Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gives a thumbs-up to Doris Coleston after Coleston received a COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Camden, Ala., on Friday. (Photo: Kim Chandler/AP)
Montgomery: The state is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, opening up shots to everyone 16 and older Monday. Gov. Kay Ivey announced the expansion while touring a National Guard pop-up vaccine clinic in her hometown, Camden. “Our goal is simple, and that is to get shots off the shelf into the arms of Alabamians,” Ivey said. The expansion makes about 4 million Alabamians eligible for a vaccine, roughly 80% of the state’s population. Those 18 and older will be able to receive any of the three authorized vaccine varieties, depending on availability, while 16- and 17-year-olds are only approved for Pfizer’s shot. The state has courted criticism for consistently lower rates of distributing vaccine doses than other states but has ranked high in strategic distribution for the most vulnerable areas. The state’s highest per capita vaccination rates can be found in the Black Belt, such as Ivey’s native Wilcox County. The area has high rates of poverty and minority populations, which have disproportionately borne the most severe COVID-19 outcomes. National Guard units have crossed the state for nearly two weeks, setting up mobile clinics like the one at Wilcox Central High School on Friday. But issues such as transportation access can still plague rural access, and recent severe weather has suppressed turnout.
Anchorage: Ramping up efforts to get vaccines to underserved communities, the city sent workers from a contracted provider to administer COVID-19 shots at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on a recent Sunday. The measure is part of an effort to make the vaccines accessible to groups who may normally be unable to get them, including people without health insurance and those who speak limited English, Alaska Public Media reports. “We’re really into a place where we just need easier access,” Anchorage Health Director Heather Harris said. The city has created vaccine clinics in sports arenas, hotels and churches. Anchorage has also targeted the LGBTQ+ and Hmong communities and hospitality workers. “We are really focused on bringing vaccine, whatever small amount, to locations to do folks that might otherwise have access issues,” said Christy Lawton, who leads the city’s vaccine equity effort. “And if that’s, you know, 150-dose clinic we have to do over the next few months at every little church in town, then that’s what we’re doing.” Lawton said while filling appointments has been difficult, a community advisory board on vaccine equity that the city created in January has increased engagement. The group has about 50 members now and meets about every week.
Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey escalated a long-simmering fight with Mayor Kate Gallego on Friday by demanding the city drop its plans to close parking lots and grills at city parks to limit the spread of COVID-19 on Easter weekend. The Republican governor said making it harder for people to use public parks would drive family gatherings indoors, where the risk of coronavirus transmission is higher, and announced that all state parks would be open and free on Easter. “For some unknown reason, our state’s largest city doesn’t want you in your own public parks,” Ducey said in a video on Twitter. “These parks belong to the taxpayers, not to politicians.” Gallego, a Democrat, has been one of Ducey’s most pointed critics during the pandemic, saying he’s done far too little to slow the spread of the virus while tying the hands of mayors who tried to do more. She was among the first to criticize his decision last week to end mask mandates imposed by cities and lift restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses. On Friday, Ducey turned the tables, saying he’ll blame Gallego if there’s a rise in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks. Data shows cases are already on the rise, and Ducey’s own public health director, Dr. Cara Christ, has said there could be an increase after Ducey eased restrictions that have tamped down the spread.
Little Rock: The number of Arkansans receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is rising, and daily increases in coronavirus cases and deaths are falling, according to data released Saturday. An additional 29,343 doses of vaccine have been administered, and more than 1.2 million residents have been vaccinated, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The department reported 330,970 total virus cases and 5,641 deaths, increases of 217 cases and two deaths from Friday. The rolling average of new cases has fallen from 253.4 per day to 151.1, a drop of 40.4%, and the rolling average of deaths declined from 13.1 daily to eight, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone in the state 16 and older.
Music fans shop at the newly reopened Amoeba Music, the world’s largest independent record store, in Los Angeles on Friday. (Photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Sacramento: Sports, theater and music fans will be able to take their seats again as the state’s coronavirus cases plummet and vaccinations jump. After a yearlong ban on most indoor seating, the state set the stage Friday for a literal stage-setting that could see resumption of NBA games and live entertainment performances in most counties beginning April 15. Most of the state’s 58 counties will be permitted to allow at least some indoor seating because they fall into the lower three levels of California’s four-tiered COVID-19 restriction plan. Big population centers like San Francisco, Santa Clara County and Los Angeles County are in the second-least-restrictive orange tier. Only three counties – San Joaquin, Merced and Inyo – remain in the highest purple tier, indicating “widespread” COVID-19 risk. The others will be permitted some indoor seating “with capacity limits and modifications including physical distancing, advance ticket purchases, designated areas for eating and drinking, and attendance limited to in-state visitors,” according to a state public health announcement. State officials won’t require coronavirus testing or proof of vaccination for some of those events. Events that do require testing and vaccinations will be allowed to have more paying customers than those that don’t.
Denver: The state will no longer require masks to be worn in most settings in the 31 counties that are on the lowest level of the state’s COVID-19 dial system, Gov. Jared Polis’ office announced Friday. In the counties at Level Green, masks will only be required in schools, among congregate care visitors, and in other high-risk settings such as health care facilities and hair salons, The Denver Post reports. “Every community has been impacted differently by this pandemic, and we want to ensure this order is reflective of that,” Polis said. Colorado has 64 counties. The new 30-day order will still require masks to be worn indoors in counties at Level Blue and higher when there are public gatherings of at least 10 unvaccinated people or people with an unknown vaccination status. The order does not mention requiring proof of vaccination and puts much of the enforcement on business owners and operators. Denver remains at Level Yellow on the state’s dial, and most of the metro area is at Level Blue or Level Yellow. Gilpin is the only county in the 10-county metro area at Level Green. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday that he plans to keep the city’s mask mandate in place until at least early May regardless of what the state does. His jurisdiction has a consolidated city and county government.
Hartford: The families of nearly 220,000 children who are eligible for the free or reduced-price school meals program will receive additional food assistance benefits in April because of the pandemic. The state Department of Social Services and Department of Education announced Friday that $88.6 million will be available through the federal Pandemic EBT program to help ensure eligible children in prekindergarten through high school can purchase food when they’re learning from home or in hybrid schooling. The food benefits will be deposited April 11 in the electronic benefit transfer accounts of about 59,500 households, which include 101,187 children, that are currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. An additional 586 households, with 997 children, that are enrolled in the Temporary Family Assistance Program but not currently enrolled in SNAP will also receive the P-EBT boost. Meanwhile, the Department of Social Services will mail EBT cards to about 69,600 households, with 117,486 children, not currently enrolled in SNAP. The cards can be used at any location that accepts SNAP/EBT cards, including farmers’ markets. Families do not need to apply for P-EBT benefits. The departments will use attendance information provided by schools to determine whether children are eligible.
Wilmington: After making some big adjustments to issue marriage licenses during a pandemic, the state’s clerks of the peace had a busy 2020. The number of marriage licenses issued did go down, though not as much as one might think considering the restrictions placed on gatherings, venues, restaurants, travel and more. Marriage licenses issued dipped by about 10% in Sussex and New Castle counties. Kent County’s numbers were nearly identical to 2019’s. What did change is the way Delaware clerks of the peace do their jobs. Prior to late April 2020, anyone wishing to obtain a marriage license had to visit a clerk of the peace’s office in person. Due to COVID-19, the governor issued a modification to the state of emergency allowing licenses to be issued to applicants appearing by video call. Kent and New Castle continue to issue licenses without seeing applicants in person. In Sussex County, Clerk of the Peace Norman “Jay” Jones opted to require applicants to be seen in person again after his office reopened in June. In-house marriage ceremonies stopped when the shutdown began, but a few weeks later, both Jones and Kent County Clerk of the Peace Brenda Wootten resumed them. New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Lisa Darrah stopped performing marriage ceremonies altogether March 18, 2020, and has yet to resume.
District of Columbia
Washington: Echoes of life are returning to Union Station, WUSA-TV reports. A year after coronavirus lockdowns reached the nation’s capital, hours are increasing for restaurant workers within the 115-year-old landmark’s West Hall. A Laderach Swiss chocolate store recently opened between the Amtrak gates and the gilded Main Hall. Down the hall, a new Paper Source opened its doors, receiving a trickle of traffic during what counts as a Friday evening rush hour a year into the pandemic’s new normal. An entire upper level of retail remains nearly empty, with an opaque outlook on whether corporations will ever reopen or restock shuttered stores. “It is difficult to estimate (the economic toll) because it fluctuates,” said Beverley Swaim-Staley, president and CEO of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation. “Many retailers and restaurants went to modified hours, and then they closed, and they’ve come back with modified hours. And frankly, that is still changing.” But it seems clear the nadir has passed, Swaim-Staley said, compared to when Amtrak traffic was down 95% last spring. A year later, special events are being booked for the summer and fall, after graduation celebrations for Georgetown, weddings and galas were all put on hold. “That gives me great hope,” Swaim-Staley said.
Juan Carlos Guerrero, 62, holds his second-shot reminder card as he speaks to a health care worker after getting a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine March 17 at the Miami-Dade County Tropical Park vaccination site in Miami. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Tallahassee: Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to get service. The Republican governor had previously announced his intent to issue an order banning so-called vaccine passports. His action also barred any government agency in the state from issuing such documentation for the purpose of providing proof of vaccinations. In his executive order, DeSantis asserted that “vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.” The order does not preclude businesses such as restaurants and retail stores from screening protocols and other measures recommended by state and federal health officials. As of last week, more than 2 million Floridians have been infected by the coronavirus, and nearly 33,500 have died. DeSantis’ order scrapped a plan by a private university near Fort Lauderdale that would have required students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when they returned for the fall semester. Nova Southeastern University had announced its plan earlier Friday. Nova President George L. Hanbury II said in a statement hours later that the school had planned for universal vaccination “to protect the health and safety of our students and staff” but will comply with DeSantis’ order.
Augusta: A large health system in east Georgia has ramped up vaccinations ahead of the one of the state’s premier sporting events. Augusta University Health officials plan to provide nearly 12,000 vaccines in the 10 days leading up to Masters week, Dr. Joshua Wyche, assistant vice president for strategic planning and pharmacy, said in a statement. The Masters is planned for Thursday through Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club. The health system is still in need of volunteers who can help at the clinics in coming weeks and months. “Volunteers are critical to ensuring that we can make our community healthier and safer, together,” said Kristina Baggott, associate vice president for volunteer services and community engagement at Augusta University. “Everyone is invited to join AU Health’s team of COVID-19 community vaccination clinic volunteers,” she said. “Both clinical and nonclinical volunteers are needed to provide compassionate and inclusive service at the AU Health vaccination clinics.”
Honolulu: Visitors to the island of Kauai will receive a discount card for local businesses if they voluntarily take a coronavirus test three days after arriving in addition to their required test before travel. The Kokua Kauai Card program will begin Monday, when the island reenters the Safe Travels Program, which allows people to avoid quarantining if they can show a negative pre-travel coronavirus test, Hawaii Public Radio reports. The card will feature a QR code that links to a site with discounts and incentives offered by local Kauai companies. About 60 Kauai businesses, hotels and restaurants are participating in the program. “We wanted an additional layer of security in addition to what Safe Travels provides,” said Mark Perriello, the executive director of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce. “We’re getting as many businesses as possible to offer discounts and promotions to people who take the second test to give them more incentive in addition to just doing the right thing.” The program will be conducted by a joint partnership among the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, the Kauai Visitors Bureau and the Kauai chapter of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, the radio station reports.
Nampa: Lawmakers have introduced a bill that would fully fund all-day kindergarten programs in the state. The state only funds half-day kindergarten programs, the Idaho Press reports. As a result, school districts must pool together money from their general funds and other sources to pay for a full-day kindergarten program. Some districts, such as Boise and West Ada, charge tuition to parents. The state Department of Education said 88 out of the state’s 115 school districts and 34 of its 67 charter schools offer at least some full-day kindergarten option. Republican state Sen. Carl Crabtree and Republican state Rep. Judy Boyle introduced a bill March 11 to fund full-day kindergarten at an annual cost of up to $42.1 million. A new version was scheduled to be introduced March 22, but the Legislature was shut down due to a coronavirus outbreak. The new version, Republican state Rep. Lance Clow said, will use federal coronavirus relief funds to cover new expenses for about two to three years.
Springfield: The top Republican in the state Senate has introduced a bill to shield health care providers and others from being held responsible for injuries or deaths related to coronavirus exposure. Minority Leader Sen. Dan McConchie said the legislation would provide civil liability protection to people working for businesses, manufacturers, schools, institutions of higher education, units of local government and religious institutions. Last April, Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended civil liability protections to health care workers, health care volunteers and hospitals in one of his executive orders. But the executive order expired in the end of June and was not reissued. McConchie said the bill applies to individuals in these settings, as long as their action at issue was “in substantial compliance or was consistent with any federal or State statute, rule, regulation, order, or public health guidance related to COVID-19 that was applicable to the person or activity at issue at the time of the alleged exposure or potential exposure.” It would not apply in circumstances where a person in these settings “intended to cause harm” or acted with “actual malice,” he said. Actions that constitute gross negligence or willful misconduct are also not protected from liability, he said.
St. Elmo Steak House in downtown Indianapolis, Friday, June 25, 2020. (Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)
Indianapolis: A local landmark, St. Elmo Steak House, has been closed until further notice after multiple employees of the downtown Indianapolis restaurant tested positive for the coronavirus. Craig Huse, president of Huse Culinary, issued a statement late Saturday confirming that nine St. Elmo’s employees had contracted the virus. “Out of an abundance of caution, St. Elmo’s has made the decision to close the establishment and conduct a thorough, deep cleaning of the restaurant,” Huse said in a statement. “While we regret not being able to serve our visitors, the safety and well-being of our employees and our guests is our top priority.” The St. Elmo’s closure comes as the Marion County Public Health Department investigates whether anyone in Indianapolis was exposed to the virus by Alabama residents following reports of a University of Alabama student who attended the NCAA basketball tournament dying of COVID-19 complications. Luke Ratliff, 23, died after a brief illness days after visiting Indianapolis for March Madness, his father has confirmed. Multiple sources told the Tuscaloosa News that the Alabama basketball super-fan died of complications related to COVID-19. It is unclear whether Ratliff had contracted the virus before, during or after his visit to Indianapolis.
Des Moines: Coronavirus-related hospitalizations rose above 200 again Friday as the state reported another 616 confirmed cases, with much of the increase due to infections of young people. The Iowa Department listed an additional eight deaths, bringing the total to 5,751 deaths. Data shows young adults are a significant segment of those testing positive, as 27% of the cases reported in the prior seven days were among residents ages 18 to 29. The data shows positive tests were trending lower and flattened but began increasing March 21. Iowa has the nation’s seventh-highest COVID-19 case rate with 11,125 cases per 100,000, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The state has the 16th-highest COVID-19 death rate in the nation with 182 deaths per 100,000. Iowa has 621,545 people fully vaccinated, or 19.7% of the population, which ranks eighth in the nation, the CDC said. Meanwhile, Iowa House officials notified lawmakers and Capitol workers Friday that a person associated with the House tested positive for the virus in the second case identified in a week. Republican legislative leaders have rejected mask requirements. Friday’s reported case is at least the eighth since lawmakers began meeting in January.
Mission: Counties already had started dropping or weakening mask rules before lawmakers toppled Gov. Laura Kelly’s newly reissued order requiring them – and more are expected to follow suit even as variants first detected in South Africa and the United Kingdom have been found in Kansas. The order, similar to one passed in November, was always porous, allowing the state’s 105 counties to set their own possibly less restrictive rules or opt out of the order entirely. Kelly, a Democrat, was required to reissue it Thursday under a new Kansas law, which also gives eight top legislators the power to reject her efforts to set rules to address the pandemic. The lawmakers took just hours to overturn it on a party-line vote. Even before the vote, a growing number of counties had started dropping mask requirements, Kansas Association of Counties spokeswoman Kimberly Qualls said Friday. The number opting out rose from 42 in November to 51 in mid-February, Qualls said. Several have taken action since then. The same rules that made it possible for lawmakers to overturn Kelly’s mask order also allow residents and businesses objecting to pandemic restrictions to trigger a lightning-fast 72-hour review by a judge. The burden of proof falls on officials to demonstrate their rules protect public health in the least restrictive way possible.
Louisville: The state’s coronavirus test positivity rate has risen to almost 3.1% after declining steadily for several days, Gov. Andy Beshear reported Friday. The Democratic governor has urged Kentuckians to continue to follow public health guidelines that slow the spread of the virus, even as vaccines become more widely available. “This thing is still dangerous. It’s still killing people, and it still is going to continue to kill people until we stop it,” Beshear said last week at a virtual press briefing. “If we want to avoid another rise in cases here in Kentucky, and we can do that, we’ve just got to keep it up.” The test positivity rate is an indicator of the extent of the spread of the virus. If the rate is less than 5% for two weeks, and testing is widespread, the virus is considered under control, according to the World Health Organization. Kentucky reported 690 confirmed coronavirus cases and three virus-related deaths Friday. Some 393 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Starting Monday, residents 16 and older will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
Street musicians play for a nearly empty Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter in New Orleans on Aug. 25, 2020. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)
New Orleans: The city is waiving some of the fees that bars with live music must pay in 2021. It’s among multiple steps city officials outlined this past week to help music venues bounce back from the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has been loosening some coronavirus-related restrictions on such venues, and live music – with limited attendance – has been returning in some spots. The waiver announced by New Orleans’ economic development director, Jeffrey Schwartz, applies to alcoholic beverage permit fees and other fees that music venues normally are required to pay. Schwartz said the move would affect about 150 businesses. “It goes without saying that music is the lifeblood of our city,” Schwartz said during a Thursday news conference at the Howlin’ Wolf music club. Schwartz and Mayor LaToya Cantrell discussed other steps the city is taking to help such venues bounce back from the pandemic, including getting operators ready to apply for aid under the new Shuttered Venue Operator Grants federal program. “We do not want any music venue or live performance venue in the city to miss out on these funds,” Schwartz said, noting a city website created to help operators apply.
Wells Wood Turning and Finishing, of Buckfield, Maine, created the White House's commemorative Easter eggs for 2021, featuring masked bunnies and President Joe Biden's German shepherds, Champ and Major. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/RIVERSIDE UNIVERSITY HEALTH SYSTEM)
Buckfield: The tradition of Maine-made commemorative Easter eggs for the White House has been carried on despite the pandemic. Wells Wood Turning and Finishing in Buckfield did the honors this year, producing colorful, wooden eggs. “The work in the eggs is really a tribute to the 30 people who work here in the mill. We’re pleased to represent the state of Maine and the production and manufacturer of the eggs,” Vice President Simon Barney told WGME-TV. The 2021 eggs feature a bunny wearing a mask on one side and the signatures of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on the other. The golden egg is unique, with an image of the president’s German shepherd dogs, Champ and Major. Normally, they’re given out to children at the White House Easter Egg Roll, a tradition that dates back to 1878. Like last year, this year’s event was canceled because of the pandemic, so thousands of commemorative eggs are being donated to vaccination sites, community health care centers and hospitals, the White House said.
Baltimore: Domestic violence incidents have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, with police reporting a case increase of nearly one-third in the city, according to police department data. Experts told the Baltimore Sun that isolation, cramped living conditions and financial hardships from the pandemic have made it more difficult for survivors, predominantly women, to seek protection or leave their abusers. Violent domestic crime in Baltimore has risen 31% year in 2021, increasing from 354 incidents in the first three months of 2020 to 462 in the first three months of this year, police data shows. Reports of domestic aggravated assaults have risen by 35%, from 266 to 359 during the same period. “As our department continues to work closely with our partners to connect victims and potential victims to resources, it is vital that we are apprehending those responsible for violent crimes,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement. Janice Miller, director of Survivor Engagement and Stability Services at the House of Ruth Maryland, said its hotline received about 25 calls a day from survivors in need of assistance between March and October, an increase of nearly 20% compared with before the pandemic.
North Adams: The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is sending students home for the semester early and moving to all-remote learning in response to a surge of coronavirus cases on campus. The college announced Thursday that it would move classes online starting Monday and close dorms for the semester April 11, The Berkshire Eagle reports. The state school in North Adams has identified 28 cases through campus testing since March 22, school President James Birge said. He blamed the rise in cases on social activity in residence halls, particularly the Flagg Townhouse Apartment Complex. “Through our testing and tracing protocol, we discovered that the spread is limited to the townhouses and some social gathering activity there,” he said. “And it had spread a little to other residence areas. But, through our tracing protocol, we discovered no spread in labs, offices and classrooms.” The school in March identified a cluster among residents of the Flagg complex and limited students who live there to their residences. Students found to have held social gatherings in violation of the college’s COVID-19 rules will be held accountable, he said. College leadership considered a two-week shift to remote learning but decided against it because classes end in about a month anyway.
The Rev. Charles Christian Adams walks into the sanctuary at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church on Wednesday in Detroit, ahead of the church's reopening Easter Sunday following more than a year without in-person worship services. The sanctuary will be cleaned in between services, and parishioners must call ahead of time to make a reservation. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)
Detroit: A historic church reopened its doors Easter Sunday for in-person services for the first time in over a year, amid a statewide COVID-19 surge. Hartford Memorial Baptist Church – which was closed last Easter for the first time in its more than 100-year history – limited worshippers and required masks Sunday. “We believe that the church should be a part of the resurrection of our society and an effort to return to a sense of normalcy,” the Rev. Charles Christian Adams said. “We know that other sectors of society are doing it. Restaurants have reopened, they’re letting people in to athletic events, the malls are open, and all of those people are laying it all on the line to get society going again. And we feel that the church should not sit on the sidelines and wait until all is well to reopen. … People need the church.” Hartford was hit hard by the pandemic. At least 14 congregants died from COVID-19. Michigan’s number of new coronavirus cases topped 8,400 Saturday for the highest daily total since early December, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Michigan doesn’t report new COVID-19 data on Sundays.
St. Paul: A Ramsey County judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota can proceed against the state Department of Corrections over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge Sara Grewing ruled last week that all Minnesota inmates could be included in a class-action suit and that Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm can be added as defendants, WCCO-TV reports. The lawsuit alleges that just one-fifth of the state’s approximately 7,600 inmates have been fully vaccinated. Grewing will later decide whether the state’s inmate vaccination effort violated state law. “At this point in the fight against COVID-19, it is universally accepted that people working and living together are at exponentially heightened risk for contracting COVID-19,” Grewing said. Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has said all inmates will be vaccinated by April 9.
Jackson: An office within the Mississippi State Department of Health that works to reduce gaps in access to health care is looking for organizations to host COVID-19 vaccination events for Hispanic, Black and Vietnamese residents, as well as people who live in rural areas. The Office of Health Equity is partnering with Federally Qualified Health Centers to increase vaccination efforts around the state, focusing on vulnerable populations. “What we need now are new local partners to help us bring vaccinations into communities that have not had the access that other Mississippians have had so far,” said Director of the Office of Health Equity Dr. Chigozie Udemgba. These partners can be community organizations, businesses and even cities. The partners will help identify individuals who need vaccinations, and the health department will schedule the events. Those interested in hosting a vaccination event can call 1-877-978-6453. As of Friday, 61% of all vaccinations against COVID-19 in the state had been given to white residents, according to data provided by the state Department of Health. Just over 30% of vaccinations have been given to Black residents and 2% to Asian residents. Mississippi has the highest population of African American residents, at just under 40% of the total population.
St. Louis: Drops in coronavirus transmission rates in the St. Louis area are beginning to stall, raising concerns that residents are dropping their guard too soon and that caseloads could soon rise again. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the number of daily new infections fell precipitously after a peak in January. Missouri’s seven-day average dropped below 500 a day last month, for the first time since last summer. At the same time, the St. Louis region’s daily average hospital admissions tumbled to 35, the lowest in eight months. Meanwhile, the region is now on track to reach widespread immunity – meaning about 75% of the adult population vaccinated against COVID-19 – by late June, an expectation weeks better than mid-August estimates made just last month. Yet state and regional caseloads and hospitalizations have now stalled at current levels for about four weeks. “Everyone is in this prevention-methods burnout phase,” said Tim Wiemken, a St. Louis University professor and infectious disease expert. “The weather is getting nicer, and people are just over it.” There also are concerns that more infectious versions of the virus may be adding to caseloads, adding urgency to the vaccination effort. “That’s the race here, and it’s neck and neck for the foreseeable future,” Wiemken said.
Stasha Sokolowski, a Montana State University nursing student, vaccinates a patient with the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine during the second day of a vaccine clinic at Montana ExpoPark on Jan. 27 in Great Falls, Mont. (Photo: RION SANDERS/GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE)
Helena: The state posted 158 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing Montana’s total to 105,035 confirmed reports. Of the total cases, 102,570 were recovered, and 1,000 remained active, with 44 people hospitalized out of 4,802 total hospitalizations. Montana added 11 deaths since Friday’s report, bringing the total to 1,465 fatalities related to the respiratory illness. The state has administered 1,211,006 tests for the coronavirus, 4,531 more than Friday. To date, the state has administered 520,892 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 208,603 residents are fully immunized. Cascade County opened appointments for residents to schedule their first COVID-19 vaccine doses through their community clinic. As of Friday afternoon, only about 40% of the appointment slots had been claimed. As of Saturday morning, several time slots were still available for vaccination appointments this week between Tuesday and Friday. All residents over 16 years old are now eligible to receive a vaccine.
Omaha: A 31-year-old cattle rancher is recovering after doctors replaced his coronavirus-damaged lungs. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that Jake Immink, of Fairbury, got sick around Halloween and wound up hospitalized on a ventilator for months. His lungs were so damaged that his only chance for a fairly normal life was a double-lung transplant. He underwent the surgery March 20 after loosing weight and building up strength. He put his new lungs to the test this week, walking a mile and a half. “I fully expect him to be herding cattle this summer,” said Dr. Heather Strah, a transplant pulmonologist with Nebraska Medicine in Omaha. Performing transplants for patients whose lungs are damaged by an acute illness is rare, although it’s become more common because of COVID-19. Strah said she’s aware of about 40 that have been done since the start of the pandemic, but Immink’s was the first in Nebraska. Immink said he wants to be a cautionary tale to people who may not think COVID-19 is a big deal, and he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can. “I just hope everyone takes it serious, and we can get back to a normal life,” he said.
Las Vegas: Regulators say casinos seeking the state’s OK to raise the current gambling floor occupancy limit above 50% must take steps to encourage their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission on Friday issued a memo with guidelines pushing casinos to provide paid time off for employees to be vaccinated, coordinate transportation to vaccine sites and make arrangements with pharmacy companies for vaccine distribution. The state on March 15 increased maximum gambling floor occupancy at 50% of capacity, up from 25%, and the regulators have been authorized beginning May 1 to approve reopening plans with higher occupancy limits. The memo said operators’ requests for higher limits “will only be taken in cases where licensees have taken measurable and material steps” to vaccinate their workforce. “Hospitality workers, many of which are front-of-house personnel interacting with visitors from around the globe, are critically positioned to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the memo said. It said Nevada’s hospitality workforce has a “relatively low degree of vaccination penetration,” though some companies have begun taking steps to encourage employees to be vaccinated.
Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu’s mandate that all K-12 schools return to full-time, in-person learning by April 19 caught administrators, school boards and teachers off guard, though many schools were already on track to meet that deadline. Among the two-thirds of schools that responded to a recent Department of Education survey, 60% had started offering in-person instruction five days a week to all students who wanted it before April 1. Another 16% of responding schools said they were offering in-person learning four days a week. Among those not offering five days per week of in-person instruction, 16% planned to reach that goal by April 19, and another 20% had planned to get there by May 3. But 14% had planned to wait until the next school year, and 47% had not yet set a date. Critics of Sununu’s announcement Thursday noted that many teachers will not be fully vaccinated by April 19. The head of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers also said some schools can’t achieve the recommended amount of social distancing because of school size and student population, and many will struggle to combine in-class teaching with a remote option for those students who prefer to stay home.
An electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 particles that cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (Photo: NIAID – RML via AP)
Hackensack: A new test developed by the state’s largest hospital network to detect coronavirus variants may help public health officials understand how widespread the mutations are and how much they are contributing to a recent surge in cases and hospitalizations, scientists announced Thursday. The test developed at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery and Innovation in Nutley can identify the United Kingdom, Brazilian and South African variants in about 21/2hours. That is significantly faster than genomic sequencing, which takes one to three days to complete. The laboratory is processing about 100 samples every few hours. Like the rest of the U.S., New Jersey has been flying blind about the variants’ presence because it lacks the lab capacity to do the complex, labor-intensive testing on a large scale. New Jersey had identified only 737 COVID-19 cases involving variants as of Wednesday, but officials expect the true number to be far higher, due to the current lack of testing capacity. Only 2% of all positive coronavirus samples are being tested in New Jersey, state health officials said last week – and new COVID-19 cases are running at anywhere from 3,000 to more than 4,500 a day.
Students receive their doctoral and master’s degrees at the New Mexico State University commencement ceremony at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Photo: Nathan J Fish/Sun-News)
Las Cruces: New Mexico State University has said it will hold limited in-person commencement events in May in addition to its previously planned virtual ceremony for its spring graduates. Events will be held at Aggie Memorial Stadium in multiple sessions to comply with social distancing and capacity guidelines. Tickets will be required, and students can have no more than two guests in attendance. Masks will be required for all graduates, volunteers and guests. The in-person event will be broadcasted so people unable to attend can participate in both ceremonies. The virtual celebration May 15 will take place regardless of in-person event plans. Commencement activities for the university’s branch campuses will be determined by each campus. “We know how much our students want an opportunity to celebrate together as they reach the life-changing milestone of completing their degrees,” NMSU President John Floros said. “Our commencement team is now hard at work planning an event that will allow us to celebrate together safely.” The announcement came after discussions and guidance from the state Department of Health and the state Higher Education Department.
A student moves into a dormitory at Cornell University on Aug. 24 for the fall 2020 semester. (Photo: Jason Koski/Cornell University)
Ithaca: Cornell University said Friday that it will require students to be vaccinated this fall as it makes plans for in-person instruction. The vaccination requirement covers the Ivy League school’s main campus in New York’s Finger Lakes region as well as the Cornell Tech campus in New York City and its agricultural college in Geneva. “Medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated, but the expectation will be that our campuses and classrooms will overwhelmingly consist of vaccinated individuals, greatly reducing the risk of infection for all,” according to a statement from President Martha E. Pollack and Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff. Cornell has more than 23,000 students overall, with 22% coming from other countries. Citing expanded eligibility and increasing production, university officials said students should be able to be vaccinated before the fall. Students who return this fall without a valid vaccination will be expected to be vaccinated as soon after their arrival as possible. Cornell administrators anticipate that enough students will be vaccinated to make possible in-person instruction without a routinely scheduled online option. But they acknowledged uncertainty about conditions this fall.
Asheville: Affordable housing, workforce development, early childhood education and more are among early priorities for the more than $50 million Buncombe County will get through the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief funds. At a budget workshop Tuesday, commissioners laid out where they’d like to see that money go, though it’s unclear exactly what the funds will be eligible for as officials wait for more guidance from the federal government. While commissioners are starting to chart priorities, Buncombe County and other local governments are still awaiting more specifics from the U.S. Treasury on exactly how the funds can be spent. Commissioners setting their priorities Tuesday started the planning process, which will now move to gathering ideas from departments, community partners and the public before projects are prioritized and brought back to the board of commissioners for approval. At its next meeting April 6, the board will look at proposed staff to support the funding and launch early projects by the start of fiscal year 2022, according to Rachael Nygaard, strategic partnerships director.
Bismarck: Health officials have confirmed nearly 40 more COVID-19 cases in the state. The state health department announced Sunday that it has confirmed 37 more coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases in the state since the pandemic began to 96,991. The death toll remains at 1,466. The 14-day average test positivity rate stood at 5.37%, up from 2.24% a month prior on March 2. About 40% of eligible North Dakotans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday, according to the department.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are slated to headline the 47th annual Dayton Air Show on July 10-11, after the show was canceled in 2020. (Photo: Submitted)
Dayton: The Dayton Air Show will go forward in July – but with reduced attendance and in drive-in style – after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation last year of one of the nation’s most best-known aviation events. Ohio’s current pandemic restrictions on large gatherings meant the show could not return to its previous format, Terry Grevious, the show’s executive director, told the Dayton Daily News on Wednesday. “We flipped the switch today to go from normal to drive-in, and there’s no turning back,” Grevious said. Organizers expect to accommodate 4,000 cars a day, and there will be no aircraft on the ground this year, the newspaper reports. Guests can buy a 20-by-20-foot private viewing area, “using half the area to park their car and the other half to view the show in tailgate fashion,” organizers said in a statement. Announcers Rob Reider and Danny Clisham will broadcast the show over the public address system on show grounds, which are near the Dayton International Airport. The show will also be broadcast on FM radio, the newspaper reports. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the 47th anniversary of the annual event, which will take place July 10-11.
Oklahoma City: Nearly a third of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Friday. More than 1.26 million people Oklahomans have received a dose, according to the CDC data, or about 32% of the state’s nearly 4 million residents. More than 753,000 people have completed their vaccinations. The total number of doses given has topped 2 million, according to Keith Reed, deputy state health commissioner. “This is another significant milestone for all Oklahomans, and we thank those who have stepped up and done their part to protect the lives and health of our communities across the state,” Reed said. The state had the 22nd-highest percentage of the population receiving at least one dose, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Portland: As vaccine administration continues to ramp up, health officials said Friday that they are concerned about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state and variants of the coronavirus. During the past two weeks, Oregon’s COVID-19 case count rates have been rising. The week of March 22, coronavirus cases increased by 28% from the previous week, based on the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 report that was released Wednesday. “It is clear that in Oregon and across the country, the fourth surge of the virus is at our doorstep,” Gov. Kate Brown said Friday. Health officials say that if more contagious variants take hold in Oregon, the coronavirus transmission rate in the state could increase by 20% during April. “As this latest model shows, we still have work to do. We must remain vigilant,” said Dean Sidelinger, the health officer for the Oregon Health Authority. A rise in cases is not just a concern in Oregon. Last week the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pleaded with Americans not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential fourth wave of the virus and saying she has a recurring feeling “of impending doom.”
Fans listen to Blue Oyster Cult perform Aug. 18, 2017, on the Main Stage during CelebrateErie. (Photo: Jack Hanrahan)
Erie: Mayor Joe Schember’s administration announced Friday that the city’s annual downtown summer festival, which was postponed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is being put on hold once again. The multi-day CelebrateErie festival, which typically brings more than 200,000 people to downtown Erie, was supposed to happen sometime this coming August. It is now planned to resume Aug. 19-21, 2022. City officials said the decision was made by CelebrateErie’s planning committee after discussions with the Erie County Department of Health and city officials. “Though we’re disappointed, we feel confident that this is the right decision for our community,” said event organizer Aaron Loncki, the city’s marketing strategist and CelebrateErie’s chief organizer. “We thought that having hundreds of thousands of people in downtown Erie is too risky. We are hoping soon to announce some smaller events we plan to do through the summer.” City officials said that fluctuating regulations for events and guidance to avoid large-scale gatherings because of COVID-19 led to the decision. “The risks and uncertainties surrounding the pandemic are just too unpredictable to put together CelebrateErie at the high-quality level Erie has come to expect and that it deserves,” Loncki said.
Providence: Roger Williams University will require all students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 next fall if they want to step on campus. The private college is also urging faculty and staff to get their shots, WJAR-TV reports. The school with campuses in Bristol and Providence said in a statement to the station that it was among the first universities in the area to move to remote learning last spring at the outset of the pandemic, and therefore “it is right to be among the first to require the vaccine for our students.” There will be medical and religious exceptions, the school said. The school plans a return to full in-person learning in the fall semester with face coverings, social distancing and testing programs remaining in place. Roger Williams junior Adam Zerman said he was on board with the requirement, and many students anticipated it. “Most of my classmates don’t have a huge opinion on it. Most people I know want to get the vaccine when they can,” Zerman said. The school has about 6,500 students.
Rock Hill: The Catawba Indian Nation will now offer COVID-19 vaccines to other Native American tribe members and their families. South Carolina’s only federally recognized tribe has received vaccine supply directly from the federal government and administers the shots through its on-site clinic at its Rock Hill reservation. The Rock Hill Herald reports the clinic will vaccinate anyone over age 18 who is a member of any federally recognized tribe, or those living with or married to registered members of the Catawba Nation. Those eligible can provide a tribal identification card or proof of address to the clinic. Native Americans are especially vulnerable to the effects of the virus, with Native Americans and Alaskan Natives being four times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reservation has offered the vaccine to all members over age 18 since January.
Salem: Several residents of an assisted living facility in the city have tested positive for the coronavirus after being vaccinated, prompting an investigation by the South Dakota Department of Health. State Epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said last week that the state is sampling the positive cases to determine whether a variant mutation of the coronavirus enabled it to evade vaccines that had been administered to residents and staff. The cluster occurred among residents and staff at the Leisure Living assisted living center. Clayton said it is not unknown to have “breakthrough” cases that occur among vaccinated people, noting that the drugs, while effective, aren’t perfect. “We know that even with those very high vaccine effectiveness rates that we will still see some cases,” he said. Terry Sabers, an owner of the Salem facility, confirmed that several residents have tested positive after receiving their full schedule of vaccines but declined give the specific number of residents and staff infected. The severity of infections has varied. “I think it’s the same thing you see around the country,” he said, noting that infections among vaccinated nursing home residents have been reported in Washington. “It’s 95% effective. Think of all the millions of people it won’t cover.”
Knoxville: Knox County voted last week to strip the local Board of Health of the power to enact pandemic safety rules after complaints that its indoor mask mandate and bar curfew have hurt businesses and restricted personal freedoms. The 8-3 vote by the Knox County Commission on Monday, which came after months of public feuding, effectively dissolved the health board and reconstituted it with the same members on an advisory board. That leaves the county with two health advisory boards, since it created another one last year. It’s unclear what the role of the newly constituted board will be. New ordinances take effect 15 days after their passage. County Law Director David Buuck said after that time period, not only will the board be dissolved, but its pandemic safety orders also “will be of no force or legal effect.” Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan will then have the sole authority to enact pandemic safety precautions. She could let the rules lapse, but she could also create new, potentially more restrictive ones. Buchanan can only be removed by the state health commissioner and county mayor acting together, according to state law. Ahead of the vote, Board of Health member Dr. Patrick O’Brien wrote commissioners saying he would resign if they if they went through with it.
Volunteers Kaylin Monroe, Adriana Castro and Samantha Bennett relocate their station to a better-lit area of the parking lot during a drive-thru vaccine center held at the Manor High School stadium Thursday in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez for American-Statesman)
Austin: Doctors and volunteers in one neighborhood went old school to register people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. Instead of having people register online, volunteers decided to put out flyers in East Austin with a phone number, and appointments were made over the phone. The efforts by Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday, a group of about 20 students with the nonprofit Central Texas Allied Health, and several other health care professionals resulted in more than 1,100 residents getting doses of the Pfizer vaccine March 27. Thomas-Hockaday said the vaccinations needed to be enabled with an old-fashioned approach, which she called “wildly successful.” “It was all very organic and done the old-fashioned way, and we thought how can we continue to get this done for the community,” she said. “We heard so many times that people can’t find (appointment-free vaccine clinics) anywhere else, and our clinic was like a godsend.” Many states and counties ask people to make appointments online, but glitchy websites, overwhelmed phone lines and a patchwork of fast-changing rules are bedeviling older people who are often less tech-savvy, may live far from vaccination sites and are more likely not to have internet access at all, especially people of color and those who are poor.
Cedar City: Intermountain Healthcare has started a new self-serve model for coronavirus testing in the city, the organization announced Thursday. Patients can now get self-service collection kits from the Intermountain Healthcare testing site on Sage Drive from Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patients should park in the lot south of InstaCare (where curbside testing originally was) and walk up to the window at the Conex metal container to pick up and drop off their kits. Patients interested in using this service should go to intermountain.com/covid19 to qualify and receive orders to be tested or call 801-596-4784 to have the hotline place the order. Patients will then receive a QR code, which they’ll need to bring with them to the testing pickup and dropoff site. After following the instructions in the kit, patients can stay in the parking lot for self-collection or take it with them and return it later. When self-collection is completed, they’ll return the kit to the same location it was picked up from. Results will be available through the MyHealth+ app and are currently taking about 24 hours to get back.
Lab specialists test samples for the novel coronavirus at the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory in Colchester on March 13, 2020. (Photo: JOEL BANNER BAIRD/FREE PRESS)
Montpelier: The number of new coronavirus cases across the state continues to increase, causing Vermont to lose its long-cherished point of pride as one of the safest states in the country during the pandemic. The state is approaching its highest-ever 14-day average of new cases, according to statistics released Friday. The seven-day average is at its highest level ever. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine blamed the increase on a number of more transmissible variants of the virus that are being found in Vermont and among young people who are more socially active. He urged them to avoid gatherings where virus transmission is more likely. “The bottom line is Vermont is no longer the one green state in a map of red COVID cases across the U.S.,” Levine said. “We are just like all the other states in our region, a region that is currently doing even worse than some other parts of the country with more disease circulating right now.” State officials say the good news is that ever-greater numbers of Vermonters are being vaccinated, helping to limit deaths from COVID-19 and hospitalization among older Vermonters. Gov. Phil Scott, a longtime race car driver, said the state was in the equivalent of the last 10 laps of a long race. He said it wasn’t the time to take off your helmet or five-point seatbelt harness.
Richmond: Fewer aspiring college students are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Daily Press reports FAFSA applications are down 8.2% nationwide. In Virginia, the drop in applications was slightly steeper at 8.7%. The decrease in applications is even more pronounced at schools in which most of students are nonwhite or from low-income families. Students at the state’s low-income high schools have filed roughly 31% fewer applications this year. “It’s exacerbating gaps that existed before the pandemic,” said Erin McGrath, assistant director for college access and PK-12 outreach for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. One reason for the drop is the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, it has disrupted many of the hands-on, in-person events that schools often hold to help families work through the form. Some students who aren’t excited about the prospect of taking virtual classes in college may also be holding off on filling out the FAFSA.
Seattle: COVID-19 is spreading faster than people can be vaccinated, and cases and hospitalizations are climbing throughout King County, a public health official said Friday. The Seattle Times reports that if cases continues to rise over the next week or two, the county may return to the more-limited Phase 2 of the reopening plan, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. On March 22, the state entered Phase 3, which allows up to 10 people from different households to gather indoors and 50 people outdoors. “We need to be prepared for further increases in cases in hospitalizations over the coming weeks, as the effect of recent travel, increasing activities and the impact of more infectious variant strains continue to promote the spread of COVID-19,” Duchin said. While the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 is about a sixth of the peak surge during the fall and winter, the hospitalization rate has more than doubled since early March, he said. The recent rise in hospitalizations over the past few weeks is attributed in part to coronavirus variants. More than 600 cases of variants have been detected in King County, and the number continues to grow. Outbreaks and cases associated with child care and K-12 schools in King County have climbed recently.
Charleston: The state reported five more coronavirus-related deaths Saturday, raising its death toll to more than 2,690 since the pandemic began. The state Department of Health and Human Resources confirmed the deaths of a 63-year old man from Fayette County, a 74-year old man from Taylor County, a 45-year old woman from Logan County, an 88-year old man from Kanawha County and an 89-year old man from Brooke County. The total number of virus cases statewide has surpassed 143,000, the state said. “I believe brighter days are ahead for West Virginia,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet secretary. “We must continue to work together to prevent further loss of loved ones due to COVID-19.” West Virginians can preregister for their COVID-19 vaccinations at vaccinate.wv.gov.
A masked pedestrian walks near Camp Randall Stadium on the campus of UW-Madison on Thursday. The university is one of multiple Wisconsin universities that took dramatic steps to ward off or curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Madison: The state’s second-most-populated county announced that starting Wednesday it will no longer require people at outdoor gatherings to wear masks or keep crowds to a certain size, as long as they stay distanced from one another. Public Health Madison and Dane County’s public health order stipulates that people at outdoor gatherings are required to stay 6 feet apart, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The order also allows self-service food stations and public saunas to reopen. The order came as Wisconsin’s average daily cases have been on the rise, increasing by 24% over the past two weeks. The state reported 706 new cases Saturday, as well as seven deaths. Health officials noted that Dane County has one of the lowest case rates in the state, despite its high population. Officials also cited the 89% rate of vaccination among people 65 and older in the county, saying it was “a critical step in protecting the population most at risk of severe outcomes and death.” Statewide, about 63% of people 65 and up are fully vaccinated. Health officials reported Saturday that more than 3 million shots have been administered, and about 20% of the total population has been fully vaccinated.
Cheyenne: The Legislature has given final approval to a bill that would require residents to present valid forms of identification when voting in person, whether during early voting or on Election Day. Currently, residents are only required to present valid forms of identification when registering to vote. The Senate voted 28-2 to advance the bill Thursday, sending it to Republican Gov. Mark Gordon for consideration, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. Republican state Rep. Chuck Gray, the bill’s main sponsor, has repeatedly described the proposal as a way to restore voters’ confidence in the election system, despite no cases of voter fraud in the past few elections and three cases combined in the past 40 years, according to the Heritage Foundation. “Voter ID is a step in keeping our election statutes tight and ensuring there’s an environment where it is difficult to commit fraud,” Gray told the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. The bill had more than 40 members of the 60-member House of Representatives and half of the 30-member Senate signed on as co-sponsors.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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