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US Minaret vaccination, Rushmore fight, enrollment drops: News from around our 50 states

16:25  04 may  2021
16:25  04 may  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Josh joust, wing shortage, helping Canada: News from around our 50 states

  Josh joust, wing shortage, helping Canada: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Casey Villhauer (right), owner and pharmacist at VaxiTaxi gives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to construction worker Safet Tabakovi on May 2, 2021 atop a 130-foot-tall minaret at the Islamic and Cultural Center in Granger. VaxiTaxi, established in July 2020, is an independently-owned vaccination service of 8 pharmacists and 30 immunizers who focus on 'homebound' populations, like high-risk patients, busy parents and underserved communities. © Olivia Sun/The Register Casey Villhauer (right), owner and pharmacist at VaxiTaxi gives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to construction worker Safet Tabakovi on May 2, 2021 atop a 130-foot-tall minaret at the Islamic and Cultural Center in Granger. VaxiTaxi, established in July 2020, is an independently-owned vaccination service of 8 pharmacists and 30 immunizers who focus on 'homebound' populations, like high-risk patients, busy parents and underserved communities. "The way I describe it is an Uber for vaccines," said Villhauer. "[We're] meeting people where they're comfortable."

Alabama

Mobile: With demand for COVID-19 shots flagging at an immunization clinic set up at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, an official said the site could shut down soon as the cruise industry prepares to restart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines recently that would allow companies that meet certain benchmarks to resume operating around mid-July, and officials are hopeful Carnival Cruise Lines can resume its trips to the western Caribbean from Mobile. The city’s cruise terminal near downtown is being used as a mass vaccination site by the Mobile County Health Department, but Health Officer Dr. Bert Eichold told WALA-TV he expects the operation to wrap up in the next couple of weeks. More than 22% of Mobile County residents are fully vaccinated, according to CDC statistics. But the county also has one of the higher levels of community disease transmission in Alabama, according to the state. And Alabama is last in the nation in the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations. The area tourism agency said cruises account for 35,000 hotel nights and $150 million annually, and the more than yearlong shutdown of the industry has taken a chunk out of the local economy. “It’s been a big blow,” said David Clark, chief executive of Visit Mobile. “Tourism’s never, ever seen what they’ve seen in terms of disaster in the economy, from travel, or the lack of travel.”

Firefly lottery, vaccine exemptions, data breach: News from around our 50 states

  Firefly lottery, vaccine exemptions, data breach: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Alaska

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Juneau: The Alaska Court System temporarily disconnected most of its operations from the internet after a cybersecurity threat Saturday, including its website and removing the ability to look up court records. The threat blocked electronic court filings, disrupted online payments and prevented hearings from taking place by videoconference for several days, officials said. “I think for a few days, there may may be some inconveniences, there may be some hearings that are canceled, or some judges who decide to shift from videoconference to teleconference proceedings or the like. We don’t have all of that figured out yet,” Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger told the Anchorage Daily News. The court system said in a statement that it was working to remove malware from its servers. “At this time, the court system does not believe any confidential court documents or employee information has been compromised, but will promptly notify any affected individuals if that occurs,” the statement said. “No customer credit card information was compromised.” On Sunday, the court system posted on its Facebook and Twitter that all in-custody arraignments would proceed as scheduled. “Local courts have reached out to justice partners to let them know of any changes,” the posts said.

Overnight Energy: Dakota Access to ask Supreme Court to hear pipeline case | Biden admin sued over rejection of Mount Rushmore fireworks | Interior appoints first Native American chief of staff

  Overnight Energy: Dakota Access to ask Supreme Court to hear pipeline case | Biden admin sued over rejection of Mount Rushmore fireworks | Interior appoints first Native American chief of staff TGIF!!! Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day's energy and environment news.Please send tips and comments to Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com . Follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin . Reach Zack Budryk at zbudryk@thehill.com or follow him on Twitter: @BudrykZack . Signup for our newsletter and others HERE. Today we're looking at the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline appealing to the Supreme Court, a lawsuit against the Biden administration from South Dakota and another first at the Interior Department.

Arizona

a group of people walking down the street: Brian and Kelly Harris walk with their children, Avery, 9, and Jack, 5, on the first day of school on Aug. 17, 2020, at Faith Mather Sossaman Elementary School in Queen Creek, Ariz. © Sean Logan/The Republic Brian and Kelly Harris walk with their children, Avery, 9, and Jack, 5, on the first day of school on Aug. 17, 2020, at Faith Mather Sossaman Elementary School in Queen Creek, Ariz.

Phoenix: More than 38,500 children disappeared from both virtual and physical classrooms this school year as the coronavirus spread through the state. The loss – a 3.3% drop year over year, according to Arizona Department of Education data – has school officials scrambling to figure out where these children went, if they will return in the fall and how they will fashion curricula for students who may have had significant learning loss. Their conclusions also will shape budget decisions, as schools are funded based on the number of children who show up in the fall. The steepest enrollment declines came at the youngest ages: About 42% of the loss is due to preschoolers and kindergartners not showing up on public school rolls, according to state data. Eighth graders and high school seniors were the only classes to show an increase, though the gains were minimal. Teachers, counselors and school administrators say many kids just stayed home, moved to private schools or began homeschooling. Then there are the questions left hanging when school officials visit family homes only to find no one there and no evidence of where the children went. “That’s the burning question,” said Kayla Fulmer, director of marketing and community relations at the J.O. Combs Unified School District. “We wonder and worry about that.”

Russia lags behind others in its COVID-19 vaccination drive

  Russia lags behind others in its COVID-19 vaccination drive MOSCOW (AP) — While at the Park House shopping mall in northern Moscow, Vladimir Makarov saw it was offering the coronavirus vaccine to customers, so he asked how long it would take. “It turned out it’s simple here — 10 minutes,” he said of his experience last month. But Makarov, like many Muscovites, still decided to put off getting the Sputnik V shot. Russia boasted last year of being first in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, but it now finds itself lagging in getting its population immunized.

Arkansas

Mountain Home: More than 84,000 state residents have missed their second COVID-19 vaccine dose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the second dose should be given within three to four weeks of the first, depending on the product. However, if an individual misses that time frame, they can still receive a second dose within six weeks of the first. As of April 30, 84,191 people in Arkansas were noted as being outside that 42-day window. Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state epidemiologist and medical director for immunizations and outbreak response for the Arkansas Department of Health, said that number may not be entirely representative of those who actually missed the second shot, but officials are working on correcting that. “What we noticed when the people in our call centers started calling was some people reported they had received the second dose,” she said. The ADH is now allowing for more time before compiling numbers to allow for delayed reporting from vaccine providers. The department uses call center employees to make contact with people who are close to missing or have missed the window for the second shot.

States prepare for long grind as demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in US slows

  States prepare for long grind as demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in US slows The U.S. vaccination drive has shifted from mass immunization to an "intense ground game" as public health agencies work to get shots in arms.But the pace of the nation’s unprecedented immunization effort is slowing. Inoculations have retreated more than 40% from the peak on April 10 of 4.6 million daily shots. Lines of vehicles at stadium-style mass vaccination clinics are winding down. Coveted appointments that required luck, timing or both a month ago are increasingly unfilled as growing numbers of clinics and chain pharmacies take nonscheduled walk-ins.

California

Palm Springs: Enrollment drops at the Desert Sands and Palm Springs Unified school districts are outpacing the already steep statewide decline reported across California public schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, Coachella Valley private schools are reporting a surge in enrollment, as some parents say distance-learning models simply haven’t worked for their kids and families. Desert Sands Unified reports a 3.4% decline in enrollment and Palm Springs Unified a 3.2% decline from the 2019-20 academic year, the two districts reported. Those are greater than the 2.6% decline reported statewide for the same time frame, according to California Department of Public Education data that was released April 22. The statewide loss equates to a decrease of 160,000 enrolled students for a total of 6,002,523 students currently enrolled at K-12 schools. The statewide drop in enrollment – the largest decline in at least 20 years, according to California Department of Education data – came after Gov. Gavin Newsom closed public schools in March 2020, and the state’s school districts kept students in distance-learning models for much of the 2020-21 school year.

Colorado

Denver: Gov. Jared Polis extended a statewide mask mandate for another 30 days Sunday but loosened face covering requirements for groups of people who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the new executive order, people gathering inside in groups of 10 or more are no longer required to wear masks if at least 80% of the group is vaccinated. The order says people must show proof of vaccination, but it does not elaborate on what proof is considered acceptable. In April, Polis lifted mask requirements in most indoor settings in counties where the threat of COVID-19 was the lowest – the counties that fall under “Level Green” on the state’s scale. In counties with higher rates of COVID-19, masks must be worn in all public indoor spaces when 10 or more unvaccinated individuals or individuals of unknown vaccination status are present. Residents statewide are still required to wear masks at schools, child care centers, indoor children’s camps, public-facing state government facilities, correctional facilities and health care settings. About 1.9 million people in Colorado are fully vaccinated, and 2.6 million have received at least one dose, according to state data.

NHL's COVID protocol-related absences for May 7, 2021

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Connecticut

Hartford: Residents were breathing a sigh of relief over the weekend as some statewide restrictions that were put in place a year ago were eased. As of Saturday, bars that don’t serve food can open on an outdoor-only basis, and an eight-person limit per table for outdoor seating has been lifted. The limit remains in effect for indoor dining. Face masks are still required indoors, though NBC Connecticut reports Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to announce whether that will shift to a recommendation when there’s a wider easing of restrictions later this month. The rollback, scheduled to go into effect May 19, is contingent on low rates of infection and increasing vaccination rates.

Delaware

Dover: A conservative group pushing back against pandemic-related restrictions is making a push into school board elections, endorsing candidates up and down the state with platforms dedicated to hot-button issues like fully reopening schools and keeping concepts like social justice and lessons about race out of classrooms. Since the start of the pandemic, the grassroots group Stand Up Delaware has held rally after rally calling Gov. John Carney’s COVID-19 orders an infringement on individual liberties. Stand Up Delaware has since merged with the newly formed Patriots for Delaware, which has grown to include 11,000 members in its private Facebook group and turned its sights toward school board seats. Patriots for Delaware calls itself nonpartisan, but its members are largely right-wing conservatives, supporting former President Donald Trump, resisting COVID-19 restrictions and decrying mask mandates. “Within three years, we can change things completely,” Lisa McCulley, a lead organizer of Stand Up Delaware, told a crowd at a March rally outside Legislative Hall. “But we have to stop being complacent.” She pointed to Appoquinimink School District as an example of where the group sees an opening: a school board with “one awesome conservative” overruled by “three women who control the whole board.”

NHL's COVID protocol-related absences for May 8, 2021

  NHL's COVID protocol-related absences for May 8, 2021 Players in the protocol are: Colorado's Devan Dubnyk and Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov.Calgary – TBA

District of Columbia

Washington: After 2020 threw wrenches in the wedding plans of so many couples, some are now facing yet another hurdle. Mayor Muriel Bowser has banned dancing at indoor and outdoor weddings, leaving many lovebirds scrambling to find venues outside the district, WUSA-TV reports. One wedding planner complained that the city is starting to feel a little like the mythical town of Bomont in the classic movie “Footloose” – the town that banned dancing. Stephanie Sadowski of SRS Events said she was “completely shell-shocked” upon hearing the news. The district is loosening some pandemic restrictions, but Bowser sneaked in a bombshell at her news conference last Monday, Sadowski said. The latest order allows indoor weddings at 25% capacity, or 250 people, but “standing and dancing at receptions are not allowed.” For some couples, that’s a deal breaker, and they’re rushing to relocate their celebrations to Maryland or Virginia venues where restrictions are looser. Sadowski said she had four weddings planned in D.C. next month, at the height of wedding season, and she’s scrambling to move all of them. “I cannot even believe we’re in 2021 right now, and we are saying no dancing,” she said. “Why can’t we just have masks?”

Florida

Tallahassee: Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to suspend all remaining COVID-19 restrictions imposed by communities across his state Monday, signing into law freshly passed legislation giving him sweeping powers to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic – including mask mandates, limitations on business operations and the shuttering of schools. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” DeSantis said, “but I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful, I think, of people’s businesses, jobs, schools and personal freedom.” The Republican governor has been touting his record on the coronavirus as he readies to launch his reelection campaign and considers a run for president in 2024. Even as DeSantis has urged Floridians to get vaccinated, he has become among the most nationally prominent Republicans to push back on mask mandates and other precautions that federal health officials have recommended in the continuing battle against the pandemic. Some mayors, particularly those aligned with the Democratic Party, decried Republican-led preemptions as a power grab against local government’s ability to control a potential resurgence of the coronavirus but also restrict their ability to respond to future public health emergencies.

Coal miners, crawfish offer, full-capacity Opry: News from around our 50 states

  Coal miners, crawfish offer, full-capacity Opry: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Georgia

Atlanta: It’s one shot and no appointment needed at all eight state-run mass vaccination sites. Starting Monday, the sites are offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and are no longer accepting appointments. Instead, people who haven’t received a first dose are asked to drive up. The sites are still accepting appointments for people who need a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Those appointments can be made at myvaccinegeorgia.com. The sites are in Clarkesville, Columbus, Emerson, Hapeville, Macon, Sandersville, Savannah and Waycross. Most operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, either Monday through Friday or Tuesday through Saturday. The state-run mass vaccination sites are scheduled to close May 21 amid what state officials described as slackening demand for vaccination. More than 6.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given in Georgia, but the state ranks 44th in doses administered per capita to people 18 and older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hawaii

Honolulu: Health officials reported 113 newly confirmed coronavirus cases across the state Sunday, increasing the statewide total to more than 32,500 infections since the pandemic began early last year. The Hawaii Department of Health said there were no virus-related deaths, keeping the statewide toll at 483, including 374 fatalities on Oahu. The report includes cases reported to the department Friday, officials said. There were 80 reported cases in Honolulu County, 16 in Maui County, nine in Kauai County and three in Hawaii County, as well as five residents diagnosed outside the state, health officials said. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports one previous case appears to have been removed from the state’s tally. There have been more than 1,100 new infections in the state in the past two weeks. As of Sunday, the state has administered about 1.4 million vaccine doses through state and federal programs. More than 53% of the state’s population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 35% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Idaho

Boise: A state Senate panel on Monday rejected legislation intended to give lawmakers veto power over decisions by the federal government and courts, with senators citing its potential violation of the Idaho and U.S. constitutions. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 to kill the legislation brought forward by Republican Rep. Sage Dixon, who after the meeting said he would bring forward revamped legislation next year to try again. His bill would have allowed any member of the Republican-dominated state House or Senate to make a complaint about a federal action, potentially leading to a polling of members of the Committee on Federalism, which Dixon co-chairs. If the committee found merit in the complaint, the federal action would be immediately “paused” until the full Legislature acted to potentially declare it null and void. Federal actions involving abortion, gun laws, taxes and other issues could have been challenged under the proposed measure. The range of those issues made lawmakers uncomfortable. Lawmakers opposed to the bill said it violated the state and federal constitutions, with some citing their oaths of office and noting that at the start of each full Senate session they recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Illinois

Springfield: The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is offering free admission to people vaccinated against COVID-19. Officials at the museum in Springfield announced last week that the offer is good throughout May and June. Anyone who has received at least one shot is eligible to get a free ticket at the museum’s website. “Vaccination is key to beating this disease, keeping everyone healthy and returning to normal in America,” said Melissa Coultas, acting executive director of the museum. “If we can help by offering a little extra incentive, then we’re happy to do so.” People claiming a free ticket will have to show a vaccination card at the museum. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors or students, and $10 for military personnel. There is no charge for kids younger than 5 and a $6 fee for children between the ages of 5 and 15. Visitors to the museum must wear a mask. The facility also limits the number of people inside.

Indiana

Indianapolis: The state on Monday reported 812 new coronavirus cases and a single death. More than 1.9 million residents 16 and older, or more than 35% of the eligible population, are now fully vaccinated. Black and Latino Hoosiers remain less likely to be vaccinated than those who identify as white. While Black residents make up 9.4% of the population, they represent just under 6% of people who have gotten a shot, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. Latino residents comprise 6.2% of the population and 3.5% of those vaccinated. However, the statistics shift when only the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is considered. Black people received 7.6% of those vaccines and Latino people 5.9%. White people made up just under 78% of those receiving this vaccine and comprise 86% of the state’s population.

Iowa

Granger: A vaccination event at the Islamic and Cultural Center Bosniak on Sunday morning aimed to deliver COVID-19 protection to 300 people. Ankeny vaccine distribution startup VaxiTaxi.com hosted the event, where Elvedin Sivac, president of the Es-Selam Mosque, was among those receiving their first shot. Alma Michelson, a pharmacist for Walgreens, helped set up Sunday’s clinic and said many of her fellow Bosnians distrust vaccines. “It’s a community that’s not quite on board with vaccines because they were influenced by the media so much,” she said. Other Bosnians in town are considered “essential workers” and were already given vaccines through their employers, Michelson said. Casey Villhauer started VaxiTaxi in July as a way to bring all types of vaccines into people’s homes or directly to them. She gave a flu shot to a person on a tractor once but said the shot she gave contractor Safet Tabakovic inside the minaret he’s building atop the mosque was unique. Michelson, Sivac and Villhauer hiked up 111 steps to give him his injection 80 feet off the ground. “We reached a lot of people that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten a shot,” Villhauer said.

Kansas

Wichita: COVID-19 vaccinations slowed last month, even as more contagious variants of the coronavirus surged and as hospitalizations from the disease rose in the state, according to health officials. Kansas Department of Health and Environment numbers show about 91,000 fewer people received first doses of the available vaccines in April than in March, the Wichita Eagle reports. There were 520 new hospitalizations and 157 new intensive care unit admissions in April, compared with 438 new hospitalizations and 150 new ICU admissions in March, officials said. “Almost exclusively, the answer is those needing hospitalized are unvaccinated,” Dr. David Wild with the University of Kansas Health System said Friday. Statewide, children account for a growing share of the new cases. Of the more than 6,750 new cases in April, more than 1 in 5 were in patients younger than 18, according to health department numbers. Children accounted for about 12% of all cases in March. Meanwhile, confirmed variant cases nearly tripled over the last three weeks of April, officials said. Officials did see a decrease in deaths from COVID-19 in April, at 69, compared with 170 deaths in March.

Kentucky

Louisville: Berea College appears to be the first institution of higher learning in the state to require students to be vaccinated when they return to campus in the fall. The college announced Thursday that COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory except for limited exemptions for medical or religious reasons. So far, none of Kentucky’s public universities have announced mandatory vaccines for students, but they’ve said they are strongly encouraging them, including the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University. At Berea, students who decline the vaccine will be offered online classes, according to a news release. First-year students who aren’t vaccinated may defer their admission, and current students may request a leave of absence if they don’t choose online courses. The small, private college in Eastern Kentucky was among the first colleges in the country to stop in-person learning when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in March 2020. The vaccine policy was developed after surveying students, faculty and staff, the news release said. Founded in 1869 by abolitionists, Berea was the first integrated and co-educational college in the South. Aided by a $1 billion endowment, Berea charges no tuition to its 1,600 students, who are required to work on campus.

Louisiana

New Orleans: The state has paid roughly $6.2 million in improper unemployment benefits to nearly 1,200 people locked up in jails or prisons, the state Legislative Auditor’s Office said in a report released Monday. The state labor department didn’t dispute the findings and said it was working to correct the problems. It said criminal enterprises have targeted the state’s unemployment insurance program to take advantage of increased payouts during the coronavirus pandemic. The report noted two possible factors contributing to the improper payments, which amount to a tiny fraction of more than $8 billion in unemployment benefits paid during the pandemic. The report noted that the labor department failed to correctly match its data on unemployment benefits with information a vendor provides on inmates. Also, the report said more than 80% of the incarcerated recipients got the money through a program for contractors and gig workers that was created as part of a 2020 coronavirus relief bill. That complicates the job of the labor department, known as the Louisiana Workforce Commission, because it doesn’t have electronic wage data on gig and contract workers.

Maine

Portland: L.L. Bean’s flagship store returned to 24-hour operations, and Amtrak’s Downeaster resumed its full schedule Monday, marking moves toward normalcy amid the pandemic. Amtrak’s expanded schedule includes a new southbound train that will depart Brunswick mid-morning and a new northbound train that will depart Boston mid-afternoon. In Freeport, workers removed the locks Monday as L.L. Bean’s flagship store resumed around-the-clock sales. The store had been operating on limited hours after Bean briefly closed all stores last year during the pandemic. Returning to 24-hour operations marks an important milestone for the company, restoring a tradition that dates to 1951, said Shawn Gorman, company chairman. Meanwhile, the Maine International Film Festival is returning this summer with a mix of in-person and virtual events. Movies that are normally screened at Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House were moved to the nearby Skowhegan Drive-In Theater and online last summer. This summer, movies will be screened at all three of those locations, as well as online, from July 9 to July 18, the Morning Sentinel reports. To protect attendees’ safety, indoor movie showings will have capacity limits and require social distancing and protective masks.

Maryland

a sign on a pole on a city street: A Sunsations store advertises that it's hiring on April 21, 2021, in Ocean City, Md. © Matthew Prensky A Sunsations store advertises that it's hiring on April 21, 2021, in Ocean City, Md.

Ocean City: Despite growing optimism that larger crowds could return for the 2021 tourism season, many business owners in the town worry a worsening labor shortage could spoil what might be a strong summer. The labor shortage that plagued businesses in 2020 has grown into a crisis in 2021. Seasonal business owners say it’s become more difficult to hire people, and it’s unlikely the J-1 visa program that brings foreign student workers will return this year. Altogether, many businesses might be short-staffed at critical levels as the demands of the tourist season take hold in a few weeks. “There’s a sign on every street in Ocean City that says ‘now hiring,’ ” said Anna Dolle Bushnell, owner of Dolle’s Candyland. This summer could be a financial challenge if Dolle’s doesn’t hire enough employees, Bushnell said, as it will have to cut its hours if it can’t hire enough staff. “This summer is going to hurt unless we get the help like we did last year from the government for being closed and for the reduced profits,” Bushnell said. Each summer approximately 12,000 seasonal jobs open up in Ocean City, said Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association. Last year, nearly 4,000 weren’t filled because then-President Donald Trump placed a temporary ban on the J-1 cultural exchange visa program.

Massachusetts

Boston: The state plans on closing four of its seven mass vaccination sites by the end of June in favor of a more targeted approach to reach the roughly 30% of its eligible population that has not yet received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday. The state will instead send more doses to 22 smaller regional sites, expand mobile vaccination efforts, and bring vaccine clinics to senior centers, YMCAs, houses of worship and other community sites, the Republican governor said at a news conference. While there has been some hesitancy among people who have not yet been vaccinated, more often that not it’s a matter of convenience, Baker said, and he wants to make it as easy as possible to get a shot. The state can change its focus because it is on target to reach its goal of getting more than 4 million people vaccinated by the end of May. “Now that we believe we are going to hit the 4.1 million goal we started with over the course of the next few weeks, it’s time to adapt or vaccination effort to get make sure we get to some of the harder-to-reach populations,” he said. Mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium, the Doubletree hotel in Danvers, the Natick Mall and the Hynes Convention Center in Boston will close at the end of June. But Baker stressed that there are still plenty of appointments available.

Michigan

Traverse City: The Traverse City Film Festival is being canceled for the second consecutive year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael Moore said Friday. “This is truly upsetting for us and for everyone here who loves the movies and sees this festival as a cultural cornerstone of the community,” said Moore, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker who co-founded the event in 2005. The festival board concluded it would be irresponsible to invite thousands of visitors to the Lake Michigan resort town as the coronavirus continues to ravage the state, said Moore, the board’s president. As of Friday, Michigan had the nation’s highest seven-day infection rate, although numbers have been improving. Of the 30 counties across the U.S. with the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, 17 are in Michigan, according to Johns Hopkins University. “We have simply run out of time waiting for this virus to be contained,” board secretary David Poinsett said, adding that it takes six months to plan and produce the event. A shortened version of the festival could take place late this year or in early 2022 if the virus situation improves, Moore said.

Minnesota

St. Cloud: Child care providers were hit hard by the pandemic, and helping them may be crucial to economic recovery. Closures of family child care centers have caused a shortage of child care spots across the state, and COVID-19 accelerated that because many parents kept their children home. Now the shortage is dire. There is a need for 39,000 child care spots in Minnesota, including more than 1,400 in St. Cloud, according to the Greater Minnesota Partnership. “If we’re going to entice (women) back into the workforce, they’re going to need child care. Or maybe they’d like to consider going into child care,” said Don Hickman, vice president for Community and Workforce Development at the Initiative Foundation. “But without child care, we’re going to have a much slower economic recovery.” In recent months, a new solution has emerged to help address that need. Pine Technical and Community College launched a new training program for child care providers in March, with St. Cloud Technical and Community College set to follow suit. Participants will pay next to nothing to take classes and earn a certificate because outside funders are so eager to bolster the child care workforce.

Mississippi

Jackson: Despite the state’s declining COVID-19 vaccination rate, a statewide survey shows residents are actually more likely to get vaccinated than what has been indicated in national polls, according to state health officials. Survey results published last month by the Morning Consult, a national data intelligence company, had claimed Mississippians are the most unwilling in the U.S. when it comes to getting a COVID-19 shot. It showed 30% of more than 2,000 survey-takers in Mississippi were unwilling to get a vaccine to armor against the coronavirus. Another 18% were undecided. A recent trust survey conducted by the state health department and the Community Engagement Alliance from December to March told a different story. Of over 11,000 Mississippians surveyed, Director of Preventive Health and Health Equity Victor Sutton said 73% were willing to get vaccinated. The survey also showed there was not much variation based on political affiliation. That strays from the Pew Research Center’s national data revealing Republicans are less likely to get a shot than Democrats. The conflicting results stem from how questions were asked, Sutton said. The variation isn’t unusual. “We did a really rich, grassroots outreach,” he said. “It’s very Mississippi-centric.”

Missouri

a vintage photo of a group of people posing for the camera: Former Vietnamese refugees visit Carthage, Mo., as part of a religious pilgrimage and reunion in 1979. © Springfield News-Leader Former Vietnamese refugees visit Carthage, Mo., as part of a religious pilgrimage and reunion in 1979.

Carthage: A gathering that traditionally has drawn tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics from across the U.S. to southwest Missouri has been canceled for a second straight year because of the pandemic. The Joplin Globe reports the city of Carthage and the Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer have decided that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is still too great to hold the Marian Days celebration. Before 2020, the event had taken place in the city every year since 1978, reuniting families and friends separated after the fall of Saigon. The Rev. John Paul Tai Tran, provincial minister of the congregation, said the decision not to hold the celebration during the first week of August was again difficult. “Our people come from all over, and there are a lot of states in the U.S. where the cases of infection are still booming,” he said. Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan said the leaders of the congregation met with city officials last Tuesday about the event but had pretty much decided beforehand that it would still be too dangerous. “We’re not at the level where we can have 50,000 or 60,000 people stand shoulder-to-shoulder and camp together for a week,” Dagnan said.

Montana

Kalispell: About 96% of residents who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine have been returning to get their second dose, state health officials said. Jim Murphy, administrator of the health department’s Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau, told Montana Public Radio he’s pleased that nearly everyone who got a first dose is following up with a second. Nationally, 8% of people who were due to get their second dose by April 9 didn’t return for their second shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Out of almost 400,000 Montanans who have received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, about 14,600 are at least two weeks overdue for their second shot, Murphy said. It’s possible some have received a second dose in another state or decided to get a second dose at a pharmacy rather than returning to a mass vaccination clinic, he said, while others could wrongly believe they are protected after one dose. Others may be wary after their initial experience or reports of side effects by others. Dr. Douglas Kuntzweiler with Mountain-Pacific Quality Health told a nervous woman last week during a virtual AARP Montana town hall that a bad case of COVID-19 would cause a person to feel a lot worse than the brief potential side effects of being vaccinated.

Nebraska

Lincoln: The state government will collect an extra $90 million in tax revenue in the current fiscal year that ends June 30 but will face a less rosy outlook over the following two years, based on new state estimates. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board on Friday lowered its revenue projections by $5 million over the following two budget years, starting July 1. The new predictions will give lawmakers about $38 million more than expected in the current legislative session, after adjusting for requirements of state law. The projections will also trigger an automatic boost to a new state property tax credit program. Gov. Pete Ricketts urged lawmakers to “stay the course” with his plan to ease the local property tax burden for Nebraska residents. “Nebraska’s economy continues to show significant signs of strength as we emerge from the pandemic,” Ricketts said.

Nevada

Carson City: Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday that the panel he appointed to oversee the state’s coronavirus pandemic response won’t meet regularly after June 1, the date he has set for lifting coronavirus mitigation restrictions except mask mandates. Caleb Cage also will step down as COVID-19 response director and return to the Nevada System of Higher Education with a promotion to vice chancellor of workforce development and chief innovation officer, the governor and the university system announced. Sisolak praised Cage for “a year of selfless public service” and called Cage’s emergency management leadership and expertise invaluable to the state. “While the pandemic is not yet over, our state response efforts will naturally transition as the situation evolves and we focus on mass vaccination of Nevadans,” the governor said. The task force began regular meetings last August. Sisolak said it will continue to meet through May, while the state’s 17 counties assume full local control of COVID-19 restrictions. Weekly COVID-19 Task Force calls with the media will end in June, the Democratic governor said.

New Hampshire

Concord: An annual contest that rewards high school journalists in the state has been adjusted this year to take into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, those competing for the Brodsky Prize were required to submit examples of published work. But given the challenges the pandemic posed to school papers, this year’s contest asks students to submit essays of up to 800 words about how the pandemic has challenged their communities or schools and how it could lead to positive changes. The $5,000 prize, established by a former editor of the school paper at Central High School in Manchester, is open to all New Hampshire high school seniors. The deadline for submissions is May 14.

New Jersey

Trenton: The state will lift all COVID-19 outdoor gathering limits and remove a 50% capacity limit on indoor restaurants and bars beginning May 19 as long as social distancing can be maintained, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Murphy said the state’s positive coronavirus trends have enabled the change. “This means that the events that we all associate with summer, from fireworks displays to parades to the state fair, can all go forward, as long as attendees keep 6 feet of distance,” he said. Murphy also announced that relaxed restrictions slated to take effect May 10 will now apply Friday, three days earlier. Those changes include increasing the outdoor gathering limits to 500 people and raising indoor capacities to 50% up to 250 individuals for political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services and performances. Privately catered events will also be permitted to have dancing. Murphy, a Democrat seeking reelection this year, will also remove a prohibition on tables of eight diners or more. Tables can be spaced closer than 6 feet if partitions are used. Also done away with is a 50% capacity limit for religious services, retail, gyms, saloons and amusement businesses. Instead, Murphy said, the state will require a minimum of 6 feet of distance between people.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: State legislators bristled Friday at vetoes by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that block legislative authority over new federal pandemic aid, and they said they may seek a court ruling to defend the Legislature’s authority over that spending. Pandemic relief legislation signed this year by President Joe Biden assigns $1.6 billion in aid directly to New Mexico’s government. Legislators in March assigned $1.1 billion to backfill the state’s unemployment insurance trust, underwrite roadway projects, provide several years of tuition-free college to in-state students and shore up finances at state museums. Lujan Grisham vetoed those provisions, and several leading legislators say the governor went too far in asserting her authority over the money. Lawmakers also say several line-item vetoes to a budget bill went beyond simple spending deletions to alter or expand state spending. During a meeting Friday of a year-round legislative committee on budgeting and accountability, state Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, urged colleagues to seek an opinion from the state Supreme Court. “I just think that the Legislature has to determine under their purview if they’re going to be the funding body, or are we going to let the governor dictate,” he said. “This is not a personal battle.”

New York

New York: The city’s subway will begin rolling all night again, and capacity restrictions for most types of businesses will end statewide in mid-May, as COVID-19 infection rates continue to decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. City subway service will return to 24-hour operation May 17 after being closed for cleaning during overnight hours since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Democratic governor said. Capacity restrictions on businesses – including restaurants, offices, beauty salons and gyms – will be lifted in New York and its neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut on May 19, Cuomo said. Businesses in New York will still be required to operate in a way that guarantees that unvaccinated people can keep 6 feet of social distancing space, even after the occupancy limits go away, the governor said. New York City’s subways, famous for all-night operation, were shut down between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. starting April 30, 2020, so that trains and stations could be disinfected. The change was also intended to make it easier to remove homeless people from trains where many had been spending the night. The overnight closure was scaled back to 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. in February.

North Carolina

Asheville: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s strain on students through virtual, hybrid and distanced in-person instruction, local school districts anticipate an uptick in summer school attendance this year. Buncombe County Schools spokesperson Stacia Harris said the district predicts more students will attend school this summer than last year, when 1,600 students participated in the county’s summer program, which was available virtually and in person for students going into first through fifth grades. Before the pandemic, the district’s only summer programs were reading support for first through third grades and credit recovery for high schoolers who failed classes and needed to retake them. Asheville City Schools spokesperson Ashley-Michelle Thublin said the district is still finalizing the number of students who need summer school. Daniel Winthrow, a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators and teacher for the academically and intellectually gifted at Isaac Dickson Elementary School, said he could see many students opting for summer instruction for Asheville City Schools. “As a teacher, I’m seeing a lot of students just academically are not in the same place that you would expect them to be at this point in the year, which makes sense having a global pandemic,” he said.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum has signed into law a bill that directs the state’s Department of Health and its Department of Human Services to unite into the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services, effective Sept. 1, 2022. “North Dakota’s Department of Health and Department of Human Services have a long history of working together to serve the citizens of our state, as evidenced by their lifesaving work during the current pandemic,” Burgum said in a statement. “By bringing these two agencies together, we will build on each agency’s strengths, enhance collaboration, provide expanded career opportunities for team members and, most importantly, deliver programs and services more efficiently and effectively to the citizens of North Dakota.” The governor’s office will lead an integration team with representation from the two agencies. “Team members from both agencies have distinguished themselves with their dedication, commitment and sacrifice throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Burgum said. “Improving health, providing quality human services and supporting our team members will continue to be our top priorities as we build a streamlined service delivery system for North Dakota citizens.”

Ohio

Cincinnati: Fully vaccinated employees at nursing homes and assisted living facilities don’t need to be tested for the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Staff who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 must still be tested twice a week. “When staff is not vaccinated, that does increase the odds of the virus getting into the nursing home,” DeWine said. Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after his or her final shot. The state reported fewer than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases between Sunday and Monday. “We are moving in the right direction in regard to cases,” DeWine said. Ohio reported 89 new COVID-19 hospitalizations and 17 patients admitted to intensive care units during that time, according to Ohio Department of Health data. Ohio is at 147.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks. If the state dips below 50 new cases per 100,000 residents, DeWine said he would lift all health orders, including the mask requirement.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: More than 110,000 people who got a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the state are overdue for a second one, according to state health department data. Of those who have received a first dose through state allocations, 9.4% are at least two weeks late on their second. That doesn’t include those who have received vaccines in Oklahoma through federal allocations, such as those given through tribal governments. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are a two-dose regimen, given three and four weeks apart, respectively. The first dose can offer some protection, but to get the 90%-plus efficacy shown in the vaccines’ clinical trials, both shots are necessary, experts say. Health Department Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed said vaccine providers try to set second-dose appointments at the time someone gets their first dose and send reminders to return to complete the series. “We also realize that things do come up, life gets in the way sometimes, and people need to reschedule, so hopefully they’ll respond to our reminders and step up and get vaccinated,” he said. “Because while we’re pleased to get one dose into people, because that does afford some significant protection, we want them to be fully vaccinated and receive the full benefits of vaccination.”

Oregon

a man in a blue shirt: Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Toby Sewell draws up doses of vaccines for the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. © BRIAN HAYES / STATESMAN JOURNAL Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Toby Sewell draws up doses of vaccines for the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

Salem: Last week was unusually slow for Oregon National Guard members distributing COVID-19 vaccinations at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. For the past four months, the site has seen a steady stream of Oregonians receiving their first and second doses. “But this past week, it’s like we fell off a cliff,” said Col. Ron Smith, of Sherwood, who oversees the vaccine administration at the fairgrounds. Smith and his fellow supervisors are unsure why. Smith, 59, said the site has the resources to vaccinate 5,000 people per day, though Guard members vaccinated about half that number of people Wednesday. “We have the doses, we have the staffing and everything ready to go, and we’re kind of just sitting here begging for people right now,” Smith said. Guard supervisors are still scratching their heads about the drop-off in vaccine recipients. “Maybe we’ve got all the people who want to get shots, and now we’re down to the people who for whatever reason are hesitant. Who knows what it is, but it is,” Smith said. The State Fairgrounds is not the only site experiencing a drop in demand. Statewide, vaccinations peaked at about 52,000 per day April 8. They were down to 26,000 on April 28.

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg: The state should immediately terminate the no-bid state contract of a company that performed coronavirus contact tracing and exposed the private medical information of tens of thousands of residents, Republican lawmakers said Monday. GOP leaders also called for state and federal probes into the Atlanta-based contractor’s mishandling of the data and what they said was the slow response by the Wolf administration. Employees of Insight Global used unauthorized Google accounts – readily viewable online – to store names, phone numbers, email addresses, COVID-19 exposure status, sexual orientations and other information about residents who had been reached for contact tracing. The company’s contract with the state required it safeguard people’s data. The Department of Health said last week that at least 72,000 people were affected. The state plans to drop Insight Global once its contract expires at the end of the July. But GOP lawmakers said at a news conference at the Capitol on Monday that the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf needs to find a new vendor immediately. “The public trust in Insight Global is gone,” said state Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny. “And as as long as the company continues to do contact tracing for our state, who is going to give them any information?”

Rhode Island

Providence: High schools across the state have scheduled vaccination clinics this week for their students 16 and up, starting Monday at Cranston East. Another clinic is scheduled for Wednesday at Cranston West, Barrington is scheduled to host a clinic Thursday, and Johnston and North Kingstown are set to vaccinate students starting Friday. Cranston Mayor Kenneth Hopkins told WPRI-TV that vaccinations will help students feel safe during prom and graduation season and give them a chance to get a shot before college, as many schools are requiring students to be vaccinated for the fall semester. The city is providing the Pfizer vaccine, which is authorized for use in those over the age of 16. Students can get a shot without parental authorization, the state Department of Health said. Second doses for Cranston students are scheduled to be administered May 24 and 26. Gov. Daniel McKee said last week that his administration will work with any high school that wants to host a vaccination clinic for students.

South Carolina

Greenville: Greenville County got nearly twice as much federal pandemic aid as all other South Carolina counties combined, and more than a third of that money was kept for county government’s own use. Because of its population, the county qualified for a direct allocation of $91.3 million from the $2 trillion stimulus package enacted last spring. Greenville County Administrator Joe Kernell dispersed about $58.5 million in community health grants, financial assistance to businesses, and funding for other government agencies and nonprofits. He decided to keep the remaining 35% of the money for county government’s own uses. Nearly $33 million was spent to pay emergency medical personnel and buy equipment ranging from medical mannequins to take-home computers as well as cover other expenses such as face masks, advertising costs and cellphone bills. Because they had fewer than 500,000 residents, South Carolina’s 45 other counties had to submit requests to state officials in Columbia for funding from the federal package. Those counties ended up getting a total of about $46 million. Kernell didn’t face such oversight. After approving a budget outline in June, Greenville County Council members allowed the administrator to make spending decisions.

South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday told the state’s tourism industry to gear up for a busy summer, as she expects an influx of visitors itching to travel after more than a year of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. During an event at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where she is suing to hold another fireworks display this summer, the Republican governor said there are many signs that tourism – the state’s second-largest industry – will make a big rebound. Tourism spending dropped by 18% in 2020, but Noem said the state still welcomed ample visitors. She drew widespread attention and criticism for forgoing virus restrictions and hosting a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore that featured former President Donald Trump. She also welcomed people to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where hundreds contracted COVID-19 and brought it back to 30 states. “The tourism industry is so important to our entire state,” Noem said, pointing to the tax revenue it brings in and jobs it sustains. The governor has initiated a legal battle with President Joe Biden’s administration over holding fireworks at the monument to celebrate Independence Day again this year. The National Park Service denied the state’s application to hold the event this summer due to safety concerns and objections from local Native American tribes.

Tennessee

Nashville: The city’s financial leaders have presented what credit-rating agencies deemed a stable $2.6 billion budget package despite devastating natural disasters, the pandemic and social unrest that dragged at city coffers. Finances are so steady that $267 million in federal COVID-19 pandemic recovery funds can be set aside for more services and economic growth, officials said Friday. A controversial 34% property tax increase will set the city up for years of fiscal health while maintaining relatively low rates, they said. “The property tax increase stabilized our revenue base,” Finance Director Kevin Crumbo said Friday. “The American Rescue Plan will move us from a stable position to one that is sustainable for generations to come.” The full line-item budget will be released this week. But Crumbo outlined key takeaways, and Mayor John Cooper released his priorities for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Cooper will invest in a hefty pay raise for teachers, improved roads and expanded bus routes, and more affordable housing development. “Last year’s budget was a crisis budget. This year’s budget is an investment budget,” Cooper said. “We’ve weathered the storm. And we have a new opportunity to rise, together.”

Texas

Austin: Serving up a to-go margarita with Maudie’s Tex Mex fare “has been a lifesaver” for the restaurant chain over the past year, said Ryan Leugers, director of operations for the Austin-based company. He said the to-go alcohol option, temporarily afforded to Texas restaurants as the pandemic ravaged sales, has boosted mixed-beverage sales 10% to 20% across the restaurant’s six Austin-area locations. Now, a bill headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk would make alcohol to-go sales at restaurants a permanent option. Abbott last year expressed support for making such sales permanent. Under the bill, establishments could sell beer, wine and mixed drinks as part of pickup and delivery food orders. House Bill 1024 was filed by Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren, who owns a barbecue restaurant in Fort Worth. The House approved the bill in March, and the Senate gave final approval Wednesday. If Abbott signs the bill, it will go into effect immediately. If he doesn’t sign it and allows it to become law, it will take effect Sept. 1. The Texas Restaurant Association applauded the legislation to make alcohol to-go sales permanent. “This ability has saved thousands of restaurant jobs during the pandemic, and it will remain a critical tool as the industry rebuilds,” the association said in a statement.

Utah

St. George: State health officials have announced more options for free rapid coronavirus testing. The test sites, which are determined by health officials based on an area’s positivity rates, testing rates, wastewater sampling and other surveillance data, offer free tests to anyone 3 or older, with test results typically expected in less than an hour. Some of the locations are drive-thru, while others are held indoors. Those held inside ask people to wear masks and maintain social distancing while waiting in line. Anyone with symptoms associated with COVID-19, even if they are minor, is encouraged to get tested. Those who have been in contact with someone who has had COVID-19 while they could have been infectious are also encouraged to get tested. The Utah Department of Health asks that anyone seeking a test register online first. Registration can be done on site, but it could take longer to receive a test. Identification may also be required. Rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than the also-common polymerase chain reaction tests, according to the department. This means PCR tests are better than antigen tests at detecting the virus, especially when a person has small amounts of virus in their body.

Vermont

St. Johnsbury: The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles is considering whether to reopen a number of regional offices across the state that were closed during the early days of the pandemic. DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli said officials are in the process of evaluating the future of offices in St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, Middlebury, Dummerston and White River Junction. Offices in Bennington, Rutland, Newport, South Burlington and Springfield are open by appointment only. The pandemic spurred significant improvements to online services, such as license renewals and some vehicle registration services, that has reduced demand for in-person services. Minoli has said the reopening of satellite locations is dependent on how things go in the locations that are open. “Accessibility and user-friendliness are at an all-time high, with additional online systems and services that were developed throughout the pandemic to enable customers to do their business right at their own computer,” Minoli said in an email to the Caledonian Record. Among the services now available online are online vehicle registration and standard learner’s permit tests. Commercial learner’s permits tests must still be taken in person, as must driving tests.

Virginia

Richmond: Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can forgo a face mask outdoors, Gov. Ralph Northam says, as long as they are alone or with others who have also completed a vaccine regimen. The Democratic governor amended his mask order Thursday to align with federal guidelines released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone who is considered “fully vaccinated” – meaning they are two weeks removed from their last or only dose of a vaccine – is safe to be outside without a mask as long as they are alone or in a small group with others also fully vaccinated. Masks still would be required in crowded outdoor settings such as concerts and sporting events. “The CDC’s recommendations underscore what we have said all along – vaccinations are the way we will put this pandemic behind us and get back to normal life,” Northam said in a statement. “Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases has made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner.” Northam also changed the effective date of new guidelines for outdoor sporting events from May 15 to immediately accommodate this past weekend’s slate of state high school football championship games.

Washington

Bremerton: With coronavirus cases rising dramatically in Kitsap in recent weeks, the county faces the possibility of tighter restrictions and being sent back a phase in the state’s reopening plan. Counties must either keep new case rates below 200 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period or new hospitalizations below five per 100,000 over a one-week period to stay in Phase 3. Kitsap Public Health District Administrator Keith Grellner said Friday that Kitsap’s case rate is now well above 200. “There is a strong possibility that the state will move Kitsap County back to Phase 2 ... because COVID-19 disease activity and hospitalizations appear to be exceeding the state’s thresholds,” he said. “This a wake-up call for our community. We need to get as many residents as possible vaccinated so we can curb the spread of COVID-19 and get our recovery back on track.” The tightened restrictions in Phase 2 limit gatherings to 25% capacity in settings like indoor eating and drinking establishments, entertainment venues, worship services, retail stores and fitness facilities, among other limitations. A phase rollback would be announced Tuesday, and the new restrictions would be implemented Friday. The next reevaluation would happen in three weeks. All but three counties statewide are currently in Phase 3.

West Virginia

Keyser: WVU Potomac State College will hold its spring commencement ceremony Saturday, but it will look different from in years past as the college implements safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the location has changed to the Keyser High School Alumni Stadium to meet the physical distancing requirements mandated by state regulations for graduation ceremonies. The event will be held rain or shine. Additionally, the college is issuing guest tickets this year, allowing four per graduate. Tickets are required to enter the stadium. Children 2 and younger will be allowed to sit on parents’ laps without the need for a ticket. Masks will be required at all times. The college will also welcome back May, August and December 2020 graduates who registered to participate with the May 2021 graduates. Giving the keynote address will be campus President Jennifer Orlikoff. The ceremony will be livestreamed for family and friends who are unable to attend in person.

Wisconsin

Baraboo: Observation towers and playgrounds at Wisconsin state parks have reopened, as more restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic are loosening. The state Department of Natural Resources has also increased capacity to 100 at open-air shelters, amphitheaters and outdoor group campgrounds, WMTV reports. “Over the course of the past year, we have been closely monitoring the health activities going on and making adjustments to our operations when it’s safe to do so,” said Brian Hefty, Wisconsin State Parks deputy director. “We’ll continue to do that with public safety being the No. 1 priority for us.” Attendance at state parks has increased 25% so far this year compared to 2020, the DNR said. Hefty said state park staff will continue to monitor public areas and keep an eye on park capacity limits. If the crowds grow too large, staff may enact a temporary capacity closure.

Wyoming

Jackson: Bicyclists will no longer be allowed to ride into Yellowstone National Park through the south gate before the road opens for motorized vehicles each spring. After spring plowing, Yellowstone keeps some of its interior roads closed to motorized vehicles for several weeks while opening them to human-powered recreation. The park recently announced a permanent ban on bikes between the South Entrance and Grant Village during the spring shoulder season, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. “Usually there are high snowbanks, no place to get out of the road and no restrooms in that section,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress said. “It wasn’t the safest place to ride a bike.” Fewer bicyclists ride in southern Yellowstone in spring compared to the more accessible main road through nearby Grand Teton National Park. Snow and ice prevented Yellowstone’s South Entrance from opening to bicyclists in 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic closed the road through much of the spring of 2020. Yellowstone officials plan to open the south gate to all traffic May 14.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Minaret vaccination, Rushmore fight, enrollment drops: News from around our 50 states

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