sign in with their email and create a password, and the site will take them to a list of programs, panels and conversations that they will view the way they would view their Netflix catalog. Click on what you want to see, and the link will take you to a YouTube-like page where you watch the event. The fair, which runs Nov. 15-22, kicks off with Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Testaments”). More than 171 English-language authors and 80 Spanish-language authors have signed up, with more to be added over the next few weeks. The website is expected to go live sometime in September, at which point you can create a watch list of the events you’re hoping to see and sign up for emails letting you know when new authors have been added.
Atlanta: Georgia on Saturday became the 10th state in the nation to report that it has surpassed 5,000 deaths caused by COVID-19. The Georgia Department of Public Health said there have been at least 5,092 deaths in the state caused by the coronavirus and more than 252,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Data kept by the Associated Press showed the coronavirus has been spreading in Georgia faster per capita than any other state over the past two weeks, although infection numbers have been declining in the state since their peak last month. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who was among the first governors to ease earlier restrictions this spring, highlighted the downward trends this past week. He has used social media to remind residents to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and follow guidance from the health department.
Pearl Harbor: Several dozen U.S. veterans will gather on a battleship in Pearl Harbor next month to mark the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, even if it means the vulnerable group might be risking their lives again amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 75th anniversary was meant to be a blockbuster event, and the veterans have been looking forward to it for years. There were to be thousands of people watching in Hawaii as parades marched through Waikiki, vintage warbirds flying overhead, and gala dinners to honor the veterans. Now, most in-person celebrations have been canceled over fears the virus could infect the veterans, who range from 90 to 101. But about 200 people, mostly veterans, their families and government officials, will still commemorate the milestone on the USS Missouri, which hosted the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. It comes as Oahu – Hawaii’s most populated island and the home of Pearl Harbor – has seen an alarming spike in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, forcing many restrictions to be reinstated, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people and the closure of all beaches. Officials plan to keep the veterans socially distanced while they are honored in front of livestreaming cameras instead of live crowds of thousands, as was first planned. Hawaii is expected to grant modified quarantine orders for those traveling for the anniversary, allowing them to attend the official ceremony and other events. Otherwise, people coming to the islands are required to quarantine for two weeks.
Boise: Idaho will remain in the fourth and final stage for reopening the economy for at least another two weeks as coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations remain too high, Gov. Brad Little said. The Republican governor spoke at the Idaho Foodbank in Boise, where he emphasized the need to support food banks during the pandemic when many people have lost jobs. He said $2.56 million in federal coronavirus relief money will be made available to the Idaho Foodbank for use throughout the state. “More and more Idaho families are turning to their local food banks and food assistance programs during the coronavirus pandemic,” Little said. Idaho Foodbank officials said they saw a 10% to 50% increase in food demand when the pandemic reached the state in March and the economy started shutting down. “We are experiencing increased food insecurity in our state,” Idaho Foodbank President and CEO Karen Vauk said. Little also said that $10 million of relief money would go to long-term care facilities to keep residents safe during the pandemic. Little said the state has sufficient ICU beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. He also said the number of people being admitted to hospitals is stabilizing, and that positivity test rates are falling.
Chicago: Illinois’ incoming high school seniors have been struggling to register for standardized testing ahead of college application season after the coronavirus pandemic caused testing dates to be canceled. Students weren’t able to take the SAT at schools in April, and ACT tests in the spring and summer were canceled after sites closed, the Chicago Tribune reported. ACT executive Shane King said the company relies on schools for testing sites, but shutdowns made that impossible. He also can’t guarantee that locations booked for September and October won’t be canceled. Clay Lindner is one senior who secured a spot to take the ACT. But like some, he was assigned to a site in another state. He registered to take the test in Chicago but was transferred to a site in Jonesboro, Arkansas. ACT officials said location changes were because of a computer bug that has been fixed. But Lindner didn’t want to risk it, so he grabbed a spot in Louisville, Kentucky, near homes of extended family members. The SAT, the ACT’s main competitor, tried a different approach. The College Board, which administers the exam, allowed seniors to sign up early for tests that will resume Aug. 29. Some students said they were able to register for an SAT test after they couldn’t land a spot for ACT testing. Evanston senior Josie Hansen was offered a spot in Michigan to take the ACT after two previous testing cancellations. But she decided to take the SAT in nearby Wilmette instead. Meanwhile, about 350 colleges have made assertions since the start of the outbreak that standardized test scores will be optional this year. But parents and students are not convinced that the lack of a good score will be a disadvantage at a competitive school.
Indianapolis: After a monthslong break forced by the coronavirus pandemic, felony jury trials are set to resume in Marion County, home to Indianapolis and the state’s largest county court system. Marion Superior Court officials said major felony trials will begin this week, and lower felony, misdemeanor and civil trials would resume the week of Sept. 14. To protect jurors against the spread of COVID-19 during trials, the court said it is implementing assigned, socially distanced seating and requiring face masks. Jurors will also be provided personal hand sanitizers and sanitizer stations, as well as deep cleaning facilities. Prospective jurors are being asked to notify the jury pool coordinator if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 30 days, are caring with someone with COVID-19 or will be self-quarantining on their summons date. Major felony trials will take place at the Marion Superior Court Traffic Court to accommodate larger jury pools. All other trials will continue to be in the City-County Building. Prospective jurors are asked to check their jury summons to make sure they report to the correct location.
Iowa City: The University of Iowa is cutting four athletic programs to cope with lost revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported that Iowa announced Friday that its men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s tennis programs will be discontinued at the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year. “We are heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches and staff,’’ director of athletics Gary Barta wrote in a letter announcing the moves. The letter also was signed by university president Bruce Harreld. Finances are tight after the Big Ten decided to scrap plans for a fall sports season because of the coronavirus crisis. The university will continue to honor all existing scholarships through graduation for student-athletes who choose to remain at Iowa and will assist student-athletes who wish to transfer to other institutions “in every way possible.” Iowa previously announced reductions in compensation for all athletics department personnel and cuts in operational expenses.
Wichita: The number of inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 at a jail in Wichita has grown to more than 500. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office has conducted mass testing of its inmates at the urging of state health officials. As of Friday, 523 inmates have tested positive and 747 negative, KAKE-TV reported. “As results were received, inmates were separated and housed based on the results of their tests to minimize the spreading of COVID-19,” Lt. Tim Myers said. “Inmates that have reported symptoms of COVID-19 have received treatment from the contracted medical provider. No inmates have required hospitalization because of testing positive for COVID-19.” Inmates with no symptoms are considered recovered 10 days post-test. Myers estimated that around 400 inmates will be considered recovered by the end of the weekend. “We are continuing to maintain sanitization standards to take care of our staff and inmates which include issuing extra soap, and having disinfectant available as needed.” Myers said all staff members have been issued masks, and all inmates have been issued face coverings for the last several months.
Frankfort: A school district that reopened to in-person classes last week announced Friday that it would switch to virtual learning until at least Sept. 8. Green County Superintendent William Hodges said in a social media post that the move was because of increased coronavirus activity in the community, news outlets reported. “We have had a great week in our school system and are unaware of any student cases, but the increase in community cases has caused us to reach our threshold for transitioning into the ‘red phase’ of our reopening plan,” the district wrote in a Facebook post. Students returned on Aug. 17, despite Gov. Andy Beshear recommending that school districts wait until Sept. 28 to hold in-person classes. Meanwhile, Kentucky reported 785 new coronavirus cases Friday, including 97 youngsters ages 18 and under. Eight more virus-related deaths were reported, raising the statewide death toll to 864.
Baton Rouge: Sixty percent of Louisiana’s parishes will continue to receive information about residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus under a data-sharing agreements they signed with the state – even as questions arise about whether local officials should continue to receive the personal health details. Louisiana’s health department sends lists of people with positive tests and their addresses to local emergency officials to help first responders know they will be interacting with someone infected with the virus. The agency required parish officials to sign data-use agreements outlining limits on disclosure of the information after two rural parishes appeared to misuse lists they received, raising concerns they may have violated privacy laws. The state began sharing positive test result lists in the early days of Louisiana’s coronavirus outbreak, when first responders had shortages of personal protective equipment and were rationing masks, gloves and other gear. The health department said giving local officials lists of people who tested positive for the virus helped law enforcement and emergency workers know when they should use that limited protective equipment because they’d be encountering someone who had the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. Those shortages are largely gone – and COVID-19 has spread across Louisiana in larger numbers, so the lists don’t truly show the footprint of the virus outbreak. Public health officials say first responders should act as though anyone they encounter could be carrying the virus, because so many people are asymptomatic and may never get tested.
Millinocket: One of the people who tested positive for the coronavirus after a wedding reception in Millinocket has died, a hospital said. There are more than 30 cases associated with the Aug. 7 event but only one of them was hospitalized. That individual died Friday afternoon, said Robert Peterson, CEO of Millinocket Regional Hospital. Because of the outbreak, the hospital is closed to visitors. Town Hall and schools also were closed. The reception at the Big Moose Inn exceeded the state’s indoor gathering limit, among other violations of state rules. The outbreak affected individuals from 4 to 78 years old, officials said. Friday was the 14th day since about 65 people – more than the limit of 50 – attended the reception. A representative for the Big Moose Inn has declined to comment.
Ocean Pines: Staff will stay home and two pools will be closed in the Ocean Pines resort community after another staff member was found Friday to have contracted COVID-19. The worker, a member of the aquatics department, was last at work on Thursday, according to a post by the Ocean Pines Association on Facebook. Three OPA workers have now tested positive since April. “We have notified employees believed to have had close contact with the affected employee directly, and asked them not to report to work for 14 days,” the Association wrote in a statement. “For the rest of us, it is important to continue practicing sound hygiene practices by frequently washing hands thoroughly, maintaining 6 feet of separation between others, and wearing masks when indoors or when social distancing is not possible.”
Brockton: The city has enacted a curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus after state health officials deemed it a “higher risk” community. All residents and visitors in Brockton are to remain in their residences between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. The curfew doesn’t apply to essential workers. Violators are subject to a $200 fine for the first offense, $350 for a second, and up to $500 for a third. Mayor Robert Sullivan signed an executive order mandating the curfew on Friday. In the order, he noted that the city’s infection rate has been 8.5 cases per 100,000 residents for the past two weeks – an alarming figure that prompted state officials to designate Brockton as “higher risk.” The city of nearly 100,000 is located 25 miles south of Boston.
Kalamazoo: A federal judge on Friday refused to block a requirement that Michigan’s migrant farm workers get tested for the coronavirus, rejecting claims that it violates the rights of Hispanics. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a handful of workers, as well as some fruit producers. But farm worker advocates told the judge they’re in favor of the tests. Compliance starts Monday under an order from the state health department. “The emergency order is facially neutral,” U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney said. “It applies to all owners and operators of migrant housing camps and all agricultural employers, as defined in the emergency order, with over 20 workers on site at a time. … The emergency order does not mention Latinos or any other racial classification.” The state said the tests are intended to protect vulnerable people who live in close quarters. “The department welcomes today’s ruling by a federal court rejecting an attempt to undermine this critical program to save lives,” director Robert Gordon said. There have been virus outbreaks since April at a poultry farm, an asparagus farm, a meatpacking plant and other agricultural sites, according to the state.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel wants to delay reopening campuses in the Twin Cities, Duluth and Rochester for two weeks in the wake of COVID-19 outbreaks at other U.S. colleges. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Gabel announced her proposal Friday. The Board of Regents is expected to consider it on Monday. The plan comes on the heels of outbreaks at schools such as the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame. White House Coronavirus Task Force leader Dr. Deborah Birx has said colleges should be able to conduct 10,000 tests per day. Right now the University of Minnesota plans to test only students who are symptomatic or have been exposed to someone who has been infected. “If the university’s best plan is that students aren’t going to go out and party, then I don’t think that’s a solid plan,” said Amy Ma, the Twin Cities campus’ student body president. Classes begin Aug. 31 in Duluth and Sept. 8 at the other two campuses. Under Gabel’s plan, classes would start on time but would be delivered completely online. Dorms would be closed for the first two weeks of the semester, with housing and dining contracts prorated. Students would be allowed to cancel their housing contracts or defer them to the spring.
Hattiesburg: Dozens of Oak Grove High School students staged a walkout Friday to protest what they believed are lax rules around COVID-19 precautions and the handling of an alleged racially charged incident. Faith Jones, an Oak Grove senior, said the students came to school Friday with a plan to walk out. “Oak Grove is extremely reactive and never proactive,” she said. The protest was planned after a senior photo was taken Aug. 13 during a celebration of seniors at the start of the school year. Students wore masks until it was time to take the photo, but were crowded together despite Gov. Tate Reeves’ mandate on social distancing. Parents were then notified by the district that “an individual in your child’s class, group or team has been diagnosed with COVID-19.” The letter was not signed, but was printed on school district letterhead. Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said Friday she could not comment about the district’s COVID-19 cases and declined to answer a question about the number of students notified of possible exposure. Also during the senior event, a video posted to Facebook showed students allegedly yelling “white power” during the senior run on the football field. Smith said the school is still investigating the incident. Students were warned before the walkout that they could possibly face disciplinary action for leaving class during school hours.
Clayton: St. Louis County will expand its requirement on face coverings, including a requirement that all students kindergarten through high school wear one. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the new guidelines were announced Friday. The guidelines are effective starting Monday. The school regulation applies to private and public schools, for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade. They can remove masks for physical education, choir or music class, during school-sponsored sports, or while eating, as long as they remain 6 feet apart. Beyond school, children 6 or older will be required to wear face coverings in public. A previous order applied to children 10 or older. The new regulations also require businesses to deny entry to customers who refuse to wear face coverings. A previous order authorized businesses to deny entry, but did not require it. St. Louis County has reported 16,758 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 700 deaths. Both figures are the most for any county in the state.
Billings: More than 30 inmates at the Yellowstone County jail have tested positive for COVID-19, an inmate at the Cascade County regional jail in Great Falls has also tested positive and a resident died at a long-term care facility in Flathead County where there has been an outbreak of the respiratory virus, officials said. Thirty out of 70 men in one housing unit at the Yellowstone County jail tested positive, Sheriff Mike Linder said. Those who have tested positive are being isolated but are not showing symptoms. In Great Falls, one inmate at the regional jail tested positive for COVID-19 after showing symptoms, Cascade Copunty Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said. In Flathead County, a resident of a long-term care facility has died of COVID-19, county health officials said Saturday. However, because of privacy laws, they are not identifying the facility. At least two facilities have announced cases. Fourteen residents and employees with Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation Center tested positive for COVID-19, executive director Reid Crickmore told the Daily Inter Lake on Thursday. Meanwhile, a nurse, a housekeeper and a maintenance worker at Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell tested positive for COVID-19, President and CEO Jason Cronk announced Friday. They had not shown any symptoms, he said. Residents of Immanuel Skilled Care Center and Retreat were expected to undergo testing on Friday and those results were expected within several days, Cronk said.
Omaha: Colleges throughout the region have changed some of their residence and dining hall operating procedures to minimize the risk of a coronavirus breakout. Many college leaders said they want their campus to be open for business because most students would rather be on campus than taking classes by computer from home. But the Omaha World Herald reported that the pressure is on administrators to pull that off safely. Megan Failor, Doane University’s director of residential life and education, said administrators this fall are bound to be concerned. “It’s definitely going to be a unique year,” Failor said. “I think any time there are changes … that always causes some angst.” Failor said Doane has designated its Colonial Hall residence facility as an isolation place for students with positive COVID-19 tests, symptoms or significant exposure to someone who has the disease. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Piper Hall, which wasn’t used last year, will serve as an isolation residence hall for those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or show symptoms. Spokeswoman Leslie Reed said Piper is not a medical facility and those with serious symptoms will have to visit a clinic.
Reno: Teachers in Washoe County will receive free COVID-19 testing, the district said Friday. The tests will be done through a drive-through site with Renown Regional Medical Center. The district said it also hired an employee health nurse who will answer questions and determine if an employee has symptoms that would warrant a test. The district said it could not immediately say what the turnaround time for results will be. Results in Washoe County have been taking three days or more. Also Friday, the Washoe Education Association, the union representing about 2,500 district teachers, sent out information about filing a claim if an employee believes he or she contracted COVID-19 at work. Claims also must be filled out within seven days of getting a positive COVID-19 test. The union was encouraging teachers to document unsafe conditions and the timing and location of COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
Laconia: Motorcycle Week is underway in Laconia, but some bars and pubs won’t be serving customers. The annual event typically attracts thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the Lakes Region. Because of concerns about the coronavirus, Gov. Chris Sununu recently mandated that masks be worn at gatherings of more than 100 people, and has said that liquor enforcement officials will be out in force throughout the nine-day gathering. Although indoor dining is allowed, standing at bars is not; customers must be served while seated. Some bar owners brought in new chairs to comply, but others, fearing crowds and the potential for fines or the loss of their liquor licenses, decided to shut down for the week.
Trenton: Bills that would require the state to prioritize protective gear for long-term care facilities and increase pay for workers in those facilities advanced in the state Legislature on Friday. Health committees in the Senate and Assembly each passed seven bills that are a response to the coronavirus’s devastating toll in the state’s long-term care facilities. More than 7,000 residents and staff in those facilities have died, accounting for half of the COVID-19 confirmed deaths in New Jersey. One key bill advanced in the Senate committee but not in the Assembly. The bill, S-2798, would require all long-term care facilities to submit outbreak response plans to the Department of Health. Bills that address other recommendations, such as imposing harsher fines on facilities for infection control violations, were not discussed.
Albuquerque: New Mexico’s jobless rate has jumped to 12.7%, the highest for the state since the coronavirus pandemic began in the U.S. in March. The unemployment rate is up from 8.4% in June, reversing a steady downward trend since April, when the rate was 11.3%, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The U.S. unemployment rate was 10.2% in July, down from 11% in June. All major sectors in New Mexico experienced year-to-year job losses, the state Department of Workforce Solutions said in a statement. Industries like leisure and hospitality reported the largest employment losses. State Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said the main reason behind the state’s unemployment rate increase came from temporary furloughs for workers that became layoffs as the pandemic persisted. The Albuquerque metropolitan area reported an unemployment rate of 13.1% in July. The Santa Fe area reported a rate of 13.5%, Las Cruces’ figure was 13% and Farmington had a rate of 16%, officials said.
New York City: A western New York couple’s big wedding is off – at least for now – after an 11th-hour court order in a fight between couples and the state over a 50-person limit on social gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. A federal appellate judge in Manhattan on Friday granted a state request that blocks Pamella Giglia and Joe Durolek from having the 175-person celebration they planned Saturday at a Buffalo-area golf club. The order from Judge Denny Chin, of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, leaves New York’s 50-person rule in place at least until a panel of appeals judges can hear arguments, which couldn’t happen before the planned celebration. One of the couple’s attorneys, Phillip Oswald, noted the order came after lengthy court hearings and lower court rulings in the duo’s favor. “It is unfortunate,” Oswald said in an email Saturday, that “a single judge from the appellate court cavalierly issued a two-page, four-paragraph order that prevented this couple from having their wedding in a manner that is no more risky than going to a restaurant, gym, museum, etc.” The couple’s attorneys said Durolek and Giglia were postponing their wedding. Messages were sent Saturday to representatives for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James, whose offices are leading the state’s side of the case. On Saturday night, James’ office referred questions to the governor’s office. Cuomo’s office has not released guidance specific to weddings, but has said they are subject to the 50-person cap on social gatherings.
Raleigh: East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are moving courses online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the universities announced Sunday. ECU will move undergraduate courses online for the remainder of the fall semester, beginning Aug. 26. Undergraduate classes are suspended Monday and Tuesday at ECU to adjust to the change in the schedule. Professional and graduate courses will continue as they are operating at ECU. Fall classes began at ECU on Aug. 10. University residence halls will begin move-out this week with the conclusion on Aug. 30. The university will work with international students, student athletes and hardship cases who apply to continue to live on campus, the university said. UNC at Charlotte will begin classes as scheduled on Sept. 7, but it’s delaying the start of undergraduate and graduate in-person instruction for three weeks until Oct. 1. All instruction will begin as planned on the first day of classes Sept. 7, but will now be delivered online. UNC at Charlotte will continue to offer on-campus housing and dining services for students who are on-campus, international students and others with approved extenuating circumstances. Move-in to residence halls is scheduled for Sept. 26-29.
Bismarck: Passenger traffic is starting to pick up again at North Dakota’s airports but remains less than half of what it was a year ago before the coronavirus pandemic drove people into their homes. The Bismarck Tribune reported the state’s eight commercial airports saw about 5,000 passengers, or 5% of expected traffic, in April, the lowest monthly passenger count since record-keeping began 40 years ago. Passenger counts rose to 13,474 in May; 24,313 in June; and 39,660 in July. That’s still down 64% from July 2019, according to the state Areonautics Commission. Year-to-date boardings are down about 50% overall. The Federal Aviation Administration is providing more than $85 million in aid to 53 North Dakota airports through the federal coroanavirus relief bill. The Bismarck airport is getting more than $20 million.
Columbus: Staff members at all Ohio assisted living facilities must undergo coronavirus testing under a public health order issued Friday that expands testing being done in nursing homes. The order, signed by interim Health Director Lance Himes, requires staff in such facilities to be tested and any residents who wish it. Ohio licenses 771 assisted living facilities statewide. The pandemic has struck the elderly living in Ohio’s long-term care facilities especially hard. More than 2,500 residents in such settings have died from the coronavirus in Ohio, or more than six of every 10 deaths statewide. DeWine was also expected to issue an order Friday on guidelines for performing arts facilities.
Oklahoma City: Face-mask mandates adopted in some communities to reduce the spread of COVID-19 seem to be working, according to a newspaper report. Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health showed cities with mask mandates nearly cut in half their average number of new COVID-19 infections after three weeks, The Oklahoman reported Sunday. In Oklahoma, 17 localities have adopted mask ordinances, according to data compiled by the Oklahoma State Medical Association. On July 20, the rolling average of new COVID-19 virus cases in cities with mask ordinances was 457. By Aug. 12, that number had dropped 47% to 233, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Areas without mask ordinances also saw a 28% drop in new coronavirus cases during the same time period. That drop was likely the result, in part, to some residents wearing face masks even where they aren’t required, the newspaper reported. Dr. David Kendrick of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Community Medicine said he’s also seeing indications that local mask mandates are reducing the percentage of COVID-19 virus tests that are positive. Kendrick, who is also the CEO of Oklahoma’s nonprofit health information exchange MyHealth Access Network, looked at six cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, that have adopted mask ordinances. In the first seven days after a mask policy went into effect, the positivity rate dropped by 0.47%. After 14 days, the positivity rate dropped by 7.57% and by 21 days, it had decreased by 5.73%.
Salem: Coronavirus cases in Oregon have declined during the past month, but in order for schools to reopen, the average amount of new cases a day needs to decrease from 250 to 60, state health experts said Friday. In order to reach that goal, Gov. Kate Brown said residents will have to continue to follow and enforce current statewide COVID-19 safety mandates or else bars and restaurants may have to close and travel restrictions will be implemented. The Oregon Health Authority reported 259 new cases Friday as the state’s total case count rose to 24,421. The death toll is 414. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist, said that since July, transmission of the deadly virus has slowed. Hospitalizations also declined last week, from 143 to 115. The percentage of positive tests has leveled off too – remaining at 5.4%. In June, Brown issued an executive order that allowed in-person learning at public and private K-12 schools only if it they met guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education. One of the guidelines requires a statewide and a county-wide testing positivity rate of 5% or less, as well as 10 or fewer new cases for every 100,000 people in the county where the school is located.
Pottsville: U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser has said he is postponing public events after testing positive for the coronavirus. Meuser, a Republican, said he is following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and working from home in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. “I am thankful to God that my grown children were not at home and that my wife Shelley has tested negative,” said the congressman, who represents a portion of east-central Pennsylvania, in a statement. Meuser said because of the quarantine he will not be voting on the bill regarding postal services but would have voted against the measure, saying calls to direct $25 billion to the postal service “are not reflective of the data or the reality of the situation.”
Providence: The state’s arts sector lost more than 10,000 jobs and more than $436 million in sales from April until July as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recently issued report by The Brookings Institution. In Rhode Island and across the nation, arts venues and events were among the first to shut down and will be among the last to reopen in response to the pandemic, according to a statement Friday from Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. “This report documents how, in just four short months, the arts sector nationwide and in Rhode Island has literally ground to a halt,” he said. “Theaters and concert halls and museums were shuttered, and artists and cultural workers lost their livelihoods.”
Columbia: Gov. Henry McMaster wants lawmakers to simply copy and paste last year’s spending plan for the current budget year, asking state agencies to prepare for possible cuts if the economy continues to struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The roughest of estimates by state economists said South Carolina might collect a little extra money in the fiscal year that started July 1. If that happens, the state should bank it until the COVID-19 uncertainty eases, McMaster told his Cabinet on Thursday. “The $1.8 billion revenue surplus we had estimated evaporated almost overnight,” McMaster said. Lawmakers said they will listen to the governor’s request, but aren’t committing to anything yet. With schools starting back, South Carolina faces a crucial point in its economic recovery and COVID-19 response. After two months of first rising COVID-19 cases, then a spike in deaths, the numbers have taken a turn downward. South Carolina is now averaging less than 800 new cases a day, the lowest level since mid-June, when a massive increase in cases experts blamed on a lack of mask rules, reopening businesses and Memorial Day parties.
Sioux Falls: Hundreds of Sioux Falls students didn’t participate in online learning last spring and all but vanished after the coronavirus pandemic drove the district to close classrooms. Keloland.com reported 700 children, or 3% of the district’s student body, never connected with their teachers during the last quarter of the year. Assistant Superintendent Teresa Boysen said the district tried to reach out to the students but never connected with them. She said phone numbers and emails changed and some students moved to different towns so they would have someone to take care of them while their parents kept working. Boysen said some students who returned have been catching up on their work in summer school. She said the district has been updating contact information in case schools have to close again this fall. “Teachers will work with the students to take their devices home, practice getting connected and this is what we have to do in case we have to jump out,” she said. School begins on Thursday.
Nashville: The state will provide an additional $300 per week in federal assistance to people who are unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it has approved Tennessee’s request for a grant to give to people on top of their regular unemployment benefits. The Lost Wage Assistance grants have been awarded to nearly half of the states. President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this month making the money available. It was announced as a $400-per-week benefit, but put the burden on the states to pay $100 a week of that amount. The U.S. Department of Labor issued recent guidance saying states would not have to contribute that money. Trump’s order came after a $600-per-week federal unemployment benefit expired at the end of July, without a new bill for pandemic relief being reached.
Brownsville: Efforts by officials in Cameron County to delay the start of in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic could face a legal challenge on claims of religious freedom. The county, which has been one of the many COVID-19 hot spots in South Texas in recent months, has delayed in-person classes at public and private K-12 schools until after Sept. 28. But attorneys for two private religious schools have told the county that the order is unlawful and goes against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s June 26 executive order superseding the authority of local governments to issue orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus if they conflict with the governor’s own orders, the Brownsville Herald reported. Laguna Madre Christian Academy in Laguna Vista and Calvary Christian School of Excellence in Harlingen plan to open for face-to-face classes on Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, respectively. Last month, Abbott said Texas counties don’t have the power to preemptively shut down campuses to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Abbott said that power rests with local school boards and state education officials. Jeremy Dys, an attorney with Plano-based First Liberty, which represents the two schools, told officials in a letter that “any effort by Cameron County to enforce its unlawful order … will be viewed as an affront to the religious liberty of (the two schools) and met with the strictest legal defense.” Daniel N. Lopez, an attorney for Cameron County, said in an Aug. 20 letter that officials were not opposed to granting Laguna Madre Christian Academy an exemption because the school is small and it came up with a plan that meets state guidelines for reopening. But Calvary Christian School is larger and its reopening plan was still being reviewed, officials said.
Salt Lake City: The annual Christmas concert by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ choir has been canceled because of lingering concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. It will the first time since the holiday concert began in 1974 that the show has been canceled, said Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. The cancellation announced Friday by church officials is the latest sign that disruptions to normal religious activity will continue through the holidays. The Utah-based faith previously announced it would hold its twice-yearly signature conference in October without in-person audience as it did at the April conference. The faith has limited activities at temples and allowed regular Sunday worship services to resume only where it’s allowed under local government rules and without safety measures. It’s missionary program has shifted to focusing on online faith outreach. The Christmas concert that has been canceled usually brings brings thousands to the faith’s 20,000-seat auditorium in Salt Lake City and features guest performers such as Broadway star Kelli O’Hara and actor Richard Thomas. It has been held for decades without disruption. The choir, previously known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, also announced the cancellation of two other fall concerts and auditions.
Montpelier: The state has extended until the new year its emergency rules for how courts operate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The judicial emergency declared in March means that jury trials are not being held and many court hearings are taking place online or over the phone, the court said. People must go through a health screening before entering a courthouse, wear a facial covering and stay at least 6 feet away from others. “The Court has extended the judicial emergency to January 1, 2021 in recognition of the fact that the ongoing and dynamic nature of the pandemic will continue to impact court operations and to require changes to court operations and rules,” the Vermont Supreme Court said when it announced the extension last week. The court also made changes to allow individuals participating in proceedings other than hearings access to court buildings.
Salem: Roanoke College said it has removed six students for violating the student conduct code after three positive tests for COVID-19 that might have been related to an off-campus party. The Roanoke Times reported that four students have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. The first was tested last weekend, as students began to move in, and the student had withdrawn from classes before the test result came back. The other three have been moved to an isolation area on campus. Others who might have been exposed to them are quarantining in their rooms, and people they might have been in contact with have been notified, the college said. Online classes at the private college began Wednesday. Students continue to filter into residences in a phased plan the college announced earlier this summer. Classes are supposed to transition to mostly in-person instruction by Sept. 7. The Roanoke College announcement follows actions by Virginia Tech and Radford University. Virginia Tech suspended seven students Thursday after being alerted to large gatherings of students off campus. Radford suspended three students for failure to comply with that university’s COVID-19 safety measures.
Pullman: The athletes weren’t the only ones affected when Washington State University’s fall football season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. Merchants in Pullman who depend on big football crowds said they are losing a major chunk of their annual income. Pullman, the most remote outpost in the Pac-12, has only 34,000 residents. Many businesses in town depend on visitors attracted by football games, graduation and other special events. The pandemic has led to the cancellation of many of those events, including seven home football games that annually provide a lifeline to hotels, restaurants and other retailers. Of Pullman’s 34,000 residents, about 20,000 are Washington State students and many of the rest are faculty and staff. Without the college, Pullman would be another small farm town amid the rolling hills of the fertile wheat country known as the Palouse.“We expect to be down 50 to 60% in annual sales this year,” said Bob Cady, owner of the Cougar Cottage, an iconic bar and restaurant in Pullman close to Martin Stadium, where the Cougars play their home football games. The cancellation of Mom’s weekend and graduation ceremonies last spring, and the recent decision by the Pac-12 to postpone the football season to next year at the earliest will devastate business at what is popularly called The Coug, Cady said. In reality, Cady has long expected the football season to be canceled.
Parkersburg: Attendance at West Virginia high school football games will be limited to family members of players and coaches during the first few weeks of the season. The Secondary School Activities Commission released guidelines Friday for sports competitions and extracurricular activities. The guidelines are based on the state’s color-coded reentry map for public schools during the coronavirus pandemic. The map uses four colors to classify the opening status of each of the 55 county school systems based on virus transmission rates. The system will be used during the first two weeks of the football season, which starts on Sept. 3. Immediate household family members will be allowed into football games involving counties in the green category, and only parents and guardians can attend games in counties in the yellow category. No games are allowed if a county is in the orange or red category.
Milwaukee: A deputy with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office who is believed to have contracted the coronavirus while on duty has died. Sheriff David Mahoney said in a statement that Richard “Rick” Treadwell is believed to be Wisconsin’s first law enforcement officer to die from the virus after contracting it while on duty. The Journal Sentinel reported Treadwell had been with the department since 1995 and worked as a recruiter and instructor. The statement did not provide specifics but said “all evidence” indicated Treadwell contracted the virus while on duty. His body was escorted from a hospital Saturday to a funeral home by a law enforcement procession. He leaves behind a wife and three adult children. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Laramie: The University of Wyoming reported 61 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, officials said. The university tested more than 10,000 students and staffers ahead of the fall semester, which is scheduled to begin on Monday. Out of the 61 confirmed cases, 46 are still active as of Thursday and 15 people have recovered. Two of the 46 active cases are students who were living in dorms. They have since been isolated. Other students who were in close contact with the infected students are now required to quarantine for 14 days. Eight of the active cases are university employees who live off campus. The final 36 of the active cases are students who live off campus, many of whom officials said do not live in Laramie. School officials had initially planned to begin in-person classes immediately, but they decided last week that only some in-person education would start on Monday. The school said it plans on having all students returning on campus for in-person instruction by Sept. 28. The school plans to test all students and employees twice a week until then. “As we have seen across the country, many of our peers are having to pivot to online environments because of infection outbreaks,” university President Ed Seidel said in a statement. “We believe we have one of the best programs in the nation to monitor and intervene to limit the virus spread, so we can continue to offer a strong on-campus program.”