US Mariachi Mass, water cutbacks, Maine bicentennial: News from around our 50 states
Lobster fishing will face restrictions to try to save whales
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — America's lobster fishing industry will face a host of new harvesting restrictions amid a new push from the federal government to try to save a vanishing species of whale. The new rules, which have loomed over the profitable lobster industry for years and were announced Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are designed to protect the North Atlantic right whale. The whales number only about 360 and they are vulnerable to lethal entanglement in fishing gear.
Montgomery: Gov. Kay Ivey is urging college football fans to get vaccinated before heading to stadiums this season. The first games kick off in a few weeks, raising concerns that crowded stadiums could help spread COVID-19. Asked about those concerns last week, the Republican governor said the remedy is for more people to get inoculated. “If everybody would just get the vaccine, we wouldn’t have a problem. Simply get the shot, then go enjoy your football game,” Ivey said after participating in an event with college mascots on the steps of the state Capitol. Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer, said the state Department of Public Health has issued guidance on sporting events including recommending spacing and emphasizing the importance of vaccinations. “Outdoor events are safer in general than indoor events, but having hundreds of thousands of people getting together during a pandemic is going to result in some disease transmission,” Harris said. “We hope people are vaccinated enough that that can be minimized.” Alabama coach Nick Saban has also been an outspoken advocate for getting vaccinated and participated in a public service announcement over the summer encouraging Alabamians to get the shots. The state has one of the nation’s lowest rates of fully vaccinated residents.
I won landmark same-sex marriage case. Here's why I'm optimistic about transgender rights.
Among the lessons of marriage equality is that when we all get to know each other, familiarity replaces fear and inclusion seems obvious. As people heard from loving and committed couples, they could see that we simply wanted to live our lives. That’s just as true for transgender young people today. The legislative efforts and lawsuits underway are showing young transgender people making a simple point – this is just who I am – and their families and classmates are standing next to them and for their common humanity.
Sitka: The city could see nearly a half-million cruise ship visitors next year after a new docking agreement was announced with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The deal between the cruise line and Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal came last week as one of the world’s largest cruise ships arrived, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reports. “It ensures they have a place to bring their ships and additional ships to Sitka for the future,” said Chris McGraw, manager of Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal. Halibut Point Marine, owned by McGraw’s family, is majority owner of the cruise terminal. The Royal Caribbean ship Ovation of the Seas, which is 1,138 feet long – or nearly the length of four football fields placed end-to-end – arrived Tuesday. Officials said the visit got off to a great Alaska start, with a bear walking along the dock as the ship pulled in. The ship’s arrival marked the formal completion of a cruise terminal dock expansion that McGraw called “phase one” of plans intended to position Sitka as a premier port in Alaska. The Ovation of the Seas, which can hold up to 4,900 guests, brought about 1,500 passengers to Sitka. There were fewer travelers aboard because of COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Like Washington and Jefferson, he championed freedom. Unlike the founding fathers, he freed his slaves
It was 230 years ago Sunday that Robert Carter III, the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in Virginia, quietly walked into a Northumberland County courthouse and delivered an airtight legal document announcing his intention to free, or manumit, more than 500 slaves. © Courtesy of Virginia Museum of History & Culture This is the only known portrait of Robert Carter III, who freed more than 500 slaves decades before the Emancipation Proclamation. He titled it the "deed of gift." It was, by far, experts say, the largest liberation of Black people before the Emancipation Proclamation more than seven decades later.
Tucson: After more than a year of silence due to the pandemic, mariachis are back playing Sunday services at Tucson’s St. Augustine Cathedral, where the colorful and sonorous tradition dates back a half-century and fuses Roman Catholicism with Mexican American pride. For the hundreds of worshippers gathered in this Spanish colonial church and other congregations across the Southwest, the unique sound of mariachi liturgy evokes a borderlands identity where spirituality and folk music have blended for centuries. “Syncretism is the reality of this land, the ‘ambos’ reality,” said the Rev. Alan Valencia, the cathedral’s rector, who grew up attending mariachi Mass in “ambos Nogales,” or “both Nogales,” as locals refer to the two cities of the same name straddling the U.S.-Mexican border about 60 miles to the south. “And that’s what we see in these mariachi Masses,” he said. “Faith and culture come together and grow.” The first canon of mariachi Mass was composed in Cuernavaca, Mexico, after the Vatican encouraged the incorporation of regional musical traditions into services in the 1960s. Called the Misa Panamericana, or Pan-American Mass, it features a specific order of instrumental arrangements, sung prayers and hymns, according to Dan Sheehy, director and curator of the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
Around 100 Afghan refugees approved to settle in Maine: charity group
Around 100 Afghan refugees have been approved by the federal government to settle in Maine within the next six months, Catholic Charities Maine (CCM) announced Friday. They will arrive through the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration program in coordination with Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA), the group announced. CCM said that as part of their contract, they will give the Afghan refugees 90 days of housing, education and employment support when they arrive in Maine.The contract states the group is allowed to resettle 67 to 100 Afghan refugees through March 30, 2022, but there is no schedule for when the refugees could arrive.
Little Rock: The state reported 33 new COVID-19 deaths and more than 2,400 new coronavirus cases Friday as Arkansas reached a new high for virus patients on ventilators. The Department of Health said the state’s COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began rose to 6,614, while coronavirus cases increased by 2,407 to 431,507 total. The number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals dropped by 13 to 1,397, but only 19 intensive care unit beds were available across the entire state, the department said. There were 343 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, a new high for the state, while 533 were in ICUs. Arkansas ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University research data. The state’s cases and hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks due to the ultra-contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. Only about 39% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against the disease. The state on Thursday reported 9,143 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines were given. “We must continue to work to increase vaccinations,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted. “Our children under 12 cannot get the vaccine and need our help to stay healthy.”
Maine Man Sentenced To Three Years In Prison For Hate Crimes Against Black Men
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen sentenced 30-year-old Dusty Leo of Biddeford, Maine to three years in prison along with three years of supervised release and restitution. Leo pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit and committing a series of racially motivated assaults against Black men in Maine on February 25, 2020. After a three-day trial in March 2020, Leo's co-conspirator and uncle Maurice Diggins was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison along with three years of supervised release for his roles in each crime.
San Francisco: The Golden City became the first major city in the nation to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 on Friday for people dining inside restaurants, working out in gyms or attending indoor concerts. Restaurants and bars posted signs and added extra staff to begin verifying people’s proof of vaccination before allowing them in. “There’s definitely some anxiety around how it’s all going to work,” said Pete Sittnick, a managing partner of Waterbar and EPIC Steak restaurants on the city’s waterfront. He anticipates a slowdown in checking in diners, possible pushback from guests who disagree with the requirement and awkward scenarios where someone shows up without proper documentation. “The good thing is, if somebody doesn’t have their verification of vaccination, they can still eat outside,” he said. Mayor London Breed announced the requirement more than a week ago in an attempt to stem rising COVID-19 cases, saying she was worried the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus could disrupt the city’s economic rebound. The mandate goes further than New York City, which requires people to be at least partially inoculated for a variety of high-risk indoor activities, and New Orleans, which requires proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for indoor dining or drinking.
The Latest: Governor bans city mask, shot rules on business
ATLANTA — Georgia’s Republican governor issued an executive order Thursday banning cities from requiring businesses to enforce local pandemic restrictions. But what impact, if any, the measure would have on new mask requirements in Atlanta, Savannah and other cities was not clear. At a news conference, Gov. Brian Kemp said his order will prevent local governments from forcing businesses to be the city’s mask and vaccine police. He said he was concerned about measures in Atlanta and Savannah. Both cities have mask requirements, but it was not immediately clear that either would be affected by the governor’s order.
Denver: U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper announced Thursday that he has a “breakthrough” case of COVID-19. The first-term Democrat issued a statement saying he tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms and was self-isolating at the direction of Congress’ attending physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan. Hickenlooper said he was “feeling much better.” “I’m grateful for the vaccine (and the scientists behind it) for limiting my symptoms and allowing us to continue our work for Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, don’t wait for the virus – get the shot today, and a booster when it’s available too!” Infections and illnesses can happen even after being vaccinated. Experts say inoculation could help make any illnesses less severe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that newer variants of the coronavirus could be a factor in “breakthrough” cases. Hickenlooper, 69, is a former brewpub entrepreneur, Denver mayor and two-term governor who defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in the 2020 election.
Bridgeport: A year after receiving a huge influx of federal aid for the mailing of absentee ballot applications, town clerks across the state are facing the prospect of not having enough money to do the same for Nov. 2 local elections. They told the Connecticut Post local budgets were set months ago, and there may not be additional money for printing, postage and office workers. Absentee ballots are supposed to be ready for the public by Oct. 1. “With cities and towns finalizing their annual budgets in the spring, town clerks do not have the necessary funds built into their current budget to cover the costs of postage and staff to process the possible increase in applications,” Kate Wall, president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, told the newspaper. The secretary of state’s office said a provision in the state budget allows people to continue to cite pandemic-related concerns to request using voting by mail or drop-off ballots this year. The $15 million in federal support for state elections last year, which also included cybersecurity measures, was a one-time event and is not available this year, the Post reports. A spokesperson for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill blamed the lack of funding this year on Republicans in the Legislature who oppose mail-in balloting.
'More stressful than being in combat:' Marine veteran on why he helped women escape Taliban
Turning this crisis into a political blame game is a disservice to the tireless efforts in protecting our Afghan allies.This was the message I received from a female journalist named Fatema Hosseini at the gate to the airport who was evading tear gas, bullets and Taliban beatings. Moments later, I received a message from an interpreter whom I had worked with in Afghanistan, with a video of the conditions at the gate. It was grim.
Dover: Current and former students of the University of Delaware can pursue claims that the school breached contractual obligations and unjustly enriched itself by halting in-person classes and shutting down the campus last spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge ruled Friday. Judge Stephanos Bibas said the students have plausibly alleged that the school promised them in-person classes, activities and services. “True, the school never promised them expressly. But promises need not be express to be enforceable,” Bibas wrote. “By its statements and history of offering classes in person, the school may have implied a promise to stay in person.” Bibas also said that, even if the university was justified in breaking any such promise because of COVID-19, it should not be unjustly enriched in doing so and may have to return the money it saved, if any, when it went online. The judge rejected the university’s arguments that it expressly reserved the right to go online and that the case involves claims of “educational malpractice,” which many states prohibit. Bibas also rejected the university’s argument that parents who paid their children’s tuition and fees do not have standing in the lawsuit because they had no duty to shoulder those costs and were not personally deprived of campus services or in-person classes.
District of Columbia
Washington: In a flash notice sent to all officers and members of the agency Thursday, the Metropolitan Police Department activated the entire force and postponed vacation days in anticipation of a Sept. 18 protest organized by supporters of Jan. 6 insurrection defendants, 30. “What’s going to define (the rally) is where it’s going to take place: We’re going back to the Capitol.” In a YouTube video, Braynard specifically asked rally attendees not to bring signs relitigating the 2020 election, including visible markers of support for specific political candidates.. The rally, known as “Justice for J6,” is planned for the Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the west front encompassing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool. Matt Braynard, the head of data for the 2016 Trump campaign, announced the September gathering on Steve Bannon’s podcast, issuing a clarion call for his followers to seek justice for those charged in the riots two weeks before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. “As we continue to raise the profile of these individuals, it makes it harder and harder for the left’s phony narrative about an insurrection to stick,” Braynard said on Bannon’s podcast released July
Pope urges compassion as he wraps Slovakia pilgrimage
SASTIN, Slovakia (AP) — Pope Francis urged Slovakians on Wednesday to look out for the neediest among them as he ended his first post-surgery trip with a huge open-air Mass that drew tens of thousands of people amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Cheering, maskless crowds lined Francis’ motorcade route through Sastin, 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) from Slovakia’s western border, and they were rewarded with a slow-moving popemobile jaunt and a smiling, waving Francis as he arrived at the vast field. © Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Mass in the esplanade of the National Shrine in Sastin, Slovakia, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.
Orlando: The mayor asked residents Friday to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars immediately, saying water usage needed to be cut back because of the recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The Orlando Utility Commission treats the city’s water with liquid oxygen, and supplies that ordinarily go toward water treatment have been diverted to hospitals for patients suffering from the coronavirus, Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “We acknowledge that the No. 1 priority for the liquid oxygen should be for hospitals,” Dyer said at a news conference. Since the 1990s, the utility has used liquid oxygen to remove the slight discoloration and rotten-egg smell that is found naturally in Florida’s water supply. The city-owned utility typically goes through 10 trucks of liquid oxygen a week, but its supplier recently said it would be cut back to five to seven trucks a week to accommodate hospitals, said Linda Ferrone, OUC’s chief customer and marketing officer. About 40% of the utility commission’s potable water is used for irrigation, so any strains on the water supply will be greatly reduced if residents stop watering their lawns, washing their cars or using pressure washers, she said. On its website, the utility said residents should prepare to follow the conservation measures for at least two weeks.
Atlanta: The mayors of some of the state’s largest cities on Friday slammed Gov. Brian Kemp’s new order that aims to limit local efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic. In an open letter, the mayors of Atlanta, Savannah, Athens-Clarke County and Augusta-Richmond County suggested the Republican governor was putting politics above public health, and they defended mask requirements. “While Governor Kemp may find it politically necessary to hew to the course of others who live in the shadow of the former president, we are more concerned with the health and livelihood of friends we see in the grocery store, at the schools where we bring our children each morning, and who we encounter as we head into work,” the four mayors – all Democrats – wrote in the letter. “They overwhelmingly articulate support for the smart, tested public health measures that we have promoted for the past eighteen months.” An email to the governor’s office was not immediately returned. Amid a new surge of coronavirus cases that is straining hospitals, Kemp signed an executive order Thursday that says cities cannot require businesses and sports teams to enforce local pandemic restrictions. The governor presented the move as a way to protect businesses, saying some people in the state wanted to return to “lockdown mode” and close businesses.
Honolulu: The state’s surging COVID-19 cases have overwhelmed its contact tracing efforts. Hawaii News Now reports the Department of Health recently expanded its contact tracing team to 313 people from 269 but still struggles to keep up with the hundreds of people newly infected each day with the coronavirus. In the middle of July, department data showed contact tracers were able to reach about 90% of people who were infected. The latest data for the first week of August showed they were only able to reach 62%. “One thing we’re seeing is there are a lot more people not picking up the phone,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, the Hawaii state epidemiologist. “That aside, we are seeing a record number of case counts in the state. Of course, that is a challenge to try to reach everyone.” A West Oahu hospital filled up Friday as the community faces a surge of COVID-19 cases. Jason Chang, CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems, said the Ewa Beach hospital has sent some patients to its sibling facility in downtown Honolulu. It has also asked staff from other parts of the Queen’s system to come help. The city has set up a triage tent outside the hospital with 25 cots. Chang said the hospital had 63 patients in its emergency room at one time, which is a crisis given the hospital only has 24 ER beds.
Nampa: Gov. Brad Little is directing $30 million to expand coronavirus testing in K-12 schools. The money is coming from emergency funds set aside by the Legislature to deal with unforeseen events, Little said. “It’s critical now,” the Republican governor said this month. “These school districts have got to have some resources.” House Republicans earlier this year killed a bill to use $40 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for voluntary testing in public and private schools. Little urged residents who haven’t been vaccinated to get their COVID-19 shots to help avoid disruptions at schools and the potential to overrun hospitals with coronavirus patients. He also said workers getting sick and schools shutting down because of coronavirus outbreaks and parents forced to stay home to care for kids and miss work could slow the state’s economic rebound. “Our workforce cannot afford to stay home because schools and day cares shut down due to outbreaks,” he said. “This threatens Idaho’s phenomenal economic success.” The Gem State has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with just over half of people ages 12 and up fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Chicago: Masks will be required indoors throughout Cook County beginning Monday, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. The Cook County Department of Public Health issued the order Friday, saying it’s needed as new coronavirus cases continue to increase due to the more contagious delta variant. “We are in a dangerous period, with the delta variant surging, during which we must return to previous remediation measures,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer of Cook County Department of Public Health. “We have no choice but to mandate that people wear masks indoors to help contain this spread of the virus.” Illinois reported 4,904 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases Friday. That pushed the state’s seven-day average of new cases above the peak of a COVID-19 surge this spring. The health department order applies to all multi-unit residential buildings and public places such as restaurants, stores, fitness clubs and public transportation in suburban Cook County. Chicago reinstated its indoor mask mandate effective Friday, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already said masks are required in all schools. The mandate applies to anyone over age 2. Businesses also are required to post signs saying masks are required.
Indianapolis: Health officials have counted about 62,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines being tossed out in recent months across the state as the number of people seeking the shots has fallen drastically. That is about 1% of the some 6 million shots that have been given in Indiana since they first became available in December, but it’s a sign of the struggle that officials face in raising the vaccination rate. The state health department said doses can go unused by reaching their expiration date or a vial breaking, and officials knew eventually vaccine supply would outstrip demand. “We are taking every action possible to minimize wastage, including urging providers to use doses with the nearest expiration dates first and encouraging Hoosiers to get vaccinated if they are eligible,” the agency said in a statement. “In addition, we have been working with healthcare providers to allow them to order small batches of vaccine to have in their offices for patients and have increased the number of mobile vaccination clinics we are deploying across the state.” About 45% of Indiana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the 16th-lowest rate among the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Iowa City: The city’s new mask mandate would impose the requirement on the University of Iowa’s campus, but the school 2 guidance from the state’s Board of Regents says face masks are not required at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University or the University of Northern Iowa. Legally speaking, the regents could choose to make them required. The Board of Regents, as well as University of Iowa leadership, have not changed course on COVID-19 protocols ahead of the school year despite pressure from students and faculty to make them stronger, including mask and vaccine requirements or stronger incentivization. This month faculty and students sent a petition to the state’s board of Regents, and three faculty senate leaders sent a letter directly to President Barbara Wilson. Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague declared a civil emergency and ordered a mask mandate late Thursday night. It applies to everyone within the limits of Iowa City when in public spaces where maintaining 6 feet of distance is not possible., the state’s Board of Regents. Iowa City’s mandate announced Thursday evening goes against state law, said a spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds, calling it “not enforceable.” May
Overland Park: Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday called for school districts to require masks and said she was contemplating an emergency declaration as hospitals buckle under the strain of increasingly young COVID-19 patients and as hundreds of students and staff become infected. “We really want people to understand that this is no fooling around,” Kelly lamented while speaking at Saint Luke’s South Hospital in Overland Park, which is brimming with patients. “This is an emergency.” The latest health department data shows 154 school clusters, with 1,889 cases. Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools reported that 82 students and staff were infected in just the first nine days of the academic year, with 220 quarantined. The Turner school district began requiring masks after more than two dozen students were infected. The Wichita district, which is the state’s largest and isn’t requiring masks, has had “a few” COVID-19 cases since classes started last week, said spokeswoman Susan Arensman. She said the district won’t provide weekly updates on cases until next month. The school board for Perry-Lecompton public schools, where 16 students are quarantining, imposed a mask mandate Thursday night. “These are students that are not in school right now and cannot learn because of COVID,” Superintendent J.B. Elliott said.
Frankfort: Top Republican lawmakers are promising to work with Gov. Andy Beshear to fight COVID-19 after a court ruling cleared the way for new limits on the Democratic governor’s emergency powers. Beshear’s allies said they’ll be watching to see if his critics follow through. Kentucky Republicans cheered the state Supreme Court ruling Saturday that ordered a lower court to dissolve an injunction that for months had blocked the GOP-backed laws. It comes as the highly contagious delta variant drives up coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state. The court’s decision “signals it is time for the Republican leadership to publicly put forth their plan to protect the commonwealth from this pandemic and the deadly delta variant,” said Rep. Joni Jenkins and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the top Democrats in the Kentucky House and Senate. “We know what they don’t support; show us your plan.” The top legislative Republicans – House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers – said lawmakers are “ready to work with the governor, as we have for nearly a year and a half, and address what is a very real public health crisis.” The GOP holds supermajorities in both chambers, and Republicans accused Beshear of taking a go-it-alone approach in dealing with the pandemic.
New Orleans: Stressed with too little staff and too many patients in an unrelenting COVID-19 resurgence, some hospitals are pressing insurance companies to ease up on requirements that can slow the transfer of recuperating patients to other facilities. At issue are “Medicare Advantage” plans that supplement government-funded Medicare coverage. These insurance policies require extensive reviews and sometimes consultations with other doctors before transfers to inpatient facilities providing skilled nursing care, rehabilitation or long-term care. Some of these patients are clearly ready to be moved to a non-hospital setting, but the bureaucracy has them stuck in badly needed beds, said Dr. Leslie Dean, of the Willis-Knighton system in northwest Louisiana. “It’s almost impossible for them to move these people along in a timely manner right now because of these delays with some of these insurance plans, unfortunately,” she said. The delays are critical as COVID-19 numbers grow, but the issue doesn’t just involve coronavirus patients. The paperwork also can slow transfers of Medicare Advantage-covered patients recuperating from a stroke, a heart attack, or some other illness or injury that will need post-hospital attention. Statewide hospitalizations have set records almost daily through most of August.
Lewiston: The pandemic put the kibosh on most of the state’s bicentennial celebrations last year, but Maine proved Saturday that it’s never too late for an old-fashioned parade. Riding in a 3D-printed boat created at the University of Maine, Gov. Janet Mills served as grand marshal of the pandemic-delayed State of Maine Bicentennial Parade that snaked its way through the cities of Lewiston and Auburn. Mills said the state has persevered in the pandemic “with the grit and grace that have shaped our state for generations.” “The Bicentennial Parade is another opportunity to honor the resilience of Maine people, to remember our history and to recommit to creating a better and brighter future for us all,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. The parade was held against a backdrop of a surge in coronavirus infections caused by the delta variant and an ongoing debate over rules put in place by the Mills administration to protect residents. Protesters opposed to the governor’s vaccination mandate for health care workers gathered on a bridge between the cities before the parade started to make their point. Some exchanged words with the governor’s supporters. Later, dozens of protesters followed the boat in which the governor was riding and shouted at her. Mills ignored them and waved to the crowd.
Annapolis: Gov. Larry Hogan, a cancer survivor, said Sunday that he’s received a third shot of COVID-19 vaccine, and he’s urging the federal government to make booster shots available earlier than currently planned. Hogan appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and said he received the additional dose this past week on the recommendation of his doctors. Asked if he wanted Marylanders to get the booster shot as soon as possible or wait the eight months that is currently recommended under federal guidelines, he said: “No, we can’t wait that long.” He said he’s pushing the federal government to speed up the time frame for providing booster shots, and he’s pushing for full FDA approval of the vaccines. He said many of those who have refused to get the shots have cited the fact that the available vaccines do not have full approval but are being administered under an emergency use authorization. Federal officials announced last week a plan to start administering booster shots to the general public beginning the week of Sept. 20. The recommendations call for people to wait eight months from their second dose, which they said was a judgment call about when vaccine protection against severe illness might fall. Some public health experts have said a booster shot administered too early won’t be as effective.
Boston: Masks will be required for all indoor public places starting this Friday as the city moves to contain rising coronavirus infections blamed on the highly contagious delta variant, acting Mayor Kim Janey said late last week. Janey’s office issued a statement saying the mandate will apply to everyone age 2 and older who enters a business, retail shop, club, government office or any other public venue. Janey said the mask mandate was being imposed ahead of the arrival of more than 50,000 college students from across the nation and a return to classes for more than 50,000 Boston Public School students. “There is nothing more important than Boston’s safe recovery, reopening, and renewal from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “We know that masks work best when everyone wears one. Requiring masks indoors is a proactive public health measure to limit transmission of the delta variant, boost the public confidence in our businesses and venues, and protect the residents of our city who are too young for vaccination.” On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker said tens of thousands of state workers will need to prove they’re fully inoculated against COVID-19 by October or risk losing their jobs. Massachusetts remains one of the most vaccinated states in the nation, with more than 64% of residents fully inoculated against COVID-19.
Pontiac: The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted a new hearing to a man who claimed his rights were violated when he was sentenced for a crime by video, a common practice during the coronavirus pandemic. Michael Christian participated and spoke during a hearing last fall in Oakland County court and had a lawyer present. But the appeals court still found problems. “At no point during the hearing did the trial court obtain a waiver of defendant’s right to be physically present in the courtroom for sentencing,” judges Jane Markey and Brock Swartzle said in a 2-1 opinion Thursday. Christian, 38, was convicted of uttering and publishing, a crime typically related to forging documents, and sentenced to a minimum of a year in prison. Judge Michael Riordan disagreed with the majority, saying Christian failed to show that the error “affected substantial rights.” “He has not shown or even argued, for example, that he would have received a lighter sentence if he was physically present,” Riordan said. Christian remains in prison for other unrelated crimes in Macomb County.
St. Cloud: St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical & Community College, alongside all Minnesota state colleges and universities,, according to a memo from Chancellor Devinder Malhotra. The memo, sent Wednesday to Minnesota State’s Leadership Council, said the system’s schools would require vaccination attestation for “specific student groups or populations that are in settings where there is close and frequent contact with others.” That includes students living in residence facilities run by the school system, those participating in intercollegiate athletics, and those required to by clinical or internship sites. Additionally, the memo said, colleges and universities could include other extracurriculars that pose difficulties for social distancing. As of Friday, the technical and community college hadn’t had conversations about student groups, though the school is limiting large group gatherings. Vice President of Administration Lori Kloos said extracurricular activities are being kept to a minimum but may continue in different ways, such as meeting outside or virtually.
Oxford: Two concert venues are now requiring guests to provide proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or show negative coronavirus test results. The Lyric and Proud Larry’s in Oxford announced last week that they would implement the requirements, The Oxford Eagle reports. Lyric general manager Lindsay Dillon-Maginnis said the regulations have been a trend nationwide for music festivals. “Promoters who have been in our line of work, we could see the storm coming,” Dillon-Maginnis told the paper. Not every venue in Mississippi is following suit. Entertainer Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit announced Friday that they would pull out of a show at the Brandon Amphitheater scheduled for October. Isbell said the venue would not require that attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative test. “Unfortunately, the powers that be were not willing to comply with the band’s updated Health and Safety standards,” a statement from Southeastern Records said. Dillon-Maginnis said there has been “overwhelmingly large majority of support” for the policy, with less than 1% of ticket holders requesting a refund. “I think what people see online or what you see in comments is vitriolic or negative,” she said. “But with those people, if you dig deeper, have no connection to the Lyric or Oxford or even Mississippi.”
St. Louis: New COVID-19 hospital admissions are reaching winter surge levels in the city, and southeast Missouri hospitals are under strain due to a surge in coronavirus cases and a rise in deaths. On Thursday, hospitals in St. Louis reported admitting 100 new patients with COVID-19 – the most since Jan. 16, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. A total of 585 people were hospitalized, including 25 children, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Twelve of those children are younger than 12 and not yet eligible for vaccines. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Southeast Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau has increased by more than 50% in the past week and a half, according to data released Thursday by both facilities. Saint Francis, which reopened its COVID-19 care unit last week, reported 39 coronavirus inpatients as of early Thursday afternoon, up from 25 just 10 days ago. At Southeast Hospital, the number of COVID-19 inpatients increased from 22 about 10 days ago to 32 as of Thursday morning, the Southeast Missourian reports. Statewide, the death toll from the rapidly spreading delta variant continues to rise in Missouri, with July shaping up to be an even deadlier month than earlier reported.
Helena: While many large companies across the U.S. have announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for their employees to return to work in person, Montana stands alone in banning such mandates. Under a new law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year, requiring vaccines as a condition for employment is deemed “discrimination” and a violation of the state’s human rights laws. Montana is the only state in the U.S. with a law like this for private employers, said Hemi Tewarson, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy. The law has raised concern among employers across the state as Montana struggles with a rise in COVID-19 cases that is once again straining the state’s health care system. Pushback swelled last week when physicians called on the Legislature to reverse the law. “This is against everything we’ve ever known or believed about public health,” said Dr. Pamela Cutler, president of the Montana Medical Association. “I believe it’s a travesty now, and it needs to be fixed so that we can make our offices safe for patients and our co-workers.” GOP lawmakers who supported the bill in the Legislature said it was needed in response to employers “coercing” employees to get vaccinations under threat of termination.
Omaha: The Nebraska Medical Center on Friday announced it’s reducing inpatient surgeries at the Omaha hospital because of the rise in COVID-19 cases. The change will take effect Aug. 30, Nebraska Medicine spokesman Taylor Wilson said in a news release. Wilson said inpatient surgeries likely will be limited through October. Nebraska Medicine is not limiting surgeries at Bellevue Medical Center or any other outpatient surgery clinics. Wilson said the rise in coronavirus patients, who need extra care and resources, strained Nebraska Medical Center. On top of that, he said, Nebraska is facing a nursing shortage. Nebraskans can help to ease the strain on hospitals by getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Wilson said.
Las Vegas: Half of all eligible residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, pushing the state closer to the national inoculation rate of about 60% for all people 12 and older, state health officials said. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday that the 50% mark for residents 12 and up who are now fully vaccinated is an “incredible milestone to reach.” “We know there is more work to be done and we will remain focused on promoting vaccine opportunities throughout the state,” he said in a statement. Among those 12 and older, 60.5% have initiated vaccination, receiving at least one dose of vaccine, officials said. Nationally, 59.8% of that age group was fully vaccinated, and 70.4% had received the first of two shots as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nevada’s 14-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases and positivity rate both declined through the week after a steady rise began in early June. At an emergency meeting Friday, the state Board of Health approved a vaccine mandate plan for Nevada’s public colleges and universities scheduled to take effect Nov. 1. The requirement will not affect enrollment until the spring semester.
Concord: The state House of Representatives will begin holding committee meetings on retained bills this week, without the option to participate remotely that existed during much of the coronavirus pandemic. In the calendar published Friday, House Speaker Sherman Packard reminded lawmakers that the emergency order allowing public bodies to meet remotely without a physical quorum present in the same location expired when the governor lifted the state of emergency June 11. That means House committees meeting to discuss bills that were set aside for more work must meet in person at the Legislative Office Building, which has reopened to the public. Packard said dozens of additional air purification units have been set up throughout the office building and Statehouse, and each meeting room will have air treatment that meets or exceeds federal health guidelines for office buildings. Masks will be encouraged but not required.
Trenton: A group of parents. A started by New Jersey Parents for Virtual Choice has garnered more than 17,000 signatures. The parents are driven by a variety of reasons, some related to health and safety concerns due to the coronavirus and the highly transmissible delta variant, said group spokesperson Karen Strauss. Some parents want to retain the virtual learning option from last year because their children excelled, she said. The petition asks Murphy to let K-12 schools continue to offer virtual learning for parents who want it and to create a permanent virtual learning option by approving free virtual-only public or charter schools. It also asks Murphy to meet with the group. “New Jersey needs to catch up,” Strauss said, referring to school systems in other states that offer virtual learning options. Strauss said she wants a virtual option for her 5-year-old son, who has asthma and high-functioning autism. She said he thrived during remote learning last year even though it took some getting used to, but her primary consideration is his health. “We already lost someone to COVID. I’m not risking him getting sick,” she said.
Santa Fe: About 150 people protested in front of the state Capitol on Friday, demanding an end to vaccine mandates for health care workers. Many protesters identified themselves as hospital workers – nurses, nursing assistants and clerical workers. Other attendees included correctional officers, retirees and children of health care workers. A state mandate requires nurses and other workers in high-risk environments to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and some hospitals have their own mandates. “I believe the vaccine is harmful,” said practical nurse Katrina Philpot, who was picketing along the road outside the Capitol complex with a sign that read: “Healthcare workers deserve rights.” Philpot said the hospital where she works in Rio Rancho is requiring her to be vaccinated by Aug. 27 or be fired. She fears she won’t qualify for medical or religious exemptions to the mandate. State employees, including prison guards, are required to get COVID-19 shots or submit to weekly testing. At least one prison guard has sued the state over the mandate. New Mexico has outpaced neighboring states when it comes to getting people vaccinated. About two-thirds of residents 18 and up have been fully inoculated, but state health officials have warned that evidence shows vaccinated people can still get infected and spread the virus.
New York: The city’s public schools will require COVID-19 shots for student-athletes and coaches participating in “high-risk” sports including football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse, rugby and bowling, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday. The students and coaches will have to get at least one dose of vaccine before the start of competitive play, de Blasio said on radio station WNYC. Bowling, while not a contact sport like football or wrestling, is on the list because it is indoors, de Blasio said. Masks will be required for all students and staff when school starts Sept. 13, but while the mayor has urged all New Yorkers who are eligible for COVID-19 shots to get them, vaccination is not required either for school staff or for students over age 12. Asked about the possibility of requiring public school teachers to be vaccinated, de Blasio said: “We’re actively looking right now at different actions we could take.”
Raleigh: Children now must get approval from a parent before receiving the current COVID-19 vaccine available to them under legislation that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Friday. The written consent requirement is contained in a broader measure that largely expands the medications or immunizations, including vaccines, that pharmacists trained to deliver shots can administer to consumers. It comes even as the U.S. and North Carolina see a marked rise in coronavirus cases due to a highly contagious variant. The measure, which received nearly unanimous support in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, also states that trained pharmacy technicians and interns can administer a COVID-19 or flu vaccine under a pharmacist’s supervision. “This important legislation will help our state administer COVID-19 vaccines more quickly and efficiently,” Cooper, a Democrat, said in a news release announcing the bill signing. Permission from a parent or guardian applies immediately to vaccines authorized by federal regulators for emergency use – such as the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer – and administered by any health care provider. State law had given minors the ability on their own to be treated for certain health issues, including communicable diseases.
Bismarck: Amid a COVID-19 resurgence, advocates are calling on nursing homes to require that all staff members get vaccinated, and a nonprofit tracking the latest data. The latest COVID-19 dashboard from AARP shows that only 24% of senior care facilities in North Dakota have met the industry target of having at least 75% of their staffs inoculated against the disease. Josh Askvig, state director of AARP North Dakota, said experts don’t want to go back to last fall, when the state saw some of the highest coronavirus death rates among patients. “What’s concerning right now is as new variants are emerging, facilities cannot let preventable problems be repeated,” Askvig said. “We’ve got to increase vaccinations, and we’ve got to do it now.” The latest AARP dashboard also shows nearly 12% of North Dakota nursing homes lack personal protective equipment to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Askvig said the state should help to ensure they have enough supplies. As for the vaccinations, he said facilities need to step up in the area. “They’ve got the resources through the different relief funding to get it done,” Askvig said. “And so we’re encouraging everyone eligible for the vaccine to get vaccinated.”
Columbus: While COVID-19 cases have reportedly risen nationally among children, that trend has yet to show up locally. Instead, another common virus has squeezed Nationwide Children’s Hospital in recent weeks: The pediatric hospital, which usually begins circulating more in the fall rather than late summer. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why RSV is showing up again now, but the coronavirus pandemic is likely the cause, said Dr. Mike Patrick, an emergency department physician at Nationwide Children’s. With everyone masking up, staying home and keeping their distance, RSV didn’t spread as easily in 2020. Now that more families are getting out and doing things, and kids are returning to school and day care, RSV is able to spread, Patrick said. “No one knows for certain what is driving this,” he said. “But being isolated and behind masks and then suddenly reintroducing people together really fuels the spread of these viral illnesses.” The spike in RSV cases is similar to what Nationwide Children’s usually sees at its peak in winter, Patrick said. But Patrick said he worries whether COVID-19 cases could also start showing up more in kids seeking treatment at Nationwide Children’s.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt is criticizing both a northeast Oklahoma school district that adopted a mask mandate and President Joe Biden over comments that the state’s ban on school mask requirements ban may violate a coronavirus aid package for schools. The Republican governor and state Attorney General John O’Connor released a joint statement Thursday criticizing the Hulbert school district for its mask requirement. “It is disappointing that one school district has chosen to openly violate a state law that was supported by 80 percent of the Legislature,” Stitt said in the statement. The district’s policy includes an opt-out option for medical reasons. Earlier this month Stitt praised two Oklahoma City school districts for mask mandates that included opt-out options for medical, religious or personal reasons. O’Connor said that the law is constitutional and that the state is fighting a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Stitt’s criticism of Biden comes after U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in letters to him and state school Superintendent Joy Hofmeister on Wednesday that the school mask ban may violate the American Rescue Plan that provided $123 billion to the nation’s schools to help them return to the classroom.
Salem: Managers from a senior living facility. Shayna Hall, a recruiter for Salem-based Bonaventure Senior Living, a senior assisted living community with locations in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, posted the video on TikTok last month, as first reported by the Salem Reporter. In the video, which has been deleted from Hall’s account but can still be found on other posters’ accounts, Hall says she came across medical workers posting on TikTok about being fired or forced out of their jobs because they refuse to get a “brand new vaccine.” “I just wanted to tell you if you are a nurse, a caregiver, a med tech, and you now need a new job because of this, hit me up, I’ll hire you,” she says in the video. “I need nurses, caregivers, med techs in Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Take your pick.” While the COVID-19 vaccines are new, the research behind them is not. Scientists around the world have been working on vaccines for the SARS coronavirus for more 20 years. Hall’s video swiftly ignited controversy online. Many have decried the company’s willingness to hire unvaccinated employees to serve elderly and high-risk residents.
Harrisburg: The state’s unemployment rate dropped to a new post-pandemic low in July, and the labor force shrank, as payrolls jumped by nearly 29,000, according to figures released Friday. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 6.6% from June’s adjusted rate, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. The national rate was 5.4% in July, more than a point below Pennsylvania’s. The figures come out as the federal government prepares to end supplemental payments of $300 a week to people who lost jobs or self-employment income during the pandemic. The $300 payments last through the week ending Sept. 3. In a survey of households, the labor force shrank by 16,000 in July, closer to 6.3 million. However, the number of employed grew slightly, while the number of unemployed slid by 19,000. The state hit a record-high labor force of almost 6.6 million just before the pandemic hit. In a separate survey of employers, payrolls grew in July by 28,800, to above 5.7 million. The state has regained about 65% of the 1.1 million jobs lost in the pandemic. It hit a record high for payrolls of 6.1 million just before the pandemic hit, according to state figures. The leisure and hospitality sector led all gainers, adding 16,000 jobs.
Providence: The city’s downtown arts festival has been canceled for the second year in a row amid rising cases of COVID-19, city officials announced Friday. PVDFest, a weekend festival that typically draws more 100,000 people to downtown Providence, was scheduled to make its comeback Sept. 25-26. But officials said it would be unsafe to continue amid high levels of coronavirus transmission. Mayor Jorge Elorza said the decision was made “after carefully considering the increased spread of the delta variant.” “Together we can beat this virus and return to dancing and celebrating together downtown next year,” Elorza said in a statement. Although the downtown event is canceled, smaller outdoor art programs affiliated with the festival will continue in the coming weeks. Officials said face masks will be strongly recommended. Rhode Island is averaging about 310 new COVID-19 cases a day, up from about 196 a day two weeks ago. The festival was started in 2015 and has featured more than 5,000 artists and performers.
Columbia: The state’s health agency became the latest group Friday to ask lawmakers to make it clear that school districts can require students to wear masks without losing state budget money or facing any other penalties. The General Assembly put the mask ban item into the budget in early June when South Carolina was seeing an average of 150 COVID-19 cases a day. Ten weeks later, the state is seeing about 3,520 new cases each day. And that dire new case average comes before about 700,000 public school students completed their first week back in classrooms. Of the more than 5,200 new coronavirus cases reported Friday, more than 500 were in children 10 or younger. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Board voted unanimously Friday to ask the state House and Senate to come back in special session to “provide local authority for mask mandates.” They joined the Republican state education superintendent, House Democrats, teacher groups, an association of school board members, a group of two Democratic and two Republican state senators, several school boards, and other groups that have asked lawmakers to reconsider the mask ban.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem said Friday that she is planning to focus on water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects as the state plans to spend nearly $1 billion in federal funds meant to help towns and cities recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The state government is readying to receive $974.5 million from the federal government over the next year and a half. Over the course of the pandemic, South Dakota has been alloted more than $4.8 billion in federal relief funds – a windfall that nearly matches the state’s annual budget. Under the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress, state and local governments must use the funds to respond to COVID-19. They can use the money for public health programs, addressing the financial fallout of the pandemic, replacing lost revenues, paying for essential workers, or infrastructure. The Republiacn governor said the state has “broad flexibility” in using the money. Meanwhile, daily coronavirus cases across the state on Friday topped 300 for the first time in more than six months as a fresh pandemic wave appeared to build. In the past two weeks, the state has seen case counts spike by 270%, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. However, the number of cases per capita in that time has remained one of the lowest in the country.
Memphis: Bluff City teens. The 15-19 age group in the Memphis region showed the greatest growth of any age group across the state’s eight regions from late July through last week, according to a new study by researchers at the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Vaccinations among residents ages 12-14 also grew, according to the study. The increase in vaccinations comes as infections and hospitalizations surged through July and August, driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The burden of new COVID-19 cases across the state is among the Tennessee’s younger populations, who are also less likely to be inoculated, researchers concluded. Findings show infections have grown the most among people in their early 20s. The two western Tennessee regions saw the greatest vaccination growth, according to the study, though each of the eight regions in the state saw growth in vaccinations beginning in late July. The state’s metropolitan areas of Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis have the highest vaccination rates in nearly all age groups, the researchers wrote. The lowest rates are among the Upper Cumberland region of Cookeville and surrounding counties.
Austin: The lieutenant governor blamed rising hospitalization and death rates from COVID-19 on unvaccinated Black people in comments that were quickly denounced as racist. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the remarks Thursday night on a Fox News segment in response to question about the latest coronavirus surge in Texas, which is seeing its highest hospitalization rates since January. “The biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated,” Patrick said. He did not change course Friday, saying that “Democrat social media trolls” misstated facts and that he had used state data in his assertions. But statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services don’t back that. Black people – who make up about 12% of Texas’ population – accounted for about 15% of total COVID-19 cases and just more than 10% of deaths. Patrick also told Fox News that Democrats were to blame for low vaccination rates among Black people, who frequently support that party, even though he believes Republicans should persuade more people to get their shots, too. But he also tiptoed around that issue, which has been sensitive for the GOP. About 8% of Texans who have been fully vaccinated are Black, according to state data. The resulting percentage of Black people who’ve been inoculated is unclear.
Salt Lake City: The mayor announced Friday that she had issued a mask order in the city’s K-12 schools as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads. Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she used her emergency powers to issue the order and plans to work with health officials to determine when it can be lifted. “As Mayor it is my responsibility to do everything I can to keep our City, and our school district, from going down the tragic and dangerous path many others are already on,” Mendenhall, a Democrat, said in a statement. The order came a week after the Salt Lake County Council overturned a school mask order for kids under 12 that the county’s top health official issued. Mendenhall said the majority of board members had privately told her they feared retaliation and urged her to issue the order. “Unfortunately, and despite all the evidence that masks protect children and the adults who care for them, this issue has become politicized to the point that elected bodies across the country, and in the State of Utah, worry about retaliation if they take stand as an organization,” she wrote. Masks were required in classrooms last year, but under a new state law, school mask mandates are banned. Local health departments can issue a rule with the support of elected county leaders, but anti-mask advocates have been vocal in their opposition.
Montpelier: The state and Vermont Legal Aid have reached a settlement over the end of a hotel voucher program for some of the homeless population during the pandemic, the Vermont Agency of Human Services and the legal services group announced Friday. Under the settlement, eligibility for the general assistance emergency housing program will be expanded for people with disabilities, and a formal process will be created for applicants whose health or welfare would be at risk due to their disability if they were unsheltered, the groups said. Last year Vermont expanded eligibility for the program during the pandemic to allow more people to stay temporarily in hotels and motels. It ended the program for some in July and gave $2,500 checks to those who were no longer eligible. Vermont Legal Aid sued, and a judge signed an agreement extending the emergency housing for some people to show they had a disability and could remain eligible. “People with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness will now be able to access GA benefits even if they are able to work,” Vermont Legal Aid staff attorney Jessica Radbord said in a statement. “We believe this will protect some truly vulnerable members of our community from suffering negative health consequences as a result of being unsheltered.”
Charlottesville: More than 200 University of Virginia students who didn’t comply with the school’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement have been disenrolled ahead of the fall semester. The move affected 238 students, including 49 students who were enrolled in fall courses, The Virginian-Pilot reports. That may mean that “a good number” of the remaining students “may not have been planning to return to the university this fall at all,” university spokesperson Brian Coy said. The students were disenrolled after “receiving multiple reminders via email, text, phone calls, calls to parents that they were out of compliance,” Coy said. They can reenroll if they comply with the vaccine requirement or file an exemption by Wednesday. About 96.6% of students have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a news release. The university granted 335 permanent vaccine waivers for students with religious or medical exemptions. The university also granted 184 temporary vaccine waivers for students who couldn’t get inoculated but intend to get a COVID-19 shot once on campus. Exempt students must be tested weekly for the coronavirus and wear a mask in indoor and outdoor common spaces.
Seattle: Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for state workers comes at a time when the state ferry system is experiencing a severe staffing shortage. KUOW reports that in an Aug. 13 notice, Washington State Ferries Chief of Staff Nicole McIntosh said there were “an unprecedented 91 relief requests yesterday.” She thanked the crew members who helped cover for their absent colleagues. In response to the shortage, the agency canceled sailings and went from two ferries on the Edmonds-Kingston and Clinton-Mukilteo routes to one. Washington State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling said staffing issues have been a chronic problem throughout the pandemic, but that week was “as bad as it’s been, due to the labor shortage, due to people out with active COVID or having to quarantine.” Capt. Dan Twohig, the regional representative of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, one of several unions representing ferry service workers, said last week’s staff shortages were an anomaly. A coalition of unions representing Washington State Ferries employees started bargaining with state officials last week over the implementation of the vaccine mandate. Twohig said the unions agree that the mandate is legal and will go forward.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice on Friday launched a second round of vaccination sweepstakes, this time with prizes aimed at enticing younger residents to sign up for COVID-19 shots as the pandemic continues to worsen. The first of six weekly drawings will be held Aug. 31. Registration opens Monday. All residents must register again for the new drawings, even if they were registered for the first series of prizes earlier this summer, Justice said at a news conference. The prizes include season ticket packages to West Virginia University and Marshall sporting events, ski lift tickets, and a 10-year supply of free gas. Also being given away each week will be a $150,000 dream wedding, a luxury sports car, a custom fishing boat, ATVs or high-end lawnmowers, and college scholarships for residents ages 12 to 25. The governor’s announcement came as the number of people hospitalized statewide from COVID-19 reached 447, the most since late January. More than 1,350 coronavirus cases had been reported statewide in the prior two days alone. Cases of the more contagious delta variant of the virus are now present in at least 46 of the state’s 55 counties, according to health department data.
Oneida: At least three American Indian tribes in the state will put cash in the pockets of their members and employees to get COVID-19 shots. The Oneida, Menominee and Ho-Chunk tribes are offering a $500 incentive for vaccinations. The offer includes those who have already been inoculated. For the Menominee Nation, members ages 12 and older as well as tribal employees who are fully vaccinated on or before Oct. 31 are eligible. Oneida tribal members and employees have until Sept. 30 to show proof of their vaccination to receive the $500. Ho-Chunk Nation members have until Nov. 1 to provide proof. “We know that once we can get at least 75% of our community vaccinated, we’re going to be able to have that level of safety that we can,” said Debbie Danforth, director of the Oneida Nation Division of Health. So far, Danforth said about 5,000 tribal members, or about 30%, have been vaccinated, WLUK-TV reports. The rate for employees is about 50%. Marlon Skenandore, who had COVID-19 last year and is still dealing with its effects, said the incentive is not swaying his decision on whether to get vaccinated. “I’m just hesitant about the FDA not approving it and not going through its normal procedure, so I’m on the fence, but I’m leaning towards getting it,” he said.
Moose: Grand Teton National Park had its busiest month on record in July. July is almost always the busiest month for tourism in the park in northwestern Wyoming. In July 2021, almost 830,000 people visited, park officials said in a statement. That was up from 796,000 in July 2018, the second-busiest month in records dating to 1979. July was the first time Grand Teton topped 800,000 visitors in a month. Visitation was up almost 10% compared to July 2020, when the park had just reopened after being mostly closed by the coronavirus pandemic. Accompanying the tourism surge, camping was up 2.7%, backcountry camping was up 15%, and trail use was up 21% in July 2021 compared to July 2019. Researchers this summer have been studying the relationship between the number of vehicles entering Grand Teton and visitor traffic at key areas of the park, park officials said.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
Pope urges compassion as he wraps Slovakia pilgrimage .
SASTIN, Slovakia (AP) — Pope Francis urged Slovakians on Wednesday to look out for the neediest among them as he ended his first post-surgery trip with a huge open-air Mass that drew tens of thousands of people amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Cheering, maskless crowds lined Francis’ motorcade route through Sastin, 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) from Slovakia’s western border, and they were rewarded with a slow-moving popemobile jaunt and a smiling, waving Francis as he arrived at the vast field. © Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Mass in the esplanade of the National Shrine in Sastin, Slovakia, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.