Anti-pipeline push, Lynyrd Skynyrd, gopher frogs: News from around our 50 states

·52 min read

Alabama

Montgomery: Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday reallocated $12.3 million of the state’s coronavirus relief funds to hire travel nurses to help hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. The Republican governor announced the move as the state continues to see a surge in virus cases, straining hospital resources and staff. “I’m pleased to see more folks getting vaccinated, but we are still in the thick of COVID-19 and our hospitals are overwhelmed,” Ivey said in a statement. “The money is coming from the state’s share of CARES Act funds. Until our vaccination rates rise and our COVID-19 hospitalization rates fall, we will need the extra support these nurses provide.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a nurse staffing crisis, sending U.S. hospitals into a competition for travel nurses and staff to handle the crush of patients this summer. Hospitals need more staff to handle the patient loads, while some nurses have left because they are exhausted, taken lucrative travel jobs or are out sick because they themselves are sick with COVID-19. Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery, like hospitals across the country, has turned to travel staff to fill positions. “It’s a national arms race for clinical talent,” CEO Peter Selman, said. He said the hospital is paying up to $155 an hour to national staffing firms.

Alaska

Juneau: Residents in Wrangell and Petersburg now have the ability to text 911 for help when calling isn’t an option. “It’s been working out excellent,” Petersburg Police Department Chief James Kerr said. “It’s designed for the hearing impaired or domestic violence situations. If you can’t talk to the dispatch but you need help, you can text.” A third-party provider helped implement the technology with the two police departments. “One of the really big benefits I see with this is for search and rescue,” Kerr said, noting Alaska’s rugged terrain can make it difficult to get a call signal. “But you can send a text through. It gives us GPS coordinates and everything else.” The Juneau Police Department is also investigating a similar system, Lt. Krag Campbell said in an email to the Juneau Empire. He noted texting 911 could be useful in active shooter situations or other times when speaking into the phone would put a caller at risk, betraying their position. Currently, the option is only available to AT&T and GCI customers, Kerr said. Texters using other providers get a message that the service is not available. No one has texted police yet with it, other than kids trying to play a prank. But the text sent to emergency services also comes with the texter’s location, allowing police to arrive at the kids’ location and caution them not to misuse the service.

Arizona

Mesquite Elementary School Principal Diane Vargo with students.
Mesquite Elementary School Principal Diane Vargo with students.

Tucson: The father of an elementary school student was arrested after he and two other men showed up to the campus with zip ties, threatening to make a “citizen’s arrest” on the principal over a coronavirus quarantine, school officials said Friday. Diane Vargo, principal of Mesquite Elementary School in Tucson, said the parent came to her office Thursday with his son in tow. The father was upset the child would have to isolate and miss a school field trip because of possible exposure to someone with COVID-19. She said two other men also “barged in.” One was carrying “military, large, black zip ties and standing in my doorway.” Vargo said she tried to deescalate the situation while explaining the school had to follow county health protocols. “I felt violated that they were in my office claiming I was breaking the law and they were going to arrest me,” a visibly shaken Vargo said in a video statement released by the Vail Unified School District. “Two of the men weren’t parents at our school, so I felt threatened.” In a video posted on social media, Vargo can be heard calmly asking them to leave. One of them replies they aren’t leaving because they’re not going to let her control the situation. The principal called Tucson police. School officials said the man arrested was the father. Vargo said they are pursuing charges against the other two men.

Arkansas

Paris: The Frontier’s Day festival returns to town Oct. 2. Tonya Fletcher, executive director of the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the festival, described Frontier’s Day as “where yesterday meets today for today.” This year marks the 43rd year Paris has celebrated Frontier’s Day. Typically, the festival draws 3,000 to 4,000 people each year, but Fletcher said it is hard to say how many people the pandemic will keep at home. “I still think we’ll have a good crowd,” she said, allowing that it will likely be a smaller gathering than in the past. Frontier’s Day will officially begin at 9 a.m. and end at 4 p.m., but Paris will celebrate its monthly “First Fridays” music night the evening prior, wrapping at 11 p.m. For the festival, the city will block off three sides of the square, only leaving Highway 22 open to traffic. Frontier’s Day has fun activities lined up for all ages, Fletcher said. Children can roam the free pumpkin patch, where they can pick out pumpkins to decorate. There will be live music, and the day will begin with a parade and end with a pageant. During opening ceremonies, area historian Curtis Varnell will discuss the legacy of the Paris Courthouse, which turned 150 this year.

California

San Francisco: The mysterious deaths of a Northern California family of hikers and their dog have led federal officials to close 28 miles along the Merced River, where high levels of toxic algae were detected. The Bureau of Land Management closed campgrounds and recreation areas along the river, between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby, on Friday after receiving test results of water samples downstream from where the family died. Algal blooms can form in waterways that are shallow and warm. “These algal blooms can produce toxins that can make people and pets extremely sick,” Elizabeth Meyer-Shields, a BLM field manager, said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor for the algae’s presence and look forward to when the public can safely recreate in the Merced River.” The bodies of John Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and their dog were found Aug. 17 on a hiking trail close to the river in the Sierra National Forest. A family friend had reported them missing. A cause of death has not been determined, and investigators are considering whether toxic algal blooms or other hazards may have contributed to the deaths. Toxicology reports are still pending, and investigators have ruled out any weapons being used or dangerous gases from a mine along the trail.

Colorado

Denver: The state’s nonpartisan redistricting commission has proposed a congressional map that would create a new swing seat in the northern Denver suburbs and lump conservative firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert into a Boulder-based, solidly Democratic seat currently held by liberal Rep. Joe Neguse. The proposal from the commission staff Friday would rearrange the political geography as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. It’s the first test of the commission model approved by voters in 2018. The map will be followed by a series of hearings, along with a map of state legislative districts. Both may change significantly in the weeks to come as the commission races to meet an end-of-the-month deadline to approve maps. The congressional map keeps the four Democratic seats relatively safe, as well as preserving three as solidly Republican. It would add a new swing seat running from Adams County to Greeley that voted Democratic by 1.9 percentage points in last year’s Senate election. That could make the final breakdown of the state’s congressional districts 4-4, an underwhelming split for Democrats in a state they won by 13 points in last year’s presidential election. Still, Democrats see the map as an improvement over the initial map, which had a similar partisan division.

Connecticut

Hartford: Nursing homes will once again be allowed to hire temporary nursing aides as they deal with staffing shortages during the pandemic. Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday signed an executive order that revives the state’s nurses aides program that was used last year. Under the program, the temporary workers will be allowed to provide nursing-related services – but nothing that requires a license. The governor’s office said the idea is to use those aides to help serve residents who do not have COVID-19, allowing permanent staff to focus on patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The measure also will assure adequate staffing at long-term care facilities, which have struggled with hiring and retaining workers, the governor’s office said. Connecticut recorded 111 cases of COVID-19 among nursing home patients and 94 cases among staff between Aug. 18 and Aug. 31, according to the state Department of Health. There were 16 patient deaths related to the coronavirus during that time and none among staff. The governor on Friday also extended to Sept. 27 the deadline for nursing home workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Delaware

Wilmington: Numerous Walgreens pharmacies across the state have been unable to process prescriptions because of flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. The internet services vendor for the stores was affected by the historic flooding Thursday, bringing delays for people receiving vital medications. Walgreens has apologized for the inconvenience. The company said it is working to address the issues that have caused the delays. “Our internet services vendor is currently working to fully restore their operations as a result of the storms in the Northeast, which has resulted in some technical difficulties causing longer than normal wait times in several of our stores,” a Walgreens spokesperson said in an email over the weekend. “I ended up at the urgent care on Friday because my throat was starting to close due to an allergic reaction I had and couldn’t get my meds in time,” one person commented on a Facebook post about the issue from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “This is an issue and delay of care that represent lives at risk.”

District of Columbia

Washington: A new art exhibit in the nation’s capital is remembering the twin towers, just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The show opened Saturday at the National Building Museum and features more than 50 years of photos of the World Trade Center, WUSA-TV reports. The images, all captured by photographer Camilo Jose Vergara, chart the history of the iconic towers from their construction to the attack that brought them down and what came next. “I closely followed the construction of the towers, watching heavy trucks bring in steel or haul away dirt amid the noise of jackhammers and clanging metal,” Vergara wrote in an essay accompanying the photographs. “As they rose to become the tallest buildings in the world, I regarded them as a wild expression of mistaken priorities in a troubled time. “Eventually, my early resentment faded, and I grew to see them as great human creations. As I traveled farther away to photograph the towers from distant boroughs, they seemed to lose their solidity and become mysterious, fantastic, and alluring.” Chrysanthe Broikos, a consulting curator at the National Building Museum, said she hopes the exhibit inspires visitors to think about what the towers and those who worked there meant to the world, as well as how the world responded when they fell.

Florida

Scott Hill said the old store was a hangout for generations of kids.
Scott Hill said the old store was a hangout for generations of kids.

Jacksonville: The store that inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” has been demolished. Jacksonville’s Woodcrest Grocery Building, where Ronnie Van Zant allegedly met “the finest picker to ever play the blues,” was torn down late last month. The abandoned store was a hangout for generations of kids. The song, written by Van Zant and Allen Collins, tells the story of a young boy who collected bottles to raise money so the old man who hung out at the corner store could play his dobro. Curtis Loew was fictional, but the store was real. It was known as Claude’s in the late ’50s and early ’60s and was right down the street from the house where Van Zant was raised. Scott Hill, who grew up in the neighborhood, said fans started dropping by the site last week to grab cinder blocks as souvenirs after hearing about the demolition. Gene Odom, who wrote a book about the band and leads tours of Lynyrd Skynyrd landmarks for fans, said the building has been vacant for decades. The building started collapsing during the demolition of nearby trailers and had to be taken down. A real estate group said a residential home will be built there. The band is still touring but pulled out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame concert last month after guitarist Rickey Medlocke tested positive for the coronavirus.

Georgia

Atlanta: Morehouse College announced Friday that it has canceled this year’s homecoming festivities due to a surge of COVID-19. Events were scheduled to occur Oct. 10-17 and will not be rescheduled. The Oct. 16 football game against Fort Valley State University will still be played but without the “homecoming” designation and with fewer tickets available to the game to implement social distancing. University officials said they made the decision last week as Georgia broke its record for COVID-19 hospitalizations. “The state has the sixth-highest per capita infection rate in the nation, and an unprecedented number of young people have become ill with the virus,” Morehouse President David Thomas said. “Given the circumstances, a massive in-person gathering on our campus presents a public health risk to our students which is impossible to ignore.” Thomas said nearly 100% of the students and employees on campus have met the school’s vaccination requirement. With “aggressive” masking requirements and other safety protocols, Morehouse has limited the spread of the coronavirus on campus, he said. But he had to consider the broader community. “Keeping our students safe is our top priority,” he said. In place of homecoming, the school will host a students-only fall festival.

Hawaii

Honolulu: President Joe Biden’s appointment of two Native Hawaiians to the U.S. Department of the Interior could influence federal policy for the state’s Indigenous people and other Pacific Islanders. Summer Sylva, who is currently head of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, was appointed last week as senior adviser for Native Hawaiian affairs. Keone Nakoa, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, has been appointed deputy assistant secretary for insular and international affairs. The positions carry a great deal of influence over federal policy involving Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, Hawaii Public Radio reports. Sylva will report directly to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to lead the agency. “She’s in a critical role to be in the secretary’s inner circle,” said Esther Kia’aina, a Honolulu City councilwoman who led the department’s Office of Insular Affairs under former President Barack Obama’s administration. Sylva’s appointment signals the agency’s desire to tackle Native Hawaiian issues, including homelands and self-governance, Kia’aina said. Nakoa will be serving in an office that oversees the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Idaho

Boise: State officials are boosting pay and offering bonuses to try to attract and maintain correctional officers. About 24% of correctional officer positions at the Idaho Department of Correction were vacant last month, including 190 vacancies at the agency’s prisons in Kuna, south of Boise. “Attracting and hiring the right people to our security ranks is only one part of the equation,” Jeff Ray, the department’s public information officer, told the Idaho Press. “We’re putting an equal amount of emphasis on retaining the staff who have and continue to admirably serve the people of Idaho.” New correctional officers will receive $19 an hour, up from the previous $16.75. New hires will also get $1,500 bonuses and be eligible for $1,500 yearly retention bonuses during their first five years. Current employees will see hourly raises ranging from $0.75 for wardens to $2.25 for correctional officers starting Sept. 5. Also, on Oct. 15, all current correctional officers will receive a one-time retention bonus of $1,500. Correctional officers often must work mandatory 16-hour shifts because there aren’t enough workers. Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt said the pay Idaho offers correctional workers isn’t competitive with surrounding states, such as an Oregon prison paying new correctional officers $22.64 an hour.

Illinois

Chicago: Years in the making, the visitor center and state historic site grounds at the Pullman National Monument have officially opened to the public. Chicago’s first national monument marks the site where Pullman passenger railroad cars were built. Employees lived nearby in the neighborhood on the city’s South Side. The sprawling Pullman company factory closed in 1982. The National Park Services’ visitor center features exhibits on worker demonstrations that helped plant the seeds of the modern labor movement. For instance, Black railroad workers won a significant labor agreement in the 1930s that helped lead to worker protections. Robert Bushwaller, a Historic Pullman Foundation board member, said he was encouraged by the crowd Saturday. Some drove vintage cars to mark the opening day during the Labor Day weekend. “The public support has been better than expected,” Bushwaller told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The turnout is tremendous. They remember so much from how it used to be and want to see if it still tasted that way, and they’ve been satisfied.” Former President Barack Obama designated the factory and surrounding area a national monument in 2015. Restoration and revitalization at the site has been ongoing for years.

Indiana

Indianapolis: Gov. Eric Holcomb issued seven pardons to convicted criminals during his first year in office but hasn’t granted any more pardons in the past 31/2years, with officials saying the number of applications for the governor to clear criminal records has declined to a trickle, The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reports. Indiana’s expansive expungement law – first passed by the Legislature in 2013 – has meant fewer people seeking pardons, as that process of asking a judge to clear past convictions is both simpler and more private, said Charles Miller, vice chairman of the Indiana Parole Board. “Quite frankly, I knew the numbers were way down, but even I was shocked by just how low they were,” Miller said. “Speaking personally, pardons are the best part of my job, as you get to the good things people accomplish after what is usually just an unfortunate mistake.” The pardons Holcomb issued in 2017 were largely holdovers from when Mike Pence was governor. The most prominent case was that of Keith Cooper, whose pardon request over his conviction for a 1996 robbery in Elkhart languished under Pence even as the state parole board, the local prosecutor and witnesses supported his exoneration.

Iowa

Caleb Klipowicz, of the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, speaks as people participate in a "die-in" during a protest demanding more protections against COVID-19 on the University of Iowa campus, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, on the Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa.
Caleb Klipowicz, of the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, speaks as people participate in a "die-in" during a protest demanding more protections against COVID-19 on the University of Iowa campus, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, on the Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa City: The University of Iowa’s graduate student workers union is calling for stronger on-campus mitigation protocols against the coronavirus. The union members sent a list of demands to the UIowa administration and state’s Board of Regents in a letter dated Sept. 1 and followed that up Thursday morning with a “die-in” protest on the Pentacrest to draw attention to their plea. Demands include more remote work options, a mask mandate inside campus buildings, and required COVID-19 vaccinations or mandatory weekly virus testing of unvaccinated people, none of which are currently in place. The union represents about 250 members and 1,800 in the collective bargaining unit. Members hold a unique position at the university, as they are there not only to learn but to teach classes. Members of the organization approved the list of demands before it was sent out. “We are very concerned for our health and safety this fall,” the letter said. “We are deeply disturbed by the obligation we face to share spaces with others who may be putting us at risk, or whom we may be placing in danger, because of inconsistent vaccination and the optional status of mask wearing and social distancing on campus.” About two dozen people gathered on campus at 10 a.m. Thursday for the “die-in.”

Kansas

Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly has placed 87 of the state’s 105 counties under a drought watch or warning. Kelly said Thursday that most of the state has been in drought or abnormally dry conditions for several weeks, and she encouraged residents to do what the can to minimize the risk of fire. Fourteen counties were placed under a drought warning and 73 under a watch. The 18 counties not included in the declaration are all in southeast Kansas. The action was recommended by Connie Owen, director of the Kansas Water Office and chairwoman of the Governor’s Drought Response Team. Kelly said in a statement that while some areas have had normal or higher amounts of rain so far this year, counties in the northwest, central and south-central have received less than 60% of their normal precipitation. Owen said future outlooks call for the drought-like conditions to continue into the fall, particularly in the northwest counties.

Kentucky

Frankfort: Tucked into the pandemic-heavy agenda for a special legislative session is a request to strengthen Kentucky’s negotiating hand in trying to reel in mega-sized economic development projects. Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday that he will ask the GOP-led Legislature to give the state’s recruiting team more flexibility in offering incentives for investment projects topping $2 billion. “As we sit here today, we have at least five potential projects that would be that size,” Beshear told reporters. “In other words, the largest in our commonwealth’s history.” The Democratic governor announced Saturday that he’s calling lawmakers back to the statehouse for a special session that begins Tuesday and will be dominated by coronavirus-related issues. After winning a legal battle against Beshear, lawmakers will take the lead in crafting policies to respond to a recent surge of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, fueled by the delta variant of the virus. But Beshear is hoping the work on economic development policy helps put the state at the front of the pack in trying to land $2 billion-plus projects. Such a massive development would be certain to create loads of new jobs, with plenty of spin-off opportunities for even more job growth.

Louisiana

Paramedics evacuate people at a mass shelter Thursday in Independence, La., after Hurricane Ida blew through the area.
Paramedics evacuate people at a mass shelter Thursday in Independence, La., after Hurricane Ida blew through the area.

Baton Rouge: Families looking for their loved ones who evacuated from Hurricane Ida to a state shelter are getting help from the state. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services on Saturday launched “Connect,” a tool that will help families connect with each other. The number to call is 225-342-2727. Families can also fill out a form online to reach out to loved ones who may be in state-run shelter. The department said people will be required to provide the name, address and date of birth, if known, of the person they’re trying to find, as well as their name and contact information. DCFS will then determine whether the person is in one of the state’s congregate shelters and, if so, pass along the caller’s message. Individuals looking for loved ones evacuated from one of seven nursing homes linked to an evacuation warehouse site in Tangipahoa Parish should call 211, the department said.

Maine

Oxford: The state is continuing to try to slow the spread of the invasive emerald ash borer with new restrictions. The Maine Forest Service has issued an emergency order preventing the movement of ash trees and products from areas including Norway, Oxford and Lovell in Oxford County. The order limits the movement of ash trees for planting and ash tree products such as logs, pulpwood, lumber and firewood from areas that are considered likely to harbor the pest. The new areas are in addition to areas already covered by a quarantine. The state’s ban on untreated firewood from outside Maine remains in effect as another way of preventing the pest’s spread.

Maryland

Annapolis: Nursing homes in the state are seeing another rise in coronavirus cases, leading facilities to suspend visits from loved ones. The Washington Post reports the halt to visitations has led to a new wave of despair in facilities that were struck hard by COVID-19. The impact of loneliness on the health of the elderly has been extreme. Maryland has 227 nursing homes. Gov. Larry Hogan had ordered that all nursing home employees receive at least one vaccine dose by last week. Facilities that fail to comply will be subject to fines. The percentage of employees who have received a vaccine dose is 82%. At the same time, nearly 90% of all nursing home residents have had at least one vaccine dose, and 86.1% are fully inoculated. Meanwhile, outbreaks are rising in Maryland’s nursing homes. Outbreaks are defined by the federal government as at least one COVID-19 case. In July, fewer than 10 facilities had an outbreak. But by early August, there were 33. On Friday, there were 92.

Massachusetts

Salem: What started as a project to restore the gravestones of three Black men and women who played a role in the abolitionist movement on the North Shore is evolving into a larger effort to find and restore the final resting places for other African American families, officials said. In Salem’s Howard Street Cemetery, two of the stones marking the burial sites of Venus Chew, Prince Farmer and Samuel Payne, all of whom died in the 1850s, are broken into pieces, The Salem News reports. The graves to be restored are in what Rachel Meyer, a stone conservator with Epoch Preservation, described as a corner of the cemetery, effectively segregated from the main cemetery. They occupy a square piece of land the city donated to expand the cemetery to bury African Americans. The three stones in question have fallen over in time and were sinking into the ground when an area resident contacted Meyer about fixing them. Doreen Wade, president of Salem United, said she’s enthusiastically behind the project because of what it represents – more than just repairing fragmented gravestones, it’s repairing a fragmented story of Salem’s past.

Michigan

Flat Rock: A Ford plant is the source of benzene vapor in sewers that forced the evacuation of 10 homes and a school in the Detroit suburb of Flat Rock, according to state and company officials. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy confirmed Friday that the source of the flammable vapor is a fuel leak at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant. “HAZMAT technicians will begin mitigating flammable vapors in the municipal sanitary system by injecting fire suppressant foam. These activities will take place at various locations where levels of benzene have been detected in a 4-square-mile perimeter of Flat Rock,” the department said. Ford on Wednesday discovered “what originally looked to be a relatively small leak in a pipe that carries gasoline used to fuel vehicles built at the plant,” said Bob Holycross, Ford’s vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering. But on Friday, the company “determined that the scale of the fuel leak was much larger and that Ford is the likely source of the problem in Flat Rock, for which we apologize,” he said. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said in an email late Friday that an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline spilled into the sewers.

Minnesota

Bemidji: Four congressional Democrats who are part of the progressive “Squad” and want President Joe Biden to stop construction of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline traveled to the shores of the Mississippi River to make their plea. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Cori Bush of Missouri, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan spent the holiday weekend visiting Bemidji and other parts of northern Minnesota to speak with members of Indigenous communities and others who have been protesting the project. Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The 337-mile line in Minnesota is the last step in replacing the deteriorating pipeline that was built in the 1960s. “We have been encouraged by Joe Biden’s boldness so far,” Omar said, referencing his January decision to cancel a border-crossing permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would have carried oil from Canada to Nebraska. “Now we have another chance to reject a moving pipeline. We hope you will act.” Minnesota Republican legislators condemned the visit, which they said “will only serve to incite the obstructionists,” the Star Tribune reports.

Mississippi

A Mississippi Freedom Trail marker sits before the remains of Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Miss., on July 14. At the site in 1955, Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old, was accused of whistling at a white woman.
A Mississippi Freedom Trail marker sits before the remains of Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Miss., on July 14. At the site in 1955, Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old, was accused of whistling at a white woman.

Money: A historical marker describing the events leading up to the killing of Emmett Till was knocked down just days after the 66th anniversary of his death. The black Mississippi Freedom Trail marker with gold writing typically stands in front of the remains of Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market, where, in 1955, the Black 14-year-old was accused of whistling at a white woman. Till was later kidnapped, beaten and killed. The sign is part of the Mississippi Freedom Trail, a route dedicated to honoring people and places in the state that had a significant role in the civil rights movement. Allan Hammons, president of Hammons and Associates, which manages the Freedom Trail, said a large vehicle like a tractor-trailer likely accidently knocked the marker from its post. The area is under construction, and Hammons suspects the driver of the vehicle may have not even realized they hit the sign. The marker was picked up by workers with the LeFlore County road department and stored in a storage facility until Hammons can inspect it. The Emmett Till Interpretive Center tweeted Thursday that it believes someone ran the sign down with a vehicle and removed it. The sign details how Till stopped by the store for candy before his abduction and death.

Missouri

Jefferson City: Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is urging the General Assembly to prohibit local election workers from helping absentee voters correct mistakes, a move that would mean some votes aren’t counted. “We would like to see legislation that does not allow for curing of absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent told the House Elections Committee last week. “Curing” is a common term for fixing errors. The Kansas City Star reports the request adds to a growing list of measures advanced by Republicans to alter the state’s elections, including restoring a photo ID requirement and making it harder to amend the state constitution through voter-initiated ballot measures. Some similar proposals failed this year but could be considered again in the 2022 session. During the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Missouri lawmakers temporarily made all voters eligible to cast a ballot by mail but required most to have their ballot notarized. Missouri previously required an excuse for voting absentee. More than 28% of Missouri voters cast ballots by mail in November, up from 8% in 2018. “I don’t think we’re going to go back to the mail-in like we did during COVID,” said Republican Rep. Dan Shaul of Imperial, chairman of the House Elections Committee.

Montana

West Glacier: Wildlife workers at Glacier National Park trapped and killed a black bear that officials said became a public safety risk after it lingered around a campground. The bear took apples from an open vehicle trunk while visitors were nearby at the Many Glacier Campground, officials said. It kept returning despite park staff attempts to scare it away. It was later trapped near a housing area in a large trap made out of a culvert and was euthanized Thursday. The female bear was about 4 years old and 120 pounds, park officials said. It’s believed to be the same bear that had been approaching people near Glacier’s Grinnell Lake the week prior, prompting the closure of a trail. A necropsy showed the animal had been in healthy condition. But officials said it had become used to getting human food and was unlikely to break the habit. They said it could not be relocated due to safety concerns.

Nebraska

Lincoln: State education officials halted their plans Friday for new health education standards after criticism from some parents and conservative family-values groups that the content was sexually inappropriate. The State Board of Education voted 5-1 to indefinitely postpone the standards, with one member abstaining, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The standards were nonbinding recommendations, so local schools could simply have ignored them, but opponents still railed against the proposal. The new resolution the board passed says members will determine an appropriate time to address health education standards after considering the status of the pandemic and the needs of local children, schools and communities. Under board rules, any member can attempt to revive the process with support from the majority. The first draft released in March faced strong opposition, as did a second draft released in July, despite removal of many topics opponents disliked. The initial draft called for teaching children as young as first grade about gender identity and gender stereotypes and older children about homophobia, transphobia, and vaginal, oral and anal sex. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts blasted the draft, saying it was developed with input from activists and promoted “gender ideology.”

Nevada

Hundreds gather in Reno's City Plaza to protest the proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in an area of Nevada traditionally known as Peehee Mu'huh on June 12, 2021.
Hundreds gather in Reno's City Plaza to protest the proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in an area of Nevada traditionally known as Peehee Mu'huh on June 12, 2021.

Reno: A federal judge has denied tribal leaders’ bid to temporarily block digging for an archaeological study required before construction can begin for a lithium mine on what they say is sacred land where their ancestors were massacred more than century ago. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du refused three tribes’ request for a preliminary injunction blocking the trenching planned to collect samples near the Oregon state line at the site of the largest known lithium deposit in the United States. The tribes say their ancestors were massacred in the late 1800s at the proposed Thacker Pass site. Du emphasized in the ruling late Friday in Reno that she has pledged to hear and rule on the merits of the case before Lithium Nevada Corp. hopes to begin construction early next year on the mine the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved in January. She rejected a similar request in July for a preliminary injunction sought by environmentalists who claim the digging would destroy critical habitat for greater sage grouse. Du said Friday that she was “not unpersuaded by the tribes’ broader equitable and historical arguments.” But she said that there was no evidence the bureau acted unreasonably, nor that the mine was planned on an actual massacre site, and the agency has contingency plans if “human remains are unexpectedly discovered.”

New Hampshire

Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu was released from the hospital Saturday after tests confirmed Friday that a bleeding ulcer was the cause of his flu-like symptoms. The Republican will continue to recuperate at home, according to a statement from his office. “New Hampshire is blessed with amazing health care staff and generous blood donors,” Sununu said in the statement. “Valerie and I can’t thank them enough and are grateful for everyone’s prayers and positive outreach.” Sununu was admitted to Portsmouth Hospital on Friday after experiencing the flu-like symptoms since Wednesday. He had tested negative three times for the coronavirus. Sununu said Wednesday that he tested negative, hours after his office said he wasn’t feeling well, postponed a meeting and began isolating. Sununu, 46, is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 10.

New Jersey

A grain silo is down and cornfields are flattened at Wellacrest Farm in Mullica Hill, N.J., on Thursday, after a tornado.
A grain silo is down and cornfields are flattened at Wellacrest Farm in Mullica Hill, N.J., on Thursday, after a tornado.

Mullica Hill: One of the most intense tornadoes recorded in New Jersey history all but demolished the state’s largest dairy farm. When Marianne and Wally Eachus, the owners of Wellacrest Farms, came out of their basement along with other family on their homestead, they saw that two of their massive grain silos had toppled over. Some barns were completely reduced to concrete, with roofs ripped off others, equipment demolished and uprooted trees crashed into the old farmhouse. “There was just metal, wood, debris, everywhere,” Marianne Eachus said. Hundreds of cows were trapped under collapsed barns. Thirteen have died; a couple dozen more suffered injuries. A crew was milking when the twister ripped through and had only seconds to hide and hold on. They saw several cows swallowed by the funnel. Up to 100 cows were still missing Monday. Somehow, there were no more deaths on the dairy farm from the EF3 tornado spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. But the storm produced historic rain and massive flooding. Wellacrest Farms produces more than 17 million pounds of milk annually and works with other farmers to share and sell crops. There are 1,400 cows on the property. In the days after the destruction, the Eachus family has seen an outpouring of support and help, both physical and financial.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: A group of Democrats in the state House has outlined a package of criminal justice bills intended to combat crime that includes penalties for failing to safely store guns, enhanced pay for police, and changes in the pretrial supervision and bail system. A record-setting number of homicides in Albuquerque this year is spurring concerns about violent crime and shortcomings of the police and justice system. In a statement Thursday, 17 House Democrats announced a lengthy list of goals for the next regular legislative session in January. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she’ll put criminal justice initiatives on the agenda for the 30-day session that is confined to budget negotiations and a few additional governor-picked topics. Republican lawmakers are asking the Legislature to reconsider a long list of their recent crime bills that were rejected. House Democrats listed legislative goals in 16 bullet points. To address gun violence, the legislators want to place new restrictions on high-capacity magazines and establish an office of gun violence prevention. Enhanced penalties are part of the plan. Democrats want a longer statute of limitations on second-degree murder charges and tougher sanctions. A crackdown is proposed on property damage in the theft of copper and catalytic converters in automobiles.

New York

New York: A staff shortage at Rikers Island left two units without corrections officers for more than 24 hours last Tuesday and Wednesday, a prisoner reported, and a city oversight board said ongoing personnel problems factored in a wave of suicides in the jails since December. Two Rikers units were without corrections officers through at least through noon Wednesday, leaving inmates in the strange position of helping other inmates get to court transport and video conferences, said Terrence Ferguson, the hip-hop artist known as 2 Milly. “We are really running the dorm by ourselves. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ferguson, who is serving a sentence for gun possession. He said Wednesday that there had been no officer on his floor since 6 a.m. Tuesday. “I’ve been answering the phones,” he said. The two unmanned units together house about 80 prisoners. Department of Correction officials declined comment on whether parts of Rikers have gone unguarded for longer than 24 hours. But the department has acknowledged a personnel shortage. Officials have said that in July, about 3,500 of Rikers’ 8,500 officers either called in sick or were medically exempt from working with detainees. Another 2,300 just didn’t come in to work at some point. Rikers’ population has roughly doubled since July 2019.

North Carolina

Charlotte: A gay substitute teacher was wrongfully fired by a Roman Catholic school after he announced in 2014 on social media that he was going to marry his longtime partner, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn ruled Friday that Charlotte Catholic High School and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Charlotte violated Lonnie Billard’s federal protections against against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Cogburn granted summary judgment to Billard and said a trial must still be held to determine appropriate relief for him. “After all this time, I have a sense of relief and a sense of vindication. I wish I could have remained teaching all this time,” Billard said in a statement released Friday by the ACLU, which represented him in court. “Today’s decision validates that I did nothing wrong by being a gay man.” Billard taught English and drama full time at the school for more than a decade, earning its Teacher of the Year award in 2012. He then transitioned to a role as a regular substitute, according to his 2017 lawsuit. The defendants said they fired Billard not because he was gay but because “he engaged in ‘advocacy’ that went against the Catholic Church’s beliefs” when he publicly announced his engagement to another man, the ruling said.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The idea to split the state’s legislative districts in half for House seats hasn’t gained traction with lawmakers, but some voters groups say the concept would benefit tribal nations that don’t have enough residents to stand alone as legislative districts. The Legislature’s Redistricting Committee meets Wednesday in Fargo as the state continues to examine redrawing legislative districts. Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, who has served on redistricting committees since 1981, told the Bismarck Tribune splitting legislative districts would have to take into account tribal nations, and “that would make a difference according to how the Department of Justice views taking care of minority populations ... so we need to explore that, and it may happen,” Holmberg said. North Dakota Native Vote Executive Director Nicole Donaghy said subdistricts would allow “people on reservations to elect candidates of their choice.” She said in the past decade there have been elections encompassing the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in which “we’ve had several Native Americans run for county commission, run for a legislative seat for that district, and they were not able to be elected because of the dilution of the populations with the non-Native population that surrounds the reservation.”

Ohio

Protesters pushing the use of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment gather across the street from the Hamilton County Public Health building in Cincinnati's Corryville neighborhood Aug. 9.
Protesters pushing the use of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment gather across the street from the Hamilton County Public Health building in Cincinnati's Corryville neighborhood Aug. 9.

Cincinnati: A Butler County judge has ruled that West Chester Hospital cannot be compelled to administer ivermectin to a COVID-19 patient. Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Oster Jr. issued the ruling Monday morning as a 14-day temporary injunction granted by another judge expired. Ivermectin is an antiparasitic treatment commonly used for livestock and recommended by the FDA to treat “infections caused by some parasitic worms” in humans, as well as head lice and rosacea. Interest in the drug as a COVID-19 treatment has spiked, fueled by endorsements from allies of former President Donald Trump and some Fox News personalities. While some studies are underway, none of the major medical organizations recommend the drug as a treatment for COVID-19, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned that reports of poisoning related to ivermectin have increased threefold this year. The judge said it is “impossible not to feel sympathetic” for Julie Smith, the guardian for her husband, Jeffrey Smith, 51. He’s been in the hospital since July 15, according to court documents. But the judge wrote that he must leave emotions out of the decision and must also consider the rights of the hospital and the impact that forcing a hospital to give a drug could have.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The city is paying $2 million to settle a former death row inmate’s federal lawsuit over his 1988 conviction for two murders. Robert Lee Miller Jr. was set free in 1998 after DNA tests implicated a convicted rapist in the deaths. Miller sued in 2019 after an Oklahoma County judge ruled he had presented sufficient evidence to establish “a prima facie case of actual innocence of the crimes.” He had sought $95 million in compensatory and punitive damages. A jury trial had been set for January. He dismissed the case Friday after the Oklahoma City Council agreed 6-0 to the $2 million settlement. The city did not admit wrongdoing. “It was a tragedy from Day One,” said his attorney, Mark H. Barrett, of Norman. “If they had got DNA done before he got tried instead of afterward, all this would have been a very different story.” Miller, 62, has talked about using the settlement to start his own house-building business, Barrett said. In the lawsuit, the attorney complained that Oklahoma City police detectives used “bizarre, unreliable and coercive techniques” in their interrogations to fabricate a case against Miller. His attorney also blamed disgraced police chemist Joyce Gilchrist for Miller’s conviction and accused the city of condoning her shoddy, unreliable and fraudulent work.

Oregon

Salem: A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate action to improve fish passage at dams in the Willamette Basin. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that in a final opinion and order issued last week, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez said the Corps had for years failed to provide adequate passage for threatened chinook salmon and winter steelhead trout at dams it operates in the basin. “As evinced by the listed species’ continuing decline, the Corps’ failure to provide adequate fish passage and mitigate water quality issues is causing substantial, irreparable harm to the salmonids,” Hernandez wrote in the opinion. The order comes after the court decided in favor of three environmental organizations that sued the Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Service, arguing the agencies weren’t doing their part to protect the species. Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Upper Willamette River system are both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Dams on the Willamette and its tributaries have blocked access to spawning grounds for the fish, contributing to population declines.

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg: The Republican leader of the state Senate and a group of parents filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn the Wolf administration’s new mask mandate for schools. The governor’s spokesperson dismissed what she called the GOP’s “effort at undermining public heath.” The suit, filed in Commonwealth Court, asserts that Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam failed to comply with state law when she ordered masks to be worn in all Pennsylvania public and private schools, as well as child care facilities. The masking order isn’t valid because it didn’t go through the state’s regulatory review process, the lawsuit said. It also accused the Wolf administration of trying to circumvent newly approved constitutional amendments limiting a governor’s emergency powers. “The Secretary of Health’s order subjects healthy, non-infected teachers, children, students, staff, and visitors ... to the wearing of face coverings,” the suit said. The plaintiffs, it said, are “not patients, they are heathy, non-infected children.” The parents said in affidavits that they intend to send their children to school without masks, claiming Beam’s order is illegal. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the masking order. The court scheduled a hearing for Sept. 16.

Rhode Island

Providence: Nineteen fire departments are getting a total of $5.5 million in federal grants that can be used to buy new equipment and upgrade training to enhance public safety, the state’s congressional delegation said. “These grants will help lift the budgetary burden on local governments and better protect the health and safety of the public and firefighters,” Sen. Jack Reed said in a statement Friday. The Warwick Fire Department is getting the largest chunk of the grant money, including almost $900,000 for an aerial ladder truck and more than $100,000 for portable radio equipment. The East Providence Fire Department is getting more than $800,000 for paramedic training. The Newport Fire Department is receiving more than $400,000 for portable radio units, mobile repeaters and associated communications equipment. The Federal Emergency Management Agency grants are also going to departments and fire districts in Bristol; Central Falls; East Greenwich; Johnston; Lincoln; Narragansett; North Kingstown; Pascoag; Portsmouth; Providence; Prudence Island; the Rhode Island Firefighting Academy in Exeter; West Warwick; and Woonsocket.

South Carolina

This gopher frog is one of 144 recently released after being given a "Head Start" at Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo.
This gopher frog is one of 144 recently released after being given a "Head Start" at Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo.

Columbia: Wildlife scientists and Riverbanks Zoo are teaming up to save endangered gopher frogs. The survival rate of the eggs and tadpoles for the frogs is extremely low, so the Department of Natural Resources finds the eggs in Lowcountry wetlands, and the zoo raises them in captivity. “It’s a matter of how we can best use our strengths for species conservation,” Natural Resources herpetologist Andrew Grosse said in a statement. Wildlife scientists are also working to restore habitat for gopher frogs so that the eggs and tadpoles have a better chance at survival when they are returned to the wild, Grosse said. The frogs live in longleaf pines and are a good indicator at the health of that environmental system. “They have a very complex life history and highly specialized habitat requirements,” Grosse said. “All of the pieces must be in place and functioning at a high level to support these fragile populations.” Several hundred frogs have been saved through the South Carolina program and similar efforts in North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, officials said. The project is attempting to keep the frogs off the federal endangered species list. Scientists are calling it “Head Start” since it gives the frogs a head start at surviving.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem wants to pass tougher abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law banning most abortions in that state to go forward. The Texas law, which took effect Wednesday, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before many women know they’re pregnant. “Following the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the pro-life (Texas) law in place, I have directed the Unborn Child Advocate in my office to immediately review the new (Texas) law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro life laws on the books in (South Dakota),” Noem said in a statement on social media Thursday. Women in South Dakota are currently barred from terminating a pregnancy after 22 weeks. Noem has previously said she wants to ban abortions completely, with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The Texas law authorizes private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding an abortion, including someone who drives a woman to a clinic. The law is being challenged by Planned Parenthood and other groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota has vowed to push back against more abortion restrictions.

Tennessee

Memphis: A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order late Friday blocking Gov. Bill Lee from allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements in Shelby County. U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman issued the temporary restraining order for the county’s schools after it was sought by the parents of two children with health problems. The parents argued in a federal lawsuit filed the week prior that the Republican governor endangered students with health conditions and hurt their ability to attend in-person classes by allowing parents to opt out of a mask mandate via an executive order. The temporary restraining order remains in effect until Sept. 17. The students attend school in the Memphis suburbs of Collierville and Germantown, which began classes Aug. 9 under a universal mask requirement issued by the Shelby County Health Department. Lee resisted implementing a statewide mask mandate for schools, and he had initially left the decision to local officials. But on Aug. 16, he signed a statewide order allowing parents to opt out of the requirement for nonmedical reasons. Hundreds of students have been attending classes without masks ever since. The parents’ lawsuit claims Lee’s order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Texas

Dallas: A judge has temporarily shielded some abortion clinics from being sued by the state’s largest anti-abortion group under a new law banning most abortions. The temporary restraining order was issued Friday by District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to a Planned Parenthood request. Although the law remains in effect, the judge’s order shields Planned Parenthood’s clinics, specifically, from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and people working in concert with the group. A hearing on a preliminary injunction request is scheduled for Sept. 13. The law, which took effect Wednesday, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy and before some women realize they’re pregnant. The law also leaves enforcement to private citizens through lawsuits instead of to prosecutors through criminal charges. Planned Parenthood said in a statement Friday that the law was “already decimating abortion access in the state, as providers are forced to turn people away” once cardiac activity can be detected. It said historically, 85% to 90% of women who have gotten abortions in Texas were at least six weeks into their pregnancies.

Utah

Farmington: A paraplegic man who was injured on a roller coaster is now suing an amusement park, saying his paralyzed leg wasn’t properly secured while he was on the ride, and his foot was shredded. The Salt Lake Tribune reports Matthew Christensen filed the lawsuit against Lagoon Amusement Park on Thursday in Davis County’s 3rd District Court. The lawsuit said Christensen’s ligament in his big toe was “irreparably shredded,” and he suffered fractures to his lower leg, toe, and two other foot bones. A spokesman for the theme park in Farmington, north of Salt Lake City, said he couldn’t speculate on the facts of the incident, which are under investigation. “The ride in question has a lap restraint similar to others used throughout the amusement industry,” Adam Leishman said. Christensen is paralyzed from the waist down and was using a wheelchair at the park during an October 2020 visit with his family and a friend. Christensen’s son and friend helped transfer him from the wheelchair to the roller coaster car. According to the lawsuit, Christensen had the lap restraint secured correctly, but his right leg was not secured properly by the leg restraint, which caused the man’s paralyzed leg to dangle below, and he was injured when it got caught in the platform.

Vermont

Montpelier: The first two years of a state program set up to keep patients healthier while reducing costs saved money on Medicare patients and kept more people out of the hospital, an evaluation of the program has found. The report commissioned by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and released last week looked at the first two years of Medicare participation in Vermont in what is known as the all-payer model of health care. The report found that in 2018 and 2019, the costs for Medicare patients in the system being studied saved about 4.7% from the previous year. For all of Vermont’s Medicare patients, the system saved about 6.5% over the previous year. In 2019 the system reduced by almost 18% acute care hospital stays by people in the system. It reduced the acute care days patients stayed in the hospital by 14.7% and reduced the number of people being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days by 12.4%. “Those declines are very encouraging,” Ena Backus, Vermont’s director of Health Care Reform, said Friday. The same report found the project run by the organization OneCare Vermont has not signed up as many people to participate in the system as had been hoped. In 2019 it had been hoped the program would be covering 75% of eligible Medicare patients, but it reached only 47%.

Virginia

Richmond: Curbside recycling pickup for some in the area has been delayed by labor shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the hot weather. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority has warned customers that shortages of drivers and other waste workers could cause delays. The authority oversees waste and recycling collection in 13 local jurisdictions. The authority said Friday that residential recycling pickups that normally occur on Thursdays in a number of areas have been delayed for at least a week. TFC Recycling, a Chesapeake-based company that performs collections for about 265,000 residences in the authority’s jurisdiction, said pandemic-related labor shortages also affecting other businesses have made it harder to hire and retain drivers and other workers. The summer heat has made it even harder to find people to do the hands-on work. “In the last several months, we have had some real issues trying to recruit and maintain drivers – not only drivers but helpers, too,” said Tad Phillips, general manager of TFC’s Richmond-area operations, told the newspaper. Hiring has also become harder as package delivery companies compete for some of the same workers for their trucks as people turn to online ordering during the pandemic.

Washington

Olympia: Days after suing to block what is believed to be among the nation’s strictest COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates, Washington’s largest state labor union has announced a tentative agreement for Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for state workers. The Northwest News Network reports the Washington Federation of State Employees has negotiated terms for Inslee’s mandate that all 46,000 of its union members be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs. The Democratic governor issued the order in August, citing the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The union countered with a labor complaint, claiming Inslee’s administration was bargaining in bad faith. The new agreement, which still needs to be ratified, was announced Saturday and defines the exceptions and religious and medical exemptions process for employees who can’t or won’t get their shots. “This agreement is a victory for both public health and due process,” WFSE said in a statement. “It puts in place a fair, equitable and consistent process for members seeking a legitimate exemption to the mandate.” Anyone who is eligible to retire by the end of the year can forgo the vaccine if they use accrued or unpaid leave until they reach their retirement date.

West Virginia

Charleston: The state had one of its worst weeks of the coronavirus pandemic as the number of newly confirmed cases neared a seven-day record. The 6,705 confirmed statewide cases for the six days ending Saturday already surpassed the previous week’s total and were the fourth-highest for any week since the first case was reported in the state in March 2020, according to state health data. The record is nearly 8,200 confirmed cases for the week ending Jan. 10, followed by about 7,600 cases the week ending Jan. 3. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units was 216, just shy of the record 219 set on Jan. 6. On July 4, there were only 17 virus patients in hospital ICUs across the state. And the number of patients on hospital ventilators has surpassed the previous high of 104 set Jan. 10.

Wisconsin

Jacob Ryan, left, and Trent Lueck use rakes to harvest cranberries in 2005 in Pittsville, Wis. Wisconsin is the nation's leading cranberry-producing state.
Jacob Ryan, left, and Trent Lueck use rakes to harvest cranberries in 2005 in Pittsville, Wis. Wisconsin is the nation's leading cranberry-producing state.

Junction City: The state’s cranberry crop is expected to end up being about average – or maybe even above average – by the time harvest begins in about a month. The U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee forecast in August that Wisconsin growers will produce 4.92 million barrels this year. But Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association Executive Director Tom Lochner said this year’s estimated crop is closer to the state’s average of 5.5 million barrels. “We still have a few weeks to go before we start harvesting, and the continued warm weather might help the fruit size up a little bit,” Lochner told Wisconsin Public Radio. Dave Hansen, manager of DuBay Cranberry Company in Junction City, said this summer’s weather was warmer and drier than he prefers, but the crop ended up looking good. Lochner said the COVID-19 pandemic has helped boost domestic sales of the fruit, with more people consuming cranberry juice and dried fruit at home, while international sales tapered off during the pandemic, perhaps due to tariffs. The European Union has maintained a 25% tariff on U.S. cranberry products. The pandemic has also created labor issues for the cranberry industry. Lochner said some growers have been working to bring in migrant workers from Southern states to help this fall.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: Cheyenne-based Big Boy No. 4014 returns home Tuesday from a monthlong tour of the nation. Led by Ed Dickens, the Union Pacific Heritage Steam program’s showpiece is the massive locomotive that concluded its restoration in 2019 with a tour that marked the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which became known as the “overland route” that linked the nation. The steam locomotive, along with 15 support and vintage railcars, is expected to arrive at the Steam Shop in Cheyenne about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. It should be visible on track on the east end of town starting about 1 p.m, arriving from Greeley, Colorado, its last official stop before arriving home in Cheyenne. Dickens runs the Steam Shop and the UP’s Heritage program, and he is usually found in the engineer’s seat on Big Boy while it is en route. “It’s been excellent,” he said of the 2021 tour. “Our collaboration with our colleagues across the Union Pacific has ensured that we’re consistently running on time, much to the delight of the huge crowds that have greeted us everywhere we’ve been.” The completely rebuilt vintage steam engine has performed outstandingly throughout the trip,” Dickens said. “All of the long hours we put into its restoration and continuing maintenance are paying off.”

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anti-pipeline push, Lynyrd Skynyrd: News from around our 50 states