Top State Stories 11/19
US: States that imposed few restrictions now have the worst outbreaks
Coronavirus cases are rising in almost every U.S. state. But the surge is worst now in places where leaders neglected to keep up forceful virus containment efforts or failed to implement basic measures like mask mandates in the first place, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford.
MN: Minnesota governor shuts down bars, restaurants, gyms for 4 weeks
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has ordered a four-week shutdown of bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and fitness clubs, starting Friday, to slow the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused more than 3,000 deaths in the state and threatens to overwhelm hospital capacity.
WI: Wisconsin recount cleared to begin after partisan fight
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has agreed to issue an order to recount ballots in two heavily liberal counties at President Donald Trump’s request, but only after hours of contentious debate that may foreshadow the partisan battle ahead.
US: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows
As more than 97,000 of the nation’s long-term care residents have died in a pandemic that has pushed staffs to the limit, advocates for the elderly say a tandem wave of death separate from the virus has quietly claimed tens of thousands more, often because overburdened workers haven’t been able to give them the care they need.
NY: New York City schools return to remote learning
The shutdown of in-person instruction—which was prompted by New York City reaching a 3% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average—is perhaps the most significant setback for the city’s recovery since the spring, when it was a global epicenter of the outbreak.
MD: Federal judge upholds Maryland governor’s coronavirus restrictions
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive orders that limited activities and shuttered businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The group that filed the lawsuit included business owners, pastors, veterans, Republican politicians and an anti-restrictions group called “Reopen Maryland.”
PA: Pennsylvania Supreme Court intervenes in Trump effort to disqualify mail ballots
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court moved to intervene in an ongoing court fight over challenges filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign to more than 8,300 mail ballots in Philadelphia.
HI: Oceanfront property tied to Obama granted exemption from Hawaii’s environmental laws
Officials in Honolulu have granted the developers of a luxury, oceanfront estate tied to Barack Obama a major exemption from environmental laws designed to protect Hawaii’s beaches. The permit authorizes the controversial multimillion-dollar renovation of a century-old seawall; such projects are typically banned, as seawalls are the primary cause of beach loss throughout the state.
AZ: Arizona Secretary of State reports violent threats
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said she is receiving escalating threats of violence in the wake of the presidential election and called out other officials, including the president and members of Congress, for perpetuating misinformation about the results.
VA: Virginia certifies election results
Virginia’s State Board of Elections voted 3-0 to certify the state’s election results, two days later than expected because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Richmond’s voter registration office. The state certified its votes for president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House elections and state constitutional amendments, in a 10-minute meeting with no comment from board members or the public.
AK: No fraud in Alaska elections, says lieutenant governor, but he’ll still seek audit
Alaska Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, the elected official in charge of the 2020 election, said he has seen no evidence of fraud or illegal activity in this year’s vote. But he will ask for a hand audit of Ballot Measure 2, which passed by a margin of 50.55% to 49.45%, and which requires sweeping changes to Alaska’s election system ahead of the 2022 vote.
WI: Wisconsin governor says he will extend mask mandate into 2021
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said he will declare a new public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic and extend Wisconsin’s indoor mask mandate into 2021. Evers also called on Republican lawmakers to stop pushing a lawsuit aimed at blocking the mandate, which is the only statewide government intervention currently in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
SD: South Dakota’s governor defends forgoing masks as virus surges
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem defended those who choose not to wear masks in public, even as her state deals with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the nation.
NV: Nevada governor considering ‘all mitigation options’ as coronavirus cases surge
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said he is considering “all mitigation options” as coronavirus cases surge in Nevada, but he didn’t speculate about a second round of business closures. On Nov. 10, Sisolak urged people to stay home as much as possible for two weeks to avoid more severe restrictions, apparently to little avail.
MO: Missouri restaurants sue to block indoor dining restrictions
Nearly 40 St. Louis-area restaurants and the Missouri Restaurant Association, which represents more than 1,000 establishments statewide, claimed in a lawsuit that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s administration has no legal power to suspend indoor dining.
FL: Florida mayors ask for mask mandate
Mayors of five Florida cities and municipalities met to request that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis impose a statewide mask mandate, ramp up testing and let mayors set local pandemic rules. A September order by DeSantis ended state and some local restrictions.
TX: No lockdown coming as Texas cases soar
The last time case numbers were this high, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, closed bars and urged Texans to avoid gatherings. This time, he’s staying the course, relying on a 2-month-old blueprint to claw back reopenings regionally.
NM: New Mexico closes big-box stores
Big box retailers such as Hobby Lobby and Ross Dress for Less will not be allowed to conduct sales in person. Only retailers with at least one-third of sales from food or drink can stay open as the state tries to curb a dramatic coronavirus spike.
NC: North Carolina governor’s task force says decriminalize marijuana
A North Carolina government task force focused on racial equity and criminal justice reforms says the state should decriminalize marijuana. The group will present Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, with a proposal on that and other reforms within a month. But any permanent changes to state law would have to come through the Republican-majority General Assembly.
DC: District of Columbia launches grant program for hard-hit businesses
The District of Columbia has launched a new program that will allocate million in grant funding to local businesses, a fresh injection of cash officials hope will help carry the city’s hardest-hit industries through the pandemic.
RI: Rhode Island lawmakers look at marijuana legalization, tax hikes
Progressive gains in the state Senate, a changing of the guard in the House and the potential for a massive deficit have led previously resistant lawmakers to take a fresh look at legalizing marijuana and raising income taxes for Rhode Island’s highest earners.
NJ: New Jersey commits to wind energy for 3.2M homes, eyes onshore sites
New Jersey formally committed itself to using offshore wind energy to power 3.2 million homes and will study the best ways to move that electricity from ocean turbines to communities where it is needed. The state Board of Public Utilities voted to adopt the state’s plan to build a transmission system capable of handling 7,500 megawatts of electricity by 2035.
NE: Election night video of maskless Nebraska governor making the rounds on social media
Video of Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, maskless, and surrounded by others without masks on election night, shared by a 25-year-old Omaha sports bar employee, continues to make the rounds on social media.
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