Top State Stories 12/22
WA: Washington state health leaders urge booster shots immediately
seattletimes.comAll eligible Washingtonians should get COVID-19 booster shots immediately to protect themselves this winter and limit the ongoing spread of the new omicron variant, a panel of state health officials urged. About 1.7 million state residents have received a booster, and health officials acknowledged recent challenges in securing appointments.
MN: COVID drives halt to Minnesota’s population growth
Minnesota’s population growth screeched to a halt in the past year, buffeted by COVID-19, slowing immigration rates and more people leaving the state. Overall the state’s population grew by just 225 people in the most recent year, which ran from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. That’s the state’s slowest growth in decades.
CA: Latino political power likely to be big winner in California’s new congressional map
Latino voters are likely to see a major boost in political clout under new congressional and legislative districts approved unanimously by the independent citizen panel charged with redrawing the state’s political map.
MT: COVID No. 1 cause of death among Montana Native Americans in 2020
COVID-19 became the No. 1 leading cause of death among Native Americans in Montana during 2020 and the third-leading cause of death for the general population. The year also brought a staggering increase in all causes of death for Indigenous people.
KS: Kansas patients needing to be transferred stranded for days
Rural Kansas hospitals are struggling to transfer patients as COVID-19 numbers surge, with some patients left stranded in emergency rooms for a week while they wait for a bed. Larger hospitals don’t want COVID-19 patients unless they are really sick, and the shortage of beds and staff also has stranded patients with other health issues, such as heart attacks.
OR: Jail deputy in Oregon pleads guilty to stealing vaccination cards
A jail deputy in Oregon’s Multnomah County who stole blank COVID-19 vaccination cards from a clinic at a jail where he worked pleaded guilty to official misconduct and was sentenced to six months of probation. Investigators said the deputy also copied a coworker’s completed vaccination card.
CO: Colorado lawmakers still have more than .6B in federal COVID money to spend
The money presents a rare opportunity for Colorado lawmakers to dive into difficult-to-tackle issues such as affordable housing and mental health, using one-time dollars outside the scope of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the state’s law limiting government growth.
ID: Idaho history, culture set stage for health care crisis
While Idaho’s independent, anti-government streak is part of the story behind how it has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, so are the kernels of truth and personal experiences that feed misinformation.
IA: Iowa senators want to legalize marijuana in constitution
Three Democratic state senators said they plan to propose a constitutional amendment that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana in Iowa for people ages 21 and older.
MA: Massachusetts governor calls for indoor mask advisory, not mandate
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration advised residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces, the National Guard is being activated to help hospitals, and hospitals must delay elective procedures that will result in admissions as the state continues to grapple with a COVID-19 surge fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
NY: New York cancels Regents exams for high school proficiency
New York State Regents competency examinations scheduled for January have been canceled because of the worsening pandemic, said Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. She said that the exams cannot be safely, equitably and fairly administered across the state due to the virus.
WY: Wyoming counties grapple with zoning, liberties
Spurred on by urban COVID-19 “refugees” and a myriad of other factors, some parts of Wyoming find themselves pinched as visitors morph into property owners, accelerating real estate activity and new development.
AR: Arkansas governor urges vaccinations, rules out mandates in response to variant
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged Arkansans who haven’t already done so to get vaccinated to prepare for a potential wave of infections caused by the fast-spreading omicron variant, but he ruled out measures such as reimposing a statewide mask mandate. He also said he’s preparing to take steps to increase the state’s hospital capacity.
TN: Tennesseans lagging on COVID booster shot
Booster shots are receiving a tepid response in Tennessee, even among residents that embraced vaccination earlier in the pandemic. Only about 1.1 million residents have received a booster shot so far, amounting to approximately 16% of state residents and less than a third of the vaccinated population.
FL: Miami jury trials postponed for 2 weeks amid COVID surge
As COVID-19 cases surge in South Florida, courts in Miami-Dade County have paused jury trials through Dec. 31. “While we always suspend jury pool during the holidays, with the exception of specially set court proceedings, in an abundance of caution we have called off all jurors until after the holidays,” court spokesperson Eunice Sigler said in a statement.
MD: Maryland residents scramble for scarce tests
After weeks of steady crowds, long lines have formed around testing sites in Maryland. Some people report being unable to buy rapid tests or being turned away at testing sites, even with appointments.
WI: Staffing shortages in Wisconsin long-term care centers worsen hospital capacity problems
There are 600 people in Wisconsin hospitals who should no longer be there. The vast majority of those patients belong in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, health care officials say, but cannot be discharged because there aren’t enough staff in the long-term care centers despite plenty of beds.
AK: Alaska legislature’s Capitol complex has grown to a 5th city block
The Alaska legislative branch’s footprint in downtown Juneau has grown to a five-block complex. The latest gift is a three-story building kitty-corner to the Capitol known as the Assembly Building. The Juneau Community Foundation bought it in August with its Juneau Capitol Fund.
DE: Delaware hospitals run over capacity as COVID surges
Delaware hospitals are so full that patients are being treated in hallways. Already overburdened and emotionally exhausted, health care workers are preparing for more patients after the holidays as the omicron variant emerges and flu season continues.
NV: Lawmakers approve M for COVID antibody treatments
Lawmakers approved $19.6 million in federal relief funds to provide no-cost monoclonal antibody treatments to patients with COVID-19 throughout Nevada.
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