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Choctaw crisis, Space Needle, teen outbreak: News from around our 50 states

AlabamaTuscaloosa: City leaders are moving to limit nightlife in the college town during the pandemic as thousands of students return to school for the fall semester. The Tuscaloosa News reports a divided City County approved a measure Tuesday night that allows Mayor Walt Maddox to enact rules aimed at combating a surge in coronavirus cases in the city. Among the regulations is a move to reduce the capacity at bars to 50% after 9 p.m. There’s currently no limit. Another rule would reduce the occupancy of entertainment venues to 25%, down from 50%. The limits, which are expected to take effect Thursday, are in addition to statewide rules that include masks for anyone who is in public and can’t socially distance. Students already are arriving for the fall at the University of Alabama, where classes begin Aug. 19. The city of about 100,000 people also is home to Shelton State Community College and Stillman College.AlaskaAnchorage: Alaska Airlines said 331 employees among the company’s workforce in the city may lose their jobs Oct. 1. The company said the Anchorage layoffs are part of companywide job cuts because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Alaska Public Media reports. Alaska Airlines said 4,200 workers may be furloughed or laid off across the company beginning in October. The 331 workers account for about 26% of the airline’s workforce in Anchorage, company spokesman Tim Thompson said. Thompson said the number of layoffs may be lowered by Oct. 1, a day after the federal government’s multibillion-dollar payroll support program is set to expire. The airline announced in an alert to state and local governments that the jobs being considered for elimination include 135 Anchorage flight attendants, 76 customer service agents, and maintenance technicians and ramp service workers.ArizonaPhoenix: A judge has ruled Gov. Doug Ducey’s closure of gyms across the state in response to the pandemic violates the due process rights of health clubs, and he set an Aug. 11 deadline for the governor to set up a system for giving fitness businesses a chance to apply to reopen. Judge Timothy Thomason wrote in the ruling that clubs that have been shut down for more than a month might not be able to survive yet were denied due process because they couldn’t apply to reopen until Ducey ended the shutdown. “It is imperative that their constitutional rights be respected,” Thomason wrote. Tom Hatten, chief executive of Mountainside Fitness, one of the two health club chains that challenged the order in the case, said he plans to reopen his clubs Aug. 11. The judge said a health club would be allowed to reopen once it attests it is following COVID-19 prevention guidelines, though the state could still deny applications as long as it’s providing due process.ArkansasLittle Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said scammers fraudulently filed on his behalf for unemployment assistance intended for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as officials said thousands of claims have been frozen over potential fraud concerns. Hutchinson said he received a notice over the weekend that he had been approved for unemployment assistance intended for independent contractors, gig workers and the self-employed. Hutchinson said he never applied for the assistance. “It can happen to anyone,” Hutchinson said. The Republican governor said the FBI is investigating a scheme that includes other fraudulent applications. State Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said 27,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims and another 10,000 unemployment claims have been frozen after they were flagged for potential fraud. Preston said several other Cabinet secretaries had received similar notices to Hutchinson’s.CaliforniaLos Angeles: Figures showing the state has slowed the rate of coronavirus infections may be in doubt because a technical problem has delayed reporting of test results, the state’s top health official said. For days, California hasn’t received full counts on the number of tests conducted nor the number that come back positive for COVID-19, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday. He blamed an unspecified technical problem affecting the state’s database that provides test results to local health departments. Ghaly said it’s unclear when the issue would be fixed, adding that the state is relaying information manually to county health officials. The announcement came a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom gave his most optimistic report on the state’s virus efforts since a second surge of cases in early June.ColoradoDenver: Gov. Jared Polis is urging Congress to go beyond simple renewal of earlier federal pandemic assistance and provide a more extensive package of aid to blunt the economic fallout of the coronavirus. Polis, a Democrat, said he wants food stamp benefit increases, home heating and child care assistance, support to meet anticipated surges in Medicaid demand, and an automatic extension of immigrant work visas for workers in health care and agriculture. The requests, in a Tuesday letter to the state’s congressional delegation signed by Democratic Treasurer Dave Young as well, also ask for more U.S. financial support for water projects, clean energy and public lands infrastructure – key initiatives of Polis’ administration. Polis insisted Tuesday that the initiatives would be long-term job generators and said Congress should “use this opportunity to invest in resilient, climate-focused solutions as our communities recover” from the pandemic.ConnecticutHartford: An online portal has been launched to help state residents who need housing assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Department of Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno said the website came about after a call center that opened last month was swamped with calls, resulting in busy signals and long wait times for callers. Connecticut is offering two new programs that provide rental assistance and mortgage assistance for those struggling to pay their housing costs due to a job loss, a reduction of work, a furlough or the closing of a business because of COVID-19. Details on the two programs and eligibility can be found by visiting the Department of Housing website for renters and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority website for homeowners. Applicants can submit questionnaires online to determine if they’re eligible, as well as contact the call center at 1-860-785-3111 during business hours.DelawareWilmington: Gov. John Carney approved a hybrid start to the school year Tuesday, allowing schools to use a combination of in-person and online learning when classes resume in the fall. Schools must also follow extensive health and safety precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. The decision comes after weeks of the governor monitoring data and alluding to the likelihood of a hybrid school reopening. The state will provide free COVID-19 testing for teachers and staff before the school year begins and monthly throughout the school year using an at-home testing option. Schools across the state will also host community testing sites for students wishing to get tested before the school year starts. Schools are encouraged to offer some sort of in-person teaching, especially for students who would have difficulty learning in a fully remote setting, such as those with special needs, low-income students, homeless students or English learners.District of ColumbiaWashington: Mayor Muriel Bowser is asking residents to continue going to their scheduled doctor’s appointments despite concerns surrounding health centers during the pandemic, WUSA-TV reports. Hospitals are safe, ready and waiting to help, officials said. Bowser is also urging parents to take their children to the doctor to make sure they are up to date with vaccinations even though they will be returning to school virtually. District leaders want students to be ready to enter an in-person learning environment when it’s safe, Bowser said. “One pandemic is enough, and we do not want an epidemic in our pandemic,” said Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt with D.C. Department of Public Health.FloridaJacksonville: During a Tuesday roundtable at a nursing home in the city, Gov. Ron DeSantis returned to a familiar theme: protecting the state’s most vulnerable from the coronavirus. The governor said he was looking for “a pathway to get families access” to the 1.5 million loved ones who are finding themselves socially and emotionally isolated in nursing homes and senior facilities. “Four and a half months are a long, long time,” the governor said. Though Florida has managed to bring down the proportion of pandemic deaths stemming from nursing homes by keeping them on lockdown and other measures since March, infections have been surging in those facilities alongside community spread throughout the state this summer. The number of residents of long-term care facilities in the state testing positive for COVID-19 was about 5,800 as of Tuesday, roughly double that of early July.GeorgiaMacon: Organizers of the annual Macon Film Festival say they will hold the event despite the coronavirus, but the bulk of the film entries will be streamed online. Festival board chairman Steven Fulbright told The Telegraph the event is important to Macon and filmmakers. It will run from Aug. 13 through Aug. 30. Fulbright, who is also Visit Macon’s director of tourism, said attendees to the Macon event will have a variety of ways to enjoy the films while staying safe. Two feature films will be screened at the Grand Opera House on weekends, including a new documentary about Macon-based piano player Chuck Leavell. Leavell played the keyboard for the Allman Brothers Band and the Rolling Stones. Other film entries will be streamed online at scheduled times for a fee.HawaiiHonolulu: Many private schools in the state expect to begin the new year with in-person instruction. The private schools are typically smaller than their public counterparts and can more easily make adjustments to cope with the pandemic, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Philip Bossert, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, said flexibility is a hallmark of its 120 member schools. “They can move pretty fast and do things responsibly without asking 10,000 people,” Bossert said. “To my knowledge all of them have a plan to open face-to-face, but when will be entirely up to each of them. And they have a plan also to switch back to remote learning if necessary.” The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools has sent daily updates and hosted numerous virtual discussions for school leaders, Bossert said.IdahoBoise: Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday that he’ll call a special session in late August due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican governor said in a statement that the special session will start the week of Aug. 24 and possibly include how to conduct the November general election amid the pandemic. Little also said the session might include legislation creating a liability shield for protection against lawsuits during declared emergencies such as the pandemic. A majority of House and Senate lawmakers on the Judiciary and Rules Working Group last month concluded that such a law is needed to protect government, schools and private businesses from frivolou
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