Montgomery: The state House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an Education Trust Fund budget with pay raises for teachers and increased funding for prekindergarten, special education and classroom supplies. Legislators treated the budget – about $451.9 million, or 6.2%, higher than this year’s ETF – with a mixture of pride and relief, particularly after a year when the state’s economy took an initially hard blow from the COVID-19 outbreak. “We would not be in position to make these investments in our children, our educators and our future without their resiliency in the face of the pandemic,” said Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, the chair of the House Ways and Means Education committee. The $7.69 billion Education Trust Fund budget passed 101-1, with the sole negative vote coming from Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals. It goes back to the Senate for concurrence or a conference committee. The pay raise would increase the salary of a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and less than three years’ experience by $817 a year, from $40,873 to $41,690. A teacher with a master’s degree and 15 to 18 years’ experience would get a $1,139-a-year increase, from $56,952 to $58,091.
Anchorage: The state will not require visitors to have a vaccine passport if they want to travel in Alaska. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement Monday that no person will be mandated to prove their vaccine history in order to travel to or around the state. The order went into effect immediately. The statement did provide a caveat that the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system is allowed to inform passengers on long-haul trips that they can provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination instead of having to test negative for the coronavirus before they board. Dunleavy said in the statement that he is against “any government order requiring Alaskans to get this vaccine, or using an individual’s vaccine status as a means of restricting their rights.” Beginning June 1, COVID-19 vaccines will be made available at key airports in the state, the governor announced earlier this month. The plan is aimed at bolstering the state’s tourism industry. In March, Alaska became the first state in the U.S. to lift restrictions on who could receive a COVID-19 shot. As of Monday, about 49% of those 16 or older had received at least one dose in the state, with 42.4% fully vaccinated, according to a database operated by the state Department of Health and Social Services. About 74% of those 65 or older had received at least one dose as of Monday.
Pharmacist Aura Jessica Ruiz administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to a community member at the South Mountain Community College in Phoenix on April 10, 2021. (Photo: Meg Potter/The Republic)
Phoenix: The state has plenty of COVID-19 vaccine to meet demand, and appointments are no longer required at the state-run vaccination sites in metro Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma, the Department of Health Services announced Tuesday. The department made the announcement a day after it said 60,000 appointments remained available for this week at the seven sites statewide. The department said it was “encouraging people to visit any time during operating hours, if that’s their preference, to get their COVID-19 vaccine,” though it said that “making an appointment is still the best way to complete your vaccination appointment as quickly as possible.” It’s apparent from vaccination administration data that the state has “accommodated a large share of Arizonans who are able to schedule appointments well in advance,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the department’s director. “State-run sites continue to vaccinate many thousands every day, and there is now room for those who simply want to walk in at their convenience.” The department said making an appointment has the advantage of reducing on-site registration time because all the required information will already be in the system. But removing barriers to vaccination is important, Christ said, “so please feel free to drop by.”
Little Rock: More than 24% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, federal health officials said Tuesday. That includes almost 30% of Arkansans 16 and older, state officials said. As of Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 35% of the state population had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. The state Department of Health said more than 300,000 had been partially vaccinated, or almost 13% of those age 16 or older. Health officials reported 229 new cases and five new COVID-19-related deaths Tuesday. Thirty-nine new cases were added to the state’s 1,844 active COVID-19 cases. Of those, 157 required hospitalization, 13 fewer than Monday.
Sacramento: The Legislature approved a major tax break for small businesses Monday, voting to give up as much as $6.8 billion in revenue over the next six years so that struggling business owners can have smaller bills. The federal government loaned more than $97 billion to California small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, and most did not have to pay that money back. Business owners used most of that money to pay the salaries of their employees, which prevented – or at least delayed – layoffs during the pandemic. In December, Congress said business owners could deduct expenses associated with those loans from their federal taxes. The bill that passed the California Legislature on Monday would let business owners deduct those expenses from their state taxes, too. But the tax break won’t help everybody. While the federal government lets every business owner deduct these expenses from their taxes, the bill that passed the Legislature on Monday only lets business owners do this if they had a loss of 25% or more during at least one three-month period during 2020. That leaves out about between 15% and 25% of business owners who got the federal loans, according to Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.
Aurora: A privately owned U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in the city has reported about 100 detained people have tested positive for the coronavirus. A report by the office of U.S. Rep. Jason Crow showed that the outbreak included 96 people and one employee as of last week, Colorado Public Radio reports. The facility is owned by real estate investment trust Geo Group Inc. “Conditions at Geo and the manner we treat individuals detained there not only reflect our community values but impact our public health,” Crow said. “Infectious disease outbreaks affect our community as a whole, and we will continue to demand transparency and accountability.” ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock said the facility has received an increasing number of new detainees and transfers from border facilities. Crow said he warned the department of increased infections after 166 new immigrants arrived at the facility earlier this month. Arriving immigrants are tested and housed separately for two weeks before being integrated into the general facility, the department said. The facility can hold up to 1,532 people, but its capacity was lowered because of the coronavirus pandemic. Crow’s report said about 460 people are currently housed at the facility northeast of Denver.
Opponents of a bill to repeal Connecticut’s religious exemption for school vaccinations pray outside the Capitol before the state Senate voted on the legislation Tuesday in Hartford. (Photo: Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant via AP)
Hartford: The state is poised to end a long-standing religious exemption from immunization requirements for schools – a move that led to protests outside the state Capitol, where people tried Tuesday to stop final legislative passage of one of the most contentious bills of the session. The bill cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate by a vote of 22-14, following roughly nine hours of debate. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has said he will sign it into law. Connecticut would then become the sixth state to end its religious exemption. The state’s medical exemption would remain in place. Proponents contend the legislation, which was amended in the House of Representatives to grandfather in any students with an existing religious exemption beginning with kindergarteners, is needed to prevent a potential outbreak. They cited a slow and steady increase in the number of religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations and declining vaccination rates in some schools. “When you see a clear pattern, it is important to be ahead of the curve and then make sure that we are able to address that,” said Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, the vice chairman of the Public Health Committee and also a medical doctor who specializes in lung diseases and has treated COVID-19 patients.
Wilmington: Following surges in coronavirus cases in late March and mid-April, the number of new infections has begun to drop in the state and across the region. Over the past week, Delaware has averaged 275 cases per day, down 25% from the week prior. The First State has been among the nation’s leaders in new coronavirus cases per capita for several weeks. State officials last week said Delaware was seeing “general community spread” with increasing case counts not linked to any one or two specific behaviors. In a statement, Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said it’s too early to determine with certainty what contributed to the decline in cases. She said it could be related to multiple factors such as slight declines in testing and increased vaccinations. “We will continue to watch the trends closely,” Rattay said. Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking at a Harvard event Monday, said the nation will hit a turning point in the pandemic “within the next few weeks” as vaccinations continue and the weather warms. About half of Delawareans 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Fauci said it will still be a while before the U.S. gets to a “classic measles-like herd immunity,” but he expects the number of infections per day to drop along with hospitalizations and deaths.
District of Columbia
Washington: As it moves away from its pregistration portal, D.C. is set to open 11 walk-up vaccination clinics this weekend, WUSA-TV reports. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced during a news conference Monday that adult residents will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 without an appointment at walk-up sites across the city. An appointment for a second dose will be made when residents get their first shot. “Beginning on Saturday, May 1, the District will transition to the use of 11 high-capacity, walk-up, no appointment needed vaccination sites,” Bowser tweeted. “Days, hours, and available vaccines will be listed on http://vaccinefinder.org.” From what many called a “hunger games hunt” to preregistration portal problems, D.C.’s vaccine rollout has struggled. Even with the new walk-up clinics, residents of Ward 1 have lamented that there’s no plan for one in their area. “If we’re going to have 11 walk-up vaccination sites, there should be at least one in every ward,” Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said. Columbia Heights in Ward 1 has recorded the most coronavirus cases of any neighborhood in the district, according to D.C. data published Monday.
West Palm Beach: A tax collector has ordered her employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or risk being fired. Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon told her 315 employees last week of her decision after doing research and concluding she could legally do it, she said. Her employees have contact with the public, Gannon said, and two workers tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Many others tested positive earlier, and one died. The collector’s office is semiautonomous, and its revenue comes from a percentage of the taxes it collects for other agencies and from fees it charges for services such as issuing vehicle registrations. “For every person who gets COVID, it costs our business money, and it gives us an inability to meet our customer needs,” said Gannon, who was first elected in 2006. “I have a responsibility to protect my employees and the public.” Gannon said she doesn’t know the exact number, but most of her employees have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Some, however, have been hesitant, pointing to false claims that the shots can cause infertility, she said. No deadline has been set, and employees will be allowed to cite religious or medical reasons if they refuse, Gannon said. She said she is working with the county health department to set up vaccinations at her office’s worksites.
Augusta: The Augusta University Health System is looking to cut costs after running a $20 million deficit in the first nine months of its budget year, due to increased costs coming at least in part from the COVID-19 pandemic. CEO Katrina Keefer told the health system board last Thursday that she is looking to cut open positions and reduce the use of “very expensive” contract nurses and other workers the health system took on to help fight the pandemic. “It’s truly a comprehensive look at our business and how we can bring our expense base in line” with productivity, she said. No layoffs are currently planned, Keefer said. Driving the loss were a $29 million increase in salary and wages, a $7 million increase in benefit payments, $7.4 million more for supplies, and $5.6 million more for drugs and pharmaceutical supplies. On the plus side, the health system saw non-operating revenue and investment gains increase by $18.7 million. The $40 million plan includes efforts to reduce salary and supply expenses, as well as to collect more revenue. Keefer said that as new nurses are hired directly to staff, including new graduates, contract nurses can be cut. The health system did see revenue increase by $26 million, or 3.5%. Unreimbursed charity care rose to $183 million.
Honolulu: Veteran state Sen. Kalani English said Tuesday that he will retire May 1 after being diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19. English, who serves as the Senate majority leader, said he contracted the disease while traveling outside Hawaii with family in November. His symptoms at the time were mild, but he noticed pervasive lethargy, memory challenges and “fogginess” in his thinking when he returned home. English said in a statement that he’s been diagnosed as a “long-hauler” and will need to address challenges to his short- and long-term memory and other cognitive issues. “These challenges have placed a number of things into perspective for me, including the need to take better care of my health,” English said. The Democrat was first elected to the Senate in 2000. He represents Hana, east and Upcountry Maui, and the islands of Molokai and Lanai. Democratic party officials in English’s district will submit names of three possible replacements to the governor.
Boise: State government offices and services could start shutting down in June if the part-time Legislature refuses to adjourn and leave coronavirus pandemic decisions solely to Republican Gov. Brad Little, officials said. The scenario would jeopardize the effective date of some 200 bills, including 65 critical appropriations bills, that are set to become law 60 days after the Legislature adjourns. The situation could mean money wouldn’t be distributed for state police, schools, air and water quality monitoring, and more. Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke said lawmakers are looking into the concerns. They have put forward legislation to have those critical measures take effect July 1 regardless, but attorneys with a watchdog group said that proposed law violates the state constitution. The Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution spelled out the problems in a letter to Little on Monday that was obtained by the Associated Press. “If these bills do not take effect on July 1, it is possible agencies would need to cease certain services on June 12, 2021, as the personnel hours paid after this date are incurred in the fiscal year that starts on July 1,” Alex Adams, Little’s budget chief, said in an email to the AP on Tuesday.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks during a press conference in Chicago. (Photo: Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Chicago: Public health officials in the city hope more opportunities and incentives to get a COVID-19 shot will improve the vaccination rate among people older than 65 and in the city’s largely Black and Latino communities. “We all want to put this behind us, and getting a vaccination is the way to do it,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday. Arwady said 65% of city residents older than 65 have received at least one dose – lower than the 81% rate among that age group nationwide. She also highlighted lagging rates of people who have received at least one dose in neighborhoods on the the city’s South and West sides. City data as of Monday showed 43% of Chicagoans had received a first dose, and 29% were fully vaccinated. “We have a lot of work to do,” both providing convenient opportunities to get inoculated and building confidence, Arwady said. Plans include programs for homebound residents, tents at festivals and block parties, traveling buses, and events geared toward college students and workers in specific industries, she said. The public health agency also is partnering with barbershops and beauty salons to pair beauty services with vaccination and is working on a “VaxPass” program making it easier for people who have been vaccinated to attend concerts and other large events.
Indianapolis: The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached their highest level since mid-February following a weekslong general upward trend that began in late March. The Indiana Department of Health’s latest COVID-19 tracking update showed hospitals were treating 955 people for coronavirus illnesses as of Monday. That’s the highest level since 966 COVID-19 patients Feb. 17. The number had dropped below 600 for several days in middle to late March, reaching a recent low of 548 patients March 21. But those hospitalizations have since increased about 74%, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. Indiana’s daily average of coronavirus-related deaths, meanwhile, has remained below 10 since mid-March after peaking at more than 100 a day in December. As of Monday, Indiana’s daily average of coronavirus-related deaths stood at four. The state health department reported Tuesday that another 13 Hoosiers had died from COVID-19, pushing Indiana’s pandemic death toll to 13,293 confirmed or presumed coronavirus-related deaths. The department said Hoosiers can get vaccinated through Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and shots have begun at the former Roosevelt High School in Gary, where a daily mass vaccination clinic will continue through June 2.
Volunteer Jack Gummert, 15, of Urbandale, carries two gallons of milk to a car while Kent Gummert and Melinda Hanrahan carry food boxes during the Farmers to Families food distribution event at the John R. Grubb YMCA in Des Moines on April 17. (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)
Des Moines: A federal program meant to bring hungry Americans dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables that farmers would otherwise have disposed of during the COVID-19 public health emergency is shutting down. Those on the front line of the fight against hunger say the Farmers to Families initiative has fed millions of families. “It provided a huge benefit – a significant amount of food – and we happily distributed every bit of it we could get our hands on,” said Michelle Book, Food Bank of Iowa’s CEO. But the roughly $4 billion program also has been plagued with problems. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this month that he planned to discontinue it by May 31. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, has promised instead to build up existing federal food programs, including emergency assistance through food banks and other nonprofits. Food banks, media outlets and others have reported that some produce in the Farmers to Families boxes was spoiled by the time it was distributed, and some meat packages leaked near fruits and vegetables. In Iowa, residents posted photographs on Facebook of abandoned food boxes, Book said. With emergency distribution, small nonprofits sometimes left the food out for residents to pick up, but Book said that raised the risk it could spoil or be contaminated.
Mission: Fewer than five of the state’s 105 counties still require masks, and those mandates still in place might not last much longer. Johnson County, the state’s largest with more than 600,000 residents, is set to consider Thursday whether to allow its mask order to expire. Health officials there have said they won’t resist dropping the requirement. Such action would leave strong mask orders in place in just three counties – Riley County in the Manhattan area; Douglas County in the Lawrence area; and Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area, newly released survey data from the Kansas Association of Counties and Kansas Health Institute suggests. And commissioners in Riley County indicated at a meeting this month that they won’t seek to extend their order further after it expires in mid-May. The move is beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending. While it eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, the agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying that is still the safer course even for vaccinated people. But the decline in mask orders has been steady in Kansas and nationally.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks with reporters following his tour of the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday. UPS is one of the primary shippers of COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Frankfort: Kentuckians have “more options than ever” to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday as the state reported more than 700 new coronavirus cases. More than 1.7 million Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of a vaccine, he said. Once 2.5 million Kentuckians receive at least their first COVID-19 shot, Beshear has pledged to lift capacity and physical distancing restrictions for nearly all businesses, venues and events catering to 1,000 or fewer patrons. “There are now more options than ever for you to sign up for your shot of hope,” the governor said in a news release Tuesday. “It’s fast, it’s easy and it will help us save lives and get back to more of the activities we’ve missed over the past year.” Anyone 16 or older is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Kentucky. The state reported 716 new COVID-19 cases and 17 additional virus-related deaths Tuesday, including seven deaths discovered through the state’s audit of deaths from previous months. The statewide rate of positive cases was 3.17%. Nearly 400 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across Kentucky, including 103 in intensive care units.
Baton Rouge: Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday partially lifted a statewide mask mandate, limiting the face covering requirement to schools, hospitals, clinics and other specific locations. The Democratic governor’s decision to roll back the order he enacted in July is at odds with the recommendations of President Joe Biden’s administration but puts him more in line with other Southern chief executives who have either ended or never issued statewide face covering requirements. The new rules require residents to wear masks on public transit and in health care facilities, day care centers, K-12 schools, colleges and universities. A face covering will be required in some state buildings as well. Local officials and businesses can enact their own mask mandates, if they choose. Despite the change to his restrictions, Edwards argued mask-wearing is one of the most effective ways to lessen the spread of COVID-19. “It’s not an end to recommendations that people wear masks,” he said. “But I think it is a reflection of where we are at this stage of the pandemic.” The Edwards administration has not tightly enforced the face covering requirement when it’s been on the books. Many people around the state already have flouted the mask mandate, including Republican and Democratic lawmakers meeting in session at the state Capitol.
Portland: The state is loosening its mask-wearing requirements in the wake of new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said Tuesday that the state is recommending people wear face coverings in outdoor settings in places where it is difficult to maintain physical distance. Face coverings are still required in indoor public settings, Mills said. Maine had been requiring people to use masks in all public settings. The new rules reflect that the risk of transmitting coronavirus outdoors is low, especially with more people getting vaccinated, Mills said. “With the summer months nearly upon us, this offers a great opportunity for people to get outside and safely enjoy all that Maine has to offer,” Mills said. The new rules are effective immediately, she said. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said travelers to and from Maine will also no longer need to quarantine or test upon arrival in the state starting May 1.
Baltimore: The Maryland State Board of Education is calling for all schools to reopen for in-person instruction five days a week this fall, according to a resolution approved Tuesday. The Baltimore Sun reports that the board said students should be able to attend 180 days for the school year with a teacher in the classroom, but it offered school systems the option to seek an exception from the requirement. State school board President Clarence Crawford said the resolution is not legally binding but is a warning to school systems that state regulations requiring schools to be open for all students will be in effect next school year. “We are trying to send a very clear signal to the school systems with as much lead time as possible to expect to be back in school,” Crawford said. “What we are saying is that status quo is not sufficient.” Maryland has been slow to reopen its schools, prompting parents across the state to organize groups advocating school reopening. Only Oregon, California and Hawaii have a smaller percentage of students back in classrooms, according to Burbio, a company tracking school openings. In part, that is because large numbers of students still have not returned even after schools were reopened.
Workers depart a main gate to the Encore Boston Harbor casino Wednesday in Everett, Mass. The Encore Boston Harbor casino began offering COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday in conjunction with Cambridge Health Alliance, a local health care organization. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)
Boston: Blackjack, poker, slots and, now, COVID-19 shots. The Encore Boston Harbor casino has started offering vaccinations by appointment only to employees and the general public in conjunction with a local health care organization. The vaccination site inside a ballroom that opened Tuesday is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays, according to a statement from the casino. The casino is located in Everett, one of the state’s hardest-hit communities. “We want to help residents of Everett and our surrounding communities receive the vaccine as quickly and conveniently as possible,” casino President Brian Gullbrants said. Appointments are available through the Cambridge Health Alliance until the site is listed on the Massachusetts vaccination finder website, which is expected to happen early next week.
Lansing: Unemployed people who find a job would get $1,000 as part of $12.7 billion in proposed COVID-19 relief spending that began advancing in the Legislature on Wednesday. The “return to work” grants would cover up to 400,000 residents. They are included in supplemental budget bills that either took a step forward in the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee or advanced to the House floor but are a ways off from being enacted because there is no deal with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. All but $1 billion in funding would come from federal coronavirus packages that were approved in March and December. House GOP lawmakers announced their plan last week, but now there are more details. They tied roughly $2 billion in hazard pay for front-line state workers, additional child care funding, and spending on road debt to a bill that would limit the governor’s power to shift money within departments, which she did during a 2019 budget impasse. The proposal includes $25 million to incentivize state employees to leave their job for up to six weeks of pay. The state would immediately pay about $600 million as part of a Flint water crisis settlement instead of borrowing.
Richfield: Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday that new federal guidance allowing vaccinated people to go mask-free in many outdoor settings is a sign of progress and could help result in scaling back more pandemic restrictions next week. “Masks coupled with vaccines is really the path out of this thing,” said Walz, who hoped that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement would convince more people to get COVID-19 shots and encourage them to wear masks when necessary. Walz also cited the fact that active caseloads and new case counts continue to recede. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Minnesota has decreased by more than 28%, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. “The moves coming now are the moves back to normal,” Walz said during a visit to a mobile vaccination site in Richfield. “You can be in restaurants; you can be in movie theaters; we have kids in school; we’re doing most of those moves. The next moves are capacity limits coming off and some of those things.” Minnesota health officials on Tuesday reported 1,088 new COVID-19 cases and 12 new deaths due to complications from the coronavirus, raising the state’s totals to 507,518 known infections and 7,091 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Jackson: Three community colleges and a state university in Mississippi will be offering free summer classes to help students and families struggling during the pandemic, according to school officials. During a period when national unemployment rose from 3.8% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2020 – with young adults ages 16 to 24 hit the hardest, according to an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey – institutes of higher education are stepping up to help students. Jackson State University, Hinds Community College, Northeast Mississippi Community College and East Mississippi Community College have all announced they will offer free summer classes. At Jackson State University, the move aligns with efforts to alleviate some financial strain, according to a news release. “We have been exploring strategies and ways to help make education more attainable for students and potential students, and by extension their families,” JSU President Thomas K. Hudson said in a news release. The summer classes will be funded by Higher Education Emergency Relief funds, according to news releases on the institutes’ websites. The funds were established in March 2020 as part of a $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package.
O’Fallon: The number of Missourians who have been infected with the coronavirus has now topped the half-million mark. The state Department of Health and Senior Services on Tuesday cited 524 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 500,071. The state also reported 37 new deaths, though 34 of those occurred between November and earlier this month and were uncovered in the state’s weekly review of death certificates. All told, 8,732 Missourians have died from the virus. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that 36.9% of Missourians have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine, and 26.5% have completed vaccination. Missouri continues to rank in the bottom third among states for per capita vaccinations. To increase its outreach, the state on Tuesday announced the launch of a Spanish-language version of the Missouri Vaccine Navigator, a registry tool aimed at helping direct residents to vaccination sites. The health department said it will offer additional languages soon. As part of the effort to increase vaccinations in St. Louis, where just 19.4% of city residents have completed their shots, the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency announced a walk-in vaccination clinic every weekday at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
Great Falls: Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter announced Monday that inmate visitation at the Sheriff’s Office will soon be available for online scheduling, potentially this weekend. “It’s going to have certain visitation times for certain cell blocks so that we limit the amount of human contact as they move in and out of cell blocks and keep everybody safe and to make it efficient,” Slaughter said in a video on Facebook Live. The Sheriff’s Office was closed for visitation for a year to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Slaughter said state inmates will not have direct visitation but will have visitations with a glass barrier. A visitation appointment must be approved, and then the person seeking a visitation will receive an appointment confirmation. Due to COVID-19 precautions, people cannot come more than 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment to avoid loitering in the lobby, Slaughter said. Visitors will have to wait outside for their appointment until it’s time to check in with the detention officer, he said. Slaughter said some of the times on the online visitation calendar may be blocked out for scheduling, as it may conflict with meal times or headcounts.
Omaha: A proposed tax cut for corporations and a tax credit for parents grieving a stillborn child won initial approval Tuesday from state lawmakers, who criticized parts of the package but still gave it strong support. The measure advanced 41-1 in the first of three required votes, after hours of public debate spread over two days. The bill combines several proposals, including a gradual reduction in the top corporate income tax rate. Backers argued that the top corporate rate, 7.81%, should be lowered to match the top individual income tax rate of 6.84%. Under current law, many small businesses in Nebraska are allowed to file as individuals rather than corporations. They also contended that lowering the top rate would make Nebraska more attractive for investment without having to offer large, complicated incentive packages. “I would much rather see us treat everyone equally by lowering the overall rate,” said Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. Sen. John Stinner, of Gering, said lowering the rate would help Nebraska recruit and retain businesses but warned that lawmakers should do so incrementally to avoid future budget problems.
People play craps while wearing masks and between Plexiglas partitions as a precaution against the coronavirus at the opening night of the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on March 25. (Photo: John Locher/AP)
Las Vegas: The city is bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels, with new economic reports showing increases in airport passengers and tourism, plus a big jump in a key index showing casinos statewide took in $1 billion in winnings last month for the first time since February 2020. “I don’t believe anyone imagined this level of gaming win,” Michael Lawton, senior Nevada Gaming Control Board analyst, said of a Tuesday report showing 452 full-scale casinos in the state reported house winnings at the highest total since February 2013. The $1.07 billion reported last month topped even the $1.02 billion board charted in March 2019. Lawton called last month “the perfect storm for gaming activity in Nevada.” “Demand was obviously a driver,” he said, “in addition to capacity being increased to 50% on March 15 and the NCAA basketball tournament being played, after last year’s cancellation.” The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which launched a new advertising campaign Monday, reported Tuesday that it tallied more than 2.2 million visitors in March. The tourism figure was down 40% compared with the same month two years ago but up from the 1.5 million tourists tallied in the first half of March 2020, before casinos and other businesses were closed to prevent people from gathering and spreading COVID-19.
Concord: The state is not developing or requiring “vaccine passports,” documents that show a person has been inoculated against COVID-19, but a proposed legislative measure would prohibit state government from requiring people to receive the vaccine or possess such a passport. The measure also would prohibit the state from entering into any contract or distributing taxpayer money to any business that would require the passport or in any way discriminate against someone who refuses to receive a vaccine. “Vaccine passports could discriminate against people flying, traveling, trying to get a job, or even something as simple as going to the supermarket,” Rep. Tim Baxter, R-Seabrook, the bill’s sponsor, testified before the House Committee on Executive Departments and Administration on Tuesday. Baxter said the measure would bar an institution like the University of New Hampshire from mandating a vaccine passport. UNH will require proof of vaccination or negative coronavirus tests for guests at graduation ceremonies next month, “so I do think that’s a very real example of sort of slipping down that slippery slope,” Baxter said. The measure says medical facilities treating COVID-19 patients shall be exempt, “where a direct threat exists that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.”
Trenton: The state Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected a constitutional challenge to the use of virtual grand juries during the COVID-19 pandemic. A defendant facing drug charges in Mercer County brought the challenge last year, arguing that the Supreme Court violated separation of powers doctrines by unilaterally authorizing the virtual format. Omar Vega-Larregui’s case began with in-person grand jury proceedings in February 2020 but switched to virtual proceedings after the pandemic took hold. Civil and criminal trials in New Jersey were suspended for several months last year. To address a backlog of thousands of cases, the state’s highest court authorized virtual grand juries on a pilot basis in two counties last spring, By July, it extended the program to the whole state. They’re still in use. Attorneys argued to the Supreme Court the process is unfair because, among other problems, the virtual format makes it impossible to guarantee the secrecy of the proceedings, a hallmark of the grand jury system. They also said there were technical issues during Vega-Larregui’s grand jury proceedings that deprived him of a fair hearing. In a 7-0 ruling Wednesday, Justice Barry Albin wrote that the virtual panels are a temporary measure to meet a public health emergency and within the court’s authority.
A Sceye airship is tested in New Mexico in a courtesy photo dated Oct. 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Sceye)
Santa Fe: The state is finalizing a $3.2 million contract to a dirigible manufacturer to study the viability of distributing high-speed internet from above the ground instead of underneath it, officials confirmed Tuesday. Details of the contract to Sceye, pronounced “sky,” are still in the works, Economic Development Department spokesman Bruce Krasnow said. The company calls its silver, blimp-shaped, remotely controlled balloons “stratospheric platforms.” For the internet study, they’ll be launched well below the stratosphere, about 12 miles above the ground. Sceye founder Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen – former CEO of the global public health company LifeStraw – said in a statement confirming the contract that the company will launch flights from Roswell. The company also has facilities in Moriarty. The Economic Development Department award is one part of the state’s response to a thin internet infrastructure laid bare by the pandemic. Over 20% of students were left without internet at home at the start of the pandemic as schools shut their doors, with some offline until at least December. While internet access has vastly improved for students in the past year, much of the expansion is due to temporary hot spots that connect to distant cellphone towers at slow speeds.
Johnson City: New Yorkers seeking COVID-19 shots will be accommodated on a walk-in basis at all state-run vaccination sites starting Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday. The move to expand vaccine access comes as infection rates are decreasing in most of the state. New York has averaged about 4,000 new coronavirus cases per day over the past seven days, less than half the daily number at the start of the month. “The more New Yorkers who get vaccinated, the faster we will defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild a new and better state and economy for everyone,” said Cuomo, who announced the new walk-in policy in Johnson City in the state’s Southern Tier. Cuomo announced last week that state-run mass vaccination sites would provide walk-in shots to people 60 and over. The new policy will drop the age limit for walk-ins. The state-run mass vaccination sites administer the Pfizer vaccine, which can be given to anyone over 16. Walk-in vaccinations, already available for all eligible ages at New York City-run sites, are for first doses only, Cuomo said. Second doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be scheduled automatically after the first shot is administered, he said.
Raleigh: Current and future governors would be limited in wielding powers during declared emergencies unless there’s support from other elected leaders under a bill approved Tuesday by the state Senate. The measure was filed by Republicans unhappy with many of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s directives on businesses and schools over the past 13 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House approved a different bill last month that also attempts to rein in the governor’s powers. Courts have generally favored Cooper in litigation challenging his authority during the health crisis. Cooper vetoed a bill last year addressing his emergency powers and council involvement. The current emergency process provides “one person with unilaterally unchecked power to write or delete laws with complete discretion for any length of time,” said Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance County, a bill co-sponsor. The measure, approved in a party-line 28-21 vote, says any executive order declaring a state of emergency or taking other actions to respond to an emergency would expire in 10 days of its issuance without the backing of a majority of the Council of State. The council is identified in the bill as the lieutenant governor, attorney general and seven other statewide elected officials. Republicans currently hold six of those positions.
Bismarck: The state has expanded its joint border vaccination program with Canada to include truck drivers from Saskatchewan who are transporting goods to and from the United States, Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday. Burgum and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe agreed to work together on vaccinating up to 2,000 residents from the Canadian province. A similar program with Manitoba was announced last week. “Trade with the United States is essential for the Saskatchewan economy,” Moe said. “These essential workers are crossing the border to ensure our residents and those in the United States have access to the goods and services they need to get through this pandemic.” The Interstate 29 rest area near Drayton in northeastern North Dakota is serving as the vaccination site for drivers from both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. An additional vaccination site has been approved near the Saskatchewan border crossing at North Portal, Burgum said. The cost of the program will be covered by the U.S. government.
Columbus: Fully vaccinated Ohioans are no longer required to quarantine if exposed to someone with the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday, citing increased vaccination figures. The policy change also means that teens who are vaccinated will be able to participate in sports and other activities even after exposure, the governor said. The change applies to all adults except those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other group care settings. “The power of the vaccine allows us to do this,” DeWine said. The Health Department says 4.6 million people, or 4 of every 10 people in the state, have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 3.5 million people, or almost 1 in 3 Ohioans, have finished the vaccination process. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the state fell over the past two weeks, going from 2,065.71 new cases per day April 11 to 1,556.43 new cases per day Sunday, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Oklahoma City: Advocates want to make sure people who can’t get out of the house aren’t left behind in the vaccination effort. The Department of Human Services is partnering with the state health department, leading efforts to inoculate homebound residents. Some local health departments have stepped up, too. For those who have struggled to secure an in-home shot, local pharmacies and mobile health care workers are filling gaps. The Department of Human Services encourages starting with a call to 211, said Samantha Galloway, the agency’s chief of staff and operations. Responders will take down their name and contact information and can facilitate connecting someone with one of several home health agencies around the state to schedule a vaccination, she said. “I’m not professing perfection across the board, but to my knowledge, we have been able to manage the volume of people who have called and said, ‘I’m a homebound person, and I need and want a vaccine,’ ” Galloway said. DHS is working with roughly 10 home health agencies to deliver vaccinations across the state.
People eat lunch inside and outside on the first day restaurants are allowing dine-in, in Salem on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Photo: BRIAN HAYES / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
Salem: Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday that rising COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm doctors, and she is moving 15 counties into the extreme risk category, which imposes restrictions that include banning indoor restaurant dining. Some of the state’s biggest cities, including Portland, Salem, Bend and Eugene, are in the counties that will be in the most dire category, effective Friday. “If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” Brown said in a statement. The move comes, ironically, as the supply of vaccines is exceeding demand. “There are appointments available right now all across the state,” the Democratic governor said. For instance, the public health director for Umatilla County, which was moved Tuesday from the moderate-risk to the high-risk category, told state officials it can send last week’s vaccine allocation somewhere else and will likely do so again this week. “Our demand level is dropping dramatically,” Public Health Director Joe Fiumara told the East Oregonian newspaper. The county has about 6,000 doses but last week administered fewer than 500 doses as health department staff sat idly, waiting for people to come.
Harrisburg: Vaccines will be sent to more providers in the state, widening the distribution network this week to include doctors, small pharmacies and others as part of its effort to overcome lingering hesitancy among residents who have yet to get the shot. The Health Department said Wednesday that it allocated more than 295,000 doses to 383 providers, up from 225 providers that received shipments last week. The state is gradually adding providers after having directed the state’s weekly vaccine allotment to hospitals, pharmacy chains and other larger providers that could swiftly administer the shots. As demand for the vaccine begins to slow, state officials said they are are shifting focus to hard-to-reach areas and populations. “People who aren’t sure about getting a vaccine can get information – and a vaccine – from their trusted health care provider. That does a lot to address the concerns about hesitancy,” Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday at a vaccine clinic in Washington County. He said more providers will be added in coming weeks “as we keep moving out from big facilities” and “figure out how we can get closer to people, which means putting it in the hands of people you trust.”
Providence: Fully vaccinated people will soon no longer be required to wear face coverings when outdoors, except when in crowded areas, the state Department of Health and Gov. Daniel McKee said in a statement. The updated mask policy, made in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, takes effect Friday. “I hope today’s updated guidance from the CDC will encourage even more Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated,” McKee said in Tuesday’s statement. “Vaccinated people have more flexibility when it comes to when and where they are recommended to wear masks. There are vaccination appointments available today. Don’t miss your shot.” Someone is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their final recommended dose, the statement said. A crowded setting is defined as one where someone cannot consistently maintain 3 feet of distance from others. Masks are still required at indoor public settings.
Greenville: Business leaders thanked Gov. Henry McMaster for keeping the state’s economy open during a roundtable about women in business, but jobless benefits became a hot topic during the discussion. Monday’s roundtable was attended by 20 women, as well as McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, and many said unemployment insurance has become an obstacle in staffing. Kiki Cyrus, owner of Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles in Columbia, said it was her biggest challenge. “It’s so hard to manage customers that come in because we don’t have the staff to handle it,” Cyrus said. Evette, herself a business owner, said employers should contact the Department of Employment and Workforce and report when people are turning down job offers to stay on unemployment insurance. “Unemployment is a bridge to a job, not a way of life,” she said. South Carolina’s unemployment rate has remained under the national average for months – the state’s rate was 5.1% compared to 6.0% nationally in March – with many sectors improving to return to near pre-pandemic employment levels. The large exception has been the leisure and hospitality sector. Last week, DEW reinstated the work search requirement for unemployment claims to get residents back to work. The rule was waived at the beginning of the pandemic.
Brandon: Kristi Noem is crediting her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in part, for new residents and businesses calling the state home. But the first-term governor said the state needs to be vigilant about not allowing an influx of new arrivals leading to unwanted political changes in South Dakota. “So many people they tell me (they want to move to) South Dakota,” Noem said while speaking to a capacity crowd of Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday. “You can come be with South Dakota, you just can’t change us.” The state has seen more than 70,000 new arrivals from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. census data released this week. That snapshot of the population, though, reflects only the number of people living in the state as of April 1, 2020, and no one who relocated here since. But anecdotally, evidence exists to support the assertion being made by Noem, economic organizations and lawmakers since last summer: that a significant amount of people are moving to South Dakota, in some cases specifically to escape governors and mayors who ordered businesses and schools shuttered amid the pandemic. According to the Pew Research Center, about a fifth of adults in the U.S. moved because of COVID-19 or know someone who did.
In this 345-second time-lapse exposure, fireflies blink through the woods during the Elkmont Fireflies viewing event at Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee on Friday, May 31, 2019. The "Photinus carolinus" firefly is the only species in America that can synchronize their light patterns as part of their annual mating ritual.
(Photo: Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel)
Knoxville: Great Smoky Mountains National Park will once again host its annual synchronous firefly viewing this year, with some changes for pandemic safety. The park canceled last year’s event due to COVID-19. Photinus carolinus fireflies, which flash synchronously, can be seen from the Elkmont Campground inside the park. Many say viewing them is a magical experience. The synchronous fireflies live in the Smokies but have been spotted in other pockets of the country. But those who want to see the fireflies at their peak must win a spot for their car. The park will not host shuttles to the site this year. This year’s viewing opportunities begin June 1 and end June 8. Only 100 vehicles per night will be allowed at the campground. Vehicle passes will be distributed by lottery, and households are limited to one lottery entry per season. The lottery starts at 10 a.m. Friday on recreation.gov and is open through 11:59 p.m. May 3. The lottery results will be announced by May 7. The cost to enter the lottery is $1. The park will charge the lottery winners’ credit cards a $24 reservation fee.
Austin: Federal health officials said Tuesday that 1 in 4 Texans has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said 37% of the state’s population had received at least one dose of a vaccine. State health officials said 4,191 new coronavirus cases and 49 new COVID-19 deaths were reported Tuesday. That brought the state’s pandemic death toll to 49,973, or 174 per 100,000 population, Johns Hopkins University researchers said. Those deaths come from almost 3.1 million cases tabulated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The state’s pandemic death toll remains the nation’s third highest, and its per capita death rate is the nation’s 23rd highest, according to Johns Hopkins data. Over the past two weeks, the data shows the rolling average number of daily new Texas cases has dropped by almost 240, a decrease of almost 7%. There were 161.9 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks in Texas, which ranks 40th in the country for new cases per capita. One in every 1,227 people in Texas tested positive for the virus in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins data.
St. George: One thing has been noticeably missing from Intermountain Healthcare facilities throughout the past year: the volunteers. Closing the volunteer program to comply with COVID-19 precautions has left a hole in the hearts of those who are served and volunteers alike, personnel say. “From day one people noticed a different feeling in the hospital,” said Mike Rawlings, director of volunteer services at Intermountain Healthcare. He said the impact was noticed in many ways, often in areas people tend to take for granted – “helping people to their car with a wheelchair, giving directions, just being the smiling face people see as they come in the door.” Beyond those contributions, volunteers typically have their fingerprints on a wide range of departments, depending on the facility. Volunteer contributions at Intermountain St. George have included assisting at the information desk, helping in the gift shop, playing piano in the lobby, providing pet therapy, sewing quilts for the annual Jubilee of Trees, greeting people at the doors, and cuddling babies in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. But some of those opportunities will reopen soon. “It will be up to local leadership and infection prevention,” Rawlings said. “Not every facility can accommodate the necessary social distancing to bring back the volunteers at this time.”
Montpelier: The state is preparing to restore the work-search requirement for most people who are receiving unemployment benefits, Vermont’s labor commissioner said Tuesday. The requirement was suspended last year in order to ensure the safety of Vermonters, Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said during Gov. Phil Scott’s twice-weekly virus briefing. “Vermont is moving forward to more normalcy because our health officials say it is safe to do so,” he said. “That means more opportunities for Vermonters to return to work or seek new opportunities safely. We know employers are actively seeking people to fill open jobs.” The most recent statistics show that about 2.9% of the Vermont workforce is unemployed, and many employers say their businesses are hobbled by a shortage of workers. “Claimants are obligated to accept offers of suitable work, and refusing an offer of suitable work may result in the loss of benefits,” Harrington said. Scott said that over the past decade, the state has been grappling with a growing workforce shortage, and he didn’t think the work-search requirement would end that challenge. “I see this as being a part of the solution,” Scott said. “We do have opportunities in Vermont. We need to get back to normal, and this will, again, just assist people in getting out there to see what’s available.”
Norfolk: Data shows 2020 was the state’s worst year on record for fatal drug overdoses. A new report from the Virginia Department of Health shows nearly 2,300 people died from overdoses, The Virginian-Pilot reports. That’s a 41% increase from 2019, which was already record-breaking. The report’s author, Rosie Hobron, the statewide forensic epidemiologist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said all corners of the state have been affected. Fentanyl, a potent opioid that often gets mixed in with other drugs, accounted for about 72% of all overdose deaths, according to the report. “One thing I want to highlight is the shocking numbers of illicit fentanyl,” Hobron said in an email to the newspaper. “That’s huge and that’s terrifying. That’s because many drugs are being sold as something else (cocaine, heroin, Rx drugs) but are cut with fentanyl or are completely all fentanyl.” The newspaper has previously reported state and local officials were seeing drastic increases in calls for help related to drug addiction amid the pandemic.
Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to order new restrictions next week for several counties, likely including the state’s largest, that would force businesses and churches to reduce their indoor gathering capacity from 50% to 25%. Inslee will decide which counties need to be rolled back to Phase 2 of his pandemic reopening plan after an evaluation of public health safety benchmark numbers. The public health director for King County, which includes Seattle, expects it will be included in Inslee’s order. “We might as well just get prepared for that and not just wait,” Patty Hayes, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, told the King County Council on Tuesday. In March, Inslee allowed restaurants and other indoor establishments throughout the state to operate at half-capacity, up from 25%. But coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations have been steadily rising in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, King County was recording 229 newly confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days and 5.5 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, the Seattle Times reports. To avoid stricter restrictions, counties need to report fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 residents and fewer than five hospitalizations.
Morgantown: West Virginia University has extended its relaxed requirement for test scores for students seeking admission as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The practice began last fall and continued this spring. It is currently in effect for fall 2021 and will continue for fall 2022 and spring 2023, the school said in a news release. “Just as we did in fall and spring 2021, if a student is not able to take the SAT or ACT, we will still admit them to WVU as long as they have shown academic ability on other areas of their application,” said George Zimmerman, WVU assistant vice president of Enrollment Management. “For example, we have found that GPA is often a better predictor of college success and reflects a student’s overall academic performance.” Test scores may be required for maximum financial aid, but Zimmerman said many students will qualify for significant award through the Go First Scholarship awarded on high school GPA.
People walk near the stadium and food booths at the Wisconsin State Fair. (Photo: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Milwaukee: The Wisconsin State Fair is preparing to return this summer after the pandemic wiped out the event for the first time in 75 years, organizers said Wednesday. The fair scheduled Aug. 5-15 will have increased sanitation protocols in place, some of which have yet to be determined. Mask requirements, vaccine passports and rapid testing have been discussed as possible new criteria. “In January, the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board approved a goal to have a fair this August and we are pleased to confirm we are well on our way to meeting that goal,” Wisconsin State Fair Park Chairman of the Board John Yingling said in a statement Wednesday. State Fair officials cited a survey they conducted this month showing that 88% of participants would be comfortable attending a large event now or in the near future, and 78% are planning to attend the fair this year. The State Fair had the highest attendance of any annual event in the Milwaukee area in 2019, with 1,130,572 visitors. Five main-stage shows have been announced for this year’s State Fair, featuring Skillet, Chris Young, Brothers Osborne, Boyz II Men and the Beach Boys.
Cheyenne: A state Department of Health employee working with computer code accidentally released coronavirus test results for one-quarter of the state’s residents, as well as associated names, addresses, birth dates and other information, the department announced Tuesday. The employee also inadvertently released law enforcement blood alcohol test information for thousands of others going back to 2012. In all, the employee released information on 164,010 people to private and public storage locations on GitHub.com, an internet-based software development platform. The release included coronavirus and flu test results for 145,698 Wyoming residents and blood alcohol test results for another 18,312 people mainly from Wyoming but also from other states. State officials don’t know if anybody has misused the information, department spokeswoman Kim Deti said. Wyoming has about 577,000 residents, according to the 2020 census, meaning the coronavirus testing release alone affected some 25% of the state’s population. “We are taking this situation very seriously and extend a sincere apology to anyone affected. We are committed to being open about the situation and to offering our help,” department Director Michael Ceballos said in a statement.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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