Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US – Latest State Updates – April 9, 2020

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Arkansas

As of April 8th

The Arkansas General Assembly convened yesterday at noon for the 2020 Fiscal Session. Joint Budget Committee members will continue to meet, throughout the weekend if necessary to get their work done. All other members are in recess until next Wednesday when they will return to vote on budget bills for final passage. They expect to adjourn next Friday.

The state is exempting 150,000 plus unemployment claims by the end of the week.

Georgia

As of April 9th

Georgia state news: 

  • Daily State Public Health stats:
    • State cases are up to 10,566 at noon today as compared to 10,189 on Wednesday at 7 p.m. We are now up to 379 deaths up from 369 at 7 p.m. Wednesday. 2,159 patients are hospitalized as compared to 2,082 at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Dougherty, Fulton and Cobb Counties have the most cases in our State.
  • Secretary Raffensperger has postponed the primary election to June 9.

Local:

  • Per Mayor Bottoms, the coronavirus pandemic is going to cost the city of Atlanta up to US$40 million in lost revenue through the fiscal year, which ends June 30. That is the prediction Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms shared with the Atlanta City Council Tuesday during her weekly coronavirus update, during which she said the city’s hotel-motel tax collections have dropped by a staggering 80 percent.
  • The Jackson County Board of Elections voted 4-1 to send a Resolution to Secretary Raffensperger recommending that the state primaries be conducted entirely by mail.

Hawaii

As of April 8th

The Governor’s Economic & Community Navigator Announced!

Governor David Ige today issued a Proclamation and announced Alan M. Oshima as the Hawaii Economic & Community Navigator.  The newly created position in the Office of the Governor will be responsible for the planning and implementation of the Hawai`i Economic Stabilization, Recovery & Resiliency Plan, which will include three phases to recover from COVID-19:  1) Stabilization; 2) Recovery; and 3) Resiliency. 

The plan is a blueprint not only for saving critical economic and community pillars, but also charting a roadmap for Hawai`i’s new economic future.  The Economic and Community Recovery plan can be as significant as the initial Hawai`i State Plan, Ch. 226, HRS, enacted in the 1970’s which charted a course for a post-WWII, modern Hawai`i.

Also, as part of our nation’s effort to address the economic impact of COVID-19, the Federal government appropriated $2 trillion to provide financial assistance to state and county governments, businesses, nonprofits and individuals.  It is anticipated that Hawai`i will receive $4.0 billion from the CARES Act for the following:

  • $1.25 billion for state and county government response efforts
  • $1.14 billion in estimated unemployment assistance
  • $1.24 billion in estimated direct cash payments to Hawai`i residents
  • $130 million in estimated funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • $53 million for local schools and colleges
  • $11 million for the state’s community health centers
  • $8 million in community development block grants

Of the $1.25 billion to Hawai`i governments (above), the State will receive $900 million, and the City & County of Honolulu will receive $350 million as part of Hawai`i’s economic relief and recovery efforts.  Future Federal stimulus packages appear on the horizon.

Kansas

As of April 8th

Governor Kelly’s Executive Order #20-18 was revoked.  This order would temporarily prohibit mass gatherings of more than 10 people, including religious ceremonies. 

The Attorney General issued a Memorandum today that addresses the Governor’s Executive Order.  That Memorandum can be found here.  An accompanying press release from the General, pertaining to the Memorandum can be found here.

North Carolina

As of April 8th

As North Carolina’s coronavirus cases pushed beyond 3,400 on Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper said at least 60 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in a skilled nursing facility in Orange County. The governor said seven of those 60 people are hospitalized and two have died. He said more cases from that center are likely to come. The state will now require all nursing home staff members to wear masks and all facilities to close communal areas. Facilities will also screen staffers daily and are now required to report all new or suspected cases to the state health department.

Governor Cooper signed Executive Orders providing flexibility in law enforcement training and also one that will put more healthcare providers and resources into the system and increase the number of hospital beds that may be needed for the crisis.

The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Reponse presented three bill drafts which will be voted on soon.

Also this Week

North Carolina DHHS reported 3,426 confirmed cases Wednesday. The increase of 205 is slightly smaller than daily increases earlier this week, but still triple-digit growth in the statewide epidemic. After eight full days under the governor’s stay-home order, the state has now tested 42,987 people for the virus. Of all those who are sick, 386 are hospitalized statewide.

Gov. Roy Cooper said it’s too early to determine whether his statewide stay-at-home order will extend past April 30. A statistical model published Monday showed that continuing the aspects of the order through May would significantly reduce the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in North Carolina, but the governor said that is only one piece of data to review.

Governor Cooper said he plans to sign an executive order later this week to mandate customer limits inside retailers. Cooper said some stores “have way too many people inside,” while some have taken extra steps to ensure proper “social distancing” between customers and staff, such as limiting how many customers are allowed at any one time, installing plastic shields to separate customers from cashiers and setting up one-way aisles. “We need to make that kind of thing more uniform,” Cooper said, adding that details of what might be demanded of retailers under a statewide executive order are still in flux.

In less than a week, the number of projected coronavirus-related deaths in North Carolina has dropped by more than 1,000, according to data from the University of Washington. New numbers from a model produced by the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now project fewer than 500 deaths will be caused by the disease in North Carolina in the coming weeks. The figure was above 1,500 on April 1. On Tuesday, the figure stood at 496 deaths through Aug. 4.  The latest figures take into account North Carolina’s stay-at-home order, which was implemented on March 30 and is set to last for 30 days. Deaths per day in the state are now expected to peak at 30 on April 15. Last week, the peak number of daily deaths was expected to hit 50 in late April.

Governor Cooper stated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has given the state approval to seek housing options, such as hotels, for homeless people needing to be quarantined so they aren’t in shelters with others.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is providing financial assistance to help essential workers afford childcare and bonuses to childcare teachers and staff who provide care during the COVID-19 crisis through an Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program for essential workers. The Program will be offered to essential workers through May and could be extended. Those workers must meet the following criteria: income below 300 percent of the poverty line; must be an essential worker fighting COVID-19 or protecting the health and safety of the community; and there are no other viable childcare options available for them.

To stop the spread of coronavirus, the North Carolina Division of Prisons will not accept offenders from county jails and will dramatically reduce the transfers of inmates within state prisons for two weeks. Over the past week, seven inmates in state prisons have tested positive for coronavirus at three different prisons. Offenders will continue to be transferred over the next two weeks for the following reasons: to comply with court orders, for medical or mental health reasons, for security purposes to address critical incidents within prisons, or to release offenders who have completed their prison sentences.

Prison officials are already shifting inmates scheduled for release over the next two weeks to areas close to their homes, where they will be released in accordance with their individual release plans. No offender will remain incarcerated past a scheduled release date. New inmates in the prison system who have remained free of COVID-19 symptoms are being transferred to their assigned prisons over the next two days. New inmates already have gone through a 14-day quarantine following an initial medical screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.

Crime victim advocates have contacted North Carolina’s 100 sheriffs asking them to notify victims of the impending or early release of inmates in response to the potential spread of COVID-19. Hundreds of inmates nationwide are receiving early releases in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 within jails. Should that be needed in North Carolina, Marsy’s Law for North Carolina is asking for sheriffs to continue prioritizing their constitutional duty to notify crime victims. North Carolina voters approved Marsy’s Law, a crime victims bill of rights, as an amendment to the state constitution in 2018.

A House committee plans to vote next week on a group of draft bills addressing tax filing deadlines and unemployment benefits. The House’s working group on coronavirus economic support reviewed the measures Tuesday. One would enshrine into law Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent executive order lifting certain requirements for unemployment benefit recipients, such as the requirement to look for a new job. And the proposal also includes a perk for employers: a tax credit for the amount they paid into the unemployment fund during the first quarter of 2020. The bill would also allow employers to file for unemployment on behalf of their workers, which legislative staff say would help expedite the process. Committee Co-Chair Rep. Julia Howard said she would like to combine that draft bill with another bill that was reviewed by another oversight committee in March. The Division of Employment Security had requested the changes, and Howard said combining the bills would speed up the voting process when lawmakers return for a socially distanced session. The final bill draft reflects an agreement between Governor Cooper and legislative leaders of both parties to waive interest on late tax returns filed before July 15. The federal government has already extended the April deadline to that date, and the NC Department of Revenue has eliminated late penalties, but only the legislature can act to drop the interest.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has agreed to hold expedited proceedings on whether the coronavirus pandemic is grounds to temporarily suspend minimum demand fees after the Carolina Utility Customers Association (CUCA) petitioned the commission to suspend these  charges, which are part of commission-approved rates for large commercial, industrial and institutional customers. CUCA, which represents manufacturers, argues that companies forced to curb energy use by the pandemic-caused slowdown will be charged millions of dollars in minimum demand charges.

CUCA states that in some cases production is curtailed by the Governor’s statewide order requiring nonessential businesses to be shut down. Some businesses are cutting back from lack of demand, but it also notes that some manufacturers are using less power as they retool to make emergency equipment — masks, gowns and other items — that they do not normally produce and may not be as energy-intensive as their normal products. CUCA claims that Duke stands to make a “windfall” of profit by charging demand minimums for power its customers cannot use.

In response, the Utilities Commission ordered Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and Dominion Energy North Carolina to respond to the petition. The commission also ordered natural gas companies including Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas and Gastonia-based Dominion Energy to participate. The N.C. Attorney General’s office and the commission’s Public Staff will also be involved.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) has asked Governor Cooper and legislative leaders to provide state workers with hazard pay while working “in essential jobs where social distancing is impossible or impractical” and to allow non-essential workers to work from home during the pandemic. SEANC stated that hazard pay should cover, at a minimum, workers within the walls of our state prisons, workers at state mental health and drug treatment facilities, parole and probation officers, the State Highway Patrol and workers in the unemployment section of the Employment Security Commission. The SEANC Director said that they have heard reports from members that departments and supervisors are prohibiting state workers from working from home and are continuing to require non-essential state workers who could work from home to come into workplaces where social distancing is impossible, creating an unacceptable risk of COVID-19 transmission within the state government workforce.

The North Carolina Chamber’s concerns about the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis go well beyond shuttered stores and restaurants and sidelined workers. Chamber General Counsel Ray Starling told a House committee on Tuesday that the impacts include supply chain disruption, limited access to credit and capital, and liability issues. He cited a recent survey of businesses that found about a quarter had shut down operations, and of those that remain open, nearly half say they will need to close if the current conditions continue for another two weeks.

The Chamber worries that because credit has been easy to obtain in recent years, many businesses have taken on debt, and that could lead to a “credit crunch.” Supply chains are strained because many businesses rely on products manufactured in China or flown in the cargo holds of passenger planes. And the Chamber is concerned that a wave of lawsuits could harm businesses engaged in “good Samaritan” work to fight coronavirus. For example, a manufacturer that temporarily makes medical masks could open itself up to liability if their masks perform less effectively than ones from a company that normally produces medical supplies. The Chamber also echoed recent comments from the N.C. Retail Merchants Association raising concerns with the patchwork of local and state “stay-at-home” orders across the state, with varying definitions of what constitutes an essential business.

Executive Actions, Week of April 6th

Legislative Actions, Week of April 6th

Local Government Actions

Relevant Articles

Virginia

As of April 8th

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that upcoming elections in Virginia will be delayed as part of the continuing effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Municipal elections originally scheduled for May will be pushed to November under legislation that state delegates and senators are expected to approve when they reconvene on April 22, Northam said. Existing law authorizes the governor to delay primary elections by two weeks, and Northam said he is exercising that authority with respect to the congressional primaries scheduled for June 9. Those elections will now be held on June 23.

As of Wednesday, April 8, Virginia officials reported 3,645 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia, with 615 hospitalizations and 75 deaths.  

The more densely populated Richmond, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions have shown the greatest numbers of COVID-19 cases. The governor has approved plans to build temporary hospital facilities at the Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia, as well as at the Richmond and Hampton Roads convention centers, to alleviate pressure on existing hospital facilities. Design and construction are expected to take six weeks, which would allow the first patients to be admitted at the temporary facilities in mid-May, just as the outbreak is expected to peak in Virginia, Northam said.

Northam has ordered a hiring freeze at state agencies, elimination of agency discretionary spending and revisions to the biennial spending plan set to take effect on July 1. A surge in unemployment forced state officials to upgrade the state employment commission’s server capacity and expand call center staffing. More than 112,000 Virginians applied for unemployment benefits last week, more than doubling the previous week’s applications and an increase of more than 5,000 percent compared to the same period last year. Medicaid enrollment also has jumped; more than 400,000 Virginians have now enrolled in the state-run health insurance program.

Meanwhile, the governor faces an April 11 deadline to veto or amend 1,291 bills recently approved by the General Assembly. Northam said he will meet that deadline, and that he will seek to amend the biennial budget plan because of the pandemic-induced recession, but has offered little indication as to how he will handle some of the more controversial bills. Among them are a series of business-oriented measures, including bills to hike the minimum wage and empower local government to allow public employees to engage in collective bargaining. Northam has said he is discussing the economic impacts of the bills with business and labor groups, as well as delegates and senators. State agency directors have been instructed to plan for budget cuts and avoid any new spending commitments in the fiscal year starting July 1.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn has told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that legislators will reconvene on April 22 to consider the governor’s amendments or vetoes, as required under the state constitution, but not likely inside the Capitol. Her preference is to hold reconvened session outdoors, with a backup location indoors, although sites are still being evaluated.

Virginia remains under a statewide stay-at-home order until June 10. Public schools are closed through the rest of the academic year; colleges and universities have transitioned to online instruction; correctional facilities have suspended visitation; most entertainment and recreational activities and businesses have been shut down; and restaurants and breweries have had to shift to delivery or drive-through to serve the public.

Wisconsin

As of April 9th

Potential COVID-19 Legislation

Discussions have been ongoing between Republican and Democratic legislative leaders over a legislative package to react to the COVID-19 health emergency in Wisconsin.

Previously Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had released his proposed response to the pandemic in the following proposals;

The first package proffered by Gov. Evers included $700 million in new spending including over $200 million to the Department of Administration, $300 million to the Department of Military Affairs, increased employees at the Division of Public Health, grants to local government public health agencies and sum sufficient funding (unlimited) for the Department of Health Services to respond to the public health emergency. Legislative Republicans did not act on the proposal, wanting to wait to see what the state’s share ($1.9 billion) of the CAREs Act would be and how those dollars could be allocated versus using existing state resources.

The second package forwarded by Gov. Evers includes an additional $300 million in funding, and provides funds for health care providers, extends the suspension of certain administrative rules for the duration of the health emergency, ensures workers receive back pay for any lost unemployment benefits due to the one-week waiting period.

In the interim, Republican legislative leaders have been working on their own legislative package with Democratic legislative leaders and the Administration while also testing their ability technologically to meet in an extraordinary session remotely. Yesterday the Evers Administration pre-emptively shared a draft of the Republican proposal with the media and with the Governor noting that a provision in the bill that gives the Joint Finance Committee expanded budget writing authority would cause him to veto the bill. The leaking of the bill and the veto threat drew a strong rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau);

“For almost a month we have been at work on a bill that includes essential provisions dealing with everything from Medicaid to the first week of unemployment. Millions of relief dollars are at stake for Wisconsin. Suggesting he’ll veto the full bill publicly, while privately we’re still negotiating, is irresponsible. We’ll keep working with the minority party to put together a bill that can hopefully pass soon with bipartisan support.”

The Republican proposal contains many of the same proposals as the Evers Administration proposals as it relates to changes to capturing expanded Medicaid funding, relaxing of provider licensing requirements, expediting federal waiver requests, removing the 1-week waiting period for UI benefits. In addition to the expanded Joint Finance Committee budgeting authority there are two noteworthy differences; funding associated with the proposals and the duration of the public health emergency.

Governor Evers’ two proposals contain over $1 billion in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) spending, whereas the Draft Republican proposal contains no new GPR spending.

Governor Evers’ proposal extends the length of his public health emergency executive order indefinitely for the length of the state’s response of the pandemic. His current order lasts for 60-days; started on March 12th and expires on May 12th. In order for his current emergency order to be extended, a Joint Resolution must be passed by both houses of the State Legislature. Republican leaders have already articulated the Governor needs to provide them with strong data supporting an extension beyond the current 60-day period.

  • Draft outline of the Republican proposal (link)
  • Governor’s Office comparison of the Republican proposal and the Governor’s proposals (link)

Updated numbers from DHS on COVID-19 cases 

On Thursday, DHS will be hosting a Facebook Live Q&A session at 1:30 pm on the state’s COVID-19 response. Joining Secretary-designee Andrea Palm & Chief Medical Officer Ryan Westergaard will be Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman & Unemployment Insurance Deputy Administrator Amy Banicki. facebook.com/DHSWI/

On Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Health Services released updated case numbers for the state of Wisconsin;

  • 178 new positive cases (2,756 total for the pandemic in Wisconsin)
  • 45 new hospitalizations (790 total hospitalizations- represents 29% of those who have tested positive)
  • 99 deaths (up 7 from Tuesday’s report of 92 deaths)
  • 30,115 negative test results (28,512 negative test results were reported on Tuesday)

Updated DHS testing numbers from Wednesday:

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