Music festivals, Opening Day, casino clinics: News from around our 50 states

Alabama

Auburn: Auburn University officials say they will reinstate the school’s bass fishing team this spring following allegations that it repeatedly violated COVID-19 policies. The school had initially suspended the team for the entire year but agreed to the shorter punishment after a meeting that involved school administrators and team members. The team violated the travel and events policy in July 2020, February 2021 and March 2021, school officials said in a memo. The team will now be able to return to competition April 22. During the suspension, no member of the team will be allowed to compete, recruit or represent the Auburn University Bass Fishing Team. “I am thankful that Auburn University and its administration were willing to listen to us and consider all of the facts with an open mind,” said Logan Parks, president of the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. “We have reached an agreement, and, most importantly, the Auburn Team is excited about being able to resume representing Auburn University as we pursue another National Championship.” Auburn’s team is one of the country’s top-ranked programs. Several former members have gone on to compete in professional bass fishing competitions.

Alaska

A Delta Airlines Boeing 757 flies near Alaska's Juneau International Airport on April 16, 2014. The Mendenhall Glacier is in the background. (Photo: Michael Penn, Juneau Empire via AP)

Juneau: The state health department is floating the idea of providing COVID-19 vaccinations to travelers at the state’s busiest airports with the summer tourism and fishing seasons looming. The department released a request for information last week to determine interest among potential contractors to provide a one-dose vaccine to interested travelers in a secure section of the airports in Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and Ketchikan. Implementing strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through Alaska communities is critical with the levels of travel activity expected between May and October, the document said. The department says its Division of Public Health intends to use the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for such a program, subject to availability. Under emergency use authorizations, people 18 and older can receive the J&J shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Public Health Director Heidi Hedberg said officials would need to wait for increased allocations of the vaccine from the federal government. But she said the state health department is looking at “sometime late spring, hopefully before tourist season picks up,” for when it could set up vaccine sites at airports. Alaska provides optional coronavirus testing at airports.

Arizona

Phoenix: Pima County officials said Tuesday that they will continue to enforce a mask mandate to contain the spread of the coronavirus, joining a group of local leaders defying Gov. Doug Ducey’s order banning government requirements for face coverings. Officials in Arizona’s second-largest county said health inspectors will continue enforcing mask requirements in restaurants, and other businesses face possible fines up to $500 or the loss of their operating permits. “We believe we are on solid ground,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County’s chief medical officer. “Do we believe we are going to be challenged on this? Absolutely. Bring it on.” Garcia said the county had 10 straight weeks of declining COVID-19 cases before an increase last week. “So this is real, and this is concerning. And this is the reason we cannot let up on masking mandates in Pima County,” he said. The reaction to Pima County’s action was swift, with three Republican lawmakers asking the state attorney general to review it to determine if it conflicts with Ducey’s order. Rep. Bret Roberts of Maricopa is seeking an official opinion as to whether the county’s order is enforceable. GOP Sens. Vince Leach of Tucson and Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale joined in sending a similar request.

Arkansas

Little Rock: Lawmakers on Tuesday gave final approval to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s plan to overhaul the state’s Medicaid expansion by encouraging work by recipients rather than requiring it. The House voted 64-34 for the legislation, sending it to the Republican governor’s desk. Under the measure, the program will continue to use Medicaid funds to place recipients on private health insurance. But under the proposal, those who don’t work or attend school could be moved to the traditional fee-for-service Medicaid program. More than 300,000 people are currently on the state’s Medicaid expansion. Hutchinson and GOP lawmakers proposed the overhaul after a work requirement for the expansion was blocked by federal courts and President Joe Biden’s administration. The Biden administration must still approve the changes. The state Department of Health has said it will submit its proposal for the new expansion program by July. The proposal includes other changes, including a home-visiting program for at-risk moms.

California

Sacramento: A sheriff announced in January that a man died hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine even though his county’s health officials said the declaration was premature and detrimental, The Sacramento Bee reports, citing emails obtained under the state Public Records Act. The announcement by Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell on Facebook quickly spread around the world and was used by anti-vaccine activists to try to discredit COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the newspaper. The man, identified only as a 64-year-old health care worker, died Jan. 21 after receiving the shot in Auburn, northeast of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Eventually, it would be determined that the vaccination was coincidental to the death, but at the time the sheriff’s statement on Facebook said the man had received a shot “several hours before their death.” The Bee said its review of county emails shows an intense internal debate about the death, the language of an announcement, how an announcement could feed fears about the vaccine and the intent of the Sheriff’s Office to proceed with an announcement. The sheriff apologized a week later in a statement that said the man’s death was unrelated to the vaccine.

Colorado

Denver: Residents over age 16 will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting Friday, Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday. “We still anticipate by mid-to-late May … everybody who wants the vaccine will have had the vaccine. So it’ll take about six to eight weeks,” Polis said. He said there will be six mass drive-in sites for the state’s eligible population and four mobile bus clinics to distribute vaccines to underserved communities. More than 1 million Colorado residents have been fully vaccinated, and over 1.5 million have received their first doses, Polis said. Despite the expanded eligibility, Polis said vaccine providers have been ordered to prioritize people in higher risk groups. Polis said 16- and 17-year-olds can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, and people over 18 can get the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. With the updated distribution, Polis said the state could look forward to a “fairly normal summer” due to widespread immunity from vaccines. Polis also said he would likely extend the statewide mask mandate into mid-April, until the state transitions to county-controlled COVID-19 public health orders. He said the mask mandate would remain in place in public schools for the rest of the school year to avoid scaling back on in-person learning.

Connecticut

Hartford: Lawmakers granted final legislative approval Tuesday to extending Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic to May 20, despite concerns raised by Republicans who argued it’s time for the General Assembly to take back its authority. The Democratic-controlled Senate voted along partisan lines, 24-10, to authorize the Democratic governor to renew the state’s public health and civil preparedness emergency declarations through May 20. They were set to expire April 20. The measure already cleared the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. “We do not have this pandemic in the rear-view mirror, as of yet. It is still staring us in the face,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, noting the administration reported more than 3,200 new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 over the weekend. Looney credited Lamont with handling his extraordinary executive authority in a “prudent and measured way,” noting that the state Supreme Court on Monday, in elaborating on an earlier decision involving a Milford tavern owner, affirmed the governor has the authority to order closures and partial shutdowns during the pandemic.

Delaware

Fans gather in Dover for Firefly Music Festival. (Photo: JASON MINTO/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

Dover: Firefly Music Festival has teased a fall return to The Woodlands on Sept. 23-26, according to its website. The festival, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19, posted the new date on its website without notice Monday morning. State officials said the Division of Public Health has been in communication with AEG Presents. “Event organizers are aware they will need a formal plan approval from the agency before the event takes place. We will continue to actively work with the organizers to ensure their plan meets all necessary health and safety requirements and the necessary mitigation and safety measures are in place,” public health officials said. State Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, said he’s had many people reach out to him about the Firefly news, including friends, family and constituents. Some were “thrilled,” he said, while others “have expressed to me they’re really concerned about where we will be in terms of the virus.” Paradee is optimistic the festival will be safe if it happens because of President Joe Biden’s progress with vaccinations. Paradee, who hopes previously scheduled 2020 headliner rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine will be on this year’s lineup, said he wants the festival to return because it’s great for the economy.

District of Columbia

Washington: Ahead of Opening Day on Thursday, restaurants and bars near Nationals Park have been getting ready to welcome back fans before the ballpark opens with limited seating to start the regular season, WUSA-TV reports. Last month, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that 5,000 fans would be let into the park to watch baseball. While attendance will be notably low due to COVID-19 restrictions, managers at nearby bars voiced excitement Tuesday for the start of the season. “We’re so close you can actually hear the crack of the bat within the ballpark,” said Atlas Brew Works founder Justin Cox. “You can expect there to be a lot more people that are coming down just to watch the game near the ballpark.” Staff set up a socially distanced patio outside and hope to get a projector screen up so fans can watch the games, he said. Mission BBQ Navy Yard owner Fritz Brogan remembers the thousands of fans it saw during the Nationals 2019 World Series run. He said fans in the stands and the foot traffic that brings are great for him and his employees. “I mean, it’s been a tough year for the restaurant industry,” Brogan said. “I think our staff and regulars are really excited about having something to look forward to … some optimism.”

Florida

Tallahassee: Schools and universities that took precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 would be protected from pandemic-related lawsuits, including parents and students who sue seeking a refund of tuition, under a bill approved by a Senate committee Tuesday. Several universities have been sued after moving to online classes and shutting down campus activities. Students argue they weren’t given the full campus experience. The measure unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee would prevent those lawsuits and be retroactive to when the public health emergency was declared in March 2020. Sandra Harris, a lobbyist for Nova Southeastern University, said colleges would have been sued no matter how they responded to the pandemic. “The irony is, if we had required students to go to campus to finish their semester, we would have been faced with lawsuits. If we had just suspended educating our students, we would have been faced with lawsuits,” Harris said. “Students are claiming that they were not allowed to get the rich learning experience as provided on a campus.” The bill also would allow parents of students in kindergarten through fifth grade to ask schools to have their children repeat the grade for academic reasons.

Georgia

Atlanta: The state will not grade schools and districts using state test results for the second year in a row, the Georgia Department of Education announced Tuesday, saying federal officials had waived the requirement for the state accountability system. Georgia will not compute its College and Career Ready Performance Index, a numerical system that the governor’s office then uses to assign letter grades to schools and districts. Last year, the state couldn’t produce the index because it didn’t administer its Milestones tests to students in third grade and up. This year, the federal government is requiring Georgia to give the tests, but districts won’t be graded on how students do. “The intent of these accountability waivers is to focus on assessments to provide information to parents, educators, and the public about student performance and to help target resources and supports. This is particularly crucial this year, due to the COVID pandemic,” the Department of Education wrote to Georgia in the letter granting the waiver. State Superintendent Richard Woods has instructed districts that they can’t deny course credit or deny promotion to the next grade to any student who has been attending class virtually and declines to come in person to take a test citing health and safety concerns.

Hawaii

Honolulu: Officials are looking into vaccine passports, especially for inter-island travel. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the state hopes to work with a local company to create an app that would verify a traveler has been inoculated, KHON-TV reports. Green also said that while the app is being developed, people could simply show their COVID-19 vaccination cards to travel without current testing restrictions. “You would have a company that would do spot checking, and certainly you can check the card itself and make sure that it looks legitimate,” Green said. He said he is not concerned about people trying to falsify records, noting that being caught doing so could mean a fine of up to $5,000, a year in jail or both. Green said people who have been fully vaccinated might be able to travel between islands with fewer restrictions as early as April. Tourism officials are supportive of the idea. “That’s what we see, families that haven’t seen each other for a while that live in Kauai, Maui, Hawaii Island, Oahu. And this will allow that kind of travel to take place without the additional cost of being tested,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. The decision about vaccine passports will ultimately be made by Gov. David Ige in consultation with island mayors.

Idaho

Boise: More areas of the state are opening even earlier to additional categories of people wanting to get COVID-19 vaccines. Republican Gov. Brad Little last week opened eligibility to those 16 and older starting April 6. But four of the state’s seven health districts say that category is open as of Wednesday. Central District Health officials in heavily populated southwestern Idaho opened the category Tuesday afternoon, saying health care providers had open appointments and doses available. That category is also open in the Southeastern Idaho Public Health and two health districts in northern Idaho. About 280,000 residents are fully vaccinated, and another 160,000 have received the first dose of vaccines requiring two shots. State health officials have said they are speeding up eligibility because there appears to be reluctance among some residents to get the vaccine and because increasing supplies of vaccine doses are arriving into the state. Health officials have said people who want the vaccine should sign up at coronavirus.idaho.gov. The state website was set up last month to link providers with vaccine doses to people who want them.

Illinois

Chicagoan Charlie Moore, 80, stands outside Wrigley Field on March 11 in a Cubs jersey. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar/AP)

Chicago: As thousands of people get ready to flock to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the city’s largest mass gathering in more than a year, officials warned that they may again shut the venerated ballpark to fans if the number of COVID-19 cases keeps climbing. The warning from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications also applies to the White Sox’s ballpark, as well as bars, restaurants and other businesses, and comes amid an increase in the number of cases in Chicago and Illinois, particularly among young adults. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office announced a few hours later that the county that includes Chicago had recorded its 10,000th COVID-19 death. Just this week, state public health officials announced that the lifting of some restrictions was being delayed because of increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations since mid-March. Both the Cubs and the White Sox will be allowed to admit as much as 25% capacity. For Wrigley Field, that means a maximum of a little more than 10,000 fans in the stands. Many more are expected to watch the game from nearby bars and restaurants that are routinely crowded with fans during home games. Those establishments are limited to 50% capacity, and customers must wear masks, just like at Wrigley. City officials already have said they are on the lookout for whether bars and restaurants are complying with restrictions.

Indiana

Indianapolis: The state Senate voted Monday to approve a proposal that would curb the governor’s authority under the state emergency powers law following months of complaints from conservatives about Gov. Eric Holcomb’s coronavirus-related orders. The bill would establish a new process for the General Assembly to call itself into a 40-day emergency session to consider legislative action in response to a gubernatorial declaration of a statewide emergency. That limits a governor’s authority to impose long-lasting emergency restrictions such as mask rules and business closures. The proposal would additionally give lawmakers more control over federal economic stimulus funds Indiana receives, although the bill does not require legislators to appropriate any of the funds. Senators contended they’ve been shut out of conversations about how to respond to emergency situations and said the legislation wouldn’t impede how the state responds to emergencies but instead would involve lawmakers in decision-making. The Senate Rules Committee dialed back the plan last month, removing provisions from the legislation that would have allowed local units of government to adopt less stringent public safety guidelines than those contained in the governor’s executive orders. A total prohibition on emergency restrictions applying to religious worship was also deleted.

Iowa

Mercy College nursing student Emily Hixson administers a shot to Kimberly Middlebrooks of Des Moines during a vaccination clinic on Saturday, March 27, 2021, at Corinthian Baptist Church in Des Moines. The clinic, organized by Broadlawns Medical Center and United Way, provided more than 1,100 shots to Des Moines area residents. (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

Des Moines: Residents from the state’s racial and ethnic minorities are increasingly willing to accept COVID-19 vaccinations if offered the shots, advocates say. Before the vaccines started arriving in December, experts worried about hesitancy especially among Black Americans, whose history includes inadequate or unethical treatment by health care authorities. But recent state and national polls have shown people’s acceptance of the vaccines varies little by race or ethnicity. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found 27% of white adults and 29% of nonwhite adults don’t plan to be vaccinated. The gap between those demographic groups is far smaller than the partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans: Just 8% of Democrats say they do not plan to be vaccinated but 41% of Republicans. Jacquie Easley McGhee, a longtime African American advocate in Des Moines and health chair for the Iowa/Nebraska NAACP, said she has been gratified to see how many trusted community leaders – religious leaders, familiar health care professionals and other respected figures – have joined the effort to provide accurate COVID-19 information to Iowans of color. “That is the key: They’re trusted messengers,” she said. “They’re not coming in at the 11th hour, trying to bring information to these communities.”

Kansas

Topeka: Republicans in the GOP-controlled state House formally registered their opposition Tuesday to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan for encouraging counties to keep mask mandates in place as a potentially more infectious strain of coronavirus became more widespread in the state. The House voted 84-39 along party lines for a resolution telling legislative leaders to revoke any order from Kelly for a statewide mask policy. Kelly issued such an order in November that was due to expire Wednesday, and she has said she will issue a new order Thursday. A law that took effect last week extends a state of emergency for the pandemic from March 31 until May 28, but it also allows eight top legislative leaders to revoke orders the governor issues during a state of emergency. The new law leaves the final decision about mask mandates and restrictions on businesses and public gatherings to counties. But Kelly’s planned order would require their elected county commissions to take a specific public vote to opt out of a statewide policy requiring people to wear masks in indoor businesses and public spaces. Kelly said in a statement that the resolution is “unnecessary” because counties can opt out her planned order and said Republicans are engaged in “political games.”

Kentucky

Louisville: The Libertarian Party of Kentucky compared COVID-19 “vaccine passports” to star-shaped identification badges people of Jewish descent were forced to wear during the Holocaust in a tweet this week, drawing outrage from across the nation. The post Monday compared such credentials, which would show whether a person has received a vaccine and theoretically grant access to businesses and other spaces that will require proof of vaccination before entry, to “the stuff of totalitarian dictatorships” that the party considers a “complete and total violation of human liberty.” “Are the vaccine passports going to be yellow, shaped like a star, and sewn on our clothes?” the party wrote on Twitter. Thousands of responses flowed in, including one from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt that called the post an “ignorant and shameful comparison” and another from Jewish actor Seth Rogen, who explicitly suggested the party take its message elsewhere. The Kentucky Democratic Party ripped the statement as “unconscionable and unacceptable,” while Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Mike Lonergan said the commonwealth’s GOP members “will always condemn this kind of hateful and extreme rhetoric.” In a tweet, Gov. Andy Beshear said that “comparing vaccines to the Holocaust is shameful.” Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe were forced to wear yellow badges shaped like the Star of David to make them easier to identify and separate from society.

Louisiana

Shreveport: The parish’s school district has approved a $1,000, one-time supplement for employees to thank them for their work during a school year filled with challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Caddo Heroes Supplement, estimated to cost $6 million, is made possible through higher-than-estimated sales tax revenues. “Well, almost within a period of days, they had to totally reformat the way they planned,” said Keith Burton, the chief academic officer of Caddo Parish Schools. “The way they pulled resources together, as well as how they delivered instruction – many of them had to incorporate, within days, technology they never used before.” The money will be distributed in June to employees who worked at least 90% of their scheduled workdays during the calendar year, KSLA-TV reports. Employees absent for workshops, trainings or due to COVID-19 would not have those days counted against the eligibility requirements, according to the television station. Caddo Parish is the first school board in Louisiana to approve funds to be dispersed not only to full-time and part-time employees of the district but also to any substitutes who meet the criteria, school officials said.

Maine

The Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland typically offers lobster dinners, cooking contests, entertainment, and a variety of activities and vendors. (Photo: courtesy of Maine Lobster Festival)

Rockland: The state’s celebration of all things lobster is a no-go for this summer. The board of the Maine Lobster Festival voted unanimously Tuesday night to cancel the event for a second straight year because of the pandemic. “Because we hold a festival that serves food in tents to tens of thousands of guests, there are not safe ways for us to do this and comply with CDC guidelines,” festival officials said on social media. The event, normally held each August in Rockland, features multiple attractions and serves up tens of thousands of pounds of lobster. Meanwhile, the state is working to get more COVID-19 vaccines into small and independent pharmacies. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said nearly a third of residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. He said Tuesday that the state is working to “chart a course for independent pharmacies here in Maine” to participate more in the rollout via long-term care facilities and their own storefronts. “For a lot of Maine communities, the independent pharmacies are the most trusted source in town,” Shah said. “We’re working to get them vaccines.” Maine opened eligibility for vaccines to people 50 and older in late March. The state is scheduled to open eligibility to everyone 16 and older April 19.

Maryland

Annapolis: A bill that would require the Maryland Department of Health to create and implement a two-year plan for COVID-19 recovery by June 1, among other measures, is nearing passage in the General Assembly. Central to the measure, with a price tag of at least $152.5 million in federal funds, is a framework that would require the state agency to collaborate with local health departments to organize efforts to “monitor, prevent, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the fiscal note says. Included in the guidelines the bill lays out for state and local health departments are requirements to set precise targets for the number of coronavirus tests to administer each month, creating methods for addressing responses that have fallen short, and a requirement to bill health insurance, when applicable, for all virus tests. The bill also prioritizes the assessment and improvement of contact tracing. Through the proposed Maryland Public Health Jobs Corps, local health departments would recruit unemployed or displaced workers to serve in different roles that aid in the COVID-19 response. When their duties are complete, the workers would transition to more permanent roles that target “post-pandemic population health needs of underserved communities and vulnerable populations.”

Massachusetts

Boston: U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch is urging government agencies, schools and businesses to use their federal COVID-19 relief funding to buy medical protective equipment made in the U.S. rather than China. “We’ve got China hacking federal agencies, hacking our military and hacking our domestic companies; we’ve had theft of intellectual property,” the Massachusetts Democrat said Tuesday. “We shouldn’t put our future and our safety in the hands of a government that’s been hostile to the interests of the United States.” President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan provides billions of dollars for the purchase of masks, gloves, gowns and other equipment needed to help protect people against COVID-19. There are plenty of companies in Massachusetts and across the nation manufacturing such equipment, Lynch said after a tour of the Hynes Convention Center mass vaccination site in Boston. “We’re asking all those given money to purchase PPE in the U.S.,” he said. “Support that market that we’re trying to create here in the U.S. There are companies all over the U.S. that are trying to provide product for the protection of U.S. citizens, but that can’t happen if we continue to buy product from China.”

Michigan

Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday doubled the state’s daily COVID-19 vaccination goal to 100,000 shots. She cited continuous week-over-week increases in vaccine allotments the state is receiving and an expanded number of providers who can administer doses. She called vaccinations safe, effective and essential to getting the country back to normal. “These new, higher vaccine targets are a testament to what we can do together, and we need to meet them so we can keep rebuilding our economy,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. Michigan is facing a third surge in cases. It had the nation’s second-highest infection rate over the past two weeks. Rates in the Thumb region’s counties – Huron, St. Clair and Sanilac – ranked fourth, fifth and eighth highest in the U.S. Daily deaths are also rising, though they are still well below the peaks of last April and December. Whitmer loosened some restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus after cases and hospitalizations dropped and amid a constant stream of Republican criticism. During a CNN appearance, she again appeared reluctant to tighten them a third time. “We’re continuing to have robust conversations,” she said. “There’s a lot of push and pull. What we need to do is double down on our masking and get more people vaccinated.”

Minnesota

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, second from right, and Republican former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, second from left, receive doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a vaccination site at a Minnesota Vikings NFL football team practice facility Tuesday in Eagan, Minn. (Photo: Mohamed Ibrahim/AP)

Minneapolis: Gov. Tim Walz and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty each received a COVID-19 shot in a bipartisan display aimed at boosting acceptance of the vaccine as eligibility opened up to all Minnesotans 16 and older Tuesday. The Democratic governor and former Republican governor both received doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday, when the state expanded its eligibility guidelines after a projected increase in its weekly allotment of doses from the federal government. Minnesota eclipsed the milestone of 1 million residents fully vaccinated Tuesday, and more than 1.6 million have received at least one dose. Over the weekend, the state reported its two highest days on record for the number of vaccines administered, and health officials counted over 70,000 people who received a shot in the two days. Walz and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state will be ramping up outreach efforts to expand access to the vaccine to underserved communities and combat potential vaccine hesitancy across the state. Pawlenty speculated that hesitancy from conservatives may come from a skepticism of the government and government programs but urged that “these vaccines are safe and incredibly helpful, and everyone should get them.”

Mississippi

Jackson: Health officials are recommending that churches and other religious organizations continue to hold off on hosting indoor worship services during the coronavirus pandemic, even after Gov. Tate Reeves relaxed regulations on other kinds of social gatherings. “To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the vulnerable, the safest options continue to be virtual or outdoor services,” the state Health Department said in a news release this week detailing new guidelines for faith-based gatherings and worship. Last month, Reeves, a Republican, rolled back mask mandates on the state level and all capacity regulations for restaurants. As for worship services, health officials say they recommend everyone 65 and older or 16 or older with high-risk medical conditions be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before attending indoor services. All congregants should wear a face mask at all times during in-person services and Sunday school classes and maintain 6 feet of separation from people who don’t live in the same house as them. People should not gather in close groups while entering or exiting the building and should use hand sanitizer. Singing at services is “a high-risk activity that can quickly spread viral particles,” officials said.

Missouri

St. Louis: A federal lawsuit seeks a return of the 1% earnings tax paid by people who normally work in the city but instead worked from their suburban homes during the pandemic. The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of three suburban St. Louis residents seeks class-action status, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. If successful, the lawsuit could cost the city millions of dollars. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Bevis Schock, said last year that he planned to file a class-action lawsuit after St. Louis Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daily issued a policy barring city earnings tax refunds for employees working outside city limits. Thousands of people, particularly white-collar office workers, who are employed at businesses in St. Louis but live outside the city have worked from home since March 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.“The way we view it, you and your company have agreed (to have you) work at home. You’re still utilizing all the computer software that your company provides” from its base in the city, Daly told the Post-Dispatch in June. More than one-third of the city’s general revenue comes from the tax, or about $180 million last year. A city spokesman declined to comment.

Montana

Great Falls: The Lake County-Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Unified Command Center is hosting two vaccine clinics open to all Lake County and Flathead Reservation residents 16 or older. The clinics, to be held April 10 and April 17 at the Salish Kootenai College Joe McDonald Gymnasium in Pablo, run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to a news release. Appointments are required, with sign-up available at mtreadyclinic.org or 406-745-3525. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which offered COVID-19 vaccines to Lake County teachers a month before they were eligible in Montana, are among many tribes offering vaccines to non-Natives. The Blackfeet Nation is offering vaccines to all Glacier National Park staff and hosted a “street corner clinic” where it vaccinated 103 people. The Indian Family Health Clinic, an Indian Health Service-funded facility, has vaccinated more than 80 non-Native Great Falls educators. Relying on a centralized health care system, personal outreach methods and incentives, Native American tribes’ vaccination efforts have been a huge success. The Blackfeet Nation has vaccinated about 95% of its eligible population on the reservation, and 70% of adults on the Crow Reservation have received at least one dose.

Nebraska

Omaha: Two health care companies have agreed to settle with the state attorney general’s office on charges of misleading advertising, marketing, distribution and sales of coronavirus antibody testing. Attorney General Doug Peterson alleged in a July complaint that Pivot Concierge Health and Banyan Medical Systems violated Nebraska’s consumer protection law and a federal deceptive trade practices law, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Under a settlement signed last week, both companies must disclose the risks and limitations of coronavirus testing products and comply with the law. Pivot Concierge Health must also pay $25,000 to the state. State attorneys alleged that both companies advertised and sold coronavirus infection and antibody tests from at least March 19 to April 29, 2020, at an Omaha drive-thru clinic.

Nevada

The Mandalay Bay hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip will be the site of a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for casino employees. (Photo: John Locher/AP)

Las Vegas: The world’s two biggest casino companies are bringing vaccines to their Las Vegas Strip employees, with inoculation clinics at the Mandalay Bay resort convention center and the Rio All-Suites Hotel. Easing COVID-19 vaccine availability for thousands of hotel and hospitality workers in the tourism-dependent city comes with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas setting a July 1 date to return to in-person activities and city workers fanning out following the lifting of sports restrictions to reinstall basketball hoops at city parks. MGM Resorts International said Tuesday that it saw vaccinations as “a critically important tool in helping to end the pandemic and accelerate our community’s economic recovery.” Caesars Entertainment Inc. said it will start offering shots Thursday at the Rio for all company workers, with a goal of 10,000 vaccinations in April. It will partner with Albertsons supermarkets to administer up to 2,000 doses per day by appointment only. MGM Resorts – the largest employer in Nevada, with nine major resorts on the Las Vegas Strip – had more than 50,000 workers before closures began in March 2020 to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The company laid off about 1 in 4 of its 70,000 employees nationwide, and not all have returned to work.

New Hampshire

Concord: Out-of-state college students may not be out of luck, after all, when it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Chris Sununu said last week that only New Hampshire residents would be eligible when eligibility expands Friday to include anyone age 16 and over, and out-of-state college students should return to their home states to get vaccinated. But the head of a nonprofit consortium that includes 21 public and private campuses said Wednesday that it is working to change that. Michele Perkins, chair of the council and president of New England College, said colleges recognized the need to prioritize residents, but as the vaccine process unfolds ahead of the original schedule, they are hopeful the state will offer shots to all students who want them. The announcement came hours after Democratic lawmakers and college students held a news conference to object to the governor’s decision. “Vaccinating the student population would save lives and livelihoods,” said Hannah Dunleavy, a student at Dartmouth College. “Clearly, students at Dartmouth are contracting COVID-19 at high rates, and we risk spreading the virus to people in the town of Hanover if we don’t vaccinate students. The virus doesn’t care if we live in New Hampshire nine months out of the year or all year round.”

New Jersey

Trenton: As the state races to vaccinate its adult population faster than coronavirus variants spread, state statisticians predict that even in their best-case scenario, this summer New Jersey will see thousands more new cases each day compared to last summer. In the more dire predictions under Department of Health models Gov. Phil Murphy presented Wednesday, the state could see a record high of infections, depending on how effectively vaccines work against variant strains, whether New Jerseyans follow public health measures and how quickly they get vaccinated. “These are models, not certainties,” Murphy said. “We can change them with our behavior. It really is that simple.” In the worst-case scenario, the number of people who test positive for the virus each day peaks in mid-May and starts a steady but slow decline. If New Jerseyans don’t follow public health guidelines as strictly during Memorial Day, if variants spread and vaccines only protect against 65% of variant cases, and if 70% of adults are vaccinated by June 15, the peak could produce the highest number of daily cases New Jersey has ever reported. In a moderate-case future, the Garden State could see a lower peak of cases a month earlier, in mid-April.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: Organizers are planning for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s return this year, and spectators will likely be allowed, with ticket sales for the annual fall event expected to begin in July. The fiesta’s early morning mass ascensions, fireworks shows and launches of special-shaped hot air balloons attract hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the globe and hundreds of balloon pilots and their crews. Last year’s event wasn’t held because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity said Tuesday that the board of directors is committed to following the state’s public health mandates and will have updates on the status of the event each month. The board also plans to identify health measures for pilots and guests by the time tickets go on sale. New Mexico has had some of the nation’s most restrictive rules in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Despite criticism, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials have argued that the rules were necessary because of the lack of access to health care in the state and the high numbers of people with existing health conditions that put them at greater risk. Some of the restrictions have been relaxed in recent weeks as more counties have met the state’s benchmarks. But the mask mandate remains in place statewide.

New York

Siba, a standard poodle, competes for Best in Show during 144th Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York on Feb. 11, 2020. (Photo: John Minchillo/AP)

New York: America’s top dogs won’t have their pack of fans on hand at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The club announced Monday that spectators and vendors won’t be allowed because of coronavirus limitations. No tickets will be sold. It’s the latest in a series of pandemic shake-ups to the nation’s most prestigious canine competition. It’s been moved from its longtime February date to June 12-13 and from New York City’s Hudson River piers and Madison Square Garden to an outdoor setting at a riverfront estate in suburban Tarrytown, north of Manhattan. It will be the first time in over a century that Westminster’s coveted best in show prize won’t be awarded at Madison Square Garden, where thousands of dog lovers usually cheer on their favorite breeds and contestants. The 2020 show was held in mid-February, about a month before virus shutdowns began. The show usually also offers spectators a chance to interact with dogs and breeders when they’re out of the ring, a highlight for many showgoers. This time, fans can watch the final rounds from afar on Fox channels. Preliminary rounds – including the agility competition’s early stages June 11 – and an obedience competition will be streamed on Westminster’s website. The club says it’s planning to return the show to New York City next year.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced a three-month extension of the statewide eviction moratorium that had been set to expire at the end of March. The updated executive order came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directed states to extend protections through June 30. The CDC order applies to all standard rental housing but doesn’t cover those living in hotels, motels or other temporary guest home rentals, nor individuals making more than $99,000 a year. Cooper signed two other orders Tuesday. One directive extends to-go alcohol sales by a month until 5 p.m. April 30, while the other expedites unemployment insurance claim processing. “Even though North Carolina is turning the corner on this pandemic, many are still struggling,” Cooper said in a statement. “These executive orders will help families stay in their homes and help hard-hit businesses increase their revenue.”

North Dakota

Bismarck: State officials on Monday announced a new food assistance program for families whose children have been eligible for free or reduced-price school meals during the current school year. The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program provides EBT cards to eligible families to buy food. They will receive benefits for days that students in the household are learning at home, rather than in a school building. Families do not need to apply for the benefit. Schools are gathering information about which students qualify. Eligible households will receive letters to notify them about the P-EBT benefit, and they will be mailed EBT cards in the coming weeks. The benefit will equal $6.82 for each day a student has been learning through distance instruction. The amount is the current daily federal reimbursement that schools receive per student for providing a free breakfast, lunch and after-school snack.

Ohio

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted addresses the 55th Electoral College at the Statehouse in Columbus on Dec. 14. (Photo: Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch)

Columbus: The lieutenant governor dug in his heels Wednesday on a tweet in which he referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus,” even as advocates warn such rhetoric is a driving force behind violence against Asian Americans. Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s tweet Friday marked the second time in a week that Democratic state Sen. Tina Maharath, the first Asian American woman elected to the Ohio General Assembly, heard an elected official call the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, the “Wuhan virus,” she said. Maharath said Husted and others are following the lead of former President Donald Trump, who sometimes used overtly racist terms to refer to the virus. “When you say those things, such as attach locations or ethnicities to the disease, it creates racial profiling, and then it turns into xenophobic behavior,” Maharath said. “And when leaders with that kind of power repeat those terms in confidence and double down on it, it leads to more hate crimes.” His intention with the tweet, Husted said in an interview with the Associated Press, was to criticize the Chinese government. “I was just pointing out that this is an international crisis, in my opinion, that the Chinese government is responsible for, and I wanted an independent investigation,” he said. The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus emerged accidentally from a Chinese laboratory and was likely spread from animals to humans.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The City Council voted Tuesday to delay for two weeks a vote on whether to lift a mask mandate imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The mandate, which requires face coverings to be worn in buildings open to the public, was established in July and is set to expire April 30. Two council members have proposed ending the mandate early, despite recommendations from city health officials that it remain in place. “Masks have worked throughout the pandemic and are still working,” Dr. Patrick McGough, executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, and Dr. Gary Raskob, chair of the City-County Board of Health, wrote in a letter Tuesday to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “Getting back to normal is a two-part process, with vaccines and masks working hand-in-hand to keep case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths down, and prevent variant strains of COVID-19 from gaining traction in our community.” State health officials are working to quickly roll out COVID-19 vaccines and on Monday opened up eligibility for all residents 16 and older, but less than one-third of people in the state have received a first dose of the vaccine, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oregon

Portland: The state House of Representatives returned to action Tuesday after a week of canceled floor sessions due to multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases within the Capitol. Lawmakers began using a computer program to automatically read hundreds of pages of proposed bills after Republicans refused to suspend the full reading of bills before a final vote – a tactic that could add hours to the passage of even simple legislation. The slowdown has been used by the minority Republican Party as frustrations about the priorities of the 2021 session increase. The refusal to back down led to a chilly reaction from Democrats, who called the GOP’s actions “reckless and pointless,” and the coronavirus cases further raised tensions in the Capitol. “They’re also putting the health of all legislators, staff and their families at risk as we’re still fighting a global pandemic,” Democratic Rep. Rachel Prusak, tweeted Tuesday. In an attempt to decrease the COVID-19 risk, lawmakers are working in their Capitol offices as the bills are read and will return to the floor for discussions and voting.

Pennsylvania

A sign outside a pharmacy in Steelton, Pa., announces a drive-thru administering COVID-19 vaccinations. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Harrisburg: Every adult in the state will qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 19, and emergency responders, grocery workers and people in other high-risk groups are able to schedule their shots immediately, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced Wednesday in a dramatic expansion of the statewide rollout. Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the new timeline is possible because Pennsylvania’s vaccine supply is growing and getting more predictable, and providers across the state report they are ready for a fresh influx of people seeking protection against the coronavirus. The state is racing to vaccinate its population while it contends with a spring surge in coronavirus infections. Pennsylvania is averaging more than 4,000 cases per day – up 60% in two weeks – and hospitals are caring for hundreds more seriously ill patients than they were just 10 days ago. “Our numbers are really, really rising very quickly,” said Val Arkoosh, who chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “I’m very concerned about the direction that this pandemic is going.” Despite rising case counts and hospitalizations, Beam said the state is forging ahead with its plan to ease pandemic restrictions on bar seating, restaurant capacity, and indoor and outdoor events starting Sunday.

Rhode Island

Sabina Matos appears with Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, who has named Matos as his pick for lieutenant governor. McKee held that role until former Gov. Gina Raimondo departed for a role in President Joe Biden's Cabinet. (Photo: David DelPoio)

Providence: Gov. Daniel McKee on Wednesday nominated Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as his lieutenant governor. If confirmed by the state Senate, she will be the first person of color in state history to hold the job. About 80 people initially applied for the job, but the Democratic governor said at a news conference that Matos shares his vision. “In selecting a lieutenant governor, I was looking or someone to be a true governing partner,” he said. “Someone who shares my commitment to supporting our 39 cities and towns and our small businesses, and that’s exactly what I found in Sabina. I know that Sabina Matos will help our administration serve all Rhode Islanders as we recover and rebuild from this pandemic.” He noted that she, like him – a former town councilor and mayor in his hometown of Cumberland – rose through the ranks of local politics. Matos, 47, was first elected to the Providence City Council in 2010 and voted president in 2019. Matos said her priorities will be continuing the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, getting the state back to work and children up to speed in the classroom after the pandemic, and addressing what she called the “affordable housing crisis.”

South Carolina

Columbia: Lawmakers are considering a proposal to prevent employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for workers. The resolution passed by the state Senate Medical Affairs committee Wednesday says that employers can’t punish or fire their workers for refusing to get the shots. The proposal makes some exceptions for hospitals and other employers working with populations who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Employers could still require quarantines for workers exposed to the virus and provide incentives for employees to get the vaccine. The proposal now heads to the full Senate for a vote. Senators already passed a separate bill that would prevent lawsuits against businesses and other groups by people who contract COVID-19 as long as federal and state health guidelines were being followed.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Anyone over 16 will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination starting Monday. Gov. Kristi Noem’s announcement Wednesday followed an uptick in cases statewide. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 34%, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. But state health officials also reported that 43% of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and about 65% of those people have completed vaccination, which requires two shots in most cases. More than 400,000 South Dakotans will have access to vaccines with the broadening of eligibility next week. Shots will be made available for free through health care providers and at pharmacies statewide. “There will not be the heavy hand of government mandating that you get the vaccine,” Noem said in a video announcement. “Instead, we will do what we always do. We’ll trust our people to do the right thing.” No states have mandated that the general public get a vaccine. The Republican governor credited former President Donald Trump for initiating a vaccine development program, saying Democratic President Joe Biden is “yielding the fruits” of those efforts.

Tennessee

Lizzo will perform at the 2021 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com)

Manchester: After canceling its 2020 event due to the pandemic, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has revealed its 2021 lineup, filled with familiar names and a few big surprises. Foo Fighters, Lizzo, Tyler the Creator, Tame Impala, Megan Thee Stallion and Lana Del Rey top the bill at this year’s festival, slated for Sept. 2-5 in Manchester. Other big acts include Lil Baby, Run the Jewels, Janelle Monae, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, deadmau5, G-Eazy, Jack Harlow, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit and Brittany Howard. Tickets went on sale Wednesday at bonnaroo.com/tickets. Many of the acts on this year’s lineup were originally slated to perform at the canceled 2020 Bonnaroo. This year will mark the first time Bonnaroo hasn’t taken place in June. Bonnaroo said in a press release that organizers “always will be in regular communication with local health and public safety officials and will continue to abide by relevant recommendations.” Gov. Bill Lee also said in a statement: “It’s exciting to see Tennessee stages come back to life in time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this internationally acclaimed festival. Fans are ready to gather together and celebrate their shared love of music once again. We welcome them back for a full Bonnaroo and what is sure to be a truly unforgettable event!”

Texas

Austin: The state opened vaccine eligibility to all adults this week, joining a rapid national expansion as state health officials continue monitoring whether spring break will change a downward trend in coronavirus cases. Texas is receiving more than 1 million new doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week, and shipments are expected to increase in April, said Imelda Garcia, head of the state’s expert vaccine allocation panel. Vaccination rates in Texas have lagged much of the nation. Although officials put some blame on data reporting delays, they acknowledged some appointment slots are going unfilled. “We have heard from some of our providers that demand has definitely decreased over the past couple of weeks,” said Garcia, adding that some unused doses are being transferred to other providers. Texas has administered more than 10 million vaccine doses. Garcia said it’s still too early to tell how spring break affects Texas COVID-19 cases. However, officials are pleased with recent trends, she said. Texas’ seven-day rolling average of new cases did not increase over the past two weeks, going from roughly 4,500 new cases per day March 13 to about 4,000 on Saturday.

Utah

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell celebrates after dunking against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 24 in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP)

Salt Lake City: Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell will give the keynote address for the University of Utah’s 2021 commencement, the school announced Tuesday. The campuswide commencement will take place virtually May 6. In-person college convocations will be held May 5-8. The university said in a statement that Mitchell “is known as a team player and community builder who is passionate about education and social justice.” University President Ruth Watkins said in a statement that Mitchell “shows by example what one person can do to influence the lives of countless others and how to step forward to advocate for change with grace and goodwill.” Mitchell was awarded the offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award in January for his commitment to advancing social justice and educational access for students of color. Ephraim Kum, president of the university’s student association, said he is “incredibly excited for students to hear from Donovan Mitchell. He has long been one of my favorite players, not just because of his abilities as an athlete, but also for his inspiring leadership, his genuine commitment to our community and his willingness to speak up on social justice issues.”

Vermont

Newport: Recent testing at a prison in the city returned no positive results for the coronavirus in inmates or staffers – the first time results were all negative since an outbreak started at the facility in late February, the Vermont Department of Corrections said Wednesday. “We will continue to test the facility and monitor the situation closely, we aren’t in the clear yet, but today is encouraging,” Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement of the results from testing Monday. The Northern State Correctional Facility currently has two cases among inmates and three staff cases, the department said. A total of 177 people have been medically cleared to leave isolation, it said. Staffers and inmates will be tested again Thursday.

Virginia

Richmond: The Richmond and Henrico health districts have scheduled the first round of Phase 1c-eligible residents for COVID-19 vaccine events. The health districts said in a news release Wednesday that up to 7,500 Phase 1c eligible individuals will receive an email that will allow them so schedule an appointment. Vaccinations for people eligible in Phases 1a and 1b will still be available. The groups of people in Phase 1c are considered essential to the functioning of society or are at higher risk of exposure. They include people who work in fields such as energy, wastewater, construction and food service. Those who work in higher education, transportation and legal services are also eligible. The state began inoculating health care personnel and people living in long-term care facilities in December. It then expanded to people over the age of 65, people with underlying health conditions and some front-line workers who are considered essential. Anyone over age 16 who lives or works in Virginia is expected to be eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

Washington

Yakima: Just in time for the asparagus harvest that will employ large numbers of farm workers, the federal government has opened a mass COVID-19 vaccination center in the center of the state’s agricultural region. Washington’s first federal mass vaccination center, at the Central Washington State Fair Park in Yakima, opened Wednesday and will administer close to 1,200 doses per day, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which operates the site along with state and local officials. Vaccine will come to the site directly from the federal government rather than from the state’s weekly allocation. The additional doses will help vaccinate more Washingtonians, including those in rural and agricultural communities that have been particularly affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 has hit Yakima County hard, with high infection and hospitalization rates compared to the rest of Washington. People from racial and ethnic minority groups have accounted for approximately 50% of the county’s coronavirus cases. “We are so appreciative to FEMA and our other federal partners for working with the state to make significant additional resources available to the people of the Yakima Valley,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. FEMA officials said the center will operate for eight weeks.

West Virginia

Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice announced 34 previously unreported coronavirus deaths Wednesday. Justice for the first time pinned blame on the Department of Health and Human Resources for a data issue that has led to the late disclosure of more than 200 deaths so far. “Once we got into this situation, our people at DHHR should’ve recognized this issue and moved. They didn’t move, and I’m not happy about that,” the Republican governor said. “I can’t tell you that it is completely over yet, but I surely hope and pray that this is the last” of unreported deaths. Justice said he has ordered the department to implement “a new electronic death reporting system.” Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state health officer, said the new system would be in place “as soon as possible,” but officials are searching for a vendor for the program. Justice and Amjad have previously said batches of unreported deaths, including 165 last month, were a result of hospitals and nursing homes not reporting the fatalities in a timely manner to the state. But Justice was less certain this time. “I don’t really know if it has come from a nursing home or a hospital or within DHHR; I don’t know,” Justice said about the deaths. “But I know they’re just getting to us.” The governor said an internal review didn’t find any purposeful intent to cover up data.

Wisconsin

Appleton North High School's Cal Martine (44) breaks away from Appleton East High School's Kenan Rollins (29) to run for a touchdown during their football game Friday, March 26, 2021, at Appleton North High School in Appleton, Wis. Appleton North won 49-31.
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin (Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis)

Green Bay: Dozens of high schools are playing football this spring after opting out of the fall season because of the pandemic. According to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, about 250 high schools played football last fall, but more than 100 are playing this spring, including about 50 games this past weekend. The association’s deputy director, Wade Labecki, said teams will play seven games during the alternate spring season. There’s no postseason because football is set to start again in the fall, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. At Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, head coach Mike Rader said there are some logistical challenges with playing in the spring. His football squad will have to start sharing its turf with the soccer and lacrosse teams. Rader said athletics has been a helpful outlet after a hard year. “As we started to open things back up a little bit, and we would have kids throwing footballs around to each other and stuff like that, in a lot of cases the high school kids kind of looked like grade school kids because they were just happy to be out there,” he said. Swimming and volleyball are also underway. And safety is the top priority, Labecki said. Wisconsin is in a better place now than in the fall, officials said. Still, Notre Dame is taking precautions including weekly virus testing, Rader said.

Wyoming

Casper: The governor is rejecting a call by President Joe Biden for states to reimpose mask orders in response to the coronavirus. Gov. Mark Gordon lifted a statewide mask mandate March 16 that had been in effect since December. Several other Republican governors have done the same. Gordon has no plans to reimpose Wyoming’s mandate but urges people to take personal responsibility to keep communities safe, spokesman Michael Pearlman said Tuesday. Biden and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that this is no time to relax safety measures. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told governors in a call Tuesday that a growing rate of COVID-19 infections nationwide is concerning. New cases in Wyoming have fallen off sharply since December. They’re down to the level recorded last September – about 50 new cases per day, down from a peak of over 600 daily cases. Almost 700 people in the state have died of COVID-19 over the past year, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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