Jasper: Counties are reporting record numbers of absentee ballots a month ahead of Election Day, and local officials say they’re taking steps to cope with a flood of mail-in votes that’s likely to continue for weeks during the pandemic. Northwest of Birmingham in Walker County, Circuit Clerk Susan Odom obtained permission from the state to use two additional poll workers and have two tabulation machines instead of one to handle absentee ballots that she estimated could run into the thousands. Across the state in Lee County, Probate Judge Bill English told county commissioners last week that the county already had broken the old record for absentee voting. With about 160,000 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the state and more than 2,550 deaths from the illness caused by the new coronavirus, Alabama officials said about 120,000 voters had requested absentee ballots as of Friday, and more than 53,000 already had been returned.
Anchorage: The suspension of felony jury trials for more than six months has created a backlog of cases and left some Alaskans in limbo awaiting court dates. Misdemeanor trials are set to resume in November, but there is no schedule for resuming felony trials with larger juries and less room for social distancing, Alaska Public Media reports. Alaska’s court officials say they are trying to balance a responsibility to public health versus an obligation to timely resolutions for defendants and victims. “Those are very, very serious constitutional and statutory rights,” state Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger said. “They’re something that should be seriously weighed when we consider whether to restart jury trials, even though the coronavirus is still present in our community.” Anchorage District Attorney Brittany Dunlop said moving to trial as quickly as possible is preferred, and delays in trying murder cases tend to help the defense.
Phoenix: A federal judge on Monday granted a last-minute extension of the deadline for the state’s residents to register to vote. With just hours remaining for Arizonans to sign up to cast a ballot in the November election, U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan extended Arizona’s voter registration deadline from Monday night until 5 p.m. Oct. 23. Logan cited the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to register voters face-to-face – work stymied for some groups and campaigns by public health concerns. The judge said Arizona has made it easy to register in various ways, such as online, but noted that many in the state lack internet access. “Registering to vote has never been easier for some, though others are not so fortunate. Ballot access is an extremely important right, and it has been restricted during this unprecedented time,” wrote Logan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Little Rock: The state reported a near-record number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 on Monday as 22 more people in the state died from the illness caused by the coronavirus. The Department of Health reported 15 more people were hospitalized because of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 524. The most the state has reported hospitalized was 526 on Aug. 4. “The number of hospitalized is too high,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “While it is manageable, it’s important to slow the spread of this virus to keep people out of the hospital because of COVID-19.” Arkansas ranks seventh in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The state’s confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday rose by 392 to 83,698, and the state’s probable cases rose by 25 to 3,732.
Greg Laurie delivers a sermon at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., in 2017. (Photo: Matt Masin/The Orange County Register via AP)
Riverside: The head of a Southern California megachurch said Monday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, joining a list that includes President Donald Trump and key White House contacts who attended a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden last month. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside said in a Facebook post that he tested positive last Friday and has been in quarantine, although his wife and other family members tested negative for the virus. “My symptoms have been mild so far, and I expect to make a full recovery. I have always taken the coronavirus seriously, and it has tragically taken many lives,” Laurie said in a Facebook post. “At a time like this, we need to pray for those that have it and avoid politicizing it. If our President and First Lady can get COVID-19, clearly anyone can.”
Denver: The release of a mobile application that would notify Coloradans if they were close to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 has been delayed so state officials can work with Google and Apple. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said at the beginning of September that the Exposure Notification Express application would be available by the end of the month, the Denver Post reports. It is now unclear when the app will be available for use. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said it is working with the governor’s office of information technology and the two tech giants to make sure the application aligns with public health guidelines and meets the state’s technological functioning criteria. The application is not yet functioning, but Android users can download it to their devices, and Apple users can opt in to have it automatically download when it becomes available, officials said.
New Haven: The city is offering learning hubs for public school students who aren’t fully engaged in online learning. The hubs opened Monday at the Barnard Environmental Center, Coogan Pavilion, and Trowbridge Environmental Center for students in the first through ninth grades. They will need to bring their own learning devices. The city says 1,500 students in New Haven aren’t logging onto remote learning. Students need to take a survey and apply before they can go to the hubs at nhvlearninghubs.net. As of Friday, there were 110 people hospitalized in Connecticut with the virus, and two more coronavirus-related deaths were reported Friday, bringing the state’s total to 4,513.
Wilmington: As of Friday, 53 students and staff across the state’s public and private schools have tested positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 1, according to the Division of Public Health. A month into the school year, that’s the most detail the state is willing to offer when it comes to the presence of COVID-19 in schools. On the other hand, schools are required to notify families of any positive COVID-19 cases in school buildings. But how that information is disseminated – whether it’s publicly posted online or just communicated to parents through emails and phone calls – varies by school. Because of that lack of consistency, in most communities, where one neighborhood block could include students from multiple districts, charters and private schools, members of the public are largely left unaware of possible COVID-19 cases near them.
District of Columbia
Washington: Local officials announced Monday that a new Small Business Resiliency Fund initiative will provide $3 million in emergency operational funding for small and local businesses related to the coronavirus pandemic, WUSA-TV reports. The fund will be housed in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, with the application period for grants running from Tuesday through Oct. 15. “Pivoting a business costs money,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. “These challenging times are forcing businesses to adapt to a new norm all while trying to keep their doors open. This funding will help alleviate some of the financial burden COVID-19 has imposed on our small and local businesses.”
Winter Springs: The lawyer for the family of a 16-year-old boy who was arrested last month after refusing to wear a mask at a central Florida high school called the incident “government abuse” of a teen suffering from panic attacks. The Winter Springs High School sophomore, whose name was redacted on the Sept. 17 report, was arrested after refusing to wear a mask and abide by other school rules, which violated a probation order that required him to maintain good behavior in school, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Jose Rivas, the family’s attorney, said the teenager’s prior record didn’t justify what he viewed as an uncalled-for action. “Should they be arresting a 16-year-old child knowing he already has a medical condition?” he said. In a statement, Rivas’ law firm called the arrest “government abuse” and added, “We will be seeking just and fair compensation for the illegal arrest … and the harm that this action caused him.”
Carrollton: Some professors at the University of West Georgia are seeking a vote of “no confidence” in the leadership of university President Brendan Kelly, whom they accuse of creating a “culture of fear” on campus. A petition laying out Kelly’s perceived failure to consult with and share responsibility with faculty was circulated online Monday, promising the signers anonymity ahead of a potential vote in the university’s Faculty Senate. Since Kelly took over in March, some faculty members have expressed frustration about restructuring of university colleges and departments and the reopening of the campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said one professor was disciplined for telling his students, without naming the individual, that one of their classmates had been infected.
Hilo: A Big Island food bank has significantly increased its services since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, serving up to 80,000 people monthly. The Food Basket provided assistance to about 14,000 people per month at this time last year, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports. Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht said the group helps residents through a network of partner agencies and programs. The Food Basket serves between 2,000 and 3,700 people at each of its Big Island sites, and 80% to 85% of those are unemployed, Albrecht said. People must register and qualify for the program, which typically provides them with 40-pound boxes of food each month, Albrecht said. The Food Basket is experienced with crisis, Albrecht said. “In the last couple of years, we’ve had hurricanes and lava, but there’s been nothing like this,” she said.
Driggs: The U.S. Forest Service has acquired a 960-acre private parcel in eastern Idaho in an area favored by outdoor enthusiasts that also includes headwaters for the Teton River. The agency earlier this week announced the $3.8 million purchase of the land in the Big Hole Mountain range in Teton County. The private inholding surrounded by public land had been a top priority for the Forest Service for several years and at one point had been offered for subdivisions. Marquita Maytag owned the property until her death in 2011. The land was bought by an investment company called the Beartooth Group in 2014. That group started working with The Conservation Fund and Teton Regional Land Trust to protect the land. In April, The Conservation Fund bought the property and held it until the Forest Service was able to get the money to buy the land.
Springfield: The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday reported 1,853 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The seven-day positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 is 3.4%. Public health officials report 1,631 people were hospitalized late Sunday with COVID-19, with 382 patients in intensive care units and 155 patients on ventilators. The new numbers came as Northwestern Medicine in Chicago announced a study they conducted found 82% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have experienced neurological symptoms. The most frequent neurological symptoms were muscle pain, headaches, and encephalopathy or altered brain functions, which range from mild confusion to being in a coma. The study looked at 509 COVID-19 patients at Northwestern Medicine hospitals in the Chicago area, officials said.
Indianapolis: State health officials on Monday reported seven more coronavirus-related deaths and more than 800 new COVID-19 infections as the seven-day rolling average of new cases remained higher than at any point in the pandemic, at 1,100 through Sunday. That rolling average has grown about 33% since Sept. 24. State statistics show that Indiana hospitals were treating 1,019 COVID-19 patients Sunday – the 10th straight day hospitalizations have topped 900. The increases come as health experts say it could be weeks before the state sees any possible impact from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to lift most of Indiana’s restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes as of Sept. 26 while continuing the statewide mask mandate. Democratic governor candidate Woody Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, has said that easing those precautions “was a huge mistake.”
Iowa City: The children of a Tyson Foods worker who died of the coronavirus in April have filed a lawsuit claiming his plant took few safety precautions before he and others became infected in the state’s first major outbreak. Pedro Cano, 51, worked on the kill floor elbow-to-elbow with others at Tyson’s pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, according to the lawsuit recently filed in Johnson County. Cano developed COVID-19 symptoms April 2, four days before Tyson announced that two dozen workers had tested positive and that production would be suspended. The lawsuit says Cano was hospitalized April 10 and died April 14. The plant resumed production with new safety measures a week after his death. Cano’s three adult children filed the wrongful death lawsuit, which claims their father worked less than 6 feet away from others with no barriers in between and wasn’t given a mask by Tyson.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly adjusts her mask during a news conference Monday at the Statehouse in Topeka. (Photo: Evert Nelson/Topeka Capital-Journal)
Topeka: The state expects to receive 870,000 rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government over the next three months to boost testing in potential hot spots, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday. Kelly made the announcement as the state saw a record increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations. She said the new tests are crucial for a new statewide policy of more testing of people without virus symptoms in areas with high infection rates and increasing routine testing in schools, nursing homes and prisons. The state already has received its first 57,000 tests, Kelly said. The state Department of Health and Environment also reported Monday that Kansas has had 3,036 people hospitalized because of the virus, including 53 since Friday. The state averaged 26.29 new hospitalizations a day for the seven days ending Monday, 10% more than the previous record of 23.86 for the seven days ending Friday.
Richmond: The community is without a Public Works Department for two weeks after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. The worker tested positive last week, and contact tracers have since told the city that all 21 employees in the department need to quarantine, Richmond City Manager Rob Minerich told the Richmond Register on Monday. The department will be closed for two weeks, Minerich said. The agency is also known as the road department and helps the city manage things like curbside removal of yard waste, pothole repair and road striping. With all employees out for two weeks, Minerich said it will take some time to get caught up. “We just ask that everyone be patient with us right now when it comes to addressing those things,” he said.
Baton Rouge: Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday that alcohol sales can resume at sporting events this weekend in parishes that have reached low rates of new coronavirus cases and are allowed to reopen bars. The Democratic governor said these changes to his coronavirus restrictions will be included in the latest emergency order he intends to release later this week. His current set of rules expires Friday, and Edwards hasn’t said if he’ll loosen up any other limits. Edwards said in a statement that alcohol sales at stadiums, arenas and other sports complexes “will be limited to fans buying alcohol and returning to their seats to drink it and will require event managers to continue with their strong COVID mitigation measures.” Shortly after Edwards made his announcement, LSU said alcohol sales will return to Tiger Stadium for Saturday’s football game.
Alfred: An email points to an outright ban on masks in housing units in a jail dealing with a coronavirus outbreak that’s linked to a wedding and reception that made national news. The York County Jail became a coronavirus hot spot after an employee who attended an August wedding more than 200 miles away in the Katahdin region spread the virus. The number of infected inmates and corrections officers is approaching 90, and the number of cases linked to the wedding and reception has topped 170 with eight deaths. The email obtained by news outlets said inmates were not permitted to bring masks into any housing unit, a policy that likely exacerbated the outbreak. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocates mask-wearing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “Inmates that test negative for COVID-19 will dispose of their mask, in intake and in front of staff,” the email said.
Baltimore: The state has reported 501 new coronavirus cases and three new deaths. The Baltimore Sun reports those who died were two men and a woman. All were in their 60s or 70s. Maryland is now reporting at least 127,791 infections and 3,817 deaths. State officials reported that Maryland’s average positivity rate is 3.02%. That rate has risen for the past 10 days and surpassed 3% Sunday for the first time since Sept. 18. Maryland ranks 27th among states in cases per capita and 16th in deaths per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center.
Leominster: An office furniture manufacturer is providing face masks to all poll workers and Election Day volunteers in the state, the company said Tuesday. Leominster-based AIS Inc. is working with Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office and city and town clerks to ensure that the masks are delivered and distributed to poll workers well in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential election. The company has already had requests from 200 clerks for mask donations in quantities ranging from 10 to 1,500. The company expects to supply a total of 20,000 masks. “Our democracy relies on the ability of all citizens to be able to freely and safely cast their votes in person on Election Day,” Bruce Platzman, CEO of AIS, said in a statement. AIS began making masks out of antimicrobial fabrics and other premium materials in April when the coronavirus pandemic intensified.
Lansing: The state’s health department issued a mask requirement and other coronavirus restrictions Monday, just days after the state Supreme Court invalidated a 75-year-old emergency powers law that underpinned Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s similar orders to control the pandemic. The Democratic governor separately asked the court to declare its Friday ruling not binding until Oct. 30, to give her administration, the Republican-led Legislature and local health departments time to transition. GOP leaders questioned delaying the court’s decision and prepared to return to session this month to keep in place an undetermined number of her 30-plus orders, such as one extending base unemployment benefits to 26 weeks from 20 weeks. The ruling nullified all virus-related orders issued after April 30. It means Whitmer must negotiate with lawmakers to extend a state of emergency and any new underlying COVID-19 orders she writes.
Minneapolis: Thirteen staff members from a Minneapolis steakhouse were quarantining after the restaurant catered a fundraiser attended by President Donald Trump during his visit to Minnesota last week, the restaurant said Monday. The 13 work for Murray’s Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, which catered the fundraiser Wednesday at the Lake Minnetonka home of Marty Davis, CEO of the quartz countertop manufacturer Cambria Co. LLC. About 40 contributors paid $200,000 a couple or $100,000 per person for the chance to meet the president and hear him speak. “Our staff was there to work the party only and at no point did any staff come in close proximity to the president,” the restaurant said in a statement. Murray’s, a family-owned restaurant since 1946, is famous as “Home of the Silver Butter Knife Steak.” It’s popular among the city’s movers and shakers and sports figures.
Jackson: Several colleges and universities in the state have decided to cut spring break in favor of ending their second semesters early because of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Mississippi, Mississippi State and the University of Southern Mississippi, for example, will all forgo spring break this academic year to end classes in mid-April, officials announced. The decision was made to decrease the risk of students traveling mid-semester. Officials from other universities in the state said they have not yet finalized plans for next semester. Decisions will be announced in the coming weeks. The state Health Department said Monday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has reported more than 100,000 cases and at least 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of Sunday evening. That’s an increase of 215 confirmed cases and zero deaths from numbers reported the day before.
Jefferson City: The state’s Office of Administration said more than 1,800 state employees have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Corrections has reported 646 employees with confirmed cases, followed by the Department of Mental Health with 393 cases and the Department of Public Safety with 211 cases. The Department of Agriculture had the fewest number of cases, with three. A total of 1,842 employees in 16 agencies have tested positive. The office said 1,259 have recovered. Missouri has about 53,000 employees. St. Louis County health officials said the number of cases in the county has stabilized enough to allow them to ease some restrictions on high school and club sports and on businesses. Businesses such as restaurants will also be allowed to increase capacity from 25% to 50% beginning Wednesday.
Helena: The number of new coronavirus cases among residents of the state’s most populous county is straining the health care system, the county’s health officer said Monday. He warned residents that he will put more restrictions in place Nov. 2 if the infection rate continues to rise. The proposed new restrictions could limit gatherings to no more than 25 people, regardless of the ability to socially distance, and set 25% capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and churches, Yellowstone County health officer John Felton said. Any business that sells alcohol would have to close by 10 p.m. Schools would not be affected by the order. “This health order need not take effect if enough people take action,” he said during a news conference in Billings. He strongly encouraged people to limit the duration of close interaction, within 6 feet or less, to less than 10 minutes and with fewer than six people per week.
Omaha: A group of infectious disease experts is urging Nebraskans to remain vigilant about social distancing as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state continue to rise. Six scientists and physicians from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and its hospital partner, Nebraska Medicine, said the state is entering a dangerous period this fall as coronavirus cases increase, cooler weather drives more activities indoors, and influenza season approaches. And Nebraska officials have eliminated most restrictions related to the coronavirus in favor of voluntary guidelines. The doctors urged Nebraskans to wear masks, avoid large gatherings of people, stay home if they are sick and try to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others when in public, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Local rules require masks in Omaha and Lincoln, but there is no statewide mask mandate in Nebraska.
Las Vegas: Health officials in the state’s two largest counties said they have been shut out of the governor’s decisions regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Officials from the Southern Nevada Health District and Washoe County Health District sent a joint letter with complaints to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The health officials said not including them in the state’s policy discussions or development of COVID-19 directives has complicated local responses to the pandemic. “Since we are not consulted and engaged, we receive little or no advance notice of what these policy changes may be, and we are forced to react after decisions have been made and announcements are occurring,” it said. The letter also said Sisolak appeared to be consulting with outside groups rather than local health officials about his directives.
Concord: Cloth face coverings in lodges, lifts and other public spaces are part of the state guidance released for New Hampshire ski areas during the pandemic. Guests and staff won’t be required to wear a face covering if they are skiing on a trail, physically distanced, eating or drinking. This includes waiting in lines and on chair lifts. Guests and visitors will be screened for COVID-19 when they access their daily lift ticket or trail pass and before checking in for overnight stays. Putting strangers together on lifts is discouraged. As of Monday, 8,680 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 35 from the previous day. One new death was announced, bringing the total to 444. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 36 new cases per day Sept. 20 to 61 new cases per day Oct. 4.
Trenton: Fourteen health care institutions in the state, including hospitals, nursing homes and an ambulance company, have been cited by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration for failing to provide enough equipment and other protections to health care workers who fell sick and died during the pandemic. More facilities in New Jersey were cited in the OSHA violations announced Monday than in any other state. The fines totaled $252,150. Lack of personal protective equipment – including gowns, face masks, face shields and gloves – as the pandemic roared into North Jersey in March and April was a constant source of worry and alarm among health care workers at hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. Some hospital nurses wore garbage bags when gowns ran out. They reused face masks for days or a week, when a change of PPE was recommended for each patient.
Santa Fe: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has tested negative for the coronavirus after a custodian at the governor’s mansion was diagnosed with COVID-19. The governor is self-quarantining for a two-week period as an extra precaution in accordance with state guidelines. Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett said Monday that a staff member at the governor’s official residence reported feeling unwell on the afternoon of Oct. 1 and was immediately sent for a virus test that came out positive. She said the governor was tested Friday with a negative result, and 37 people who were potentially in the presence of the infected worker have been tested without any positive returned test results. A second round of testing for the governor and the others is scheduled for Wednesday. Much of the governor’s work already was being carried out remotely, though she typically delivered weekly virus updates by video feed from the Statehouse.
Albany: Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his decision not to wear a mask at an indoor press conference held Monday at which he called for tougher enforcement of state rules requiring masks and social distancing. The governor and five Cuomo aides didn’t wear masks while addressing reporters in a conference room at his Manhattan office, though they wore masks as they entered the room. Pictures posted on social media showed journalists wearing masks sitting close to one another in the relatively tight space. The briefing was held in a room considerably smaller than the more spacious Executive Chamber in Albany, where Cuomo often held his coronavirus briefings throughout the spring. The governor’s aides asked journalists to try to stay 6 feet apart, but some challenged him during the news conference about his decision not to don a mask in the enclosed space. Cuomo said it was fine because he was more than 6 feet away.
Charlotte: A nightclub has had its alcohol permits suspended after social media posts showed large gatherings and a lack of social distancing in violation of restrictions to help reduce the spread of coronovirus, officials said. The permits for El Centenario in Charlotte were pulled in part because of video and advertisements that showed the crowds violating state restrictions, The Charlotte Observer reports. Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris sent a statement to the commission Friday that said after reviewing video, El Centenario was found in violation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s order. The ABC commission said the private club had been cited numerous times for violations since May by state Alcohol Law Enforcement agents and police officers. Commission documents also said patrons and customers also were not wearing masks, and the club violated the state alcohol curfew selling after 11 p.m.
West Fargo: The state’s largest manufacturer says it is adding 100 jobs. Doosan Bobcat employs more than 3,300 people in the state and nearly 4,000 throughout North America, including at manufacturing facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Headquartered in West Fargo, Doosan Bobcat manufacturers a variety of construction, agriculture, landscaping and grounds maintenance equipment, and provides attachments and services. The company’s factory in Gwinner shut down for a day in March to clean the facility after an employee reported symptoms of the coronavirus. “We see great promise in the North Dakota workforce, which we believe is a key advantage as we seek to grow our business and contribute to the communities where we operate,” said Mike Ballweber, president of Doosan Bobcat North America.
Long lines of people wait outside of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to participate in early voting Tuesday in Cleveland. (Photo: Tony Dejak/AP)
Norwood: Long lines developed early and stayed that way at election boards as early voting began Tuesday in a pandemic-altered election. Hundreds waited outside board offices in Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga counties, which serve voters from Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Similar lines were reported across Ohio. Lines remained long hours after voting started, including hundreds of voters waiting at the Montgomery County elections board in Dayton, at the Summit County elections board in Akron, and at the Lucas County elections board in Toledo. In Columbus, the line snaked about a quarter-mile along the front and around the back of the Franklin County Board of Elections. Voting in Hamilton County was taking place in a voting center that more than doubles the space of the usual voting center in the same complex in suburban Norwood. Disinfectants and masks were offered to voters, with 6-foot spacing marked for lines.
Oklahoma City: State health officials continue to report a steady increase in the number of people hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, and the state’s official death count from the disease caused by the coronavirus increased by three Monday. Health officials said there were 665 new confirmed cases of the virus. The latest numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health put the total number of confirmed cases in the state at 91,982. The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The state’s count of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 was 655 through Friday, the most recent data available. That’s an increase of 65 people from a week earlier Sept. 25. Oklahoma’s death count stands at 1,055. Health officials report there are more than 12,772 active cases of the virus, and more than 78,155 people have recovered.
Eugene: The University of Oregon says dozens of students have tested positive for COVID-19. The university’s website showed on Monday that 57 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the previous four days alone. All of those cases involve students, but only one of the students lives in on-campus housing. The rest live off campus. The surge in cases comes at the beginning of the school year, KEZI-TV reports. Cases have been climbing since about Sept. 22, when the university reported 15 cases. Every day since, at least six more cases have been reported. Officials said students who live on campus and test positive are “in isolation” as they recover. The University of Oregon has reported more than 200 cases since June 1. Also on Monday, the Register-Guard reported four people were cited by city and university police Saturday for hosting a party for between 100 and 150 mostly college-age people off campus.
Harrisburg: Coronavirus-related crowd restrictions for both indoor and outdoor events were loosened Tuesday by Gov. Tom Wolf, who called the shift “a gradual adjustment to our lives as we learn how we can do things safely” until there’s a vaccine for the virus or cure for the disease. The Democratic governor’s new limits employ a sliding scale, linked to the size of the crowd, to determine capacity. The rules, which go into effect Friday, will replace limits of 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors, allowing much larger crowds at a range of events, including school sports. The state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, cautioned that the changes may not be permanent. “If our case investigation and contact tracing efforts determine that events or gatherings are the source of an outbreak, we can and will dial back these new limits,” Levine said in a release.
Providence: The University of Rhode Island is requiring all students to get tested for the coronavirus and is setting up two testing locations on campus. The mandatory testing announced Monday that applies to asymptomatic students who live on and off campus “is to assess the overall health of the entire student body at the university and establish a baseline data set to measure population health for the remainder of the fall semester,” the school said in a statement. Students with coronavirus symptoms should call university health services. The school had 66 positive tests between Sept. 28 and Sunday but remains within the positivity rate recommended by the state and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students who fail to get a test will be referred to the Dean of Students office, the statement said.
Clemson: The City Council on Monday unanimously voted to extend its mask mandate until the Christmas season, based on virus spread on the Clemson University campus and wastewater testing showing higher levels of the virus communitywide. The mandatory ordinance requires people to wear face coverings in all public spaces and private businesses. The mandate dates back to mid-June, when a spike in cases forced multiple businesses to shut down. The council’s vote comes after Clemson University announced 480 students are quarantined due to the virus and as hundreds of new cases are discovered each week. Meanwhile, tests of the city’s wastewater indicate rising levels of the virus in the northern part of the city, where many off-campus students live. “The numbers we got of the fecal tests were just downright scary,” Councilmember Fran McGuire said.
AB Kiosks in the Minnehaha County Jail will serve as alternatives to the usual alcohol compliance checks for the 24/7 program. (Photo: Submitted)
Sioux Falls: Three machines are going to change how Minnehaha County checks that its defendants comply with their incarceration release conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Minnehaha County to shift away from its traditional method of checking that participants in the 24/7 Sobriety Program maintain sobriety. Minnehaha County, along with Codington County, received stand-alone kiosks from a Minneapolis-based company, Precision Kiosk Technologies, so participants can come to the jail on their own and do the test, without physical contact with a deputy. Normally, sheriff’s deputies hold a breathalyzer for clients to breathe into to check their alcohol content, which contrasts with social distancing guidelines. The AB Kiosk can automatically do twice-daily breathalyzer tests, record results and notify staff of failed tests.
Nashville: State election officials have adjusted rules for when first-time voters who want to vote by mail must provide identifying documents, following action by a federal court last month as the pandemic makes absentee voting more critical than ever. A judge has temporarily halted Tennessee’s requirement that first-time voters vote in person or show ID at the local election office to vote absentee. The state is appealing the ruling. Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s website now says voters who registered by mail and who want to vote absentee in their first Tennessee election must submit a copy of their ID when they mail back their absentee ballot. The website says counties will send instructions with absentee ballots. Various documents count, including a state or federal photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and address.
San Antonio: Prominent megachurch pastor and conservative activist John Hagee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, his son announced during services at the church his father founded. The 80-year-old pastor received the diagnosis Friday and was recovering after the illness was detected early, Matt Hagee said during Sunday morning services at Cornerstone Church. John Hagee founded a ministry that the church says now has 22,000 members. His sermons are broadcast throughout the United States and Canada and livestreamed online. Hagee has been a committed supporter of Israel, founding Christians United for Israel. He also is a stalwart backer of President Donald Trump, who with first lady Melania Trump also has been diagnosed with COVID-19. State health officials reported 2,192 new Texas cases Monday of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, along with eight new related deaths.
Salt Lake City: Thousands of minks at fur farms in the state have died because of the coronavirus in a recent 10-day period, forcing nine sites in three counties to quarantine, but the state veterinarian said people don’t appear to be at risk from the outbreak. The COVID-19 infections likely were spread from workers at the mink ranches to the animals, with no sign so far that the animals are spreading it to humans, said Dr. Dean Taylor, the state veterinarian, who is investigating the outbreak. “We genuinely don’t feel like there is much of a risk going from the mink to the people,” he said Thursday. Between 7,000 and 8,000 minks have died since the disease swept through the ranches that produce the animals, valued for their luxurious pelts. So far, no animals in Utah have been euthanized because of the disease, and it doesn’t appear to be necessary, Taylor said.
Shoreham: The state’s top public health official said Tuesday that an outbreak of COVID-19 among apple pickers in Addison County has been contained, and there is no threat to the public. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the total number of people infected in the outbreak is now 27, up one case from Monday. But the latest case came from the same batch of tests that detected the first 26 and does not represent an increase in the size of the outbreak. “Contact tracing has been completed, and at this time the outbreak has been contained to the site,” Levine said. He emphasized there is no known risk to the public. “There is also no risk of eating apples or any other products that were grown or produced from the orchards,” he said. The migrant apple pickers at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham arrived in Vermont on Sept. 14 and were at the end of a 14-day quarantine when one of them tested positive.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam said he has developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus a little less than two weeks after he and the state’s first lady tested positive. Northam said Monday that he had “a little bit of cold-like symptoms over the weekend” and had lost his sense of taste and smell, The Washington Post reports. The Democratic governor said other than that, he felt fine. Northam, 61, said he learned Sept. 25 that he and first lady Pam Northam had tested positive for COVID-19. Northam, who is a physician, said he was alarmed that President Donald Trump was playing down the severity of the virus even after the president himself tested positive for it last week. Northam is a former military doctor who served on the staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He noted that Trump “has access to the best medical care, medications, treatments other people don’t have access to.”
Seattle: The University of Washington has announced that a coronavirus outbreak in its Greek community increased to more than 160 students since last week. As of Monday, there were 163 confirmed COVID-19 cases among 12 fraternities and sororities, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. University officials have urged students to isolate if they have tested positive or are experiencing symptoms. Students who had close contact with infected peers have been encouraged to get tested, officials said. It is unclear if anyone was hospitalized or has experienced severe symptoms. Seattle and King County Public Health Department’s Dr. Jeff Duchin said last week that it is likely many students with active social lives have come from nationwide to return to in-person classes. The outbreak has shown the difficulty of returning to campus during the pandemic, he said.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice is allowing live outdoor music performances and certain indoor events to resume during the coronavirus pandemic. Justice signed an executive order Monday that allows the resumption provided that safety guidelines are followed. Live performances will be limited to outdoors only and must follow capacity limits and require face coverings and social distancing whenever possible. Attendance will be restricted to 25% of a venue’s capacity or 250 people, whichever is less. Indoor live music performances with people in attendance remain prohibited. Such performances without people present that are broadcast to a remote audience will be allowed, Justice said in a statement.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers’ administration issued a new order Tuesday limiting the size of public indoor gatherings as COVID-19 spreads unchecked across the state, in a move certain to alienate Republicans as well as tavern and restaurant owners. Wisconsin has become one of the worst hot spots for the disease over the past month, with experts attributing the spike in cases to colleges and schools reopening and general fatigue about wearing masks and social distancing. The state ranked third nationwide this week in the number of new cases per capita, with 548 cases per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University. The order from state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm limits public indoor gatherings to 25% of the room or building’s capacity. Gatherings in indoor spaces without an occupancy limit will be limited to 10 people.
Cheyenne: The governor urged people to remain vigilant against the coronavirus amid a new surge in cases and hospitalizations that raised concern about small hospitals potentially reaching the limits of their ability to treat people. “We have seen some very serious deterioration of conditions. We are trending in the wrong direction,” Gov. Mark Gordon said at a news conference Monday. The 36 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wyoming on Monday was a record, up from no more than 20 at a time from April to mid-September and topping last spring’s peak of 23 hospitalizations April 20-21, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. “We are hearing about local hospitals starting to feel the pressure,” State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said at the news conference in Cheyenne. “Any of our hospitals being overwhelmed would be a serious problem.”
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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