Crews with Dominion Construction Co. work to repair a water and sewer main near the Bryant Bridge over the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Photo: Submitted)
Tuscaloosa: Officials in west Alabama’s largest city said they expect to spend $1.5 million to $4 million repairing damage to water and sewer pipes damaged by Tropical Storm Claudette. The storm dumped between 4 and 8 inches of rain on Jan. 19, causing widespread flash flooding. City officials told The Tuscaloosa News that they’re still repairing water and sewer pipes near the Black Warrior River. A leak there had caused Mayor Walt Maddox to issue a water conservation order for users south of the river, including more than 100,000 residents, the University of Alabama and the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant. Maddox allowed the order to expire Wednesday, saying the line had been patched up and the water supply had stabilized. A contractor is rebuilding a slope that collapsed, damaging raw water intake lines that feed a treatment plant. The most expensive problem might be the failure of a water main and a sewer main near Nucor Corp.’s steel plant, which could cost $1 million. Jarrod Milligan, acting executive director for Tuscaloosa’s Infrastructure and Public Services department, said a private dam appears to have failed, washing out the line. Tuscaloosa officials said they hope to seek federal disaster aid to pay for repairs. Typically, damage would have to rise above a certain threshold before President Joe Biden’s administration would declare a disaster and free up aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Rebecca Hsieh unpacks copies of “Nang Jáadaa Sg̱áana ‘Láanaa aa Isdáayaan (The Woman Carried Away by Killer Whales)” on their arrival at the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo: Lyndsey Brollini/Sealaska Heritage Institute via AP)
Juneau: The Sealaska Heritage Institute has released the first children’s book in the Haida language Xaad Kíl through its Baby Raven Reads program. “Nang Jáadaa Sgáana ’Láanaa aa Isdáayaan,” or “The Woman Carried Away by Killer Whales,” is a story carried down through generations orally and published through the work of team of artists and linguists. “It’s the first book I ever illustrated, and now it’s the first children’s book in the Haida language,” said Haida illustrator Janine Gibbons in a phone interview. “I had to stretch my mind. How am I going to represent this? And how am I going to represent this accurately?” The book’s art, painted by Gibbons, was originally created for the Tlingit version of the story. With interest in a Haida translation of the traditional story, Skíl Jáadei Linda Schrack and Ilskyalas Delores Churchill worked together to translate it to Xaad Kíl. Schrack also narrated a spoken version of the story for SHI’s Youtube to accompany readers, so they may hear the language spoken, said Xaad Kíl and Sm’alagyax language coordinator Susie Edwardson in a phone interview. The book is available now for purchase on the SHI website.
Rabbi Rami Bigelman and Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin speak with the media at Chabad on River on June 8, a day after the synagogue in Tucson, Ariz., was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti. (Photo: Chabad Tucson)
Tucson: Police made an arrest in connection with the vandalism of a Tucson synagogue. Authorities said 30-year-old Nathan Beaver was booked into Pima County Jail on one charge of aggravated criminal damage. Beaver is accused of spraying anti-Semitic graffiti on the Chabad on River Synagogue on June 7. The graffiti included a swastika and a slur. Police said a unit that handles possible hate crimes made “exhaustive efforts” and determined there was enough evidence to arrest Beaver. It was not immediately known if Beaver had an attorney or if he was still being held. Mayor Regina Romero and Police Chief Chris Magnus said the incident had especially troubled the community. Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson said the vandalism was discovered by a congregant coming to the synagogue for prayer and a Torah class. Gov. Doug Ducey condemned the “terrible” vandalism on social media. “Anti-Semitism has NO place in Arizona and this behavior cannot be tolerated,” Ducey wrote in a tweet. “Arizona stands with those of the Jewish faith.”
Little Rock: Amid increases in new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the overwhelming majority of those hospitalized with the virus have not been vaccinated. “These vaccines are effective, but we need more Arkansans to get the shot,” Hutchinson said on Twitter. Over the previous two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Arkansas has increased by 97.1, an increase of about 51%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. They said the state ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 42% of Arkansans have received their first dose of the vaccine, and about 34% of the population has completed their vaccination. Th state health department said Friday on Twitter that it will no longer publish COVID-19 data on weekends. The department said those numbers would now be available on Mondays. Arkansas in late March opened its vaccinations to everyone at least 16 years old and lifted its statewide mask mandate, but the state has had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Pacifica: A great white shark bit a man in the leg as he swam off a northern California beach on Saturday morning, authorities said. The 35-year-old man’s injury was not life-threatening and he was able to swim to shore at Grey Whale Cove State Beach, about 18 miles south of San Francisco, where he received medical aid, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Lt. Eamonn Allen said. The man said he believed he was bitten by a 6- to 8-foot-long great white shark, Allen said. State park officials prohibited water activities off the beach, as well as off nearby Montara State Beach, for 48 hours and will post signs to advise beachgoers of the closure, said California State Parks spokesman Gabe McKenna.
Denver: A summer snowstorm hampered the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, one of the oldest auto races in the United States which was run Sunday night. Participants in the second-oldest auto race in the U.S. drive a course covering more than 12 miles with 156 turns up to the 14,115-foot summit. But it was shortened by 3 miles because of poor weather and road conditions.. Robin Shute of the United Kingdom won the race for the second time, finishing in 5 minutes, 55.246 seconds, slightly more than 36 seconds ahead of runner-up and four-time champion Romain Dumas of France. The storm in Colorado was in sharp contrast to a dangerous heat wave that was gripping much of the Pacific Northwest, with cities such as Seattle and Portland, Oregon, expected to break records for high temperatures throughout the weekend.
Hartford: Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday unveiled a new promotion – a concert ticket giveaway – to encourage residents, especially younger adults, to get a COVID-19 vaccination throughout the summer and fall. The “Rock the Shot” campaign will offer people two ways to win tickets to see popular pop, country and hip-hop artists in person, including Luke Bryan, Lil Baby and the Jonas Brothers, when they come to perform in Connecticut. First, anyone 18 and older who has received at least one vaccine shot can enter an online drawing for two premium seats to one of several concerts. Weekly drawings throughout July will begin July 8. Winners will be contacted once their vaccination status is verified. Second, the first 24 people to get vaccinated at select clinics will receive two tickets. “Getting vaccinated is incredibly important to protecting your families, friends, neighbors, and communities as a whole, and we are launching this Rock the Shot campaign to stress – especially to the youngest adults in our state – just how important and safe getting vaccinated is,” Lamont, a Democrat, said in a statement. Last week, state officials reported more than 2 million residents in Connecticut have been fully vaccinated. Lamont said he wants to “keep the momentum going.”
Two girls get their licks in during the Ice Cream Festival at Rockwood Park in Delaware. The event returned after being postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.. (Photo: Jeff Neiburg/The News Journal)
Rockwood Park: After being postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Rockwood Park Ice Cream festival returned Saturday with entertainment, activities for families and tastings. Activities were scaled down from the usual activities. There also were opportunities available for festival-goers to get vaccinated. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer said the event was nearly canceled once again. “We’re only here because so many Delawareans raised their hands to get vaccinated,” he said. “We know it’s not that way everywhere in our country and everywhere in our world, but without that, we were, as I said, ready to cancel this.” This year’s modified version featured live music, vendors from First State Flea and various ice cream and food trucks – including fan favorites such as the University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery and Hockessin-area’s Woodside Creamery.
District of Columbia
Washington: There’s still no word from D.C.’s Department of Transportation on when a pedestrian bridge that collapsed Wednesday will be reconstructed and if they will offer transportation help to neighbors left without easy access to the other side of Ward 7, WUSA-TV reported. The bridge near the corner of Lane Place NE and Kenilworth Ave NE collapsed after a truck rammed into it. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 7B06 Kelvin Brown said the bridge collapse is like a clamped artery for some neighbors. “This pedestrian bridge is the lifeblood through which they travel to doctor’s appointments, travel to get groceries at the only grocery store in the area – Safeway,” he said. As an immediate solution, a DDOT spokesperson suggested using one of the other pedestrian bridges along the avenue to get across I-295, such as the one at Douglas Street NE. Brown said there are not enough sidewalks to make that a safe alternative – especially for elderly neighbors. “I’m literally about to jump out my chair and probably out the window,” he said. “Making sure our neighbors have access to safe, efficient transportation is just a nonstarter.”
Luggage sits in a cart as it is loaded into the Celebrity Edge cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before it departed Saturday, the first major cruise ship to restart operations from a US port since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down cruise travel. (Photo: Maria Alejandra Cardona/AFP via Getty Images)
Fort Lauderdale: The first cruise ship to leave a U.S. port since the coronavirus pandemic brought the industry to a 15-month standstill sailed away Saturday with nearly all passengers on board vaccinated. The Celebrity Edge departed Fort Lauderdale at 6 p.m. with the number of passengers limited to about 40% capacity, and with nearly all 1,100 passengers vaccinated against COVID-19. Celebrity Cruises, one of Royal Caribbean Cruise’s brands, said 99% of the passengers are vaccinated, well above the 95% requirement imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A giant greeting was projected on a wall of one of the port buildings: “Someday is here. Welcome back.” Passengers arrived with matching T-shirts that read phrases such as “straight outta vaccination” and “vaccinated and ready to cruise.” To comply with the CDC’s requirement and a new Florida law banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, Celebrity Cruises asked guests if they would like to share their vaccination status. Those who did not show or say they are vaccinated face additional restrictions. Saturday’s sailing kicks off the cruise lines’ return to business with Carnival vessels already scheduled to depart from other ports next month.
Columbus: Fort Benning’s commanding general is urging more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it’s crucial to protecting the soldiers on the sprawling army post. The Ledger-Enquirer reported that Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe told the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce on Friday that vaccine numbers could determine how much freedom soldiers have to visit businesses off the base. “We encourage everyone who is going to interact with a soldier to be vaccinated,” Donahoe said, adding that trainees living in large open barracks are in a “hot house for any kind of contagious disease.” Donahoe took command at Benning a year ago. He tightened restrictions for soldiers and civilian workers. Earlier this month, he loosened rules in whch fully vaccinated people can go maskless with the exception of medical facilities and certain gyms. Graduation ceremonies are open, but visitors must show proof they’re fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 72 hours. Donahoe said Columbus’ vaccination rates are too low. Only 29% of the city-county’s residents are fully vaccinated, and that number is 33% statewide. Chattahoochee County, where most Fort Benning residents and trainees live, continues to report more cases than Columbus because of testing of newly arrived soldiers. Donahoe said 2% to 4% of newly arrived soldiers continue to test positive for the virus, down from close to 20% during the worst days of the pandemic.
Honolulu: Health officials said the more transmissible and potentially more harmful delta variant of COVID-19 has been detected in all four of the state’s major counties. The state Department of Health has found 13 cases of the delta variant, including seven or eight that related to people who have traveled from out of state. There is also evidence of community spread of the variant. The cases were from specimens collected between May 31 and June 10. Preliminary research showed the delta variant results in a higher rate of severe illness than other strains of the disease, the department said. Available vaccines against COVID-19 have been shown to be effective at helping prevent people from spreading the variant and getting severely ill as a result of it. Kauai District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman urged people to get vaccinated. “It’s really important not only that people who haven’t been vaccinated be vaccinated, but that they don’t delay being vaccinated because every additional week is a chance for this virus to take hold even more strongly in our community and spread even more quickly,” Berreman said during a news conference. “So time is really of the essence.”
Lewiston: Authorities have started releasing cold water from a northern Idaho dam to keep Snake River water temperatures cool to help migrating salmon and steelhead. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started increasing releases of the 43-degree Fahrenheit water at Dworshak Dam on Tuesday ahead of an expected heat wave with temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees. The agency typically waits until the July Fourth holiday to start the releases. The Lewiston Tribune reported the agency will up the flows to 12,400 cubic feet per second. The water travels down the Clearwater River and joins the Snake River at Lewiston. The goal is to keep the temperature of the Snake River from exceeding 68 degrees at Lower Granite Dam, the uppermost of four dams on the lower Snake River. Temperatures above 70 degrees can be harmful to salmon. In 2015, about 90% of the 510,000 sockeye salmon that entered the Columbia River died when an unusual combination of low water and an extended heat wave pushed water temperatures past 70 degrees. Those conditions had not occurred in the basin since at least the 1950s and are lethal for cold-water sockeye. That same year an estimated 4,000 Snake River sockeye entered the Columbia River in what managers expected would be one of the best returns to high-mountain lakes in central Idaho. But only about 1 percent survived the 900-mile (1,450-kilometer) journey to Idaho. Snake River sockeye are listed as endangered.
Chicago: Although most of Chicago’s cultural institutions have reopened their doors, the Adler Planetarium won’t do so fully until next year. The planetarium along Lake Michigan closed in March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Planetarium officials said in a letter posted on the website earlier this month that they will start offering some events in July including weekend screenings of sky shows, but because of financial difficulties, the full reopening will be in March 2022. For instance, employees let go earlier in the pandemic have not been rehired. “Opening the museum at full capacity now would further strain our limited resources and reduced staff,” the letter read. “We have developed a timeline that will allow us to fully reopen from a position of strength.” Upgrades and renovations at the planetarium include a new telescope installed a month before the closure that has not officially opened to the public.
Indianapolis: A Marion County judge ordered that Indiana must continue the federal government’s unemployment benefits, putting a temporary stop to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s move to drop the state from the program. Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley granted the preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed June 14 by two legal organizations, which argued that Indiana law requires the state to procure federal insurance benefits to residents. The lawsuit emphasized that the Republican governor’s actions to withdraw Indiana from the expanded unemployment benefits before the Sept. 6 expiration of those benefits will hurt thousands. Indiana’s decision to leave the federal program early violates state law, Hanley wrote in his court order, adding that the unemployment benefits are “instrumental in allowing Hoosiers to regain financial stability at an individual level while the state continues to face challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic during its return to normalcy.” The decision requires the state to continue the extra $300 weekly payments to unemployed workers and remain in other programs that expanded unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Holcomb said jobs are available across the state and pointed to Indiana’s 3.9% unemployment rate for April, which was down from the pandemic peak of 16.9% a year earlier. Ending the benefits early will also help Indiana businesses find and hire qualified employees for thousands of open positions, he said.
Iowa City: The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that employers cannot subject all warehouse employees to random drug testing by designating them as having “safety sensitive” jobs. In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that companies must consider the specific duties of each worker when designing safety-based drug testing programs and not just where they work. The majority rejected an argument from the state’s largest business association that courts should not second-guess determinations made by employers on which jobs are more dangerous than others. The decision interpreted a 1998 state law that regulates how employers can conduct unannounced testing for drugs and alcohol in workplaces. One option under the law that is popular with employers is to test only those workers who are in “safety sensitive” jobs in which an accident could cause death, serious injury or damage. The case before the court involved a determination by the gas station chain Casey’s General Stores that all workers at its Ankeny distribution warehouse were “safety sensitive” employees. The company implemented random drug testing for them in 2016, citing concerns about widespread drug use. Three employees who tested positive for either marijuana or amphetamines were fired, and a fourth who failed to provide an adequate urine sample was let go. All four sued the company, raising a variety of concerns about how the drug testing program was conducted.
Edgerton: Residents living on the outskirts of a sprawling industrial park southwest of Kansas City want to create their own town to protect their rural lifestyle from encroaching development. Opposition to the massive Logistics Park Kansas City intermodal facility has been brewing for months, but it boiled over after the Edgerton City Council earlier this year agreed to rezone 700 rural acres to make way for more industrial properties south of Interstate 35, the Kansas City Star reported. That’s bringing development closer to the rural homes residents said they bought to be surrounded by fields and pastures – not warehouses and semitrailers. They said they hope that incorporating their own town of will give them more say over their fates. Jennifer Williams filed the petition on behalf of roughly 300 Miami County residents to create the new city of Golden. If approved, Golden would sit just south of the Johnson County border with more than 770 residents. Incorporation of the new city requires a unanimous vote of the Miami County Board of Commissioners. About 200 people gathered Wednesday for a four-hour hearing. Miami County Commissioner Rob Roberts could not offer a definitive timeline for further public discussions or a decision.
Frankfort: Almost all coronavirus cases reported in Kentucky during the past four weeks have been in unvaccinated residents, the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, said. Roughly 99% of those hospitalized were also unvaccinated. “The bottom line is, these vaccines work, they work against every known variant of concern and interest out there right now,” he said. “If you get vaccinated, you’ve essentially got a 90%-plus reduction in your risk for death and serious disease and going into the hospital.” Stack pointed toward Kentucky’s low test positivity rate of 1.85% as a sign that vaccinations continue to ward off an uptick in new infections. And though Kentucky has reported a seven-week decline of cases, he added, unvaccinated residents are vulnerable to the fast-spreading delta variant. The delta variant now accounts for more than 20% of new coronavirus infections in the U.S., doubling in just two weeks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana’s health insurer for state workers, teachers and retirees will soon cover weight loss surgery for people who are obese, under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, had previously tried to get the Office of Group Benefits to cover gastric bypass surgery and other types of weight loss surgeries, to lessen the health conditions associated with obesity. But lawmakers had raised concern about the costs. Barrow made some adjustments to the legislation and won unanimous support from the House and Senate in the recently ended legislative session. The governor agreed to the idea and signed the bill, which will take effect Aug. 1. To be eligible for the health procedure, members of the Office of Group Benefits insurance system must have a body mass index of at least 40 – or 35 or more if they have two qualifying health conditions. They will have to pay 20% of the costs for preoperative services and a $2,500 co-pay and other charges for the surgery. Although thousands of workers or retirees are expected to be eligible, the law caps the number of weight loss surgeries to no more than 300 a year. The health insurer won’t cover skin removal surgery associated with the medical procedure.
Augusta: The Maine Bicentennial Commission wants to hear from residents about what should go in the state’s official Bicentennial Time Capsule. The commission wants to preserve items from the era for future Mainers to rediscover upon the state’s 300th anniversary, a hundred years from now, in 2120. The deadline is Aug. 13. “We look forward to receiving creative and thoughtful suggestions for the ‘People’s Choice’ time capsule items,” said state Sen. Bill Diamond, chairman of the Maine Bicentennial Commission. The commission will review the submissions and present suggestions for a vote in the fall. The Bicentennial Time Capsule will be dedicated and sealed in a December ceremony in Augusta.
Woodlawn: A small earthquake shook the Baltimore area on Friday afternoon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 2.6, happened about 3:40 p.m., according to Paul Caruso, a geophysicist at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center. It was centered in Woodlawn, just west of Baltimore, and was about 1.5 miles deep. Fire department officials in the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County said they had no reports of injuries or damage from the quake more than an hour after it struck.
Boston: The first of five drawings for the Massachusetts coronavirus vaccine lottery is scheduled for July 26, state officials said. Additional drawings for either a $1 million prize or a $300,000 college scholarship will be held on the four Mondays following that date through the end of August, according to a statement from the office of Gov. Charlie Baker. The winners will be announced three days after each drawing. Registration for the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway will begin Thursday. Residents must be fully vaccinated before registering, but if they are not vaccinated by the registration date for a certain drawing, they can still complete vaccination and register for subsequent drawings. Residents will only have to enter once to qualify for all drawings after their registration date. Residents age 18 and older are eligible for the $1 million prizes, and residents ages 12 to 17 are eligible for the scholarships, which are in the form of grants via a 529 College Savings Plan managed by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority. The state is using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay the winners.
“I know we all share a commitment to sound fiscal management, embodied in a good faith agreement to run any legislation with a fiscal impact through the budget process,” says Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in a letter to lawmakers explaining her vetoes of two bills that would let businesses seek refunds for taxes paid on personal protective equipment, disinfectants and plexiglass barriers during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Rodney Coleman-Robinson/Detroit Free Press)
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed two bills that would let businesses seek refunds for taxes paid on personal protective equipment, disinfectants and plexiglass barriers during the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer said she instead favors creating a direct grant program with federal money. She said tax credits would be ineligible for reimbursement from Washington, a blow to the state budget. The bills passed the Legislature with support from both parties. “I know we all share a commitment to sound fiscal management, embodied in a good faith agreement to run any legislation with a fiscal impact through the budget process,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a letter to lawmakers. The Detroit Regional Chamber, an influential business group, expressed disappointment. The bills “responded to the needs of businesses that were doing everything that Gov. Whitmer asked of them to keep employees and patrons safe,” said Brad Williams, the group’s lobbyist. “In a political era when there is very little cooperation across party lines, there was overwhelming bipartisan support for this legislation. … Such bipartisanship deserves to be celebrated rather than vetoed.”
St. Paul: Gov. Tim Walz said he will relinquish the special powers that he has used to manage the COVID-19 pandemic by Aug. 1, ending a peacetime state of emergency that has been in effect since March 2020. “That’s when the toolbox will close, everything will be done, it’ll be done in an orderly fashion,” Walz said. “At this point in time, it’s turning off the lights and sweeping the floor.” About three dozen states still have a state of emergency, Walz said, calling his plan “the responsible way to close this up.” But that wasn’t assurance enough for Republicans who control the state Senate and complain that the Democratic governor has repeatedly cut them out of major pandemic decisions. They approved a budget bill Friday that would end the state of emergency on July 1. The Democratic majority in the House has repeatedly blocked such moves. “He’s proposing Aug. 1, we’re saying, look, 15 states have already done it, we don’t need to wait any longer. This is time to close the chapter and move toward the future,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of East Gull Lake said. Walz has already allowed many of his most contentious pandemic executive orders to expire, such as the mask mandate and restrictions on businesses. But Minnesota’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Joe Kelly, said the governor needs to hold on to his remaining emergency powers through next month.
Miss Golden Triangle Holly Brand reacts after being named Miss Mississippi 2021 on Saturday night in Vicksburg. Brand will compete in the Miss America competition in December. (Photo: Chris Tddd/Special to the Clarion Ledger)
Vicksburg:Miss Golden Triangle Holly Brand was crowned Miss Mississippi during the final stage of the competition Saturday night. Brand, a native of Meridian, will compete in the Miss America Pageant in December at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. The televised competition concluded at the Vicksburg Convention Center after three nights of preliminary competitions including talent, evening wear and social impact interview categories. Brand studied communication at the University of Alabama. She was named Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen in 2017. Her social impact initiative is promoting volunteerism in the state. “Mississippi, my state and my home, ranks 50th in the nation for volunteerism,” Brand said during an onstage interview with the top five finalists. “Only 23% of Mississippians volunteer annually, but I know we can do better.” Brand said she would work to increase the volunteer percentage by at least 5% and implement a statewide day of service. She encouraged her fellow Mississippians to make a difference by “seeing a need and taking the lead.” First runner-up was Miss University of Southern Mississippi Vivian O’Neal; second runner-up was Miss Jones County Caidyn Crowder; third runner-up was Miss Pine Belt Macy Mitchell; and fourth runner-up was Miss Pearl of the South Rachel Shumaker.
Springfield: The spike in COVID-19 cases is leading to a surge of critical illnesses in southwestern Missouri. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department on Friday reported the largest number of critical care and intensive care unit patients since the pandemic began, KYKY-TV reported. Health officials in Missouri’s third-largest city said 44% of the 167 COVID-19 patients there are considered critical care or are being treated in the ICU. The delta variant of the virus is believed responsible for much of the spread in Missouri, especially in the southwestern and northern parts of the state. Officials also cited low vaccination rates, especially in rural areas. Data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shows that 313 of the 833 people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 are in southwestern Missouri.
Helena: More than $30 million of federal funding could be directed toward expanding child care capacity in Montana under recommendations approved by a state health advisory commission. The commission approved up to $31 million for the state health department to administer grants to expand child care in the state, the Montana State News Bureau reported Thursday. The grants will be used to increase worker pay and benefits and help with the cost of rent for facilities, among other uses. The commission also approved $6.8 million in administrative spending to help people apply for grants and learn how to better run their businesses.The recommendations next go to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte for final approval. A lack of access to child care in Montana was hurting parents in the workforce before the pandemic, according to a 2019 report by the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. The report found licensed child care providers in the state met less than half the estimated demand. The health department estimated that 171 child care programs closed in Montana at the height of the pandemic. In a survey conducted by the department, about 42% of parents said they could not afford child care services. Child care providers attributed demand challenges to high staff turnover because of low compensation.
Lincoln: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will offer prizes to students, faculty and staff who voluntarily sign on to a registry to show they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The university said in a letter to students and staff on Wednesday that students who upload vaccination information to registry could receive five prizes worth one year of undergraduate tuition and fees, worth $9,872. Staff and faculty could be awarded a trip for two to Ireland to watch the Huskers play football in August 2022. The information must be registered by Aug. 15, The Omaha World-Herald reported. The university also said it will again require students, faculty and staff to undergo weekly saliva-based testing for the coronavirus. The registry and required testing is designed to help the university “understand the breadth of vaccination rates in our community and more accurately prepare for fall,” the university said. People who upload a record of their COVID vaccination will be exempt from mandatory COVID testing.
Las Vegas: More than 3.5 million passengers came through McCarran International Airport in May, an indication that Las Vegas is inching toward a post-pandemic comeback. Airport officials on Friday released data from last month showing a significant bounce in foot traffic at Las Vegas’ main airport. The total number of travelers was 600,000 more than in April, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation. The 3.5 million travelers in May, however, is a roughly 23% decrease from the more than 4.5 million seen in May 2019. For the year-to-date, McCarran has received more than 12 million passengers. That is a 41% drop from 2019, which saw 20.7 million.
Concord: A mosquito batch in Bow has tested positive for the Jamestown Canyon virus, the first time it has been detected in mosquitoes in the state, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said. Humans have been previously diagnosed with the virus, which is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Testing mosquitoes has not been part of the routine surveillance, but the state started a pilot project this summer to estimate its prevalence in disease-carrying species in central New Hampshire. The department hasn’t identified the disease in a human this year. Since the first report of the disease in New Hampshire in 2013, the state has identified 14 human cases of JCV. Nationally, there are about 15 human cases of the virus diagnosed each year. Early symptoms of a mosquito-borne disease can include flu-like illness, such as fever, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. Some people might progress to more serious central nervous system diseases, including meningitis or encephalitis
People relax at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey, which has seen residents flocking to state parks, with more than 100,000 signing up for annual park passes as part of New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine incentive. (Photo: Mike Catalini/AP)
Berkeley Township: As New Jersey residents prepare to head outdoors for the Fourth of July, the state’s parks are seeing a sharp rise in popularity, with more than 100,000 people signing up for annual park passes as part of New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine incentive. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced in May that any state resident who has at least one shot by July 4 can get a free state parks pass, which would cost $50 for residents this year. The 100,000 sign-ups is up from nearly 50,000 earlier this month, weeks after the program was announced, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees New Jersey’s parks. It dwarfs the roughly 5,000 annual passes typically purchased in a year. Although it’s not known how many people were motivated to become vaccinated by the free parks pass, the state eclipsed its goal of 4.7 million vaccinations last week amid the allurement. On a recent weekday, a parking lot at Island Beach State Park, a 10-mile stretch of mostly undeveloped shoreline and one of the state’s most popular beaches, was packed but not filled to capacity. The Department of Environmental Protection urged park-goers to arrive early to be sure of a spot in parks such as Island Beach that frequently reach capacity – as passes don’t guarantee entry.
Albuquerque: Authorities at Petroglyph National Monument said visitors committed extensive vandalism by collecting rocks and stacking them in the form of cairns, sometimes used as a hiking trail marker. The federally protected park was created to preserve rock designs scratched by Ingenious people starting at least 700 years ago, and Spanish settlers as far back as 400 years ago. Venturing off trails and rearranging rocks in modern times is a violation of federal regulations. “Moving, stacking, or making shapes out of rocks is a form of vandalism and will impact every visitor who comes after,” said Park Superintendent Nancy Hendricks, asking visitors to “respect these sacred landscapes.” National Park Service workers are dismantling the stacks of rocks, but can’t be sure they will return the rocks where they came from along the largely preserved desert landscape. The agency is asking the public to share information about the person or persons who may have moved the rocks. The vandalism was first reported to the agency on June 17, according to a statement. Last year, a visitor was shocked with a Taser by a park ranger after he left a trail at the park, which lies northwest of Albuquerque. In March, the National Parks Service said it concluded the officer’s actions were appropriate. The male visitor was cited by the agency for being in a closed area off the trail, providing false information and failing to comply with a lawful order. A female visitor who was with him was cited for providing false information and being in a closed area off the trail.
New York City: In-person visits at city jails are resuming after being suspended at the start of the coronavirus crisis. The first visitors were expected last Friday at Rikers Island and other city lockups. Last year, the jails became hot spots for the spread of the virus. That prompted efforts to decrease an inmate population numbering in the thousands and suspend the in-person visits. Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time that the city would try to compensate by making more phones and stamps available for inmates to stay in touch with their families during the pause. The city also launched a “televisit initiative” for people in jail to video conference with people on the outside. During the initial phase of the return to in-person visits, family members will be allowed to see inmates on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Visitors will have to practice social distancing, wear masks, undergo temperature checks and complete a self-screen for COVID-19.
Raleigh: Less than half of North Carolinians eligible for a COVID-19 shot are fully vaccinated, even though there are more than 2.1 million doses waiting on shelves for residents to take. In the two weeks since the state announced four $1 million prizes would be given out to vaccinated adults, less than 118,000 residents, about 1% of the state population, came in for a first dose. North Carolina ranks 12th-worst in the nation in vaccines administered per capita, and second-worst among states with a Democratic governor, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those lagging numbers were the context under which President Joe Biden visited Raleigh on Thursday to urge North Carolinians to come in for a COVID-19 vaccine. “Please, please get vaccinated,” he said, noting he was “preaching to the choir” at the Green Road Community Center. “Folks, there is no reason to leave yourself vulnerable to the deadly virus for one single day more.” Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, are sounding the alarm that a more dangerous delta variant is spreading and communities with high unvaccinated populations are most vulnerable, even as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to drop statewide.
Bismarck: North Dakota health officials continue to document few new cases of COVID-19, but the state’s vaccination rate remains low as a new coronavirus variant that’s gaining a foothold across the country emerges in the state. Only 14 new virus cases were confirmed Saturday and just over 100 have been confirmed all week. As a comparison, the North Dakota Department of Health reported 2,278 newly confirmed cases on Nov. 14 alone – the high point for the state. At that time, daily tests routinely totaled more than 10,000. Weekday testing has rarely surpassed 3,000 in recent weeks, the Bismarck Tribune reported. North Dakota has a daily test positivity rate of 1.89% and a 14-day rolling average of 1.57%. Since the onset of the pandemic in North Dakota in March 2020, there have been 110,657 confirmed virus cases, with 108,962 recoveries and 1,528 deaths. One new death was confirmed Saturday.
Oxford: A 52-year-old professor at Miami University died after he fell off the peak of a mountain in a national park. David Shrider fell 150 feet on Friday down the slope of Donoho Peak in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve near Kennecott, Alaska, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve said in a news release Saturday. Just before the fall, a family member in the hiking group reported that he asked for help and then rolled approximately 150 feet down a slope. When a member of the group found him, he was dead. His son, who was a member of the party, called 911,” the park said. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Search and Rescue team members and an Alaska State Trooper used a helicopter to get the hiker’s body Saturday afternoon, the park said. Shrider was the director of global business programs at Miami University, according to a Facebook post about his death from the university’s Farmer School of Business. He graduated from Miami University in 1992 and became a professor there in 2004, the school said.
Researchers work in a mass grave they excavated at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Okla. A bullet was found in a set of human remains that were exhumed during a search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. (Photo: Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
Tulsa: A bullet has been found in a set of human remains that were exhumed during a search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, a search team member said. Nine sets of remains have been examined and the bullet was found in the shoulder of a man, forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield said. Other parts of the man’s remains showed similar signs of trauma, including to the head. “He has multiple projectile wounds,” she said, referring to gunshot wounds. Stubblefield said she could not identify the type of bullet, which is the only one found thus far among examined remains. Of the nine sets, four are the remains of adults and five are those of juveniles. The remains have not been confirmed as belonging to victims of the massacre and forensic lab work by Stubblefield is expected to take three to four weeks. Searchers have found 35 coffins containing remains in Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery and have sent 20 of the coffins for forensic examination, according to state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck. One exhumed coffin, believed to be for an infant, contained no identifiable human remains, according to Stubblefield.
Lincoln City: The coastal region might seem like heaven with temperatures 30 degrees cooler than in the boiling Willamette Valley, but that just meant overwhelming crowds and gridlocked roads at recreation sites anywhere near the beach. “Anytime it’s over 100 degrees in the valley, we see big crowds coming over to the Coast,” said Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Chris Havel. “But with this level of historic heat on a weekend, we expect the coast to be completely nuts.” The temperature in Salem was projected to hit 108 on Sunday – or possibly even higher. Meanwhile, just an hour’s drive west, Lincoln City’s high temperature was expected to reach 78 on Sunday – with Newport even cooler at 71. The power of the Pacific Ocean’s marine layer rarely allows temperatures over 90 degrees in coastal towns, said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burling. In fact, since records started being kept in 1890, Astoria has only recorded 10 days in June – and 55 days total – where the temperature reached 90 degrees or higher.
Harrisburg: A state budget that puts billions in federal coronavirus money into savings, boosts spending on education and provides aid to nursing homes easily passed the Legislature on Friday. Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said he plans to sign it this week. Supporters described it as a sensible approach that targets spending increases while setting aside a large contingency reserve for when federal stimulus ends in the coming years, but Democratic opponents decried what they saw as a missed opportunity to make significant economic and educational progress. “It is not the kind of practice we should do, to keep squirrelling away money while we go begging to get things done,” said Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, who nonetheless supported the $39.8 billion general fund budget plan. The House vote was 140-61, with a handful of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans joining dozens of the more liberal Democrats in voting against it. The Senate vote was 43-7. It puts into savings about $5 billion in federal coronavirus relief money and boosts K-12 education state support by $300 million. It pumps $279 million into transportation infrastructure and directs $280 million to nursing homes and similar facilities, both drawing from the federal pandemic money.
Providence: Lawmakers have passed legislation that requires all public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost to students. The legislation said that starting in the 2022-2023 academic year, schools teaching grades 5 through 12 shall make feminine hygiene products available in all gender-neutral and female bathrooms. “We all know how necessary feminine hygiene products are, but what many people do not realize, and I see this as a long-time educator, is that a lack of access to these products can cause students to miss crucial school days,” bill sponsor Sen. Valarie Lawson, a Democrat from East Providence, said in a statement. “These products are a daily necessity to so many students and just as schools provide toilet paper for the bathrooms, these products should also be readily accessible for our students in need.” State Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, a Democrat from South Kingstown, was the House sponsor of the bill. “If soap and paper towels are available in bathrooms, so should feminine hygiene products, it’s as simple as that,” she said.
Columbia: A significant reduction in the number of southern flounder has led lawmakers to reduce the number of the fish that can be caught per day. The new rules go into effect Thursday and limit one person to five flounder per day or a boat to 10 per day, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The previous limits were twice as many flounder. The new rules also increase the minimum size to keep a flounder to 16 inches, up an inch from the previous rule. The new limits were needed after studies showed the number of southern flounder in the ocean off the southeast coast were at historically low levels and the size of the average fish also declined, wildlife officials said. The same law that changes flounder regulations is also increasing saltwater fishing license fees for the first time in two decades. South Carolina residents will pay $15 a year, up from $10, and some of the extra money will go to a new flounder stocking program, the DNR said in a statement.
Flandreau: The state’s first medical marijuana dispensary is set to open in Flandreau. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe said it will open its first retail location and begin selling cannabis Thursday, the day medical marijuana becomes legal in South Dakota. The tribe said it’s already accepting applications for medical marijuana ID cards, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. The tribe’s program is independent of South Dakota’s new law and the system that the South Dakota Department of Health has until October to launch. The state is also awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether recreational marijuana will become legal under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November. The Native Nations Cannabis Dispensary is about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls. To qualify through the tribe, an applicant must first be certified by a medical professional to have “a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition.” Patients who might benefit from cannabis – such as those with AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cancer, migraines and glaucoma – are eligible with a recommendation from anyone licensed to prescribe drugs. Applications are on the tribe’s website. The fee is $50.
Memphis: The University of Tennessee system’s board has voted in favor of buying Martin Methodist College to set up a fifth campus, naming it UT Southern. According to a university news release, the vote at a meeting in Memphis means UT Southern in Pulaski will be the first new University of Tennessee campus in more than a half-century. The campus is about 75 miles southwest of Nashville, closer to the Alabama border. The board also voted to make Martin Methodist President Mark La Branche the first chancellor of the new campus. The changeover is effective July 1. The state budget that kicks in July 1 includes $6.1 million for the acquisition, which has been in the works for months. The university system will now have campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, Memphis and Pulaski.
Austin: State Democratic lawmakers who blocked one of America’s most restrictive voting measures with a dramatic walkout sued Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday after he vetoed funds that cover thousands of Capitol paychecks that he said shouldn’t be given “to those who quit their job early.” The lawsuit reflects the tensions that remain in Texas more than a month after Democrats’ last-ditch revolt over the Memorial Day weekend, and more fights are ahead. Abbott has ordered lawmakers back on the job for a special session starting July 8, when Republicans are expected to embark on a second try at passing new voting laws. Going straight to the Texas Supreme Court, Democrats called the veto an unconstitutional power grab. Abbott has indicated he will give lawmakers the chance to reinstate the money once they return for the special session. The veto of more than $400 million in funds didn’t just punish Democrats: paychecks for the offices of Republican legislators are also impacted, as well as nonpartisan support staff across the Capitol. Democratic state Rep. Chris Turner put the number of affected jobs in the legislative branch at more than 2,000. Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze responded to the lawsuit with a statement defending the governor’s veto power and called Democrats’ claims misleading. “This is not the first time, and undoubtedly will not be the last time, that a governor vetoes funding for government positions and salaries,” she said.
Salt Lake City: The National Park Conservation Association, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Salt Lake City, released a data analysis Thursday showing there are more than 160 abandoned oil wells near Utah national parks. The NPCA, in conjunction with nonprofit FracTracker Alliance, compiled a dataset of untraceable abandoned wells that require rehabilitation or clean-up and found there were 163 sites within 30 miles of Utah national parks. By their definition, orphaned wells are “disused and abandoned facilities where the original owner is insolvent or there is no owner of record,” according to an NPCA release. These abandoned wells, if not properly taken care of, can leak methane into the air and groundwater and cause dangerous health risks, the release said. Of the wells, 142 are near the Navajo Nation in southeast Utah, the data showed. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, containing Lake Powell, has 13 wells.
Montpelier: The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual turkey brood survey is expanding this year. In years past, the survey took place in August. Starting Thursday, people who see a flock of turkeys in Vermont are asked to go to the turkey brood survey on the department website and report where and when the turkeys were seen, along with the number of adult and young turkeys, or poults. The survey will run through the end of August. “Information gathered from this survey helps us monitor long-term trends in the productivity of Vermont’s wild turkey population,” said Vermont wild turkey biologist Chris Bernier. “It also helps us assess the impacts of spring weather on the survival of poults and adult turkeys which is an important consideration in the management of turkeys.” Vermont is changing from an August-only survey to a July and August survey to bring the survey into compliance with the way they are done regionally. “One of the biggest benefits of this survey is being able to compare productivity trends across turkey range and the only way we can do this effectively is if all the Northeast states collect these data in the same way,” Bernier said.
Hampton: The Air Force is permanently moving its its F-22 fighter jet training operation from Florida to Virginia, officials said. The F-22 training squadron will be based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton. The squadron originally was located at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida, before Hurricane Michael heavily damaged the base in October 2018. It has been temporarily located at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County, Florida. The Daily Press reported that the unit has 31 F-22 fighters and 16 T-38 training aircraft. Bruce Sturk, Hampton’s director of federal facilities support, estimated the squadron’s move will bring a total of 2,100 to 2,200 people to the region. The Air Force has said the arrival of the training unit would more than double the annual number of F-22 flights from Langley’s airfield, from more than 22,000 to nearly 50,000.
Longview: After a major electrical failure at the Longview Westlake Chemical company plant earlier this month caused chlorine shortages across the West Coast, a local business stepped in to help replace the part and get the plant back online. NORPAC gave the plant a spare transformer and production restarted last Wednesday, The Daily News reported. Earlier this month, a piece of equipment experienced a failure with an electrical transformer and had to be sent off-site to be repaired. Plant officials originally estimated the plant would be offline until the end of June at a minimum. “Westlake Chemical’s Longview, Washington, plant successfully installed a replacement electrical transformer and completed its testing earlier this week, which permitted the restart of the facility,” a statement from Westlake said. The plant manufactures chlorine and caustic soda. The Longview facility was purchased by Westlake Chemical in 2016 with its acquisition of Axiall Corp. Chlorination is crucial in the water treatment process that disinfects and kills bacteria, viruses and other microbes, and multiple cities asked residents last week to conserve water until the shortage was resolved. Westlake said in a statement it will be letting customers know when they will get chlorine deliveries.
Activists, forming the phrase “HIV SOS,” are calling on the city of Charleston, W.Va., to declare a public health emergency for new HIV cases and prescription drug overdoses. (Photo: John Raby/AP)
Charleston: Dozens of volunteers formed the letters “HIV SOS” at a health event Saturday as activists seek a public health emergency declaration in a city with one of the nation’s highest spikes of such cases. Kanawha County, which includes Charleston and has 178,000 residents, had two intravenous drug-related HIV cases in 2018. The number grew to 15 in 2019 and 39 last year, according to state data. There have been 14 such cases so far in 2021. After volunteers wearing red T-shirts formed the plea for help along the Kanawha River near downtown Charleston, Joe Solomon, co-founder of the nonprofit group Solutions Oriented Addiction Response, called on the City Council and Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin to act on the HIV crisis and overdoses from prescription pain pills. “In Charleston and Kanawha County, there’s a family butchered by the overdose crisis every other day,” Solomon said. “All we’re asking is for (them) to take one day to declare a public health emergency. We need to treat this like the emergency that it is.” Earlier this year, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the chief of HIV prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called Kanawha County’s outbreak “the most concerning in the United States.” He warned it could take years to address the surge and that the case count possibly “represents the tip of the iceberg.” Earlier this week the CDC presented preliminary findings of an investigation that showed emergency departments and inpatient medical personnel in Kanawha County rarely conducted HIV testing on intravenous drug users.
Weyauwega: The Weyauwega Star Dairy unofficially broke the record it held for the world’s longest piece of string cheese at 3,832 feet, WLUK-TV reported. Gerard Knaus’ 85-year-old father, Jim, set the record in 1995. The Knauses beat their 1995 record in 2006 with a piece about 2,000 feet long. “We’re just adding onto his record,” Gerard Knaus told the station. “That’s all we’re doing.” To do that, the cheesemakers needed a good slice of Weyauwega’s more than 1,700 residents. Standing 7 feet apart, on a shutdown Main Street, residents of the northeastern Wisconsin town grabbed a piece of the potential record as it was uncoiled from a trailer pulled by a tractor Thursday. “I’ve never seen this before and I want my piece of string cheese,” said Allen Robbert, who lives about 10 miles away. The cheese was strung from person-to-person for about three blocks and then doubled back the way it came. After about 90 minutes, the record was broken with a nearly three-quarter-mile-long piece of string cheese. The dairy said the record probably equaled about 30,000 individual sticks. Participants got to keep the long pieces. Gerard Knaus said Guinness World Records recognized the 2006 record and he hopes it will this time, too.
Casper: A utility proposes to build six wind farms that could supply enough electricity for more than 1 million homes by 2024. Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp, whose subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power serves Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, announced the plan. The wind farms would add more than 1,600 megawatts of power capacity in Wyoming. Combined with PacifiCorp’s plans for solar, battery power and transmission proposals, the utility would add 3,200 megawatts of capacity in four states. PacifiCorp hasn’t announced where specifically the projects would be built. The proposals would concentrate wind development in Wyoming and Idaho, and solar development, including battery storage, in Utah and Oregon, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. It would be the utility’s first large-scale battery installation. PacifiCorp’s latest round of renewable development began in 2019, when the company’s biannual economic analysis identified renewables as a highly cost-effective electricity source.
Source: Read Full Article