Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Jackson, Mississippi accuses biodiesel plant of illegal dumping … A high denial rate for Hawaii workers compensation claims linked to Covid … Gov. Gavin Newsom expresses regrets for attending outside restaurant gathering.
Governors in New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan and Washington state issued some of the toughest restrictions in the country over the weekend, telling residents that rising coronavirus spread necessitates the return of some lockdown measures. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown on Friday ordered a “freeze,” saying limits that cap social gatherings to six people will be enforced by law enforcement and violations are misdemeanor crimes. “For the last eight months I have been asking Oregonians to follow the letter and the spirit of the law and we have not chosen to engage law enforcement. At this point in time, unfortunately, we have no other option,” she said. As of Wednesday, the state will also limit restaurants and bars to take-out service, mandate gyms, movie theaters and similar venues to close and require businesses to tell employees to work from home, when possible. The same day, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico issued an order requiring the two-week shutdown of all non-essential businesses. “Stay at home,” she said. “If you don’t have to go out, please don’t.” On Sunday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee followed with his own set of strict restrictions, including one only allowing indoor gatherings with people outside a household if everybody has quarantined for at least a week and tested negative. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday evening issued the state's new restrictions, including requiring colleges and high schools to shift to all remote-only learning for three weeks. Whitmer also ordered high school athletics to stop, closed down movie theaters and similar venues and prohibited indoor dining at restaurants. Whitmer, Inslee, Lujan Grisham and Brown are all Democrats. North Dakota, which is dealing with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country, took a smaller step, with Republican Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday issuing a statewide mask mandate. Burgum has resisted a state requirement, saying people needed to step up and wear masks on their own. In a video message released Saturday, Burgum said the month-long mandate needed to be issued. “Our situation has changed, and we must change with it,” he said. [Oregonian; Oregon Public Broadcasting; Santa Fe New Mexican; Seattle Times; Detroit News; Associated Press]
FRUSTRATED TRACERS | People in Iowa reached by contact tracers are being evasive, while others don’t pick up when public health officials reach out. “It’s to the point where we know people are lying to us,” said Christine Estle, a nurse who is administrator of the Jefferson County Health Department. With Iowa reaching as many as 4,000 new cases a day, tracers also say they are overwhelmed. [Des Moines Register]
BIODIESEL LAWSUITS | The city of Jackson, Mississippi accused biodiesel manufacturer Jaxon Energy LLC in lawsuits of dumping hazardous materials into waterways and failing to pay for water. The city says the plant, which converts vegetable oils into fuel, repeatedly failed to report leaks into the waterways, while higher ups told employees to conceal safety problems. An attorney for Jaxon said the plant operators deny any wrongdoing and take environmental compliance seriously. [Clarion Ledger]
WORKERS COMP | More than half of the 400 Hawaiian workers who filed for workers compensation related to the coronavirus were denied. A spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said the initial denial rate is higher than usual because employers and insurance companies are investigating where people caught the virus. [Civil Beat]
NEWSOM REGRETS | California Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed regrets about his decision to attend a 12-person gathering outside at the French Laundry restaurant, saying while the restaurant followed health protocols he and his wife “should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner.” California’s coronavirus rules forbid gatherings of more than three households and requires that they be held outside. But a Newsom spokesman said the birthday party was in compliance with state protocols because it was at a restaurant, which have their own requirements that must be followed. [San Francisco Chronicle]