Montgomery: National Guard members will begin immunizing rural residents against COVID-19 this week as Alabama tries to improve a vaccination rate that’s trailing most of the nation. Mobile vaccination clinics will be held Tuesday in Andalusia and Livingston, according to a news release by the state, followed by clinics in Enterprise and Eutaw on Wednesday. Guard teams will provide shots later in the week in Ozark, Greensboro, Abbeville and Marion, and additional clinics are planned elsewhere into April. The National Guard has two teams that are capable of providing at least 1,000 vaccinations a day. It plans to administer about 8,000 doses per week. Appointments aren’t required, and the shots are free. Gov. Kay Ivey said the effort will help as the state looks to get past the coronavirus pandemic. “I encourage everyone eligible to take advantage of this great resource, and please remain patient as we continue working to get our hands on as many doses as we are able from the federal government,” she said in a statement.
Juneau: Regulators amid much fanfare in early 2020 approved two cannabis lounges in Alaska, making it one of the few states where customers would be allowed to use marijuana at retail pot shops. Then the pandemic hit. One of the sites opened briefly in Ketchikan in October, near the start of a statewide COVID-19 surge that an owner said forced it to hit pause. The other, in Fairbanks, hopes to open later this year. Records showed a small number of other shop owners have filed paperwork signaling plans to seek approval for consumption hangouts – where customers can smoke marijuana or eat or drink marijuana products – though the virus has caused some of them to delay their efforts too. Marijuana businesses were allowed to stay open. Dan Peters, an owner of GoodSinse in Fairbanks, said he was surprised by how many people were buying cannabis. “I think maybe even bulk amounts of purchasing were happening,” he said. “I just assume that people are stuck at home and needed things to do that’s something fun that doesn’t cause too much trouble.” GoodSinse was one of the first two businesses approved for on-site use by the state Marijuana Control Board in January 2020. Over the last year, Peters said he focused on other aspects of the business, which include retail, cultivation and manufacturing, because the pandemic – and social distancing – made it hard to create the experience he wanted for the planned café-style consumption area. As more people are vaccinated, he said he expects to resume work on the consumption area and hopes to open it this summer.
Phoenix: State-run outdoor vaccination sites will switch to nighttime operations or shut down next month in anticipation of hotter temperatures, the state’s top health official said. Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Department of Health Services, said officials are already looking at indoor venues with air conditioning to replace the parking lot operations at State Farm Stadium in Glendale and Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The state has identified a site in Mesa that will replace the vaccination clinic at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. “We know come April and May, the weather is going to be getting too warm for our volunteers and patients to be safely outside while our patients are in their cars,” Christ said. The University of Arizona site in Tucson, however, will continue administering vaccines outdoors. Beginning April 4, State Farm Stadium, where the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals play, will only give out doses between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. There will be more appointment times added so the capacity of doses administered daily won’t won’t be significantly reduced, according to Christ. She said she is hopeful that will only run for a short time until an indoor site is ready to open.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday he believes his proposal to remove a mask mandate intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus will take place as planned at the end of the month. On CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Hutchinson said goals announced in February to lift the mask mandate, which include a positivity rate below 10%, or fewer than 750 hospitalizations, are being met and he believes the mask requirement will be lifted. “I set some goals. And we’re making those goals. So, I expect that (mandate) to be lifted,” Hutchinson said. “Common sense is going to replace mandates. And I think that’s where we are right now. You cannot go beyond the toleration of the American public” to a mandate. Hutchinson said he believes people will continue wearing masks when social distancing is not possible or they are otherwise at risk of virus exposure. Hutchinson’s February announcement lifted restrictions on capacity limits on bars, restaurants, gyms and large venues. The state’s positivity rate was 9% on Thursday.
Los Angeles: Students in California classrooms can sit 3 feet apart instead of 6 under new guidelines adopted by the state as school officials figure out how to reopen campuses closed for a year during the coronavirus pandemic. The state recommendations announced Saturday came a day after federal health officials relaxed social distancing guidelines for schools nationwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised at least 3 feet of space between desks in most schools, even in towns and cities where community spread is high, so long as students and teachers wear masks and take other precautions. Local education leaders will have the final say on distancing in California. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, said it would stick with the 6-foot rule, the LA Times reported Sunday. Some districts across the state will likely embrace the revised rules. But many school systems, including Los Angeles Unified, have approved agreements with their teachers unions that stipulate a 6-foot desk separation, the Times said.
Denver: State government revenue this year will be significantly higher than expected as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, but that recovery is marked by gross disparities, particularly when it comes to the restaurant and tourism industries and jobs lost by lower-income wage earners, officials said. Two economic forecasts presented to the Joint Budget Committee suggested lawmakers will have more to spend in crafting a balanced budget than they did last year. But demands for that money are many, including restoring the budget cuts, ensuring ambitious stimulus plans are funded, and replenishing a rainy day reserve fund. Colorado’s key hospitality and restaurant industries continue to suffer, and overall, the state has recovered just 57% of all jobs lost since the pandemic began, the legislative report said. Jobs for low-income individuals are down 30% from prepandemic levels, compared to a slight increase for high income earners, the forecast said. A quarterly forecast from the governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting suggested the state will have nearly $13 billion in general fund revenue this fiscal year – close to prepandemic levels – and nearly $14 billion in fiscal year 2021-22. Both figures were revised upward by $425 million and $390 million, respectively, from a December forecast.
Hartford: The Connecticut Department of Labor continues to receive a high volume of unemployment claims, with 200,000 to 210,000 people filing weekly. Although that’s down from nearly 400,000 weekly filers in May 2020, it’s still much higher than before the coronavirus pandemic hit the state, when the agency handled an average of 40,000 filers a week. Since March 13, 2020, the department has received 1.4 million unemployment applications over the six programs it administers, a volume usually experienced over a 10-year period. “This past year has been nothing short of devastating for our workforce and our economy. Out of 1.9 million workers in Connecticut, COVID-19 sent nearly 580,000 of them into unemployment,” said Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby in a statement. He noted that the state’s 40-year old computer system was never meant to handle that kind of surge, but the agency’s benefits and technical teams kept the system running and whittled down a backlog of applications. Westby credited the agency’s customer care center with reducing a four-to-six week application processing time during the height of the pandemic to one-to-three days. The center has more than 100 staff members.
Rehoboth Beach: The memory of last summer’s ever-changing mask mandates and business restrictions might still haunt Delaware’s beach communities, but summer 2021 is bringing glimpses of optimism and hope. It’s not even April yet and many beach rentals are selling out – and not just for the summer, but for the months that bookend the state’s favorite season. Airbnb and Vrbo, two major online travel agencies, reported that the Delaware beaches are trending destinations nationwide since the resort towns are near outdoor activities. It also helps that the beaches are within driving distance of several cities – something that has always driven tourism there but has the potential to boost visitors with many still wary of flying. After 26 summers managing rentals in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach, Sheila Davolos said this summer has been “the busiest I’ve ever seen the rental market.” Although she said new listings continue to come in – and her company, Jack Lingo, Realtor, has been booking summer rentals since October – many places are fully booked.
District of Columbia
Washington:George Washington University said it will cut varsity of men’s rowing and six other sports by the end of this spring, a result of budget cuts because of the pandemic, WUSA-TV reported. In addition to men’s rowing, co-ed sailing, men’s and women’s squash, men’s indoor track, men’s tennis and women’s water polo will be cut. Although George Washington is the only D.C.-area school to announce sports cuts, they are far from alone. In the D.C. region, Hampton University cut men’s and women’s golf. Old Dominion University disbanded its wrestling program. The university said before the cuts, it sponsored more varsity programs than any of their “peers in the Atlantic 10 Conference.” Over the years, those programs “have increasingly strained resources” and were already under review before the pandemic struck, the school said. The roughly $200 million hole that pandemic punched in its bottom line made that work more urgent. For student-athletes on cut programs at George Washington, scholarships will still be honored through graduation. The school has also promised to support any athlete choosing to transfer “in every way possible.”
Miami: A baby was born with coronavirus antibodies just weeks after her mother was vaccinated against the disease. Doctors believe the baby is among the first with some protection because of the vaccine. The baby’s mother is a front-line health care worker who got her first dose of the Moderna vaccine in late December. Three weeks later, she delivered a baby girl. During a routine testing of the blood that comes from the child’s umbilical cord, Boca Raton pediatricians Dr. Chad Rudnick and Dr. Paul Gilbert had the sample tested for coronavirus antibodies, too. The doctors had a hypothesis: With other vaccines, like the flu shot, if a mother is vaccinated within a certain time frame, her child will be born with some antibodies. Would the COVID-19 vaccine offer the same? Their hunch was right. The family was ecstatic. “Her first question was, ‘What does this mean in terms of protection?’ ” Gilbert said. The doctors couldn’t give her a definite answer. They knew the baby had some protection but they didn’t know how long the antibodies would last or if they were enough to give the child full protection against the virus. Data on this is still lacking. There are also no COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States yet for children younger than 16. What they did know is that the baby being born with some protection was a sign that the world “was turning a corner on this virus,” Rudnick said. Gilbert said they also knew the little girl was probably “one of the first in the world” to be born with antibodies from the vaccine. For now, the doctors are keeping the mother’s identification and other information private.
Atlanta: Hartsfield-Jackson International saw steep drops in traffic in 2020, but with air travel everywhere taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, it still handled more passengers than any other U.S. airport. The airport had 20.6 million passengers boarding flights in 2020 – a 62% decline from a year earlier, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The traffic put Hartsfield-Jackson ahead of Dallas/Fort Worth in second place, Denver in third place, Chicago O’Hare in fourth and Los Angeles International in fifth. Atlanta’s airport has held the No. 1 ranking in the world for passenger traffic since 1998, but 2020 global rankings have not yet been released. Hartsfield-Jackson also handled more flights than O’Hare last year, according to Federal Aviation Administration figures, after O’Hare held the title for the most flights in the world in 2018 and 2019. At the lowest point in April, Hartsfield-Jackson had only 450 flights a day and about 9,000 passengers, down from 2,600 flights a day and 310,000 passengers in prepandemic times, general manager John Selden said. The terminal “was very strange looking, very eerie, very deserted,” Selden said. But “traffic is coming back” and the airport recovered to 2,000 flights a day last weekend. “We look forward to very good passenger traffic coming through spring break and then into summer,” he added.
Honolulu: Two people were arrested and two others were cited during a weekend anti-mask rally in Waikiki on allegations that they violated emergency public health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. The rally at Kapiolani Park drew hundreds of people on Saturday who protested mask usage and other coronavirus-related health restrictions. Honolulu police officers responded to the gathering organized by the Aloha Freedom Coalition and, at one point, there was a confrontation between protesters and officers that resulted in one woman being forced to the ground. One member of the anti-mask group accused officers of reacting too aggressively. “It’s just doesn’t make any sense,” said Gary Cordery of the Aloha Freedom Coalition. “And everybody’s going, ‘What are you guys arresting her for? What? What’s the crime here? What does she do?’ ” Police officers had given verbal warnings to the crowd to disperse after they allegedly violated of public health orders. The Honolulu Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comments from Hawaii News Now, the media outlet reported on Sunday.
Boise: Gov. Brad Little said the state will be deliberative in spending about $2.2 billion it is receiving in the latest round of federal coronavirus relief money. It is the third round of federal relief money coming to Idaho following infusions last fall and last spring. The state received a similar amount in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic was taking hold in Idaho and there was little understanding of the virus and no vaccine. The state was given nine months to spend that money. The state has until 2024 to spend most of the latest infusion. “This time around, we have nearly four years to spend the new funds,” Little said. “This time around, we’re not in crisis mode. We’ve learned a lot about the disease, how it spreads, and how to best protect ourselves and our loved ones.” The Republican governor said he will work with the Legislature to find projects that will benefit future generations of Idaho residents who will have to pay off the federal debt being added to with the $1.9 trillion federal program. He said that if Idaho didn’t take the money, some other state would get it. “That is unacceptable,” Little said during the 30-minute news conference. “Therefore, Idaho will accept the allocation for our state.”
Chicago: Second City, one of Chicago’s most storied entertainment options and an economic mainstay of its Old Town neighborhood, is to reopen its comedy shows at Piper’s Alley on May 7. Live, and in person. Albeit at reduced audience capacity because of the pandemic. “It’s exciting,” said Jon Carr, the theater’s newly hired executive producer. “After not being able to do them for a year, even the mundane things like planning rehearsals are a thrill.” Carr said the Mainstage and e.t.c. Stages, located in the 1600 block of N. Wells St., will have new shows, performed Thursdays through Sundays, mostly by cast members who were working in each of the theaters at the point of closure roughly a year ago. Neither show will be traditional Second City revues, however. Carr said the plan was to ease back into business and create distinct, hourlong shows made up of new sketch material, improv and archival fare. The reduced running time will allow for more cleaning time between performances, especially because there will be two shows on Friday and Saturday nights. The plan will require approval from the Actors Equity union because Second City long has seen itself as a legitimate theater and operates under a union contract on both stages. Carr said audiences will have to fill out health questionnaires in the lobby and remain masked during the show. Such details as to whether (and how) the theater will be able to serve drinks are yet to be worked out. And ticket prices and performance times are still to be set.
Indianapolis:More than 12,500 Hoosiers have been laid to rest after dying of COVID-19 in the past year. Reimbursement for the funeral expenses is on the way for some. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said last week that the agency has allocated $2 billion to reimburse and pay for COVID-19-related funeral costs – up to $7,000 per family. The program uses funds made available under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, signed earlier this month. To be eligible, applicants must meet the following conditions: the death occurred in the United States; the death certificate must show COVID-19 as the cause of death. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or legal immigrant who paid for a COVID-19 funeral expense past Jan. 20, 2020. However, the deceased does not need to be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or legal immigrant. FEMA will begin accepting funeral assistance applications in April. The agency is working to set up a toll-free phone number to apply and will be available soon here.
Davenport: In just over three months, the departments of public health from Iowa and Illinois reported the Quad-Cities is the home of 40,644 fully vaccinated residents. That’s a vaccination rate of 12.8% for the entire metro area. The 23,836 adults fully vaccinated in Scott County gives the Iowa side a vaccination rate of 13.7%, and Rock Island County’s vaccination rate of 11.7% is based on 16,808 completed vaccinations. On Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Scott County’s positivity rate climbed to 5%, just over a full percentage point higher than 10 days ago and higher than the state positivity rate of 3.9%. Iowa Department of Public Health officials reported 34 new COVID-19 cases Friday – double the 17 new cases reported in Rock Island County.
Topeka: Mayor Michelle De La Isla said she won’t seek reelection, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. She made the announcement Friday. De La Isla, first elected in 2018, said she began thinking about not running during the coronavirus pandemic. She serves on Shawnee County’s COVID-19 Incident Command team and said the workload, combined with her work as mayor, is difficult to balance. She said she is exploring options, but politics isn’t on the list.
Louisville: Texas Roadhouse Inc. founder Kent Taylor died by suicide last week after battling symptoms following a case of COVID-19, including tinnitus, the company and his family said in a joint statement. He was 65. “After a battle with post-COVID-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life,” according to the statement. “Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable.” Taylor founded the restaurant chain in 1993 and most recently was its chief executive officer and chairman. During the pandemic, he donated his entire compensation to support the company’s front-line workers, and recently committed to fund a clinical study to help members of the military who also suffer from tinnitus, according to the statement. Tinnitus is a ringing or noise in the ears even when there’s no external sound. The American Tinnitus Association said the chronic condition is exacerbated by increased stress and anxiety, which are at unprecedented levels because of the pandemic. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior U.S. senator from Kentucky, was among several public figures who paid tribute to Taylor, saying he’d built the company “with creativity, grit and a lot of bold risks.” “From the cooks to the executives, Kent deeply cared about his team,” McConnell said. ”When the pandemic threw everything into uncertainty last year, there was no question what Kent would do.”
Shreveport: Centenary College in Shreveport said the 2021 class will be recognized at a morning ceremony on May 8, and an afternoon ceremony is set for those whose May 2020 ceremony was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commencement speaker for both ceremonies will be Dr. Diya Surie. She is a 2006 Centenary graduate who went on to earn a medical degree at Louisiana Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She is a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infections.
Portland: The Maine Arts Commission said it has made $127,000 available for artists and cultural organization affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It will take more money to meet the needs of Maine’s artists and art organizations, commissioner executive director David Greenham said. Arts and culture venues were among the first to close when the pandemic upended the worldwide economy. “The arts are critical to Maine’s success, and the artistic community is anxiously optimistic that we may soon safely welcome the public to our performing arts venues, museums, galleries, artist studios, workshops, fairs and festivals,” Greenham said. The commissioner said the money will be distributed directly to the artists and groups.
Baltimore: Officials at Loyola University announced plans to return to a full in-person format for the fall semester, including a full range of classes, athletics, and other in-person events and experiences. The university said on its website that it will have secondary plans in place in the event additional steps are needed to continue to halt the spread of COVID-19, such as allowing for extra space in classrooms.. Plans for the fall will include accommodations for students whose health or immigration status will prevent their returning to campus for in-person education. Testing will still continue and isolation space will be available for students who are not fully vaccinated and test positive, the school said. Loyola is encouraging members of the school community to get one of the available COVID-19 vaccines. Loyola offered online instruction during the fall semester of 2020, but students returned for hybrid instruction this semester, as well as a chance for undergraduate students to live on campus.
Boston: The state made about 800,00O additional residents eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and relaxed restrictions on many business and public events. Residents aged 60 to 64, as well as hundreds of thousands of workers in essential industries including supermarkets, restaurants, public transit and funeral homes, can now book a vaccine appointment. In good news for sports fans, Gillette Stadium, TD Garden, and Fenway Park can welcome back fans up to 12% capacity after submitting a plan to the state Department of Public Health. People coming to Massachusetts, including visitors and residents returning home, are now required to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival if they have been out of the state for longer than a 24-hour period. The advisory does not apply to people who are fully vaccinated. Gov. Charlie Baker relaxed the restrictions despite advice from a coalition of public health officials urging a delay in reopening limits, saying there is a danger of another surge. Also Monday, the state’s latest mass vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay became fully operational after a soft launch last week.
Lansing: Starting Monday, hundreds of school districts in the state had to offer at least 20 hours a week of in-person instruction to receive all of a minimum $450-per-student increase in emergency pandemic funding. The provision affects 206, or 38%, of the state’s 537 traditional K-12 districts – those with higher numbers or percentages of children from middle-class and wealthy families. Under federal law, the districts are due to receive a smaller share of nearly $1.5 billion in COVID-19 aid than are districts and charter schools with higher numbers or portions of poor students. The Republican-led Legislature allocated $136 million in state money to ensure hundreds of districts still get at least $450 more per pupil, but it added a string. Those with five-day schedules must provide at least 20 hours of weekly face-to-face instruction to qualify for the supplemental dollars. Districts that were not providing 20 hours had less than two weeks to alter their schedules after the law was signed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 9, frustrating school officials who had unsuccessfully asked GOP lawmakers for more time.
Minneapolis: State health officials on Sunday confirmed 956 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to more than 505,000 since the start of the pandemic. The update showed five deaths from complications of the disease, for a total of 6,782 fatalities statewide. The ranking for number of cases in comparison to population has been rising in Minnesota in the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. There were about 270 new cases per 100,000 people in the state since March 6, which ranks 12th in the country for new cases per capita. One in every 712 people in Minnesota tested positive in the past week, researchers said. Health officials said at least 1,408,601 residents have received one dose of a COVID vaccine and 839,860 people have completed their inoculations.
Jackson:The State Department of Health reported 95 new cases of COVID-19 and no coronavirus-related deaths on Monday. Since the virus hit the state in March 2020, a total of 302,932 cases and 6,956 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported.
O’Fallon:As the amount of COVID-19 vaccine starts to increase, leaders of the St. Louis region are putting out a call for volunteers, especially clinicians who can give shots. Three vaccines are now available, and Gov. Mike Parson said last week that he expects a large influx of vaccine in April, so much so that the state is opening vaccinations to all adults starting April 9. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday that the county is aiming for 15,000 vaccinations this week, which would be a record, and he expects even more in the coming weeks. “To prepare for the vaccine surge we will need more volunteers to help us,” Page said. In addition to vaccinators, he asked for volunteers for nonclinical roles such as greeters and line monitors. Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force made a similar plea in a news conference last week. He said volunteers are important to help get more people vaccinated and “get immunity into our community at a faster rate.” Page also urged residents to continue with protocols such as wearing a mask and avoiding large crowds. “We cannot have a healthy economy without healthy residents,” Page said.
Great Falls: The Cascade City-County Health Department said it is lifting its mask mandate and 75% capacity restrictions following a second week of a COVID-19 case rate at or below 10 per 100,000. In February, the health department said if the county maintained a case rate below that threshold for consecutive weeks, it would lift the restrictions. Last week, the county reported a rate of 9.6 per 100,000. “Please be mindful that now, although lifting restrictions is a good sign for our community, businesses, schools and other agencies have the right to implement stricter requirements to protect their stakeholders and staff,” the department wrote in a press release. The health department also advised that community members be mindful of “what got us to this point,” which included practices such as social distancing, good hygiene, wearing face coverings and staying home when sick. The mask mandate at Great Falls Public Schools will remain in effect because it was put in place through the district’s reopening plan.
Kearney: Vaccinations might be slowing the spread of COVID-19, but not the spread of hunger. Many people still are struggling with lost or reduced paychecks as the year-old pandemic drags on. Dick Cochran, founder and president of Hot Meals USA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families food program are assisting hungry people. The program is part of a $3 billion effort that distributes surplus produce, dairy and meat products to food-insecure people. Last week, cars drove slowly into the Ag building at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds and stopped as volunteers loaded free boxes of food into their trunks. People got as many boxes as they requested. No ID was required. No questions were asked. The Kearney Hub reported that scenes like that have been repeated weekly since Cochran learned of the program last June and offered to oversee the food distribution in the city.
Las Vegas: The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is changing course and now plans in-person spring graduation ceremonies in May as the coronavirus outbreak slows. UNLV President Keith Whitfield said in a letter to students and staff that he firmly believes the university “can offer a traditional commencement while adhering to public health guidelines.” Whitfield said there would be two ceremonies for spring 2021 graduates at 8 a.m. on May 14 and May 15 and a third ceremony for 2020 graduates at 6:30 p.m. May 14. All three ceremonies will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium. Each graduate will be allowed up to four guests, with everyone required to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings. Whitfield said holding the in-person graduation ceremonies is contingent on approval from local and state authorities and COVID-19 numbers continuing to decline.
Concord: Schools in multiple communities were closed Monday because of staff absences attributed to vaccine side-effects. Teachers, school staff and child care workers became eligible for the vaccine last week, and vaccination clinics were held in numerous locations over the weekend. School was canceled Monday in Concord because of staff reactions to vaccines, said Assistant Superintendent Donna Palley. A message on the Hillsboro-Deering district website described a similar situation. “A large number of staff members received their COVID vaccines (Sunday) and many are reporting feeling very ill. There will be no remote or in-person learning for the high school (Monday),” the message said.The main side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. include pain at the injection site and flu-like fever, fatigue and headache.
Atlantic City: Even the Super Bowl couldn’t lift the fortunes for Atlantic City’s casinos, as they posted declines from the same time just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Jersey, according to state figures. Total gaming revenue for February was $258.5 illion, a 6% drop from $275 million in the same period last year, according to the Division of Gaming Enforcement. When the state’s racetracks are factored in, the total margin of loss is much narrower: $288.3 million this February compared with $287.3 million in February 2020. The monthly figures continue to reflect the new reality for casinos in the pandemic, even as restrictions slowly lift: Online gaming and sports betting are money-makers, but casino business is down. However, the total gaming revenue for the industry increased 8% in the first two months of the year, to $634.4 million, compared with $587.8 million in January and February of 2020, gaming enforcement said.
Las Cruces: The 42nd annual Baca Rodeo Series was held each Saturday from Feb. 13 through March 13 but operated in violation of the New Mexico emergency COVID-19 public health orders with hundreds in attendance each weekend. The Casper Baca Rodeo Company founded the series in 1976 in San Fidel, a town in Cibola County near Grants. The series has been held in Belen in recent history. This year, it was moved to the Landmark Arena located off Stern Drive in Mesquite. C.J. Baca, son of Casper Baca, was the coordinator for the event and said Landmark Mercantile opened the doors to its private arena when asked, allowing the company to move forward with holding the rodeo. The arena is owned by Jason McClure of Landmark Mercantile, a feed and supply store in Mesquite. COVID-19 restrictions were not enforced, according to Baca. All were welcome to attend and people were free to decide whether to wear a mask and social distance. “We do it the way it needs to be done,” Baca said of the rodeo. “Everybody needs sunshine and entertainment. The pandemic was a big bummer to a lot of people and people just kind of need some excitement, so we went on with the show.” However, McClure said they handed out masks to people and their agreement with New Mexico State Police was that they made sure people social distanced and were not in large groups. He added that people were not forced to attend the rodeo, and the people who did were considerate of other attendees. Nora Meyers Sackett, press secretary for the office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the office was not aware of the rodeo being held and that the state would look into it.
Albany: The state is expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone aged 50 and older, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. The governor said newly eligible people can start signing up for vaccines starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Currently, everyone aged 60 and older can get vaccinated, as well as certain essential workers and people with select health conditions that leave them at-risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Cuomo said the state can expand eligibility because of promises from the federal government that vaccine supplies will keep increasing. It’s unknown how many people are now eligible for vaccines in New York. “We will have enough vaccine to vaccinate people,” Cuomo said. “We have to make sure we have the capacity and willingness to take the vaccine.” Local and county officials for weeks have urged the Cuomo administration to ease restrictions on eligibility and who can administer vaccines to help speed up vaccinations. The governor has said low vaccine supplies have held up distribution early on in New York’s rollout, but he has eased eligibility restrictions in recent weeks. New York has now provided at least one dose of the vaccine to about one-fourth of its population of 19 million residents. That’s in line with the national average, according to federal data.
Durham: Duke University has lifted a stay-in-place order it issued last week for all undergraduate students following a spike in COVID-19 cases that officials blamed largely on students attending fraternity rush events. The lifting of the order Sunday morning meant all courses will resume their standard delivery method, whether in-person or hybrid. Students living in university-provided housing are again allowed to move about campus but are being asked to leave campus only for essential travel and health-related activities through Sunday. Students living off-campus in the Durham area are permitted to be on campus only to attend in-person classes and essential academic activities, participate in surveillance testing, seek medical care or pick up food orders. Libraries will reopen for undergraduates, but indoor dining on campus is not allowed. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, on or off campus, unless permission for a larger student event is granted. The stay-in-place order was imposed March 13 after a week in which more than 180 students were in isolation after testing positive, and another 200 students were in quarantine as a result of contact tracing.
Bismarck: State health officials on Sunday reported 49 new cases of COVID-19, lifting the total number of positive tests to 137 for the weekend and 101,514 since the start of the pandemic. The state lab processed a typical light load of 801 tests in the last day, for a positivity rate of more than 7%. One death was confirmed over the weekend, for a total of 1,461 fatalities. Hospitalizations have increased from 13 to 18 in the last two days, with six people being treated in intensive care units. There were about 164 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in North Dakota over the past two weeks, which ranked 37th in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. One in every 1,152 people in the state tested positive in the past week.
Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine predicted a chaotic future for Ohio in a letter Monday pleading with fellow Republican lawmakers to compromise on a health bill that would handicap the state’s ability to issue any orders during an emergency. In the five-page letter, the Republican governor laid out what he sees as the perils of the legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate earlier this month and how it will impede the administrative branch’s ability to protect Ohioans, not only during the coronavirus pandemic but also amid weather emergencies, food contaminations, prison riots, or terrorist attacks. In his letter, DeWine also warned members of his party of the onslaught of lawsuits that will flood the state’s courthouses under a provision of the bill that would allow anyone who feels aggrieved by a local or state health order to sue. DeWine promised to veto the bill that came to his desk two weeks ago but ended the letter with an invitation for lawmakers to find a compromise. Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp said the chambers have enough votes to override the governor’s veto.
Oklahoma City: Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will have no impact on life insurance coverage or benefits, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready said in response to what he said was misinformation circulating online. Mulready said all three vaccines being distributed in Oklahoma are safe and effective and have received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “I assure you that getting a COVID-19 vaccine will not impact your life insurance benefits,” Mulready said in a statement. Oklahoma ranks 13th in the nation with 25.3% of its population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, above the national average.
Salem:Gov. Kate Brown said she is accelerating Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccine eligibility timeline in order for vulnerable populations to receive shots ahead of May 1, when all adults will become eligible. In addition, beginning Monday, counties that have largely completed vaccinating residents who are 65 or older can begin administering shots to the next eligible groups, along with migrant and seasonal farm workers. Lane County will move ahead with the accelerated vaccination schedule on Monday, according to Lane County Public Health spokesman Jason Davis. He said the county feels comfortable with where it is concerning vaccinating people 65 and older, and can move on to also vaccinating the next eligible group, which includes adults between 45 and 64 with one or more underlying health conditions with increased risk and several other categories. On the accelerated eligibility timeline, beginning March 29, those eligible for the vaccine, Group 6, will be people 45-64 with underlying health conditions, migrant and seasonal farm workers, seafood and agricultural workers, food processing workers, people living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living, homeless people, people displaced by the 2020 wildfires, wildland firefighters and pregnant people 16 and older.
Harrisburg: The state eased its mask mandate to allow people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to gather with other vaccinated people without masks or social distancing, state health officials said Monday. The new rules also apply to vaccinated people gathering with people from a single household who have not been vaccinated but who are considered at low risk of severe disease from the coronavirus – such as vaccinated grandparents visiting with healthy grandchildren. Vaccinated people also no longer have to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19, as long as they do not develop symptoms, state health officials said. Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam revised the state’s existing masking order to to align with recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state said vaccinated people should continue wearing masks and socially distance in public, and when visiting with people in multiple households or with those who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. All other aspects of the state’s current masking order remain in force.
Pawtucket: The city on Monday opened COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to all adults who live in the city. Residents must be 18 or older to receive a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine or 16 or older for a Pfizer shot, Mayor Donald Grebien said. “There is a demand in the community for vaccines, and we are very excited to encourage all residents to receive the vaccine when they are able to get an appointment,” he said. “We are continuing to work with the state through the High Density Community initiatives in order to continuously get vaccines in the arms of Pawtucket residents.” Pawtucket has been one of the hardest-hit communities in the state, with more than 10,000 residents, or more than 14% of the population, testing positive at some point, according to state Department of Health data. The city is expecting additional vaccinations in the coming weeks and will continue encouraging residents to stay tuned to the city’s vaccination website for available dates and times. It might take some time to book an appointment, city leaders said.
Spartanburg: All nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in South Carolina are now required to allow outdoor visitation under updated guidelines announced by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. All facilities are also required to allow indoor visitation, with few exceptions. Before the ruling, the department said facilities in just 40 of the state’s 46 counties were eligible for visitation because the county COVID-19 rates were below a 10% threshold. There were 177 facilities in the six counties that exceeded the 10% rate that were not allowing visitation. Through last Wednesday, though, all 46 counties had below 10%, thus outdoor visitation must be allowed at all 193 nursing homes and 495 assisted-living facilities statewide, according to the department. Greenville County’s COVID-19 rate was 5.5%; Spartanburg County’s was 5%; Anderson County, 3.8%; and Pickens County, 2.3%. Indoor visitation must also be allowed in every facility unless less than 70% of its residents are fully vaccinated or if a new positive case is identified. In that case, the facility must suspend indoor visitation pending results of a round of testing. Also, there can be limits on indoor visitation if residents are in quarantine.
Sioux Falls: The state Department of Health opened vaccinations to another priority group Monday. Group 1E includes fire personnel and critical infrastructure workers, which covers employees in industries like water and wastewater, energy, finance, food service, food and agriculture, legal, manufacturing, shelter and housing, transportation and logistics, information technology and communications. The group includes approximately 227,000 South Dakotans. Currently, 37% of South Dakotans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 23% are fully vaccinated. Health officials on Sunday reported no change in the number of active COVID-19 cases and a drop in hospitalizations.
Nashville: The state will soon allow all residents 16 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Bill Lee said Monday. Tennessee had been distributing the vaccine to health care workers, first responders, senior citizens and people 16 and older who have high-risk health conditions – including cancer, hypertension, obesity and pregnancy – as well as caregivers and household residents of medically fragile children. However, starting Monday, Lee said two new groups would be eligible, including Tennesseans 55 and older and those who work in critical infrastructure industries. By April 5, anyone 16 and older will be able to receive the shot. “The federal government has asked us to make sure every adult can receive access by May 1, and Tennessee will beat that deadline,” Lee, a Republican, said in a video announcement, noting that a few counties were planning on starting earlier but didn’t disclose which ones. State data showed that about 19% of the total population was at least partially vaccinated against the disease that has killed more than 11,600 people in Tennessee.
Austin: The number of newly reported coronavirus virus cases in Texas declined Sunday and the rolling average of cases in the state is down 36.1%. There were a reported 1,905 new virus cases Sunday, according to the Texas health department, compared to 3,673 new cases on Saturday. The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Texas dropped during the past two weeks from 6,189.7 a day on March 5 to 3,953.1 on March 19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The Johns Hopkins data showed 47,346 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the third-highest total in the nation. The seven-day rolling average of deaths in the state, however, has fallen from 247.1 on March 5 to 133.1 on March 19, according to the Johns Hopkins data.
St. George:The state reported 3,250 new cases of coronavirus in the week ending Sunday, down 7.9% from the previous week. There were a reported 3,529 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19. Utah ranked 28th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data showed. Cases fell in three counties, with the best declines in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties. Utah ranked 47th among states in share of people receiving at least one shot, with 21.7% of its residents at least partially vaccinated. In the week ending Sunday, Utah reported administering another 129,856 vaccine doses, compared to 174,328 the previous week. In all, Utah reported it has administered 1,137,351 doses.
Newport: The Department of Corrections reported three new positive cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 at the Northern State Correctional Facility. The cases were found in testing done Thursday, and they were in the same unit as the past four rounds of positive results among inmates. No staff tested positive. There are 33 cases among inmates and three among staff. The department said 145 inmates who had tested positive are no longer positive for the coronavirus and they have been cleared to leave isolation. The entire facility was scheduled to be tested again Monday. The outbreak began after one staff member and 21 inmates tested positive in sampling done on Feb. 23.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said in a statement Monday that the coronavirus pandemic has lead to a decline in completion rates of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The Virginia College Access Network and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia have partnered to offer one-on-one FAFSA assistance. Students and families can go to virginiacan.org/fafsa to schedule a virtual meeting and connect with an advisor until June 30. Virginia has seen 4,300 fewer high school seniors complete the FAFSA. That’s a drop of nearly 10% compared to last year. The decline also mirrors the 9% drop in FAFSA completion rates across the country. “Completing the FAFSA can be difficult under normal circumstances, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote learning have added to the challenge of assisting our high school seniors with filling out their forms,” the Democratic governor said.
Redmond: Microsoft will begin bringing workers back to its suburban Seattle global headquarters on March 29 as the tech giant starts to reopen more facilities it largely shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic. In a post Monday on the company’s corporate blog, Executive Vice President Kurt DelBene said Microsoft has been monitoring local health data and decided it can bring more employees back to its Redmond campus. DelBene said workers will have the choice to return to headquarters, continue working remotely or do a combination of both. More than 50,000 people work at the company’s campus in Redmond, 15 miles east of Seattle. On Monday, the state moved into Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan, meaning all of its 39 counties will be allowed to relax coronavirus restrictions.
Charleston: The state will immediately open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all residents aged 16 and older, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday. The state becomes one of the few in the nation to lift virtually all eligibility requirements way ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal of allowing all adults to get shots starting on May 1. Justice said the state will continue prioritizing doses for residents 65 and over. “Now is our time. Let’s go West Virginia,” he said. “Let’s get everybody in this state vaccinated.” There are about 1.43 million people 18 and older in the state, according to census data. State data showed that about 25% of the total population was partially vaccinated, and 15% were fully inoculated against the disease that has killed 2,612 in West Virginia. The state previously was allowing shots for all residents 50 and over, essential workers of any age and individuals 16 and over who had underlying medical conditions.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill Monday that allows dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, the same day that more than 2 million more people became eligible for shots. The Republican-authored bill allows dentists who complete eight hours of training on vaccine protocols and record-keeping to administer shots. Dentists in neighboring Minnesota and Illinois are permitted to give the vaccine. About 3,500 dentists in Wisconsin could be enlisted to help vaccinate. Evers’ administration announced earlier this month that people age 16 and older with certain preexisting conditions would be eligible on Monday, a week earlier than previously announced. Qualifying conditions include moderate to severe asthma; cancer; diabetes; high blood pressure, Down syndrome; and being overweight with a body mass index of 25 or above. Women who are pregnant are also eligible. Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake urged people to be patient as they try to book vaccination appointments, warning some vaccinators might have waiting lists. The general public will become eligible on May 1, according to state health officials.
Cheyenne: Lawmakers are working on competing proposals to address a projected $300 million shortfall in K-12 education funding over the next two years – and are looking to solutions for a longer-term deficit in school funding. The state’s rainy day fund of about $1.3 billion is available to cover the short-term shortfall. But House legislators are working on a bill that would phase in cuts of about $68 million over the next three years, and a Senate proposal would cut $130 million from the school finance model, The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. Lawmakers are working on a solution with two weeks left in the legislative session.