Lumber cost jacked, turtle benefit, eviction relief: News from around our 50 states

AlabamaASU Quinton Ross shows off social distancing technology at the Hardy Student Center on Alabama State University campus in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.Montgomery: When visitors entered Alabama State University’s John Garrick Hardy Student Center on Tuesday morning, they were asked to do the opposite of what most every public health official has recommended since spring – remove their masks. For a moment, at least. That’s because Draganfly, a smart thermal temperature assessment device that screens for COVID-19 symptoms, reads biomarkers such as temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate by quickly scanning the image of a person’s face. The smart device is contactless, reads temperatures in about 30 seconds and requires only that individuals remove all face coverings, including glasses. No data is collected, and images are not stored. ASU is the first educational facility in the state to unveil the new technology, which will be utilized in “high traffic” areas across campus.AlaskaAnchorage: The Alaska SeaLife Center has raised enough money to remain open through the winter after a revenue loss stemming from the coronavirus pandemic threatened to permanently shut its doors, an official said. The attraction in Seward announced the funds will support continued operations at the center, which houses Alaska’s only marine mammal rescue program and serves as a North Pacific animal research hub. President and CEO Tara Riemer said the center reached its fundraising goal of $2 million more than a month before a Sept. 30 deadline, although she said the money does not guarantee its future. The center also needs money to ensure consistency for research and educational programs that have been cut or reduced, she said. Household memberships rose above 4,500 after more than doubling in the past six weeks. The highest membership number before the pandemic was 1,800, Riemer said.ArizonaPhoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey and public health officials on Monday urged people to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible, warning that hospitals face potential overcrowding with flu patients while still trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Free vaccines will be made available to those who are uninsured or underinsured, Ducey said, and the state will increase payments to health care providers who vaccinate people on Arizona’s Medicaid plan in hopes of increasing availability of the vaccine. But Ducey said he’s worried residents will grow complacent about wearing masks, social distancing, handwashing and other steps to control spread of the coronavirus and the flu. “It gets more difficult. It’s just human nature, when you see the numbers trending lower, and it’s maybe not leading the nightly news every night,” Ducey said during a news conference.ArkansasLittle Rock: The University of Arkansas on Monday reported 151 more confirmed cases of coronavirus at its campus in Fayetteville, and a White House report said the state continued to have one of the highest rates of positive tests in the country. The new infections reported at the university over the weekend bring its total number of active cases to 222 and come days after the state’s top health official expressed concerns about outbreaks at Arkansas’ college campuses. Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier Monday said he believed the state’s colleges had a good plan in place to continue in-person instruction if students follow the guidelines. A White House panel’s report to Arkansas dated Sunday said the state had the seventh-highest rate of test positivity in the country. The Coronavirus Task Force report also said the state remained in the red zone for cases, with more than 100 new infections per 100,000 population, putting it at the 11th highest in the country.CaliforniaSacramento: People who haven’t paid their rent since March 1 because of the coronavirus can stay in their homes through at least Jan. 31 under a new state law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed late Monday – one day before statewide eviction protections were set to expire. The pandemic has devastated California’s economy, causing millions to lose their jobs as the government ordered businesses to close for months. In April, the Judicial Council of California halted most eviction and foreclosure proceedings during the pandemic. On Monday, the final day of the legislative session, state lawmakers approved a bill that would ban evictions for tenants who did not pay their rent between March 1 and Aug. 31 because of the pandemic. The bill would also ban evictions for those tenants through Jan. 31, but only if they pay at least 25% of the rent owed. Newsom called the law “a bridge to a more permanent solution” from the federal government.ColoradoFort Collins: As flu season gets ready to collide with COVID-19, health care providers say it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Many pharmacies are already offering flu shots. Banner Health will kick off a series of drive-thru clinics in Larimer County on Wednesday, and UCHealth is offering flu shots to patients beginning Tuesday. Flu shots are “critical as people can have co-infections with both flu and COVID, which could significantly increase the severity of both illnesses,” said Dr. Marsha Hamner, regional medical director for Banner Health hospitalists in Northern Colorado. Because symptoms are similar, it can be hard to know the difference between influenza and COVID-19. UCHealth is considering testing symptomatic patients for influenza and COVID-19 at the same time to avoid unnecessarily exposing health workers to COVID-19.ConnecticutHartford: Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s filing a request for a five-month renewal of his public health emergency powers with legislative leaders as the coronavirus pandemic continues, saying the new Feb. 9 deadline will provide continuity and give his administration flexibility if Connecticut’s COVID-19 situation changes and quick actions become necessary. But the top Republican in the House of Representatives said even though the pandemic is continuing, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same orders should remain in place. “They were appropriate in the beginning,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “They are too broad for the time we are in now.” Lamont’s existing order, issued in March, is set to expire Sept. 9. He told reporters Monday that there would be a lot of confusion if many of the health-related restrictions he has imposed suddenly ended that day.DelawareDover: The number of people who’ve died in the state from the coronavirus is now 605. The Delaware State News reports the latest death was announced Monday by the Delaware Division of Public Health. The 94-year-old Kent County woman who died was a resident of a nursing home and had no underlying health conditions. Kent County has seen 110 deaths. New Castle County has recorded 300. Sussex County has confirmed 195. The state’s total number of virus cases is 17,429. Across the state, 58 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 16 are considered in critical condition. The percentage of positive tests is 4.3%.District of ColumbiaWashington: Public tours of the White House, halted nearly six months ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, are set to resume this month with new health and safety policies in place. Tours will resume Sept. 12, for two days a week instead of five and for just a few hours a day, the first lady’s office announced Tuesday. The number of visitors will also be capped. All guests over age 2 will be required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Dots noting proper distance will be placed on the ground to guide guests during check-in, and hand sanitizer will be available in multiple locations. National Park Service workers, U.S. Secret Service officers and staff from the White House visitors office along the tour route will wear face coverings and gloves. Tours will be allowed only on Friday and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the number of guests will be capped at 18% of normal capacity, the White House said.FloridaTallahassee: Scores of Floridians struggling with rents and mortgages were given another reprieve Monday night when Gov. Ron DeSantis again extended a moratorium against residential evictions and foreclosures. The governor took action just hours before a previous extension was to expire. The state’s unemployment rate remains high – 11.3% in July – with more than 1.1 million Floridians out of work as the state’s economy continues ailing amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The extension means residents who cannot pay rent or make house payments won’t be forced out of their homes until the end of the month. Many hundreds of thousands of the state’s residents lost their jobs or had their hours severely reduced when businesses curtailed hours because of the outbreak. The governor’s order does not forgive the payment of rents or mortgages and applies only to people who can prove their loss of income was due to the pandemic.GeorgiaAtlanta: The governor is extending the two main executive orders that govern the state’s response to COVID-19. Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday signed a 15-day extension of the order that mandates requirements on social distancing, bans gatherings of more than 50 people unless there is 6 feet of distance between each person, and lists other rules about operating businesses and nonprofit groups. Those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as people deemed medically fragile, must continue to shelter in place through Sept. 15. The Republican Kemp also extended the underlying state of emergency, which gives him powers to make other orders, through Oct. 10. In extending the orders, Kemp made no changes. That means he did not update his previous order to declare teachers as “critical infrastructure workers,” which would exempt them from requirements to quarantine for 14 days after exposure to COVID-19. HawaiiHonolulu: Hawaiian green sea turtle hatchlings appeared for the first time on an Oahu beach owned by the U.S. military, which wildlife experts believe may be partly a result of the coronavirus. Experts said there have never before been hatched eggs from the threatened turtle species on U.S. Marine Corps Base Hawaii Training Area Bellows Beach, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The 3-inch hatchlings emerged from the white sand and headed toward the sea beginning about a month ago and continuing through last week. Several of the sea turtles hauled themselves onto the beach to nest in April, the first time the behavior was documented there. Experts could not conclusively say why the mother turtles used the mile-long expanse for the first time but suspect the nesting occurred because the beach was empty due to state health restrictions.IdahoBoise: The state’s unemployment claims rose last week for the second week in a row, according to numbers from the Idaho Department of Labor. New first-time filings for unemployment totaled nearly 3,800 the prior week, 4% more than the week before that, which had seen double-digit increases, Boise State Public Radio reports. Still, the state has seen significant declines in the number of unemployment claims since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the four-week average for initial claims is still about 6% lower than the previous four-week period. Nearly $800 million in unemployment benefits have been paid out for unemployment related to the coronavirus in Idaho, the bulk of the money coming from the federal government. Unemployment claims remain at slightly higher levels than those seen during the Great Recession. IllinoisChicago: Mayor Lori Lightfoot predicted a $1.2 billion hole in the 2021 budget Monday, calling the coronavirus pandemic the “single largest driver” of the city’s economic challenges. In her budget forecast, the first-term mayor said tourism, transportation and the hospitality industry have been hit hardest amid closures due to COVID-19. Lightfoot didn’t offer many details on how Chicago officials would close the gap, noting city worker layoffs as one possibility. Lightfoot didn’t mention a property tax hike as a solution. She said federal help will be needed as cities nationwide are struggling to fight the virus and address economic fallout. Illinois health officials on Monday announced 1,668 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven deaths. Roughly $400 million of the shortfall is related to Chicago’s underfunded pension system.IndianaSouth Bend: The University of Notre Dame will resume in-person classes in stages beginning Wednesday and gradually pick up other campus activities, said its president, the Rev. John Jenkins. In-person classes for Notre Dame’s 12,000 students began Aug. 10, but eight days into the semester, the university moved classes online for two weeks after a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases. With coronavirus cases declining among students, it was safe to return to in-person classes, Jenkins said in a livestreamed address to students, faculty and staff. “The virus dealt us a blow, and we stumbled, but we steadied ourselves, and now we move on,” he said. During Aug. 20-25, the positivity rate of new cases was 6.3%, Jenkins said. Also, more than 1,200 surveillance tests on members of the campus community have been conducted with a less than 1% positivity rate, he said.IowaDes Moines: White House coronavirus experts warned state leaders Sunday that Iowa has the country’s steepest coronavirus outbreak and that the state should close bars in 61 counties and test all returning college students for the virus. The recommended actions are significantly stronger than ones put in place by Gov. Kim Reynolds, who last week ordered bars closed in six counties. In the past two weeks, nearly 11% of people who have been tested for the virus have had it, according to state figures, with the positivity rate reaching even higher in some counties. On Aug. 23, the White House experts had said Iowa had the ninth-highest case rate in the country. Meanwhile, Ames has been identified as the country’s worst “hot spot” city by the New York Times. Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, was second, while the state of Iowa was tabbed as the worst “hot spot” state, according to the Times.KansasTopeka: Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday urged local officials to consider using part of federal coronavirus assistance to pay for more drop-off boxes for mail-in ballots. Kelly said during a Monday press conference that adding drop-off boxes would help keep Kansans safe from COVID-19 and relieve pressure on the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the November election. The Kansas secretary of state’s office has offered each county up to two drop-off boxes where people can deposit their absentee ballots. Kelly said she instructed her staff last week to send a letter to local government officials telling them they can use a portion of federal coronavirus relief funds to add drop boxes. The Department of Health and Environment on Monday reported 1,564 new confirmed COVID-19 cases since Friday, an increase of 3.81%. The three-day jump in reported cases again gave Kansas its biggest seven-day spike in new cases since the pandemic began.KentuckyFrankfort: The state relaxed its rules for child care facilities Monday and offered financial assistance for some in-home centers in moves aimed at increasing capacity as parents return to work. The policy announcements by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration come after Republican lawmakers criticized some rules as overly restrictive, warning that many centers wouldn’t be able to stay open amid the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. State Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said Monday that the changes include allowing child care centers to increase class sizes from 10 to 15. Kentucky also will offer a $2,500 stipend to small, in-home centers to help them become licensed day care providers, he said. The state will draw on federal virus relief aid to provide the assistance. Other changes include allowing tours of child care centers to resume.LouisianaSen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., delivers remarks to media after registering as a candidate to run as an incumbent in Baton Rouge, La., Friday, July 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)Baton Rouge: U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said Monday that he has recovered from COVID-19 and is resuming his normal congressional workload after experiencing only modest symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus. “I thank everyone for their concern and prayers. I was lucky and blessed,” Cassidy said in a statement. “Now, the focus is Hurricane Laura recovery and relief and addressing coronavirus for others.” The Republican senator said he meets the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for returning to regular activities, without any symptoms for 24 hours to leave isolation. Cassidy, a doctor, announced Aug. 20 that he had tested positive for the virus and was quarantining in Louisiana. At the time, a spokesman said he was experiencing “mild symptoms” from COVID-19. He was at least the 13th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the coronavirus. MaineAugusta: The Maine Center for Disease Control said Tuesday that it was investigating two more outbreaks at institutions of higher learning. There have been at least three confirmed cases at the University of New England in Biddeford and Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC. Coronavirus cases also have been reported at the University of Maine, University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine School of Law. Meanwhile, Shah threw cold water on social media reports that COVID-19 is not so bad because 94% of patients who have died from it had underlying health conditions. “No one should be comforted by these numbers whatsoever,” he said. COVID-19 works like all other viruses by opening the door to allowing previous conditions or new conditions to cause cascading problems resulting in death, Shah said.MarylandAnnapolis: COVID-19 testing costs threaten to overwhelm nursing homes and could even push some facilities to bankruptcy, industry advocates warned state lawmakers last week. The Maryland Department of Health last month stopped paying for weekly staff testing at the state’s 227 nursing homes and at 137 assisted living facilities with 50 or more beds, where the testing is required. Facilities are struggling to absorb the huge new expense. The total cost to nursing homes statewide could range between $2.2 million and $3.8 million per week, Danna Kauffman, a lobbyist for LifeSpan Network, told the House’s Health and Government Operations Committee on Wednesday. Individual facilities face tens of thousands of dollars in testing costs per week. More than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths have been connected to nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state, accounting for more than half of Maryland’s total deaths.MassachusettsBoston: A casino has laid off nearly 400 workers who had been furloughed because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying their jobs are unlikely to return this year. Encore Boston Harbor said Monday that the 385 affected workers would lose their company benefits starting Tuesday but could regain job seniority if they are rehired within 90 days. “With continued efforts from the state to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Encore Boston Harbor continues to operate with a significantly reduced capacity in all parts of our resort,” Encore management said in a statement. “As we take a look at our business during these extraordinary conditions, we do not believe that all Encore Boston Harbor jobs will return in 2020.” The Everett resort has 2,700 employees working now, with another 915 still on furlough. The state’s three casinos closed in March because of the pandemic and were not allowed to reopen until mid-July under capacity restrictions.MichiganLansing: The leader of the Michigan High School Athletic Association said Monday that the decision rests with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on whether there are soccer games, volleyball matches, and swimming and diving meets this fall. Mark Uyl said while the governor’s school reopening road map, issued June 30, allows for competition during the coronavirus pandemic, her broader “safe start” order – amended July 29 – does not, unless participants stay 6 feet apart. The group later received guidance from Whitmer’s office that sports deemed to be low-risk – golf, tennis and cross country – were OK to proceed despite the athletes not always being able to keep distance. The organization on Aug. 14 postponed football, which is considered high-risk, until the spring. Soccer, volleyball, and swimming and diving are permitted in much of northern Michigan but not the rest of the state, Uyl said.MinnesotaMinneapolis: State health officials warned Monday against social gatherings ahead of the Labor Day weekend following a visit from a top White House COVID-19 adviser as case growth continues to accelerate. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx met with state officials Sunday as part of a series of nationwide visits to asses states’ pandemic response. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Birx cited the state’s case growth and community transmission as concerns and urged action before the weather turns colder and people spend more time indoors. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Minnesota has risen over the past two weeks from 7.2% on Aug. 16 to 9.08% on Aug. 30, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Malcolm said the positivity rate showed cases are increasing faster than the testing rate for the first time.MississippiJackson: Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he is extending a statewide mask mandate and most other restrictions another two weeks to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. He made a single change – eliminating a cap of two spectators per participant at high school sports events. Reeves said a limit of 25% capacity remains in place for stadiums, gyms and other venues, and people should maintain social distance from those who are not in their immediate families. As the University of Southern Mississippi prepares to host its first home football game Thursday, Reeves said his prohibition on tailgating at college games also remains in place at least two more weeks. “I’d rather be in the South where we can’t have tailgating, where we have rules in place but we are going to have football, than to be in the Pac-12 where they’re not even going to have football,” Reeves said.MissouriSpringfield: Schools across the state, ranging from universities to a kindergarten, continue to grapple with an increase in COVID-19 cases as classes resume. The University of Missouri reported Monday that it had 415 active cases on campus, an increase from the 306 reported Friday after the first week of on-campus classes. The university reported faculty and staff cases for the first time Monday, with four faculty members and 21 staff having contracted the virus. Missouri State University in Springfield said it had 383 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the second week of classes that ended Friday, more than double the 141 reported the week after classes started Aug. 17. The overwhelming majority were students, with about 20% living on campus, said David Hall, director of university safety. And officials in the Webb City school district near Joplin closed the Madge T. James Kindergarten Center as 10 of its 24 staff members tested positive.MontanaDuring its upcoming free concert season, the Great Falls Symphony will socially distance both the audience and the musicians to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.Great Falls: “Show your love; give what you can” is the motto of the Great Falls Symphony as the 2020-2021 concert series approaches. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 62nd season is a “recomposed” year for the symphony, and its entire six-concert season will be absolutely free. It’s the first time as far as music director Grant Harville knows that the entire series has been offered free of charge, he said, calling the concept potentially revolutionary. The idea is to bring optimism to a time of uncertainty. The symphony, whose ticket sales normally make up one-third of its annual budget, was facing a year of low ticket sales and sparse audiences as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down. “The philosophy was instead of thinking of this as, ‘How do we survive?’ we’re thinking of, ‘How do we thrive?’ ” Harville said. Symphony officials feel that removing the cost barrier is how they can best serve the community, he said.NebraskaLincoln: Four sororities and one fraternity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are under quarantine because of confirmed coronavirus cases, the university said Monday. The five houses each initially reported four or five confirmed cases, which was enough to quarantine the members, The Omaha World-Herald reports. A spokeswoman said it was unclear if the houses have confirmed more cases since the initial cases were diagnosed. The university requires anyone who has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 to quarantine for at least 14 days. The four sororities are Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma. The fraternity is Beta Theta Pi. The university has reported a total of 197 positive COVID-19 cases as of Sunday.NevadaCarson City: A day before the state’s eviction moratorium was set to expire, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced plans to extend it for 45 days to provide relief to an estimated 250,000 renters facing the prospect of losing their housing because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic governor said Monday that the moratorium couldn’t last forever but needed to be extended due to delays in getting state assistance to residents, particularly unemployed renters. An alternative dispute resolution program passed by the Legislature – which directed justice courts to grant 30-day delays on evictions to facilitate third-party mediation – has yet to be implemented in any county. In Las Vegas, a city known for its transient population, about 47% of households are rentals. The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, a bipartisan research and policy analysis center, projects about 10% of the population could struggle to pay rent in September.New HampshireConcord: The City Council has approved a requirement for people to wear masks in city buildings and businesses such as retail stores to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The ordinance is effective Tuesday through Jan. 2, 2021, WMUR-TV reports. The masks are not required for children under age 5 or for people at risk of health issues. Violators would receive a warning, followed by a $15 fine for every subsequent offense. The cities of Manchester and Portsmouth are considering a similar mandate. Other New Hampshire cities, such as Nashua and Lebanon, passed mandates earlier this year.New JerseyHackensack: Restaurants and other food service establishments hit hard by the pandemic can apply for emergency funding from Bergen County, according to an announcement from County Executive James Tedesco. The next three phases of the Bergen County CARES Small Business Grant Program, aimed at helping small businesses through the state-mandated shutdown and other COVID-19 related restrictions, opened Monday and for one week will be offered only to food service establishments. Gov. Phil Murphy said he will permit indoor dining beginning Friday, a decision that worried some diners, delighted others, and brought relief to restaurateurs who have waited through the pandemic with bated breath and uncertain futures.The county’s online application portal for essential retail businesses opens Sept. 7 and for all small businesses Sept. 14. New MexicoSanta Fe: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration has reached a decision on how to distribute $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to local governments, a spokesman for the Finance and Administration Department said. Finance agency spokesman Henry Valdez said county and municipal governments are being notified of award amounts to meet an Aug. 31 deadline. The state is taking into consideration local compliance with its emergency health orders that can be costly to local governments. That has also led to concerns of possible favoritism amid clashes between local and state officials over the governor’s approach to reopening the economy. The Department of Finance and Administration says it received requests for $192 million from 83 local governments for the $100 million that is available.New YorkNew York: The city postponed the start of its school year by several days to allow more preparation to reopen classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic, announcing a delay Tuesday after teachers said they might OK a strike over the city’s drive to open schools. The change comes nine days before the nation’s largest public school system was set to bring students back to classrooms. Now, instead of starting a mix of in-person and remote learning Sept. 10, the city’s more than 1 million public school students will start remote-only classes Sept. 16. In-person instruction will begin Sept. 21, though more than 360,000 students’ families have opted to stick with remote-only learning altogether. The delay is meant to allow for finishing virus-safety steps that were already planned and working out some new provisions – including random virus testing of 10% to 20% of all students staffers per month.North CarolinaRaleigh: The Legislature will reconvene briefly starting Wednesday to propose spending leftover federal COVID-19 relief funds to reach the pockets of parents, the unemployed and poll workers. House and Senate Republicans have agreed on a package they want to send to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to spend a little over $1 billion in coronavirus relief from Congress, a key senator confirmed Tuesday. The package would include sending $325 payments to households of roughly 1.8 million children, said budget writer Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County. The payments, which would be sent by December, are designed to help cover additional expenses families are facing during the pandemic, such as child care and education materials for going to school online. The proposal also will raise state unemployment benefits by $50 a week through the year’s end and boost pay for Election Day precinct workers by $100. North DakotaBismarck: State health officials reported 191 new positive coronavirus cases and two new deaths Tuesday. The number of new cases included 30 in Burleigh County and 12 in neighboring Morton County. The counties that include the Bismarck metropolitan area have taken over as the state’s hot spot for the virus in recent weeks. The cases reported Tuesday raise the statewide total since the pandemic reached North Dakota in mid-March to 12,000. North Dakota’s death toll from the coronavirus was 145 as of Tuesday. The victims were a man in his 70s from Morton County and a woman in her 80s from Burleigh County. Officials said they both had underlying health conditions. The number of active cases in North Dakota totals 2,245, down 131 from Monday. The number of North Dakota patients currently hospitalized was 62 on Tuesday, down eight from Monday.OhioCincinnati: Police Chief Eliot Isaac is pleading with elected officials to amend the state’s 10 p.m. last call rule, saying the order – meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic – has had the unintended consequence of spurring a rash of violent crime. Isaac made the plea in a letter to Mayor John Cranley, who forwarded the communication to Gov. Mike DeWine, echoing Isaac’s plea for help in a note attached to the letter. The plea comes as homicides in Cincinnati climb to 68, the most ever at this point in the year, and shootings are up 50% this year compared to the same time frame in 2019. “Many of the incidents have occurred at after-hours gatherings such as short term Airbnb rentals or public areas where citizens are gathering as alternatives to liquor-permitted establishments,” Isaac wrote in the letter. OklahomaOklahoma City: The state’s death toll from COVID-19 reached 800 on Monday after the reported death of a Cleveland County woman. The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Monday reported 713 new confirmed coronavirus cases and one additional death, a Cleveland County woman in the 65-and-older age category. The total number of confirmed cases in Oklahoma is 58,733, although the actual number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The state reports there 570 people are hospitalized with the illness.OregonConstruction on new units continues as residents begin to move-in at the new Cornerstone Apartments in Salem, Oregon, Thursday August 16, 2018.Thursday August 16, 2018. The complex is the first in a set of Local Innovation and Fast Track homes to open after Oregon lawmakers approved $40 million in awards toward the program in 2015.Bend: Housing prices in central Oregon have increased due in part to the growing price of lumber, The Bend Bulletin reports. Average home prices in Bend are up 5.7% to about $475,000 compared to this time last year, according to data compiled by Zillow. In Redmond, the average price of homes has increased 6.3% to about $340,000. Demand for lumber increased substantially after widespread stay-at-home orders implemented as a result of the coronavirus pandemic increased the number of home projects, The Bulletin reports. The price has more than doubled this year, said the National Association of Home Builders. As demand for lumber grew, production from mills across the country dipped, with labor and social-distancing requirements slowing production. “Nobody could foresee the explosion of demand from DIY projects during quarantine,” said Nick Smith, spokesman for the American Forest Resource Council.PennsylvaniaHarrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration reiterated Monday that he will not extend his executive order halting evictions and foreclosures in the state because of legal limits that prevent him from taking further action. In a statement, Wolf’s office said it had explored the possibility that it could build off the Federal Housing Administration’s Thursday extension of its national foreclosure and eviction moratorium through December. “But after a thorough legal review, we have determined that the governor cannot extend the executive order to reach additional Pennsylvanians who are not benefiting from the federal extensions and a legislative fix is necessary in order to protect homeowners and renters from eviction,” Wolf’s office said. Wolf’s office suggested it is on thin legal ice while fighting a challenge to the existing executive order on evictions, although its explanation has raised questions about what exactly prevents him from extending it.Rhode IslandProvidence: Even though Gov. Gina Raimondo has given most public school districts in the state the green light for full in-person classes this fall, questions and concerns remain for teachers and administrators. “There is still a great deal of fear and anxiety by many parents and teachers regarding the announcement of a return to in-person schooling,” Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, said in a statement to WJAR-TV. Raimondo made her decision based on five conditions, including whether the coronavirus is under control. Every public school in the state will get a walkthrough by experts to make sure it is safe and properly prepared. Bob Walsh, executive director of National Education Association Rhode Island, said his members have questions about possibly overcrowded buses and classrooms if too many parents decide it’s safe to send their children back to school.South CarolinaColumbia: The University of South Carolina has suspended six sororities or fraternities, as well 15 students, for violating COVID-19 safety rules, the school announced Monday. The announcement came as the number of confirmed cases on campus passed the 500 mark. It also came as some students complained of long lines for testing. COVID-19 cases in South Carolina have begun to trend up again after hitting a low in recent weeks. with the seven-day average of new reports back above 900 cases. There’s been a notable spike in new cases in and around Columbia. The university said it has now quarantined nine sorority or fraternity houses, up from the previous six. Monday is the first time the university has announced sanctions against organizations and students. The university says wastewater testing results show rising infection levels. The school says it will be providing saliva testing beginning Tuesday.South DakotaSioux Falls: Coronavirus cases continued to climb Tuesday, with the state reporting 240 new cases but no deaths. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 198, almost doubling. The state currently ranks third in the country for new cases per capita, with 357 new cases per 100,000 people, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. As schools reopened, the state has seen dramatic inclines in the number of cases statewide. People in their 20s have reported the most infections of any age group. There are currently 78 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and half of the hospital beds in the state remain available. Over the course of the pandemic, 13,749 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Almost 79% of them have recovered, but 2,750 people have active infections, and 167 have died.TennesseeNashville: Nearly 1,000 inmates at a state prison have tested positive for COVID-19, corrections officials said Monday. Officials tested 1,410 inmates at South Central Correctional Facility late last week after several inmates and staff began showing symptoms, the Tennessee Department of Correction said in a news release. As of late Monday afternoon, 974 of the inmates had tested positive for the disease, while another 189 results were pending, according to TDOC statistics. The prison in Wayne County is run by private prison company CoreCivic. All inmates who test positive and are asymptomatic will receive daily medical monitoring and health assessments, according to the news release. Those who become symptomatic will be treated in place or at local hospitals, depending on their medical needs. Staff will self-quarantine, the department said. Meanwhile, in Nashville, a jail inmate died Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19.TexasHarris County election clerk Nora Martinez, left, helps a voter, Monday, June 29, 2020, in Houston.Austin: The fight over mail balloting in Texas, one of the few states not allowing more people to vote by mail in November, grew Monday when the state sued to stop more than 2 million registered voters around Houston from receiving applications to submit their ballots by mail. Harris County this month announced plans to send all registered voters the application, regardless of whether they qualify to vote by mail – which is generally restricted in Texas to voters who are 65 or older, are disabled or will be outside the county on Election Day. Several states have loosened mail voting restrictions this year because of COVID-19 concerns, but Texas’ GOP leaders have resisted calls to expand mail balloting, keeping them aligned with President Donald Trump, who has claimed that making mail voting more widespread could increase election fraud and uncertainty. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting. UtahSalt Lake City: A Utah County high school plans to close temporarily and shift to a schedule that mixes online and in-person classes after reporting a cluster of coronavirus cases. Alpine School District announced the change Monday at Pleasant Grove High School near Orem, although spokeswoman Kimberly Bird declined to say how many infections occurred, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. A letter sent to parents said Pleasant Grove High School will close for two days. The school is scheduled to reopen Thursday, when students will be split into two groups and begin attending in-person classes every other day to reduce the number of students in the building at one time. Bird confirmed the state’s largest school district has detected 67 virus cases throughout its 91 schools, including 41 students and 26 faculty members.VermontBrattleboro: The state hopes a program in the city that feeds people and keeps restaurants operating can be replicated in other parts of the state. The federal relief money used for the program is being given to restaurants and farmers to feed locals in need because of the pandemic, Vermont Public Radio reports. “It’s a huge financial bump,” said Gretchen Hardy, co-owner of The Porch Cafe. “It’s great. It keeps everyone employed.” Her restaurant prepares 300 free meals a week that go to local motels to feed people who are homeless. The restaurant gets paid $10 per meal and must spend at least 10% of that money at local farms. Eight other Brattleboro restaurants are participating in the Everyone Eats program. Lawmakers have allocated $5 million from the COVID-19 relief package for the program, and applications are coming in for other Everyone Eats programs around the state. VirginiaRichmond: Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that COVID-19 is “moderately contained” in the state, but he’s not ready to make any changes to existing restrictions on gatherings or businesses before Labor Day. “Now is the time to double down on what we know is working so we can set ourselves up for success this fall,” Northam said at a news conference. He implemented tighter restrictions on the Hampton Roads region in late July, citing an increase in new cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and positive tests. Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer recently asked the governor to loosen them ahead of the holiday weekend, The Virginian-Pilot reports. But Northam said Tuesday that the Memorial Day and July Fourth holidays led to surges in cases. He said eastern Virginia could come in line with the rest of the state soon after Labor Day if there’s evidence people are following the guidelines.WashingtonVolunteer Brie Coolbaugh, left, and artist Karna Peck, right, roll ink onto Peck’s linoleum carving during the Wayzgoose Kitsap printing session in Port Orchard on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.Bremerton: With many of Kitsap’s big-ticket summer events canceled by COVID-19, organizers of Bremerton’s popular Labor Day festivities – including Wayzgoose Kitsap and the Blackberry Festival – are finding ways to push on with socially distanced festivities. Wayzgoose Kitsap, a festival loosely based on the historical tradition of letterpress printers throwing parties for their employees, was preparing to host artists for the third year in downtown Bremerton. The goal of Wayzgoose Kitsap is to foster creativity in the city’s art community, something executive director Marit Bockelie said the festival could still accomplish from afar. Wayzgoose in 2020 looks pretty familiar: Artists carve and ink a block of linoleum, which is pressed onto paper by a 2,600-pound steamroller. Some prints are raffled off and sold to support the festival, while the rest go to sponsors and the artists.West VirginiaCharleston: The number of deaths from the coronavirus continues to surge in the state, while confirmed cases hit a new daily record during the pandemic. Health officials announced eight more virus-related deaths Tuesday, pushing the state’s total to at least 222 deaths. That’s up 91% since Aug. 1. The latest deaths include three residents apiece from Kanawha and Logan counties and one each from Mingo and Monroe counties. Despite an indoor mask mandate for public places issued July 6 by Gov. Jim Justice, daily positive cases have skyrocketed since then. Officials have blamed the increase in part on out-of-state travel. According to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ website, the state reported 225 confirmed cases Sunday, topping the one-day record of 180 set July 30. The overall total is at least 10,320 confirmed cases.WisconsinMadison: The coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, talked up the value of masks during a visit Monday to Wisconsin and praised the University of Wisconsin system’s plans for protecting students. Birx was in Madison to talk to state and health officials, including Tommy Thompson, the University of Wisconsin System president whom she knows from his time as health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush. “I think he has taken a very serious and public-health approach to this,” Birx said. “He has a plan for surveillance testing, he has a plan for surge testing … and I think, equally importantly, he has a plan for caring for students who become positive.” Birx suggested the strategy could help the UW system avoid the clusters of cases other colleges have experienced when students arrived on campus.WyomingCasper: The University of Wyoming announced that a utility company would help the School of Energy Resources research how to burn coal with little to no carbon emissions. The department announced its partnership last Thursday. The company, Black Hills Energy, will help the school test a new technology called flameless, pressurized oxy-fuel. The technology burns fuel such as coal or gas without emitting the same amount of pollutants or carbon dioxide into the environment. “It’s highly efficient and doesn’t need downstream carbon capture,” Holly Krutka, executive director of the UW School of Energy Resources, told lawmakers during a hearing Thursday. “It’s flexible in a carbon-constrained world.” The project is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The project’s first two phases have been approved, but the third phase still needs the federal department’s authorization.From USA TODAY Network and wire reportsThis article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lumber cost jacked: News from around our 50 states
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