A look back at one year of COVID-19 coverage from Report for America

March 11, 2021: One year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, the virus has claimed more than 2.6 million lives worldwide, and is approaching 530,000 deaths here in the United States.

Report for America corps members adapted with swiftness and grace to cover the most consequential story of a generation, maybe a century. Many joined newsrooms in the midst of a nationwide lockdown, with health and social restrictions that presented risks and obstacles for their daily work.

They were on the ground in communities from coast to coast as schools closed, hospitals overfilled in Washington, the first Mississippian died of COVID-19 and New York became the eye of the storm. They covered the collapse and innovative growth of economies from Indiana to Baltimore, the increase in domestic violence in Washington, challenges of rural broadband in Ohio, treatment of essential workers in California and overwhelmed nursing homes in West Virginia

And as the death of George Floyd in Minnesota was followed by nationwide civil unrest and a highly-polarizing presidential election (culminating in a riot on the Capitol and the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump), Report for America corps members were in the field tracing and tracking the outsize impact of the pandemic on health and safety. Storms hit, schools shifted from remote learning back to classrooms, and our reporters were in the field with pen, recorder and camera to capture the crisis and the mourning. And they are on the ground still.

Their work over this harrowing year collects the stories of Americans who will not easily recover from or forget this battle. Their daily coverage of this unprecedented time –failures and triumphs, trials and resistance – is now the record of a transformative year for the country. Together, this local journalism tells a national story that allows readers, legislators, teachers, activists and future generations all to draw from the history of the day in an effort to remember, and hopefully prevent another catastrophe of this scale. Their work is not yet done, but it is our best hope. Find some of their most recent stories, as communities look to emerge from the pandemic, below.

First published Friday, March 13, 2020

March 11, 2021

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – ‘Here’s how a year of COVID-19 impacted Klamath County health’ Alex Schwartz, The Herald and News

MINNEAPOLIS – ‘Police reform advocates express concerns in early days of jury selection in Chauvin trial’ Zoe Jackson, Star Tribune

SAN JUAN, P.R. – ‘Retrasada la carrera para reabrir las escuelas públicas’ José M. Encarnación Martínez, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo 

HARTFORD, Conn. – ‘The Cost Of COVID: Remembering The First Connecticut Inmate To Die Of COVID-19’ Ali Oshinskie, Connecticut Public

DOVER, Del. – ‘‘We need help’: education advocates state case for more equity funding in state budget’ Roman Battaglia, Delaware Public Media

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – ‘Midshipmen to receive COVID-19 vaccines this week’ Heather Mongolio, The Capital Gazette

TAKOMA PARK, Md. – ‘House Panel Moves Relief for Tenants – With Sweeping Cuts – Maryland Matters’ Bennett Leckrone, Maryland Matters

BILOXI, Miss. – ‘Black MS residents not getting equal amount of COVID vaccine’ Isabelle Taft, Sun Herald

DES MOINES, Iowa – ‘COVID-19 Ravages More Than Physical Health’ Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio

LEXINGTON, Ky. – ‘KY COVID-19 positivity rate falls below 4% ’Alex Acquisto, The Lexington Herald Leader

FARGO, N.D. – ‘North Dakota reports 2 COVID-19 deaths, 106 positive cases’ Michelle Griffith, Inforum

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Over 3 million people in NC have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine’ Ben Sessoms, The News & Observer

HILTON HEAD, S.C. – ‘Here’s who qualifies for Phase 1b of COVID vaccines in SC’ Sam Ogazelek, The Island Packet

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – ‘Las Cruces to reach out to families regarding full school reentry’ Miranda Cyr, Las Cruces Sun News

OLYMPIA, Wash. – ‘Just-cause eviction bill passed by WA state House’ Brandon Block, Tri-City Herald

ORLANDO, Florida – ‘Year of COVID: Housing Policy, Post-Pandemic: What Needs to Change?’ Molly Duerig, Spectrum News 13

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Utah’s child care workers can sign up for COVID-19 vaccine in March through federal program’ Becky Jacobs, Salt Lake Tribune

SPOKANE – ‘Washington House passes new version of bill aimed at public health reforms’ Arielle Dreher and Laurel Demkovich, The Spokesman-Review

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘Vaccine updates: Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives in Riverside County’ Maria Sesito, The Desert Sun

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Westside’s strawberry farm icon dies at 85 after losing battle with COVID-19 • Long Beach Post News’ Crystal Niebla, The Long Beach Post 

BOSTON – ‘Black doctors command mass vaccination site’ Morgan Mullings, Bay State Banner

IDAHO FALLS – ‘New infections, outbreaks slow in Idaho long-term care facilities’ Kyle Pfannenstiel, The Post Register

March 5, 2021

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Violence at home: COVID-19 upends domestic violence prosecutions Kaye LaFond, Traverse City Record-Eagle 

Calls reporting domestic violence in Traverse City have gone up 16% since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data compiled by the Record-Eagle. The office of prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg has received three times the number of requests for domestic violence prosecutions in 2020 than the year before, but has filed less cases than in 2019, given that some of the requests weren’t severe or could not be proved. 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – New COVID-19 outreach campaign connects with bilingual LGBTQ Californians Kim Bojórquez, The Sacramento Bee

In an effort to inform gay people of color on COVID-19 information and vaccinations, Equality California, an LGBTQ advocacy group is launching a bilingual social media campaign. Given that LGBT people of color are 50% more likely to personally know someone who died of COVID-19 than other groups, according to a report from UCLA Williams Institute, the campaign aims to make information more accessible through text, mail, email and social media. 

BALTIMORE – Advocates working to get COVID-19 vaccine to Baltimore’s hard-hit Latino community Stephanie Garcia, The Baltimore Sun

With the pandemic hitting to Latino communities in Baltimore much harder than other groups, health officials are working to distribute correct COVID-19 information to members. Much like other groups, the Latino community has doubts and fears when it comes to getting vaccinated, as many citizens are uninsured, undocumented, or don’t know who to turn to for reliable healthcare. 

RALEIGH, N.C. – Mental health effects of the pandemic are likely to persist, Duke experts say Sophie Kasakove, The News & Observer 

The mental health effects of the pandemic will most likely persist even after the vaccination is widely available and distributed, according to Duke University experts who participated in a virtual event on Wednesday. These conditions can have long term consequences on children specifically, as stress can lead to behavioral issues and puts them at greater risk of health problems and unemployment later in life, said the experts. 

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Orange County Grapples With Wave of Hate Toward Asian Americans Over Coronavirus Brandon Pho, Voice of OC

In the midst of the pandemic, hate crimes and prejudice against Asian-Americans has become more prominent, with multiple reports of vandalism in Orange County. However, the racism against this group of people in the area is not new. “Any time there are public health threats, Asians are scapegoated … there’s a lot of history here that’s specific to Orange County.” says Priscilla Huang of the Asian Americans in Action advocacy group.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –  ‘The most basic form of PPE’: 1.6 million households face water shutoffs Jackie Botts, CALmatters

At least 1.6 million California households, or one in eight, have unpaid water bills, with low-income households being disproportionately affected. In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order barring water shut-offs as long as the state is still in a state of emergency, but the debts keep piling up and residents fear what will happen when the state of emergencency is lifted. Meanwhile, state officials and legislators are looking for ways to bail out residents and utilities.   

February 26, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Californians speak more than 200 languages. Not everybody gets the COVID facts they need Kim Bojórquez, The Sacramento Bee
California is home to 11 million foreign-born immigrants that collectively speak more than 200 languages. Those with limited English skills are struggling to find COVID-19 information in their native languages, making it difficult to find vaccination and safety information. Bojórquez details how the problem goes even further, as a lack of contact tracers, bad translations of existing material and broken links in the state’s information sites make it even more difficult to reach these populations. Ivy Zhou, a native Cantonese speaker says, “It’s extremely frustrating, but also unfair, because if you don’t know English then you’re not able to receive this support.”

DES MOINES, Iowa – Food Delivery Helps Elders Avoid Virus, Continue Cultural Traditions Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio
Seeing the risks of COVID-19 contagion and the isolation that the pandemic was imposing on local seniors, Sarah Ha started her own business delivering food from Asian grocery stores to the elderly. With her work, Ha says that it’s not only supporting those in need, but also maintaining and even expanding their culinary culture: “We don’t have a large Asian community, so we want to promote being together and supporting local, so that we can have a sense of that community building,” she says.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Will NC collect data on LGBT people and COVID? Hannah Critchfield, North Carolina Health News
The CDC released a new report stating that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and recommends that states begin collecting data on the sexual orientation of those who contract the virus. Although other states have proposed legislation to begin doing so, North Carolina has not determined if they’re going to begin collecting the data. “We are reviewing the study from the CDC to determine its implications on North Carolina, and we will continue to align with federal recommendations on data collection for COVID-19 cases,” said SarahLewis Peel, spokesperson for the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

VICTORIA, Tex. – ‘A feeling of hope’: Frontline workers describe getting the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Ciara McCarthy, Victoria Advocate
A year after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Texas, Eight fully vaccinated frontline workers discussed their feelings about being vaccinated after working high risk occupations since the beginning of the pandemic. Individuals describe minimal symptoms from the vaccine and feelings of relief.

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – American Indians in Wisconsin now dying from COVID-19 at highest rate of any ethnic group in state Frank Vaisvilas, Green Bay Press-Gazette
Early in the pandemic, Oneida Nation and other Native communities saw great success containing the virus, but starting in the fall, their number of cases started to climb at an alarming rate. Now, according to the Department of Health Services, American Indians in Wisconsin are dying from COVID-19 at much higher rates than other ethnic groups. American Indians represent about 0.9% of the state’s population yet have suffered 1.4% of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 deaths. “As Indian people we value our elders so much because they carry that knowledge with them,” said Jennifer Webster, Oneida Nation council member, indicating that the deaths from COVID-19 are particularly impactful on their communities.

ALBANY, Georgia – Hit hard by COVID early in pandemic, Albany now host to mass vaccination site. Look inside Madeleine Cook, Ledger-Enquirer
Albany, Georgia, once a community with one of the highest infection rates at the start of the pandemic, now maintains a mass vaccination site. Their earlier struggles forced local authorities to adapt quickly and develop strategies to contain the pandemic. That preparedness, according to local officials, put the city ahead in the next phases of the virus, including vaccination efforts.

Photos show health care workers, National Guard troops, and state workers working side by side as they create an organized system to make the vaccination site as efficient as possible.

February 19, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C – NC violated obligations to protect workers from COVID, labor groups claim Sophie Kasakove, The News & Observer
After high rates of COVID-19 workplace casualties in North Carolina, civil rights and workers’ rights groups filed an administrative complaint asking for an investigation on the Department of Labor’s refusal to develop COVID-19 safety rules. In 2020, over 4,800 complaints from workers concerned about safety were made and none received responses.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – How will Utah lawmakers help women and families recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn? Becky Jacobs, The Salt Lake Tribune
A clear gap in policy in Utah is evident as bills related to child care or living wages and employment issues are missing from the state’s 2021 general session, according to activists. Women and children have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19  due to school closures and job losses.

DETROIT, Mich. – 90 cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 reported at Michigan prison Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press
88 inmates and two staff tested positive for COVID-19 at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in West Michigan, according to state police. The more contagious strain of COVID-19, first identified in the U.K,  was confirmed as the cause of the outbreak. As of Tuesday, 705 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 332 active cases at the moment. One inmate has died.

OLYMPIA , Wash. – Inslee: Washington is expanding testing to schools in an effort to get kids back in person  Laurel Demkovich, The Spokesman-Review
In an effort to open schools, Washington state is expanding its voluntary testing program to 48 more districts, an increase from the current 11, Gov Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday. The program will assist each school district in determining the best way to test students and keep everyone safe while returning to in-person learning.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Once used to fight outbreaks, ‘strike teams’ fill gaps in nursing home vaccinations Hannah Critchfield, North Carolina Health News
Early on into the pandemic, North Carolina formed “strike teams” to stop the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. These teams of 10-15 volunteers use an emergency response model to address public health crises. Now, the groups are being repurposed  to help vaccinate members of the community putting to use the lessons that they learned during the first phase of the pandemic.

HOUSTON, Tex. – History Of Medical Racism Threatens To Hinder COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Among Black Texans Sara Ernst,  Kera News
A history of trauma and distrust in medicine fueled by a racist and discriminatory practices has left black Americans more reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to polls. Ernst reports how Pastor Timothy Sloan, the leader of the 5,000 member Luke Church in Texas,  spoke recently with  Dr. Anthony Fauci over Zoom to allay his congregation’s fears.  The call, “brought me to not only the confidence to take the vaccine myself, but to encourage others, too,” said Sloan.

February 12, 2021

MIAMI – ‘Mark of the devil’: Some Hispanic pastors contribute to vaccine skepticism in Miami’ Lautaro Grinspan, Miami Herald

Multiple Evangelical pastors in Latino communities are advising their flock to not get vaccinated, citing conspiracy theories about mind control as an argument against it. Health authorities in Miami-Dade are looking to counteract this misinformation by working with the leaders of some of the biggest churches in the area and doing more outreach to the community.

TAKOMA PARK, Md. ‘Bills Address Special Education Challenges During COVID-19’ Elizabeth Shwe, Maryland Matters

The pandemic has created additional hurdles for parents of children with disabilities. According to federal law, students must receive an  Individualized Education Program (IEP) that details how schools would meet the students needs. This plan is contingent on an assessment, but COVID-19 has delayed these evaluations, leaving behind students at a critical time. A bill introduced at the state legislature would require schools to provide the assessment in a timely manner or pay parents for the costs of conducting the evaluation with a provider outside the school system.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘Ohio health dept. to restructure after 4K unreported deaths’ Andrew Welsh-Higgins and Farnoush Amiri

Since October of last year, some 4,000 COVID-19 deaths went uncounted by Ohio’s Health Department, which announced Thursday that it was investigating the cause of the underreporting and is in the process of restructuring its infectious diseases division. These additional numbers would inflate the daily death counts for the next few days, officials said. According to the state’s official COVID-19 dashboard, over 15,000 people had died of the virus as of Friday.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘1 in 37 North Carolina vaccine recipients live out of state’ Bryan Anderson and Michelle Liu, The Associated Press

Close to 3% of those who received a COVID-19 vaccine dose in North Carolina are from out of state, or 1 in 37 recipients, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. While there are no restrictions on who can obtain a vaccination based on where they live, the department’s secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that local health officials could give preference to North Carolina residents. Cohen did say that NCDHH would be reviewing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday.

February 11, 2021

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘It’s a logistical challenge’: Health officials work to vaccinate in areas hard-hit by COVID-19’ Sebastian Echeverry, Long Beach Post
Community organizations in Long Beach have encountered a multitude of challenges in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the most at-risk communities, technology has proven to be a barrier, as the citizens age 65 and older often do not have access to a reliable internet source to make appointments to receive the vaccine. In addition, the community is struggling to find  volunteers, as health care workers are already stretched thin in hospitals. To overcome these obstacles, hospitals have launched pop-up vaccination events, done direct outreach to hard-to-reach patients and enlisted the help of nurses from other counties.

BILOXI, Missi. – ‘VA opens COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Biloxi’ Isabelle Taft, The Sun Herald
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center is offering vaccines to veterans on Feb. 13 who are over 65 years of age, those with spinal cord issues and those living in long-term facilities or who receive caregiver support. The center is asking that individuals call to make appointments and recommend calling to express interest for those who are not eligible for the time being.

INDIANAPOLIS – ‘Indiana expanding COVID-19 vaccines to Hoosiers 60 and up’ Casey Smith, Associated Press
Vaccines will soon be available to the 60 to 65 age group in Indiana as the state continues to put essential workers on the back burner, an opposite approach to the rollout recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials cite statistics that show that patients 60 and older represent 93% of COVID-19 related deaths and 64% of hospitalizations to support their decision.

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina to Open Vaccines for Teachers on Feb. 24 Bryan Anderson, Associated Press
Starting Feb. 24, educators, support staff and child care workers in North Carolina will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, with frontline essential workers following suit in March. The move to vaccinate staff in schools comes after the pass of a bill proposed by Republican state senators requiring the reopening of schools, which is now being debated in the House.

February 10, 2021

HONOLULU – ‘Other States Have Opened Vaccinations To Those As Young As 65. Why Not Hawaii?’ Lorin Eleni Avendaño, Honolulu Civil Beat

With approximately 80% of Hawaii’s allocated vaccines distributed, citizens are questioning the state’s 75-and-older eligibility limit on the doses. Patients younger than 75 aren’t included in vaccination distribution until the third phase, scheduled for March. “We’re really focusing first to make sure we’ve made adequate progress on 75-plus and then we’ll move on to 65 and older,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist.

MILWAUKEE – ‘COVID Questions: Can I Get Infected After My Vaccine?’ Madeline Burakoff, Spectrum Milwaukee

Although the COVID-19 vaccine boosts immunity to the virus, it is still possible to get infected after receiving it, depending on situational exposure and precautions taken. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being distributed offer protection above 90%, and it’s important to note that individuals cannot contract the virus from the vaccine itself, reports Madeline Burakoff. The CDC recommends that citizens continue taking proper safety precautions after being vaccinated.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Cooper signs COVID relief bill distributing federal money’ Bryan Anderson, Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a coronavirus relief bill that will redistribute federal funds allocated to the state last year. The money will go towards education, rental assistance and vaccine distribution. Parents also have an opportunity to apply for a one-time check to assist with childcare costs.

NEW ORLEANS – ‘Mardi Gras 2020 spawned up to 50K coronavirus cases, likely from a single source, study says’ Emily Woodruff, The New Orleans Advocate

A new study aimed at determining how COVID-19 spread through New Orleans has found that the 2020 Mardi Gras was responsible for tens of thousands of cases, after a single person likely brought the virus to the city a few weeks prior. Because the celebration was held just a few weeks before the first lockdown in the U.S., minimal testing and data was available to detect and track cases. The study suggests that the timing of the event and the mass spread of cases stemming from it changed the shape of the pandemic in the state.

February 9, 2021

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota reports two COVID-19 deaths as active cases continue falling Adam Willis, Forum News Service 

Despite a small drop in active COVID-19 cases, the North Dakota Department of Health reported two more deaths on Monday. However, the state now has the nation’s second lowest number of cases per capita, reaching its lowest level of cases since July. Immunity gained from vaccines and previous exposure helps to explain this decline, according to state immunization manager Molly Howell, but she warns that a drop in testing is leading to less cases detected. 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – COVID-19 Alone Doesn’t Account For More Deaths In Tennessee Prisons In 2020 Samantha Max, WPLN Nashville Public Radio

Prison deaths in Tennessee increased by nearly 60%, with COVID-19 accounting for about half. These deaths and the pandemic as a whole have shed light on the historical ineffectiveness of health systems in prisons. However, under the pandemic, the systems have gotten worse as response times have slowed and accidental deaths have doubled in 2020.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – With 1 Million Vaccinated and Hospitalizations Down, Ohio Could End Curfew Pete Grieve, Spectrum News 1

With more than 1 million people vaccinated and less than 2,500 patients hospitalized for six consecutive days, the Ohio’s curfew will be expiring Thursday. The 10 p.m. curfew, enacted in November, was set to slowly roll back as the number of cases decreased but a surprising drop in hospitalizations has led Gov. Mike DeWine to reconsider the plan and multiple counties to end their stay-at-home advisories.

SANTA FE, N.M. – Few New Mexico schools rush to offer in-person classes, Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

After an 11-month ban, public schools in New Mexico were allowed to return to in-person instruction in large numbers. However, most school districts are taking their time before they bring their students back to the classroom. School officials cite the lack of vaccinated teachers and logistical hurdles as the main reasons why they won’t accept large numbers of students anytime soon.

February 8, 2021

RENO, Nev. – ‘Nevada Sees A ‘Slow But Steady’ Decline In COVID-19 Cases And Hospitalizations‘ Lucia Starbuck, Associated Press
After reaching a peak of COVID-19 related deaths in January, Nevada is seeing a steady decline in positive cases and hospitalizations, according to Brian Labus, an epidemiologist with Nevada’s COVID-19 medical advisory team. With the distribution of the vaccine and the downward trend in cases, Labus expects deaths to start going down in the coming weeks, but underlines that the state still has high levels of transmission that make it difficult to bring the numbers to a manageable level.

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘No COVID-19 variant cases found yet in Mississippi’ Leah Willingham, Associated Press 
Despite the U.K. variant of COVID-19 being reported in neighboring states, state health officials have not yet identified any cases in Mississippi. “So far we haven’t identified one, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had any” says State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. Samples of COVID-19 tests administered are regularly sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test for the variant.

PORTLAND, Ore. – ‘’Chaotic’: Oregon Braces as COVID Vaccine Opens for Elderly’ Sara Cline, Associated Press
With 167,000 people becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine this week, Oregon health officials are expecting chaos despite the multiple phone lines and online registration sites. To prepare for the increase in eligible patients, 30 National Guard members will be deployed to help take calls and texts from citizens signing up or looking for information.

MINNEAPOLIS – ‘Minnesota expands vaccine supply for seniors, educators’ Mohamed Ibrahim, Associated Press
After a boost in supplies from the federal government, extra doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be reserved for patients age 65 and older in the state. Following a switch to a lottery style scheduling system, vaccination sites are not currently scheduling new appointments as more than 220,000 individuals pre registered for doses. New appointments will become available as more vaccination sites open.

February 5, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. – ‘Washington has the capacity to vaccinate way more people than the number of doses received’ Arielle Dreher and Laurel Demkovich, The Spokesman-Review
Improved infrastructure including mass vaccination sites and pop-up clinics across Washington has greatly increased the state’s ability to administer the vaccine, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday, the issue now is that the state lacks enough doses to match their newfound capability. In order to achieve its target of vaccinating 45,000 residents per day, the federal government would need to provide Washington with 315,000 doses each week. The Biden administration has promised states a 16% increase in allocated doses, but Gov. Inslee was hesitant this week to say when the state’s target could be met by proper supply.

BALTIMORE – ‘‘Boost with Facebook’ offered social media resources for Baltimore small businesses’ Donte Kirby, Technical.ly
Facebook recently hosted a webinar for Baltimore businesses, “Boost with Facebook,” to learn more about Facebook’s business suite as part of a nationwide effort by the networking site. The social media giant, which has faced sharp international criticism over privacy concerns and its use by foreign governments and private  citizens alike for the spread of misinformation, has been working to help small businesses better promote themselves and interact with customers remotely through social media.

RENO, Nev. –  ‘COVID-19 Shots Mean Some Residents At Long-Term Care Facilities Can Hug Family Again’ Lucia Starbuck, KUNR
The Seasons of Reno assisted care facility received the first doses for its 81 residents and 50 staff this week. As Starbuck reports, the vaccinations represented a ray of hope for some of the hardest hit groups in the country. “That they get to go out again, and they get to be a part of their family again, you know, hugging and touching, and being a part of their own inner community on top of this community,” said Marie Heydon, one of the staffers that organizes activities for the residents.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota lawmakers nix bill to allow booze sales on Sunday mornings’ Adam Willis, The Inforum
After legislators voted Thursday against a new bill to help add business hours for North Dakota businesses struggling due to COVID-19, the answer is still no: you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday morning in the state. And it’s not to encourage social distancing: Lawmakers who opposed the bill said it would encourage less people to attend church services. “To oppose this bill because it may give an otherwise parishioner another option (than) attending religious service seems to be an attempt to legislate morality,” said Republican state senator Doug Larsen in defense of the bill. “Less government, less business restriction and more citizen freedom: That is what this bill does.”

February 4, 2021

BILOXI, Miss. – Gov. Tate Reeves extends mask mandate again. MS Coast counties are on the list Isabelle Taft, The Sun Herald
Gov. Tate Reeves decided to extend the mask mandate in Southern Mississippi until March 3, along with limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Reeves urged citizens to “continue to social distance, wear your mask and keep your gatherings small.”

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Health officials in Nevada worry that people will reject vaccinations Sam Metz, Associated Press
Although Nevada has seen strong demand for vaccines so far, officials worry that a large percentage of the population would avoid inoculation, given the state’s historically low vaccination rates for viruses. Data from a University of Nevada, Reno study that found that 35% of the state’s population is unlikely to be vaccinated. With little information about how many doses are being allocated to the state, it has been difficult to inform people about when and where to get the vaccine.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – “Compromised” COVID-19 Vaccines Administered at Five Ohio Nursing Homes Pete Grieve, Spectrum Columbus
A batch of compromised COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered to five nursing homes by Walgreens. The vaccines were not stored at the required temperature, rendering the shots distributed as ineffective. Although the compromised vaccines will not cause harm to those who received them, an investigation is underway to determine who received the doses and needs to be revaccinated.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Senior vaccine appointments to be scheduled through lottery in eastern Idaho Kyle Pfannenstiel, Post Register
In an effort to make the vaccine registration process more efficient, counties in eastern Idaho have opted to use a lottery system to schedule patients. The health district will randomize the list of registered citizens, give them appointments in their county and then notify them of their appointment. This new system was established after the previous, appointment-based vaccination registration system spurned “chaos.”

February 3, 2021

NEW YORK – Who’s Getting Vaccinated So Far in New York City? Nicole Javorsky, City Limits

Despite Black and Latino New Yorkers suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, the vaccination demographic data released by the city shows that those specific groups are being vaccinated at much lower rates. This gap is compounded by the lack of reliable data, since the city didn’t collect the race/ethnicity data for approximately 40% of the first dose recipients.

ROCK HILL, S.C. – Free from SC guidelines, Catawba tribe providing COVID-19 vaccines to members over 18 Tobie Nell Perkins, The Herald Sun

The Catawba Indian Nation, located in Rock Hill, South Carolina, has chosen to vaccinate any member age 18 and older, despite the states’ mandate that limits vaccine distribution to citizens age 70 and older. The Catawba has received its own vaccine allocations through the Indian Health Services and has been able to expedite the vaccinations of its members through its organized distribution program.

HONOLULU, Hawaii – More Contagious UK Variant Of COVID-19 May Have Been Found In Hawaii Lorin Eleni Avendaño, Honolulu Civil Beat

Testing of COVID-19 samples from four individuals have indicated that the highly contagious variant of the virus, originated in England, has reached the island. “It’s cause for concern, but not panic,”  said Dr. Sarah Kemble, the acting state epidemiologist, and describes it as a race between virus and vaccine. More contagious forms of the virus affect the herd immunity target, which may rise from 60-70% to 80-90% if the variants continue to spread.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – As coronavirus variant gains ground in Louisiana, officials predict ‘another spike in our future’ Emily Woodruff, The Advocate

“I believe we have another spike in our future before this pandemic is over for us,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, interim assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health. “And I think that’s going to be because of the B.1.1.7 variant.” The variant, which is 50% more transmissible, has been detected in Louisiana in five confirmed cases. Despite a decline of COVID-19 cases in the state as of late, another upward trend is being predicted to come from the new variant of the virus.

February 2, 2021

COLUMBUS, Georgia – Some out of state residents may be able to get COVID vaccine in GA. What you need to know Adrienne Underwood, Ledger-Enquirer 

Georgia’s authorities are discouraging non-residents from traveling to the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, except for those who work there. This also includes people who live in Georgia part time. Coming from another state to Georgia to get a COVID-19 vaccine is “irresponsible and selfish,” Georgia Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey says. 

BALTIMORE, Md. – Baltimore youth built these 3 solutions to address Zoom fatigue during remote learning Donte Kirby, Technical.ly 

A dozen Baltimore students were employed by three local organizations to create solutions for some of the challenges that arise with online learning. The students, divided into three separate teams, pitched their ideas aimed at helping young people, including weekly check-ins, virtual extracurriculars and alternative communication tools. 

BILLINGS, Mont. – Montana’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allotment Increasing, Remains Limited Kaitlyn Nicholas, Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana Gov. Greg Gianfore claims that the state is receiving a lower allotment of vaccines compared to other states according to the CDC data, even though hospitals and health departments are reporting that they can be equally efficient with more doses to distribute. The state will receive over 15,000 first doses of the vaccine this week, a higher number than in previous weeks, but nt as much as Gianfore’s task force expects. 

HARTFORD, Connecticut – To Address Vaccine Hesitancy Among Latinos, A Trusted Source Is Key Brenda León, Connecticut Public Radio

Distrust of the medical system among Latinos has existed for decades due to a history of racism in medical experiments and a lack of information available in Spanish. With the recent development and distribution of the new COVID-19 vaccine, this age-old skepticism has bled into the age of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than half of Latino adults hesitant about getting the vaccine. León highlights the efforts of doctors and organizations trying to bridge that gap: “Community members want to hear from physicians,” says Liany Arroyo, director of Hartford’s health department. “They want to hear from individuals in their own community that are seeing them.”

February 1, 2021

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘Educators fought to help low-income students; fear that COVID-19 will erase that progress’ Crystal Niebla, Long Beach Post

Students of color across urban school districts in California are falling behind in classes due to the prolonged shutdown of schools and the lack of resources. Before the pandemic, graduation rates among students of color had been improving, but the change to online learning has presented new challenges. Long Beach officials say that the state needs to take into account the difficulties that various districts face when it comes to reopening schools and allocating funds.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – ‘Southwestern IL COVID hospitalizations still too high to lessen mitigations’ Megan Valley, Belleville News-Democrat

Although the Metro East’s positivity rate has remained below the 8% threshold for the past week, the region cannot move out of the Tier 2 mitigations because of the lack of ICU beds available as of Sunday. The state has reported a total of 1,126,301 COVID-19 cases and has vaccinated about 1.69% of its population.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – ‘57 coronavirus deaths in KY. Positivity rate dips below 9%.’ Alex Acquisto, Lexington Herald-Leader

For the first time since December, Kentucky’s COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped to 8.75%. Gov. Andy Beshear claims that it “shows that Kentuckians are continuing to make those small sacrifices we’ve been talking about all year in order to protect each other.” However, the number of deaths related to the virus remains high. Last Thursday the state registered 69 deaths it’s highest number since the start of the pandemic.

The state will open its first massive vaccination center at the Kentucky Horse Park, in Lexington, aiming to apply 3,000 doses a week, said Gov. Besear.

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Lawmakers push mental health days for kids amid pandemic’ Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

After almost a year of stress, isolation and online learning endured by students due to COVID-19, state lawmakers are seeking to alleviate the psychological impact of the pandemic on kids . Multiple states have proposed legislation that would add mental health to the list of acceptable reasons for absences from class. States that have already passed laws to provide mental health days for students include Oregon, Maine, Colorado and Virginia, while Utah and Arizona have proposed to follow suit.

January 29, 2021

DEKALB, Ill. – ‘Family Remembers Seneca Man Who Died In LaSalle Veterans’ Home COVID Outbreak’ Juanpablo Ramirez, WNIJ Northern Public Radio

A lawsuit is underway against a veterans’ home in LaSalle, Illinois, where at least 30 residents lost their lives due to COVID-19. The lawsuit is based on Illinois Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee findings that staff were not “wearing proper personal protective equipment or practicing social distancing, and sanitizer at the front entrance that wasn’t alcohol-based,” among other safety concerns that endangered the lives of residents like Richard Cieski Sr., who succumbed to the virus in November and whose family is among 16 others represented in the lawsuit.

TAKOMA PARK, Md. – ‘Senate Panel Moves Hogan’s RELIEF Act, With an Extra $520 Million – Maryland Matters’ Bennett Leckrone, Maryland Matters

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s COVID-19 relief proposal has been met with additional funding proposals by state legislators that could increase pandemic-related spending to more than $2 billion in the state. The proposed amendment to Gov. Hogan’s RELIEF Act would add an additional $520 million in state reserve funding to accelerate the transition back to in-person learning and support summer school or tutoring for 25,000 Maryland students, among other initiatives. An additional $577 million in state funding to support historically black colleges and universities is moving forward.

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Here’s what Utah doctors are advising pregnant women about COVID-19 vaccines’ Becky Jacobs, The Salt Lake Tribune

A new study by the University of Utah, presented on Thursday, suggests that pregnant women experience increased risk at childbirth if they contracted COVID-19. This data added to the recommendations of the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for adding pregnant and breastfeeding women to the current list of people eligible for a vaccine. Jacobs spoke with doctors and patients to explore possible effects of the vaccine on pregnant women, and whether they outweigh the risks of waiting until the child is born.

DETROIT, MI – ‘Fact check: Gov. Whitmer’s State of the State address’ Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press

In her State of the State address, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer charted the path of the state for the next stage of vaccinations and called for bipartisan support to respond to the economic challenges caused by the pandemic. Hendrickson fact-checked the governor’s claims of conducting more than 9.6 million tests and 800,000 vaccine doses, finding that they were accurate.

January 28, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Washington bill to waive some graduation requirements in emergencies is closer to becoming law Laurel Demkovich, The Spokesman-Review

In an effort to assist students struggling with online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington State House of Representatives passed a bill that would waive some graduation requirements on an individual basis during a state of emergency. The bill would allow for students to graduate, even if in-person standardized testing is not able to be completed due to COVID-19. “We hold our students to a high standard for graduation, but recognize the need for the emergency waiver in special circumstances,” says Mead School District spokesman Todd Zeidler. 

COLUMBIA, S.C. – SC House Aims to Rewrite Vaccine Allocation Plan Michelle Liu, The Associated Press

As demand for COVID-19 vaccination outpaces supply in South Carolina, Michelle Liu reports that lawmakers are giving the distribution plan a makeover. The rollout of the state’s limited supply of doses would be bolstered by $208 million in surplus funding.

SANTA FE, N.M. – Vaccines Among Last Hurdles to Open New Mexico Classrooms Cedar Attanasio, The Associated Press

With New Mexico’s educators among the oldest in the country, teachers unions in the state have pushed to ensure that they receive vaccinations and federal COVID-19 sick leave before schools re-open. In an effort to make the reopening easier, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that decisions on the matter will be placed in the hands of local school boards, a decision welcomed by the unions. New Mexican schools closed their doors almost a year ago.

January 27, 2021

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Drive-thru food distribution event scheduled this week in West Long Beach • Long Beach Post NewsCrystal Niebla, The Long Beach Post

A food bank in West Long Beach is teaming up with a local organization that helps the unemployed  to host a drive-thru food distribution event for those struggling with food insecurity. The event was originally planned for this Friday, but due to the weather forecast for that day, it will be reschedule for a future date.

NEW YORK– Biden Plan Offers ‘Hope’ for City’s Sluggish Vaccine Rollout, Mayor Says’ Nicole Javorsky, City Limits

Despite the delays in the shipment and distribution of vaccines in New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio thinks the city will be able to inoculate its population effectively and in time, thanks to the new federal administration:  “I am very, very optimistic about what this new administration is going to mean for all of us here in New York City,” the mayor said at a briefing on Monday. “What is so clear now is the commitment of the Biden administration and the leading health experts in the administration to finding every conceivable way to get us more vaccine quickly,” he said. 

New York has applied 628,831 vaccine doses, well short of de Blasio’s earlier goal of 1 million doses by the end of January.

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina gained over 30,000 jobs in December, as nationwide jobs took a hit’ Sophie Kasakove, The News & Observer

North Carolina buckled a national trend and posted an increase in employment during December, gaining 33,600 jobs, despite a raging pandemic and the economic challenges that come with it, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nearly half of the increase came from the trade, transportation and utilities sector, bringing the total unemployment of the state to 4.4 million. 

CHICAGO – ‘Struggling Financially Due To The Pandemic? Free COVID HELP Bot Can Help You Get Legal Aid’ Pascal Sabino, Block Club Chicago

To help those struggling financially amid the pandemic, a free artificial intelligence bot was created to guide Illinois residents in need through everything from legal advice to keeping up with bills. Visitors to covidhelpillinois.org can provide their ZIP code and receive assistance specific to their town, county or region of the state. The AI feature was developed through a partnership of legal groups in the state.

January 26, 2021

LANSING, Mich. – ‘Michigan asks for a waiver of standardized testing for 2021’ Anna Liz Nichols, Associated Press

The Michigan Department of Education requested to waive standardized testing for the 2020-2021 academic year, due to the inconsistencies in the instruction of students due to COVID-19, including lack of consistent internet access and the impossibility of accommodating students with language barriers or disabilities.

“We find our efforts are better focused on providing support for the academic and social-emotional needs of our students, rather than using limited in-person time with students in preparation for and administration of state summative assessments,” said state Superintendent Michael Rice.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – ‘Cleveland Learning Pods Offer Relief To ESL Students Struggling In Pandemic’ Conor Morris, Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative

Online learning during the pandemic has been difficult for the most vulnerable populations. In Cleveland, the nonprofit Esperanza has created “learning pods” for students learning English, where they can catch up on their homework and learn in a safe and quiet environment, something that most of their households can’t provide at the moment. Like Esperanza, other organizations are creating spaces for vulnerable students to attend classes during the pandemic.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota reports lowest number of active COVID-19 cases in months’ Michelle Griffith, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

“At least 1,411 North Dakotans have died of COVID-19 or related causes throughout the pandemic, and the rate of deaths reported each day has largely decreased since its peak in November, according to data from the North Dakota Department of Health. Almost 64% of the state’s COVID-19 victims were in their 80s and older,” reports Michelle Griffith.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – ‘IL health director talks building trust in Black areas ahead of COVID-19 vaccine event’ DeAsia Paige, Belleville News-Democrat

In an effort to discuss COVID-19 safety among Black community members in the Metro East region of southern Illinois, the state’s Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike is leading a virtual conference Tuesday night. “Black people in the United States are three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19,” reports DeAsia Paige. In the Illinois county of St. Clair, Black-majority communities have twice as many cases per capita as mostly white communities, according to her newspaper the Belleville News-Democrat.

January 22, 2021

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘A year ago, Washington confirmed the nation’s first COVID-19 case: Where things stand now’ Arielle Dreher, The Spokesman-Review

This week marked a year since COVID-19 was first detected in the U.S. state of Washington. Since then, Arielle Dreher has been covering the impact in Spokane County. Looking back at the devastation wrought as the virus rages across the globe, she examines the health crisis on the county, state and national level. The Washington residents account for 1% of the nationwide COVID-19 death toll, which surpassed 400,000 deaths this week.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – ‘In West Virginia’s poorest communities, the state’s vaccine rollout has left vulnerable residents behind’ Lauren Peace and Ian Hodgson, Mountain State Spotlight

West Virginia’s plan to accelerate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the state by centralizing the locations where the shots are administered has been seen as efficient, but this strategy has left those living in poorer, more sparsely-populated rural counties at a disadvantage, particularly those with pre-existing conditions. In all, only one of the state’s 10 poorest counties has hosted a vaccine clinic so far this month.

BILLINGS, Mont. – ‘Montana VA Leading Pilot Program For Rural Vaccine Delivery’ Kaitlyn Nicholas, YPR

Montana’s VA started its pilot program to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to veterans living in rural areas: by flying the vaccine to those areas less accessible for distribution of the doses, which must be distributed in a timely manner to ensure they don’t spoil. If proven successful in Montana, other states with similar logistical challenges of distribution to rural areas could adopt the program.

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘Long Beach is now vaccinating ‘food sector workers,’ who does that include?’ Sebastian Echeverry, Long Beach Post

Long Beach has announced that food industry workers now qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations as part of its multi-phase plan to distribute and administer the shots. But who qualifies as “food sector workers?” Local health officials told Sebastian Echeverry that anybody working for a food-based business, “From cashiers at McDonalds to stock workers at Food 4 Less.”

While Echeverry reports that “Even food-truck workers or vendors with an official business license qualify,” officials said that there are distinctions to be made: “Drivers who deliver food using apps such as GrubHub, Instacart or UberEats do not fall under this category and instead will be included in the transportation group.”

January 21, 2021

HONOLULU – ‘Hawaii Labs On The Lookout For More Contagious COVID-19 Variants’ Eleni Avendaño with Honolulu Civil Beat

Testing labs in the Hawaiian islands have yet to detect the more contagious strains of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the state, but they are looking to improve upon their detection strategy. As Avendaño shares, the U.S. ranks 43rd in the world in the effectiveness of its detection methods. She points to the successes of the UK and South Africa in detecting some of the newest strains, a result of studying “more samples more closely.”

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – ‘Alaska coronavirus Q&A: How do current hospitalization rates compare to an average flu season?’ Annie Berman with Anchorage Daily News

In the latest installment in an ongoing series Annie Berman answers reader questions about COVID-19 like “How do current hospitalization rates compare to rates during an average flu season?” and “Are fully vaccinated individuals at risk for asymptomatic infection and able to spread the virus to others?” While focused on issues within the state and municipal community, many like the ones above are being asked throughout the U.S.

BALTIMORE, MD – ‘Speaker Jones Reintroduces HBCU Funding Bill Adjusted for COVID-19 Economy’ Elizabeth Shwe with Maryland Matters

Maryland’s House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones reintroduced a bill this week intended to end inequitable education funding by redirecting more than half a billion dollars to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. The proposed funding has been adjusted in light of the challenges faced by private institutions due to COVID-19 pandemic.

NEW ORLEANS – ‘An entire Louisiana family got coronavirus – except for this vaccine trial participant’ Emily Woodruff with The New Orleans Advocate

When a 66-year-old Louisiana man signed up to participate in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial, his intention was to do his part in speeding up approval of the vaccine, but had no idea whether or not he received the actual vaccine or a placebo. He recently learned that he did in fact receive the vaccine and that  might have been the reason that he was the only member of his five-member family to not get infected with the virus.

January 20, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. – Wake County COVID vaccine website crashes as people try to sign up. Phone lines busy., Adam Wagner, The News & Observer

“Thousands of people seeking COVID-19 vaccinations inundated Wake County’s sign-up system Tuesday morning,” writes Wagner, an a county spokesperson told him the signup website and phone lines were temporarily overwhelmed. “By about 10:15 a.m., the online sign-up portal — wakegov.com/vaccine — was back online. Callers were always able to get through on the phone line,” he reports.

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Utah Legislature opens amid pandemic, protest concerns’ Sarah Eppolito and Lindsay Whitehurst, AP

“The Capitol, which is usually buzzing with activity as lobbyists, advocates and others walk the halls, was largely empty on the first day of the session aside from lawmakers and several National Guard troops. The Capitol grounds have been under a state of emergency order following concerns of armed protest leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.,” writes Eppolito and Whitehurst.

NEW YORK – ‘City Officials Push State to Greenlight Vaccinations for New Yorkers in Jails’ Nicole Javorsky, City Limits

“City officials are pushing for state approval to vaccinate people in city jails against COVID-19, citing the extra risks posed to those in correctional facilities. So far, New York State has allowed the city to administer the vaccine only to the highest-risk patients behind bars, only about 100 people as of last week,” reports Javorsky.

CARSON CITY, Nev. ‘Nevada proposes cuts to education, hopes for federal relief’ Sam Metz, AP

Heavily reliant on tourism and the hospitality industry for revenue, Nevada has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and lawmakers have had to find areas to cut back. The $8.7 billion budget proposed by the governor’s office would see a $187 million cut to K-12 education, allocating more funding instead to health care as COVID-19 surges.

January 19, 2021

CHATTANOOGA – ‘Unknowns of race, ethnicity in COVID-19 vaccine data mean it’s unclear who’s receiving shots as experts praise Tennessee’s plan’ Wyatt Massey and Elizabeth Fite for the Chattanooga Times Free Press

While Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccination plan has been praised for being among the first in the U.S. to incorporate social inequities as a consideration for distribution, the data collected by the state on demographics and ethnicity of the recipients – data which could help indicate success of this planning factor – was incomplete.

The data collected in the first month of vaccination shows that 44% of the administered doses didn’t specify the race of the patient and 31% didn’t mention the ethnicity, according to the state’s health department. Even though Tennessee said it was working on the problem, it’s not releasing county-level demographic data about who is getting the vaccine.

SACRAMENTO – ‘‘I have to provide’: How these California moms are making it through the pandemic’ Kim Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee

Paying for college textbooks, finding someone to drive her 86-year-old mother to errands, making sure bills are paid on time: These are just a few of the challenges for single mother Silvia Alvarenga who provides for her family through her real estate brokerage, part of an industry hit hard by the pandemic. A recent UC Davis survey of 70 Latina mothers found that more than half said that the pandemic has caused them financial hardship.

LANSING, Mich. – ‘Michigan to distribute $58.5 million in grants to businesses’ Anna Liz Nichols for the Associated Press

Michigan businesses struggling due to the pandemic could soon receive financial relief thanks to a $58 million allocation, part of a recovery plan signed into law by  Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Some of the funding will go toward assisting small businesses, and the rest will support those laid off during the pandemic.

MINNEAPOLIS – ‘Walz announces vaccine pilot program amid supply concerns’ Mohamed Ibrahim for the Associated Press

Minnesota is launching a pilot program to expand the state’s vaccine distribution to inoculate teachers, child care workers and those over 65 more rapidly. The plan is in reaction to growing concerns over an unexpectedly limited federal supply of vaccine doses.

Under the program the state will open nine vaccination centers, but due to the limited number of vaccines available, they will attend only by appointment and won’t be able to cover, for the moment, all those who are eligible.

January 15, 2021

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Montana governor relaxes COVID-19 restrictions on businesses’ Iris Samuels with the Associated Press

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte lifted the COVID-19 restrictions  imposed by his predecessor, arguing that they hurt business and that control of the pandemic should be managed as a “personal responsibility.”

The governor’s order will allow restaurants and bars to remain open after 10 p.m. and removes capacity limits both indoors and outdoors. Although cases have dipped in Montana, the state still registered 597 new cases on Wednesday and has a total death toll of 1,069.

TOPEKA, Kan. ‘Kansas Senate votes to extend COVID emergency, limit Kelly‘ Andy Tsubasa Field and Heather Hollingsworth for The Associated Press

Kansas’ Senate approved a bill that extends the state of emergency in the state through March 31, a measure to help handle the response to the pandemic,while also limiting the ability of Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to close businesses and enact restrictions.

The measure, approved in a 34-1 in the Republican-controlled state senate, was sent to the House for approval.

SACRAMENTO – ‘These Californians don’t get stimulus checks – why advocates want Newsom to do more for them’ Kim Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee

While taxpayers in California could be receiving billions in state financial assistance in light of the pandemic, advocates are asking that more support be distributed to undocumented residents of the state, who did not receive assistance from federal stimulus bills.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘No, you can’t ‘walk up’ to Riverside County COVID-19 vaccine clinics without registering’ Maria Sestito for Palm Springs Desert Sun

As corps member Maria Sestito explains, the “walk up” vaccine clinics in Palm Springs might sound like they would accept “walk-ins” but it actually just means that they are not “drive through.” Those interested in being vaccinated still need to register in Riverside County before arriving for the shot.

January 14, 2021

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘Mississippi vaccine appointments fill up as demand surges’ Leah Willingham with Associated Press

Following an announcement by Mississippi Gov.Tate Reeves expanding the eligibility for vaccinations to anyone over 65 and people with underlying health conditions, the state experienced a “monumental surge” in appointments, exhausting all available slots, according to the Mississippi Health Department.

The state is expecting a new shipment of COVID-19 vaccines by mid-February and when it’s available, they will reopen the application process, said the health department in a news release. 

BALTIMORE – ‘Seeking COVID-19 vaccine info? Check out the Baltimore City Health Department’s site’ Donte Kirby for Technical.ly 

Corps member Donte Kirby helps readers navigate Baltimore’s City Health Department website, which has created pages intended to inform residents on when and how they can get a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as illustrating through graphics the city’s three-phase vaccination distribution plan.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada points finger at federal government for vaccine delay’ Sam Metz with Associated Press 

Only six states have vaccinated less people per capita than Nevada, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To improve its distribution logistics, the state announced a change in their vaccination plans that will direct providers to vaccinate residents with underlying health conditions and essential workers, which in this case include hospitality workers, teachers and mining workers.

Under the new plan, health care workers and patients at long-term care facilities will remain at the front of the line and only when their inoculation is complete, providers could proceed with the next group. 

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘How Long Beach’s largest supportive housing campus kept its COVID cases so low’ Crystal Niebla with Long Beach Post 

Despite being located in the middle of one of the ZIP codes with the highest infection rates in Long Beach, The Century Villages at Cabrillo has an unusually low infection rate of just 1.5%, compared to a rate of 8.9% for the entire city. Niebla spoke with residents and leaders of the community to understand how the measures taken since March have made their community safer. 

January 13, 2021

U.S. – ‘Going big: US dispensing shots at stadiums and fairgrounds,’ Lisa Marie Pane, Patty Nieberg and Julie Watson with Associated Press 

Although the first vaccination phase hasn’t been completed in the United States after a month of inoculations, some states are moving ahead with the second phase and opening large facilities such as stadiums and convention centers to vaccinate more people. The first phase focused on vaccinating medical workers and nursing home residents and now it’s expanding to groups including seniors, teachers and first responders. 

LEXINGTON – ‘KY has a Top 5 day for new coronavirus cases and deaths,’ Alex Aquisto with The Lexington Herald-Leader 

Kentucky registered it’s fourth highest case increase and its third highest death count in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to numbers released on Wednesday by Gov. Andy Beshear. The state registered 4,560 new cases of COVID-19 and 47 deaths, increasing the total to 313,282 and 2,991 deaths. Gov. Beshear renewed his calls for people to wear masks, as the state tries to stem the rise in cases tied to the holidays. 

COLUMBUS, Georgia – ‘Confused about how to get COVID vaccine in Columbus? Here’s latest Georgia info’ Adrienne Underwood for The Ledger-Enquirer

Georgia is currently applying roughly 11,428 vaccinations per day, but who is eligible to receive their vaccination or when? Reporter Adrienne Underwood shares information on how to register for the vaccination, where one can receive the shot, and how to find out if you’re eligible. 

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Montana bill seeks to limit governor’s power in disasters’ Iris Samuels for the Associated Press

In a legislative show of pushback against former Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s use of emergency powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Montana state House committee is debating a law that would constrain a governor’s emergency powers to declare a state of disaster to 60 days, passing the responsibility thereafter to state legislators. This authority would include mask mandates and allocation of pandemic relief funds, which Republican state legislators were critical of as executed by Gov. Bullock. This bill would count Montana among 17 states debating such limits on gubernatorial emergency powers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

January 12, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – ‘NMED: Sewage testing prevented COVID outbreak’ Theresa Davis for the Albuquerque Journal

After wastewater samples from the J. Paul Taylor Center, a juvenile jail in Las Cruces, showed concentrations of the virus that causes COVID-19, the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families tested more than 100 detainees and employees at the facility and revealed that one employee was asymptomatic. The New Mexico Environment Department said this might have prevented an outbreak at the facility.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – ‘Utah governor focuses on pandemic relief in budget proposalSophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

Newly sworn-in Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has made pandemic relief the top line item of the state’s proposed $21.7 billion budget, followed by rural infrastructure improvement. The governor’s plan would allocate $250 million to the COVID recovery effort in the state and $125 million to infrastructure projects.

RIDGWAY, Colo. ‘For music classes, the beat goes on’ Liz Teitz for the Ouray County Plaindealer

At a time where wind instruments can become agents to spread aerosols potentially carrying COVID-19, and live performances run the risk of turning into superspreader events, Ouray School music teacher Karisa Hoover had to find ways to help her students carry on learning while also reducing the threat of spreading the virus. Her fourth grade students don specialized masks through which they can play recorders, and performances are relegated to the outdoor venues and the virtual realm. The lesson: The show must go on.

DALLAS, Texas – ‘Our Light Is Always On’: Even A Pandemic Won’t Stop Local Tamales Shop  Alejandra Martinez for KERA

On the verge of what is typically the busiest season for Dallas Tortilla and Tamale Factory, the family business – three generations in the making – is undaunted by the COVID-19 crisis effects on the service industry. At the Factory, the phone “rings incessantly” and workers zip all around the shop preparing orders for curbside pickup. Martinez paints a mouthwatering portrait of a family business soldiering on through new normal, to deliver traditional Mexican street food to its customers. 

January 11, 2021

BILLINGS, Mont. – ‘COVID-19 Boosters Underway, Timing Of Next Phase Depends On Supply Kaitlyn NicholasKaitlyn Nicholas with Yellowstone Public Radio

After Gov. Greg Gianforte changed the state’s vaccination plan to prioritize those over the age of 70 and people with underlying health conditions, Montana’s largest counties are scrambling to adapt their distribution schedules, and are warning that given the uncertainty of supplies, they won’t be able to vaccinate this group for at least a few weeks. 

The state is still in phase 1A of its plan, which covers vaccinations of medical personnel. Frontline workers were moved from phase 1B to 1C after the Governor changed the plan, to make room for the elderly and sick. Montana has seen a new surge of cases in the past few days. 

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C –  ‘Beaufort County’s COVID-19 cases are spiking. ‘It’s worse definitely than the summer,’  Sam Ogozalek with The Island Packet 

With numbers of cases surpassing the highs seen during the summer, Beaufort County is registering a surge in hospitalizations that threaten to increase even more. The seven-day average of positive COVID-19 cases was at 31.2% on Jan. 1, compared to less than 10% in early November, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The county has registered six deaths as of Wednesday for 2021, compared to 18 in the entire month of December, as the number of hospitalizations continues to rise amid a vaccine rollout that is still in its first phase. 

North Long Beach, CA – ‘North Long Beach residents create resource guide for families struggling amidst pandemic’ Sebastian Echeverry for the Long Beach Post

As COVID-19 has hit Black and Latino communities in the most densely populated areas of the city like North Long Beach, where internet access is often unstable, community activists are developing a printed resource guide to distribute throughout the area, improving links between support organizations and residents. 10,000 copies of the 16-page pamphlet are planned for distribution to senior homes, low-income areas and small community businesses in the neighborhood.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Triangle counties entering Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccine rollout as case numbers rise’ Adam Wagner for The News & Observer

Vaccination advances in the Research Triangle region. While some counties are starting to move to the next phase of inoculations, others are warning that given the number of residents to vaccinate, the availability of doses and the capacity to schedule appointments, they won’t be able to move to the next phase as fast as their neighbors. 

As of Friday, 151,902 people  in the state had received the first dose of the vaccine and 9,115 had already received their second shot, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. 

January 8, 2021

HONOLULU – ‘Hawaii National Guard Turns Plane Into ‘Mobile Vaccination Clinic’’ Kevin Knodell for the Honolulu Civil Beat

A Hawaii National Guard cargo plane became a makeshift COVID-19 vaccination clinic in an island-hopping immunization campaign, bringing a first round of vaccine jabs – on a volunteer basis – to members of an 800-guardsmen task force stationed throughout the Hawaiian archipelago. A National Guard spokeswoman said that the first round of vaccinations were all delivered within a day and a second dose will be distributed in 90 days.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘First phase of COVID vaccinations will soon expand. Here’s how to sign up in Columbus’ Adrienne Underwood for the Ledger-Enquirer

As the first vaccines are administered to those at the highest level of contagion risk in Columbus, Phase 1A of the West Central Department of Health’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine rollout could be soon expanding to include health care personnel, long-term care facility populations, individuals more than 65 years of age, law enforcement, firefighters and first responders. The health department stated that this expanded group could receive doses as early as Jan. 11, if supplies are adequate.

RENO, Nev. – “Nevada Still Has More Than Three-Quarters Of Vaccines Unused’ Anh Gray and Lucia Starbuck for KUNR

Nearly a month has passed since the first shipment of vaccines arrived in Nevada, but only 21% of the 187,000 doses the state received have been administered, according to data from the CDC. Starbuck delves into these numbers to explain the challenges of vaccinating a population that, even in pre-COVID-19 times, had low levels of vaccinations.

KANSAS CITY – ‘Vaccines trials need diverse participants to work. Here’s how a Kansas City trial is working with the Latinx community.’ Brittany Callan for the Kansas City Beacon

AstraZeneca, which is expecting to receive emergency approval for its vaccine in the next few weeks is conducting vaccine trials in Kansas City, focusing on reaching at least 20% Latinx and 25% adults over the age of 65 to ensure the vaccination is most effective in those communities most affected by COVID-19.

However, a history of abuse by the country’s medical establishment and widespread misinformation about vaccines have made such outreach challenging among residents of color. Callan explores the strategies AstraZeneca is using to overcome those obstacles.

January 7, 2021

GARFIELD PARK, III. – West Side Churches Offer Coronavirus Testing: ‘We Have To Meet The Community Where They Are’, Pascal Sabino with Block Club Chicago

A group of neighborhood churches on the West Side of Chicago have joined forces with Alive Church Network and Rush University Medical Center to become temporary COVID-19 testing centers, in an effort to slow the surge of coronavirus cases by approaching the community from a trusted source that can help overcome their distrust of health providers. 

Each church will transform into a testing center for a week, accepting testing appointments and limited walk-ins. 

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – ‘8 things you need to know about coronavirus vaccinations’ Matt Martinez with Milwaukee Neighborhood news Service

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations has started in Wisconsin, but it will take months until mass vaccination of the general public can begin. In anticipation, Martinez spoke with two experts who answered some of the most important questions patients might have about the vaccine. 

RALEIGH, N.C. – NC tops 7,000 COVID deaths as pandemic worsens across the state, Ben Sessoms with The News & Observer 

North Carolina crossed the threshold of 7,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, as the pandemic continues to spread across the state. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 6,952 new cases on Wednesday, increasing the total to 582,348 cases. 

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital care is at its highest level since the start of the pandemic, with the number of available beds decreasing every day. Those beds available in intensive care units have gone from 410 on Monday to 320, according to DHHS.

TACOMA, Wash. ‘Deaths reported at Pierce County veterans home amid COVID-19 outbreak’ Abbie Shull for The News Tribune

An outbreak of COVID-19 at a Washington state veteran’s home has killed two of its residents this week. The deaths at the Washington Soldiers Home came amid an announcement this week that the total number of cases among residents and staff rose to 57, even as a second round of vaccinations at the home have been announced by the state’s Department of Veteran Affairs. 

January 6, 2021

FORT WORTH, Texas – ‘Texas Health Resources to postpone non-essential procedures as COVID cases rise’ Kailey Broussard with The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The rising number of COVID-19 cases in a North Texas hospital has forced it to suspend elective and non-essential procedures. A spokesman for Texas Health Resources said emergency department bed and inpatient capacity have become too limited to handle such patients not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. 

MINNEAPOLIS – ‘COVID, budget, top agenda as Minnesota Legislature convenes’ Mohamed Ibrahim with the Associated Press

Minnesota’s state legislature resumed their activities on Tuesday with two clear priorities: the state’s pandemic response and the two-year budget. Gov. Tim Walz’s use of emergency powers has been a contentious issue in the state, as Republican members of the Legislature have pushed for more of a say in decisions of school and business reopening.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Most N.C. nursing home workers are refusing COVID vaccine’ Bryan Anderson with The Associated Press

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that most nursing home workers have refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, pointing to staff shortages and logistical hurdles that come with working on a decentralized system as some of the factors that have contributed to the delays in vaccinations.
Experiencing among the slowest vaccine rollouts, North Carolina has activated its National Guard in order to assist with distribution.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘Newly-Elected Ohio Senate President Tests Positive for Virus’ Farnoush Amiri with The Associated Press

Ohio’s new Senate president was sworn into office remotely Monday after contracting COVID-19. Matt Huffman tested positive for the virus before the new year, experiencing mild symptoms. Among more than a dozen Ohio lawmakers to have tested positive with the virus since the pandemic began, Huffman will return to the Statehouse after quarantining, his spokesman said. 

January 5, 2021

DETROIT – ’Instacart, Aldi extend SNAP benefits program to Michigan, offer free delivery’ Nushrat Rahman with The Detroit Free Press

Supermarket chain Aldi joined Amazon and Walmart to extend free delivery to customers benefiting from the Electronic Benefit Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the state. Commonly known as food stamps, the SNAP program allows its beneficiaries to purchase groceries online and have them delivered to their home or pick them up without a fee for their first three orders by mid-March. The program is available in Michigan and 22 other states. 

FARGO, N.D. – ‘North Dakota sees increase in cybersecurity attacks with COVID-19 pandemic’ Michelle Griffith with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

As the number of COVID-19 cases rose in North Dakota last year, forcing many indoors and online to keep in contact with the outside world, cyber attacks were also on the rise: an estimated 237 million each month. Although most of them have been blocked, the vulnerabilities of the systems caused by the pandemic remain a source of concern. Griffith explores the state’s approach to cybersecurity and their response to the attacks.

MIAMI – ‘Vaccine ‘train wreck’ leaves Tampa Bay seniors scrambling for shots’  Bailey LeFever with the Miami Herald

Phone lines were jammed and website servers slowed to a crawl as eligible residents of Pinellas County, Florida  tried to sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. While Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis called on hospitals to play a bigger part in the vaccine rollout, experts said that local health officials should play the bigger role.

January 4, 2021

DETROIT – ‘Free, affordable health clinics play crucial role in coronavirus pandemic’ Nushrat Rahman for The Detroit Free Press

In Detroit, affordable health clinics have long been a vital lifeline for both the uninsured and those who can’t afford the care they need living across the Motor City. Despite the fact that many of these clinics face financial hardships, Rahman reports that they have extended care during the pandemic, offering services including food assistance and mental health treatment.

MYRTLE BEACH, N.C. – ‘Entire Myrtle Beach women’s homeless shelter quarantined after positive COVID-19 case’ Mary Norkol with The Myrtle Beach Sun News

The 19 women staying at New Directions in Myrtle Beach have been quarantined following a positive coronavirus case last week at the South Carolina women’s shelter. The resident who tested positive and her symptomatic roommate were removed to a hotel to isolate them from the other shelter residents. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control says the virus can spread easily in homeless shelters because social distancing is more difficult.

FARGO, N.D. – ‘North Dakota got a mask mandate, South Dakota didn’t. COVID-19 cases have plummeted in both’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Two policy roads diverged in the Midwest and both seem to have made all the difference. North Dakota took the path of implementing mask mandates while South Dakota chose to forgo them.  Reporter Adam Willis explores what caused COVID-19 cases to plummet in both states despite divergent policies.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – A Look Back at 2020 in Wisconsin: ‘45,000 masks and counting: COVID-19 stopped the Mexican Fiesta. But it didn’t stop its organizers.’ Matt Martinez with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

“If there was nothing else to look forward to in the dead of a Milwaukee winter,” writes Martinez, “it was the summertime festivities happening there.” Among those community events would have been the city’s Mexican Fiesta, but like so many great social opportunities that a community unites around, COVID-19 shut it down. Reflecting on the effects of the pandemic on 2020, Martinez recalls the story he covered of how the foundation behind the Fiesta’s adapted to the challenges and used their resources to instead make 45,000 masks by summer’s end. 

December 30, 2020

SAN JUAN, P.R. – ‘Medical workers in Puerto Rico have been sleeping outside to get COVID-19 vaccine’ Syria Ortiz-Blanes for the Miami Herald

Juan Maldonado slept in his car overnight outside of a stadium in San Juan to make sure he’ll be among the first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine the next morning. The pediatric occupational therapist wasn’t alone, as Puerto Rico’s embark on a massive vaccination campaign has become another source of anxiety for many health care workers.

While the first week of vaccinations, limited to  hospital workers, was a success, according to the Department of Health deputy secretary, logistics went haywire when the island expanded the inoculations to include all health care workers. For the over 130,000 medical workers eligible,  no appointment system has been set up, forcing those who haven’t been vaccinated on site to vie for a shot.

DENVER, Colo. – ‘First reported US case of virus variant triggers questions’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

The new and seemingly more contagious variant of the coronavirus that has set off alarm in Britain has reached the United States, as the first case was reported in Colorado. The infected patient, a man in his 20s from a mostly rural area outside of Denver, hadn’t been traveling, leading to questions about how it got here and adding urgency to the drive for vaccines.

Infections are soaring in Britain and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have surpassed the first peak in the spring. The mutated version of the virus has also been found in several other countries.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – ‘Mayor: New Year’s Eve parties “horribly unfair” in pandemic’ Michelle Liu for the Associated Press

City and hospital leaders of the region of South Carolina hit hardest by COVID-19 rebuked residents who are planning to party in large crowds for New Year’s Eve, as completely full hospitals had already reached a breaking point as of Tuesday. Some event organizers in Upstate, where infection rates are highest, are still selling tickets to celebrate, as Greenville officials said they had received multiple complaints from residents about the planned events. The city has denied several requests for special permits to hold large events.

Greenville law enforcement officials say they will be patrolling downtown on the 31st to ensure residents and businesses are complying with regulations, though Gov. Henry McMaster has lifted most of the restrictions he implemented since the start of the outbreak.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘Southern California hospitals resort to ‘crisis care’ practices amid COVID surge’ Kim Bojórquez  for The Sacramento Bee

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services Secretary, said that some Southern California hospitals have begun making choices that affect patient care as the state works to keep hospitals from operating in “crisis care” mode. As the state surpasses 2 million cases, hospitals are diverting ambulances and making decisions about whether to provide certain treatments for patients likely to die. According to Ghaly, more than 95% of Los Angeles hospitals have diverted ambulances in the last 24 hours as of yesterday.

COVID-19 related hospitalizations have increased by 36.5% and COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations have increased over 35.1% over the past two weeks as Southern California hospitals are running out of staff and wait times are much longer. Hospitals are preparing for worse conditions into late January.

December 29, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa – ‘‘We’re Not Against It:’ COVID-19 Vaccine Poses Questions For Iowa’s Spanish-Speakers’ Kassidy Arena for Iowa Public Radio

Many Latinos in Iowa feel that they are not getting enough information about the COVID-19 vaccine to decide whether or not they want to take it. Patty Ritchie, the first and only Latina on the Crawford County board of health in western Iowa, said it is important to understand that she and most Latinos are not anti-vaccine, but that they have questions and nobody has been able to answer them so far.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 26% of Hispanics in the United States would take the vaccine right away, compared to 40% of white people who said they would take it as soon as possible. Reporter Kassidy Arena examines the issues behind those numbers and what is being done to help the Latino community understand what is and is not true.

EVERETT, Wash. – ‘Tenants, landlords are pondering alternatives to eviction’ Ian Davis-Leonard for The Daily Herald

While a statewide eviction moratorium has prohibited legal action, a pilot program authorized by Washington’s Supreme Court aims to settle any issues without intervention from the court. The Eviction Resolution Program requires landlords and tenants to engage in mediation efforts with trained professionals before the moratorium ends and legal recourse can begin. During the moratorium, in place since March and extended until at least March 2021, involvement is optional, but when the moratorium ends, going through the ERP will be required before landlords can go to court.

Six counties that account for nearly 80% of annual eviction filings in Washington are participating in the ERP. The Snohomish County Superior Court presiding judge said resolving cases out of court costs less time, money and heartache while involving both sides.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – ‘‘I could potentially lose him.’ Black moms weigh heavy decision on COVID vaccine’ Devna Bose for The Charlotte Observer

Diamond Staton-Williams, a healthcare industry veteran of 17 years, elected member of the Harrisburg Town Council and mother of three, has struggled with deciding to vaccinate her family against COVID-19. As a Black woman, she said it is not any fault of the Black community, but that the country needs to rebuild its trust with African-Americans.

Many Black Carolinians are still on the fence about receiving the vaccine as doses arrive in the state and across the country, as mothers in particular have to decide whether or not to trust a system that has continuously let them down. Reporter Devna Bose explores the history of structural racism in healthcare, which includes the forced experimentation and sterilization of Black people in North Carolina, and the existing disparities that have been exploited by the pandemic.

AKRON, Ohio – ‘Lost to COVID-19: Akron-area Bhutanese community mourns the death of Phul Acharya’ Seyma Bayram for the Akron Beacon Journal

Phul Acharya was a devoted grandmother, wife, former refugee and Cuyahoga Falls resident who unexpectedly died from COVID-19 on Nov. 25 at age 67. Ten days later, Pandit Bishnu Gajmer, a Bhutanese priest, explained that in Hinduism, the dead are not referred to as having died but as Pitri, or departed souls who have gone to heaven, while leading prayers inside Acharya’s home.

Reporter Seyma Bayram offers a look at Acharya’s life, her family and the impact of the pandemic on the Bhutanese community in the Greater Akron area.

December 28, 2020

MIAMI, Fla. – ‘In its first report after Christmas, Florida confirms more than 17,000 new cases of COVID-19’ Lautaro Grinspan for El Nuevo Herald (in English and Spanish)

The Florida Department of Health released new figures on Saturday, in its first report since Christmas, about the state of the pandemic, reporting 17,042 additional confirmed cases, a figure that encompasses new cases in the two days prior. As the third state with the highest number of cases nationwide, 1,264,588 people have tested positive in Florida as of Saturday with 21,135 total deaths.

Reporter Lautaro Grinspan breaks down the numbers by southeastern counties and offers a look at hospitalizations, a key tool to determine if the COVID-19 situation is improving in the state.

MONTPELIER, VT – ‘In a pandemic, safety at Vermont ski resorts hinges on an honor system’ Emma Cotton for VTDigger

Up the ascent to Killington Resort, blue road signs instruct skiers from out-of-state to turn away if they have not quarantined in accordance with Vermont’s COVID-19 guidelines. The state’s marketing department has tried to tell non-Vermonters that before skiing, they must quarantine for 14 days, or seven followed by a negative COVID-19 test, through a “Know Before You Go” campaign. But ahead of what is typically one of the state’s busiest weeks for skiing following the season’s first major snowstorm, some locals expressed concern about activity at resorts.

The pandemic has forced the industry to turn away paying customers who do not comply with the COVID-19 rules at a time when Vermont’s ski areas have run into financial constraints, in part to warming temperatures.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘Confronting criticism, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum reflects on pivotal pandemic decisions’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

When COVID-19 hit the United States, it appeared that it could be North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgman’s moment. The former Microsoft executive invested heavily in testing, building an apparatus that ranked among the largest of any state, as the virus took hold on the coasts. But as the pandemic waged on, governance became thornier, especially in a deeply pro-Trump state. Burgum routinely rejected calls for a statewide mask mandate as North Dakota led the country in per capita cases and deaths for close to two months this fall. He insists that he was guided by only data and not national politics, but critics don’t buy it.

Reporter Adam Willis examines how the partisan lines that Burgum decried in May were firmly entrenched by late summer, and his frustration at the shift in the national tone on the state’s response, calling it a politically motivated targeting of a red state, meanwhile resisting the guidance of medical advisers as COVID-19 cases took an upward turn.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘COVID-19: Pharmacy chains could begin vaccinating in California nursing homes on Monday’ Maria Sestito for The Desert Sun

CVS and Walgreens say they will be distributing vaccines to more skilled nursing and long-term care facilities across the country starting today. The pharmacies are contracted to vaccinate staff and residents, but exactly who will be vaccinated first at these facilities is unclear as California has prioritized health care workers for the first round of 327,000 doses. CVS Health said that more than 698,000 patients will be vaccinated through the program in  more than 15,000 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in a news release last week.

Reporter Maria Sestito explores what this means for Riverside County and what vaccinating long-term care residents has looked like so far in other states.

December 23, 2020

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – ‘She moved her mother into a care facility the same day COVID-19 hit Chattanooga. She still wonders if it was the right choice.’ Wyatt Massey for Chattanooga Times Free Press

When Liz Cooper placed her mother, Mildred Jean Williams, who has dementia, in a long-term care facility for an emergency respite on March 13, she thought that it would just be for a few days. That was the day the first confirmed COVID-19 case was announced in Hamilton County, and three days later, Cooper had to make a decision as to whether or not it was best for her mother to stay longer at The Health Center at Standifer Place. Had she opted to bring her mother back home, she would have been her sole caretaker. Now, Cooper wonders if she made the right decision, after Williams passed away at the end of November.

Earlier this month, case rates in long-term care facilities were 26 times higher than the wider population of the county, making them among the institutions hit hardest by the pandemic. The first weeks of December were the deadliest to date for Hamilton County, as the total COVID-19 death toll since March has reached 241, according to the Hamilton County Health Department.

AUSTIN, Texas – ‘Texas AG pushed to rescind Houston virus relief funding’ Acacia Coronado for the Associated Press

In a May 21 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed on Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Trump administration to rescind federal virus relief funding that Houston used to expand people’s voting options, accusing officials in Harris County of misusing up to $12 million of the federal funding and violating state law with their plans to expand the use of mail-in ballots for the presidential election. The letter was obtained and published by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and has become the latest example of the Republican attorney general’s efforts to keep in place Texas’ strict voting rules that require the casting of ballots in-person, even during the pandemic.

Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said the funds were used to help protect election workers and voters from COVID-19, allowing some people to use a drive-thru option to vote, while others stood in socially distanced lines, and some polling places were open for 24 hours. Texas is one of only five states that did not expand the use for voting by mail for the presidential election.

NEWPORT, R.I. – ‘‘We’ve just had to change completely how we work’: Birth doulas face heightened barriers to supporting families of color during pandemic’ Antonia Ayres-Brown for The Public’s Radio 

Birth and perinatal doulas,trained professionals who support families during and after pregnancy, play important roles in addressing racial disparity in maternal and infant health, but many say the pandemic is making their services less accessible at a time when they are needed even more. Doulas like Felicia Love have moved their appointments to video call, eliminating touch and in-person demonstrations, something that she says has the potential to change birth outcomes.

Doulas limit the number of cesarean births and preterm deliveries among pregnant people who receive their care, and oftentime shield clients from the racism and biases existing in medical spaces. In Rhode Island, infant mortality is three times higher for Black babies than for white babies, and nationally, Black people are over three times more likely than white people to die from pregnancy-related issues.

NORTH LAWNDALE, Ill. – ‘Neighbors Light Up West Side Boulevard To Let Community Know ‘They’re Cared About’’ Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago 

Volunteers prepared for this weekend’s Light Up Lawndale for weeks by decorating hundreds of trees spanning Douglas Boulevard in the heart of North Lawndale with lights and ornaments. Residents said it was the first time they had ever seen a holiday light show of that size in the neighborhood, bringing neighbors together during a time of isolation in a community that’s beauty is “often-unseen.” Princess Shaw, who organized the event, said her Christmas celebrations as a child always included holiday lights, and that she wanted kids to feel worthy of beauty and to feel magic.

December 22, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘CA faces Latino doctor shortage amid COVID-19 pandemic’ Kim Bojórquez for The Sacramento Bee

Medical experts fear that California’s shortage of culturally competent Spanish-speaking doctors could lead to worse health outcomes for the state’s Hispanic communities, who represent more than 700,000 COVID-19 cases and 10,000 virus-related deaths so far. According to a study by the Latino Politics and Policy Initiative at UCLA, about 44% of Californians speak a language besides English at home, yet researchers say physicians who speak Spanish are the most under-represented in the state’s physician workforce, with about 62 Spanish-speaking physicians for every 100,000 Spanish speakers in California.

Doctors who speak the language can lead to better outcomes for patients, instilling trust that is essential for a community twice as likely not to have medical insurance. Historic mistrust and systemic racism in medical institutions among immigrant communities can dissuade them from seeking treatment, according to the director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA.

SALEM, Ore. – ‘Tensions rise inside and outside of Oregon’s Capitol’ Sara Cline for the Associated Press

Inside Oregon’s Capitol building Monday evening during a one-day special legislative session, Lawmakers passed four bills, including $800 million in relief to people struggling from the pandemic and wildfires, an eviction moratorium extension through June and fund allocation for renter and landlord relief. In what state police have declared an unlawful assembly, far-right protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions attempted to force their way in, some with guns and others attacking authorities with bear spray.

ST. GEORGE, Utah – ‘COVID-19 kept international travel from Utah’s national parks, hurting local businesses’ K. Sophie Will for The Spectrum

Warming weather usually means opportunity for adventure and exponential economic growth in what is typically the coldest of Utah’s five national parks: Bryce Canyon. But that changed with COVID-19 as it devastated the state’s tourism industry, which Utah relies on for business profit and tax revenue. Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City is one business in the tourism industry hit hardest by the pandemic, losing 46% of its revenue this year even with government assistance.

Reporter K. Sophie Will explores how the lack of international tourists – who, in an average year, comprise up to a quarter of all national park visitors while tending to stay longer and spend more money, according to a senior tourism analyst – has impacted Ruby’s Inn and other community hotels so significantly.

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – ‘How can Philly can ‘build back better’? 5 tenets of a post-pandemic recovery’ Michael Butler for Technical.ly 

As Philadelphians plan strategies to recover from the enduring pandemic and current recession, a few ideas of how the city can bounce back have been circulating. But aside from workforce development and small business support, which is a major part of Congress’ new $900 billion aid program, what else is specific to Philadelphia, a city with a high poverty rate? Reporter Michael Butler outlines the key takeaways from the “Build Back Better” session, a discussion led by the director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Economic Growth & Mobility Project in last week’s Philly Forward Forum, on how the city can respond to current circumstances.

December 21, 2020

RIDGELAND, Miss. – ‘Mississippi churches face difficult decisions at Christmas’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press

Highland Colony Baptist Church temporarily shut down at the start of the pandemic, and again three months ago after 25 members were infected with COVID-19. Pastor Jay Richardson, 70, who was hospitalized with double pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, said while dealing with the outbreak was hard, the isolation has been worse, prompting him to decide  not to shut the church down anymore.

Amid the pandemic, houses of worship have faced difficult decisions that are only being exacerbated by a peak in new cases during the holiday season as thousands of Americans die from the virus daily. Most of Mississippi, which is located at the center of the Bible Belt where its residents consider themselves the most religious in the country, according to Pew Research Center, is considered high-risk for COVID-19 due to high rates of conditions like hypertension and diabetes.

WICHITA, Kan. – ‘More Kansans going hungry amid COVID-19 crisis, including some you wouldn’t expect’ Megan Stringer and Dion Lefler for The Wichita Eagle

Volunteers packed food into Robert Carter and his wife Mary Ridenour’s car within minutes of their arrival to First Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita. About 1,700 people, including 500 families, seek groceries from the Table of Hope pantry every Tuesday. Rev. Jackie Carter, who has built relationships with the people who come to the pantry,said that most who visit are considered the working poor – they have a job, but don’t make enough to feed themselves or their families.

According to the Kansas Food Bank, one in eight Kansans faced food insecurity in 2018, a number that grew to one in six in 2020, and one in four among children. Corps member Megan Stringer and reporter Dion Lefler explore exactly who is facing food insecurity, how the community is stepping up and what resources are available for those in need.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – ‘Creole Speakers Needed To Help Stop COVID-19 Surge In Haitian Neighborhoods’ Sam Bojarski for The Haitian Times

At the height of the pandemic in New York City this spring, 200 people were hired to help residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 access essentials during their quarantine. As a second wave hits the nation amid a likelihood of large holiday gatherings, the city is planning to expand its program to help more immigrant residents, including Creole-speaking Haitian-Americans. Through its Take Care initiative, the NYC Health and Hospitals Test & Trace Corps are looking to hire Haitian Creole speakers as resource navigators.

More than 90,000 Haitian-Americans live in Brooklyn and 40,000 live in Queens, many of whom work essential jobs with some living in multigenerational households, making the community vulnerable to the virus.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – ‘The kids are definitely not okay. St. Paul Public Schools data show the devastating effect of pandemic and distance learning on students of color.’ Becky Z. Dernbach for the Sahan Journal

Nearly half of secondary students in St. Paul Public Schools failed a class in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year, making failing grades two and a half times more common than last year.Students of color in every demographic category are more than twice as likely to be failing a class than white students. For the first time, these findings were broken down by racial and ethnic groups, providing an indication of how students – particularly students of color who make up four-fifths of the district’s student population – are struggling through distance learning amid the pressures of the pandemic. The chief academic officer for the school district called for “an activist response” to the data.

Reporter Becky Z. Dernbach further breaks down the data, offering a deep dive into the racial disparity of how the pandemic is affecting students’ grades and how it’s harder for teachers, who are also facing the pressures of the pandemic outside of the classroom, to see what their students’ need.

Related: MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – ‘Kids and COVID-19: Milwaukee youth shares her experience in book about pandemic’ Matt Martinez for Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Michia-Marie Ward, 13, is a North Side resident, Golda Meir School student, soon-to-be babysitter and a contributing author to “Kids Journal Through COVID-19: United Kids Speak,” a book featuring writings from kids across the country about their experiences living through COVID-19.

December 17, 2020

BALTIMORE, Md. – ‘During early coronavirus lockdown, Black suicides spiked, Johns Hopkins study finds — and now experts worry about winter’ Tatyana Turner for The Baltimore Sun

In what is believed to be one of the first studies of its kind, Johns Hopkins researchers who examined deaths across Maryland found evidence of an increase in suicides since the start of the pandemic, and of a discrepancy among Black and white residents. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry on Tuesday, shows that from March 5, the date Maryland declared a state of emergency and shut down, until May 7, when the first public places reopened, suicide deaths in the Black community appeared to double the recent historical average. At the same time, scientists found that suicides among white Marylanders dropped by half. 

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘So many front-line workers sought help paying COVID-19 costs, North Dakota stopped taking applications’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

North Dakota stopped accepting applications for funds to help cover first responders and health care workers’ COVID-19-related medical expenses after receiving almost 3,000 applications in a week, citing an “overwhelming response.” The North Dakota Legislature approved allocating $2.5 million of the state’s federal pandemic stimulus funds for the Medical Expense Assistance Program, open only to first responders and frontline health workers who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were not receiving worker’s compensation. 

Of the 2,916 applications received as of noon on Wednesday, 1,564 were awarded funds as the remaining applications will go through a review process. The department said the number of applications received will use up the entire $2.5 million.  

DENVER, Colo. – ‘Inmates facing big virus risks not near top of vaccine lists’ Colleen Slevin and Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

Amber Johnson believes that a COVID-19 vaccine might be the only hope for her father, Ronald Johnson, 63, who is serving time in Colorado, where outbreaks of the virus are raging inside prisons. But in Colorado and most other states, people incarcerated are not among the first to receive initial doses of the vaccine, or even near the front of the line. The first wave of vaccines are going to health care workers and nursing home residents, with many arguing that those who break the law should not be a priority, despite living conditions that put them at risk, like limited mask supplies and the impossibility of maintaining social distancing.

Initially, the state had inmates in the second phase of vaccine distribution, treating prisoners like others in group housing. But Democratic Gov. Jared Polis changed his plan after an outcry followed.  

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – ‘America’s history of medical racism haunts Black Memphians as COVID-19 vaccines arrive’ Hannah Grabenstein for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism

Worried about the fast development of vaccines and centuries of systemic racism, many Black Memphaians are hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. While most skeptics do not deny the severity of the pandemic, they are concerned about the vaccine as the solution, medical experts worry that without widespread adoption of the vaccine, the virus will continue to spread in Shelby County where it has disproportionately affected Black residents.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said on Tuesday that the key to defeating the virus is for around 85% of Americans to be vaccinated. Reporter Hannah Grabenstein explores the major hurdles in convincing Black people to get the vaccine, as well as the racism that has led to distrust of the government and medical system, both deep-rooted in history and present today.

December 16, 2020

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘’We’re still in the tunnel’: California orders body bags for COVID-19 deaths; quarantine time reduced’ Maria Sestito for the Desert Sun

With nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccines already committed to California, the state is closer to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goal of distributing 2.1 million doses before the New Year. The doses are only enough to vaccinate less than half of California’s health care workers as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge across the state, averaging 163 virus-related deaths per day. Sesito, the reporter, also looks at the new quarantine guidelines as the recommended number of days a person must quarantine after being exposed to the virus has dropped from 14 to 10. 

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘Are North Dakota’s COVID-19 fracking grants legal? Watchdogs raise the question’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead 

Two North Dakota watchdog groups are questioning the legality of the state’s approval of $16 million in federal coronavirus relief for fracking grants this fall. On Dec. 15, the Dakota Resource Council and North Dakotans for Public Integrity submitted a formal complaint to two of the state’s top oversight bodies, criticizing the state’s transparency in its distribution of the CARES Act money in a joint letter sent to the members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission and Emergency Commission. An environmental attorney representing both parties in the complaint said it could be the “first step” on the road to lawsuit. 

WELLPINIT, Wash. – ‘Despite internet challenges, teachers, parents and students on Spokane Reservation go extra mile to make remote learning work’ Orion Donovan-Smith for The Spokesman-Review 

Teachers and administrators estimate about 1-in-4 students on the Spokane Reservation have internet access at home, a deficit that is hurting their education and well-being after Wellpinit schools returned to remote learning due to the rising COVID-19 cases. While the Spokane Tribe invested $4.7 million in a broadband project to provide wireless internet to most of the reservation, a year-end deadline to use the funds threatens the infrastructure work. To overcome the “digital divide” that is stark in rural tribal communities, students, parents and educators are going the extra mile. Reporter Donovan-Smith explores what this looks like, as well as the additional efforts on the reservation made by the Spokane Tribe. 

SAN JUAN, P.R. – ‘She helped Puerto Rico’s first COVID cases. Now, this health worker is first to get vaccine’ Syra Ortiz-Blanes for the Miami Herald 

Yahaira Alicea, who works at the Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital in San Juan as a respiratory therapist, was the first person in Puerto Rico to get the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday after the Pfizer-BioNTech supplies reached the island. Alicea was part of the medical team that treated the island’s first two known coronavirus patients – an elderly husband and wife on vacation. 

Healthcare workers working in hospitals will be the first to receive the vaccine in Puerto Rico, along with essential workers and people who live in assisted living facilities and other confined spaces. The Puerto Rico Department of Health emphasized that it will be free for everyone.

December 15, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – ‘More than 700 Utah babies have had the coronavirus; here’s how families and doctors care for them’ Becky Jacobs for The Salt Lake Tribune

The first sign that Beau Binion, who turned 1 in November, had COVID-19 was his fussiness, according to his father Robert, who had also contracted the virus along with his wife and Beau’s sister. While adults make up the vast majority of Utah’s COVID-19 cases, Beau is one of the 714 Utahns under the age of 1 confirmed to have contracted the virus as of Sunday. In November alone, there were more than 200 cases added, according to the Utah Department of Health. Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious disease at University of Utah Health and director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, said that while babies and young children are at “low risk” for severe complications from the virus, that doesn’t mean they’re safe. 

AKRON, Ohio – ‘‘We don’t have the reserves to wait out a volatile situation:’ How COVID-19 expedited University of Akron’s budget crisis’ Abbey Marshall for the Devil Strip 

The University of Akron laid off 18% of its faculty and consolidated programs and colleges as part of its deep cuts this summer, citing a projected $65 million budget shortfall and $360.4 million of debt. While the cuts were inevitable after student enrollment declined by a third in the past decade, a spokesperson said the financial losses from an enrollment drop and a decrease in state funding due to the pandemic expedited these changes. The faculty blames university administration, and some say the university is using COVID-19 as an excuse to cut more positions than necessary, resulting in a complaint filed against the university for unfair labor practices. 

Marshall analyzed previous budgets, reviewed financial decisions and spoke with more than a dozen faculty members – both currently employed and laid off – to better understand the university’s financial challenges.

TOMAH, Wisc. – ‘‘They just keep getting whammed’: Ho-Chunk Nation Museum in Tomah overcomes COVID-19, fire’ Frank Vaisvilas for Green Bay Press-Gazette 

After months of the site being closed due to the pandemic, the Ho-Chunk Nation Museum it’s reeling after a fire at the end of November destroyed possibly thousands of historic tribal documents, photos and artifacts, according to the Museum director Josie Lee. The museum opened this year in downtown Tomah as a way for the tribe to tell its story to the public in its own way, but had to close after a few weeks because of COVID-19 precautions.

Volunteers, including dozens of members of the Ho-Chunk Nation, rushed to the site to try to save some of the tribe’s artifacts important to its cultural identity, but the 600,000 gallons of water that firefighters used to put out the fire also threatened the contents of the museum. Work to save and restore the artifacts, like hand-written notes that pertain to the formation of the tribe’s modern government, is estimated to cost at least $20,000, money the Ho-Chunk Nation does not have because of the pandemic’s toll on much of its revenue. 

CITYWIDE, Ill. – ‘Despite Pandemic, Santa Mike Continues 50-Year Holiday Tradition Of Helping Children, Seniors’ Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago 

Mike Sturch started the annual tradition of hosting holiday events to bring joy to children, the elderly and people experiencing homelessness. He earned the name Santa Mike 50 years ago after working with Marillac St. Vincent Family Services to fill more than 100 baskets with food and gifts for children who participated in the nonprofit’s youth programs. Now, the Santa Mike Fund provides up to 500 kids with gifts, 700 people experiencing homelessness with meals, supplies and medical and legal services, and 300 seniors with a dance mixer and a holiday meal. 

While the pandemic led to the cancellation of his three annual gatherings, Santa Mike has adapted his tradition of giving to make sure Chicagoans are still feeling supported during the holiday season.

December 12, 2020

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – ‘Faces of COVID: A look at the people behind coronavirus statistics in eastern Idaho’ Kyle Pfannenstiel and Sally Krutzig for the Post Register

Of the more than a quarter-million Americans who have died in less than a year from COVID-19, more than 1,100 were Idahoans, and more than 130 were residents of the largely rural eastern part of the state. But beyond the numbers are the stories of the sacrifices made by frontline health care workers, families torn apart by the death of a loved one and those with persisting symptoms months into their recoveries. Pfannenstiel and Krutzig dig past the statistics and into how the lives of a photojournalist, a musician, a contract specialist, a professor, a nursing assistant and an ICU doctor have changed since the start of the pandemic.

DETROIT, Mich. – ‘Homeless shelters and providers across metro Detroit brace for a pandemic winter’ Nushrat Rahman for the Detroit Free Press

Homeless service providers across metro Detroit are seeing increased, but expected, demand for their services as winter comes. What’s new is the trio of challenges presented by dropping temperatures amid the surge of COVID-19 cases, forcing shelters to decrease the number of people they can accommodate while state and federal safeguards against evictions are expected to end.

Rahman explores the ways in which shelters and providers are working to adapt, as well as the effects of eviction as housing experts estimate that millions of Americans are at risk of losing their homes due to the recession. If protections are lifted, it is likely that evictions will increase COVID-19 infection rates because of overcrowded living environments and limited access to health care, according to the Journal of Urban Health.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – ‘Minnesota’s first generation students are working three jobs, supporting their families—and figuring out how to apply for college during a pandemic.’ Becky Z. Dernbach for the Sahan Journal

Saylia Moo, Lay Lay and Let Let have a lot in common. The three St. Paul high school seniors recently turned 18, all came to the United States from Karen refugee camps in Thailand as children, work part time at Panera Bread and want to attend the University of Minnesota to pursue health care careers. They were also all expecting to have submitted more college applications by now, but the process has been challenging without in-person schooling.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, has been one particular struggle that is not uncommon, marked by a drop of 29% from last year in the FAFSA completion rate at Minnesota high schools with high populations of students of color. This metric serves as one of the signs that opportunity gaps may be widening for this year’s high school seniors.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘With vaccine on its way, NC reports another day of more than 6,000 COVID-19 case’ Adam Wagner for the News & Observer 

The daily average of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina reached a record-high of 5,944 after the state reported 6,819 new confirmed cases on Sunday, the second-highest total since the pandemic began, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The state is now reporting an average of 11.1% positivity rate over the past seven weeks as health officials try to keep the rate of positive tests at a benchmark of 5%.

With The Associated Press reporting that shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will begin arriving in states Monday morning, the promise of a vaccine is drawing nearer. Public health officials in N.C. have said that the 85,800 doses of the vaccine that are expected to arrive this week will go to health care workers at about half of the state’s hospitals.

December 11, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘‘We have failed’: How COVID-19 affects California’s 800,000 farmworkers’ Kimberly Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee

In order to make a living, California’s 800,000 farmworkers continue to sustain the state’s annual $50 billion agricultural industry amid the pandemic and a summer of unprecedented wildfires. At what cost? The essential workforce, made up of those who can’t work remotely or socially distant, are putting food on Californians’ tables. 

The Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health released a study conducted between July and November that shows the pandemic’s unequal toll on agricultural workers in the state, the majority of participants being from Mexico and identifying as Latino. Blood samples taken from the surveyed farmworkers found that nearly one in five tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, proving they had previously contracted the virus. 

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – ‘Utah business leaders give advice on how to support employees during COVID-19′s ‘shecession’’ Becky Jacobs for The Salt Lake Tribune 

Women in the U.S. are being disproportionately affected by the economic downturn of the pandemic, in what some experts and news outlets are calling a “shecession.” According to data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, women in Utah filed the majority of new unemployment claims from mid-March through April when schools closed and child care providers struggled to remain open. And The 19th reported that in September, 865,000 women left the workforce compared to 216,000 men nationwide. 

Jacobs interviewed leaders at four Utah businesses about how companies can support women and men during the pandemic, helping to keep them in the workforce and on track for leadership positions. 

Related: WICHITA, Kan. –Working mothers face a reckoning in the workplace with Wichita elementary students home’ Megan Stringer for the Wichita Eagle

While the shift in sending elementary students home in the Wichita Public Schools district affects all working parents and guardians, the change could be particularly stark for women in the workplace. During remote learning in March and April, working mothers’ hours fell four to five times as much as the fathers’, according to a study from Washington University in St. Louis. 

AUSTIN, Ill. – ‘West Side Hospital Joins Effort To Include More Black, Latino Chicagoans In Coronavirus Vaccine Trials’ Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago 

To ensure equitable access to vaccine trials for those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Loretto Hospital on Chicago’s West Side is collaborating with Affinity Health to recruit West Side residents for COVID-19 vaccine trials. Despite Black and Latino people being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, they are underrepresented in early trials. 

Not only is the participation of West Siders crucial to developing reasonable certainty that potential vaccines will work for anyone who gets one, which is determined by the testing of vaccines across broad demographics, said Dr. Lois Clarke, Loretto’s director of clinical research, but it will also help counter the skepticism regarding the country’s racist history of conducting drug trials on people of color. 

RIDGWAY, Colo. – ‘Community fund offers a lifeline’ Liz Teitz for Ouray County Plaindealer 

Mony Garriga helped hang signs advertising the Ouray County Response Fund when it launched in March, encouraging people to donate if they were able to and to apply if they were in need. At the time, she just wanted to help, but then Garriga was forced to close her business, and the hotels where she offered therapeutic massages were shut down. In order to make ends meet, a friend encouraged her to apply to the local response fund through the Telluride Foundation, which pays bills directly for recipients rather than distributing money to individuals. 

So far, the foundation has paid out $239,087.25 to 124 applicants, having received $411,364 in donations as of last Friday, according to April Montgomery, the foundation’s vice president of programs.

December 10, 2020

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. – ‘SC to prioritize elderly, food workers for COVID-19 vaccine’ Michelle Liu for the Associated Press

Inmates and poultry plant workers are next in line after frontline health care employees in South Carolina’s COVID-19 vaccine plan, according to Gov. Henry McMaster. Those in health care include physicians, medical students, speech pathologists and the residents and staff of nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities, he said. The Department of Health and Environmental Control said it expects about 200,000-300,000 initial doses of the vaccine from the federal government by the end of the year.

While health officials say they are confident that they will have enough supplies for all South Carolinians who want to receive the vaccine next year, limited availability of the vaccine early on means states must decide which groups receive it  first, based on their likelihood of contracting and dying from the virus.

Related: NEWPORT, R.I. – ‘Health care workers may begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine this month, as hospitalizations continue to rise in Rhode Island’ Antonia Ayres-Brown for The Public’s Radio 

Pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration, Rhode Island health officials say the state could receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as this weekend. The first doses will go to high-risk healthcare workers in the state’s hospitals, which have been at capacity since late November, and staff and residents at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as well as first responders.

WASHINGTON – ‘‘Come on, Congress, just get it done’: Northwest lawmakers weigh in on COVID-19 relief talks as deadline looms’ Orion Donovan-Smith for The Spokesman-Review

The House of Representatives passed a one-week stopgap spending bill Wednesday, a step toward averting a government shutdown at the end of the week, buying time for Congress to take a final shot at passing another round of pandemic relief legislation. While Northwest lawmakers said they were confident the Senate would pass the spending bill and President Donald Trump would sign it before government funding runs out at the end of Friday, they were less optimistic about the odds of negotiators striking a coronavirus relief deal by the end of next week.

Congress spent roughly $3 trillion in aid in March, including enhanced unemployment benefits, forgivable loans to businesses and direct payments to state, local and tribal governments, among other stimulus spending. Since then, Democratic and Republican negotiators have gone months without finding a compromise between the additional $3 trillion package House Democrats passed in May and the $1.1 trillion in spending proposed by Senate Republicans in July.

RENO, Nev. – ‘Reno-area teacher shortage extends distance learning’ Sam Metz and Scott Sonner for the Associated Press

Partly due to a shortage of teachers, the Washoe County School Board has decided to extend distance learning for middle and high schoolers in the Reno area until at least Jan 19. In-class instruction will continue  in elementary schools for kindergartners through fifth graders. With the district’s 66 elementary schools doing in-person teaching,  there’s a push to recruit teachers as it faces a shortage of about 90 substitutes a day. Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an emergency regulation last month to allow larger school districts to hire substitutes who only have a high school diploma.

BUFFALO, N.Y.  – ‘MHM: NY State Office of Mental Health Highlights Role of Social Determinants of Health in Town Hall’ Camalot Todd for Spectrum News Buffalo 

The New York State Office of Mental Health hosted a virtual statewide town hall meeting on Dec. 8 with State Commissioner Ann Sullivan about what the future holds for the public mental health system. Concerns from different counties and their various agencies were heard in public comment, many citing the long lasting effects of the pandemic on people’s mental and behavioral health, the role of police and jails and concerns about insurance parity. The NYS OMH’s transformation plan to bolster community-based services statewide comes after deinstitutionalization failed to fund and support those programs, leading many people with mental illnesses to depend on institutions like jails or community hospitals.

December 9, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – ‘How Kansas City metro COVID-19 restrictions compare to each other’ Brittany Callan for The Beacon

While most counties in the Kansas City metro area are working in coordination to tighten COVID-19 restrictions, county commissioners in Johnson County, Kansas have imposed laxer gathering limits and gym restrictions than their neighbors. The inconsistency has irked Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas, who tweeted that full bars in Johnson County could present a challenge for the entire area. Compared to surrounding counties, Johnson County’s curfew at indoor restaurants and bars is two hours later and the maximum gathering limit is five times greater.

To explore the restrictions imposed county by county in the metro area and nearby, Callan created a visualization that shows which policies have been enacted and where.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘Why California lawmakers want to expand health coverage for state’s undocumented’ Kimberly Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee

California State Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, is seeking to re-introduce legislation that expands health care for undocumented adults as the pandemic impacts the wages and health of the state’s immigrant workers disproportionately. Assembly Bill 4, authored by Arambula and Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu, would expand Medi-Cal coverage to low-income adults regardless of their immigration status, which could benefit about 917,000 low-income undocumented Califonians ages 26 or older, according to a report by the Legistlative Analyst’s Office from February.

Related: SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘COVID-19 is still ‘attacking Latino households’ in California eight months into the pandemic’ Kimberly Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee

COVID-19 has infected over half a million Latinos in California and killed more than 9,000, according to public health data. Latinos represent 40% of the state’s population, but account for 59% of the coronavirus cases and nearly half of the virus-related deaths. And a California Latino Economic Institute brief said that about 12% of the state’s Latinos are uninsured.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – ‘New federal data show eastern Idaho hospital ICUs were nearly full last week’ Kyle Pfannenstiel for the Post Register 

Almost all of eastern Idaho’s staffed intensive care unit beds were filled last week, hospitals recently told federal health officials. And according to National Public Radio, a new hospital capacity report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included nuanced reporting in individual hospitals for the first time, showing an unwieldy surge of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have slammed hospitals in several states, Idaho included.

Among the eight counties in Eastern Idaho Public Health district, only 41 total staffed ICU beds were available last week between three hospitals.

WICHITA, Kan. – ‘Working mothers face a reckoning in the workplace with Wichita elementary students home’ Megan Stringer for the Wichita Eagle

After the Wichita school board voted on Nov. 30 to send home the elementary students in Wichita Public Schools district (USD 259) amid rising COVID-19 cases, working parents scrambled to find child care options. While the shift affects all working parents and guardians, as some parents can stay home to supervise young children while others must work in person, the change could be particularly stark for women in the workplace. During remote learning in March and April, working mothers’ hours fell four to five times as much as the fathers’, according to a study from Washington University in St. Louis.

Related: WICHITA, Kan. – ‘Worried about child care in remote school? Woman turns event space into learning center’ Megan Stringer for the Wichita Eagle

Kelsey Shackelford turned the event venue she manages in Wichita into a learning center where children needing supervision during school hours can stay socially distanced while their parents work.

December 8, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘COVID-19 is still ‘attacking Latino households’ in California eight months into the pandemic’ Kimberly Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee

California’s Latino communities represent about 40% of the state’s population but account for 59% of virus cases and 48.5% of virus-related deaths. In Sacramento County, where the coronavirus rates are surging, Latinos account for 23.6% of the population, yet 30% of cases, as more than 7,000 people in the Latino community have been infected.

Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra reported that stemming the virus spread in the community has been a challenge due to Latinos being the majority of essential workers who can’t work from home. Dr. David E. Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports that the scarcity of Spanish-speaking Latino physicians in the state also adds to the problem.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘Ohio governor to extend curfew as virus deaths surpass 7K’ Farnoush Amiri for the Associated Press

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that he will extend the statewide curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., initially set to expire Thursday, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the state as daily new cases are increasing, and the death toll surpassed 7,000. 

The extended measure requires businesses to be closed by 10 p.m., exempting pharmacies, groceries and restaurants offering takeout service. DeWine also reported that this order doesn’t apply to people who need to be at work or need medical care.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘Bismarck city attorney harassed, threatened over COVID-19 response’ Adam Willis and Jeremy Turley for The Forum

North Dakota’s Bismarck City Attorney Jannelle Combs has been harassed through social media and a public campaign to get her fired due to her role in enforcing local COVID-19 precautions. The attacks have escalated over the last few days, including threats of physical harm, causing Combs to file a police report on Saturday. 

Combs, who noted that she has taken a collaborative approach to working with local businesses, checking in with owners after reports of violations rather than reporting them to police, is the second North Dakota official to be targeted with such harassment. Director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Renae Moch reported similar responses to her work enforcing COVID-19 precautions in September. 

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – ‘Utah researchers work to understand how COVID-19 affects premature births, stillbirth rates’ Becky Jacobs and Erin Alberty for The Salt Lake Tribune

Multiple research studies are underway in Utah to help uncover how COVID-19 may be connected to premature births and stillbirth rates. One major study at the University of Utah is aimed to help doctors learn the rate of virus infections in pregnant women, the duration of symptoms and if there are any associated complications, according to participant Megan Briley. 

At Intermountain Healthcare, doctors are also tracking pregnant women who’ve contracted the virus, and according to Dr. Helen Feltovich, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine in obstetrics and gynecology, Intermountain has collected data from roughly 700 patients. Feltovich announced that their plan is to publish a report of their findings in the coming months.

December 7, 2020

WICHITA, Kan. – ‘Worried about child care in remote school? Woman turns event space into learning center’ Megan Stringer for the Wichita Eagle

In response to parents struggling to find child care as schooling goes virtual in the state due to COVID-19, Kelsey Shackelford decided to turn the event venue she manages in Wichita, Kansas into a learning center, where children who need supervision for school while their parents work can stay from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Shackelford encourages parents to enroll kids who are in the second grade or older, and says there’s immediate space for about 20 kids, but hopes to fit about 60 once more supplies arrive.

The Wichita school board voted Nov. 30 to move 13,000 elementary school students from in-person classes to remote schooling, as the district experiences a shortage of teachers, with about 16% of the workforce in quarantine.

Related: LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – ‘‘Our kids are the sacrifices’: Parents push schools to open’ Sara Cline for the Associated Press

When Jennifer Dale of Lake Oswego, Oregon watched her children struggling with online schooling, she began sending emails to local school officials to call for the return to in-person instruction. Over time, Dale connected with other parents, joined protests for school buildings to reopen and now helps organize events, becoming a voice for the statewide movement of parents calling for children to return to school.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – ‘Despite shuttered campuses, some Silicon Valley tech firms still paying cafeteria workers, janitors’ Laurence Du Sault for The Mercury News

In Silicon Valley, California, the majority of tech companies that have closed their offices due to COVID-19 are continuing to pay contracted service workers, such as janitors and cafeteria workers, as they stay home, according to experts, workers and labor unions. But as the pandemic persists, many of those service workers are worried about how much longer tech companies can continue paying them.

UC Berkeley economics professor Enrico Moretti points that keeping contracted service workers on the books like this is not typical, and presumably reflects the significant economic gains the tech sector has made during the pandemic.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Despite promise, few in US adopting COVID-19 exposure apps’ Bryan Anderson and Matt O’Brien for the Associated Press

To bolster contact training, an app that notifies people who might have been exposed to COVID-19 was introduced six months ago by Apple and Google. However, less than half of U.S. states have made the technology widely available, and the majority of Americans in locations where it is available haven’t activated the tool, according to a data analysis by The Associated Press. As of late November, 8.1 million people had utilized the technology out of the 110 million who have access.

North Carolina launched it’s COVID-19 tracking app, SlowCOVIDNC, in September, but only 482,003 of the state’s 10.5 million residents had installed it through the end of November.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – ‘Southwestern Illinois sees increase in positivity rate, officials warn restaurants to comply’ DeAsia Paige for the Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois’s Metro East county officials urged restaurants to comply with the tighter Tier 3 restrictions that went into effect Nov. 20, as the daily COVID-19 positivity rate in the region increased, from 14.6% Saturday to 17.5% Sunday. As of Saturday, at least two restaurants in St. Clair County were ordered to shut down due to violating indoor dining restrictions, while last week, two others had liquor licenses suspended and were fined $1,000.

The region’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate also increased, from 14.2% Saturday to 15.3% Sunday, and the state’s Department of Public Health reported that 84% of staffed hospital beds in the Metro East were in use as of Saturday.

December 4, 2020

READING, Penn. – ‘Building trust in COVID-19 vaccine marred by misinformation and America’s racist medical past’ Anthony Orozco for WITF

Gaining the trust of the Black and Latino communities to convince them to take the COVID-19 vaccines about to be released will be crucial to inoculate these vulnerable populations. The COVID Collaborative, a nongovernmental group of researchers and health experts, released a new study that shows about a third of Latinos and 14% of Black people say they mostly or completely trust the vaccine, and that people of color are more likely to trust messages coming from someone of their own ethnicity. 

Groups like the Health Bureau of the Latino-majority city of Allentown, and leaders like Rev. Bruce Alick of the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention and the pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Reading, are working to serve as a bridge of communication to reach the Latino and Black communities among the mistrust of healthcare providers. 

RIDGWAY, Colo. – ‘‘Get us back to yellow’’ Liz Teitz for Ouray County Plaindealer 

As pandemic fatigue increases, Ouray County officials are struggling to promote COVID-19 precautions and compliance as tighter restrictions are put into place. As county commissioners and members of the Ouray City Council and Ridgway Town Council debated on ways to reduce the spread of the virus in a Joint Policy Group meeting last week, they acknowledged that not all of their constituents are willing to listen and would rather have the county ignore the governor’s orders, allowing businesses to operate restriction-free. What they can agree on, though, is centering their efforts to returning to the yellow level on the state’s dial that dictates the intensity of such restrictions. 

The county moved to “orange: high risk” on Nov. 16, just a week after moving to “yellow: concern” from “blue: caution.” 

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – ‘Fishbox’s Napoleon Suarez is finding ways to deliver during a year of constant change’ Michael Butler for Technical.ly

Since high school, Napoleon Suarez knew he wanted to have his own business. Now, as the founder and CEO of Fishbox, a mail delivery company, he is navigating the waters of COVID-19. The significant loss in revenue and in personal customer interaction has led Suarez to question the future of his business as it competes with global shipping companies like UPS. And, as an African American and Ecuadorian business owner in the predominantly white Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philadelphia, the pressure of frequently being the only Black or Latinx person some of his customers come in contact with can be overwhelming. 

MODESTO, Calif. – ‘Disney Jr’s Doc McStuffins, ‘The Doc Is In’ models healthy habits and diversity’ ChrisAnna Mink for The Sacramento Bee 

Doc McStuffins, Disney Junior’s beloved preschool doctor, hasn’t missed a beat with her young audience during the coronavirus pandemic. Her new special, “The Doc Is In,” she demonstrates healthful, age-appropriate habits, like hand washing and hydration, while using engaging songs and interacting with real children, families and medical professionals, to help kids stay healthy amid COVID-19. Dr. Myiesha Taylor, an emergency medicine physician who is on screen with Doc, believes the lessons show kids that they need to be active participants in their health, and that they do have control over some things, even during the pandemic. 

ChirsAnna Mink explores how Doc, a young African American girl who aspires to be a doctor like her mother, makes the real jobs of doctors like Taylor, an African American woman, a little easier.

December 3, 2020

SANTA ANA, Calif. – ‘Who Are Struggling Santa Ana Residents Turning to for Pandemic Aid? Each Other’ Brandon Pho and Hosam Elattar for Voice of OC

COVID-19 has devastated the wages of working-class, low-income and predominantly immigrant communities of Orange County, California. To provide support, volunteers in Santa Ana created the In’Lakesh Relief Fund. The program provides community-sourced financial aid for things like housing, legal and health care costs to those struggling to make ends meet. According to volunteers, funding is sourced from a mix of local donations and grants from advocacy organizations, and the program has been able to support roughly 1,300 people and their families so far.

“In’Lakesh” is a Mayan phrase that translates to “I am you, as you are me,” said Joel Cazares, an organizer for the relief fund.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – ‘Despite COVID, Illinois students haven’t fallen behind. But how long can that last?’ Megan Valley for the Belleville News-Democrat 

Illinois school districts are debating whether to give statewide assessments in the spring to provide data that shows how remote learning has affected students. Some school administrators say they already know what’s happening with students, and that they are better served in-person than virtual, while State Superintendent Carmey Ayala says “We need data so that our students today do not become the COVID-19 generation that is forever impacted.”

Early projections for student learning loss during Spring and Summer were dire, as The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) predicted students would lose half a year of learning in reading and nearly a third of a year in math. As of now, new NWEA data suggests that students are still learning through the pandemic, but just aren’t learning as much as the year before. 

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Sacred Heart, Holy Family hospitals delaying some surgeries due to influx of COVID-19 patients’ Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review 

Hospitals across Washington are postponing some elective surgeries in an effort to conserve critical care beds and adequate staffing for COVID-19 patients, in preparation for the next wave. Gov. Jay Inslee ordered hospitals to reschedule elective surgeries in the spring, including joint replacements, cataract surgeries, non-urgent cardiac procedures and some interventional radiology services. 

Washington’s Health Officer Kathy Lofy reported the number of residents currently hospitalized each day exceeds numbers seen in the spring, when the first surge of the virus hit Western Washington.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘First COVID-19 vaccines just weeks away for North Dakota, officials say’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

North Dakota health officials reported on Wednesday the state’s plans for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, announcing the immunization of healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be prioritized, and the initial shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive the week of Dec. 14. The state’s public health experts also emphasized the safety of the injections to residents.

According to the Department of Health’s immunization program manager Molly Howell, the first vaccine shipments to North Dakota are expected to be “extremely, extremely limited,” but the state is well-equipped to distribute it due to acquiring the necessary freezers and shipping materials.

December 2, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Indiana teacher, substitute shortage worsened by COVID-19’ Casey Smith for the Associated Press

The increase of  COVID-19 cases in Indiana, and the measures taken to slow contagion are exacerbating its schools’ pre-existing teacher shortages. As of two weeks ago, 1,755 schools across Indiana reported at least one confirmed virus case, according to the State Department of Health, bringing the statewide total of students, teachers and staff who have tested positive to over 15,000.

Some schools have chosen to go virtual, while others are asking teachers to continue in-person instruction, sometimes asking teachers who were exposed to the coronavirus to keep working without the CDC’s recommended quarantine. Indiana State Teachers Association president Keith Gambill calls these situations “unsustainable and unsafe,” calling for counties hit hardest by the pandemic to return to virtual learning.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘The Supreme Court blocked New York’s COVID-19 restrictions for places of worship. What does that mean for Washington?’ Laurel Demkovich for the Spokesman-Review

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on religious services a few weeks ago, limiting indoor capacity to 25%, requiring mask wearing at all times and prohibiting the congregation from singing and choirs from performing.

These restrictions on religious institutions across Washington are unlikely to be affected by Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling that blocked New York’s gathering restrictions on churches and synagogues. However, while last week’s court decision only affects New York, it could indicate how the court will rule in other cases involving pandemic restrictions and places of worship, as at least 20 other states have similar cases pending.

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘With no action by Washington, states race to offer virus aid’ Julie Carr Smyth and Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

New Mexico passed a relief bill last week that will deliver a $1,200 check to unemployed workers and give up to $50,000 to certain businesses.

“While the United States of America is on fire, the Trump administration has left states to fight this virus on their own,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “It is clear no help is coming — not from this president, not from this administration. As we have done every day this year, New Mexico will step up.”

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘NC reports over 8,000 new COVID-19 cases over past two days as deaths top 5,200’ Ben Sessoms for the News & Observer

New rules issued by Gov. Roy Cooper under the statewide mask mandate took effect on Wednesday, requiring mask wearing in public indoor settings with non-household members, and in public outdoor settings when social distancing isn’t possible.

As of Friday, Nov. 27, the statewide death toll was 5,210, according to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services.

December 1, 2020

MODESTO, Calif. – ‘Blacks in California are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate. What’s being done to help?’ ChrisAnna Mink for the Modesto Bee

African Americans make up 6% of California’s population and slightly over 4% of COVID-19 cases, but account for 7.4% of deaths. To discuss this disproportionately high death rate, along with challenges and solutions, California’s surgeon general Dr. Burke Harris, the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber held a conversation with Black leaders from across the state on Monday. 

Black leaders highlighted the need for appropriate messaging and messengers, overcoming the mistrust of public health officials and ensuring equitable distribution of virus vaccines. According to Dr. Burke Harris, California is the only state that’s implemented a health equity metric, which “holds state leaders accountable for monitoring the disparate impacts of COVID-19 and creating plans to address those disparities.”

DENVER, Colo. – ‘GOP aide sent home from Colorado Legislature had COVID-19’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

Democratic legislators criticized their Republican counterparts for allowing a GOP aide who tested positive for COVID-19 to attend a House of Representatives session on Monday. House Republican leader Hugh McKean said the aide was cleared to work in person by a physician. After the Democrats voiced their complaints, the aide was sent home.

The special session of Colorado’s Legislature was convened by Gov. Jared Polis to pass bills offering COVID-19 relief. Lawmakers proposed bills offering combined $280 million to help small businesses, tenants and public school districts, as well as sustain child care facilities and boost food pantry stocks. Lawmakers are also considering new legislation to allow restaurants and bars to keep state sales tax collections.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘National Guard sustains its longest operation in North Dakota to support pandemic response’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

The National Guard has been supporting North Dakota’s COVID-19 response since March 16, stretching on for months longer than most officials predicted, as the state’s Health Department remains overwhelmed by waves of new cases.

So far, around 680 guardsmen and women have assisted in the state’s pandemic response, and the number of active working guardsmen has averaged around 270 at any given time, with work focused on staffing testing and contact tracing efforts, according to director of military response for the North Dakota National Guard, Col. Tad Schauer.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – ‘Beshear says vaccine to arrive in Kentucky by mid-December’ Piper Hudspeth Blackburn for the Associated Press

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday the state is likely to receive about 38,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by mid December, and a second round of vaccines manufactured by Moderna by the end of the year. Gov. Beshear reported health care workers and long-term care residents and staff will be the first to receive doses. 

Kentucky’s public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack noted that the amount of doses is one-third of what state officials had expected, but that the limited distribution of vaccines to those in long-term care will help reduce the pressure on the healthcare system. As of Monday, almost all of Kentucky’s 120 counties are reported to be in the red zone, the most serious category for COVID-19 rates.

November 30, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Indiana teacher, substitute shortage worsened by COVID-19’ Casey Smith for the Associated Press

The increase of  COVID-19 cases in Indiana, and the measures taken to slow contagion are exacerbating its schools’ pre-existing teacher shortages. As of two weeks ago, 1,755 schools across Indiana reported at least one confirmed virus case, according to the State Department of Health, bringing the statewide total of students, teachers and staff who have tested positive to over 15,000.

Some schools have chosen to go virtual, while others are asking teachers to continue in-person instruction, sometimes asking teachers who were exposed to the coronavirus to keep working without the CDC’s recommended quarantine. Indiana State Teachers Association president Keith Gambill calls these situations “unsustainable and unsafe,” calling for counties hit hardest by the pandemic to return to virtual learning.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘The Supreme Court blocked New York’s COVID-19 restrictions for places of worship. What does that mean for Washington?’ Laurel Demkovich for the Spokesman-Review

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on religious services a few weeks ago, limiting indoor capacity to 25%, requiring mask wearing at all times and prohibiting the congregation from singing and choirs from performing. 

These restrictions on religious institutions across Washington are unlikely to be affected by Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling that blocked New York’s gathering restrictions on churches and synagogues. However, while last week’s court decision only affects New York, it could indicate how the court will rule in other cases involving pandemic restrictions and places of worship, as at least 20 other states have similar cases pending. 

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘With no action by Washington, states race to offer virus aid’ Julie Carr Smyth and Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

New Mexico passed a relief bill last week that will deliver a $1,200 check to unemployed workers and give up to $50,000 to certain businesses. 

“While the United States of America is on fire, the Trump administration has left states to fight this virus on their own,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “It is clear no help is coming — not from this president, not from this administration. As we have done every day this year, New Mexico will step up.”

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘NC reports over 8,000 new COVID-19 cases over past two days as deaths top 5,200’ Ben Sessoms for the News & Observer

New rules issued by Gov. Roy Cooper under the statewide mask mandate took effect on Wednesday, requiring mask wearing in public indoor settings with non-household members, and in public outdoor settings when social distancing isn’t possible.

As of Friday, Nov. 27, the statewide death toll was 5,210, according to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services.

November 24, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – ‘Utah relaxes gathering restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving’ Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Monday he won’t extend his two-week order that required people to limit social gatherings to those in their immediate household, despite COVID-19 continuing to surge statewide. Gov. Herbert recommended the use of masks, enforcing social distancing and smaller gatherings for Thanksgiving, and the interim director of Utah’s health department Rich Saunders recommended people in high transmission counties – 26 of the state’s 29 counties – limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer. 

Across Utah, there were 545 people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Monday, and ICU beds reached 91.9% occupancy, according to state data. The state’s seven-day average of new daily cases continued to climb to 3,349 per day.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – ‘As cases surge, Beshear defends new COVID-19 restrictions’ Piper Hudspeth Blackburn for the Associated Press

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear defended the restrictions he issued last week to slow the spread of COVID-19, warning on Monday that if the increasing virus cases and hospitalizations doesn’t slow down, the state’s healthcare system could be at risk, and even more lives will be at stake. Gov. Beshear’s restrictions, including bans on in-person gatherings at restaurants, schools and event venues, have drawn criticism from republican lawmakers, business owners and private schools. 

Kentucky reported 2,135 new cases and five deaths on Monday, and public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack urged residents to not travel for Thanksgiving, saying that multiple-household gatherings were “a sure recipe for disaster.”

REDDING, Calif. – ‘How this Foothill class is teaching students gratitude through music amid stress of COVID’ Nada Atieh for the Redding Record Searchlight

In response to data released about how wind instruments spread COVID-19, Mitchell Bahr, the instrumental music teacher at California’s Foothill High School, flipped his curriculum this year to offer new classes for instruments that don’t have the potential to spread the virus. He wanted to ensure that his jazz classes, concert band classes and orchestra could still have the chance to experience music education, and is teaching them to refocus their musicality on other instruments.

Bahr also teaches about wellness to help students with their social and emotional health, focusing on gratitude. He teaches students how to flip their mindsets from negative thoughts to “what can I be thankful for,” during these challenging times.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – ‘Nearly 300 Wisconsin nursing home residents died from COVID-19 in four weeks, 10 times more than the month before’ Sarah Volpenhein for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin nursing homes reported that 294 residents died from COVID-19 between Oct. 12 and Nov. 8, a significant increase from the 28 deaths reported in the previous month, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the latest four-week period, Wisconsin nursing homes also reported 2,130 confirmed cases among residents, according to CMS, which is up 387 new cases in the four-week period from Sept. 14 to Oct. 11.  

The spike in COVID-19 deaths and cases within nursing homes has come as daily cases continue to hit record highs in Wisconsin. Over the seven-day period ending last Wednesday, the state averaged 6,564 new cases per day, a new high that is nine times what it was on Sept. 1.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota reports 6 more COVID-19 deaths, urges small Thanksgiving gatherings’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

The North Dakota Department of Health is urging residents to limit Thanksgiving gatherings and travel to slow the spread of COVID-19, as the next coming weeks are crucial for the state. North Dakota could report anywhere from 322 to 808 additional related deaths by Dec. 30, according to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and only the residents’ actions can determine what that course will look like.

North Dakota reported 710 new COVID-19 cases and six new virus-related deaths on Monday.

November 23, 2020

DETROIT, Mich. – ‘As women leave pandemic economy, returning to work, higher wages will be a struggle’ Nushrat Rahman for the Detroit Free Press 

The economic toll of COVID-19 has been especially taxing for working moms. Detroit mothers share experiences of being forced to choose between a job to help sustain the household or being there for the children, and finding child care widely unaffordable and inaccessible.

More than 800,000 women nationwide left the workforce in September, compared with 216,000 men, and in Michigan, the number of women participating in the labor force fell nearly 6%, compared with a drop of less than 1% among men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experts indicated that this shift may lead to lasting challenges for women finding work and facing lower wages. 

CUBA, N.M. – ‘Cut off: School closings leave rural students isolated’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

The shift to remote learning due to COVID-19 has left students in the Cuba Independent School District, which is on the sparsely populated fringe of New Mexico’s Navajo Nation, completely isolated. To help, the Cuba school district has kept their buses running every other day to bring the “classroom” to these students, carrying assignments, art supplies, meals and counselors who check in with students, along with other necessities for the families. 

The buses are a lifeline for many families in the district, of whom nearly half are Hispanic and half are Native American, many of whom live without running water, electricity and internet.

TOPEKA, Kan. – ‘Kansas to launch pro-mask campaign but faces skepticism’ John Hanna and Andy Tsubasa Field for the Associated Press

Kansas is spending up to $1.5 million of its federal COVID-19 relief funds on media ads promoting mask wearing, set to start this week and run through January or longer. The campaign is aimed to get more residents to wear masks and help curb the coronavirus’ spread, but some officials worry that politics are driving too much resistance for the new campaign to be effective, while others believe that people are already bombarded with pro-mask messages. 

Kansas has reported more than 134,000 cases since the pandemic began, which is one case for every 22 residents, and added an average of 2,718 per day over the seven-day period that ended Friday. 

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada governor tightens restrictions as virus cases rise’ Sam Metz for the Associated Press

In response to the COVID-19 surge in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced plans Sunday to tighten restrictions that will reduce capacity for casinos, restaurants, bars, gyms and places of worship. New restrictions will also be applied to public and private gatherings, including on Thanksgiving, when celebrations will be limited to 10 people from no more than two households. Restrictions go into effect on Tuesday and will last for three weeks, tentatively. 

Nevada health officials reported 2,155 new virus cases and six additional deaths Sunday, increasing state totals to 133,888 cases and 2,017 deaths.

November 20, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘Long lines reported as COVID testing spikes ahead of Thanksgiving holiday’ Ceili Doyle for The Columbus Dispatch

As Ohioans scramble to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of Thanksgiving, lines are growing long and appointments scarce. The state ramped up its pop-up testing sites in partnership with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and the Ohio National Guard. However, health officials are urging those who are not symptomatic to reconsider getting tested and refrain from gathering with family and friends over the holidays. The state reported an all-time high number of tests on Nov. 13 at 70,664. Corps member Ceili Doyle filmed her experience getting a COVID-19 nasal swab test in the drive-thru of a CVS. The test was self-administered, and she received directions from the pharmacist on the inside of the store. 

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘Governor calls on Legislature to approve pandemic relief’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press 

New Mexico’s Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Thursday that she is calling a special legislative session next week in the hope of providing $300 million in new economic relief to those who lost their jobs and small businesses that are struggling amid the pandemic and aggressive safety restrictions. On the same day, health officials reported 3,675 new COVID-19 cases, a daily record, and 12 related deaths. The state implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the country this week, closing all restaurants and many other businesses, while the vast majority of schools are also closed. 

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – ‘Utah could receive virus vaccine as early as mid-December’ Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

Utah could receive the first round of the coronavirus vaccine as early as mid-December, but health officials said Wednesday that wider distribution likely won’t be available until July. The first doses in the state will go to staff in emergency departments, urgent and long-term care facilities, and COVID-19 units, as well as health care workers with pre-existing health conditions, according to Rich Lakin, immunization program manager for the state health department. 

It is still unclear how many doses will be sent in the initial phase, but five hospitals that experienced the highest COVID-19 responses will be the first recipients of the vaccines. 

RIDGWAY, Colo. – ‘Ridgway rides out quarantine’ Liz Teitz for Ouray County Plaindealer 

Shawnn Row is the first Ridgway Secondary School teacher to have to be isolated after being exposed to COVID-19 by a student, according to Principal Russell Randolph. Row’s is the latest contagion traced to a high school Halloween party that’s kept dozens of students out of school. 

Row is teaching a hybrid course to his junior class while he and the students who haven’t completed their quarantine due to subsequent exposures to the virus work from home, and another teacher supervises the in-person students. 

November 19, 2020

GREEN BAY, Wis. – ‘Northern Wisconsin tribe becomes emergency food distributor as hunger grows amid COVID-19’ Frank Vaisvilas for the Green Bay Press-Gazette

Increasing food insecurity due to the pandemic prompted the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe in Wisconsin to join the statewide Hunger Task Force earlier this year to become a food distribution hub for communities in northern Wisconsin. The LDF tribe has also partnered with the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican tribe to bring food boxes to communities in the area, distributing over 18,000 pounds of food every Thursday.

“One of our tribal teachings says that when people are weak, that’s when they need our love the most. This year, more than ever, required we all do our part to fill the hollow feeling of hunger within our community,” said LDF Country Market manager George Carufel.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – ‘State’s Only County-Run Prison Deals With Largest COVID Outbreak Yet’ Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Stevens Correctional Center in West Virginia is experiencing the state’s largest COVID-19 outbreak in a correctional facility with more than half of its inmates and a fifth of its workforce infected as of Wednesday. Within the past two weeks, 260 of the 390 prisoners and 30 employees at the prison have tested positive, according to Gov. Jim Justice. County officials reported that a couple of prisoners have been hospitalized, but the rest who are experiencing symptoms are being treated at the prison.

  • Related: OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – ‘‘It Was Hell’: Inside an Oklahoma Prison Coronavirus Outbreak’ Keaton Ross for Oklahoma Watch
    • Robert Lavern, a 52-year-old from Talala, Oklahoma, shares his horrific experience of contracting COVID-19 while incarcerated at William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply, a prison where 82% of inmates tested positive for the coronavirus by late September.

DENVER, Colo. – ‘Colorado governor calls special session for COVID-19 relief’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

In response to the surge of COVID-19 cases in Colorado and lack of new federal aid, Gov. Jared Polis called a special legislative session on Tuesday to create a $220 million coronavirus stimulus package. The package proposes rental assistance for tenants and landlords, sales tax relief for restaurants and bars, funds for child care providers and internet access expansion for students and teachers.

CAMARILLO, Calif. – ‘Off-campus gathering leads to multiple positive COVID-19 cases at Cal Lutheran’ Shivani Patel for Ventura County Star

California Lutheran University officials reported that 25 students tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, and according to CLU spokeswoman Karin Grennan, an off-campus gathering led to at least nine of those cases. The on-campus residents who tested positive were moved into isolation while the off-campus residents were urged to isolate. Grennan said 186 students were tested at the university on Sunday. All indoor activities have been halted at CLU as the university is tightening guidelines to align with Ventura County’s return to the most restrictive tier of California’s COVID-19 monitoring system.

November 18, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘Number of students with virus doubled within week, data show’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press

New COVID-19 cases among students in Mississippi’s school system have almost doubled in a week’s time, according to the department of health. The number of students who have tested positive increased from 579 during Nov. 2 through Nov. 6 to over 1,000 from Nov. 9 through Nov. 13. 

More than 14,000 students have been placed in quarantine within the last week, compared with about 9,000 students during the previous week, according to the state. Mississippi’s Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers reported that more than 65 schools have gone virtual in the last week because of this increasing case rate among students.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – ‘Hunting licenses soar as virus-weary Americans head outdoors’ John Flesher and Anna Liz Nichols for the Associated Press

In Michigan, hunting license applications are significantly increasing as COVID-19 rates surge and people opt for outdoor sports. More than 545,000 hunters in the state have bought licenses through Nov. 11, nearly 10% more than at the same point in 2019, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The number of hunters getting licenses for the first time in at least five years has increased 80%, to nearly 84,500. 

The trend appears to be nationwide, according to Nick Buggia of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. In Wisconsin, archery license sales have risen 12% and gun license sales 9.5%, while Maine reports a state record for deer hunting permits and Vermont and Nevada have had double-digit hunting increases.

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘Amid virus outbreak, New Mexico addresses school enrollment’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

New Mexico’s education and child welfare agencies are working together to locate 12,000 students who have stopped attending public school and haven’t notified the state, and re-enroll them if possible. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 21,000 students in New Mexico have left the system, and state lawmakers are considering legislation to keep public school funding stable despite these drops.

Parents who don’t enroll their children may be breaking state laws, but child welfare and law enforcement agencies have largely avoided fining parents, focusing instead on welfare checks and referrals to public services.

New Mexico reported a record 2,112 new virus cases Tuesday and a record-high 28 deaths in a single day. 

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Bullock orders new restrictions as virus surges in Montana’ Iris Samuels for the Associated Press

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock expanded a mask mandate statewide and announced new restrictions on Tuesday, in response to COVID-19 rates continuing to increase and strain hospitals. Restaurants and other venues will be limited to 50% capacity, and gatherings can’t exceed 25 people if social distancing isn’t possible, though limits do not apply to schools and places of worship. 

Bullock also announced an additional $75 million in federal coronavirus relief funding that would be available for businesses enforcing the mask and physical distancing requirement, capped at $20,000 per business, and another $25 million in supplemental unemployment benefits that will be paid at $200 per week for eligible workers, beginning next week and lasting four weeks. 

November 17, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas – ‘Texas surpasses 20,000 virus deaths, second highest in US’ Acacia Coronado for the Associated Press

Texas exceeded 20,000 COVID-19 deaths on Monday, the second-highest death count in the U.S. behind New York, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. Last week, the state became the first to record more than one million cases. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average of daily new cases has grown by 3,430.4, an increase of 53.6%. 

State officials have given no indication of additional restrictions to curb the virus surge. A state appeals court sided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week, and lifted a shutdown order in El Paso, where the county morgue became so overwhelmed that inmates of El Paso’s detention facility were asked to help, according to Sheriff’s Department Public Affairs Director Chris Acosta.

SALEM, Ore. – ‘Oregon businesses worry about lack of economic backstop’ Sara Cline for the Associated Press

In response to Oregon’s COVID-19 surge, the state is implementing new restrictions as part of a statewide two-week freeze starting Wednesday. The lack of federal economic relief during this period, compared to the first lockdown, has business owners and employees worried about their ability to weather the financial impact of the freeze. 

The Oregon Health Authority reported 781 new COVID-19 cases Monday, raising the state’s total to 57,646. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – ‘As cases surge, Kentucky governor warns of further action’ Piper Hudspeth Blackburn for the Associated Press

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear warned Monday that if the state’s COVID-19 rates continue to surge over the next couple of days, his administration will take additional action to slow the spread. The Governor indicated that the measures he’s considering are not similar to those taken in the spring, explaining “We know too much about the virus now; we won’t have to go to those lengths.” 

Kentucky reported 1,514 new virus cases and three virus-related deaths Monday. The majority of counties are classified in the “red zone,” the most serious category for COVID-19 rates, which  increased by nearly 30 counties from last Monday.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high as North Dakota waits to see impacts of new mask mandate’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

The North Dakota Department of Health reported 1,089 new COVID cases and seven new virus deaths Monday, three days after Gov. Doug Burgum enacted a statewide mask mandate in an effort to curb the spread. According to the Department of Health, 10,900 state residents are currently infected with the coronavirus, and 332 people are currently hospitalized. 294 of the virus patients are in inpatient care and 28 patients are in intensive care, as the state is facing a shortage of hospital beds.

November 16, 2020

RENO, Nev. – ‘Renown Reopens Emergency COVID-19 Care Facility In Parking Garage’ Lucia Starbuck for KUNR Public Radio

Renown hospital in Reno, Nevada has been forced to arrange makeshift sites for COVID-19 patients over the past week to accommodate the statewide spike in cases. One tent was added outside of the emergency department to screen patients for the virus upon arrival, limiting exposure to other patients and health care workers. Adjacent to this screening tent, Renown’s parking garage has been transformed into an emergency care site with hospital beds lined in parking spots along with other medical necessities. 

Dr. Tony Slonim, the head of Renown, said this new facility will help increase capacity and keep hospital beds available for non-virus patients. Several COVID-19 patients as of last Friday are already receiving treatment at Renoun’s alternative care site in the parking garage. 

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘‘We know that they see us.’ Why a 58-day vigil is going on outside NC governor’s house’ Sophie Kasakove for The News & Observer

Members of Decarcerate Now NC, a coalition of organizations working to end mass incarceration, have held daily vigils outside North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s mansion since Election Day to demand he use his powers of pardon and clemency to protect inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from the Department of Public Safety, there have been 4,813 confirmed cases within the North Carolina prison system since the pandemic began.

Related: RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘NC records 3rd-highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases, 2nd-highest deaths’ Adam Wagner for the News & Observer

The NC Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,117 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, the state’s third-highest daily number of confirmed cases, and 50 virus-related deaths, the state’s second-highest number of confirmed deaths. There were 1,395 virus patients hospitalized on Saturday, according to state hospitals, and last Friday night an executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people went into effect. 

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘New Mexico governor hopes ‘pause’ will blunt virus surge’ Susan Montoya Bryan and Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham enacted public health restrictions last Friday that took effect today and will run through Thanksgiving, in an effort to alleviate the state’s COVID-19 surge. Essential businesses can still operate, but are told to minimize operations and in-person staffing as much as possible. Restaurants may provide pickup and delivery services, but on-site dining is now prohibited. “We are in a life-or-death situation, and if we don’t act right now, we cannot preserve the lives, we can’t keep saving lives, and we will absolutely crush our current health care system and infrastructure,” Gov. Grisham said.

New Mexico reported last Friday COVID-19 cases statewide have topped 62,000 since the pandemic began, and health officials announced the number of hospitalizations has risen more than 200% over the last month.

TOPEKA, Kan. – ‘Churches stop in-person services as Kansas sets virus record’ John Hanna for the Associated Press

Kansas public health officials urged for new restrictions to combat the rise in  COVID-19 cases, but Gov. Laura Kelly told leaders of the state legislature last Friday that she has no plans to shut down businesses. Meanwhile, some churches in the state have taken it upon themselves to suspend indoor, in-person services. The bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese directed its congregations to suspend services this week through Dec. 13, along with First United Methodist Church in downtown Wichita, which stopped in-person services Nov. 8 in favor of televised and online services. The Church of the Resurrection, the nation’s largest United Methodist congregation, is continuing in-person services.

Kansas averaged a record 2,553 new COVID-19 cases a day for the seven days ending last Friday, and health officials say cases are quickly increasing due to people attending social gatherings. 

November 13, 2020

MILWAUKEE, Wis. –  ‘Wisconsin Is Facing Exponential COVID-19 Growth — And That’s Bad News’ Maddie Burakoff for Spectrum News Milwaukee

In her on-air debut with anchor Jason Fechner, Burakoff reports on the exponential growth of the coronavirus in Wisconsin after the state set another record for daily cases, adding 7,073 to their total count on Wednesday at the time of the report.

If left unchecked, viruses spread exponentially, meaning once a new person is infected, they are also infectious to others. When looking at the total number of positive cases, they are shooting up in a dramatic curve rather than in a straight line, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Oguzhan Alagoz. What’s concerning beyond just the numbers, Alagoz says, is that the spread crosses age groups and geographic areas, and that hospitalizations, ICU numbers and deaths are also spiking dramatically, adding that more commitment to public health measures, like wearing a mask and social distancing, would have a huge impact on slowing down the spread.

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Bullock hangs COVID inaction on lack of federal relief funds’ Iris Samuels for the Associated Press

Montana Governor Steve Bullock said on Thursday that he is wary of imposing stricter statewide restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 without additional federal aid to unemployed individuals and small businesses. Thursday’s daily case count was 962, bringing the state’s total count to over 43,000. The Democrat blames Congress for failing to pass an additional stimulus package to protect small businesses and low-income families amid a stay-at-home order. Of the $1.25 billion in pandemic relief funds allocated to the state in March, $1.23 billion was committed to various grant programs and reimbursements for COVID-19-related expenses, leaving little funding for small businesses.

Gov. Bullock’s mask mandate issued in July, which is in effect in all but five of the state’s 56 counties, has faced persistent opposition, with some businesses facing legal action for failing to comply.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘As Manitoba locks down, North Dakota doctors call for business closures’ Adam Willis and staffer Jeremy Turley for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

North Dakota doctors say the state is fighting a severe COVID-19 outbreak with its hands tied behind its back as Republican Governor Doug Burgum declined to close businesses or issue stay-at-home orders in hard-hit counties, defying the guidelines of his own administration. The worst-in-the-nation outbreak, as of Wednesday, has twice as many active cases and nearly six times as many virus-related deaths as Manitoba, the province just across the Canadian border, which is almost double the state’s population.

Yet conservative Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced on Tuesday that it was time for the providence to to take “extraordinary but ‘essential’ measures” to protect vulnerable residents and preserve health care capacity, halting in-person dining at restaurants, closing churches, gyms, baberships, libraries and movie theaters, and banning social gathering and travel to and from northern Manitoba. If caught violating the orders, residents can be fined more than $1,000.

The state’s eastern neighbors are also implementing restrictions on social gatherings and curfews on in-person restaurant dinings, announced Tuesday by Democratic Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, but Gov. Burgum is sticking to his approach that minimizes government intervention.

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – ‘Making the right moves: Queen & Rook Board Game Cafe plays on through the pandemic’ Michael Butler for Technical.ly

Edward Garcia’s trip to Canada morphed into an idea that he didn’t want to let go of: Queen & Rook Board Game Cafe, a solution to the lack of middle ground for places designed for children and for adults, a struggle he and co-owner Jeannie Wong faced as parents of two kids.

For Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, access to capital is more likely to be a barrier. Sidestepping traditional investors, the business was able to get off the ground through loved ones who contributed their savings alongside the couple, who were also maxing out credit cards and applying for loans. Since opening in September, Queen & Rook had a steady stream of business, but the pandemic changed everything.

Butler offers a look at how the game cafe reinvented itself to stay open as an essential business and points to the local programs and resources that the couple didn’t take advantage of, outlining organizations or models aspiring entrepreneurs can seek out.

November 12, 2020

TOPEKA, Kan – ‘Kansas sets COVID-19 records; counties struggle with tracing’ John Hannah for the Associated Press

The Kansas health department reported 5,672 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday and 38 new hospitalizations, marking a new record for the state.  Local officials reported many infected people won’t provide information about close contacts, making it difficult to trace the virus spread and find people who could be exposed. According to administrator of the Hodgeman County health department Jenette Schuette, roughly half of the county residents who’ve contracted the coronavirus won’t name all of their close contacts. 

Shawnee County health officer Gianfranco Pezzino said many people are hesitant to cooperate due to worries about taking time off work to quarantine, and that “They’re just too afraid to put their friends in trouble and to cause more disruption to their lives.”

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Governor: Two weeks before coronavirus overwhelms Nevada’ Sam Metz and Scott Sonner for the Associated Press

In response to COVID-19 surging across Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday he will tighten restrictions if the state doesn’t show signs of containing the virus in two weeks. Sisolak urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and reiterated the need to wear masks. 

Health officials reported 1,322 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths Tuesday. Reno area hospitals are preparing to set up additional facilities. , “Within a week, patients will start to go into the parking garage. That should be a massive wakeup call for the community,” said Dr. John Hess, a physician at Reno’s Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘Reeves extends order, mask mandate set for 15 counties’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves extended his “Safe Recovery” order on Tuesday, which includes new mask mandates in 15 counties with the highest increasing numbers of cases, through Dec. 11. The previous mask mandates were set to expire Wednesday. 

The Mississippi state department of health announced Wednesday the state has reported over 129,000 virus cases and at least 3,497 deaths as of Tuesday evening, an increase of 17 deaths from the day before. 

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – ‘Tourists return to Western NC bringing needed business, but COVID-19 risk, too’ Sophie Kasakove for the News & Observer

Tourists have rushed back to Asheville, North Carolina this fall, providing business owners with much needed revenue, but also creating problems, as visitors adherence to COVID-19 safety guidelines have been inconsistent. The state’s western region has made large efforts to promote safety measures to visitors, but according to the executive director of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association Jane Anderson, restaurant workers still regularly confront customers trying to skirt the safety protocols. 

The increase in fall tourism is being felt across the region, and business owners are defining the season by the tension between the need for customers and keeping the community safe. 

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Many veterans already struggle with isolation. Now, there’s COVID-19’ Laurel Demkovich for The Spokesman-Review

For many veterans struggling with isolation and post-traumatic stress disorder, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their struggles. According to the National Center for PTSD, the coronavirus can harm people with PTSD by causing more trauma triggers, increasing negative thoughts and creating problems with sleep and concentration. The CDC has also acknowledged the heightened challenges veterans are likely facing right now, as their resources are limited due to the pandemic.

Spokane resident and Marine Corps veteran Michael O’Flaherty reported that the hardest part for many veterans right now is not being able to lean on each other for support, explaining “Our social interaction within the group is part of our healing process.”

November 10, 2020

ST. GEORGES, Utah – ‘Will Utah’s new mask mandate curb the local spread of COVID-19?’ Joan Meiners for The Spectrum

Responding to Utah’s surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Sunday that everyone must wear a mask in all public spaces.

Researchers at Brigham Young University released a report that reviewed 115 coronavirus studies, as an attempt at “Making sense of the research on COVID-19 and masks.” They concluded that masks do reduce the transmission of the virus by trapping respiratory droplets, and stated that “masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery.”

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘Doctors warn of inundated hospitals, staff as virus spreads
Farnoush Amiri for the Associated Press

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appointed doctors to lead the coronavirus response on three zones across Ohio on Monday in an effort to curb the surging spread of COVID-19, and maintain hospitals’ ability to handle the virus in the coming weeks. Chief medical officer at the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff reported the state has adequate PPE and testing capabilities, but medical professionals are becoming overwhelmed with the number of hospitalized patients. According to Vanderhoff, hospitals will soon be unable to care for non-virus patients if the coronavirus surge continues.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has increased from 2,332.57 on Oct. 25 to 4,466.86 on Nov. 8, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

SALEM, Ore. – ‘Oregon reports 723 new COVID-19 cases Monday’ Sara Cline for the Associated Press

The Oregon Health Authority reported 2,585 new COVID-19 cases between Saturday and Monday, a total surpassing most weekly case counts since August. The Health Authority announced a record number of 988 daily cases Saturday, and 723 new cases Monday.

In response to the rise in cases, Gov. Kate Brown announced last week updated safety measures in some counties for two weeks starting Wednesday. Some measures include reducing the capacity of indoor dining, pausing visitations to long-term care facilities and encouraging all businesses to mandate work from home.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘NC rolling average for new COVID-19 cases reaches record high, breaks 2,400 cases’ Adam Wagner for the News & Observer

North Carolina’s seven-day rolling average for new COVID-19 cases reached a record-high Monday of 2,405 cases over the past week, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The DHHS reported the highest number of new cases in a single day on Friday, with 2,908, and according to North Carolina hospitals, 1,169 virus patients were hospitalized as of Sunday.

The DHHS released its latest weekly COVID-19 cluster report, recording when five or more cases within a two-week period can be linked to a specific setting. It reported seven new clusters coming from government services, five from religious gatherings and two from colleges and universities.

November 9, 2020

AUGUSTA, Maine – ‘Preparing for a cold, hungry winter’ Rose Lundy for the Maine Monitor

Organizations in Maine are preparing for a rise in residents’ needs for food and heat assistance this winter, as the economic devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic lingers. The Dover-Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard has already seen the number of families it serves increase by over 50% since March, and worries the economic fallout from the virus could strain the state’s food assistance systems.

Maine’s COVID-19 cases are spiking again, breaking the one-day new case record on Friday with 184 reported cases.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – ‘The Post Office Plans To Hire Temporary Help As Online Orders Stress Rural Letter Carriers’ Seth Bodine for Harvest Public Media

The increase in online shopping, largely due to COVID-19, is straining rural letter carriers across the country and forcing them to hire temporary assistant carriers to help deliver the influx of packages. According to president of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association Ronnie Stutts, the new hires haven’t offset the worker shortage, as a large percentage of carriers are still on leave, creating a major stress on those still working. Stutts expects the number of packages to double or triple as the holiday season approaches.

Jeremy McComas, a rural letter carrier in Edmond, Oklahoma, says he sees a big need for additional help across Oklahoma, saying: “We’re begging for help, that’s how bad it is.” 

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – ‘Southwestern Illinois sees another increase in COVID-19 positivity rate’ DeAsia Paige for the Belleville News-Democrat

The COVID-19 positivity rate is increasing in Illinois’ metro east, according to region reports. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 10,009 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, and 42 new deaths. According to the department, there are 4,303 hospitalizations as of Sunday, 833 of which are people in ICU.

Governor Jay Robert Pritzker warned bars and restaurants could face a second round of bans on indoor service​ if residents in the metro east don’t control the increasing virus rates in the region.

Camarillo, Calif. – ‘Area schools report 36 positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the school’ Shivani Patel for  Ventura County Star

Ventura County schools reported 36 COVID-19 cases from the beginning of the school year, in August through Oct. 28, according to county officials. Public health officials declined to provide specific information, but some county school districts have taken to reporting virus cases and related information onto their websites. 

Moorpark Unified, Oak Park Unified, Simi Valley Unified School District’s all have their own dashboards for these reports. Districts’ protocols for handling a positive COVID-19 case vary, but each of the plans are based on the framework provided by Ventura County Office of Education.

October 27, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘Bismarck man creates memorial to illustrate COVID-19 victims are ‘humans, not statistics’’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum 

Bismarck residents Carl Young and Krisanna Peterson created a memorial on Monday honoring North Dakotans who’ve died as a result of COVID-19, planting 231 flags in front of the State Capitol, each representing two deaths from the virus. Young hopes the memorial grabs the attention of state officials about the pandemic’s severity, and brings attention to health care workers’ mental health. Young stated he will keep adding flags to the memorial until Nov. 2 as the state reports more daily deaths.

“I think if people can see exactly how big of a number we’re talking about in a visual representation, that has more of an impact than the governor saying ‘you need to be nice and wear a mask,’” Young said.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – ‘For some working Bay Area parents, only one solution to virtual school: drop their job’ Laurence Du Sault for The Mercury News

Virtual schooling is straining single parents in the Bay Area who need to choose between prioritizing their children’s education, or keeping their jobs to pay the bills. Self-employed tutors and educators reported that dozens of Bay Area parents seeking help with virtual schooling have responded to their online ads, as they struggle to juggle the roles of worker, teacher and parent.

The high cost of living in the Bay Area makes it necessary for households to have two working parents, Julianne Rositas, manager for a parent advisory program at the Family Paths nonprofit. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shed jobs, households with two incomes are becoming less common. 

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘New COVID-19 cases dip Sunday, but 7-day average stays above 2,000’ Adam Wagner for the News & Observer

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,807 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, and 13 virus-related deaths, bringing the state’s totals to 260,099 cases and  4,157 deaths. The coronavirus caseload has spiked statewide over the past week, with North Carolina hitting new daily case number highs, including Saturday’s 2,716 new cases. The seven-day average has stayed above 2,000 over the past week, with Sunday’s at 2,010.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada to vaccinate frontline medical workers first’ Sam Metz for the Associated Press

Gov. Steve Sisolak outlined a plan for Nevada’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, when they become available, as a tiered priority system. According to the plan, the first dosages will go to health care workers and vulnerable populations, the second tier will include retail workers and teachers and the third tier will go to the incarcerated, people experiencing homelessness and people with underlying health conditions. Nevada hopes to vaccinate 80% of residents against the coronavirus once a vaccine is available. 

The number of Nevada residents hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased as the state has experienced a fall surge in cases. Officials reported 475 new cases on Monday.

October 26, 2020

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Community Health Monitoring Program connects and comforts patients in the midst of COVID-19’ Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review

COVID-19 patients in Spokane are receiving support after their diagnosis thanks to the Community Health Monitoring Program, an initiative of local social services organization Spokane Alliance that connects patients, connecting them with trained volunteers who call them daily for at least 10 days following diagnosis. The initiative provides information about the virus, and referrals to a medical provider when necessary, along with delivering a pulse oximeter and a care package of supplies to patients’ homes. 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – ‘COVID-19 Amplifies Dire Staffing Shortages At Tennessee Prisons’ Samantha Max for WPLN Nashville Public Radio

The number of unfilled correctional officer positions in Tennessee’s prison system has reached an “all-time high,” due to fear of contracting COVID-19 among potential applicants, according to Commissioner Tony Parker. The state’s Department of Correction reported it’s short more than 700 prison guards, which is nearly 30% of all the correctional officer jobs statewide. Parker says the department is trying everything it can to recruit more correctional officers, and a recent pay raise from the state has helped. Over 500 Tennessee prison staffers have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic.

EL PASO, Texas – ‘Trump says virus spike ‘gone’ in Texas while El Paso surges’ Acacia Coronado for The Associated Press

President Donald Trump announced Texas’s COVID-19 surge was “gone” during Thursday’s final debate, but El Paso health officials reported 969 new virus cases Friday, leading to over 10,000 active cases in the region and a total of 678 hospitalizations, a new record for this border city. In response, local officials have tightened virus restrictions by cutting capacity at non-essential businesses to 50%, stopping elderly care facility visitations and banning home gatherings.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the city and county health authority, called the county’s coronavirus situation critical, and urged residents to take personal responsibility to curb the spread.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘San Bernardino County reports 266 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday’ Maria Sestito for The Desert Sun

San Bernardino County health officials reported 266 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and no additional virus deaths, bringing the county’s totals to 62,619 cases and 1,072 deaths. There are 2,365 known active cases in the county as of Sunday, and 773,878 tests have been conducted, according to health officials, which is up 6,255 tests from numbers reported Saturday, as the county is urging people to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.

October 23, 2020

MODESTO, Calif. – “Modesto family hopes the tragic suicide death of their son can help save others” ChrisAnna Mink for The Modesto Bee

In 2016, Mitchell Brownlee took his own life at the age of 21. He had no history of mental illness, but had lived through a series of stressful events, including the intensity of Navy training, surviving a serious motorcycle crash and the loss of a close friend. His death is representative of the public health crisis of youth suicide, which has climbed alongisde mental illness over the past two decades nationwide. Amid social isolation, economic insecurities and health threats, things are only worsening for all age groups during the pandemic.

This year in Stanislaus County, the number of youth hospitalized for contemplating or attempting suicide has increased by more than 20% from 2019. The county has no inpatient psychiatric beds to treat these youths even as there has been a 46% increase in calls for county mental health help from May through September compared to the same period last year.

TOPEKA, Kan. – “Some Kansans will lose seven weeks of unemployment benefits as state’s rate drops” Megan Stringer for The Wichita Eagle 

The Kansas Department of Labor announced that some Kansans will lose an additional seven weeks of unemployment benefits that were triggered by a high unemployment rate in the state. While the Extended Benefits program, which officers an additional 13 weeks of unemployment, will remain in effect, the federal labor department informed Kansas that the state is no longer eligible for the additional High Unemployment Period under that program. This means applicants will receive up to 13 weeks of unemployment instead of the previously allowed 20 weeks. Kansans who are losing the extra seven weeks of unemployment, however, may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a separate federal program that expands unemployment for those who are self-employed or “gig workers.”

CAMARILLO, Calif. – “Here’s what you need to know about Oxnard Union’s reopening plan” Shivani Patel for Ventura County Star

Students of Oxnard Union High School District can return to in-person learning in January at the earliest, based on an agreement between the district and the union representing teachers and workers. The memorandum of understanding, which was approved this week, is in effect until June 2021 and stipulates guidelines for learning during the pandemic that are agreed to by the district and the Oxnard Federation of Teachers and School Employees, outlined by Patel. If Ventura County moves into a less restrictive tier of California’s COVID-19 monitoring system,  another meeting among administration, the union and other stakeholders will have to occur to consider reopening, according to Interim Superintendent Tom McCoy.

About 17,500 high school students are enrolled at Oxnard Union, which employs nearly 700 teachers at three different campuses.

KESHNA, Wis. – “‘We wear because we care’: Menominee award-winning performer’s music video encourages tribal people to mask up” Frank Vaisvilas for Green Bay Press-Gazette 

To fill the time for lack of in-person concerts, nationally known Menominee musician Wade Fernandez has found a way to stay busy while helping his people. The award-winning artist just released a music video that encourages tribal Wisconsin folks to take care of one another. How? By wearing a mask.

The tribal reservations in the state have stayed relatively free of COVID-19 for much of the year, but some, like the Menominee, have seen an increase in cases since mid-September, comparable to many other communities across the state. Tribal officials are urging people to continue taking safety precautions.

October 22, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. – ‘‘Kentucky prepares for ‘grim’ COVID-19 surge. 1,312 new cases and 16 deaths.’ Alex Acquisto for Kentucky.com

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that Kentucky officials have begun COVID-19 surge preparations in response to a rise in community spread, including plans for expanded capacity at hospitals, to stand up a field hospital if necessary and to arrange for the possibility of hotels being used to house people who need to quarantine. Beshear urged residents to double down on following the coronavirus guidelines, and asked businesses to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing strictly. 

Kentucky reported 1,312 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, 16 additional deaths and 776 hospitalizations. According to the White House’s weekly coronavirus report, 70% of Kentucky counties are seeing “moderate or high levels of community transmission.”

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Kootenai Health at ’99 percent’ capacity with surge of COVID-19 patients’ Arielle Dreher’s for The Spokesman-Review

Kootenai County’s major hospital, Kootenai Health, announced Wednesday that it is at 99% capacity, based on open beds and staff availability, following a surge in COVID-19 patients. The hospital is treating 31 patients with the virus, 11 of whom require critical care, and now has to delay elective surgeries. The public hospital district pleaded on Wednesday for community help, asking residents to follow pandemic guidelines.

Washington considers Kootenai County a COVID-19 hot spot, with 48 new cases reported Wednesday and 124 on Tuesday. The county recorded its highest seven-day average incidence rate this week at 38 cases per 100,000 residents, and has a test positivity rate of 8.7%.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘N.C. maintains reopening guidance as COVID numbers worsen’ Bryan Anderson for the Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday that North Carolina will remain in Phase 3 of reopening for the next three weeks, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase. The state moved into Phase 3 on Oct. 2, allowing larger gathering limits, and businesses to partially reopen. Cooper and state officials urged local officials to implement stricter enforcement of public health guidelines within their communities, and for North Carolinians to follow public health protocols more closely. 

The state on Wednesday surpassed 250,000 virus cases and 4,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. More than 1,200 patients with the virus are hospitalized, and the 53 COVID-19-related deaths reported by the state on Tuesday is the highest one-day total during the pandemic.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘If North Dakota was a country, it would have the world’s worst confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, one analysis shows’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead 

North Dakota’s COVID-19 caseload is so severe, that if the state was its own nation, it would have the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, surpassing the per capita casecount of the Czech Republic, which currently has the most confirmed cases per million people worldwide, according to a Financial Times database. The seven-day rolling average for confirmed cases in the Czech Republic, broken down per million, totals 810 per million, according to the database. North Dakota tops that number at almost 919 COVID-19 cases per million.

North Dakota’s Department of Health reported 516 new cases on Wednesday, and an additional 10 deaths. The state announced Tuesday that it is asking residents to conduct their own contact tracing, as the state’s operation is overwhelmed by the caseload.

October 21, 2020

DETROIT, Mich – ‘U-Michigan students told to hunker down for 2 weeks’ Anna Liz Nichols for the Associated Press

The Washtenaw County Health Department ordered students at the University of Michigan on Tuesday to stay in place for two weeks, only leaving their residence for work, health reasons, voting services and to attend in-person classes – a response to a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by social gatherings on and off campus. Following the order, university President Mark Schlissel said more classes will move to remote instruction and that students who want to leave campus housing can receive a refund or credit.

More than 1,000 students have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of fall term, and cases related to the university represent 61% of total county cases, compared to 2% in August, according to county health officer Jimena Loveluck.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada plans no immediate changes as COVID-19 cases spike’ Sam Metz for the Associated Press

Gov. Steve Sisolak and Nevada health officials said Tuesday that there’s no reason to consider stricter measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, despite the alarming increase in the state’s infection rate since the governor eased restrictions on public gatherings on Oct. 1. Instead, Sisolak stated that the coronavirus’ trajectory largely depends on residents’ commitment to measures including social distancing and wearing masks.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force has redesignated Nevada as a “red zone,” after surpassing 100 new cases per week per 100,000 residents. The state’s 14-day rolling average for the positivity rate began this week at 9.1% for the third consecutive day. In comparison, the World Health Organization has set a goal of 5% for the positivity rate.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – ‘Evictions are still happening in Cleveland; are rental aid program, moratorium helping?’ Conor Morris for Cleveland.com

Evictions in Cleveland haven’t stopped, despite the temporary measures of relief, including the federal moratorium on evictions and the Cuyahoga County’s rental aid program. The Cleveland Housing Court has lawyers from the city’s Legal Aid Society present during eviction hearings to help connect tenants to rental assistance, and there’s millions of dollars left in rental-assistance money offered by the county for renters. CHN Housing Partners reported that about 6,000 applications for the county’s rental-assistance were submitted as of Sept. 29, and that number rose to 6,800 by Oct. 12.

WICHITA, Kan. – ‘Wichita hotel pays back employees after denying sick leave for COVID-19 quarantine’ Megan Stringer for the Wichita Eagle

Employees at a Best Western Plus Wichita hotel will receive roughly $5,700 in back wages from their employer in response to a U.S. Department of Labor investigation which found that the hotel denied workers paid sick leave after testing positive for COVID-19, a violation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The hotel has since paid the back wages to 13 employees.

“The law enables employers to provide paid leave reimbursed by tax credits, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus,” according to the DOL.

October 20, 2020

DETROIT, Mich. – ‘Deadline near for prisoners to apply for COVID-19 stimulus checks’ Angie Jackson for Detroit Free Press

The Michigan Department of Corrections says it is handing out claim forms to prisoners who request to apply for COVID-19 stimulus checks, as people incarcerated nationwide are now eligible to receive the funds. Their deadline to apply is Nov. 4, and many, if not all the 34,500 current inmates are requesting the paperwork, according to the state’s corrections spokesman, Chris Gautz. 

“Families who have a provider who is incarcerated and not contributing are struggling even more so than the average person during this pandemic, so the stimulus checks can help an already struggling population during this time,” said deputy director of the State Appellate Defender Office, Marilena David-Martin. 

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘After mandate repeal, masks required again in nine counties’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that he is imposing a mask mandate for public indoor spaces, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 50 outdoors in nine counties, based on high case counts, in an attempt to curb the state’s spread of COVID-19. Reeves also announced that he is requiring hospitals statewide to reserve 10% of total space for the coronavirus patients. 

The state Health Department reported on Monday that Mississippi has over 110,500 confirmed cases and at least 3,171 COVID-19 deaths as of Sunday, an increase of 586 cases and zero deaths from reported numbers over the weekend.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘State health officials studying COVID-19 reinfections’ Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review

Washington health officials are working with local academic partners and a CDC team to examine the roughly 100 COVID-19 cases in state residents who have tested positive twice, in hopes to learn more about reinfections. 

Researching COVID-19 reinfections continues as virus cases and hospitalizations are rising in Northwest Washington. The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 112 new cases over the weekend, 72 new cases on Monday and two more Spokane County resident virus deaths.

October 19, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – ‘Rural Tennessee County Becomes A National COVID-19 Hot Spot As Prison Grapples With Deadly Outbreak’ Samantha Max for Nashville Public Radio

The Northeast Correctional Complex in Tennessee’s rural Johnson County is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, which temporarily landed the county on the New York Times’ list of top 10 virus hotspots nationwide, as more than 200 prisoners and 10 employees tested positive within a week of the county lifting its mask mandate on Sept. 30. Other state prison outbreaks have made counties national hotspots, including the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, where around 600 people tested positive in April, and the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, where more than 1,300 cases were confirmed in May.

Twenty-five Tennessee prisoners and two employees have died due to COVID-19 since March. The state senate’s corrections subcommittee plans to evaluate the coronavirus response in state prisons this Thursday.

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah – ‘San Juan County expands in-person voting on the Navajo Nation during the pandemic’ Zak Podmore for The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah extended mail and drive-thru voting to provide safe voting options in the middle of the pandemic. Their only exception was San Juan County, which is governed by a 2018 voting rights settlement between the county and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, which required the county to keep certain in-person services open. To comply with the agreement and keep people safe from COVID-19, officials added more in-person early-voting days and locations, required the use of masks, and provided access to hand sanitizer, as well as enforcing social distancing guidelines throughout all facilities.

San Juan County had the highest COVID-19 case rate per capita in Utah throughout the summer. Still, despite possible pandemic concerns, more people have shown up at the early-voting sites in the county than in past elections, according to County Clerk John David Nielson.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota reports record high in active cases for 10th consecutive day; nearly 400 pandemic deaths so far’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead 

The Department of Health announced Saturday that North Dakota saw a new high in active COVID-19 cases, and 11 new virus deaths within the week, bringing the state’s toll to a record 399, of which more than 60% occurred in September and October. The state is averaging more than seven COVID-19 deaths per day, According to the North Dakota Department of Health, and there are 5,370 residents known to be infected with the virus as of Saturday, which marked the tenth day in a row the state set a new record in active cases.

DENVER, Colo. – ‘Colorado announces its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

Colorado released its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan on Friday, with three phases that prioritize groups of people in the order they will be eligible to get vaccines. The first phase will prioritize assisted living facility workers and first responders. The second phase will prioritize homeless people in shelters, adult group home residents, workers who share living spaces, students living in dormitories, and essential workers, followed by people who are over 65 or have health risks. The final phase will start with vaccine distribution to adults ages 18-64.

Colorado is experiencing its largest spike in COVID-19 cases since late May as of Friday, with over 1,000 new cases in three days and more than 350 hospitalizations in the previous week.

October 16, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘N. Carolina ‘moving in wrong direction’ as COVID cases surge’ Bryan Anderson for the Associated Press

As North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper considers either tightening current restrictions or reopening more of the economy, the state’s top public health official warned that North Carolina’s COVID-19 numbers are heading in the wrong direction. The state has struggled to get residents who have the virus to answer questions about who they have come into contact with as a way to help reduce transmission. 

On Thursday, 2,532 people tested positive for COVID-19, the state’s highest single-day case count yet. 

DETROIT, Mich. – ‘COVID-19 cases among Marquette prison staff double in one day’ Angie Jackson for Detroit Free Press

Marquette Branch Prison, located in the south shore of Lake Superior is facing a staff shortage after COVID-19 infections among employees more than doubled on Wednesday. Of more than 300 staff members, 120 are ineligible to work because they have tested positive, have symptoms while awaiting test results or have come into contact with the infected, according to department spokesman Chris Gautz. The state Department of Health and Human Services requires weekly staff testing at prisons after a positive case among prisoners or staff has been confirmed within the last 14 days.

Cases are also rising among prisoners: 165 people housed at Marquette have tested positive as of Wednesday. Earlier in the pandemic, the facility housed 970 prisoners. 

CHICAGO, Ill. – ‘Lincoln Park Coronavirus Cases Are Spiking Again As Young People Socialize, Travel, Officials Say’ Jake Wittich for Block Club Chicago

As Lincoln Park, one of the neighborhoods that experienced a surge during the Summer, sees another uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases, health officials point to young adults for the second time in recent months for driving the number of cases. The 60614 ZIP code, which encompasses the North Side neighborhood, saw a 34% increase in cases last week from the week prior, and the rate of positive cases is up to about 8.15% from 6.27%. Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady said many of the new cases are coming from people ages 18-39, an age group more likely than others to report being exposed to the virus. 

Among the recent cases in the area, 75% said they were likely exposed to COVID-19 by someone outside of their household, while 75% of those testing positive in the Northwest and Southwest sides said they were likely exposed by someone in their household, according to Dr. Arwady. More essential workers live on the Northwest and Southwest sides and the housing is generally more crowded. 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Indiana officials outline response to state’s virus hotspots’ Casey Smith for the Associated Press

Indiana’s Health Department presented “guidance and expectations” for measures that should be taken in each county, based on their risk rating for COVID-19. However, no guaranteed restrictions or specific enforcement mechanisms accompanied these suggestions. Officials confirmed on Thursday 28 more deaths and informed that the state’s seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases doubled in three weeks, reaching 1,653 as of Wednesday, the highest the state has seen. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb extended the statewide mask order for another month on Wednesday, but did not reinstate tougher restrictions at the state level. 

Related: Earlier this week, Casey Smith reported for the Associated Press on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to extend the statewide mask mandate while not reinstating tougher restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes amid Indiana’s sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

October 15, 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. – ‘COVID spike arrives late, hits hard in rural Kansas county’ Andy Tsubasa and John Hanna for the Associated Press

Kansas’s rural Gove county is experiencing a COVID-19 surge, as cases doubled from 37 to 75 during the two weeks ending Wednesday, which is proportionally among the largest spikes in the state, according to Kanas’s health department. County officials report the number is higher, at 140, with 88 cases confirmed in the past two weeks. The county’s medical center has a limited number of beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients, and lacks enough staff to monitor the most serious cases around the clock.

“We have community spread to the point that we have not been able to pin down the root cause of any of our cases for the past month,” said the county’s health officer, Dr. Scott Rempel. Grove county’s sheriff, emergency management director, hospital CEO and over 50 medical staff have tested positive for the virus, along with most of the 30-plus residents in the local nursing home, six of whom have died since late September.

INDIANAPOLIS – ‘Indiana governor adds no new restrictions amid virus spread’ Casey Smith and Tom Davies for the Associated Press

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that he would not reinstate tougher restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes, despite a COVID-19 surge that hit the state after he lifted nearly all of the state’s restrictions three weeks ago. Holcomb announced he would extend his statewide mask order for another month.

The Health Department reported Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of new virus cases was nearly 1,600 as of Tuesday, an 85% increase from three weeks earlier. The 1,357 virus hospitalizations as of Tuesday has put the state at its highest level since mid-May. State officials announced 14 more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 3,836. Of those, 109 happened in the past week.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Plasma in demand: Some COVID survivors are donating to help hospitalized patients’ Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review

Recovered COVID-19 patients in Spokane County, are donating their convalescent plasma, which according to the FDA may be effective in treating virus patients with more severe symptoms. So far, 128 coronavirus survivors in the Spokane area have donated their plasma at Vitalant, the region’s blood bank, and the organization plans to host a donation drive for former virus patients plasma in the Pullman area in late October or November.

COVID-19 survivors must be at least 28 days beyond their symptoms with proof that they tested positive in order to donate plasma to be used as a transfusable antibody treatment, and can donate more than once.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Halloween canceled at Nevada governor’s mansion over virus’ Sam Metz and Scott Sonner for the Associated Press

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak cancelled the annual trick-or-treating at his mansion due to COVID-19, at the same time that state health officials are advising people who celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings and find alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating to limit the potential virus spread. The state’s COVID-19 response office also issued guidelines stating that costume masks do not count as face coverings that must be worn in public.

These Halloween restrictions were publicized as the coronavirus caseload continueds to spike in Nevada. The number of confirmed cases topped 87,000 on Wednesday and the number of deaths is nearly 1,700.

October 14, 2020

HOUSTON, Texas – ‘Despite virus fears, Texas sends most voters to the polls’ Acacia Coronado for the Associated Press

Polling sites across Texas saw long lines on Tuesday, despite COVID-19 concerns, due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting counties to one mail ballot drop-off box, and the decision by the state to not expand mail-in voting.

Texan voters are not required to wear masks inside polling places, but preventive measures are being taken in larger counties. In Harris County, voters will be able to choose between standing in socially distant lines to vote in person, or a drive-thru option. In Dallas County, clear barriers separate election workers and voters, and poll workers sanitize touched surfaces and provide finger coverings to be used on voting machines.

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Bullock offers resources for COVID mandate enforcement’ Iris Samuels for The Associated Press

Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Tuesday that he will supply counties statewide with resources to increase the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions to slow down what has become one of the largest outbreaks in the country. Bullock stated that educational resources and COVID-19 relief funds will go to county health departments and attorneys to investigate health-order violations, and take legal action against businesses that are not complying with restrictions. Montana reported 520 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the state’s caseload up to more than 19,600.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘‘We can’t afford to go backwards’: As COVID-19 cases rise, NC urges safety compliance’ Ben Sessoms and Drew Jackson for the News & Observer

North Carolina’s health officials and retail and hospitality representatives called for renewed efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as new daily cases this month reached levels not seen since the July peak, and virus hospitalizations topped more than 1,000 patients since Oct. 6.

Lynn Minges, director of the state’s Restaurant and Lodging Association, is fearful of a second shutdown if restaurants don’t properly enforce mask and social distancing requirements, reporting that nearly 130,000 workers in the hospitality industry are still unemployed. Andy Ellen, president of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, urged customers to “shop smart,” and stated, “We don’t have to make a choice between public health and reigniting the economy. We can do both.”

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – ‘Carlsbad organizations and education systems address mental health as COVID-19 continues’ Miranda Cyr for Carlsbad Current-Argus

The Cavern City Child Advocacy Center in New Mexico has created a new, free program to help children deal with the emotional effects of COVID-19, as children’s mental health has been negatively affected in the last several months due to online learning and lack of social interaction, according to Michalle Harmer, counselor at Presbyterian Medical Services Behavioral Health Center.

The six-week program consists of weekly online “Growth-Centered Groups,” where children address their emotions with therapists, and reached the halfway point of its first cycle on Oct. 5 with 24 children enrolled. Carlsbad Municipal Schools have followed suit, making more of an effort to include social and emotional learning into their district since the start of the school year.

October 13, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘Remote schooling forces child welfare agencies to adapt’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

New Mexico officials are adapting to child welfare monitoring and enforcement as students learn virtually by launching new programs, including “Operation Educational Encouragement” in Bernalillo County to provide non-punitive welfare checks on chronically absent students, and checkup systems in school districts for students when concerns fall short of neglect but still require follow-up.

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department is also responding to an increase of less severe reports, and it’s encouraging neighbors and family members to report any possible abuse, since teachers and social workers, who usually flag these cases, are not able to monitor the kids as closely.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘COVID outbreaks among college students continue in eastern Washington’ Arielle Dreher’s for The Spokesman-Review

College campuses in Eastern Washington state continue to see new COVID-19 cases, even as some universities remain fully virtual. The state’s Department of Health released the most updated outbreak report last week, which shows that colleges and universities account for 10 outbreaks in the most recent week of data.

Eastern Washington University has confirmed 53 new cases since Sept. 27, mainly in students living in campus housing, and students at Washington State University and in Spokane County continue to test positive.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Trump to visit NC, less than two weeks after treatment for COVID-19’ Adam Wagner for the News & Observer

President Trump will host a rally in Greenville, North Carolina this Thursday, less than two weeks after being hospitalized with COVID-19. The White House physician released a memo on Saturday saying that Trump is no longer contagious, and according to the Trump campaign, attendees at the event will receive temperature checks, be given masks and have access to hand sanitizer; precautions that have not been announced for his previous campaign events which have often been crowded, with little regard toward social distancing and mask wearing.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada COVID-19 director confirms he tested positive’ Sam Metz for the Associated Press

Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, Caleb Cage, reported on Monday that he tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Following his diagnosis, Gov. Steve Sisolak and staff who interacted with Cage were tested and transitioned to working remotely. All of those tested received negative results. Cage stated yesterday that his diagnosis gave the governor’s office a hands-on opportunity to use the COVID Trace mobile app the state introduced in August to determine possible contacts and recommend testing, and announced that his symptoms have subsided and quarantining at home.

Nevada officials announced 569 new COVID-19 cases and 3 deaths on Monday, and the state’s positivity rate remains higher than in early September.

October 9, 2020

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘New California laws aimed at shortages amid pandemic’ Maria Sestito for The Desert Sun

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new bills last month that mandate hospitals and employers stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE), streamline experience requirements for nursing school graduates and allow nursing practitioners to work independently of doctors, with restrictions. The bills aim to increase the availability of nurses and equipment at a time when both are scarce due to the pandemic.

CHARLESTON, W.V. – ‘Schools are open. Games are on. But experts say W.Va.’s latest COVID map is still flawed.’  Lucas Manfield and Amelia Ferrell Knisely for Mountain State Spotlight

A color-coded map used by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to share the COVID-19 risk in different areas of the state has received criticism from Harvard experts who originally compiled the data and map, which the governor’s office appears to have ‘tweaked.” The further changes were said by officials to encourage testing for the virus.

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota reports 24 new COVID-19 deaths, a one-day reporting record’ Adam Willis for Inforum

More people died from COVID-19 in North Dakota on Wednesday than in all of March, April, June or July each, Adam Willis reports. The state also continued to report the most new cases per capita of any state in the country for multiple consecutive weeks, according to the New York Times. Since March, 304 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, 41 of them in the first seven days of October.

INDIANAPOLIS – ‘Indiana virus dashboard lacks data from hundreds of schools’ Casey Smith with the Associated Press

Almost two months ago, Indiana officials announced they would release a public dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases within the state’s school system. The tool was finally unveiled last week, but as of Thursday, it had yet to include information from over 1,000 schools, or 40% of schools across Indiana. Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box blamed the delay on “technical issues” and assured the public that her office is working to solve these issues and provide accurate numbers.

October 8, 2020

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Bullock says no new statewide mandates as case tally rises’ Iris Samuels for the Associated Press
Montana officials reported 733 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, once again breaking the record for daily cases, but Gov. Steve Bullock announced the same day that he would not implement new statewide restrictions. Instead, he’s calling on local authorities in counties experiencing outbreaks to enforce additional restrictions.

The state’s weekly reported cases in the past two weeks doubled from 1,249 to 2,451, and about a third of those cases were in Yellowstone and Flathead counties. The surge has strained hospitals, and the Montana’s communicable disease chief said the state expects increased hospitalizations in the upcoming weeks. 
JACKSON, Miss. – ‘Masks a ‘matter of preference’ at the Mississippi State Fair’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press

Officials of The Mississippi State Fair, which normally draws thousands of people, decided not to require masks at all fair events. This decision follows Gov. Tate Reeves repeal of the state’s mask mandate last week. Though optional, masks will be provided at the fair’s entrance, hand sanitizing stations will be available, indoor events will be limited to 25% occupancy and no more than 200 people will be allowed per acre during the fair which will run from Oct. 7 to Oct.18.

According to the state Health Department, Mississippi has reported at least 102,000 COVID-19 cases and at least 3,000 virus deaths as of Tuesday.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Officials worry about virus outbreaks in parts of Indiana’ Casey Smith for the Associated Press

Indiana health officials warned on Wednesday about a surge of COVID-19 cases in the Evansville and South Bend areas, after the state’s health department reported increasing rates of infections and hospitalizations. According to the health department, Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of new cases has grown about 40% since Sept. 24., reaching 1,178 through Tuesday. This caseload spike comes as Gov. Eric Holcomb eased restrictions and lifted most statewide precaution rules two weeks ago.
TAKOMA PARK, Md. – ‘Advocates Tell State Lawmakers They Need More Funding to Help the Homeless – Maryland Matters’ Elizabeth Shwe for Maryland Matters

Maryland housing advocates have seen a significant increase in residents seeking assistance to fight evictions since the start of COVID-19, resulting in housing advocate organizations needing more financial support to help tenants. Loopholes in the national eviction moratorium, a shortage of  affordable rental units and a lack of documentation from many residents who can’t prove their loss of income is caused by the pandemic is intensifying the state’s housing crisis, according to advocates.

“By the end of August of this year…our request for assistance for eviction prevention has gone up 1,667%, and that is not a typo,” Carol Ott, tenant advocacy director of Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland reported on Wednesday.

October 7, 2020

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – ‘How East St. Louis churches are supporting families who can’t access remote learning’ DeAsia Paige for the Belleville News-Democrat 

Anticipating the challenges kids from lower income families would face with the transition to remote learning, several churches in the East St.Louis neighborhoods have opened their doors to support them. The churches provide  internet access, educational support from former teachers and meals to students. Around 40% of East St. Louis residents live below the federal poverty line. Many parents can’t afford to stay home while their children learn virtually, and many families have poor internet access.

SALEM, Ore. – ‘Oregon’s COVID-19 testing expands to 80,000 per week’ Sara Cline for the Associated Press

Gov. Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that Oregon’s COVID-19 testing is increasing to 80,000 tests per week as a result of the state’s surge in cases. Brown hopes the testing expansion will help contain the virus by identifying positive cases more quickly, and get people into quarantine sooner. Health officials now recommend that both people who have COVID-19 symptoms and people who have been in close contact with an infected person, regardless of symptoms, get tested. Testing will be distributed first to communities hit hardest and most disproportionately by the virus, areas affected by the recent wildfires and counties with long-term care facilities.

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘Strict rules keep business out of New Mexico loan program’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

Only $20 million has been approved from a $400 million loan program for New Mexico’s small businesses hurt by COVID-19 since its launch in August, , according to the state’s Financial Authority. According to the agency’s  CEO Marquita Russel, the program expected to process 5,000 applications, but fewer than 900 businesses have applied despite the devastation of the state’s economy. Hundreds of applications have been rejected, and 85% of those rejections were due to failures to meet the requirement of proving 30% revenue loss in April and May compared with the same period in 2019.

Sen. George Muñoz asked for recommendations on how to modify the program to increase loan distribution in the upcoming weeks, and Russel advocated for more flexibility around the requirements. The loan program is set to end in December, whether the funds have been used or not.

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘Long Beach misses out on $189 million as White House halts coronavirus relief talks • Long Beach Post News’ Sebastian Echeverry for the Long Beach Post

Long Beach officials were dismayed on Thursday when President Trump called off negotiations to create a COVID-19 relief bill until after the election. Long Beach was eligible for about $189 million from a proposed $179 billion aid package that cities and counties nationwide hoped to receive, and that federal aid would keep businesses running and residents employed, and according to city manager Tom Modica. The city’s economy has been devastated by the coronavirus, experiencing a $30 million deficit into the budget’s general fund, which funds public services, and according to Modica.

October 6, 2020

KESHENA, Wis. – ‘Spike in COVID-19 cases on Menominee reservation prompts tribal officials to issue emergency orders’ Frank Vaisvilas for the Green Bay Press-Gazette

A spike in COVID-19 cases that began the third week of September in Menominee County, which shares borders with the Menominee reservation, forced tribal officials to issue emergency orders and temporary closures throughout the reservation. Restrictions like school, restaurant and office closures as well as a daily curfew will remain in effect until at least Oct. 12. 

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services reported 123 cases in the region as of Monday. According to Dr. Amy Slagle of the Menominee Tribal Clinic, the surge is straining medical resources across the region, and having serious implications on the reservation with some Menominee hospitalized in critical condition. Officials are urging the public not to travel, attend gatherings and visit with elders.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. – ‘Wake saw rise in COVID-19 cases last week. Durham and Orange numbers held steady.’ Adam Wagner for the News & Observer

Wake County reported over 100 more COVID-19 cases last week than in the week before, according to the North Carolina Department of Health. The county increased from 519 cases during Sept. 20 through Sept. 26 to 651 cases this past week ending Sunday. In comparison, neighboring Durham County went from 220 to 227 new cases, and Orange County went from 76 to 83 new cases. These upticks come as North Carolina moves into Phase 3 of reopening, in which Gov. Roy Cooper loosened restrictions.

While COVID-19-related hospitalizations in these counties have declined since Sept. 29, they have hovered between 900 and 950 for the last nine days as of Sunday. In all three counties, Hispanics are overrepresented among cases, and Black people continue to account for a disproportionately high percentage of virus deaths. 

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Halloween during the pandemic: How this year will be different’ Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review 

Halloween will look different in Washington state this year due to COVID-19, with gathering limits still in place, indoor haunted houses banned and traditional trick-or-treating strongly discouraged, as it’s considered high-risk for contracting the coronavirus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. While Health officials are not completely banning trick-or-treating,the Spokane County Health Officer is encouraging households to trick-or-treat together rather than in large groups and not pass out candy by hand, and announced that everyone over 2 years old needs to wear a facial covering that is not a costume mask, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada to allow most youth sports to resume competition’ Sam Metz for the Associated Press

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced on Friday that organized no-contact and minimal-contact sports will resume in Nevada for grade school-aged students on Oct. 3. High-contact sports are still off limits, and the directive requires temperature checks, approved prevention plans, testing, social distancing and mandated face coverings, except during high intensity activity.

This announcement came three days after the governor loosened restrictions on gatherings, and a week after another uptick in that state’s additional cases reported daily.

October 5, 2020

FARMINGTON, N.M. – ‘Farmington families fight to get kids back in school; students struggle with mental health Miranda Cyr for the Las Cruces Sun-News

Students are struggling to adapt to the online learning platform New Mexico has implemented due to COVID-19, which has led to mental health problems. Since schools closed in March, three teens in Farmington Municipal Schools have committed suicide. Concerned parents started a Facebook group in September calling for the state to open in-person instruction. The nearly 3,000 member group  organized a rally on Sept. 21 to raise awareness and collect signatures for a petition to return students to school, which is up to 804 signatures as of Tuesday.

State guidelines put limitations on the number of students that can return to school at a given time. Starting Oct. 13, students from preschool through fifth-grade can return to in-person learning on a hybrid method.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota nursing home suffers 8 virus deaths, including one worker’ Adam Willis for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

The Good Samaritan nursing home in Bottineau has reported COVID-19 cases among more than half of its 35 residents and in nearly a third of its 75 staff in the last few weeks, according to the facility’s administrator. Eight people have died, including a staff member, and four residents are currently hospitalized.

Good Samaritan’s administrator, Mitch Leupp, believes the worst of the outbreak is over. “We’re very hopeful that we’re over the hump and we’re starting to see things slow down,” he said, reporting that many of the staff are at the end of their quarantines and can return to work soon.

CAMARILLO, Calif. – ‘What grocery, restaurant workers say about being essential during the COVID-19 pandemic’ Shivani Patel for The Ventura Star

Essential workers in California’s restaurant and grocery industry face new challenges as they adapt to the reality of COVID-19. Workers have acclimated to wearing masks for hours on end while walking greater distances, and often confront customers angry about masks or the amount of product available. However, they also report that many customers are being more considerate about wait time, tipping and engaging in personal conversations during the pandemic.

According to Economic Development Collaborative CEO Bruce Stenslie, workers in these industries are extremely vulnerable as they earn some of the lowest wages in the county and have the highest obligations to return to work in high-risk circumstances. “Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not just an economic crisis, it’s a social equity crisis,” Stenslie said.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Trump had access to experimental treatment within hours of diagnosis. Here’s how presidential medical care works’ Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review

Hours after President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 he was treated with an experimental antibody cocktail drug that is still in early trials and not yet approved by the FDA. Access to this treatment, 24-hour top quality medical care and a hand-picked physician are a few of the many medical privileges that make a difference in the treatment of someone like the president, compared to other citizens.

October 2, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas – ‘Texas governor restricts mail-in ballot drop-off locations’ Acacia Coronado for the Associated Press

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s order to limit mail-in ballot drop-off sites to one location per county shutters dozens of sites in some of the state’s largest cities, which tend to vote Democratic. Poll watchers are also allowed to observe ballot deliveries at each site. Democrats quickly called it an effort to suppress voters, while Republicans said it is necessary for election security. Gov. Abbot has also declined to expand eligibility to vote by mail, while Texas courts have ruled that fear of catching COVID-19 does not qualify voters for mail-in ballots.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Indiana details COVID-19 cases in schools with new dashboard’ Casey Smith for the Associated Press

A public online tool will be released Wednesday to help track COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and other workers in Indiana schools. There have been at least 2,354 positive cases in the state since the school year started this fall, according to data from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly coronavirus briefing. The dashboard will be available on the health department’s website and will be updated weekly. Reporting by schools is voluntary, so dashboard numbers will not account for all cases.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘California nursing homes now required to staff for infection prevention and control’ Maria Sestito for The Desert Sun 

Skilled nursing facilities in California hit by some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks will now be expected to do more to prevent the spread of infectious diseases after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring each facility to have a full-time staff member dedicated to infection prevention and control. Facilities also have to report each disease-related death to the state’s Department of Public Health within 24 hours and make the total number of deaths available on its website.

The bill comes amid scrutiny over the handling of the pandemic after the state reported more than 800,000 confirmed cases and over 15,000 virus-related deaths. Almost 30% of the state’s total deaths were in skilled nursing facilities.

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘New Mexico senator seeks better air quality in US schools’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press 

Sen. Martin Heinrich introduced the Keeping Schools Safe Act on Thursday, which would include $1 billion in funding for ventilation and air quality monitoring in schools, as well as mandate the creation of technical guidance for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that are COVID-19 specific. The Democrat does not have any Republican co-sponsors of the bill and it may join other COVID-19 relief bills that have stalled in the Senate.

The introduced bill would put elementary and secondary schools one step closer to safely reopening in person, Sen. Heinrich said, a priority of President Donald Trump. Under the legislation, the Department of Education would establish a grant program for a variety of schools. However, the bill prioritizes grants that serve a significant number of low-income students.

October 1, 2020

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Bullock urges local steps to stop virus, none new from state’ Iris Samuels for the Associated Press

Gov. Steve Bullock urged local officials on Wednesday to consider stricter measures in response to Montana’s increasing COVID-19 caseload, including closing bars and fining mask mandate violators, but did not impose any new restrictions. Bullock urged residents to follow the guidelines already in place. A White House Coronavirus Task Force physician concerned about the state’s virus spread stated that residents should not gather, “even as families and neighbors.”

Health officials reported 348 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a new daily record for the third time in the past week. Montana has over 13,000 confirmed cases, 180 deaths and 170 hospitalizations, taxing the state’s medical facilities.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘N. Carolina moves to Phase 3 but COVID progress is ‘fragile’’ Bryan Andersonfor the Associated Press

On Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new Phase 3 order that allows bars, movie theaters and amusement parks to partially reopen starting at 5 p.m. Friday. The reopening comes with 30% capacity restrictions due to the state’s COVID-19 cases remaining at higher than desired levels. Cooper urged residents to continue complying with the state’s mask mandate and other guidelines.

“The key indicators we watch in North Carolina remain mostly stable, but I have to tell you that we see warning signs that the disease could spike again here and across the country,” Cooper announced. “The virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically and responsibly.”

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘State health officials warn of ‘extreme risk’ of COVID-19 activity increasing in Washington’ Arielle Dreher’s for The Spokesman-Review 

Spokane County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, and Washington health officials are concerned this is the beginning of another wave for the entire state. The county’s Health District reported 79 new cases and an additional death on Wednesday. Statewide, there are between 300 and 400 daily cases, a rate seen during the first wave in April. According to the State Health Officer, hospitalizations have plateaued and possibly begun to increase.

Health officials are continuing to prepare for the state’s distribution of a vaccine when it becomes available. Until then, they are pleading with residents to strictly follow COVID-19 guidelines, especially as cold and flu season approaches and colder weather drives people indoors.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – ‘Boys & Girls Clubs closes 6 locations, forcing families to scramble for child care’ Matt Martinez for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee have closed six locations due to COVID-19 related financial strains. One of the most popular, the Pieper-Hillside Boys & Girls Club, announced it’s closing on a Wednesday and shut its doors two days later, according to a parent, uprooting affordable childcare for many families without adequate notice. That same parent said this location offered a computer lab and internet access, and since the location closed, 10 or so kids each day will sit outside the club trying to access the internet in order to attend virtual school.

The president of The Boys & Girls Clubs stated that the organization is offering to place kids in other locations with free van transportation available. As of now, the clubs have been able to avoid staff layoffs by placing them in other facilities.

September 30

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘New California law funds COVID-19 outreach, enforcement for farmworkers’ Kim Bojórquez for The Sacramento Bee

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two laws this week to help essential farmworkers in California during COVID-19. The main law ensures farmworkers have access to information on the best practices to prevent the spread of the virus, receive paid sick leave and get workers’ compensation and other services needed during the pandemic. The law also directs state departments to enforce COVID-19 guidelines, and track and report workplace investigations within the agricultural industry. The second law expands availability of electronic filing to state trial courts, which provide farmworkers in rural communities, or with limited transportation, more courthouse access.

According to a study by researchers at UC Davis, California has an estimated 800,000 farmworkers; about 90% are from Mexico and 60% are unauthorized to work in the country. These workers were more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the Central Valley region faced serious virus outbreaks.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – ‘Charlotte Immigration Sees Effects Of Coronavirus, Spending Cuts, Policy Changes’ Laura Brache for WFAE 

The wait to become a U.S. citizen extended this year due to COVID-19 forcing in-person services like naturalizations to pause in March. Almost 110,000 cases were added to the backlog of about 700,000 pending citizenship requests, and for many immigrants, this wait time threatened the chance of receiving citizenship in time to vote in the general election. 

According to the spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Services, all pending cases from March to June were rescheduled and completed within the first weeks of reopening. The agency is estimating that by the end of September, about 600,000 people will receive their citizenship, which is around 200,000 fewer new citizens than in 2019.

DENVER, Colo. – ‘Colorado governor encourages school enrollment amid decline’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis addressed parents  on Tuesday to encourage the enrollment of students in schools, virtual or in-person, as the state experiences a decline in student registration for the first time in 30 years. Polis and officials warned about the negative consequences children may face when returning to school after time off, stating that school is crucial to their healthy development. 

The state’s school count day, which relies on the number of students in each district, is on Thursday and will largely determine the state finances given to districts. Polis stated, “This is a message that doesn’t expire on Thursday, and if families are not enrolled this week, we want them enrolled next week, next month, as soon as they can for the benefit of their kids.” 

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – ‘Nevada to loosen cap on conventions, concerts and churches’ Ken Ritter and Sam Metz for the Associated Press 

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced on Tuesday that the state is lifting the 50-person cap on public and private gatherings, and it will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, with conditions including submission of safety plans to ensure COVID-19 guidelines. According to Sisolak, the removal of the cap will get people back to work and be a step toward kick-starting the conventions, concerts, events and shows that fuel the state’s economy. Some restrictions will still remain in place, such as a 50% capacity limit at casinos and restaurants. 

September 29

DETROIT, Mich. – ‘Back to school puts financial strain on Michigan’s most vulnerable families’ Nushrat Rahman for the Detroit Free Press 

Families in Michigan are struggling to purchase school supplies, find affordable child care and provide healthy food for their children as COVID-19 continues to limit employment opportunities and causes schools to go virtual. The unexpected costs of remote schooling are increasing the financial pressure families already face, especially for those who lost work or are in lower paying jobs. Experts are concerned that without government intervention and social support, these financial strains will widen opportunity gaps for children and exacerbate inequalities into the future. 

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘‘Fake’ letter claims mask mandate abolished’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press

Mississippi officials confirmed on Sunday that a letter circulating on social media abolishing the state’s mask mandate claiming to be from the office of Gov. Tate Reeves is fake. According to state officials, changes will be addressed in a press conference and an updated executive order, which can be found on the Secretary of State’s official website. The statewide mask mandate began August 4 to curb the spread of COVID-19, and will expire Wednesday at 5 p.m. unless Gov. Reeves extends it. 

The health department said on Monday that the state has reported more than 97,000 cases and at least 2,921 COVID-19 deaths as of Sunday; an increase of 190 confirmed cases and 2 deaths from the day before. 

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record high; active cases drop slightly’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead 

North Dakota’s health department reported on Monday a slight drop in active COVID-19 cases, but a record-high number of patients hospitalized. Facilities in the state are close to capacity with non-COVID-19 patients, causing leaders of Bismarck’s largest hospitals to discuss plans to manage coronavirus patients as cases continue to rise. According to the president of Sanford Health Bismarck, the hospital will announce a plan to increase bed capacity later this week. 

“As our state continues to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases, it’s more important than ever that we understand the challenges facing our hospitals and caregivers to ensure that there is a bed available for every patient who needs one,” Gov. Doug Burgum said. September has been the state’s deadliest month of the coronavirus, with almost 36% of deaths occurring this month so far.

RENO, Nev. – ‘Renown, Tesla, Panasonic top county list of virus job sites’ Scott Sonner and Sam Metz for the Associated Press 

Nevada health officials reported on Monday that the Tesla battery factory, where Tesla and Panasonic employees work, and Renown Regional Medical Center are the two job sites with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washoe County since June. The Tesla factory had a total of 117 cases and Renown totaled 104 cases. Other job sites with the most confirmed cases included Walmart, the University of Nevada, Reno, and UPS, respectively. 

For over a week, the state’s cumulative positivity rate had stayed below 10%. The number of new daily COVID-19 cases remains lower than their July 15 peak of 1,447 cases, but has risen slightly since the first week of September, when officials reported 276 cases per day on average.

September 28

MODESTO, Calif. – ‘Households across Stanislaus County struggle to have enough food during coronavirus’ ChrisAnna Mink for The Modesto Bee

The rise in unemployment due to COVID-19 is causing more families in Stanislaus County to struggle with food insecurity. According to California officials, the district has worked with local nonprofits to deliver food to those in need since the start of the pandemic, and have developed emergency networks for distribution. Still, families are struggling, as unemployment remains high and more food is needed since kids are home from school.

Before the pandemic, more than 17% of county residents and about 23% of kids under 18 lived at or below the federal poverty level, and nearly 1 in 5 children went to bed hungry.

TOPEKA, Kan. – ‘Kansas COVID-19 cases jump by 1,300-plus with rural spikes’ Andy Tsubasa Field and John Hanna for the Associated Press

The state reported on Friday more than 1,300 new positive COVID-19 cases over two days, and the worst virus outbreaks over the two weeks ending Friday, occuring in central and western rural counties. The counties with the highest spikes, Cheyenne County and Pawnee County, both had an increase of six times the state’s rate. The health department reported 11 COVID-19 related deaths over two days, bringing Kansas’s COVID-19 death total to 632.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘One eviction moratorium ended in June. A second began in September. And in between…’ Ben Sessoms for The News & Observer

Due to COVID-19 devastating the U.S. economy and increasing unemployment rates, millions of tenants are left without the income needed to pay rent. North Carolina halted evictions at the start of the coronavirus through June 23, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blocked evictions for renters across the country affected by the virus at the start of September. In the couple of months between moratoriums, landlords in the state filed evictions against more than 18,000 tenants. For most of the summer, renters had no safety net and as a result were displaced. For much of the year, landlords have been expected to make do without monthly income.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Health officials urge use of masks as some restrictions eased’ Casey Smith and Tom Davies for the Associated Press

A new executive order from Gov. Eric Holcomb maintained the state’s mask mandate, but removed the limits on crowd sizes for gatherings and capacity limits for venues, though people must continue maintaining 6 feet between unrelated parties. Most of these restrictions were lifted as of Saturday. State health officials said they agreed with the governor’s move to ease restrictions, but are urging the public to continue wearing masks and follow social distancing recommendations when outside their homes. According to Indiana’s Department of Health, the state’s COVID-19 death toll has risen to 3,566, which is an increase of 71 deaths in the past week.

September 26, 2020

MODESTO, Calif. – ‘Households across Stanislaus County struggle to have enough food during coronavirus’ ChrisAnna Mink for The Modesto Bee

The rise in unemployment due to COVID-19 is causing more families in Stanislaus County to struggle with food insecurity. According to California officials, the district has worked with local nonprofits to deliver food to those in need since the start of the pandemic, and have developed emergency networks for distribution. Still, families are struggling, as unemployment remains high and more food is needed since kids are home from school.

Before the pandemic, more than 17% of county residents and about 23% of kids under 18 lived at or below the federal poverty level, and nearly 1 in 5 children went to bed hungry.

TOPEKA, Kan. – ‘Kansas COVID-19 cases jump by 1,300-plus with rural spikes’ Andy Tsubasa Field and John Hanna for the Associated Press

The state reported on Friday more than 1,300 new positive COVID-19 cases over two days, and the worst virus outbreaks over the two weeks ending Friday, occuring in central and western rural counties. The counties with the highest spikes, Cheyenne County and Pawnee County, both had an increase of six times the state’s rate. The health department reported 11 COVID-19 related deaths over two days, bringing Kansas’s COVID-19 death total to 632.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘One eviction moratorium ended in June. A second began in September. And in between…’ Ben Sessoms for The News & Observer

Due to COVID-19 devastating the U.S. economy and increasing unemployment rates, millions of tenants are left without the income needed to pay rent. North Carolina halted evictions at the start of the coronavirus through June 23, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blocked evictions for renters across the country affected by the virus at the start of September. In the couple of months between moratoriums, landlords in the state filed evictions against more than 18,000 tenants. For most of the summer, renters had no safety net and as a result were displaced. For much of the year, landlords have been expected to make do without monthly income.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Health officials urge use of masks as some restrictions eased’ Casey Smith and Tom Davies for the Associated Press

A new executive order from Gov. Eric Holcomb maintained the state’s mask mandate, but removed the limits on crowd sizes for gatherings and capacity limits for venues, though people must continue maintaining 6 feet between unrelated parties. Most of these restrictions were lifted as of Saturday. State health officials said they agreed with the governor’s move to ease restrictions, but are urging the public to continue wearing masks and follow social distancing recommendations when outside their homes. According to Indiana’s Department of Health, the state’s COVID-19 death toll has risen to 3,566, which is an increase of 71 deaths in the past week.

September 25, 2020

VINITA, Okla. – ‘COVID-19 In State Prisons: ‘It’s Supposed to be a Work Camp, not a Death Camp’’ Keaton Ross for Oklahoma Watch
Lack of testing before inmate transfers and poor housing conditions are causing COVID-19 outbreaks at Oklahoma prisons. Antonio Lucio, an inmate at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center, revealed the limited personal protective gear available: prisoners receive one disposable mask weekly and one bar of soap biweekly. And due to staff shortage, commissary access is limited so inmates cannot as easily buy their own cleaning supplies. Of the 409 inmates and 38 staff at the prison, 295 had tested positive for COVID-19, including Lucio, who has shown no symptoms. 
RENO, Nev. – ‘Nevada COVID-19 positivity rises after month-long decline’ Scott Sonner and corps member Sam Metz for the Associated Press

After a steady decline in the past month, health officials say Nevada’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate is trending upward, possibly due to increased exposure to the virus during Labor Day weekend, said the state’s COVID-19 response director. The seven-day average for daily positivity rate reached 8.6% on Wednesday after dipping to 6.6% on Sept. 9. The World Health Organization’s goal is set to 5%. This average will likely climb because it is about five days behind the daily count, said the health district officer of Washoe County, where cases have “increased significantly.” 
CHICAGO, Ill. – ‘Wrigleyville Bar Owners Say They Need More Support From City As Baseball Season Nears End’ Jake Wittich for Block Club Chicago

A packed Wrigley Field on game nights is the lifeblood of the bars like Murphy’s Bleachers in Wrigleyville, but a baseball season without a crowd has added an extra strain to these businesses, already devastated by a months-long closure and current capacity limits. While Murphy’s has been able to pay its bills and employees, its general manager worries that when winter arrives, other bars will have to shut down. 
LANSING, Mich. – ‘Early voting starts in Michigan under new rules’ Anna Liz Nichols for the Associated Press

Nearly 2.4 million Michigan residents had already requested absentee ballots for the 2020 general election, as of Tuesday. More than ever before, the state reported. On Thursday, early voting in the state began under expanded rules that allow any resident to request an absentee ballot. Residents can also vote early in person and on Election Day. Amid confusion and concerns regarding safety and absentee voting changes, Nichols provides information about registration, voting and who and what is on the ballot.

September 24, 2020

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘Program to test undocumented communities for COVID-19 comes months after virus spike • Long Beach Post News’ Sebastian Echeverry for the Long Beach Post

City officials announced on Tuesday a new program that will bring COVID-19 testing to immigrant communities in West, Central and North Long Beach. The outreach program will consist of mobile-testing units providing up to 300 additional tests per day, tailored specifically to help undocumented individuals. 

According to city spokesman Kevin Lee, the program will only be available this week and depending on the public’s response, the city will determine if further testing is needed. Gaby Hernandez, executive director of The Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, claims the program is being implemented too late. Her advocacy group has created programs throughout the pandemic to aid undocumented communities, and only now is the city stepping in as the coronavirus cases are declining.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘Bismarck approves COVID-19 homeless shelter after heated discussion on personal freedom’ Michelle Griffith and Adam Willis for INFORUM

After heated debate, the Bismarck’s city commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to designate a local motel as a shelter for the homeless people and other vulnerable populations. Mayor Steve Bakken clarified that the shelter is for residents who voluntarily want its services after contracting COVID-19, and that they are free to leave r at any time. 

Community members expressed concern about the use of a security service to distribute necessities and guard the location, arguing that it could infringe on a person’s liberties. After debate, the commission revised the proposal, clarifying that “no residents will be forced to remain at the shelter.” The state has housed 200 people in similar shelters, 38 of them in Bismarck as of September 17, according to health department officials.

CRANDON, Wis. – ‘Race expected to draw thousands to Forest County amidst state-leading spike in COVID-19 cases’ Frank Vaisvilas for the Green Bay Press-Gazette

As COVID-19 cases spike in the county, Crandon International Raceway expects 7,500 fans per day at the Forest County Potawatomi Brush Run Races this weekend. The track hosted another annual race over Labor Day weekend, which drew 15,000 people per day, according to organizers. 

Social media photos showed large crowds not following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks. For this race, t organizers claim to have developed protective health measures, but residents are still concerned about the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks that could result from this weekend’s event.

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘Enrollment drop could hurt funding for New Mexico schools’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

Enrollment is dropping in New Mexico schools due to COVID-19, which means many districts across the state could see significant cuts in funding. Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart called for legislation to freeze funding based on pre-pandemic numbers to keep schools across the state financially afloat. 

“We’re all going to have to be (dealing) with the effects of this year for several years so let’s give more flexibility, let’s not hamstring our districts,” Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque said.

One district stands to lose $36 million.

September 23, 2020

DENVER, Colo. – ‘Colorado announces mandatory furlough for state workers’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press

On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis announced mandatory furloughs of state workers due to COVID-19-related budget cuts. How long workers are furloughed is based on annual salary: employee’s with an annual salary of $50,000 to $70,000 will be furloughed for one day; $70,000 to $90,000 for two; $90,000 to $140,000 for three; and over $140,000 for four days. Exemptions include workers making less than $50,000 annually, and workers necessary for the COVID-19 response.

ASHLAND, Ky. – ‘Kentucky hospital hits COVID-19 capacity. CEO pleads with community to wear masks.’ Liz Moomey for the Lexington Herald-Leader

On Friday, President and CEO of King’s Daughters Medical Center, Kristie Whitlatch, announced that the hospital has reached its limit for COVID-19 patients and asked the community to follow safety guidance, including using a mask and keeping social distance, to stem the rise in cases.

According to Whitlatch, the hospital has 320 beds and about 75% are occupied. From September 1 to the 17, their health system diagnosed 359 new virus cases compared to 840 cases from March to August. The hospital is working to open a third nursing unit for the first time in their history, but at the current rate, the hospital is on track to   have 144 new admissions this month. .

“Our infectious disease specialists and other medical professionals are very concerned at how quickly and widely COVID-19 is spreading locally,” Whitlatch wrote on Friday in a Facebook post. “Many of our physicians, nurses and support team have been struck by the virus.”

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – ‘Amid entrenched pandemic, Berkshire nonprofits’ resilience tested’ Danny Jin for The Berkshire Eagle

The prolonged effects of the pandemic on vulnerable communities are forcing local  nonprofits to adapt to  new safety restrictions and economic pressures. Nonprofit leaders say creativity, collaboration and philanthropic support have made organizations’ survival possible thus far, but that there is still work needed to continue and grow their influence. With winter approaching, even more adjustments will likely be needed.

“We’re just worried about how long we can really just pull this all off, and can our resources outlast the continuing need?” said Kim McMann, The Berkshire Food Project’s Executive Director.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada mulls data reporting as rapid tests grow more common’  Sam Metz for the Associated Press

As the state prepares to start using rapid COVID-19 antigen tests, officials are considering how to incorporate them into data and report the most accurate results. The state has largely used molecular tests for the coronavirus, which are more expensive and take longer to yield results in comparison to antigen tests, but are found to be more accurate. The difference in each of the tests accuracy has resulted in efforts by the state to report antigen and molecular tests separately, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

September 22, 2020

NAUGATUCK RIVER VALLEY, Conn. – ‘The Science Behind School Reopenings Plans May Not Work In Practice’ Ali Oshinskie for Connecticut Public Radio.

As of Friday, COVID-19 outbreaks in Connecticut have resulted in more than 12 schools in the state going remote. Most districts started this month under a hybrid model, with the hope of returning students to in person instruction as soon as Oct. 1, according to the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Fran Rabinowitz. The plan assumed that the hybrid model is effective in curbing the spread of the virus, but the data is challenging that idea and officials acknowledge that they might have to reverse course if the contagion rates don’t go down.

WAUSAU, Wis. – ‘Marathon County COVID-19 surge exceeds contact tracing capacity, according to health department’ Renee Hickman for the Wausau Daily Herald 

A spike in COVID-19 cases  is overwhelming Wisconsin’s health department’s contact tracers, delaying information that would help people start quarantine sooner. This delay is giving more time for the virus to spread, and with more people going to more public places and gatherings, Marathon County’s 21 tracers can’t get to everyone on time. “We are doing our best to keep up, but cases are coming in faster than we can respond,” wrote Public information officer Judy Burrows about Marathon County.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – ‘Inside one of West Virginia’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks’ Lauren Peace for Mountain State Spotlight

Eldercare Health and Rehabilitation reported it’s first coronavirus case on April 6, and by the end of the month, 71 of the 86 residents at the nursing home were positive for COVID-19, and by early May, 15 had died. Families of residents and former Eldercare employees claim the administration’s negligence and secrecy around the virus outbreak in the facility put their loved ones in danger, and hindered the ability of families to make informed decisions around their care.

REDDING, Calif. – ‘These Shasta County school districts are transitioning from distance learning to traditional classes’ Nada Atieh for the Redding Record Searchlight

At least seven school districts in Shasta County will transition  from remote learning to full in-person instruction by the end of October, according to the county’s Office of Education. Most families want in-person instruction due to internet problems and conflicts with work schedules, education officials said. Those opposed to in-person instruction claim that children’s safety is at risk, and another wave of COVID-19 is approaching. Since the school year began in mid-August, 19 students and 5 staff have tested positive for the virus, according to Kerri Schuette, program manager at Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency. No cases of transmission within schools have been identified.

  • Related: Nada Atieh reported in mid-August on the safety regulations the Shasta County school districts put into place to welcome back their students amid the pandemic, like mask mandates and splitting students into two groups to avoid overcrowding.

September 21, 2020

FRESNO, Calif. – ‘California farmworkers say they didn’t get masks during wildfires’ Manuela Tobias for the Fresno Bee

Although California officials claim to have shipped more than 16 million masks destined for farmworkers, advocacy groups report that the workers in the fields have hardly any masks. re In a recent Facebook poll conducted by the United Farm Workers Secretary Treasurer, Armando Elenes, 335 farm workers said they had not received an N95 mask, while 31 people said they had received one.

Ana Padilla, the Executive Director of the Community and Labor Center at UC Merced, claims there would be even more complaints than there currently are if workers didn’t fear losing their job. “The reality is that 70% of the workforce is non-citizen,” she says. “There is fear of retaliation.”

CLEVELAND, Ohio – ‘Rapid rehousing strategy helps protect domestic violence victims during a pandemic’ Conor Morris for Cleveland.com 

Financial and social stressors stemming from the pandemic, combined with the need to shelter at home, is leading to an increase in cases of domestic violence, according to research by the National Commission on Criminal Justice. At the same time, shelters nationwide are reducing their capacity or closing to prevent the spread of the virus.

In Ohio, the REACH Rapid Rehousing program, which provides immediate aid for survivors of domestic assault and sexual assault who have had to leave their homes, has reached 106 families, a number that has increased drastically since the pandemic. Similar shelters across the state have tried to place clients in hotels, but the upkeep is expensive.

MINOT, N.D. – ‘Drums and social distance: Indigenous community holds ‘drive through’ powwow’ Michelle Griffith for INFORUM

Native American powwows, held almost every weekend in the spring and summer by reservations across the country to celebrate their culture, have largely been canceled due to COVID-19. Finding a solution, North Dakota’s Native American community held a socially-distant powwow of 50 people on Sunday, where there was the choice to stay in their cars and tune in via radio. The powwow encouraged Native Americans to fill out the 2020 census and learn about voting in the presidential election.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – ‘Why is NC delayed in reporting COVID-19 death data? It’s about death certificates.’ Hannah Critchfield for North Carolina Health News

North Carolina is one of three states still using a paper-based  death registry system rather than an electronic one, causing the state to lag in its reporting of official COVID-19 deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by almost 1,000 people. The delay from a person’s date of death to when North Carolina submits a death certificate to the federal government is six to eight weeks, according to an official from the National Center for Health Statistics. This inaccurate case count can result in an incomplete understanding of populations dying from the virus, which in turn shapes less effective public health measures.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – ‘San Bernardino County adds 537 new COVID-19 cases as deaths surpass 900 on Saturday’ Amanda Ulrich for The Desert Sun

San Bernardino County public health officials reported 537 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a 5.8% increase since Friday. The county’s fatality rate remains at 1.7% with 50 deaths on Saturday, and there are currently 1,430 active cases. With 7.4 cases per 100,000 residents, San Bernardino is in California’s most stringent tier that dictates when businesses can reopen. Ulrich breaks down cases and deaths by age bracket, as well as by town in the High Desert and in the mountain communities.

September 18, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.V. – ‘The governor ‘tweaked’ a Harvard COVID map. Their experts say the state’s changes are flawed.’

A map of West Virginia based on Harvard Global Health data on COVID-19 cases per capita is shared regularly by the state’s Gov. Jim Justice when he provides updates on the virus. There’s just one problem – the governor’s map is consistently outdated and the methodology has been altered, according to the Harvard research team. These changes could have serious consequences when deciding how and when students should return to classes. 

TAKOMA PARK, Md. – ‘Anne Arundel County Steps Up Legal Aid For Tenants Facing Eviction’ Bennett Leckrone for Maryland Matters

Across Maryland, as many as 274,000 households have suffered loss of income resulting from the pandemic. Anne Arundel County is investing close to $200,000 into legal aid for residents struggling to pay rent, putting them at risk of eviction. Tenants are currently protected by a federal moratorium on evictions, but landlords can still sue and tenants have to appear in court. 

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Utah governor considers mask mandate amid coronavirus surge’ Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

Following news that Utah’s rolling average number of daily new COVID-19 cases more than doubled to 661, Utah’s governor is weighing implementation of a mask mandate and expanded testing across the state. New cases seem to be driven by high school and college students returning for class in-person and officials fear they could be spreading the virus to their elders, which would increase hospitalizations. 

MILWAUKEE – ‘Utility cutoffs put on hold until Nov. 1’ Matthew Martinez with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

By extending the current utility cutoff moratorium until November, The Public Service Commission of Milwaukee has effectively prevented utility companies from disconnecting customers in the city who cannot pay their bill until April 15. But that excludes a water supply cutoff,and such disconnections will have to be approved by the commission.

September 17, 2020

DENVER Colo. – ‘Colorado workers protest COVID-19 fine issued to meat plant’ Patty Nieberg with the Associated Press

A union representing meatpacking workers at a JBS USA plant movilized on Wednesday to protest for what they consider to be an insufficient fine against the company for not protecting their employees against COVID-19. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company $15,000 after the plant registered six coronavirus-related deaths and at least 290 confirmed cases, but the union considers that the amount is “ineffectual.”

“Fifteen thousand dollars is not going to stop them or force them to be a better and more responsible employer,” said local president Kim Cordova said. JBS said the fine is without merit.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Reopen schools without mask mandate’ Bryan Anderson with the Associated Press

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest promised to cancel the current statewide mask mandate implemented by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and reopen all K-12 public schools immediately if elected governor, allowing individual districts choose their own guidelines. While most students in the state have begun the school year with virtual classes, Forest is pushing for in-person education.

HELENA, Mont. – ‘60 schools in Montana have seen at least one COVID-19 case’ Iris Samuels with the Associated Press

Since the start of the school year, Montana has had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in about 60 schools, according to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Out of 147,000 K-12 students in the state, 51 have contracted coronavirus, causing several schools to temporarily shut down to curb the spread. In response, Bullock stated that the state will begin releasing reports on COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools and universities every week.

RALEIGH, N.C.  – ‘N.C. State eclipses 1,000 coronavirus cases among students’ Bryan Anderson with the Associated Press

More than 1,000 students at North Carolina State University have contracted COVID-19 since the start of classes on Aug. 10, according to university spokesman Mick Kulikowsk. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University have similar numbers of students who tested positive, despite switching to online classes and sending undergraduate students home early. Other higher education institutions within the state are seeing mixed results.

September 16, 2020

MIAMI –‘No jobs, no safety nets: Undocumented workers ‘completely adrift’ as crisis persists’ Lautaro Grinspan with the Miami Herald

Having been excluded from the $1,200 stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and other various support programs for those affected by the pandemic, undocumented immigrants are struggling to make ends meet. Unlike California, and cities like Austin and Washington, D.C., Florida has not created a fund to support these workers, and it has been up to nonprofit organizations like WeCount!, which distributes cash to local families, to fill the gap.  

DENVER, Colo. – ‘Colorado sees rise in virus among college-aged individuals’ Patty Neiberg with the Associated Press

Coronavirus cases in Colorado are trending upward among college-age students just weeks into this fall semester. The University of Colorado-Boulder, one of the state’s biggest hotspots, reported 13 positive tests the first week of school, 90 on the second and 205 on the third week. The rise in positive cases is associated with large student gatherings, negligence toward wearing face masks and disregard for social distancing, according to Chancellor Phil DiStefano. State officials indicated that there were six outbreaks last week among 18-to-22-year-olds on campuses. Based on the number of outbreaks under investigation, officials expect that number to double by the end of the week.

CHICAGO, Ill. – ‘People Detained At Cook County Jail To Keep Getting Protections Amid Pandemic, Appeals Court Rules’ Pascal Sabino with Block Club Chicago

An appeals court ruled in favor of inmates in Cook County Jail, who sued the facility for better protection against COVID-19 . The jail, under the supervision of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, had an outbreak early in the pandemic with over 300 inmates infected, which was at some point one of the largest clusters of the virus in the country. This decision is the first time an appeals court ruled in favor of an injunction meant to protect inmates from COVID-19.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Nevada lawmakers fund teacher testing plan as schools reopen’ Sam Metz with the Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers granted $6.2 million in federal relief to a program that plans to test up to 62,500 teachers and school staff throughout Nevada before returning to in-person classes. The Clark County Teacher’s Health Trust, the major public school employee health plan in Nevada, will manage the program that administrators and representatives of the teachers’ union say is crucial to bringing students back into the in-person learning environment.

September 15, 2020

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. – ‘More than 100 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Spokane County over the weekend’ Arielle Dreher with the Spokesman Review

In Spokane County, Washington, an area affected by the West coast wildfires, coronavirus rates have increased with 102 cases of COVID-19 reported over the weekend and 29 new cases reported on Monday. While  it’s been recommended to meet with others outdoors when possible, health officials are advising community members to stay inside as much as possible due to unsafe air quality from the wildfire smoke. Although masks are still being recommended to curb the spread of COVID-19, they do not effectively block all the pollution from wildfire smoke.

The wildfires have also impacted indirectly the response to the pandemic by forcing the cancelation of mobile testing.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – ‘Child care centers faced with myriad of challenges as school districts start remote learning’ Danny Jin with The Berkshire Eagle

New COVID-19 regulations and the remote reopening of some school districts in Western Massachusetts are putting new pressure on child care centers. From expanding classroom space to accomodate the need for 42 square feet of personal space per student, to upgrading WiFi and dealing with a shortage of transportation, these places vital to parents who cannot stay at home are facing financial challenges that could lead to their closure.

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – ‘With Public Release of More Coronavirus Infection Data by Zip Code, Virus Spread Across OC Cities Becomes Clearer’ Brandon Pho with Voice of OC

New COVID-19 data in Orange County on virus testing positivity by ZIP code, revealed that there multiple small cities, aside from known hotspots like Santa Ana and Anaheim have higher positive percentages in comparison to the county’s average. With this information, the county is now working to expand pandemic outreach resources and programs to these areas.

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – ‘Texas teachers report hundreds of COVID safety violations since schools reopened’ Cayla Harris with San Antonio Express News

Two weeks after schools reopened their doors for in-person instruction, The Texas State Teachers Association warned that many schools are not following the COVID-19 safety protocols, including social distancing and the use of masks.

650 members of the association in 135 districts reported problems that range from poor ventilation to lack of supplies and accommodation for vulnerable employees.

“The state can issue all the safety guidelines and protocols it wants, but if they are not enforced, they aren’t worth much,” said the group’s President Ovidia Molina in a press release.

September 14, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ‘Teacher departures leave schools scrambling for substitutes’ Casey Smith with The Associated Press

Several states are seeing a surge in teacher’s retirements or leaves of absence, because of COVID-19 fears and lack of protection guidelines. This has forced state officials to think of new ways to fill the gap, including relaxing the requirements to become a substitute teacher and  offering the job to college students. However, many of those who work as substitutes are retired teachers, who also don’t want to go back to the classroom yet. Since the start of the pandemic, teachers in at least three states have died after contracting coronavirus, but it remains unclear how many have been infected.

ARLINGTON, Tex. – ‘Arlington family recovered from brush with COVID-19. But some fears, symptoms remain.’ Kailey Broussard for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The 76010 ZIP code in Arlington accounts for over a fifth of the COVID-19 cases in the city making it a focus of the efforts by the authorities to contain the virus. Although the preventive measures are starting to have effect, residents and officials fear that the start of classes at University of Texas at Arlington’s main campus could make the numbers rise again. 

AUSTIN, Tex. – ‘‘It’s BS’ – Students, Austin Residents and Health Officials Push Back On UT Football Game’ Dominic Anthony Walsh with Texas Public Radio

The University of Texas at Austin was heavily criticized for allowing fans to attend the first game of the football season. Despite only allowing 18,000 audience members inside the stadium with social distancing measures in place, many observers pointed out that a large number of attendees didn’t wear a mask inside or outside the stadium and that the game was providing an excuse for other large gatherings on campus. UT has confirmed more than 300 new COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff over the past month.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – ‘Over 120 COVID-19 cases at North Carolina’s only immigration detention facility’ Hannah Critchfield with NC Health News

Even during the pandemic and at a time when jails are becoming hotspots for the virus, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency continues to transfer detainees between multiple facilities that it has agreements with, increasing the spread of COVID-19 among detainees and staff.

The only ICE-associated facility in North Carolina, the Alamance County Detention Center already has 120 cases and at least one death can be traced to a transfer from another facility that had an active outbreak. In an email statement, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said they are testing inmates, but since June, his office has declined to provide North Carolina Health News the number of tests it has conducted within the facility or its policy around when people incarcerated inside were tested.

September 11, 2020

CHICAGO, Ill. – ‘DePaul Starts Fall Classes With Strict Coronavirus Restrictions: ‘It Feels Like A Ghost Town’ Jake Wittich with Chicago Block Club

The largest Catholic university in the country, home to more than 22,000 students and located in a neighborhood where COVID-19 cases skyrocketed among young people during the Summer, started classes this week with strict restrictions. From classes being taught online and limited access to dorms, and multiple stations dispensing hand sanitizer and face masks across campus, the university hopes to limit possible outbreaks. However, that has led to an empty campus and a markedly different experience for new and returning students: “It’s weird how empty campus is, but Covid is very serious, so I’m glad DePaul is taking steps to limit possible exposure on campus,” said sophomore Samantha McKibben.

RENO, Nev. – ‘Over 1,000 UNR Students And Staff Tested For COVID-19, Nearly 60 Cases Reported’ Lucia Starbuck with KUNR

Of 21,000 students attending University of Nevada, Reno this fall only 4% are physically on campus at any given time, according to college officials. Despite the limited number of students attending in person, the school says its taking precautions and already tested over 1,000 students and staff members.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – ‘Madigan and JBLM participating in international COVID-19 treatment trial’ Abbie Shull for The News Tribune

Madigan Army Medical Center, along with six other military medical facilities, entered the third phase of a National Institutes of Health sponsored trial that studies the effects of a COVID-19 treatment. In this phase, the researchers are comparing the drug Remdesivir with Remdesivir plus interferon beta-1a, an intramuscular injection traditionally used to treat adults with multiple sclerosis. Neither the patients in Madigan’s care – active duty or retired service members and their family members diagnosed with COVID-19 – nor the researchers know who is being treated with each drug. Madigan is also participating in a Department of Defense effort to collect 10,000 units of convalescent plasma by Sept. 30.

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Utah aiming to keep COVID-19 fatalities, unemployment low’ Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

Utah’s COVID-19 death rate is below 1% and the unemployment rate is 4.5%, and the state has set these numbers as some of its new goals to fight the coronavirus. While there have been over 56,000 confirmed cases and 430 related deaths, it’s likely an undercount as many have gone untested.

September 10, 2020

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Conflicting precautions: Smoke brings complications to fight against COVID’  Laurel Demkovich with The Spokesman-Review

The smoke coming from the wildfires that are burning across Washington state represents a health hazard for residents. But the usual recommendations from health officials to protect from their effects conflict with the precautions against COVID-19 contagion. For example, when air quality is bad, people are advised to stay indoors with closed windows, which is one of the scenarios where COVID-19 transmission is more likely to occur. To address both challenges, Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s deputy secretary of health recommends to stay indoors and keep the air as clean and filtered as possible. She noted that wildfire smoke can make symptoms of COVID-19 worse.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – ‘Targeted Testing Reveals Coronavirus Clusters At Several Tennessee Prisons’ Samantha Max with WPLN Nashville Public Radio

A series of tests conducted at Tennessee state prisons found that close to 400 inmates have COVID-19, a large uptick in a population that until recently had avoided the pandemic. Two prisons run by CoreCivic have registered the biggest outbreaks, accounting for more than half of the cases and deaths so far. However, the recent surge of cases has come from facilities that until last week had registered few cases. Since March, about 5,000 Tennessee prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus and 15 have died.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – ‘W.Va. Governor, Health Leaders Urge Caution As COVID-19 Statistics Take A Turn For The Worse’ Emily Allen with West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s COVID-19 reproductive rate, an indicator that measures the potential for the spread of the virus among the population, has been the highest in the country for the last four days, prompting Gov. Jim Justice and health officials to issue a call to the public to remain vigilant and follow safety procedures to avoid an increase in cases. More than 250 West Virginians have died of the coronavirusCOVID-19 since March.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Trump rally exceeded pandemic limits, but not illegal’ Bryan Anderson with the Associated Press

President Trump’s rally at Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem on Tuesday, which drew a crowd somewhere in the range of 7,000 and 9,000 people exceeded by far the limit of 50 people for outdoor gatherings imposed by Gov. Roy Cooper earlier this month to combat the spread of COVID-19, but it was still legal thanks to an exemption in the order that allows for “activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.” The state’s Department of Health and Human Services urged those who attended to seek testing: “Holding large events without face coverings and without social distancing can put people’s health at risk,” the department said in a statement. “People who have attended a mass gathering are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.”

September 9, 2020

NORTH LAWNDALE, Ill. – ‘West Side Charter School Will Offer In-Person Classes To Better Support Essential Workers’ Families’ Pascal Sabino with Block Club Chicago 

For many parents with essential jobs amid the pandemic, leaving their children at home during the day presents a challenge for students participating in online-only classes. After distributing devices and trying to provide internet hotspots to their community, North Lawndale College Prep. School on Chicago’s West Side realized that engagement and attendance of students wasn’t improving, which inspired a hybrid model of in-person and online classes, at a time when most Chicago schools are only online.

LODGE GRASS, Mont. –  ‘Battered by the virus, tribes race to boost census count’ Matthew Brown, Iris Samuels and Lindsay Whitehurst with The Associated Press

With the Sept. 30 deadline looming on the horizon, activists are scrambling to count as many people in Native American reservations as they possibly can. Only 24% of residents of Montana tribal areas were counted as of Sept. 1 – way behind the national rate of 85%. Most of the  more than 300 reservations in the rest of the country are not doing much better. The high rates of coronavirus infections in tribal lands and the lack of internet connectivity have made an already difficult process even more complicated, and activists fear a resulting undercount will greatly reduce the funds they’ll receive from the federal government as well as reduce their political representation.

OKLAHOMA CITY – ‘COVID-19 Is Spreading in State Prisons. Families Say Oklahoma Is Not Doing Enough’ Keaton Ross for Oklahoma Watch

COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma’s prison system have skyrocketed in the past six weeks, going from 103 cases on July 22 to 1,596 by September 4. Families and criminal justice reform advocates point out that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is not doing enough to slow contagion and it’s not prepared to handle outbreaks, particularly at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, where 738 of the 802 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

SANTA FE, N.M. – ‘New Mexico teachers safe from legal liability amid virus’ Cedar Attanasio with the Associated Press

Teachers in New Mexico’s school system won’t be liable if schools get sued for possible outbreaks of COVID-19, according to state officials, as classes resume across the state. However, schools can be sued for negligence that leads to the contagion of students. More than half of the 89 school districts in New Mexico have been approved to allow kindergarten through fifth-grade students to go to school in person two days per week. No lawsuits have been filed yet.

September 8, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. – ‘During pandemic, Black families put trust in Black doctors’ Leah Wilmingham for the Associated Press

Research suggests that being treated by Black doctors improves the outcomes for Black patients, but only about 5% of doctors practicing in the U.S. are African American. One Black doctor in Mississippi has spent years building trust in her community, which has been historically skeptical of the medical field. “It’s meaningful to be taken care of by someone who looks like you, who understands you,” said one patient. “Other doctors go into the exam room, and they don’t ask your name. And me, when I go there and be treated that way, I’m not going back no more.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Mental health care providers brace for what could be a ‘pretty difficult’ fall’ Arielle Dreher with The Spokesman-Review

Mental health always gets affected during and after disasters, but with a pandemic like COVID-19, the effects can accumulate and manifest over a longer period of time. That is why state and local health care providers are preparing for a wave of demand for mental health services in October and November, months where experts believe symptoms like grief and loss, coupled with depression will reach their highest levels. Officials are starting information campaigns and making a support line available for people who need support to manage stress because of COVID-19. They believe that creating resilience early on will help combat the symptoms.

CAMARILLO, Calif. – ‘In Ojai, scratch-made student meals continue through COVID-19 pandemic’ Shivani Patel with Ventura County Star

Public schools in Ventura County remain closed due to the pandemic, but they continue to provide meals for the students who need them. Most districts employ contractors to cook and distribute the meals, but the Ojai district decided to go in a different direction, cooking every weekday meal from scratch. “When closures first happened, a lot of districts quit cooking and went pre-packaged, so there’s a lot of surplus from our vendors,” explained Frances Gonzalez, Ojai’s director of nutrition services. “We utilize that as much as possible because it keeps our cost down.”

ORLANDO, Fla. ‘Florida Landlords Ask For Assistance Amid Eviction Moratorium’ Molly Duerig for Spectrum News 13 

While tenants have been offered protection against evictions through state moratoriums like Florida’s, landlords like Jayne Rocco say they don’t have any assurance that they will get their lost income from unpaid rents, sharing the example of a tenant who refused to apply for rental assistance. Rocco says the moratoriums are unconstitutional, violating her rights under the Fifth Amendment and has started a petition to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida legislators for government aid to compensate for their losses.

September 4, 2020

TAKOMA PARK, Md. – ‘Md. Advocates Warn of Possible Loopholes in National Eviction Moratorium’ Bennett Leckrone with Maryland Matters

While advocates for tenants rights celebrated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide moratorium on evictions, announced on Tuesday, they warned that possible loopholes could be exploited. Tenants have to demonstrate a specific set of conditions in order to qualify for the moratorium, which likely will leave many people unable to apply. “It’s not going to apply to everybody,” said Carol Ott, the tenant advocacy director of the Fair Action Housing Center of Maryland. “In fact, it’s not going to apply to a lot of people. It’s really important that people read it before they get all excited about it.”

SALT LAKE CITY – ‘Utah aims to be prepared for COVID-19 vaccine distribution’ Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press

After the federal government told states to prepare for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1, Utah says it will plan to be ready after it is available. “We want to get it done as quick as we can,” said Gov. Gary Herbert. “Whether that’s fortuitous for the elections in November for the current administration, I guess that’s anybody’s opinion,” he added.

REDDING, Calif. – ‘They are lacking resources’; Shasta County elder abuse cases almost doubled during COVID-19’ Nada Atieh with Redding Record Searchlight
Rates of elder abuse, particularly financial scams targeting seniors have increased dramatically during the pandemic. In June, cases had nearly doubled to 205, compared to 137 cases reported in June 2019, as con artists take advantage of the isolation of seniors because of the pandemic.  “…As soon as somebody calls on the phone and gives them any attention, they’re hooked. And if the scammer receives a dime, they won’t leave the elders alone. It’s a vicious cycle that snowballs,” said Gail Gustafson, a social worker supervisor at Adult Protective Services.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘As COVID-19 keeps people at home, North Carolina hospitality workers suffer’ Sophie Kasakove for the News & Observer

Much like the rest of the country, North Carolina’s tourism industries have been hit hard since the pandemic struck. The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina found that visitors to the state spent 60% less between March 1 and Aug. 1 compared to last year – around the same as the nationwide trend. With hotel occupancy down too, “hospitality workers have been paying the price,” reports Kasakove.

September 3, 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – ‘Undocumented And Uninsured: NC Family’s Battle With COVID-19 And The Health Care System’ Laura Brache with WFAE

Eight of the 10 people living in the Chagoyán household, a family of immigrants from Mexico living near Charlotte, have shown symptoms of or tested positive for the coronavirus. One of them died after spending several days in the hospital with very little communication between doctors and the family. Their case illustrates how Latino traditions, like communal living make them more vulnerable to the virus, and how emergency systems are ill-prepared to deal with immigrant patients. 

SANTA ANA, Calif. – ‘Santa Ana Relaxes Affordable Housing Laws; Declines Residents More Time for Rent Control Petition’ – Brandon Pho with Voice of OC

The Santa Ana city council eased on Tuesday the affordable housing rules, making it easier for developers to build more expensive apartments in a city with one of the highest density and renter rates in California. The measure that passed without discussion, contrast with their decision, taken that same night, of not giving local activists more time to gather signatures for a rent control proposal. The activists’ efforts have been hampered by the pandemic, which limited their ability to collect the 9,854 signatures required over a 180 day period, at the same time that it highlighted the need for more affordable housing in the city.

CHICAGO – ‘Lincoln Park Reversed Course On ‘Embarrassing’ Coronavirus Outbreak, But Progress Could Be Undone Without Masks, Alderman Says’ Jake Wittich for Block Club Chicago

Chicago’s Lincoln Park was long considered a hotspot of the city’s COVID-19 outbreak. As the number of new cases starts to come down, neighborhood’s leaders are warning the community that the work is not finished and that they need to do their part by wearing masks, which the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has deemed one of the “the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.”

BROOKLYN – ‘Once-unsafe streets now provide pupils refuge from pandemic’ Cedar Attanasio for the Associated Press

As schools across the country grapple with how to safely invite students back into classrooms, one Brooklyn public school is trying to prove that school is out – or rather, the classrooms should be outside anyways. Behind traffic barriers on a cordoned-off street next to Public School 15 were given a demonstration of how outdoor classes could work as part of the city’s effort to promote this socially distant style of teaching. 

September 2, 2020

MIAMI –  ‘Remittances to Latin America rebound after a sharp drop for the pandemic’
Lautaro Grinspan with el Nuevo Herald (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English).

A new Pew Research Center report, analyzing data from the central banks of six Latin American countries concluded that the flow of remittances from the U.S., a vital part of some of their economies has started to pick up after historic lows during the quarantine. In April, the total dollar amount sent to Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico from the U.S. dropped 17% compared to the same month of 2019, a $1 billion-dollar reduction. But as Miami and other migrant-heavy cities started to lift their stay-at-home orders, the remittances regained strength and in some cases increased.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Since reopening, 3K N.C. college students got coronavirus’ Bryan Anderson with Associated Press

Just three campuses, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and East Carolina University, account for most of the 3,000 college students that have contracted COVID-19 since classes started early last month. Although the other 13 public colleges within the University of North Carolina system and the 36 independent universities in the state have reported about 550 cases combined, there’s still concern given that many of them are not reporting their cases to the public and others do so on a weekly basis.

DETROIT, MI – ‘Group rallies for housing rights, extra $600 in weekly aid during COVID-19 pandemic’ Nushrat Rahman with Detroit Free Press

Local organizations Detroit Action and Michigan United held a rally in downtown Detroit to demand the cancellation of rent and mortgage payments and for an extension of lapsed eviction moratoriums, as well as the weekly federal aid. For many people that lost their job because of COVID-19 the federal aid, which expired on July 25 in Michigan, was their only lifeline. “With that money, I was paying my bills, I was paying for everything that I needed to survive. And it reassured me that everything was going to be OK. Now, it’s a struggle,” said Celestine Sanders, a former auto industry employee.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — ‘State launching new guidelines for schools during pandemic’ Casey Smith with Associated Press

State officials presented a new color-coded system that assigns scores to counties based on three key metrics: the number of new cases per 100,000 residents, positivity percentage and change in percent positivity from the previous week. The scores translate into colors that indicate the level of risk, from blue which means minimal community spread and allowed in-person teaching to red, which suggests high community spread and recommends virtual learning for all students. The system, however, is not mandatory and school districts can decide if they want to implement it or not.

September 1, 2020

FARGO, N.D. – ‘Many of North Dakota’s public schools won’t alert public to COVID-19 cases’ Michelle Griffith for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Although North Dakota will gather data about the number of students, professors and staff that contract COVID-19 in public schools, many schools have announced that they won’t make that information public, citing privacy concerns. Federal and state law indicate that not-identifying information about the virus in schools can be made public, but it’s up to the school districts to decide if they want to release it. State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said in a statement that the state is working on a plan to release statewide data on a regular basis. 

ROCKFORD, Ill. – ‘Rockford Public Library Workers Call For More Health Precautions at Work’ JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco with Northern Public Radio 

Employees at the Rockford Public Library are demanding better health measures to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, including proper markers for social distancing, the installation of plexiglass at the circulation desk and disinfectant wipes to maintain the facilities virus-free, among other measures.  Although 80% of the unionized staff signed the petition, they haven’t heard back from the Board of Directors: “We’re genuinely concerned about our safety at our place of work, and the people who are in charge of making sure we are safe,” said Alice Mitchell, one of the librarians that organized the petition. “Didn’t care. They didn’t listen.” 

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘DHHS official: 25 NC children have developed rare, mysterious illness after COVID-19’ Adam Wagner for The News & Observer

In North Carolina, 25 children have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a condition where different body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidney or the brain can become inflamed, and which has been documented to occur up to a month after testing positive for COVID-19. Over 18,000 children have tested positive in the state, accounting for 11% of the total. Nationwide, some 570 children have been confirmed to have had MIS-C, according to the CDC.

LAKEVIEW, Ill. — ‘Coffee Lab ‘Thriving Again’ After Months Of Struggle. Now The Owners Are Giving Back And Getting Married’ Jake Wittich for Block Club Chicago

Helen Kim and Peter Moon, the owners of Coffee Lab and Roasters were supposed to marry on March 21. But instead of tying the knot, they spent the day thinking how to keep their business open during the pandemic. The couple put their wedding on hold and poured all their effort into the coffee shop, managing to stay open even when bigger chains like Starbucks closed. Now, they are giving back to their community by hosting “donation days” where 100% of their sales go to a charity or a cause. Their business is thriving once again and they have a new date for their wedding. 

August 31, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Voting groups scramble to reach college students in pandemic’ Bryan Anderson and Sara Burnett with Associated Press

The partial or full closure of college campuses across the country, scattering students across their places of origin, creates a massive challenge for voter registration groups, advocacy organizations and political campaigns, as they try to reach a demographic that even in normal times is hard to engage. To adapt, these organizations have moved their operations online, using social media and direct outreach, taking advantage of an increased interest in the election among college-age students. 

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘WSU, University of Idaho research seeks to find how COVID-19 impacts new mothers and their infants’ Arielle Dreher with The Spokesman-Review

How does COVID-19 affect a mother and her newborn? Can the virus be transmitted from mother to baby? And if so, can COVID-19 be transmitted via breastfeeding? Those are just a few of the questions that researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho, in partnership with a handful of other universities, are hoping to answer with a study that looks at the presence of the virus in breast milk and its potential consequences. 

So far, the analyzed samples indicate that there’s no discernible effect on children feeding from a COVID-19 positive mother, but the results are limited and more research is needed.

DOVER, Del. – ‘How is voter outreach shifting amid a global pandemic?’ by Roman Battaglia for Delaware Public Media

Due to COVID-19, Delaware expects a major shift toward vote by mail this November. If it’s any indicator, the number of absentee voters in the primary this year was up 11 times that of the last presidential election. But as the days before the election become fewer and fewer, the state’s political parties have approached the issue of voting by mail differently.

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘Following claims of landlord harassment, council set to discuss protections for tenants’ Sebastian Echeverry for the Long Beach Post

In Long Beach, a city where the majority of residents are renters, the city council is considering 30 new provisions that could help protect against illegal evictions and racial discrimination among other concerns. Since the start of the pandemic, the complaints about landlord harassment, including intimidation and lack of timely repairs have increased, according to Councilwoman Mary Zendejas.

August 28, 2020

MIAMI, FL – ‘As the need for food stamps rises, Florida could soon reimpose restrictions’ Lautaro Grinspan with The Miami Herald

Florida is planning to reinstate regulations that require food stamp recipients to be employed or looking for work at the end of the month, potentially limiting access to this vital support for thousands of families. Since the start of the pandemic, Florida has added more than a million residents to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as food stamps are formally known.

“Reverting to narrower eligibility standards means you are going to see fewer families having access to the resources that they need to get food,” said Gretchen Beesing, chief executive officer of Catalyst Miami, a local nonprofit that has been helping Miami-Dade residents apply for SNAP benefits.

CLEVELAND, OH – ‘Grounded By COVID-19, Community Groups Work To Save Cleveland’s Census’ Lee Chilcote and Conor Morris with Ideastream

Communities of color in the Greater Cleveland area have traditionally been undercounted in the census. For this year’s count, community organizers and activists had been preparing to reach out to the community to increase their participation, until the pandemic hit.

The social distance and safety restrictions forced these groups to be creative: from informational caravans that roll through Latino neighborhoods to doing outreach at food banks, gas stations and other places residents frequent now.  Despite their efforts, Cleveland had the lowest census response rate from the 68 large metro areas of the U.S. in july.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Bars, taverns to remain closed in Las Vegas, Reno’ Sam Metz with Associated Press

The state COVID-19 task force maintained the current restrictions on bars and taverns on Thursday, after Clark and Washoe counties didn’t propose new plans to reopen them.

Reno officials argued that bars should reopen because in their absence, people are organizing more house parties and other events that, according to them, are responsible for a large number of the new infections and are difficult to control. As of Thursday, Nevada had 67,220 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,271 deaths.

HELENA, Mont. – ‘Montana offers $400 in unemployment benefits as claims rise’ Iris Samuels with Associated Press

Gov. Steve Bullock announced that the state will offer $400 in weekly payments to residents who are unemployed, filling the gap left by the end of the $600 weekly benefits offered through the CARES Act, which expired on July 31.
The announcement coincides with the release of data that shows that the applications for unemployment benefits in Montana increased for the second consecutive week. More than 2,100 people filed for unemployment last week, an increase of nearly 12% from the previous week.


August, 27, 2020

EDGEWOOD, KY‘Respiratory Therapists are always ready to serve, but they have come front and center during COVID’ Maridith Yahl for Northern Kentucky Tribune
Respiratory Therapists are rarely in the spotlight, but their work is vital for patients with breathing difficulties working to regain their lung capacity, and they play a crucial role in managing ventilators and other breathing equipment. Respiratory therapists from the St. Elizabeth hospital network explained how they approached the COVID-19 crisis, adapting their protocols to the surge and coordinating with doctors to ensure everyone followed safety guidelines.

These professionals believe the protocols created during the pandemic will fundamentally alter the way they approach their work, ultimately creating a safer environment for them and their patients.

SANTA FE, N.M.‘Limited indoor dining to resume for New Mexico restaurants’ Susan Montoya Bryan and Cedar Attanasio with Associated Press
Starting Saturday, restaurants and houses of worship will be allowed to increase their indor gathering capacity to 40%, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Wednesday. Decline in the average number of daily cases and the low number of hospitalizations contributed to this decision, according to state officials.

The governor reminded citizens to remain vigilant: “I know New Mexicans are ecstatic about our recent progress against COVID-19, but, given what we know about this virus, we must sound a note of caution: Our progress is only as good as our willingness to stay the course. This virus is still looking for opportunities to spread.”

CARSON CITY, Nev.‘Nevada to expand, speed up coronavirus testing’ Sam Metz with Associated Press
Although the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has decreased in the state since its peak in mid-July, the number of tests also fell, from 49,000 in the third week of July to 27,000 last week. In response to this trend, health officials announced that they’ll expand the testing capacity in the state, tapping into a surge program for virus hot spots provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage warned that the program, although useful, only represents a temporary response and can’t be thought of as a long-term solution for the testing needs of the state.

Long Beach, Calif.‘Immigration group to provide monetary aid for Long Beach immigrants hard-hit by COVID-19’ Sebastian Echeverry with Long Beach Post

Undocumented residents of Long Beach who are not eligble for federal health aid can apply for aid from the The Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition, which will provide up to$500 per family depending on need. The migrant rights group has already distributed over $200,000 to families in June and July, and started to take applications on their Facebook page Thursday. It expects to complete the selection of the aid recipients in about four weeks.

August, 26, 2020

DALLAS, Texas –
Texas Teens Offer Virtual Tutoring And Mentorship To Health Care Workers’ Children Alejandra Martinez with KERA

Stuck in his house because of the pandemic, 16-year-old Amruth Nandish realized that many healthcare workers and first responders probably wouldn’t have much time for their children, so he decided to create Telementors, a virtual tutoring program that provides advice and emotional support for these children.

High school volunteers are matched with the children and connect with them to listen to their concerns, check on their homework or just play. Since May, the program has recruited 45 volunteers who tutor 60 children across five states.

LANSING, Mich. – ‘US Sen. Stabenow urges USDA to extend food program waivers’ Anna Liz Nichols with Associated Press

Places that are not schools won’t be able to provide government-reimbursed meals to children starting in September, after the Department of Agriculture decided to stop issuing waivers that allowed the distribution of food during the Summer. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) is asking USDA and Congress to extend this program, which also provides meals to students on weekends.

“This is really, really important. We are not done with this pandemic. We are still in the middle of it, and families in Michigan and across the country are facing incredible hardships,” Stabenow said. “Some children get their only meals at school. We have about 800,000 children traditionally in Michigan who had been in that category,” added.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘North Carolina renters, colleges grapple with virus turmoil’ Bryan Anderson with Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new $94 million program to prevent evictions and reduce utility costs for residents affected by the pandemic. An extra $53 million will be directed towards those already homeless or at immediate risk of losing their home. North Carolina is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, particularly at colleges.

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services asked colleges to enforce the state limits to gatherings, of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and punish students who don’t comply with them.

‘North Dakota hits another pandemic record for active COVID cases, propelled by flood of cases in Grand Forks’ Adam Willis with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Grand Forks County, home of the University of North Dakota contributed with almost half of the new COVID-19 cases reported in the state on Tuesday, marking a new high for active infections, which now sit at 1,681. Health officials attribute the spike to the arrival of out of state students to colleges like UND, which started classes on Monday and already has 235 faculty, staff and students who have tested positive for the virus.

August, 25, 2020

LONG BEACH, Calif. ‘Community buys out inventory from deaf Long Beach street vendor left jobless during pandemic’ Sebastian Echeverry with Long Beach Post

Pedro Castellanos-Aguilar, a deaf immigrant who made his living selling ice cream, was left without a business after the pandemic forced schools to close. A local non-profit decided to help him by organizing an event on Saturday where the community came together to buy the contents of his cart. A GoFundMe campaign created for Castellanos has also raised almost $5,000.

OXFORD, Miss. ‘Entire fourth grade class in Mississippi sent to quarantine’ Leah Willingham with Associated Press 

Lafayette County School District notified the families of more than 200 fourth grade students to self-quarantine for two weeks after one student and six teachers tested positive for COVID-19 and the rest of the 11 teachers of that grade were exposed. Students will continue their classes remotely.
The start of the school year is being signaled as the reason why Mississippi has reported the biggest increase in cases per capita in the past 14 days. In the past seven days alone,the number of positive cases in the state has increased from 20.71% to 40.83%. In total, the state has 78,405 reported cases and at least 2,248 deaths.

‘Ohio’s rural schools face unknown with in-person classes amid COVID’ Ceili Doyle with The Columbus Dispatch

Belmont County is preparing to start the school year with a hybrid model that offers both virtual and in-person classes, following a survey that revealed that 80% of parents preferred in-person education and 20% wanted a remote option. The lack of good internet connections makes it difficult for many children in rural areas to attend school virtually, but parents and teachers fear that despite the social distancing setups for classes, kids could catch the virus in schools without good ventilation systems.

CHARLESTON, W.VA – ‘W.Va. Prison Officials Monitor COVID-19 Cases At Mount Olive’  Emily Allen with West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mount Olive Correctional Center reported six cases of COVID-19 on Monday, three inmates and three employees, according to the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The authorities tested all the inmates in the housing unit where two of the cases were discovered, but only tested randomly in the other five five housing units in the compound.
About 185 tests were administered to inmates, out of the 1,020 prisoners currently at Mount Olive. The authorities will decide if they need to test the entire population depending on the results.

August, 24, 2020

LAS CRUCES, NM ‘Las Cruces Public Schools assists families with technology troubles as school year begins’ Miranda Cyr with Las Cruces Sun News

This week marks the first big test for Las Cruces Public Schools as teaching starts across the district. Since the start of the school year on August 12, teachers helped the more than 24.000 students in the district adapt to the remote learning platform Canvas, but some are still experiencing problems, according to Josh Silver, director of online teaching and learning. The district has set up a system where students and parents can reach out to designated “captains” who can help them troubleshoot technical issues.

“Making sure students can get logged in and that families have resources that they need; that first step is very, very important,” Silver said. “(We’re) setting that foundation for the school year.”

LANSING, Mich. – ‘Pandemic university: Michigan students adjust to COVID-19’ Anna Liz Nichols with Associated Press

Students and parents are expressing concern about the safety measures announced by the 15 public universities in Michigan, after Michigan State University announced last week that it was moving to virtual classes for the semester. Although all schools will require the use of masks, some students worry whether their campuses will be able to enforce quarantines and social distancing when classes restart. Others wonder what would happen to classes that demand personal instruction, like nursing, in case more schools move to an online format.

EVERETT, Wash – ‘For WSU med students, it begins with white coats, big dreams’ Ian Davis-Leonard with The Daily Herald

Wearing masks, and with their loved ones cheering for them from their cars in the distance, 27 first-year students of Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine received their white coats, a symbol of the beginning of their medical careers.

This is a cherished tradition at WSU, usually done at a theater in Spokane, but the pandemic forced the school to get creative: “It is an enormous milestone in the life of a student becoming a physician,” said Larry Schecter, associate dean of clinical education and head of the WSU clinical campus in Everett. “We decided to do it the best way we possibly could and safest way we possibly could.”

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘San Bernardino County COVID-19 case tally passes 45,000; Orange County removed from watch list’ Maria Sestito with The Desert Sun

San Bernardino County surpassed 45,000 COVID-19 cases on Sunday after reporting 432 new cases and one death. On Saturday, the county recorded 62 new deaths, a new daily high that raises the county total to 691. With an infection rate of 13.2% San Bernardino is one of three counties in the state’s monitoring list. Orange County was taken off that list on Sunday after its rate of contagion dropped to 5.4% of its residents, well below the state’s threshold of 8%.

A county can be put on the list again if it exceeds the markers established by the state across six metrics: case rate, percentage of positive tests, average number of daily tests, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available. Counties that remain off the list for more than 15 days are allowed to reopen schools.

August, 21, 2020

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – ‘’It’s been a real challenge’: As students return to school, some still lack reliable internet’ Amanda Ulrich with The Desert Sun

As schools in the Coachella Valley prepare to resume classes virtually, many worry that they won’t be able to connect to the classes, given their lack of a stable connection. The school districts in the area are handing out free mobile hotspots, but many families have yet to receive one. The districts are also deploying buses equipped with hotspots parked in areas with high concentrations of students’ homes.

SALEM, Ore. – ‘Tensions rise over Oregon’s use of COVID-19 relief funds’ Sara Cline with The Associated Press

The distribution of coronavirus relief funds has turned into a pulse between the legislature and the state government, after more than half of Oregon’s lawmakers, from both parties, signed a letter addressed to the governor and the leaders of both legislative chambers, demanding $200 million in relief funds to be distributed directly to local governments, instead of being allocated under the criteria of the state government.

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘North Dakota sets record highs in number of COVID-19 positive cases, active cases and tests’ Michelle Griffith with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

The North Dakota Department of Health announced Thursday that it had registered 274 new cases of COVID-19, marking a new high in a state that until recently had few active hotspots. 1,400 North Dakotans are known to be currently infected and 130 have died since the start of the pandemic. Despite the rise in cases, the state remains at the “low-risk” level for the virus.

CHICAGO – ‘Free laptops, school supplies handed out in Englewood’ Manny Ramos with The Chicago Sun-Times

National nonprofit Comp-U-Dopt raffled off 100 laptops to local Chicago Public School students in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, in addition to giving away school supplies to help ensure they’re ready for fall classes spent at home. Comp-U-Dopt has given out 15,000 laptops since the pandemic started – five times what it would normally distribute in a year.

August 20, 2020

CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Old format, new problem: Biennial legislatures face COVID-19’ Sam Metz with Associated Press 

The legislatures of Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas only meet for regular sessions in odd years, a vestige of a time when travel was more complicated and governance was more simple. Attempts to change this format have been rejected over the years,  but the demands of the pandemic are forcing legislators to reconsider their stance.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – ‘Will moratorium on utility shut-offs be extended? Leaders hope so but are preparing for the worse’ Matt Martinez with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Milwaukee activists and public leaders are pushing the Winsconsin’s Public Service Commission to  extend the moratorium on utility shut-offs past the Sept. 1 deadline, arguing that the crisis generated by the pandemic has not abated and the conditions of residents remain dire. However, they are also exploring other options in case the deadline is not extended, including the use of federal CARES Act funds and the creation of a donation option where utility companies will match every donated dollar to help those who can’t pay.

SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Washington case counts on the decline; Inslee issues more protections for agricultural workers’ Arielle Dreher with the Spokesman-Review

Washington farm and produce-packing facilities must now test all employees for COVID-19 if nine employees test positive with the virus within two weeks. The new requirement was announced by Gov. Jay Inslee after a fifth of all those who contracted COVID-19 in one town were found to be employed at a local farm. Over 100 employees of Gebbers Farms in Brewster, Washington have tested positive and three have died.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – ‘Rural school districts continue to struggle with internet access as online classes start’ Miranda Cyr with Las Cruces Sun-News

Schools across New Mexico are scrambling to find ways to connect students living in rural areas with limited internet access to online classes. According to the U.S. census, 28% of New Mexico’s population lacked internet service between 2014 and 2018. One school district was meeting the local need by providing students with mobile hotspots.

August 19, 2020

EAST LANSING, Mich. – ‘Michigan State says most classes will be online in the fall’ Anna Liz Nichols with the Associated Press

Stay home – that’s the recommendation Michigan State University is giving its students with classes going virtual this fall. “Given the current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities — it has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus,” said Samuel L. Stanley, the university’s president, in a press release.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – ‘Colleges grapple with coronavirus as students return’ Bryan Anderson and Report for America corps member Michelle Liu with the Associated Press

While Michigan universities announced this move online, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill confirmed that a third school in the 17-member University of North Carolina system had clusters of COVID-19 cases in off-campus housing, reported Michelle Liu and Bryan Anderson of AP’s North Carolina bureau. Earlier in the week, UNC decided to switch to virtual learning, after revealing that about 130 students tested positive for COVID-19 in the first week since the restart of in-person classes.

AUSTIN, Texas  – ‘Abbott proposes punishing Texas cities that ‘defund’ police’’ Acacia Coronado with the Associated Press

Following Austin City Council’s decision to cut its police department funding, Gov. Greg Abbott proposed a property tax revenue freeze on any other municipalities that would “defund” their police department. Critics have suggested the proposal is a red herring to distract from the state leader’s response to COVID-19.

DEKALB, Ill. – ‘Rockford Youth Make Tough Decisions During Police Simulations’ Yvonne Boose with Northern Public Radio

A northern Illinois park district continued its youth police academy with some adaptations in light of COVID-19: numbers of participants were limited and face masks were worn. In a moment when the relationship between communities and local law enforcement has been particularly strained, Rockford Police Department’s community service officer Lisa Hodges highlighted the  importance of creating opportunities for police officers to interact with youth.

August 18, 2020

MIAMI – ‘Facing economic crisis at home, Latin Americans turn their gaze to Miami’ Lautaro Grisnspan with The Miami Herald

“As coronavirus cases and fatalities skyrocket across Latin America, a second crisis is coming into terrifying view: An economic contraction of historic proportions that could imperil the livelihoods of tens of millions of people,” writes Grinspan, “potentially ushering in a new age of social upheaval across the region.” Many are looking to move north to cities like Miami.

EDGEWOOD, KY – ‘Experts discuss Alzheimer’s and COVID — and the need to know more through research and study‘ Maridith Yahl with Northern Kentucky Tribune

Scientists in charge of a study measuring the effectiveness of a drug in reducing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease had to adapt to the pandemic to continue monitoring their patients, developing safety practices to keep the study going in a safe manner. In a panel organized by the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) the scientists also spoke about the need to study COVID-19 and the effect it could have on increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, given that the virus attacks the nervous and cardiovascular systems, which play a significant part in the development of Alzheimer’s.

PALM SPRINGS, CA – ‘Those living with HIV aren’t more likely to contract COVID-19, DAP doctors say‘ María Sestito with The Desert Sun

Even though data is scarce, researchers noticed that people with HIV who follow an effective treatment don’t have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, in comparison with the rest of the population, according to doctors at the Desert AIDS Project, a federal center providing care for HIV patients. “One out of every five people that we test for COVID is HIV positive,” said Dr. Christopher Foltz, an expert in internal medicine and infectious diseases. “It does not really seem to make their disease much more severe than other people,” he said.

BISMARCK, ND – ‘North Dakota Legislature cancels in-person meetings after staffer tests positive for COVID-19‘ Michelle Griffith with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

After a Legislative Council staff member tested positive for COVID-19, legislative leaders decided to cancel in-person meetings for at least a week. The infected employee is asymptomatic and was in contact with some of the other 32 employees of the legislature, all of whom were asked to self-quarantine. John Bjornson, Legislative Council director, indicated that the move to virtual meetings and the cancelations won’t have a lasting impact on the work of the legislature.

August 17, 2020

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. – ‘Rural families without internet face tough choice on school’ Piper Hudspeth Blackburn with Associated Press

Almost 3 million students don’t have internet access at home, according to statistics by the U.S. Department of Education. The situation in eastern Kentucky is even worse, with nearly half of students in Lee County lacking a broadband connection. As schools start to reopen for in-person classes, many parents concerned with the spread of the virus face the choice of sending their children and risk contagion or keeping them at home, but without the possibility of keeping up with their studies. 

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – ‘Districts will be looking to the Department of Health for tracking COVID-19 cases in schools’ Miranda Cyr Las Cruces Sun-News

Las Cruces-area schools are working closely with the New Mexico Department of Public Health to conduct contact tracing of staff members ahead of school reopenings. “It’s not a matter if we’ll have positive cases, it’s when we have positive cases — (and) to the extent we have them,” Las Cruces Public Schools spokeswoman Kelly Jameson told corps member Miranda Cyr. “If there was a potential outbreak, it would be incumbent upon the district to be responsible and disclose any kind of threat to the public.”

CRANDON, Wis. – ‘Wisconsin tribal casinos using UV light to ‘kill’ coronavirus, tech could work in schools’ Frank Vaisvilas with Green Bay Press-Gazette

In Wisconsin, tribe-owned casinos are using UV light technology in their ventilation systems in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus on their game floors. There have been no known cases of COVID-19 that have been traced to the casino since its reopening on June 8, according to the casino facility director. Wisconsin school districts are also considering installing these germicidal light systems as schools begin to open

EVERETT, Wash. – ‘The heat is on, and officials urge responsible recreation’  Ian Davis-Leonard with The Daily Herald

Public health officials in Washington state have voiced concern about clusters of people not respecting social distancing measures in state parks this summer. “We need our state park people and others to tell them to knock it off,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. The governor added that he hasn’t received any proposals to close the parks to curb large gatherings, but if crowding continues, the parks could be closed.

August 14, 2020

LYNNWOOD, Wash. – ‘New help during COVID: Counselors reach out with resources’ Ian Davis-Leonard with The Daily Herald

Residents of Snohomish County can seek resource referrals from counselors recently hired with federal CARES Act funding that would grant them necessary supplies and services. The counselors survey residents about their needs and can help provide “connections to food distribution sites” while checking “eligibility for CARES Act rental assistance or professional counseling options for anyone facing emotional challenges.” A similar outreach team coordinated in western Washington after the 2014 Oso mudslide, when they provided similar services for over a year.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – ‘Colleges And COVID-19: ‘There’s Not A Game Plan On How You Do This’’ Alexandra Watts and Dante Miller with WFAE

College students across the country are preparing for different methods of education as the school year rolls around, whether it be online, in-person or a hybrid of the two. While schools like Johnson and Wales University will adopt the hybrid learning approach, Queens University, Johnson C. Smith University and others will move to a completely remote model. UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon Gaber said that she hopes this experience with planning around the pandemic will influence the way they do their future planning.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – ‘New Alaska data reveals race a factor in likelihood of getting COVID-19, and in its severity’ Annie Berman with Anchorage Daily News

Race affects who gets COVID-19 and how severe the symptoms are, according to coronavirus data from public health officials. Federal data shows that Black and Latino people in the U.S. are three times more likely than white people to become infected, a reality mirrored in Alaska, where 25% of all positive cases when race is known are Alaska Natives, even though they only make up 16% of the population. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are also disproportionately at-risk in Alaska; they make up just 1% of the population but over 7% of the total cases when race is known.

AKRON, Ohio – ‘City launches app that rewards Akronites for shopping local during the pandemic’ Abbie Marshall with The Devil Strip 

Akronite, an app that rewards the city’s citizens for shopping locally, was released by the city on Monday. For each purchase, either online or in-person at one of 130 participating stores, customers receive points equivalent to dollars that they can redeem at any of the locations. The city will then reimburse the stores for the rewards they distribute. Colu, a company that has designed similar initiative apps in other countries, was hired to develop the app for $32,500.

August 13, 2020

RENO, Nev. – WCSD Board Of Trustees Proposes COVID-19 Threshold To Close Schools, Some Teachers Protest Reopening Lucia Starbuck with KUNR Public Radio

The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees decided that school would commence on Aug. 17 and introduced a proposal that allows the closure of schools if a COVID-19 case threshold is crossed. The proposal laid out that metrics of cases per capita and case percentages in certain time frames would be analyzed to determine whether a school should close. The postponement of schools for nine weeks had been pushed by Washoe Education Association members, but the threshold was endorsed by the board instead.

TAMPA, Fla. – A senior’s guide to voting during the coronavirus pandemic Bailey LeFever with The Tampa Bay Times

The Supervisors of Elections for Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties explained the steps they are taking to make this election season as safe as possible. They laid out the timeline for mail-in voting, with the deadline on Oct. 24 for a mail-in ballot for the general election. Most of the polling stations available in March are still open, but ones in certain assisted living homes were closed due to safety concerns. The least voter traffic will occur during normal work hours, so Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus advises not to vote during lunch or after work.

REDDING, Calif. – Here’s how Shasta County students returned to school amid the coronavirus pandemic Nada Atieh with Redding Record Searchlight

Students in Shasta County went back to school on Wednesday under new safety regulations  like mask-mandates and social distancing in response to COVID-19. Students are also being  split into two groups per class to minimize overcrowding. Some parents are nervous that this learning environment will inhibit their children’s learning. Father Austin Hooper said he is worried that his younger son will not excel like his first son because of the hybrid system.

TACOMA, Wash. – ‘Pregnant patients at Madigan’s OB/GYN clinic sent elsewhere due to staffing shortfalls’ Abbie Shull with The News Tribune 

An excess of patients and shortage of staff, possibly due to COVID-19 and resulting travel restrictions, has caused some pregnant women to be denied from giving birth in Madigan Army Medical Center. Madigan’s chief nursing officer Col. Louis Stout said that the OB/GYN department had kept the staff from being overwhelmed by redirecting patients elsewhere since July 15. He also said that the department aims to stay at or below “six active birthing moms at any given time.”

August 12, 2020

WICHITA, Kan. – ‘Wichita teachers who want to resign over COVID-19 safety concerns face $1,000 fines’ Megan Stringer with The Wichita Eagle

A clause in last year’s teachers’ union contract stipulating a fine of at least $1,000 for any teachers who ask to be released of their contract after the end of May has become a barrier for many teachers who might want to resign over COVID-19 safety concerns. Teacher Mary Harrison said no one knew about the impending pandemic when union members signed the contract in 2019. “We are way too ill-prepared to open our buildings to anyone, let alone students, and not staff,” she said.

MINNEAPOLIS – ‘Eleven candidates plus COVID-19 add up to a long wait for results in Minneapolis Ward 6 race.’ Hibah Ansari with The Sahan Journal

A concoction of 11 candidates, ranked-choice voting and COVID-19-related rule changes caused a delay in the election for the Ward 6 city council seat that hasn’t been filled since the George Floyd protests. The pandemic pushed more voters to choose the mail-in option, so time has to be taken to process those votes along with those in-person. The Minneapolis Elections Office said “ranked-choice voting tabulation will occur Friday,” then they will publicize the results on Twitter, Ansari reports.

BILOXI, Miss. – ‘Jackson County School District records 9 COVID-19 cases so far this week’ Isabelle Taft with The Sun Herald

Nine positive COVID-19 cases – three students and six staff members – were reported on Monday and Tuesday in the Jackson County School District. The district will release weekly COVID-19 updates on its website, revealing what schools have been affected. Superintendent John Strycker said that the district will make its decisions on how to continue education based on the weekly reports.

TOPEKA, Kan. – ‘Kansas officials say new COVID-19 law hurts contact tracing’ Andy Tsubasa Field with Associated Press

A Kansas law, which dictates that employers and event hosts must get consent from those infected with COVID-19 to share their information with public health agencies, has made contact tracing more difficult. Infected individuals can refuse to cooperate with contact tracing requests. Sedgwick County Health Department Director Adrienne Byrne said, “contact tracing helps us identify people that might turn positive and get them out of circulation to help stop the spread of the disease.” The total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus cases is almost 32,000 as of Monday, according to the state.

August 11, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – ‘‘Lives on the line’: Kansas and Missouri teachers prepare to go back to school in a pandemic’ Brittany Callan with The Beacon

Some studies show that children with COVID-19 have milder symptoms, but others suggest they may be just as susceptible and infectious as adults, which could prove to be a great risk for returning teachers. The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors delayed the reopening of schools until Labor Day, relying instead on distance learning despite Missouri’s reluctance to do so on a statewide scale.

DETROIT – ‘Michigan families vulnerable as economic safeguards expire’ Nushrat Rahman with Detroit Free Press

Experts and local service agencies worry that without previously instated intervention, including eviction moratoriums and stimulus checks, or new intervention, the struggle to pay for food, utilities and rent will leave families vulnerable for the foreseeable future. University of Michigan assistant professor of public health Roshanak Mehdipanah said that in some cases, people would have to choose between paying for food, shelter or medical care. Mehdipanah said that these “tough choices may have long term effects on their health — both mental and physical.”

MYRTLE BEACH – ‘During a pandemic, housing insecurity made a bad situation worse for these locals Mary Norkol with The Sun News

Housing insecurity, brought on by unemployment and health concerns, has been one of the most prominent problems faced during the pandemic. Rafael Colon, a Horry County resident, worked a commission job before his positive COVID-19 test in early June. He’s been struggling with the virus ever since because it “comes in waves,” he says. That’s why he hasn’t been able to return to work to pay his rent.

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio – ‘State Agents Cite Six Bars For COVID Violations’ Chris Welter with WYSO Public Radio

Gov. Mike DeWine ordered restrictions similar to other states to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including banning the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. This specific regulation has affected many businesses, including six bars issued citations for serving past the designated time. The Layne Lounge owner Doodle McKee said that the liquor license he pays for would normally allow for the sale of alcohol until 2:00 or 2:30 a.m., so “there are bigger issues in our area than our little place staying open.”

August 10, 2020

MIAMI – ‘There are more than 130,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in Miami-Dade’ Lautaro Grinspan with el Nuevo Herald (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English).

COVID-19 is back at the top of the list of concerns for Floridians, with 8,502 new cases and 182 new deaths announced on Saturday, after the threat of Tropical Storm Isaias subsided. Miami-Dade, the county with the highest number of infections in the state, reported 1,808 new cases, bringing the total to 131,217 cases since the start of the pandemic. While the county’s goal is to keep the two-week average of positive results under 10%, some 15% of the coronavirus tests in the last week came back positive.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘California’s 800,000 farmworkers are under siege from the coronavirus. Lawmakers urge relief’ Kim Bojórquez with The Sacramento Bee

Crowded housing conditions and packed transport buses have increased the risk of contagion for California’s estimated 800,000 farmworkers. Assemblymen Robert Rivas and Eduardo Garcia are pushing four bills in the state legislature that would help struggling breadwinners in California. Included in the package of bills is “a $25 million expansion of the California Farmworker Housing Assistance Tax Credit.”

WICHITA, Kan. – ‘Wichita renters face looming eviction after $600 unemployment, federal ban expire’ Megan Stringer with The Wichita Eagle

Many Kansas residents will face previously-avoided evictions in the coming months because of the recent expiration of unemployment benefits and the federal moratorium on evictions. People like Michael Martinez, who must pay about $3,000 in back rent by Aug. 11, have already started receiving court hearings for evictions. Eviction filings are coming in at a lower rate than before the pandemic, but Kansas Legal Services staff attorney Steve Minson said he “doesn’t think it will stay that way for long.”

GOLDSBORO, N.C. – ‘Your incarcerated loved one is hospitalized for COVID-19. You might not be notified until it’s too late.’ Hannah Critchfield with North Carolina Health News

Family members of inmates hospitalized with COVID-19 might not be notified because prison officials across the country are not obligated to  notify them. North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesperson John Bull said notifying relatives would present “unacceptable security risks” because of the prisoner’s presence at an unsecured location. The emergency contact must be notified only if the hospitalized prisoner is “seriously ill” or dead.

August 7, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. – ‘KY State Fair limited to competitors. 516 new COVID-19 cases. Mask rule extended.’ Alex Acquisto with Lexington Herald-Leader

The state-wide mask mandate in Kentucky was extended on Thursday for 30 more days by Gov. Andy Beshear. He also announced that the state fair, set for August 20-30 in Louisville, will only be open to “credentialed participants,” not the public. Beshear called this decision a “necessary step to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases.” The state registered 516 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 33,254.

RALEIGH, N.C. – ‘Gov. Cooper: Trump’s coronavirus strategy ‘nonexistent’’ Bryan Anderson with Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper criticized President Donald Trump’s “nonexistent” federal strategy to address the pandemic. But he does support Trump’s push for a vaccine. “I always put North Carolina first,” he said. A five-week extension to the state’s reopening plan was added on Wednesday, ordering venues like bars and movie theaters to remain closed and requiring face masks in public.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – ‘4 cases of COVID-19 reported at Anchorage Pioneer Home’ Annie Berman with Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage Pioneer Home, a state-supported elder-care facility, had its first four cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, first identified Wednesday afternoon. This Pioneer Home, along with the five other locations in Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks and Palmer, closed to visitors in March, and while some of these facilities partially reopened to familial visits in mid-July, the Anchorage location remained closed. 

ORLANDO, Fla. – ‘DeSantis’s Amended Executive Order Speeds Up Foreclosures, Evictions’ Molly Duerig with Spectrum News

The April 2 executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, which instated a moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures, was amended on July 29 to exclude non-COVID-19-related evictions and foreclosures. Now, some homeowners are already receiving notices for court dates, like Susan McLean, whose trial is scheduled over Zoom. McLean’s attorney, Ryan Torrens, had already been through a Zoom trial, and cited its logistical issues, like difficulty “introducing documents into evidence,” as an argument for in-person hearings.

August 6, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. – ‘End of nursing home stipends could cause mass staff shortage’ by Teddy Rosenbluth with Concord Monitor

Nurses and other front-line workers in long-term healthcare facilities received a weekly stipend as part of Gov. Chris Sununu’s Long Term Stabilization plan since early April, but with the program’s expiration on July 31, concerns of resulting staff shortages have resurfaced. Sununu’s initiative “granted $300 weekly stipends to full-time front-line health care workers and $150 to part-time workers.”. Staffing shortages were an issue before the pandemic and amplified when it began. New Hampshire Health Care Association President Brendan Williams said “the pandemic has intensified shortages, as many front-line workers resigned due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or spreading the virus to their families.”

DES MOINES, Iowa – ‘UI Health Care Looks For COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Participants’ by Kassidy Arena with Iowa Public Radio

Researchers with University of Iowa Health Care are seeking 250 participants for phase one of their COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. The study’s principal investigator, Patricia Winokur said they are “particularly interested in participants from the Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities” given that these communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Some participants will serve as a control group, receiving a placebo, while others will receive a vaccine.

RIDGWAY, Colo. – ‘Visitors flock to outdoors during pandemic’ by Liz Teitz with Ouray
County Plaindealer

Safety concerns related to the pandemic have turned the San Juan Mountain region into a hotspot destination for Coloradans who want a vacation within driving distance. This spike in outdoor activity has led to a record year for both campgrounds and outfitters. Road trip travel has only decreased about 3% this year while air travel has fallen 75%, according to a national AAA survey. The low gas prices of the last three summers has also contributed to the preference of road trips.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – ‘Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive ahead of Trump visit’ by Farnoush Amiri (and Dan Sewell) with Associated Press

Gov. Mike DeWine was supposed to meet President Donald Trump on Thursday in Cleveland but tested positive for COVID-19 and began his return to Columbus before the president arrived. DeWine showed no symptoms. Messages of support began to pour in, from President Trump, through his secretary, to Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, who has praised DeWine’s pandemic response efforts. DeWine and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt are the only U.S. governors to test positive for the virus so far.

August 5, 2020

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. – ‘Choctaw Indians bear brunt of virus outbreak in Mississippi’ by Leah Willingham with Associated Press

Almost 10% of the Choctaw tribe, the only federally-recognized American Indian tribe in Mississippi, have tested positive for COVID-19 as the virus has ravaged the 11,000-member community, causing more than 75 deaths. The measures taken by the tribal government to stop the spread have caused stagnation in their “once-flourishing economy.” The state allowed casinos to reopen more than two months ago, but the tribe has kept them closed. 

DALLAS – ‘How ‘pop up camp’ brings fun and opportunity to South Dallas kids during the pandemic’ by Brooklynn Cooper with Dallas Morning News

The “Pop-up Camp” eliminates many of the safety concerns of a conventional, weekly summer camp by being outside and adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, giving children of minority communities in South Dallas an opportunity to keep their minds engaged and learn about leadership and problem solving during the summer. Frazier Revitalization, a nonprofit that serves the Frazier community, teamed up with Networking Knights to organize the camps. Community liaison Quincy Guinyard said the camps give the children “an environment to think outside of the box and see people that care about them outside the home.”

RENO, Nev. – ‘Gov. Sisolak’s Long-Term COVID-19 Mitigation Strategy’ by Lucia Starbuck with KUNR Public Radio

With the aim to tighten restrictions for high-risk areas, while still allowing the rest of Nevada to operate, Gov. Steve Sisolak presented a long term COVID-19 mitigation plan that will allow individual counties to independently develop plans to address outbreaks. Sisolak argues that the plan is necessary to avoid reaching another budget deficit like the $1.2 billion from the first wave of the pandemic. Counties will be considered an “elevated risk for the spread of COVID-19” if they do not meet certain criteria, like having “a case rate lower than 50 per 100,000 people over a 14 day period.”

TAKOMA PARK, Md. – ‘Much to Consider, Much At Stake in Who Makes School Closing Decisions and How’ by Elizabeth Shwe with Maryland Matters

An emergency order issued by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. on Monday overturned an order prohibiting in-person classes at private and religious schools in Montgomery County, despite months of leaving reopening decisions up to local health officials. His rationale was that the county’s closure decision was “overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.” Local health officials still have the authority to close individual schools if they are deemed “unsafe.”

August 4, 2020

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – ‘Hilton Head area hospitals cancel COVID-19 testing due to Tropical Storm Isaias’ by Sam Ogozalek with The Island Packet

The threat of Tropical Storm Isaias caused hospitals across Coastal Carolina to cancel outpatient COVID-19 testing, which requires a physician’s order but no appointment. Daisy Burroughs, Tenet Healthcare spokesperson and owner of two hospitals, said that the testing should reopen by Tuesday. Beaufort County is under a tropical storm warning until Monday afternoon. 

CINCINNATI – ‘When learning is virtual, what happens to the kids who don’t sign into class?’ by Monique John with WCPO

Educators in Ohio have seen a decline in attendance of students after classes moved online because of COVID-19, and in some cases, students have stopped attending completely. A lack of WiFi, phones and computers have been attributed by educators as the primary reason for this dropoff. Riverview East Academy teacher Lindsey Wittich said, “in the younger grades (approximately from Kindergarten to sixth grade), 75% of our students didn’t have internet access, didn’t have computers.”

SPOKANE, Wa. – ‘Spokane County tops 4,000 coronavirus cases, but daily count may be plateauing’ by Arielle Dreher with The Spokesman-Review

The average of new COVID-19 cases per day in early August has been lower than the amount at the end of July, leaving officials like Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz “cautiously optimistic” that those trends will continue. The majority of confirmed cases in Spokane County have been among 20 to 40 year olds, but only two COVID-19-related deaths of people under 50 have been reported. Lutz said the county “will definitely be seeing wearing face coverings throughout the remainder of 2020,” and it will continue to be recommended until a vaccine is available.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – ‘New Kentucky coronavirus cases dip to 323 Monday. Rate of positive tests at 5.18%’ by Alex Acquisto with Lexington Herald-Leader

After  days recording over 500 and 600 new cases, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Monday that the daily number of COVID-19 cases had lowered to 323, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 31,508. The governor attributed the drop in new cases to the Kentucky-wide mask mandate he enacted on July 10. In the past two weeks, the rate of new infections has slowed to an increase of about 5% per week, he said.  

August 3, 2020

MIAMI – ‘Florida crosses the threshold of 7,000 COVID-19 deaths as Isaias approaches’ by Lautaro Grinspan with el Nuevo Herald (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English).

The focus across Florida has split between the potential threat of Hurricane Isaias and the over 9,500 new COVID-19 cases as COVID-related deaths surpass 7,000. In preparation for the storm, the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced Wednesday that “all state-funded test sites would be closed as of Thursday at 5 p.m.,” but Gov. Ron DeSantis later said that the only testing sites to remain closed would be on the state’s east coast. All test sites funded by Miami-Dade County and the CIty of Miami were also closed.

LONG BEACH, Calif. – ‘Report shows how healthy Long Beach was before coronavirus’ by Sebastian Echeverry with Long Beach Post

A state-mandated health assessment of Long Beach conducted in 2019 may help explain why different parts of the city have been more affected by COVID-19 than others. “The health disparities that existed in Long Beach prior to the pandemic certainly have made this public-health crisis worse,” said Long Beach Forward Executive Director Christine Petit. Some of the most prominent health issues plaguing the area in the health assessment are “diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke,” added Petit, who led the collection of the data along with other local organizations.

SAN ANTONIO – ‘Rio Grande Detention Center Detainees, Relatives Troubled By COVID-19 Outbreak’ by María Méndez

Detainees at Rio Grande Detention Center fear authorities haven’t done enough to avoid COVID-19 contagion after many of them have requested and been denied tests. In the City of Laredo, where the detention center is located, the health department ordered all centers “to provide testing to all employees and detainees,” but detainee Armando Vargas said that, after a nurse told him infection could occur without symptoms, she refused to give him a test. Some alternatives suggested to keeping the detainees all in one place have been releasing them on bond or putting them under house arrest.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – ‘COVID-19 may have opened the door for landlords to harass tenants, advocates say’ by Rebecca Liebson with The State (Sign up for free to read)

SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition has seen an increase in calls from people in South Carolina who do not fit the traditional “mold” of victims of landlord sexual abuse. Executive Director Jada Charley said that it may be caused by the COVID-19-related job losses. “In a pandemic it’s very important to keep your housing so they might be more motivated than normal to do whatever it takes,” she said. A federal task force to combat this sexual harassment in housing was created in 2018 in a joint effort by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice.

Related: Liebson on the imminent ‘avalanche of eviction filings’ due to COVID-19

July 31, 2020

HONOLULU – ‘Officials Weigh New Restrictions As Virus Count Spikes On Oahu’ by Eleni Gill with Honolulu Civil Beat

Daily records for new COVID-19 cases continue to be set as state and local officials consider the measures that should be taken to best mitigate impact of the virus. Gov. David Ige is advocating against a full shutdown, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is searching for creative ways to minimize infection rates at beaches and parks without closing them down. Community transmission is the main cause of the virus spread, not transmission associated with travel, on Oahu, the island which houses Honolulu.

SAINT PAUL – ‘We crammed Governor Tim Walz’s entire COVID-19 back-to-school plan into one cheat sheet. (The test comes this fall.)’ by Becky Z. Dernbach with The Sahan Journal

Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz announced on Thursday that local school districts can individually decide whether and how in-person learning would begin. Included in this announcement was a “decision matrix” that calculates the case rate from each county based on the number of cases in the last 14 days out of every 10,000 people. The results of this matrix serve as a recommendation rather than a ruling, as districts will still have the ability to make the reopening decision independently.

NEW ORLEANS – ‘Coronavirus-related inflammatory syndrome seen in children appears in adult, LSU researchers found’ by Emily Woodruff with The Advocate

A 31-year-old woman died from multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS), a late and deadly overreaction of the immune system that usually occurs in children, even after she had healed from COVID-19. The condition has only been a concern for children up until now, but LSU Pathologist Dr. Sharon Fox said it is “important to report that it can happen to an adult.” Children with MIS have been treated successfully with immunoglobulins and steroids, but the syndrome is less likely to be recognized, and thus harder to treat, in adults.

MYRTLE BEACH – ‘These Myrtle Beach area nursing homes are seeing dramatic rise in coronavirus cases’ by Mary Norkol with The Sun News

Positive COVID-19 cases have surged in two Horry County, SC, nursing homes over the past month. With more than 12 new cases each. The drastic increases in cases in the previous month at Compass Post Acute Rehabilitation in Conway and NHC Healthcare Garden City in Murrells Inlet have totaled more than all their reported cases in the last four months. The rate of new cases has been decreasing in Myrtle Beach recently, but COVID-related deaths have increased.

July 30, 2020

DALLAS – ‘A Denton Couple Wrote A Bilingual Book To Encourage Kids To Wear Masks’ by Alejandra Martinez with Art&Seek from KERA

Martha Samaniego Calderón and Dan Heiman, parents of a 7 and 11 year old in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, self-published a bilingual children’s book, in Spanish and English, to show kids the importance of wearing masks during COVID-19. Their daughter Natalia was the inspiration for the book, because she was nervous about wearing a mask whenever the family went out. The story follows “a young Latina who explores her emotions during the pandemic,” donning five different masks that represent social issues like xenophobia.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – ‘Like COVID-19, the burden of air pollution is not evenly shared in Kansas City’ by Brittany Callan with The Beacon

Kansas City has long registered high levels of ground-level ozone pollution, particularly in communities close to highways or industrial areas, which tend to be Black or Latinix. New research suggests a correlation between this type of air contamination and cases of COVID-19. Poor air quality linked to increase of ground ozone has been proven to cause increased susceptibility to viral respiratory infections, like the coronavirus. The American Lung Association released a report giving an “ozone grade of F” to Kansas City in April.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – ‘‘We’ve seen a surge’: Beaufort hospital reports COVID-19 uptick but stable bed capacity’ by Sam Ogozalek with The Island Packet

Beaufort Memorial Hospital has seen its number of COVID-19 patients almost double in one week, from 26 last Thursday to 45 on Wednesday. Despite the surge, CEO Russel Baxley said the hospital is “not overwhelmed,” as it still has plenty of beds without the need for the state-approved field hospital plan, which would make a temporary health care site out of the Beaufort Middle School gym. Baxley said the reason for all the extra beds is that coronavirus patients are coming in and out of the hospital quicker than during the initial wave of the pandemic.

AKRON, Ohio – ‘From lonely deaths to high funeral costs, COVID-19 has changed the way families grieve’ by H.L. Comeriato with The Devil Strip

The pandemic has changed the way families grieve and celebrate the lives of their loved ones, and, in some cases, it has prevented them from providing a proper burial. The Final Farewell Project, a nonprofit organization meant to help with the cost of funeral services for families in need, has experienced a “noticeable spike” in calls requesting help due to COVID-19. For others, the virus has isolated deathly-ill patients from their mourning families. Sommerville Funeral Services Director Margo Sommerville said, “We want to be able to love or touch just that one last time, and COVID has removed that for families.”

July 29, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘COVID-19 claims youngest victim in North Dakota as state announces Bismarck area task force’ by Michelle Griffith (and Jeremy Turley) with The Forum

Despite no underlying health conditions, a woman in her 20s died due to COVID-19, bringing the state total to 100 deaths. The news comes alongside Gov. Doug Burgum’s announcement of a new task force aimed at controlling the coronavirus in the Bismarck metropolitan area. The committee will include local and state representatives, business and health care leaders. As of Tuesday, all counties in the state have reported positive cases.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – ‘As CARES Act expires, SC prepares for an ‘avalanche of eviction filings’’ by Rebecca Liebson with The State

The federal CARES Act, which provided safeguards to tenants across the country against evictions due to COVID-related woes, expired July 24. Landlords cannot evict tenants until the end of August, but South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center Director Sue Berkowitz said “we’re going to see an avalanche of eviction filings start to pour in.” A side effect, according to Lila Anna Sauls, President and CEO of Columbia-based nonprofit Homeless No More is that multiple families may crowd into one apartment unit to avoid eviction, but this would increase the possibility for infection.

REDDING, Calif. – ‘Hotline launches to support parents and caregivers through COVID-19’ by Nada Atieh with Redding Record Searchlight

Hotline for Hope, a parental advisory call-in service, was launched to aid parents of children up to 17 during the pandemic using “tips, resources and evidence-based programs.” Trained professionals are in place to give applicable advice to parents in stressful situations; some of the advice includes “Talking through feelings of isolation” and “strategies for distance learning and returning to the classroom.”

MIAMI – ‘Sex workers in Miami were already living on the sidelines and then the coronavirus arrived’ by Lautaro Grinspan with el Nuevo Herald (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English).

COVID-19 has lowered the demand for sex work and caused economic uncertainty among those who depend on it to make ends meet. The combination of an intensified risk of personal contact and high unemployment rates leading to less money spent on services has left a gap in the income of thousands of sex workers around the nation. Many of these workers were excluded from receiving a stimulus check due to their lack of recent tax returns.

July 28, 2020

MODESTO, Calif. – ‘Despite complications due to COVID-19, census outreach in Stanislaus County continues’ by Kristina Karisch with The Modesto Bee (Sign up for free to read)

Stanislaus County’s census committee is working to increase its historically low self-response rate, despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented. For the 2010 Census, only  66.7% of residents completed the form, but as of July the California Census Office reported a self-response rate of 64.9%. To increase participation, the county has partnered with local organizations like El Concilio, which does community outreach to explain the benefits of the census to the public. Because of COVID-19, El Concilio and other organizations are reaching out to community leaders and sending virtual updates, with census and coronavirus information bundled together.   

MINNEAPOLIS – ‘‘I can’t teach if I’m dead’: Minnesota teachers of color say distance learning is best option for fall’ by Becky Z. Dernbach

The coronavirus has disproportionately affected the Latino community, leading many immigrant families of students and teachers to prefer the option of distance learning over in-person instruction. Kindergarten teacher Veronica Castellanos Vasquez says she doesn’t know how her elementary-school-aged daughters’ “bodies will respond” if they were to be exposed to the virus amid school reopenings, but she does not want to take the risk. The economic pressures on households like Castellanos’, where only one parent has a job, complicates their decision to  send their children back to school, given that it would increase the risk of the entire family getting sick.

SAN ANTONIO – ‘Underfunded By Billions, Local RGV Officials Aim To Increase Historically Low Census Response’ by Dominic Anthony Walsh with Texas Public Radio

A Rio Grande Valley hospital system overwhelmed by COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of an increased census response rate for 2020, according to local officials. The board chairman for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Carlos Cardenas, believes that the region was undercounted by about 300,000 people in 2010. “The Rio Grande Valley, if it were accurately counted, could gain as much as $473 million annually — or $4.7 billion over the next 10 years,” said Cardenas.

AKRON, Ohio – ‘Why the Summit County Fair is proceeding despite the pandemic’ by Abbey Marshall with The Devil Strip

The Summit County Fair is still on schedule for July 29, even with the threat of COVID-19 looming. Gov. Mike DeWine and former Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton suggested that all fairs only host 4-H and FFA activities, though the addition of food and rides will allow the county to break even as it has in the past. To comply with state guidelines, including a “safety break,” or an hour closing of rides each day for cleaning.

July 27, 2020

MIAMI – ‘It’s Official: Miami-Dade Exceeds 100,000 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases’ by Lautaro Grinspan with el Nuevo Herald (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English).

Miami-Dade reached 100,000 positive COVID-19 infections on Saturday, which represent 25% of Florida’s cases and places the county as the most affected in the state. Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health reported 124 more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 5,777. As readily-available testing becomes more accessible across the state, 59,842 new tests were reported Saturday out of 3,340,900 total tests administered since the pandemic’s inception.

HONOLULU – ‘Lessons From Hurricane Iniki Help Coast Guard Prepare For Douglas’ by Kevin Knodell for Honolulu Civil Beat

The Hawaii Coast Guard is preparing for the aftermath of Hurricane Douglas despite a shortage of manpower. A hurricane usually prompts additional personnel to be flown in to “start dispatching more ships to an area at risk,” but the pandemic has led the Coast Guard to only rely on on-hand staff. The smaller crews must still carry out standard hurricane protocols, like conducting the inventory of ports and getting ships out of the disaster’s path.

MILWAUKEE – ‘Who Will Get a Coronavirus Vaccine First — And Who Decides?’ by Maddie Burakoff with Spectrum News Milwaukee

Who determines who gets an eventual COVID-19 vaccine first? University of Wisconsin Madison Professor Paul Kelleher says it is “pretty much a given” that the first group to receive the vaccine is healthcare workers. State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee member Jonathan Temte believes that states may end up making the decision with allocations given by the federal government.

PORT ORANGE, Fla. – ‘Small Landlords Suffer, Too, During Eviction Moratorium’ by Molly Duerig with Spectrum News Orlando

Federal and state-wide eviction moratoriums ordered in response to COVID-19-related job losses eased the stress of renters but caused suffering among landlords, many of whom depend solely on the rent they collect from tenants and subletters to pay their own bills. Some residents have taken advantage of the temporary-restriction, like a subletter who, in January, moved into a property managed by Peggy Parker, 79, but has yet to pay a single month of rent or utilities.

July 24, 2020

WICHITA, Kansas – ‘Teachers rally for stronger plan to reopen schools, push for ‘science-based metrics’by Megan Stringer with The Wichita Eagle 

Carey Gerdes, a sixth-grade science teacher, wants to see more science and COVID-19 facts being brought to the discussion about reopening schools. She and about 50 other educators rallied outside of Wichita North High School on Thursday while a Board of Education meeting was in session, calling for a delayed in-person start to the school year and better guidance if cases continue to rise in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Board members decided to delay the start of school until after Labor Day, per recommendation from Gov. Laura Kelly, but Gerdes still doesn’t think it’s enough for a safe return. 

POCATELLO, Idaho – ‘Little touts health district COVID responses in Pocatelloby Kyle Pfannenstiel with Post Register

Idaho Gov. Brad Little doubled down on shifting toward local and regional government responses to the pandemic while announcing on Thursday that he is keeping the state in Stage 4 of its reopening plan as cases rise. During a tour of the state’s four regional health districts, he praised The Eastern and Southeastern Idaho Public Health districts’ collaboration that resulted in a tiered pandemic response that kept the count of cases low until recently. Bonneville County, in Eastern Idaho, has seen an increase of 39% on its total case count since Saturday, while cases in the entire state continue to rise rapidly. 

DETROIT, Mich. – ‘Active COVID-19 cases in Michigan prisons are down, but experts say threat isn’t over’ by Angie Jackson (and Kristi Tanner) with Detroit Free Press

The Michigan prison system has experienced a drop in active COVID-19 cases after the virus infected 10% of the inmates, but experts are not letting their guard down. In May, the Michigan Department of Corrections ranked highest in the nation for deaths related to the coronavirus. University of Michigan School of Public Health Associate Professor Emily Martin said a combination of “population density, poor ventilation and underlying health conditions among prisoners combine for a ‘perfect storm of factors’” to inflate transmission in an incarcerated setting.

HONOLULU, Hawaii – ‘Hawaii Reports Record 55 COVID-19 Cases In One Day’ by Eleni Gill with Honolulu Civil Beat

The state record for daily new coronavirus cases was set with 55 new positive results on Thursday, breaking the previous  record of 42 cases set on July 11. The state’s first wave started in March and went through May, while the second wave picked up in June. Hawaii Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said plans to reopen schools and other restrictions may have to be reevaluated “if the prevalence of the COVID-19 disease continues to grow.

DALLAS, Texas – ‘Canceled State Fair means more than just missed entertainment opportunities. For some Fair Park residents, it’s lost income.by Brooklynn Cooper and Obed Manuel, Report for America alum, with Dallas Morning News 

Thousands of Fair Park area residents and business owners won’t earn crucial income from working the Texas State Fair after the 24-day celebration was canceled for the first time since World War II. While Perry Eakles, who has directed traffic at Fair Park for seven years, will miss the $3,500 he makes each season, he has other income to rely on. Many of his neighbors are not as fortunate. The Fair Park area is already suffering from the impact on COVID-19, where almost 40% of its residents live below the poverty level, according to census data. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

  • MILWAUKEE, Wis. – ‘Research roundup: What have we learned about coronavirus recently?’ by Maddie Burakoff with Spectrum Milwaukee 
    Recent revelations in the research of COVID-19 have provided results that contradict  what was believed in the earlier stages of the pandemic. A South Korean study by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and university researchers suggests that children 10 and older transmit the virus at a similar rate to adults. Meanwhile, a Harvard researcher-led study countered early results concerning blood type and the development of severe coronavirus symptoms, finding “no connection” between the variables.
  • ATHENS, Ohio – ‘From college town to Ohio River city, virus spikes in rural counties by Ceili Doyle with The Columbus Dispatch 
    COVID-19 cases are spreading to rural counties across the state despite adherence to cities’ mask mandates. Athens, one of the main rural areas affected, has seen an increase to almost eight times the total cases (284) from July 2 to July 22. One local health representative partially attributed the spread to “a lack of masks while traveling.”
  • SPOKANE, Wa. – ‘More Spokane residents adhere to mask mandate, but it may be weeks before case counts decrease by Arielle Dreher with The Spokesman-Review
    Spokane, Washington’s health district found that about 93% of residents are wearing face coverings in retail stores since the statewide mask mandate was enacted, up from about 60% in previous surveys. Spokane Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz, who believes the region still hasn’t reached its peak in cases, said even if everyone adhered to all precautions, data would not reflect a change for a few weeks. Of the COVID-19 tests administered in Spokane, 9.2% are positive, meanwhile the statewide average is 5.8%. To advance in reopening, counties must be at a positive test rate of 2%. 
  • NEW ORLEANS, La. – ‘Coronavirus infections in Louisiana were 16 times higher than case counts showed, CDC says by Emily Woodruff with Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
    According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of routine blood screenings using about 1,200 samples in the first week of April, there were at least 267,000 people with COVID-19 in Louisiana at the time, 16 times more than the 17,000 cases reported as of April 8 based on positive tests. The survey also looked at samples from nine other regions across the country and found that COVID-19 infections were anywhere from six to 24 times higher than originally counted, based on antibody tests. This data helps officials understand how deadly the virus is while working to slow its spread by guiding ongoing precautionary measures.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

  • CHARLESTON, W.V. – Kids in WV are going hungry as state touts summer feeding plan by Amelia Ferrell Knisely
  • RENO, Nevada – ‘Nevada lawmakers make steep cuts to education and health services, fail to heavily tax mines’ by Paul Boger & Report for America corps member Lucia Starbuck with KUNR Public Radio 
    In a special session that lasted 12 days, five bills were passed by Nevada lawyers to address the state’s massive budget shortfall created by the pandemic. Budget cuts are steep in education and health services, but a Democrat-backed bill to increase taxes on mining was killed by Republicans.
  • HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – ‘‘We’re trying to survive’: Hilton Head theater told to stop private movie screenings’ by Sam Ogozalek with The Island Packet
    Recently, Park Plaza Cinema began to offer private screenings, which allowed small groups to bring movies from home to watch for $100 to $150, in an effort to reopen after the closure of “non-essential” businesses in March. All operations by the theater were ordered to stop by the S.C. Department of Commerce. And on Monday, Park Plaza Cinema announced over Facebook that it would be closing indefinitely. Meanwhile, Brian Symmes, a representative of the governor, said there were “no updates on reopening plans for theaters as of Tuesday.”
    • Related: Read Abbey Marshall’s piece on problems theaters in Akron, Ohio are facing as limited re-openings are allowed, including maintaining social distancing and a lack of product because of studios pushing back release dates.
  • BLANDING, Utah – ‘Census officials blame COVID-19 for Navajo Nation’s low response rate, which is under 10%’ by Kate Groetzinger with KUER
    Sixty-six percent of Utah households have completed the 2020 Census, but on Navajo Nation, where most homes don’t have an address, that number is 9.5%. Because of the pandemic, workers who were delivering packets with an ID number to fill out the Census to residents on the reservation had to stop after three days. A regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau, Cathy Lacy, said this was one factor that led to low response rates in many tribal nations.
  • COLUMBUS, Ga. – ‘With no mandate in Georgia, these Columbus businesses are making their own mask rules’ by Adrienne Underwood with Ledger-Enquirer 
    Since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ruled out the possibility of a mask-mandate last week while also prohibiting local leaders from imposing similar policy in their municipalities, Adrienne Underwood reports for the Ledger-Enquirer that Columbus business owners are taking pandemic prevention into their own hands. Roughly half a dozen local businesses and dozens of national chains in the area are requiring masks as of mid-July. Underwood explores how business owners are adapting to their newfound responsibility.
  • PHOENIX, Ariz. – ‘‘I need to work and pay rent’: Workers are seeking surge test sites for faster results’ by Megan Taros with The Arizona Republic
    Workers in Arizona are seeking COVID-19 testing sites with quicker results for many reasons, like job security and peace of mind for others. Members of the local Latino community are particularly affected by lockdown measures – only 16.2% of Latinos have jobs that enable them to work from home, data shared by the Economic Policy Institute shows. This “surge testing” is important to them because many jobs are requiring workers to test negative before returning to work. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

  • Almost 70,000 North Carolina voters have requested absentee ballots for the November election, four times more than at this time in 2016, according to politics and history professor Michael Bitzer. Jordan Wilkie reports for Carolina Public Press that this increase has led to legal, political and procedural changes that are reshaping the election, all in a year when voter turnout is predicted to break records. He explores the administrative hurdles that county boards of elections are facing in a state with one of the lowest historic rates of mail voting, as well as their consequences due to the pandemic. Read more.
    • Related: Read GroundTruth’s Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow Nik Popli’s report on the lawsuits and court rulings due to the pandemic that will dictate how Americans will cast their ballots and if they will even be counted.
  • Nicole Javorsky, reporting for City Limits, spoke with Danielle Ompad, an epidemiologist at NYU School of Global Public Health, and other medical professionals to compile a guide to the most common questions about COVID-19 antibody testing, which determines if a person had the coronavirus by finding antibodies, proteins the body produces in response to an antigen in the blood like COVID-19. The results of a May 2 survey on antibody testing showed that in New York state, 12.3% of the 15,000 tests administered came back positive. In New York City, 19.9% tested positive. Read more.
  • In Brittany Callan’s third story of The Beacon’s series on how COVID-19 impacts Kansas City’s communities of color, she explores the additional challenges the pandemic has created among the Latinx community – members of which contract the virus at a rate 5.7 times higher than non-Hispantic residents for cases in which ethnicity was reported. Callan explores the stigma of testing positive, lack of access to identification and the efforts of other states and cities that are expanding health care coverage of immigrants. Read more.
    • Related: Check out part one of Callan’s series that looks at limited testing for Black and Hispanic communities of Kansas City, and part two where she explores health disparities in the Black community.
  • State orders prohibiting utility companies from charging late fees to customers during the pandemic are likely coming to an end at the end of the month, reports Adam Wagner (with his colleague Charlie Innis) for the News and Observer. According to the N.C. Utilities Commission, Utility companies are currently owed about $257 million in unpaid bills accrued since March, when Gov. Roy Cooper, gave the orders forbidding service cuts. Sign-Up for free to read more.
  • For Sahan Journal, Becky Z. Dernbach reports on a free food box program in Minnesota that allows families to receive up to 14 meals per child each week. Carried out by Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools, the program has served over 7 million meals since the onset of the pandemic, with “no immigration questions asked.” Read more.

Monday, July 20, 2020

  • In five charts, Jackie Botts shows how the pandemic is affecting income inequality in California, further separating the haves and the have-nots of “both ‘the richest and poorest’ state in the nation,” according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. For CalMatters, Botts’ analysis explores poverty before the pandemic, food insecurity and the growing incomes of the rich while also enumerating which workers were hit the hardest and the inability of citizens to pay rent. Read more.
  • For the Detroit Free Press, Angie Jackson reports that incarcerated people and those who advocate for them are raising concerns about excessive heat in Michigan’s 29 state prisons, the majority of which do not have air conditioning. While this is an annual issue, COVID-19 precautions, like the thick cloth masks prisoners are required to wear, only make it worse. Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said staff are taking steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, but prisoners are worried for their health. Read more.
  • Lautaro Grinspan and Yadira Lopez highlight the toll of COVID-19 in the ZIP code with the highest poverty rate in Miami-Dade County. Problems for the community even prior to the initial wave have persisted, or worsened: lost jobs, especially in the service industry, along with hunger and sustainability issues are making a bad situation worse. Read more.
  • An increase in buying from Black-owned businesses in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd helped Akwete Tyehimba and Pan-African Connection, her bookstore in southern Dallas, bounce back from the pandemic. For the Dallas Morning News, Brooklynn Cooper reports that in the two-and-a-half months of being closed, she worked hard to accommodate customers by selling online, offering curbside pickup and deferring her personal mortgage to pay the store’s rent. Read more.
  • Nader Ammari, 56, of Turlock, Calif., undergoes kidney dialysis twice a week after surviving two weeks in March on a ventilator with COVID-19, reports ChrisAnna Mink for the Modesto Bee. Down from going for the treatments thrice weekly, Ammari is just happy to be alive, but his long recovery from a severe case of the coronavirus is not unusual. As the pandemic continues, doctors and researchers are learning more about the variety of acute and long-term symptoms of the virus. Read more.
    • Related: Read ChrisAnna Mink’s original report from mid-March on Nader Ammari, the Italian man put in a medically-induced coma for 13 days after he and his wife were exposed to the virus in their cabin on a flight home from Venice.

Friday, July 17, 2020

  • Kentucky’s total number of COVID-19 cases rose above 21,000 on Thursday as Gov. Andy Beshear announced 413 new cases, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Five new deaths have brought the total to 650. Beshear aims to prevent the “devastation” happening elsewhere across the country but says his biggest threat is state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who issued a motion to overturn any current and block any future COVID-19 orders by the governor. Sign-Up for Free to Read.
  • In March, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan put a moratorium on evictions that will expire next week, reports Sarah Kim for WYPR. Tenant advocates warn there will be a wave of evictions and want Gov. Hogan to extend the moratorium or direct more federal CARES money into rent relief, expanding beyond the $30 million in funds he used in late June on eviction prevention. Meredith Greif, an assistant professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University says evictions will have serious mental health repercussions, a process “‘traumatic from start to finish.’” Read more.
  • For The Spokesman-Review, Arielle Dreher reports on the local reaction to the decision by the federal government to have hospitals report COVID-19 data directly to their state instead of  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On July 10, the Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines for hospitals to report data, giving the 3,000 hospitals that were submitting data through the CDC five days to change their reporting system. In order to access federal supplies, including the antiviral drug being used to treat the virus, remdesivir, hospitals must report their COVID-19 statistics. Read more.
  • Kim Bojórquez reports for The Sacremento Bee that common stressors among Latino immigrants like low wages, discrimination, pressure to assimilate and insecuirty of their immigration status are being exaccerbated by the pandemic and the tension it has created. California Latinos disproportionately work in-person jobs and are infected at higher rates by COVID-19 than other populations, making up 54.7% of the state’s cases but 39% of its population.At the same time, Spanish-speaking psychiatrists that could offer help to Latinos struggling with their mental health are under-represented. Read more.
  • For St. Louis Public Radio, Eric Schmid reports that a single day high of 47 new COVID-19 cases in the Metro East neighborhood has raised the possibility of reinforcing lockdown protocols to slow the spread. A return to stricter regulations would force communities on the mend from the first lockdown back into uncertainty. East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern said, “financially, that’s devastation for us, potentially closing up shop.” Read more.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

  • Las Cruces teachers are not comfortable with returning to in-person teaching as COVID-19 cases increase in New Mexico, reports Miranda Cyr for Las Cruces Sun-News. According to a National Education Association survey of 1,700 school staff members, 54% of educators would feel more secure if schools began the year completely online, despite the district’s proposed hybrid model. Read more.
  • Because most North Carolina jails do not allow video visitation, 21,301 children have only been able to communicate with an incarcerated parent via phone call since visitors were barred from prisons nationwide on March 16, reports Hannah Critchfield for North Carolina Health News. Advocates are working to help children like Marley Bennett, 11, whose father is at Orange Correctional Center, maintain a consistent relationship. Read more.
  • Idaho is one of the first states in which the U.S. Census Bureau is starting its in-person outreach, which was put on hold because of the pandemic, reports Rachel Cohen for Boise State Public Radio. Wearing masks, Census workers from across the state will knock on the doors of households that have not self-reported to the Census, among other quality control measures. Read more.
  • Texans who cast their ballots in-person for Tuesday’s primary runoff got a small preview of what a socially distant presidential election could look like, reports Mallory Falk for KERA. One voter was reassured by the precautions taken at his polling place in El Paso’s west side, such as being given a Q-tip to touch screens. High voter turnout in November, though, will mean that maintaining social distance and moving quickly through the process will not be easy. Read more.
  • For Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, Emily Woodruff reports that some Louisiana hospital systems have decreased the number of available tests at community testing sites to preserve supplies, while urgent care clinics have also limited testing to only those showing symptoms of COVID-19. Daily tests in the state have never been higher, but according to doctors and officials, rates aren’t meeting the surging demand. Experts say a quick turnaround time is needed to stop asymptomatic spreaders. Read more.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

  • For WYSO Public Radio, Chris Welter interviews Greene County, Ohio, coroner and physician Dr. Kevin Sharrett about all things COVID-19 in the area. Sharrett advises his patients not to take any unnecessary risks, and warns that if the pandemic is not taken seriously the community risks being “overwhelmed.” Read more.
  • With other Treasure Valley health leaders, St. Luke’s Health System CEO Chris Roth, expressed concern that unless population behaviors change, increases in COVID-19 cases will continue, reports Rachel Cohen for Boise State Public Radio. About half of Idahos total cases appeared within the past two weeks. Roth said that according to his projections, “COVID-19-related admissions will double every two weeks.” Read more.
  • Conor Morris reports for Cleveland.com on pop-up testing sites for COVID-19 in Cleveland, and the barriers that remain for people of color, residents of low-income neighborhoods and  or those who do not have access to transportation. One doctor says partnering with organizations trusted by the community is key to locating low-barrier testing sites. Another says pop-up testing is helpful, but not a permanent solution for expanding access. Read more.
  • For The Wichita Eagle, Megan Stringer found answers to common questions about workplace safety pertaining to COVID-19 by consulting with a lawyer who practices labor law and a Wichita attorney who works in employment law. This resource comes after over a month of return-to-work allowances, during which employees in Sedgwick County, Kansas, saw no restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Read more in Spanish or in English.
  • Other stories worth reading:
    • For the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, José M. Encarnación Martínez reports on how Puerto Rican baseball players are often sold the dream of attending a junior college in the United States as a step to getting drafted to the Major League. For Edwin Calderón Santana, that promise evaporated, forcing him to return to the island and join the military while another player, whose aspirations have been delayed by the pandemic, is trying to keep his college dream alive. Read more in Spanish or in English.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

  • For Flatland KC, Jacob Douglas reports on the politicization of mask use in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order that requires the use of masks in public earlier this month, yet 92 of the state’s 105 counties are not enforcing the order because of a new law that allows them to ignore statewide restrictions in consultation with health officials. In his story, Douglas compiled a list of facts about the efficacy of masks from Dr. Reem Mustafa, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Kansas University. Read more.
  • Eleni Gill reports for Honolulu Civil Beat on the results of a survey that claims a majority of residents would be willing to go through tighter COVID-19 restrictions if another wave hits the state. Out of the more than 600 people that responded to the survey, by the University of Hawaii Public Policy Center, two-thirds are willing to wear face masks, shut down schools and restrict dining at restaurants. Also, Hawaii’s pre-travel test program, which would overlook the quarantine requirement for tourists if they tested negative before their arrival, has been postponed until Sept. 1. Read more.
  • California is entering its peak fire season, but personnel shortages due to COVID-19 are making it more challenging to extinguish the flames, reports Camille von Kaenel for Investigative Newsource. The region surrounding San Diego County has depended on inmate firefighters to help control wildfires for decades, but the release of incarcerated people to prevent overcrowding, as well as sentencing reform, have reduced their number by a third. In response to the shortage, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that 858 new seasonal firefighters would be hired. Read more.
  • Angie Jackson and her colleague Christina Hall, of the Detroit Free Press, watched as residents at the Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility visited with loved ones for the first time since the start of the pandemic, with two reunions doubling as birthday celebrations. On June 30, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services eased visitor restrictions at long-term facilities, allowing residents in serious condition or hospice care, and others at significant risk, to  see family members and friends. Read more.

Monday, July 13, 2020

  • After visitors were barred from entering Four Corners Regional Care Center in Blanding, Utah on March 13, Dalene Redhorse of Navajo Nation would meet with her 85-year-old father, Peter Redhorse, on the gazebo or through his window, always remaining masked and socially distant. However, Zak Podmore reports for the Salt Lake Tribune that during Redhorse’s visit on July 7, staff were not following the mask mandate that went into effect in late-June after the facility confirmed its first positive case. The outbreak at the facility has now infected 50 people and left three dead, including Redhorse’s grandfather. Read more.
  • Arielle Dreher reports for the Spokesman-Review that state health officials halted the reopening process because of growing case rates of COVID-19. The spread outside of Seattle to Eastern Washington began during the progression of the state’s phased reopening plan. Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz said this late surge brought the state “back to where we were in March.” Read more.
  • Pastor Kelvin Page of the Westmore Church of God in Tennessee said the church is no longer tracking the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the congregation after a late-June outbreak linked to an indoor regional worship service with several hundred attendees left 12 confirmed cases and led to the suspension of in-person services, reports Wyatt Massey for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. People connected to the church believe the actual number of cases was much higher. Page says he wishes he had put greater emphasis on wearing masks after returning to in-person services weeks before the virus began to spread among the churchgoers. Read more.
  • Deaths related to other causes were exacerbated during surges of COVID-19 in Louisiana, reports Emily Woodruff for the New Orleans Advocate. Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease-related deaths compared to previous years increased by 63% and 51%, respectively. Two studies from the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that a “fear of seeking care for other ailments,” along with COVID-19 deaths, have been the cause for many more deaths than usual. Read more.
  • For The Public’s Radio, Antonia Ayres-Brown spoke with the U.S. Naval War College’s international graduates, who represented over 70 countries, about how they had to adjust to the pandemic. Ayres-Brown highlights the experience of Gustavo Gutiérrez, a commander in the Colombian National Navy who, along with his fellow officers, had to switch to virtual learning in March, with all events and in-person activities canceled. Read more.

Friday, July 10, 2020

  • Sacramento-area professors spoke out against the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policy, that requires international students whose colleges shift to online-only this fall to leave the country or transfer to another school, reports Ashley Wong for the Sacramento Bee. Several universities have announced that they will be fighting the order in court, including the University of California. The educators argue that the order puts international students’ health and colleges’ enrollments at risk. Read more.
  • Adam Wagner reports for tThe News & Observer on two Duke University professors’ theory that convincing communities to trust health officials will “effectively stop the spread of COVID-19.” Dr. Oluwadamilola Fayanju, one of the professors, warns that this trust needs to be earned for when a vaccine is available. Fayanju and the other professor, Dr. Kevin Thomas, specifically addressed how to spread current and accurate information to Black and Hispanic, groups whose distrust of health officials goes back to the infamous Tuskegee Experiment and deportation efforts, respectively. Read more.
  • For The Island Packet, Sam Ogozalek reports that in June, the age group with the highest percentage of new COVID-19 cases in Beaufort County, South Carolina was 21- to 30-year-olds at 25.2%, with 11- to 20-year-olds following closely behind at 22.4%, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control data. The county’s surge is driven by the large uptick in cases among young people, a sharp contrast in the percentage of cases by age during the first few months of the pandemic. Read more.
  • Many landlords are not making exceptions for leases during COVID-19, leaving students stuck paying rent for units where they do not reside, reports Molly Duerig for Spectrum News Orlando. Duerig spotlights the case of Taylor Devereaux, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Central Florida, who must either pay full rent, sublet or possibly take a “disastrous” bow to their credit score. Watch the video here.
  • For The Salt Lake Tribune, Becky Jacobs spoke with Utahns about their dating experiences during the pandemic, or how their current relationships have changed since mid-March, as traditional date spots can potentially spread COVID-19. There are currently more than 10,000 confirmed cases in the state. Read more.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

  • Víctor Rodríguez Velázquez and three of his colleagues at the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo explored how Puerto Ricans living in Florida, New York and New Jersey have an increased likelihood of contracting and then struggle with COVID-19. CPI found that the “geographical areas with the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths coincide with the counties with the highest proportion of Puerto Ricans in the United States.” Read in Spanish here. (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English.)
  • In the second part of a series on the effects of COVID-19 in Kansas City’s communities of color, Brittany Callan reports for the Beacon on the health disparities faced by the city’s Black community that have been laid bare by the virus and other diseases, like HIV. Callan explores the social factors behind this trend in health disparities. In part one of the series, Callan reported on the limited testing options for Black and Hispanic community members. Read more.
  • For the Daily Herald, Ian Davis-Leonard reports on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent order for businesses to deny service to customers without masks, following his June 23 public-space mask mandate. Many shop owners are worried about policing their stores and losing customers. Read more.
  • To kick off Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month, the Buffalo chapter of the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will be hosting Facebook Live events on the intersection of mental health in the Black community, the ongoing protests and the pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color, reports Camalot Todd for Spectrum News Buffalo. Mental health and COVID-19 health disparities are due to systemic inequalities and social determinants of health, like where members of communities eat, live and their access to transportation. Read more

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

  • For Maryland Matters, Elizabeth Shwe reports housekeepers and service workers at the University of Maryland fear for their health due to the campus’s allegedly inadequate safety protocols, according to a union representative. After housekeeper Gliny Gonzalez, 51, tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-June and was hospitalized, campus officials did not immediately inform her coworkers or pursue contact tracing, despite protocol recommending otherwise. Read more
  • Lautaro Grinspan reports for the Miami Herald on the danger faced by workers at plant nurseries who have had to work in close quarters during the spike of COVID-19 cases in Florida. One anonymous worker said she normally works in groups of 20, and there are certain jobs that cannot be done without “clumping together.” Read more. (with Free Sign-Up)
  • The coronavirus hasn’t stopped the Texans of Webb and Zapata counties from continuing to protest the Trump administration’s push for a wall at the south border of the state, reports María Méndez for Texas Public Radio. A new federal lawsuit filed on Monday against the administration says that the use of executive order and waivers to expedite the border wall construction discriminate and violate the rights of the counties’ landowners. It is the first lawsuit from the area challenging the administration on the grounds of racial discrimination. Read more
  • For Honolulu Civil Beat, Eleni Gill reports that Hawaii saw the largest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases to date with 41 on Tuesday, but Gov. David Ige is confident that the state’s hospitals have “adequate capacity” should a larger outbreak occur. The Harvard Global Health Institute classified Hawaii’s virus spread as “mild” with only 19 deaths to date out of an approximate population of 1.4 million. Read more.

Arielle Dreher reports for the Spokesman-Review that Washington State University will begin to analyze COVID-19 samples at its animal disease diagnostic laboratory. In the coming weeks, the lab should be able to process up to 2,000 samples each day. The lab expansion and increased testing capacity in Pullman comes as private labs struggle to process samples to keep up with increased testing in the state and country. Read more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

  • According to data released by the Treasury Department, two Utah companies accused of failing to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, which led to outbreaks of the virus, were among the businesses assisted through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, each receiving loans ranging from $1 million to $2 million, reports Sophia Eppolito for the Associated Press. According to a letter by Utah County officials, the two businesses together infected at least 68 people. Read more.
  • In a COVID-19 relief bill signed by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, $25 million in aid is included for landlords facing significant financial hardship, reports Emma Cotton for VTDigger. This comes after Gov. Scott enacted an eviction moratorium in mid-May.  Read more.
  • For Iowa Public Radio, Kassidy Arena reports on translators Vanessa Marcano-Kelly and Ernest Nino-Murcia and their work to relay “all things COVID” to the state’s Spanish speakers during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ press conferences. Latinos are one of the most vulnerable populations to the virus, and spreading vital information in their native language can help save lives. Read more.
  • Little Angels Learning Center in Englewood shut down after 26 years of service after the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services denied its proposal for funding, reports Manny Ramos for the Chicago Sun-Times. The learning center had been previously awarded over $3 million to build a new facility across the street, but they can’t start construction without guaranteed day-to-day funding. Read more.
  • Fifty years after the nation’s first Pride March, which paid tribute to the Stonewall riots of 1969 while connecting members of the LGBTQ+ community to resources and one another, Camalot Todd reports for Spectrum News Buffalo that many of those resources today have been transferred online amid the pandemic. In her report, she explores the challenges the community faced this Pride Month, including the federal rollback of nondiscrimination protection, the deaths of four Black trans women and lack of access to health care all while being socially isolated. Read more.

Monday, July 6, 2020

  • For The Salt Lake Tribune, Becky Jacobs and her colleague Libby Seline explore the changes Utah child care providers are making to stay open during the pandemic, including cleaning and sanitation routines, procedures to monitor children for COVID-19 symptoms and limiting indoor capacity. Although 12% of licenced centers in Utah remained closed at the beginning of July, the whole industry has seen a decrease in the enrollment of children as cases continue to spike in the state. Read more.
  • For KERA News, Alejandra Martinez and Mallory Falk report that despite cancellations of firework shows and prohibition of sales within many cities’ limits in North Texas, demand has skyrocketed. Nelson’s Fireworks Owner Rex Nelson attributes this boom to COVID-19, saying “People are wanting to get out because they’ve been pinned up for so long so everyone is putting on their own show.” In El Paso, fireworks were completely banned from July 3 through July 5Read more.
  • In a special report for The Sacramento Bee, Nadia Lopez, Kim Bojórquez and three of their colleagues explore the severity of the pandemic’s impact on California’s Latino community. While the question looms as to whether or not officials should have noticed the surge of cases among Latinos sooner, the reporters examine the more pressing issue of if the state can act quickly enough to mitigate the COVID-19 clusters in vulnerable communities. They investigate how officials responded to the early warning signs of the disparity in cases, the lack of access to information about the virus and what certain counties are doing about it. Read more.
  • Teddy Rosenbluth explores for the Concord Monitor how the top health officials for New Hampshire have been thrown into the spotlight because of the pandemic and how it had changed their lives. The State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette, both with strong ties to Concord, recount the impact that being a public figure is having on their lives outside their jobs.  Read more.
  • Methodist Mountain Mission, a nonprofit on the brink of shutdown and forced to lay off the majority of its employees due to COVID-19, rehired about 60 workers, reports Liz Moomey for the Lexington Herald Leader. The organization, which offers “second-chance jobs” to people recovering from addiction in positions they call, received a federal CARES Act loan for “paycheck protection” that allowed it to pay off debts and rehire the employees. Read more.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

  • For Spectrum News Milwaukee, Maddie Burakoff reports on “herd immunity,” when enough of a population is immune to a virus so that it cannot spread, and how it could be achieved with COVID-19. University of Chicago researchers say that “natural herd immunity,” when the immunity is built up by infection, would cause around 30 million deaths across the globe. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would settle for a vaccine with 70-75% effectiveness, but believes that achieving herd immunity would be unlikely if 25% of the population refused the vaccine, she writes. Read more.
  • Church of God congregations across Cleveland, Tenn. are re-closing after jumps in daily COVID-19 cases, reports Wyatt Massey for Chattanooga Times Free Press. Many of these churches reopened their doors in May to in-person services, but are now closed until early to mid-July. Tennessee cases reported each day have continued to rise for over a month, according to a Times Free Press data analysis. Read more.
  • According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, over 1,700 residents and 900 staff members of nursing homes and residential care facilities across the state have contracted COVID-19, and more than 300 residents and four staff have died. Gov. Henry McMaster has committed to testing all residents and staff in the state. In Horry County, South Carolina, COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly as local facilities continue to care for the most vulnerable, reports Mary Norkol for the Sun News.  Read more
  • Six cases involving businesses that Columbus Public Health said violated COVID-19 regulations multiple times are being reviewed by Columbus prosecutors, reports Pete Grieve for Spectrum News 1 in Ohio. The businesses received warning letters from Columbus Public Health after their first alleged non-compliance, followed by second-warning letters that prompted investigations. Frustrated business owners say, though, that they were treated unfairly by the health department. Read more.
  • For the Belleville News-Democrat, DeAsia Paige hung out with a young entrepreneur of East St. Louis, Zoe Howlett, 6, who sells lemonade and hosts a socially distant community Saturday movie night in her backyard with the help of her mom and sisters. Zoe is often bored since her school turned digital because of the pandemic, but now the young business owner inspires others in the community with her creativity. Read more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

  • For the Modesto Bee, ChrisAnna Mink, a reporter and pediatrician, compiled a collection of tips to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during Independence Day celebrations. They include outdoor gathering, partying with neighbors from a distance and remembering standard preventative measures for the virus, like wearing face coverings and hand washing. Read more.
  • Attorneys for West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice requested that the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals dismiss a request from five state legislators for a special legislative session. They filed a petition in May alleging the governor’s “stay home orders” in March were in violation of the state constitution, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and accused the governor of excluding lawmakers by neglecting to consult the legislative branch. Gov. Justice said the petition was an attempt to strip him of his emergency powers. Read more.
  • Eager tourists and Hawaii residents looking to return home await details of a state pre-travel testing program that would lift current quarantine rules if travelers provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, reports Eleni Gill for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Gill explores Alaska’s similar pre-travel COVID-19 testing program. Read more.
  • For KUER, Kate Groetzinger reports that the Grand County Council in Utah is pushing to make masks mandatory inside public places and businesses in Moab because visitors have not been voluntarily complying in the last six weeks with the resumption of tourism, says one council member who voted in favor of the measure. Grand County has 16 confirmed cases so far, and there have been no upticks correlating to increased tourism. Read more.
  • From 2018 to 2020, a 6% increase in food insecurity is projected in Santa Fe County by Feeding America. For Santa Fe Reporter, Katherine Lewin highlights four volunteers and the work they are doing to try to reduce the damage done. Read more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

  • Twin Cities Pride weekend was canceled due to the pandemic, as were drag brunches or private parties if not held at reduced capacity, reports Zoë Jackson for the Star Tribune. For younger members of Minnesota’s LGBTQ community, this means less opportunity to make connections, leaving some feeling isolated. This year’s Pride Month has had a particular focus on uplifting LGBTQ people of color, according to a former state representative, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. Read more.
  • For FreshWater Cleveland, Conor Morris writes “a tidal wave of evictions may be coming” after a three-month moratorium concludes with the reopening of Cleveland Municipal Court’s Housing Court. The city and Cuyahoga County will help tenants struggling financially with upcoming rental assistance programs that total about $17 million in aid, but officials question whether it will be enough for people to keep their homes given the “skyrocketing” unemployment rate in Ohio. Read more.
  • Emily Allen, for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, takes a look at the dilemma that many religious leaders grapple with as the state allows the celebration of services in person, following safety guidelines. The outbreaks linked to church services in certain parts of the state have made pastors rethink their approach and opt for continuing to preach virtually or increasing their precautions to avoid crowding.  Read more.
  • For Spectrum News Buffalo, Camalot Todd highlights the effects COVID-19 is having on the mental health of the caregivers of dementia patients through the case of Linda German and her husband, David, who’s been taking care of her. Read more.

Monday, June 29, 2020

  • The pandemic is threatening to stunt New Mexico tribal lands’ 2020 census count that will determine how much federal money the tribes will receive over the next decade, reports Shaun Griswold for New Mexico In Depth. The virus already had a disproportionate effect on the state’s Native American community, which makes up 10.9% of the population yet accounts for over half of confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to census data. Officials hope to improve the low response rate from tribes, as an undercount could lead to a loss of millions of dollars. Read more.
  • During the first months of the pandemic, California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised aid to the unemployed, meals to isolated seniors, and other assistance in response to COVID-19 complications, but many of these have yet to be completely fulfilled, reports Jackie Botts for CalMatters. Botts analyzes the progress (or lack thereof) of these promises. Read more.
  • For The Spokesman-Review, Arielle Dreher reports that Marshallese people make up less than 1% of Spokane County, Washington’s population, but about 30% of its cases, according to last week’s data from the Spokane Regional Health District. The legacy of radiation connected to U.S. nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, barriers to health care and the treatment of the Marshallese community by the federal government has historically placed them in a more vulnerable place; the pandemic lays these inequities bare. Read more.
  • Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians are experiencing the highest hospitalization rates in Utah and have the second highest rate of cases, reports Becky Jacobs for The Salt Lake Tribune. She explores the reasons behind the increased risk and the culturally-focused approach to tackling the virus in the state. Read more.
  • Pascal Sabino reports for Block Club Chicago on Little Tony’s, the first-of-its-kind outdoor pediatric clinic that is providing a safer way for children to see their doctors during COVID-19. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Romeen Lavani said that due to its success, there is a possibility of expanding to adults. Read more.

Friday, June 26, 2020

  • To curtail the spread of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia cancelled trips for most Muslims outside the country who were planning to perform the Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. For the Sahan Journal, Hibah Ansari spoke with a Minnesota travel agency that has had to cancel travel plans for clients five weeks before the start of this year’s Hajj. Read more.
  • Kevin Knodell reports for the Honolulu Civil Beat that military personnel in Hawaii are taking extra precautions against COVID-19. Restrictions at bases across the islands include closed gyms and takeout food only. Read more.
  • Spokane, Washington has reached a record high in COVID-19 cases and has seen hospitalizations double in the past week, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. A new mask order went into effect Friday requiring residents to wear a mask in any public place or outdoor area where it is impossible to maintain social distance. Read more.
  • For Technical.ly, Michael Butler spoke with owners of Black barber shops and hair salons in Philadelphia about how they are faring financially after being allowed to reopen this weekend. Even with help from federal loans and GoFundMe’s, the business owners face unique struggles to make up for months of lost income while also following safety requirements. Read more.
  • Kelan Lyons reports for the Connecticut Mirror that while state arrests and pretrial admissions to correctional facilities increased in May compared to April, the overall incarcerated population continued to drop below pre-pandemic predictions, an indication of increased social activity as the state begins to reopen, according to one under secretary. Lyons outlines the five key takeaways from The Office of Policy and Management’s Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division’s May Monthly Indicators Report. Read more.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

  • For the Tampa Bay Times, Bailey LeFever reports on how employees over 60 could be treated differently when returning to work, whether from discrimination or special concessions. LeFever asked attorneys on both the employee and employer sides for their perspectives on what should be done. Read more.
  • At 99-years-old, Audrey B. Carr has lived through challenging moments in world history – from the Great Depression to the present pandemic and unrest. Becky Jacobs reports for The Salt Lake Tribune on Carr and her message to people today: don’t “sit and cry about everything,” she says. “You’ll make yourself miserable.” Read more.
  • For Flatland KC, Jacob Douglas explores the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that began on June 4 to compensate farmers for a decline in crop prices. The Department of Agriculture allocated $16 billion to compensate U.S. producers and will add $3 billion in produce purchases in partnership with regional and local distributors. Read more.
  • Hundreds of people in the Berks County area are asking Pennsylvania legislators and hospital executives to keep the Reading Birth Center open amid cuts that will remove 1,000 jobs and close several health centers, reports Anthony Orozco for WITF | PA Post. The cuts come after Tower Health, which owns Reading Hospital, experienced a 40% drop in revenue due to the pandemic. According to Sen. Judy Schwank (D), the center is cherished among women for home-based birth. Read more.
  • For The Island Packet, Sam Ogozalek looks at the unique challenges close-contact businesses in Beaufort, South Carolina have faced in the last month since the Lowcountry’s COVID-19 outbreak. Along with reporters from the Beaufort Gazette, he spoke with several of these business owners on how the pandemic has changed their operations and what precautions they have taken. Read more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

  • West Virginia’s Public Service Commission wants utilities that suspended shut-offs amid the pandemic to restart the process of terminating service for customers who are behind in payments, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Radio. The PSC reported that the pandemic has created a cash flow problem for providers that rely solely on customer’s payments. Read more. 
  • For WPLN Nashville Public Radio, Samantha Max reports that a COVID-19 outbreak at the Davidson County Correctional Development Center prompted jail-wide testing of inmates and staff at the men’s facility. Read more.
  • For the Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate”, Emily Woodruff explores the lessons that Louisiana medical providers have learned from COVID-19’s first peak as they wait to see if there will be a second surge or if cases will ebb with changing social distancing measures. One doctor says the biggest difference between mid-March and now is how adept they now are at dealing with the virus. Read more.
  • New guidelines for Illinois’ return to school this fall were released Tuesday, reports Megan Valley for the Belleville News-Democrat. The guidelines coincide with Restore Illinois’ Phase 4, the requirements of which are social distancing, facemasks, lunch served in individual classrooms, among others. Read more.
  • Many independent movie theaters in Akron, Ohio are cautious to welcome back moviegoers even though Gov. Mike DeWine approved their reopening on June 10, reports Abbey Marshall for the Devil Strip. She explores the dilemmas the theaters face, including reduced capacity, reconciling the sale and consumption of food, like popcorn and sodas, with mask requirements and the lack of product due to major studios pushing back release dates. Read more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

  • For The Daily Herald in Washington, Ian Davis-Leonard reports (with Joey Thompson) on a state agency with a plan to fulfill unemployment claims for thousands of residents. Due to COVID-19, 81,000 citizens filed with the Employment Security Department for unemployment compensation without receiving any aid. Read more.
  • A Black-owned restaurant in the West End of Cincinnati is prospering due to the pandemic, gentrification and nearby construction. For WCPO, Monique John reports that the owner of Ollie’s Trolley credits his recent success to new customers and loyal supporters looking for affordable, homemade food as competing restaurants were forced to close. His dilemma, however, is that other Black-owned businesses in the area have struggled to maintain their presence because of the same factors that boosted his success. Read more.
  • The Kansas Department of Labor took back $7 million in duplicate unemployment benefits that were accidentally paid to 4,500 people, reports Megan Stringer (and Jonathan Shorman) for The Wichita Eagle. Now, some Kansans face negative account balances. Thinking it was early, one local paid his rent as soon as the payment hit his account, but now the overdraft charge could amount to over $200. The labor agency withdrew the duplicate payments before notifying Gov. Laura Kelly’s office, she disclosed. Read more.
  • Lautaro Grinspan reports for Miami Herald on the COVID-related entrepreneurship. of some laid-off immigrants who are selling home-made food from their native countries. Eddy Llamas, a Guatemalan emigrant, is baking a popular bread from his home country and selling each loaf for $1. Whereas 33% of U.S. adults report that they or another member of their household has had wages reduced or been laid-off, nearly half of the Latino population have taken the same hit. Read more.
  • For Las Cruces Sun-News, Miranda Cyr highlights the continued obstacles facing four local high school graduates as COVID-19 alters their plans for the future, including a delayed soccer season, postponed boot camp and uncertainty about dorm living. This was 2020 for students graduating from t New Mexico’s Arrowhead Park Early College High School and Medical Academy. Read more.

Monday, June 22, 2020

  • Reports of child abuse filed by teachers have dropped 13% in Utah since COVID-19 school shutdowns in March, and experts say that decrease in reports is because of school closures, as 20% of reporting on abuse statewide came from teachers, reports Becky Jacobs for The Salt Lake Tribune. Read more.
  • For El Nuevo Herald, Lautaro Grinspan reports that Florida recorded its highest jump of COVID-19 on Saturday with over 4,000 new cases, bringing the total number in the state to 93,797. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is, however, optimistic that the rise in cases will not translate into as many deaths, because “most of the new cases are young people, ages 20-30,” which is a “less vulnerable population,” he said. Read in Spanish here. (Use the Google Translate Plug-In, or similar option, to read in English.)
  • Bryan Anderson reports for the Associated Press that the lack of health insurance and tight living conditions, among other factors, have increased the vulnerability of the  Latino community, which now comprises a larger percentage of cases around the U.S. Read more.
  • Hilton Head Island announced a one-day, state-funded free testing event for COVID-19 on June 29, but citizens say it’s not enough, reports Kate Hidalgo Bellows for The Island Packet. Rosemary Savage, who had to borrow money to pay for her test, said “One day of free testing ain’t gonna cut the mustard if thousands of people are crossing the bridge daily.” Town Manager Steve Riley says more free testing is dependent on the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s ability to contribute testing materials. Read more.
  • For iNewsource, Camille von Kaenel reports that farmers in San Diego County growing exotic fruits, flowers, and nursery plants are advocating to get their niche produce added to the eligibility list for COVID-19. The $16 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program has been supporting farmers who had losses due to the pandemic, with most of the funds going to traditional crops like avocados, tomatoes and grain. The Department of Agriculture asked San Diego County farmers to provide information about their speciality crops to consider their inclusion on the list. Read more.

Friday, June 19, 2020

  • Opal Lee, 93, of Fort Worth, Texas has led the city’s event planning for Juneteenth for over 40 years, pushing during the last decade to make the state holiday a national one, explains Alejandra Martinez for KERA. While planning amid the pandemic and the national Black Lives Matter protests is new for Lee, she remains hopeful. Read more.
    • Related: The New York Times spoke with Opal Lee about what she hopes will come of this year’s Juneteenth at a time in which her “vision is closer than ever to its realization,” reported by Julia Carmel.
  • For North Carolina Health News, Hannah Critchfield reports on how the lack of demographic data in the state’s confirmed count of COVID-19 cases might be concealing a much higher rate of infection among American Indians, according to the executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. Due to new federal requirements, the state is working to fill the gaps in data collection, as about one-third of the total tests conducted lack information about the race of the infected person. Read more.
  • InterAge Adult Day Program, which hosted special needs participants weekly for meals and activities, is closing after almost 30 years due to financial struggles worsened by the pandemic, reports Emma Cotton for VTDigger. As the only program of its kind in Rutland County, Vermont, caregivers are now looking for alternative options, which may mean sending loved ones to long-term care facilities for some. Read more.
  • For Honolulu Civil Beat, Eleni Gill reports on Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Hawaii, where all residents and staff will be tested weekly for COVID-19. The testing is planned to continue until two weeks pass without any positive test results. This plan for blanket testing comes after a hospitalized patient became symptomatic and tested positive. Read more.
  • A George Washington University study says North Carolina needs 7,100 contact tracers for COVID-19, but the state is thousands short of that goal, reports Adam Wagner for The News and Observer. Contact tracers urge potentially exposed people to get tested and isolate themselves. Over the last week, an average of 1,200 new positive COVID-19 cases per day have been reported. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services secretary, Mandy Cohen said she believes this is the state’s first wave of the virus. Read more.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

  • The federal government reached an agreement on Tuesday with Mexico and Canada to keep the U.S. borders closed to all but essential travel for another month, reports María Méndez for Texas Public Radio. Local businesses along the southern border have suffered since it closed in late March, prompting local leaders to question why the closure is being enforced in a place where the economy is dependent on cross-border travel as other parts of the country reopens. Read more.
  • For the Post Register, Kyle Pfannenstiel reports that Idaho is likely to see a spike in COVID-19 cases due to increases in surrounding states. University of Idaho Professor Benjamin Ridenhour warns that “the more people travel, the harder it is to contain the disease.” Travel is spiking as all businesses in Idaho have been allowed to reopen since last Saturday. Read more.
  • Brandon Block for The Olympian reports that before the pandemic, 23% of Washington households did not qualify as poor under federal poverty guidelines yet could not make ends meet, according to a new report from the United Way of the Pacific Northwest. These workers broadly overlap with jobs now deemed “essential,” but their wages tend to be too low to cover housing and other necessities. Block explores what the report means now for families living paycheck to paycheck amid the pandemic. Read more.
  • According to the Riverside County public health department, 27 patients and 13 staff at an assisted care facility in Rancho Mirage, Calif. have tested positive for COVID-19, reports Maria Sestito for The Desert Sun. More tests are to be administered to patients, which treats seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Earlier this month, another facility in the city reported an outbreak that has led to 19 cases and one death. Read more.
  • Conor Morris reports for Fresh Water Cleveland that performance venues are brainstorming new ways to safely reopen amid COVID-19. Problems include keeping audiences and performers safe, while also preserving venues as “neighborhood anchors and culturally important institutions.” Businesses are trying to cope with the virus through livestreams and spaced-out seating. Read more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

  • State officials warned that plans to reopen could slow if Eastern Washington citizens don’t make an effort to wear face masks, socially distance and limit gatherings, reports Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review. Counties currently in Phase 2 of the state’s plan could stall or regress to Phase 1. Models from the Institute for Disease Management support a new report claiming that COVID-19 cases and deaths are expected to increase in the area if greater intervention measures are not taken. Read more.
  • Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez announced the reinstatement of a 57-hour curfew this and next weekend as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in Arizona, reports Theresa Davis for the Albuquerque Journal. The reservation had its smallest increase in cases since early April with 22 confirmed and no new deaths as of Monday night, meanwhile Arizona reported a record-high 2,392 new cases on Tuesday. Read more.
  • A COVID-19 outbreak at an Illinois long-term residential care center with less than 200 residents infected at least 101 patients and staff members, and killed eight people, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Earlier in the month, the facility asked the state to test all patients and staffers, and now those who have tested positive are being treated in a special recovery unit, reports Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago. Read more.
  • Stanislaus County, Calif. has seen its largest increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic after restrictions for shopping and dining out were lessened on May 20, reports ChrisAnna Mink and Julian A. Lopez for The Modesto Bee. Just last Saturday, 23% of all tests administered were positive, yet not everyone is wearing face coverings while out in public, pushing the county to consider making masks mandatory. Mink explores several residents’ reasonings for wearing or not wearing a mask. Read more.
  • For The News Tribune, Abbie Shull reports on eased requirements by the Veterans Economic COVID-19 Assistance program that will make it easier for veterans to get financial aid in Pierce County, Wash. Veterans can get up to $2,500 in rent assistance and $150 for food each month.  Pierce County Human Services encourages those who who were denied aid in the past to apply again now. Possible additional help is also available for those already receiving financial aid. Read more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • For Block Club Chicago, Pascal Sabino highlights the work of 10 Black women and queer activists supporting protesters while providing relief to Chicago communities affected by looting and the coronavirus. Many Black organizers, who are stepping up to rebuild systems that have “historically failed Black people,” are working to ensure the movement is intersectional and informed by Black feminism. Read more.
  • A University of Utah researcher is leading a study that will explore how COVID-19  impacts pregnant women and their babies, reports Becky Jacobs for The Salt Lake Tribune. The study will compare pregnant women infected with the virus to those without it to determine if there are higher rates of pregnancy complications. It will also compare the outcomes of women giving birth during the pandemic to those who delivered last year. Read more. 
  • Emily Allen reports for West Virginia Public Broadcasting that the COVID-19 outbreak at Graystone Baptist Church in Greenbrier County, West Virginia is linked to at least 28 confirmed cases, and several hundred tests from residents are pending. According to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources, this is the largest of the five known outbreaks linked to churches in the state, several of which did not enforce effective safety precautions. Allen reported on Saturday that free testing was extended to the county after the outbreak was confirmed. Read more.
  • The Chicago Transit Authority aims to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through “weekly bus crowding reports” for all 127 routes throughout the city, reports Manny Ramos for the Chicago Sun-Times. In addition, there are new capacity limits for buses and floor markers intended to remind passengers of social distancing guidelines. According to the regulations, only 15 passengers are allowed on 40-foot buses and 22 passengers are allowed on 60-foot buses and each rail car. Read more in English or in Spanish.
  • For the Detroit Free Press, Angie Jackson reports on the nonprofits across the metro area that are paying bail for people vulnerable to COVID-19. Michigan Liberation and The Bail Project also seek to change the “fundamentally racist” cash bail aspect of the criminal justice system, pushing for deep reforms. While expanding its reach to “medically vulnerable individuals” during the crisis, Michigan Liberation is prioritizing the bail-out of black mothers. Read more.

Monday, June 15, 2020

  • To stay or to go? For the Tampa Bay Times, Bailey LeFever reports how the safety recommendations for the pandemic and hurricane season may be contradictory, particularly for seniors, as 85% of deaths in the state have been people 65 and older. Because overcrowded storm shelters present the risk of contracting the virus, one organization helps seniors create personal hurricane preparation plans, while Pinellas County searches for additional venues. Read more
  • Beaufort Memorial Hospital in South Carolina has seen an uptick in symptomatic patients testing positive for COVID-19, reports Sam Ogozalek for The Island Packet. Beaufort County recorded its highest seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the same day it saw its highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic, with 33 news cases, following similar trends statewide. Epidemiology experts warn there will be a long summer of infections, recommending residents take social distancing more seriously. Read more
  • Arielle Dreher reports for The Spokesman-Review that over 1,000 public health and medical professionals and students signed an open letter in support of the nationwide protests, saying they are a response to the daily inequities they see in their jobs. The letter states that protests against the systemic racism that allows for COVID-19 to disproportionately impact the Black community should be supported, while outlining safety precautions for protestors and law enforcement. It also disapproves of the use of tear gas or other respiratory irritants that could make the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection. Read more. 
  • Multiple death row inmates in Tennessee have asked the state to pause executions during the pandemic as social distancing measures create challenges for attorneys seeking to meet with their clients to build their cases, reports Samantha Max for WPLN. More than 3,000 inmates in the state have tested positive for the virus. Read more.
  • For Post Register, Kyle Pfannenstiel explores how Arco, a town in Butte County, Idaho, has been affected by the pandemic despite the county having zero confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday. The hospital clinic saw less patients as retail stores and restaurants closed, and the library had few visitors. Experts attribute the lack of  cases to the small population size and local efforts to manage risk. Rachel Cohen reported for Boise State Public Radio, on Butte County’s “‘luck’” in late May. Read more.

Friday, June 12, 2020

  • Five Minnesota students testified before the Legislature to push for a law temporarily extending unemployment benefits to high schoolers that work to support themselves, for at least the duration of Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 emergency reports Zoë Jackson for The Star Tribune. Currently, a law prevents high school students who have lost work from accessing funds from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal initiative for those who do not qualify for traditional unemployment,One group of students fighting for change estimates 10,000 Minnesota high school students are in need of benefits. Read more.
  • For KERA, Mallory Falk reports Hotel Flamingo in Ciudad Juárez, a border city just south of El Paso, Texas, offers shelter to migrants who have been sent back after trying to cross into the U.S. The hotel has been converted into a “filter hotel” for migrants to quarantine for 14 days before transferring to a longer-term shelter, enacting strict protocols and isolation wings to keep separate those who have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus. Read more.
  • Devna Bose reports for the Charlotte Observer on the risk that the Black community of the city faces when coming together to protest the death of George Floyd in the middle of a pandemic. Protestors acknowledge the potential for contagion, but also highlight that there’s never been a better moment to protest against the systemic racism and inequity that has left their community particularly vulnerable to the virus. Black residents of North Carolina account for 27% of cases and 33% of deaths from COVID-19 while making up less than 25% of the state’s population. Read more.
  • In a three-part series titled “Close Quarters,” Jackie Botts contributed to CalMatters’ analysis of the connection between COVID-19 and overcrowding in California. The reporters examine the spread of the coronavirus among workers as a result of overcrowded homes, map out where overcrowding is prevalent and offer a look at how the team conducted the analysis. Read more.
  • For Spectrum News Buffalo, Camalot Todd examines the mental health of the Black community amid COVID-19 disproportionately affects people of color, and national protests over George Floyd’s killing, citing an American Psychological Association study that examines the impact racism can have on mental health. In addition to changes New York is seeing at the policy level, one expert offered ways individuals can maintain their mental health. Read more.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

  • For The Wichita Eagle, Megan Stringer contributed to a report on the 21-day furlough of most of Spirit AeroSystems’s hourly employees in Wichita, Kansas who are associated with the 737 Max, a Boeing jet that was grounded after two crashes killed passengers and crew members. Around 900 people will be affected as COVID-19 continues to impact the airline industry. Spirit is the city’s largest employer, according to the Greater Wichita Partnership. Read more.
  • Taxpayer-funded financial assistance for undocumented Californians affected by the pandemic is beginning to run out, reports Kim Bojórquez for The Sacramento Bee. The disaster relief fund aims to provide $500 per individual to 150,000 undocumented immigrants who are ineligeble for the federal stimulus package. As 12 immigrant-focused nonprofits work to distribute the $75 million before the deadline of June 30, they ask that those who qualify continue to call despite funds being limited. Read more.
  • Louisiana State University and Tulane researchers are studying the sewage systems of Baton Rouge and New Orleans to get a better understanding of how many people have COVID-19, reports Emily Woodruff and her colleague, Terry L. Jones, for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate. Because the virus is detectable in fecal matter, studying samples could help map the spread if an uptick in cases hits the state. Before the data collected so far is released to the public, the findings will be shared with local and state public health officials. Read more.
  • Residents and staff members of hundreds of Washington state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be tested for COVID-19 this month, initiated by the Washington State Department of Health, reports Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Service issued guidance for a phased approach to reopening at the facilities in mid-May. Statewide, 345 facilities have registered cases. Read more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

  • COVID-19 has put a temporary end to in-person meetings at Gerard’s House, which hosts grief support groups, including one program for young immigrants and young immigrant mothers, reports Katherine Lewin for the Santa Fe Reporter. The organization has moved some programs online while financially helping families and individuals, as young immigrant mothers far from family support and ineligible for government assistance face additional challenges. Read more in English or in Spanish.
  • For The Modesto Bee, Kristina Karisch reports on Good2Go Stanislaus, an online training program and resource that aims to provide small businesses of varying industries in Stanislaus County with information on the necessary steps to reopen safely for customers and staff. As of Monday, 78 businesses had completed the free and voluntary training, according to Opportunity Stanislaus, an organization that worked alongside local businesspeople and representatives to create the program. Read more.
  • The pastor of Clays Mill Baptist Church in Jessamine County, Kentucky posted on Facebook Monday night that there is “‘no evidence’” to suggest the church is a hotspot after at least 18 congregants have been diagnosed with COVID-19, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Public health officials disputed his claim, saying it is “‘naive’” to think the cases are not connected after in-person services resumed on May 10, about 10 days earlier than originally planned. Read more.
  • For Las Cruces Sun-News, Miranda Cyr follows the reopening process for New Mexico State University, which had been closed since the end of March. The biggest change is allowing up to 35-50% of researchers back on campus. Returning researchers must participate in a COVID-19 Safety Plan training, which outlines safety guidelines and procedures. Read more.
  • The Little Miami River Watershed Network had to adapt its annual clean-up day due to the coronavirus, reports Chris Welter for WYSO. Rather than spending a day collecting trash dumped into local waterways, the Watershed Network is asking volunteers to walk, kayak or canoe along the Little Miami River, in Ohio, which drains into an aquifer, to remove trash. Read more. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

  • The more than 3,000 people arrested in Chicago since May 29 amid protests of the killing of George Floyd, present a “tremendous” risk of spreading COVID-19 within the community, according to research from the University of Chicago. Pascal Sabino reports for Block Club Chicago that as of mid-April, nearly 16% of documented cases in the city were associated with those that cycled through Cook County Jail. Around the same time, Sabino had reported the jail was the site of one of the largest clusters in the nation. Read more.
  • For Carolina Public Press (CPP), Jordan Wilkie reports that a North Carolina Superior Court judge may decide on Monday if the state’s prison conditions during the pandemic meet constitutional standards. Plaintiffs and defendants of the lawsuit that seeks the release of people incarcerated have disagreed over the facts of the case, meanwhile CPP and NC Watchdog Reporting Network investigated inconsistencies in what the Department of Public Safety presented to the court, reported to the public and shared internally. Read more.
  • Nearly three months since the state’s first case was confirmed, The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has started sharing the names of long-term care facilities where COVID-19 outbreaks occurred, reports Rachel Cohen for Boise State Public Radio. A newspaper in Boise, The Idaho Statesman, threatened to sue after the state rejected a public records request filed by the paper to access data on such facilities, prompting the department to release the names. Of the state’s cases, 60% are associated with nine long-term care facilities. Read more.
  • Emily Woodruff reports for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate that the Tulane Primate Research Center will test the measles vaccine against the coronavirus, investigating if it can prevent the virus from turning deadly. Researchers hope to target what appears to be a frequently fatal escalation of the virus that results in sepsis or rapid organ failure. This approach is only a hypothesis as other vaccines are also being studied. Read more.
  • The Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Class of 2020 participated in a drive-through graduation on Saturday, receiving their diplomas as staff cheered from the rooftops, celebrating the successes of the class despite the challenges these Minneapolis graduates have faced, report Becky Z. Dernbach and Jaida Grey Eagle for the Sahan Journal. The photo essay explores the stories of several of the 124 seniors – all of whom were accepted to college – and how their final year was altered not only by the pandemic, but by the mass protests after the killing of George Floyd. Read more.

Monday, June 8, 2020

  • Clays Mill Baptist Church in Jessamine County, Kentucky became a COVID-19 cluster after it reopened for in-person services in mid-May,, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. At least 17 congregants ranging from children to the elderly have been diagnosed. In late April, the church’s pastor alongside the state’s Attorney General threatened to sue Gov. Andy Beshear if he did not allow churches to hold in-person services, testifying it would be safe. Read more.
  • For the Associated Press, Sam Metz reports on the new challenges coronavirus presents for fire officials preparing for Nevada’s wildfire season. Departments across the state are working to adopt new protocols to test for symptoms and properly sanitize, as always adhering to proper guidelines is not possible due to the nature of the work. The National Interagency Fire Center anticipates a higher wildfire risk than previous years across the Western U.S. this Summer. Read more.
  • As of Saturday, Florida had recorded more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 for four consecutive days, reports Lautaro Grinspan for El Nuevo Herald. The state recorded 62,758 cases and 2,688 deaths, but the percentage of people who test positive continues to decrease as the number of tests performed increases. Read more in Spanish or in English.
  • For the first time, the Navy-Notre Dame football game will be played in Annapolis on Labor Day weekend, bringing the potential for an economic boost to a city that faces a shortfall of at least $6 million for the 2021 fiscal year due to the pandemic, reports Heather Mongilio for the Capital Gazette. While the weekend will not make up for the months of revenue loss, it will provide some opportunity for local businesses, like restaurants or hotels, depending on how safe it will be for out-of-towners to visit. Read more.
  • Adam Wagner contributed to a report for The News & Observer about Wake County’s contact tracing efforts as a tool to slow the spread of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Through the process, patients who test positive are asked to provide a list of everyone they have been in contact with so contact tracers can alert those exposed and advise them to quarantine. As the county trains librarians and the state contracts with outside agencies, North Carolina has about 1,500 contact tracers so far, according to the state’s most recent survey of county health departments. Read more.

Friday, June 5, 2020

  • Alejandra Martinez for KERA reports on the importance of addressing the race and ethnicity differences within communities of color when tracking COVID-19 data. One investigation shows there is limited testing in Dallas’ communities of color compared to its white counterparts. Inequitable economic and social conditions, like inadequate housing and lack of access to health care, also influence the racial disparities in health. Read more.
  • COVID-19 is exacerbating hunger in Kentucky, where six counties in the Eastern region of the state are among the 25 with the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, according to national hunger relief program Feeding America, reports Liz Moomey for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The economic impact of the virus is projected to worsen food insecurity by 35% in the state, affecting nearly 900,000 Kentuckians. Food pantries that have been able to remain open amid the pandemic have adapted. Read more.
  • For Honolulu Civil Beat, Eleni Gill explores how older adults are battling social isolation, which has adverse effects on both their mental and physical health. With non-visitor policies at senior housing communities keeping family members apart and social-distancing precautions creating physical barriers between friends, psychologists encourage their patients to stay connected virtually. Read more.
  • Erin Eddy, who was Ouray County’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient, is among the restaurant owners who are preparing to reopen their businesses, reports Liz Teitz for the Ouray County Plaindealer. Although Eddy claims to be “hyper-aware” of the safety concerns, he also acknowledges the challenges of complying with the restrictions and precautions and their effects on revenue. Read more. 
  • For The Modesto Bee, ChrisAnna Mink answers an array of questions in regard to what summertime activities are safe to partake in as Stanislaus County, California begins to reopen. This resource takes a look at the precautions to take at backyard barbecues, when you go swimming, and while playing at the park, among others. Read more.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

  • Kentucky registered 265 more coronavirus cases and eight more deaths, including a nine-month-old girl, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 10,410, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. According to the authorities, the infant had the virus when she died, but it’s not known yet if her death was a direct result of the illness. In total, 450 Kentuckians have died from the virus. Read more.  
  • Washington state’s non-white residents have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, following the nationwide trend, reports Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review. Hispanics account for the highest number of confirmed cases at 40% while making up 13% of the state’s population, according to the data. Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz attributes the outcomes to historic inequity and systemic racism. Read more. 
  • Farmers Feeding Utah, a nonprofit created to fight hunger during the pandemic, purchased over 600 sheep to help with food assistance on the Navajo Nation, which has been hard-hit by COVID-19, reports Kate Groetzinger for KUER. To be eligible for the food distribution event, residents had to be registered to vote in Utah, as Navajos in Utah often receive less help from the reservation than Arizona and New Mexico residents, according to an organizer. Read more. 
  • Angie Jackson reports for The Detroit Free Press the Michigan Department of Corrections mixed up COVID-19 test results for 108 prisoners at Macomb Correctional Facility, resulting in them being housed for several days in the wrong areas of the prison, possibly exposing those who tested negative to the virus. As of Tuesday, 236 prisoners had tested positive. The facility ranked third-highest in the state for infection rates in mid-April. Read more.
  • Churches in the Chicago area are preparing to re-start their in-person services, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot is expected to issue safety guidelines by this weekend, reports Manny Ramos for the Chicago Sun-Times. The Chicago Archdiocese said attendance will be limited to 15% capacity for Sunday Mass for the first week of the church’s Phase 2 of reopening, with a similar plan in the Joliet, Illinois Diocese. Read more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

  • Due to the increasing costs of treating COVID-19 patients, the Spokane Regional Health District was awarded $6 million in federal aid to cover a projected deficit of $4.9 million, reports Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review. The funding will cover costs of contact tracing and additional responses based on current budget figures, but will not cover the costs of the expected surge of cases in the fall. The county also received $90 million from Congress through the CARES Act, which currently funds employees paid by the district. Read more.
  • Nashville’s Human Relations Commission is asking local officials to stop sharing coronavirus patients’ data with law enforcement, reports Samantha Max for WPLN. The commission says that black and immigrant communities, who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, could be discouraged from seeking treatment due to distrust in law enforcement. Max previously reported on the criticized data sharing practice as a method to inform first responders before coming in contact with someone who has tested positive. Read more.
  • For St. Louis Public Radio, Eric Schmid examines why home sales in the region remained steady through COVID-19 restrictions, with the percentage of single-family home sales in the Metro East dropping by single-digits in March and April. One possible factor, according to Schmid’s sources, is the declaration of real estate as an essential service by Illinois Gov. Pritzker and Missouri Gov. Parson. Read more. 
  • “The graduation ceremonies for Paradise’s seniors this year were certainly untraditional, but that matched a high school experience in which the class of 2020 persevered through historic crisis after crisis,” writes Camille von Kaenel for the Chico Enterprise-Record. From fleeing the Camp Fire 19 months ago to power outages that kept students from their makeshift campuses and stay-at-home orders after the spread of COVID-19, the many accomplishments of these young Californians are all the more impressive. Read more.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

  • Although large gatherings are prohibited due to COVID-19, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz marched alongside thousands of people on Sunday in protest of police brutality against the black community, reports Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review. Lutz acknowledged the risks to participants, but indicated that he wanted to show his support. “We have a society that has institutionalized racism and to speak to that is part of what we do in public health,” he said. Read more. 
  • A strict stay-at-home order and 9:00 p.m. curfew have been extended on the Wind River Reservation as surrounding communities begin to reopen their economies, which could undermine the efforts of the tribe to stop the spread of the virus, reports Savannah Maher for Wyoming Public Media. Wyoming is one of several states that never ordered stay-at-home restrictions. Read more. 
  • For the Victoria Advocate, Ciara McCarthy tells the story of former reporter and photographer Marietta Gohlke, 54, who survived a stroke a year ago thanks to a prompt visit to the emergency room after experiencing symptoms, and now urges coronavirus patients to act with similar urgency. Physicians nationwide are particularly concerned for heart and stroke patients as a third of Americans admit to having delayed or avoided medical care for fear of contracting COVID-19. Read more. 
  • In Louisiana’s largest health care system, black COVID-19 patients make up 77% of those hospitalized, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, reports Emily Woodruff for The Advocate. While the state has high rates of disease among all residents, researchers investigated health disparities, like black Louisianans being more likely to work an essential job, that have led to the virus disproportionately affecting the black community. Read more. 
  • Alex Acquisto reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader that a Lexington pharmaceutical company Summit Biosciences, Inc. is working to create a nasal spray that would prevent contraction of COVID-19 and act as a treatment for those who have already tested positive without severe symptoms. Kentucky has had more than 9,700 confirmed cases of the virus and 438 deaths. Read more. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

  • Idaho’s proposed COVID-19 testing strategy was praised by the state’s governor, but as Rachel Cohen reports for Boise State Public Radio, there are still several questions about its implementation. To test everyone in the first priority group, which includes populations like symptomatic healthcare workers and asymptomatic residents and staff of long-term care facilities, the strategy requires 17,000 tests a week, but the state has not been clear about how it will acquire the tests it needs. Read more. 
  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 began to increase in Spokane County at the end of May after seeing a decrease in late April, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. The surge occurred quickly after the county moved to Phase 2 of Washington’s reopening plan. Local officials are taking a look at the causes as they aim to continue the reopening process. Read more.
  • Eleni Gill reports for the Honolulu Civil Beat that Hawaii healthcare providers have received almost $100 million in federal stimulus money during the pandemic, with about half going to the state’s two largest hospital systems. While the funds have been a “lifeline,” some healthcare executives fear it still won’t be enough in the long term. Similarly, smaller facilities with a greater proportion of Medicaid patients are in urgent need, unsure if they will be able to stay afloat despite the federal grants they have also received. Read more. 
  • Customers and store owners in the suburbs of Chicago rejoiced amid the loosening of the state’s stay-home order restrictions, reports Manny Ramos for the Chicago Sun-Times. Precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 are still in place, like mask requirements and outdoor seating at restaurants. Restrictions in Chicago are scheduled to begin lessening on Wednesday. Read more.
  • The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund received a $100,000 donation from Larry Mullen Jr., the drummer for the Irish band U2, reports Theresa Davis for the Albuquerque Journal. The organization has received $4.3 million via GoFundMe which has provided food, water and supplies for  6,400 households in tribal communities. More than 25,000 Irish citizens have donated to the cause, many saying the efforts are to repay the Native American community for their help during the Potato Famine in Ireland in the 1840s. Read more.

Friday, May 29, 2020

  • According to the California Medical Association, about 13 million residents, or one-third of the state, could lose access to their primary care health providers if state and federal governments do not take action to lessen the economic hit from the pandemic, reports ChrisAnna Mink for The Modesto Bee. People have stopped going to the doctor’s office out of fear of the virus, putting not only their health at risk but the sustainability of the facilities, with almost 95% of practices worried about financial stability. Read more.
  • Emily Woodruff reports for The Advocate that 10 autopsies of African Americans who died from COVID-19 in New Orleans revealed that their lungs were full of blood clots, providing more evidence that the virus’s damage is not limited to the respiratory system. The LSU Health Sciences researchers say each patient had a severe case and an underlying health issue, matching recent research from around the world that correlates blood clots to the severely-ill. One pathologist says the findings may help explain the greater complications and higher number of deaths in the black community. Read more.
  • For WCAI, Eve Zuckoff tells the story of Alex Davies, one of 20 AmeriCorps Cape Cod members who were given a two-week notice to find new housing before being sent home almost two months early from their service year due to COVID-19. Davis was sick with the virus for a month and now must grapple with finding housing and a job in the middle of a pandemic. Read more.
  • Connecticut arrests are at a record low, revealed by newly released data indicating how the coronavirus has impacted the state’s criminal justice systems, reports Kelan Lyons for The Connecticut Mirror. The number of arrests in March was the lowest the state has seen since it started collecting data in 2008, and arrest rates in April dropped by 55% from one year prior. Read more.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

  • Fatal drug overdoses in Fayette County, Kentucky have increased by 42% since last year and the syringe exchange program has more participants than ever, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Health and law enforcement officials in more than 10 counties in the state report a similar trend. Many say the pandemic is one factor, as universal stressors, like unemployment, and lack of in-person meetings contribute to relapses or first-time use. Read more.
  • Spokane County health officials confirmed its highest daily count of cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic on Wednesday. Health officials attribute the 23 new confirmed cases to an increase in testing, an outbreak at a nearby pasta production facility and gatherings over the holiday weekend, which may lead to similar numbers in the next couple of weeks. Washington state has recorded 1,095 COVID-19 related deaths.  Read more.
  • Lautaro Grinspan reports for the Miami Herald that in-person naturalization services have been suspended at least until June 4 as a precaution against COVID-19, leading to more instability for immigrant families and a greater chance of missing out on the benefits of citizenship, like job openings during the current economic downturn, student financial aid or the eligibility to cast a ballot in the presidential election. Lawmakers and officials are advocating for virtual ceremonies. Read more.
  • Nashville’s first responders will continue to receive COVID-19 patient information from the city’s public health department despite the state halting its data-sharing policy, reports Samantha Max for WPLN. The Tennessee Department of Health shared names and addresses of residents who have tested positive to 70 local police departments to alert officials before entering the homes of patients in an attempt to preserve the limited supply of PPE, but has ended the highly criticized policy as PPE has become more available. The city never signed onto the state’s program and local officials claim it is saving lives. Read more.
  • For the Albuquerque Journal, Theresa Davis reports Navajo Nation healthcare facilities may have reached their COVID-19 hospitalizations peak in late April, several weeks earlier than originally projected. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez credits the early peak in hospitalizations to cooperation with public health orders. The number of daily reported cases has not yet declined, mainly because only 15% of the population has been tested so far, according to Nez. As of Tuesday, Navajo Nation had 4,800 cases and 158 deaths. Read more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

  • GroundTruth: At Manhattan mosque, an imam eases a pandemic’s grief
  • For Boise State Public Radio, Rachel Cohen reports that Butte County is one of 10 in Idaho without any confirmed cases of COVID-19. The rural county has a higher rate of testing than the entire Southeastern Idaho Public Health District, so locals credit the area’s success against the virus to the community’s willingness to follow precautionary guidelines. Read more. 
  • The pandemic has increased the number of accidents and incidents in Washington County, Utah making 2020 the busiest year on record so far for its search and rescue team, reports David Fuchs for KUER. The team attributes the rise to the extra time people have because of the pandemic. They ask that everyone take steps to minimize the chance of an accident whilen medical workers are already at high risk. Read more.
  • New Mexico midwives have seen an increase in mothers giving birth at home or at birth centers rather than at hospitals that present new dangers amid the pandemic, reports Katherine Lewin for the Santa Fe Reporter. Midwives are struggling to obtain PPE while also adapting to new practices, like an increase in telehealth visits and the inability to stay with mothers if they are transferred to a hospital. Read more.
  • Samantha Max reports for WPLN on the return of live music to Nashville since a ‘Safer at Home’ order in effect in March. The city is in phase two of reopening, which allows for two musicians to be onstage at a time while keeping 15 feet from the audience without  open dance floors. Following such guidelines has created challenges for venues and artists struggling economically. Read more.
  • One thousand art kits are being delivered to Chicago families hit hardest by the pandemic, to provide a creative relief for their children, reports Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago. The kits are donated by SkyART, an arts education nonprofit of the Far South Side, which has the city’s only free art center. The organization was forced to close its studio, and virtual art classes are not accessible for most families the nonprofit works with. The kits will allow students who are currently facing instability to continue to learn socially and emotionally as their families work to provide their basic needs during the crisis. Read more

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

  • For Wyoming Public Media, Savannah Maher tells the story of the Wheeler family on the Wind River Reservation, who lost three of their members to COVID-19, while 14 more tested positive and five were hospitalized. A dozen relatives pay tribute to Larry and Gloria and their daughter, Dawn, who all died on April 20. Listen.
  • Families of inmates in Connecticut’s corrections system have to pay for the calls made by the prisoners, but those who have lost income to the pandemic are struggling to afford the high cost of the calls with their loved ones, reports Kelan Lyons for The Connecticut Mirror. At a time when communication is crucial to stay connected and to receive updates as the coronavirus spreads, advocates are calling on Gov. Ned Lamont to make the calls free. Read more.
  • Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate the liquid part of their blood, known as convalescent plasma, to help treat patients with severe cases, reports Arielle Dreher for The Spokesman-Review. Not yet approved by the FDA, the treatment is part of a clinical trial by the Mayo Clinic that hospitals around the country can opt into. Read more.
  • For The City, Eileen Grench reports an increase in the number of young people in New York City’s two secure juvenile detention centers. The rise follows the state’s decrease in jail populations after inmates were released as a precaution, which led to a drop in the number of detained youths by one-third in early April. Read more.
  • Schools across the Navajo Nation have canceled their graduation ceremonies to limit the spread of COVID-19, reports Kate Groetzinger for KUER. Nonetheless, the feat is a big deal for the students in Monument Valley who have overcome many obstacles to finish high school. Almost half are considered homeless under federal law and many don’t have internet access, creating additional challenges to virtually celebrate as the reservation battles a higher infection rate than any state in the country. Read more.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

  • According to a national poll, 70% of Latinos said they would soon be unable to afford food, rent, utilities, mortgage payments or other basic expenses, reports Carlos Ballesteros for the Chicago Sun-Times. That number is closer to 80% for those living in Illinois, who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, making up 30% of positive cases in the state but only 17% of the population. Read more.
  • For The Connecticut Mirror, Kelan Lyons reports nursing home providers are giving some residents sponge baths in bed rather than showers in an effort to conserve the state’s limited supply of PPE, as equipment can become compromised when wet. Nursing homes have had to make case-by-case decisions without concrete guidance from the state or federal government or the CDC. Read more. 
  • Nearly a third of non-citizen women in California have lost their jobs, making them the group of workers most affected by the pandemic, according to a study by UC Merced Community and Labor Center, reports Jackie Botts for CalMatters. The study comes days after Gov. Newsom released a budget proposal that cuts $14 billion from social services and lacks plans to extend benefits to undocumented workers and seniors. Families of undocumented workers do not qualify for most state or federal COVID-19 relief. Read more.
  • Angie Jackson contributed to a Detroit Free Press report on the record flood caused by the breach of two nearby dams that cost about 10,000 mid-Michigan residents their homes on Wednesday. No one was killed by the flooding, but the emergency comes at a time when the state has lost 5,000 residents to COVID-19 and a third of the state is unemployed. As neighbors step up to support sheltered evacuees, they are reminded to maintain social distancing. Read more.
  • Students learning remotely on the Navajo Nation in San Juan County received about 1,500 books, donated by a Florida-based literacy program, reports Zak Podmore for The Salt Lake Tribune. Teachers chose titles based on interest and reading level for each student and will distribute them as part of their regular deliveries of meals and educational materials. Families in remote parts of the reservation are more isolated than most with unreliable phone and internet service, or sometimes no electricity altogether. Read more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

  • Rachel Cohen reports for Boise State Public Radio about Idaho’s first long-term health care facility focused entirely on caring for COVID-19 patients. The 80-bed center, which opened in late April in Twin Falls, will only treat patients who have been exposed to the virus or who have symptoms. By grouping patients and staff at only one location, the company in charge of the facility aims to reduce the incidence of a future outbreak. Read more. 
  • A veteran who recovered from COVID-19 died after returning to the Spokane Veterans Home, writes Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. According to the administrator of the veteran’s facility, the toll the virus extracted on his body “was simply too great.” As of Tuesday, 10 residents at the Spokane Veterans Home who have tested positive for COVID-19 had died, either from the virus or other medical conditions. Spokane County has 412 cases and 31 residents have died. Read more.  
  • Businesses across New Mexico await the news on the status of their applications to the $2 trillion Federal Paycheck Protection Program, as they try  to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic, reports Katherine Lewin for the Santa Fe Reporter. So far, 19,842 loans in the state have been approved, bringing in over $2 billion, but many owners have been left out, either because they don’t fit the guidelines of the program or because they’re not citizens. And some of the beneficiaries say this help will not be enough. Read more. 
  • The Aloha Free Clinic in Kalihi will assist Hawaiians who have lost their jobs and health insurance to the pandemic, reports Eleni Gill for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Since March, more than 220,000 Hawaiians have filed for unemployment. While the temporary pop-up clinic is not a COVID-19 treatment center, telemedicine and volunteer doctors and nurses will provide specialty services to patients while connecting them to ongoing care systems in the area. Read more.
  • Catherine Martinez, a 51 year old woman who lives in Cypress, Texas, survived COVID-19 after spending 11 days in the intensive care unit in a Houston hospital, reports Ciara McCarthy for the Victoria Advocate. McCarthy recounts Martinez’ ordeal since she first became ill on March 11 until now, when she’s still regaining her respiratory strength. As of Tuesday, the total number of infected Victoria Country residents stands at 157. Read more.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

  • For The Modesto Bee, ChrisAnna Mink reports on the challenges of foster care during the pandemic, like finding new placements for kids and the adjustments families must make, including making sure children are keeping up with their school work during remote learning, and managing limited resources at a time where essentials, like food, have increased. National trends show child protection agencies are struggling to find foster families, but the 22 children within Modesto’s Stanislaus County removed from homes since the start of the pandemic have found a new family No foster children in the county have tested positive for the virus. Read more.
  • In an attempt to reach vulnerable populations, the West Virginia National Guard tested 2,388 people in four densely populated communities in the state’s first round of free testing, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. A task force addressing racial disparities in positive cases hopes that if the Guard can give community members more notice of times and locations, there will be a larger turnout this weekend in four more counties. Read more.
  • Wyoming had its eighth confirmed COVID-19 death on Saturday night, a Northern Arapaho tribal member from Fremont County, reports Savannah Maher for Wyoming Public Media. This is the tribe’s fifth death from the virus. While 3% of the state’s population self-identifies as Native American, Native people make up more than 30% of its confirmed cases. This is partially due to aggressive testing, but Native Americans also suffer from underfunded health services and overcrowded living conditions. Read more.
  • Several Christian faith leaders have outlined plans for reopening Chicago churches in conjunction with Illinois’ orders, reports Manny Ramos for the Chicago Sun-Times. The plans include giving every congregant hand sanitizer, gloves and a mask before entering the church, and using a touchless thermometer to take every person’s temperature. Read more.
  • For Mississippi Today, Eric Shelton photographed the reopening of barbershops, salons, gyms, parks and some stores. Gov. Tate Reeves had reopened parks and reservoirs earlier in the month and announced the reopening of salons on May 11. As of May 18, the state has had 11,432 COVID-19 cases and 528 deaths. See Shelton’s photo essay.

Monday, May 18, 2020

  • A federal lawsuit alleges that 6,000 vulnerable inmates of Mississippi’s two largest prisons have been put at risk by a lack of basic safety guidelines against COVID-19 recommended by the CDC, reports Shirley Smith for the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. The lawsuit states that the Mississippi Department of Corrections tested less than 0.05% of the more than 18,000 inmates in the state. Before the pandemic, inmates in the state’s prisons had mortality rates above the national average. Read more.
  • With 140 dead, Navajo Nation has a higher COVID-19 death toll than 13 states combined. As the community struggles to control the spread of the virus and provide food and support for its members, their leaders are expressing their concern about the efforts underway to reopen the economy of the states overlapping with their territory and the disregard for safety measures that some local politicians have been promoting, reports Zak Podmore for The Salt Lake Tribune. Read more.
  • New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development says its residences for homeless youth are all operational amid the pandemic, but users of these facilities  and advocates say otherwise, reports Eileen Grench for The City. Many shelters cannot keep young people inside during the day due to both limited resources and social distancing precautions. But because schools are closed and many have lost their jobs, they have nowhere to go. Read more.
  • For the Detroit Free Press, Angie Jackson writes that since schools have closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, “teenagers are facing a sense of loss that adults removed from the high school experience might not fully understand: the disappointment of missing out on milestones.” Michigan schools are providing mental health care to students virtually while working to bridge inequities for those with limited technological access. Peer-led support groups across the state are also helping students find a sense of community while in physical isolation. Read more.
  • For The Charlotte Observer, Lauren Lindstrom reports on how the work of three Atrium Health trauma surgeons in North Carolina has changed during the pandemic, and what has stayed the same. Read more.

Friday, May 15, 2020

  • One young person is in intensive care at Valley Children’s Hospital in California, after showing symptoms of Kawasaki Disease, a rare illness that experts around the world suspect is linked to COVID-19 in children, reports Manuela Tobias for the Fresno Bee. Read more.
  • The Tennessee ZIP code 37407 represents less than 3% of Hamilton County’s population, but has registered 10-18% of the county’s COVID-19 cases in less than two weeks, reports Wyatt Massey for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The area represents some of Chattanooga’s most at-risk neighborhoods, but community members say leaders didn’t take seriously the threat the virus represented to communities of color and failed to act in a timely manner. The state’s health department does not recognize the area as a hotspot. Read more.
  • Since a stay at home order was placed in March, more than 86,000 absentee ballots have been cast in West Virginia, compared to the 6,567 that were submitted in the 2016 presidential primary, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. To keep up, some county clerks are working overtime. Read more.
    • Related: GroundTruth staffer Josh Coe reports on the growing concerns of the politicization of the U.S. Postal Service as voting by mail becomes a popular choice in the midst of the pandemic. Read more.
  • For the Spokesman-Review, Arielle Dreher reports on the death of a veteran living at the Spokane Veterans Home, the ninth at that facility, bringing the county’s death toll from COVID-19 to 30. So far, 46 residents and 24 staff members have tested positive. Read more.
  • After being in a medically induced coma for 13 days, Nader Ammari, a 56-year-old Italian living in Turlock, Calif., recovered from COVID-19 thanks to a unique treatment, reports ChrisAnna Mink for The Modesto Bee. Shortly after testing positive, he developed a fever, fatigue and had difficulty breathing. The specialists at Kaiser Permanente in Modesto, put him on a  treatment that uses gravity to bring more oxygen to the lungs and that has demonstrated its effectiveness against other severe lung diseases. Ammari and his wife were exposed to the virus from a passenger in their cabin on a flight home to California from Venice in late February. Read more.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

  • “COVID-19 has the potential to affect affordable housing projects at every step of the process, developers say, from securing financing to construction slow-downs,” writes Lauren Lindstrom for The Charlotte Observer. In a city where the issue of affordable housing is already dire, these challenges will increase demand while simultaneously limit funding for new projects. Read more.
  • Teachers are the most reliable source of child abuse reports, but with schools closed because of the pandemic, the majority of the reports in Hawaii are coming from neighbors and relatives, reports Eleni Gill for Honolulu Civil Beat. The number of reports, however, has gone down because social workers can’t have face-to-face visits with foster children, by which they could identify signs of abuse. Read more.
  • Lack of accurate data and government coordination with organizations serving seniors are preventing quick responses to the needs of this population during the quarantine, reports Rafael R. Díaz Torres for the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo. Only 25% of positive cases in Puerto Rico are 60 years of age or older, yet 78% of deaths from the virus are of the same age group. Read more in Spanish and in English.
  • As Maine officially enters a recession in the middle of  an “‘unprecedented’ economic downturn” as a result of the pandemic, Samantha Hogan, reporting for Pine Tree Watch, spoke with four economists and a finance professor about the state of the economy and what to make of the mixed messages from federal and state authorities about reopening businesses. No past economic events model this rate of decline, and an upturn is dependent on how long widespread unemployment lasts and consumer confidence in limiting the spread of the virus. Read more. 
  • After raising more than $10,000 in less than 48 hours, the Coachella Valley Certified Farmers’ Market will remain open for the summer, reports Risa Johnson for The Desert Sun. Farmers and vendors in the region depend heavily on this market, but had to step away to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. With the implementation of a mask requirement and other precautions, the market had 610 visitors this Saturday compared to its summertime high of just over 700. Read more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

  • After 90% of businesses reopened in Twin Falls, Idaho, new cases of COVID-19 rose by 45% across the county – its biggest increase since the outbreak began, reports Rachel Cohen for Boise State Public Radio. Read more. 
  • UK HealthCare, Kentucky’s largest hospital system, spent almost $6.8 million to build a 400-bed field hospital to treat the anticipated overflow of patients. But, as Alex Acquisto reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the state’s infection curve plateaued over the last few weeks, meaning the facility will be deconstructed before it’s ever used. Read more. 
  • The CARES Act, which enabled the IRS to distribute COVID-19 stimulus checks, excluded taxpayers who do not have a Social Security number, as well as their spouses, even if they do have a Social Security number. A class action lawsuit against the Trump administration was filed in Chicago to include the spouses of about 1.2 million “mixed-status” American families, reports Carlos Ballesteros for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more in English and in Spanish
  • As Utah shifts its risk level to “orange” (or moderate) and begins to reopen, some towns like Bluff are requesting to maintain a higher risk classification, reports Zak Podmore for The Salt Lake Tribune. Mayor Ann Leppanen said she was maintaining the highest level COVID-19 restrictions out of concern for the town’s workers, many of whom live on Navajo Nation, a hotspot of the virus in the state, or are seniors. Read more.
  • For Times-News, Megan Taros reports on the unique challenges the refugee community faces as Idaho’s three refugee resettlement programs navigate providing adequate resources during the pandemic. With a halt on refugee resettlement, federal funding has been reduced, creating consequences for not only the programs, but for those in crowded camps already at a high risk-level of contracting the virus. Read more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

  • West Virginia’s population is 4.2% African American, according to the 2018 Census, but the community makes up 7.3% of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Limited access to health care and other social inequities disproportionately affecting black communities put the state’s African American population at a disadvantage in the midst of public health problems, including those that will persist after the pandemic, one reverend says. Read more. 
  • For WPLN Nashville Public Radio, Samantha Max investigated the COVID-19 outbreak at Tennessee’s Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. The facility has become one of the largest hotspots in the nation, with about 600 positive cases among inmates and staff. Internal documents, letters and interviews with employees and family of inmates indicate that the staff at the prison missed several opportunities to prevent the spread of the outbreak. Read more.
  • Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky announced on Monday that a 10-year-old with COVID-19 is on a ventilator. Julia Fair reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer that the boy developed an inflammatory syndrome that experts say is becoming more prevalent among children with the virus, which more than 700 residents of Northern Kentucky have contracted. Read more
  • Following The City’s report that parents with limited equipment for remote-learning have received visits from child welfare investigators, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called for child neglect and maltreatment reports to be “‘purged,’” reports Eileen Grench. While the Department of Education says it issued guidance to ensure access to technology was not a primary reason for a report of educational neglect, Williams says responses to the pandemic have not been equitable. Read more. 
  • Officials of Fremont County, Wyoming are drafting a three-phase plan for businesses to reopen, reports Chris Aadland for the Casper Star-Tribune. At 169, the county has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, which has reported 495 total, and the lowest rate of recovery at 27%. As officials’ economic concerns grow, they argue that the decision to open or close a business should be left up to owners. Read more

Monday, May 11, 2020

  • Despite the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus, fear of contracting COVID-19 at the doctor’s office has led to a drop in immunization rates in California and across the country, reports ChrisAnna Mink for the Modesto Bee. Doctors say this decline could lead to global outbreaks of preventable diseases. Read more. 
  • In late March, Blaine County, ID had one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the nation, taking a toll on the health and resources of the fire department. For Boise State Public Radio, Rachel Cohen reports that once the cases started to decline, the firefighters had to jump to another crisis: a spike in wildfires, linked to the severe drought the county has been suffering from for months. Read more. 
  • To combat the loss of $6.7 billion from the tourism industry due to COVID-19, Mississippi travel groups are encouraging virtual tours, showcasing the state’s restaurants, museums and music, reports Alexandra Watts for Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Read more. 
  • For The Desert Sun, Risa Johnson profiles Coachella Valley native Kayla Perez, who was living in Seoul at the onset of the pandemic. Now back in the U.S., she tells Johnson that she felt safer in Seoul because of the decisive measures implemented by the government. South Korea put unique safeguards in place after the 2015 MERS outbreak that included granting health authorities access to CCTV footage and patients’ geolocation data from their phones. Read more.
  • Delivering flower arrangements was not the business Anna and Ben Zack had in mind when they launched Zack Family Farms last fall. The initial idea was to grow and cut flowers for high-end gatherings. But since events have been canceled due to the pandemic, the couple now enjoys doing no-contact flower deliveries in the Ogden Area, having made about a dozen for Mother’s Day, reports Becky Jacobs for The Salt Lake Tribune. Read more.

Friday, May 8, 2020

  • In Tennessee, the organization Sankofa Fund for Civic Engagement is helping African American small business owners in Hamilton County cope with COVID-19 by offering $1,000 grants, reports Wyatt Massey for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Read more.
  • Tribes on Wind River Reservation in Wyoming are meeting the coronavirus head-on, having conducted close to a third of all testing for the virus in the state, reports Savannah Maher for Wyoming Public Media. Listen.
  • In March, the city of Fresno, Calif. said it would house “every single” one of the city’s 2,000 homeless people during COVID-19. Two months later, it’s only been able to find beds for 446 people, reports Manuela Tobias for the Fresno Bee. Read more.
  • In Chicago, a former mayoral candidate is planning to help distribute 5 million face masks in the city’s West and South Sides, reports Manny Ramos for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more.
  • Rafael Diaz worked with an investigative team from Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo looking at why about 200 COVID-19 tests distributed by the government were being returned. The Department of Health of the island said some laboratories returned the tests because they were not satisfied with their quality. Phamatech, the company that manufactured the tests still has to deliver another 40,000 to the island. Read more. (Spanish)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

  • North Carolina families still recovering from the loss of their homes during Hurricane Florence in 2018 are now seeing their rebuilding efforts put on hold by COVID-19, reports Adam Wagner for The News & Observer. Read more.
  • The number of cases of hand sanitizer ingestion has risen since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., reports ChrisAnna Mink for the Modesto Bee, with a 33% increase between Jan 1 and April 19 compared to the same time last year. Read more.
  • A long-term care home in North Idaho is under fire for its lack of transparency after failing to test patients amid an outbreak in its facility, and only starting to administer tests in late April. For Boise State Radio, Rachel Cohen spoke to the daughter of a woman who died of COVID-19 while staying at Life Care Center of Lewiston. Listen.
  • Dallas is expecting revenue losses in the millions because of the pandemic. “Now the questions are how to make up some of those shortcomings and plan for the upcoming fiscal years and if federal dollars can help even more,” writes Obed Manuel for the Dallas Morning News. Read more.
  • Utah is among 13 states the U.S. Census Bureau deemed safe enough to count  homes, reports Kate Groetzinger for KUER, but the visits to households will be done without any contact. Listen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 

  • One of the 37 mobile parks in Paradise, California destroyed by the Camp Fire has finally reopened, reports Camille von Kaenel for the Chico Enterprise-Record. While the coronavirus crisis limited the public celebrations, a small crowd attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, while others watched via Facebook Live. Read more.
  • Mass testing at two Tennessee prisons has uncovered nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19 among the inmate population, reports Samantha Max for WPLN. Officials have said most inmates who have tested positive are asymptomatic, but that could soon change for the worse. Listen.
  • On Thursday, May 7, Camalot Todd will host a Facebook Live discussion with the Director of Older Adult Services at Compeer of Greater Buffalo, Heidi Billittier, on mental health for seniors, and how to connect with others during these times of social isolation. Learn more here.
  • “If you started your walk at Ontario Mini Market, you’d think everything was business as usual. A steady stream of cars sidled up to the corner grocery store,” writes Yadira Lopez of the impact of COVID-19 on a South Oregon business strip, for the Malheur Enterprise. “But if you turned around and took the crosswalk – waiting until the car with a driver in a face mask made a left – you’d bump into a long row of empty parking spots on either side.” Read more.
  • One industry not slowing down during the pandemic? Marijuana, at least in Illinois, reports Eric Schmid for St. Louis Public Radio. The state announced this week that sales of cannabis in April reached nearly $40 million. Listen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

  • In California, Pacific islanders are experiencing more than double the COVID-19 infection and death rates as the entire state, reports Jackie Botts for CalMatters. Community members are mobilizing, using community churches as testing and isolation sites, and distributing information. Read more.
  • Inmates and advocacy groups in Michigan’s most populous county have brought forward a federal lawsuit against the sheriff of Wayne County, demanding the immediate release of medically vulnerable prisoners at Wayne County Jail, where 30 prisoners have already tested positive for COVID-19, reports Angie Jackson for the Detroit Free Press. Read more.
  • Washington state began to reopen Monday, initiating the first phase of its “Safe Start” plan, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. Spokane County is among those applying to be reopened more quickly as part of the plan’s regional focus. Read more.
  • In Wyoming, the economy has already started to reopen and health officials in the state anticipate an increase in social interactions, reports Chris Aadland for the Casper Star-Tribune. They’re looking to contact tracing as a means to keep a handle on the virus. Read more.
  • While most restaurants in Idaho’s Magic Valley have shuttered due to COVID-19, Megan Taros highlights the restaurants staying open for Cinco de Mayo for those celebrating – while following social distancing measures. The restaurants offer takeout and delivery. Read more.

Monday, May 4, 2020

  • In Fresno, Calif., Manuela Tobias examines why billions in federal aid are not enough to support America’s farmers in this time of crisis, as producers are struggling to make ends meet. Tobias spoke with a local farmer who fears that if the market for lamb meat doesn’t improve in the next few months, he’ll have to sacrifice some of his sheep. Read more
  • As COVID-19 paralyzes economic activity in South Florida, as well as other regions with significant Latin American populations, families south of the border who depend on the remittances their relatives send every month are starting to feel a ripple effect, reports Lautaro Grinspan for the Miami Herald. Read more
  • A new testing site in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago opened up today, promising to test 500 people a day and offer educational materials and resources in both English and Spanish, reports Carlos Ballesteros for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more
  • Across the U.S., women have seen more job losses than men, reports Becky Jacobs for the Salt Lake Tribune – one expert observing that more women are in the service sector and are more likely to make the difficult choice of parenting over employment when schools and daycares are closed. Read more
  • In Mississippi, photojournalist Eric J. Shelton documents a protest in support of the state’s open carry law and against the closure of nonessential businesses in the capital, Montgomery. Explore his photo essay.

Friday, May 1, 2020

  • Two weeks ago, Norton Healthcare in Kentucky started testing all pregnant women admitted for delivery for COVID-19, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The stress of pregnancy on the body’s immune system increases the risk of contracting the highly contagious respiratory disease. Other Kentucky hospitals are poised to follow Norton’s lead and deploy their own testing methods for vulnerable groups like expectant mothers and patients admitted for elective surgeries. Read more.
  • This week, Connecticut’s prison population dropped to its lowest numbers since 1992. For the Connecticut Mirror, Kelan Lyons takes an in-depth look at the impact of COVID-19 on the prison system. Read more.
  • For Chalkbeat Newark in New Jersey, Devna Bose shares resources for families to find free food – from student lunches by public schools to donated fresh vegetables – available to those in need amid the pandemic. Read more.
  • Ahead of the reopening of some areas of Illinois’ economy, Manny Ramos spoke with Chicago-area business owners who were preparing their stores for getting back to business, albeit not as per usual. Read more.
  • A 76-year-old woman who was among the first people hospitalized in Victoria County, Texas has been returned to a long-term care facility, but her family fears her stay at the hospital ended too soon, reports Ciara McCarthy for the Victoria Advocate. Read more.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

  • This week, Michigan saw two lawsuits related to the handling of COVID-19 by correctional institutions in the state: one brought forward against Wayne County by a former juvenile detention center employee, the other by prisoners suing the Department of Corrections. Angie Jackson has back-to-back coverage. Read More.
  • Julia Fair, for the Cincinnati Enquirer, examines the case of a  Northern Kentucky nursing home, where residents account for a fourth of COVID-19 cases and 65% of related deaths in its county. Read more.
  • Long-term care homes across Spokane County, in western Washington, will receive personal protective equipment by the dozens from county health officials, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. Read more.
  • Connecticut shelters are finding new ways to house the homeless following a state order to move occupants, an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, reports Report for America corps member Chris Ehrmann with AP. Read his On the Ground dispatch.
  • The peak summer tourism season in southern West Virginia has been hampered by the crisis and the physical distancing measures enacted by the state government – including closing local nature trails, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, creating challenges for the local economy. Read more.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

  • While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised public school teachers for their flexibility as students and families adapt to remote learning, Eileen Grench writes for The City that some school staff reported parents to the state child neglect and abuse hotline, after students failed to attend online classes in the early stages of learning from home. Read more.
  • As Tennessee begins to reopen its economy, Wyatt Massey reports for the Chattanooga Times Free Press that a group of some 2,000 concerned physicians across the state are urging residents to continue to maintain physical distance in order to stop the virus. Read more.
  • “Waiters in face masks, limits to how many people can shop in department stores, free admission to some museums and gyms that require reservations,” are among some of the new realities of life in North Carolina when the state reopens, reports Lauren Lindstrom for The Charlotte Observer. Read More.
  • The Paycheck Protection Program, created to help small businesses across the country cope with COVID-19, dried up in less than two weeks and 80% of applicants were still without a loan. But not in Johnson County, Wyoming, where Mara Abbott with the Buffalo Bulletin reports that banks saw most of the requests submitted locally were approved. Read more.
  • In New Mexico, as across the U.S., distilleries that once made hard alcohols like vodka are now converting their spirit distillation into sanitizer production. For the Santa Fe Reporter, Katherine Lewin spoke with a head brewer who’s now making alcohol you should not drink, but instead wash your hands with. Read more.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020:

  • Many seniors have found themselves in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their risk for developing health problems, reports Eve Zuckoff for WCAI. Councils on Aging, among other local organizations, have increased outreach to those at risk, and meanwhile some seniors are using technology to maintain aspects of their social life. Read more.
  • The “Remain in Mexico” program allows migrants to request a non-refoulement interview if they experience violence or persecution as they await their cases to play out in U.S. immigration court. However, as Mallory Falk reports for KERA News, these interviews are being postponed as part of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, which also includes the restriction of immigration and the suspension of asylum programs. Read more.
  • After the death of a worker from COVID-19, tortilla producer El Milagro shut down one of its factories in Chicago for two weeks. With two more employees testing positive and an additional four showing symptoms, the facility will be sanitized and all workers paid. Supply chains are already seeing the effects as the company is projected to lose 75% of its tortilla production, reports Carlos Ballesteros for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more.
  • The Northern Arapaho Tribe hired a company to build temporary housing for isolation and health monitoring of the transient population of Fremont County, Wyoming, reports Chris Aadland for the Casper Star Tribune. This population contributed to a recent, steep increase in reported COVID-19 cases in the area, but officials recognize that convincing those who participate in high-risk behavior to stay put has been challenging, putting elders and the rest of the tribe at greater risk. At the same time, they announced they have stopped breaking down cases by municipality because of reports of harassment on social media. Read more.
  • For KUER, David Fuchs reports that, starting May 1, nonessential businesses in Washington County will have the option to reopen if they follow certain precautions. The rest of Utah will also reduce its COVID-19 restrictions around the same time, Gov. Gary Herbert announced. The district has seen its infection curve plateau since its first case. Read more.
  • SEVA Selfless Service, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization, is supporting the elderly and other at-risk populations for COVID-19 in Sacramento and Yuba City, reports Theodora Yu for the Sacramento Bee. About 24 volunteers, all with full-time jobs, have delivered groceries to about 10 senior citizens daily. Read more.

Monday, April 27, 2020:

  • Miami funeral homes have changed the way they operate to limit the spread of COVID-19, reports Lautaro Grinspan for the Miami Herald. The Vior Funeral Home is strained for resources and capacity; meanwhile, its co-owners are adjusting to less intimacy with their clients, whose mourning is made more difficult without family and friends. Read more. 
  • For the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Wyatt Massey writes that, in “the most-churched city in America,” ministry work is adapting to social distancing measures, straining the relationships necessary to provide care in times of trouble. And residents continue to be hit by numerous challenges: after coronavirus cases quickly increased by mid-April, a series of tornadoes killed 11 people on Easter night, injuring dozens and destroying hundreds of homes. Read more.
  • The Intensive Care Unit at Saint Anthony Hospital in North Lawndale has been at 120-140% capacity, leaving patients with respiratory failure to be intubated and hooked up to ventilators in other areas of the hospital, reports Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago. As a safety net hospital serving populations more vulnerable to COVID-19, a facility that was already limited in resources is disproportionately affected. Read more.
  • Financial strains during a crisis often contribute to an increase in domestic abuse. Victims of interpersonal violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, are shut off from resources or other help outlets, as social distancing measures allow abusers to control victims’ environments, reports Megan Taros from Twin Falls for the Times-News. Idaho support services rely on the community to speak out on behalf of victims as those measures are extended. Read more.
  • Because of COVID-19 precautions, Donna Wozniak spends 23 hours a day in her cell at the federal Danbury prison, having to choose between a walk in fresh air or calling her family in her single hour of free time. Her husband, Greg, is “desperate” for information as policies continuously change about who may or may not be released early from their sentences, Kelan Lyons reports for The Connecticut Mirror. Read more.
  • Relationships are becoming more meaningful among group members in Women in Ranching, an initiative of the New Mexico-based Western Landowners Alliance, via their weekly Zoom check-ins and email updates. The ranchers share conversation, work opportunities and resources as they navigate life during the pandemic, reports Theresa Davis for the Albuquerque Journal. Read more.
  • From GroundTruth: The chaplains caring for the caregivers on the front lines of COVID-19

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Friday, April 24, 2019

  • Just as Paradise, Calif., was starting to get back on its feet after the devastating Camp Fire of 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic swept in, forcing the closure of already scarce businesses and community activity. Report for America corps member Camille von Kaenel reports how residents are using what they learned in the aftermath of the fire to adapt to new challenges. Read more.
  • “Health care workers have been lauded as heroes in Louisiana and across the U.S. since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak,” reports Emily Woodruff for the Advocate. “But in Louisiana, one of the hardest-hit states, no one is tracking how many health care workers are infected.” Read more.
  • Following a COVID-19 outbreak at a Tyson beef processing facility in southeastern Washington in which 100 people were infected, the plant is closing and local health staff will test more than 1,400 employees, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. Read More

Thursday, April 23, 2019

  • Following on his story from earlier this week, Chris Aadland reports that  the virus is no longer contained among the original two family clusters found in the Northern Arapaho Tribe reservation. Authorities confirmed that at least one of the four deceased tribe members contracted the virus before the county officially registered its first case on March 13. Read more.
  • Researchers in Kentucky are working to create a home-grown COVID-19 testing method that could provide insights on immunity to the virus, reports Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader. From there, recovered patients with a strong “immunoresponse” can help treat other patients as plasma donors. Antibody testing and live virus testing could be key to relaxing restrictions, but authorities caution that it is just one factor in deciding whether to reopen the state. Read more.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state filed its first charges against companies investigated for their role in the opioid crisis, reports Camalot Todd for Spectrum News Buffalo. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties have seen increases in overdoses, but not all deaths can be attributed to opioids until toxicology tests are applied. Todd maintains a list of available mental health resources in the state during the crisis. Read more.
  • Not all classes can adapt effectively to remote learning. An exercise assessment class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville is one such experiential learning class that faces obstacles in proper skill-building for students. Science courses combat similar dilemmas with the cancelation of labs, as do art courses when it comes to supplying students with costly materials, reports Eric Schmid for St. Louis Public Radio. Read more.
  • Mother and daughter Cora and Brenda, who began a Nambé Tewa language revitalization program at Nambé Pueblo in New Mexico, have not only had to end in-person classes, but document the language with greater urgency as many of the elderly people who speak the dialect are at high-risk for COVID-19, reports Katherine Lewin for the Santa Fe Reporter. The Tewa language is considered severely endangered by UNESCO, as there are only 30 fluent speakers left. While many Albuquerque students have been able to continue their Native language studies from home, some pueblos are hesitant or unable to embrace the technology. Read more.
  • On April 28, community members of Sacramento will distribute food packages for residents and workers on Stockton Boulevard after many lost their jobs due to the closure of businesses to limit the spread of COVID-19. The drive-through event will provide enough packages for about 350 families, Theodora Yu reports for The Sacramento Bee. Read more.
  • From GroundTruth: Women in Muslim countries prepare for ‘least, most’ Ramadan

Wednesday, April 22, 2019

  • On Monday, four Northern Arapaho Tribe members died after testing positive for COVID-19, reports Christopher Aadland for the Casper Star-Tribune, in Wyoming. Three victims were of the same family. At least 24 of Fremont County’s 51 confirmed cases are on the Wind River Reservation, but because of restrictions, the tribe is unable to mourn the losses as a community. Read more.
  • For KUER, Kate Groetzinger reports that students living on Navajo Nation are no longer permitted to hand in paper assignments as the COVID-19 infection rate increases, leading to a struggle for families without internet access at home. Utah schools have ordered 200 internet hotspots for most high school students on the reservation. Until then, one family continues to take their school-provided Chromebooks to a parking lot for the Wi-Fi connection. Read more.
  • From GroundTruth: Online activism keeps Earth Day alive during the pandemic
  • Because of social distancing precautions, Multi-Agency Resource Centers are not an option. While these hubs are typically used to provide help to communities in the midst of a crisis, Rachel Cohen reports for Boise State Public Radio that a new non-profit, Blaine Recovery, will be providing resources, like support for online school and assistance to small businesses. Read more.
  • The Pueblo Relief Fund has been established to support New Mexico’s 19 pueblos by purchasing masks, food and cleaning supplies to be donated to the tribes, Theresa Davis reports for the Albuquerque Journal. While Native Americans represent about 11% of the state’s population, they make up nearly 41% of the state’s COVID-19 cases. Read more.
  • For the Buffalo Bulletin, Mara Abbott reports that a Johnson County health officer extended exemptions to three local businesses in the wake of Gov. Mark Gordon’s executive order to close businesses as a precaution in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Protocols have been put into place for businesses that are reopening, however, most counties are not accepting similar requests for such exceptions. It remains unclear as to whether or not the state is beginning to experience a decline in cases. Read more.
  • For Block Club Chicago, Pascal Sabino provides guidelines and infographics from the Active Transportation Alliance and the Cook County Department of Public Health on how to stay safe while walking or riding a bike. Read more.
  • From GroundTruth: Indonesian Muslims brace for somber Ramadan amid pandemic restriction

Tuesday, April 21, 2019

  • William Garrison was to be released from prison after spending 44 years incarcerated, serving a juvenile life sentence that had been resentenced in 2016. Weeks before coming home, however, Garrison died from COVID-19, reports Angie Jackson for the Detroit Free Press. Advocates say recent deaths emphasize the need to decrease the prison population during the pandemic. Read more.
  • For The Charlotte Observer, Laura Lindstrom reports on an expansion of the staffing cuts at Greater Charlotte’s YMCA, confirming furloughs for over 3,700 employees, pay cuts for 200 employees and the elimination of 55 jobs. Last month, nearly 75% of nonprofits in Charlotte reported that COVID-19 had significantly impacted operations. The demand for economic relief is greater than what the local and federal governments offer. Read more. 
  • Gov. Ned Lamont announced that Connecticut is the first state to partner with the HowWeFeel.org app that allows residents to report their symptoms, information that would be useful when the state starts to reopen, reports Chris Ehrmann for the Associated Press. More than 19,800 residents of the state have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Lamont is considering signing an executive order making infected workers eligible for compensation benefits. Read more. 
  • The Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Migrant and Seasonal Head Start centers, which provide child care for agricultural workers, are making arrangements to reopen in time for the spring season, reports ChrisAnna Mink for the Modesto Bee. Protocols are being developed for all attendees and personnel returning to the centers. Read more.
  • A recent analysis from the Salt Lake Tribune reveals the high number of  COVID-19 updates from Navajo Nation, 1,127 confirmed cases and 44 deaths as of Saturday, can be explained as a result of the increased access to testing on the reservation, compared to surrounding jurisdictions, reports Zak Podmore. Disproportionate testing means rates of infection should be cautiously compared. Still, the reservation lacks resources to combat its high death toll. Read more.

Friday, April 17, 2020

  • Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest hospital network, says it’s likely to lose as much as $130 million over the course of March and April because of the COVID-19 outbreak, reports Emily Woodruff for the Advocate. The costs associated with expanding the number of beds available and the suspension of other, less urgent, medical procedures have hit the finances of the company. Read more.
  • A church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is suing the city for what it alleges to be an attack on its constitutional rights: banning their “drive-in services,” reports Wyatt Massey for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Read more.
  • Photojournalist Eric J. Shelton documented how Southern Mississippi residents were picking up the pieces in the wake of a local natural disaster – an onslaught of 13 tornadoes – amid the national health crisis. See his photo essay for Mississippi Today.
  • In a joint statement Thursday, seven governors from across the Midwest said they were working together to reopen parts of the economy. But one of those leaders, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, did not give a clear indication of when the incremental reopening would begin, Alex Acquisto reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Read more.
  • To allow Dallas County residents to purchase the necessary supplies to create handmade masks, county commissioners voted to reopen local craft stores, reports Obed Manuel for the Dallas Morning News. This follows an order by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins that residents wear masks during specific activities in public. Read more.
  • As of Friday, seven rural counties in North Carolina had zero confirmed cases of COVID-19. For the Raleigh News and Observer, Adam Wagner looks at the factors that might be slowing down the spread of the virus in these communities. Read more.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

  • From GroundTruth: Confronting the emotional toll of covering COVID-19
  • For the Lexington Herald-Leader, Will Wright reports on the consequences of a series of power outages on vulnerable populations that are following the shelter in place order.  More than 62,000 homes and businesses have been left without electricity across Eastern Kentucky in the last week. Those who rely on oxygen or breathing treatments worry about extended outages while social distancing has made it difficult to find housing for power company workers. Read more.
  • Becky Jacobs reports for the Salt Lake Tribune that those seeking help from nurses or advocates after a sexual assault can continue to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals across Utah are still collecting rape kits while providing care and support. Experts worry that a potential reemergence of controversial DIY rape kits may deter survivors from seeking professional treatment. Read more.
  • Newark, New Jersey has sometimes struggled to provide services to families of students with special needs in the district. For Chalkbeat, Devna Bose reports that remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic may increase these challenges. Under federal law, students with disabilities are still entitled to the same services they may have been receiving before remote learning was ordered, yet barriers include limited access to technology and the underpreparedness of parents to instruct their children at home. Read more.
  • While Americans across the country have been ordered to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, Theodora Yu reports for the Sacramento Bee that discriminatory acts against Asian Americans are still on the rise. In two weeks of data collection, 1,100 discriminatory incidents related to the virus were reported. Health experts say the social stress of being subjected to microaggressions can weaken the immune system. Read more.
  • Over 500 casinos shut down across the country to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including those of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes. Tribal governments are abruptly losing revenue with no tax base to fall back on and insufficient federal aid, Savannah Maher reports for Wyoming Public Radio. Listen.
  • With limited access to testing sites and resources in Spanish, the majority-Latino areas in Illinois are becoming hotspots for the virus. For the Chicago Sun-Times, Carlos Ballesteros reports on the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative, a collective of officials and health experts working to creatively inform the state’s Latino community about the virus. Read more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

  • For the Chicago Sun-Times, Manny Ramos spoke with two employees at two Chicago nursing homes claiming that they were fired after demanding more personal protective equipment. SEIU Healthcare Illinois says nursing home owners have disregarded the concerns of union members on multiple occasions during the pandemic. Read more.
  • In response to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order to ban elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates filed an emergency lawsuit to allow women to continue to get abortions, reports Samantha Max for WPLN Nashville Public Radio. Read more.
  • Julia Fair reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer about a federal lawsuit filed against  Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and other officials, accusing them of violating religious freedoms with restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the lawsuit, the police placed quarantine notices on the cars of parishioners who attended Easter Sunday services in defiance of the governor’s orders restricting the gatherings of large groups. This is the second lawsuit in northern Kentucky challenging COVID-19 orders as unconstitutional. Read more.
  • Street Corner Resources, a New York nonprofit dedicated to decreasing gun violence in Harlem, has taken on a new mission: helping people protect themselves against COVID-19. Eileen Grench reports for The City how this group is using their grassroots structure to spread knowledge about the virus and safety measures across the neighborhood. Read More.
  • Navajo Nation has been disproportionately hit by the virus, with more than 830 cases and 33 deaths so far and their hospitals have lacked enough gear for their workers to battle the disease. Theresa Davis reports for the Albuquerque Journal how that situation inspired a group of members of the community to organize successful donation drives of homemade masks and gowns and a GoFund me campaign that has raised more than $3,000. Read more.
  • Four Argentinian tourists are stranded in Miami after travel restrictions prevented their return to Buenos Aires, reports Lautaro Grinspan for the Miami Herald. Having depleted their savings, partially due to high foreign transaction surcharges, the friends are living in an abandoned house in Liberty City that’s infested with cockroaches and rodents and sleeping on mattresses they found in the trash. Since Argentina’s final repatriation flight at the end of March, more than 1,000 Argentinians have been stranded in Miami – and about 10,000 worldwide – with no help from their government. Read more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

  • Kelan Lyons, reporting for The Connecticut Mirror, highlights the first death of an inmate from COVID-19 in the state’s prison system. The man, who was in his 60s with underlying health conditions, was approved for discretionary release in March, but stayed in prison after authorities could not find a home sponsor. Read more.
  • Weeks after testing facilities were opened in the Metro East and Missouri regions, East St. Louis’ first coronavirus testing site will be functioning by the end of this week, Eric Schmid reports for St. Louis Public Radio. Mayor Robert Eastern attributed the delay to a lack of federal guidelines and distribution of resources to more densely populated areas, pushing back against suggestions that the wait was because the city is predominantly black, reports Schmid. Early research shows that COVID-19 is more prevalent and fatal in the African American community. Read more.
  • Planning for the distribution of $1 billion in federal grants towards home repair or economic development after the 2018 California wildfires has been delayed due to coronavirus, reports Camille von Kaenel for the Chico Enterprise-Record. Read more.
  • For KUER, David Fuchs reveals the pushback on ABC News stories depicting life as “relatively unchanged” by the pandemic in Washington County, Utah. Local officials are speaking out, saying that while the rural county’s responses are different than that of urban areas in the state, they are taking coronavirus precautions seriously. Read more.
  • While coronavirus precautions increase staffing needs at Cook County Jail, home to one of the nation’s largest virus clusters, correction officers must work double and triple shifts to cover for sick co-workers. This has led to more errors and less sanitation, reports Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago. Read more.
  • According to Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz, social distancing measures are flattening the county’s curve, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. As of Monday, Washington state had registered 10,538 cases of COVID-19 and 516 deaths. Read more.

Monday, April 13, 2020

  • At least one COVID-19 test being used in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and could give false negatives, increasing the risk of those infected spreading the virus, reports Lauren Lindstrom for The Charlotte Observer. County health officials and officials at clinics using non-approved tests disagree over the effects of using non-approved tests in the community. Read more. 
  • As the effects of COVID-19 lead to an increase in emotional distress at a health and social services center in southeast Michigan, national hotlines have also seen a spike in calls. Angie Jackson, for the Detroit Free Press, reports that health organizations are relying on telehealth to treat their patients and spoke with a behavioral health expert who shared information about children’s behavior that may indicate anxiety and depression. Read more. 
  • “And while adhering to Gov. Andy Beshear’s social distancing mandates requires personal sacrifice from virtually everyone, it can pose an especially dangerous threat to those in active recovery, who know idle time and solitude to be some of their worst enemies,” writes Alex Acquisto for the Lexington Herald-Leader, sharing how those recovering from addiction are struggling from the lack of in-person meetings. Read more.
  • While farmers have to throw away excess produce, a lack of resources is forcing food pantries to turn families away and restaurants are shortening their menus. For the Fresno Bee, Manuela Tobias reports on the intertwined effects of COVID-19 in the food industry. Read more. 
  • For WCAI, Eve Zuckoff reports on the measures Cape Cod taxi companies are considering as they try to keep drivers and riders safe. Some are giving masks and wipes to drivers while others are opting to shut down as social distancing orders continue. Listen.
  • For the Malheur Enterprise, Yadira Lopez compiled a list of locals spreading positivity during the coronavirus pandemic. Community members are sewing masks, distributing free lunches with encouraging notes inside and offering their photography skills to help fundraise for a local food pantry. Read more.

Friday, April 10, 2020

  • For WPLN, Samantha Max spoke with family members of teens held in Nashville’s juvenile detention centers. With visits on hold to contain the spread of the virus, Max asked how the detainees were coping with the added layer of isolation. Listen
  • In San Jose, Calif., Erica Hellerstein reports that Santa Clara County has set up a COVID-19 relief hotline to meet the local need for information related to social services, amid economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Read more
  • For the Chicago Sun-Times, Carlos Ballesteros reports that members of the House are calling on the Trump Administration and federal agencies to distribute health guidelines and other information pertaining to COVID-19 in languages other than English. Read more
  •  Katherine Lewin, for the Santa Fe Reporter, covered a Facebook Live town hall Thursday, where Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez shared the latest numbers illustrating the virus’  impact on the tribe: 488 cases and 20 dead. Read more.
  • Teresa Renkenberger only thought she was helping a homeless friend when she created Shower Power,” writes Eric J. Shelton for Mississippi Today. Today, the mobile unit now offers showers to some 65 people in Jackson’s homeless community. Read more
  • In Utah, a roadside restaurant left empty because of the COVID-19 outbreak has been turned into a relief center for out-of-work food service workers, reports David Fuchs for KUER. With the help of a GoFundMe campaign, the owners of Xetava Gardens Cafe have raised $22,000 to buy food and supplies for fellow industry members left unemployed by the crisis. Listen.

Thursday, April 9, 2020:

  • For the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Wyatt Massey reports on a Catholic priest’s weekly house visits. From the street, or the sidewalk, he and accompanying clergy members pray with faithful English- and Spanish-speaking families and bless them. The Tennessee basilica is now live streaming its services due to coronavirus concerns. Read more.
  • Before the mobile testing program was shut down as a COVID-19 precaution, Miami’s LGBTQ community center Pridelines offered the majority of its HIV tests at college campuses or outside nightclubs. Lautaro Grinspan reports for the Miami Herald on what this means for the immunocompromised community of Southern Florida and those working at HIV testing centers. Read more. 
  • For Spectrum News Buffalo, Camalot Todd has been frequently updating a list with  resources for New Yorkers that address the mental and behavioral fallouts of the pandemic, including a free emotional helpline staffed by volunteer mental health professionals. Read more. 
  • Seriously ill patients who require long-term care have been exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak at a speciality hospital in Texas, reports Ciara McCarthy for the Victoria Advocate. Experts are calling the outbreak the “‘worst-case scenario,’” with at least 36 cases linked to this facility, but credit the hospital for quickly responding to the situation and transforming into a COVID-19 treatment facility exclusively. Read more. 
  • As a part of Connecticut’s response to a lawsuit that called on authorities to release inmates to limit the spread of coronavirus, most inmates with COVID-19 will be held at Northern Correctional Institution, reports Kelan Lyons for The Connecticut Mirror. While a dedicated COVID-19 medical staff will be on each shift, infected inmates will be held in the same confinement conditions that were ruled unconstitutional last year by a federal judge. Read more.
  • Students with cognitive delays, physical disabilities, or hearing and vision impairments face more obstacles than other children while using devices for distance learning. ChrisAnna Mink for the Modesto Bee reports on the efforts by schools in Stanislaus County, California to develop distance learning plans for special education students during the school’s closure. Read more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

  • While the Navajo Mountain community of Utah has its own zip code, residents don’t have traditional addresses and get their mail from post office boxes in Arizona, reports Zak Podmore for The Salt Lake Tribune. As the community grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak, reporting cases in the correct state is complicated by a lack of physical addresses. Read more.
  • For the Malheur Enterprise, Yadira Lopez reveals the economic strife of small Oregonian businesses across Malheur County and the growing interest in the new federal Paycheck Protection Program. The program aims to provide small businesses with a loan to stay afloat as operations are curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.
  • For The Dallas Morning News, Obed Manuel reports that Dallas County commissioners are seeking full reimbursement from the federal government for a $5 million pop-up hospital through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The pop-up hospital will treat patients who have been released from hospitals but are not yet ready to be out of medical care. Read more.
  • Maine plans to expand its hospital capacity through a 250-bed federal medical station, reveals Samantha Hogan for Pine Tree Watch. The Maine CDC intends to divide the station into five modules as alternate care sites, setting up the first 150 beds by next week, while the Maine Emergency Management Agency works to fill the stations with supplies. Read more.
  • After a significant number of Blaine County’s health care workers tested positive or had been exposed to COVID-19, St. Luke’s hospital in Ketchum, Idaho closed for two weeks. Twin Falls County has not experienced a similarly large surge of cases. Doctors say it may be because social distancing measures are working, reports Rachel Cohen for Boise State Public Radio. Listen. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

  • For Block Club Chicago, Pascal Sabino reports on Cinespace Film Studios’ donation of a 20,000 square foot facility to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to store and pack groceries for families impacted by COVID-19. Before the donation, the depository had to limit the number of volunteers per session. Now, with the space to maintain social distancing requirements, the depository is asking for more volunteers. Read more.
  • After returning from the hospital for treatment of a frequent nosebleed, Burt Keen was locked out of his apartment at the Riverview Retirement Community, reports Arielle Dreher for Spokesman-Review in Eastern Washington. The 97-year-old verteran had to quarantine with his daughter for two weeks, despite having been screened for COVID-19 at the hospital. Keen is now looking for a facility that will accommodate him. Read more.    
  • For Mississippi Today, photojournalist Eric J. Shelton reports on Shower Power, a food truck converted into a mobile shower for the Jackson homeless population that also provides toiletry bags and home-cooked meals. Creator Teresa Renkenberger and her son, Jarred Couch, operated every Friday pre-COVID-19. Now deemed essential, they operate on Tuesdays, too. Read more.  
  • Hundreds of kids across Monument Valley, Utah, have weak signals or no Internet at all, which has complicated the efforts of the local school system to assign homework and assure that they are being homeschooled during the crisis. Kate Groetzinger reports for KUER on this digital divide and the struggle of kids and parents to find a way to connect. Read more.   
  • Every year, more than 12,000 low-income families in Miami-Dade County rely on more than 500 IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers to help them file their returns for free and receive their refunds. This year, the pandemic has disrupted that process. For the Miami Herald, Lautaro Grispan reports on how the tax preparers are looking for new ways to reach out to these families and ensure they file and are eligible for the stimulus checks. Read More.
  • As people turn to baking during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chico baker Altynai Stauss is sharing her sourdough starter for free with the community, reports Camille von Kaenel for the Oroville Mercury-Register in California. Read more.

Monday, April 6, 2020

  • For the Detroit Free Press, Angie Jackson shares the story of Jennifer Thompson, a woman who gave birth to her son in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Not allowed a support person in the delivery room due to hospital protocol, her husband watched the labor via video chat. Read more
  • Carlos Ballesteros, reporting for the Chicago Sun-Times, highlights the job crisis facing undocumented immigrants in Illinois, who cannot claim unemployment insurance, nor receive benefits from the federal government’s stimulus package despite having paid into the system for years. Read more.
  • Covering rural public health for the Victoria Advocate, Ciara McCarthy reveals how the local county is adjusting to the pandemic. Public health experts caution that, although there were no new confirmed cases as of Saturday, it is likely that the community has more cases than the count indicates due to limited testing. Read more.
  • From San Juan, Víctor Rodríguez Velázquez reports for Centro de Periodismo Investigativo that an increase in COVID-19 cases in areas with a higher concentration of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., in addition to limited preventative health measures taken at airports, could make the island particularly vulnerable to the virus. Read more. 
  • Dairy is Idaho’s biggest industry, and even during a pandemic, its predominantly Spanish-speaking workers continue to do their jobs, exposing them to the virus every day. In Twin Falls, Megan Taros reports for the Times-News on the efforts of a group of educators to produce COVID-19 information in Spanish, to help dairy workers slow the spread of the virus in their communities. Read more.
  • It’s wildflower season in California, and while people are advised not to travel during the pandemic, they can now enjoy the flowers virtually. For The Desert Sun, Risa Johnson reports on the “HWY62flora” Facebook page, a source of photographs and information on the California wildflowers growing along Highway 62. Read more.

Friday, April 3, 2020

  • From the front lines of the outbreak in Louisiana, Emily Woodruff contributed to this story by the Advocate about a New Orleans-area nurse who died of COVID-19 this week, remembered as the “backbone of the ER” where she helped treat those suffering from the virus.
  • For Honolulu Civil Beat, Eleni Gill has been following the progression of the disease across the archipelago state, which registered its second death from complications of the virus and expects cases to surpass 300 over the weekend. Read
  • “About 60 people who are homeless have suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus— or have been exposed to someone who does,” reports Lauren Lindstrom for the Charlotte Observer
  • Covering the spread of COVID-19 in Eastern Washington state for the Spokesman-Review, Arielle Dreher reported that Spokane county is approaching 200 cases as of Friday. Read more
  • While the Salt Lake Tribune’s newsroom sits empty in response to COVID-19 – and after being shaken by a 5.7-magnitude earthquake – the Utah newspaper’s staff has persisted in covering both the “seismic health crisis” and the fallout of the quake within its community. Read Becky Jacobs’ On the Ground dispatch.
  • For the Santa Fe Reporter, producer and host of the Reported podcast Katherine Lewin shares a conversation with New Mexico University’s Chile Pepper Institute on the importance, amid the COVID-19 crisis, of locals growing their own produce – especially since New Mexicans grow some of “the best chile in the world,” she notes. Listen.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

  • Advocates are worried victims of abuse will be stuck at home with their abusers under North Carolina’s social distancing measures. Adam Wagner at the Raleigh News and Observer compiled some of the advice and resources for those suffering from domestic violence. Read more
  • Preventative measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 are shutting people out of in-person substance abuse support programs, at a moment when the nation’s alcoholic beverage sales are increasing. Camalot Todd with Spectrum News Buffalo reports on how behavioral health organizations are adapting to serve vulnerable community members in Western New York. Read more.
  • For the Cincinnati Enquirer, Julia Fair shares the story of married couple Renee and Dan Mathew from Northern Kentucky, who have been separated by the virus. While Renee, a nurse practitioner, has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and requires supplemental oxygen, Dan is working from home with milder symptoms and isn’t sure when his wife will be able to come home. Read more
  • For the Miami Herald, Lautaro Grinspan shares the struggle of domestic workers whose employers have ended their services in response to the local county’s shelter-in-place order. Because many domestic workers are undocumented, economic relief from the government is not an option. Read more
  • In New Mexico, Theresa Davis shares the story of Peace Corps member Hallie Brown who, in response to the pandemic, was sent home from Gambia nine months short of completing her 26-month service with the program. Read more.
  • The Nashville Symphony is one of many cultural institutions navigating uncharted waters because of COVID-19, reports Samantha Max for WPLN Nashville Public Radio. While no employees have been laid off or furloughed, the symphony is asking those who have bought tickets to turn them into a donation. Listen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

  • For Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Rafael René Díaz Torres shares the stories of people who say they’ve been denied COVID-19 testing, as well as information about the locations on the island where testing is available. Read more (in Spanish).
  • Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that “more than half” of juveniles detained by the city in the past two weeks had been released to prevent the spread of the virus. But, as Eileen Grench reports, those numbers only refer to juvenile delinquents; the general population has only fallen 20%. Read more.
  • In Utah for the Salt Lake Tribune, Becky Jacobs explores the local ties of the first U.S. service member to die of the virus. Read more.
  • Theodora Yu in Sacramento reports that California’s 2020 census data collection is on track despite challenges resulting from measures against the coronavirus spread. Read more.
  • Grocery stores in Wyoming have taken precautions to help protect the state’s vulnerable elderly community against contagion, reports Chris Aadland for the Casper Star-Tribune. Read more.
  • Meanwhile, on Cape Cod, Eve Zuckoff spoke with a local specialty grocery store doing the vital work of keeping community members fed, hiring reinforcements to respond to increased demand, doubling up orders and buying an extra phone to keep up with the amount of calls-in orders for pickup and delivery. Listen.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

  • Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Woods Hole, a small town in Massachusetts, hosted more than 2,000 scientists, researchers and staff at six major research institutions. Now, only a few people remain to tend to the facilities. Eve Zuckoff reports for WCAI on years and decades of research studies that have been interrupted, their data lost. Perhaps forever. Listen
  • As the city of Dallas institutes new reporting requirements for hospitals, in order to get a handle on the city’s total number of ventilators and hospital beds, a convention center is being transformed this week into the site of the state’s first pop-up hospital amid the outbreak, reports Obed Manuel for the Dallas Morning News. Read more
  • At the Lexington Herald-Leader, Alex Acquisto shares the efforts of one outpatient clinic in Kentucky that is preparing for the state’s expected spike in cases. Read more
  • Illinois has reported the first death of an inmate from  COVID-19 at Stateville Correctional Center, during a two-week lockdown of the facility, reports Carlos Ballesteros for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more
  • Care concerns are rising in Eastern Washington state’s Benton County, where the local health district lacks test kits for long-term care facilities, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. Read more.
  • “My day consists of wondering whether or not there’s going to be an outbreak in the facility. I’m basically a nervous wreck,” one inmate told Connecticut Mirror reporter Kelan Lyons. While some prisoners are being released in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, others are being caught in the bureaucracy of the state’s prison system. Read more.

Monday, March 30, 2020

  • The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes on Wind River Reservation have enacted “some of the strictest measures in Wyoming to slow the spread” of the virus, reports Savannah Maher for Wyoming Public Media. The trouble is, however, that housing needs on the reservation have made the tribes’ “stay at home” directives seemingly contradictory. Listen.
  • Replicating a testing strategy from South Korea, a Tennessee drug and alcohol clinic set up a drive-through station to test as many people as possible reports Wyatt Massey for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Read more
  • Food pantries in Idaho’s Magic Valley are struggling to meet the demands of locals in need, reports Megan Taros, partly a consequence of panic buying and  hoarding. Read more
  • In Mississippi, Michelle Liu reports that inmates working in the state’s restitution centers will be released early as part of the prison system’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Working in collaboration with the Marshall Project, Liu recently reported on Mississippi’s restitution system, which orders prisoners to work to pay off debts and fines. Read more.
  • Social distancing measures in Illinois have disrupted the ability to spread awareness about the 2020 census locally, meaning government and community organizations have had to get creative, reports Eric Schmid for St. Louis Public Radio. Read more.
  • Registered voters in West Virginia can send absentee ballots in order to vote in the 2020 primary election, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Radio. While the state will be mailing some 1.2 million ballots, there will still be the opportunity to vote in-person in late-April and May. Read more.

Friday, March 27, 2020

  • Mallory Falk, reporting for KERA at the U.S.-Mexico border, spoke with medical experts who believe ICE detention centers in Texas are “tinderboxes” for the spread of COVID-19. Listen.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to derail continued efforts to rebuild Butte County, already devastated following California’s 2018 Camp Fire. Camille von Kaenel reports on residents in the area who are at the heart of the wildfires and feel it’s “double traumatizing.” Read more. 
  • For the Salt Lake Tribune, Zak Podmore writes that local health officials are calling for the Arches and Canyonlands national parks to close as undaunted tourists continue to visit despite outbreak concerns. Read more
  • Northern Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie has courted the ire of fellow Republicans, including President Donald Trump, for demanding in-person House vote on the emergency $2-trillion pandemic relief bill, reports Julia Fair for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Read more. Fair reported last week on Massie’s controversial comments on the virus. 
  • Maine has already used up its stockpile of medical equipment this week. For Pine Tree Watch, Samantha Hogan spoke with an expert who said he begged the state to invest in protective equipment and ventilators before the outbreak. Read more
  • “We are very ill-prepared for a biological event like this,” a local Mississippi official told Michelle Liu regarding readiness to combat the COVID-19 in county jails. The disparities between rural and urban jails is starke, she reports. Read more.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

  • The coal industry asked for coronavirus relief funds in the form of tax cuts, as part of the Congress’ $2 trillion stimulus package. But as Will Wright reports from Kentucky, the tax cuts they propose help fund the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which offers benefits to miners stricken with the work-related disease. “They didn’t get it in this federal stimulus bill,” wrote Wright on Twitter, “but both sides say the fight is far from over.” Read more. 
  • Teenage inmates in New York City are suing for release from detention centers as concerns over the coronavirus’ impact on the correctional system mounts, reports Eileen Grench for The City. Read more
  • In the Mississippi Delta, local schools are trying to negotiate the challenge of offering online classes to kids in areas without any Internet. Alex Watts reports on this digital divide for Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Listen to her dispatch.
  • Prison reform groups are paying bonds to get detainees freed from Cook County Jail in Illinois after reports that 17 inmates and a corrections officer have contracted the virus, reports Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago. Read more
  • Meanwhile, in Michigan, Angie Jackson reports for the Detroit Free Press that 13 prisoners across six correctional facilities have contracted coronavirus. Read more.
  • On O’ahu, healthcare workers are already running low on protective gear, reports Eleni Gill for the Honolulu Civil Beat, and rural hospitals across the state are being rationed by suppliers. Read more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

  • Amid business closures across the state, New Mexico farmers are working to supply fresh produce to locals, reports Theresa Davis for the Albuquerque Journal. Read more.
  • Manny Ramos highlights an unintended consequence of the stay-at-home orders nationwide: a shortage of blood donations. “More than 6,000 American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled nationwide over the last three weeks, resulting in about 200,000 fewer blood donations.” Read more.
  • In California’s San Joaquin Valley, a local school district is providing grab-and-go meals at 23 locations, including bus stops, to help families in need feed their kids during school closures, reports Kaitlin Washburn, with The Sun-Gazette. Read more.
  • For the Malheur Enterprise, in Oregon, Yadira Lopez reports on long-term effects to the local economy due to the outbreak and closures in its wake. Read more
  • Despite calls from Connecticut advocacy groups to release some inmates early in order to  prevent them from being infected with COVID-19, Governor Ned Lamont said he’s not considering that measure. Lamont has yet to articulate preventative measures for correctional facilities, reports Kelan Lyons for the Connecticut Mirror.
  • Emily Woodruff, with the Advocate in New Orleans, worked with other reporters to speak to nine local healthcare workers on the front lines of efforts in the Pelican State to save patients’ lives and contain the virus. Read more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

  • While meeting-based recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous move online amid the outbreak, the isolation of staying at home and stress caused by the news cycle pose threats to recovery from alcohol and drug use, reports corps member Adam Wagner from North Carolina. Read here.
  • Due to the crisis, an embattled Kentucky judge facing misconduct charges will maintain her position and salary until the hearings, set for next month, can be rescheduled. Julia Fair reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the Judicial Conduct Commission decision to suspend her hearings over concerns about spreading the virus. Read more
  • How can families and friends put loved ones to rest amid a pandemic? Utah funeral homes are helping locals find ways to grieve, reports Becky Jacobs for the Salt Lake Tribune. Read more. 
  • For Boise State Radio in Idaho, Rachel Cohen looks at how districts and residents are navigating “shelter in place” and “state of emergency” declarations – a challenge for counties like Blaine, where retail stores selling basic goods do not exist, requiring locals to drive south to Twin Falls for supplies. Listen.
  • In Mississippi, Michelle Liu has been looking at how the state’s prison system is preparing for the virus, including suspending approved leave and prisoner work crews. Read more
  • With WCAI on Cape Cod, Eve Zuckoff spoke with local businesses and employees ordered to close shop by state order. Read more.
  • In California, Risa Johnson writes about the ways parents and children are adjusting to remote learning, more time at home and less time with friends, highlighting the creative approaches parents have come up with to keep their children active and engaged. Read more.

Monday, March 23, 2020

  • In Newark, New Jersey, the school system’s online format comes with an upgrade for some 7,000 students: a laptop and free internet. Devna Bose reports on how the community is trying to address disparities during the pandemic. Read more.
  • In Tennessee, Wyatt Massey reports on Chattanooga’s burdened system of shelters, which does not yet have the capacity to house everyone in need. The city is working with local nonprofits and community centers to find the means of protecting the area’s most vulnerable population. Read more
  • Similarly, Manuela Tobias, with the Fresno Bee in California’s Central Valley, reports on the local effort to shelter the homeless. Many of them  told Tobias, however, that they were concerned about the risk of being quarantined with strangers amid the pandemic, potentially raising the likelihood of infection. Read more.   
  • Before the crisis, West Virginia food pantries were already feeding some 100,000 people annually. But now,  job losses related to the pandemic are straining that system further, reports former corps member Caity Coyne. Complicating the problem, many of the food pantry volunteers are over 70, making them more at risk of death from COVID-19. Read more.
  • In North Carolina, food distributor Meals on Wheels is trying to address the issue of food delivery, and safety protocols for interactions with seniors, the most vulnerable to the virus. Read Adam Wagner’s reporting
  • Reporting for Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune, Becky Jacobs speaks with a couple trying to adapt their marriage plans to the new reality of social distancing. Read her reporting on love in the time of coronavirus.

Friday, March 20, 2020

  • For Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, corps member Rachel Cohen reports on how local businesses are learning to adapt to new containment measures. Read more.
  • In Miami, Lautaro Grinspan reported for the Miami Herald on some “eyebrow-raising” scenes at one local nursing home, where the facility has had to make its own sanitizer, skirmishes over supplies were witnessed and school closings have forced desperate employees to bring kids to work despite a visitor ban. Read more
  • Reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina, Lauren Lindstrom is covering the outbreak in Mecklenburg County, where the reported cases more than doubled overnight. Read more.
  • Across California, job losses due to shutdowns are causing community members to go hungry and ask for assistance that is already under strain, reports corps member Jackie Botts for CalMatters. “A line of 500 to 600 people standing six feet apart snaked around a parking lot and multiple city blocks in downtown Los Angeles,” she writes.
  • In Mississippi, Eric J. Shelton, a photojournalist, has been covering the outbreak’s local effects for Mississippi Today. See his latest work in this story about the impact on local food supplies.
  • Camalot Todd, who covers mental health in Western New York state, reminded her Spectrum News’ Buffalo audience that it is normal to be anxious or stressed in times like these and shared behavioral and mental health resources for those who feel that might need support. Read more.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

  • From domestic workers to stand-up comedians, members of Chicago’s gig economy are caught in a microcosm of the crisis amid the global pandemic. As gigs decrease and disappear altogether, locals are getting creative in paying their rent, corps member Carlos Ballesteros reports for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more.
  • Corps member Obed Manuel covers Latino issues and the 2020 census for the Dallas Morning News, and reports that the U.S. Census Bureau has suspended local field operations due to the pandemic and will reopen in April. Read more.
  • In Buffalo, Wyoming, corps member Mara Abbott is covering the outbreak’s impact on the local oil industry. Accounting for 15% of her county’s property and production taxes, the global drop in gas prices, compounded by the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia, hits home, and hard. According to the Petroleum Association of Wyoming,” she writes, “each time a dollar is sliced off the price of oil, the state sustains a $12.5 million annual loss.” Read more.
  • For St. Louis Public Radio, Eric Schmid reports that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced statewide Medicaid expansion to cover COVID-19 infections. Read more.
  • As the outbreak spreads across the Bay Area and volunteers become scarce, the city of Sunnyvale is deploying its own staff members to help distribute food to those in need. Corpsmember Erica Hellerstein is on the ground with Mercury News. Read more.
  • Reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, corps member Alex Acquisto speaks with the local officials leading the effort to distribute the first major shipment of safety gear – surgical masks gloves and gowns – to the commonwealth’s hospitals. Read more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

  • For the Victoria Advocate in Texas, corps member Ciara McCarthy is covering the state’s investigation into Matagorda County’s first potential COVID-19 case. Read more.
  • In Kentucky, the wide swath of residents finding themselves without work following the governor’s order to close down all dining-in at restaurants and bars is overwhelming the commonwealth’s unemployment system with thousands more claims per week, reports corps member Will Wright. Read more
  • Despite the national and local states of emergency declarations, Moab, Utah expects as many as 6,000 tourists next weekend. But as corps member Kate Goetzinger reports for KUER, the local hospital has a message for potential visitors:  “stay at home.” Read more.
  • Organizers are scrambling to help get food and other essentials to older or vulnerable people who are staying at home to protect against the spread of the coronavirus,” reports corps member Camille von Kaenel for the Chico Enterprise-Record in California’s Butte County, where there has also been an outpouring of offers from healthy residents to help neighbors in need. Read more.
  • In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Katherine Lewin asked Dr. David Scrase, secretary of Human Services of the state, about what members of the population are most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 during a one-on-one interview this week. Read more.
  • In Wyoming, Chris Aadland reports that local Native American tribes at the Wind River Reservation are responding to the virus this week by calling a state of emergency and shutting down casinos until further notice. Read More.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020:

  • After hearing about the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, two residents decided to put their time and effort into helping those in need. Reporting for the Times Free Press, Wyatt Massey followed members of We Over Me Chattanooga as they distributed food to the elderly and families with children across the city. 
  • ChrisAnna Mink reports on the third confirmed case of COVID-19 in Stanislaus County, California and the activation of the emergency services response in the area for the Modesto Bee.
  • Is it safe to swim in the ocean? In a pool? How long does the virus stay on clothing? Eleni Gill answers these and other COVID-19 related questions for Honolulu Civil Beat readers. 
  • Homeless shelters are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the novel coronavirus, given the tight living spaces and the frailty of many of those who use these services. Kelan Lyons reports on the state of Connecticut’s shelters and the anxiety felt by those who live in them for the Connecticut Mirror.
  • Julia Fair reports on the backlash against Northern Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie after he took to social media to criticize the Coronavirus Relief Bill passed by Congress and the measures adopted by the government. 
  • Given their limited budget, supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries can’t afford to stock up on food and essential items. Pascal Sabino reports for Block Club Chicago on how the wave of panic buyers and hoarders have left these people scrambling to find food for a possible lockdown. Despite not reporting any cases of COVID-19 yet, life is already changing at Malheur County, Oregon. Yadira Lopez chronicles the big and small ways this community is adapting to the pandemic for the Malheur Enterprise.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

  • Reporting from Seoul, GroundTruth alumna Kelly Kasulis compiled a timeline of how South Korea, which has the third-largest outbreak of COVID-19 in the world  moved fast to respond to the emergency, keeping its death rate at the lowest level possible and offering an interesting comparison to how the U.S. has responded.
  • In this week’s AAPI newsletter, Theodora Yu at The Sacramento Bee is closely following the impact of COVID-19 on the Asian American community in Sacramento, Calif. Read more.
  • Chris Ehrmann with the Associated Press was in New York’s ‘containment area’ in New Rochelle, interviewing weary and anxious residents and shop owners, in one of the nation’s biggest clusters of coronavirus cases. Read more.
  • In Hawaii, Eleni Gill with The Honolulu Civil Beat, has been fielding questions from the community. In her latest Q&A post, she tackles why the islands haven’t yet banned cruise ships. Read more.
  • As coronavirus cases in New Orleans rise, hospital officials are worried about staffing, supplies and more. Emily Woodruff at The New Orleans Advocate has the latest. Read more.
  • Another 100 cases were reported in Washington State on Thursday, increasing the number of confirmed cases to 457, but health officials think the number is much higher. Arielle Dreher, reporting for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, WA, highlights how the efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the state are being hampered by the delays in testing. Read more.
  • Julia Fair examines the impact the closure of schools will have on 650,000 children and their families across Ohio in her latest story for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Read More.

*Correction: In an earlier version of the April 2 update, Adam Wagner was said to work for the Charlotte Observer with a link to that publication’s version of his story, when in fact he works at the Raleigh News and Observer.