Turtle power, lotto mania, slaughterhouse strike: News from around our 50 states

Alabama

Montgomery: Groups representing landlords on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to end the federal moratorium on evicting tenants who aren’t paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic. The Alabama Association of Realtors is leading the petition that argues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority in issuing the order regarding evictions and that any health concerns have since dissipated since people are now gathering in public without masks. The eviction ban, initially put in place last year, provides protection for renters out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during the pandemic would further spread the highly contagious virus. The order is now set to expire June 30. The emergency petition asks for a lower court decision blocking the order to go into effect immediately. “Landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium, and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year,” the emergency petition says. There have been multiple lawsuits over the eviction ban.

Alaska

Juneau: Supporters of efforts to limit cruise ship traffic in the city said they failed to gather enough signatures to qualify their proposals for a vote. A group of Juneau-area residents behind the effort needed to collect signatures from nearly 3,000 registered Juneau voters for each of the three proposed measures to qualify the questions for an Oct. 5 municipal election. Karla Hart, a leader of the group, said the group failed to do so. She declined to say how many signatures were collected, KTOO Public Media reports. Wednesday was the deadline to turn in signatures. One of the proposed measures sought to prohibit cruise ships that carry more than 250 passengers from docking or anchoring in Juneau between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., and another sought to ban them from docking or anchoring on Saturdays. The third proposal sought to bar cruise ships larger than 100,000 gross tonnage from being at dock or anchor after Jan. 1, 2026. The proposed ballot questions were the subject of vigorous debate in Juneau, where tourism is a major industry, and state and local officials and businesses pushed for cruise ship travel to resume after the pandemic halted cruises last year.

Arizona

Phoenix: The state’s top health official expressed cautious optimism Friday that Arizona can reach a goal of getting 70% of adults partially vaccinated in the next month. “I just am fearful with our slowdown and decreased demand, it’s going to make it harder to reach that 70%, but I’m hopeful Arizona would,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services, said during a virtual briefing. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a “month of action” to urge more Americans to get vaccinated before the July 4 holiday. In Arizona, less than half of the state’s population eligible to receive vaccines has actually been inoculated. Unlike some other states, Arizona has not created any vaccine incentive programs. However, officials are open to partnering on one-time events. The state teamed up with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona for a family vaccine clinic Saturday at Chase Field offering free tickets for shots. There have been other incentives at the local level. In Pima County, the local health department gave out Arizona Lottery scratcher tickets at two vaccination sites over the Memorial Day weekend. A local chain of marijuana dispensaries in Mesa is offering “Snax for Vaxx,” a free pre-rolled joint and an edible gummy for getting vaccinated.

Arkansas

Little Rock: One of the state’s largest courthouses is set to reopen to the public after access was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock is scheduled to reopen Monday. Restrictions on entry into all county facilities by the public have been lifted. All visitors will be required to wear a face mask and have their temperature checked upon entry. Social distancing will also be mandatory in all areas of the courthouse. “We appreciate the support and patience of Pulaski County citizens with our temporary operational area during the last 15 months. It wasn’t ideal, but my office was determined to remain open for business and provide the essential services. We look forward to serving the public inside the various offices once again,” said Pulaski County Circuit and County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth. Coronavirus cases in the state rose by 253 on Friday, while those hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped by two to 178, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. “While we are seeing hopeful COVID-19 progress, let’s continue this trend by ensuring we all play a role in protecting others,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted Thursday.

California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds up a lottery ball at the California Lottery Headquarters on Friday in Sacramento while drawing numbers for the state’s new vaccine incentive program. (Photo: Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom played game show host Friday in a drawing for 15 winners of $50,000 prizes for getting vaccinated. “If you’re on the fence, if you’re just a little bit hesitant, or you just were unwilling in the past, but all the sudden you think, ‘Wait a sec, I could really use $50,000,’ we’re doing all of this to encourage that and to get you to think anew and hopefully act anew,” Newsom said at the California State Lottery headquarters, where he was flanked by a machine used to randomly choose winners and a Wheel of Fortune-style colored wheel for show. It was the first in a series of drawings for $16.5 million in prize money aimed at encouraging Californians to get their COVID-19 shots ahead of June 15, when the state plans to lift almost all virus-related restrictions. So far, 67% of eligible people 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The state’s goal is to fully vaccinate at least 75% of people. Newsom announced the prize money last week, warning the state’s vaccination rates were about to go off a cliff without an intervention. State officials said rates had dropped at the time by 18% from the week before. This week, another 15 people will win $50,000, and on June 15 there will be 10 grand prize winners who will get $1.5 million each.

Colorado

Sally Sliger, Colorado’s first $1 million winner for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, jokes with reporters during a news conference Friday in Denver. (Photo: David Zalubowski/AP)

Denver: The state has picked its first $1 million winner in a new lottery aimed at inspiring residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday that Sally Sliger of the Weld County town of Mead won the first of five $1 million prizes for residents who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Sliger is a clinical data analyst at Tru Community Care, a Lafayette-based nonprofit health organization that offers hospice and other care. Sliger recounted how she and the community at large have suffered both personally and professionally the loss of neighbors and loved ones during the pandemic. “Like all the rest of us, we have postponed family events,” she said. “We’ve postponed memorial services. … So when the wait was over, there was no doubt I would get my vaccination.” She said she and her husband, Chris, initially planned to bolster their retirement savings and help their children with the winnings. “I am hoping that you all get the vaccine because this is the gift we have right now. This is the gift that keeps on giving,” Sliger said. Every resident who was vaccinated by the end of May was entered in the first of five weekly drawings. Residents needed to be 18 years old and have received at least one dose to be eligible. They didn’t need to register for the drawing, conducted by the Colorado Lottery.

Connecticut

Hartford: The city’s Puerto Rican Day parade returned to the streets Saturday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic started, with colorful floats winding their way through neighborhoods. People on the floats and in vehicles in the caravan waved the red, white and blue flags of Puerto Rico and played music as hundreds of onlookers cheered and displayed their own flags. This year’s procession was smaller than in previous years. Last year’s parade was canceled because of the pandemic. Saturday’s event also honored health care workers, first responders and other essential personnel for their work during the pandemic. Parade watcher Juliany Polar said the parade had the atmosphere of a neighborhood party. “People are happy,” Polar told the Hartford Courant. “People are ready to get out and about and enjoy the better weather, the better rates against COVID.”

Delaware

Wilmington: The state has seen a 35% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the past year, though local experts say the total is likely far higher due to the challenges of counting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 60% of that increase is among children, according to a recent report from the Housing Alliance Delaware, a statewide nonprofit that performed the count and aims to alleviate issues facing the homeless population. The count didn’t include unsheltered people living in cars and encampments due to COVID-19 precautions and logistical challenges this year – communities that would drive up the total number of people experiencing homelessness across Delaware. “Even though they didn’t count the unsheltered, which should have brought the count down, the count went up by 35%,” said Stephen Metraux, director of the University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research and Service. Experts say the increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness is due to a variety of factors, including a lack of affordable housing and COVID-19 safety concerns that led people to stay in hotels and motels for extended periods of time. In response, increased funds and rapid rehousing programs in the state are helping members of the homeless population find and maintain stable housing.

District of Columbia

Washington: With the resumption of full parking enforcement, residents have been scrambling to find available appointments at the Department of Motor Vehicles, WUSA-TV reports. After a 14-month hiatus due to the pandemic, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that ticketing wound resume again, including for expired parking meters, expired residential parking permits and expired vehicle tags. Vehicles must also display valid registration stickers. However, due to public health protocols, the DMV currently doesn’t allow walk-ins, and spots must be reserved online. Residents have until July 1 before enforcement for expired driver licenses will resume, according to the city. The mayor announced the plans weeks in advance, but some residents say it was still a struggle even to find a reservation.

Florida

Tallahassee: The state’s chief justice says Florida’s justice system will soon be allowed to resume in-person court proceedings without masks and social distancing rules put in place last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The administrative order issued Friday by Chief Justice Charles Canady would also require courts to take steps to resume rules guaranteeing speedy trials, which were suspended amid the logistical challenges the pandemic posed. The chief justice, however, directed courts to continue conducting most proceedings remotely, such as jury selection, unless an in-person hearing is required. Some proceedings, including hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntarily committed, would have to be conducted in person unless the requirement is waived by the subject of the hearing. The order said criminal jury trials will be given priority for in-person hearings, while less serious cases will continue to be conducted remotely as part of the transition to pre-pandemic operations. Florida Supreme Court officials said the restrictions are being lifted because of increased vaccination rates and updated guidance from health officials. Chief judges across the state may drop the mask and distancing requirements in courtrooms as soon as June 21 and no later than Aug. 2.

Georgia

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (Photo: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Atlanta: The Biden administration is reevaluating a plan by Georgia officials to overhaul how residents buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as federal officials try to boost former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. In a letter to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raised concerns about the state’s proposal to have the private sector, not the government, engage in outreach to get residents to sign up for insurance under the ACA. “In its application, Georgia neither quantified the size of the expected investment by the private sector nor indicated any specific commitments by the private sector to engage in outreach and marketing,” the letter sent Thursday said. It asked the governor to reassess his plan to bypass healthcare.gov and have residents shop for federally subsidized health insurance through private agents. Former President Donald Trump’s administration approved that plan last year, and state officials have touted it as a way to boost insurance coverage. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office, Mallory Blount, said Friday that the letter was still being reviewed.

Hawaii

Honolulu: Gov. David Ige said Friday that the state will drop its quarantine and coronavirus testing requirements for travelers once 70% of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Hawaii will also lift its requirement that people wear masks indoors once that level has been reached, he said. The state Department of Health website said 59% of Hawaii’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 52% have finished their dosing regimen. The state is using its own figures, not those provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to calculate thresholds for lifting restrictions. Health Department Director Dr. Libby Char said that’s because Hawaii’s numbers are more accurate. She said it appears the CDC has been counting some of Hawaii’s doses twice. Right now, travelers arriving from out of state must spend 10 days in quarantine, or, to bypass that quarantine, they must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken before departure for the islands. Once 60% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated, Ige said, the state will allow travelers to bypass a quarantine requirement as long as they can prove they were vaccinated in the U.S. Restrictions on travel between the islands will open up before that.

Idaho

Boise: Schools didn’t report the majority of coronavirus cases among the state’s K-12 students in the most recent academic year, the Idaho Capital Sun reports. While state officials count more than 16,000 cases among school-age kids from September through May 22, a website showing cases by school listed only 8,660 known cases in that time period, causing concerns about whether districts and schools are armed with the information they need to prepare for the fall semester. Dr. David Pate, an adviser to Gov. Brad Little and some schools on handling the pandemic, said underfunding, privacy issues, and a lack of coronavirus testing – compounded by Idaho legislators’ rejection of federal funding to expand surveillance – combined to make the already complicated task of tracking COVID-19 outbreaks even more difficult, according to the newspaper.

Illinois

Springfield: The state announced Friday that it will officially enter Phase 5 of its reopening plan on schedule this week, marking the end of 15 months of capacity restrictions and mandates brought on to help defeat the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a press release that with hospitalizations and caseloads declining, not to mention having more than half of the population vaccinated, the time was right to commence the move to full reopening next Friday, June 11. “After a tremendously challenging year, Illinois has now reached a defining moment in our efforts to defeat COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “Thanks to the hard work of residents across the state, Illinois will soon resume life as we knew it before – returning to events, gatherings and a fully reopened economy, with some of the safety guidelines we’ve adopted still in place.” The new guidance means that businesses, sporting events, conventions, theme parks and other events can return to full capacity and attendance, with vaccinated people being allowed to go without their masks, a sign of a return to normalcy that so many across the state have anticipated. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that “the vaccine is giving us our freedoms back and allowing us to move to Phase 5.”

Indiana

Indianapolis: A judge will hear arguments this month over whether the governor can go ahead with a lawsuit challenging the power legislators have given themselves to intervene during public emergencies. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb asked a judge in April to block the new law passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature following criticism from many conservatives over COVID-19 restrictions that Holcomb imposed. Attorney General Todd Rokita, also a Republican, has argued he has the authority to stop Holcomb from taking the dispute to court after the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of the new law. His office’s court filings have called the private lawyers working for Holcomb “unauthorized counsel” in asking for them to be removed from the case. Marion County Judge Patrick Dietrick on Thursday set a hearing about that dispute for June 16. Holcomb and some legal experts maintain the state constitution only allows the governor to call the Legislature into special session after its annual session ends. They argue the constitution doesn’t allow the new process under which legislative leaders could call the General Assembly into what it calls an “emergency session.”

Iowa

Oliver Backstrom, 2, and his sister Adelyn Backstrom, 3, play in the fountain at Cowles Commons in Des Moines, Friday, June 4, 2021. (Photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register)

Des Moines: A spontaneous scene of joy erupted downtown Friday as the Lauridsen Fountain in Cowles Commons was switched on for the first time since fall 2019. The signature fountain’s jets of water sprang to life in mid-morning Friday. Within the hour, a shirtless, barefoot boy was running amid them and rolling in the shallow pool. By midday, as many as eight other children and two dogs had joined the revelry as the temperature climbed above 90 degrees. The fountain had been shut off for the winter, as usual, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020. With public gatherings forbidden and shows at the adjacent Des Moines Civic Center postponed or canceled, Des Moines Performing Arts left the fountain shut down throughout summer 2020. Now, with the coronavirus infection rate waning, the Willis Broadway Series at the Civic Center rescheduled, and free public events planned over the summer on the commons, DMPA has revived the landmark water feature. Completed in 2015 as part of a major redo of the former Nollen Plaza, the so-called zero depth fountain is comprised of 17 arcing jets of water rising from the pavement of Cowles Commons. Lighted at night, they provide a colorful contrast to the illuminated sculpture “Swirl,” by artist Jim Campbell, that dominates the opposite side of the plaza.

Kansas

Topeka: The state ordered less than 1% of its vaccine allocation from the federal government for last week, the state health department reported Friday. The disclosure came as the department’s data showed that Kansas still had nearly 593,000 unused doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Friday, about 21% of the 2.8 million shipped to the state. Demand for inoculations has dropped, prompting the state and county health departments to increase mobile clinics and bring vaccines to churches and work sites. The state, Wyandotte County and the University of Kansas Health System partnered with Kansas Speedway to promote vaccinations Thursday and Friday at the Kansas City, Kansas, NASCAR track. The speedway offered people who got vaccinated two laps around its track and entered them in a raffle for prizes that included tickets to the NASCAR Cup Series race there in October. The state health department said it ordered only 1,020 doses, or 0.7% of its federal allocation of 147,660, for last week. Its data showed that an average of 4,348 vaccine shots a day were administered during the seven days ending Friday, its lowest seven-day average since Jan. 21. The department said 42.5% of the state’s 2.9 million residents had received at least one vaccine shot as of Friday.

Kentucky

Frankfort: The state joined the giveaway bonanza Friday to entice more people to get COVID-19 vaccines, with Gov. Andy Beshear offering $1 million prizes and college scholarships. Three Kentucky adults will win $1 million prizes, and 15 students ages 12-17 will be awarded full-ride scholarships to a Kentucky public university, college, technical or trade school, he announced. The Democratic governor is hoping the chance at landing a lucrative prize is enough to overcome vaccine hesitancy keeping many Kentuckians from rolling up their sleeves for the shots. “If you’re on the fence, how about a free ride to college?” Beshear said at a news conference. “Or how about the best odds that you will ever have at winning $1 million? All you’ve got to do is the right thing that every public health official in America says you ought to be doing anyway.” To enter the three drawings, Kentucky adults vying for the $1 million prizes must have received at least the first dose of a Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Kentucky youngsters 12-17 must have received at least their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to be eligible for the scholarships, which will cover tuition, room and board, and books. Drawings will be July 1, July 29 and Aug. 26, with winners announced the next day.

Louisiana

New Orleans: The state is adding free entry to all 21 state parks as a perk for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday. Unlike the free drinks available this month at some bars and restaurants around the state, the free admission runs through July for anyone who can prove full vaccination, no matter when, he said. About 32% of all eligible residents have been fully vaccinated, he said. That compares with 41.2% nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under “A Shot for a Shot,” announced earlier in the week, participating establishments are offering a free drink this month to anyone who shows proof of full vaccination within the previous seven days. The state parks freebie is for visitors as well as state residents. It is part of Louisiana’s “Bring Back the Summer” initiative, Edwards said. He also noted that there are numerous nationwide incentives listed at www.vaccines.gov/incentives.html. “Stay tuned for more incentives and rewards that will be offered in the near future,” he said.

Maine

Portland: The state’s mobile COVID-19 vaccine unit is being redirected to parts of southern Maine later this month and will wrap up service in two weeks. The state has used the mobile unit to provide vaccines to rural and underserved communities. It’s scheduled to continue that effort in Madawaska in far northern Maine through Monday. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the mobile unit will then come to Portland and Old Orchard Beach. Its final day in service will be in Old Orchard Beach on June 18. That represents a shift in strategy for the unit, Shah said. Moving it to high-population centers in its final days will allow it to serve many people before it closes, he said. The unit will also be able to offer some of the numerous hospitality workers in southern Maine a shot, Shah said during a Maine Public appearance Thursday. “For much of the mobile vaccination unit’s drive through Maine, it has focused on rural Maine,” he said. The unit can administer about 500 shots a day, Shah said. It has provided more than 9,000 vaccinations, mostly to rural Maine residents, he said.

Maryland

Inmates at Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County tend gardens on the prison grounds, growing thousands of pounds of organic produce each year that are given to local families. (Photo: Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)

Westover: Eastern Correctional Institution inmates harvested 13,000 pounds of produce in 2020 despite the constraints of a pandemic. A Somerset County Health Department initiative that started in 2014 aims to address food insecurity and childhood obesity in Somerset County, which has just two grocery stores and a Dollar General, making options for fresh fruits and vegetables slim. Sixteen inmates at ECI work daily throughout the year tilling, weeding and watering – their three gardens have no irrigation system – to grow plants including kale, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, yellow onions, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini and bell peppers. Their first harvest of the 2021 season weighed in at 764 pounds, which is believed to be the gardens’ largest yield yet for the start of a season. Project director Sharon Lynch of the Somerset County Health Department explained that the boxes will be divvied up among roughly 20 community partners. From there, they will reach family tables in Somerset and Wicomico counties. The program started with a three-quarter-acre plot on the prison property but has since expanded to place a garden on each side of the main prison compound and at the annex.

Massachusetts

Boston: Four communities that state officials say were shortchanged in federal pandemic relief aid will receive a total of $109 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday. The communities were among those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic but, due to shortcomings in the federal funding formula, were set to receive disproportionately smaller amounts of funding compared to other hard-hit communities, the Republican said. “Our Administration committed additional funds to Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph to ensure all of the Commonwealth’s communities received the funding they deserved from the federal relief package,” Baker said in a statement. The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden this spring, allocated direct aid to some municipalities based on the federal Community Development Block Grant program formula, while aid to other communities was allocated on a per capita basis. The Baker administration said the use of these two different formulas created disparities in distributions. Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph are the four designated hardest-hit communities to receive disproportionately smaller levels of federal funding compared to other hardest-hit communities.

Michigan

The St. Joseph High School Class of 2021 attends a commencement ceremony Sunday in St. Joseph, Mich. (Photo: Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via AP)

Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would have exempted high school graduation ceremonies from COVID-19 restrictions on crowd sizes. The veto, which was expected, came two days after her administration’s order was loosened to end outdoor capacity limits and limit indoor gatherings to 50% occupancy. “This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” the Democratic governor wrote to the GOP-led House. “Rather than sending me half-baked and punchless legislation like HB 4728, I encourage the Legislature to join me in eradicating this pandemic and making transformational investments in our economy.” When the measure won final passage more than two weeks ago, Michigan was restricting crowds at many outdoor stadiums to 1,000. At most indoor arenas, the limit was 375. Also Thursday, Whitmer vetoed a bill that would have prohibited a governor from issuing an emergency order extending response times for public-records requests or otherwise limiting a public body’s duties under the Freedom of Information Act. She did so for two months early in the pandemic. The since-expired order, Whitmer said, was designed to protect government officials’ lives during the first surge. She said she will not sign bills that constrain the governor’s ability to protect people.

Minnesota

Owner Adbi Daisane talks with Sen. Tina Smith during a tour of Blooming Kids Child Care Center Friday, June 4, 2021, in St .Cloud. (Photo: Dave Schwarz/[email protected])

St. Cloud: U.S. Sen. Tina Smith met with child care leaders and providers Friday to talk about the toll of the pandemic on child care in Central Minnesota. At Blooming Kids Care Center, she toured the facility and talked with owner Abdi Daisane, who said he’s seen a drastic drop in attendance during the pandemic. Affordability of child care, access to culturally sensitive staff and operating costs are significant problems for Minnesotans that have become even more exacerbated in the pandemic, Smith said at the meeting. During a roundtable discussion with Smith at the United Way of Central Minnesota, many of those present talked about the high cost of child care in the area, the need for more centers that are affordable for families, and benefits of public prekindergarten education. Others talked about the high costs associated with operating child care centers, which often leave owners like Daisane to take on second jobs and don’t motivate new people to enter the industry. A Minnesota family can spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on child care costs, equivalent to a semester’s tuition at the University of Minnesota, Smith said, and two-thirds of Minnesota counties are “child care deserts,” meaning there is one spot available at a child care center for every three children in the state.

Mississippi

Jackson: The state’s top health official said Friday that lack of access isn’t the reason Mississippi is last in the nation for COVID-19 vaccinations – it’s apathy. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said he guarantees the state is among the easiest in the country to get a vaccine, but many people refuse because they don’t think they need it. “I think that’s something that we really struggle with because it’s part of our health care culture here,” he said during a virtual conversation with the Mississippi Medical Association. “It’s really sad because people in foreign countries would saw off their small toe to get a COVID vaccine, and … we’re not going to take five minutes as we walk by the Kroger pharmacy.” Only about 27% of the population is fully vaccinated. Vaccines are available at state-run sites throughout Mississippi that don’t require appointments and can be accessed at dozens of pharmacies, clinics and hospitals, all listed on the Department of Health website. “It’s almost like you need to try to not get the vaccine,” Mississippi Medical Association Executive Director Dr. Claude Brunson said Friday. Dobbs said he has been doing at-home visits personally to vaccinate homebound residents, and he said the Department of Health is exploring incentives and other measures to encourage more vaccinations.

Missouri

Springfield: Health officials in Springfield and Joplin are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations amid relatively low vaccination rates and more people gathering for social events without masks or social distancing. CoxHealth’s flagship hospital in Springfield had between 35 and 40 COVID-19 patients, more than double the number two weeks ago, CEO Steve Edwards said Thursday. And nearly 20% of patients tested at CoxHealth facilities in southwestern Missouri are testing positive for the coronavirus, up from just 5% two weeks ago, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Three hospitals in Joplin reported a total of 39 COVID-19 patients Wednesday. That figure hovered around 15 in early May, The Joplin Globe reports. The city straddles Jasper and Newton counties, which have relatively low vaccination rates. About 38% of Joplin residents have completed vaccinations, but only 19% of Jasper County residents and 16% of Newton County residents have been vaccinated, according to state data. Edwards said more people have been gathering for events such as graduations, and fewer people are wearing masks or social distancing. He said nurses tell him patients say that they did not think COVID-19 was real and that they wish they had been vaccinated.

Montana

Missoula: A record number of residents are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program, which provides health insurance for low-income adults, according to the state health department. Nearly 99,000 people were being served by the program in April – 18,300 more than the nearly 80,500 enrolled a year earlier, according to state data. The state stopped disenrolling people from Medicaid programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the higher enrollment numbers, Chuck Council, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health and Human Services, told Montana Public Radio. The department will resume taking people off the programs if they’re no longer eligible once Montana’s public health emergency ends, Council said. Republican Rep. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls, who co-sponsored the Medicaid expansion legislation, said the program is working as it should. “When we get into hard times, people get into hard times, this is a safety net measure to make sure that folks are not neglecting their health care and that providers are getting paid for the services they provide,” Buttrey said. The previous enrollment high was 96,656 people in August 2018. Medicaid expansion in Montana, which requires participants to pay premiums, is funded with 89% federal money and 11% state money.

Nebraska

Omaha: The University of Nebraska Medical Center will require faculty, staff and students to document whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning June 21. Documentation is required because medical students work with patients in clinics and hospital wards, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Faculty, staff and students who choose not to get vaccinated will be required to wear masks at medical facilities, and students who are not inoculated might miss out on clinical placements outside University of Nebraska partners. The documentation is only required for the medical center and not other campuses in the University of Nebraska system, said Jane Meza, interim executive director for the office of health security at UNMC and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Creighton University will require all students to be fully vaccinated at the Omaha and Phoenix campuses starting July 7, said the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, the university president. Creighton faculty and staff are encouraged but not required to get vaccinated.

Nevada

Washoe County School District elementary school students board the bus outside of the Aspen Ridge Apartments in south Reno. (Photo: Siobhan McAndrew/RGJ)

Reno: The Washoe County School District will offer $2,000 hiring and retention bonuses, earmarked from federal pandemic relief funds, to school bus drivers in the wake of a critical shortage ahead of summer school and the 2021-22 school year. A returning driver could make as much as $3,000 in bonuses for returning to the job and referring someone who is hired. District bus drivers get paid between $14.18 and $25.04 per hour and are full-time benefitted employees who are eligible for Nevada’s Public Employees’ Retirement System. The district and the union representing bus drivers have already signed on to a memorandum of understanding for the $2 million proposal. The agreement is slated to go in front of the school board for final approval Tuesday. Meanwhile, Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill said the district was working on contingency plans if bus drivers and other support staff don’t show up for work Monday, after rumors that bus drivers and others who were paid for snow days and are expected to work this week without additional pay might not show up. The school year originally was scheduled to end Friday, but three days were added after schools closed for snow and smoke last year.

New Hampshire

Concord: The state House on Friday rejected an attempt to introduce legislation aimed at protecting workers from being punished for getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Rep. Joshua Adjutant, D-Bristol, sought to suspend the rules and introduce a bill prohibiting employers from firing or docking the pay of workers who take up to three days off in connection with vaccination appointments. The goal, he said, was to eliminate a key concern for those who have yet to get inoculated. “I hope this will still do some good for some folks,” he said. Republicans argued the bill was unnecessary given the state’s high rate of vaccination. Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, was particularly scornful. “There comes a time and a place where we all come together and say enough is enough,” he said. During the pandemic, the 400-member House has met at the UNH ice arena, outside on an athletic field, in a parking lot from their cars and, for the past several months, at a Bedford athletic complex. Former House Speaker Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, died in December, a week after being sworn in at the outdoor ceremony. “We’ve played enough games,” Baldasaro said. “We’re sitting here when we should be in our Statehouse. I hope everyone stands tall and says no.”

New Jersey

Trenton: Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed a bill to end the state’s public health emergency stemming from the coronavirus in the next 30 days. Murphy, a Democrat, signed the bill just a day after the Democrat-led Legislature passed it over objections from Republicans and a loud crowd outside the Senate chamber calling for the measure to be killed. The measure does away with some 100 executive orders, retaining just over a dozen, including one that created moratoriums on evictions and utility shutoffs. It leaves in place an executive order barring the garnishment of stimulus checks and extending certain rulemaking deadlines, among other directives from the governor. “Today’s lifting of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is a clear and decisive step on the path toward normalcy,” Murphy in a statement. “The past 15 months have been a challenge, and I thank every New Jerseyan who stayed home, masked up, took precautions to keep this virus in check, and got vaccinated for allowing us to get to this point.” The public health emergency goes back to March of last year, when the first cases were detected in New Jersey, and the state soon became a hot spot. The new law says the state’s mask and distancing requirements cannot be more restrictive than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: State finance authorities have said demand appears to be building for minimum-interest loans aimed at helping small businesses that lost income or experienced major disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic. New Mexico Finance Authority CEO Marquita Russel told a panel of state legislators Wednesday that about 865 businesses have applied for loans worth a combined $65 million since the program was overhauled in March. Reforms to the state’s small-business recovery loan program, signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in early March, doubled the maximum individual loan amount to $150,000 and broadened eligibility after businesses expressed a limited appetite for the original program. “That program, as a result of the changes made to it, really had some traction, and we’ve seen a great deal of interest,” Russel said. The federal government has closed out its Paycheck Protection Program that provided forgivable loans to businesses beginning in April 2020. Restaurants are still in line for federal relief under the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package. New Mexico’s small-business recovery loans are repaid at half the prime rate of interest that commercial banks charge their most creditworthy customers, with zero interest accrued during the first year.

New York

Albany: The state failed to provide desperately needed protective gear, testing, and help with staffing for group homes serving residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders of those homes and family members told lawmakers at a legislative hearing Thursday. Staffing levels in New York’s system supporting individuals with disabilities have dwindled since the beginning of the pandemic, which advocates say threatens the quality of care for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers faced calls Thursday to boost pay for group home workers, require routine coronavirus testing and ensure people with disabilities are a priority in response plans. Among advocates’ concerns is that group homes, unlike nursing homes, aren’t required to regularly test staff for the virus or launch rounds of testing after a resident or staffer tests positive. At least 577 people have died due to confirmed COVID-19 infection at group residences overseen by the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, according to the agency’s latest data. That tally doesn’t include the number of residents who died at hospitals, or deaths of residents who likely died of COVID-19.

North Carolina

Raleigh: For the first time since COVID-19 vaccines became available in December 2020, the state declined to accept any more supplies last week. Instead, last week’s requests from North Carolina providers were being fulfilled through transfers from other providers or through requests to local health departments, according to state health officials. “We are currently focusing on prioritizing the in-state inventory of vaccine by using a first-in, first-out strategy so that providers use vaccines by date of expiration in chronological order, as well as transferring vaccine between providers who can use them,” the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Friday. The move comes as North Carolina nears an announcement on additional financial incentives to boost vaccine participation amid a sizable drop in vaccine demand over the past two months. North Carolina had returned more than 1.2 million doses to the federal government as of Friday. Nearly all states have contributed to the federal pool, according to the state Health Department. Data the department released Friday shows a surplus of nearly 2.4 million COVID-19 vaccines waiting for residents to take. The state has also turned down nearly 2.4 million additional shots from its federal allocation.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The state is accepting applications for its Medical Marijuana Advisory Board after changes to the panel’s membership by the 2021 Legislature. The Bismarck Tribune reports the deadline to apply is June 30. Current board members’ terms will expire July 31. New membership of the nine-member board includes six people appointed by the governor: a health care provider, a state Health Department representative, a manufacturing representative, a dispensary representative, a registered qualifying patient and a licensed pharmacist. Voters approved medical marijuana in 2016. The 2017 Legislature implemented the program, which has 5,392 active patient cards and eight dispensaries operating in the state, including one in Bismarck.

Ohio

Physician assistant Jennifer Krzmarzick talks to a patient in their car after performing a swab test for COVID-19 during a trial run for an outdoor emergency triage at Mt. Carmel East hospital on the Far East Side in April 2020. (Photo: Adam Cairns/Dispatch)

Columbus: The state’s firefighters, officers, nurses, doctors and child care providers all worked outside the home throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But who among them deserves a $1,000 bonus check from federal pandemic relief funding allocated to the state has become a heated debate. Three Republican representatives and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost introduced a plan to give first responders $1,000 checks if they worked full time throughout the pandemic and weren’t disciplined during that time period. Part-time first responders and volunteer firefighters would get $500 checks. But Rep. Erica Crawley, D-Columbus, said she thinks all front-line workers deserve these “hero pay” checks. “I don’t think we should be pitting one essential worker against another,” Crawley said. “We all needed them in their respective fields as we navigated COVID-19.” Shannon Jones, a former Republican state senator who now runs early childhood advocacy group Groundwork Ohio, went a step further, calling it a “punch to the gut” to see the Senate put lines in its budget proposal to prohibit Ohio from giving child care workers these kinds of bonuses. “The average wage for child care professionals is $10.60 per hour,” Jones said. “They could have earned more money on unemployment during the pandemic.”

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: More than 51,700 residents have qualified for Medicaid since enrollment began last week under an expansion of the program that voters approved last year, state officials said Friday. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees the Medicaid program, reported that 51,708 Oklahomans have already qualified for benefits, including about 30,000 from urban areas and more than 21,000 from rural Oklahoma. Benefits will begin July 1. After a decade of Republican resistance, Oklahoma voters narrowly approved a constitutional amendment last year to expand eligibility for benefits. Now, an individual who earns up to $17,796 annually, or $36,588 for a family of four, qualifies for Medicaid health care coverage. The Health Care Authority has projected that about 215,000 residents would qualify for expanded Medicaid for a total annual cost of about $1.3 billion. The estimated state share would be about $164 million. But those numbers could be considerably higher given the number of Oklahomans who lost their jobs and work-related health insurance because of the economic shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon

Portland: Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that the state is close to lifting masking, physical distancing and capacity restrictions statewide. Last month, Brown set a vaccination goal of 70% of Oregon adults receiving at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine before reopening the economy. As of Friday, 66% of residents 18 and up had been vaccinated. “I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficiency of the vaccines,” Brown said. “However, there are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel and stay safe.” For more than a year, Oregon has faced some of the nation’s strictest safety measures – county risk levels, mask requirements inside and outside, limited gatherings and restaurants closed for indoor dining. But as vaccination numbers increase, restrictions have been loosened as the state shifts from emergency response to recovery. Last month, Brown set statewide and county vaccination targets, with the hope of reopening the state’s economy by the end of June. Another 127,000 people must be vaccinated to reach the goal of 70%. “This has really become a tale of two pandemics. If you are vaccinated, then you’re safe; you can carry on safely without wearing a mask and social distancing,” Brown said. “If you are not vaccinated, this virus still poses a very real threat.”

Pennsylvania

Olivia Neely, a topless cyclist wearing body paint, motions before the start of the 2017 Philly Naked Bike Ride in Philadelphia. After last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19, organizers say masks will be required in 2021, even if pants and shirts are not. (Photo: Dino Hazell/AP)

Philadelphia: Bike riders won’t need their shirts, pants, skirts or even underwear – just a mask. Organizers of the annual Philly Naked Bike Ride say this year’s event will take place Aug. 28 and will require masks, based on the city’s earlier coronavirus restrictions. The city lifted most of its COVID-19 rules last week, citing an increase in vaccinations and a decrease in cases. But ride organizers said they hadn’t had a chance to chat since the city’s guidelines changed, so for the time being, they’re “going to stick with our initial mask guidance.” Lead organizer Wesley Noonan-Sessa said they’ll keep an eye on what the city says in the next month or so. Ride participants, sometimes in the thousands, usually gather in a park to strip off their clothes and paint each other’s bodies before carefully hopping on their bikes. The naked ride aims to promote positive body image, advocate for the safety of cyclists and protest dependence on fossil fuels. Riders pedal a 10-mile course while taking in sights including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps, featured in the “Rocky” movies. The coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on the ride that had been planned for last year. Organizers said then that canceling the 2020 event was “the most responsible thing to do.”

Rhode Island

Providence: The state’s restaurant industry, with the backing of some lawmakers, wants to extend a pandemic state-of-emergency rule that allows eateries to sell alcohol along with takeout orders. With indoor dining banned or limited for long stretches during the crisis of 2020, it was a way for restaurants make up for lost sales. Sam Glynn, owner of Chomp Kitchen & Drinks in Providence, said when restaurants were first reopening after last spring’s lockdown, takeout drink orders made up as much as a quarter of his sales. That has dropped to closer to about 10% as indoor dining has returned to near-normal. He would like to see the rule made permanent. “I remember when it first passed, people were concerned it would get taken advantage of, but it hasn’t been a problem, and now it just allows people to have some of the experience of going out for drinks when they are home,” Glynn said. The House passed a bill in March that would allow beer, wine and cocktails to be sold with takeout orders through the end of this year. An initial Senate version of the legislation would have made the last call for takeout drinks the end of 2022, but that was dialed back to March 2022 in a revised version that passed the Senate special legislation committee Wednesday.

South Carolina

Columbia: People who get vaccinated against COVID-19 at breweries in the state this month will receive a free beer as part of an effort to get shots into the arms of young adults, the health department announced Thursday. The “Shot and a Chaser” events are scheduled throughout June at participating breweries across the state as part of a partnership between the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Brewers Guild. Trained medical professionals will offer the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine; people who get their shot on site can get a free beer or soda. Some sites will also offer the two-dose Moderna vaccine. “Young adults are often busy travelers and incredibly social, so we want to make sure they get their shot to protect themselves and others while visiting restaurants, vacationing and attending various events,” Dr. Edward Simmer, the agency’s director, said in a statement. The campaign targets young adults in the state, health officials said. Fewer than 16,000 people between the ages of 20 and 24 have been vaccinated in the state, according to DHEC data – equaling less than 1% of all vaccinated people in South Carolina.

South Dakota

Employees of a Smithfield pork processing plant register to vote Thursday on a contract offer from the company at the union’s office in Sioux Falls, S.D. The union voted overwhelmingly against it, escalating labor negotiations. (Photo: Stephen Groves/AP)

Sioux Falls: In a sign of meatpacking workers becoming emboldened by the pandemic’s health threats and economic repercussions, the union at a local pork processing plant that experienced a bad coronavirus outbreak last year has overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from Smithfield Foods and will next move to bring the prospect of a strike to the negotiating table. The Sioux Falls chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union said 99% of union members who voted on the new contract offered from Smithfield Foods rejected it. Throughout the pandemic, workers have organized around pushes for workplace safety and are now navigating an economy where some slaughterhouses, desperate for employees, have suddenly boosted wages. Smithfield Foods downplayed the contract rejection, saying it was a “routine” part of negotiations. But the UFCW plans to vote Monday on whether to authorize a walkout. Union leaders said they view striking as a last resort, as they push for a base wage of $19 an hour to match the rate at a JBS pork plant 70 miles away in Minnesota. Slaughterhouse jobs usually offer elevated wages and benefits in exchange for the bloody, back-breaking work on butchering lines. But the wage gap is closing between meatpacking jobs and those at fast-food chains or retail stores, union leaders warned.

Tennessee

Fans watch BULLY perform during the Outloud Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, June 4, 2021. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com)

Nashville: Summer concerts returned in the city’s post-pandemic restriction era with the OUTLOUD Music Festival over the weekend. “It feels good to be back out,” said Jack Davis, founder of Good Neighbor Festivals. The two-day festival Friday and Saturday featured 18 solo acts, music groups and bands and was billed as “a celebration of LGBTQ+ artists and allies.” OUTLOUD is not to be confused with the annual Nashville Pride Festival, which is traditionally held in June. This year’s event was postponed until September due to the pandemic. Friday’s OUTLOUD lineup featured Japanese Breakfast and Tank and the Bangas as the headliners. The latter headlined again Saturday along with Todrick Hall. It was OUTLOUD’s fifth year holding a concert series, with similar events to this weekend’s held from 2017 to 2019. Organizers held a drive-in concert in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. “It was a good learning experience that I never want to do again,” Davis joked. OUTLOUD serves as one of many unofficial ends to the COVID-19 era in Nashville. For weeks the city has lowered restrictions at restaurants, bars, sporting events and concert venues as the vaccinated population rose to nearly 1 of every 2 Nashvillians having received at least one dose.

Texas

Eric Munscher holds a Texas River Cooter by County Line on Lake Austin for turtles to research. Led by the Turtle Survival Alliance's North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group, a group of researchers captured, tagged, tattooed, weighed, measured, determined sexes, and then released a variety of turtle species back into Lake Austin at the County Line on the Lake restaurant Saturday morning June 5, 2021 The alliance's mission is to transform a passion for turtles into effective conversation action through a global network of living collections and recovery programs (Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

Austin: After a hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Eric Munscher of Houston returned to the Austin lakefront restaurant County Line over the weekend – not for its barbecue but for its turtles. On Saturday morning, Munscher of the Turtle Survival Alliance and a handful of other volunteers gathered at the restaurant, which sits on Bull Creek near Lake Austin, to resume a study of the abundant turtles in the area. “It’s just neat to finally be out again and getting people to come see the turtles,” said Munscher, director of the alliance’s North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group. With fishnets in tow, they dived into the water to catch, identify and tag turtles. They returned Sunday to continue their work and to celebrate the six different local species at the Turtlemania fundraiser, where people can drink beer and save turtles. Proceeds from the event, featuring discounted beer from the Celis Brewery, are earmarked to help fund the Turtle Survival Alliance’s research. Munscher, who occasionally watched the turtles through the restaurant’s online “turtle cam” during the pandemic, said the group plans to return again in the fall, when he said they hope to open the volunteer opportunity to more members of the public after further progress in vaccinations in economic reopening.

Utah

Ogden: If not for a special pot of federal COVID-19 relief funding meant to help foster kids and young adults who have left the system, Olivia Kilfoyle worries about what could have been. Thanks to the funding, she recently moved into an apartment and has a place to call home. Without the help – part of some $343.5 million in all meant to help foster kids and former foster youth around the country contend with the fallout from the pandemic – she worries she may have joined the ranks of the homeless, the Standard-Examiner reports. “It put me in a safe place,” said Kilfoyle, 21, a former foster child now living on her own. Now, state officials who help foster kids and those who have aged out of the system are putting out a call. Utah received $2 million, and funds are still available for those in need. “Please get in contact if you’re out there and need help,” said Aubrey Adams, who aids the population as a program administrator with the Utah Department of Human Services’ Division of Child and Family Services. Funds can help with back rent, apartment deposits, car repairs, some schooling-related expenses and more, she said. The program is meant for those 14 and older in foster care but is also geared to some adults as old as 27 who no longer receive care but did at some point after the age of 14.

Vermont

Montpelier: The state has launched an economic recovery program for businesses that have not received prior state and federal pandemic-related funding and for others that continue to suffer pandemic-related losses. The program is expected to deliver $30 million in federal financial relief to businesses that were ineligible for state and federal funding and to businesses that can show a continued loss of revenues, Gov. Phil Scott said. “As we move out of the pandemic emergency and into our long-term recovery, it’s so important that we support Vermont’s small businesses and employers, who are the backbone of our economy,” Scott said Thursday. “These grants will provide critical relief in the short term, allowing them to rebuild a stable foundation for their economic futures.” The state will start taking applications for the Economic Recovery Bridge Program on Monday. Grants will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. In the first 30 days, priority will be given to businesses that have not received or do not have a pending application for any state or federal financial assistance in 2020 or 2021, officials said. More information is available online on the Agency of Commerce and Community Development Recovery Resource Center website.

Virginia

The Red Wing Roots music festival is returning this July. (Photo: Submitted)

Mount Solon: After a year’s hiatus due to the coronavirus, Red Wing Roots music festival is back and set to sell out quick, according to festival organizers. “We are thrilled to be coming together after such a long, difficult time,” said Michael Weaver, co-founder of the festival. “We anticipate a lot of emotion. For sure, it will be a year unlike any other.” The festival, the brainchild of local band The Steel Wheels, is focused on finger-picking, bluegrass and American roots music. It is also a way to bring the band back home to the area each summer. The music festival, which takes place at Natural Chimneys Park in Mount Solon, will be held July 9-11. In addition to The Steel Wheels, other 2021 headliners include Yarn, Asleep at the Wheel, The Mavericks, Dustbowl Revival and Tim O’Brien Band. Since it began in 2013, Red Wing has emphasized great music, great food and great fun for the entire family in the great outdoors, a release said. This year, the festival will have featured musical performances on five stages, along with regional food trucks with options for craft beer, cider and wine.

Washington

Olympia: The state is joining the trend of offering prizes to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announcing a series of giveaways that includes lottery drawings totaling $2 million, college tuition assistance, airline tickets and game systems. The incentive program, called “Shot of a Lifetime,” applies to those who start the vaccination process this month, as well as residents who are already inoculated. “This is a very, very commonsense investment to save lives,” Inslee said. Starting Tuesday, the state lottery will hold two drawings a week for four weeks, one for adults and another for those ages 12-17. The lottery cash prize will start out with a weekly prize of $250,000 through the end of June. On July 13, a final $1 million drawing will be held. In addition, the state’s public four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges will receive nearly $1 million to run their own drawing for free tuition and expenses for vaccinated students. The state lottery will also hold drawings to offer 30 prizes of one-year of tuition college credits to 12- to 17-year-olds through the state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program, with the credits going directly to the students’ families.

West Virginia

Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice has called a special session of the Legislature aimed at allocating federal pandemic relief funding and increasing funds for road improvements. Justice announced that the session will begin Monday at noon. Lawmakers were already scheduled to be in Charleston for June committee meetings, he said. The Legislature will consider allocating federal relief funds to the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Education, Justice said in a statement. The funding was received after the end of the regular legislative session, he said. He also wants lawmakers to consider allocating $150 million from the state’s general fund to the Division of Highways for road projects. Justice said it would fund 702 miles of road paving and projects on 40 bridges across all 55 counties. West Virginia’s aging infrastructure often receives a failing grade. Voters approved a $1.6 billion bond measure called Roads to Prosperity in 2017 that the governor championed to improve public works.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a news conference in Kenosha, Wis., accompanied by Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. (Photo: Morry Gash/AP)

Madison: Gov. Tony Evers made it official Saturday, announcing his bid for a second term in the battleground state where he stands as a Democratic check on the Republican-controlled Legislature. Evers, 69, said he decided to run again because he has unfinished business and needs to remain able to stop Republicans through his veto powers, especially as they advocate for election law changes that would make it harder to vote by absentee ballot. “Even though I haven’t played much hockey, I have come to appreciate the role of being a goalie,” Evers said. He announced his plans during the Wisconsin Democratic Convention, which was held virtually Saturday for a second year in a row. The first 31/years of Evers’ term have been marked by clashes with the GOP-led Legislature and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans brought successful lawsuits accusing Evers of overstepping his authority with closures, capacity limits and mask orders meant to slow the spread of the virus. Evers said his handling of the pandemic saved lives, and he listed it as “easily the most important thing that we’ve done.” Wisconsin Republican Party spokeswoman Anna Kelly accused Evers of a multitude of failures, including not getting kids back to school sooner and not getting benefits to the unemployed quickly enough.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: Health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic have changed how ticketing will be handled at this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. The “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo and Western Celebration” is switching to a mostly virtual system for the July 23-Aug. 1 event, which was canceled last year for the first time in its 125-year history. Digital tickets can be scanned via an app or browser on a smartphone, and those who opt for printed tickets will face steep surcharges, according to the newspaper. Few other pandemic-related precautions are planned, with crowds allowed at full capacity and no mask requirements.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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