Montgomery: The coronavirus outbreak is headed in a "bad direction," the head of the Alabama Hospital Association said Wednesday, as the state reached a new high for people hospitalized with COVID-19 and a new low for available intensive care beds. "I'm worried," said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the state Hospital Association. "I just think things are trending in a very, very bad direction." On Wednesday, 1,110 people were hospitalized because of the coronavirus across the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. That is the highest number since the pandemic began. Williamson said 88% of ICU beds are full, leaving 202 available statewide. Hospitals are managing for now, but Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said when confirmed cases rise, the number of hospitalizations typically rises about two weeks later.
Sitka: All residents of the city will be offered free coronavirus screening tests to help prevent the spread of the illness. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium announced it will provide tests to everyone living in Sitka regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms, The Daily Sitka Sentinel reports. Free testing by self-swab nasal collection will be available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at a drive-up testing center, the health consortium said. People who are walking or on bicycles are also welcome, said Maegan Bosak, consortium marketing and communications director. The testing has been funded through a grant from the U.S. Indian Health Service. The consortium plans to offer additional testing in other Southeast Alaska communities beginning later this month, including Wrangell and Juneau. Free testing of asymptomatic individuals in Juneau will be limited to tribal beneficiaries, the consortium said.
Glendale: One of the nation's coronavirus hot spots got a sliver a good news Wednesday when an Arizona State University researcher and the White House's coronavirus response coordinator both said an exponential rise in the percentage of people testing positive for the virus in the state appears to have leveled off. Dr. Joshua LaBaer of ASU's Biodesign Institute tempered the news with a warning that the state's tally of new daily cases remains unsustainable, although it shows a sign of leveling off. He said Arizona is steadily seeing about 3,500 new cases a day, and hospitals are still admitting more patients than they're discharging. Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the White House response, said the seven-day average for positive tests appears to no longer be rising, an "encouraging" development. The rate a month ago was less than 10%, and now it is above 20%.
Little Rock: The state on Wednesday reported its second-highest increase in new confirmed coronavirus cases and four more deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. The Department of Health said at least 25,246 people have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 734 cases since Tuesday. Wednesday's one-day increase was the highest since Arkansas reported 878 new confirmed cases last Thursday. Arkansas' cases are dramatically higher since the state began allowing businesses that closed because of the pandemic to reopen in May. Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith also said a summer camp had shut down after campers and staff had tested positive for the virus. A Health Department spokeswoman said Camp Ozark in Mt. Ida informed the department of at least three people from out of state who had tested positive.
Sacramento: Surging coronavirus cases in the state prompted a warning Wednesday from the nation's most populous county of a possible delay to classroom instruction in public schools next month - a setback Gov. Gavin Newsom said he hopes to avoid by convincing more people to wear face coverings and stay away from gatherings. Los Angeles County public health officials say, on average, more than 10% of people tested for the virus end up having it, a rate not seen since late April. Given the high number of cases, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said local school officials should prepare for delaying a return to classroom instruction. "With the uncertainty that we face right now in our county, everyone needs to have sort of a Plan B around the reopening," she said. "You absolutely would not want to open a sector when you thought the result of reopening could be an explosion of outbreaks within that sector."
Aurora: Health officials who oversee a large swath of suburban Denver decided Wednesday to impose a mask-wearing requirement to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but jurisdictions will be allowed to opt out of the order. The Tri-County Health Department's Board of Health voted 5-4 on the mask order, which will apply to Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties, the Aurora Sentinel reports. "Everybody should be wearing a mask across the Tri-County area," said Adams County representative Julie Mullica, an infectious disease expert who voted for the order. Board of Health members sparred mostly over the optics of unelected representatives imposing a sweeping and divisive rule on a diverse region. Aurora, Colorado's third-largest city, declined to impose a mask mandate in May. But Mayor Mike Coffman has called for one. The board's decision came during a concerning uptick in coronavirus cases in the three counties, home to 1.4 million people.
Hartford: The state has so far built up a stockpile of personal protective equipment that can last about 60 or 70 days, with plans to eventually have enough for 90 days in case there is a second wave of the coronavirus, Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday. While it's the responsibility of nursing homes and businesses to secure their own PPE, the state has been a "backstop" for those entities during the pandemic. Lamont said the state "did a lot of backstopping" over the past few months and is now trying to replenish its stock of gloves, masks, gowns and other protective equipment. "We are now building up our stockpile again," Lamont said during an event in Hartford. "As you know, it's getting a little competitive out there, given what's going on in the other states." Last week, Josh Geballe, Lamont's chief operating officer, said the state has been able to secure new orders with key suppliers that were reliable during the past several months.
Georgetown: Delaware's prisons are seeing that coronavirus isn't going away. After fighting back a large outbreak at the state's largest prison earlier this year - a fight that saw seven prisoners die from the coronavirus - the prison system is now battling an outbreak that will likely infect even more at Delaware's southernmost prison. On Thursday, Delaware Department of Correction officials announced that 119 inmates at Sussex Correctional Institution south of Georgetown are infected. They are the first positive cases of inmates at that prison during the pandemic, as well as the first results since correction officials announced earlier this week that each of the approximately 900 inmates at the prison will be tested for the virus. The number of infected is expected to rise as more of the inmate population is tested. Officials said the virus is present in multiple housing units, making it harder to quarantine inmates who have not been exposed or to know who hasn't.
District of Columbia
Washington: The district's top health official said more people in the nation's capital are now dying of treatable ailments, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, as routine visits to hospitals and primary care providers continue to fall, WUSA-TV reports. The leading hypothesis issued Wednesday by the D.C. Department of Health is that as people continue to stay home, checkups and hospital visits are being postponed. The delays may be resulting in deadly consequences, officials said, contributing to a significant rise in the number of deaths D.C. recorded between January and May 2020. "We've been looking at what we would consider to be excess deaths, and we've seen a 40% increase," D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said in a news conference. "About 54% of those deaths are related to COVID-19. But 46% of the excess deaths we've seen in the district are not related to COVID-19."
St. Petersburg: A state legislator said Wednesday that he is recovering from the coronavirus, but his parents are now infected, while a man and his three sons are facing federal charges that they illegally sold a bleachlike chemical mixture as a miracle cure for the coronavirus and other diseases. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, 36, tested positive positive last week after showing up at the emergency room with fever, chills and trouble breathing. The Broward County Democrat said Wednesday that he is feeling better but is fearful for his 71- and 74-year-old parents. Florida is one of the nation's virus hot spots. Nearly 10,000 confirmed cases were added Wednesday, bringing its total since March 1 to nearly 224,000. Almost 4,000 people have died, including 48 reported by the state Wednesday. The state shows that 41 of the state's 208 hospital intensive care units are at capacity, and another 49 are at 90% capacity or greater.
Atlanta: The mayor has signed an executive order mandating masks in the state's largest city, defying Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to strongly encourage but not require face coverings. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Wednesday signed the order requiring masks, which could set up a confrontation with the Republican governor. "We will continue to take active measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infections in Atlanta," Bottoms said in a statement. "Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus." The order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 persons on city of Atlanta property. Like a number of other local leaders in Georgia, Bottoms has unsuccessfully appealed to Kemp to change his order that local governments can't exceed the state's requirements.
Honolulu: The City Council on Wednesday urged the governor to consider delaying a plan to allow travelers to use a negative COVID-19 test to bypass quarantine until the numbers of new cases on the U.S. mainland and in Hawaii drop significantly. The nine-member council unanimously approved a resolution making the request. The document cites a surge in new cases both locally and in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona since Gov. David Ige announced the travel plan June 24. The testing program would allow travelers arriving from out of state to skip a requirement that they self-quarantine for 14 days if they test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before arriving. It's scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, though the state has yet to release details on how it would be carried out. If the governor doesn't delay the start date, the council urged a number of additional measures to safeguard Hawaii from the coronavirus.
Boise: The state's 300,000 schoolchildren in grades K-12 can return to schools this fall but with flexible learning strategies to protect them and their communities during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Brad Little said Thursday. The plan, unanimously approved by the Idaho State Board of Education a few hours earlier, says schools must be prepared to teach students with traditional face-to-face methods in the classroom, distance learning online or a hybrid combination. The plan mainly gives decision-making authority to local school districts but also says the types of teaching will depend on the level of virus transmission in the local community. Specific criteria on that aren't contained in the plan. State officials closed schools in late March after the virus entered the state, switching to online learning. The plan's release coincides with surging infections and some half-dozen cities making face coverings mandatory, including the state's largest city, Boise.
Springfield: The state reported more than 900 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, the highest one-day total since early June. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, meanwhile, said the state is rolling out 12 mobile testing teams in Illinois, which will be prepared to visit meat factories, nursing homes and homeless shelters. "These mobile teams are in addition to our 11 free, state-run drive-thru and walk-up testing sites across the state," the governor said. The public health department reported 980 new virus cases and 36 deaths. Illinois' coronavirus-related deaths now total 7,099. From July 1 to Tuesday, the rate of positive tests was 2.6%. The state's public health chief, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said there has been an increase in infections among young people who have attended social gatherings. "Conditions here in Illinois have improved, but I urge everyone to remain vigilant," Ezike said.
Indianapolis: Officials showed no signs Wednesday of slowing down school reopenings that are just weeks away even as the state has been seeing higher rates of people testing positive and being hospitalized for the coronavirus. Some Indiana school districts are poised to resume classes with students in attendance starting in late July under guidelines issued by state education officials last month. Health officials will monitor for COVID-19 outbreaks, but school decisions will be made between school leaders and local health departments, said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner. "We are going to do what we can to try to support schools so that they can stay open," Box said. "We think that's important, not only for the educational experience of our students but for their mental and their physical health also."
Iowa City: As the state faced a shortage of equipment needed to protect people from the coronavirus, it received timely gifts from a foreign government and major corporations of nearly 1.4 million surgical masks. New disclosure filings show that the free masks came from the government of Taiwan and its diplomatic office in Chicago, a Chinese auto parts conglomerate, a major apparel company and the state's largest health insurer. In all, Gov. Kim Reynolds accepted pandemic-related supplies with an estimated total value of $1.33 million as gifts to the state. A state official acknowledged Wednesday that the gifts weren't disclosed within 20 days as required by Iowa law. The biggest and most valuable came from Hanesbrands, the North Carolina-based clothing company that gave 1.2 million of its surgical procedure masks. Some of those masks have been distributed for free to shoppers at grocery stores across the state.
Topeka: The state's top health official says most counties are not following Gov. Laura Kelly's executive order requiring people to wear masks to help contain the spread of COVID-19, even though data is showing that masks work. Department of Heath and Environment Secretary Norman said at a news briefing Wednesday that countries with cultural norms or government policies that support public mask wearing have seen nine-fold decreases in mortality. Norman cited the data from a study published in the journal Health Affairs, which he said also showed a decrease in U.S. infections between 1% and 2% daily in state that mandate masks. Kelly, a Democrat, issued an executive order last Thursday requiring people to wear masks in public and in their workplaces because of a surge in cases. Counties can opt out under a new pandemic law that took effect in June and resulted from a compromise between Kelly and the Republican-led Legislature.
Frankfort: Amid "an explosion of COVID," all Kentuckians must wear masks in public starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday. His new executive order, signed Thursday, will last 30 days from July 10 and be enforced by health departments, he said during an afternoon press conference. After the 30 days, he said he'll reevaluate whether the order is still needed. Exceptions will include kids under 5, people with breathing problems and people exercising while social distancing. A person in a room alone or with their family at home doesn't need to wear a mask. "It's time to get serious," Beshear said, citing health expert advice on the benefits of masks. The order applies to anyone in a retail environment, a grocery store, and any other indoor or outdoor space where one can't be 6 feet from others. "We cannot let where we are - 333 cases - turn into 3,352," Beshear said. "And the reason that Kentucky has done so well is we took early aggressive action. We all bought in. And we did it together. We're at that same moment that we were before, but we don't have to shut everything down if we will all follow these instructions and wear a facial covering."
New Orleans: COVID-19 is showing an alarming statewide rise, and New Orleans will restrict bars and restaurants to table service starting Saturday in hopes of reducing the disease's resurgence, officials said Wednesday. "We have a statewide epidemic. It's no longer one or two regions," Gov. John Bel Edwards said at his weekly coronavirus briefing. While New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued new regulations, the governor didn't make any statewide move to restrict bars, which the state health department identified Wednesday as the focus of 36 outbreaks that infected 393 people with the novel coronavirus. The new data released by the Department of Health showed another 68 cases were traced back to 16 outbreaks involving restaurants, 11 outbreaks - and 423 cases - to food processing facilities and 16 outbreaks to industrial settings where 117 people were infected.
Portland: The governor announced Wednesday that the state is requiring many businesses to enforce mask rules and extending its state of civil emergency order until at least August. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order requiring large retail stores, restaurants, lodging establishments and some other businesses to enforce the face covering requirement in Maine's coastal counties and its most populous cities. Mills said the move, which strengthens existing rules in the state, will help the state contain the new coronavirus as its economy reopens and tourists return. Mills also extended the state of civil emergency until Aug. 6. She has said the state of emergency allows the state's government to "deploy all available resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to respond quickly and as-needed to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Annapolis: After problems in the state's mostly mail-in primary last month, Gov. Larry Hogan directed election officials Wednesday to conduct the November election with enhanced options for voters in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Hogan directed the state to open all polling locations on Election Day, as well as all early voting centers. The Republican governor also directed the Maryland State Board of Elections to promptly send out an absentee ballot request application to every eligible Maryland voter for people who choose to vote by mail. Maryland law already allows anyone registered to vote to use an absentee ballot. Hogan said every effort should be made to promote early voting, absentee voting by mail and voting at off-peak times. "This approach - which is already fully authorized by existing state law - will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic," Hogan said in a news release.
Boston: The state has drastically scaled back its ambitious, statewide contract tracing effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus amid complaints from local health officials that it was unreliable. The Boston Globe reports the state's multimillion-dollar effort with Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit, now has roughly 700 staffers, down from some 1,900 when it launched to fanfare in April as the first of its kind in the nation. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday that the effort simply had more staff than needed because the pandemic has been easing in Massachusetts. The rate of positive cases in the state has hovered around 2% since mid-June. But local health officials complain the effort has been beset with computer glitches, inadequate training and poor communication. That's lead to delays in contacting infected residents, prompting some cities and towns to opt out of the initiative and focus on their own efforts, the Globe reports.
Lansing: All health workers in the state will be required to receive "implicit bias" training under a directive issued Thursday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said the mandate is intended to address the coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate impact on people of color. Black residents account for 14% of Michigan's population but 40% of COVID-19-related deaths. Meanwhile, Whitmer on Wednesday vetoed bills that would have further delayed tax payments amid the pandemic, citing harm to local budgets and saying one measure related to property taxes was "blatantly" unconstitutional. The legislation had won overwhelming bipartisan approval in the GOP-led Legislature. The Democratic governor said business-backed bills to delay sales, use and withholding payments an additional three months and to make larger businesses eligible for similar treatment were "commendable" but would "push many local budgets over the precipice into fiscal crisis."
Minneapolis: State health officials are warning against people holding or attending "COVID parties" as a way to share exposure to the coronavirus. "This is a really, really bad idea," state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Wednesday during a media briefing. Ehresmann said people exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 face a small but real risk of significant illness and complications, as well as the risk of passing along the virus to family members. "So if you're thinking, 'Oh, let's just do this and get it over with,' it's really playing Russian roulette," Ehresmann said. While Edina has seen a surge in young adult cases, Ehresmann said officials have seen no evidence that the virus was transmitted at "COVID parties." But she said officials have heard of people considering holding such parties.
Jackson: After weeks of loosening restrictions on residents and business, Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is preparing new executive orders that will enforce social distancing - and possibly include a mask mandate. Reeves warned that Mississippi's health care system will be overwhelmed if the state does not change its trajectory on coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. "We have seen day after day of very high numbers," Reeves said at a press conference. "The fact is that the crunch on our hospital system is not a hypothetical. It is not in the future." The orders could target specific communities or go into effect statewide, Reeves said, and could also include new guidelines for hospitals on elective procedures and reserving beds for coronavirus patients. "Those orders will be finalized in the near future," he said, but he did not give a specific date.
Branson: A surge in coronavirus cases is proving worrisome in this popular southwestern Missouri tourist destination. Confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, have more than doubled in less than two weeks in Taney County, where Branson is located, the Kansas City Star reports. On June 26, the county had recorded just 43 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. That figure has more than doubled since then, standing at 107 cases and two COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday. Branson, with its wide array of shows and attractions, is among the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest. Community leaders are now stressing the need for face coverings, though they have stopped short of requiring people to wear them. "We knew they would increase once we opened back up," said Sheila Wyatt, a Taney County commissioner. "But we didn't know it would be so quickly."
Helena: Local governments and agencies are placing restrictions on gatherings and urging residents to wear masks as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in the state continues to increase. Another eight people associated with Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings have tested positive for COVID-19, the facility said Wednesday. The new positive cases include six staff members and two residents. With the new cases, Canyon Creek's case total rises to 66 - 45 residents and 21 employees. The Chippewa Cree Tribe implemented a seven-day lockdown that began Wednesday for all but essential services and is requiring residents to self-quarantine during that time. The Whitefish City Council adopted a resolution Monday encouraging mask use, while Lewis and Clark Public Health set stringent guidelines for events with between 50 and 249 attendees and is now prohibiting events with more than 250 attendees.
Omaha: State figures released Wednesday show Nebraska has surpassed 20,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the outbreak began. The state's online virus tracker shows 155 cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the state total to 20,201. Of those, nearly 15,000 have recovered from the virus. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, had reached 282 by the end of Tuesday. While Nebraska is not experiencing the surge in cases being seen in other states, some of its health care providers and testing sites are reporting a shortage of testing supplies and longer wait times for test results. A drive-thru testing site in south Omaha temporarily closed over the weekend because of a shortage of testing supplies. Despite the shortages, state figures show Nebraska still have a large amount of space in hospitals to treat new patients.
Reno: The first coronavirus antibody study conducted in the state suggests COVID-19 test results dramatically underestimate the number of people who actually have been infected by the disease, health officials said Wednesday. The joint study by the Washoe County Health District and researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno concludes that four to five times more people likely have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 than have been formally confirmed as positive cases to date in the Reno-Sparks area. Based on blood tests for antibodies, the study conducted last month indicates 2.3% of adults in Washoe County had an infection or exposure resulting in an immune response to the virus. That means that while only about 1,800 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed as positive in Washoe County as of June 10 based on nasal swab testing, the real number of adult infections in the county was probably closer to 8,200.
Concord: State House Speaker Steve Shurtleff asked the governor Wednesday to use his "close relationship" with President Donald Trump to ensure that attendees at the president's Saturday rally wear face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Trump is holding a campaign rally at Portsmouth Regional Airport, where masks will be handed out but not required to be worn. "You have often touted your work with the White House and your close relationship with President Trump and his administration. I ask you to use that relationship now to put Granite Staters first and have the president's campaign practice basic safety standards and require masks on Saturday," Shurtleff wrote in a letter to Sununu. Shurtleff, D-Concord, has not publicly proposed mask requirements. Sununu, a Republican, has declined to mandate mask use beyond workers who interact with the public. He said Tuesday he plans to greet Trump at the airport but will not attend the rally.
Hillside: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that he is directing $20 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to food banks across the state. Murphy announced the plan alongside fellow Democrats Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Murphy said the money would be paid out to six food banks across New Jersey, with half coming by August and the second half arriving by December. During April and May, the height of the outbreak in the state, 7 million meals were distributed, according to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. The food bank said that broke a record for distribution. The state got roughly $2.4 billion in federal relief, and Murphy's budget proposes spending more than half of that on payroll and health benefits for state workers responding to COVID-19, along with aid for schools and higher education.
Albuquerque: It will be up to the New Mexico Supreme Court to decide what authority the state has to enforce certain provisions of the public health orders that have stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic. Arguments will be presented during an Aug. 4 remote hearing. About a dozen business owners and companies sued the state in May, challenging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's authority to levy hefty fines for violating the public health orders. The plaintiffs say state law authorizes fines of $100 or less in such cases, not the $5,000-per-day penalty cited by state officials. The Democratic governor has declined in recent weeks to ease any more restrictions on businesses because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases. New Mexico on Wednesday reported an additional 290 cases, bringing the statewide total to more than 14,000. Nearly 530 deaths in the state have been attributed to the virus. Wednesday marked New Mexico's second-highest daily new case count yet.
Albany: Malls can reopen Friday if they have high-efficiency venting systems capable of reducing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The announcement Wednesday came after Cuomo last week delayed mall reopening plans across much of upstate New York, citing concerns about coronavirus particles infecting mallgoers and workers if venting systems didn't meet certain standards. Malls were initially expected to open by Phase 4 of the state's four-phase reopening plan, which all of upstate hit July 1. Nonessential businesses were closed March 22 as coronavirus swept through the state but started to reopen May 15. Now, indoor malls can open Friday if their region is in Phase 4, which includes everywhere outside New York City. Other large gathering places, such as casinos, amusement parks and movie theaters, including those inside malls, remain shuttered under the existing state orders.
Raleigh: Dozens of bowling alleys closed since March can reopen provided they meet sanitizing and social distancing rules, a state judge ruled this week in blocking part of Gov. Roy Cooper's COVID-19 executive orders shuttering them. Judge James Gale granted a preliminary injunction that would apply to the 75 North Carolina bowling establishments within a three-state industry association. Lawyers for the state immediately asked Gale to delay the effective date of his decision while they appeal on Cooper's behalf. The Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas and Georgia sued last month. It said that a state law Cooper was using to mandate business closings was unconstitutional and that its members were treated differently from businesses with similar risk factors allowed to reopen.
Bismarck: A foundation that supports the state's biggest tourist attraction and Gov. Doug Burgum's real estate development firm were among hundreds of thousands of businesses and nonprofits across the country to get loans from the Treasury Department's Payroll Protection Program. The government this week identified some 650,000 mostly small businesses and nonprofits that applied for taxpayer money from a program designed to soften job losses due to the coronavirus. In North Dakota, more than 19,700 businesses got more than $1.7 billion in federal aid that included applicants from farmers and religious and tribal organizations to health care and energy groups. The bulk of the loans went to businesses that got loans of $150,000 or less. More than 2,100 businesses got loans of $150,000 or more, including more than 300 that got loans exceeding $1 million, data show.
Columbus: The state's unemployment claims declined for the 10th consecutive week, indicating residents are returning to work as Ohio reopens amid the virus's continuous spread. For the week ending July 4, Ohio saw a reported 33,483 initial jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor, according to the state Department of Job and Family Services. The decline comes after weeks of record-breaking jobless claims as the state weathered the initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that halted the economy. In the past four months, nearly $5 billion in unemployment payments have been made to more than 736,000 Ohioans, according to the state agency. As Ohio continues to push through its reopening plan, the numbers of reported cases rise once again, reaching 1,277 reported cases Wednesday. The number of probable or confirmed cases statewide pushed past 60,000 this week.
Tulsa: President Donald Trump's campaign rally in the city in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests "likely contributed" to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday. Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday. Although the health department's policy is to not publicly identify individual settings where people may have contracted the virus, Dart said those large gatherings "more than likely" contributed to the spike. "In the past few days, we've seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots," Dart said.
Bend: A steep drop in lottery funds due to the COVID-19 crisis has killed the sale of $273 million in state bonds to pay for major projects in the state, the Bulletin newspaper reports. The 37 projects authorized by the Legislature at the end of the 2019 session include water system overhauls in Warm Springs and Salem, rehabilitating the Wallowa Lake Dam, a Deschutes Basin piping project, two affordable housing projects, a new YMCA for Eugene and deepening the Coos Bay channel. "There's not enough money - there is no repair," said Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, a chair on the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee. In order to sell bonds, the state has to show a 4-to-1 ratio between forecast Lottery Fund revenue and the amount of debt in the bonds. That has not been a problem in previous budget cycles. But lottery sales sharply declined during the coronavirus crisis that arrived in Oregon at the end of February.
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday extended a statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until Aug. 31, saying renters need more breathing room in the midst of the pandemic. The Wolf administration has been facing growing calls to extend the four-month-old moratorium - which had been set to lapse Friday - with housing advocates and others predicting a rush to the courthouse and a wave of evictions and homelessness. House and Senate Democrats had also been pressing the Democratic governor for an extension. "I am taking this action to help families know they will have a roof over their heads and a place to live while all of us fight the COVID-19 pandemic," Wolf said in a news release. The ban on foreclosures and evictions does not cover a tenant who damages property, breaks the law, or breaches the lease in some other way aside from nonpayment of rent or overstaying a lease.
Providence: A restaurant was ordered closed over the July Fourth weekend for failing to follow the state's coronavirus safety regulations. The state Department of Business Regulation ordered Harris Bar and Grill in Coventry closed July 3, making it first establishment the state has closed for failing to follow the pandemic regulations. The restaurant reopened Wednesday after being reinspected and found to be in compliance, WJAR-TV reports. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that the state will begin more aggressive enforcement on businesses that continue to ignore the state's virus regulations. "There are those of you out there, and you know who you are, you're not even trying," she said. "Your own employees, your own hosts and hostesses, are whispering to your customers, 'Don't worry about the mask, oh, it's OK, oh, we got this,' and we're going to crack down on you because it's not fair to the rest of the restaurants."
Columbia: As the state reports spiking numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19, its children are also suffering from mental health and educational consequences of closed schools, health and education leaders told state lawmakers Wednesday. The state needs to reduce its high rate of cases so students can return to school safely, Department of Education Superintendent Molly Spearman told a state Senate subcommittee meeting. Since Memorial Day, South Carolina has seen a spike in reported cases and hospitalizations. Dr. Debbie Greenhouse, a pediatrician speaking on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics' state chapter, urged in-person learning for students. She said children's experiences during the pandemic have been "devastating," with social isolation leading the vulnerable to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem on Wednesday doubled down on her hands-off approach to the coronavirus pandemic by pointing to the state's low hospitalization numbers, and she cast doubt on key recommendations from public health officials like wearing a mask. The Republican governor's reluctance to endorse mask-wearing and the state's relatively low amount of testing have some health experts in the state worrying the early success in managing the pandemic could yet be undone. Noem's refusal to issue statewide lockdown orders has earned praise from conservative pundits, with Newsmax magazine recently dubbing her the "Iron Lady of the Prairie." They point to the state's relatively low COVID-19 numbers as evidence her approach is working. But a closer look shows that South Dakota is currently testing residents less frequently than nearly any other state, leading doctors to worry the state won't be able to catch clusters of infections before they get out of control.
Nashville: The state's elections coordinator says all 95 counties have updated their websites or written materials to reflect a judge's ruling that every eligible voter can choose to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Elections Coordinator Mark Goins confirmed the updates by counties Wednesday in a court filing ordered by Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle. That includes updated written materials from 12 counties without election commission websites. Tennessee officials have indicated they still plan to enforce a requirement that first-time voters who register by mail cast their ballots in person. A separate federal lawsuit is challenging that absentee voting requirement and two others. Nashville election officials, for one, have told new voters they can vote by mail if they show their ID at the election commission office.
Austin: The state reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with nearly 100 new deaths Wednesday as newly confirmed cases continued soaring, and Austin began preparations to turn the downtown convention center into a field hospital. The 98 reported deaths in Texas set a record one-day high, surpassing the record 60 deaths reported a day earlier. Texas has now recorded a total of 2,813 deaths. The state also reported 9,979 new coronavirus cases Wednesday after hitting a record-high 10,028 new cases the day before. Hospitalizations of people with coronavirus continued to climb Wednesday, with 9,610 patients in hospitals across the state. Meanwhile, officials in Houston canceled the Texas Republican Party's in-person convention, saying the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible to hold the event as scheduled. Houston has emerged as one of the nation's hot zones in the pandemic.
St. George: The state's surge in COVID-19 cases continued Wednesday as health officials counted 722 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, a new record high. The state reported seven new deaths. The state has now counted 26,760 cases in total, and 201 deaths have been reported. Statewide, nearly two-thirds of all intensive care unit hospital beds are occupied, with 199 people hospitalized for COVID-19, according to the Utah Department of Health. The median age of those hospitalized was 55. "Today's positive case counts represent another daily record, and further reinforce the need for Utah residents to be taking the appropriate precautions to protect themselves and those around them," Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist, said in a statement. "Please, wear a mask in public, practice physical distancing, stay home if you are sick, and wash your hands regularly. We are all part of the solution."
Rutland: A New Jersey summer camp that brought several hundred students to Vermont for a three-week stay at a Rutland hotel has been told the hotel is over capacity. After the state inspected the Holiday Inn, officials with camp Zichron Chaim were given three days to reduce the number of guests to comply with Vermont's COVID-19 occupancy restrictions for hotels. "The hotel can hold 600, so they can have 300 campers there," said Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling. "Somewhere between 350 and 400 campers are there, so they've been given a warning to come into compliance in the next couple of days, and we'll check back later in the week." Schirling said that beyond the occupancy issue, everything else seems to be in order. Rabbi Moshe Perlstein, of Lakewood, New Jersey, the camp director, said he was working with state officials to reach a workable solution that keeps everyone safe.
Richmond: Initial payments have begun to laid-off workers under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which Virginia lagged most other states in getting up and running. The program referred to as PEUC provides up to an additional 13 weeks of regular unemployment insurance to individuals who have already exhausted their benefits. Payments through the federally funded program began Tuesday and are available through the week ending Dec. 26, the Virginia Employment Commission said in a news release Thursday. The commission has paid out $9.9 million on more than 12,000 claims so far, officials said. More than 41,000 individuals are potentially eligible. The commission said they were contacted by phone or text message last week ahead of the launch of the application portal last Thursday.
Puyallup: The 2020 Washington State Fair has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fair CEO Kent Hojem said in a video on the event's website that the decision to cancel the September event was made after thoughtful consideration. He said at its core the fair is a people-gathering event, which runs contrary to the challenges of containing the pandemic. "It was a decision made in what we feel are the best interests of the health and safety of all of our guests, our employees, our exhibitors; basically all of our constituents," he said. He said organizers realize canceling will have severe impacts on their partners. The most recent data from the Washington State Fair shows that in 2017, 1,960 people were employed at the fair. Some 1.7 million people attended, spending about $246 million at the fair, KING-TV reports. The fair has been operating since 1900. This is the first time it's been canceled since World War II, Hojem said.
Milton: A popular pumpkin festival has been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The West Virginia Pumpkin Festival board voted Tuesday to call off this year's festival in Milton. "The board is heartbroken over this decision," the festival said on its Facebook page. "We have been monitoring the restrictions and guidelines set forth by the state government for fairs and festivals and we feel like there is no way for us to put on the festival that all of you have come to love." The festival was scheduled to be held in the first week of October. Vendors who have paid for booths will receive refunds starting this week, the board said. The board said it is considering the possibility of offering virtual events and socially distanced activities.
Madison: The state Capitol building will not reopen next week as planned, and state employees will have to start wearing masks whenever they're working indoors as the coronavirus continues to spread in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers' administration announced Wednesday. The Capitol in Madison has been closed to the public since Evers handed down a stay-at-home order in March. The state Supreme Court struck down that order in May, and Evers' administration had planned to reopen the building Monday. But infection rates have been climbing in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, and the administration announced Wednesday that the Capitol will remain closed indefinitely. The administration also announced that starting Monday all state employees must wear masks whenever they're inside a state facility, including offices, parking garages, elevators and bathrooms, waiting in line to enter a state facility and inside any enclosed building on state business.
Cheyenne: State agencies have submitted plans for 10% budget cuts that could eliminate services for children and the elderly and slash funding for mental health programs, Gov. Mark Gordon said. Another 10% cut across state agencies and layoffs will follow as Wyoming faces a steep decline in revenue, Gordon said at a news conference Wednesday. Revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction industries in the state has fallen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Oil and gas prices are low and coal production is down as people stay home and use less electricity, causing utility companies to buy less coal to burn in power plants. With the pandemic, the state could see a $1.5 billion budget shortfall over the two-year budget cycle that began July 1, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Post-rally surge, PPE stocks: News from around our 50 states