Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Money runs out on Honolulu rail project … El Paso County plans to set up 10 mobile morgues as Covid deaths rise … Most Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical of ACA challenge.
Overwhelmed hospitals in North Dakota will now be allowed to use doctors and nurses with asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 on wards caring for coronavirus patients, Gov. Doug Burgum said Monday. The Republican governor said hospitals in the state, which has been experiencing a surge in cases for weeks now, soon will be beyond their capacities. The provision to allow health care workers who test positive for Covid to continue working if they are able is allowed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance when there are staffing shortages. These workers will need to enter their nursing home or hospital by a separate entrance, work only with Covid patients and be dressed in full personal protective equipment. “We’re confident it can (work) under the narrow restrictions that we have,” Burgum said. The governor said the state will also send out rapid tests to help with testing shortages, as well as hire more emergency medicine technicians to help with testing so nurses can be deployed to the strapped hospitals. [Grand Forks Herald; Bismarck Tribune]
STALLED RAIL | Money has run out for an elevated rail line project in Honolulu that currently terminates near a highway instead of in the city’s downtown area. The project, begun in 2011 and meant to allow people to easily commute to work instead of making their way through terrible traffic, has grown from $5.5 billion to more than $9 billion—and could become even more expensive. [Associated Press]
EL PASO MORGUES | El Paso County, Texas, plans to set up a total of 10 mobile morgues and extend its shutdown order as Covid cases climb in the county. The number of people dying from the disease in El Paso has already overwhelmed the ability of health officials to investigate the deaths, which is why the county plans to set up more temporary morgue space. Trying to keep people at home is also imperative, said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. “The hospitals are still not manageable. We’re having an inability to manage fatalities,” Samaniego said. “It leaves me no choice but to lean towards an extension of the order.” [KFOX]
PARTIAL MASK MANDATE | Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a partial mask requirement on Tuesday, saying people will be required to wear masks at any event with more than 25 people indoors or 100 people outdoors. Events with more than 10 people will also be required to maintain social distancing between groups. Masks will also be required in places like salons and barber shops. “You can still eat in a restaurant, you can still go to a movie and work out at the gym, and in many states you can’t do that," Reynolds said. [Des Moines Register]
ACA AND SUPREME COURT | Most Supreme Court justices gave a skeptical hearing Tuesday to a lawsuit by Republican state attorneys general challenging the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit, led by the Texas AG office, argues the health care law should be entirely struck down after Congress got rid of the tax penalty for people without insurance coverage. “Congress left the rest of the law intact,” noted Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, a conservative justice appointed by President Trump, expressed a similar attitude. “It seems very clear the proper remedy is to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest,” he said. [Los Angeles Times; Washington Post]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty.