PPE pollution, bookmobile shots, sports TV refunds: News from around our 50 states
Tuscaloosa: A slight increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations was reported Tuesday, but the state’s inpatient count is still trending lower than the week prior. Per data released by Bama Tracker, 401 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported Tuesday, with a seven-day average of 388, compared to 377 inpatients reported Monday and 427 the previous Tuesday. DCH Health System had 11 inpatients Tuesday afternoon with five or fewer inpatients being treated in intensive care units. In Montgomery County, Jackson Hospital had 19 COVID-19 inpatients Tuesday. Baptist Health had 32 inpatients among its three locations Tuesday and 33 inpatients as of Wednesday. Nearly 85% of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been delivered to Alabama have been administered. As of Wednesday, more than 561,700 residents have completed their vaccine series. According to Bama Tracker, 23,994 people in Tuscaloosa County have completed their vaccine series, 23,200 people in Montgomery County and 6,698 in Etowah County.
Anchorage: Vaccine hesitancy and rates of COVID-19 spread in communities housing prisons are hindering efforts to lift restrictions imposed during the pandemic at state Department of Corrections facilities. Dr. Robert Lawrence, the department’s chief medical officer, said with community spread of the coronavirus and varying vaccination rates, it’s likely prisons in different parts of the state will reopen to visitors at different times. “I would say the real marker, the metric to be following are those community transmission rates,” he said. The department has undertaken efforts aimed at addressing the hesitancy some feel about being vaccinated. Those include videos, small group discussions or having nurses visit cells to offer vaccines or offer to answer questions, Alaska Public Media reports. In one video, Lawrence discusses vaccine rumors and gets a shot. Trevor Stefano, an inmate at Point Mackenzie Correctional Farm, said he recently tested positive for the virus, along with others at the facility. The timing of the outbreak, occurring around the time the first round of vaccines were being administered, fueled rumors about the vaccine. “Nobody trusts DOC,” Stefano said of the department. More than 2,000 people in the department’s custody have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
Phoenix: There is no turf war after the state rejected a proposed federal government-supported COVID-19 vaccine site, Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday. He and Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s top health official, said working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on setting up a community vaccine center in Pima County would not be as efficient as simply allocating more doses to the state. “What the federal government tells us is they are capable of distributing from this potential site is 6,000 doses. What we are capable of at the state level is 60,000,” Ducey said. “Our objective is to get the vaccine out faster and to more Arizonans.” The decision has drawn criticism from Pima County, where officials voted unanimously for the federal site. The conflict somewhat overshadowed Ducey’s touting of vaccine expansions Wednesday at the University of Arizona’s state-run site in Tucson, where the Republican governor got his second dose. Ducey, however, said he would revisit the issue since Pima County officials felt so strongly. Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services, said the state would have had to share a “huge list” of resources even though it would have been a federal site. They include a temperature-appropriate chain of storage, a registration system and significant personnel.
Little Rock: The state on Wednesday reported 13 new deaths from the coronavirus as active cases continued to drop. The Department of Health said the state’s COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began last year now total 5,560. The state’s active cases, those that don’t include people who have recovered or died, dropped by 135 to 2,128. Arkansas’ total virus cases rose by 231 to 329,177. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased by one to 172. “We continue to see some of the lowest numbers we’ve seen since the early days of this pandemic. This trend can continue if we all do our part,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. “If it’s your turn, get vaccinated today for a healthier community.” More than 22,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the state, the department said. Overall, about 1 million of the nearly 1.8 million doses allocated to Arkansas have been given so far.
Pacifica Beach Coalition volunteers Iona Pratt-Bauman, from left, Anneliese Phillips, Sophia Woehl and Amaelia Bringas, all 16, pick up trash from Sharp Park Beach in Pacifica, Calif., on March 17. Disposable masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment are creating an environmental problem, littering streets and sending an influx of harmful plastic into landfills and oceans. (Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)
Pacifica: Disposable masks, gloves and other types of personal protective equipment are safeguarding untold lives during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re also creating a worldwide pollution problem, littering streets and sending an influx of harmful plastic and other waste into landfills, sewage systems and oceans. In Northern California, environmental groups are tracking the issue along the coast – and trying to do something about it. The Pacific Beach Coalition recently noticed a dramatic increase in discarded PPE on beaches in and around the city of Pacifica, south of San Francisco, where it’s been doing monthly cleanups for nearly 25 years. Volunteers record what they pick up to gauge what might end up in the ocean. Until 2020, the litter was mostly cigarette butts and food wrappers. “What are we going to do? We got masks. We got gloves. We got all those hand wipes, the sani wipes. They’re everywhere. They’re in my neighborhood, in my streets. What can we do?” asked Lynn Adams, the coalition’s president. The group and others are calling attention to the issue, saying what’s recorded is likely only a fraction of the personal protective equipment hitting beaches and oceans. Larger mammals can ingest PPE, and plastic from the items can disrupt the ocean’s food chains. “They’re all made of plastic,” Adams said.
Fort Collins: Larimer County is now home to the state’s only mass COVID-19 vaccination site operated in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The site, located at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, held a soft opening Tuesday and officially opened Wednesday, vaccinating about 1,000 people between the two days. The site is expected to vaccinate about 1,000 people per day Thursday and Friday. Starting next week, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Julie Brooks, spokesperson for FEMA, said the site has requested 12,000 vaccines for next week, which would allow it to vaccinate 2,000 people per day. “This is one of the easiest ways to get your vaccines; you don’t even have to get out of your car,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who came to the site’s opening Wednesday. Polis talked to people being vaccinated and expressed gratitude for the partnerships with Larimer County and FEMA that made the site possible. The Ranch clinic is one of six major drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination sites across Colorado, but it’s the only one with a FEMA partnership. It has the capacity to conduct about 6,000 vaccinations daily when supply allows.
Doug Montgomery of Plainfield, left, looks at a firearm from employee Paul Riccardi on Wednesday at Statewide Pawn in Salem, Ct. (Photo: [John Shishmanian/ NorwichBulletiin.com])
Norwich: Gun sales in Eastern Connecticut have risen amid the pandemic and are poised to spike even further amid a renewed national conversation about gun control. Paul Riccardi, an employee with The Armory in Salem, said the store’s sales with new permit holders who haven’t owned a firearm before have increased. “Sales to first-time gun buyers is the highest category that we’re having,” Riccardi said. Steve Acevedo, owner of Aces Defense in Danielson, called the environment in 2020 a “triple threat” that made people seek the security of guns, with the pandemic, social unrest and the fact that 2020 was an election year. “It was an uncertain time,” he said. Acevedo noted there was also continued movement in selling guns to women, a trend he’s seen over the past four years. With the increased demand for both guns and ammo and a slowdown in manufacturing from the pandemic, there is scarcity. On Riccardi’s end, there are only so many guns available. He said The Armory in the Salem Four Corners is usually able to stock two or three times as many handguns as it has now. Acevedo said the gun-ordering process has changed. Before the pandemic, a customer could order a specific kind of gun from him in their choice of color. “Now, (distributors) call us and say, ‘This is what we have, and this is what you can have,’ ” Acevedo said.
The Sussex County Mobile Library will lose its books to make room for COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo: Sussex County)
Rehoboth Beach: The Sussex County Mobile Library is coming back from its coronavirus-induced closure to deliver vaccines. Sussex County and Beebe Healthcare are partnering to use the bookmobile to vaccinate people in hard-to-reach and underserved communities throughout the county. The Sussex County Council approved a memorandum of understanding Tuesday between Beebe and two county agencies, the Department of Libraries and Emergency Medical Services. The mobile library is set to be deployed once a week beginning in April – sans books, of course – according to a press release from county spokesman Chip Guy. Beebe will identify communities in need, schedule patients, and provide and administer the COVID-19 vaccines. Library staff will be responsible for transporting and setting up the unit, while county paramedics will be on hand to assist in administering the shots and monitoring patients for any adverse reactions. There will be no out-of-pocket costs for patients, Guy said. “This is a great example of ‘thinking out of the box’ and an opportunity to partner with the library staff and Beebe to provide vaccinations to the residents who need it,” said Sussex County Emergency Medical Services Director Robert W. Murray Jr.
District of Columbia
Washington: Three CVS pharmacies are set to begin vaccinating priority groups, WUSA-TV reports. The CVS locations will vaccinate teachers and school staff, child care workers, health care workers, and residents 65 and older, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. Two of the participating CVS pharmacies are in Ward 7, and the other is in Ward 5. Those who are eligible to be vaccinated at the sites will still preregister through the district’s vaccine site, Bowser said, but once it is their turn, they will be directed to schedule their appointment directly through the CVS website. The pharmacies will receive 3,510 doses within the next seven to 10 days, the mayor said. The district was allocated 27,140 doses this week, with 14,400 going to those in line for D.C.’s preregistration system, 5,610 to hospitals and health centers, and 7,130 to special initiatives and partnerships, including the district’s partnership with CVS. Some have praised the mayor for helping priority groups land appointments, while others say the move does nothing to improve the district’s inadequate vaccine supply.
Tallahassee: The state will open eligibility requirements to anyone 18 and older April 5, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday. Starting Monday, the eligibility requirement for getting the vaccine will drop from 50 to 40, the governor said in a news release. The age requirement dropped from 60 to 50 this past Monday. “We have now vaccinated over 70% of the roughly 4.4 million seniors living in the state. We have also made great progress on those age 60 to 64 and those age 50 and older,” DeSantis said in announcing the next steps. The governor urged people interested in getting the vaccine to pr-register at myvaccine.fl.gov. They will then be notified when the vaccine is available in their area. There is also a vaccine preregistration phone number in each county for anyone who does not have online access. The vaccines are also available at 150 CVS locations, 125 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations, more than 70 Winn Dixie locations, and every single one of the 730 Publix pharmacies across Florida. Soon, the vaccine will also be available at more than 600 Walgreens pharmacies statewide.
Atlanta: The state Board of Education has approved a plan to pay $1,000 bonuses to teachers and most other education employees, using $240 million in federal coronavirus relief money. The Board of Education voted Thursday to send the money to school districts, which are in turn supposed to pay teachers before June 30. Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods, both Republicans, announced the plan in January. Woods told board members Thursday he thought it would encourage teachers to stay on the job. “I feel that this was the right thing to do for our educators and education staff,” Woods said. “They have worked above and beyond. There has been a tireless effort to keep schools going.” Kemp has promised to increase teacher pay by $5,000 during his first term, of which he’s already delivered $3,000. State officials followed up by saying they would also pay $1,000 bonuses to preschool teachers, state employees and public university employees, all financed directly or indirectly by federal aid. The governor was originally supposed to chip in some money for the teacher bonuses from a pot he controlled, but the Board of Education voted to make the payments from the second and third rounds of federal coronavirus relief.
Wailuku: A hospital on Maui had to throw out nearly 1,400 vaccine doses after a refrigerator thawing the vials did not properly seal. A low-temperature refrigerator holding doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Maui Memorial Medical Center was not closed properly, and the vaccines were compromised over the weekend, The Maui News reports. Officials at the hospital, operated by Maui Health, said enough supply remained to keep all current vaccination appointments. Vaccines are locked in a freezer before being transferred to the low-temperature refrigerator to be thawed. The doses were put in the refrigerator Friday in preparation for this week’s vaccinations, and staff members discovered the door was not sealed Monday morning. There was a mechanical malfunction, and the mistake was not a staff error, Maui Health spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda said. The door was tested again after the discovery, and it wouldn’t stay closed, she said. Maui Health said in a statement that Pfizer was contacted, and the vials were removed from use and discarded. A total of 2,400 doses have been lost since Hawaii began vaccinations in December, state Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said. That includes the 1,386 doses over the weekend and 1,014 doses in other incidents, most involving broken vials or syringes.
Boise: COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will be open to all residents 16 and up starting April 5, Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday. The Republican governor made the announcement three weeks ahead of schedule. He also said people with at least one medical condition will be able to get the vaccine starting Monday, two weeks ahead of schedule. Little urged residents to get vaccinated. “Folks, with each passing week as more and more Idahoans choose to get vaccinated, we get closer to returning to normal,” Little said in an online announcement. “The COVID vaccine really is our best shot at protecting jobs and saving lives.” State health officials said they are speeding up eligibility because there appears to be reluctance among some residents to get the vaccine and because of increasing supplies arriving in the state. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said a statewide COVID-19 vaccination advertising campaign was launched Wednesday to deal with “vaccine hesitancy.” He said a minority of Idaho residents would never get the vaccine because they don’t believe in vaccines. He said a larger group believes in vaccines but is waiting to see how the COVID-19 shot works. He said those in a third group feel they are too busy to get inoculated.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse NaTasha McCoy at the state-supported mass vaccination site in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield on Wednesday. (Photo: Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker rolled up his sleeve Wednesday to receive his COVID-19 vaccination. The 56-year-old governor said he was eligible for the vaccine as a government worker and stepped up at the mass vaccination site on the Illinois State Fairgrounds to set an example. “I’m deeply grateful that so many of our residents have embraced this life-saving protection, but I also want Illinoisans to know, especially those who may not yet feel confident enough to get vaccinated, that I’m not asking you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself,” Pritzker said. “Look, I’m not a doctor, but I trust doctors, and … these vaccines offer us all the fastest way back to normal life.” Pritzker received the more recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose several weeks after the first. Coronavirus case numbers have been creeping up in Illinois in the past week after plummeting in recent months. Also Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools’ chief health officer said the district was looking at ways to vaccinate students 16 and older. The district and Chicago Teachers Union are negotiating plans to reopen high schools, which have been closed for a year amid the pandemic. School officials said all employees have been offered vaccines.
Indianapolis: The city is keeping its mask mandate and other coronavirus precautions in place for now despite Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision this week to end a statewide mask mandate in early April, the mayor announced Thursday. Mayor Joe Hogsett said it was too early for Marion County – Indiana’s most populous – to end its face mask mandate and business capacity restrictions, which he said would remain in place until the county’s public health order is lifted. While the county’s virus positivity rate and other pandemic indicators have improved, he said that “the threat of an uptick is not yet behind us.” Hogsett also cited the many visitors converging on the capital over the next two weeks for the NCAA basketball tournament. Meanwhile, more than 1 million Hoosiers have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the state’s health commissioner said Thursday, calling the accomplishment “an exciting milestone.” More than 15% of Indiana’s population has been fully vaccinated, the Indiana Department of Health said. “Hitting the 1 million mark is an exciting milestone as we look to put this pandemic in our rear-view mirror,” State Health Commissioner Kris Box said in a statement urging all eligible Hoosiers to sign up for a vaccine.
Johnston: The state expects to have sufficient supply to allow any adult to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday. “When this occurs, once again there is going to be more demand than supply at first, just as we’ve experienced each time eligibility was expanded. So please be patient. As our weekly allocations continue to increase, so will the number of appointments available, and soon there will be enough vaccine for everyone,” she said. Many Iowans have gotten frustrated trying to book an appointment to get vaccinated, in part because the state has no centralized vaccine registration or appointment system. Instead, people must must go online and attempt to find open appointments through providers’ websites. Reynolds rejected an initial plan to contract with Microsoft for a centralized registration system in February and instead opted to set up a phone system for older Iowans who might have trouble reserving a slot for a shot online. That system has made 4,000 appointments and may soon be opened up to others who face technological challenges. Additional pharmacies, clinics and other health care providers will join the effort, and Reynolds said existing providers are upgrading their appointment systems, which could alleviate some of the pressure.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions about the COVID-19 pandemic during a news conference at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Photo: John Hanna/AP)
Topeka: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday signed legislation rewriting state laws for managing the coronavirus pandemic and future emergencies even though she believes it could hinder disaster response efforts. Kelly’s action on the measure approved last week by the Republican-controlled Legislature came only hours after the county commission in the state’s second-most populous county ended all remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Sedgwick County commissioners had said the measure Kelly signed essentially strips them of their power to impose restrictions by making it likely that the county would lose lawsuits from residents who feel aggrieved. The Legislature also gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would require all public schools to offer all students full-time, in-person classes by March 31, through the end of the current school year. It’s largely symbolic because only a handful of the state’s 286 local school districts didn’t plan to have a majority of students returning full time to their buildings by then, according to the State Department of Education. Republican lawmakers have criticized Kelly throughout the pandemic, suggesting she overreacted by imposing a statewide stay-at-home order for five weeks last spring and closing all K-12 buildings from mid-March 2020 until the end of that semester.
Louisville: Commencement exercises will be held in person for University of Louisville students who graduate this semester, as well as 2020 graduates who missed a ceremony because of the coronavirus pandemic. Three ceremonies will be held May 7-8 at Cardinal Stadium for the full university, with smaller ceremonies planned for May 6 for law and doctoral students, the university said. The ceremonies will also be livestreamed. “The thrill of walking across the stage at commencement is back,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said in a news release. “We are working hard to provide a safe, meaningful commencement experience for those graduating this spring as well as all those 2020 graduates whose commencement ceremonies were cancelled due to COVID-19.” The University of Kentucky previously announced it would hold its first in-person commencements since December 2019. Eastern Kentucky University will have graduation ceremonies May 7-8 inside Roy Kidd Stadium, according to the school’s website.
A staff member of Ochsner Health carry trays filled with syringes containing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as people come into the Castine Center in Pelican Park to be vaccinated in Mandeville, La., on March 10. (Photo: Chris Granger/The Advocate via AP)
Baton Rouge: With vaccine supplies growing and immunization appointments going unused, the state will end its limits Monday on which adults can receive the shots, giving access to anyone 16 and older who wants to schedule an appointment. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the eligibility change Wednesday, joining a growing list of states throwing open COVID-19 vaccine access to any adult who is interested in a shot. President Joe Biden’s administration wants all states to make every adult eligible by May 1. “In the not-too-distant future, we’re going to have enough doses for everybody who wants one. What we need to do is make sure that everybody wants one,” Edwards said. In addition to expanding vaccine access, the Democratic governor said Louisiana also will significantly ramp up its large community vaccination events to try to reach more people and make it easier for them to obtain a shot, while also focusing more on outreach efforts to persuade the hesitant. Louisiana already allowed most adults to have access to any of the three available vaccines, if they meet one of two dozen medical conditions or work in one of a long list of “essential” jobs.
Orono: Students at the University of Maine are making art to encourage equal distribution of vaccines. The intermedia students are working on a campaign led by Intermedia MFA Program Director Susan Smith. The university said about 20 students are developing “various media that reinforce the hardships of the pandemic and encourage spectators to help bring about its end through inoculation.” The university said the campaign is called “Creativity vs. COVID.” The student artists are using their art to encourage use of the vaccines as well as to call for equitable distribution of doses, the school said. The university said some of the artists will use projectors to display their work on the front of Fogler Library and New Balance Field House on the night of April 2. Other students are working on a postcard campaign entitled “The Outbreak Diaries.”
Annapolis: The state Department of Labor has started accepting unemployment claims for programs that were extended under the latest federal stimulus package, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday. There will not be a gap in benefits for people who are eligible under the programs, Hogan said. Under the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed by a divided Congress earlier this month, a group of supplemental unemployment programs started during the pandemic will be extended until Sept. 4. Maryland’s Department of Labor is handling claims and issuing payments through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation programs.
Boston: Residents who can’t leave their homes to travel to get a COVID-19 shot can take part in a new statewide homebound vaccination program, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday. “We’re working to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine once they become eligible, including those who can’t leave their homes due to medical conditions or other circumstances,” Baker said at a Statehouse news conference. Massachusetts’ COVID-19 command center has been working to set up a program to vaccinate people at their homes. Baker said the efforts will take advantage of the experience of local boards of health and the Commonwealth Care Alliance. The program – which will launch Monday – allows local boards of health to vaccinate homebound folks on their own or to partner with the state. An estimated 25,000 homebound people statewide are unable to get to a vaccination site and are eligible for the program. The program will use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires just one shot. Baker also said the state is expecting to see an increase in vaccine supply from the federal government next week and is setting aside an additional $100 million for four hard-hit communities: Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph.
Diners eat in isolated dining rooms outside the Townhouse restaurant Thursday in Birmingham, Mich. (Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP)
Lansing: The state not long ago had one of the country’s lowest COVID-19 infection rates but is confronting an alarming spike that some experts worry could be a harbinger nationally. In what public health authorities across the U.S. have been warning for months might happen around the country, the resurgence is being fueled by loosened restrictions, a more infectious variant and pandemic fatigue. While vaccinations in Michigan are helping to protect senior citizens and other vulnerable people, the upswing is driving up hospitalizations among younger adults and threatening in-person instruction at schools. “It’s a stark reminder that this virus is still very real. It can come roaring back if we drop our guard,” said Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who does not plan to tighten restrictions on indoor dining, sports and other activities that were eased in recent months. On Wednesday, Whitmer again vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have required legislative approval to extend the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. Michigan last year saw some of the nation’s fiercest resistance to lockdowns, including armed demonstrations at the state Capitol and an alleged right-wing plot to kidnap the governor.
Minneapolis: Health officials report dozens of fully vaccinated Minnesotans have contracted COVID-19, a development that wasn’t unexpected. The state has identified 89 coronavirus infections in people who have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the fraction of fully vaccinated people who still contract infections was expected. Clinical trials suggested the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective. Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is said to be about 66% effective. “We should not be fooled into seeing such a case as a reason to doubt the vaccine effectiveness,” said Ehresmann, noting that the cases represent less than 0.1% of people who have been fully vaccinated, the Star Tribune reports. About 800,000 Minnesotans are fully vaccinated. Doctors said even those who required hospitalization after being vaccinated had milder symptoms. “Yes, people get COVID, but people in general do overall better,” said Dr. Andrew Olson, M Health Fairview’s director of hospital medicine. “We have seen that both in patients in our system who are hospitalized and patients who are not hospitalized.” Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce a timetable to expand vaccine eligibility in the state this week.
Jackson: The state Health Department is rewriting a “confusing” script that employees and contractors read to people scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments by phone after a professor said a scheduler disparaged the effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine when her father called, a department spokeswoman said. Elizabeth Wayne said her father – 64-year-old Bobby Wayne, of Clarksdale, a retired minister who is paraplegic and has leukemia and prostate cancer – called a Mississippi Health Department number multiple times to try to schedule a vaccination, and a woman Monday incorrectly told him Monday that “there’s no documented proof” that the Moderna vaccine works and asked him: “Do you still want to take it?” The department’s communications director, Liz Sharlot, said Tuesday that the phone script employees and contractors are supposed to read “can be confusing” and is being changed because of the incident. Part of the old script said: “Do you still want to be vaccinated with an understanding there are currently no available data on the safety or effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, in pregnant people, lactating people, or immunocompromised people?” Sharlot said in an email Tuesday: “We are replacing this confusing and misleading language. … Both Moderna and Pfizer have high efficacy rates.”
Jefferson City: State officials on Wednesday announced a new effort to provide transportation for those who need a ride to vaccination sites. The “Get a Ride” online transportation guide, available at MOStopsCOVID.com/ride, helps connect riders with providers. The state health department said in a news release that transportation services such as OATS Transit and Southeast Missouri Transportation Service, which normally serve only older people and those with disabilities, are now available for anyone who needs a ride to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Most providers are offering free rides, others at reduced costs. “In Missouri, we recognize there is a significant amount of older adults, people with disabilities and low-income individuals who are at higher risk of contracting the virus and don’t have cars, don’t drive, don’t live near public transit and live in rural areas far from vaccination sites,” Sara Hart Weir, who heads the Missouri Advisory Committee on Equitable COVID Vaccine Distribution, said in a statement. Transportation barriers are among the reasons vaccinations lag in Kansas City’s Hispanic community, the Kansas City Star reports. Frank Thompson, deputy director of the city’s health department, said Hispanic people there are 2.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people.
Great Falls: Communities across the state will be eligible to receive a portion of the $1.37 billion from the most recent COVID-19 relief package. Approximately $133 million will go to cities and towns, and counties will receive $207 million. The state will receive $910 million to respond to the health and economic crisis, as well as $119 million to fund projects such as water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. Ultimately, the funding aims to provide relief by covering unexpected costs associated with the pandemic. Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the latest congressional relief package. “Montana’s local governments have been on the frontlines of this pandemic from day one – coordinating the response to an unprecedented health crisis, working to keep kids from falling behind in school and making sure police officers and firefighters have the resources to keep our communities safe,” Tester said in a press release. The state posted 214 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 12 deaths. The sharp increase in deaths is primarily due to ongoing data reconciliation efforts across the state, a spokesperson with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said.
Omaha: The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to decline, and more than 19% of the state’s population has now been vaccinated against COVID-19. The state said Thursday that hospitalizations were at their lowest level since last July, with 107 people being treated in hospitals statewide. That number has fallen steadily since peaking at 987 in November. Health officials said nearly 107,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the state last week, and 19.1% of the population has been inoculated. The state is currently focused on vaccinating everyone 50 and older and people who work in critical industries, such as education, food production and grocery stores. Some vaccines are also being given to people of any age with serious health conditions. The state said more than 308,000 Nebraskans have now registered to receive the vaccine. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, going from 282.71 new cases per day March 9 to 246.43 new cases per day Tuesday. The state said Thursday that 207,227 cases of the virus and 2,159 deaths have been reported since the pandemic began.
Buskers dressed as showgirls walk into a casino along the Las Vegas Strip on Feb. 10. (Photo: John Locher/AP)
Las Vegas: Casinos are getting more gamblers back a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, but house revenue for the Las Vegas Strip still lagged in February, state regulators said Thursday. Statewide casino win and revenue figures were nearly flat last month compared with January, according to a key Nevada Gaming Control Board report. The take for casinos was down nearly 26% compared to February 2020. Board analyst Michael Lawton noted that the “casino win” figure on the Las Vegas Strip, down 41.6% year-to-year, accounted for nearly 92% of the statewide decrease in casino winnings for February. Lawton called February a difficult month for comparisons because 2020 was a leap year, and there was one fewer weekend day this year. “I would expect March 2021 to be up significantly over last March,” Lawton said, noting that winnings and state revenues dropped when casinos closed March 17, 2020, amid the drive to slow the spread of COVID-19. Now, he said, “gaming activity is improving due to improved metrics related to COVID-19, capacity limitations being increased and stimulus checks, which are acting as a catalyst to elevated spending by consumers.”
Concord: A survey of more than 1,500 small businesses in the state shows many are still struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly half reducing their hours and one-third closing temporarily, according to the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Seventy percent of respondents say their business has seen monthly revenue decreases as a result of the pandemic, although that has fallen from 83% from a prior survey in June. Residents cite a decline in sales, reduced hours of operation, being required to close, and supply chain interruptions as primary factors that caused their businesses to experience losses. “The theme that we’re getting from this is that New Hampshire’s small businesses were hit very hard by COVID,” Andrew Smith, director of the survey center, said Thursday at a meeting of the Governor’s Economic Re-opening Task Force. Three-quarters of respondents say their business applied for financial relief in 2020, and just over half plan to apply for relief this year, with the Payroll Protection Program the most commonly used program. Smith said a separate survey of residents shows less than 50% say they feel comfortable going to a bar, gym, movie theater, stadium or large concert. He said many indicated they are not going to change their behavior by Memorial Day.
Trenton: There should be no option for remote learning, with all students back in person, when the new school year starts in September, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday. Murphy, a Democrat, said that barring a big resurgence of COVID-19, the state’s school districts should move ahead with Monday-through-Friday in-person instruction. At a news conference in Trenton, he also announced new Health Department guidelines for schools. The new guidance calls for allowing full-time, in-person education now if masking and frequent hand-washing can be maintained, as well as a 3 foot distance between students in the classroom. The new standard, down from 6 feet, is in line with what federal regulators said last week. A 6 foot distance should be maintained in districts the state Health Department has determined have a high COVID-19 transmission rate, the governor said. Schools have to keep 6 feet between students in common areas, like cafeterias, under the new guidelines. Most of the state’s school districts have some level of in-person instruction now. There are 534 using a hybrid schedule, which includes some in-person and remote learning. There are 143 districts that are all in person and 90 that are entirely remote.
Santa Fe: The state is preparing to relax restrictions on visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities as the spread of COVID-19 wanes and more people get vaccinated. Aging and Long Term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez announced the new guidelines Wednesday in a news release regarding outdoor and indoor visitation. Under changes that take effect Friday, the outdoors is still preferred for visiting residents of long-term care facilities because it poses a lower risk of virus transmission. But previously prohibited indoor visits will be allowed with rules on room size and occupancy. “We are seeing cases decrease and more people are choosing to protect themselves and their loved ones by receiving the vaccine,” Hotrum-Lopez said in a statement. “This means facilities can safely start to offer in-person visitation options to their residents and their loved ones.” Prohibitions and tight restrictions on visitors were put in place last year amid dozens of deadly coronavirus outbreaks at congregate living facilities for the elderly and disabled. Under the new guidelines, fully vaccinated residents can choose to have close contact with visitors, including hugging or holding hands. Masks and hand sanitizing are still required. Nursing homes will in some instances return to communal dining and social activities.
A team bench area sits empty at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on March 12, 2020, after the NCAA college basketball games at the Southeastern Conference men's tournament were canceled. (Photo: The Associated Press)
Albany: Nearly 4 million cable and satellite television subscribers across the state have received a total of $76 million in recent weeks because they were charged for live sports programming last year that didn’t take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday. A year ago, James urged the seven major cable and satellite television providers in the state to provide financial relief to consumers by reducing or eliminating fees attributable to live sports programming. The seven companies – Altice USA, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, DISH Network, RCN Corporation and Verizon Communications – recently agreed to provide rebates through regional sports networks that had been seeking reimbursement from leagues and teams that were not hosting live sporting events. The rebates should have already shown up on subscribers’ bills, James said. The average is about $20 per subscriber. “No one should be forced to pay for something they aren’t receiving, especially during a pandemic that has impacted the finances of millions across our state,” James said in a statement.
Raleigh: All residents who are at least 16 years old will qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine April 7, state health officials and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday. Meanwhile, essential workers not yet vaccinated can get their shots starting March 31. The bumped-up distribution timeline comes as lack of demand has already prompted some counties to administer doses to the general public. The state also received reassurances Tuesday that it would soon see increased vaccine supply from the federal government. Nearly 1 in 3 North Carolina adults has been at least partially vaccinated since the state first began administering doses in December, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. Over the next three weeks, the state is adjusting its strategy to give more doses from its weekly supply to counties that have a smaller share of residents vaccinated. Distributions were previously shipped based on a county’s overall population size. Residents who are at least 16 years old can get a Pfizer vaccine, while those 18 or older are eligible for a Moderna shot or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. J&J supply has been very limited over the past three weeks but is expected to rapidly increase in the weeks ahead.
Bismarck: A proposal to shield schools and teachers from lawsuits arising from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms is unconstitutional and would spur costly and unwinnable legal fights, attorneys and education officials told state lawmakers Wednesday. Despite the cautionary advice, the House Judiciary Committee gave the legislation an 11-3 “do-pass” recommendation, hoping a requirement that the Ten Commandments be included in a display with other historical documents would fend off legal challenges. The full House will consider the bill later. The Republican-led North Dakota Senate approved the measure 34-13 last month. Attorneys and education officials said the bill likely violates the clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits the establishment of religion by the government. “Should the Legislature enact (the measure) it will likely precipitate costly litigation for which public school will be liable under federal law,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in written testimony. Proponents of the legislation say it is intended to promote moral behavior in schools. “No religion opposes the Ten Commandments – atheists do,” said Edinburg GOP Sen. Janne Myrdal, who sponsored the bill.
Columbus: The Ohio Health Department should begin releasing data on coronavirus deaths in two categories: those whose death was caused by COVID-19 and those who died of other causes but also had a positive coronavirus test, the state auditor said in a report. Not making the distinction “may lead to confusion for the layperson as to whether an individual died by COVID-19 or died with COVID-19,” said the report from office of Republican state Auditor Keith Faber. While the state follows federal guidelines for coronavirus death reporting, some medical professionals may fill out death certificates for people who died of other causes while also testing positive for the virus, according to the report. “Although inefficiencies, opportunities to improve transparency, and methods to collect better data certainly exist, the Ohio Department of Health has generally provided the public with correct information and managed Ohio’s response to the pandemic commendably,” Faber said Tuesday. In February, the state said it had discovered thousands of unreported coronavirus deaths and announced a restructuring of its infectious disease division. An outdated reporting system that led to the undercount of more than 4,200 COVID-19 deaths in Ohio will now be retired, the Health Department said.
Oklahoma City: Two City Council members will propose ending a mask mandate, while Tulsa’s mayor said his city’s mask requirement will remain for at least two more weeks. Both cities’ mandates were approved in July and are set to expire April 30. A proposal to lift Oklahoma City’s mandate will be offered at a Tuesday City Council meeting, said councilors Todd Stone, who opposed the mandate but supported putting it into effect immediately, and Mark Stonecipher, who has supported the requirement. “When we put the original mask mandate in place, we did so because test positivity was over 5%,” Stonecipher said. “We are down to 10 cases per 100,000 people. We are to a point where a governmental mask mandate is no longer necessary.” In Tulsa, Mayor G.T. Bynum said health leaders asked city officials to wait two weeks after spring break, which ended last week, to assess any impact of travel on the number of coronavirus cases in Tulsa County. “That’s their ask, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Bynum said Wednesday.
Salem: State auditors say health officials’ failure to adequately prepare for COVID-19 likely contributed to some coronavirus deaths at senior care homes early in the pandemic. The two state agencies responsible for responding to the pandemic wasted “valuable time” in the first few months after Oregon’s first case as they tried to figure out how to work together, the Secretary of State Oregon Audits Division found in a report released Wednesday. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports more than 90 people eventually died in outbreaks that began while state agencies were building a new administrative system. The Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority did not plan “basic elements for responding together,” the auditor’s office wrote. “These elements were developed after the response began, delaying actions that may have prevented illness and death among long-term care residents and staff.” About half of all COVID-19 deaths in Oregon were long-term care residents, auditors said, compared to just over a third nationally. As of March 14, 1,210 people in congregate care in the state had died.
Nicole Hartman, an employee of Highmark Health, direct people to available tables to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during a clinic Tuesday at the Community College of Allegheny County in West Mifflin, Pa. (Photo: Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Harrisburg: The state neared 1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday amid rising infections and word of a setback in the state’s accelerating COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The Department of Health reported another 4,667 new cases – the highest single-day number since early February – to bring Pennsylvania to within a few hundred of the milestone. Daily infections have risen more than 10% in two weeks, with hospitalizations beginning to drift up, too. “All of our numbers are going the wrong way,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. With health officials on alert, Pennsylvania learned it will not get nearly as many fresh doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as the federal government initially projected. The state said it will receive about 66,000 doses next week, not 200,000. Pennsylvania has used its federal allotment of the single-shot vaccine to inoculate more than 100,000 educators. State officials were planning to use future Johnson & Johnson allocations at regional mass vaccination sites, while also reserving doses for special clinics for police and firefighters, grocery store workers, and people in the meat processing and agricultural sectors. “As we’ve learned throughout the rollout, projections are never promises,” said Lyndsay Kensinger, spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf.
Providence: The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded an additional $550,000 in grants from its COVID-19 Response Fund to nonprofits that are helping state residents cope with the pandemic, the foundation announced Wednesday. The vaccine rollout has given people hope, but many residents are still out of work and struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table. “Even though the situation appears to be improving, we never stopped raising money and making grants to benefit Rhode Islanders hit hard by the crisis,” foundation President Neil Steinberg said in a statement. “We will continue working with dedicated and generous donors from throughout the state and tireless nonprofits partners as Rhode Island moves from crisis relief to long-term recovery.” The fund was set up a year ago at the outset of the pandemic in partnership with the United Way of Rhode Island. It has now made $7.3 million in grants to nearly 150 nonprofits. The latest grant recipients include Bradley Hospital, Crossroads Rhode Island, the Da Vinci Center, Dorcas International Institute, the Housing Network, the Interfaith Counseling Center, New Englanders Helping Our Veterans, Sacred Heart Elderly Day Care and The Samaritans.
Columbia: A group of state senators started a review of the agency that runs elections with praise for how it handled voting during a pandemic in 2020. A Senate oversight subcommittee had questions Thursday for South Carolina Election Commission Director Marci Andino about her plans for the future, and she talked about new voting software and security upgrades planned for the statewide voting system. Senators also took time to thank Andino for getting money to get protective equipment for poll workers and polling sites to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and training new workers quickly when older ones decided to stay home because they were worried about getting the disease. They also praised her for handling a crush of absentee ballots in both the June primary and the November general election that shattered all records after anyone was allowed to vote by mail because of the pandemic. “I think they did an incredible job under the most difficult circumstances probably any of us could have ever imagined,” said Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia. “It was probably the best, smoothest general election that I can remember under the worst of circumstances,” said Andino, who had temporary employees running offices to keep absentee voting available as outbreaks spread among the regular workers.
Sioux Falls: Smithfield Foods is making it easier for some of its employees to get vaccines. The company is offering COVID-19 shots Friday at the food processing plant where hundreds of workers have been infected with the coronavirus since the pandemic began. The vaccine comes from the South Dakota Department of Health and will be administered by Avery Health. Department spokesman Daniel Bucheli said 500 vaccine doses are available. Smithfield workers will receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and participation will be voluntary. The plant in Sioux Falls employs about 3,600 workers. Back in April 2020, the plant was home to the largest outbreak of coronavirus at a single facility in the United States. At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted coronavirus, and four employees died from complications in the spring of 2020, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Hometown BBQ is announced as first-place winner in the Whole Hog category in a culmination of the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Tom Lee Park on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo: Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal)
Memphis: Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is back this year. The cooking contest May 12-15 at Tom Lee Park downtown will see a few changes due to COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity at the event. A limited quantity of general admission tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday at memphisinmay.org. All tickets must be purchased in advance, as they will not be available at the gate. According to a news release, Memphis in May received approval for the cooking contest to move forward from the Shelby County Health Department for the events after presenting comprehensive health and safety guidelines to address COVID-19 concerns. The modifications will result in a smaller and different World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, as well as a smaller Great American River Run. Health Department-approved modifications for the cooking contest include significantly reducing overall capacity, reducing the number of competition teams, drastically reducing general admission tickets, expanding the team spaces, reducing operating hours, temperature screening, face mask requirements, social distancing and other safety protocols.
Houston: An annual count of the Houston area’s homeless population found that about 15% of people surveyed said they were without a fixed address because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of them said they lost a job or hours at work or were evicted due to the pandemic, according to the Point in Time survey released Wednesday by Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless. The group’s annual survey conducted Jan. 19 found that 3,055 individuals were homeless in three counties in the Houston area: Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery. “While we don’t yet know the full scope of how many people have fallen – or will fall – into homelessness due to the pandemic, we believe that without the Community COVID Housing Program, the number of people experiencing homelessness in our region on the night of our count would very likely have been higher,” said Michael Nichols, president and CEO of the coalition. The coalition, the city of Houston and Harris County launched the $65 million Community COVID Housing Program in October to help people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness due to the economic impact of the pandemic. As of earlier this month, the program had helped nearly 1,500 people with short-term rental assistance or with help maintaining or regaining housing.
Isaac Hoffman holds son Leo while receiving his Pfizer vaccine Thursday in Spanish Fork, Utah. (Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP)
Salt Lake City: The state’s mask mandate will end April 10 after the Republican governor signed a bill Wednesday that lays out a new timeline for lifting some of Utah’s COVID-19 restrictions. Mask orders will remain in place for schools and gatherings of more than 50 people, and businesses can still choose to require them. Gov. Spencer Cox signed the measure the same day vaccinations opened to all people in the state ages 16 and older. New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Utah have been on a downward trend since January. More than 438,000 of the state’s 3.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated, according to state data. More than 382,000 virus cases have been reported in Utah, along with 2,082 known deaths, according to state data.
Montpelier: Registration opened Thursday for residents 60 and older to make appointments for COVID-19 vaccines. Technical problems with the state health department’s online registration system early Thursday morning were later resolved, the department said. Some people scheduled testing appointments instead of vaccine appointments, and the Health Department was reaching out to those who were affected, a department spokesman said. People can make sure they made the appropriate appointment by logging back into their online accounts, the Health Department said. Vaccine appointments have a needle icon on the left side, and incorrect appointments can be canceled and rescheduled, officials said. The preferred method is to sign up through the Vermont Health Department’s website. People who cannot make an appointment online may call 855-722-7878 to register. The state has returned to age groupings for vaccine sign-ups. Vermonters ages 50 and older can start signing up for appointments Monday.
Two ponies get cozy after the Pony Swim on Chincoteague Island on July 24, 2019. (Photo: Kelly Powers)
Chincoteague: The 2021 Pony Penning and carnival activities have once again been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company announced. Organizers said in a typical year, planning would already be more than halfway completed by March, but as of this month, the company cannot be certain Virginia’s restrictions would be lifted come summer. “It takes much time and many man hours to prepare for carnival, not to mention the amount of money it takes to get open not knowing if we would be under the same restrictions,” CVFC President Hunter Leonard wrote on Facebook last week. “Bottom line, too many unknowns to take a chance.” The fire company said an online pony auction will take place again, as well as shirt sales online. Last year, the first-ever online Chincoteague pony auction topped the record for overall sales by more than $100,000. The event not only is intended to help manage the herd population but also serves as a fundraiser for the volunteer fire company, responsible for the animals’ care. “This has been a rough year for everyone,” Leonard wrote. “So many people have suffered unimaginable losses but I’m so confident that we all will bounce back in 2022 and that it will be the best year ever!!!”
Seattle: A significant COVID-19 outbreak is happening inside the King County Jail, with 19 cases detected on Monday alone. The outbreak accounts for most of the 46 total cases among the in-custody population at the Seattle facility and inside the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent as of Wednesday, Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention officials told The Seattle Times. Additionally, seven department employees who work at the Seattle jail have tested positive since March 9, spokesperson Noah Hagland said in a Wednesday email. Of the most recent cases, one person tested positive during booking, while the others were identified after reporting symptoms or through contact and surveillance testing in housing units, Hagland wrote. People in custody who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been moved to the Kent facility, which has been used to house those exhibiting symptoms and those considered at high risk of contracting the virus. Jail Health Services plans to administer tests to all others in custody at the Seattle jail this week. People in custody ages 65 and older have received vaccinations, and Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention employees who work in secure detention recently became eligible to get their shots.
Morgantown: Three communities have been selected for a remote worker program that will target outdoors enthusiasts. Lewisburg, Morgantown and Shepherdstown will act as initial host communities for the program, West Virginia University announced Tuesday. The program will recruit employees from outside West Virginia who can work anywhere, at a time when remote work has grown increasingly common because of the pandemic. Under the competitive application process, outdoor enthusiasts or young families who can be part of a more diverse and inclusive community will be given preference, the university said. Intuit executive Brad Smith and his wife, Alys, donated $25 million to the university to support the program. Brad Smith was born in Huntington and grew up in Kenova. “Alys and I are committed to the success of this program and its ability to leverage West Virginia’s outdoor assets to attract fresh talent, cultivate dynamic communities and continue to fuel the entrepreneurial and innovative thinking that are hallmarks of the state,” Brad Smith said.
Madison: More than 27% of residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but state health officials raised concern Thursday about a new spike in coronavirus cases – including variants – leading to renewed cautions about traveling during spring break season and dropping other safeguards. Over the past seven days, the average number of new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin was 439, and the percentage of positive tests was 2.5%, up from 2% two weeks ago. There are now 69 detected cases of the more contagious B.117 variant first identified in England, up from 55 last week. Infection rates have recently jumped in some states, including neighboring Michigan and Minnesota, and public health experts warn at every opportunity that relaxing social distancing and other measures could easily lead to another surge. “In a way we’ve been lulled into a sense of security here in Wisconsin because we had it so bad, and just having it bad doesn’t seem too awful to us,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy state health secretary, during a news conference call Thursday. While weekly cases topped 6,000 at the height of the pandemic in mid-November, the current level of about 450 new cases a week is still very high, Willems Van Dijk said. “We were never at a low level of disease activity,” she said.
Cheyenne: The state House of Representatives passed a bill on a 32-28 vote Wednesday to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults. The bill would still have to pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Mark Gordon before becoming law. The Senate killed a nearly identical bill Monday when it missed a deadline for a hearing. The Senate floor leader will decide when the House version of the bill gets a hearing, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The House bill would allow the state to pursue a plan to expand the federal-state health insurance program to oming adults whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level – offering coverage for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid and don’t qualify for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Wyoming is one of a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility. Supporters argue now is the time because there is increased federal funding available through the latest COVID-19 relief package as an incentive. In Wyoming’s case, the offered 5% increase in federal funds for its traditional Medicaid program could bring in $120 million in each of the two years it’s offered, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. The federal government covers 50% of traditional Medicaid costs and 90% of the Medicaid expansion costs.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Source: Read Full Article