Ballpark bargain, beef passports, concerts for the vaccinated: News from around our 50 states

·53 min read

Alabama

ASU Police Sgt. B. Aldridge receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.
ASU Police Sgt. B. Aldridge receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.

Birmingham: The Alabama NAACP is trying to boost COVID-19 vaccinations among younger people by offering a chance to win $1,000 for getting a shot, a leader said Thursday. With health officials worried that too few young people are getting immunizations, the civil rights organization this week began promoting a program to offer anyone between the ages of 18 and 40 a chance to receive $1,000 for completing the vaccination process between May 1 and June 21. That means getting two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of Johnson & Johnson. “We just keep hearing that the millennials and the Gen Zers don’t want to get the vaccine, so we’re doing what we can to encourage them to go ahead and get it,” said Bernard Simelton, state president of the NAACP. Entrants have to send a selfie of themselves and their vaccination cards to the organization, and organizers hope they’ll also share the images on social media. “We want them to encourage other young people to get vaccinated,” Simelton said. While 1.1 million Alabamians are fully vaccinated, that represents only about 20% of the state’s population. After briefly surpassing Mississippi in the rate of vaccinations, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show Alabama is again last in the nation.

Alaska

Anchorage: A mayoral candidate claims the pandemic “was over last summer,” calls COVID-19 vaccines “experimental” and says he wouldn’t be prone to following federal experts’ guidance if elected. Dave Bronson, who faces Assembly member Forrest Dunbar in a runoff next week, has vowed to end all of the city’s coronavirus-related orders, the Anchorage Daily News reports. In a debate Monday, Bronson said even though India is currently facing a serious outbreak of the virus, “the notion that this is a mass death event that was being claimed early last summer – it never occurred.” The paper reports the mayoral hopeful contracted COVID-19 and said he’s faced long-term health issues from the disease, but Bronson does not want to get vaccinated “at this time.” He also criticized Dunbar’s support for restrictions related to the virus and shed doubt on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Certainly we need to question, I think, what the CDC is telling us,” Bronson said, according to the Daily News.

Arizona

Jim Lamon, Depcom Power CEO, speaks during a discussion about the economy and jobs at Depcom Power in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Aug. 28, 2019.
Jim Lamon, Depcom Power CEO, speaks during a discussion about the economy and jobs at Depcom Power in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Aug. 28, 2019.

Phoenix: Republican Jim Lamon, who entered the state’s GOP U.S. Senate race this week, suggested Congress was spending excessively to deal with the pandemic’s economic fallout. In an announcement video, Lamon lamented the power “to spend so much money our grandchildren will struggle to pay off the debt,” while an on-screen headline noted that Congress has already approved $4 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending. But records show his own company, Depcom Power, received $2.6 million in relief last year from the Paycheck Protection Program, intended by Congress to provide some economic reprieve for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. Lamon is the founder and chairman of the Scottsdale-based solar engineering and construction company, which was among thousands of Arizona businesses that received federal aid. In a statement Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for Lamon’s campaign said Depcom plans on paying back the funds. Under PPP guidelines, employers generally are not required to repay the money if they used it on certain expenses, such as salaries. In the earlier days of the pandemic, amid stay-at-home orders in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Depcom’s projects halted, the spokesperson said.

Arkansas

Fort Smith: Collections from state taxes on medical marijuana purchases recently surpassed $30 million. According to the latest report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the 6.5% state sales tax and 4% privilege tax established by the Legislature had netted $31,663,022 as of March 31. Medical marijuana sales began in June 2019. While the 6.5% tax does not apply when a cultivator sells to a dispensary, the 4% does apply to those sales. Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said the sales tax numbers have “exceeded expectations.” Overall sales will soon surpass $300 million, he said. Fort Cannabis Co., the only medical marijuana dispensary currently in Fort Smith, began operations in mid-December 2019. From the time it opened to the end of February, the latest numbers available, the company sold 1,592.87 pounds of medical marijuana. “Most of it is has been for pain and anxiety,” said Fort Cannabis general manager Jordan Mooney. “One of our biggest goals is to get people off of opioids. The side effects for opioids are awful, for multiple reasons.”

California

Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s use of emergency powers to make far-reaching policies during the pandemic was upheld Wednesday by state appellate judges who rejected a lower court’s finding that the Democrat had done too much unilaterally. Three judges from the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled unanimously that the prior judge “erred in interpreting the Emergency Services Act to prohibit the Governor from issuing quasi-legislative orders in an emergency.” “We conclude the issuance of such orders did not constitute an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power,” Presiding Justice Vance Raye wrote in ruling on a lawsuit brought by Republican legislators. The court already had stayed the earlier ruling by Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman that Newsom unconstitutionally usurped the Legislature’s power. Heckman more broadly issued an injunction – which also had been temporarily halted by the appeals court – barring Newsom from issuing any orders under the California Emergency Services Act that amended state laws or legislative policy. Newsom did so dozens of times during the pandemic in what amounted to one-man rule, Assemblymen James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley said.

Colorado

Pueblo: Plans are heating up for the 2021 Colorado State Fair, with many of the entertainment acts originally slated for 2020 agreeing to perform this summer instead. Nelly, the rapper known for songs such as “Ride Wit Me” and “Hot in Herre,” will perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 if COVID-19 case count trends continue to indicate a low chance for transmission between individuals, even in an outdoor setting. Tickets are selling quickly; in fact, Colorado State Fair General Manager Scott Stoller estimated that tickets for all the concerts will reach the same sale amounts for a typical first week of July by the middle of May. George Thorogood is also slated to perform during this year’s fair, in that same headlining spot Sept. 2. The rock and country star is known for hits such as “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” “Bad to the Bone” and “Move It On Over” – most of which he released with his band, The Destroyers. Other announced artists include country star Jon Pardi. But many entertainers have not been announced yet, and Stoller said the community should keep an eye on the Colorado State Fair website and social media pages for further acts that he expects to be announced.

Connecticut

Hartford: Legislation that temporarily extends telehealth services in the state for two more years, after they were expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic so patients could safely meet with their physicians, awaits Gov. Ned Lamont’s signature. Under the bill, which unanimously passed the state Senate early Thursday morning, provisions such as required insurance coverage for virtual medical appointments would continue until June 30, 2023. “The pandemic has changed the delivery of health care in a meaningful way, and Connecticut residents have come to rely on telehealth over the past year,” said Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee. “I am glad we could get this legislation quickly to the governor’s desk.” The Democratic governor is expected to sign the legislation into law. In March 2020, he issued an executive order that expanded access to telehealth services for people with private and public health insurance plans alike. That order was later extended. “Telehealth services have been necessary, as well as overwhelmingly popular during the pandemic,” Lamont said earlier this year. “Thousands of Connecticut residents have benefited from their expanded use during this difficult time.

Delaware

Dover: The University of Delaware and Delaware State University have announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be required of students who return to campus in the fall. The two schools join roughly 200 colleges and universities nationwide that have announced vaccination requirements as students look toward the upcoming school year, according to a database maintained by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Both students and staff at DSU are required to get inoculated unless they are approved for medical or religious exemptions. UD is only requiring students to get vaccinated but is encouraging all faculty and staff to do so as well. Throughout the past school year, DSU has had one of the more strict COVID-19 policies in place, as the only Delaware college to require weekly coronavirus tests for on-campus students. With plans for more in-person classes and students living on campus in the fall, vaccines were the natural next step, said Steven Newton, spokesperson for DSU. “We saw how well a testing regime works, and we want to be able to come back with an overwhelming majority of our courses face-to-face,” Newton said. “Requiring vaccines was the absolute best viable way to do that.” Meanwhile, UD plans to have 95% of classes in person by the fall.

District of Columbia

Washington: As Pfizer awaits federal authorization to administer its vaccine to children ages 12 to 15, Children’s National Hospital is getting a head start by allowing local families to preregister, WUSA-TV reports. The hospital launched its preregistration site Tuesday, and more than 1,400 children signed up within the first day. Doctors expect approval within the week. “We pediatricians have been waiting a long time for this,” said Children’s National Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Bud Wiedermann. He said the vaccine would be the same shot given to Americans 16 and up. “Nothing really changed with the vaccine. We just needed more information about this age group, to make sure it was as good in that age group as it as it was in the slightly older groups,” Wiedermann said. At the hospital’s vaccine clinic for young people ages 16 to 22, Wiedermann said only 13% of patients experience “systemic” side effects like temporary fatigue and flu-like symptoms, and the benefits of the vaccine still far outweigh the risk of contracting the coronavirus. “It’s not surprising that there would be hesitation, but I would just, strongly urge people to talk to their physicians, someone they trust, and sort of sort out the hype,” he said. “It’s a race to get enough people vaccinated before we have some frightening new variant.”

Florida

Sheriff Carmine Marceno shakes hands with Gov. Ron DeSantis after DeSantis announced $1,000 bonuses for first responders at a press conference at the Lee County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.
Sheriff Carmine Marceno shakes hands with Gov. Ron DeSantis after DeSantis announced $1,000 bonuses for first responders at a press conference at the Lee County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Fort Myers: Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that he will sign a state budget that includes one-time $1,000 bonuses for emergency first responders. He said during a news conference in south Fort Myers that the payouts will go to sworn law enforcement officers, fire department personnel and emergency medical workers, such as EMTs. About 175,000 such workers qualify, DeSantis said. The governor made the announcement at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, flanked by local state lawmakers and Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno. At one point he held an oversized prop $1,000 check for photographers. “While some over the last year have been talking about defunding law enforcement, we’re proud to say we’re funding law enforcement – and then some,” DeSantis said. Florida’s largesse to first responders comes after lawmakers recently agreed on how to spend the state’s share of the $1.9 trillion federal pandemic relief package championed by the Biden administration and passed by a Democratic-led Congress. DeSantis had called on the Legislature to include such bonuses and noted that first responders didn’t have the luxury of working from home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. “It’s a way for us to say thank you,” he said.

Georgia

Atlanta: Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Wednesday allowing restaurants to sell curbside takeaway alcoholic beverages and distillers to sell liquor on their premises. The loosened rules on alcohol sales aim to give Georgia restaurants and alcohol vendors a boost after more than a year of weathering financial losses spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which industry representatives estimate has wiped out roughly 20% of the state’s restaurants. One measure Kemp signed Wednesday permits restaurants to sell patrons alcohol to go in tightly sealed containers with takeout food. To-go drinks would have to be stored in a glove box, locked trunk or behind the back seat while driving. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, follows legislation Kemp signed last year allowing deliveries of beer, wine and liquor to homes as the pandemic prompted fewer Georgians to dine out. Kemp also signed a bill sponsored by state Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, allowing distilleries to sell liquor for on-site consumption on any day that the city or county in which they are located allows such sales. Similar on-site sales rules will apply to malt beverage brewers under the bill.

Hawaii

Honolulu: The island of Kauai has moved into a more restrictive tier of the state’s pandemic reopening plan, while the capital city is staying in Tier 3 for at least another month, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports. Kauai has seen a recent rise in new coronavirus cases, and Honolulu’s metrics should push it into the tougher Tier 2 under the state’s plan, but both are now in Tier 3, the second-least restrictive of four categories based on the spread of COVID-19. Gov. David Ige granted Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s request to avoid reverting to Tier 2 for another two weeks, despite crossing a critical threshold, and is considering proposed changes to the tier system that the city’s mayor has urged, the paper reports. Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami, meanwhile, is asking for modifications that would slash to five, from 10, the maximum number of attendees for indoor gatherings under Tier 3 but allow 25 people at outdoor gatherings, rather than 10, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Idaho

Twin Falls: State health officials are trying new methods to encourage people to get vaccinated as interest in COVID-19 shots starts to wane. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is giving up to $9 million in grant funding to encourage private health providers to host vaccination clinics, the Times-News in Twin Falls reports. The effort comes after the state lifted restrictions and is allowing anyone to receive vaccines, even nonresidents. The South Central Public Health District also has started to schedule walk-in public clinics throughout the Magic Valley. Officials at St. Luke’s Health System announced last week that people no longer have to make appointments to receive a dose at one of its vaccination sites. The health system also is launching a mobile vaccine unit that will stop in multiple cities throughout May and June, including Boise and Twin Falls. Idaho is estimated to have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy than many other parts of the country, according to data released last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency estimates about 25% of Idaho residents are vaccine-hesitant – the fourth-highest rate in the U.S., behind only Mississippi, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Illinois

Chicago: The city will see the return of cultural events this summer, including a concert series solely for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, officials announced Tuesday. The Protect Chicago Music Series begins later this month and will require ticketholders to show their COVID-19 vaccination cards and photo identification. Only those who are two weeks past the second vaccine dose or single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot will be eligible to attend. “We will never mandate that Chicagoans get a vaccine but this is a creative way to incentivize people to step up and get it, especially younger people,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said in a statement. “If we’re to get out of this pandemic, we need people to get vaccinated. It’s safe, it’s effective, it’s free and it’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community.” The news came as Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday announced the return of several other festivals and cultural events. Already, city officials have said the Chicago Auto Show will return with safety measures including crowd limits. The cultural events include music festivals, pop-up concerts, dance events and theater with safety protocols in place. Lightfoot said the city will also promote vaccinations at some events.

Indiana

Indianapolis: Legislators will return to the Statehouse next week for a possible vote to again override the governor’s veto of a bill limiting the broad authority used to impose restrictions around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate and House leaders announced Wednesday that the one-day meeting will be held Monday. The announcements said lawmakers could take up the bill vetoed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb that would give local elected officials the power to block county or city public health orders issued during emergencies. Holcomb said in his veto message that he didn’t want to jeopardize the flexibility of local health officials as the state recovers from the coronavirus outbreak and as work continues to vaccinate more people. The bill would require any local public health orders more stringent than ones issued by the governor to go before elected county commissioners or city councils for approval. Holcomb’s coronavirus-related executive orders over the past year have allowed local officials to establish tougher regulations – an authority he frequently cited in defending his decisions lifting various statewide travel, crowd size and business restrictions.

Iowa

Johnston: As interest in COVID-19 vaccines continues to lag, public health officials are trying to make it easier to get a shot. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that a bus will be set up this week in the parking lot of the Iowa Cubs baseball park in Des Moines for the first two days of games this season, and a similar pop-up vaccination station is planned at the Des Moines Farmers Market this weekend. The state also now allows people who have had their first shot to take their vaccination card to any pharmacy or health care provider to get the second dose. Previously, people were advised to return to the same location for the second dose. Reynolds said 66,500 Iowans have had their first dose and are eligible for a second but haven’t gotten it. “I think the message that we want to relay here is even if you’re overdue for the second dose, don’t worry about that,” she said. “It’s more important that you get it late than not get it at all.” The more proactive approach comes after the state rejected 75,000 of the 110,000 doses offered this week by the federal government. Reynolds said those who still haven’t gotten a shot “want to return back to normal, but there has to be some incentives for getting the vaccine to actually make that happen.” She said mixed messaging about whether one can quit wearing a mask after vaccination is partly to blame.

Kansas

Staff at Midland Care Pace Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, in Topeka, Kan., help those receiving care get around the facility.
Staff at Midland Care Pace Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, in Topeka, Kan., help those receiving care get around the facility.

Topeka: Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed no new coronavirus cases in the state’s long-term care facilities April 1-11, a marked decline from where Kansas was a year ago. But the Federal Pharmacy Partnership that had offered vaccines at the sites ended April 26, despite the fact that a good chunk of those in the long-term care world haven’t gotten inoculated. Only 55% of staff have gotten both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to April 6 data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was provided to Kansas long-term care advocates. Those numbers focus only on those who got their shot via the federal pharmacy partnership, in which most but not all long-term care facilities participated. Some smaller facilities opted to work with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and those numbers aren’t captured in the data, nor are staff members who elected to go elsewhere to get their shots. For residents, the numbers are much better. Statewide, 90% of residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and some facilities have even better numbers. Lakeview Village, for instance, has 99% of residents at the large Lenexa facility immunized. But long-term care providers say hesitancy is posing a problem for their efforts to return to a new normal.

Kentucky

Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday pointed to another sign that the state’s economy is recovering from the pandemic: a credit rating agency’s upgraded assessment of Kentucky’s financial outlook. In revising the state’s rating to stable, Fitch Ratings said this week that the change reflects Kentucky’s “solid economic recovery to date from the pandemic trough.” The rating agency noted the state’s “solid ability to control revenues and expenditures to maintain fiscal balance” and its “declining reliance on one-time measures.” Fitch had previously rated the state’s outlook as negative. “This improvement further indicates Kentucky is poised to sprint out of this pandemic and be a leader in the post-COVID economy,” Beshear said in a news release. It’s a dramatic turnaround from a year ago, when coronavirus-related shutdowns had the state bracing for a prolonged economic downturn. Multiple infusions of federal aid helped prop up the economy, and the state’s revenue collections ended up being more resilient than expected. Beshear, a Democrat, on Wednesday pointed to his administration’s “responsible fiscal management” in guiding the state through the pandemic. Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said GOP lawmakers deserve credit for taking a “fiscally disciplined and responsible” approach.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: The state is offering residents the ability to show digital proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations on their cellphones. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday announced the new feature is available on the LA Wallet mobile app, the state’s voluntary digital license application. “This enhancement is about connecting people with their own personal health information in a simple, secure way,” Edwards said in a statement. “The LA Wallet app is free, safe and private, and people who use it are assured that their personal health information is well protected.” The effort to make it easier for people to prove their vaccine status comes as state lawmakers consider measures that would prohibit requiring proof of immunization against COVID-19 to enter state-owned or state-financed buildings and facilities. Louisiana has had trouble persuading people to get COVID-19 shots and lags most states in vaccination rates, not drawing down its full federal allocation of vaccine doses for the past three weeks. Dr. Joe Kanter, the governor’s top public health adviser, said Louisiana has ordered nearly 82% of the vaccine doses made available to the state by the federal government. “The fact of the matter is we have more hesitancy than we would want,” Edwards said.

Maine

Augusta: The organizers of the state’s summer and fall agricultural fairs are planning for a full slate of events this season. The coronavirus pandemic closed more than 20 agriculture fairs last year. This year, the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs is planning 26 fairs from Acton to Houlton, including popular events such as the Common Ground Country Fair and the Fryeburg Fair. The fairs are slated to begin June 17 with the Monmouth Fair and run through Oct. 10 with the Fryeburg Fair. Meanwhile, the number of eligible Mainers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 approached 50% on Thursday. While that’s good news, health officials are encouraging people to be sure to hold to recommended intervals for Moderna and Pfizer shots. Pfizer and Moderna recommend 21 and 28 days in between doses, respectively. Getting the second dose earlier than recommended could affect the long-term protection offered by the second shot, Dr. Dora Mills, chief health improvement officer with Maine Health, told WMTW-TV. “If you get the second dose too early, your body and immune system wouldn’t have the opportunity to build the response that the second dose is supposed to boost,” she said.

Maryland

Baltimore: The state’s casinos generated their third-highest revenues ever in April, lottery officials said Wednesday. Maryland’s six casinos generated $162 million in revenue last month following an all-time record of $169 million in March. Last month’s total is nearly 12% more than in April 2019, when all of the state’s casinos were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly $70 million of last month’s casino revenue will go to the state. The casinos raised the large revenues last month despite some ongoing limits due to the pandemic. For example, due to local orders, MGM National Harbor and Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino were limited to 50% capacity last month. The remaining four casinos had no capacity limitations, but some slot machine and table game seats could not be occupied because all casinos must continue to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Massachusetts

Boston: The state will begin expanding walk-up vaccination opportunities as it tries to make it easier for residents to protect themselves against COVID-19. Beginning Monday, four additional mass vaccination locations will begin offering walk-up shots, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a Wednesday press conference. Mass sites offering walk-up shots include the Hynes Convention Center and the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, the Doubletree Hotel in Danvers, the former Circuit City in Dartmouth, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, and the Natick Mall. Those interested in finding more about those opportunities can visit the state’s vaccine finder website. “Walk-up options will certainly make it easier for people to access vaccines,” Baker said. The Republican governor said other sites are already offering vaccinations without appointments. “There’s walk-up traffic going on in a bunch of different locations,” he said. “What we are going to do is to continue to try to make this as readily available as we possibly can to people and see how far we can get with that.” Baker said Massachusetts has already surpassed the goal set by President Joe Biden to vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4.

Michigan

Lansing: A split Legislature voted Wednesday to exempt high school graduation ceremonies from the state’s order that restricts crowd sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans who control the Senate and House supported the bills that lawmakers could finalize next week, while all but a few Democrats opposed them. Under the state health department’s order, outdoor stadiums with enhanced protocols can operate at 20% capacity. Otherwise, 1,000 people can be in outdoor arenas with fixed seating capacity of up to 10,000 – 1,500 for bigger venues – as long as they do not surpass 50% occupancy. At indoor arenas, the limit is 375, or 750 if the seating capacity is more than 10,000. “Most local school boards have done a good job of mitigating the risk of COVID. We should trust them to safely manage their own graduations,” said a bill sponsor, Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake Township. The risk of the coronavirus spreading outdoors is low, he said, contending that students and their families deserve “this last irreplaceable high school memory.” But Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing called the legislation “utter nonsense.” Nobody is trying to prevent commencements, he said.

Minnesota

St. Paul: Gov. Tim Walz https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/2021/05/06/gov-walz-announces-plan-end-covid-19-restrictions-july-1/4972848001/ – almost 16 months after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in the state. “Our path forward’s pretty clear, Minnesota,” Walz said. The restrictions could be lifted sooner if more than 70% of Minnesotans over 16 get vaccinated, the Democratic governor said. The state is at about 60%, leaving about 473,000 vaccinations until the restrictions can be lifted. The first step in his three-phase timeline takes effect at noon Friday. It removes capacity limits for outdoor dining, events, and other get-togethers, and it ends outdoor mask requirements except for large venues with more than 500 people. It also eliminates the state’s mandatory closing time for bars and restaurants. The second step begins May 28, the Friday before Memorial Day, when remaining capacity and distancing limits will end, including for indoor events and gatherings. But masks will still be required in indoor public places and workplaces, as well as for outdoor events that exceed 500 people. The third step, once the state hits the 70% target but no later than July 1, lifts remaining mask requirements. Local governments and businesses can still require masks and maintain other restrictions beyond July 1.

Mississippi

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker announces a job fair for restaurants and the hospitality industry during a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Thursday, May 12, 2021, as Pyro's Pizza General Manager Edward Hargrove, left, and New South Restaurant Group owner Robert St. John listen.
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker announces a job fair for restaurants and the hospitality industry during a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Thursday, May 12, 2021, as Pyro's Pizza General Manager Edward Hargrove, left, and New South Restaurant Group owner Robert St. John listen.

Hattiesburg: The city is working with local restaurants and other businesses to help recruit employees amid a staff shortage that is becoming critical. Officials will hold a job fair for the restaurant and hospitality industry next Wednesday to bring in people looking for jobs and connect them with potential employers, Mayor Toby Barker said. Restaurateur Robert St. John Barker said business is good, but finding employees has become almost impossible. “There are several different factors, but we’re in a crisis mode,” he said. “It’s not just Hattiesburg. It’s not just Mississippi. ... People everywhere – we’re dealing with this problem.” Edward Hargrove, general manager of Pyro’s Pizza, said his company has been able to thrive amid the coronavirus pandemic but also is struggling to find workers. “This is very new to me, dealing with the staffing issues that we’ve had,” he said. Restaurants took a big hit, especially in the early days of the pandemic, having to close dining rooms and implement curbside and delivery services. As restrictions loosened, business has picked up, but finding staff is still tough, St. John said. At least 15 businesses will be available at the job fair 4-6 p.m. May 12 at Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center. Anyone 16 or older may attend.

Missouri

Jefferson City: More people in the state died in 2020 than were born, a rarity that was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. A provisional report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the “natural decrease” was the first for a complete year in 110 years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A natural increase or decrease in population is determined by subtracting the number of deaths from the number of live births. State data shows there were 4,555 more deaths than births in Missouri last year. The report said deaths in December rose 50% over December 2019 “as the COVID pandemic peaked in mortality.” All told, the state reported 73,831 deaths in 2020, up nearly 19% from the 62,155 deaths in 2019. The coronavirus had other major impacts, according to the report. Marriages and divorces in Missouri last year fell to numbers not seen in more than 50 years as the pandemic scrambled wedding plans and forced families to stay home. Marriages declined 6%, resulting in the fewest since 1959. Legal separations, annulments and divorces were down 7.5% – the lowest count for dissolution of marriages since 1967. The state health department on Thursday cited 385 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and three new deaths. The state has reported 504,454 cases and 8,821 deaths since the pandemic began.

Montana

Great Falls: Cascade County is seeing a slight increase in coronavirus cases, according to local officials. During a Board of Health meeting Wednesday morning, City-County Health Officer Trisha Gardner said three virus variants have been identified in the county. She said the COVID-19 case rate is 25 cases per 100,000 people in Cascade County, with 117 new cases since last Thursday. Last month she said the case rate was 10.5 per 100,000. Gardner also said the county has seen 15 breakthrough cases to date, meaning 15 fully vaccinated people still contracted COVID-19. Gardner said the vast majority of those breakthrough cases were in people who already had underlying medical conditions or other reasons they might not have had a strong enough immunological response. She said it’s still worthy to track whether the cases are associated with the spread of other strains of the virus, which could make a difference when considering booster shots in the future. Gardner said Cascade County has seen cases associated with the coronavirus variants first identified in the United Kingdom, New York and California. The county has fully vaccinated less than half of its eligible population, according to Gardner, and 10% of people who got a first dose have not shown up for their second, compared to 4% for Montana at large.

Nebraska

Mike Drinnin reaches out to a cow at a feedlot in Columbus, Neb., on June 10, 2020. Drinnin, who owns feedlots in Nebraska, said everyone involved in raising and feeding cattle felt the squeeze last spring when beef and pork processing plants were operating at roughly 60% of capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mike Drinnin reaches out to a cow at a feedlot in Columbus, Neb., on June 10, 2020. Drinnin, who owns feedlots in Nebraska, said everyone involved in raising and feeding cattle felt the squeeze last spring when beef and pork processing plants were operating at roughly 60% of capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Omaha: Gov. Pete Ricketts ramped up his crusade for the meat industry Wednesday by endorsing a new “beef passport” program to promote meat eating, weeks after he blasted Colorado’s governor for a resolution encouraging its residents to eat less. Ricketts, a Republican, cast meat as essential to his state’s economy and the nation’s food security. He criticized “radical environmentalists” and Bill Gates for promoting alternatives, such as synthetic, lab-grown meat, and for arguing that the current global meat production system isn’t sustainable. “If you do away with the beef industry, it’s going to be devastating to Nebraska,” Ricketts said at a downtown Lincoln steakhouse, where he issued his annual proclamation of May as “Beef Month.” Nebraska is one of the nation’s top beef-producing states, and much of the corn it produces is used for livestock feed. Ricketts said meat is nutritionally dense and “part of a traditional, healthy diet.” He said 3 ounces of beef has more protein than 3 cups of quinoa. “Who wants to eat 3 cups of quinoa anyway?” he said. The Nebraska Beef Passport, managed by the Nebraska Beef Council, features 40 restaurants throughout the state that offer the meat on their menus. Patrons earn stamps they can submit to the Nebraska Beef Council for the chance to win prizes, including a high-end cooler full of meat.

Nevada

Reno: The state has added a live chat feature to its main COVID-19 vaccine website as part of its latest effort to reach out to more people to reverse a steady decline in daily doses administered over the past three weeks, health officials announced Wednesday. The 14-day average for daily vaccinations statewide has fallen 45% since it hit a peak of 25,016 on April 14. The average of 13,787 as of Tuesday marked the first time the number had dropped below 14,000 since mid-February. As of Tuesday, 46% of all Nevadans 16 and older had received at least their first vaccine shot, with 34% fully vaccinated, state officials said. The new live chat support at NVCOVIDFighter.org is being staffed by the same team that manages the state’s vaccine hotline at 1-800-401-0946. “Accessibility has been a cornerstone of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and this step increases digital accessibility,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada. She said it’s another tool to reach as many Nevadans as possible and provide them the information they need to find COVID-19 shots and appointments. The chat is available daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. During off hours, users can send an email via the chat, and staff will respond when they return. Agents are equipped with Google Translate to accommodate multiple languages.

New Hampshire

Concord: Employers who require coronavirus tests for applicants or workers would be required to pay for them under a bill heard by a state House committee Wednesday. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring that an employee or job applicant pay the cost of a virus test as a condition of employment. Sen. Suzanne Prentiss, D-West Lebanon, said she and other sponsors of the legislation had heard from constituents who had been required to be tested before returning to work after a quarantine period but did not have insurance or the means to pay. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, most health insurance plans cover coronavirus tests without a copay or deductible. Those without insurance or those with plans that do not fully cover the cost of testing can apply to have the state pay for the test through a limited testing benefit. Passing the bill would bolster businesses that promote themselves as safe workplaces, Prentiss told the House committee on labor, and industrial and rehabilitative services. No one spoke against the bill, which passed the Senate in March.

New Jersey

Trenton: A majority of residents approve of the Murphy administration’s measures so far to slow the spread of COVID-19, but they also endorse easing the restrictions and want to see schools fully reopened in the fall, according to a Monmouth University poll. And while vaccine opposition in New Jersey is lower than it is nationally, a “small but significant” number of residents say they’re hesitant to receive a shot because of the recent pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following blood clots in a few patients, the poll released Thursday found. “Most New Jerseyans are ready to see the state reopen,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “The problem is, we still have a number of residents who are hesitant or downright opposed to getting the vaccine.” That hesitancy can be seen in vaccine appointments dropping off about two weeks ago for the first time since doses became available in December. Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has since launched an “Operation Jersey Summer” campaign to encourage vaccinations and reach his goal of fully inoculating 4.7 million residents by July – up from 3.4 million now – including a partnership with local breweries and reaching out to residents on the phone and through email.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: Top health officials said Wednesday that the state is on track to meet its goal of a 60% vaccination rate for people 16 and older by the end of June that would allow the economy to reopen fully, amid new strategies aimed at breaking through hesitancy toward immunization. About 57% of eligible New Mexico residents have received at least a first COVID-19 shot. “We do think it’s going to be harder to get the remaining group to be vaccinated,” Human Services Secretary David Scrase said at an online news conference. “I think it’s eminently doable as long as the counties keep up the pace.” Rates of full vaccination run the gamut from about 23% in Roosevelt County, in southeastern New Mexico, to nearly 64% in McKinley County on the Arizona state line, an area that was hit especially hard by the coronavirus last year. Scrase said vaccine supplies are no obstacle, as the federal pipeline for doses outstrips demand. The state hopes to use at least 70% of the weekly federal allotment. State health authorities are offering vaccination clinics at small venues such as schools and churches in efforts to increase immunization rates. They are urging doctors to brief patients on the vaccine and asking people who haven’t been vaccinated to reach out to trusted sources of information.

New York

New York: The Yankees and Mets can increase capacity from 20% to 100% at their ballparks for home games starting May 19 – as long as fans are vaccinated against COVID-19. And both teams will be giving away free tickets along with vaccinations. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday with Yankees President Randy Levine and Mets President Sandy Alderson. “Theoretically if you had 100% vaccinated, you could fill the entire stadium with 100% vaccinated,” Cuomo said. “Unvaccinated, it is still the 6-foot social distancing. In other words, our capacity restrictions have been relaxed subject to the federal CDC social distancing guideline of 6 feet.” The Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine will be offered at the ballparks, and a person receiving a vaccination can get a free game ticket. “If we can encourage more people to get vaccinated by giving away Yankees tickets, we are all in,” the Yankees said in a statement. The current requirement for fans to show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test will be dropped because it is burdensome, Cuomo said. Masks will continue to be required. Sections for unvaccinated fans will be at 33% capacity.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Most adult residents have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to data released by the state Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday. As of Wednesday night, over 50% of residents are partially vaccinated, with nearly 3 in 4 adults 65 years or older fully vaccinated. Participation among younger residents, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24, is lagging. Those under 50 are also underrepresented in vaccine adoption rates. North Carolina last week administered its lowest number of weekly first doses since the end of December 2020, when shots were hard to come by. Today, anyone 16 or older is eligible for a vaccine. Fewer than 55,000 people got their first COVID-19 shot last week, according to state health department data, though the numbers could slightly improve as more providers report their data. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and public health officials are waging an information campaign promoting a message of returning to summer and have said they’ll eliminate the indoor mask mandate once two-thirds of adults are at least partially vaccinated. The governor has suggested these incentives are currently sufficient, though he’s also said he’s mulling other ideas.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided more than $8.9 million in additional funding to the state for its response to the pandemic. FEMA has provided a total of $97.1 million for North Dakota’s COVID-19 response to date. President Joe Biden approved a cost-share increase from 75% to 100% for projects related to the pandemic response that include work completed between Jan. 20, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. This approval allowed FEMA to reimburse states, cities and other partners for 100% of eligible costs. The latest $8.9 million was approved to manage, control and reduce immediate threats to public health. The North Dakota Department of Health used the funds to expand laboratory diagnostic services for the coronavirus. It contracted professional laboratory and support staff, purchased required laboratory materials and medical supplies, and secured waste management disposal services. The laboratory materials and medical supplies were distributed to laboratory testing sites from a secured, leased warehouse. These activities took place from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28.

Ohio

Pharmacist Lindsey Groff measures out Ohio's first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to be given to front-line workers.
Pharmacist Lindsey Groff measures out Ohio's first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to be given to front-line workers.

Columbus: An accurate figure for the number of police officers, firefighters and other city employees who have received a COVID-19 vaccination is not available, according to the city’s Department of Public Safety. In an article published Sunday about vaccination rates at police departments nationwide, The Washington Post said 28% of Columbus police officers had reported getting a COVID-19 shot. Libby Wetherholt, a member of the Clintonville Area Commission, wrote a letter to the Columbus Dispatch following the Post’s story saying that if the 28% number for police is accurate, officers need to be shamed. “So not only do African Americans have to worry about getting shot by the CPD, but the rest of us have to worry about officers spreading COVID all over the city,” Wetherholt wrote. When the Dispatch asked for the percentage of police and firefighters who have gotten their vaccinations, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety initially said the agency did not have any such figure, as reporting would be voluntary, and did not know where the Post got its information. After the Dispatch filed a public records request, the spokesman said the city had learned that someone with the Division of Police had provided the Post with the 28% figure. Still, he maintained that the number is still not reliable.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: State tax collections last month rose by 38.3% from April 2020, the first full month of the economic downturn during the coronavirus pandemic, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Thursday. April 2021 collections totaled $1.49 billion, led by a $73 million, or 120.3%, increase in oil and natural gas taxes, according to McDaniel. Oil and gas revenue reflect production during February, when natural gas prices spiked during the record cold snap, and crude oil prices were rising, he said. Combined corporate and individual income tax collections were up 36.4%, and sales and use taxes rose by 32% from numbers a year prior, generating $553.4 million and $568.1 million, respectively. “Oklahoma’s economy was hitting on all cylinders in April,” McDaniel said. “Consumer confidence is on the rise, reflecting growing optimism about the economy.” The tax on medical marijuana also showed a sharp increase of 45%, with collections rising by $1.9 million to a total of $6.2 million.

Oregon

Corvallis: Oregon State University has announced that it will require COVID-19 shots before the fall term. The university in Corvallis said Tuesday that students and employees who study and work on-site at the university’s locations must be vaccinated. “As we advance our plans to resume traditional on-site and in-person activities for the 2021-22 academic year, high rates of vaccination among our students, faculty and staff are needed to help improve the safety and well-being of our community,” Interim President Becky Johnson said in a statement. OSU’s vaccination requirement plans were informed by state and federal guidance related to vaccines, advice from public health experts and guidance from other organizations, such as the American College Health Association, the statement said. On Wednesday, Portland State University said it will require all students, faculty and staff at its downtown Portland campus to be vaccinated before the fall term. The university will hold a vaccine clinic on campus later this month that will be open to those groups, along with their families. “These vaccines have been proven safe and effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and PSU is committed to being a partner in the public health of our region,” university President Stephen Percy said in a statement.

Pennsylvania

State College: Amid fresh signs of sagging statewide demand for vaccines, Pennsylvania officials on Wednesday encouraged hundreds of thousands of college students to get their COVID-19 shots before they go home for summer. Gov. Tom Wolf appeared in State College with the president and head football coach at Penn State University – with a cameo by a freshman tight end – to pitch younger people on the benefits of getting inoculated against the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Penn Staters can and must demonstrate the leadership to do your part and get vaccinated,” Penn State President Eric Barron said. “This is the most important effort of our lifetime, and I call on all Penn Staters to lead now.” Football coach James Franklin said he’s hoping for a packed house when the Nittany Lions host Ball State in September – made possible by Wolf’s announcement earlier this week that he is doing away with pandemic restrictions that had teams playing in empty stadiums last year. Penn State said it’s working on a “variety of capacity scenarios” for Beaver Stadium, with the goal of opening fully. “The more people who are vaccinated, the better chance we have to get back to 107,000 strong here in Beaver Stadium,” Franklin said.

Rhode Island

Providence: With the state fast approaching its goal of getting 70% of the eligible population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s shifting its strategy to reach the roughly 280,000 eligible residents who have not yet received a shot, officials said Thursday. “It’s less about volume and more about being hyper-targeted,” Tom McCarthy, the head of the state’s COVID-19 response team, said at a news conference. One priority now is reaching the roughly 13,500 Rhode Islanders over the age of 75 who have not yet been inoculated, he said. Starting this week, the state will reach out directly to those people by phone and bring the vaccine to their homes, he said. Getting people in that age group vaccinated is critical because they have about a 50% chance of landing in the hospital if they contract COVID-19, said Dr. Philip Chan, an infectious disease specialist with the state Department of Health. People who have not yet been vaccinated fall into three groups, McCarthy said: a small group unwilling to be vaccinated, those hesitant for a variety of reasons, and people who just haven’t gotten around to it. To get to those people, the state has started offering vaccination clinics at high schools and workplaces, plus same-day or walk-up appointments. About 2,500 walk-up patients received shots late last week, officials said.

South Carolina

Clemson: Clemson University announced Tuesday that it will freeze tuition rates and fees for undergraduate students through the upcoming school year. Clemson’s board of trustees cited the financial and emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic on many students and their families as reason for the freeze. School officials said millions in federal pandemic relief aid and extra funding from lawmakers helped avert a tuition raise for the 2021-22 academic year. It’s the second year in a row that the school hasn’t raised tuition costs on undergraduates. In-state students currently pay $15,120 a year in undergraduate academic fees, and out-of-state students pay $38,112 a year. Graduate students will see a tuition increase of 3%, and housing and dining fees will also rise by 3%.

South Dakota

My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell speaks before a 2020 campaign appearance for President Donald Trump at the La Crosse County Fairgrounds in West Salem, Wis.
My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell speaks before a 2020 campaign appearance for President Donald Trump at the La Crosse County Fairgrounds in West Salem, Wis.

Sioux Falls: Event organizers say MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell chose the state and the World’s Only Corn Palace to launch a “censorship-free” social media platform because of Gov. Kristi Noem’s response to the pandemic. The Minnesota businessman, entrepreneur and ally of former President Donald Trump, along with the Tennessee-based promotion company World View Weekend, have been publicizing an event Monday night in Mitchell to unveil Frank, a website built in hopes of competing with against social media sites with policies requiring accuracy of political information. Melissa Howser, who owns World View Weekend along with her husband, Brannon, said their launch-location decision was political. “We chose South Dakota because the governor has done a great job of keeping the state open, defending the Constitution and the free-market system,” Howser said. Since March 2020, Noem has been among just a handful of governors not to issue any statewide orders mandating business closures or lockdowns. Howser said they anticipate 2,200 people will attend the event, when Lindell will give a keynote address and distribute his book, “What Are the Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO” to attendees. Joe Piscopo, the former Saturday Night Live comedian, will provide music at the event.

Tennessee

Nashville: Local parents can now enroll children in the latest round of testing for two COVID-19 vaccines, seizing an early chance to protect kids as the coronavirus lingers and evolves. The testing comes at a time when the threat the virus poses to children is growing. While kids are generally less susceptible to infection and serious complications from COVID-19, the rise of new virus variants and a rash of pediatric hospitalizations in Michigan suggest that resistance is at risk of eroding. Clinical Research Associates, which has tested drugs in Nashville for decades, is now set to begin clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines for young children and teens. The company will begin a trial this month of the Novavax vaccine for minors ages 12 to 17, then another trial in June of the Pfizer vaccine for those 6 months to 12 years old. Dr. Stephan Sharp, who leads both trials in Nashville, said families are likely to enroll for one of two reasons. First, because participants will receive the vaccine well before the general public, the clinical trials offer a shortcut to immunity. “The other basic reason is one of pure altruism – trying to help the folks in the world around you,” Sharp said. “Help protect your neighbors. Get everything back to normal as much as possible.”

Texas

El Paso: Seniors, people with disabilities and anyone living with transportation insecurity in El Paso County can get a free ride to a COVID-19 vaccination site, city officials announced Thursday. The city’s partnership with Project Amistad – a nonprofit that serves the elderly, people with disabilities and at-risk communities – will allow it to take participants to any vaccine clinic in the city. The city says those who want to arrange a pickup time should call 915-212-6843 at least 24 hours in advance of their appointment. Walk-up clinics are available six days a week at the El Paso Convention Center, along with three other locations. For those who have received their first dose and are still waiting to get a second shot, city officials say to schedule an appointment by calling 915-212-6843. Regardless of vaccination status, public health officials continue to recommend that community members keep wearing face masks, physically distancing from others and washing hands frequently.

Utah

Salt Lake City: Pandemonium erupted at a school board meeting amid news that public schools across the state will require masks through the end of the school year, forcing board members to adjourn and call police, a TV station reports. The 30 to 40 protesting parents Tuesday night “shouted down speakers, disrupted the meeting and became aggressive,” said Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District serving the Salt Lake City area, in a text to KUTV-TV. After board members abruptly ended the meeting, the parents remained on the district’s campus, and police were called. Horsley praised officers for “de-escalating the situation.” The meeting was held after Utah reached criteria required for COVID-19 public health mandates to expire, KUTV-TV reports. The Utah Department of Health did not lift the mask order, however, for K-12 schools. The meeting devolved into disorder during the public comment session, video of the event obtained by KUTV-TV shows, when former school board member and state Sen. Kathleen Riebe tried to speak but was booed and yelled over by people in the audience. A woman took the microphone and declared: “You let a senator come up here and speak in the name of my children who you guys are abusing? Are you serious?”

Vermont

A sign promotes a COVID-19 vaccination site at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in South Burlington, Vt., on April 12.
A sign promotes a COVID-19 vaccination site at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in South Burlington, Vt., on April 12.

Montpelier: State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says Vermonters vaccinated against COVID-19 have a role to play to help others get protected. That could be finding a personal reason to get inoculated or giving someone a ride to a vaccine clinic, he said Tuesday during the governor’s twice-weekly coronavirus briefing. While over 60% of Vermont adults have had at least one shot, just 33% of residents ages 19 to 29 have gotten at least one dose, and 18% in that age range are fully vaccinated, according to state data. “So, if you haven’t yet, I ask you now to reach out to someone in your life, especially if they are younger, who may not be vaccinated, whether you’re a parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, or a friend,” and share your experience, Levine said. The state is hosting a number of clinics at colleges and in communities and walk-in and drive-thru vaccination sites, including at speedways, to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated, Levine said. Gov. Phil Scott called it “a moment of service.” “Now your state, your country are asking you to step up. And this ask is much less than what many before us have been asked to do,” Scott said, referring to people who served in World War II. “We just want you to get vaccinated.”

Virginia

Richmond: The state could lift capacity limits and relax rules for social distancing next month if the rate of coronavirus infections continues to fall, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday. The tentative plan is to loosen those restrictions June 15 and allow businesses such as theaters and yoga studios to operate at full capacity. Northam said Virginia still needs to evaluate a possible change in the future to its mandate for wearing masks, with the state most likely continuing to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But this is good news,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “And it’s thanks to the millions of Virginians who have done the right thing for so long.” The Virginia chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business had called the state’s restrictions “stringent.” It expressed relief that Northam was “finally” planning to lift the rules. “We have seen countless other states ease their restrictions and let small businesses re-open for the busy summer months,” state director Nicole Riley said in a statement. “Small businesses will be able to rebuild, rehire and continue to support Virginia’s economy.” Northam stressed that the state had not yet reached “the finish line” and that Virginians still need to take precautions and get vaccinated.

Washington

Olympia: In-person visits will soon resume at correctional facilities, the state Department of Corrections announced this week. The state suspended all visitations March 13, 2020, because of COVID-19, so it’s been more than a year since in-person visits were allowed, the Bellingham Herald reports. “With the number of vaccinations rising, the department has finalized months of planning for operations to safely reopen structured in-person visitation,” a department press release said. Approved visitors – those who have gone through the process to get on an incarcerated person’s “Approved Visitor List” – can now submit an appointment request form online. Visits are scheduled to start Sunday, which is Mother’s Day. One-hour visits with people 16 or older will be allowed once per month, and visitors will need to pass a coronavirus screening. Visits will be scheduled by cohort, with incarcerated people grouped based on living units and programs, as an outbreak mitigation strategy, according to the DOC. Visiting stations will be sanitized between visits, and visits won’t be allowed at facilities “under outbreak status.” “The pandemic has been hard on many people, including family members – spouses, parents, and children – of our incarcerated individuals,” Deputy Secretary Julie Martin said in a statement.

West Virginia

Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice made an array of promises Wednesday to turn around the state’s lagging vaccination campaign as it trails more than a dozen states. The state is confronting vaccine hesitancy, Justice has said, amid a focus on vaccinating residents ages 16 to 35. The Republican governor has already dangled the prize of a “patriotic” $100 savings bond for those young people who get a shot. The state is also attempting to make walk-up vaccine clinics ubiquitous, holding them at state parks, fairs, businesses, schools and other high-traffic places. “West Virginia is going to end up leading the way again,” Justice said at a news conference. “I’m going to try with all in me.” He also said he wanted to beat President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of American adults by July 4. “I want it more than anybody; I promise you that,” Justice said. The state has given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to nearly 54% of its eligible population over 16. More than 44% of residents have received at least one dose, state data shows, and 36% are fully vaccinated. Nearly 80% of residents 65 and over have received at least one dose, inching toward the governor’s goal of 85% coverage for that age group.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, responds to a question during a 2016 interview at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.
Wisconsin Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, responds to a question during a 2016 interview at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

Madison: A disabled Democratic lawmaker has asked Assembly Republicans to allow him to participate in floor sessions remotely, much like the accommodations sometimes used during the coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Jimmy Anderson, who is quadriplegic, invoked his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and threatened to take legal action if his request isn’t granted. In a letter to Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, Anderson said his disability prevents him from being physically present for every vote, the State Journal reports. “With COVID, we did it, we figured out a way for us to be able to do this, so I think it makes perfect sense,” Anderson said. “If we can provide it for COVID purposes we should be able to provide it for disabilities.” The letter comes more than a year after Assembly Republicans, at Anderson’s urging, changed their rules to allow those with disabilities to phone into committee meetings, but they stopped short of fulfilling his other requests. Anderson said he had previously asked GOP lawmakers to limit floor session hours to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. as well as give appropriate notice for floor sessions and committee hearings, but Republicans had denied those requests.

Wyoming

Casper: Tribal leaders have announced a special general meeting this month to vote on the legalization and decriminalization of medical marijuana. The Eastern Shoshone General Council will vote May 15 at Rocky Mountain Hall on the Wind River Reservation, about 145 miles west of Casper, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. A public meeting will be held two days before the vote to receive more information on medical marijuana. Tribal member Bobbi Shongutsie will present agenda items to decriminalize medical marijuana by removing it from the Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code, to legalize medical marijuana and to create a regulatory commission. So-go-Beah Naht-Su, a group advocating for the benefits of medical marijuana, has been promoting the economic benefits of decriminalization and pushing for legalization. Gov. Mark Gordon said last year that the state did not yet have a position on the idea of tribes legalizing medical cannabis. But support for the effort has been growing since last year, and a University of Wyoming poll showed more than half of the state’s residents supported legalization.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ballpark bargain, beef passports: News from around our 50 states

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting