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Anchorage: The state-run psychiatric hospital has said the facility will not admit any new patients for two weeks after four patients tested positive for the coronavirus. The Alaska Psychiatric Institute on Friday said the patients who were infected will be isolated in a separate unit away from other patients and treated by fewer staff to reduce the risk of further spread of the virus. The patients will be required to wear masks, while staff who treat them will wear masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns. It was not immediately clear when the patients received the positive test results or if they had virus symptoms. Eight people connected with the psychiatric facility, including five patients and three staff members, have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic. Increasing confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, and particularly in Anchorage, have increased the difficulty of keeping out the virus, CEO Scott York said.
Phoenix: State law requires that the School Facilities Board inspect all district school buildings once every five years for building deficiencies and conduct preventive maintenance inspections at 20 randomly selected districts every 30 months. But Arizona hasn’t inspected any school buildings since the COVID-19 pandemic started some seven months ago. The agency previously inspected just one school for building deficiencies in three years, even though state law requires regular inspections. The lack of action from the state leaves districts largely to fend for themselves in handling building ventilation issues, and hundreds of repairs are needed in schools’ aging systems across Arizona. Many of the state’s school buildings are aging, with antiquated HVAC systems that can’t function with modern filters that do a better job at preventing virus spread.
Little Rock: A state lawmaker running for reelection is isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus, she said, becoming the sixth infected Republican in the Legislature. Rep. Charlene Fite, a Van Buren Republican, revealed the positive test result Saturday in a Facebook post and said she was experiencing mild symptoms. Fite’s disclosure came three days after two other lawmakers, state Sen. Missy Irvin and state Rep. Joe Cloud, tested positive for the coronavirus. Legislative leaders revealed the day before positive test results for three other state lawmakers: Sen. Terry Rice and state Reps. Michelle Gray and Stu Smith. All of the infected are Republicans. Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he was scaling back his public events and meetings after being exposed to someone with the virus. In an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, he said the state’s hospitalization space “is tight.”
Los Angeles: Financially battered restaurants filed government claims Monday to recover more than $100 million in fees for liquor and health permits and tourism charges they say were assessed even though their businesses were shuttered or only partially operating under long-running coronavirus orders. Few industries have been hit as hard during the pandemic as restaurants, which in California were ordered closed, reopened, closed for a second time and then allowed to welcome customers again, with restrictions. Those rules have limited some eateries to takeout and delivery service or outdoor-only dining. Thousands of restaurants have closed permanently. Owners say one thing has remained constant amid the turmoil: State and county governments have continued to charge fees for liquor licenses, health permits and tourism assessments. The owners contend they have been being unjustly punished for following the law.
Denver: A health agency told Gov. Jared Polis he does not need to quarantine after meeting with Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, the governor’s office said Sunday. The Tri-County Health Department, which oversees Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, told Polis there is no risk of him catching the virus after he appeared with Coffman at an outdoor news conference Oct. 15, the governor’s office said. Coffman, a Republican who previously represented a suburban Denver district in Congress for five terms, announced his diagnosis Sunday on Twitter. Coffman’s diagnosis came on the same day Colorado launched a statewide COVID-19 exposure notification system, in partnership with Google and Apple, that allows people to get smartphone notifications if someone they were near has tested positive for the virus.
Cheshire: A Cheshire Police Department employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting a deep cleaning of the building, officials said Saturday. Town police also canceled fingerprinting for jobs and pistol permits at the police station for the rest of the day. Officials did not disclose whether the department employee is a police officer. Connecticut on Friday reported a 2.9% positive test rate for the coronavirus, nearly as high as the 3% rate on Tuesday, the highest in four months. More than 230 people were hospitalized, also the highest number in four months. Since the pandemic began, more than 66,000 people in the state have tested positive, and more than 4,500 have died.
Wilmington: The New Castle County Council plans to discuss and vote on a plan to purchase a Sheraton hotel and convert it into an emergency homeless shelter. The Sheraton Wilmington South is up for auction beginning Monday, according to a web listing. Bidding was to start at $5.5 million. The auction ends Wednesday. The county wants to use funding from the more than $190 million it has in “reserve allocation” from the more than $322 million it received in federal coronavirus relief funding. The county, according to an agenda posted for an upcoming meeting Tuesday night, plans to purchase the hotel and operate it as “emergency shelter and temporary housing for our most vulnerable residents, and others as deemed necessary by the Department of Community Services, during and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
District of Columbia
Washington: Nearly 15,000 people have left D.C. since the start of the pandemic, according to an analysis based on U.S. Postal Service address change requests, WUSA-TV reports. But plenty of people are moving within the area, too, keeping real estate hot. Properties in Capitol Hill Southeast sell quickly. Real estate agent Peter Grimm said the turnaround time is usually less than a week. Grimm, who has sold properties in the neighborhood for more than a decade, describes the current market as, “dynamic, robust.” According to data collected by Long and Foster, the number of units sold in Capitol Hill Southeast nearly tripled this September compared to 2019 – an increase of 196%. Grimm said he thinks all that activity is being driven by low interest rates and a quest for more space. “More are moving around inside town,” Grimm said.
Miami Beach: A city commissioner said Sunday that he tested positive for COVID-19, and two other commissioners who appeared at a campaign event with him Friday stopped campaigning to get tested. Everyone who attended Friday’s event at the Ocean Drive drag bar Palace wore masks, the Miami Herald reports. Commissioner David Richardson said in a statement that he began feeling “mild” symptoms Saturday evening, hours after hosting a food distribution event outside the South Shore Community Center in Miami Beach. Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, who is running for Miami-Dade County mayor, and Eileen Higgins, who is seeking reelection to the commission, said they were tested at the Hard Rock Stadium site Sunday. Initial results were negative, but they said they will remain isolated until more reliable “PCR” tests come back Tuesday. Saturday’s food distribution event was no-contact, the Herald reports.
Cairo: This south Georgia town will turn 150 in the next few days, but the COVID-19 pandemic means there won’t be much of a party. Cairo was granted its town charter Oct. 28, 1870. The Thomasville Times-Enterprise reports Mayor Howard Thrower is quashing hopes of a celebration because of fear of spreading illness. “I’ve had a call or two about a few people wanting to have some big celebrations, which we just can’t do,” Thrower said at a recent council meeting. Instead, the City Council is likely to note the occasion with only a proclamation. Then-Postmaster W.J. Hall was given the choice to name the new town Miller Station or Cairo. He chose the latter. “There’s no reason given (for why the name Cairo was chosen) in any of the things that I’ve seen,” said Don Nickerson, director of the Grady County Museum and History Center.
Honolulu: The only public school on Lanai moved to distance learning amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases on the island. The state Department of Education announced the immediate changeover last week for the 570 students enrolled at Lanai High and Elementary School, Hawaii News Now reports. Education department officials said there were no confirmed infections linked to the K-12 campus on the island of fewer than 3,000 residents. The school had provided blended learning, a mix of in-person and distance learning, to students in kindergarten through fifth grade and complete distance learning for secondary grades. The decision was made amid growing concern about a COVID-19 outbreak on Lanai. Officials at the island’s medical facilities said Thursday there were 20 cases, just a day after reporting the first positive tests in the community. State and county officials said the island’s health system is not equipped to handle a surge in virus patients.
Boise: Idaho Department of Labor officials say the state’s unemployment claims dropped slightly for a 24th week in a row. Labor officials said Thursday that the number of people filing for continued unemployment benefits fell by 2% to just over 8,200 people for the week ending Oct. 17. New unemployment claims also dropped by just 1% for the week, with nearly 3,200 new claims. So far more more than $895 million in benefits has been paid out to Idaho residents laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department paid out $5.8 million of that total during the week ending Oct. 17, compared to about $6.3 million during the previous week.
Chicago: The state agency responsible for investigating child abuse has updated its system for accepting online reports of neglect and abuse. Leaders of the Department of Children and Family Services said the changes include clearer instructions and fewer necessary clicks. “The earlier suspected abuse or neglect is reported, the earlier we can connect the family to services and supports they need to keep their children safely at home,” Acting Director Marc Smith said in a statement. The updated system also puts reports of abuse or neglect directly into the agency’s case management system. Officials said that can improve investigators’ efficiency. Smith said making online reporting easier is critical during the coronavirus pandemic because children are less likely to be seen by adults outside their home. Reports to the agency have increased since schools resumed this fall, but totals for September still were lower than the same month last year, he said.
Indianapolis: Trick-or-treating with the governor has been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Following advice from Indiana’s health commissioner, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced last week that he and his wife, Janet, won’t host Halloween festivities at the Governor’s Residence. “In the interest of safety, unfortunately – I have mixed feelings about this – we’re not going to host Halloween this year at the (Governor’s) Residence,” Holcomb said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed … this is one of the fun things we get to do with the community.” The Republican governor and Statehouse staffers annually dress in Indiana-related costumes for Halloween to pass out candy and lead children’s activities at the governor’s official home on the north side of Indianapolis. Holcomb said his “Stranger Things” costume – in recognition of the Netflix horror series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana – will have to wait until next year.
Des Moines: Record numbers of people are being treated for COVID-19 in the state’s hospitals as the coronavirus spreads across Iowa, according to statistics released Monday. The number of people hospitalized with the virus increased to 561 Monday, and a 14-county area of southeast Iowa reported record hospital admissions, patients in hospitals and patients in intensive care units. State data shows only one of Iowa’s 99 counties has a 14-day positivity rate under 5%, a rate at which many public health officials recommend mitigation such as mask-wearing, social distancing and crowd limit requirements. Seventeen counties have a rate above 15%. Gov. Kim Reynolds has rejected mask mandates and lifted other measures intended to slow the virus. Reynolds typically holds a weekly news conference focused on the pandemic, but she hasn’t held such a meeting for more than two weeks.
Lawrence: The city is looking for ways to shelter more than 100 homeless people who are sleeping outside as its shelter operates at reduced capacity in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports commissioners could consider as soon as Nov. 3 whether to allow schools, event centers, recreation centers and other such buildings to house temporary overnight homeless shelters. Currently, only churches and other religious organizations can operate temporary shelters without a permit. The commission has already approved increasing the occupancy for temporary shelters from 15 to 40. The discussions come after the Lawrence Community Shelter reduced its capacity from 125 to 40 people amid the pandemic. That has contributed to more people camping near the Kansas River and on city parkland.
Frankfort: The state has shattered a weekly record for the number of positive coronavirus cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said Sunday. The 9,335 confirmed cases in the past week broke the mark during the pandemic of 7,675 set during the week of Oct. 5-11, Beshear said in a statement. In addition, at least 1,462 cases were reported Sunday, a record for that day of the week, the statement said. “We must do better,” Beshear said. He urged Kentucky residents to wear masks, wash hands frequently, limit gatherings and travel, and stay at least 6 feet apart to protect themselves and others from contracting the virus. “Let’s all do these simple things to protect each other,” he said. Beshear said he plans to make recommendations soon for counties that have 25 or more average daily cases per 100,000 residents. The statement said at least 1,407 people have died in Kentucky from the virus, including three deaths reported Sunday.
Baton Rouge: Damage from hurricanes Laura and Delta has prompted the state to extend the deadline for fisheries’ workers and businesses to apply for help under a coronavirus pandemic program. Instead of ending Monday, the application period will now last through Nov. 23, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said in a news release. Secretary Jack Montoucet said the extension will give those people more time to repair and get services to their homes and to take care of their families’ immediate needs. The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission has $14.6 million in federal coronavirus relief money for Louisiana’s fishing industry. Applications must be submitted online. The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission will send payments to applicants who qualify.
Portland: The state has posted more than 50 new coronavirus cases on back-to-back days for the first time since May. The state’s total number of reported cases of coronavirus has increased by 58, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday. The state reported 59 new cases Sunday. The last time the state had consecutive case counts of more than 50 was May 21 and 22. The state topped 60 reported cases on both of those days. This week’s increase in cases comes as the state is seeking to squelch an outbreak based around a church in the Waldo County town of Brooks. State education officials have advised more caution in schools in Waldo as a result of the outbreak, which has sickened dozens. The new cases reported Monday bring the total reported coronavirus cases in Maine to 6,254, while the number of deaths remained at 146, Maine CDC said.
Cambridge: A rural county has closed its schools amid a spike in coronavirus cases, becoming the first county in the state to scale back learning in classrooms after officials pushed schools to reopen. As of Friday, Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore had the highest number of confirmed new cases per 100,000 population during the past seven days, data collected by the Washington Post shows. “We were doing well and moving slowly,” Dorchester County School Superintendent W. David Bromwell said. But the sudden surge put the brakes on the county’s plan last week when it announced school building closures Wednesday. Schools and health officials noted that the confirmed virus cases haven’t spread across schools and said the closures were a safety measure to prevent an outbreak in schools. “The scary part is how quickly it flipped, and it seemed to be growing exponentially,” Bromwell said.
Marblehead: A high school will shift to fully remote learning after students attended a house party, where they didn’t wear masks and shared drinks, the district’s superintendent said Sunday. Marblehead police responded to a house party Friday with young people who were not social distancing or wearing face coverings while sharing drinks and “generally ignoring” COVID-19 rules, Superintendent John Buckey said in a letter to families. “I understand young people’s desire to be together, as far away from adults as possible. In choosing to ignore the rules set down by the governor and our community in the pandemic, however, we are not just endangering individuals … we are also potentially harming the community at large,” Buckey wrote. Marblehead High School students will learn remotely until at least Nov. 6, Buckey said. The hybrid learning model could restart Nov. 9 if no coronavirus cases are identified during that time, he said.
Detroit: Microsoft will host a virtual open house designed to address the needs of teachers, other educators, students and families navigating remote learning. The free event is scheduled Nov. 7 and offers more than 30 workshops, seminars and presentations. Students, educators and parents from the Detroit area are expected to join participants from across the U.S., Canada and Europe. Sessions will cover educational and accessibility tools to create an inclusive classroom, new ways for effective virtual communication, tips for maintaining school and work and life balance, and guides for improving physical and mental health during remote learning. Most schools across the United States shut down in March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many districts are holding virtual, in-person or a hybrid version of virtual and classroom instruction for the fall semester. Registration is required.
Minneapolis: A health care system in the city says the coronavirus pandemic has caused deep operating losses, forcing it to close 16 clinics and reduce its workforce by 900 employees. Fairview Health also plans to shut down Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, which had been handling COVID-19 patients, and transfer that care to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Inpatient mental health care will continue at the downtown St. Paul hospital at least through 2021. St. Joseph’s Hospital will handle coronavirus patients but close its emergency room by year’s end, and specialties such as neurology and bariatrics will be relocated, the Star Tribune reports. Fairview had no room at Bethesda in May with 150 COVID-19 patients spread across its hospitals. But it says since then it has averaged fewer than 50 patients per day at Bethesda and about 70 systemwide. Fairview says its bracing for a $250 million operating loss this year that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Jackson: The Mississippi Department of Health reported 675 new coronavirus cases over the weekend and eight coronavirus-related deaths. Some 228 of those new cases were reported Saturday and 447 on Sunday, numbers that reflect case counts that are often lower on weekends. According to state records, the total number of positive cases in Mississippi stands at 115,088. The total number of deaths is 3,255. As of Friday, the latest information available, 569 people were hospitalized with confirmed infections, 154 in the ICU and 65 on ventilators. Those hospitalization figures were slightly down from earlier in the week but nevertheless substantially higher than the start of the month. The number of long-term care facility outbreaks stands at 133. The number of cases reported at long-term care facilities is 6,705 since the start of the pandemic. The number of deaths in long-term care facilities is 1,304, according to numbers reported Sunday.
St. Louis: The state agency that handles unemployment claims saw its staffing slashed by nearly 40% in recent years before this spring’s surge in claims amid the coronavirus pandemic strained the system. Emails obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch through a Sunshine request show that Missouri’s unemployment office was overwhelmed by tens of thousands of daily phone calls, scrambled to get its online system back up after outages and was forced to pull in workers from other departments to handle the volume. The emails among top officials at the Missouri Division of Employment Security show that at least 120,000 calls went unanswered on each of two days in April. Budget summaries show that staffing at the Division of Employment Security fell to 398 full-time workers last year from 645 in 2013.
Great Falls: The state reported 622 new cases of COVID-19 early Monday, pushing the statewide total past the 28,000 mark and now listing more than 300 deaths related to the coronavirus. There are now 28,501 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in the Treasure State. Of those, 18,343 are recovered, and 9,855 remain active, according to the state’s online COVID-19 tracker. There have been 303 coronavirus-related deaths in Montana since the pandemic began, six more than reported Sunday. Montana has 360 people who remain hospitalized out of 1,237 total hospitalizations.
Omaha: Low-income residents who qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage will have to work, volunteer, take classes or get job training if they want access to certain health care services starting in 2022, state officials said last week. Gov. Pete Ricketts said the federal government has approved Nebraska’s request to impose additional requirements on people who want coverage for vision or dental services or over-the-counter drugs. Nebraska submitted a two-tiered proposal to the federal government, with a prime plan that includes those extra services a basic plan that doesn’t. The basic plan offers coverage for physical and behavioral health care services and prescription drugs. Recipients will also have to meet with a health care provider for a wellness assessment in 2021. People who are 19 or 20 years old, pregnant or considered medically frail will get prime coverage without having to meet the additional requirements.
Carson City: State health officials on Sunday reported nearly 900 new COVID-19 cases with five additional deaths. The 891 additional cases increased the state’s totals to 95,703 cases and 1,748 deaths. Nevada Department of Health and Human Services officials say 735 of the new cases were in Clark County along with one of the five deaths. The state’s largest county, which includes Las Vegas, also has had nearly 79,000 of Nevada’s cases and almost 1,500 of its deaths. State health officials on Saturday reported 1,146 new coronavirus cases. The last time Nevada reported more than 1,000 cases in a single day was Aug. 14 with 1,099. Nevada also reported on Sunday a 14-day test positivity rate of 10% in the previous 24-hour period. Sept. 1 was the last time the state’s positivity rate was at or above 10%.
Concord: Hockey and other indoor ice arena activities can resume in the state starting Oct. 30, but participants and staff will have to be tested for COVID-19, Gov. Chris Sununu said. The state paused all hockey activities at indoor rinks for two weeks following positive tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the past two months. Guidance for reopening rinks released Friday says all volunteers, coaches and staff, referees, and athletes in both youth and adult leagues must be tested at least once by Nov. 6 “to limit early re-introduction of COVID-19.” State officials are calling for all staff, volunteers and athletes to wear face coverings at all times when indoors and not participating in sports. Parents and other spectators must also wear face coverings when inside a facility. When outside, face coverings should be worn when people cannot socially distance.
Trenton: Gov. Phil Murphy has once again signed an executive order to extend the state’s public health emergency, citing a steep increase in coronavirus cases in recent days. The extension was announced Saturday as the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose from about 770 cases Oct. 9 to almost 1,090 cases Oct. 23. The overall total of cases in New Jersey is more than 227,000. On Friday, 874 people were hospitalized, the highest daily number since mid-July. Overall, more than 16,000 people have died of the virus in New Jersey. Public health emergencies expire every 30 days unless renewed. The first executive order declaring an emergency in the state was signed March 9. The latest extension will not reverse any of the gradual reopening steps the state has taken.
Albuquerque: If COVID-19 continues to spread in the state as it has in recent weeks, officials with three of the largest health care systems in New Mexico warned Monday that hospitals and health care workers will not be able to keep up. Despite having some of the most restrictive public health requirements since the start of the pandemic, New Mexico has seen three record-setting days for daily COVID-19 case totals in just over a week. Hospitalizations also have skyrocketed, with nearly 290 people being treated around the state, marking a fourfold increase over the past month. Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said his organization is seeing its highest volume of patients since the pandemic began. Of the several dozen COVID-19 patients at Presbyterian, about 30% are being treated in intensive care units.
Elmira: As the COVID-19 outbreak at the Elmira Correctional Facility hits 459 cases, the state has been using rapid tests and pursuing contact tracing to limit the coronavirus’ spread both inside and outside the prison walls, state officials said Monday. The comments came after the Southern Tier prison has become the hardest-hit site within the state correctional system, which was reporting about 700 active cases among its more than 36,000 inmates, according to state officials and state data. The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision last week closed the Elmira prison facility to visitors in response to the outbreak. About 70% of the entire prison system’s population had been tested as of Monday, with the remaining 30% expected to be tested by the end of November, said Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Raleigh: Private schools in the state have reported having more coronavirus clusters than public schools have. The Raleigh News & Observer reports there were 14 active coronavirus clusters at private K-12 schools across the state as of Monday. There were 11 active clusters at K-12 public schools. No deaths have been reported from the active clusters. The information came from the Department of Health and Human Services. North Carolina has more than 2,500 public schools and 751 private schools. A majority of public schools started the school year online. Many private schools opted for full-time, in-person classes. The largest reported cluster at a private school is at Wayne Christian School in Goldsboro. It has 35 reported cases. The largest cluster at a public school is North Wilkes High School in Wilkes County. It has 20 reported cases.
Bismarck: Statistics released Monday by the North Dakota Department of Health show that hospitalizations from complications due to COVID-19 went up by nine in the past day. The total number of people requiring treatment in medical facilities stood at 173, five days after the all-time high of 183. According to data released Sunday, the state had 28 staffed intensive care unit beds and 282 staffed inpatient beds available. The update showed 527 new virus cases from 6,660 tests, a daily positivity rate of 8.28%. It’s the first time cases have dipped below 600 since last Wednesday, the day before a record total of 1,038 daily positives. A total of 38,241 people have become infected since the start of the pandemic. There were five deaths in the last day, lifting the death toll to 461. North Dakota continues to rank first in the country for new cases per capita in the past two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Cincinnati: The state has topped 200,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March. The Ohio Department of Health reported 2,116 new cases of coronavirus in the state Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 200,231. There were 11 deaths reported, increasing the state’s coronavirus death toll to 5,217. Cases and deaths are reported days or even weeks after someone gets sick or dies. Hospitalizations increased by 140, bringing the total number to 18,235. Another 37 patients admitted to intensive care units were reported Monday. There have been 3,751 Ohioans total in ICUs. Ohio reported a record number of COVID-19 cases Saturday with an additional 2,858 new cases. “We’re seeing in Ohio a huge increase in cases – much more than we saw in the spring and summer,” Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted Monday. “Ohioans rallied together two other times, and I’m asking them to rally again now.”
Oklahoma City: State health officials reported 1,051 new cases Sunday of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a day after a one-day record increase was set and two days after Gov. Kevin Stitt extended a state of emergency because of the pandemic. The new cases reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health raised the total to 116,736 cases since the start of the pandemic. State COVID-19 hospitalizatons were down sharply Sunday, down by 121 cases to 803. Active cases were up by 206 to 15,946. Four new fatalities raised the Oklahoma death toll for the outbreak to 1,249. The true number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Salem: Businesses argue they’re being stigmatized by a state reporting system they describe as unfair and misleading. State health officials say they’re following their long-used reporting system, but its impact is magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic’s attention. The state’s workplace outbreak numbers do not actually tell the public how many employees are sick. For each business, they also include employees’ family members, roommates or other close contacts of the workers who tested positive. By the Oregon Health Authority’s methodology, the same person is counted as an employee of one business, the spouse of someone at another business and the parent of a child at a day care center. OHA Deputy State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Jeanne said the agency’s tracking and reporting of workplace outbreaks is the department’s standard practice for infectious diseases. But the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a unique spotlight to it.
Harrisburg: A growing majority of people contracting the coronavirus in the state are not answering basic questions that would help case investigators trace the source of the infections, Pennsylvania health officials said Monday. The rising lack of cooperation with case investigators comes as Pennsylvania’s positivity rate, number of infections and coronavirus-related hospitalizations are on the rise. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a news conference that 71% of people interviewed in the week of Oct. 11-17 did not completely answer questions as to whether they frequented a business or attended a mass gathering in the 14 days before their symptoms showed up. “I cannot stress how critical this information is and how important it is for people to participate fully in the case investigation process and the contact tracing process,” Levine said.
Providence: There were 800 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and seven additional virus-related death over the past three days, the Rhode Island Department of Health said Monday. In addition to the 800 cases confirmed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the state added 106 cases to previous days’ totals and has now recorded more than 31,000 known cases since the pandemic began. The seven deaths brought the total number of fatalities to 1,184. The department does not update on weekends. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from about 1.8% on Oct. 11 to more than 3.1% on Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases over the past two weeks is also rising, going from more than 197 on Oct. 11 to more than 265 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins.
Columbia: The state’s business agency has approved more than 90% of the more than 800 events that planned to attract at least 250 people since the governor removed the coronavirus-related ban on the gatherings in early August. While the state Commerce Department reviews the events and approves them if they include proper social distancing plans and mask rules, it doesn’t follow up to make sure events follow their own guidelines. That’s left to local law enforcement. Meanwhile, South Carolina’s COVID-19 cases are creeping back toward a point not seen since Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the ban on large gatherings. The state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases was more than 950. It has been below 1,000 new cases since mid-August other than a few brief spikes as many schools returned in September. The seven-day average for daily COVID-19 deaths has also been climbing from 12 to 22 over the past 10 days.
Sioux Falls: State health officials on Monday reported 11 hospitalizations in the past day due to the coronavirus, boosting the total number of patients in medical facilities to a record 377. The update showed 538 new cases of COVID-19, following two straight days in which the state topped 1,000 positive tests. A total of 38,504 people in South Dakota have been diagnosed with the virus since the start of the pandemic. The number of fatalities remained at 375 with no new deaths reported Monday. State Department of Health figures show that more than 35% of inpatient hospital beds are available statewide, as well as nearly 32% of intensive care unit beds. Statistics compiled Sunday by Johns Hopkins University researchers show that South Dakota ranks second in the country behind North Dakota in the number of new cases per capita in the past two weeks.
Nashville: During the final presidential debate at Belmont University on Thursday night, President Donald Trump said the United States is “rounding a corner” on coronavirus. But Tennessee is not. In reality, the state is accelerating toward a dangerous curve. The coronavirus continued to escalate statewide last week, as Tennessee marches toward a third major spike of the virus. The average number of new infections per day is now 50% higher than it was at the start of the month. The state’s daily test positivity rate crept above 10% – the White House’s threshold for a “red zone” state – three days in a row. Tennessee recorded its 3,000th death from the virus Wednesday, and two days later it set new records for infections, 3,606, and deaths, 65, in one day. Hospitalizations also increased to heights never seen before. Nashville’s hospitals, normally competitors, issued a joint statement warning about their dwindling capacity for new patients.
Houston: In car lines that can stretch half a mile, workers who lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic and other needy people receive staggering amounts of food distributed by the Houston Food Bank. On some days, the hundreds of sites supplied by the country’s largest food bank collectively get 1 million pounds. Distributions by the Houston Food Bank now average about 800,000 pounds daily after reaching the unprecedented 1 million pound mark for the first time in the spring, a level that the organization still delivers periodically. Before the coronavirus struck, the group’s average daily distribution was 450,000 pounds, said Houston Food Bank President Brian Greene. Then workers in Houston and millions around the country were suddenly thrown out of work and forced to rely on the handouts.
Salt Lake City: State lawmakers have added safety precautions in preparation to hold in person the 2021 legislative session, which is set to begin in January. House of Representatives and Senate leaders plan to implement daily, rapid testing for lawmakers and staffers physically in the chambers during the 45-day session, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The state Health Department would administer the tests. Senate President Stuart Adams said there is still some concern despite adding plexiglass dividers between each desk. The Republican said lawmakers and staff will also have the option to work virtually. Studies show rapid DNA testing is not as accurate as standard COVID-19 tests, and can miss a high number of infections. However, when given day in and day out, they can also help prevent large outbreaks.
Colchester: An outbreak of the coronavirus at St. Michael’s College has grown to 26 cases on campus. College leaders met with the Health Department on Sunday to discuss the next steps to control the outbreak, WCAX-TV reports. President Lorraine Sterritt sent a letter to students saying health officials indicate the college has a good chance of containing and managing the cases, but only if everyone strictly follows the college’s policies. The 26 people are in isolation, and 137 students who have been identified as contacts are now in quarantine, Sterritt said. The Health Department is continuing to do contact tracing and has told the college to expect more positive cases. Through Nov. 1, all classes are now being held online, dining is takeout only, and there will be no in-person activities. All students are asked to stay on campus, and those who commute are asked not to come to the school.
Falls Church: Enacting restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is more important than removing them to get the economy going, according to a majority of Virginia voters polled this month. The poll conducted by Hampton University and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 62% think the biggest priority for their community is to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, even if it hurts the economy, while 35% said removing restrictions to help the economy, even if more people get the virus, is the bigger priority. Like other states, Virginia has debated the degree to which the economy and society should be open as the pandemic stretches on, and the coronavirus response has been a key issue in the presidential campaign. In Virginia, the politics of that debate have featured frequent barbs from President Donald Trump directed at Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
Seattle: A man has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for carrying out a scheme to defraud several COVID-19 relief programs, according to federal prosecutors. Baoke Zhang, 35, of Issaquah, Washington, pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Seattle. He admitted he submitted four fake applications to three different lenders for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides payroll help to small businesses, prosecutors said. To support the loan applications, Zhang used fake entities for which he created fake payroll and tax records, prosecutors said. Zhang also sent in fake applications to two nonprofit organizations that give grants to restaurant workers suffering economic hardship due to the pandemic. In total, Zhang admitted to attempting to defraud the various COVID-19 relief programs of more than $550,000, prosecutors said.
Beckley: A festival that celebrates the Rocket Boys will be held online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Rocket Boys Festival will be livestreamed Tuesday through Thursday. According to the festival’s Facebook page, author and former NASA engineer Homer Hickam is scheduled to attend. Festival director Scott Hill said the virtual event will give fans worldwide a chance to learn more about Hickam and his story. The festival celebrates the three years from 1957 to 1960 when Hickam and his friends launched rockets while in high school. They eventually won a national science fair. Hickam’s novel, “Rocket Boys,” is about those experiences and growing up in the McDowell County community of Coalwood. The book was adapted into the 1999 movie “October Sky.” The festival originated in Coalwood in 1999, then moved to Beckley in 2012.
Madison: State health officials reported Monday that more than 200,000 people have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March, a disturbing milestone as the virus continues to surge unabated across Wisconsin. The Department of Health Services reported 2,883 newly confirmed cases Monday. While that’s the lowest daily tally since Oct. 11, it still brought the overall case count to 201,049. The agency tweeted that it took more than seven months to reach 100,000 cases in Wisconsin and just 36 days to double that figure. The department also reported that the virus was a factor in 10 more deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 1,788. In a bit of good news, only about 1% of all those infected have died. As of Sunday, the state was fourth in the nation in per capita cases over the past two weeks with about 824 cases per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Casper: A coal firm has announced plans to shrink thermal coal operations by about 50%, shifting toward metallurgical coal and steel production. Arch Resources Inc. announced Thursday during an investor meeting that its Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines in the Powder River Basin are expected to reduce thermal coal production over the next three years, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Company officials also reported a net loss of $191.5 million in the third quarter and a $163 million non-cash write-down of assets at “several of its legacy thermal operations,” not including Black Thunder coal firm. The demand for coal has decreased in recent years with the expansion of affordable natural gas and renewable energy. As a result, mines across the state have seen increasing unemployment and state revenue declines, trends that are only further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports