Biker rally, convention problems, school crowding: News from around our 50 states


Oneonta: The entire football team and marching band at a small-town high school are under quarantine following exposure to the new coronavirus. Oneonta High School coach Phil Phillips told WBMA-TV that a fifth player has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s the second quarantine of the summer for the team. “I looked my wife in the eyes Monday night before I went to bed, and I said, ‘You know, I sure hope we didn’t kill anybody’s grandmother today by having a football practice,’ ” Phillips said. “You’re torn because the kids want to play so bad.” The team stopped summer workouts in late July after two coaches and four players tested positive for the coronavirus. Band director David Bearden said one of 135 students tested positive in his group, so a quarantine was needed.


Anchorage: A judge dismissed a lawsuit that alleged the method by which the state dispersed its federal coronavirus funds was unconstitutional. The lawsuit, brought by Juneau resident Eric Forrer, was filed after a legislative panel, instead of the Alaska State Legislature, approved an aid plan authored by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The lawsuit threatened to hamper aid distribution when first filed, the Anchorage Daily News reports. In response, the entire Legislature reconvened to vote in favor of the plan in May. The state has received roughly $1.5 billion from the federal government as a part of the program, $1.2 billion of which could be used freely at the state’s discretion. Under the plan, about half of the $1.2 billion will go to cities and boroughs, a quarter will fund the health care sector, and the last quarter is geared toward small businesses.


Phoenix: Public health experts and officials in the state say a decline in coronavirus testing last month has made it challenging to understand the virus and implement measures to limit its spread. Diagnostic tests for COVID-19 dropped from an average of more than 107,000 tests a week from late June to early July to about 51,400 tests the week of July 26. Over the course of just three weeks in July, from July 12 to July 26, weekly testing decreased by more than half, according to a data dashboard from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Arizona is now testing at the level it was two months ago. The state has simultaneously been improving with a decline in hospitalizations, fewer new cases and a lower percentage of positive results, but experts say continued testing is an important way to monitor the virus.


Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson and education officials on Friday proposed setting aside $20 million for teachers who have to miss work because of the coronavirus as the state reported one of its biggest increases in confirmed virus cases since the pandemic began. Hutchinson proposed using federal coronavirus relief funds to provide up to two weeks of paid leave for teachers and staff who have to quarantine because of the virus. The proposal goes before a state panel next week. Teachers and staff would use this leave before using any of their own sick days or personal leave under the plan, state Education Secretary Johnny Key said. “We don’t want that to have to come out of their ordinary leave or their pocket,” Hutchinson said. Arkansas public schools reopen later this month, despite objections from teachers and pediatricians about resuming on-site instruction during the pandemic.


San Francisco: A technical glitch that has plagued the data system on which the state relies to make decisions about reopening businesses and schools has been fixed, California’s top health official said Friday. “Our data system has failed,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said, leaving up to 300,000 records backlogged, though not all of them are coronavirus cases, and some may be duplicates. California reported 8,436 new confirmed cases Friday and surpassed 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus. “We apologize. You deserve better, the governor demands better of us, and we are committed to doing better,” Ghaly said. County health officials said they have been flying blind, unable to conduct robust contact tracing or monitor health factors without timely information, especially at a time when parents are on edge about school plans.


Denver: Health experts in the state warn that early 2020 data indicates a rise in overdose deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, even as the federal government has distributed grants to rural hospitals for prevention and treatment programs. Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment recorded 443 overdose deaths between January, before the pandemic hit, and April 2020. That’s more than 40% of the 1,062 total overdose deaths recorded in 2019 in the state. “The starkest difference can be seen for both March and April – the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown,” wrote the Colorado Health Institute, a nonpartisan research center. In April, deaths jumped from 15.0 to 24.1 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the research center. The numbers confirmed fears that the overdose crisis, which includes fentanyl and methamphetamine use, might worsen due to social isolation, stress and job losses during the pandemic, the institute said.


Hartford: Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that he’s been personally assured by President Donald Trump that Connecticut will receive continued federal reimbursement for the National Guard’s expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Democratic governor said he spoke with Trump late Thursday night and asked about the state’s request for an extension through Sept. 30. Connecticut was originally approved in March for full federal reimbursement of all costs associated with activating the National Guard, but that agreement was set to expire Aug. 21. Lamont said he credits the efforts of the Guard members during the pandemic as one of the reasons Connecticut currently has a low infection rate.


Dover: Two school boards in the state have voted to start the school year with virtual classes. The boards of the Capital School District in Dover and the Milford School District in Milford, about 20 miles south of Dover, voted in favor of the move Thursday, The Delaware State News reports. The Capital School District Board unanimously voted for the decision, while the board members in Milford decided in a 5-1 vote. The votes for the virtual launches come as school boards across Delaware are contemplating how to start the academic year after Gov. John Carney announced last week that schools can implement hybrid teaching formats. Students in Milford School District would take virtual classes for the first six weeks of the semester. Capital School District students will begin the year Sept. 8 and also take virtual classes for about six weeks, the newspaper reports. School officials in that district said they’ll revisit their plans in October.

District of Columbia

Washington: Howard University will go completely virtual for the fall 2020 semester, university officials announced Friday. University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick said campus residence halls will be closed, with the exception of The Axis, which is apartment living, WUSA-TV reports. Campus officials are working to rescind all housing assignments for students who were planning to stay on campus this fall. “Unfortunately, the stark realities of the current state of the pandemic, district requirement that students from hot spot states would fully quarantine for 14 days, and challenges to safely get students to campus from throughout the nation and around the world without creating additional exposure and risk, have proven overwhelming,” Frederick said.


Tallahassee: The state’s coronavirus numbers remain high as in-person early voting begins ahead of the state’s primary and some school districts prepare to reopen Monday. Florida reported 187 new coronavirus deaths Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 8,238. That pushes the average number of reported deaths over the past seven days to 156, down from a high of 185. There were more than 8,500 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to nearly 527,000 cases. The number of people hospitalized because of the virus continued to decline, with 6,836 late Saturday morning compared to 7,174 the day before. Miami-Dade County by far had the most COVID-19 hospital patients with 1,558. The numbers were reported the same day statewide in-person early voting began ahead of Florida’s Aug. 18 primary election. In-person turnout appeared light, while there’s been a significant increase in vote-by-mail ballots requested.


Atlanta: A high school student said her five-day suspension for sharing images of crowded conditions on campus was lifted Friday after she appealed and said she was ready to take her case to court. Hannah Watters said her principal called her mother, apologized and completely removed her punishment, leaving her surprised and “very grateful.” She had been suspended for taking a photo and video that she shared with news organizations to raise an alarm after seeing that most of her fellow students weren’t wearing masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus infections. Waters, a 15-year-old sophomore, posted the images Tuesday showing crowded hallways at the 2,400-student North Paulding High School in Dallas, northwest of Atlanta. “There was no social distancing, a 10% mask use rate; it was chaos,” she said as she began serving her punishment at home. Multiple football players at North Paulding tested positive last week.


Honolulu: Amid an alarming spike of coronavirus cases in the state, public school students on Oahu will begin the academic year with distance learning only, officials announced Friday. Gov. David Ige said most students will spend the first four weeks of the school year learning online from home after originally planning to start the year with a mostly hybrid model in which students alternated between online and in-person classes. A handful of schools had planned to offer full in-person instruction. The state will go to the hybrid approach in September if community transmission of the disease is brought under control. Oahu, the state’s most populated island, has seen the majority of new cases in recent weeks, filling up hospital beds and spurring officials to close beaches, parks and hiking trails.


Twin Falls: More than 180 inmates at a county jail have tested positive for the coronavirus since July. The Twin Falls County Jail said 183 of its inmates have tested positive, The Times-News reports. As of Friday, 81 were in quarantine. One male inmate was sent to the emergency room in recent weeks after becoming seriously ill and was later released. Eight staff members tested positive for the virus, but none has shown symptoms, and one is still in quarantine. Jail staff who tested positive for the virus continued to work during the outbreak. Jail Cpt. Doug Hughes said more than 90% of the inmates who tested positive are asymptomatic. South Central Public Health District spokesperson Brianna Bodily said it is uncommon that the figure for asymptomatic cases is so high. Jail officials conduct their own disease investigations, she said. The jail facility is meant for 194 inmates but currently houses 266. Extra inmates are forced to sleep on the floor.


Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that public health officials may issue fines to businesses where employees or patrons aren’t wearing face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Pritzker said the emergency rules he filed focus on “scofflaw” businesses who flout the requirement since May 1 that people in public who are unable to keep 6 feet away from others must wear masks. Enforcement begins with warnings and can result in fines of $75 to $2,500. Since a reduction in infections in June prompted Pritzker to reopen businesses and allow for larger groups – up to 50 – to gather, the highly contagious and sometimes-fatal virus has been on a summerlong rebound. Enforcement begins with a warning letter that the business is not complying with social restrictions. A second warning could mean reducing the number of patrons in an establishment to meet maximum crowd guidelines. A third violation could mean a fine.


Indianapolis: The state Senate president warned public schools in a letter that they could face budget cuts if they don’t hold in-person classes this year, despite prior assurances from Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state leaders that schools would remain fully funded. Republican Rod Bray told school leaders in the letter sent Thursday that he wants to “make sure they understand” that state law currently caps per-pupil funding for students who take at least half their classes virtually to 85% of basic tuition support. That means school districts only offering online instruction to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 could lose 15% of their basic per student funding, equivalent to losing $855 in funding per student. More than 30 districts are already planning to start their school years online, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said during a Thursday webinar.


Ames: An Iowa State University program to administer coronavirus tests as students move back to campus has found 66 testing positive, the university said in a statement Friday. That’s about 2.2% of the 3,037 students who have moved in to residence halls and campus apartments and taken tests. About half of the students testing positive chose to return home to complete isolation, said Kristen Obbink, the university’s COVID-19 public health coordinator. The university has isolation rooms set up for positive cases and quarantine rooms for those who are notified of exposure through contact tracing. The tests are one part of the university’s coronavirus mitigation plan. The College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is processing the COVID-19 tests and providing results within 24 hours.


Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly tested negative for the coronavirus Friday as a Republican legislative leader faced criticism from some Democrats for not telling colleagues until this week that he’d been infected and hospitalized before he, Kelly and other top lawmakers had a public meeting last month. Fellow Republican leaders defended House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., saying he took more than adequate precautions to prevent spreading the virus after learning he might have it July 10 and had been cleared by a doctor before attending a meeting with Kelly on July 29 at the Statehouse. They also accused the Democratic governor of politicizing his case. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he also would get tested, adding that the House speaker “can’t be trusted.” Kelly has called Ryckman’s attendance at the July 29 meeting “reckless and dangerous.”


Frankfort: The state’s teacher union is calling on school officials to delay the beginning of in-class instruction until the COVID-19 positivity rate drops. The Kentucky Education Association released a statement Friday calling on schools to start the year with virtual learning from home. The union said districts should avoid reopening until the positivity rate of the state and the school’s county remain under 4% for 21 consecutive days. “The coronavirus situation in Kentucky at this moment is far worse than it was in March,” when schools and school-related activities were halted, the KEA wrote. “If we all believed it wasn’t safe to operate schools then, how can it possibly be safe to reopen now?” Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday the state’s positivity rate – a seven-day rolling figure reflecting the average percentage of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 – had increased to 5.57%.


Baton Rouge: Gov. John Bel Edwards is questioning why the state must pay a portion of the costs to use the state’s National Guard in coronavirus response work if the federal government is picking up the full tab in some other states, including Texas and Florida. The Democratic governor sent a letter Friday to President Donald Trump asking that the federal government continue to cover all costs of activating the Louisiana National Guard as it did earlier this year. If Louisiana has to pay a 25% cost share through December, that would cost the state $2.5 million a month, Edwards said. Louisiana is using 1,100 members of the National Guard to staff virus testing sites, support food bank operations and distribute protective equipment to hospitals, schools and other locations. In prior months of the coronavirus outbreak, Louisiana had full federal funding for the activation. But Trump changed the reimbursement terms in the latest authorization.


Portland: The state’s university system is providing gardening buddies. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension said it’s launching a program to match gardeners of different experience levels. Gardening has emerged as a popular hobby during the coronavirus pandemic. The extension said the Garden Mentorship Program will match residents with master gardener volunteers to provide virtual technical assistance and coaching. Gardeners can get involved by filling out a Garden Mentor Request form on the UMaine website. The extension said the program is geared at gardeners ranging from novices to old pros.


Annapolis: The state is reporting a new low COVID-19 positivity rate statewide, but state officials are concerned about the rate in Worcester County on the Eastern Shore. Gov. Larry Hogan announced Sunday that Maryland’s seven-day average positivity rate has dropped to 3.75%. The state says that’s the lowest level reported since the pandemic began. The administration also says the daily positivity rate is at a record low as well. Out of a record 40,473 tests, 2.72% came back positive. The positivity rate is above 5% in Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and Worcester counties. It’s 5.53% in Prince George’s and 5.05% in Queen Anne’s. While the 6.23% positivity rate in Worcester has started to plateau, state officials say it remains a concern.


Boston: The state is cracking down on larger gatherings, bars “masquerading” as restaurants and other events that could help spread the coronavirus as public health officials work to tamp down an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday. Baker also said he is postponing indefinitely step two of the third phase of the state’s reopening plan. Baker said there have been recent reports of big parties that have helped the virus spread. “These parties are too big, too crowded, and people are simply not being responsible about face coverings, social distancing,” Baker said, pointing to a recent wedding in Gardner that drew together more than 300 people. Baker said he is rolling back the size of outdoor gatherings allowed from 100 to 50. Some bars have tried to skirt the regulation that allows restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks with meals prepared on site, according to Baker. Just offering pretzels and potato chips doesn’t count, Baker said.


Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday extended the state’s coronavirus emergency through Sept. 4, enabling her to keep in place restrictions designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. The governor, whose administration last week said new cases had recently plateaued, noted that they still remain higher than nearly two months ago and that many students will return to in-person instruction over the next month. The seven-day statewide average is up sixfold since June 10, to about 700 cases per day, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The rate of tests coming back positive also has trended higher since early June. “I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect Michiganders from the spread of this virus,” Whitmer said in a statement.


Lake Park: Thirty grieving members of a family in a small northwestern Minnesota town have contracted the coronavirus after attending a funeral for a loved one. The family of 78-year-old Francis Perreault gathered at the Catholic church in the Becker County community of Lake Park in mid-July to celebrate his life. Yet despite wearing masks and taking precautions, 30 people contracted COVID-19, including five who were hospitalized, the Star Tribune reports. “We tried to do everything right, but of course when you’re grieving, you let your guard down,” said Stephanie Schindler, Perreault’s daughter. “One of my friends that got sick was wearing a mask the whole time. But of course when you’re crying, you’re going to be rubbing your face.” Schindler said several of those hospitalized have since been released. She said the positive tests have brought home the reality that COVID-19 is a threat even in places that aren’t so densely populated.


Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves has announced a $55 million initiative to create workforce training programs at community colleges and offer financial incentives to employers to hire individuals who have lost work due to the coronavirus. The aim of ReSkill Mississippi is to help ease the economic burden and uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has created for Mississippi’s workforce, Reeves said. Most of the ReSkillMS money will be used by the state’s community colleges to expand capacity in high-demand programs and to offer free short-term training. Approximately $5 million will be used for employers willing to hire and train individuals who have been furloughed, laid off or hurt economically by the pandemic. Employers are eligible to be reimbursed for up to 75% of the individual’s wages during the training period. The program requires a minimum fair wage threshold of $15 per hour.


St. Louis: A judge has ordered a halt to evictions in the city through the end of August, but a civil rights advocacy group says the moratorium should be extended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Circuit Court Presiding Judge Rex Burlison issued the order Thursday. It does not apply to commercial property or properties where illegal drug activity occurred. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts stopped serving eviction notices Tuesday after meeting with housing advocates. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-based nonprofit civil rights law firm, called the moratorium a “good first step” but urged a 120-day moratorium on evictions. “Evictions jeopardize the safety and stability of vulnerable families, inflict trauma, and are incredibly difficult to recover from,” ArchCity Defenders said in a statement. A previous moratorium on evictions in St. Louis began in March and continued through early July.


Helena: Candidates clashed over the coronavirus response during the state’s first U.S. Senate debate of the 2020 contest, as Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines faced his Democratic opponent, Gov. Steve Bullock, in a competitive race that Democrats hope to win in their quest to regain control of the Senate. As the number of coronavirus cases in the state remains high, the candidates agreed on the need to prioritize public health over the economy. But they diverged in their assessment of the response thus far. Daines applauded President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, saying Trump has “led boldly.” Bullock said the federal government has politicized the response, rather than focusing on public health. While Bullock earned praise for issuing a stay-at-home order that kept infection rates low early in the pandemic, Republicans have since criticized Bullock for being slow to distribute $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.


Omaha: The Omaha Public School District said Friday that students will all learn remotely and all athletics will be canceled for at least the first quarter of the school year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s largest school district also delayed the start of the school year from next Tuesday to Aug. 18, to give teachers time to prepare for the changes. The first quarter will last through Oct. 16. The change to remote learning is in the best interests and for the safety of students, teachers and staff, Superintendent Cheryl Logan wrote on the district’s website. “We understand the important role extra-curricular activities play in a student’s school experience,” Logan wrote. “This suspension is for the health and safety of everyone.” The district had planned to start school by dividing students into two groups, with each group attending school in person part of the week and learning remotely the rest of the week.


Las Vegas: The city has issued a civil penalty against a hotel for hosting a faith-based campaign event for President Donald Trump that violated a mandate intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 despite warnings from city and state officials. The event proceeded as planned Thursday despite Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mandate, which limits gatherings to no more than 50 people in an indoor or outdoor area. The Evangelicals for Trump event was headlined by Trump’s personal pastor, Paula White, and brought together more than 500 people at the Ahern Hotel. The hotel lobby’s maximum occupancy is more than 1,600, organizers said. Masks were required, temperature checks were conducted, and a sign ordered anyone feeling ill to go home. The Trump campaign maintained that hotels are allowed to hold events at 50% occupancy and are not subject to the 50-person event cap placed on churches and other venues.

New Hampshire

Windham: State health officials are investigating a potential coronavirus outbreak linked to a church. The state Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that 16 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have connections to the Windham Crossing Life Church. Health officials say anyone who attended events associated with the church since July might have been exposed to the virus and should be tested. That includes a YouthStorm Inc. camp event held July 16-18, the department said. “The public should not attend events related to the Windham Crossing Life Church over the next week while DHHS investigates these illnesses further,” the agency said in a statement.

New Jersey

Trenton: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that the state’s COVID-19 trends were heading in the right direction after climbing higher the week before. The rate of transmission dropped to 1.15 from 1.23, Murphy said Friday. The prior week, the rate – which represents to the number of people to whom one infected person passes the virus – reached nearly 1.5. The testing positivity rate dipped to 1.95%, down from 2.57% earlier in the week, Murphy said. But he stopped short of announcing any new reopenings for businesses. The state is currently in the second of three stages of reopening its economy since the virus hit New Jersey in March. Murphy also said his administration was setting up a $25 million loan program for small landlords aimed at alleviating economic pressure on them and renters. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said the money would come from federal coronavirus relief funds.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: State Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart has returned to New Mexico and is self-quarantining as a precaution against coronavirus transmission after working remotely for several months from a home in Philadelphia, a state spokeswoman said Friday. Stewart’s extended stay with family outside the state has prompted questions about the boundaries of remote work as much of the state’s workforce is urged to work from home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Judy Robinson, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said Stewart continues to use remote technology to conduct meetings with staff and meet other responsibilities while in isolation. New Mexico currently requires travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when entering or returning to the state. In an advisory opinion Friday, the New Mexico State Ethics Commission said there is no residency requirement for Cabinet officials.

New York

Albany: Schools can bring children back to classrooms for the start of the school year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday, citing success in battling the coronavirus in the state that once was the U.S. heart of the pandemic. The Democratic governor’s decision clears the way for schools to offer at least some days of in-person classes, alongside remote learning. Students will be required to wear masks throughout the school day. “Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established,” Cuomo told reporters. He said New York can “revisit” if the infection rate spikes. Many New York school districts have planned to start the year with students in school buildings only a few days a week, while learning at home the rest of the time. The state has left tough decisions – on how to handle sick students, how much time children will spend in class, whether to delay in-person instruction – up to individual districts.

North Carolina

Charlotte: The state will ease gathering restrictions for the Republican National Convention in the city this month after a push by the national party for the state to be more accommodating. But the Aug. 21-24 event culminating in President Donald Trump’s nomination will be nothing like conventions of previous years in which prominent politicians and party leaders addressed thousands of enthusiastic supporters. The RNC has estimated it would have no more than 500 delegates per day at the Charlotte Convention Center and the Westin hotel. In a letter written to the RNC on Thursday, the state’s health director and chief medical officer, Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, said the Department of Health and Human Services understands more than 10 people may need to assemble indoors to conduct party business.

North Dakota

Fargo: The Spirit Lake Nation in northeastern North Dakota took measures in the spring to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, including the financially painful decision to close the casino where many tribal members work. COVID-19 numbers stayed relatively low. Then residents became complacent and attended gatherings over the July Fourth weekend, translating into a spike in cases, tribal officials said. The reservation’s primary county, Benson County, has had the most confirmed new cases per capita in the state in the past two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Similar increases are being reported among other tribes in North Dakota, state Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis said. Spirit Lake Chairman Douglas Yankton and other tribal leaders have been taking renewed steps to slow the spread of the virus. Spirit Lake is believed to be the first municipality in the state to issue a mask mandate, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa followed suit. Other tribes have instituted quarantine and curfew orders.


Columbus: The state’s high school football season will be shortened to six games this fall, and all teams will advance to the playoffs, if contact sports are approved by Gov. Mike DeWine, the state high school sports association announced Friday. The move follows a recommendation from DeWine’s office to shorten the season out of concerns the coronavirus pandemic might spike in early winter, the Ohio High School Athletic Association said. If DeWine approves a football season, all teams will enter playoffs beginning Oct. 9, and state championship games will be played no later than Nov. 21, the OHSAA said. DeWine has promised an announcement next week on whether high school contact sports, including football, soccer and basketball, could go forward this fall. The change adopted by the OHSAA also allows schools to void their regular season football contracts with other schools.


Oklahoma City: State Treasurer Randy McDaniel said revenue collections by the state rose by more than 27% in July due to a delay in the state income tax filing deadline because of the coronavirus pandemic, but not enough to offset previous shortfalls. “While July collections were strong, a different picture emerges when taking into account the delay of income tax filing,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “The details show the positive bottom line is concealing some less than favorable developments.” The state collected $1.43 billion during the first month of the fiscal year, an increase of $306.1 million over July 2019, McDaniel said. Individual and corporate income tax collections rose by $699.5 million, a $360.5 million increase from July 2019, but short of a $414.4 million decrease in April, according to a release from the treasurer’s office. The income tax filing deadline was delayed from April to July.


Salem: The Legislature will meet for its second special session of 2020 beginning Monday to try to fix a $1.2 billion revenue hole due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some lawmakers predict the session could be completed within a day or two, that time frame could be lengthened depending on whether the Legislature decides to focus on the budget or to also include bills altering policy, such as ones surrounding police reform following more than two months of sometimes violent protests in Portland after George Floyd’s killing. “I want to deal with the budget. That’s it,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. Democrats hold solid majorities in both the Senate and the House. Courtney said he does not oppose the proposed policy changes surrounding law enforcement but thinks the focal point should be on addressing the cuts and changes needed because of cratering revenues due to coronavirus shutdowns.


Harrisburg: The governing body for school sports in the state on Friday delayed making, for at least two weeks, a decision about whether to follow the governor’s recommendation and cancel sports until January. The board of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said mandatory fall sports activities are on hold until its next meeting Aug. 21. The association hopes to use that time to discuss the matter further with Gov. Tom Wolf. Voluntary workouts can continue in the meantime. “It is clear to PIAA, the unintended consequences of canceling fall sports need to be further reviewed,” the association’s statement said. The group maintains fall sports can be conducted safely. The board issued a statement that said it wanted Wolf and agencies under him “to partner with us and work collaboratively to further discuss fall sports” and hoped for “insight and discussion” from state lawmakers.

Rhode Island

Providence: A federal appeals court has rejected a bid by Republicans to reinstate the state’s witness requirement for mail-in ballots. A lower court recently suspended the requirement that those voting by mail have two witnesses or a notary sign their ballot envelope, a move that would require face-to-face and hand-to-hand interactions. Groups that sued over the rule said it unnecessarily puts people’s health at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. The court’s ruling applies to the September primaries and November general elections. Republicans urged the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the lower court’s decision on hold, but the appeals court rejected their request Friday. Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea called it “another victory for voting rights and the safety of Rhode Islanders.” “No one should have to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote,” she said in a statement.

South Carolina

Columbia: The doctor serving as the state epidemiologist said she regrets not speaking out publicly about her concerns as South Carolina reopened close-contact businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Linda Bell said in June emails that Gov. Henry McMaster’s staff misled the public to believe she supported the Republican governor’s May decision to allow restaurants to resume dine-in service and barbershops and other businesses to reopen, The State reports. Bell has served as the public face of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s effort to stem COVID-19. In an email to two agency colleagues June 21, Bell said she had tried to avoid any sign of public disagreement with McMaster during news conferences on the virus response, and the governor’s staff had misleadingly framed her silence as support.

South Dakota

Sturgis: There aren’t many signs of the pandemic at the massive annual motorcycle rally being held this week in this small city along Interstate 90 in western South Dakota. The scene Saturday at the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was familiar to veterans of the event, with throngs of maskless bikers packing the streets. Bars and nightclubs that line the city’s main drag were filled with revelers as the sun set Friday. Organizers expected the overall crowd for the rally to be smaller, perhaps half the size of a normal year, when some half-million people from across the country roar into a town whose population is about 7,000. The sheer numbers raise the prospect that this year’s rally could spread the coronavirus in a state with no special limits on indoor crowds, no mask mandates, and a governor who is eager to welcome visitors and their money. “Screw COVID,” read the design on one T-shirt being hawked at the event. “I went to Sturgis.”


Cookeville: More than 80 students in one school district have been quarantined during the first week of classes after a student tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, officials said. News outlets report a student at Cookeville High School tested positive, and others who were in close contact with the student have been told to quarantine for 14 days, according to the school district in mostly rural Putnam County. An additional seven teachers and staff and a bus driver are also at home due to a positive test or coming into close contact with someone who tested positive. Many of the contacts occurred outside of school, which started last week, the district said. “As educators, we believe that in-person learning is best; however, we are keenly aware that there will continue to be positive cases in our schools and in our community,” Director of Schools Corby King said in a news release.


Austin: Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday extended a statewide disaster declaration he first issued in March to allow the state to better respond to the coronavirus pandemic. “Renewing this Disaster Declaration will provide communities with the resources they need to respond to COVID-19,” Abbott said in a statement. “I urge Texans to remain vigilant in our fight against this virus. Everyone must do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.” State health officials on Friday reported 481,483 people with the virus that has left at least 8,343 dead. The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. Health officials also reported 7,872 people hospitalized.


Salt Lake City: The Utah Board of Education has rejected multiple proposals requiring stricter precautions against the coronavirus as schools reopen across the state. The board voted 9-5 Thursday against a series of mandates, including one that would limit the number of students in a classroom if community spread spikes above the 5% reopening threshold set by the World Health Organization, the Deseret News reports. The board did move to require school districts to draw plans and protocols for how they would respond in the event of an outbreak. Each district must also decide how to balance education against current public health risks. Park City and 24 other districts – mostly in rural areas – will allow students to return full time. Another 16 will shorten days or divide students into groups attending in person on separate days. Only Salt Lake remains fully online.


Montpelier: A new grant program has been set up to help child care providers during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Scott said Friday. The program includes $12 million in federal CARES funds to help after-school programs, summer camps, and other child care programs offset expenses and losses. Applications are open now through Aug. 26; award notices are anticipated by Sept. 11. “We are so grateful to the child care workers and programs who have stepped up to provide critical services to children and their families throughout this crisis,” Scott said. The Child Development Division of the Department for Children and Families, in collaboration with Building Bright Futures, will host a live informational webinar for applicants Aug. 11. A separate opportunity for parent child centers and Children’s Integrated Services’ fiscal agents to learn about the grant process will be held the week of Aug. 10.


Richmond: The state Supreme Court has granted a request from Gov. Ralph Northam to suspend judicial proceedings related to evictions for tenants who can’t pay rent. The court ruled 4-3 on Friday to grant a moratorium on evictions through Sept. 7 as the state grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. That will give the General Assembly and governor time to pass a rent relief package in a special session that is set to start later this month. The high court instituted a moratorium in March but allowed it to expire earlier this summer. Northam requested another statewide moratorium in late July, noting that there had been 6,000 eviction hearings scheduled between July 20 and Aug. 7. He also said there have been “concerning increases” in cases in the Hampton Roads area and spikes in other parts of the state.


Olympia: Health authorities in the state on Friday said there have now been 11 cases of a pediatric inflammatory illness associated with the new coronavirus reported in the state. Kristen Maki, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said the cases occurred between April and July. She said according to the latest information available to state officials, most of the children were admitted to intensive care units but have since been discharged home. The Department of Health said Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children is defined as a patient under the age of 21 with a fever, laboratory evidence of inflammation and severe illness involving more than two organs that requires hospitalization. Patients must also have a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to a confirmed case in the four weeks before symptoms began, the department said.

West Virginia

Morgantown: City officials have extended an outdoor dining program initially put in place as a coronavirus safety precaution. The no-fee outdoor dining permit program will now run until Dec. 31, according to a news release Thursday. Applications can be found on the city’s website. Morgantown set up the program to allow businesses to operate outdoors while complying with virus rules issued in May. Restaurants must follow occupancy and social distancing rules as well as other local health department rules.


Milwaukee: Three workers hired to help set up the Democratic National Convention in the city have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the event’s organizers. Daily screening for people working at the Wisconsin Center began last week in preparation for the Aug. 17-20 convention. Organizers wanted to identify positive cases before the workers entered the venue and were around others. “In consultation with public health officials and experts, the Democratic National Convention Committee has implemented stringent health and safety protocols – including daily testing for anyone accessing the convention complex and contact tracing,” convention organizers said Thursday. Staff at the Wisconsin Center “followed the guidelines set forth by our client regarding daily health screens,” the center district said in a statement.


Laramie: Wyoming football delayed the start of fall practice from last Friday to Tuesday amid plans to alter the game schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mountain West Conference plans to have each team play 10 regular-season games including up to two non-conference games. A final schedule is pending, but teams will play no sooner than the week of Sept. 26 under the league’s current plan, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. All fall practices will be closed to the general public, including news media. Wyoming finished 8-5 last season. Returning starters include quarterback Sean Chambers and conference rushing leader Xazavian Valladay.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biker rally, convention problems: News from around our 50 states