Top State Stories 1/5

By: - January 5, 2021 12:00 am

NY: New, more contagious variant of the coronavirus detected in New York

The confirmation that the variant is in New York could complicate the planned inoculation of some 19.5 million residents, with criticism beginning to mount over the vaccine rollout. On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, called on the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow the inoculation of a broader array of essential workers and New Yorkers who are 75 and older.

NJ: Grand jury investigating New Jersey veterans’ homes where 202 people died from COVID-19

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has convened a grand jury that is investigating the state-run veterans’ homes—where 202 people have died from COVID-19—for possible criminal charges, according to documents obtained by The Record and

OH: Ohio governor signs ‘stand your ground’ bill

Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a controversial “stand your ground” bill that would eliminate Ohio’s “duty to retreat” before using force in self-defense.

KY: Deaths from COVID-19 more than doubled in Kentucky prisons last month

December was a catastrophic month for prison inmates in Kentucky, who are stuck behind bars with nowhere to socially distance.

AZ: Arizona governor criticized after son posts video of party

Video taken among a maskless, partying crowd and posted online by Gov. Doug Ducey’s oldest son is prompting criticism of the Republican leader, who has called on Arizonans to take “personal responsibility” to curb COVID-19 infections rather than impose more aggressive measures.

NH: Many New Hampshire families opt out of preschool and kindergarten during the pandemic

Far fewer young children are attending public kindergarten and preschool programs this year, according to recently released data from the New Hampshire Department of Education. The decline is part of a statewide trend of decreased public-school enrollment during the pandemic that is most dramatic among younger students.

CA: California, once a COVID-19 success story, buckles under case surge. How did it happen?

California’s reprieve was short-lived. Now, even though 98.3% of the state’s population is under stay-at-home orders, more than 250 Californians are dying daily, with hospital staff and resources stretched thin. In Southern California, some Los Angeles County mortuaries are running out of room to store the dead.

FL: Florida governor blames hospitals for vaccine snafus

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed Florida’s hospitals for the bumpy start to vaccinations. The first come, first serve system left thousands of seniors camped outside.

ME: Maine may prioritize oldest residents and essential workers in next vaccine phase

When vaccination moves into its next phase in the coming weeks, Maine may prioritize its oldest residents over 75 and essential workers who are most at risk of exposure, like grocery store clerks, postal employees, teachers and police officers.

VT: Older adults next to get vaccine in Vermont, leaving essential workers worried

Vermont says it will not prioritize frontline workers for the next stage of vaccination, bucking federal guidelines and frustrating workers who hoped to get the vaccine soon. The state will instead focus on vaccinating older adult residents, after Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the federal guidance was overly ambitious and doomed to fall short.

SC: Surge in South Carolina coronavirus cases slows vaccine rollout at hospitals

South Carolina public health officials partially attributed the state’s sluggish rate of COVID-19 vaccine administration to the recent surge in coronavirus cases and its impact on hospital staffing.

OK: Oklahomans 65 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccines as state expands distribution

As Oklahoma begins Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, some local health departments have started offering shots to Oklahomans who are ages 65 and older, in addition to others in priority groups.

MO: Missouri inmates allege state has mismanaged response to COVID-19

Several people incarcerated in Missouri prisons believe the state’s department of corrections has failed to properly manage its response to the coronavirus, which has now killed 40 inmates. Missouri’s 22 facilities have recorded a total of 5,059 cases.

NM: New Mexico sees steep COVID-19 drop

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in New Mexico has fallen 26% over the past month, including a substantial drop in the past week. The state reported 703 virus hospitalizations, down from a peak of 947 in early December.

NY: New York governor says hospitals need to speed up coronavirus vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccines are not being distributed fast enough by many of New York’s hospital networks, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, and if the pace doesn’t pick up, hospitals could be fined or lose access to future tranches of vaccines.

MD: Many Maryland students remain online

Throughout the pandemic, few students in suburban Maryland counties have been back inside a school, despite months when COVID-19 rates were relatively low and other districts across the nation—such as New York City and Providence, Rhode Island—were opening back up. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon have advocated for schools to reopen.

TX: More vaccines on the way to Texas

COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections in Texas are at record levels, but only about a third of the vaccine doses allocated for Texans have been given out.

MI: Michigan lightens some criminal penalties

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed a series of bills that expand protections for young offender records, decrease the number of crimes punishable by a driver’s license suspension and reduce probation and parole in some cases.

GA: Anger, frustration growing over Georgia vaccination efforts

The first doses of vaccines in Georgia were earmarked for health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. But Gov. Brian Kemp and Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said that the program would be opened to those over age 65, as well as to police officers and firefighters, in parts of the state where there were surplus supplies.

MA: Massachusetts is ramping up vaccine drive after what governor calls a rollout with ‘bumps’

Massachusetts officials outlined plans to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations after a state and national vaccine rollout burdened by, as Republican Gov. Charlie Baker put it, “bumps.”

NE: Older Nebraskans will be able to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations soon

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said that Nebraskans who are 75 or older may begin to receive COVID-19 vaccinations within the next three weeks.

CT: Connecticut officials find restaurants, workplaces are still the most common infection spots

A team of Connecticut officials traced 84 coronavirus clusters to their origin points and found that the vast majority of those clusters stemmed from four places: restaurants, workplaces, homes and child care facilities, according to a report obtained by The Courant

VA: New canoeing and kayaking fees take effect in Virginia

A law passed in March requires an access pass for boats and kayaks using access points owned or managed by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. That means river outfitters may have to sign up canoers or kayakers on the spot for $4 one-day access passes.

NC: Thousands of North Carolinians may be left out of unemployment benefit extension

The new stimulus bill offers jobless Americans another 10 weeks of unemployment benefits, but that may not help the tens of thousands of North Carolina residents who have already been left out of the program.

WA: Efforts to create a Washington payroll tax complicated by Seattle’s tax

A legislative effort in Washington to create a statewide payroll tax could be difficult to pass if it is layered on top of the one Seattle businesses already are paying. And if the statewide payroll tax is going to raise a significant amount of money for state programs as its supporters hope, lawmakers can’t simply cut Seattle out of the equation.

OR: Oregon begins paying weekly $300 unemployment bonus

The Oregon Employment Department said that it has begun paying a $300 weekly unemployment bonus that Congress authorized last month. A day earlier, benefits had expired for 72,000 Oregonians who were receiving benefits through temporary programs for the self-employed or were on a program that extended their benefits eligibility.

ID: Idaho sees sharp decline in reported cases

Idaho reported an unusually low number of COVID-19 cases and no new deaths following several days of new case reports in excess of 1,000 and a string of death reports in the double digits. Health officials reported 254 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide; it’s not clear what role, if any, recent holidays may have had on the case reports or testing.

HI: Infection rate on the rise in Hawaii

The infection rate for COVID-19 in Hawaii has been trending up since Christmas. Hawaii’s rising infection rate now has it listed as the fourth-worst state for spread.

MS: Mississippi releases first tentative timeline for vaccine rollout

The Mississippi State Department of Health released the first tentative timeline for the vaccine rollout across the state. The schedule started with drive-thru sites throughout the state for health care workers.

CO: COVID-19 restrictions in Denver, other Colorado counties eased to allow indoor dining

The loosening of restrictions in Colorado comes after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis sent an after-hours tweet last week asking the state Department of Public Health and Environment to move down all counties at Level Red, which is the second-highest level of restrictions in the state. The decision and its announcement over social media caught many local public health authorities by surprise.

UT: With positivity rates high, Utah opens more COVID-19 test sites

The nearly two dozen new testing sites across Utah are open for anyone to get rapid antigen testing for free even if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. State health officials announced just over 30% of people tested had a positive result.

AZ: Coronavirus fears halt Arizona county’s annual homeless count

Agencies helping the homeless in Arizona’s largest county say the annual count of people living on the streets was cancelled this year because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s tally counted 3,767 homeless people in Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.

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Stateline staff
Stateline staff

Stateline’s team of veteran journalists combines original reporting with a roundup of the latest news from sources around the country.