The Pew Charitable Trusts

08/03/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 08/03/2020 08:42

Top State Stories 8/3

Minneapolis, Minnesota, police are down at least 100 officers since the killing of George Floyd - more than 10% of the force - straining department resources amid a wave of violence and adding urgency to the political debate over its future.

For decades, the Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming informed its residents of the day's news in print, without missing a day. But as newspaper readerships decline nationwide in the digital age, the local institution is struggling to keep up.

The Pennsylvania Department of State announced that it will provide postage-paid envelopes for mail-in and absentee ballots for the general election in November.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' statewide face mask order may be in jeopardy less than 24 hours after it was issued in Wisconsin. The state Senate's Republican leader suggested he has enough votes to bring senators back to the Capitol to block the order. And more than a dozen county sheriffs in Wisconsin say they won't enforce the mandate.

Hours after President Donald Trump threatened litigation over it through a tweet, members of the Nevada Senate voted on party lines to approve a bill that expands mail-in voting during times of emergency. Democrats said it was important to expand options for people to participate safely without leaving their homes or standing in line.

Connecticut regulators, facing a public uproar over higher electricity rates as consumers struggle with the pandemic and a weak economy, announced they are temporarily suspending higher electricity rates approved last month.

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said holding 'a normal election' in November would maximize voter access during the pandemic. But the custodians of hundreds of traditional polling precincts have said they will refuse to host voters, or would participate if the government pays to deep clean and sanitize their churches or community centers.

Local public health agencies across Missouri are trying to ramp up testing and contact tracing but say their hands are tied because the state delivered the federal aid not to them, but to their local county commissions. And the county commissioners in many places have held up the money.

Alabama law enforcement agencies are following Republican Gov. Kay Ivey's suggestion by not issuing citations and are instead handing out masks and encouraging residents to wear them as coronavirus cases rise.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia's coronavirus restrictions with an order that also renewed rules explicitly banning cities and counties from adopting mask mandates that are at the center of a legal dispute with the city of Atlanta.

Citing Vermont's low rates of COVID-19 activity, Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced businesses could open to 50% of capacity. But he urged residents to keep following public health guidelines, pointing to a new coronavirus fatality as evidence that the virus was still present in the state.

Driven by health concerns and seeking stability, Maine parents who stay at home or are now working from home are exploring alternatives to sending their children back to school.

An emergency stipend program meant to address the staffing crisis at New Hampshire's long-term care facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic lapsed at the end of last week. But advocates say the need for the stipends is still acute, facilities across the state struggle to hire and retain the workers they need to adequately care for their residents.

Hospitalizations across New York dropped to 556, the lowest number since March. Of the 58,961 tests conducted on Saturday, 0.9% or 531 tests were positive, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Illinois notched its 12th straight day with a four-digit daily coronavirus caseload as health officials announced 1,467 new COVID-19 cases. The new infections bring the state's total to 181,943 cases.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 285 new coronavirus cases and one death as the state tightened restrictions in certain hard-hit counties. The new numbers come as the seven-day rolling average for daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Oregon remains near their highest levels on record.

Hospitalizations continue gradual declines from their mid-July peaks, as Arizona reported another 1,465 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 18 more known deaths. But hospitals remain under pressure, with many COVID-19 patients.

The Utah Department of Health reported 37 new deaths - the highest death rate yet in a seven-day span, breaking last week's record of 32. The state health department also reported that 203 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Idaho reported its lowest daily number of new coronavirus infections in more than a month, though the added cases were enough to push the statewide total to more than 20,000 since the start of the pandemic. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 217 new cases of COVID-19.

Hawaii health officials warn that the state is headed up a dangerous slope of COVID-19 infections and could plunge off an economic and public health cliff in the next month if it continues to see daily triple-digit cases. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, estimates that at the current rate of infection, hospitals will soon be full of COVID-19 patients.

When Louisiana began to open back up again after a hard lockdown this spring, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards touted two key antidotes to ensure the coronavirus did not spin out of control again: testing and contact tracing. Things haven't gone according to plan.

The crux of the concern is that the decade-old computer system connecting local health departments with the Massachusetts' central disease-tracking database wasn't designed to handle infections on a pandemic scale.

Four campaigns - including one backing a measure to create a paid medical and family leave program - submitted petitions ahead of Monday's deadline to get their questions on Colorado's November ballot, despite the complications brought on by the pandemic.

Fewer than 80 applicants to the Washington State Bar Association took the exam last week. Hundreds of others opted out, thanks to a state Supreme Court decision to temporarily waive the test requirement because of concerns about COVID-19.