Unmasked edition: News from around our 50 states
Mobile: A Carnival cruise ship docked in the port city Friday so crew members could be vaccinated against COVID-19. With a brass band playing on the wharf, the Carnival Sensation docked at the Mobile Cruise Terminal, where staff members from USA Health planned to go on board to provide first doses for 110 crew members. The ship will return in three weeks for second doses, the city said in a statement. U.S. ports are closed to cruise lines because of the global pandemic, but Mayor Sandy Stimpson said such vaccinations are a major step toward getting the industry back in business. Carnival said crew members have received vaccines at other ports including Miami and Port Canaveral in Florida and Galveston, Texas. Sensation will be based in Mobile offering trips to the western Caribbean once cruises resume, but it’s unclear when that will happen.
Juneau: Legislative leaders voted Friday to make mask-wearing optional at the state Capitol and then shed their own face coverings after the vote. The decision by the Legislative Council followed new guidelines the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The council is composed of House and Senate leaders. Under the new policy, masks are optional in legislative facilities, with some exceptions. For example, lawmakers can require masks in their respective offices. “Sen. Reinbold, you can remove your mask now,” Senate President Peter Micciche said to the council vice-chair after the vote, with people in the meeting room laughing and clapping. Sen. Lora Reinbold has been an outspoken critic of mask rules. Other council members also peeled off their masks. Rules were changed last month to ease coronavirus testing requirements for legislators, staff and others allowed in the Capitol, requiring once-a-week tests for those unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated and exempting those who are fully vaccinated from testing, with some exceptions. Testing earlier this session was more frequent. The policy adopted Friday recommends weekly testing for those who aren’t vaccinated and for those with COVID-19 symptoms or who return to Juneau after travel.
Phoenix: The Pima County Board of Supervisors rescinded its mandatory face mask policy in most public settings Friday for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a day after federal health officials issued similar guidance. The board voted 4-1 to change the mandate to a recommendation for people who are not fully vaccinated and in settings like public transportation and schools for everyone. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero announced she would ask the City Council to vote on a similar action this week, although she expressed reservations because it is impossible to tell who is vaccinated. She also took a shot at Gov. Doug Ducey, who withdrew cities and counties’ ability to issue the mandates in March. “It is because we masked up and followed the advice of our public health experts that we are in a position where cases are low and we can take additional steps to fully return back to normal,” Romero said in a statement. “Unlike our state leaders, here in Tucson we have listened to our public health experts and followed the science since the beginning of this pandemic.” Meanwhile, Arizona’s daily new COVID-19 case count continued a weeklong upward trend Friday with 854 known new cases and nine additional deaths. Another 474 cases and 12 deaths were added to the tally Saturday.
North Little Rock: The Arkansas National Guard has ended its work at a warehouse in North Little Rock where it helped distribute personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Arkansas Division of Emergency Management requested closure of the warehouse operations mission because PPE has become more commercially available and the workload more manageable for warehouse staff, according to a Friday news release from the Guard. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports state officials said emergency management staff will send PPE to health care providers as needed. Four to six National Guard members have assisted in PPE distribution at the warehouse since April 2020, and the four who were on site returned to their unit Friday. More than 30 other members of the Guard continue to assist the state with COVID-19 vaccine distribution, management and administrative support.
Gigi Morgan Clark, 12, gets a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena on Friday in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
San Francisco: The governor said Friday that his office is weighing issues of enforcement and workplace safety in considering whether and when to adopt the latest federal guidelines around masking. Gov. Gavin Newsom said his office has been talking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officers and other states since the CDC’s announcement Thursday saying fully vaccinated people may skip face coverings and social distancing in most situations. The agency’s guidelines still call for people to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, such as buses, planes, hospitals and prisons, and say residents should follow local rules. But Newsom said he doesn’t know what the federal guidelines would look like in schools, where younger children are not yet able to get vaccinated, and what happens if businesses want to require masks. “There’s a whole host of complexities that we all have to work through,” the Democratic governor said when asked of the guidelines at a budget briefing. He said some governors are quick to “default to the CDC guidelines but now are starting to appreciate some of the nuances and complexities around enforcement or lack thereof.” The state is on track to fully reopen its economy next month, signaling an end to most pandemic restrictions.
Denver: A former aide to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn alleges in a lawsuit that the Republican congressman disregarded coronavirus safety protocols in his Washington office even after he and staff members were infected, let one of his sons live in the basement of the U.S. Capitol and ordered staff to run personal errands for his family. The lawsuit, filed by Brandon Pope in federal court Thursday, contends Pope was fired after raising concerns about safety conditions in the workplace, The Denver Post reports. Lamborn spokeswoman Cassandra Sebastian issued a statement strongly denying Pope’s allegations and said the congressman “looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.” On Friday, the eight-term representative from Colorado Springs told Colorado Public Radio the lawsuit consists of a “tissue of lies,” and he allowed his son to stay at the Capitol as his guest because of the tight housing market in Washington. According to the lawsuit, Lamborn repeatedly claimed the coronavirus was a “hoax” and needlessly exposed his congressional staff by keeping his office open and not allowing them to socially distance. Lamborn tested positive for the virus in November, and the lawsuit claims he did not alter course afterward.
New Haven: Yale University is requiring its faculty and staff to get COVID-19 vaccinations before the fall term, extending a requirement already imposed for students. The private university announced the new requirement Friday, saying faculty members, staffers and academic trainees must be fully inoculated by Aug. 1, though there are provisions for exemptions based on medical conditions and religious or “strongly held” personal beliefs. Many Yale staffers are in unions. The university said it was discussing the implementation of the policy with them. “As a leading global research university, we have a responsibility to demonstrate to others the importance of taking actions based on evidence,” and there’s plenty of it showing the vaccines are safe and effective at preventing the virus’s spread, Yale President Peter Salovey and Provost Scott Strobel wrote in a letter to the Yale community. The Ivy League school announced last month that students must get vaccinated by the start of the fall semester, when Yale plans a full return to on-campus life and teaching. More than 350 colleges and universities around the country are requiring vaccinations for students, at least those living on campus, but mandates for employees are rarer, according to information compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Dover: Democratic Gov. John Carney said Friday that he will lift the state’s mask-wearing mandate effective May 21 after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing. “It’s clear that the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely safe and protective against infection and serious illness,” Carney said in a statement. “Delawareans who are fully vaccinated have significant protection against this virus and can feel comfortable getting back to the things they loved to do before this pandemic. … In the meantime, Delawareans who are unvaccinated, including children, should continue to wear masks in public places.” The lifting of the mask mandate next Friday coincides with the easing of other COVID-19 restrictions that Carney formalized in an order he signed Wednesday. That order eliminated most business capacity restrictions and lifted a distancing requirement on school buses, while still requiring masks indoors. Wednesday’s order also narrowed social distancing requirements from 6 feet to 3 feet. Administration officials said they would have more details on the state’s social distancing requirements this week.
District of Columbia
Washington: The city hosted its first playoff game since the pandemic began Saturday, and Capital One Arena was able to welcome back 5,000 ice hockey fans as it moved to 25% capacity, WUSA-TV reports. Capitals fans were lined up Saturday evening waiting for the doors to open. “This is my happy place, and you know, it’s been a long time without a happy place,” Melinda Gipson said. “I’m just happy to be in the building, I really am.” Stephanie and PJ Atkinson were also waiting for the doors to open. Saturday marked their third Capitals game of the season – but the first with 5,000 fans in the stands. “I think it’s going to make a big difference,” Atkinson said, because “2,100 (fans) kind of felt like a preseason game. I think the 5,000 with most of the arena open, it’s going to make a difference tonight.” The increased capacity limit also made a difference for businesses surrounding the arena. Bar Deco is newly reopened after closing for more than a year during the pandemic. “We just opened back up about two weeks ago,” said Chelsea Sexton, director of hospitality at Bar Deco. “We’re feeling really great about the restrictions being lessened, and every time we get good news like that, we’re just super excited. The good news is coming a lot faster than we expected it, so we couldn’t be happier.”
A family walks past Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Dec. 21. (Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Orlando: The state’s major theme parks are adjusting their face mask policies after the federal government loosened its recommendations amid rising COVID-19 vaccinations. Visitors to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios-Orlando were allowed Saturday to remove their masks outdoors except when they are on attractions, in line, or riding a tram or other transportation. Masks remain mandatory indoors except in restaurants when seated. Disney requires they be worn except when actively eating and drinking. SeaWorld Orlando and its sister park, Tampa’s Busch Gardens, are going even further, allowing guests who say they are fully vaccinated to remove their masks throughout the parks. They will not require proof of vaccination but are asking guests to “respectfully comply.” Disney CEO Bob Chapek also said Thursday that the company’s parks have started raising the number of people allowed in based on relaxed restrictions from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office. He didn’t say how many more people were being permitted compared to the previous restriction of a little more than a third of a park’s capacity.
Georgia Tech employee Adam Jackson receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination on the campus of the Atlanta school. (Photo: Danny Karnik/AP)
Atlanta: The state’s 26 public universities and colleges do not currently plan to require students, faculty or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the fall, according to guidance issued Thursday by the University System of Georgia. The 340,000-student university system in March asked all campuses “to plan for resuming normal operations for the Fall 2021 semester.” Thursday’s guidance further elaborates on that theme, saying fully vaccinated people won’t have to socially distance or wear masks, while unvaccinated people “are strongly encouraged to continue” socially distancing and wearing a mask inside. The universities are supposed to make sure vaccinations are available on campus or through a local partnership, but schools won’t be “responsible for assessing current COVID-19 vaccination rates for their institution.” The university system said that it had made the decisions in concert with the state Department of Public Health and that they were subject to change. The Board of Regents insisted on at least some in-person instruction in the fall and spring semesters, even awarding small amounts of money to institutions based on the number of in-person classes. Those moves came despite resistance from some employees. Some faculty members have called for mandatory vaccination.
Honolulu: Despite having among the lowest coronavirus infection and mortality rates in the nation, Hawaii will keep its statewide mask mandate in place for now. Even as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced vaccinated people can now ditch masks and social distancing in most situations, Gov. David Ige said Thursday that he’s not ready to loosen rules on the islands. “We are unable to determine who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated,” he said. “The best mitigation measure is for everyone to wear a mask.” Ige said he would review the CDC guidance and plans to incorporate vaccination rates into future restriction guidelines, but for now people in Hawaii must keep their masks on. “The state mask mandate continues to be in force,” he said. “The CDC is not able to help us identify who is vaccinated and who is not, and that detail is left to the state and counties.” Ige said he hopes to get more adults and children vaccinated and for the state to be closer to herd immunity before making major changes. About 40% of Hawaii’s residents are fully vaccinated. The state has among the highest vaccination rates in the U.S. Ige is facing opposition from some officials, including Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who said he believes the mask mandate should be lifted for fully vaccinated people.
Boise: The city has lifted its mask requirement, but officials say they’ll still work with businesses that choose to require masks on private property. Mayor Lauren McLean made the announcement Friday, one day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely go without masks in many situations. Boise will also stop restricting crowd sizes, McLean said, though residents and organizations are encouraged to continue to take appropriate health precautions. “It is incredible to know that getting a free, readily available vaccine is all that stands between most Boise residents and a post-COVID world,” McLean said. “I can’t wait to see smiling faces. We’ve all worked so hard to get here, and I’m thrilled to celebrate this summer with all of you.” Not all city facilities will make the change right away. “We care deeply about the health and safety of our employees and residents,” city spokesman Seth Ogilvie wrote in a statement. “We will evaluate our current protocols and announce any changes soon.” The Boise School District announced Thursday that masks would still be required on school campuses while administrators review recommendations from local health professionals and any school-specific guidance from the CDC.
Arif El-Boukari, left, and Buthaina Ali, from Detroit, share a kiss while riding the wave swinger during their Eid Al Fitr holiday Friday in Navy Pier, Chicago. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar/AP)
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to relax his statewide mask mandate after federal health officials said Thursday that mask-wearing is not necessary in most places for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. An announcement Friday from the Illinois Department of Public Health didn’t say when or how the governor’s executive orders would be changed after new guidance issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Springfield officials said they would stop enforcing the city’s mask mandate in light of the CDC and state’s position. The state health department, an agency controlled by the Democratic governor, said in a statement: “The governor believes firmly in following the science and will be delighted to revise his executive orders in line with the CDC guidance lifting additional mitigations for vaccinated people. The scientists’ message is clear: If you are vaccinated, you can safely do much more.” A statement from Springfield city officials included a recommendation to continue wearing masks in certain public situations. “Right now, with businesses serving the public, there is no way for them to know who has received their vaccination and who has not,” the statement said. “This makes it difficult to keep businesses and their employees safe while serving the public..”
Indianapolis: Two counties are lifting their local mask mandates after federal health officials eased mask-wearing guidance for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The health departments for the counties that include South Bend and Bloomington are rescinding those local orders, while Indianapolis officials are keeping the city’s mask mandate in place. St. Joseph County Health Officer Dr. Robert M. Einterz cited the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. But he said he remained concerned about many unvaccinated people remaining vulnerable to coronavirus infection. The CDC reports Indiana has the country’s 12th-lowest rate for uptake of COVID-19 shots, with about 31% of all people fully vaccinated. The St. Joseph County order covering South Bend was rescinded as of Thursday night, while the Monroe County order including Bloomington will end Monday morning. Marion County health department director Dr. Virginia Caine said the agency would review the CDC guidance and Indianapolis vaccination rates before recommending any changes to current restrictions. Caine said work continues on getting more people immunized.
Des Moines: The state’s count of deaths from COVID-19 reached 6,000 on Saturday. “I hope this is evidence enough to whoever may continue having doubts that this pandemic was real,” said Dr. Jorge Salinas, the lead epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. “It has impacted the lives of Americans and the lives of humans on Earth tremendously. Six thousand deaths is very tragic, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Salinas pointed to the far higher number of people who’ve been hospitalized with the disease and had to be put on ventilators, among other effects. There have been enough positive coronavirus tests in Iowa – more than 398,000 – for nearly 1 in every 8 Iowans. People sick with COVID-19 have spent a collective 158,975 days in Iowa hospitals, and the health care system was nearly overwhelmed in the fall. Older people faced the most dire outcomes from COVID-19. People 80 or older accounted for 58% of the deaths. The disease killed 2,335 Iowans who resided in nursing homes, nearly 40% of the total death toll, despite nursing home residents making up less than 1% of the state’s total population. Nursing home residents and staff were also among the first groups of Iowans eligible to receive the vaccine. Outbreaks at nursing homes have since nearly disappeared.
Liberty: The last two counties in the state that require residents to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 will keep the mandates in place for now to discuss new federal guidelines that loosened mask requirements. Health officials in Douglas and Wyandotte counties are reviewing guidelines announced Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said people who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks outdoors and in most indoor settings. Gov. Laura Kelly said the state would immediately begin following those guidelines. Dr. Thomas Marcellino, Douglas County health officer, said in a statement that health officials will discuss the new guidelines with county leaders during the county commission meeting Wednesday. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said Mayor David Alvey will convene the county commission Thursday to discuss possible changes to the county’s mask mandate, which requires masks indoors unless everyone is vaccinated. County spokeswoman Janelle Friesen said health officials continue to recommend that county government maintain the existing health order, noting that 7 out of 10 Wyandotte County residents have not received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Frankfort: The state’s coronavirus-related capacity restrictions and mask mandate will largely end June 11, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday. Masks will still be required on public transportation, in schools, in long-term care facilities and in other locations that serve the “most vulnerable,” Beshear said during a virtual press briefing. “Just one month from today, life will be almost fully back to normal,” the Democratic governor said. “One month gives our 12- to 15-year-olds the necessary time to get vaccinated … one month also gives notice and time to everyone else who has not received their shot of hope.” More than 1.9 million Kentuckians and roughly 53% of adult residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Kentucky opened up vaccinations to residents ages 12 to 15 on Thursday. “If you want to take the mask off and be safe, get vaccinated,” Beshear said. “If you are unwilling to get vaccinated, you really need to wear the mask to protect yourself from what is a pretty lethal virus.” The state’s coronavirus test positivity rate is about 3.04%. The positivity rate is an indicator of the extent of the spread of the virus, according to the World Health Organization. If the rate is less than 5% for two weeks, and testing is widespread, the virus is considered under control.
Ochsner Health registered nurse Thomas Vangteensburg administers a COVID-19 vaccine to hospitality worker Rosalie Barbish at Tableau restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Louisiana is making a full-court press to get shots in arms, with sometimes creative outreach to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated. (Photo: Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)
New Orleans: People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can go mask-free in most of the city, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Friday. And they can celebrate by dancing. The latest easing of restrictions in the city that was once a Southern hot spot for the disease caused by the coronavirus follows last week’s easing of masking recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Cantrell said there are some exceptions. Masks will still be required in city government buildings, hospitals and K-12 schools, as well as on public transportation. And she repeatedly urged people to get vaccinated. “We’re not out of the woods. The virus is still amongst us,” she said, stressing that the city is committed to getting all residents vaccinated. City health director Jennifer Avegno said more than half of residents who are eligible have received a full vaccination series. But she stressed that the numbers still need to improve and that people aren’t considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after they have completed their shots. Avegno also happily announced the easing of another restriction in a city that has slowly begun returning to opening bars and allowing live music: A ban on dancing at public venues was ending for people who are vaccinated. “We are no longer the town from ‘Footloose,’ ” she said.
Portland: Officials said Friday that the state will align with the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and allow vaccinated people to stop wearing masks indoors. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the new rules will take effect May 24, the day the state is slated to remove all capacity limits for public indoor venues. Mills said Maine will also lift physical distancing requirements at indoor public settings, including those where people will be eating or drinking. State officials are also echoing the CDC’s recommendations that people who are not yet fully vaccinated wear face coverings in indoor settings. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, said new COVID-19 guidelines for indoor gatherings could open the door to lawmakers to return to session in the State House. Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they would explore plans to reopen the building. “Maine people have put in the work, and they’re the reason we are on the edge of normalcy,” they said. Because of the pandemic, lawmakers have conducted committee meetings remotely and have met a handful of times in person at the Augusta Civic Center since the session formally convened in December.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announces the end of a statewide mask mandate during a news conference Friday in Annapolis, Md. (Photo: Brian Witte/AP)
Annapolis: A statewide mask mandate ended Saturday, with Gov. Larry Hogan saying the move followed guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. “Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for and working toward,” the Republican governor said at a news conference Friday. “We finally do clearly see that light at the end of the tunnel. Our long, hard-fought battle against the worst global pandemic in nearly a century is finally nearing an end.” In alignment with CDC guidance, face coverings will still be required on public transportation and in schools, child care and health care settings, Hogan said. The Maryland Department of Health has issued a public health advisory strongly recommending that all unvaccinated people over age 2 continue to wear face coverings in all indoor settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Private businesses and workplaces can put in place their own policies. The governor made the announcement as the state’s coronavirus-related health metrics continued to improve. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 dropped below 700 for the first time since November, down to 680. “And today, we have reached 1.91% – our second lowest daily positivity rate ever throughout the entire pandemic,” Hogan said.
Boston: As more people are vaccinated, the number of cities and towns considered at high risk for coronavirus transmission has shrunk to just six, the fifth consecutive week the number has fallen, according to state health officials. There were 13 communities on the list a week ago and 26 the previous week. The number peaked at 229 in mid-January. The communities that remain at high risk, according to state Department of Public Health data released Thursday, are Edgartown, New Bedford, Acushnet, Taunton, Lowell and Lawrence. Brockton dropped to moderate risk after spending much of the pandemic in the high-risk zone. “The city has been devastated by COVID but it now appears that we are starting to head in the right direction,” Mayor Robert F. Sullivan said in a statement. “I strongly encourage all residents to get vaccinated and to continue to follow the guidance of public health officials in order to return to normal as safely and quickly as possible.” Nearly 2.8 million Massachusetts residents had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to the public health department.
Lansing: People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don’t need to wear a mask any longer, and those who aren’t vaccinated don’t have to wear one outdoors, officials said Friday, also declaring that the state’s indoor mask requirement will expire in July. The announcement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state health department came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people. People don’t have to wear a mask outdoors, including in contact sports, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated. While indoors, the fully vaccinated can go without a face covering, but the unvaccinated still must wear one, at least until the state’s mandate ends after July 1. Businesses – including stores – governments, schools and events must make a “good faith effort” to ensure unvaccinated employees and patrons are masked. It wasn’t clear what sort of requirements could remain after the statewide mandate expires, which is nearly seven weeks away and thus will allow time for more vaccinations. More than 55% of Michigananders ages 16 and older have received at least one dose. The state still has the country’s highest two-week coronavirus infection rate, but it has dropped significantly recently.
Minneapolis: On the first day Minnesotans could go without a mask in public, Amber Raitz wasn’t about to do so. It’s not that she disagrees with Gov. Tim Walz dropping the state’s mask requirement in public spaces, but Raitz, 48, said Friday that she plans to keep her mask on in public mainly to make people around her less nervous. Raitz has been vaccinated and said she’s not nervous about contracting the coronavirus. “I think from the beginning, people do what’s in the best interest for themselves and for their neighbors,” she said. Walz’s move to end the mask requirement he issued last July came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people Thursday. Walz said he discarded the idea of requiring unvaccinated people to wear masks, saying it would be unenforceable. Raitz agreed. But she expected many people to do as she’s planning – continuing to wear masks in public for a while. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said at a briefing Friday that the federal guidance is “a sign of progress” in state and federal vaccinations, as well as in the effectiveness of the vaccines. She urged unvaccinated people to seek out the vaccine and to wear a mask in the meantime. The relaxing of restrictions is likely to be followed by growing case numbers, she said.
Starkville: A federal judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit a fitness gym filed against the city claiming it violated business owners’ rights when it forced nonessential businesses to close to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves issued executive orders in April 2020 that temporarily shut down nonessential businesses, including fitness gyms, spas, salons and barbershops. Aldermen in Starkville approved local ordinances mirroring the state order, The Dispatch reports. In their suit, Starkville Athletic Club managers John and Joe Underwood said the ordinance violated the state and U.S. constitutions. They said forcing businesses to close is equivalent to taking their property for public purposes without just compensation. They also claimed the city’s ban on fitness gyms is “arbitrary” because the Starkville Police Department continued to leave a gym open for its officers during the time private gyms were ordered to be closed. But Senior U.S. District Judge for North Mississippi Glen H. Davidson said the city has the right to enact such policies during a public health crisis. He said the city did not damage or take any of their real property, and lost potential profits from the city not allowing them to pursue their business interest did not constitute “taking.”
Jefferson City: A legislative session that began amid a surge in coronavirus cases ended Friday with state lawmakers passing a legal shield against pandemic-related liability lawsuits as their final action. The House vote, taken barely five minutes before adjourning, gives Republican Gov. Mike Parson a priority bill that he had been calling on lawmakers to pass for six months. But even if Parson signs it quickly, the legislation won’t take effect until Aug. 28. The legislation would prohibit COVID-19 liability lawsuits against businesses and health care providers unless plaintiffs can prove that they were exposed and sickened by the coronavirus and that the entity engaged in “reckless or willful misconduct.” Religious organizations would be shielded from COVID-19 exposure lawsuits unless “intentional misconduct” can be proven. Manufacturers who changed their normal business operations to make masks or other COVID-19 products would not be subject to liability lawsuits unless plaintiffs can prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that their “reckless or willful misconduct” caused harm or injury. The Republican-led Senate passed the bill in February, but it remained stalled in a House committee for months before the chamber suspended a rule to bring it up for a vote Friday.
Great Falls: The state added 89 new coronavirus cases Saturday, bringing total active cases to 1,031. The state has reported 1,598 total deaths related to the virus and 108,015 recoveries over the course of the pandemic. There were 63 active hospitalizations, of 5,154 hospitalizations in total. Cascade County on Saturday reported eight new cases of COVID-19. Cascade had 229 active cases, which was the largest number of active cases of any county in the state. The Cascade City-County Health Department said last week that most of the county’s active cases were among people ages 20-40, a group that also has shown lower vaccination rates. Great Falls Public Schools reported 21 active COVID-19 cases districtwide as of Friday. Cascade County is hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics May 21 and 22, open to people ages 12 and older. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered to those ages 18 and older, and Pfizer will be offered for those ages 12 to 18. The clinic will be open Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Montana ExpoPark. Montana as of Saturday had administered 768,742 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 368,058 Montanans fully immunized.
Sandhill cranes playfully toss a scrap into the air as they start their day in the Platte River on Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, Neb., on March 22, 2017. (Photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register)
Grand Island: The doors of the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center finally reopened to the public May 1 after a 14-month hiatus caused by the pandemic. While hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes made their yearly migratory stopover along the Platte River in March 2020, thousands of visitors – who annually flock to see one of the world’s largest migrations – didn’t, the Grand Island Independent reports. The cranes’ arrival coincided with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. The travel and tourism industry in particular took a hard hit. At the heart of the sandhill crane migration, thousands of people had already booked airplane flights and hotel rooms to witness the crane migration firsthand. The Crane Trust, a hub of the crane-viewing experience, lost its entire crane season when the doors closed March 12, 2020, the Independent reports. Crane Trust offers guided crane-watching tours that are well-booked ahead of the migration. It’s an important source of revenue to accomplish the organization’s mission to improve the habitat of the Platte River. “What had taken us months to prepare for had to be canceled,” said Wendy Bailey, Crane Trust finance and human resources director. “It was a huge disappointment for staff, volunteers and visitors throughout.”
Burning Man participants walk through dust at the 2014 Burning Man event on the Black Rock Desert of Gerlach, Nev. (Photo: Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal)
Reno: The cancellation of Burning Man for the second year is drawing mixed reaction in northern Nevada, where some businesses and tourism officials say they’ll miss the economic boost from festivalgoers, but health officials are glad they won’t contribute to increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19. The counterculture festival in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles north of Reno typically attracts nearly 80,000 people who spend an estimated $63 million in Nevada. Officials at Reno-Tahoe International Airport are among those who were hoping the event would return at the end of August after last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic. “Let’s face it, our world needs Burning Man right now. If you want to celebrate coming out of a pandemic, Burning Man is perfect,” airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said. “We missed them last year, and we’ll miss them again this year.” Health officials’ concerns were based in part on the fact the event attracts people from all over the world in places with lower vaccination rates and a range of coronavirus variants. “I’m sure it was a difficult decision to cancel Burning Man this year, but I do feel that in terms of safety of the general public and lowering the risk of COVID-19 transmission that the right call was made,” said Kevin Dick, district health officer for Washoe County.
Hanover: Dartmouth College is planning to ease some of its restrictions related to the coronavirus as of June 1. There will still be COVID-19 screening, mask-wearing and 6 feet of distancing when dining with others and taking part in athletic activities and performances, the college’s COVID-19 Task Force said in a statement Thursday. Visitors to indoor spaces must have a Dartmouth faculty or staff sponsor who would complete a registration form for them. Events can have more than 25 attendees in pre-approved locations but should not exceed 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors without a special exemption. Informal gatherings will continue to be limited to nine or fewer people. Dartmouth’s goal is to have full access to campus Aug. 1. That would require all students to be fully vaccinated. The college has also said it will allow graduating seniors to bring two guests to next month’s commencement, reversing an earlier decision to prohibit guests at the June 13 ceremony at Memorial Stadium, according to the Valley News. Two tickets will be available to each student receiving an undergraduate degree. Those receiving graduate and professional degrees will be allowed two guests at events hosted by their individual schools but not at the larger ceremony.
Trenton: Masks are still required indoors, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday, but he and the Democrats who control the Legislature said they plan to end the public health emergency granting him vast powers by next month. Murphy’s announcement that the state will retain an indoor mask requirement because of COVID-19 butts up against federal guidance from Thursday saying that vaccinated Americans can ditch masks outdoors and in many indoor situations. The governor has said that fully vaccinated people can forgo masks outside but hasn’t lifted an indoor mandate. The governor said it’s “only a matter of time,” perhaps weeks, before the mask mandate is lifted in New Jersey. “We’re frankly not there yet,” he said during an event in East Orange, alongside actor Whoopi Goldberg, to urge people to get vaccinated. Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced in a statement Friday that the public health emergency, which has been in place since March 2020, will end in the middle of June. “It’s the beginning of the end of a crisis that has tragically claimed the lives of an unimaginable number of New Jerseyans and impacted the lives and livelihoods of nearly everyone,” Sweeney said.
Santa Fe: The state has adopted federal guidance on face masks that says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outside in most cases, under a revised public health order issued Friday. The state Department of Health announced that masks are no longer required in many public settings for people inoculated against COVID-19, though businesses and workplaces may still make face coverings a requirement for all regardless. “Individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, should continue to wear well-fitted masks where required by localities, tribal entities, and individual businesses,” the agency said. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said it’s important to keep a mask on hand, but he also sounded a celebratory note. “I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing the smiles of friends and neighbors across our city again,” he said in a statement. New Mexico is among more than a dozen states to quickly embrace new federal guidelines on masks. Schools will continue to require staff, teachers and students to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking, the Public Education Department announced. “The mask requirement is unchanged for school settings for now due to the potential spread of COVID-19 among unvaccinated students,” the agency said in a statement.
Masked pedestrians walk on the street April 26 in New York. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
Albany: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to say whether he will change the state’s mask or social distancing rules in light of new federal guidance that eases rules for fully vaccinated people. Cuomo said Thursday that his administration was reviewing the new federal guidance and consulting with health officials in neighboring states. New York’s mask mandate dates to April 2020, when the Democratic governor first required all people over the age of 2 to wear a mask when out in public or unable to distance themselves from others. At the time, health officials across the nation urged mask mandates as it became clear that people without symptoms could unknowingly spread COVID-19. Cuomo has since pointed to research showing that crowded indoor settings like dining pose a higher risk of COVID-19 spread. The leader of an industry group advocating for restaurant and bar owners in New York City is calling on Cuomo to lift more restrictions. “It’s more justification to continue eliminating restaurant and nightlife restrictions, so that these businesses which are vital to the city’s social and economic fabric can reopen further, welcome back customers and help the Big Apple recover,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.
Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday immediately ended the state’s capacity limits on businesses and nearly all remaining statewide mask-wearing mandates, returning North Carolina to almost normal operations after 15 months marked by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. The Democratic governor of the nation’s ninth-largest state announced the lifting of gathering limit requirements 21/2 weeks before June 1 – the date by which he had previously said he wanted to rid the state of social distancing requirements. Restrictions had been scaled back slowly in recent months as statistical trends for the coronavirus in the state stabilized or improved. “This is a big step forward in living our lives the way they were before the pandemic. That’s good,” Cooper said at a news conference. He said he was prompted to act by Thursday’s guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks indoors and out in most cases. Still, Cooper warned that the coronavirus remains in the state and urged personal responsibility by those who haven’t gotten vaccinated to protect themselves and others. The decision comes just in time for the Carolina Hurricanes to open the Stanley Cup playoffs with more fans Monday.
Fargo: Downtown Fargo was surprisingly busy over the weekend, due in part to an outdoor fundraiser and an indoor spring fling, and masks were in relatively short supply. Andrew Kodet, 20, a North Dakota State University student, and his girlfriend, Kenzie Nylin, 21, a University of North Dakota student, said they will wear masks where required. Otherwise they will go without because of the new Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for those fully vaccinated. “If you’ve been vaccinated, and you’ve put the effort into it to avoid spreading the disease, it’s about time to begin this rebuilding process,” Kodet said. “There is nothing political about it with me.” Nylin said it’s been a long wait to ditch the face coverings but added one caveat since, unlike Kodet, she’s old enough to enter liquor establishments. “The bars are packed, and no one wears masks,” Nylin said. “That was a little bit surprising at first, but as more people get vaccinated, I feel more comfortable.” Not everyone is ditching their masks just yet. Akayla Rondorf, 23, wore a pink cloth mask while walking and said she’s fully vaccinated but still plans to wear a mask indoors. “It’s just for the safety and comfort of the people around me,” she said. “Hopefully everyone gets vaccinated so we don’t have to wear the masks anymore.”
Columbus: The state is removing a mask requirement immediately for people who are fully vaccinated, in keeping with new guidance from the federal government, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday. DeWine said in a statement that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks and socially distance, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. The governor said existing health orders still won’t be fully lifted until June 2, as he had announced Wednesday, but the wording will be updated to match CDC guidelines. The June 2 date was chosen to give ample time to those who need to get vaccinated. Updated CDC guidance released Thursday says unvaccinated people can go without masks for the most part. They should still be worn in health care settings; on public transportation, including airplanes; and when a business or employer requires them. “The most powerful tool we have to protect against the COVID-19 virus is the vaccine,” DeWine said. “Because of the vaccine, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are decreasing dramatically. The vaccine allows us to live our lives more normally and without fear.”
Mask regulations have been relaxed as people move about Friday in Oklahoma City. (Photo: DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN)
Oklahoma City: With no local mask requirements and federal guidelines easing their use for vaccinated people, businesses are now considering whether to relax indoor requirements for customers and employees. But many are keeping the mask on. William Ray, a local delivery driver and grocery shopper for Shipt, said mask usage makes him feel more comfortable at work even though he’s vaccinated. “It actually does. It puts you at ease,” Ray said Friday after shopping for a customer at a local grocery store. “It’s part of the way we’re living now. For the better part of a year and a half, I’ve been wearing my mask now anyway.” Restaurants were sent reeling last year when the pandemic began. The decline in new coronavirus cases and emergence of COVID-19 vaccines, along with the new guidance on social distancing and masks, offer a silver lining for many. In recent weeks, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association polled its members about how they would react to lifting of local mask requirements. It found 58% would still require employees to wear masks, but just 13% would still require customers to wear them. Many chain restaurants will be operating as dictated by corporate offices, the ORA said.
Portland: The state health officer said Friday that businesses will be asked to either enforce mask policies or check whether customers have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The comments by Dr. Dean Sidelinger came as he said the state was still working on releasing more detailed guidance for businesses. Late Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown said Oregon would immediately follow direction from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in the day that eased indoor mask-wearing and social distancing for fully vaccinated people. Brown said Oregonians who have received a full vaccine series no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces, adding that the state would provide more specific instructions soon. Sidelinger said for now it’s up to businesses to determine a person’s vaccine status. “We would anticipate that an establishment or business will have to have a system in place for asking about vaccines status and verifying that. Right now I would anticipate that would be seeing a card with the individual’s name, the vaccine site and date they got it – it could be a picture of the vaccine card or record from provider on their phone – but just a way of seeing that,” he said.
Harrisburg: Schools, businesses and other organizations in the state may still require masks, even as the Wolf administration loosened its mask mandate to exempt people who are fully vaccinated, the state Department of Health said Friday. Pennsylvania adopted new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but is leaving the ultimate decision to businesses and schools. “If you are fully vaccinated, it is an incentive to be able to remove your mask, but businesses and workplaces may still require this added layer of protection for their employees or customers that may have underlying conditions that continue to make them vulnerable to this virus,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a statement. Pennsylvania’s mandate that unvaccinated people continue to wear masks in public will remain in place until 70% of the adult population is vaccinated. The Gerrity’s supermarket chain said it will no longer require customers and employees who are fully vaccinated to wear a face covering. Giant Eagle supermarkets said it would continue to require everyone to mask up. Similarly, Knoebels Amusement Resort said Friday that the fully vaccinated can go maskless outside, but masks will be required indoors. Hersheypark said it won’t require fully vaccinated people to wear them at all.
Providence: The state will no longer require residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks and socially distance in most public settings starting Tuesday, Gov. Daniel McKee announced Friday. The Democratic governor’s announcement came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was easing mask-wearing guidance for the fully vaccinated by allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Masks are still required in some crowded indoor situations, but McKee said easing mask rules will help the economy recover and schools reopen. “We’re resetting Rhode Island and preparing for all the good things to come,” he said at an outdoor news conference. McKee also announced that on May 21, Rhode Island would remove most of its remaining coronavirus limitations on businesses and social gatherings – a week earlier than originally scheduled. That will allow retailers gyms, offices and other businesses to operate with no capacity limitations if they so choose, he said.
Motorcycles are parked in front of a bar Friday in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as Myrtle Beach Bike Week draws big crowds to the city. (Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images)
Myrtle Beach: An event for motorcyclists attracted large numbers of bikers from across the United States this year, after the 2020 gathering was diminished by the coronavirus pandemic. Myrtle Beach Bike Week event began May 7 and wrapped up Sunday. The Sun News reports hundreds of bikers were out Friday in Murrells Inlet, listening to music and shopping during the spring Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally. A bar was surrounded by motorcycles with licenses plates from all across the U.S. Michelle Jamison told the newspaper that she got her first motorcycle 12 years ago when she was 42. Now, she rides one decorated with more than 15,000 Swarovski crystals. Jamison said she decided to bedazzle it to let people know it’s a woman’s bike. “Women don’t want to be put on the back (of motorcycles) anymore,” she said. Jamison, who is from Minnesota, is one of many female bikers who attended Myrtle Beach Bike Week. Hannah Guerra, who was out Friday with her mother, Helen Owens, said there seemed to be many more people this year than last year. Guerra and Owens traveled to Myrtle Beach from Rock Hill, South Carolina, to attend their sixth Bike Week.
Sioux Falls: Many people who were strolling downtown in the state’s most populous city over the weekend said the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance regarding masks is good news. “I think it’s a great idea, get people back to normal,” Wade Wilkie, an Iowa resident, said Saturday. “I think it’s great for businesses. I own a small business myself, and I think it’s wonderful for that.” Dina Lantzer said she was happy to move to Sioux Falls from Minnesota in part because of the strict COVID-19 restrictions in South Dakota’s neighboring state. She called ditching the masks “a fabulous idea,” KELO-TV reports. “I’ve never worn a mask, so I just don’t agree with the mask rules in the first place, which is one of the reasons why we moved to South Dakota,” Lantzer said. For others, after more than a year of the CDC urging that people wear masks, it might take some time to adapt to the new suggestions. “I’m so used to wearing a mask all the time, indoors, outdoors, and I just got fully vaccinated,” said Jeff Larsen, of Sioux Falls. “It’s been three weeks since my second shot, so I’m feeling a bit more safe, and I’m feeling a little more comfortable going outside, and I’ve still got my mask, just in case.”
Nashville: The city lifted its indoor public mask requirement Friday after federal counterparts relaxed guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic to advise that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Local health officials made the determination Thursday in a reversal from earlier that day, when they had maintained the indoor mask requirement just after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people. Metro Public Health Department spokesperson Brian Todd said officials further reviewed the new CDC guidelines, then made the change to remove the mask mandate. Nashville’s mask requirement officially was dropped Friday morning, the same day the city’s remaining pandemic capacity limits expired. Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department still strongly recommends that unvaccinated people wear masks when in crowds, indoors and when unable to socially distance. Businesses can still choose to require masks. Republican Gov. Bill Lee last month removed the option for most local governments to mandate masks in public and urged a few big counties with authority to implement their own restrictions, including mask requirements, to remove them by Memorial Day.
From left, teacher Carlos Agua and fifth grade students Emily Canales and Valentina Rosales during an online library class at Manchaca Elementary School. (Photo: Lola Gomez)
Austin: Students and employees in the city’s school district will have to keep their masks on while indoors for the rest of the school year, district officials said Friday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took another step toward post-pandemic normalcy Thursday, announcing that Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can now skip masks while indoors regardless of social distancing. But the district is not moving to eliminate its indoor mask requirement and is still evaluating protocols for summer classes and the upcoming school year, said Alexandra Copeland, the district’s health services director. “Since we have no way to verify vaccination statuses and, until this week, most of our students were not yet eligible to be vaccinated, Austin ISD will continue to require masking through the rest of the school year and with graduation ceremonies,” she said in a news release. Copeland said the district would in the meantime continue increasing vaccination efforts and “devise a system to verify whether individuals are vaccinated.” Following the CDC’s announcement, a handful of parents asked school board members to end the use of masks and plexiglass at schools at their Thursday meeting. Others asked for the district not to further ease protocols, as it did last week, allowing kids to unmask outside.
Lehi: The city will allow medical cannabis drive-thrus after a unanimous vote to remove a local ordinance banning them. The Tuesday City Council vote came after a proposal from Curaleaf, which is the only cannabis pharmacy in the town, the Daily Herald reports. State law allows drive-thru facilities, which have become more popular during the coronavirus pandemic. The facilities must follow all other medical cannabis regulations. Curaleaf’s Stan Lockhart told the council that medical marijuana can be “a lifesaver for some.” Mayor Mark Johnson agreed that it is a better alternative to opioid drugs, and Councilmember Paige Albrecht said her husband is a disabled veteran who uses medical marijuana to treat his chronic pain. “And the V.A. eventually was not able to offer him any further help with his pain, and medical cannabis has helped his quality of life a great deal,” Albrecht said, noting that there were “nights when he wasn’t able to even sleep because the pain was so bad.”
Montpelier: The state has moved to the third phase of its reopening plan two weeks earlier than had been planned. The state moved to the next phase Friday rather than June 1 because it has already exceeded the goal of having of more than 60% of the population receiving at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. The new guidance removes the testing requirement for travel and decreases event and gathering restrictions. The new gathering sizes will allow for one unvaccinated person per 50 square feet, up to 300 people, plus any number of vaccinated people for indoor events; and 900 people, plus any number of vaccinated people, outdoors. On Friday the state also lifted its mask mandate in line with guidance issued by federal officials. Masks are still required in schools, on public transportation, and in health care settings, long-term care facilities and prisons. The mandate remains in place for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, including children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
Richmond: The governor has lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate in line with new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement Friday along with changes to other mitigation measures expanding capacity for sports and entertainment venues and an easing of limits on social gatherings. He also said Virginia will ease all distancing and capacity restrictions May 28, two weeks earlier than planned. Increasing vaccination rates, declines in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, and the lowest statewide test positivity rate since the pandemic began made the changes possible. Masks will still be required in K-12 public schools. Businesses can still require masks. Employees in certain business sectors, including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and entertainment, must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated. Tony Stafford, president of the Virginia Restaurant Association, said he expects the lifting of the mask mandate to cause some confusion. “It really puts us in a rough spot because I don’t feel comfortable and I don’t think I’m allowed to ask (customers) if they’re vaccinated,” he said. Still, Stafford said, the lifting of the mandate is an encouraging sign for business owners. He said his staff will continue to wear masks.
Tacoma: The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board has suspended the license of a bar in Tacoma for 180 days, after months of complaints and citations. The board said last week that it issued an immediate emergency suspension of An American Tavern’s license because of repeated, willful noncompliance and disregard for public health and safety, The News Tribune reports. The board also said during that time it will seek to revoke the license permanently. In total, the board has received 60 complaints about the bar and has issued verbal and written warnings, four administrative violations and $800 in fines. Use of the emergency suspension is rare, the board said, “reserved only for those cases where the public health, safety or welfare is at risk.” Four other businesses have been issued such suspensions in the past year. Efforts to reach owner Kyle Bidwell for comment were not immediately successful. Neighbors reported continued violation of masking, social distancing and general COVID-19 rules for bars and restaurants, in addition to late-night noise and violence in the parking lot. Neighbors also reported seeing highly intoxicated patrons. The Tacoma Police Department has received dozens of calls to the bar, which is on the ground floor of a residential building.
Charleston: The state followed new federal guidance Friday in excluding fully vaccinated people from a statewide mask mandate. Gov. Jim Justice praised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for issuing guidance Thursday that the fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most cases. “It’s a good day. It’s a great day,” the Republican governor said. The mandate will still apply to those who are not fully vaccinated until June 20, the date Justice has set for lifting the requirement altogether. He added that “you do not have a constitutional right not to wear a mask” and that private businesses and schools may still require face coverings. Justice also announced that the state will end its federal pandemic-era boost for unemployment benefits June 19, including the additional $300 a week for those without a job. He said the state is considering a program that would pay a $1,000 bonus for unemployed people who go back to work. It would require the employer agreeing to pay half of the bonus, with the state covering the other half. “West Virginians will have access to thousands of jobs right now,” he said. “And we need everybody back to work. Our small business and economy depends on it so much.”
Gov. Tony Evers tours the Trout Museum of Art during National Travel and Tourism Week on May 5 in Appleton, Wis. (Photo: Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers on Friday praised new federal guidelines that relaxed mask restrictions for people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, and he said his administration will review whether it is safe for state workers to return to their offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations Thursday saying the fully vaccinated can resume normal activities without masks except in crowded environments such as on public transportation or inside hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. During a ceremony outside the state Capitol on Friday to sign a bill recognizing May 14 as Hmong-Lao Veterans Day, Evers applauded the relaxed guidelines. “Obviously, I have to thank the people of Wisconsin who certainly have suffered over these 14 months, in particular the people that have been vaccinated,” said Evers, who wore a mask at the event until he gave his speech. “The people that have been vaccinated have saved lives and have gotten us to this point.” He said his administration would review the new recommendations and evaluate whether to bring state workers back to their offices en masse. He urged reporters not to focus on what he called the “minutiae” of the recommendations and instead celebrate them.
Laramie: The University of Wyoming is easing its indoor mask requirements as of Monday and preparing to remove masking and social distancing rules for fully vaccinated students, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. The school also plans to allow full capacity for in-person classes in the fall. COVID-19 vaccines aren’t required, though the university has asked those who do get the shots to report them online to help track the school’s progress, according to the newspaper.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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