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Propane problems, St. Pat’s in Sept., fishing upside: News from around our 50 states

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/20/2021 From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY


Montgomery: Thousands of people showed up at sites from the coast to the Tennessee Valley as Alabama began vaccinating senior citizens against COVID-19. People spent the night in cars waiting for shots in Baldwin County, where health workers began immunizing people early Tuesday. County health workers in Huntsville vaccinated 500 people Monday, although only 300 people had appointments. Other sites opened in cities ranging in size from Birmingham to Rainsville. The state is offering vaccines to people 75 and older after limiting the initial doses to health workers. Alabama is among the Southern states trailing the nation in the rate of vaccinations. In Limestone County, Pat White showed up to get her first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine Monday. She said she misses going to church and has done little other than buy groceries as she tries to keep from catching the coronavirus. “We’ve lost many friends to COVID, and we’re older, so that made me think it was probably the right thing to do,” White told WAAY-TV. More than 700,000 people are currently eligible for vaccinations in Alabama, including 325,000 health care workers and 350,000 people who are 75 or older.


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Anchorage: The state’s coronavirus contact tracing effort is rebounding after several months of hiring and several weeks of decreased daily cases, officials said. State officials said great improvements have been made since November, when the contact tracing corps was overwhelmed, and people testing positive were asked to reach out on their own to those they may have infected, Anchorage Daily News reports. Tim Struna, chief of Public Health Nursing for the Alaska Division of Public Health, said contact tracers can now investigate reports within a day after receiving notice of new virus infections. “It’s a profound change,” Struna said. Contact tracers call people infected with COVID-19 to learn who was close to them and then reach out to those contacts. Public health experts have said the process is a crucial part of controlling the spread of the virus before vaccines become widely available. During the state’s infection surge in the fall, a week or more could pass before people with positive results heard from a contact tracer, if at all, officials said. “In my mind it sort of shifted towards damage control,” Anchorage public health nurse and contact tracer Jordan Loewe said.


Yuma: Exhausted nurses in this rural area regularly send COVID-19 patients on a long helicopter ride to Phoenix when they don’t have enough staff. The so-called winter lettuce capital of the U.S. also has lagged on coronavirus testing in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods and just ran out of vaccines. But some support is coming from military nurses and a new wave of free tests for farmworkers and the elderly in Yuma County – the hardest-hit county in one of the hardest-hit states. Almost everyone in Yuma County, near the borders of Mexico and California, seems to know somebody who has tested positive for the coronavirus, with about 33,000 cases reported since last spring – a rate of about 14,000 per 100,000 people. Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, has a rate of about 9,000 cases per 100,000 people. Tests in Yuma County are 20% positive, compared with about 14% for Arizona at large. Officials at Yuma Regional Medical Center say it’s been a struggle to maintain staffing of 900 to 1,000 nurses while competing for medical workers in an overwhelmed national health care system. Forty Army Reserve nurses arrived this month to help at the Yuma hospital for at least a month through a Department of Defense COVID-19 support operation.


Little Rock: A lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus, a state House spokeswoman said, making him the second to be infected since the Legislature began its session last week. Rep. Keith Slape told the House speaker Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus, House spokeswoman Cecillea Pond-Mayo said. She said Slape, R-Compton, was at home with mild symptoms. Slape is at least the 23rd Arkansas state legislator to test positive for the virus since the pandemic began. The state has had the second-largest outbreak among legislatures nationwide, according to figures compiled by the Associated Press. The House and Senate convened last week with safety measures intended to prevent the virus’s spread, including limits on seating, plastic barriers in both chambers and rules allowing remote voting. Both chambers have also passed rules requiring lawmakers, staff and visitors to wear masks. The Legislature has not been in session since Thursday. Also Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was cautiously optimistic to see a decrease in the daily number of new virus cases. Arkansas reported 1,331 new cases Tuesday and 43 more deaths.


Los Angeles: The state on Monday became the first to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections. California only reached 2 million reported cases Dec. 24, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University. The state is placing its hopes on mass vaccinations to reduce the number of infections, but there have been snags in the immunization drive. On Sunday, Dr. Erica S. Pan, the state epidemiologist, urged that providers stop using one lot of a Moderna vaccine because some people needed medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions. More than 330,000 doses from lot 41L20A arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12 and were distributed to 287 providers, she said. Fewer than 10 people, who all received the vaccine at the same community site, needed medical attention over a 24-hour period, Pan said. No other similar clusters were found. Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles area, the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on the number of cremations for at least 10 days Sunday in order to deal with a backlog of bodies at hospitals and funeral homes. “The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years,” the agency said.


Fort Collins: With COVID-19 restrictions forcing bars and restaurants to seat customers outside in the dead of winter, many are scrambling to nab erratic supplies of propane that fuel space heaters on which they’re relying more than ever to keep people comfortable in the cold. It’s one of many new headaches – but a crucial one – that go with setting up tables and tents on sidewalks, streets and patios to comply with public health restrictions. “You’re in the middle of service and having staff run up and say, ‘We’re out of propane!’ ” said Melinda Maddox, manager of The Reserve by Old Elk Distillery tasting room in downtown Fort Collins. The standard-size tanks, which contain pressurized liquid propane that turns to gas as it’s released, are usually readily available from gas stations, grocery stores or home improvement stores. But that’s not always the case lately as high demand leads to sometimes erratic supplies. “I spent one day driving an hour around town,” Maddox said. Local propane tank shortages result not just from higher demand but also from household hoarding similar to the pandemic run on toilet paper and other goods. One national tank supplier reported a 38% sales increase this winter, said Tom Clark, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Propane Association.


Hartford: Hundreds of schoolteachers were able to sign up for vaccine appointments before they were actually eligible, due to confusion over the rollout rules, The Hartford Courant reports. State Health Department spokesperson Maura Fitzgerald said the issue arose after some school districts mistakenly put their entire staff rosters into a registration system when the state actually had asked only for lists of school nurses. “A good amount” of Cromwell Public Schools’ 300 staffers have signed up for vaccination appointments, Superintendent Enza Macri said. Glastonbury Public Schools also broadly registered its staff, but Superintendent Alan Bookman said officials quickly realized the mistake, told ineligible staffers not to book appointments and retracted the erroneous registrations. Berlin Public Schools told all staffers by email to sign up for vaccine appointments, only to instruct the staff to cancel the appointments after recognizing they weren’t eligible, Superintendent Brian Benigni said. Then, in another turn, the state advised that those who have made appointments should keep them, although no one else who’s ineligible should make one. Fitzgerald said the state’s “overarching goal is: No doses go wasted.”


Dover: Democrats John Carney and Bethany Hall-Long took the oaths of office for their second terms as governor and lieutenant governor Tuesday in a livestreamed online ceremony. Carney was sworn in by Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr. in the hallway outside the governor’s office in Legislative Hall, which remains closed to the public because of the coronavirus. “I’m prepared to take the oath, and I’m smiling,” Carney said, his face covered by a black mask. Hall-Long was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice James Vaughn Jr. Forgoing the traditional inaugural speeches, Carney and Hall-Long made remarks in a prerecorded video that were interspersed with photos and videos of Delaware and remarks by several business owners, educators and health care workers. The video focused heavily on the pandemic and the Carney administration’s response to it. “This year has been a balancing act,” Carney said. “We’ve tried to protect public health, while protecting our economy.”

District of Columbia

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Patricia Cummings on Dec. 29 at United Medical Center in southeast Washington, D.C. © Jacquelyn Martin, AP Vice President-elect Kamala Harris receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Patricia Cummings on Dec. 29 at United Medical Center in southeast Washington, D.C.

Washington: As local data shows disparities between COVID-19 case concentrations and vaccine administration, the United Medical Center nurse who vaccinated Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hopes to encourage her patients to get the vaccine, WUSA-TV reports. United Medical Center primarily serves wards seven and eight in the District of Columbia, which have seen some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases throughout the pandemic. “Most of the people who live there are poverty-stricken,” UMC nurse manager and Walden Masters of Nursing student Patricia Cummings said. “They do not indulge in primary prevention, so by the time they come to us, they are extremely sick.” Cummings said it’s a community that can feel overlooked, so to have the vice president-elect choose to get vaccinated at UMC sent her patients a clear message. “It was extremely significant and helpful in encouraging the southeast D.C. community to embrace the vaccine,” Cummings said. She said multiple people told her Harris’ visit – as well as her own advocacy – convinced them to sign up for an appointment.


Jupiter: Some 700,000 senior citizens have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday. The governor also said all 67 Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County will begin offering appointments for anyone age 65 or older to receive the vaccine. There are 181 Publix pharmacies across 15 counties providing vaccines to senior citizens, the governor said. Palm Beach County is the largest so far to offer vaccines at Publix, DeSantis said. He said about 25% of county’s residents are 65 or older. County officials told the governor that about 90% of seniors live within a mile and half of at least one Publix. “Not every senior is going to want to drive halfway across town to go to a drive-thru site,” DeSantis said. Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, the Florida Capitol was to be illuminated amber Tuesday as part of the Biden-Harris inauguration’s national moment of unity and remembrance for the more than 397,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. More than 24,136 Floridians have died from the disease caused by the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March.


Atlanta: After a slow start to its vaccine rollout, Georgia is reporting progress in getting people injected, though it is still behind the best-performing states in the country. The state, meanwhile, may be past the current peak of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The number of newly reported cases, the total number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and the share of viral tests coming back positive are all declining. Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday that for the second straight week, Georgia more than doubled its number of reported COVID-19 vaccinations. More than 423,000 people had received the vaccine as of Monday, according to state health officials. That’s just under 4% of the state’s population and 46% of doses of the two vaccines it has received. Some states have administered a first dose to more than 5% of their populations, according to federal data. Kemp said in a statement that Georgia had “a long way to go,” but the latest figures show “encouraging progress” amid a limited supply of vaccine.


Honolulu: An increase in the number of anglers plying the state’s shores has provided much-needed food and recreation while helping keep supply shops afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Fishing supply store personnel said noncommercial fishing in Hawaii has boomed since the outbreak of COVID-19, Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Brent Young, owner of Brian’s Fishing Supply in Honolulu, said customers include new fishers who want to learn and older residents who have not fished in decades but now have more time to drop a line. “There’s no sports; there’s nothing to watch; there’s nothing to do. So they come back, and they just want to fish,” Young said. Many others have lost jobs during the pandemic and turned to fishing to supplement their food supply. Customers “come in to say they catch the food because they’re not working, and they’ve been very thankful that we’ve been open,” Young said. Matthew Uza, fishing manager at West Marine on Oahu, said the business had a $200,000 increase in sales in 2020 over 2019. Uza said some customers tell him they can no longer afford groceries. “They are literally having to catch food to survive,” Uza said.


Boise: A state Senate committee on Tuesday approved legislation seeking to end Republican Gov. Brad Little’s coronavirus emergency declaration and restrictions, despite being told Idaho could lose millions of dollars in federal aid. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 to send the concurrent resolution to the full Senate despite testimony from Idaho Office of Emergency Management Director Brad Richy that at least $20 million would be in jeopardy. Republicans supported the measure, while both Democrats voted against it. “That funding would be shifted to the individual communities,” Richy told the committee. He said additional money would come from residents across the state to replace the federal aid. Emergency declarations are needed to trigger and keep federal money coming, typically from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The concurrent resolution contains a clause saying federal money would not stop despite the Legislature ending the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Republican Sen. Steve Vick, who sponsored the resolution, didn’t explain how that would work.


Springfield: State public health officials reported 3,385 fresh cases of coronavirus Monday and 50 more deaths as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration eased social interaction restrictions in most parts of Illinois. Daily diagnoses of new cases of COVID-19 remain well below totals counted in November, the worst month for infections since the virus picked up speed in Illinois in February. The state has dodged expected surges in cases following holiday time travel and family celebrations. Nonetheless, the entire state had been under so-called Tier 3 mitigation rules until late last week. The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday announced statewide health care contracting to supplement existing hospital staff. That enabled IDPH to loosen restrictions in most areas of the state, significantly to at least a level that allows indoor dining to resume. During the initial onslaught of the virus last spring, authorities readied supplemental bed space. That proved unnecessary as health professionals realized that staff further limited a hospital’s capacity. The Pritzker administration is using the state’s large-scale buying power to contract with vendors for health care workers to bolster Illinois’ workforce.


Indianapolis: Health officials reported fewer new coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations Tuesday as the state’s downward trend that began late last year continued into 2021. Indiana recorded 2,756 new cases of COVID-19, the second straight day health officials have reported fewer than 3,000 cases, the Indiana State Department of Health said Tuesday. That brings the number of Hoosiers known to have had the coronavirus to 595,436. The state agency also reported that 2,332 Indiana residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday – the fewest since early November, after the state saw a steep increase beginning in September for coronavirus deaths, hospitalizations and new infections. Of those being treated, 525 were in intensive care, marking a nine-week low. State health officials also added 126 more COVID-19 deaths, raising Indiana’s pandemic toll to 9,466, including both confirmed and presumed infections. Deaths are reported based on when data is received by the state and occurred over multiple days. Indiana reported 32% fewer cases of the virus in the week ending Sunday than it did in the previous week, according to state health department data.


Des Moines: The state’s three regents universities will extend the cancellation of study-abroad programs at least through Aug. 1 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last spring, the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa were all forced to temporarily cancel study-abroad programs in which hundreds of students take part each year in light of coronavirus health and safety precautions. Since then, the schools have incrementally announced further cancellations. Iowa’s Board of Regents put a 30-day rolling ban on international travel last March that has yet to expire. In the 2018-19 school year, more than 1,316 students at the University of Iowa studied abroad across 69 different countries. At Iowa State, 1,817 students studied outside the U.S. between the summer of 2018 and spring of 2019. “Given the development of the vaccine, we are confident that travel will start to become more common in the latter part of 2021,” said a Wednesday announcement from Russell Ganim, associate provost and dean of international programs at the University of Iowa.


Topeka: Mayor Michelle De La Isla was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week and will be out of the office while she recovers from her illness, her office said Tuesday. “Community spread in Topeka is high and my diagnosis proves that no matter how careful you are you can still get this virus,” De La Isla said in a news release. “I encourage everyone to be careful and follow all the safety protocols so that you can keep your friends and family safe.” The mayor said she came in contact with the virus through a family member who is an essential worker. Deputy Mayor Tony Emerson will run Tuesday night’s City Council meeting until a new deputy mayor is elected.


Krista MacArthur administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Theresa Hansbrough on Monday at the YMCA in West Louisville, Ky. Hansbrough was among those people over 70 who scheduled an appointment for the limited amounts of vaccine. © Norton Healthcare Krista MacArthur administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Theresa Hansbrough on Monday at the YMCA in West Louisville, Ky. Hansbrough was among those people over 70 who scheduled an appointment for the limited amounts of vaccine.

Louisville: Mayor Greg Fischer and his top health official, Dr. Sarah Moyer, pleaded for patience Tuesday as local health officials try to adjust to supplies of COVID-19 vaccine that vary from week to week. “Our ability to give the vaccine is more than the supply,” Fischer said at a news briefing. After Louisville’s three hospitals began offering vaccine appointments to people over 70 on Friday, they were overwhelmed with requests for appointments and had to stop accepting new ones until more vaccine comes in. Moyer estimated Tuesday that it will take about 10 weeks to vaccinate all of the about 100,000 people in the metro area 70 or older who are eligible for the vaccine. University of Louisville Health, Baptist Health and Norton Healthcare reported they were flooded with requests online and by telephone after announcing they would begin offering vaccines to people 70 or over, as prescribed under current state guidelines for dispensing limited quantities. Dr. Steven Hester, chief medical officer at Norton, said Tuesday that Norton filled 14,000 appointments by Monday before it had to stop accepting new ones.


Baton Rouge: The state’s chief public health officer warned hospitals, pharmacies and clinics Tuesday that they should not be steering their COVID-19 vaccine doses solely to their own patients, saying the state has received reports of such favoritism. Dr. Joe Kanter, with the Louisiana Department of Health, sent a memo to vaccine providers that cautioned any found to be discriminating in favor of their patients – and denying vaccine appointments to nonpatients – could face penalties. The providers could face financial penalties, limits on future vaccine allocations, legal actions or other response if found continuing to discriminate in distribution, said health department spokesperson Aly Neel. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in Louisiana are available to health care employees, EMS workers, firefighters, people with kidney failure, anyone age 70 and older, people with disabilities over the age of 16 who receive community- or home-based services and their providers, and people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. About 850,000 people out of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents fall into the current eligibility categories, according to Edwards administration estimates.


Augusta: Users of state parks shattered records for attendance last year as they sought outside adventures amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands said state park attendance topped 3 million in 2020 for the first time. The record came despite closures in the spring and capacity limitations throughout the year. The state parks had nearly 2.8 million day-use visitors, up 3% from 2019. There were also 8% more camping visitors than the previous year, state officials said. State park users consistently “arrived at the parks prepared with face coverings and hand sanitizer and all the other requisite supplies for getting outside safely during the pandemic,” said Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands director Andy Cutko.


Video: COVID-19 vaccine appointments are full in Louisville. Here's what you should do (WLKY Louisville)


Annapolis: A top lawmaker announced Monday that he is forming an oversight panel to monitor the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, after criticizing “unacceptable” levels of confusion about vaccine access, administration and distribution. Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, said the Senate would consider not confirming Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominee to lead the state health department, based on the current performance of the state’s vaccine rollout. Hogan nominated Dennis Schrader to the position last week. Ferguson said Maryland has global leaders in public health and should be doing better in making the vaccine available. “We should have the infrastructure stood up that is the best in the world. That’s not where we are, and I don’t think it would be fair to confirm the acting secretary with where we are with the vaccination program,” Ferguson said. Michael Ricci, the Republican governor’s spokesman, said Maryland has administered more doses than 32 other states, but the numbers depend on the state’s supply. “This is going to take some time,” Ricci said.


Boston: Organizers of the Boston Marathon – postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic – have launched a virtual Athletes’ Village to reproduce at least some of the camaraderie of the real thing. The Boston Athletic Association says it’s an attempt to keep runners connected as the group works out a date for the 125th running of the planet’s most storied footrace. Last April’s race was canceled and tentatively rescheduled to sometime this autumn, but because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in hard-hit Massachusetts, officials still can’t say when in-person racing for the masses can safely resume. The virtual village, launched Jan. 5, is a far cry from the bucket-list magic and mystique of the real Athletes’ Village in a schoolyard near the start line in Hopkinton, where runners gather giddily beneath tents to hydrate, stretch, meditate, bond and chat before pounding the pavement to Boston. But the BAA hopes participants will use the village as a digital hub to share training tips, seek out coaching, compete against one another in monthly challenges and just generally party like Boston Marathoners have done since 1897. “It’s been great. Runners are so freaking friendly,” Karen Bruynell said.


Detroit: The city has received 6,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses this week – far short of what was expected – due to shortfalls from the federal government, according to Mayor Mike Duggan. Detroit had been expecting 9,000 to 10,000 doses in its allotment from the state, Duggan said Tuesday. “We can work with 6,000, but it is not what we had hoped to try to keep expanding eligibility,” he said. Some governors have accused the Trump administration of deceiving states about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they can expect to receive as states ramp up vaccinations for senior citizens and others. The government has attributed the anger to confusion and misguided expectations on the part of states. Detroit has opened free vaccinations at the downtown TCF center for people 70 and older, as well as people 65 and older who drive them there. “We’re using these vaccines probably within 72 hours of receiving them,” Duggan said. “The day the Biden administration tells us we can count on 10,000 (vaccine doses) a week, we are going to bring the age down to 65. We are going to do this as fast as we can, but we’re also not going to raise expectations that we can’t meet.”


Minneapolis: Many schools welcomed back some of their youngest students for in-person instruction Tuesday, with more elementary schools expected to follow in the coming weeks as some virus restrictions are relaxed. Some districts, including the state’s largest in Anoka-Hennepin, opened for kindergarten, first and second grade students and plan to bring back older elementary students next month. Others, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul districts, will begin their reopening process later this month or next month. Precautions schools are required to take include teachers wearing both masks and face shields, along with plexiglass barriers in classrooms. Schools will give coronavirus tests to teachers and staff every two weeks. Gov. Tim Walz told districts last month that they could reopen elementary schools this week regardless of case growth in their communities based on data that showed elementary schools present less risk. He announced a vaccine pilot program Monday that will establish nine sites to administer doses to a group that includes teachers, school staff and child care workers, though a very limited number of doses will be available.


Jackson: More than 100,000 residents have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and officials are taking further steps to administer the state’s supply of shots more efficiently, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday. “There is no higher priority, and we’re acting accordingly,” Reeves told a news conference. “We’re not where we need to be, and we’ve got a long way to go.” Inoculation rates in Mississippi have lagged far behind most of the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Reeves insisted Monday that health officials are making changes to speed things along. The state’s website for making vaccine appointments has been upgraded to handle increased traffic, and more people are answering calls from those booking by phone, he said. Meanwhile, state officials are working to free up more shots for the general population aged 65 and older by getting several thousand doses from nursing homes that received more than they need, Reeves said. If individual providers don’t use at least 65% of their weekly dose allocation, their share of the following week’s supply will go to others in the state.


Jefferson City: Another state lawmaker said she has tested positive for the coronavirus, as the Missouri House called off its session to try to stem an outbreak of the virus in the Capitol building. The House, which normally would be in session Tuesday, canceled its work for the entire week after learning of cases among lawmakers and others in the Capitol. The Senate continued to meet. State Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins, D-St. Louis, said in a Facebook post Monday that she tested positive for the virus and is in isolation. The House Journal indicates she had been present for session last Thursday. Her case comes after Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City, tested positive last week, and other lawmakers entered quarantine. At least 13 Missouri lawmakers have confirmed they came down with COVID-19 over the past year, according to a tally by the Associated Press.


Billings: Tribes participated in a national moment of unity and memorial for COVID-19 victims Tuesday afternoon by illuminating a tepee on Sacrifice Cliff in Billings. The national memorial, which kicked off in Washington, D.C., as part of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration festivities, featured the lighting of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the illumination of buildings in cities nationwide. The ceremony aimed to honor those lost to COVID-19 while serving as a symbol of hope for the future. “We want to make sure people get healed and look forward to the new resources the Biden-Harris administration will put towards the pandemic to end it,” said Bill Snell, executive director of Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council. Native American tribes have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. A Department of Public Health and Human Services report found that between March and October, Native Americans accounted for 19% of Montana’s coronavirus cases and 32% of deaths from COVID-19. Native Americans comprise 6.7% of the state’s population. According to the report, mortality rates among Native American residents were 11.6 times higher than those of non-Hispanic white residents.


Omaha: Teachers and meatpacking workers worry it will take longer for essential workers like them to get the COVID-19 vaccine now that the next group of people to be vaccinated has been expanded to include everyone 65 and older in the state. The expansion of the next phase in the vaccination campaign, slated to start statewide next month, was announced last week. State health officials haven’t said how people will be prioritized within that new, larger group, but the Douglas County Health Department in Nebraska’s largest city said Tuesday that people 65 and older will get the vaccine first in Omaha ahead of essential workers. Tim Royers, president of the Millard Education Association, said teachers in his district were disappointed to hear that they now aren’t likely to get their shots until March at the earliest. Previously, they had been told they would start getting the vaccine either at the end of January or in early February. “We’re already seeing the impact, and it’s having a demoralizing effect on teachers,” Royers told the Omaha World-Herald. Millard, like many districts in the state, has been holding classes in person all year.


Carson City: The economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have hit Nevada particularly hard, complicating budget planning in a place that levies no state income tax on residents and relies on tourism and hospitality industry revenue. Gov. Steve Sisolak released a budget Monday that includes no new taxes and $187 million less in state spending than it proposed before the start of the last two-year cycle in 2019. The budget proposes cuts to both K-12 and higher education and increases funding for health care as the pandemic surges and more laid-off workers enroll in Medicaid. It outlines $8.7 billion in state spending from 2021 to 2023 and projects the state will collect $4.2 billion and $4.5 billion in the upcoming two budget years, respectively. That’s less than $9 billion in general fund revenue the state initially projected for the 2019-2021 biennium but more than the $7.7 billion projected in June 2020 amid the pandemic. The spending plan is based on projections issued by a five-member panel that in December projected it could take until 2023 for tax revenue to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

New Hampshire

Concord: The state Department of Health and Human Services has updated its instructions to health care providers about registering medically vulnerable patients for the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination under Phase 1b begins Jan. 26, with registration starting Friday, for residents age 65 and older, those with certain medical conditions, residents and staff of facilities for people with developmental disabilities, corrections officers, and health care workers not previously vaccinated. Residents age 65 and older should register to be vaccinated at one of the state’s fixed site clinics by visiting or calling 2-1-1. There are different processes for those with medical conditions, according to a health alert message issued Sunday. Providers who plan to vaccinate their own patients will register and schedule eligible patients and report data to the state’s immunization information system. Those that do not have access to the vaccine or plan to refer patients to fixed sites will enter patient information into the state’s vaccine management system, which will generate an email invitation to the patient to schedule an appointment.

New Jersey

Trenton: The state has the infrastructure set up to start vaccinating more people against COVID-19 but doesn’t have the supply of shots to meet demand, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday. Murphy, a Democrat, said the state has opened two-thirds of the mass vaccination sites across New Jersey, with more set up at CVS and Walgreens under a federal partnership, but the number of vaccine doses coming in each week is just over 100,000. That’s short of the 470,000 needed to meet demand, according to Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. So far, New Jersey has administered about 388,000 doses of the vaccine. That amounts to about 3.9% of the state’s population. “All we are missing are the vaccine doses we need,” Murphy said. He predicted supply would be short “for some time” and didn’t specify when or how it would increase. Persichilli said Monday that a state hotline to answer questions about the vaccine and help people with appointments was operational, though with automated responses. Beginning next week, callers will be able to talk to a person for help when they call, she said. The number is 855-568-0545.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Lawmakers confronted daunting challenges as they began a 60-day session Tuesday amid an unrelenting coronavirus pandemic and concerns of violence at a Statehouse guarded by troops and encircled by fencing, barricades and mobile security cameras. Proposals aimed at reviving the economy and rebooting classroom learning are at the top of the agenda for lawmakers in the Democratic-led Legislature. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing for a budget deal that would increase state spending on pandemic relief, education and health care. Leading House Republicans said their priority will be proposals that allow students to return to classrooms immediately by providing greater autonomy to school boards, teachers and families. The House came into session with calls in English and Spanish of “present on the floor” and “presente.” Most Democrats tuned in via videoconference from their offices, and most Republicans stood on the House floor. In the Senate, legislators in face masks exchanged elbow bumps and sat down between plexiglass barriers meant to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

New York

New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Tuesday that his state will pursue legal action if Congress doesn’t send $15 billion in unrestricted emergency pandemic aid. Meanwhile, New York City will run out of first doses of COVID-19 vaccines sometime Thursday without fresh supplies, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Cuomo, who didn’t specify who or what the state would sue, introduced two different budget proposals: one if Congress provides New York with $6 billion and another if New York receives $15 billion. The state is facing a dramatic loss in sales and income tax revenue in the wake of sweeping COVID-19 restrictions that jettisoned last February’s budget projections. The Democratic governor blamed President Donald Trump’s administration for allowing COVID-19 to hit New York and the rest of the nation by failing to ban travel from Europe until mid-March. New York has now recorded nearly 42,000 deaths of people with COVID-19, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University. “What happened to New York was no fault of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in his annual budget address, which was delivered virtually. “It was because the federal government lost track of coronavirus, literally.”

North Carolina

Raleigh: Two state legislators who announced this week that they had tested positive for the coronavirus participated in the same duck-hunting trip with other elected officials last week. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick County, announced his results Tuesday, one day after Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe County. Rabon, a 69-year-old veterinarian who joined the Senate in 2011, had no symptoms Tuesday after earlier experienced mild, cold-like symptoms, and he was isolating at his home and speaking to those with whom he had close contact, his news release said. Turner said in a Facebook post that he was also contacting people who might have been exposed. Both men were among several legislators and others who participated in a duck-hunting trip last Friday, according to Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln County, and another participant. It’s unclear whether they contracted the virus during the event. Other participants included first-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., Saine said. Saine said Tuesday he’s been working to follow safety precautions to discourage the potential for contracting the virus.

North Dakota

Bismarck: State Sen. Terry Wanzek says he has contracted the contravirus. The 63-year-old Republican from Jamestown said he took a rapid test Monday and immediately left the Capitol after finding out about the positive results. Wanzek said he doesn’t believe he has any close contacts in the Legislature and has been wearing his mask. The senator shared the news remotely during the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting. Wanzek will isolate at home for 10 days, KQDJ reports. North Dakota lawmakers are required to wear face coverings in the House and Senate chambers and other shared spaces. But some lawmakers regularly eat lunch together in the Capitol cafeteria without masks. Grand Forks Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg tested positive for the virus following the Legislature’s three-day organizational session in December, which he called a “petri dish” for infection. He has fully recovered.


Columbus: Nearly all school districts have told the state they plan to return to in-person learning in some form as of March 1, meaning efforts to vaccinate thousands of school employees will begin Feb. 1, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday. He said 96% of districts indicated they’d follow either hybrid models – home some days, in school others – or full-time in-person classes. School districts will work either with pharmacies or with local health departments for vaccinations, which could happen at schools or some other centrally located place. Local Educational Service Centers will confirm plans with districts this week. The Ohio Federation of Teachers supports the goal of returning to school March 1 but said it shouldn’t be a condition for vaccination. The union said it’s not confident employees could receive the first vaccine by then, let alone both required doses. “We are concerned that the mandate will still pressure some districts into reopening before they are ready,” the union said in a statement Tuesday.


Oklahoma City: The state on Tuesday surpassed 3,000 total deaths due to COVID-19 since the coronavirus pandemic began, and the health department reported 1,558 additional cases of the virus. There were 43 more deaths for a total of 3,037 who have died due to the illness caused by the virus and 358,374 total cases, up from 2,994 deaths and 356,816 cases reported Monday. The seven-day rolling average of deaths in Oklahoma has increased during the past two weeks from 24.14 per day on Jan. 4 to 31.29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The rolling average of new cases declined from 3,454.86 per day to 3,081.29, and the positivity rate fell from 23.29% to 17.59% during the same time period. Oklahoma had the fourth-highest number of new cases per capita in the nation with 1,269.19 per 100,000 residents during the past two weeks, according to the Johns Hopkins data.


Salem: The state is expecting to receive federal stimulus money this week to help pay for its COVID-19 vaccination program. Congress approved $3 billion for states to use for vaccine activities under the supplemental pandemic stimulus bill that went into law in late December. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the state’s share of those funds is $38.1 million, although only a portion of that is expected to be distributed this week. The money can be used to promote and track as well as to distribute and administer the vaccines. The latter is where Oregon’s vaccination program has bogged down. The state has struggled to vaccinate large numbers of people, although by late last week it was able to hit the 12,000 doses-per-day vaccination target put forth by Gov. Kate Brown. Oregon Health Authority Chief Medical Officer Dana Hargunani cited challenges with vaccine distribution as well as navigating scheduling, physical distancing at vaccination sites and the observation period required immediately after the vaccine is administered.


Harrisburg: The state is expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine in the initial phase of the rollout to include people age 65 and over as well as younger people with serious health conditions that put them at higher risk, state health officials announced Tuesday. The Health Department said its updated vaccine plan tracks recommendations from the federal government, but it was uncertain how the expanded rollout would work given the slow pace of vaccinations so far and limitations on supplies. Some 3.5 million Pennsylvanians are now eligible to get the vaccine; the state has vaccinated about 409,000. “We must have patience as the amount of vaccine available in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation remains limited,” Cindy Findley, a deputy health secretary who leads the state’s vaccine task force, said at a media briefing. “We are well aware we don’t have enough vaccine to meet the demand at this point.” Tuesday’s announcement adds to the initial rollout people age 65 and older and those between the ages of 16 and 64 with a range of health conditions, including cancer and diabetes, as well as pregnant women, smokers and clinically obese people.

Rhode Island

Newport: Organizers of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade are looking at postponing this year’s event until September because it looks increasingly unlikely it can go on in March. Dennis Sullivan, chair of the Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, said the committee submitted a letter to the city Tuesday suggesting a September date for the annual festivities. “Whatever they say, we’re going to abide by,” he said of the City Council. The parade is traditionally held the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day in March. “I just don’t believe there’s any way that we could do this safely,” Mayor Jeanne Marie Napolitano said of holding the event in March. “We’re not going to have approvals for anything like this until the vaccination program is safe.” Last year’s parade was supposed to be the 64th annual before it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

South Carolina

Myrtle Beach: A former mayor has died of complications from COVID-19, the city reported. The city’s website says John Rhodes died Saturday night. Rhodes served as mayor from January 2006 through December 2017. The Post and Courier reports that record numbers of new cases were added in South Carolina in the first two weeks of January. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control resolved a systems issue Saturday that had kept data incomplete over the past week, and officials belatedly reported that on Jan. 8, the state set a daily record of 6,924 new COVID-19 cases, a substantial increase from previous records.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The state’s daily COVID-19 update Tuesday showed no new deaths due to the coronavirus, a day after data compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers listed the state’s fatality count as the fifth-highest per capita in the nation. Researchers have confirmed 189 deaths per 100,000 people since the start of the pandemic. The total number of fatalities stands at 1,667. The update showed that 126 of the 461 COVID-19 tests processed in the past day came back positive, lifting the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 94,764. The state’s dashboard listed an additional 11,022 probable cases. Hospitalizations fell by three, to 200, with 35 patients being treated in intensive care units. There were 355 COVID-19 vaccines administered Monday, officials said, noting that 47,647 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 9,829 residents have received both shots.


Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee and the General Assembly have a narrow focus this week: quickly passing bills aimed at helping schools navigate the coronavirus pandemic and allowing them to prepare for the next academic year following 10 months of significant learning disruptions. Lee on Tuesday opened the special legislative session he called with an address to House and Senate members seeking to convey the long-term consequences of students falling behind – and subtly rebuking the state’s two largest districts that have remained largely closed throughout the pandemic. “Here’s the bottom line,” Lee said. “You can’t say ‘follow the science’ and keep schools closed. You can’t say ‘I believe in public education’ and keep schools closed.” The governor cited virtual learning’s particularly negative impact on students of color. While most districts across the state have brought students back for in-person learning at some point this school year, Shelby County Schools has remained virtual all year, while middle and high school students in Davidson County have yet to return to the classroom.


Dallas: The state reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 46 more deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The number of Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 rose from Sunday to 13,858 on Monday. Coronavirus hospitalizations remain near their record high, and intensive care units in several regions are at or near capacity, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Over the past week, more than 17% of coronavirus tests have come back positive in Texas, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state has recorded more than 2 million cases of the virus and more than 32,000 fatalities. More than 1 million Texans have received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 166,000 are fully vaccinated, according to health officials.


Salt Lake City: The Legislature’s 2021 session opened Tuesday with words of hope and heightened security measures against a backdrop of possibly violent protests and the coronavirus pandemic. The Capitol, which is usually buzzing with activity as lobbyists, advocates and others walk the halls, was largely empty on the first day of the session aside from lawmakers and several National Guard troops. Social distancing, masks and a handshake ban were enforced throughout the Capitol, and lawmakers in the House were separated by plexiglass barricades. The building is temporarily closed to the public. But there are also technological upgrades aimed at making it easier for people to weigh in virtually on lawmakers’ proposals. Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson lauded how Utah residents have dealt with the pandemic and called on lawmakers to help bolster the state’s economy and education system. He said the House would increase public education funding by at least $400 million to help students further develop critical thinking skills and prepare them for education after high school.


Rutland: A hospital is developing a plan that would allow COVID-19 patients to recover at homes, rather than in the hospital. Kathleen Boyd of the Rutland Regional Medical Center is working with other providers to develop the system as part of discharge planning for patients who are willing and have support at home. Boyd told the Rutland Herald the program is national but being developed for local use. “We wanted to make sure that people who are being admitted to the hospital (are the ones who) require care that can only be delivered at a hospital,” Boyd said. Dr. Rick Hildebrant, chief medical information officer at the hospital, said that typically 2% to 5% of all COVID-19 patients will require hospitalization. About a quarter of those could be eligible for the home care program. “These are people who are pretty sick,” Hildebrant said Tuesday. As important as the clinical criteria in determining who would be eligible is the social component. Patients need to have support at home. But if the hospital gets hit hard by COVID-19 admissions, the program could help free up space in the hospital, he said. It’s expected the program will begin within the next few weeks.


Richmond: The Virginia Department of Health announced Tuesday that it has launched a COVID-19 Outbreaks in Virginia Higher Education dashboard that includes confirmed outbreaks reported to VDH among public and private colleges and universities since Aug. 1. The only outbreak currently in progress, according to the dashboard, is at Marymount University in Arlington, which has 62 cases. Several schools have outbreaks that are pending closure, according to the health department, including the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University. Only distinct confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks investigated by VDH local health departments, along with the associated cases and deaths related to an outbreak, are included. The release defined a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak as two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with a particular setting. The dashboard does not include the total number of cases at the college or university. Some colleges or universities separately track and report the number of cases associated with their school or community and may use different methods than VDH, the release said.


Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday announced a plan to set up vaccination sites statewide with help from the National Guard and others as part of an overall goal to vaccinate 45,000 people a day. Inslee said while the goal is higher than the current allotment of vaccine the state is receiving from the federal government – 100,000 doses a week – the state is working to get the infrastructure in place now for that amount once doses increase. The state has been vaccinating between 13,000 and 15,000 people a day, he said. Starting next week, vaccination sites will be set up at the Spokane Arena, the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee and the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield. The state’s allocation for next week will be divided among the new sites, pharmacies and local clinics, along with existing vaccination sites in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties. The governor also announced a public-private partnership with business, health care and labor entities – led by the state Department of Health – on areas ranging from coordination of volunteer vaccinators to communications support.

West Virginia

Pickens: A maple syrup festival has been canceled for the second straight year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers of the West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens announced the cancellation Monday. The festival was scheduled to be held in late March. The festival said on its Facebook page that vendors and crafters who had secured spots for last year’s event will be given priority applications for next year. Part of the decision to cancel was based on the fact that the event is held primarily indoors. “Well, here we are again faced with a decision in which no matter what decision we make, many people will not agree with the decision,” festival organizers said.


Madison: A pharmacist accused of trying to defrost and spoil dozens of vials of COVID-19 vaccine was charged Tuesday with attempted misdemeanor property damage, and prosecutors warned more serious charges could follow if tests show the doses were ruined. Police arrested 46-year-old Steven Brandenburg on Dec. 31 as part of an investigation into how 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine were left for hours outside a refrigerator at Advocate Aurora Health in Grafton, a Milwaukee suburb. The vials contained enough vaccine to inoculate more than 500 people. Detectives wrote in court documents that Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who believed the vaccine would mutate recipients’ DNA. Experts have said there’s no truth to the claims that COVID-19 vaccines can genetically modify humans. Brandenburg faces up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted. His attorney, Jason Baltz, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf during his initial court appearance Tuesday. Brandenburg spoke only once, replying “yes sir” when Judge Paul Malloy warned him to continue to abide by his bail conditions, which include not working as a pharmacist, not dispensing medication and having no contact with Aurora employees.


Gillette: Sometimes simple everyday gestures, like a wave or the honk of a horn, take on a world of importance. On a recent Wednesday morning, roughly 70 members of the Campbell County School District transportation department spread across more than 40 buses and district vehicles paraded past Vicki Wood’s house to tell her they love her. Wood, 71, a longtime district transportation employee who retired in 2018, had gotten home the day before from spending 54 days in a hospital with COVID-19 after being airlifted to Billings, Montana, on Nov. 7, the Gillette News Record reports. The departmental effort was a secret up until the moment Wood’s family decked her out in her winter gear and insisted on some fresh air. When the first buses rolled into view and made the sweeping left turn onto her street, Wood was overwhelmed. “Oh my God,” she cried, burying her face in her gloved hands. Then she waved like a reigning queen as her subjects came to pay their respects. There were signs pinned to the buses and their horns blared. Some drivers opened their doors to shout their well wishes, and others had people hanging from windows to wave and shout.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Propane problems, St. Pat’s in Sept., fishing upside: News from around our 50 states



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