US: Fermenting skills, exodus debunked, nurse strike: News from around our 50 states

Kamala Harris, Jen Psaki Syria tweets resurface after Biden launches deadly airstrike

  Kamala Harris, Jen Psaki Syria tweets resurface after Biden launches deadly airstrike Biden's strikes reportedly killed 22 in Syria. “What is the legal authority for strikes?” Psaki questioned in 2017 Jen Psaki and Kamala Harris Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images

a little girl standing in a field: Meg Chamberlin holds jars of her fermented produce next to her field in Marshall February 26, 2021. © Angela Wilhelm/[email protected] Meg Chamberlin holds jars of her fermented produce next to her field in Marshall February 26, 2021.


Montgomery: The state’s mask mandate expires April 9 but not the recommendation to wear masks, the state health officer emphasized Friday. “There is nothing magical about the date of April 9. We don’t want the public to think that’s the day we all stop taking precautions,” State Health Officer Scott Harris told reporters. Gov. Kay Ivey has extended Alabama’s mask order through the evening of April 9 but said after that she will let it expire. She said then it will be a matter of personal responsibility. State health officials urged people to maintain precautions – particularly during spring break and Easter gatherings – as the state tries to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations. Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of clinic support services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said she hopes people continue to wear masks when the mandate goes away. “I hope people do continue to make the right choice now because we are not out of the woods yet. We have a lot of vulnerable people in our population, and the last thing we want to do is for them to be sick and for them to die,” Nafziger said. So far about 14% of the state’s 4.9 million people have received at least one shot of vaccine. The Alabama National Guard will travel to the Black Belt this month to deliver vaccinations in communities with few medical providers.

Biden sends letter to congressional leadership explaining justification for Syria strike

  Biden sends letter to congressional leadership explaining justification for Syria strike President Joe Biden sent a letter to congressional leadership Saturday explaining the reasoning behind Thursday's airstrike in Syria, which has been criticized by some Democrats in the latest fight between the executive and legislative branches over war powers. © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images In the letter, which fulfills an obligation of the President listed in the War Powers Resolution, Biden outlined the details of the strike -- the US military's first known action under his administration -- and said the action was "pursuant to the United States' inherent right of self-defense as reflected in Article 51 of the Uni


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Anchorage: Traveling across the rugged, unforgiving Alaska terrain is already hard enough, but whatever comforts mushers previously had in the world’s most famous sled dog race have been cast aside this year due to the pandemic. In years past, mushers would stop in any number of 24 villages that serve as checkpoints, where they could get a hot meal, maybe a shower and sleep – albeit “cheek to jowl” – in a warm building before getting back to the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which kicked off Sunday north of Anchorage. Participants will instead spend the next week or so mostly camping in tents outside towns, and the only source of warmth – for comfort or to heat up frozen food and water – will come from their camp cookers. “It’s a little bit old school,” said Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach. This year’s race will be marked by pandemic precautions, a route change, no spectators, vigorous coronavirus testing and the smallest field of competitors in decades. The route has also been shortened to 860 miles. For the first time in the race’s 49-year history, the finish line will not be in Nome. Instead, mushers will go from Willow to the mining ghost towns of Iditarod and Flat, and then back to Willow for the finish. This, Urbach notes, was the original vision of the race co-founder, the late Joe Redington.

Overnight Defense: White House defends not punishing MBS after Khashoggi report | Pentagon says one militant killed in Syria strike | $125M military aid package for Ukraine announced

  Overnight Defense: White House defends not punishing MBS after Khashoggi report | Pentagon says one militant killed in Syria strike | $125M military aid package for Ukraine announced Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.3 stories tonight1) THE TOPLINE: Despite publicly releasing the U.S. intelligence assessment that the Saudi crown prince ordered the operation that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration isn't penalizing the3 stories tonight...


Phoenix: The state is reporting a daily number of new COVID-19 cases below 1,000 for the first time in months along with no new deaths. State health officials on Monday said there are 783 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus. With that latest figure, the state’s pandemic total number of cases sits at 827,237. The death toll remains 16,328. The number of vaccine doses administered around Arizona was up to 2.1 million, with more than 1.3 million people having received at least one shot. That’s more than 19% of the state’s population. The number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide dipped to 919, the fewest since Nov. 1. The number of intensive care beds used by COVID-19 patients fell to 256, the fewest since Nov. 6. In Sunday’s update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Arizona ranked seventh in the nation for COVID-19 deaths per capita over the past seven days and 19th in cases. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The Latest: Blast at Dutch virus testing center; no one hurt

  The Latest: Blast at Dutch virus testing center; no one hurt THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch police say a blast smashed windows at a coronavirus testing center in a small town north of Amsterdam in the early morning. Nobody was hurt. Police in the North Holland province tweeted that “an explosive went off” near the test center in Bovenkarspel just before 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Wednesday. Police have taped off the area about 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Amsterdam and are investigating the cause of the blast.In January, rioters torched a coronavirus test facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. nationwide curfew imposed as part of the government’s lockdown.


Little Rock: Plans for five mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics in the state each week starting Thursday have been announced by the Arkansas Department of Health. The first clinic will be Thursday at the Conway County Fairgrounds in Morrilton, the health department announced late Friday. Next Friday there will be clinics at Greater Second Baptist Church in Little Rock; Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville; the Fordyce Civic Center; and the Marianna Civic Center. Vaccines will be available to those currently eligible for a vaccination, including anyone 65 or older, those who work in education and those working in food manufacturing. The health department said separate clinics in each of the state’s five public health regions will be scheduled each week, and doses will initially be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.


Berkeley: A popular notion that there was a mass exodus from the Golden State last year after the pandemic hit is wrong, according to research from a nonpartisan think tank. Most moves during 2020 happened within the state, the California Policy Lab said Thursday. Departures were consistent with historical patterns, but the biggest statewide change was that fewer people moved into California, the group said in a statement. The lab’s researchers used a dataset of quarterly credit bureau information called the University of California Consumer Credit Panel to analyze where people from each county moved after the coronavirus crisis struck a year ago. “While a mass exodus from California clearly didn’t happen in 2020, the pandemic did change some historical patterns,” author Natalie Holmes said. “At the county level, however, San Francisco is experiencing a unique and dramatic exodus, which is causing 50% or 100% increases in Bay Area in-migration for some counties in the Sierras.” Net exits from San Francisco between the end of last March and the end of 2020 increased 649%, compared to the same period in 2019. About two-thirds remained within the 11-county San Francisco Bay Area economic region, and 80% stayed in California.

North Carolina county commissioner and LGBTQ advocate launches bid to challenge GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn

  North Carolina county commissioner and LGBTQ advocate launches bid to challenge GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn A North Carolina county official and longtime LGBTQ advocate announced Wednesday that she's challenging Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn in next year's midterm elections.A North Carolina county official and longtime LGBTQ advocate announced Wednesday that she's challenging Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn in next year's midterm elections.


Boulder: Authorities have fielded hundreds of tips involving a massive, largely unmasked weekend gathering near the University of Colorado at Boulder in which participants damaged cars, set off fireworks, and tossed bottles and rocks at police, slightly injuring three officers, officials said Monday. Boulder County health authorities, meanwhile, warned of a possible surge in coronavirus cases because of the Saturday night melee in which as many as 800 people flooded streets in a neighborhood known as University Hill, home to many university students as well as residents. Caroline Wiygul, a junior majoring in environmental studies and English, said she was running errands with a friend Saturday when about 100 people milling in the street blocked their way home. They called police and hurried to a friend’s house, where they spent the next six hours inside as the melee outside grew larger, louder and more violent. “It was really stressful,” Wygul said. “It’s upsetting because obviously it became a big public health risk. I don’t think the police handled it that well. I think the party could have been shut down early in the afternoon.” University Chancellor Philip Distefano warned that any student involved in violence, property damage, refusing to disperse or violating virus-related protocols faces discipline up to expulsion. Health officials urged anyone who was at the scene to quarantine for at least 10 days and get tested for the coronavirus.

Here’s why it’s important to audit your Amazon Alexa skills (and how to do it)

  Here’s why it’s important to audit your Amazon Alexa skills (and how to do it) New research shows potential privacy vulnerabilities in Alexa’s skillsThe first large-scale study of privacy vulnerabilities in Alexa’s skill ecosystem was carried out by researchers at North Carolina State and Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. They found a number of worrying issues, particularly in the vetting processes Amazon uses to check the integrity of each skill.


Hartford: Not all businesses are planning to rush back into their shared workspaces following Gov. Ned Lamont’s decision to lift restrictions on offices. Many business leaders say they expect a slower reentry now that many office workers have spent nearly a year working remotely. David Griggs, president and chief executive of the MetroHartford Alliance, an economic development group, told the Hartford Courant that he sees more companies opting for a hybrid working life, with some time in the office and some time spent working remotely. “You’re going to see it trickle back in, and it’s going to be slow,” Griggs told the newspaper. Lamont also announced dramatic rollbacks on other restrictions Thursday, covering restaurants, stores, houses of worship, gyms and others that will be allowed to go back to full capacity March 19. Masks and social distancing protocols will still be required, which could put a pause on many workers returning to their offices right away. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin told the newspaper he doesn’t expect significant change in downtown offices until the summer or fall. Meanwhile, he will focus on creating opportunities for outdoor activity in the warmer months.


Dover: The state is expanding COVID-19 vaccine availability among educators and will hold an event next weekend at Dover International Speedway to inoculate thousands of educators, school staff and child care workers. The event in Dover on Saturday and Sunday will be hosted by the Division of Public Health, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the Delaware Department of Education. The Department of Education, in partnership with Albertsons Pharmacy, has vaccinated more than 5,500 educators and school staff, roughly a third of those who expressed interest in vaccination. More than half of those people have been fully vaccinated. Educators, school staff and child care workers who have expressed interest in vaccination should expect invitations from the department soon. The press release also said educators, school staff and child care workers can sign up for appointments at Walgreens as part of a partnership between the pharmacy giant and the federal government. Walgreens will pause new vaccination appointments for other eligible populations to prioritize educator vaccinations in Delaware through March, in accordance with federal guidance.

ANZCO list used to determine Australia's tech talent visa eligibility criticised as outdated

  ANZCO list used to determine Australia's tech talent visa eligibility criticised as outdated One of the common criticisms is that it fails to recognise skills and occupations that companies are demanding.The ANZCO list was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to provide information on the skill level of jobs, qualifications, and experiences needed to work in specific occupations in Australia. The list is used by the federal government as a base as to whether an individual is eligible to qualify for a skilled visa in Australia, including the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, which was introduced in April 2017 after the Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa was scrapped.

District of Columbia

Washington: The city is launching a vaccine preregistration system this week that allows people to input their information online or through a call center, WUSA-TV reports. DC Health will then contact those residents to make an appointment instead of select groups having to compete for a chance to sign up at a specific release time every week, which had frustrated citizens and overloaded the existing system. Councilmember Elissa Silverman said she still had questions about the site. “This system will put the control in the government’s hands ... and then it’s a little unclear right now to me how the prioritization will work,” she said. Silverman said she was also unsure how long people would have to claim their appointment once notified. Still, the current vaccine appointment system hasn’t made the process easy. D.C. resident Zelda Wait tried to sign up for an appointment Friday morning after she became eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine because of a medical condition. “I didn’t get notified until 12 minutes before the actual vaccine schedules were released,” Wait said. She rushed to the website and was put in a queue but didn’t end up getting a spot. “Why should we have to basically go through the Hunger Games to get this lifesaving vaccine?” Wait said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”


Ocala: Sometime this month, all Floridians age 60 and up will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, an expansion beyond the current restriction limiting the shots to people 65 and older, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday. DeSantis said the shift in age restrictions will be made depending on the supply of vaccines coming to the state, and it may ultimately include people age 55 and older. “It will happen in March. We will move the age down,” DeSantis said at a retirement community in Ocala. For the past several months, only seniors, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and health care workers have been eligible for the vaccines in Florida. Eligibility only in the past week opened up to school employees, along with police officers and firefighters age 50 and over. DeSantis also issued an order for the extremely vulnerable to have access to the shot at doctors’ offices and pharmacies beginning Wednesday. Previously the group could only get vaccinated at hospitals. But this past Friday, some lawmakers said people with doctor’s notes were turned away at a Miami vaccination site because they did not provide a state form that had to be filled out by their physician to confirm they were extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus and eligible for the vaccine. The form was released earlier in the week.

Indiana investigates care home nurse who unhooked oxygen from COVID-19 patient, report shows

  Indiana investigates care home nurse who unhooked oxygen from COVID-19 patient, report shows An Indiana nurse is accused of removing the oxygen mask from a nursing home resident who died hours later, a state health inspection report shows.She then removed his oxygen mask without a doctor's order. The man died.


Atlanta: Classrooms, dorms, cafeterias and stadiums are likely to be full again this fall at the state’s public universities. The University System of Georgia on Wednesday announced it has asked all campuses to plan for normal operations during the fall 2021 semester. “This decision comes as wider availability of vaccines over the next few months is anticipated to control the spread of COVID-19,” the system said in a statement last week. Regents instructed the 26 schools, with more than 340,000 students, to maintain some level of in-person classes last fall and to increase the number of in-person classes this spring. Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera wrote that the university plans to “return to campus with full operations and a complete residential experience for our students this fall.” Some faculty members and employees have criticized in-person class mandates, saying universities weren’t allowing many employees to work remotely, putting their health at risk. Several campuses had notable outbreaks in August and September after students first returned. And Gov. Brian Kemp did not include university employees when he widened eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to groups including K-12 and preschool education employees starting Monday. But shots for teachers could be coming by fall.


Hilo: Visitation at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park declined by more than half last year compared with 2019 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, park officials said. The National Park Service said 589,775 people visited the Big Island park in 2020 compared with the nearly 1.4 million people who visited the year before, West Hawaii Today reports. That’s a 57% decline. Park officials anticipated an increase early last year following the annual boost from the winter holidays and had reported a slight 2% increase in guests in January and February compared with the previous year. However, the park closed between March and June as a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and visitation remained low even when it reopened, officials said. Hawaii tourism dropped significantly as a result of travel restrictions and business closures caused by the pandemic. Visitors are still required to wear facial coverings and encouraged to follow safety measures such as maintaining 6 feet of space between groups and washing hands, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh said. Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, on the other side of the Big Island, saw an 82% decline in visitors, officials said. Last year, 23,970 people visited the park compared with the 133,573 in 2019.


Boise: Under Gov. Brad Little’s direction, the state has launched a new COVID-19 vaccine solution to help alleviate the frustration of many Idahoans in trying to make an appointment to get a shot. The new COVID-19 vaccine appointment preregistration system is available at “The ability for Idahoans to get a vaccine – should they choose to do so – is my top priority,” Little said in a statement. The new system “is user-friendly, easy to understand, and it was built from the ground up with Idahoans in mind.” The website allows residents to add their names to one waiting list regardless of when they are eligible to get the vaccine. They will be contacted by an enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider when it is their turn and when the provider has appointments and doses available. Idahoans will no longer have to repeatedly check websites or call different providers looking for an appointment. They simply sign up and wait for an enrolled vaccine provider to contact them. Idahoans 65 and older who have not received the vaccine are encouraged to use the new system so they can get on the list and an enrolled provider in their area can contact them to schedule an appointment. The system is open to all who live or work in Idaho.


Chicago: Thousands of fans of the Cubs and the White Sox will get to see their teams play in person this season, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday. In a news release, Lightfoot said each team will be limited to 20% capacity. That means the White Sox can admit as many as 8,122 fans to Guaranteed Rate Field beginning on opening day, and the Cubs will be allowed to admit as many as 8,274 fans per game. “As a diehard sports fan myself, I’m personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season,” Lightfoot said in announcing that fans can attend major league games for the first time since the 2019 season. The announcement comes after the city, citing a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases, recently started allowing limited indoor seating. Just last week, restaurants and bars were told they can increase their indoor seating capacity to 50%. “We believe this is a moment when baseball can indeed serve our fans and our communities again as we all hope for a gradual return to normal,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. There was no word on when fans might be able to return to the United Center, the home of the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks.


Indianapolis: Indianapolis Public Schools will return to all in-person learning in its high schools and middle schools after spring break April 5, the superintendent said. The decision was made based on updated data and a recent discussion with the Marion County Health Department, Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said Friday. Schools must be able to maintain 3 feet of social distancing, require masks and ensure a strong contact-tracing protocol, Johnson said. Middle and high school students are now on a hybrid model to curb the spread of COVID-19. In January, students in prekindergarten through sixth grade – except for sixth graders on a middle school schedule – returned to a full in-person schedules at school.


a public transit bus on a city street: The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority unveils two fully electric buses Oct. 1, 2020, in Des Moines. © Bryon Houlgrave/The Register The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority unveils two fully electric buses Oct. 1, 2020, in Des Moines.

Des Moines: Des Moines Area Regional Transit began offering free rides to COVID-19 vaccine appointments Monday. Free rides are available on all local, express and on-call routes, according to a news release. Riders are asked to bring proof of their vaccine appointment. DART Bus Plus riders can reserve free rides to and from their appointment using DART’s paratransit services. Those rides must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance by calling 515-283-8136. Federal law requires riders to wear face masks on buses and at bus stations. “We ask all riders to continue following the guidance of local and national health officials by practicing social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently, staying home and avoid riding DART whenever you feel ill,” the transit authority said in a news release.


Topeka: Washburn University plans to start its fall semester with in-person classes after the Shawnee County Health Department updated its vaccine plan to include university faculty and staff. “We welcome this news as we prepare to provide a more traditional environment for our students this fall,” university President Jerry Farley said. “We have been able to deliver classes in person through the spring, but this additional level of protection should allow us to return fully to our traditional campus model.” University officials said Friday that Washburn University students can expect a more normal fall 2021 semester with university faculty and staff now prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. It was not immediately clear what prompted the change in vaccination policy. Distribution has ramped up in recent weeks, and coronavirus transmission rates and hospitalizations have likewise fallen. “We continue to encourage everyone on campus to get vaccinated just as soon as it is available to them,” Farley said. “The vaccine is completely voluntary, but we are encouraging it for all faculty and staff who are physically able to take it.” The university will continue to require face masks on campus and social distancing.


Frankfort: Take-home cocktails – concocted as pandemic relief for bars and restaurants – would become a permanent feature in the state under a bill that won final approval from lawmakers Friday. The state House voted 67-27 to send the measure to Gov. Andy Beshear. The bill, which previously passed the Senate, would allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol in sealed containers for delivery and to-go orders as part of meal purchases. Carryout cocktails surged in popularity after the coronavirus struck, and Beshear issued an executive order temporarily allowing to-go alcohol sales to help cushion the financial blow from his COVID-19-related restrictions. “Local restaurants and bars are desperate for a sustained source of revenue, and cocktails to go provide a critical lifeline,” Jay Hibbard, with the distilled spirits council, said in praising Kentucky lawmakers for passing the bill. Under the measure, alcohol sales would be limited to amounts “a reasonable person” would purchase with a meal. The alcohol would have to be transported in a locked glove compartment, a trunk or another place not considered to be in the “passenger area” of a vehicle. While Kentucky is the epicenter of bourbon production, liquor sales are banned in parts of rural Kentucky, where to-go sales would remain out of bounds.


Baton Rouge: Public school students across the state will resume their traditional standardized tests in math, science, English and social studies in the spring, a year after those exams were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The state hasn’t settled, however, whether those LEAP 2025 test results will be used to assign letter grades to schools and districts and to determine school performance scores. The Advocate reports the testing may be the subject of new legislative debates when the regular session begins in mid-April. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will discuss the test plans Tuesday, though it’s not clear members will reach conclusions on how the results will be used. Senate Education Chairman Cleo Fields said the exam results should be purely advisory. “At the end of the day, no kid should be penalized this year,” said Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat. “We have to know where we are. But it should not be used against anybody.”


Augusta: The Legislature will once again meet at a more accommodating public space this week in an attempt to limit spread of the coronavirus. The lawmakers are slated to convene at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday. The proceedings are set to begin at 9 a.m. with the House of Representatives, state officials said Monday. The Legislature is making use of the civic center because it’s an easier venue for social distancing. Legislators were sworn in there in December. Agenda items are still being finalized, but lawmakers are expected to consider a supplemental budget proposal submitted by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills in December, state officials said. The positivity rate in Maine remained low Monday, as it has for weeks. The rate’s seven-day rolling average has risen just slightly over the past two weeks from 1.73% on Feb. 21 to 1.84% on Sunday. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 45,000 cases of the virus and more than 700 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The Maine CDC said the state is working with health care organizations to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics starting Friday for school staff and teachers 60 and older.


Baltimore: Two-thirds of Marylanders are unsatisfied with how the state has handled COVID-19 vaccine distribution, according to a new poll from Goucher College. The results mirror widespread criticism of the state’s vaccination campaign as disjointed and overly complicated to navigate. The Goucher poll found 66% of adults rated Maryland’s vaccine distribution as “poor/fair,” while only 32% rated it as “excellent/good.” The same poll also found that vaccine hesitancy has fallen in recent months. In October, half of those polled said they would not take a vaccine when one became available. Now, 64% say they plan to get a vaccine as soon as possible or have already received one. Even as more residents say they are ready to accept a shot, there are not enough doses available yet to inoculate everyone who is eligible. A spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan said he is not surprised the poll found dissatisfaction related to vaccine distribution. “It just stands to reason most won’t be satisfied with the vaccine rollout until most can actually get the vaccine,” spokesperson Michael Ricci said in an email. “What I’m really focused on in this poll is hesitancy. It’s still too high.” Vaccine reluctance was highest among Republicans and those who live outside the state’s urban corridor, the poll found.


Worcester: Hundreds of nurses walked off the job at a hospital Monday morning after failing to reach an agreement with management over staffing levels. Nurses and their supporters gathered outside St. Vincent Hospital at dawn holding signs that said “Safe Staffing Now” and “Picketing for our Patients and our Community.” The strike started after negotiations with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which owns the Worcester hospital, broke down. “We are sad to see that Tenet holds so little value for our patients, yet we are resolved to do whatever it takes for as long as it take to protect our patients, as it is safer to strike now than allow Tenet to continue endangering our patients every day on every shift,” nurse Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a statement. The hospital has about 800 nurses. Management said in a statement Sunday said it is disappointed in what it called an irresponsible decision to strike during the pandemic but said the hospital has enough temporary nurses to ensure patient safety. St. Vincent nurses say they are required to care for five patients at a time, a difficult task with COVID-19 precautions and care requirements, while other hospitals have a limit of four patients per nurse.


a person wearing a costume: Students and teachers report to Warren E. Bow Elementary School in Detroit for in-class learning Monday. © Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Students and teachers report to Warren E. Bow Elementary School in Detroit for in-class learning Monday.

Detroit: Students in the state’s largest school district returned to classrooms for in-person learning Monday for the first time in months. Detroit schools stopped face-to-face learning in November because of rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. High schools statewide were also told to suspend in-person learning at that time. Despite the resumption of in-person classes, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said many teachers have declined to participate. Teachers who agree to work inside classrooms will get a quarterly bonus of $750. Vitti said online learning has been a challenge for many students but still will be offered. “Some are doing well, but many have been disengaged, have become chronically absent, have disconnected completely,” he said. The district has about 50,000 students. Some Detroit families also send children to charter schools or schools outside the city. One parent, Nicole Kimble, said she’s going to keep her kids in virtual learning until more teachers show up. “I do want to send them to school, but their teachers not going to be there, so it’s a no-win for me. It’s a no-win at all,” Kimble said.


Minneapolis: More than 10% of Minnesotans have now gotten shots to guard against COVID-19, but state health officials say the spread of a more contagious version of the coronavirus makes it important to avoid spring break travel. Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist, pointed to recent infections in Minnesota that highlight the risk of such travel and said the health department urges people to consider delaying nonessential trips. Lynfield said people who must travel should follow safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including getting tested two to three days before leaving and avoiding contact with others for two weeks beforehand. Minnesota has found 165 cases of a virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom last year that is more contagious. On Sunday, the state reported 897 more coronavirus infections and four deaths linked to COVID-19. The seven-day average for new cases is 774. With the latest numbers, the seven-day average for new cases stood at about 774. That’s well below the peak seen in November.


Jackson: The state health department reported 70 new cases of COVID-19 and no coronavirus-related deaths Monday. Since the virus hit the state last March, a total of 297,651 cases and 6,808 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported. On Thursday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced in a tweet that Mississippians 50 or older are eligible for vaccination. There were 55 outbreaks at Mississippi nursing homes as of Monday. There have been 10,402 cases of the coronavirus in long-term care facilities and 1,957 deaths reported as of Friday. Residents between the ages of 25 and 39 represent the largest portion of the infected population in the state, with 65,139 cases reported last Tuesday, the latest data available. Among patients under 18, children between the ages of 11 and 17 have the highest infection rate, with 22,690 cases identified. The 65-and-older age group has the highest total number of deaths with 5,166 reported. According to health department data, 486,147 people had begun the vaccination process in Mississippi as of Sunday morning. About 274,434 people have been fully immunized against COVID-19 since the shots began in December.


St. Louis: More than 7,700 doses were left over after mass COVID-19 vaccination events across the state last week, fueling frustrations that rural counties haven’t been able to find enough people to use them while urban residents are desperate for a dose. Records from the Missouri Department of Public Safety show the remaining doses were usually transferred to another local provider or held by the health department for later use, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Over the course of those clinics, 152 doses were thrown away, including in Putnam County, where 143 doses spoiled. In some cases, the spoilage resulted from dislodged needles, duplicate appointments and no-shows. In Putnam County, 1,488 doses remained after a vaccination event last weekend. In Bollinger County, only about half of the available doses were used at an event Feb. 24, and the leftovers were sent elsewhere. In Lewis County, a mass vaccination event concluded with hundreds of extra doses. That left enough vaccine for a follow-up day that catered largely to people from far outside the area. State agencies say they are adjusting. Missouri will transition mass vaccination teams to hold more large-scale events in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.


Kalispell: Public access to Glacier National Park’s east entrances has been prohibited since last March as a result of the pandemic, with tribal, state, local, and federal officials reaching a consensus to maintain the closure even after other areas of the park reopened in an effort to safeguard vulnerable members of the Blackfeet Nation, the Flathead Beacon reports. That same spirit of consensus will inform when, if and how the famed park’s eastern boundary reopens prior to this summer, according to park officials. And while public health experts from the National Park Service, Glacier County, the state of Montana, the Indian Health Service and the Blackfeet Tribe have developed a “workgroup” to identify health and safety benchmarks that, once reached, would allow for a safe reopening, the mood is tense among gateway hospitality businesses who depend on visitation to the park’s eastern entrances as their livelihood. “The strain is pretty intense. Financially, situations don’t get much worse than this for a business, and our business is our home as well as our livelihood,” said Sanford Stone, whose family owns Park Cabin Co., a hospitality and lodging business in Babb, situated on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.


Omaha: Roughly 5,000 area teachers received their COVID-19 vaccine shots this weekend. The Douglas County Health Department held two large vaccination clinics Saturday at Millard North and Omaha North high schools to distribute doses of the new Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine to educators. “Teachers across the metro have worked hard over the past year to make learning meaningful throughout this pandemic, and now we are excited to receive our vaccine,” said Paul Schulte, a kindergarten teacher in the Millard school district. Tim Royers, president of the Millard Education Association, praised the mass vaccination effort. “A lot of advocacy, both public and behind the scenes, really needed to happen to kind of get to the point where we are now where we’re seeing not just some educators being vaccinated but a large number being vaccinated,” Royers said. He said he’s optimistic all educators in Douglas County could be vaccinated soon. “If next week’s vaccine allocation holds up, it’s highly likely we’ll be done next weekend,” Royers said. The Omaha-area vaccinations were part of 13,674 shots administered statewide Saturday. Officials said 12% of the state’s population has now been vaccinated against COVID-19.


Carson City: A year into the pandemic, Gov. Steve Sisolak is still trying to strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods – keeping the state’s tourism and hospitality industry afloat while also containing the coronavirus. But after multiple sets of restrictions on businesses including hotels and casinos, he plans to use Nevada’s safety protocols as a selling point to bring conventions and trade shows back to Las Vegas. “Mark my words: Nevada will be the safest place to have a convention or to come and visit,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, exactly one year after the state reported its first coronavirus case. Federal health officials have urged states not to relax their mitigation measures, warning that the pandemic is far from over. But some governors have lifted capacity restrictions and mask mandates, betting the recent downtrend in cases, deaths and hospitalizations marks the turning point in the pandemic. But not Sisolak. “If I’m going to take a vacation with my family – the people that I love the most – I’m going to go where I feel safe,” the first-term Democrat said. “I saw a picture of a Texas basketball game the other night. It was full, and nobody was wearing a mask. I mean, that’s not going to work.”

New Hampshire

Concord: The state Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill aimed at improving children’s mental health at a time when the number of children waiting for inpatient psychiatric care has grown dramatically during the pandemic. A bipartisan law signed in 2019 allocated about $20 million toward creating a comprehensive system of care for children’s mental health, but the pandemic has slowed progress in implementing many of its features. The Senate voted 24-0 Thursday to advance a bill that would give the state more time. Sen. Becky Whitley said the bill is needed to support children and families desperate to receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place. “The children’s mental health crisis has been building for years and has only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” the Hopkinton Democrat said. Last spring, the state reached a milestone when no patients were waiting in emergency rooms for inpatient psychiatric beds. But that number has risen, and last month a high of 48 children were waiting on one day. “When I received a call from the governor when we got to zero, thanking me for our efforts, I never thought we’d get to where we are today,” said Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem.

New Jersey

a group of people wearing costumes: Domestic workers and immigrant women march Sunday in Passaic, N.J., to mark the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic and to call on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature to provide aid to the state's half-million undocumented immigrants and their families. © Danielle Parhizkaran/ Domestic workers and immigrant women march Sunday in Passaic, N.J., to mark the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic and to call on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature to provide aid to the state's half-million undocumented immigrants and their families.

Passaic: Domestic workers, warehouse employees and housekeepers were among immigrant women and their allies who gathered Sunday to demand that the state and federal government stop excluding them from financial assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused many of them to lose their jobs. The women, many without legal status, have not received federal stimulus checks and are not eligible for unemployment benefits because of their immigration status. Marchers called for Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey lawmakers to create a fund to provide $600 weekly unemployment benefits to workers who have lost their jobs and to provide “stimulus-like” payments. “We are here on the anniversary of the pandemic, a year of suffering, a year of risk, a year of profound pain. It’s been the most difficult year for many of our families,” said Erika Martinez, of Make the Road New Jersey, who was translating for Margarita Rodriguez of Passaic. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal and state government has failed us.” The “Excluded Women’s March” marked the first anniversary of the start of pandemic quarantines and shutdowns across the country, which led many of the women to lose their jobs or see their hours reduced, and was held to recognize Women’s History Month.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: The state on Monday expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to all schoolteachers, early childhood educators and other staff with the goal of getting the group its first shots by the end of March. The state is making the move as part of a directive by the Biden administration to get more schools reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said last week that the ability of New Mexico to meet the timeline will depend on the federal government increasing vaccine supplies. Collins said the state had been in discussions with the White House about how the directive would affect vaccinations for other groups. Under the latest plan, the state will start with educators outside the Albuquerque area this week. Those in the metro area can get shots next week, likely at a mass vaccination site, and the final week will target all of those statewide who have yet to be vaccinated. More than 15,000 educators already have received shots, as some were eligible as part of New Mexico’s phased-in approach to distributing vaccinations. The focus until now has been on the most vulnerable populations, including those 75 and over and younger people with chronic health conditions that put them at greater risk.

New York

New York: The city’s public high schools will reopen for in-person learning March 22 after being closed since coronavirus cases began rising in November, officials announced Monday. The school system’s 488 high schools will open for the 55,000 students in grades nine through 12 who have opted for in-person learning, said Danielle Filson, a city Department of Education spokesperson. The rest of the 282,000 students in those grades will continue to learn remotely. “We are ready to go; we have all the pieces we need to bring high school back and bring it back strong and, of course to bring it back safely,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a virtual briefing. The Democrat said bringing students back to school is a crucial piece of the city’s recovery from the pandemic, which he said has left many young people feeling isolated and depressed. “There are so many reasons that we need to bring our kids back,” de Blasio said. About half the high schools will provide in-school instruction to all or most of their students five days a week, while the others will offer hybrid instruction, officials said. High school sports will also resume, starting with strength and conditioning sessions in early April, the officials said. Competitive play will start in May and continue through the summer.

North Carolina

Asheville: Meg Chamberlain of Fermenti Foods thinks there’s room in everyday kitchens for the practical magic of lactic acid fermentation, which yields foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles. She recently teamed up with Selina Naturally Celtic Sea Salt to help fight food insecurity in Madison County. Selina Naturally donated 1,200 pounds of sea salt to the Beacon of Hope Food Bank in Marshall, giving all clients a pound of salt in their free produce boxes. Chamberlain added recipes for sauerkraut, which handily teaches the concept of self-brining fermentation. Rather than seeing fermented foods as the purview of the health-seeking hipster, she thinks it’s a useful tool for home preservation and an important tool for anyone who helped fuel the resurgence of “Victory Gardens” during the COVID-19 pandemic. “In addition to the fact that more people are growing, they need to know what to do with what they’re growing in their gardens,” Chamberlain said. The past year has been stressful, which makes trying to eat nutritious food even more important for holistic health. “When you are living paycheck to paycheck, the extremely healthy and nutritious items are often luxuries that families simply cannot afford,” Beacon of Hope director Jessi Koontz said.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday appointed his fourth state health officer since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Nizar Wehbi, the deputy director of the Center for Health Policy and an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is scheduled to take over as leader of the North Dakota Department of Health on May 1. “Dr. Wehbi brings the right combination of experience in clinical medicine, policy development and health administration that we need to create the best public health system in the country right here in North Dakota,” Burgum said in a statement. The state health officer oversees the Department of Health and implements state laws governing the department. The officer also is a statutory member of several boards and commissions. The department oversees health-related programs dealing with issues ranging from disease prevention to hospital and clinic licensing to environmental regulation. The position has been a revolving door since Mylynn Tufte resigned a couple of months after COVID-19 was detected in the state. She was replaced by Dr. Andrew Stahl, who stepped down in late August. Dr. Paul Mariani quit after 12 days and was replaced by Dirk Wilke, who’ll return to his position as the Department of Health’s chief of staff.


Cincinnati: Residents 50 and older and those with Type 2 diabetes or end-stage renal disease will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. With the addition of those ages 50 to 59, nearly 4.4 million people, or 38% of the state’s population, are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. The vast majority of Ohio’s COVID-19 deaths, about 98.1%, were of people 50 or older, according to Ohio Department of Health data. “Age is by far the biggest indicator,” DeWine said. “It is just the best indicator, and it’s so important that we don’t get sidetracked.” Meanwhile, the state has reported its first case of P.1, a new, more infectious coronavirus variant initially found in Brazil. Ohio has reported 31 cases of the most prevalent variant, B.1.1.7, and one case of P.1, said the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. “COVID-19 isn’t giving up,” he said. Vanderhoff said the variants underscore the importance of getting vaccinated because the shots work against variants. He also encouraged people to wash hands and wear masks.


Oklahoma City: State health officials reported 461 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday but no additional deaths linked to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The Oklahoma State Department of Health said the state has had a total of 428,997 cases of the disease and 4,534 deaths from it. The number of active coronavirus cases confirmed by a test in the state fell by 92 on Sunday to 12,286. The actual number of cases is believed to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested, and some who get infected don’t show symptoms. More than 11% of Oklahoma’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.2 million Oklahomans have received at least one dose. Over the past week, nearly 1 in 8 coronavirus tests has come back positive in Oklahoma, according Johns Hopkins University data.


a man sitting at a desk in an office: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown receives the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the OHSU Primary Care Clinic in Scappoose, a nationally recognized Rural Health Clinic. © Courtesy of the Office of the Governor Oregon Gov. Kate Brown receives the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the OHSU Primary Care Clinic in Scappoose, a nationally recognized Rural Health Clinic.

Scappoose: Gov. Kate Brown on Saturday received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the first one-dose vaccine offered in the United States. Brown said there have been a number of rumors and misinformation about the Johnson & Johnson shot since its approval by the FDA. She said her office fields questions every week asking, “If these vaccines are so safe, then why hasn’t Kate Brown gotten one?” “It was important to me to demonstrate today that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective,” she said. “I want to reassure Oregonians that they should feel confident taking any of the three vaccines available to protect themselves and their loved ones.” As of Saturday, the Oregon Health Authority has reported 2,296 COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon. There have been 157,079 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases statewide. The state had administered a total of 1,115,802 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. “I want to encourage all Oregonians to continue practicing good health and safety measures while we work to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Brown said.


Harrisburg: Four of the state’s seven most heavily populated counties are airing their unhappiness over the size of their allotment of vaccines, saying Monday that a meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf’s top health official did not resolve their concerns. Leaders of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties – home to more than 2.5 million people – called a Sunday meeting with acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam “disappointing and frustrating.” They said less populated counties have received disproportionately bigger allotments of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, and their smaller-than-expected allotments have led to long waiting lists, cancellation of second-dose appointments, and frustration and anger among residents. They also said the state has been unable to clearly explain how it determined each county’s vaccine allotments. Wolf’s administration has not acknowledged a shortfall. But the counties said Beam told them no county will be allowed to vaccinate people in Phase 1B before each county gets enough doses to fully vaccinate residents in Phase 1A who want the shot. Still, the counties said they want the state to create a publicly available chart showing the breakdown of vaccines delivered to each county.

Rhode Island

Providence: Walgreens has clarified that teachers, school staff and child care workers are now eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine at some of its retail pharmacies in the state. Walgreens added and then removed teachers from the eligibility list before adding them again Monday. “We apologize for the confusion this caused our customers, and will continue to work hand in hand with the state of Rhode Island to vaccinate our most vulnerable patients as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement. The announcement did come with some words of caution. The vaccine is still in high demand, and Walgreens said customers “may experience temporary issues with our vaccine scheduler, which may include delays and confusion in updating eligibility in their area.” Some CVS locations in the state are also offering vaccines to teachers. More than 232,000 people in Rhode Island have received their first dose of a vaccine, while more than 91,000 people have been fully vaccinated, according to state Department of Health numbers released Monday. Gov. Daniel McKee last week announced the state was working on a plan to prioritize teachers for inoculation.

South Carolina

Columbia: The state Senate has agreed to send an extra $9 million to public charter schools because of additional expenses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved the proposal, which had already passed the House in January. But senators made a slight change in the bill saying the money could not be used for raises for administrators, so the House must give its approval again. The Public Charter School District told lawmakers it needs the extra money because its enrollment and other expenses increased significantly during the pandemic. There are about three dozen charter schools across South Carolina that are under the statewide Public Charter School District and the Charter Institute at Erskine College. They have about 40,000 students combined.

South Dakota

a sign in front of a brick building: Eastway Bowl in Sioux Falls, S.D., wasn't one of the bigger recipients of relief funds from a state small-business grant program. © Erin Bormett / Argus Leader Eastway Bowl in Sioux Falls, S.D., wasn't one of the bigger recipients of relief funds from a state small-business grant program.

Sioux Falls: More than $23.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds was split up among 25 applicants for the first two rounds of the state’s small-business grant program, leaving some proprietors to question the process. The grant program is a primary payout of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s plan to spend $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus money to help offset losses due to the pandemic. Businesses that applied for the grants had to show there was at least a 25% reduction in business, said Colin Keeler, director of financial systems for the South Dakota Bureau of Finance and Management. Those companies in the top 25 through the first and second rounds of distribution consisted mostly of hospitality, agriculture and commercial real estate and construction businesses. Fifteen businesses received $1 million in funding, after Noem raised the maximum benefit from $100,000 to $500,000 per round. Some businesses received more because they have several locations, such as Lester Hospitality, which received over $2 million between its three businesses. Some small businesses argue they were shortchanged. Grant awards ranged from $1 million to $538, according to recent data. The average amount paid out for businesses not in the top 25 was $76,449; the median was $29,818.


Nashville: More than 1 million residents became eligible for vaccines Monday after the state Department of Health announced it was expecting a large supply of the shots to protect against COVID-19. The new eligibility applies to people 16 and older who have high-risk health conditions including cancer, hypertension, obesity and pregnancy. Caregivers and household residents of medically fragile children will also be able to receive the vaccine. Tennesseans should check with their counties to learn more about eligibility and registration. Some counties can move at different paces for eligibility. Shelby County, which includes Memphis, and Nashville announced they would be entering the phase starting Monday. Both have caught up with the state in age-based eligibility by starting to inoculate people 65 and older.


Austin: About two dozen protesters gathered in front of the Capitol on Monday to call on Gov. Greg Abbott to keep state-mandated mask orders in place until more essential workers are vaccinated. Abbott’s executive order, which will go into effect Wednesday, lifts the state’s requirement for facial coverings in public places. Organizers said the rally, organized by Amplified Sound Coalition and the Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, was calling on state officials to get at least 70% of essential workers vaccinated before lifting rules on masks and business capacity. Jeannette Gregor, co-founder of the Amplified Sound Coalition, said the vaccination rate is not high enough to lift state-mandated coronavirus restrictions. “It needs to be accessible to everyone in every class bracket,” said Gregor, who works as a bartender and said workers in the service industry already face pushback from customers who don’t want to follow pandemic safety guidelines. Without state-mandated mask orders, she said workers who are employed at businesses that will no longer require face coverings might have to choose between their health and their jobs. Multiple medical advisers to Abbott have said that they were not consulted before the order was announced last week and that the governor is moving too quickly on dismantling statewide restrictions to slow the coronavirus’ spread. Dr. Mark McClellan, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President George W. Bush, stressed that many of those at highest risk of severe illness – including seniors, half of whom haven’t yet received a first vaccine shot – are still in danger of infection. McClellan was one of four medical advisers on the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, formed last April. The advisory group ended its work in October, according to Chairman James Huffines. Only one medical adviser, Dr. John Zerwas, executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System, said Abbott spoke with him about his decision to lift pandemic restrictions.


St. George: As the state opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone 50 and older Monday, health officials in the southwestern corner of the state counted a steep decline in new coronavirus cases in the first week of March. There were 307 new confirmed cases across the southwest health district in the week that ended Friday, down 36% from the previous seven-day period and representing the lowest number for a single week since the summer. Statewide, Utah reported another 570 cases Saturday, which brought the rolling seven-day average of new cases to 527 per day. The seven-day average for the rate at which tests came back positive was at 9.5%. The state also reported five new deaths, and the statewide total since the pandemic began rose to 1,975. Another 194 people were actively hospitalized with the disease. Health officials said they hope the state will continue to see numbers improve as more people get vaccinated, and through Saturday a total of 843,032 vaccine doses had been administered across Utah, with more than 26,000 people vaccinated in one day Friday.


Burlington: A program created by the Legislature last fall to provide pandemic stimulus checks to residents who were denied payments because of their immigration status has been extended for another two months. The fund’s new deadline is May 1. Those applicants may have been denied stimulus checks because they did not have proper documentation previously needed to get the initial $1,200 payments last spring. “Mixed status” families or households in which at least one member was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident while others were undocumented without legal immigration status were denied stimulus checks before last December. Congress passed a bill late last year that retroactively allowed those families to receive payments. The Vermont program has provided funding to 500 applicants so far, and 1,000 or so more are waiting to be verified, said Indra Acharya, project manager for the Vermont Economic Stimulus Equity Fund, which is being run through the nonprofit Vermont Community Foundation.


Richmond: The state has seen an uptick in the number of families who have delayed sending a child to kindergarten for one year. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the increase. Delaying kindergarten enrollment is an annual occurrence in the state. And it’s normally sought out by families who are white, affluent and have sons. “It is this idea of giving kids the gift of time, the idea of giving them another year to develop, grow and play and potentially be in a less structured environment will allow them to get more out of it down the road,” said Daphna Bassok, an associate professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia. Bassok’s research has found that statewide kindergarten enrollment is down 13%. Teachers could face larger gaps in the skills of young learners this fall. “I think teachers are going to see groups of children who had such different early childhood experiences this year and such different exposure to early literacy and early numeracy,” she said.


Seattle: About 55,000 Washingtonians may have to pay back thousands of dollars in jobless benefits. The Seattle Times reports Cami Feek, the state Employment Security Department’s new acting commissioner, updated lawmakers Thursday on Washington’s response to pandemic-related job losses. Feek told a Senate work session that the department will be working with the 55,000 claimants who’ve received repayment notifications after failing to respond to agency requests for information and being ruled ineligible for benefits already received. “We’re going to proactively reach out to them and help them have the right information on how to fix (their eligibility),” Feek told the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee during the work session. In some cases, claimants may not be required to repay benefits. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, said the overpayment notices often hit workers who are still unemployed – “and they’re suddenly being told they have to pay back $12,000, and they’re just in panic mode.”

West Virginia

Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice on Monday heralded an 88% drop in COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the year but still urged residents to take precautions. “Don’t drop your guard, West Virginia. We still got a ways to go,” he said at a coronavirus briefing. The state on Monday reported the lowest number of weekly deaths from the coronavirus in more than four months. State health officials said there were 25 virus-related deaths last week, the fewest since the week ending Oct. 25. No such deaths were reported on two different days last week. The number of weekly confirmed virus cases, 1,260, was the lowest since early October. As of Sunday, there were 178 people hospitalized for the virus, down from the peak of 818 on Jan. 5. The number of active statewide cases, 5,613, was the lowest since Nov. 2. Justice ordered the lifting of capacity limits on bars, restaurants, gyms, museums and most businesses over the weekend. The limit on social gatherings also went up, from 75 to 100 people. The Republican governor has implored people to continue wearing masks and social distancing. A statewide face-covering mandate remains in effect.


a person standing in a room: An arrow on the floor directs visitors Alexandra Megan, from left, son Graydon, 5, and daughter Madeline, 3, at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Saturday. © Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel An arrow on the floor directs visitors Alexandra Megan, from left, son Graydon, 5, and daughter Madeline, 3, at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Saturday.

Milwaukee: Some museums have opened their doors again as coronavirus cases wane and vaccinations roll out. The Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum and Harley Davidson Museum all opened this past weekend for the first time this year. Discovery World plans to open later this month. The museums reopened after careful planning and coordination with the city health department. Milwaukee Public Museum President Ellen Censky said the goal is that once the doors are open, they stay open. That means adopting similar safety protocols. Each museum requires guests to wear masks and has created a one-way path to regulate the flow of foot traffic and keep people physically distanced. Tickets must be purchased in advance online, and while the museums can go up to 25% capacity, they are staying below that limit while they learn how their protocols hold up. The art museum was open for a few months last summer and fall. Public relations manager Josh Depenbrok said he feels more confident that this time it’s for good. He cited the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, dropping case numbers and warmer weather that allows people to get outside.


Cheyenne: The state will join a handful of counterparts that have lifted mask-wearing mandates for adults to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Monday. The changes to the state public health orders take effect March 16. Also being lifted are requirements for bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms, where employees must wear masks while customers not seated in small groups keep at least 6 feet apart. Gordon cited Wyoming’s declining number of COVID-19 cases and success in distributing vaccines in lifting the restrictions. Newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Wyoming have fallen to levels unseen since the fall. They’re down to about 60 per day after peaking at more than 10 times that rate around Thanksgiving, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. Almost 20% of residents have received at least one dose of vaccine. Almost all of Wyoming’s 23 counties have entered a phase allowing restaurant, bar, gym and theater workers to get vaccine shots, according to the governor’s office. “I ask all Wyoming citizens to continue to take personal responsibility for their actions and stay diligent as we look ahead to the warmer months and to the safe resumption of our traditional spring and summer activities,” Gordon said in a statement.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fermenting skills, exodus debunked, nurse strike: News from around our 50 states

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