Top State Stories 8/17
TN: Tennessee governor orders schools to allow mask opt-outs
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee announced he will issue an executive order requiring schools to allow parents to exempt their children from mask mandates. However, Lee is not granting a request by Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton to call the legislature back for a special session to weaken certain COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
AR: Arkansas reports record number of COVID patients on ventilators
The number of patients on ventilators in Arkansas reached a new all-time high of 323—20 more than the previous day—according to the Arkansas Department of Health. COVID-19 hospitalizations climbed by 46 to 1,459, another record high.
US: Water shortage declared on the Colorado, triggering cuts to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico
For the first time ever, some users of the Colorado River water will not get their promised deliveries after a shortage was officially declared in response to drought-depleted flows on the overallocated river that furnishes water to 35 million Westerners.
IN: Indiana governor backs schools on masks
Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would continue allowing local officials to impose mask rules, even as several school boards have faced vocal—and sometimes misleading—opposition to such actions.
MI: Michigan governor wants M to hire police
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is pushing the Michigan legislature to appropriate $75 million in federal funds to hire more police officers, increase their pay and fund programs to fight a rise in violent crime across the state. Whitmer joined marches demanding accountability for police brutality last summer, but broke with activists who want to defund law enforcement.
LA: Possible COVID exposure prompts 3K students, staff at Louisiana public schools to quarantine
More than 3,000 public school students and staff at NOLA Public Schools in Louisiana are in quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
CO: Students who kept Colorado’s resort-town economies alive are now headed back to school
From Telluride to Breckenridge, the kids who have kept the wheels of commerce turning in this busier-than-usual summer tourist season in Colorado are quitting in droves. Skeleton crews will be left behind to soldier on in a year when some businesses have operated with students making up more than 80% of their employees.
PA: 80% of Pennsylvania adults have received at least 1 COVID vaccination
The high vaccination rate comes as most of Pennsylvania and all of New Jersey are experiencing high or substantial virus spread.
NY: New York governor mandates vaccines for health care workers by Sept. 27
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all health care workers in the state, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 27. He also announced that individuals with compromised immune systems can receive a third vaccination.
WY: University of Wyoming will require employees, students to get COVID tests
The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees directed all employees and students, despite vaccination status, to be tested upon return to the university. Employees who do not follow the policy would face consequences including dismissal and students who do not abide could face temporary suspension.
AK: Majority of Alaska students will start the year under mask policies
Students across Alaska are heading back to school, most of them back to in-person learning, and under varied mask policies. Most of the students, teachers and staff in Alaska will go back to school wearing masks this year, with a few exceptions.
WI: All University of Wisconsin campuses enact mask requirements or expectations
Every University of Wisconsin System campus in the state has instituted mask requirements or expectations for individuals regardless of their vaccination status as the number of new coronavirus cases rises. The measures come amid an effort by Republican lawmakers to block COVID-19 restrictions at universities.
MO: Thousands of COVID vaccines went to waste in Missouri
Missouri vaccine providers have thrown away more than 81,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations, according to data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Data from the Kansas City Star‘s Missouri records request and interviews show that as the summer went on and interest in getting vaccines waned, providers had to get rid of expired and thawed doses.
WV: West Virginia governor takes ‘wait and see’ approach to COVID surge
With active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia on the rise, Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said he continues to take a “wait and see” approach, reiterating his belief that imposing any new health mandates would be like a “bomb going off” in terms of fragmenting the state politically.
OR: Oregon governor extends foreclosure moratorium
Oregon homeowners will be protected from foreclosure until the end of the year. Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, announced that she had extended Oregon’s residential foreclosure moratorium until Dec. 31.
WA: Washington’s nurses are stressed, seeking jobs elsewhere
A survey of about 400 Washington nurses found that 51% were laid off or furloughed at some point during the pandemic, 49% actually got COVID-19 last year and 42% are considering or have made plans to leave nursing altogether.
KS: Audit finds Kansas health department paid .3M for care of dead people
An expansive audit of Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s payments to companies contracted to deliver services under the state’s Medicaid program found $1.3 million in inappropriate compensation for care of people who had actually died.
FL: Florida’s unemployment system was improving, but cybersecurity issues are new setback
When the pandemic hit last year, Florida’s unemployment system was in turmoil, with Floridians spending hours on hold with call centers and waiting weeks or months to receive benefits. Sixteen months later, Floridians using CONNECT are facing some of the same problems—but cyberattacks, not the pandemic, are to blame, the state says.
IL: GOP state lawmakers in Illinois say plan for spending federal coronavirus relief is partisan
Republican state lawmakers were almost entirely united in opposition to the Democratic-controlled Illinois General Assembly’s decisions on how to dole out $2.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief money through the budget passed this spring. The legislators said the money was handed out with few specifics, little public scrutiny and no real opportunity for the minority party to advocate for the needs of their constituents.
MN: Minnesota leaders failed to ‘meet the moment’ in tackling racial disparities, activists say
Minnesota leaders knew they could only do so much in one legislative session to unwind racial disparities embedded in the state’s history and policies, but they said 2021 was the year for big strides. Many racial justice advocates said they came up short.
MS: Mississippi High School Activities Association eases practice restrictions for virtual learning with district approval
The Mississippi High School Activities Association changed its COVID-19 protocols for schools who opt-in to virtual learning this upcoming school year. Sports teams can hold practices with district approval for schools that suspend in-person learning.
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