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Westminster Dog Show, Surgeon General cited, Las Vegas casino to debut: News from around our 50 states

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/23/2020 From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY


Montgomery: Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who has called the state’s mask order a government overstep, announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. Ainsworth said he had a positive test result but has no symptoms. He said he took the test after being notified Wednesday that a member of his Sunday school church group had acquired the coronavirus. Ainsworth has criticized mandatory mask orders, although he said he personally wears one. “Because I follow social distancing rules and wear a mask both in church and in my daily interactions, the positive result shows that even those of us who are the most cautious can be at risk,” Ainsworth said in a statement. Ainsworth said he “will quarantine for the appropriate period and seek follow-up tests to ensure the virus has run its course before resuming public activities.”


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Juneau: Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, is encouraging Alaskans to vote early amid the ongoing spread of COVID-19. “I think if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that if we’re kind and we work together and we plan ahead, we’re better off,” Zink said, adding that one never knows if they might come in contact with an infected person and have to quarantine. More than 120,000 people have requested absentee ballots, mostly for delivery by mail, according to the Division of Elections. More than 7,600 have voted in person since early voting started Monday, division statistics showed. Division Director Gail Fenumiai, in a teleconference with reporters also attended by Zink and state health Commissioner Adam Crum on Tuesday, said elections and health officials encourage those with health concerns to take advantage of absentee voting options. Besides requesting ballots by mail, voters can ask to get ballots sent to them via email or fax. Fenumiai said the division is taking the same precautions for the Nov. 3 general election that it took for in-person voting in the primary. Those measures include having available for voters masks, gloves and hand sanitizer; having markers to help waiting voters maintain distance; and requiring poll workers to wear masks or face shields and to clean equipment and surfaces throughout the day. Officials strongly encourage voters to wear masks, she said.


Kingman: The city has joined two others in Mohave County in repealing a local mask mandate imposed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to repeal the requirement that people over age 6 wear face coverings when entering places of business, The Miner reported. Mayor Jen Miles had extended Kingman’s requirement in August through 2020, and the council voted 5-2 in September to keep the proclamation in effect through Tuesday pending a review. Miles voted Tuesday against lifting the mandate. Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City, the county’s other two population centers, lifted their mask mandates last month. Arizona on Wednesday reported 975 new confirmed coronavirus cases and another 17 deaths as the state continues to see an elevated spread of COVID-19. The numbers reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services bring the total to 233,912 known cases and 5,854 deaths since the start of the pandemic.


Little Rock: Two state lawmakers on Wednesday said they tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest in an outbreak among legislators that has prompted the suspension of state budget hearings this week. State Sen. Missy Irvin and state Rep. Joe Cloud confirmed that they contracted the virus, the fourth and fifth lawmakers to do so this week. Legislative leaders announced Tuesday that three lawmakers tested positive and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was limiting his public appearances after learning he had been exposed to someone with the virus. Hutchinson added that he had tested negative twice since the exposure. “I am at home recovering,” Irvin tweeted. “Praying for my colleagues and everyone who is suffering with this virus.” Cloud, who said he developed symptoms on Saturday, noted that he had been at budget hearings at the Capitol last week. “There’s no way to know where exactly I contracted it, but obviously there was some spread,” Cloud said. Three senators and six House members have now tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began in March.


Sacramento: A California appeals court has ordered state corrections officials to cut the population of one of the world’s most famous prisons to less than half of its designed capacity, citing officials’ “deliberate indifference” to the plight of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic. State prison officials said Wednesday that they are deciding whether to appeal the order, which otherwise will force them to parole or transfer about 1,100 inmates serving time in San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco. California’s oldest prison, home to its death row, was the site of one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with 28 inmate deaths and 2,200 infections at its peak – about 75% of the inmate population. Nearly 300 employees were sickened and one died, though all but nine employees are now back to work. It was “the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history,” the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in Tuesday’s ruling. The three-justice court said officials’ decision not to cut the inmate population by half, as recommended by prison officials’ outside advisors in June, was “morally indefensible and constitutionally untenable.” State officials “respectfully disagree with the court’s determination,” corrections department spokeswoman Dana Simas said in an email, saying the department “has taken extensive actions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Denver: A large food service contractor has announced plans to lay off 975 workers, most of whom work at Coors Field and are responsible for concession stands that were closed during the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Aramark informed the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Tuesday that the company plans to dismiss 71 bartenders at the Mission Ballroom in Denver and 904 workers at Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play, The Denver Post reported. The stadium workers include beverage attendants, cashiers, cooks, food prep workers, bussers, hosts, security workers, suite attendants and food stand staff. Many had no one to serve because no fans were allowed at Major League Baseball games in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.


Hartford: The first batch of local public health agencies has begun receiving state grants to help cover the cost of contact tracing for COVID-19 infections, testing and other expenses as Connecticut begins seeing localized pockets of cases. The money announced Wednesday is coming from the $20 million the Connecticut Department of Public Health received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It will be distributed over three years to local public health departments and districts, which are taking the lead on tracking down new cases. The grant amounts are based on per-capita and poverty levels in the communities. All local health districts and departments are eligible for the funding, said Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner at the state’s Department of Public Health. Applications from 21 of the state’s 65 local health districts and departments have so far been approved. Although local health departments are handling the initial contact tracing calls, Gifford said the state has hired 105 full-time contact tracers for a backup system to provide extra surge capacity to the local public health authorities.


Rehoboth Beach: The city canceled its annual public tree lighting because of COVID-19 restrictions, but the city’s Christmas tree will still be on display and lit throughout the holiday season, according to a statement the city released Tuesday. Every year, thousands of people attend the ceremony, which usually takes place at the Bandstand just after Thanksgiving and features a sing-along and a tall, well-lit tree that’s hard to miss. This year’s tree was donated by Jerry Owens of Lewes. And although the actual ceremony was canceled, that shouldn’t stop folks from visiting Rehoboth Beach for the holiday season. City officials “encourage all visitors to enjoy the many forms of holiday spirit our hard-working businesses provide,” according to the statement. Holiday music will be played at the Bandstand and surrounding businesses.

District of Columbia

Washington: A review board ruled DC Public Schools violated the law when leaders announced a school reopening plan for Nov. 9 without negotiating with the Washington Teachers’ Union, WUSA-TV reported. Still, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee held a town hall meeting Wednesday night to discuss plans to return 21,000 students to elementary schools. “If it's so safe, why don't we have in-person meetings to discuss this?” said Tiffany Brown, ANC 7B02 Commissioner and longtime DCPS teacher. “It can't be safe if the chancellor is sitting in an elementary school in Ward 7 with a mask on! He never takes off his mask to speak. We could barely hear him. If these school buildings are safe, invite the public in!” Ferebee never responded to parents’ online questions about the ruling by the Public Employees Relations Board that the reopen plan violates the law because the WTU was left out of the safety plan. DCPS did send WUSA-TV a statement insisting they have held focus groups with teachers and engaged the union “in more than 100 hours of discussions.” When Term 2 begins next month, all in-person operations will be consistently monitored following D.C. Health's COVID-19 compliance.


Miami: State health officials held off of releasing their usual coronavirus update Wednesday as they announced a more thorough review of all fatalities reported to the state. Fatality data reported to the state consistently present confusion and warrant a more rigorous review, according to a Department of Health news release. Of the 95 fatalities reported to the state Tuesday, which would have been released publicly Wednesday, 11 of the deaths occurred more than a month ago. Also, 16 deaths had more than a two-month separation between the time the individuals tested positive and died, and five of those had a gap of more than three months. “During a pandemic, the public must be able to rely on accurate public health data to make informed decisions,” Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said in a statement. “To ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 related deaths, the Department will be performing additional reviews of all deaths. Timely and accurate data remains a top priority of the Department of Health.” Palm Beach County had 50 of the 95 coronavirus deaths reported Tuesday, health officials said. That nearly doubled a previous one-day record of 27 in August.


Athens: The number of COVID-19 cases reported by the University of Georgia dropped slightly last week, but case rates in Clarke County and Georgia continued to edge up. The university reported 84 COVID-19 cases for the week ending Oct. 18, down from 96 the previous week. Those cases included 20 positive tests at the University Health Center, which tests people with symptoms, and 25 detected in surveillance testing. The university tested 2,029 people at its Legion Field site and pop-up sites, a record for the school, according to a news release. About 1.2% of those tests were positive, including 21 students and four staff members. Other positives in the overall 84 cases were reported from other sources. The university also issued a call earlier this month for the 729 faculty members teaching large classes to be tested; 321 responded, and just one test came back positive, according to the university. In Clarke County, the positivity rate in testing over the past two weeks remained at 4.3%, the lowest among Clarke and adjacent counties. Oglethorpe continues to have the highest positivity rate in testing at 12.4. Jackson at 9.9, Barrow at 8.1 and Oconee at 5.4 are also relatively high.


Honolulu: An attorney for U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Wednesday that his client, who is charged with illegally entering a Hawaii public park that was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, will plead not guilty. The criminal complaint against Adams, who was on Oahu in August helping with surge testing amid a spike in coronavirus cases, said he and two other men were looking at the view and taking pictures at Kualoa Regional Park on the island’s northeastern coast. The rural park offers a view of the famed Mokolii island, also known as Chinaman’s Hat for its cone shape. Adams did not appear in court or on a video call for the hearing, but his attorney, Michael Green, said his client understands the charge and will plead not guilty. Because the charge is a “full misdemeanor,” the judge said the not guilty plea could not be entered until Adams decided if he would waive his right to a jury trial. Green said Adams would not waive that right. The judge set an arraignment date of Nov. 2 in circuit court. Adams told a police officer who cited him that he was visiting Hawaii to work with Gov. David Ige on COVID-19 and didn’t know parks were closed. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell had closed them at the time to try to prevent crowding that could spread the virus. Violating any of the mayor’s emergency orders is punishable as a misdemeanor, with fines of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail or both. A few days after the citation, Adams appeared with Caldwell at a news conference announcing a partnership between the city and federal government for surge testing.


Coeur D’Alene: People with COVID-19 in Northern Idaho soon might have to be sent to Seattle or Portland, Oregon, because the region’s hospitals are nearing capacity. Kootenai Health hospital said in a statement Wednesday that their hospital is at 99% capacity for patients. The facility is also short-staffed, as demand for nurses grows with the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, the statement said.“Because all regional hospitals are experiencing the same situation, there will be limited opportunities to transfer patients to other facilities once at capacity,” the hospital said. “If there is no room available, Kootenai Health is currently looking at hospitals in Seattle or Portland to find space to transfer patients, but it is very limited.” As of Wednesday morning, Kootenai Health had 31 COVID-19 inpatients and 11 required critical care. Chief Physician Executive Karen Cabell told KREM the hospital nearing capacity at its current levels is “unprecedented.” Kootenai Health will not turn anyone away, but there might be long wait times and patients might receive treatment in different locations such as the waiting room, Cabell said. In the southern Idaho city of Twin Falls, St. Luke’s Hospital has had to cancel all elective surgery for the month to accommodate an influx of COVID-19 patients. One in every four patients there is stricken with COVID-19.


Springfield: As the state fights a recalcitrant coronavirus pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday started laying plans for distributing a safe and effective vaccine. But other than saying that a vaccine would go first to health care providers, long-term care residents and other vulnerable populations, Pritzker, at his renewed daily COVID-19 briefing, offered few details, saying much depends on what the federal government approves to prevent the virus. “The challenge of designing a plan now, of course, is that there’s so much about the vaccines that we don’t know,” Pritizker said in Chicago. “The most defining characteristic of this plan is that it’s adjustable as we go forward and learn more.” Details such as whether a vaccine will require one or more than one dose to be effective, whether it needs refrigerated storage or could be stored at room temperature, and even how a vaccine delivered in large containers will be broken down for specimens to be shipped to small health care facilities will affect the state plan, Pritzker said. Talk of a coming vaccine offered a bit of good news rarely available from the Democratic governor in the past week, after record-setting days for new infections and tighter restrictions starting in the coming days for parts of the state.


a man in a military uniform: Indiana has authorized the use of members of the Indiana National Guard to help with infection control practices, including improved COVID-19 testing for long-term care facility residents and employees. © Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar Indiana has authorized the use of members of the Indiana National Guard to help with infection control practices, including improved COVID-19 testing for long-term care facility residents and employees.

Indianapolis: State officials are expanding efforts to address a surge of coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities as the state continues to record sharp increases in hospitalizations and new infections. More than 55% of the state’s recorded COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities and the case counts in such environments continue to rise, said State Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver. To slow the spread of the virus, Weaver and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb announced during a news briefing Wednesday that the state will employ members of Indiana National Guard to help with infection control practices, including improved COVID-19 testing for long-term care facility residents and employees. New rounds of protective gear like masks, gowns and face shields are also being shipped to the facilities, Holcomb said. Additionally, the state will hire more clinical staff who have volunteered to help as part of the reserve workforce, allowing all facilities to be visited at least three times a week to ensure proper health protocols are in place. Long-term care facilities with one or more confirmed COVID-19 cases will be prioritized, Holcomb said. The goal is to have plans in motion by Nov. 1 and for efforts to continue for the rest of year.


West Des Moines: Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration will try to convince federal auditors to reverse course and approve its plan to spend $21 million in coronavirus relief funds on a long-planned information technology upgrade. Reynolds said Wednesday that the state believes spending federal virus aid to purchase and implement a new accounting and human resources system for the executive branch is “an allowable expense,” even though state and federal auditors disagree. “We’re going to reach out (to the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General) and talk about why we believe it was an appropriate expense and hopefully we’ll get the answer we think we should get,” Reynolds told reporters. “And if not, we’ll readjust and do what we need to do. We’re not going to spend dollars in a manner that is not appropriate.” State Auditor Rob Sand said Monday that the use of pandemic funds for the Workday project was inappropriate. He warned that Iowa would be on the hook to repay the federal government $21 million if the funds are not diverted to an allowable use, such as virus testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment. The Treasury Department’s deputy inspector general also told the state in an Oct. 16 letter that the spending would not be allowed, noting the Workday contract was signed before the pandemic. He said the money spent so far should be returned to the state’s $1.25 billion coronavirus relief fund and used for another purpose.


Mission: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is again calling for a statewide mask mandate as the coronavirus case count continues to climb in rural parts of the state that don’t require them. Kelly said Wednesday that two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 cases are now coming from outside the Wichita and Kansas City regions. Over the summer, she issued an order requiring Kansas residents to wear masks, but more than 90 counties chose to opt out. She said she now plans to speak with House and Senate leadership to work toward a bipartisan requirement with more teeth. “We cannot sit by as the cases continue to rise in our rural communities, threatening lives and businesses,” she said. On Monday, the health department in rural Norton County reported a coronavirus outbreak killed 10 residents in a nursing home in northwestern Kansas. It said all 62 residents and an unspecified number of employees at the Andbe Home in Norton had tested positive for the virus. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, said in a statement shared by a spokesman that he had not been contacted by the governor’s office to discuss a statewide mask mandate yet but is “happy to talk and discuss a mask mandate because it is better than a business shutdown, which he doesn’t want to talk about.” Denning added that he wants the discussions to include a statewide testing plan that is “crucial to dealing with the virus.”


a tree in front of a house: Earlier this month, as COVID-19 cases grew in Jessamine County, several employees at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center contracted the virus, and an outbreak among the center’s nearly 160 veterans swiftly followed. © Provided by Department of Veterans Affairs Earlier this month, as COVID-19 cases grew in Jessamine County, several employees at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center contracted the virus, and an outbreak among the center’s nearly 160 veterans swiftly followed.

Wilmore: A coronavirus outbreak at the state’s Thomson-Hood Veterans Center has led to 71 veterans testing positive and six deaths. Earlier this month, as COVID-19 cases grew in Jessamine County, several employees at the veterans center contracted the virus, and an outbreak among the center’s nearly 160 veterans swiftly followed. “It was just a rapid spread, an unbelievably fast spread,” said Mark Bowman, executive director of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. Although officials believe they have the outbreak under control, they remain concerned about the risk to Thomson-Hood’s residents because Jessamine County is listed as red on the state’s COVID-19 map, indicating uncontrolled spread of the virus. “They are in a red county,” said Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees nursing homes. “When you have a facility in a hot county, it’s much more difficult to keep COVID out.” Bowman said many of Thomson-Hood’s 210 employees live in Jessamine County or Fayette County, which also has seen a spike in cases of COVID-19.


Baton Rouge: A proposal to keep Louisiana’s emergency orders from governing churches and to upend prosecution of a pastor who violated Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions was narrowly shelved Wednesday by state senators. A Senate judiciary committee voted 3-2 to kill the bill by Oil City Republican Rep. Danny McCormick that would have prohibited government agencies or officials from being able to fine, penalize or prosecute anyone who attends or conducts a church service during a publicly declared emergency. The measure, which had won House support in a 66-24 vote, sought to apply its provisions to any actions pending when the bill became law. The move was aimed at disrupting the prosecution of Tony Spell, minister at Life Tabernacle Church in Central, for violating Edwards’ ban on large gatherings. Spell was charged in April with several misdemeanor offenses for repeatedly holding in-person church services with hundreds of people not distanced from each other, in defiance of the governor’s restrictions on crowd sizes at the time. Spell also was arrested later on an assault charge after authorities said he drove a church bus toward a man protesting his decision. The cases are pending. Edwards has since loosened crowd size limits on churches and many other places.


Portland: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she was “disappointed” that Vice President Mike Pence held a campaign rally in Hermon on Monday that appeared to exceed the state’s attendance limit for outdoor gatherings. Pence held the event to tout President Donald Trump’s reelection bid and promote Maine Republicans. The state limits outdoor gatherings to 100 people. Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people in attendance. Savage was dismissive of criticism of the event. “I guess we’ll have to call it a ‘peaceful protest.’ Gov. Mills and her pals should be fine then,” Savage said in an e-mail.


Hagerstown: Washington County Community Action Council officials said they want to help people struggling to pay bills during the coronavirus pandemic so they don’t lose their homes or have utilities turned off. But they said those people need to ask for help. “It’s very rare to be in our situation and have money to spend. Unfortunately, clients are not coming in,” said Geordie Newman, the council’s president and CEO. The nonprofit, based in downtown Hagerstown, has been seeing more new clients, including families that have had to ask for help for the first time because of the pandemic’s effect on the economy. But it also has secured $1.1 million in supplemental aid, spending $338,131 of it as of the end of Monday, Newman said. The nonprofit also is expecting another $920,000 in aid through an Emergency Solutions Grant from the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development, but Newman said he doesn’t anticipate that money being available until early 2021. About half of the coming grant will be restricted to helping homeless people get into sustainable housing, Newman said. As of Monday, the council had helped 159 households, or 493 individuals.


Boston: City schools will switch to all-remote learning in response to a rising number of coronavirus cases in the city, Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a statement. The switch to remote-only learning started Thursday. The city’s seven-day average COVID-19 positive test rate is 5.7%, an increase from last week’s rate of 4.5%. There have been two weeks of increased confirmed positive cases across the city. Students will remain in remote learning until there are two full weeks of falling infection rates, according to the statement. Although the city started remote learning Sept. 21, students considered high-need, including those with special needs, English learners, those experiencing homelessness, and those who are in state care had been allowed to resume in-person classes. Earlier this month, the city pushed back the in-person start date for preschoolers and kindergartners from Oct. 15 instead until Thursday. That has now been delayed again. Cassellius said she was “heartbroken” that high-need students are now affected.


Lansing: State officials said Wednesday that indoor visits can resume at nursing homes and other residential care facilities for the first time in seven months, except in counties with higher daily coronavirus case rates. The emergency order, issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services the same day Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned COVID-19 is surging, takes effect Monday. Indoor visitation has been prohibited since March because of the pandemic, except for an end-of-life situation, grave illness or to support activities of daily living. “As we grapple with both colder weather and rising cases, our task is to increase access to visitation in ways that do not increase the spread of the virus,” said Robert Gordon, the department’s director. “Visitation is a substantial source of risk. This order provides a plan for visitation that mitigates risk and continues necessary protections in facilities across the state.” For now, visits will not be allowed in 32 of Michigan’s 83 counties – those with an “E” risk level, where the daily number of new COVID-19 cases per million is more than 150 or the number of tests turning up positive is more than 20%. Facilities in 51 counties will be able to have visitors inside if they have had no new cases in the prior 14 days and the local health department has not barred visits. Visits will be by appointment only. Visitors must wear a mask. Many people visiting facilities in counties with a “C” or “D” risk level – 47 counties currently – will first have to be tested. Most nursing homes now are able to do rapid tests, the state said. Republican lawmakers who have pushed the Whitmer administration for changes called the order a positive step.


Minneapolis: The Salvation Army said 20 of its staff members from Minnesota and North Dakota tested positive for the coronavirus after 62 people attended a recent conference in northern Minnesota. “Despite adherence to the health guidance, we fully acknowledge that COVID-19 is formidable and highly contagious,” Salvation Army spokesman Dan Furry said in a statement Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported. Of the 20 infected people who attended the conference in Finlayson, none was hospitalized, Furry said, and the Salvation Army was still awaiting results from some attendees of the Oct. 6-8 event. The nonprofit shut down its Roseville headquarters as a precaution, boosted cleanings of its sites and quarantined all conference attendees, he said.


Jackson: The state is expanding access to curbside voting for people with symptoms of COVID-19 and setting a new process to let voters correct, or “cure,” minor discrepancies with signatures on absentee ballots. The changes are being made after voting-rights groups sued the state in federal court. U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan signed an order Tuesday that ends the lawsuit. The plaintiffs obtained some of the changes they sought, but not all. A new rule issued by Secretary of State Michael Watson said curbside or open-air voting must be made available to people showing signs of COVID-19, including coughing, vomiting, headaches, fever, sore throat, congestion, or loss of taste or smell. Also, election officials must notify a voter about any problem with his or her signature on an absentee ballot, and the voter must be given a chance to correct it, according to groups that sued the state. Officials must offer the voter an “absentee cure form” by mail, email or fax within one business day. The voter has 10 calendar days after the election to correct the issue so the ballot can be counted. Jennifer Nwachukwu, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement that the new procedures should help ensure that absentee ballots are not “arbitrarily rejected.” Mississippi requires absentee ballot applications to be notarized. The state also requires most people to provide an excuse to vote absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day. The plaintiffs argued those two requirements are unconstitutional. However, those procedures are not being changed.


Kansas City: Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday called lawmakers back to work for a special session to give his administration the authority to dole out additional federal coronavirus aid funding. Parson said the session is necessary to allow the state to hand out federal money for school food programs, job training, homelessness prevention, domestic violence grants and child support payments. Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade in a statement called the special session a “political stunt” that’s scheduled to begin two days after the Nov. 3 election, when voters will decide whether to give Parson four more years in office or replace him with Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway.


Missoula: A long-term care facility has been sued after health officials said its staff was negligent and allowed the coronavirus to spread through the facility in Whitefish earlier this year. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the estates of three residents at Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation who died because of complications caused by COVID-19, the Missoulian reported. The lawsuit represented the estates of Alton Johnson, Berton Pew and Stanley Webber, and argued that at least 13 people died at the facility because of the outbreak. The county had 23 coronavirus-related deaths. The Heenan and Cook firm of Billings and McGarvey Law in Kalispell are representing each of the estates. The lawsuit named the 100-bed long-term care facility and its administrator Reid Crickmore. Crickmore did not respond to an email or phone message from the Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment. Montana Public Radio reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report in September saying the facility’s noncompliance had placed the health and safety of its residents at risk. The Daily Inter Lake then reported that the agency rated the facility in “immediate jeopardy.” The lawsuit claimed that Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation did not implement COVID-19 safety measures recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lawsuit also argues that 75% of the residents at the facility have contracted the virus since late August, with the first case having been reported on Aug. 12.


Omaha: The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Nebraska continued to set records as the total number of virus cases surged above 60,000 on Wednesday. The state said 400 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, up from the previous day’s record of 380. Health officials said they are working with hospitals across the state to make sure they have capacity to treat all those patients, and the state has offered $40 million to help hospitals add capacity as needed. Nebraska reported 899 new virus cases and 11 new deaths Wednesday on its online virus tracker to give the state 60,308 cases and 576 deaths since the pandemic began. The rate of new cases in the state remains fifth-highest in the nation, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The rate of new cases per 100,000 Nebraska residents over the past two weeks increased to 565.6 on Wednesday, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.


Las Vegas: If the 1,000-seat sports betting auditorium at the Circa Resort & Casino doesn’t get you, maybe the six rooftop swimming pools will. “We expect more than 4,000 people a day at Stadium Swim,” hotel co-owner Derek Stevens said during a recent preview of his sun-and-sports property set to open early next Wednesday in downtown Las Vegas. It will be the only casino-hotel in town only serving people 21 and older. Identification will be checked at the door. Facial coverings and temperature scans also will be required. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Stevens predicted eye-popping sights for ticket-buyers making the trip downtown and the minute-plus ride up an escalator he called the longest in Las Vegas. Circa plans to open some hotel rooms and suites Dec. 28. Its eventual 777 rooms is modestly small in a tourist destination where resorts number rooms in the thousands and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority keeps tabs on nearly 150,000 rooms. Not all casinos have reopened following closures that Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered in mid-March to prevent crowds from gathering and spreading COVID-19. Boyd Gaming’s downtown Main Street Station across from Circa remains shuttered. The number of visitors to the region this year has been less than half the number in 2019, the tourism authority reported. The rate of coronavirus infections is rising in Nevada. But the governor, a Democrat, said Tuesday the spike is similar to what other states are experiencing, and he has no plans to call for closures and other restrictions. At 458 feet and 35 stories tall, Circa bookends Fremont Street with the D Las Vegas – now the second-tallest downtown hotel – also co-owned by Stevens and his brother, Greg. They also own the Golden Gate, which opened in 1906.

New Hampshire

Concord: Crime victims will not have their testimony broadcast online without their consent under new court rules in New Hampshire aimed at balancing public health and public access to jury trials during the coronavirus pandemic. After being suspended for six months, Superior Court trials resumed in late August, with limited in-person attendance and online livestreaming to allow the public to view the proceedings. But the rules drew complaints from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence after Cheshire County Attorney Chris McLaughlin said his office was forced to drop second-degree assault charges against a college student because the victim backed out of testifying when she learned her testimony would be broadcast online. Court officials said Wednesday they worked with the coalition, prosecutors and defense attorneys to develop new rules. Going forward, if a victim does not consent to a livestream, the court will reserve space in the courtroom for public access.

New Jersey

Trenton: Gov. Phil Murphy tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday, his office said, just hours after he abruptly left an event, saying he just found out a person he was in contact with over the weekend tested positive for the virus. Murphy, a Democrat, was speaking at a workforce development event his office organized with Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross at Camden County College when he said he had just learned a contact had tested positive. The governor, 63, said he has no symptoms and last tested negative on Monday. Murphy spokesperson Mahen Gunaratna said later the governor and first lady Tammy Murphy tested negative for the virus Wednesday afternoon. It’s unknown what kind of test the governor and first lady took. Murphy’s office identified the contact as Murphy’s deputy chief of staff. Gunaratna’s statement said he is quarantining at home. “We have begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who may have come into contact with our colleague during the potential infection window,” he added.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Health officials on Wednesday reported a single-day record of 827 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths. The latest numbers increase the total cases to 38,715 statewide since the pandemic started, with 950 known deaths. Of the new cases, New Mexico Department of Health officials said 292 of them were in Bernalillo County and 172 more in Dona Ana County. New Mexico had set a single-day record with 819 confirmed COVID-19 cases last Friday with 557 more cases Saturday, 518 on Sunday, another 518 cases Monday and 599 on Tuesday. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

New York

New York City: The Westminster dog show is set to take a long walk. The nation’s top pooch pageant will be held outdoors in 2021 at an estate about 25 miles north of Manhattan on June 12-13 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Westminster Kennel Club said Wednesday. The shift to the Lyndhurst site along the Hudson River in Tarrytown will mark the first time in more than 100 years that best in show at Westminster hasn’t been awarded at Madison Square Garden. In 1920, the top prize was presented at Grand Central Palace in New York. Four different versions of the Garden have played host to Westminster since 1880 – the show began three years earlier. The show is typically held in February, around Valentine’s Day. “The wide-open outdoor space at this extraordinary venue allows us to hold a dog show safely while following current social distancing guidelines and public health regulations,” WKC President Charlton Reynders III said in a statement. Breed and group judging will be held both days, and best in show will be chosen June 13 and televised by Fox. The 67-acre Lyndhurst site has held dog shows over the years. There will be 207 breeds eligible at the next Westminster, including three newcomers: the Belgian Laekenois, the dogo Argentino and the barbet. Siba the standard poodle won best in show last February at the Garden.

North Carolina

Charlotte: A COVID-19 outbreak linked to a multiday church event has left at least two people dead, health officials said Wednesday. Mecklenburg County authorities said there are now 68 cases since the local health department initially reported the outbreak on Saturday, The Charlotte Observer reported. That was one week after the conclusion of the Oct. 4-11 event at the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte. The county said at least four people have been hospitalized. Officials said the county was set to hold a no-cost, drive-thru testing event at a health department site on Thursday and Friday near the church. United House of Prayer leaders have not agreed to conduct testing on site, Mecklenburg health officials told county commissioners Tuesday. Deputy Health Director Raynard Washington said he has been in daily contact with the pastor of the church. He said the church has encouraged members to get tested. County officials also have notified other local health departments in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey and New York to monitor for cases connected to the church events. At least six people who live at Madison Saints Paradise Independent Living have confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the county. At least four of those people attended events at the church, Washington told reporters Wednesday night. And one of the people who has died was connected to that cluster at Madison Saints Paradise Independent Living, Washington said.

North Dakota

Bismarck: State officials said they want to repurpose $16 million in federal coronavirus aid and spend it on grants to encourage fracking instead of using it to clean up abandoned oil well sites. Regulators have presented the proposal as a way to create jobs and help stabilize state revenue, although some in the environmental community view it as a bailout for the oil industry, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Under the proposal, which the North Dakota Emergency Commission will consider Friday, oil companies would be eligible for a $200,000 reimbursement per well they complete. They could use the money for acquiring and disposing of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected underground to crack rock and release oil. State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said oil companies have been hit hard by the price drop resulting from the pandemic, leading to slow work in the state’s oil fields. The Sierra Club, however, called it “totally inappropriate” to put some of the $1.25 billion the state received under the coronavirus rescue package toward fracking.


Circleville: Although the coronavirus pandemic canceled the Circleville Pumpkin Show, which has run since 1903 and bills itself as Ohio’s oldest and largest festival, no one in the Circleville Giant Pumpkin Growers Club was going to let a pandemic steal every bit of their joy. Longtime emcee Ernie Weaver decided the people who grow these massive pumpkins were going to get their day to shine. And so came about the Circleville Pumpkin No-Show Giant Pumpkin Weigh-in. On Wednesday morning, people lined up in more than two dozen trucks and vans so that they could see how well they hadd done with their patches this season. The weigh-in was held at the Pickaway County Fairgrounds so that people could safely keep their distance. A few dozen townspeople came to watch, setting up lawn chairs near the table that held the the winners' trophies. But mostly, the crowd was the growers and their friends. Bob “Doc” Liggett, 81, of Circleville, who holds the event record with a 1,964-pounder, won this year’s event with a 1,755.5-pounder. Rusty Ortman of Chillicothe finished second with a 1725.5-pounder.


Oklahoma City: The number of people hospitalized in Oklahoma because of the coronavirus pandemic jumped by nearly 50 on Wednesday to a one-day record of 870, up from 821 a day earlier, the State Department of Health reported. State officials on Tuesday announced a plan to deal with a surge in the number of people hospitalized by transferring patients when certain regions become overwhelmed. Oklahoma remains in the red zone for both confirmed cases and test positivity, and more than half of the state’s 77 counties reporting high levels of community transmission, according to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force Report released Wednesday. The health department reported another 19 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 1,210 since the pandemic began in March. Health officials also reported another 1,307 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Oklahoma to 110,855.


a person standing in front of a building talking on a cell phone: Marcus Salem changes the movie poster at Salem Cinema in Oregon on Wednesday.The sun-bleached posters haven't been changed since March, when the theater shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. © Brian Hayes/Statesman Journal Marcus Salem changes the movie poster at Salem Cinema in Oregon on Wednesday.The sun-bleached posters haven't been changed since March, when the theater shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Salem: The Salem Cinema art house movie theater will begin showing films Friday for the first time in seven months. The owner said she can't afford to stay closed any longer. After it and all other movie theaters in Oregon closed in March when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses of all sizes, Salem Cinema owner Loretta Miles was forced to close the theater she has been associated with for 37 years. Patrons have donated money and participated in crowdfunding campaigns and virtual showings to help keep the theater afloat financially during its closure.“I’m very much in debt right now,” Miles said. “I’ve been without a personal income for seven months. We had some commercial rent protections that have now expired." She said she was protected from being evicted, but now must cover the rent. Movie theaters in Marion and Polk counties have been allowed to open since lower COVID-19 rates moved them into Phase 2 on June 19, but few did initially. Miles said she is also considering other strategies to get customers in the door, such as a night of old Kung Fu movies or offering more mainstream movies that won’t otherwise be screened in Salem because of the Regal theaters being closed. She said Salem Cinema hasn’t been able to get any of the grants or loans for businesses impacted by COVID-19, so reopening is her only option, even in a time when other theaters are closing.


Beaver: A large, for-profit nursing home where dozens of residents died of COVID-19 was sued Wednesday over allegations that it failed to take basic steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County, near the Ohio border, was among the hardest-hit nursing homes in the state, with more than 330 residents infected and 73 deaths, according to the state Department of Health. It has been under federal and state criminal investigation over its handling of the virus. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five current residents and the families of 10 residents who died, alleged that Brighton’s operators chronically understaffed the facility, which forced the nursing staff to “cut corners while struggling to care for hundreds of residents during the pandemic.” Brighton didn’t have an infection control program, allowing the virus to spread unchecked, the suit said. Citing a state inspection, it said Brighton didn’t even keep soap or paper towels at hand-washing sinks. Among the suit’s dozens of allegations: Brighton failed to separate infected residents from those who had tested negative, allowed staffers who had contracted the virus to continue to work while infected, and provided inaccurate information about the outbreak to family members and health officials. Brighton said in a statement released by its public relations firm that it has “worked to closely follow the guidance of governmental health officials,” asserting that it has gone months without a new case of COVID-19. “Right now, the facility’s sole focus remains on ensuring the health and well-being of all residents and staff,” the statement said.

Rhode Island

Providence: With the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the rise, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday urged Rhode Islanders to scale back their Thanksgiving holiday plans by avoiding out-of-state travel and limiting celebrations to just those who live within the same household. For people planning to attend larger gatherings, she suggested that for 14 days before they holiday, they do all they can to minimize their exposure to the coronavirus by skipping social gatherings, nonessential activities and travel. People should also get tested, even if they are asymptomatic. “This is the best way to avoid spreading the virus to our loved and for us, as a state, to avoid having major problems in the weeks after Thanksgiving,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. A similar strategy for the return to college students to the state worked, she said. People attending larger family gatherings with people from multiple households should wear masks, socially distance, avoid sharing food and drink, and avoid close contact activities such as traditional back yard football games, she said.

South Carolina

Columbia: Organizers said thousands of people turned out to peer at agricultural exhibits from their car windows and grab to-go funnel cakes at a drive-thru fair in Columbia. The more than 150-year-old state fair couldn’t go off as usual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, so organizers devised a drive-thru version that was held Tuesday and Wednesday. Fair Manager Nancy Smith said in a news release that more than 10,000 people came through in cars on the first day, and one person arrived at 4:30 a.m. because he wanted to be the first person in line. There weren’t any rides. But the fair website said drive-thru exhibits included old fire trucks, livestock and a calliope. Drive-thru food stands sold fair food, including funnel cakes and corn dogs, and workers wearing face masks handed orders to people in their cars. “Safety has always been our first priority, and we are so thrilled to see how our patrons have embraced the changes while still showing tremendous support for the fair,” Smith said.

South Dakota

a sign on the side of a fence: A coronavirus outbreak at Mike Durfee State Prison, a minimum-security facility in Springfield, SD, has infected 294 prisoners, 28% of the inmate population.. © Danielle Ferguson/Argus Leader A coronavirus outbreak at Mike Durfee State Prison, a minimum-security facility in Springfield, SD, has infected 294 prisoners, 28% of the inmate population..

Springfield: Almost 300 inmates at the Mike Durfee State Prison have tested positive for COVID-19 and about 1 in 4 inmates at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls has the virus. Three South Dakota prison facilities have now seen more than 100 inmates test positive for the coronavirus. The South Dakota Department of Corrections reported that 294 inmates at the Mike Durfee State Prison have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 131 from Wednesday. Mike Durfee is a minimum to medium security facility that's formerly a college campus in Springfield, where some inmates are three to a room. The positive cases make up 28% of the inmate population. Two of those cases have recovered, and 297 have tested negative. Staff there have reported 11 cases, six of which have recovered, and 28 negative cases. Inmate transfers to and from the facility are temporarily suspended, DOC spokesman Michael Winder said last week. Classes, skills training and work programs at the prison are also temporarily suspended. The South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls is the most recent facility to balloon past 100 cases. The facility reports that a total of 162 have tested positive as of Thursday, up 123 cases from the 39 that were reported Wednesday.


Nashville: The state Department of Health has revealed its plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines once they become available. According to a news release, the agency submitted its draft proposal to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. The plan was made public on Wednesday. “We assure Tennesseans that safe, effective and approved COVID-19 vaccines will be released in Tennessee when they are available to reduce the spread of the virus,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey in a statement. Piercey added that the plan will likely be modified as the state learns when and how many vaccines will be received. Tennessee is expected to get 2% of the national vaccine allocation, but the exact number is unknown. Under the draft plan, Tennessee will distribute the majority of the vaccines throughout its 95 counties based on population. Ten percent of the vaccines will be set aside as a reserve stash.


Austin: The second coronavirus wave in Texas continued with more active cases than at any time since the summertime peak, according to numbers state health officials reported Wednesday. An estimated 84,538 cases of COVID-19, the illness the coronavirus causes, were active Wednesday, the Department of State Health Services reported. That was the most since Sept. 1. Of those, 4,782 cases required hospitalization, the most since Aug. 26. The 4,991 new cases, along with 261 unreported cases from earlier, increased the Texas total for the eight-month outbreak to 838,809 cases. The Texas COVID-19 death toll of 114 Wednesday raised the outbreak toll to 17,201.


St. George: The Southwest Utah Public Health Department reported 81 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, with six more people hospitalized. In a news conference organized by local health care officials, Patrick Carroll, medical director at Dixie Regional Medical Center, again urged local residents to wear masks, noting that he regularly sees locals disregard recommendations for mask-wearing and social distancing. "It's important to understand that the problems that we're seeing with COVID are not a problem specific to Salt Lake or Utah County, that these are problems that we're seeing in St. George and Southwest Utah as well," said Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Director Patrick Carroll during a Wednesday news conference. "Right now, we're trending in the wrong direction." Statewide, the spike in new cases roughly coincides with school-age people going back to class, but Carroll said the spread hasn't been happening inside the classroom. Carroll said there had been relatively few cases involving public school students, praising Washington County School District for its handling of COVID-19 safety measures for K-12 schools. He said there has been virtually no student-to-student transmission within schools. "Our kids are being an example for us adults and we need to follow their example," he said. "They've shown us that they can do hard things." The vast majority of transmission locally is happening among friends and family, with cases being traced to either inside the home or to social gatherings where people frequently forego masks and stay in close contact with each other, Carroll said.


Montpelier: Less than half of an $8 million COVID-19 pandemic relief program for people and small businesses behind on their utility bills has been used, and the state is encouraging those eligible to apply. The Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program can help with past-due bills to keep the lights on, water flowing, and heat running as winter approaches. “We only have six weeks left to essentially spend the full $8 million,” Riley Allen, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service told on Wednesday. “We’re trying to make adjustments to the program to market further, allow the money to flow more freely.” Allen estimated that the total amount of unpaid bills in the state is much larger than what has been awarded. Allen said the money has to be spent by Nov. 30. Now previous recipients are eligible to receive additional funding.


Alexandria: Leesburg resident Didier Kindambu, 48, was arrested this week and charged with fraudulently obtaining $2,501,753 in loans through the federal CARES Act, buying a Cessna airplane and other luxury items with the federally funded money, WUSA-TV reported, according to the federal government. Kindambu made his first appearance in federal court on Tuesday. Prosecutors believe Kindambu carried out the scheme in connection with two businesses that he owns and created fraudulent payroll documentation for each business and then submitted that documentation in support of the loan applications, said government officials. Kindambu is charged with one count of bank fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison if convicted.


Seattle: The State Department of Health released its draft plan to distribute vaccine doses in several phases, outlining for the first time who will have first access, how vaccines will be administered and how the state plans to promote the vaccine to its residents, The Seattle Times reported. Health officials submitted the plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Friday and released it to the public on Wednesday. Officials said the plan recognizes the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on some communities and promises to take equity into consideration when allocating the doses. The state’s plan would first prioritize the vaccine to limited, high-risk workers in health care settings, first responders, other essential workers and adults in long-term care facilities. The state then plans to make the vaccine accessible in a “broad network of provider settings” such as pharmacies, community health centers and occupational health clinics. The third phase would address gaps in populations with inequitable access.

West Virginia

Keyser: Mineral County students who are part of in-school and at-home virtual learning are tentatively scheduled to return to in-person schooling for four days a week beginning Nov. 30. Students who are entirely virtual might be allowed to return to school at that time if certain conditions permit, but they will have the option at the beginning of the second semester in January.That is dependent upon the COVID-19 rates between now and then. Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft presented the reentry plan to the Mineral County Board of Education on Tuesday, touching off an approximately hour-long discussion that included many opinions and some passionate pleas. Ravenscroft said a rumor had been going around that the transition back into class would happen earlier, but there is still much work to do. “We need more time to make sure we’ve considered everything we should,” he said. Board member Donnie Ashby expressed disappointment that the reentry date had been pushed back. Ashby said he has heard from a lot of working parents who are having much difficulty keeping their children at home and helping them with their schooling.


Milwaukee: Coronavirus cases among American Indians in Wisconsin have tripled since Sept. 1, far surpassing the growth rate among other races. Data from the Department of Health Services as of Wednesday showed 59 new cases and one additional death among American Indians in Wisconsin. That raised the total to 2,333 Native Americans testing positive, up from 775 cases as of Sept. 1. Twenty-three American Indians have died due in Wisconsin from COVID-19 this year, the agency said. “The numbers are outrageous,” Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican tribe, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s scary.” The figures include Native Americans who live on reservations and those who live elsewhere. “The disease is catching up with everybody now,” said German Gonzalez, director of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center. “It was just a matter of time.” The COVID spike in Indian country occurred even though each of Wisconsin’s 11 tribes have enacted orders aimed at stemming the outbreak. The orders included closing casinos, limiting access to some reservations, safer-at-home rules and curfews. Some limited or banned visitors to nursing homes. Some have delivered food and medical supplies to elders.


Casper: The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 235 new coronavirus cases, inclduing 48 confirmed cases in Natrona County, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. There are now 8,305 confirmed cases in Wyoming since the pandemic began, and there have been 61 deaths.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Westminster Dog Show, Surgeon General cited, Las Vegas casino to debut: News from around our 50 states



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