Montgomery: After COVID-19 disrupted two school years, lawmakers are weighing a pause in an upcoming state requirement for third graders to pass a reading test before moving up to the fourth grade. The state House Education Policy Committee on Wednesday debated the Senate-passed bill by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, that would delay the promotion requirement, now set to take effect next year, by two years. Chairwoman Terri Collins said the committee will vote next week. Opponents argued that it would be a disservice to students to delay the promotion requirement – a part of a broader state program to boost literacy – or that the state should wait until latest test scores are available to make a decision. Smitherman and others said it would be unfair to force the requirement on students who were out of the traditional classroom for long stretches during the pandemic. “The children should not be punished because of what we have right now,” Smitherman told the committee. “That student who has not been able to get there, not been able to study, they are going to flunk.” Lawmakers in both parties described the frustrations of parents and teachers in their districts as schools were closed.
Anchorage: The Anchorage Assembly has voted to revoke pandemic-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings and to make them recommendations instead. The changes take effect Monday and were approved unanimously despite concerns raised by the municipality’s health department director. A local mask mandate remains in effect. Assembly member Christopher Constant, who sponsored the motion to revoke gathering limits and business requirements, said the purpose was to send a message “that we recognize it’s time to do what we’ve heard from a number of people, which is trust the people to do the right thing.” Constant said an emergency declaration remains in place, and the mayor could enact restrictions through another emergency order if there is a dramatic change with COVID-19 numbers. The city’s pandemic response has been a flashpoint in the community for months. Anchorage Health Department Director Heather Harris cited concerns with turning the requirements into recommendations. “I’ve seen just a great reduction and a lack of compliance when these types of recommendations or orders are turned into advisories, which has a dramatic impact on our overall success of the community,” Harris said.
Vail: A Tucson-area school board ended a study session and then canceled a scheduled regular meeting after dozens of parents protested the district’s refusal to lift its mask mandate aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. After Gov. Doug Ducey on Aug. 19 lifted a statewide mask mandate for schools, the Vail Unified School District was among many in Arizona that kept its mandate in place, and the board planned to review its policies Tuesday. An afternoon study session was underway when protesting parents, many not wearing masks, pushed their way into the board room, KGUN-TV reports. Pima County sheriff’s deputies were summoned to help keep order before the board adjourned the study session and then canceled the scheduled evening meeting. Many protesters initially refused to leave the district’s headquarters even after the cancellation. Parents who still insisted on speaking said their parental rights had been trampled, and they weren’t given a voice on Vail’s policies, KVOA-TV reports. Before eventually leaving, some protesters held an impromptu unofficial election, selecting their own board that voted to rescind the mask policies, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday signed into law measures preventing state and local governments from requiring COVID-19 vaccines or proof of vaccination in order to access services. The ban on requiring a vaccine would also prohibit it as a condition of unemployment. The measure includes some exceptions, such as state-owned medical facilities, if approved by Legislative Council. The other measure prohibits “ vaccine passports” in order to access goods or services. Federal officials have said there is no plan to require them broadly, but some Republican governors have issued orders preventing businesses or agencies from mandating them. “These bills confirm my position that there should not be a COVID-19 vaccine requirement as a condition of employment in state government,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “It does make certain exemptions and it specifically exempts private businesses so they can make their own decision.” The Republican governor has not taken action yet on another bill sitting on his desk that would prohibit state or local governments from imposing mask mandates. Hutchinson last month lifted the state’s mask order, but cities such as Fayetteville and Little Rock have been allowed to keep theirs in place.
Sleeping Beauty Castle in the heart of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif., reawakens during a special livestreamed moment welcoming cast members back Monday. Disneyland Resort theme parks will reopen to guests Friday. (Photo: Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)
Anaheim: The wait is almost over for Disneyland fans. The gates to the “happiest place on Earth” and California Adventure will open again Friday morning for the first time in 412 days – the longest closure for Disneyland in its 65-year history. But things won’t be quite as they were pre-pandemic, as safety measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus will be in place, including face mask requirements, temperature checks and social distancing – and no character hugs. Thousands of fans tuned in Monday night when the relighting of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was broadcast live on Facebook as part of a soft reopening event for cast members and crew. As castle lights came on for the first time in more than a year, “When You Wish Upon a Star” and the sound of Walt Disney welcoming all “to this happy place” on opening day, July 17, 1955, were heard in the background. Most of the popular rides and attractions are expected to be open when guests return, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disneyland. In Star Wars: At Galaxy’s Edge, reservations will be needed to board the popular Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and can be made through the attraction’s virtual queue on the Disneyland app.
Denver: The state’s biggest public universities will require students, faculty and staff to receive COVID-19 vaccinations before the beginning of the fall semester, school leaders announced Wednesday. The University of Colorado system’s four campuses will require the shots along with the Colorado State University system, the University of Northern Colorado and Metropolitan State University of Denver, The Denver Post reports. Fort Lewis College, the University of Denver and Colorado College in Colorado Springs previously announced students would need to be vaccinated this fall. Ken McConnellogue, a CU system spokesman, said the Colorado Department of Higher Education encouraged the move, and “the science around COVID-19 and vaccines is clear and compelling.” “Vaccines will also allow on-campus students and faculty to resume their in-person experience that is critical to academic success and personal growth,” he said. State law has long mandated college students be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, with exemptions possible due to religion and medical conditions. McConnellogue said campuses will allow for COVID-19 vaccine exemptions as well. The Colorado Community College System, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it would not require COVID-19 shots.
Hartford: The state will no longer allow a religious exemption from childhood immunization requirements for schools, colleges and day care facilities, becoming the sixth state to end that policy. The legislation was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont, hours after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill late Tuesday night. More than 2,000 opponents had rallied outside the Connecticut State Capitol, arguing the legislation unfairly infringes on their religious liberties and parental rights. “Proud to sign this bill into law to protect as many of our school children as possible from infectious diseases as we can,” Lamont said in a tweet, announcing he had signed the contentious bill. Shortly afterward, two groups opposing the legislation – We the Patriots USA Inc. and the CT Freedom Alliance, LLC. – said they plan to file state and federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the new law, which will take effect with the 2022-23 school year. “The notion that somehow the state government gets the right to cram its version of virtue down the throats of every citizen in this state is and ought to be offensive to every Connecticut resident,” said Norm Pattis, an attorney representing the organizations. He called it “far more chilling” to tell a parent how to raise their child than to expose other children to a “nominal risk” of infection.
Wilmington: An appointment is no longer required to get a COVID-19 shot at some clinics. With a steady supply of doses and vaccination rates slowing in the First State, officials have established walk-in hours for vaccination clinics at state service centers. All of the locations are within a 10 minute walk from a DART bus stop. Second-dose appointments may be scheduled on site, or people can walk in to get their second dose. Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine should be administered three weeks after the first dose; the recommendation for the Moderna option is four weeks. The Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine will be available Saturday at the final weekend of the Dover International Speedway vaccination event and Sunday at a Chase Center vaccination event in Wilmington. Residents can also make vaccine appointments at pharmacies and medical providers throughout the state, including hospital systems. A list of participating providers can be found on a state website. State officials have said over the next few weeks they will need to make getting vaccinated more convenient as they try to convince those who may be undecided or taking a “wait and see” approach to get inoculated. The number of vaccines administered has dropped each of the past two weeks, according to the state’s vaccine tracker.
District of Columbia
View of a two-story painting for Madam's Organ Blues Bar on July 23, 2010 in the Adams Morgan neighborhood (Photo: TIM SLOAN, AFP/Getty Images)
Washington: Patrons can’t get into many clubs without an ID. Now, some business owners want to ask to see a vaccine card too, WUSA-TV reports. The conversation started with an idea proposed by the owner of Madam’s Organ, Bill Duggan, who said more than 90 venue owners and musicians have now signed on to the concept. “What a great incentive to give people to say, ‘You get the vaccine, all of a sudden you can resume your life,’ ” he said. The last time a band played at the Adams Morgan bar was March 2020. Duggan would like to ease COVID-19 restrictions by requiring so-called vaccine passports at the door. He said criticism of equity has been addressed because the city is offering walk-up, no-appointment vaccines and launching a door-to-door informational campaign. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said starting Saturday, live music venues can reopen with 25% capacity and with patrons standing at least 12 feet from the stage. When asked Monday if she could offer a timeline as to when venues can return to full capacity, Bowser said she could not. Duggan said the slow reopening is bad for business, “I just don’t understand the baby steps here,” he said. “It’s killing us.”
Fort Myers: While nearly 38% of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Florida is trailing that national average and is behind 36 other states and the District of Columbia in getting people their full course of shots, new federal data shows. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 98 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, or 29.5% of the total U.S. population. Counting only adults over 18, it’s 38.7%. About 68% of Americans 65 and older are fully vaccinated, the CDC reported. Florida has fully vaccinated 34.9% of its adult population. Factoring in residents of all ages, the rate is 28.1%, CDC data showed. The state’s adult vaccination numbers are lower than comparably sized states, such as New York (41.6%), New Jersey (44.4%), Michigan (39%), California (37.7%) and Illinois (37.6%). It slightly outperforms Texas (34.3%). Alabama has the nation’s lowest rate at 28.7%. Gov. Ron DeSantis made vaccinating seniors a priority early in the pandemic. On that metric, Florida is performing much better (68.6%) but still ranks 28th in vaccinating those 65 and older. Higher percentages of seniors have been fully vaccinated in multiple smaller states, plus New Jersey (70%), Virginia (70.2%) and Michigan (70.3%), according to the CDC.
Athens: University of Georgia graduates will get a spring commencement ceremony with COVID-19 modifications. UGA President Jere W. Morehead said the university will have not one but four ceremonies for the spring 2021 graduates – three for undergraduates and one for the master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees. The decision to split up commencement into multiple days was made to comply with social distancing guidelines. Additionally, this year’s graduates will sit in the stands with their guests, and there will be no formal processional. ESPN reporter and UGA graduate Maria Taylor will be the commencement speaker. For undergraduates, commencement will begin May 13 and end May 15 in Sanford Stadium. The commencement ceremony for the master’s, specialist and doctoral degree candidates is scheduled for May 14. Tickets are required, and undergraduate degree recipients are given four tickets – one for the graduate ticket and three for guests. Among other precautions, visitors will be required to wear masks over the nose and mouth. This year, because of COVID-19, UGA will not provide transportation from remote parking lots to the stadium. Officials warn that “visitors should be prepared to walk significant distances, up to 1 mile,” according to the commencement website.
Honolulu: The state House on Tuesday killed a bill that would have curtailed the governor’s emergency powers, a measure that was introduced after the coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. David Ige to issue 19 emergency proclamations to suspend laws, impose travel quarantines and take other steps to address the public health crisis. The bill said if the Legislature terminated an emergency proclamation, and the governor wanted to issue another one for the same emergency or disaster, lawmakers would have to adopt a resolution authorizing such action. The bill also said the state of emergency would be authorized for no more than 60 days. The representatives didn’t debate their decision and held a voice vote to set the bill aside by sending it back to a conference committee. With the session ending Thursday, there was not enough time remaining for lawmakers to rework the bill and return it to the House floor. The Senate had passed the measure 24-1.
Boise: Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday signed into law legislation that would outlaw nearly all abortions in the conservative state by banning them once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The Republican governor signed the bill that contains a “trigger provision,” meaning it won’t go into effect unless a federal appeals court somewhere in the country upholds similar legislation from another state. The measure makes providing an abortion to a woman whose embryo has detectible cardiac activity punishable by up to five years in prison. It would also allow the woman who receives the abortion to sue the provider. Fetal cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks using an invasive vaginal ultrasound – before many women discover they are pregnant. “Idaho is a state that values the most innocent of all lives – the lives of babies,” Little said in a statement. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports there were 1,513 induced abortions in 2019. The agency says 1,049 of those occurred within the first nine weeks. The bill has exceptions for rape, incest or medical emergency. But the exception for rape and incest would likely be impossible for many women to meet, opponents said, because Idaho law prevents the release of police reports in active investigations.
Springfield: Overcrowding at some nursing homes caused a disproportionate number of preventable deaths among Black and Latino residents, state officials said Wednesday. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is proposing $300 million in new funding for nursing homes that hire more workers or take other steps to benefit residents. Department director Theresa Eagleson told lawmakers heavy reliance on putting three or four people into one room was far more common in Medicaid-funded homes serving Black and Hispanic residents. As a result, 60% of COVID-19-related deaths of nursing home residents between March and July 2020 occurred in facilities where at least 10% of residents were in rooms with three or more people. Eagleson said her department is working on a proposed change in the Medicaid rate structure that will need legislative approval. It will more closely tie enhanced rates to higher staffing levels and good performance. Under the plan, nursing homes would pay an additional “bed tax” that the state, in turn, would use to receive a higher federal match through the Medicaid program. The increase would bring in about $300 million more to improve care, according to HFS.
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra conductor Jacob Joyce raises his arms while conducting a dress rehearsal March 10, 2021, at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. (Photo: Grace Hollars/IndyStar)
Indianapolis: The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday that it will resume in-person performances in May after not playing for live audiences for more than a year due to the pandemic. The symphony’s four-week “Spring Inspirations” concert series, set to begin May 13 at downtown Indianapolis’ Hilbert Circle Theatre, will feature a pops and classical repertoire in performances that will also be livestreamed. The symphony said in a tweet that “we are thrilled to announce our return to the stage.” The orchestra had announced in May 2020 that it had canceled its summer slate of performances because of the threat the coronavirus pandemic posed to its musicians, staff and patrons. Masks will be required for patrons attending the “Spring Inspirations” concert series, except while they are eating and drinking. Social distancing and limited capacity also will be built into the symphony’s procedures. Some rows in the venue will be blocked off, and concerts will run between 80 and 90 minutes with no intermission.
Des Moines: With interest in COVID-19 vaccines lagging in much of the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that public health officials planned to make shots available at gathering spots like farmers markets and sports events. Reynolds said the state was holding talks with groups including the Iowa Cubs baseball team and Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market about holding mass vaccination clinics at those sites. It’s part of the governor’s effort to get 65% of Iowans vaccinated by May and 75% by June. It is believed that 70% to 85% of the population would need to be immunized before the coronavirus is effectively contained, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We’re going to be anywhere and everywhere,” Reynolds said. “We’re taking a look at events that are happening across the state, trying to tie into them. We’re working on that this week.” The new efforts are meant to overcome a decline in vaccination demand, as 80 of the state’s 99 counties this week have reduced requests for shots. Iowa had fully vaccinated just over 32% of the population as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That places Iowa 15th best in the country. The CDC data shows 43% of state’s the population has received at least one dose.
Overland Park: Doctors are reporting that more parents are refusing to have their sick children tested for the coronavirus because they don’t want to deal with the hassle if the result is positive. Pediatric Partners in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park recently posted an alert on its Facebook page exhorting parents to stay vigilant because so many weren’t following testing advice, The Kansas City Star reports. “We’ve had parents tell us, for instance, ‘No we have a big tournament this weekend; I don’t want to have to deal with COVID,’ ” pediatrician Kristen Stuppy said. “And they’re forgetting the fact that it’s still going to be COVID even if you don’t know that it’s COVID. So from a public health perspective it scares me.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens who have COVID-19 symptoms be tested immediately – “especially important if they have in-person school, sports or jobs, so that anyone who may have been exposed can be alerted,” the organization says. If they have COVID-19, they need to isolate for at least 10 days. Public health officials have said for weeks that overall interest in coronavirus testing is down, which is problematic because it makes it difficult to know how much of the virus remains in the community and prevent it from spreading by having people isolate.
Scenes from the inaugural Railbird Festival at Keeneland on Aug. 11, 2019. (Photo: Scott Utterback/Courier Journal )
Lexington: The Railbird Music Festival, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, plans to return live outdoor music to The Grounds at Keeneland Racetrack the weekend of Aug. 28-29. Grammy-winning jam band Dave Matthews Band and home-state indie rock heroes My Morning Jacket will headline the 2021 Railbird Festival in Lexington. The event – centered on music, bourbon, Kentucky cuisine and equine culture and produced by AC Entertainment and Lexington entrepreneur David Helmers – has also announced acts including Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Leon Bridges, Billy Strings, Black Pumas, Khruangbin, Midland, The Revivalists, Band of Horses and Margo Price. The inaugural Railbird Festival was held in 2019 with more than 30 acts that performed across the festival’s multiple stages, including The Raconteurs, Hozier and Brandi Carlile. “While we all missed live music and experiences tremendously last year, the Railbird team looked at it as a time to build on the success of our inaugural festival and come back even better than before,” said Helmers, who co-founded the festival. “We’ve been planning intensely and are excited for the festival’s return to Keeneland with a list of world-class artists, bourbon and culinary experiences.” Tickets and passes are available via RailbirdFest.com.
New Orleans: Officials are again loosening coronavirus restrictions, announcing Thursday that restaurants, bars and other businesses in the hospitality-driven city can soon operate at 100% capacity, up from 75%. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the looser rules take effect Friday. “With these changes, New Orleans will be the most open it has been since the pandemic began,” Avegno said. And there are still some important restrictions. While the statewide mask mandate in Louisiana is being dropped, New Orleans is maintaining mask requirements. “There is no national public health organization or leading experts that recommend the full removal of masks right now,” Avegno said. Also, businesses will have to maintain social distancing. Varying limits remain at stadiums and indoor arenas. But other indoor gathering limits are increasing from 150 people to 250. And outdoor gatherings of 500 people will be allowed, up from 250. The easing of rules comes as the city – which was an early hot spot for COVID-19 – continues to see vaccination rates increase. Nearly 43% of the city’s residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 36% have completed their dosages, officials said. When children are removed from the numbers, the figures go to nearly 54% and 45%, respectively.
Portland: The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said outdoor graduation ceremonies can be safely held this year. Common sense should guide the events at high schools and colleges, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. Masks should be worn at events that will pack hundreds of students into a close setting, he said. “They might be outdoors this summer. That’s a good thing, and we encourage that,” Shah said during a radio appearance Wednesday on Maine Public. “When everyone disperses and has spread out, that’s a situation where you might not need a mask.” The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Maine’s graduation season last year. The University of Maine System, for example, canceled in-person graduation ceremonies for its universities. Meanwhile, one of New England’s oldest amusement parks will reopen this season after a year off due to the pandemic. Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco, which opened more than 60 years ago, was one of many amusement parks that canceled last season. The park will come back later this spring, officials said in a statement Monday, and be open fewer days in May and June than usual, with summer hours more limited. New safety requirements will include reservations, face coverings and empty seats on some rides, the park said.
Annapolis: The state is lifting its outdoor mask requirement in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday, citing improved health metrics while strongly urging reluctant residents to get vaccinated. “If you’re an individual who does not intend to get vaccinated, we want to make sure that you understand that you are still in danger of hospitalization and death,” Hogan said. “Unvaccinated people, including younger people, are continuing to be hospitalized.” Face coverings will still be required at all large ticketed venues. They also are required indoors at all public and private businesses and when on public transportation. People who are not yet vaccinated are strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks outdoors, especially when physical distancing is not possible. Starting Saturday, all restrictions related to outdoor dining capacity and distancing will be lifted. Seated service and physical distancing requirements will remain in place indoors at bars and restaurants. Hogan made the announcement amid significant improvements in health metrics in the state. Maryland’s case rate of COVID-19 per 100,000 people has dropped 33% over the past two weeks, he said. Nearly 85% of residents over 65 and more than 60% of those 18 and over have been vaccinated.
There were already 11 coasters at Massachusetts' Six Flags New England before The Joker opened, but it's nothing like the park's other thrill machines. (Photo: Six Flags Entertainment)
Agawam: The Six Flags New England amusement park announced Wednesday that it plans to reopen its rides next month with some coronavirus safety protocols in place. The park in Agawam said in a statement that it will open for members and season pass holders May 14 and to the general public the next day. “Now more than ever, families need an escape that is safe, accessible and fun,” park President Pete Carmichael said. Visits must be reserved online so that park management can manage attendance and stagger arrival times. Guests and employees will undergo health screenings, visitors will be required to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing, and the park will undergo enhanced cleaning. The safety plan, developed in consultation with epidemiologists, meets or exceeds federal, state and local guidelines for sanitization, hygiene and social distancing protocols, management said. The rides have been closed for more than a year, but the park has opened for other events.
Lansing: The state’s former health director said Thursday that he resigned in January after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told him it was “time to go in a new direction,” telling lawmakers he was comfortable signing an order to relax COVID-19 restrictions despite having had a difference of opinion with the governor. Robert Gordon’s statement confirmed what Whitmer’s office had refused to say publicly despite his controversial $155,000 severance deal: that he was ousted after two years on the job. Gordon, with the governor’s support, tightened and eased coronavirus restrictions in the fall and winter after the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law that underpinned her orders. On Jan. 22, the day the governor and health officials cleared the way for indoor restaurant dining to resume at 25% capacity, Gordon said he was invited to a video conference call with several members of Whitmer’s staff. He noticed she, too, was present. “The governor said to me, ‘Robert, grateful for your service. I think it’s time to go in a new direction,’ ” he told the Republican-led House Oversight Committee, which subpoenaed him after he declined to voluntarily appear. He said he was serving as an appointee, and “it’s important that the governor is comfortable with you in that role.”
St. Cloud: Residents can now schedule appointments at community vaccination sites around the state using VaccineConnector.mn.gov. If appointments are full, people can opt to receive a notice when there are openings, according to a press release from Gov. Tim Walz’s office. Community vaccination sites are located around the state in St. Cloud, Lino Lakes, St. Paul, Bloomington, Oakdale, Mankato, Duluth and Rochester. There’s also a federally supported community vaccination program at the State Fairgrounds for residents in socially vulnerable ZIP codes in and around the Twin Cities. So far the state has administered more than 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to nearly 2.5 million residents. Nearly one-third of Minnesotans have completed their vaccine series. “To end this pandemic, we need as many Minnesotans vaccinated as possible, as quickly as possible,” Walz said in a statement. “To drive that goal, Minnesotans can now book appointments at our Community Vaccination locations directly and at their convenience. The sooner we get shots in arms, the sooner we can get back to the things we love and the people we miss. Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans have been able to find their COVID-19 vaccine through the Vaccine Connector, and today, that is easier than ever.”
Jackson: Almost two-thirds of residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials said Wednesday. Still, overall numbers of inoculations are lagging in recent weeks – a reflection of a lack of buy-in on the vaccine from young people. “We knew that we were going to have trouble getting younger folks immunized,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who described the effort as a “continued uphill climb.” More than 132,000 people in Mississippi were vaccinated the week of Feb. 27, according to the state Department of Health. Since then, numbers of vaccinations have dropped each week. Last week, about 74,400 were vaccinated in the state. Nearly 770,000 Mississippi residents are fully vaccinated, more than one-third of whom are over 65, according to the department. Fewer than 200,000 are younger than 40. Dobbs said as older residents most vulnerable to the coronavirus are getting vaccinated, the numbers of related deaths are also falling. The drop gives the illusion that the risk is gone, which makes some people less eager to want the vaccine. “The urgency is not there,” Dobbs said. The top health official warned against relaxing coronavirus safety precautions. In the past, when people lessened precautions, cases went back up, he said.
St. Louis: Washington University in St. Louis has become the latest college to announce plans to require students to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus this fall. KMOX-AM reports the school said faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. The school also said it would allow some exemptions for religious or medical reasons. The university informed students in a letter that if they can’t get vaccinated before arriving, the school will help them get a shot locally. “Vaccination against COVID-19 will play a key role in allowing us to resume our regular activities, protect our community, and prevent the spread of illness both on our campuses and in the St. Louis region, including, importantly, the patients we serve in our hospitals,” the letter said. A university spokesperson said officials will provide more information for employees in the coming weeks.
Helena: Lawmakers have approved amendments proposed by Gov. Greg Gianforte to a bill aimed at preventing discrimination based on a person’s vaccine status. The changes appear to try to address concerns raised by health care organizations about the measure, which would prohibit employers from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment. The Montana Hospital Association and other health care organizations argued that the bill could leave them unable to screen potential employees and would prohibit them from requiring vaccines of employees who have direct contact with patients and the public. They said the bill could lead to all employees having to wear masks and facilities limiting visitors. Gianforte, a Republican, proposed an amendment Wednesday clarifying that employees could voluntarily provide their vaccine records and that employers will not be seen as discriminating when they impose reasonable accommodations, such as requiring masks, for employees who are not vaccinated or choose not to divulge their vaccine status. Gianforte’s amendment also said nursing homes, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities are exempt from the bill if compliance would violate regulations or guidance issued by federal agencies.
Thelma Sutcliffe celebrates her birthday in October 2019 in Omaha, Neb. Sutcliffe is now the oldest living American at 114 years old. (Photo: Mike Kelly/The World-Herald via AP)
Omaha: A 114-year-old woman who has taken the title of America’s oldest living person says what she wants most is to eat with her friend after a year of pandemic restrictions. Thelma Sutcliffe, of Omaha, became the nation’s oldest living person and seventh-oldest in the world April 17 when Hester Ford, a 115-year-old woman, died in North Carolina, according to the Gerontology Research Group. The Omaha World-Herald reports Sutcliffe was born Oct. 1, 1906. Her longtime friend, Luella “Lou” Mason, said she is happy that the senior living center where Sutcliffe lives is locked down, but “Thelma is as determined as ever to do what she wants to do.” Until visitors are allowed in the dining room, Thelma is taking all her meals in her room. Mason, who has Sutcliffe’s power of attorney, calls the senior living center 24 hours ahead of time to schedule visits. “She asks me every time I visit, ‘Are you going to eat with me today?’ ” Mason said. “It breaks my heart that I can’t.” Sutcliffe’s hearing and sight are fading, Mason said, but her mind is still “very sharp.” Sutcliffe received her COVID-19 shots at the earliest opportunity, but testing for the coronavirus was a nonstarter. Mason said Sutcliffe looked at the swab and said, “You’re not going to be sticking that thing up my nose. You can tell Lou to stick it up hers.”
Las Vegas: Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, will assume control of COVID-19 mitigation efforts Saturday, increasing capacity limits to 80% and reducing social distancing to 3 feet. Currently, the county is following capacity restrictions of 50% occupancy for public gatherings and 6 feet of social distancing. Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage notified the county Tuesday that the state authorized giving the county control over coronavirus mitigation and safety measures beginning May 1. The Clark County Commission approved the 42-page plan April 20. It allows some businesses to reopen, including nightclubs and adult entertainment venues. Facial coverings will continue to be required. The plan also increases occupancy for gyms, pools and water parks, libraries and museums, retail stores, indoor malls, and community and recreational centers. Salad bars, salsa bars and other self-service options will be allowed under certain conditions, and food sampling will be allowed at grocery stores. Commissioners agreed capacity and social distancing requirements will be removed when 60% of residents receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That figure was at 46.5% as of Tuesday.
Concord: The state has scheduled 10 virtual job fairs during May. Starting May 23, New Hampshire is once again requiring that people receiving unemployment benefits be looking for work. That was waived last year during the coronavirus pandemic. “This return to our traditional, more normalized system is a sign that we are getting back to normal, and I would like to thank the team at Employment Security for their efforts in opening up access to job seekers and employers,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement Wednesday. Scheduled job fairs include May 6, for veterans; May 11, one for students and the other for students and adult education in partnership with Pinkerton Academy; May 13, construction industry in partnership with ABC NH/VT; May 18, Great North Woods Region and Dartmouth Lake-Sunapee Region; May 19, Seacoast Region; May 20, White Mountains Region; May 25, Lakes Region; May 26, Monadnock Region; and May 27, Capitol and Southern Region. Employers looking to register their company and job-seekers can register for one of the fairs by going to virtualjobfairs.nh.gov.
Teacher Amanda O’Connor greets members of her first grade class in front of Christa McAuliffe School in Jersey City, N.J., on Thursday. (Photo: Seth Wenig/AP)
Jersey City: Students in the state’s two largest cities have begun making their return to classrooms after learning remotely because of the COVID-19 outbreak. On Thursday, students in Jersey City began returning to school, just days after Newark officials said they were expanding in-person instruction to four days a week, up from two. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that nearly 86% of students in the state are back in person in some format, either hybrid or entirely in person. Just 25 districts, out of more than 600, are all-remote, the governor said, affecting about 115,000 students. That’s about 8.5% of the total student population in New Jersey. The return of in-person learning comes as the state’s coronavirus data trends in the right direction, as new cases over the past two weeks are down 28%. Murphy also announced that on May 10, proms, weddings and other events can resume, along with expanded outdoor capacities. Schools in New Jersey should be entirely in person by the fall, the governor has said. The state is pushing to get 70% of its adult population vaccinated by June 30. That’s 4.7 million people, Murphy has said. So far nearly 3 million people have been fully vaccinated in the state.
Santa Fe: The state Capitol building has reopened to the public as the COVID-19 pandemic eases. It was closed to the general public for four consecutive legislative sessions. About 50 visitors wandered the corridors of the Roundhouse on Wednesday as the doors were unlocked to all visitors for the first time in roughly a year. They were asked to wear masks, and most if not all abided. Legislators shifted last spring to mostly virtual committee hearings as the pandemic took hold. Voting even took place remotely from outside the Capitol among members of the House of Representatives. The Capitol also was ringed by fencing and barricades, with troops on hand, between January and March as a consequence of security concerns linked to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A 60-day legislative session ending March 20 focused on economic relief and progressive initiatives such authorization for medical aid in dying. Recreational marijuana was legalized during a separate special session this year.
Albany: People will no longer have to buy a jelly sandwich, chips or other snack with their beer under an executive order that state lawmakers repealed Wednesday. Last summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring food to be sold with alcoholic beverages at bars and restaurants. At the time, COVID-19 rates were low, and the state had begun allowing New York City bars and restaurants to reopen. Lawmakers passed resolutions Wednesday to repeal the directive, which restaurant owners have blasted for months as nonsensical. Cuomo had said chips or fruit alone couldn’t count as “food,” which led to a Saratoga Springs bar offering “Cuomo Chips and Salsa.” “Witnessing the industrywide devastation during the pandemic was heartbreaking,” said Sen. John Mannion, a Democrat from central New York. “Rescinding the food with beverage mandate is the most pressing issue in all of my conversations with owners and managers.” Cuomo defended the food-with-drinks rule by citing his concerns about inebriated people mingling at bars without social distancing. “If you’re not eating a meal, and you’re just drinking, then it’s just an outdoor bar, and people are mingling, and they’re not isolated and individual tables, and that’s what we’re seeing,” he said July 16.
Raleigh: Residents will be allowed to assemble in larger groups and gather outdoors starting Friday without having to wear their masks. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday afternoon that the state will lift the outdoor mask mandate and boost mass gathering limits to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors, which represents a doubling from the current levels. The Democratic governor’s move comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces outside anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. Cooper said masks will still be required indoors, and he encouraged people to remain cautious. “Masks will continue to be required indoors (and) in public places, since this virus still can spread easily when we’re inside,” Cooper said. “Even though we’re continuing our dimmer-switch approach of easing restrictions, we need to stay vigilant.” Cooper plans to eliminate social distancing and mass gathering restrictions by June 1 and eliminate the mask mandate altogether once at least two-thirds of North Carolina adults are at least partially vaccinated. Nearly half of adults in the state have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot, with more than 39% fully vaccinated, as of Tuesday, according to state health department data.
Minot: The coronavirus pandemic has taken down one of the state’s most popular annual festivals for a second straight year. The Norsk Hostfest in Minot bills itself as the largest Scandinavian festival in North America. Event officials cited concerns about COVID-19 hurting the tour business and travel, as well as whether participants would be willing to gather in large groups. Before last year’s cancellation, the four-day event had taken place every September in Minot for 42 straight years. It had attracted about 60,000 visitors annually and more than 100 vendors from around the world. Festival officials are making plans to bring the event back in 2022, the Minot Daily News reports.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is sticking to its forecast of 3 million central Ohioans by 2050, in part because of the relatively easy commutes. (Photo: Courtney Hergesheimer, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH)
Columbus: Ohioans working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic can pay income taxes to the cities where their companies are located, according to a Wednesday ruling from a Franklin County judge. The ruling, which dismissed a July 2020 lawsuit with prejudice, upheld a state law passed during last year’s shutdown that let cities keep collecting municipal income taxes from commuters whose companies temporarily closed their downtown offices. House Bill 197 allows cities to collect these taxes until 30 days after Gov. Mike DeWine rescinds his state of emergency declaration. Three employees from the conservative Buckeye Institute filed the lawsuit, claiming the bill was unconstitutional because it allowed cities to tax people who weren’t using their services. The municipal income tax for commuters is based on the idea that workers drive on city roads and use other city services like police and fire. “Ohio law permits you to be taxed based on where you live and where you actually perform work,” Buckeye Institute President Robert Alt said at the time. “But it doesn’t allow you to be taxed based on ‘let’s pretend.’ ” Traditionally, commuters got refunds for days they worked from home or at another location. But Judge Carl Aveni disagreed.
Oklahoma City: Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Republican Party held its state convention at the city’s new convention center, with few attendees at the Saturday morning session wearing masks. The Oklahoma Democratic Party still plans to hold its state convention virtually in June. The parties’ different approaches to gathering in person amid the pandemic are illustrated by a new poll that shows Republican voters in the state are far more likely than Democrats to believe it is already safe to gather in groups of 10 or more. The poll, by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, also shows Republican voters are more likely to believe the bigger risk from the pandemic now is to the economy rather than to health. “I was shocked that 36% of the voters in the state do not think gatherings of 10 or more will be safe until at least July 1 and that 15% think it will be at least 2022 before it’s OK,” said Pat McFerron, the president of the Oklahoma City company that conducted the Sooner Survey. “Among Republicans, 59% think it’s OK to meet right now. Among Democrats, it’s only 15%.” Aspects of the pandemic have divided people along partisan lines from the beginning, with particular flashpoints around mask mandates and lockdowns.
Salem: Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon’s state of emergency for COVID-19 until June 28, saying a fourth surge of the pandemic is being driven by variants of the coronavirus and causing increased cases and hospitalizations. The declaration allows Brown to issue executive orders restricting activity and helps the state utilize federal COVID-19 relief funds, the governor’s office said. Brown is putting 15 counties that encompass the state’s biggest cities into the state’s extreme risk category starting Friday, imposing restrictions that include banning indoor restaurant dining. The restaurant sector has objected to Brown’s action, with the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association declaring that the state lost more than 1,000 food service businesses in 2020 and that 200 more closed permanently so far this year. Brown said her actions are temporary. “I intend to fully reopen our economy by the end of June, and the day is approaching when my emergency orders can eventually be lifted,” Brown said in a statement. “How quickly we get there is up to each and every one of us doing our part.” Brown said more 1.2 million Oregonions are fully vaccinated, but the “overwhelming majority” of new cases are in younger, unvaccinated residents. Oregon’s population is more than 4.2 million.
Harrisburg: Employees of a vendor paid to conduct coronavirus contact tracing in the state may have compromised the private information of at least 72,000 people, including their exposure status and their sexual orientation, the state Health Department said Thursday. Agency spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo said in an email that the department recently learned workers at Atlanta-based Insight Global “disregarded security protocols established in the contract and created unauthorized documents” outside the state’s secure data system. “We are extremely dismayed that employees from Insight Global acted in a way that may have compromised this type of information and sincerely apologize to all impacted individuals,” Ciccocioppo said. He said state computer systems, including Pennsylvania’s contact tracing app, were not implicated. Ciccocioppo said some of the records in question associated names with phone numbers, emails, genders, ages, sexual orientations, and COVID-19 diagnoses and exposure status. They did not include financial account information, addresses or Social Security numbers, he said. The company has been directed to secure the records and has hired third-party specialists to conduct a forensic examination.
Providence: The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is getting more than $750,000 in federal coronavirus relief funding to help arts-related small businesses, artists, and arts and culture organizations recover from the pandemic, officials said Thursday. The council’s staff during the next several weeks will review federal guidance as it determines how these funds can best be used to support the recovery of one a key economic sector. “Rhode Island artists, arts and culture organizations, arts educators and the entire community were hard hit by the pandemic and these funds will assist in the difficult work of rebuilding the arts economically, educationally and culturally,” Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of RISCA, said in a statement. Rhode Island’s arts sector contributed $2 billion to the state economy and supported almost 18,000 jobs before the pandemic. The funding from the National Endowment for the Arts is the first round of federal funding through the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package passed last month.
Greenville: The one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is back in use in the state, and leaders said they are considering vaccination clinics to places people will be going this summer such as beaches and festivals. The Johnson & Johnson shot is back in use in South Carolina after a 10-day federally requested pause. There are about 33,000 doses of the vaccine being stored – and once again administered – in South Carolina. It is the least-used vaccine, at about 5% of the state’s vaccine doses given. It is also the last one to get authorization and is the most flexible vaccine because it has easier storage requirements and only requires one dose for full effectiveness. For those reasons, it would also be the most likely candidate for quick vaccine clinics that could reach lots of people. It has already been the go-to vaccine for certain populations, like those who are homeless or homebound. The state’s lead epidemiologist, Dr. Brannon Traxler, was asked during a media call Wednesday whether the state is considering making the one-dose vaccine available at beaches this summer. Traxler said such outreach vaccinations are a possibility. “We are exploring all options including taking the vaccine to, or at least close proximity to, the beaches,” she said. “We want to reach every nook and cranny of the state.”
Dakota State University on April 11, 2021, in Madison, S.D. (Photo: Erin Bormett / Argus Leader)
Sioux Falls: Most public and private colleges and universities in the state are bringing commencement back in person this year. But limiting audience sizes, requiring masks and providing for social distancing are all part of the event planning. Last spring in the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and universities made the choice to change graduation and commencement, either cancelling, postponing or moving to a live stream or Zoom format. Most universities are also offering a livestream of the commencement for graduates, family and friends who can’t attend in person. Policy for graduation activity is not set by the South Dakota Board of Regents, spokesperson Janelle Toman said. But all public colleges are holding their graduations May 8, and all campuses are currently requiring masks and social distancing in public indoor spaces. The University of South Dakota’s ceremony will be held at the DakotaDome, with space for up to four guests per graduate but masks required. South Dakota State University hasn’t yet pinned down a venue but is giving each student a six-ticket seating pod. Dakota State University will allow two guests each at the Fieldhouse ceremony and two more tickets for a second location where the commencement will be livestreamed.
Nashville: Bars and restaurants could keep up the coronavirus-era offering of to-go beers and other alcoholic drinks for two years under a bill now awaiting action from Republican Gov. Bill Lee. The Republican-supermajority Legislature finished work on the to-go drinks legislation with the Senate’s passage Wednesday. Through executive order, Lee has allowed to-go alcohol sales during the pandemic while establishments’ in-person traffic has suffered. Republican bill sponsor Sen. Brian Kelsey said the state has not been allowed to collect taxes on the to-go sales through the executive order, and the bill would ensure taxes are collected. The legislation would continue to require to-go alcohol orders to include food purchases. The extension would be effective until July 2023 under the bill.
Dallas: The state has topped 50,000 COVID-19 deaths during the 14-month pandemic, university researchers reported Wednesday. Johns Hopkins University researchers placed the Texas COVID-19 death toll at 50,037 Wednesday, out of 3,092,597 cases. That toll is the third highest in the nation. But researchers say the rolling two-week average of new cases continues to decline, with a 480-case decrease in the average number of daily cases as of Wednesday. That is a 13% decrease. The number of vaccinated Texans continues to rise. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost 38% of the Texas population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 26% are fully vaccinated.
St. George: Some 28% of adults living in Washington County were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Thursday, while neighboring Iron County was at 25%, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated two weeks after they’ve been given a single-dose shot (Johnson & Johnson) or a second shot (either Pfizer or Moderna). For those 65 and older, the figure was 42% in Washington County and 56% in Iron County. When children are included in the population figures, Washington County was at 21% fully vaccinated, with Iron County at 19%. Utah reported 396,004 total cases of coronavirus, an increase of 0.69% from the week before. The five counties with the highest percentage of their population fully vaccinated in Utah as of Tuesday are Daggett County (47%), Summit County (37%), Wayne County (33%), Kane County (28%) and Garfield County (27%). So far, 40% of people in Utah had received at least one dose of the vaccine, for a total of 1,278,979 people, including 53.8% of people 16 and older. There were 905,863 people fully vaccinated, or 28.3% of the total population.
The front page of Vermont Everyone Eats, a program started during the pandemic to proide meals to Vermonters facing food assistance by partnering with local restaurants and food producers. (Photo: ETHAN BAKULI/FREE PRESS)
Montpelier: A program started during the pandemic to provide restaurant meals to Vermonters experiencing food insecurity has served 1 million meals, Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday. Since Vermont Everyone Eats was started in August 2020, more than 200 restaurants have contributed to the 1 million meals that included nearly $1 million of Vermont-produced ingredients, the governor’s office said. “It’s been a tough year for everyone, but there have been many bright spots as Vermonters have come together to help their neighbors and strengthen their communities,” Scott said in a statement. The program was started with $5 million from the state’s coronavirus relief fund and was supported with additional money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the governor’s office said. Meanwhile, college students from out of state who do not plan to stay in Vermont for the summer and part-time residents can start signing up for appointments to get COVID-19 vaccines. Registration opened Thursday morning on the Health Department website. People who cannot sign up online or need help can also call 855-722-7878 to make an appointment. Registration is open to all Vermonters ages 16 and older to get COVID-19 shots.
Richmond: College graduations will still look different due to the pandemic, but more Virginia universities are returning to in-person ceremonies. Attendees must wear masks and follow other guidelines and safety protocols to ensure social distancing. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond will hold a universitywide commencement ceremony online May 15, according to a statement the university released last month. Individual departments can decide whether to hold in-person graduation. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg will have 16 in-person commencement ceremonies by college from May 10 to May 16 at Lane Stadium, the university’s football stadium. Graduating students are required to register, and students are allowed to invite up to four guests. Virginia Tech will also hold a virtual commencement ceremony May 14. The University of Virginia in Charlottesville will hold its commencement outdoors May 21-23 for the class of 2021. Students will walk the lawn and process to Scott Stadium, where each student can have two guests. The class of 2020 will also get a chance to walk and attend a special ceremony, according to U.Va. President Jim Ryan. Other Virginia universities, including George Mason University, will hold spring graduation completely online.
Edmonds: Two fraudulent coronavirus testing sites appeared north of Seattle in downtown Edmonds on Tuesday, and local police are warning people to be alert. Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure said one phony testing site was in front of a Starbucks, and the other was near the ferry terminal, The Daily Herald reports. The sites have since been removed. McClure said police had not cited or arrested anyone as of Wednesday afternoon and are continuing to investigate. The fake sites were set up with a folding table and medical-appearing paraphernalia, and fraudulent health care workers instructed people to provide their names, birthdays and other personal information, McClure said. “They had forms, clipboards and stuff to make it look very official,” McClure said. People were told they’d receive test results back in two days. People who thought the sites seemed hastily prepared contacted police. Legitimate test sites can be found on an official city government website or information source, McClure said. Other fake virus testing sites have been reported in states including Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky and New York, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Charleston: State officials are still working to hammer out details of how to send $100 savings bonds to residents ages 16 to 35 who get a COVID-19 shot. Republican Gov. Jim Justice said the incentive program to immunize young people will also apply retroactively for anyone in the age range who already received a vaccine. He said his administration is working with the U.S. Treasury Department to make arrangements for the bonds, which can take up to two decades to mature to their full value. If issuing bonds becomes too complex, he said the state will just send $100 checks. “You no question are transmitting this thing faster than anyone,” Justice said at his regularly held coronavirus news conference, addressing young people. “You are the key to this whole thing.” The incentive program would be funded through federal coronavirus relief funds. Justice first announced plans for the program Monday. The pace of the state’s vaccination drive has slowed considerably over the past month, trailing most states. Justice has aimed to motivate people through incentives and the pledge that he will consider lifting the mask mandate if 70% of eligible people get vaccinated. Currently, 47.8% of eligible residents have received at least one dose, according to state data.
Madison: State health officials say only 0.03% of people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Wisconsin State Journal reports the number of so-called breakthrough cases was just 605 out of 1.8 million residents who are fully vaccinated. The state’s number of breakthrough cases is higher than the national national rate of 0.008% reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has said that the national tally is an undercount and that some infections are expected among those who are immunized because no vaccine is 100% effective. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released the number of breakthrough cases to the State Journal only after the newspaper repeatedly reported that health officials declined to provide the data. The 605 Wisconsin cases, found in people at least two weeks after they were fully immunized, are among 82,369 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 since Jan. 18, said Jennifer Miller, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health Services. “With such a small percentage of breakthrough cases, but with COVID-19 still active in our state, we continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated with one of the three highly effective COVID-19 vaccines available,” Miller said.
Cheyenne: The University of Wyoming and Laramie County Community College say they will not require students and employees to receive COVID-19 shots before returning to campus next school year. Federal statistical models show the state is home to the most vaccine-hesitant counties in the country, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. “We are working hard to provide (students and employees) with good resources so they can make informed decisions about whether or not they choose personally to get the vaccine,” Lisa Trimble, associate vice president of institutional advancement for Laramie County Community College, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. The campus in Cheyenne shut down in-person instruction last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic and reopened this fall to mostly online learning, with a few exceptions. The college is now expecting to reopen next fall to mostly in-person learning. “Going into the start of the fall semester, we will continue to require face masks and encourage social distancing as much as possible just to continue to keep people safe,” Trimble said. The University of Wyoming, which said Monday that more than half of its full-time, benefited employees were vaccinated, has taken a similar approach.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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