A trinket is thrown from a float during a parade in Mobile, Ala., dubbed “Tardy Gras,” to compensate for canceled Mardi Gras festivities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)
Mobile: Thousands of joyful revelers, many without masks, competed for plastic beads and trinkets tossed from floats as Alabama’s port city threw a Mardi Gras-style parade Friday night, its first since Carnival celebrations were scrapped earlier this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and several deep along sidewalks, shouting and cheering as nearly 30 floats and several high school marching bands crossed a stretch of downtown Mobile. With COVID-19 hospitalizations and vaccinations ebbing, many partied with abandon. It was definitely not a Mardi Gras parade: Those can only be held during Mardi Gras, the period before Lent. But it felt a lot like one, which was a big part of the goal after months of lockdowns, illness, deaths and face masks. James L. Hurst said he was jubilant to be out partying after a difficult year. Many had no face coverings amid an upbeat mood sweeping the crowd on a balmy spring night with clear skies. Some took part in small house parties near the parade staging point. Others on the route eagerly held up hands, aiming to catch cheap beaded necklaces tossed by riders atop the floats. “We didn’t get a chance to celebrate our Mardi Gras last year because it was canceled because of the COVID-19,” Hurst told the Associated Press. “It feels great to be out! We have our vaccines and we are ready to go!”
Juneau: Alaska had 19,100 more jobs in April than it did the same month in 2020, but the numbers still lagged what they were before the pandemic, the state labor department reported. There were an estimated 297,200 nonfarm jobs in Alaska last month, compared to 278,100 in April 2020 and 322,400 in April 2019, the report showed. The report provided a comparison to April 2020, the first month in which huge job losses hit as pandemic fears prompted business closures and restrictions. The department said industries that recovered the largest numbers of jobs last month were those that took the biggest hits last spring, such as leisure and hospitality, which last month had 6,300 more jobs than a year earlier. Retail gained 3,400 jobs, and education and health care had 4,600 more jobs. On the other end, the oil and gas sector had 2,600 fewer jobs last month than in April 2020, and mining and logging had 1,800 fewer. Alaska’s preliminary unemployment rate for April stood at 6.7%, though the department has cautioned against reading too much into the unemployment rate, saying it has been an “unreliable and misleading” economic indicator during months affected by the pandemic.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara M. Christ talks to a person after giving them a COVID-19 vaccine at Grant Park Recreation Center in Phoenix. (Photo: Meg Potter/The Republic)
Phoenix: A pop-up vaccination clinic was set up Saturday morning at Grant Park with the goal of encouraging and providing easy-to-access vaccines for the communities of districts 7 and 8 in Phoenix. A row of canopies shaded a concrete path to the basketball gym, where vaccination registrations had opened at 8 a.m. People stood in line under the shade – some with children between ages 12 and 18 who had recently been green-lit for the Pfizer Vaccine. Those over the age of 18 could choose which vaccine to take. The clinic had all three available: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ. “If they want one dose, then the Johnson & Johnson is here. If they have already had a dose of Moderna, they can get the second dose of Moderna here,” she said. The program makes second doses available to anyone who has had their first dose somewhere else, as long as they bring their COVID-19 vaccine card with them and fit the time frame.
Fort Smith: More than 27% of people living in Franklin County were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated two weeks after they have been given a single-dose shot (Johnson & Johnson) or a second shot (either Pfizer or Moderna). Arkansas has reported 340,040 total cases of coronavirus as of Saturday. The five state counties with the highest percentage of their populations fully vaccinated as of Saturday are Pulaski (34%), Conway (33%), Woodruff (33%), Desha (32%) and Dallas (32%).
Los Angeles: The most common coronavirus variant of concern circulating in Los Angeles County is now the U.K. variant, health officials said. Previously, two California variants were dominant, but in the past week, 53% of 40 specimens analyzed by a public health laboratory were the U.K. variant and none was a California variant, the county Department of Public Health said. The county also detected six Brazilian variants and one South African variant. The department said the findings highlight the need for continuing precautions, especially by those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. “Recent research findings provide added evidence that the currently available vaccines appear to be highly effective against the variants of concern that are circulating here now,” the department said. Once staggering under COVID-19, the county of 10<TH>million residents on Saturday reported 14 new deaths and 265 new cases. There were 330 people hospitalized and 24% were in intensive care units. The daily test positivity rate was 0.4%.
Denver: Gov. Jared Polis and a panel of doctors urged parents and caregivers to vaccinate their 12- to 15-year-olds as middle and high school students continue to have the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the state. “For younger Coloradans, two doses of the life-saving Pfizer vaccine … can bring an end to over a year of forced social isolation and illness and help us return to normal,” Polis said. “And for all of us, this means we can feel more secure as we continue to go about our summers.” Although hospitalizations are lower than they were during the pandemic for older people, pediatric hospitalizations are nearing their rate during the fall wave of COVID-19, according to data presented by state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy. She said about half of Colorado’s pediatric hospitalizations over the last few months would now be considered vaccine-preventable. “We need to see increased vaccination rate among those individuals to protect them from infection,” Herlihy said. She added that parents of children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine should continue to take precautions because they could transmit COVID-19 to their unvaccinated children.
New Haven: Yale New Haven Health is closing mass vaccination sites, the New Haven Register reported. Dr. Ohm Deshpande, associate chief clinical officer for the health system, told the Register that the system will cease first doses after Tuesday, and after that, it will be open for second doses by appointment and on a walk-in basis. Deshpande said pop-up clinics will continue and the trailer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will return to New Haven in June.
Wilmington: The first lawsuit seeking to hold long-term care facilities accountable for how they cared for patients in the early days of the pandemic has been filed against a Prices Corner nursing home. It’s likely to be the first of several lawsuits in Delaware that claim wrongful death and gross negligence against a long-term care facility. A Delaware Online/News Journal analysis published last summer found that in the early weeks of the pandemic, about one-third of nursing homes failed to follow protocols to slow the spread of the virus. More facilities failed inspections in recent months. Americans across the country are grappling with how the virus ravaged nursing homes. Unlike other states, Delaware has not granted long-term care facilities immunity during the pandemic, which means they are not protected from lawsuits. This lawsuit was filed on March 23, nearly a year after the first Delaware nursing home resident died of COVID-19. At the center are two Brandywine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center residents: Charles Secrest, 82, and Sophie Star Sakewicz, 95, who were considered high-risk for COVID-19 and died from it in April 2020. The suit was filed by the residents’ daughters. The facility, according to the lawsuit, provided “substandard care by allowing an environment to be created which exposed the Plaintiffs to an extremely dangerous and infectious disease, after being put on notice by (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) that there was an imminent threat to the wellbeing of its residents.” The administrator of the Brandywine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center did not return calls seeking comment. Through their attorney, the plaintiffs, Terri Hansen and Beverley Shinnen, declined to comment. Although nursing home residents make up only about 2.5% of Delaware’s COVID-19 cases, their residents make up almost half of the deaths. As of May 17, 753 nursing home residents died of COVID-19 – about 45% of all COVID-19 deaths.
District of Columbia
Washington: Over the first weekend with almost all of D.C.’s coronavirus restrictions lifted, businesses and neighbors are cautiously embracing the rollback, WUSA-TV reported. As of Friday, almost all businesses, including restaurants, gyms, retail stores and churches, have the green light from the city to remove all COVID-19-related restrictions. Some neighbors who had been hibernating months finally felt comfortable to step outside in the again-bustling Adams Morgan neighborhood. “This is actually our first time out in about a year and 5 months of the pandemic. We’ve been in the house on lockdown,” Aarum Hurse said. “So it’s a little strange to be outside.” Still, many businesses are still opting to keep some restrictions in place, such as patrons wearing masks inside and social distancing. Matteo Catalani, owner of the Retrobottega bar, said the bar will still require masks inside for the time being. “We’re not planning on lifting that anytime soon,” he said. “Just, you know, to make feel everyone confident and comfortable.”
Celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, left, and Guy Fieri chat during the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, Fla. (Photo: Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Miami Beach: Some of the biggest celebrity chefs were in Miami last weekend for the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, including Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri and Martha Stewart. But behind the glamour and private dinners that can sell for as much as $500 a ticket, the festival was quietly working behind the scenes to help restaurants struggling during the pandemic. Last year’s event, which fed more than 65,000 people at more than 100 events, was held just weeks before the COVID-19 lockdown. Miami has long been a foodie town with hundreds of local chefs and restaurants contributing to the massive food festival. As restaurants laid of staff and closed up shop, festival creator Lee Brian Schrager jumped into action to help his cooks and servers. The festival partnered with Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality to create a relief fund raising $1.6<TH>million that went directly to unemployed cooks, servers, dishwashers and other staff at more than 500 restaurants and bars across South Florida.
Atlanta: The advisory board for Georgia’s public health agency stopped holding meetings for more than a year during the coronavirus pandemic – a move that its leaders said was necessary to focus on the emergency response, though critics contended it made the agency less transparent at a time of crisis. The board of physicians and health professionals that advises the Georgia Department of Public Health held its last meeting on Feb. 11, 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday. That was before the first COVID-19 infections were confirmed in Georgia. The advisory board, which typically met monthly before the pandemic, still hasn’t held a public meeting more than 15 months later. Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the health agency’s leader, defended the lengthy hiatus. She said her staff needed to focus on fighting the virus. “We made a broad decision in discussions with various leadership that we would not have meetings at this time, but really invest in the work of the pandemic,” Toomey said. “Because our epidemiologists were tied up.” Toomey noted she has fielded questions on Georgia’s handling of the pandemic at dozens of media briefings and appearances, often at the side of Gov. Brian Kemp.
Wailuku: County officials in Maui are reminding travelers that they must provide COVID-19 vaccination documentation to be exempted from the testing requirement upon arriving on the island. Maui County began requiring all trans-Pacific travelers participating in the Safe Travels program to take an additional rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival beginning May 4, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. But fully vaccinated trans-Pacific travelers in the program do not need to take a test with proof of vaccination. Travelers are considered vaccinated after 14 days have passed since receiving both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “We remind trans-Pacific travelers that they need to provide proper documentation to be exempted from the post-arrival test,” Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said. “We need an original CDC vaccination card or a certificate of vaccination from the CDC. We are not accepting copies or photos of vaccination cards.” County officials said travelers whether vaccinated or not must still comply to all predeparture requirements. Officials said 17 of the more than 40,000 travelers that have visited the island from May 4 to May 19 have received positive results from the required postarrival testing at Kahului Airport. Those travelers were referred immediately to the Maui District Health Office.
Boise: Some Idaho taxpayers will see a one-time tax rebate this summer as part of the income tax legislation passed earlier this year. Boise State Public Radio reported the one-time rebate will go to full-time Idaho residents who filed income tax returns in 2019 and 2020. Each person will get either a minimum of $50, plus $50 for each dependent, or 9% of the state income tax they paid in 2019, whichever is greater. It’s part of an overhaul of income tax law that includes rate reductions and consolidation of tax brackets. Supporters claimed it’s the largest tax cut in state history, and opponents said the tax cut and the rebate will benefit the rich more than working class Idaho residents. The state tax commission is still working out final details on the rebate with state lawmakers and the governor’s office, including how the rebates will be distributed. They could be sent as checks or deposited directly in a taxpayer’s bank account.
Springfield: State Democratic leaders said they have agreed to repay federal pandemic relief loans more than a year earlier than scheduled, saving taxpayers $100<TH>million in interest. The plan was announced as Democrats who control the House and Senate head into the final 10 days of the legislative session, still struggling to find ways to close a $1.4<TH>billion deficit for the budget that begins July<TH>1. Washington lent money to in early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures left economies battered and hundreds of thousands on the unemployment line. Illinois borrowed $3.2<TH>billion and has repaid $2<TH>billion. The rest was due by December 2023, but the state has money to pay it earlier. “The federal loan was a lifeline to keep our state and our economy afloat,” said Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “That our economy has rebounded so strongly that we can now pay it off early is a testament to the resilience of the people and businesses of the great state of Illinois.”
Groups of FFA students explore Downtown Indianapolis during the first day of the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)
Indianapolis: The National FFA Organization is bringing its national convention back in-person to Indianapolis this fall after the meeting switched to a virtual format last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indianapolis-based group devoted to agricultural education announced Wednesday that it expects anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people to attend its convention from Oct. 27-30 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. FFA’s annual gathering in Indianapolis typically brings at least 65,000 blue-coated youth and other attendees to the city, but organizers expect some restrictions may still be in place this year that could limit attendance, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported. Mandy Hazlett, FFA’s associate director of convention and events, said this year’s gathering “will look a bit different,” with a hybrid approach that offers in-person events for those who can attend in person and virtual activities for those who cannot. FFA is scheduled to convene in Indianapolis through at least 2033, following a contract extension that was announced last June alongside the group’s decision to temporarily go virtual. The event has been hosted in Indianapolis since 2006, with the exception of a three-year stop in Louisville, Kentucky, from 2013 to 2015.
A post inside Niland's Cafe notes its location at the intersection of the historic Lincoln Highway and Jefferson Highway in Colo, Iowa. (Photo: Photo by Ronna Faaborg)
Colo: Niland’s Cafe was forced to close in August because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the historic diner is reopening under the new management of Danny and Abi Wilson, longtime Colo residents. The Wilsons are starting with a smaller menu full of homemade items, including tenderloins made using their own recipe. “We’re so excited. It took longer than expected to get open because of COVID,” Danny Wilson said. “The menu is going to be kind of limited at first. I just want to make sure that we do good food – good quality from scratch – and then add on. We’re going to make everything ourselves except a few things like onion rings and cheese balls.” The menu will also include items like burgers, roast beef, pulled pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, plenty of side dishes, pie, shakes and ice cream. There are a few changes in store for patrons. The vintage Cadillac that used to be parked in the dining room has been moved next door to the gas station museum to more than double the seating to 10 areas, both booths and tables. Situated between two other historic buildings, the Colo Motel and the gas station museum, Niland’s Cafe has display cases in the front room of the cafe and historic signs throughout. The display cases were donated by Duane Pundt of State Center.
Topeka: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday vetoed a Republican proposal to set aside hundreds of millions of Kansas’ federal coronavirus relief dollars to compensate small businesses that faced restrictions earlier in the pandemic. Kelly said in her veto message that the measure was “well-intentioned” but violated a federal coronavirus relief law enacted in March. She also suggested that Kansas already has a more transparent process for giving out relief funds through a task force she created last year. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for Kansas businesses,” Kelly said in her message. “My administration has been committed to doing all we can to support their continued pandemic recovery efforts,” Kelly said in her message. Her veto sparked criticism in the Republican-controlled Legislature, particularly from conservatives who have argued for months that state and local government restrictions on businesses were too harsh and applied unfairly. House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said Kelly’s administration is “a Death Star with the sole purpose of destroying the Kansas economy.” Kelly kept a stay-at-home order in place for five weeks last spring, defending it as necessary to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases from overwhelming hospitals, as it had in Europe. She later sought a phased reopening of the economy, but lawmakers forced her to accept local control of such decisions to keep a state of emergency for the pandemic in place. Ryan Kriegshauser, an attorney for a Wichita fitness studio and its owner, who sued the state in December over pandemic restrictions, said the federal law cited by Kelly is “incredibly ambiguous.” He said the bill also had a provision nullifying its contents if they were found to violate federal law.
Frankfort: Kentucky reported 426 new COVID-19 cases and five additional coronavirus-related deaths Saturday. The state also reported two deaths from its ongoing audit. Kentucky’s test positivity rate is 2.63%. As of Friday afternoon, 1,957,642 Kentuckians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Because of delays with the federal vaccination database, there was no vaccination report Saturday, Gov. Andy Beshear said on Twitter. There have been 455,575 total coronavirus cases and 6,705 deaths in Kentucky since the start of the pandemic. There were 357 Kentuckians hospitalized with the virus Wednesday, including 102 in intensive care units and 50 on ventilators.
New Orleans: Figures from the Transportation Security Administration showed increasing traffic at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in May, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. Preliminary counts showed 242,404 individuals were screened at the airport’s security checkpoints from May 1 through May 18. It’s an increase from last month. And its a strong improvement from the comparable period last year, when, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, only a little more than 20,000 passengers went through security lines. “In May, we’ve been observing the TSA throughput and seen a noticeable uptick in activity,” said airport director Kevin Dolliole, at the airport’s oversight board monthly meeting on Thursday. Dolliole said Armstrong has been improving faster than comparable midsize airports across the country. “We’ve been tracking in the top tier compared to other mid-sized airports, we’re tracking very well,” he told the board. Official passenger data from the airlines, which the newspaper noted is reported on a two-month lag, showed that passenger traffic for the first quarter of this year was just under 1.25 million. That was down about 56% from last year’s first quarter and 62% from 2019.
Augusta: A dust-up over masks could raise tensions as the Maine Legislature prepares to return to the State House, which has been closed since March 2020. The Legislative Council voted to reopen the State House effective Monday while requiring people to continue wearing masks. Republicans argued that the mask requirement defied federal public health recommendations. Also, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is lifting mask mandates for most Mainers, effective Monday. The contradictory guidance will only confuse Mainers with the executive branch and legislative branch adopting competing rules on masks, Senate Republicans said Friday. “The state needs to speak with one voice and its statements regarding the pandemic must be based on science. The governor made her decision based on the latest science from the U.S. CDC and the Legislature should follow that same path,” Jeff Timberlake, Senate Republican leader, said Friday. During the council meeting, House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, suggested to House Speaker Ryan Fecteau that some in her caucus might ignore the mask requirement.
A lifeguard watches over the beach at Ocean City during Labor Day weekend last year. (Photo: Stephen Mathews for Salisbury Daily Times)
Ocean City: The COVID-19 pandemic complicated lifeguarding in 2020. The worldwide pandemic not only forced lifeguards to reconsider how they patrol, but it also made recruiting a challenge for Delmarva’s beach patrols. The pandemic disrupted testing opportunities, and forced beach patrols like in Ocean City to adjust its academy, meaning new lifeguards couldn’t get onto the beach until later in the summer. Heading into this year, beach resorts are hoping for a more normal summer, but so far, that hasn’t been the case for beach patrols, which have experienced many of the same problems as last year. Agencies in Delaware and Maryland reported having more issues this year with recruiting and staffing than they did in 2020. Despite the challenges, the agencies expect to either hit their staffing goals or exceed them and offer a record level of lifeguards on patrol this summer. Ocean City dealt with more issues than usual with recruiting new lifeguards and getting veterans to return, said Butch Arbin, captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. However, OCBP did resume its normal testing schedule. “This is definitely unique, actually more unique than last year, which is interesting,” Arbin said.
Boston: Massachusetts will end its COVID-19 vaccine preregistration system at the end of May, the Baker administration announced Friday. The state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Finder will remain available. The site lists more than 900 locations across the state to receive a shot. Also Friday, the administration announced that beginning Monday, it is expanding the state’s homebound vaccination program to help schedule in-home vaccinations for eligible residents who are unable to get to a vaccine site. The homebound program is primarily using Johnson & Johnson vaccines, a vaccine that only requires one visit to an individual’s home. For individuals 12-17 years old who are homebound, the program is offering Pfizer vaccines. Over the next several days, all those still in the preregistration system will be contacted with an opportunity to book appointments before the system closes on May 31. All remaining people who have preregistered will be given an opportunity to book before the system shuts down, officials said.
Lansing: The state health department has settled a lawsuit by releasing information about people at long-term care sites who died of COVID-19, attorneys for a journalist said Friday. The department agreed to provide ages and dates of death but was unable to say whether the infection occurred at a long-term care facility “due to inadequate tracking,” the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation said. The group in March filed a lawsuit on behalf of Detroit-area journalist Charlie LeDuff, whose public records request was denied as exempt under state law. The health department said it worked with LeDuff to produce information that wouldn’t identify anyone, although he said he wasn’t seeking names. The department is “strongly committed to protecting residents of long-term care facilities from COVID-19 and to sharing data with the public related to the pandemic,” spokesman Bob Wheaton said. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation often takes aggressive action to get public records. “This data is an essential part of accurately understanding the effects of this pandemic and the public policy implemented in response,” attorney Steve Delie said.
St. Cloud: Minnesota added its lowest number of new COVID-19 cases since March 2 on Saturday, according to the Department of Health. The 443 new cases in Sunday’s report matched levels not commonly seen since last summer. In Benton and Sherburne counties, case counts rose by single digits. Nine new cases were found in Sherburne County, bringing its total cases to 11,889. Five new cases were reported in Benton County, bringin the total to 5,772 since the pandemic began. The more populous Stearns County saw 11 new cases Saturday, bringing its total to 22,419. As of Friday, 2,492,237 Minnesotans have completed the vaccination process, or about 46%, with another 356,087 having received one dose.
Jackson: The state Department of Health reported 105 new cases of COVID-19 and one coronavirus-related death Friday. Since the virus hit the state in March 2020, a total of 316,272 cases and 7,279 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported. The health department reported 25 outbreaks at Mississippi nursing homes. Residents between the ages of 25 and 39 represent the largest portion of the infected population in the state, with 70,171 cases reported Tuesday, the latest figure available. Among patients under 18, children between the ages of 11 and 17 have the highest infection rate, with 24,497 cases identified. According to health department data, 1,002,669 people have begun the vaccination process in Mississippi, as of Thursday morning. Since December, about 872,737 people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Ten-month-old Easton Fitzgeralds inspects a pumpkin at the 22nd annual Cider Days in Springfield, Mo., on Sept. 22, 2019. Last year's event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the event is returning this year from Sept. 18-19. (Photo: Sara Karnes/Springfield News-Leader)
Springfield: Cider Days will be back for its 23rd year on Walnut Street from Sept. 18-19, with regional artists, crafters, performers and activities, along with apple cider, according to organizers. The community event was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Vendor booths are expected to be placed 6 feet apart this year. Cider Days is managed by the Downtown Springfield Association and presented by the Historic Walnut Street Association. The festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. It is $5 per person while children 10 and under are free.
Great Falls: City Commissioners heard a presentation about the timeline for distribution and restrictions of allocation regarding the allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds. The city will be receiving close to $19.5<TH>million, the first $9.7<TH>million received this month and the latter half to be distributed in May 2022. Finance Director Melissa Kinzler said funds from the American Rescue Plan must be appropriated by Dec. 31, 2024, and be spent by the end of 2026. Deputy Finance Director Kirsten Myre said the funds must meet specific conditions for use as they are encouraged to focus spending toward supporting low-income individuals and those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. These funds cannot be used to pay off debt, legal settlements or offset tax cuts. City Manager Greg Doyon said he has been meeting weekly with leaders in the community and the congressional delegation to monitor and keep track of all the information that relates to the American Rescue Plan and how best to leverage it for the community.
Lincoln: The state Department of Health and Human Services reported 588 new COVID-19 cases last week, a 43% drop from the previous week’s total of 1,368. The daily average of new positive cases in the last week was 84. Total hospitalizations in Nebraska due to COVID-19 number are at 6,630. Through last Wednesday, the latest day available, 788,985 Nebraskans age 16 and older (53.2%) have been fully vaccinated.
Jeff Cantrell waits at Larry Flint’s Hustler Club strip club after getting his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Friday in Las Vegas. City officials held a pop-up vaccine clinic at the strip club to encourage more people to get vaccinated. (Photo: John Locher/AP)
Las Vegas: Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, with a spinning disco ball casting rainbow colors on the walls but more lights turned on than usual, was an unconventional site for a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic. But as government officials and health workers try to address the slowing demand for vaccines, they’re increasingly turning to creative ways to incentivize people to show up and get a shot. “This is just another way to access our population,” said JoAnn Rupiper, the chief nurse of the Southern Nevada Health District, who monitored the clinic. “It might attract some people who like the novelty of it, I suppose.” The clinic opened for several hours Friday night, administering shots to about 100 people before the strip club opened for its usual business. Some people who showed up to get shots admitted they were reluctant to get the vaccine but decided to go for it if it meant visiting a strip club.
Concord: New England College in Henniker said it will require that students attending classes on campus this fall be fully vaccinated, as well as faculty and staff. “With the COVID-19 vaccine now widely available throughout the country, we will add it to our list of required vaccinations,” President Michele Perkins said in a statement Friday. “With limited exceptions, all students attending classes on campus in fall 2021 must be fully vaccinated. Faculty and staff must also be fully vaccinated by August 1, 2021 if they work on campus.” Perkins said vaccination of the on-campus community will allow more face-to-face classes, field trips, athletic competitions, and opening up its galleries and theater. In April, Dartmouth College Provost Joseph Helble announced that all students must be vaccinated before returning to campus for the fall, or must be vaccinated shortly after arrival.
Hackensack: Thirteen inmates at the Bergen County Jail remained quarantined Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus in an outbreak that infected 32 this month at the facility. Keisha McLean, a spokeswoman for the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, said none of the inmates reported severe symptoms, and that the outbreak was contained to one unit of the jail. All those affected have been assessed daily by medical staff, she said. Detainees of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who are held at the jail on River Street are not among those infected with the virus, McLean said. The facility has been the site of numerous protests in recent months by immigration activists calling for the release of ICE detainees held on civil immigration violations. Some detainees have also participated in hunger strikes in part to protest the conditions at the facility. Duane Holmes, 49, who has been held at the jail since 2019 on theft and burglary charges, said he was among the inmates who tested positive in recent days. Holmes said he was placed in the medical unit on Saturday, and spent three days there with symptoms that included body aches, nausea, coughing, headaches and a fever. He tested positive on Tuesday, a day after he was released from the medical unit, he said. His attorney, Eric Kleiner of Englewood Cliffs, has submitted a motion to the court for Holmes’ release that is awaiting a judge’s decision. Kleiner said he wants Holmes released to his family so he can get antibody treatment.
Movie theaters throughout southeastern New Mexico, including the Aviator 10 in Alamogordo, reopened with the relaxing of state health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Nicole Maxwell/Alamogordo Daily News)
Las Cruces: Southeast New Mexicans were going back to the movies as theaters throughout the region reopened with the relaxing of state health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Las Cruces-based Allen Theaters, which owns cinemas in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, announced its theaters in the Land of Enchantment were open or planned to reopen soon as counties shifted into the “turquoise” category for COVID-19 infection risk, based on state gating criteria. Carlsbad’s La Cueva 6 reopened two weeks ago, and Alamogordo’s Aviator 10 and Ruidoso’s Sierra Cinema were set to reopen Friday, said Allen Theaters Vice President Russel Allen. The turquoise category means the theaters could reopen under a 33% capacity. The Eagle 9 in Hobbs is expected to reopen June 4 as Allen said the theater was undergoing new management training. Chaves County was still in the green category, which if held steady for two weeks can shift to turquoise, and its Galaxy 8 theater is expected to reopen May 28.
People stand on a platform of the Grand Central Subway Station in New York City as the 5 train arrives. A spike in assaults and harassment incidents in the city’s transit system is threatening its ability to restore ridership to prepandemic levels. (Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP)
New York City: A spike in assaults and harassment incidents in the city’s transit system is threatening its ability to restore ridership to prepandemic levels just as it needs to start replenishing its coffers. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which carried 5.5<TH>million people on its subways every weekday before the COVID-19 outbreak, faces a harsh reality: Even with $14.5<TH>billion of federal aid, it must plug an estimated $1.5<TH>billion deficit as soon as 2024 if ridership does not hit prepandemic levels. That scenario would bring back financial strains that could have dire consequences for the future of the nation’s largest transit system. At stake is the MTA’s $51.5<TH>billion capital plan, which would improve access for the nearly 1<TH>million New Yorkers who identify as disabled, expand service to underserved neighborhoods and replace aging signals that cause delays and limit service.
Hendersonville: Henderson County is the only county in the state that is highlighted green in the Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent COVID-19 Alert System Report. Green denotes low community spread in the color-coded system; light yellow is for moderate community spread; yellow for significant community spread; orange for substantial community spread; and red, the most severe, for critical community spread. The ranking is included in the state’s most recent COVID-19 County Alert System information, which was released May 13 and includes data from April 25 to May 8. The report showed no red counties, 19 orange counties, 56 yellow counties and 24 light yellow counties. As of Friday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Henderson County was 10,245, with 160 reported deaths. The most recent vaccination numbers showed 50,574 people vaccinated with at least one dose in Henderson County, and 46,861 fully vaccinated.
Bismarck: The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Doug Burgum had the authority to close businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Somerset Court LLC and salon operator Kari Riggin in April sued Burgum and then-State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte to allow the assisted living facility’s in-house hair salon to continue providing services to residents. They asserted that Burgum’s orders went beyond his authority and denied plaintiffs their constitutional right to earn a living. Burgum in late March issued executive orders temporarily restricting or closing some businesses, including hair salons to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The order expired in early May. The Somerset Court salon continued operating into April. Riggin was cited on April 14 for failing to comply with Burgum’s order. The infraction carried a potential fine up to $1,000. The justices in a Thursday ruling said the governor did not exceed his authority, Attorney Lynn Boughey, who represents Somerset Court and Riggin, told the Bismarck Tribune “there is a strong likelihood that we will appeal to the United States Supreme Court.”
Columbus: The number of people in Ohio age 16 and older who received their initial COVID-19 vaccine jumped 33% in the week after the state announced its million-dollar incentive lottery, though an analysis showed vaccination rates lag well behind what they were in March and most of April. In the week after the May 12 announcement about the lottery, 119,394 people age 16 and older received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their first part of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations, according to Ohio Department of Health data. That’s an increase of nearly 30,000 from the 89,464 people in the same age group who received a first shot during the seven-day period from May 6 to May 12, according to an analysis of state data by the Associated Press. The analysis did not include vaccination numbers for children ages 12 to 15, who only became eligible for the vaccine the day the lottery was announced. More than 1<TH>million people have entered Ohio’s vaccine lottery. Winners must be permanent Ohio residents and have received at least one dose of the vaccine, meaning the first person drawn by the state might not be the eventual winner. The first winners will be announced Wednesday at the end of Cash Explosion, the official Ohio Lottery TV show. Adults hoping for the $1<TH>million prize and teenagers looking for full-ride college scholarships to a state school can register themselves, but parents or legal guardians must verify their eligibility.
McAlester: Convicted murderer Nicholas Alexander Davis was among death-row inmates moved off of the most restrictive unit in prison after the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma threatened to sue. The transfer turned out to be fatal. At his new unit at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Davis was exposed to the coronavirus during an outbreak in March and became ill. He died April 7 at a hospital in Lindsay from COVID-19 complications, a medical examiner concluded in a report. He was 46. He was awaiting execution for a fatal shooting inside an Oklahoma City apartment in 2004. A jury in 2007 chose death as his punishment for the murder. The U.S. Supreme Court in October rejected his final appeal. He had been held on Oklahoma State Penitentiary’s notorious H Unit. In a 2019 letter, the ACLU complained to the Corrections Department that H Unit was a dim underground bunker where condemned men were kept in permanent solitary confinement in violation of their constitutional rights. In a response, Scott Crow, then interim director, told the ACLU all qualifying death row inmates would be relocated to A Unit within 30 days.
Portland: A federal judge has determined that a group of businesses and political action committees that sought to block Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 restrictions haven’t shown enough evidence to prompt such a move. The group – which includes the Gresham restaurant Spud Monkey’s Bar and Grill, its owner Melissa Adams and political action committees Oregon Moms Union and Heart of Main Street – filed a temporary restraining order against Brown on May 5, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The order protested the “unfair restrictions” they said the governor had put on businesses and public school children. Such a filing indicated members of the group believe they are at risk of facing immediate damage from the restrictions. Judge Karin Immergut declined to issue the restraining order, saying last week the group “failed to show sufficient facts and adequate legal support” to warrant a block on Brown’s restrictions. Brown’s attorneys argued none of the plaintiffs could show they suffered specific ramifications as a result of the governor’s orders.
Erie: New data showed that Erie County’s minority populations are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at a far lower rate than the county’s white population. About 31% of the county’s African Americans age 15 and older has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, ccojmpared with 44% of the county’s white population as of May 14. “This is not a surprise at all,” said Shantel Hilliard, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Center. “We know there has been some hesitation among people of color, even going back to the initial COVID-19 testing.” To improve COVID-19 vaccination and testing rates, Erie Insurance has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Minority Community Investment Coalition. The funds will be used to improve health education in Erie’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. MCIC will partner with local community centers, like the Booker T. Washington Center, and other organizations to spread the word about various health subjects, including COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.
Newport: The city’s July Fourth fireworks show is returning this year after being canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The tradition is scheduled to take place at 9 p.m. with a rain date of July 5, Mayor Jeanne Marie Napolitano announced Thursday, according to The Newport Daily News. The event will be designed with all relevant COVID-19 safety protocols in mind. The city is also launching a fundraising campaign that will allow businesses and individuals to help pay for the display. The event is costly, not just because of the fireworks display, but also because of related public safety and traffic costs, the mayor said.
Columbia: The state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 205 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and four new deaths statewide. The agency also reported 121 probable new cases.
Sioux Falls: The South Dakota Department of Health reported Friday an additional 100 people recovered from COVID-19 in the state, while 34 more people testing positive for the coronavirus. It was the 17th day in a row in which active infections decreased in South Dakota. There were no new deaths in Friday’s report, with the statewide total remaining at 2,001. The number of people with COIVD-19 who were occupying a hospital bed rose to 61 in Friday’s report. Seventeen were receiving intensive care and five were on ventilators. The new infections included 10 Minnehaha County residents and four in Brown County. There were no new cases in Codington County. Five new positive cases were reported among long-term care residents.
Memphis: A final report from the Tennessee Department of Health concluded that multiple deficiencies existed in the Shelby County Health Department’s management of vaccine inventory, but that vaccine was stored within acceptable temperatures from receipt in the pharmacy to administration. The report recommends that ongoing assessment and corrective actions to support the vaccine program be carried out once new leadership is identified in the health department. The report, dated May 12, came less than three months after the state stripped the Shelby County Health Department of its vaccine distribution responsibilities, transferring those to the city of Memphis after the state was notified of expired doses of vaccine and an excess of unused doses. The state’s report focused on the local health department’s ability to maintain the vaccine at appropriate temperatures. It did not focus in-depth on the 2,400 wasted doses or reasons for the backlog. The report does not recommend anyone who has been vaccinated to get vaccinated again.
Austin: Under pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott, Austin and Travis County public health leaders on Friday chose to end the local mask mandate, thus avoiding a potential courtroom conflict with the governor over pandemic policy. Dr. Mark Escott, whose tenure as interim Austin-Travis County health authority began only months before the coronavirus pandemic gripped central Texas, announced in one of his last public briefings on the virus that businesses would no longer be required to make sure partially vaccinated or unvaccinated customers wear masks. “Now is not the time for us to be in conflict, now is the time for us to focus on the message,” said Escott, who is stepping away from his role as county health authority at the end of the month. “And the message is that unvaccinated people or partially vaccinated people need to wear a mask when they’re out in public. Those who are unvaccinated need to be vaccinated. This is the best protection that we have right now.” Under Abbott’s new orders, masks can only be required in Texas wherever businesses want them. But masks will continue to be required at state-supported living centers; government-owned or -operated hospitals; Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities; Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities; and county and municipal jails.
St. George: The Washington County Justice Court will be opening for some in-person hearings on Monday, and yellow-phase protocols will be in place. Utah courts have been closed for in-person hearings for 14 months since the pandemic and have done hearings through Webex. As Washington County is seeing fewer coronavirus cases, going from the red phase to yellow, the court administration is discussing how to proceed for those wanting in-person hearings. Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke said there has been one in-person hearing, roughly a month ago. It was a test run on court hearings in the yellow phase and required everyone who attended to be tested for the coronavirus and masked. The Washington County Justice Court is the only court partially opening in St. George for now. As part of the Pandemic Response Plan, The Washington County Justice Court will be encouraging remote hearings and require masks and social distancing for in-person. However, the judge can decide whether a person can enter a courtroom if they refuse to wear a mask.
Montpelier: Vermont will be distributing COVID-19 vaccines to primary care physicians, said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. The state will start with the Moderna vaccine, but will expand to Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines when enough supplies are available, he said Friday during the governor’s twice-weekly virus briefing. It’s part of the push to get 80% of eligible Vermonters vaccinated. Gov. Phil Scott said Friday that he would drop all pandemic-related restrictions early if the state reaches that vaccination rate before the July 4 full reopening plan. People no longer have to sign up for vaccines and can walk in to clinics, pharmacies and school clinics and get a shot, Smith said. The state is also renewing its effort to vaccinate vulnerable populations including the homeless and people under Department of Corrections supervision, he said.
Charlottesville: University of Virginia students living, learning or working on campus this fall will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and regular testing will be required for unvaccinated employees starting this summer, administrators said. News outlets reported that unvaccinated students won’t be allowed on campus without exemptions for health or religious reasons. Administrators said they hope it will help return campus life to something closer to how it used to be, with few distancing requirements and few online course alternatives, according to a memo to students, faculty, staff and employees. Students will be required to provide proof of vaccination no later than July 1. The Provost’s office will work with schools to develop accommodations for students or instructors with circumstances that make it impossible to return to in-person instruction, administrators said. Administrators expect any worker without approved religious or medical exemptions to get their shots and will monitor employee vaccination rates and consider whether to mandate vaccines for employees. Most employees who worked at home during the pandemic will be required to return to their offices, at least for now, administrators said.
Poulsbo: The city is implementing a mandate that requires employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by July 1, Mayor Becky Erickson said, though she noted she would not verify whether employees comply with the rule. Erickson said the policy is being implemented because city employees work side-by-side with other city employees and with the public. The policy, she said, sets an example. “I am not going to run around and look at people’s cards and make sure that they’ve done this,” she said. “The policy is if you’re a city employee, you’re dealing with the public, you should be vaccinated. That is our policy.” Dr. Patricia Kuszler, who teaches health law at the University of Washington, said it has become common in medical fields for organizations to require nurses, doctors and other providers to be vaccinated. “It makes good public health and medical sense,” she said. Public employers would need to enact a valid regulation to create a requirement, and private employers have a “fair bit” of latitude in what they can require for conditions of employment, Kuszler said, noting a new Delta Air Lines policy that requires new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Requirements for allowing exemptions for those who are immunosuppressed or for religious or philosophical reasons typically exist for public and private employers, she said.
Short Gap: A classroom at Frankfort High School is now in quarantine after two students tested positive for the coronavirus. In the release from Mineral County Schools superintendent Troy Ravenscroft, two or more confirmed cases among students and/or adults from separate households but in the same classroom constitute an outbreak. Mineral County has 12 students who have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 24 students and one adult in quarantine. Ravenscroft said despite Gov. Jim Justice’s lifting of outdoor mask requirements and his plan to lift indoor requirements by June 20, Mineral County Schools will continue to require masks and social distancing through the end of the school year.
Madison: The state might not reach herd immunity from COVID-19 until the fall if vaccination rates continue to trend downward, said Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. She said earlier this spring that 70% of Wisconsin’s population would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, and that the state could reach that benchmark by July. But vaccination rates have slowed dramatically since then. The health department was seeing daily increases of 1% to 2% in the number of shots administered during the early days of the vaccine rollout in January, February and March, Van Dijk told the Associated Press in an interview last week. Now the department is seeing a 1% increase every week, she said. At this rate it, likely will be fall before the state reaches the 70% mark, she said. As of Thursday, 40% of the state’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated.
Tourists watch Old Faithful erupt at Yellowstone National Park in April, a month that saw record visitation to the park. (Photo: Kayla Renie/Jackson Hole News & Guide via AP)
Jackson: Visitation at Yellowstone National Park last month has increased by 40% compared to 2019, an increase of about 19,000 people and a record for the month, park officials said. The park was temporarily closed in April 2020 as the National Park Service determined how to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. Once the park reopened, visitation increased and records were set. Superintendent Cam Sholly predicted the park would be busier early this year based on the inability of tourists to travel internationally as demand for outdoor recreation increased last year, The Billings Gazette reported Friday. The previous high visitation for April was in 2016, when more than 59,000 people visited Yellowstone, officials said.
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