US Big Tex, AC problems, camping changes: News from around our 50 states
Superstar Racing Experience at Stafford odds, picks: Surprising SRX Series predictions from proven model
SportsLine simulated Saturday's SRX Series at Stafford race 10,000 times and locked in surprising picksIn addition to being a co-founder of the SRX Series, Stewart will be one of the biggest draws in a star-studded field and he's listed at 5-2 in the latest SRX Series at Stafford odds. However, Helio Castroneves is listed as the 2-1 favorite as he's fresh off his historic fourth Indy 500 win as a 46-year-old just last month. Before scouring the Camping World SRX Series at Stafford starting lineup and making any Superstar Racing Experience predictions, be sure to see the latest SRX Series at Stafford picks from SportsLine's proven projection model.
Birmingham: An infectious disease expert said Monday that he is concerned about lagging vaccination rates in the state, as well as the number of unvaccinated people who appear to have abandoned wearing masks. Alabama has the second-lowest percentage of people vaccinated, ranking only above Mississippi, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 36% of Alabama’s population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 29% are fully inoculated. “All of us want to get back to normal, every single one of us. The vaccine is our sure ticket to get there,” said Dr. Mike Saag, a professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The CDC has said fully vaccinated people are safe to go without masks, but Saag said that message appears to have gotten misconstrued. “What I saw over the Memorial Day weekend: Most everybody was walking around without a mask as if everyone was vaccinated. We know around 70% of the Alabama population has not been vaccinated,” he said. While new cases and hospitalizations are down significantly from their peak, the effects of the Memorial Day holiday will serve as a “stress test” of sorts, Saag said: “It’s not going to be like the surges we saw in January, but it will be a bump. The question is how big.”
Sauter eyes return to form as Camping World Truck Series races at Texas
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action and makes its first Texas stop in Saturday‘s SpeedyCash.com 220 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), where Johnny Sauter would love to reclaim some of the winning magic he used to sweep the 2012 series stops and to earn trophies in consecutive […]Sauter, the driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Toyota, could certainly use a good run Saturday. He sits 11th in the standings entering Texas. Sauter has 11 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 25 Texas Truck Series starts, however, his last top 10 came in 2019 (third). It‘s been an all-or-nothing type year for Sauter who has four top-10 finishes but also three DNFs.
Juneau: As the current special legislative session slumped along Monday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy urged lawmakers to act on his proposal to place in the state constitution a new formula for the annual check residents receive from Alaska’s oil-wealth fund. Some legislators have raised questions about some of the administration’s modeling assumptions and concerns with tackling the dividend issue without other pieces of a possible fiscal plan. “It’s like whack-a-mole,” Dunleavy said in an interview. “Every time we come up with a thing to move this along, it’s not enough for some people, and you start to become somewhat cynical. You start to say, ‘Well, wait a second. You’re moving the goal posts constantly to try and fix this issue.’ ... We have not decreed that they shouldn’t come forth with ideas. Let’s see what their ideas are.” The Republican said if legislators want to discuss revenues, they can do so in August, when he has scheduled another special session. The agenda for that session references “an act or acts relating to measures to increase state revenues” and includes his proposed constitutional amendment that would put the establishment of new taxes to a public vote. He has unsuccessfully pushed a similar constitutional proposal the past two years.
Calls for more 'pop-up' campsites as demand surges
Regulations should be relaxed to allow more temporary campsites this summer, say campaigners.One such pitch is behind the Devonshire Arms, in the heart of the Peak District.
Phoenix: More than 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in the state. Gov. Doug Ducey hailed it as a major milestone Monday and urged residents to keep the momentum going. More than 3.3 million people statewide have received at least a first dose – 47.3% of Arizona’s vaccine-eligible population. About 2.9 million are fully vaccinated. The state is shutting down operations at its mass vaccination sites by June 28, with public health officials citing the vast availability of doses at community health centers, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and pop-up clinics. Maricopa County health officials have started an education campaign with ads on television, radio, billboards and social media encouraging people to get vaccinated. Public health officials said in a news release that they’re trying to reach people who are on the fence about getting a vaccine, telling them it’s OK to have questions, and they should seek answers from trusted sources. Meanwhile, the state dashboard reported 374 new cases and no deaths Monday. That brings the total numbers of cases and deaths to 884,195 and 17,700, respectively. The number of patients hospitalized for the virus deviated little from the past few days at 560. According to the state, 141 of those patients were in intensive care units.
Lindsay Czarniak talks hosting Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) Series: “I think that this series has the right recipe.”
The Camping World Superstar Racing Experience Series (SRX) kicks off Saturday night with the first of six short-track, primetime races. This week’s edition takes place at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, and it will air on the CBS broadcast network and stream on Paramount+ beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. Lindsay Czarniak, known for her past Read more The post Lindsay Czarniak talks hosting Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) Series: “I think that this series has the right recipe.” appeared first on Awful Announcing.
Fort Smith: Factory shutdowns during the pandemic. “If we have a real hot summer, we could get desperate,” said Chuck Hooks, the service manager at Blaylock Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Drain Cleaning in Fort Smith. The factory shutdown has led to a dearth of air conditioning equipment in the state and across the nation, Hooks said. “There’s a big demand and a big shortage for pretty much everything to do with our field right now,” said Michael Lytle, the commercial project manager for Wilson’s Heating & Air Conditioning in Van Buren. Lytle said there is also a shortage of metals for ductwork and air conditioning equipment, which has caused prices to steadily increase. Michael Roberts, the owner of Roberts Heat and Air in Booneville, said he has had trouble getting parts for the past year. Equipment that was taking two to four weeks to come in is now taking six to 24 weeks to arrive, Hooks said. “It will get worse before it gets better is my understanding,” he said. Hooks has his equipment delivered from factories in the United States but said the situation is even worse for people who get equipment from overseas. Because of the coronavirus, the U.S. would not let ships dock and unload their supplies.
The far right is weaponizing climate change to argue against immigration
The right-wing solution to environmental problems: more borders and exclusion.An April 12 lawsuit brought by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich against the Department of Homeland Security alleges that the Biden administration’s policies on immigration have impacted the state’s environment by increasing demand for “housing, infrastructure, hospitals, and schools.
San Francisco: Mayor London Breed married four couples inside City Hall on Monday to mark the reopening of the storied building after it shut down in March 2020 as part of a regional lockdown. Madelyn Peterson and Indira Carmona were the first couple to wed on the grand staircase of the building’s rotunda. The building’s doors opened at 8 a.m. for those looking to get marriage license applications, business registrations, birth and death certificates, and other documents. Visitors are still required to wear a mask and socially distance. San Francisco has had some of the strictest pandemic-related restrictions in the country, and the compact city of nearly 900,000 has reported 36,766 COVID-19 cases and just 546 deaths. To compare, Long Beach has about 467,000 residents but more than 53,000 cases and 900 deaths. Vaccination rates in San Francisco are also high, with 80% of residents having received at least one dose. Moments before Breed officiated the weddings, she raised the Pride flag outside the building’s main entrance to officially kick off the annual LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations. “We’re going to celebrate; we’re going to have a good time; we’re going to keep smiles on our faces because we survived a pandemic, y’all,” Breed told a small, cheerful crowd gathered for the flag-raising ceremony.
Education Department blows deadline to overhaul college aid form
The department instead plans to roll out the redesigned form by the 2024-25 school year.Department officials on Friday said the new, simplified application for federal financial aid that Congress approved last year will not be ready in time for the 2023-24 academic year, as required by the law. The department instead plans to roll out the redesigned form — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — a year later, by the 2024-25 school year. The delay was first reported by POLITICO.
Fort Collins: The Fort Collins Rescue Mission 1. “Like with many things COVID-related, I have hopes that building these plans won’t be for naught,” Forwood said.. The structure would essentially extend capacity by another 50 to 70 beds if the nonprofit is allowed to put bunk beds inside, said shelter Senior Director Seth Forwood. While the facility would not be permanent, it would have windows, doors, flooring, heating and ventilation – everything a permanent addition would have, he said. With financial support from the city of Fort Collins, the Rescue Mission operated a temporary overnight winter shelter from mid-October to April. While it squeezed in about 150 men experiencing homelessness, the downtown Rescue Mission can handle half that number. The city has been working for years on additional shelter resources. For now, federal coronavirus relief funding approved in spring 2020 to staff and run the Rescue Mission’s 24/7 shelter downtown runs out at the end of June. Forwood said he’s still hoping the federal government’s latest pandemic aid package will come through to provide funding beyond July
Hartford: The state Senate early Tuesday narrowly approved a long-awaited bill that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis after years of failed efforts in both chambers to pass the legislation. The 19-17 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate came just before 2 a.m. and hours after lawmakers announced they had reached a compromise on how to ensure the new industry will benefit those residents adversely affected by the nation’s war on drugs. Six Democrats voted against the proposal, while one Republican voted in favor. “We’ve seen what’s been wrought by having a war on drugs. Whole communities have been decimated,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee. The bill now heads to the House, where Democratic majority leaders said they hope to see it pass before Wednesday’s midnight adjournment of the regular legislative session. They did not rule out going into a special legislative session if time runs out. “I think it will get done. I think the marijuana vote will happen, I do,” Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Tuesday morning. Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said he would sign the legislation.
How red states are overriding their blue cities
Republican-controlled states have escalated their offensive against Democratic-controlled cities and counties this year to unprecedented heights, further deepening the trench between red and blue America. © Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg/Getty Images Traffic moves past the skyline of Houston in June 2020. From Key West, Florida, to Bozeman, Montana, from Atlanta to Houston, local communities predominantly governed by Democrats have seen more of their policy decisions overridden by Republican legislatures and governors.
Dover: The General Assembly 30. Masks will be required, and attendees will sit in the galleries, according to a news release from the General Assembly announcing the opening. Seats can be reserved on the General Assembly website p.m. the day before each session day. The General Assembly meets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Sign-ups will close either once all seats have been reserved or at 10 a.m. the next morning, whichever comes first. Capitol Police will be given the names of those who have reserved a seat. Doors to Legislative Hall will open 30 minutes before each chamber convenes its session. “In order to accommodate as many Delawareans as possible, members of the public are encouraged to sign up to observe only one chamber each day,” the release said.. The House and Senate will use separate online signup forms, which will be available at 5. Legislative Hall in Dover will allow 25 people each in the House and Senate for the remaining 11 days of the legislative year that ends June
District of Columbia
Washington: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has launched SmarTrip on Google Pay, expanding payment options for Android smartphone users on the Metro system. As the pandemic eases, and more riders return to Metrorail and Metrobus, officials said Android users will now have the ability to use their SmarTrip card, purchase a new one or add value to a card digitally,. “It’s an investment in the future of Metro, as we modernize our system to incorporate many new technologies,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement. Customers will also be able to download the SmarTrip app from the Google Play Store, with Metro waiving the $2 SmarTrip card fee for all Android users purchasing a virtual card during the first six months. Metro rolled out similar options for for Apple iPhone users in September 2020. Card readers will be available at 91 Metro stations, Metro parking garages and lots, Metrobus routes and even regional buses across the capital region. Data shows that 98% of Metro users have a smartphone, according to WMATA officials.
Surfboards up, 3D-printed home, cherry blossom sculptures: News from around our 50 states
Anti-vax bill testimony draws derision in Ohio, lost dog tries to herd sheep in Washington, and moreStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.
Miami: Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Monday announced plans to set sail from two Florida ports requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 despite state legislation banning businesses from asking for proof. Norwegian announced sailings from New York, Los Angeles, Port Canaveral and Miami. Carnival Cruise Line, also based in Miami, announced sailings from the Port of Galveston, Texas, with vaccinated guests and was working with Florida officials for a ship to leave from PortMiami. The cruise lines’ plans appear to be at odds with the new state law. The sailings are contingent on obtaining a certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it remains unclear how the plans can be reconciled with Florida law. Norwegian said in a statement that it was in contact with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office on the requirements. In April, DeSantis signed an order banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination and prohibiting state agencies from issuing so-called vaccine passports that document COVID-19 inoculations and coronavirus test results. The governor argued the legislation was meant to preserve individual freedom and medical privacy.
Savannah: Officials in Georgia’s oldest city say they plan to start collecting soon on some long overdue utility bills. More than $25 million in unpaid water bills remain outstanding in Savannah, according to city officials. Mayor Van Johnson said many of the overdue payments date back to 2019. The pile of outstanding bills grew larger over the past year as the coronavirus pandemic left many people jobless and unable to pay, WJCL-TV reports. That’s too much money owed to City Hall for Savannah to keep serving residents efficiently, the mayor said. “We are always willing to work out payment arrangements with those who need it,” Johnson said, “but for our city to operate, we must start collecting what’s due.”
Hilo: The Pacific Tsunami Museum plans to reopen from a coronavirus pandemic-triggered shutdown by the end of the summer after finishing substantial renovations. The downtown Hilo museum is working on relocating and renovating its Japan exhibit, which focuses on the 2011 tsunami, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports. The new displays will also cover Japanese tsunami history. Its Big Island tsunamis exhibit will be updated with new interviews from survivors and more photos from the most recent tsunami that hit the island in 1975. “I always felt the local tsunamis exhibit is one of our most important exhibits because it is informative for people living here,” said Marlene Murray, the museum’s director. The museum is adding a new natural hazards exhibit. The area will step away from tsunamis and highlight hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and volcanic activity, which all can affect Hawaii Island. The museum got financial help during the pandemic from federal Paycheck Protection Program loans and stimulus funds. It’s also applied for a shuttered venue grant. “Luckily, we’ve had some wonderful people out there that have been renewing their memberships and sending donations specifically to keep supporting us,” Murray said.
Boise: Many members of the state’s ascendant far right believe they’ve never been closer to achieving their goals in what is already one of the most conservative states in the country. Some half-dozen recently formed right-wing groups, including anti-government activist Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights, have used coronavirus restrictions as recruiting tools, organizing angry mask-burning protests in a push to disrupt institutional norms ahead of statewide elections next year. Other Republicans, including a former Idaho attorney general, have established groups to oppose them. The atmosphere is so charged that lawmakers approved extra spending to bring more Idaho State Police troopers to the Statehouse, even when the Legislature isn’t in session. A doorway pane shattered last year when Bundy and others pushed their way into the House gallery that had limited seating due to the pandemic. The schism also played out dramatically late last month when far-right Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued an executive order during a short stint as acting governor while fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little was out of the state. She ordered a ban on mask mandates without consulting localities or Little. Bundy, best known for leading an armed standoff at a federal wildlife refuge five years ago, has also filed paperwork in a long-shot run for governor. He is expected to officially announce his campaign this month.
Springfield: Health officials, community groups and churches 17. IDPH also is coordinating clinics at United Methodist churches across the state. The Rev. Meredith Manning Brown, senior pastor at Douglas United Methodist, said the clinic would be a way for people in the community to get the vaccine in an environment that they know and trust. “Vaccination is a way for people to be healthy and safe and for our community to return to normal,” Brown said. “We want as many people to be as healthy and safe as possible, and that’s part of what it means to love and follow Jesus.” The clinic will also provide gift cards for fuel and groceries up to $50, which Conley said is yet another way it could push some community members still reluctant to get the vaccine. “This is just an extra thank-you,” Conley said. “At this point, we know that the vaccine is working.” Overall, 43.77% of Illinois’ population and 51% of its adults are fully vaccinated.. Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church – working alongside Wooden It Be Lovely, a nonprofit that supports single mothers; Springfield Ward 8 Alderwoman Erin Conley; and the Illinois Department of Public Health – plans a vaccination clinic the afternoon of June
Indianapolis: The city, hours after the City-County Council approved a measure easing numerous pandemic restrictions. The Democratic-majority council passed the new public health order Monday evening on a 19-5 party line vote, with Republicans opposed because the measure didn’t fully lift all pandemic restrictions. Despite lifting its mask order, Indianapolis businesses may choose to require masks on their property, and masks are still required in hospitals and on public transportation in Indiana’s capital. The change means residents who received their final vaccine shot at least two weeks ago are not required to wear masks in public areas. Indianapolis is aiming for a 50% vaccination rate in order to fully reopen, Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, told the council. Last week, the county’s vaccination rate stood at about 36%. Indianapolis’ new order eases numerous pandemic restrictions, including allowing religious services and funerals, as well as community pools, to open to 100% capacity. The maximum number of people at social gatherings increased from 50 to 500, and bars, restaurants and nightclubs can operate at 75% capacity indoors.
Des Moines: 515 Alive, one of the metro’s largest annual events,, the festival’s organizers announced Monday in a Facebook post. “Organizing events of this size and nature takes months of proper planning,” the post said, “and with the uncertainty surrounding covid regulations we felt that it was simply too turbulent to bring to fruition.” In an addendum to a lengthy post, the organizers said they had been planning a “scaled down” version of the festival this year. “However, artist & date availabilities didn’t align as we had hoped,” they wrote. “We look forward to seeing everyone next year!” The electronic music and hip-hop festival also was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The posting thanked fans for their “patience and understanding.” The festival began as a gathering of DJs and electronic dance music artists in the early 2000s. In 2013 it was staged on a single day in an East Village parking lot, attracting 3,000 people. The event then moved to Western Gateway Park, grew to two days and ultimately ended up at Water Works Park, where festivalgoers could camp overnight. With more than 100 acts that mix local, regional and international electronic and hip-hop talent – including top draws like Waka Flocka Flame and Wiz Khalifa – it has attracted up to 25,000 people.
Topeka: Officials with the dispatch center at the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office. Melanie Bergers, director of communications at the sheriff’s office, said the dispatch center has been understaffed throughout 2020 and 2021 and typically has paid about 600 hours of overtime every two weeks for the past year. Twenty-three dispatchers are employed at the center, leaving it at 60% staffing capacity. Those numbers don’t count American Medical Response employees who work out of the same building. Bergers said applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and pass a background check and drug test, among other requirements, to be qualified to work. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Kansas was as high as 12.6% in April 2020. The statewide rate had fallen back under 4% by April 2021, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.
Frankfort: The longtime state executive who inherited oversight of Kentucky’s beleaguered unemployment insurance system during the COVID-19 pandemic is stepping down as labor secretary. Larry Roberts’ retirement, effective at the end of June, was announced Monday by Gov. Andy Beshear. Roberts’ career in state government stretches back to 1973. The Democratic governor said he selected another veteran state official, Jamie Link, to succeed Roberts in leading the state Labor Cabinet, beginning July 1. In announcing the appointment, Beshear said Link is “committed to standing with our labor unions, protecting our workers and helping Kentucky families climb out of this pandemic.” Link promised to continue efforts to “resolve and remedy Kentucky’s unemployment insurance challenges” and to focus on “the needs and well-being of all Kentucky workers.” Beshear decided about a year ago to shift the unemployment office into the Labor Cabinet. The unemployment office had been housed in the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Like other states, Kentucky was overwhelmed by record-setting waves of unemployment claims as the pandemic temporarily shuttered or scaled back many businesses. Tens of thousands of Kentuckians have found themselves in limbo for months waiting for benefits.
Baton Rouge: Republican lawmakers have taken aim at vaccines, sending Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards two bills that would keep state and local government agencies from mandating COVID-19 immunization in order to receive certain services. Separate votes Monday gave final passage to the the anti-vaccine proposals from Republican Reps. Danny McCormick and Kathy Edmonston. Edwards – who has championed COVID-19 vaccines and is regularly urging residents to get the shots – hasn’t taken a position on the legislation, and no agency in his administration has publicly proposed requiring the immunization for services. “He will review the bills when they reach his desk and see how they conform with recommendations from doctors and public health experts as well with current Louisiana law relating to vaccines, which does allow for certain exemptions,” Edwards spokesperson Christina Stephens said in a statement. But she also defended the vaccines as safe and effective and said they “have already saved lives and are our way out of this pandemic.” McCormick’s proposal would ban agencies from refusing to give a permit, business license or professional license to someone based solely on a business’ decision that it won’t require vaccines for employees or customers, as well as broadly exempting such employers from related civil lawsuits.
Saco: The state’s camping industry is busy and campsites are in demand a year after reservations came to a halt at the height of the pandemic. Owners of the Silver Springs campground in Saco told WMTW-TV their business has quadrupled since last year, when the mask mandate and 14-day quarantine restrictions were in place. They said things are different this year: People aren’t just coming for the weekend but for the whole season. “It’s changed overall camping as a nation because now instead of just camping as recreation, it’s camping in spots because you now have the luxury of being able to work from wherever you’re located,” said Bryce Ingraham of Silver Springs Campground. Businesses that rely on campers and outdoors recreation are optimistic about the coming season.
Baltimore: Students at nearly three dozen public schools without air conditioning were learning virtually for a second day Tuesday amid sweltering temperatures. News outlets report about 30 city schools listed on the district’s website sent students home about 10:30 a.m. Monday to transition to virtual learning, while staff also transitioned to teaching from home. Officials said several Baltimore City schools had air conditioning systems that were not working properly. In Baltimore County, six public schools also closed three hours early Monday due to a lack of air conditioning, and afternoon and evening activities also were canceled. County school buildings have air conditioning systems but experienced a variety of mechanical problems that prevented them from operating as they should. Two of the schools also closed because of power outages, spokesman Charles Herndon said in an email. Two schools remained virtual Tuesday. Sweltering classrooms are a perennial problem in Baltimore, which has some of the state’s oldest school buildings. Some educators used social media to document the high temperatures in the classrooms as students focus on final exams.
Boston: The New Bedford Whaling Museum is offering free admission passes to anyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the museum Wednesday. The first 25 people who get a shot will also get a gift bag from the museum’s gift shop. The clinic will be administering the Pfizer vaccine, which has received federal authorization for use in anyone 12 or older. Preregistration is encouraged, but walk-ins are also welcome to get a free shot, according to the museum. A follow-up clinic for the second dose will take place June 30. Vaccine check-in and in-person registration will be located at the rear entrance, and doses will be administered inside the building. More than 8.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts as of Monday. That includes more than 4.2 million first doses and nearly 3.6 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There have been nearly 258,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered. More than 3.8 million residents have been fully immunized, according to state health officials. Gov. Charlie Baker has set a goal of at least 4.1 million people in the state fully vaccinated. He said Massachusetts has adopted a more targeted approach, particularly in communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Lansing: Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday that her office is adding 350,000 appointments over nearly four months to address a pandemic-related backlog as Michigan residents try to renew driver’s licenses, transfer vehicle titles and conduct other business in person. Branch offices will be able to serve 25% more customers than planned, she said, citing efficiencies – namely shortening 20-minute appointment slots to 10-minute slots. She also eased a requirement that all visitors book an appointment in advance, saying those who need a disability placard can show up without one and be served. Greeters will be stationed at the doors of some of the department’s busiest offices. They will tell people if any immediate appointments are available or help schedule them to come back later. Benson, a Democrat, is confronting a logjam caused by the end of a 13-month grace period for driver’s license and ID renewals, which has been exacerbated by branch closures due to COVID-19 exposures. Republican lawmakers are pressuring her to restore motorists’ ability to walk in without an appointment, pointing to monthslong waits. But she has said she wants to stay the course and noted more transactions can be done online than in the past.
Minneapolis: Fifteen schools that aren’t fully air-conditioned are switching from in-person to online instruction to avoid a heat wave this week. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the schools planned to shift into online learning Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Highs in Minneapolis are expected to top out in the mid- to upper-90s those days. The schools plan to reopen Friday, the last day of class for the year, so students can bring items home, and teachers can close their classrooms.
Jackson: A new clinic in the city aims to address health disparities among at-risk mothers using preventive, holistic and patient-first maternal care. Getty Israel, founder and executive director of Sisters in Birth,. Mississippi ranks last in women and children’s health care in the United States. It ranks 50th in infant mortality. Black mothers die nearly three times more often than white mothers of pregnancy-related causes. The state’s high obesity, hypertension and tobacco-user rates are mostly to blame, Israel said. “You always hear about the worst health outcomes,” she said. “Well, what are we doing about it? This is what we’re doing about it. It’s not the solution; it’s a solution.” Israel said childbirth in Mississippi is all about convenience. The state has the highest cesarean delivery rate in the country. The World Health Organization makes it clear that C-sections should only be performed when medically necessary, with only about 10% to 15% of births by cesarean delivery. Mississippi’s rate is nearly 40%. C-sections, intended to be used in emergencies, can pose risks of heavy bleeding, infection, organ injury and maternal death, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Springfield: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike in southwestern Missouri, and residents there are being urged to get vaccinated before gathering for Fourth of July activities. Springfield-Greene County Acting Health Director Katie Towns said 142 new cases of the coronavirus were reported Tuesday, and the seven-day average has reached 62, the highest level since Feb. 10. Meanwhile, 76 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Greene County. Towns, speaking at a news conference, said Memorial Day gatherings were a source of some of the recent spread, in part because new, faster-spreading variants are in the region. She said there was concern about the pending Independence Day get-togethers. “Gatherings are continuing to be a place where COVID is spread, just as it has throughout this pandemic,” Towns said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 42.1% of Americans are fully vaccinated. Missouri lags with 35.6% of all residents fully inoculated, and rates in the southwestern part of the state are far lower than that. State health department data shows just 31% of Greene County residents have completed their shots, and several southwestern Missouri counties have full vaccination rates below 30% – with a few even below 20%.
Great Falls: The Montana Democratic Party, based on their proportion of the population. Representatives from the seven reservations in the state and the Little Shell Tribe will have two delegates each at the Montana Democratic Party platform, rules, officers and special nominating conventions, according to a news release. Rep. Donavon Hawk, D-Butte, who advocated for the rule change, said the move symbolizes progress in Indigenous representation locally and nationally. “This isn’t just about having a seat at the table, it’s about delivering results that improve health care, infrastructure and the economy for American Indian Montanans across the state,” he said in a statement. Some of the Democratic tribal committees have formed. Maria Vega was selected as chair of the Fort Peck tribal committee, and Lance Four Star was selected as vice-chair. Davin Sorrell, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was selected last week to chair the Flathead tribal committee, and Patrick Yawakie-Peltier, community organizer and co-founder of Red Medicine, was selected as vice-chair. Yawakie-Peltier said he hopes increased Indigenous participation in politics will encourage others to be engaged.
Lincoln: A lawsuit that sought to block the state from imposing a two-tiered Medicaid expansion system with more benefits for people working, volunteering or meeting other requirements is on hold after officials said they would give all participants the same benefits. Lancaster County District Judge Susan Strong granted a motion Friday to pause legal proceedings until Oct. 4, the first business day after everyone enrolled in Medicaid expansion will get the extra services available under the state’s premium plan, the Omaha World-Herald reports. The motion was filed after an agreement between the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the state Medicaid program, and Nebraska Appleseed, a Lincoln-based advocacy group that filed the lawsuit. State officials announced recently that they would abandon plans for a limited tier of coverage for most Medicaid expansion patients. According to the motion, the department must give monthly reports to Nebraska Appleseed and the court about its progress in meeting its Oct. 1 goal for launching the additional services. If the services are implemented on time, the lawsuit may be dismissed.
Carson City: In Sin City, one thing that will soon become unforgivable is useless grass. A new state law will outlaw about 31% of the grass in the Las Vegas area in an effort to conserve water amid a drought that’s drying up the region’s primary water source: the Colorado River. Other cities and states around the U.S. have enacted temporary bans on lawns that must be watered, but legislation signed Friday by Gov. Steve Sisolak makes Nevada the first in the nation to enact a permanent ban on certain categories of grass. Sisolak said last week that anyone flying into Las Vegas viewing the “bathtub rings” that delineate how high Lake Mead’s water levels used to be can see that conservation is needed. “It’s incumbent upon us for the next generation to be more conscious of conservation and our natural resources – water being particularly important,” he said. The ban targets what the Southern Nevada Water Authority calls “non-functional turf.” It applies to grass that virtually no one uses at office parks, in street medians and at entrances to housing developments. It excludes single-family homes, parks and golf courses. Nevada Assemblyman Howard Watts III, the bill’s sponsor, said he hopes other Western states consider similar action leading up to 2026, when they renegotiate the Colorado River’s Drought Contingency Plan.
Portsmouth: The city has repealed its mask ordinance. The City Council 30. The council voted against a motion to amend the repeal so that the mask mandate would stay in place indoors only through June 30. City businesses have reported they are starting to see fewer customers because the mask mandate remained in effect, while other communities revoked their mandates, Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine said. “We are losing business. That’s the message that we’re hearing,” Splaine said. “We’re beginning to look kind of foolish by continuing it.” Durham also rescinded its mask mandate Monday. Exeter and Newmarket ended theirs, and others did not have one. Separately, the city put out a notice that indoor seating in Portsmouth restaurants may return to normal capacity, still complying with all applicable codes. Meanwhile, the public school district in New Hampshire’s largest city is requiring masks for students and staff only for moving around in a building. Masks are now optional inside Manchester classrooms, WMUR-TV reports. School district officials said they made the change because of a decrease in community transmission of COVID-19 and in the district.. It had been set to expire June
Trenton: Schools, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Summer camps will also have similar discretion on masks outdoors, regardless of the weather, he said. The announcement comes as temperatures in many parts of the state have hovered at or risen above 90 degrees since Saturday and are expected to continue that way at least through Wednesday. Some parents have been clamoring for Murphy to ease mask-wearing inside and outside school buildings, culminating in a protest outside the Statehouse last week. The exception for going without a mask outdoors on school grounds in extreme heat has been in effect since schools reopened last September. But on Monday, Murphy suggested school districts can also waive the mask requirement indoors if it can potentially affect students’ health. “School officials are empowered to relax masking among students and staff in their buildings given extreme weather conditions,” Murphy said at a briefing. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said it will be up to school districts to determine what constitutes excessive heat. “We need to trust that they’ll do the right thing,” she said.
Santa Fe: The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that there is no constitutional or statutory requirement to compensate businesses for financial losses due to emergency public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling in favor of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham scuttles about 20 lawsuits against her administration. The original plaintiffs argued that aggressive health restrictions from the administration constituted a regulatory taking much like the taking of land for public works projects. The governor urged the high court to block the lawsuits. In a unanimous opinion from Justice Shannon Bacon, the court said current public health orders “are a reasonable exercise of the police power to protect the public health.” “Occupancy limits and closure of certain categories of businesses, while certainly harsh in their economic effects, are directly tied to the reasonable purpose of limiting the public’s exposure to the potentially life-threatening and communicable disease,” the decision said. The high court noted that the Public Health Emergency Response Act does provide for compensation for the emergency appropriation from businesses of health care supplies, a health facility or any other property.
Albany: Hundreds of nursing homes across the state that are struggling to vaccinate workers, despite recent declines in coronavirus infections. About 250 nursing homes are lagging the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rate for long-term care workers, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of state data. Overall, 62% of nursing home staff statewide have been at least partially vaccinated. While 85% of New York’s nursing home residents have been partially or fully vaccinated, the likelihood of future outbreaks is higher in facilities where fewer workers choose to get shots. It also increases the odds of breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, which are exceedingly rare. The problem is acute in some nursing homes across the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions, where about 50 facilities had partially vaccinated less than half of their respective workers as of last week. The data shed light on a stagnated vaccination push inside nursing homes, which were granted early access to shots in December but today still trail New York hospitals and assisted living facilities, which have partially vaccinated 72% and 69% of workers, respectively.
Rocky Mount: Get ready for long lines at DMV offices this summer, state officials warn, as pandemic delays and economic forces are bringing record demand for licenses. Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Torre Jessup urged motorists to conduct business online if they can. Summer is usually the busiest time at DMV regardless, but many people have waited to get vaccinated before completing transactions, the division said in a news release. The COVID-19 pandemic also delayed thousands of teenagers in completing in-person driving tests to obtain their provisional licenses. And the agency’s job vacancy rate remains high because of the state’s strong job market, according to DMV. The department is encouraging people who must complete in-person business to schedule appointments or to wait to come in until after Labor Day. Meanwhile, the agency is opening new offices, expanding hours and hiring new license examiners.
Bismarck: State tax revenue exceeded projections in April, according to new data released by state budget officials. The Bismarck Tribune reports the data shows April’s general fund revenues outpaced 2019 legislative projections by 1.2%, or more than $2.7 million. Revenues have exceeded projections by 2.2%, or $96.6 million, since mid-2019. May’s revenue numbers aren’t available yet, but State Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrisette said Monday they looked to be what he called “fairly positive.” Some tax sources are still underperforming 2019 projections, however, reflecting the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall sales taxes, the largest source of general fund revenue, for example, were still 2.5% lower than the 2019 forecast, though. Overall oil taxes were 26% under forecasts.
Columbus: The state crossed two COVID-19 milestones Tuesday, counting more than 20,000 total deaths from the disease and 15, 2020 and 1,058 just one month ago.. Since the pandemic began, 20,021 people have died due to COVID-19, according to the Ohio Department of Health. December remains the deadliest month for the coronavirus in Ohio, with 5,520 deaths, according to state data. But deaths fell sharply in January and February, after older Ohioans and people living in nursing homes were able to get COVID-19 vaccines. In April, 518 Ohioans died due to COVID-19, and 269 died in May. Those numbers could increase as deaths are reported. Deaths are often reported in the state’s coronavirus stats weeks or even months after someone dies. That’s because medical professionals have up to six months to complete a death certificate, under Ohio law, and they are reviewed by the National Center on Health Statistics before appearing in Ohio’s tally. Meanwhile, only 503 coronavirus-positive patients were being treated in hospitals across the state Tuesday, the lowest number seen since the Ohio Hospital Association began collecting data in March 2020. That’s down from a high of 5,308 on Dec.
Oklahoma City: The state’s economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic downturn, with revenue collections in May 34% higher than May 2020, Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Tuesday. The state collected $1.24 billion in May 2021, $314.7 million more than the same month a year prior, according to McDaniel. “At this time last year, unemployment was high, numerous businesses had significantly reduced operations, and many people were quarantined in their homes,” McDaniel said. “Today, pent-up demand has been unleashed, and the economy is performing quite well.” He said the strongest indicator of increased economic activity is sales and use tax collections of $534.2 million – a 26% increase, or $110.1 million more than a year ago. Gross production taxes on oil and gas generated $87.3 million, nearly 128% more than May 2020, after oil prices plummeted to below $20 per barrel. The unemployment rate in Oklahoma was 4.3% in April, the most recent month available, down from 13% in April 2020.
Salem: Lane County, home to Eugene, 11, Brown announced that counties where 65% of adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and where officials have submitted a plan for vaccine equity can move into the lowest level of restrictions. Lane is the seventh Oregon county to do so. The new designations take effect Friday. In all, there will be 11 counties, including Marion, in the high-risk category; four counties, including Polk, in the moderate-risk category; and 21 counties in the lower-risk level.. And other counties will have restrictions changed based on measurements of community spread, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday. Coos and Wasco counties will move down from moderate risk to lower risk. Josephine and Yamhill counties will move down from high risk to moderate risk. Harney County will move up from lower risk to moderate risk. Brown’s county risk level system governs capacity limits in restaurants, bars, gyms, retail stores and more, as well as the size of social gatherings. Since November, counties have changed risk designations based on metrics such as cases per 100,000 residents and coronavirus test positivity. On May
Harrisburg: The state’s long-awaited overhaul of its unemployment claims filing system went live Tuesday, with some users immediately complaining about glitches and the state agency that runs the program reporting a phone outage that temporarily prevented it from making or receiving calls. More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic swamped the state’s old claims system, officials promised the replacement would be easy to use; simplify and speed up the process of filing a claim; and incorporate features to reduce the opportunity for fraud. But people trying to migrate to the new website quickly ran into trouble – and weren’t shy about expressing their displeasure online. The agency acknowledged some users got “invalid password” messages, while others had trouble connecting to the server. It said fixes were in progress. Many claimants expressed alarm when the system told them they’d receive benefits by debit card and not direct deposit. But the Department of Labor & Industry said it was “just a display issue and not a problem with payment type.” Pennsylvania had been relying on a 40-year-old computer system to process unemployment benefits. The replacement system that went live Tuesday had been under development since 2006 and was plagued by delays and cost overruns.
Providence: With the coronavirus apparently on the run in Rhode Island, the state is sending help to other areas of the world still in the heat of the battle against COVID-19, officials said Monday. Care New England’s COVID-19 Crisis Relief Effort and the Rhode Island Department of Health recently sent 200,000 coronavirus tests to India, along with protective equipment, ventilators, medications and other medical supplies to be distributed to hospitals around Delhi. “India’s hospitals and laboratories have been stretched to their limit as case counts in the nation reach an all-time high,” Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health, said in a statement. The BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests can help health care professionals quickly identify coronavirus cases and put people into isolation, she said. The tests do not need to be sent to a lab and provide results in 15 minutes. The tests were part of Rhode Island’s allotment from the federal government, and the state has enough remaining to sustain current testing volume.
Columbia: Continuing efforts to boost the state’s economy following pandemic-related hardships, Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday announced a cash infusion for technical colleges, aimed at training the jobless in new skills as they reenter the workforce. During a news conference in Anderson, the Republican said he’s allocating $8 million in federal coronavirus relief aid to a partnership between the state’s 16 tech schools and the Department of Employment and Workforce. Starting this week, the agency will contact the 87,000 South Carolinians already eligible for jobless benefits to advise them of tuition-free, short-term training classes designed to quickly prepare them for jobs like welding and truck driving, according to Tim Hardee, president of the state’s technical college system. The funds come from a total of more than $48 million provided under federal legislation passed in spring 2020, to be used at the governor’s discretion. In other allocations, McMaster has directed funds to the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce. “All they have to do is apply,” McMaster said of the training for in-demand technical jobs. “If this works as well as we are confident it will, we are hopeful this will be a permanent part of our career process in South Carolina.”
Sioux Falls: The union at a Smithfield Foods pork processing plant engaged in contract negotiations Tuesday armed with the authorization to call a strike. A strike authorization at the Sioux Falls chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union was overwhelmingly approved late Monday with 98% of the vote total, the union said. However, leaders said they hoped to avoid a work stoppage as they met with company representatives Tuesday. Meatpacking workers have become emboldened after a coronavirus outbreak at the plant last year killed four workers and infected nearly 1,300. The union is demanding that Smithfield boost its wage offerings in a four-year contract to match those at a JBS pork plant in the region, as well as to make several other concessions on break times and employee health insurance costs. “We’re not going to change our stand,” said B.J. Motley, the president of the local union. Smithfield Foods, based in Virginia, has said its initial offer, which was rejected by the union last week, is in “full alignment” with agreements that UFCW has already accepted at other plants. A strike at the plant, which produces roughly 5% of the nation’s pork supply every day, could create ripple effects from hog farmers to supermarket shelves.
Nashville: The state’s annual free fishing day is Saturday. Each year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency offers one day when anglers can fish without a paid license in the state’s public waters, agency-owned and -operated lakes, and state park facilities. The TWRA said it annually stocks several thousand pounds of fish for various events. However, some privately owned lakes and ponds continue to charge during free fishing day, the agency said. Interested anglers will need to consult with those operators if there are any questions about a facility. Many events are returning this year following cancellations in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A list of events being held on free fishing day can be found.
Dallas: The State Fair of Texas 24 through Oct. 17. This year’s theme is “Howdy, Folks!” State Fair of Texas president Mitchell Glieber said in a statement that the theme “encompasses the foundation of what the fair is all about – being together.” “We’re excited to make up for lost time and help families and friends from all walks of life reconnect again, while making new memories to last a lifetime,” Glieber said. Last year, the in-person fair was canceled due to the pandemic. Instead of eating fried food at Fair Park, would-be attendees had the option to stream corn dog and funnel cake cooking tutorials from their living rooms. Big Tex still loomed over Fair Park, but for the first time in his 68-year history, he wore a mask. This fall, according to the Dallas Morning News, his mask is coming off. Fairgoers can look forward to bull riding, vegetable carving and Dia de los Muertos activities. Food offerings will include Cajun crab bombs, deep fried waffles, and jalapeno and champagne jello shots, and attendees will hear loads of live music.to devour funnel cakes, admire flashy cars and gaze up at the iconic 55-foot tall Big Tex. The annual fair, which dates back to 1886, will take place from Sept.
Salt Lake City: More than 20,000 people marched through downtown Salt Lake City over the weekend to close out Pride week in the state. Utah Pride Center Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Foulk said it was “beautiful” to see everyone gathered at the “Rainbow March & Rally” again after events were canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, KSTU-TV reports. “We really wanted to get back to how Pride started,” Foulk said. “Pride started as a protest and a rally and a march, and that’s what we brought back for this year specifically because we couldn’t have food vendors and floats and have a super large gathering.” Planning has already started for next year, with hopes that more people can attend, Foulk said.
Montpelier: Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed into law Monday a bill that will make it easier for residents to vote in general elections. The new law will send general election ballots to all active voters ahead of the election, making permanent a policy used last year during the pandemic. Under the system that was used last November, when COVID-19 was surging, voters will be able to cast ballots by mail, take them to polling places to vote early or cast their ballots in person on Election Day. The law also provides a mechanism for correcting defective ballots and makes other changes to the state’s voting laws. Scott said he didn’t think the law went far enough, and he urged lawmakers when they return in January to extend the provisions of the law to primary elections, local elections and school budget votes. “I’m signing this bill because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important,” Scott said in a statement. At a time when legislatures around much of the nation are more likely to pass laws that limit opportunities to cast ballots, “here in the Green Mountain State we chose a different path,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement.
Falls Church: The mansion where Robert E. Lee once lived that now overlooks Arlington National Cemetery is open to the public again, after a $12 million rehabilitation and reinterpretation that includes an increased emphasis on those who were enslaved there. The National Park Service opened Arlington House to the public Tuesday for the first time since 2018. The mansion and surrounding grounds had been expected to reopen in 2019, but delays and the coronavirus pandemic extended the closure. The rehabilitation was funded by philanthropist David Rubenstein, who has also donated millions for the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and other historical sites around the D.C. region. The mansion, which commands an unrivaled view of the nation’s capital and the Potomac River, is best known as the home of the Confederate general leading up to the Civil War. But its history goes well beyond Lee. George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of George Washington, built the mansion as a memorial of sorts to the country’s first president. Robert E. Lee came to Arlington House after he married Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis. New exhibits and materials at Arlington House include the stories of the enslaved Syphax and Norris families.
Bremerton: The elite submarine USS Connecticut, 27. The boat had been battling an infestation of bedbugs on board, but Navy officials said the submarine is free of the insects following eradication efforts. Some of the crew of more than 100 had complained of bed bugs in late 2020. Navy entomologists found them in the perforated bulkheads between bunks Feb. 19, the Navy said. Berthing areas were thoroughly cleaned and treated for the insects, and linens, privacy curtains and clothes on board were washed and dried. Some crew members slept in vehicles until a temporary structure was opened in the boat’s mooring area. The Connecticut is home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton with sister boat USS Seawolf, itself having returned from a globetrotting deployment in February. Only three of the Seawolf-class subs, which each cost more than $3 billion to build, were actually completed. Many more had been planned in the days of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, as a way to gain an upper hand., has set sail for deployment to the Pacific Ocean. The Navy announced the submarine, one of three of the Seawolf-class boats, left Sinclair Inlet on May
Charleston: Lawmakers poured federal funds and extra state cash into road repairs, health care, and education programs such as school lunches Monday as they began the GOP-led Legislature’s first special session of the year, called by the governor to handle spending about $902 million received through the latest round of federal pandemic aid. One Republican senator took the opportunity after the break to snipe at Gov. Jim Justice’s new sweepstakes for getting more residents vaccinated against COVID-19 and his reluctance to lift a statewide mask mandate sooner. Fully vaccinated people are exempt from the indoor mask requirement. Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, said he is “fed up” with the governor’s decisions and “wasteful spending.” Justice announced a vaccine lottery that will include prizes ranging from hunting rifles to $1 million. “I don’t believe we should be using money to bribe people to get something that should be their own personal choice,” Smith said. The governor and his health experts have pushed residents to get the shots in weekly news conferences, where Justice has trotted out his bulldog named Babydog to entice viewers. West Virginia’s vaccine lottery is now called “Do It for Babydog.” The efforts haven’t yet boosted a sluggish vaccination drive.
Milwaukee: A former pharmacist who purposefully ruined more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday. Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product. He had admitted to intentionally removing the doses manufactured by Moderna from a refrigerator for hours at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, located just north of Milwaukee. In a statement before receiving his sentence, Brandenburg said he felt “great shame” and accepted responsibility for his actions. He apologized to his co-workers, family and the community. Aurora destroyed most of the tampered doses, but not before 57 people received inoculations from the supply. Those doses are believed to have still been effective, but weeks of uncertainty created a storm of anger, anxiety and anguish among the recipients, according to court documents. Prosecutors asked for a sentence of three years and five months. Brandenburg faced a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment at $250,000 in fines for each felony count. Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who believes he is a prophet, and vaccines are a product of the devil. He also professed a belief that the Earth is flat and that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were faked.
Cody: The Cody School District’s practice of broadcasting its special school board meetings to the public has come to an end after over a year. The pandemic-era practice related to limited capacity in the board room, but those restrictions have since been dropped, the Cody Enterprise reports. The district will continue to broadcast its regular meetings via the paid service Boxcast, which officials say is more accessible than free options like Facebook Live and YouTube, according to the newspaper.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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