Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Tornadoes in Tennessee … Jacksonville cracks down on sex trafficking … New Mexico establishes ‘Senior Dignity’ fund.
State and local officials are grappling with different challenges to the growing threat posed by the coronavirus. In King County, Washington, the epicenter of COVID-19 in the state, officials are moving to buy a motel to house people in recovery, who need to be isolated during treatment. Director of Public Health Patty Hayes said that hospitals do not have sufficient space to deal with the increasing number of cases. “Even this early in the outbreak, our hospitals are feeling the strain,” she said. A total of nine people have died from the coronavirus in Washington state, including a patient in nearby Snohomish County. Officials say at least 19 people in the two counties are diagnosed with the disease. Schools in the Puget Sound region closed on Monday for more vigorous cleaning, including some that remained closed on Tuesday. The King County Metro Transit also vowed to more regularly clean buses. In Texas, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg lambasted the CDC for releasing someone from quarantine who had been evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and was later tested to be “weakly positive” for the disease. More than 120 cruise ship evacuees had been held in quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “As mayor of this city I find it totally unacceptable that the CDC would release a patient prior to receiving all test results and potentially exposing the public to this harm … we cannot have a screw up like this from our federal partners,” Nirenberg said. On Monday, Nirenberg declared a public health emergency and went to court to get a temporary restraining order to stop the federal government from releasing more evacuees from quarantine. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez denied the city’s request, but said he shared the concerns of local officials. “The United States government is, in effect, washing its own hands further of this quarantine. This is disappointing. Nonetheless, plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order is denied,” he wrote. Nirenberg then banned evacuees from entering the city after they are released. Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom declined to declare a state emergency, despite the fact that several cities and counties have declared local emergencies. “We have been in constant contact with federal agencies. We have history and expertise in this space. We are not overreacting, but nor are we underreacting to the understandable anxiety that many people have as it relates to this novel virus,” Newsom said. [Los Angeles Times; San Antonio Express-News; TIME; MyNorthwest; Everett Herald; Seattle Times]
TORNADOES | Tornadoes in and around Nashville killed at least 25 people Tuesday and damaged homes and other buildings, including at least three schools. Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay off the roads when possible as they voted on Super Tuesday. “Of course we want people to exercise caution in places like downtown Nashville, but we also want people to exercise their rights and get out and vote,” he said. In Mount Juliet, 20 miles east of Nashville, police tweeted that the “community has been impacted significantly. We continue to search for injured. Stay home if you can. Watch for downed power lines.” [Weather Channel; Washington Post]
SEX TRAFFICKING | The Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida plans to sign into law a bill that establishes stricter regulations on strip clubs and creates the Sex Trafficking Survivors Leadership Council. One of the biggest changes for strip clubs is raising the minimum allowable age for someone to work as an erotic dancers from 18 to 21. “What this does is it takes the most vulnerable population, the most vulnerable women and men who are going to be brought into sex trafficking, it removes them from the situation that is very dangerous for them. So it removes that teenage population,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. Florida is ranked third nationally for reported cases of human trafficking abuses, a statistic that prompted Jacksonville City Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber to author the bill. “It’s definitely a significant issue here. It’s really something that’s happening every day in our city,” she said. [News 4 JAX]
SENIOR DIGNITY | New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law legislation aimed at improving services for seniors. The Senior Dignity Fund will help the state, which is expected to have the fourth-largest senior population in the U.S. by 2030, provide things like transportation, food, and healthcare to low-income seniors. “It is well past time that New Mexico steps up for its seniors, supporting their independence and providing for their needs,” Lujan Grisham said. [New Mexico Political Report]
BEER AND WINE | South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law a measure that legalizes beer and wine brewing classes on university campuses in the state. Classes will still have to be held off campus. [KELO]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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