News from around our 50 states

Alabama

Birmingham: Space Camp, an educational program attended by nearly 1 million people, including a dozen who went on to become astronauts or cosmonauts, said Tuesday it’s in danger of closing without a cash infusion because of the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the state-owned U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Space Camp was shut down for weeks earlier this year and has been hampered by low attendance since reopening in June with limited capacity, officials said. With most of its typical staff slashed and the usual flow of international students and school groups down to nothing for the fall because of the virus, leaders held a news conference announcing a “Save Space Camp” drive. Officials hope to raise at least $1.5 million in donations they said were needed to keep the museum open through October, the end of the fiscal year, and to reopen Space Camp in April. “We are now struggling for our very survival,” said John Nerger, chair of a state board that oversees the center. Donors gave nearly $100,000 within a couple hours of the announcement. Located near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the museum features exhibits including an authentic Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 16 command module and a full-sized model of a space shuttle. Space Camp students have access to that area plus classes and mockups where they participate in simulated space missions.

Alaska

Anchorage: Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered a state building closed after a worker there tested positive for COVID-19, his office said. The Atwood Building was cleaned over the weekend, and reopened Monday Last week, Dunleavy issued an order requiring all employees, contractors and visitors to state facilities across Alaska to wear a mask if it is not possible to stay at least 6 feet apart. The order applies to areas such as elevators, stairwells, hallways and offices, and stresses other actions, including hand-washing and distancing. In late June, when Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz signed an order requiring face coverings in certain indoor public settings in the municipality, state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said the order did not apply to state buildings and facilities in Anchorage. But Clarkson said Dunleavy supports state employees who choose to wear face coverings. Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the Clarkson memo was drafted at Dunleavy’s request.

Arizona

Grayson Bair, 9, from Highland Park Elementary in Gilbert, Ariz., attends the
Grayson Bair, 9, from Highland Park Elementary in Gilbert, Ariz., attends the

Phoenix: A protest in support of schools reopening in-person classes for the upcoming school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic drew around 150 people Tuesday night at the state Capitol. The protest is called “AZ Open Our Schools Rally” and was organized for families and educators who want in-person learning options at Arizona schools. Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered schools to reopen for on-site learning on Aug. 17 for students who have nowhere else to go, but they do not have to open every school or require every teacher to show up to work in person. Attendees wore green to the demonstration at the state Capitol because “Green means GO for education!” according to the rally’s Facebook page. Several speakers talked about school reopening plans. “We don’t want to force people to do things they don’t want to do but we also don’t want to be forced to do things we don’t want to do, for example, online school,” a woman said to cheers from the crowd. The protest comes after teachers rallied across the Valley last week to protest schools reopening for in-person classes as the number of COVID-19 cases remains high in Arizona. Some teachers are drafting their wills, a school board member said at a news conference earlier this month, and a few have died.

Arkansas

Little Rock: As the hospitalizations passed the 500 mark and total positive COVID-19 cases passed 40,000, Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated that Arkansas needed to “do better” when it came to the number of positive cases accumulating in the state. Although the number of active cases had declined, the seven-day rolling average reached a plateau that the governor wants to see go down. With 501 hospitalizations and 110 patients on a ventilator, Hutchinson called the increase “unacceptable” and urged Arkansans to follow health guidelines by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. This number represents a record for hospitalizations in Arkansas at a given time.With 20 additional deaths reported Tuesday, the total number rose to 428. Hutchinson showed a graph of positivity rate by county. Sebastian County was 7.7% and Crawford County was at 6.2%. Although both of these are under the 10% threshold set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, they are higher than the recommended 5% for returning to school. Hutchinson acknowledged the delay in test results leading to the delay in contact tracing, but he emphasized the importance of continuing to track down contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.

California

Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom is using new powers to withhold money from two cities in the Central Valley that are defying his health orders by allowing all businesses to open during the pandemic. Newsom blocked nearly $65,000 from Atwater in Merced County and more than $35,000 from Coalinga in Fresno County, the first installments of $2.5 billion in federal funds that cities and counties across the state risk losing if they don’t toe the line on coronavirus safeguards. The state’s Office of Emergency Services sent letters to the cities last week notifying officials that they risked losing more money if they didn’t withdraw resolutions defying the state’s orders. The city councils in both cities met Monday and stuck with their resolutions. “We chose our path and we prepared for it.” Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton said. Creighton said the governor is abandoning the small city even as he devotes more resources and federal money to fight a virus surge in the Central Valley. Creighton said sentiment in his city of 29,000 seems to be running about 80 to 20 in defiance of the governor. Newsom was granted the power to block the money in the new state budget that took effect earlier this month. The cities lost the first one-sixth of their money but can get the rest if they rescind their resolutions, Office of Emergency Services spokesman Brian Ferguson said. Atwater is eligible for $389,000 and Coalinga for $216,000 in assistance through the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Colorado

Denver: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis laid out key demands for the next U.S. coronavirus relief package, urging Congress to deliver uninterrupted benefits for the growing ranks of people without jobs, cash for testing and contact tracing and billions of dollars to backfill long-term losses in state and local government budgets. Polis warned of dire consequences to the economic welfare of millions of Coloradans and to the state’s ability to contain the pandemic in a letter sent to the state’s congressional delegation as the U.S. Senate begins deliberating the next phase of coronavirus relief while infections surge across the nation. “The continued uncertainty regarding the extension and funding of key federal programs for Coloradans is making many of our neighbors contemplate extremely difficult choices regarding their financial futures,” Polis said. More than 450,000 people in Colorado have received more than $1.7 billion through that benefit and other federal unemployment assistance, Polis said, especially in Colorado’s hard-hit outdoor recreation, tourism and hospitality industries. A total of more than 600,000 Coloradans have filed for unemployment benefits since March.

Connecticut

Providence: Gov. Ned Lamont and Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre S. Gifford said they’re worried about recent clusters of teens and young people in Connecticut testing positive for COVID-19. They noted how statistics show that 18- to-29-year-olds represent substantial numbers of new cases in Connecticut and elsewhere in recent weeks. “Connecticut has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country right now, but if we are not careful, this can change rapidly,” the Democratic governor warned in a written statement. “We do not want to end up with uncontrolled outbreaks like those being seen across much of the south and western portions of the United States. … This is not a time to relax our basic practices to slow down the spread of the virus. This is a time for remaining vigilant.” As of Tuesday, there have been more than 49,000 total cases of COVID-19, an increase of 94 since Monday. To date, 4,423 have died, an increase of five since Monday. The number of hospitalizations is 54, down by five since Monday.

Delaware

Dover: Public schools in Delaware will likely reopen with a mix of remote and in-person classes, although each school district will make its own decision on how to begin the academic year, Gov. John Carney said. State officials are offering guidance to school districts and charter schools based on trends in the number of new COVID-19 cases, average daily hospitalizations and the percentage of people testing positive. Those criteria are used to define “green light, yellow light, red light” scenarios based on minimal spread of the virus, minimal-to-moderate spread and significant spread. A green scenario would allow for in-person instruction, and yellow would call for a hybrid model of remote learning and in-person classes. Under the red scenario, school buildings would be closed and instruction would be by remote learning only. “Help us get to green,” Carney said, encouraging Delawareans to wear masks in public and to get tested. Carney said a final determination on guidance for school districts will be made next week.

District of Columbia

Washington: Health officials have adjusted the threshold for moving into Phase 3 of the District’s reopening plan, WUSA-TV reported. Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt with the D.C. Department of Public Health said that the District would like to see a positivity rate of under 5% before moving into Phase 3. Previously, the goal was set at 10%. Mayor Murial Bowser signed a new order that requires people to self-quarantine after nonessential travel to high-risk states. The order will be effective until Oct. 9. Anyone traveling to the District from a high-risk state will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The order does not apply to neighboring states such as Virginia and Maryland. A comprehensive list of high-risk areas will be made available and updated every two weeks on the city health website. Bowser and city leaders announced new metrics that will monitor the percent of positive cases associated with quarantine contact. The city is activating a new contact trace force home visit team program next week that will focus on high-risk populations along with sharing COVID-19 resources with residents. Bowser said the state of emergency, set to expire at the end of the month will likely be extended into October, but the extension has not been made official yet.

Florida

Orlando: Gov. Ron DeSantis said he might extend the statewide moratorium on housing evictions that is set to expire Saturday. DeSantis signaled the possibility of the extension during a roundtable discussion in Orlando about the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, saying officials will have “something on that soon.” The moratorium, which was implemented in April, allows people to avoid eviction from their homes amid the virus outbreak. The governor has extended the ban twice, hours before it was set to expire, news outlets reported. During the governor’s extension last month, nearly 17,000 eviction orders had been filed in Palm Beach County alone, Sharon Bock, the county’s clerk of courts, told the Palm Beach Post. If the order is not extended, “we may be trading a medical pandemic for a housing pandemic,” Bethanie Barber, the executive director for the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, told WESH-TV.

Georgia

Atlanta: Many Georgia hospitals are groaning under the assault of COVID-19 infections, with total hospitalizations from the respiratory illness remaining above 3,000 statewide on Tuesday for the 10th day in a row. As of Monday, 25 hospitals reported no critical care beds available. Nine reported no general inpatient beds, including Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin, according to data obtained by the Associated Press from the Department of Public Health. Statewide on Tuesday, 88% of critical care beds were in use, tying the highest level since the pandemic began. Not all critical care patients have COVID-19, however. Overall, patients with the respiratory illness were filling 3,157 of Georgia’s more than 21,000 hospital beds. In southeast Georgia, where cases are rising rapidly, officials at Southeast Georgia Health System’s main hospital in Brunswick told The Brunswick News on Monday that patients are sometimes being held in ambulances because no beds are available. Chief Operating Officer Christy Jordan told the newspaper that hospitals in Waycross, Jesup and St. Mary’s were full and sending patients to Brunswick. The hospital hopes to open up 32 beds by Wednesday as part of a renovation, but is trying to staff up rapidly. Jordan said the hospital has turned to staffing agencies to meet the need for more nurses.

Hawaii

Honolulu: Although Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of cases per capita in the country and many schools have open-air campuses, the challenges of returning children full-time to classrooms might still be insurmountable. Many residents live in multigenerational homes and fear for their elderly relatives, many schools lack the classroom space to allow for desks to be 6 feet apart, and the state is a major tourist destination and could see a rise in cases if restrictions are eased. As a result, most schools in Hawaii will institute the hybrid approach being adopted in many parts of the country, with students alternating between attending in-person classes and online instruction. Some schools will have full face-to-face instruction for younger grade levels, but only a handful of schools will offer a full-time, in-person return. Schools in the only statewide public school system in the nation were scheduled to reopen Aug. 4, but the teachers union led an effort to delay that. The district and the union agreed to a new date of Aug. 17. The Hawaii Board of Education will consider whether to approve the delay at a meeting Thursday.

Idaho

Boise: Organizations that advocate for schools, counties, county sheriffs and businesses said Tuesday they want lawmakers called back into session to create a liability shield for protection against COVID-19-related lawsuits. The Judiciary and Rules Working Group took no action but plans to meet again this week to consider possible legislation to be sent to Republican Gov. Brad Little. Little is the only one with the authority to call a special session. The 2021 Legislature isn’t scheduled to convene for its regular session until early January. “There’s an open dialogue between the Governor’s Office and House and Senate leadership on many issues including any possible call for a special session,” said Little’s spokeswoman, Marissa Morrison, in an email to the Associated Press. Several lawmakers noted their concerns that state-approved liability protection from COVID-19-related lawsuits could mean government entities and businesses would lose the incentive to take precautions against the spread of the illness. There was also inconclusive discussion about whether Idaho’s personal injury laws involving private parties and tort claim laws involving government entities were adequate in the face of a pandemic. Speakers on Tuesday told the working group that compelling children to go to school during the pandemic could leave districts open to lawsuits should children become ill. Other people who spoke before the committee, which met online, said any liability protection legislation should carry an expiration date for when the pandemic passes.

Illinois

Chicago: Illinois’ college and university professors are pushing back against their school’s proposals for reopening schools amid the pandemic, prompting officials to adopt new norms to accommodate faculty recommendations. Faculty concerns are becoming more urgent after reports said that students returning to college towns are spreading the coronavirus, the Chicago Tribune reported. But despite the risks, some students want to return to campus and get their money’s worth because most schools are not discounting tuition. Illinois State University’s “Redbirds Return” plan that was rolled out in June received immediate pushback from faculty members. A proposal, signed by more than 500 employees, students, parents and community members, called for more precautions when students return in the fall. “Since releasing the plan, we’ve received a great deal of feedback,” ISU President Larry Dietz said earlier this month. “Many faculty and staff members have also made it clear they would like a greater voice formulating plans.” Dietz announced that there will be increased flexibility to work from home through December and to teach remotely if the class allows. The university plans to offer classes fully online, some in person and some with a combination of both. After more than 200 Loyola University faculty members and students signed a petition calling on administrators to make online teaching the default option for everyone, officials announced this month that they would limit face-to-face classes. They previously had plans to offer on-campus and virtual instruction.

Indiana

Third-grader Hadley Steckler enters a school bus with other students on the way to Sycamore Elementary School in Avon, Ind.
Third-grader Hadley Steckler enters a school bus with other students on the way to Sycamore Elementary School in Avon, Ind.

Avon: Avon Community Schools was the first district in Indiana to close at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and is now also among the first to reopen. The district started classes Wednesday with two options for students: five days a week in-person and fully virtual. About 85% of families chose in-person learning for their students and about 15% chose virtual, district spokesperson Stacey Forcey-Moore told the Indianapolis Star. On Wednesday morning, Avon Superintendent Scott Wyndham, who started July 1, tweeted “5 months of preparation for welcoming (Avon) students today. (Avon Middle North) students are masked up and ready to go! Welcome back students!” Avon is reopening as statewide case numbers are spiking and other schools across central Indiana push back their start dates or opt to start the year completely virtual or with a hybrid option. The district did not allow journalists on school property for the first day of class and declined to give interviews on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the district’s Board of Trustees posted an open letter to the community stressing their commitment to opening school on time. “We have complete confidence in our School Corporation leadership and staff to implement these plans and to do everything in their power to keep our children safe,” the board wrote. “We commit to you that we will continue to review the data and our operations regularly as the school year begins.”

Iowa

Iowa City: The Corrections Department announced the death of another inmate who was infected with the coronavirus. Timothy Louis McGhee Jr., 48, was pronounced dead Monday night, the Corrections Department said. After an examination by the Johnson County medical examiner, the department said the death was likely the result of the coronavirus and other preexisting medical conditions. McGhee’s death is the third of an Iowa Corrections Department inmate that was likely related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. McGhee was serving a 15-year sentence for three convictions of second-degree theft from Linn County. His sentence began Oct. 31, 2018.

Kansas

Lawrence: The Lawrence school district has decided to start its school year after Labor Day with at least six weeks of online learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. School board members voted Monday to begin with fully remote learning and consider later in the year whether to adopt a hybrid model that would allow for students to spend some school days in classrooms and others at home with remote learning, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. Board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood said she did not feel comfortable starting with anything other than remote learning because of the public health threat of COVID-19. The Kansas State Board of Education last week rejected making Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent order to begin the school year after Labor Day a statewide mandate, leaving the decision up to local school boards. Three of Kansas’ largest school districts voted last week not to resume their classes until after the holiday. The Wichita district’s Board of Education delayed school until after Labor Day, and also approved two online alternatives for families who are leery of returning their students to school too soon. The Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts in Johnson County also announced last week their decisions to postpone the school year.

Kentucky

Louisville: The city’s top public health official on Tuesday compared the city’s growing COVID-19 caseload to a “wildfire.” Citing an “alarming” spike in local cases, Dr. Sarah Moyer, along with Mayor Greg Fischer, warned residents they must do more to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus. “We have a quickly spreading wildfire on our hands, and people seem oblivious to the flames,” Moyer said, speaking at a news conference with Fischer on Facebook. “We need every person to use every resource they have to douse the flames.” Louisville announced 156 new cases Tuesday and a 7.3% rate of positive tests – above the 5% threshold public health authorities have recommended communities maintain in order to safely reopen businesses and events. Although not a record for Louisville, which has seen 200 or more cases on some days, it continues a high number of cases in July. In June, the city was reporting about 40 cases a day, Moyer said. Louisville’s highest daily number of new cases was 246 on July 24. The state also has begun to post increasingly high numbers of COVID-19, reaching nearly 1,000 cases on July 19.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: Payments start going out this week to Louisiana’s front-line workers who remained at grocery store checkouts, in health care facilities and on bus routes in the first months of the coronavirus outbreak, the revenue department said Tuesday. Louisiana is offering $250 one-time payments, financed with federal relief aid, to as many as 200,000 people who meet eligibility requirements set by state lawmakers. Approved applicants will receive payment through a check or direct deposit into a bank account. More than 205,000 people have applied, but not all meet the eligible job categories, according to Department of Revenue spokesman Byron Henderson. The agency is urging people to continue registering for the one-time payment at frontlineworkers.la.gov until the application period closes Oct. 31. The hazard payments are available to workers with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less and who had to report to a job outside of their home for at least 200 hours from March 22 through May 14. They have to hold one of a list of jobs considered “essential critical infrastructure.” Dollars for the payments come from $1.8 billion in direct congressional coronavirus aid sent to Louisiana.

Maine

Bangor: A hospital wants to exit bankruptcy temporarily, long enough to qualify for a forgivable loan under a federal relief program. Calais Regional Hospital and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln unsuccessfully sued because they were unable to obtain help through the Paycheck Protection Program because of bankruptcy proceedings. Now, Calais Regional Hospital is asking a judge to dismiss its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case so that it can seek at least $1.8 million in PPP funding, the Bangor Daily News reported. The hospital’s attorney, Andrew Helman, said First National Bank has agreed to extend a forgivable PPP loan if the hospital can leave bankruptcy. Once it secures the loan, the hospital would then repetition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to help restructure its debt. Last spring, the hospital warned that its cash balance could fall to near-zero by early this summer, but that was before the hospital received at least $3.7 million from other federal relief programs. Penobscot Valley Hospital does not plan to leave Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to CEO Crystal Landry.

Maryland

Baltimore: The chief doctor of a Baltimore hospital’s critical care unit has died after contracting the coronavirus. Joseph Costa, who worked at Mercy Medical Center, died Saturday, news outlets reported. He was 56. “He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients,” the hospital said in a statement on Facebook. “And when the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines.” Kevin Parks, one of Costa’s patients, told WBAL-TV the doctor was filled with compassion. “He was never high, never low,” Parks said. “He was steady. He always smiled, always had your back.” Costa joined the hospital in 1997 and became the chief of the critical care unit in 2005. “He knew how to take good care of himself, and he still passed away from this disease,” Amy Zimmerman, a doctor who graduated with Costa from medical school, told the news outlet. “This could happen to anybody.”

Massachusetts

Holyoke: A resident of the Soldiers’ Home tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the veterans’ care facility to quarantine some residents, close communal spaces and suspend visits, state officials said Tuesday. The state-run facility had one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the country, with 76 residents dying after contracting the disease and dozens of other residents and staffers sickened. “On Monday, a veteran resident of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke who was clinically recovered from COVID-19 again experienced COVID-like symptoms, and was proactively transferred to a hospital for treatment and tested positive,” according to a statement from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services. In response, the home is conducting widespread testing. The resident who tested positive lived on a unit dedicated for clinically recovered veterans, and all residents on that unit have been quarantined. An investigation into the outbreak by a formal federal prosecutor hired by Gov. Charlie Baker found that management at the home made several “utterly baffling” decisions that helped the disease run rampant. An attorney for the home’s former superintendent, who was suspended and then fired, has disputed many of the findings in the report and blamed the outbreak on inaction by the state.

Michigan

Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was unreceptive Tuesday to Republican-passed legislation that would require public schools to offer in-person instruction to students in kindergarten through fifth grade amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic governor’s comments came after several districts announced they would start the academic year solely with distance learning regardless of whether Whitmer moves the rest of Michigan into phase five of her reopening plan. Under phase four, in-person classes are permitted. Schools are supposed to open for in-person instruction under phase five – which includes only northern counties – with fewer required safety protocols. The governor said parts of the state House plan pending in the Senate have “merit,” but “other pieces are modeled after the DeVos plan to force schools to put kids back in the classroom. We’re going to be focused on the science.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said students should be in the classroom every day if their families want and that any alternative would fail students and taxpayers. President Donald Trump threatened to try to withhold federal funding for schools that do not resume in-person classes, but last week he softened his stance and acknowledged that some schools might need to delay their reopening this fall. “We can’t dictate for all 800 districts precisely what a day looks like,” said Whitmer, saying debate must happen at the local level.

Minnesota

St. Cloud: The Minnesota Department of Corrections is moving the state’s prisoner intake operations from the St. Cloud prison where the number of coronavirus cases has spiked. The intake function will move to the Lino Lakes prison north of the Twin Cities this week, and will remain there “for the foreseeable future” to allow the St. Cloud facility to stabilize its number of cases, Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said. The St. Cloud prison had 122 positive COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, a big jump from just two cases in late June. Many of those tested didn’t have any symptoms, Schnell said. Until this week, all incarcerated men initially went to the St. Cloud prison where they were quarantined for 14 days. Once they are sent to another prison they are quarantined for another two weeks. The same 14-day quarantine process for new arrivals will be used at Lino Lake, officials said. Schnell compared the spike at the St. Cloud facility to an outbreak at the Faribault prison, where the number of positive cases broke 200 earlier this month, then leveled off, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. The design of older prisons like St. Cloud, which has bars on cells instead of solid doors, can make it easier for the virus to spread, Schnell said.

Mississippi

Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., is offering free online master's degree programs to full-time students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., is offering free online master’s degree programs to full-time students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jackson: Belhaven University is offering free online master’s degree programs to full-time students amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the midst of this dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections, we cannot operate in normal ways and expect a good outcome,” Belhaven University President Roger Parrott said in a press release. “I’m thrilled we can be the only university in America responding to COVID-19 with such an innovative solution that will propel our students academically and in their future careers.” The scholarship is for freshmen, transfers, and all returning students who enroll for the fall semester’s traditional campus program. Students must also stay enrolled every semester as a full-time, traditional-campus student until they graduate. The full-tuition scholarship can be used for any of the university’s master’s degrees. “This will not be the year our students planned when they first dreamed about going to college,” Parrott said. “Free master’s degrees is our way of helping our students push through these hard adjustments, in order to succeed at an even higher level educationally.” Students are encouraged to apply now. Classes for the fall semester begin Aug. 24. For more information, contact Belhaven’s Admission Department at admission@belhaven.edu or 1-800-960-5940.

Missouri

Branson: The popular tourist town will require face coverings in most public places to slow the spread of the coronavirus, despite the objections of many, including comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Smirnoff, who operates a successful theater in Branson, told the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night that the mask ordinance would make his adopted home more like his native land, Russia, the Springfield News-Leader reported. “I’m hoping that you can make this an island of freedom and choice in the sea of hatred and fear,” Smirnoff said, drawing applause from many in the crowd. Nevertheless, the board voted 4-1 to approve the ordinance, which requires face coverings for people ages 13 and older, with some exceptions. Missouri reopened its economy in mid-June and has seen a big surge in confirmed coronavirus cases this month – so much so that a new federal report lists Missouri as among 21 states in the “red zone” for the outbreak. Those states are reporting more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people. Republican Gov. Mike Parson has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, but several jurisdictions across the state have enacted their own. Some places are going even further. Starting Friday, St. Louis County is limiting crowd sizes, ordering bars to close early and getting tough on businesses that ignore the guidelines. Kansas City is considering similar measures.

Montana

Great Falls: Cascade County amended its solid waste budget to account for a large increase in garbage collections when residents were sheltering-in-place because of COVID-19. “I think everybody did their spring cleaning early,” said Rina Fontana Moore, Cascade County Clerk and Recorder. Fontana Moore asked Cascade County Commissioners on July 14 for permission to use $87,670 in reserves to cover a shortfall in the Solid Waste Department budget that Fontana Moore said occurred when more residents were at home during the COVID-19 shutdown. Commissioners approved the request. “Our bill was bigger than we thought so we had to move some money out of reserves to fix it,” Fontana Moore said. Rural residents haul garbage to several solid waste container sites. Republic Services then hauls the waste to the landfill. Residences pay $120 a year for the service. Great Falls has a separate garbage collection system. Less garbage is being dropped off at the sites now because more people have returned to work, Fontana Moore said. The county sets aside some funds it collects in reserve to meet situations such as this, Fontana Moore said.

Nebraska

Lincoln: Two state senators who might have been exposed to the coronavirus isolated themselves Tuesday from their fellow lawmakers, taking seats in a distant upper balcony so they can still participate in legislative debate. Sens. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln and Julie Slama of Peru separated themselves from the rest of the Legislature in an abundance of caution. Both lawmakers took seats in a balcony at the back of the legislative chamber, about 40 feet above the main floor. Neither senator has tested positive for the virus or shown any symptoms. Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer said members of Slama’s family have tested positive for the virus. Slama, 24, tested negative and might return to the main floor of the Legislature within the next few days. Scheer said that, in an abundance of caution, he asked Slama to remain isolated until she can be retested later this week. Senators in the rear balcony have a microphone available and are able to vote and participate in debate. Morfeld, 35, announced on social media Monday night that he has been in frequent contact with a person who recently tested positive for the virus. He said his staff is working from home and he expects to receive test results soon to confirm whether he has contracted it. “Fortunately, my office has been closed to the public, I have worn a mask at all times and I am taking other precautions such as regular hand washing,” he said. Slama is a registered Republican and Morfeld is a Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. Another lawmaker, Sen. Mike Moser, 68, of Columbus, was hospitalized and put on a respirator after catching the virus earlier this year, but he has recovered. Moser urged his colleagues to wear a mask to try to keep the virus from spreading, but some of his fellow conservative Republicans haven’t followed that advice. Sen. Tony Vargas, of Omaha, has also publicly warned about the dangers of the virus after it killed his father.

Nevada

Reno: The Washoe County School Board voted to keep its middle and high schools on a hybrid plan that was previously approved on July 7. The move followed the board keeping its elementary schools in an in-person instruction model. Trustee Katy Simon Holland was the only no vote in the two motions to keep the approved plan for middle and high schoolers to return to school on Aug. 17 in a hybrid model. Students would rotate every other day between in-person and distance learning. Holland said she was persuaded by medical experts that said middle and high school students can transmit COVID-19 at the same level as adults. She said she was in support of full distance model for those students during a high level of transmission.

New Hampshire

Concord: State health and fire safety officials will spend the next two weeks investigating whether ventilation systems have contributed to coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday. More than 30 long-term care facilities have experienced outbreaks, and their residents account for 82% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19. As of Tuesday, only four outbreaks remained active, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette. The review by her department and the state Fire Marshal began Monday and will initially focus on facilities that have had outbreaks to see whether ventilation and other infrastructure affected how the virus spread. “And then we’re going to take what we learn from that evaluation and apply it to other facilities that have not had outbreaks,” she said. “We don’t know that we’re going to find anything but we’re leaving no stone unturned.” Sununu, a Republican, earlier this month vetoed a Democrat-backed bill that would have created an independent review of long-term care facilities. The bill also would have allocated $25 million in federal funding for the facilities, but he noted that $30 million already has been earmarked for long-term care.

New Jersey

Trenton: Three more states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been added to the list of states whose residents traveling to New Jersey must quarantine for two weeks because of COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota, along with the nation’s capital and the Caribbean island bring the total list of affected states and territories to 36. The travel advisory calls for travelers from those places to quarantine for 14 days and applies to states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or those with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. New Jersey’s positivity rate has been hovering around 2% or lower and has seen new hospitalizations fall 40% from two weeks ago, according to the governor’s office. New hospitalizations since the virus’s peak in April are down 97%. The state has 4.5 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, ranking 44th in the country, according to Murphy’s office. The advisory applies to travelers from Alaska; Alabama; Arkansas; Arizona; California; Delaware; District of Columbia, Florida; Georgia; Illinois, Iowa; Idaho; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky, Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota, Missouri; Mississippi; Montana; North Carolina; North Dakota; Nebraska; New Mexico; Nevada; Ohio; Oklahoma; Puerto Rico; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Virginia; Washington; and Wisconsin.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: A county in New Mexico’s southeastern oil production region is backing a legal challenge against a statewide ban on indoor dining amid surging coronavirus infections across the state. Eddy County filed a legal brief with the New Mexico Supreme Court in solidarity with restaurants that said Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has overstepped her authority under a stay-at-home order that bans indoor dining. County officials said summer heat in southeastern New Mexico makes it especially difficult to operate a restaurant without indoor dining, putting an outsized strain on the area’s economy. Lujan Grisham said restaurant service can be riskier than other business activity because face masks are removed when people eat. It was unknown when the court will reach a decision. The Jalisco Cafe in Silver City on Tuesday joined the New Mexico Restaurant Association in urging the court to strike down the indoor dining ban. The restaurant was sanctioned by environmental officials last month for flouting the ban on indoor service. Separately, a lawsuit backed by the state Republican Party is challenging the governor’s authority to levy fines against businesses that defy public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Oral arguments are scheduled in that case next week. State health officials reinstated the ban in mid-July amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.

New York

Albany: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is “appalled” by videos showing crowds standing close together at a Hamptons concert featuring electronic music duo The Chainsmokers over the weekend. Cuomo said the state Department of Health will conduct an investigation into “egregious social distancing violations.” Cuomo warned that violations of public health law can result in civil fines and a potential for criminal liability. “We have no tolerance for the illegal reckless endangerment of public health,” Cuomo tweeted. The Saturday night concert – called “Safe & Sound” – was billed as a charity drive-in show in Southampton where Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s band also performed. Cuomo shared a social media video, which has more than 6 million views, that showed crowds of people standing and swaying near the stage. The video showed attendees who appeared to be wearing masks, but many individuals were standing closer than 6 feet. In response, Schneiderman said the town is also investigating the concert, vowed to hold organizers accountable and defended the town’s decision to permit the concert.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The North Carolina State Fair has been canceled for this year because of safety, financial and attendance challenges from COVID-19, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. The fair, which was first held in 1853, is one of the state’s largest annual attractions, bringing in roughly 1 million visitors during its 11-day run that begins in mid-October. The fair was last canceled during World War II. State and regional fairs across the country have been canceled because of the pandemic. “We have hoped, we have prayed and we have schemed, and we have thought and thought and thought,” Troxler said at a news conference, but “after very careful consideration, this is really the only logical decision that we can make.” Troxler, whose agency oversees the fair, cited safety for patrons, staff and vendors, including the uncertainty of whether mass gathering restrictions will be eased. Troxler also said a survey of past fair ticket buyers found two-thirds of them would be hesitant to attend a fair this year. Plans will now move ahead for the October 2021 fair, Troxler said, adding horse and junior livestock shows still will be held at the fairgrounds this October with proper social distancing.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum on Tuesday announced a task force to investigate the spread of the coronavirus in the Bismarck metropolitan area, the state’s current COVID-19 hot spot. Burgum’s announcement of the Burleigh-Morton task force came during his weekly briefing at the state Capitol came and as North Dakota marked its 100th COVID-19 death and the number of active cases reached a new high. The Republican governor said the task force will be similar to one he announced in May in Cass County and Fargo metropolitan area, where local leaders and others successfully concentrated on beefing up testing efforts, particularly in long-term care facilities. The spike in active COVID-19 cases prompted health officials in Washington on Monday to place North Dakota on a list of high-risk coronavirus states. On Tuesday, Chicago added North Dakota to the list of states where people who are traveling to the city must quarantine for two weeks. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and the District of Columbia also issued travel restrictions for North Dakota travelers this month. The number of patients hospitalized in North Dakota was 35 on Tuesday, down eight from Monday.

Ohio

Columbus: Day cares can return to normal staffing ratios, but county fairs will be reduced to junior fairs featuring livestock competitions for children and teens, without the usual rides, games and grandstand events, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday. Despite the best efforts of fair officials so far, it has become obvious that fairs can’t go on normally because of the pandemic this year, the Republican governor said. The change, which the governor called a “difficult decision,” takes effect Friday. The announcement limits fairs to livestock competitions and 4H and other events for children and teens. It also allows harness racing without spectators. DeWine also announced that beginning Aug. 9, Ohio day care centers can return to their regular staffing ratios. Currently, health order limits prohibit more than six toddlers per staff member per classroom, or more than nine preschool students per staff member per classroom. Day cares can raise their ratio limits, or apply for subsidies to maintain their current, lower ratios, the governor said. Providers must still comply with health requirements such as face masks, temperature checks, hand-washing and frequent cleaning, DeWine said.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: Ten residents at a home for veterans in northeastern Oklahoma have died after being among dozens of residents and staffers there who tested positive for the coronavirus this month, a state official said Tuesday. Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Joel Kintsel said in a statement that 62 residents at the Claremore Veterans Center and 21 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 1. He said COVID-19 wasn’t necessarily the cause of death for the 10 who died. “Based on our contact tracing, we believe the most likely source for the virus was an asymptomatic employee who did not know they had the virus and unknowingly passed it on to a resident,” Kintsel said. He said strict infection control procedures have been instituted and “are hopeful this outbreak has been contained.” He said only two new positive cases had emerged in the past 72 hours. Kintsel said the Claremore facility houses 250 residents. The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs operates seven veterans centers across Oklahoma. There haven’t been any known cases at the centers in Ardmore, Clinton or Sulphur. The centers in Lawton and Talihina have each had one confirmed case and the resident has recovered. The Norman center is caring for one positive resident and another positive resident is in the hospital and four other residents have recovered.

Oregon

Salem: Under new COVID-19 metrics released Tuesday, students in most Oregon counties might not be able to return to their classrooms this fall, officials said. In order for a school district to commence any form of in-person learning, the county must have 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, Gov. Kate Brown said during a news conference. In addition, the countywide and state test positivity rate must be 5% or less over the span of a week. “Currently, in Oregon we are not where we need to be to safely reopen schools,” State Epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said. In the past week, case rates across Oregon were about 50 per 100,000 people, and the state’s test positivity is approaching 5%. “Our current case rates are higher than they need to be and higher than they were in other countries that began to reopen schools,” Sidelinger said. “But, we can suppress COVID-19 and return to levels where we reopen schools.” Following Brown’s announcement, Oregon’s largest school district, Portland Public Schools, said that it will have online classes only until at least Nov. 5. In addition, Beaverton, Salem-Keizer, North Clackamas and Tigard-Tualatin districts also said they will be holding classes online.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia: After months of being closed because of the COIVD-19 pandemic, Eastern State Penitentiary is getting ready to open its doors again. The prison-turned-educational site in the heart of Philadelphia said it will reopen for the public on Friday, Aug. 14, following a member preview on Friday, Aug. 7, with new safety guidelines in place. Eastern State will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Under the site’s new safety guidelines:Timed tickets must be purchased in advance via easternstate.org; staff and guests 2 and older are required to wear masks; guests are required to stay 6 feet apart from each other at all times; visitors will have to sanitize their hands when they enter, and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the site. Plexiglass shields have been installed at admission and other points of contact, and no cash will be accepted on site. Cleaning will be increased, specifically on high-touch surfaces. There are no group tours, guided tours or in-person events. Features available at Eastern State include a modified version of “The Voices of Eastern State,” an audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi and featuring the voices of former Eastern State prisoners and staff, that will take guests on a one-way path through the site. There will also be screenings of 20 animated short films created by incarcerated artists created for the site’s 2019 “Hidden Lives Illuminated” project.

Rhode Island

Newport: Several new students at the Naval Academy Preparatory School tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived on campus earlier this month, school officials said. Fewer than 20 students out of 273 tested positive when they arrived to begin a 10-month course of study at the school, retired Navy Capt. Mark Donahue, the school’s command services director, said Tuesday. All students were tested when they arrived, he said. Most students who complete the program go on to enroll at the U.S. Naval Academy. “Most of those students have completed their 14-day quarantine and are back with the rest of the group,” Donahue said.

South Carolina

Columbia: There will be no rides or rows of games like ring toss, basketball or Whac-a-Mole, but officials with the South Carolina State Fair are still planning to hold a scaled-down version of the event this year in what they’re calling an effort to give the community a bright spot amid the coronavirus pandemic. Officials with the fair said Wednesday that they will be holding a drive-thru fair event on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 at the fairgrounds in Columbia. Organizers said the event will be heavy on “unique, car-friendly attractions that highlight South Carolina’s agriculture, history, arts and culture.” Large-scale gatherings remain shut down across South Carolina as the coronavirus outbreak continues. As recently as June, officials had been planning to go ahead with preparations for a traditional fair, saying they would continue to monitor the situation and make a determination later.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday said she will push for schools to stay open this fall. As parents and school boards cautiously weigh the risks and benefits of schools reopening, the Republican governor emphasized the educational and social upside of a return to in-person learning, citing research that COVID-19 poses less of a threat to children. Noem pointed to studies that indicate a low health risk from the virus for children, while downplaying scientific findings that show masks could slow the spread of the disease. “We cannot sacrifice the educational, physical, emotional and social well-being of our kids. The risks of COVID are too minimal for us to make sure that they’re all going to stay home,” Noem said at a news conference at John Harris Elementary in Sioux Falls. Noem said forcing children to wear masks is impractical and might lead to infections spreading if children touch their faces more frequently. Her stance on masks defies a push from the South Dakota State Medical Association to require face masks in schools. The governor cast doubt on a broad consensus in the medical community, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that wearing a mask could prevent the spread of the coronavirus, saying there is “very mixed research and the science has not proven what’s effective and what isn’t.” Meanwhile, CDC guidance on reopening schools appears to support Noem’s assertion that the benefits of in-person schooling outweigh the health risks. So far, fewer school-aged children have died of COVID-19 than flu-related deaths during each of the last five flu seasons, and “studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low,” the agency said. The South Dakota Education Association, which lobbies for teachers, said in a statement that it agrees with Noem that in-person learning is preferable. It urged her to allot money for more school counselors to help students handle trauma related to the pandemic.

Tennessee

Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee said reopening schools in-person is the “medically sound, preferred option,” but he said it’s dependent on quickly isolating those who are sick and quarantining their close contacts. The Republican rolled out his K-12 school reopening plan the same week as the state has been warned by the White House that Tennessee is at a precipice of reaching new levels of infection. About a dozen Tennessee districts have delayed the start of in-person schooling, said state Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Lee advised districts to delay in “only the most extreme situations.” According to Lee’s new school guidelines, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 10 days from the onset of their symptoms or isolate 10 days from the date they were tested. Those who were within 6 feet of anyone who has COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer must also quarantine for at least 14 days. The state won’t publicly disclose COVID-19 cases school-by-school, but schools have the option to do so individually, said state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey. On Monday, teachers within Nashville’s Metro Education Association led a caravan past the governor’s mansion with messages that included, “Dead Students Can’t Learn. Dead Teachers Can’t Teach.” Nashville’s district is staying virtual until at least after Labor Day weekend. One of the teachers’ demands is that schools remain online until Nashville has not had a new COVID-19 case for at least 14 days. Memphis-centered Shelby County Schools, Tennessee’s largest school district, is letting teachers teach remotely or in classrooms, but all students will learn online at home until further notice.

Texas

Austin: Local health officials in Texas do not have the authority to close schools to prevent spread of the coronavirus, state Attorney General Ken Paxton said Tuesday, pushing that decision solely into the hands of school officials. Paxton issued a “legal guidance” letter on schools amid fierce debate among local governments, health officials, parents and teachers on when schools should open in a state that has become one of the nation’s hot spots in the pandemic. Dozens of cities, counties and school districts – including in the most populous areas – have decided to delay school reopenings for the upcoming academic year. In Dallas, health officials have prohibited in-person classes until at least Sept. 8 and similar orders are in place in Houston. Paxton’s letter sent them scrambling to check its impact on their decisions and set up the potential for legal challenges. “Our actions to save lives from this crisis should be guided by public health, science, and compassion for the health and safety of our residents – not politics,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Paxton, a Republican, said local health officials’ authority is limited to addressing “specific, actual outbreaks of disease.” He previously said local health orders closing schools didn’t apply to private religious schools. The Texas State Teachers Association sharply criticized Paxton. “We trust health experts, not the attorney general, when children’s lives are at stake,” the group said in a statement.

Utah

Salt Lake City: Utah’s largest teachers union called Tuesday for schools to delay reopening and start the school year with online classes, citing safety concerns for students and teachers. The Utah Education Association called for state leaders to temporarily resume distance learning until COVID-19 cases further decline. The union said school districts should seek input from educators and local health authorities before moving forward with any reopening plans. “Current school district plans, no matter how robust, simply cannot sufficiently ensure the health and safety of our students, educators and families in communities where the virus continues to spread unchecked,” union President Heidi Matthews said. The union urged state officials to base decisions related to school reopening on “scientific evidence and advice” and to ensure that students and educators have access to proper personal protective equipment. Anna Lehndart, Gov. Gary Herbert’s communications director, said ensuring that schools are safe for teachers and students before they return to the classroom is crucial. State Board of Education spokesperson Mark Peterson said it is up to school districts and charter schools to determine when schools reopen.

Vermont

Wardsboro: Three staff members of a small Vermont library have resigned over plans to reopen the library. In a social media post, Wardsboro Library Director Jill Dean said the staff members would have liked to stay with curbside pickup for safety reasons, but the library trustees wanted to have the library open. The Brattleboro Reformer reported Dean plans to continue with curbside pickup on Mondays and Thursdays until her last day, Aug. 3. Library Trustee Carol Backus said the issue will be discussed at an upcoming meeting. “We are in a challenging time with the COVID pandemic, therefore the library needs to be flexible and change in many ways we did not expect as we cope with this new environment,” the trustees said in a statement announcing the resignations.

Virginia

Norfolk: As coronavirus cases continue to surge on Virginia’s coast, the state will enact bans in the region on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. and gatherings of more than 50 people, Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday. Speaking at a news conference, the Democratic governor cited a rise in infections among young people in the Hampton Roads ,region as well as alcohol use. Northam, who is a physician, said the virus spreads when “too many people are selfish.” “And we all know that alcohol changes your judgment,” Northam said. “You just don’t care as much about social distancing after you’ve had a couple of drinks. That’s when the virus gets spread. And that’s why we are taking this action.” The Hampton Roads region includes cities such as Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The order takes effect at 12 a.m. Friday. It will also shutter restaurants by midnight and restrict indoor dining to 50% of an establishment’s capacity. The restrictions are Virginia’s latest effort to reign in a virus that has largely slowed its spread in much of the rest of the state. The governor also said Virginia will begin distributing nearly $645 million in federal money to local governments to help as the pandemic continues. Northam said the money from the coronavirus relief package can be used to help people with rent, food and educational tools for children.

Washington

Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee said the statewide pause for counties looking to advance from their current stage of COVID-19 economic reopening will continue indefinitely. It’s the second time the pause has been extended since first implemented earlier this month. The extension comes days after Inslee tightened restrictions throughout the state for indoor activities in a further effort to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases. Seventeen counties are in Phase 3 of a four-part reopening process, 17 counties are in Phase 2 and five counties are in a modified Phase 1 of reopening. State officials confirmed 875 more cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of positive cases to more than 54,200. Thirty more deaths also were reported, raising the death toll to at least 1,548.

West Virginia

Morgantown: West Virginia University has postponed the deadline to pay some fall charges to Sept. 1. The July eBills had been due on Aug. 1, the school said in a news release. The change was made after a phased return for students was announced this week. The phased return will mean fewer students on the Morgantown campus for in-person classes, with plans to return more students as the semester continues, the release said. Classes on the Morgantown campus will begin Aug. 26, a week later than planned originally. Classes on the Beckley and Keyser campuses will begin Aug. 19. Residence hall move-in will also be delayed a week, to Aug. 22. The changes are in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Free COVID-19 tests will be required for students taking classes on campus or using resources on campus.

Wisconsin

Madison: Without a uniform mask law, Wisconsin cities and counties are left to decide on their own what to do. That has caused them many problems, leaders of groups representing cities, villages and counties told members of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce on a telephone meeting Wednesday. An “overwhelming majority” of Wisconsin cities have “no intention of adopting a mask mandate,” said Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. That’s based on a survey the group did as well as a general sense from conversations with local leaders, he said. Cities are looking for some kind of uniformity statewide, Deschane said. A number of Wisconsin’s larger counties and cities have enacted their own mask orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and Gov. Tony Evers has said he is considering whether to join a majority of other states with a mandate that applies everywhere. Evers has said he’s reluctant to act after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down his “safer at home” order, and others have said he still has the legal authority to declare a health emergency and mandate the wearing of masks. The Republican-controlled Legislature also has the authority to enact a statewide rule for masks, but GOP leaders have said they’re not interested in a mandate. There are mask mandates in place in Milwaukee and Dane counties covering Wisconsin’s largest cities of Milwaukee and Madison. Numerous other cities, including Green Bay, Racine, Superior and Whitewater have enacted mask ordinances. Appleton this week recommended people to wear masks, but did not mandate it.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: Wyoming will not issue a statewide mask order despite record-high reported cases of the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Tuesday. Gordon made the remarks soon after he extended by two more weeks public health orders that prohibit most gatherings of more than 250 people. The orders are now set to expire Aug. 16. Neighboring Montana and Colorado have ordered mask-wearing amid a summertime surge in the virus. Wyoming – like Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota – will continue to rely on people to wear masks on their own. “If you’re just dead-set on taking down Wyoming’s economy, don’t wear these,” Gordon said, pointing to a face mask around his neck. “These are the things that are going to keep us open.” The mere presence of the virus, not just public health orders, can shut down vital businesses in Wyoming towns, Gordon said. “This economy can be closed if people are careless. We’ve seen that,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States

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