Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Kansas and Missouri plan to rely on the honor system to comply with priority distribution of coronavirus vaccines ... Employees in one Louisiana city will receive a one-time lump-sum hazard payment ... Indiana lawmakers hope to shield businesses from Covid-19 lawsuits.
Health care workers and nursing home residents in some states may receive the coronavirus vaccine weeks after lower-priority people who live in other states, thanks to a distribution method that relies on the number of adults in each state—not the number of high-risk people who live or work there.
Based on that metric, all frontline health workers and residents of care facilities in Nevada will be vaccinated once the federal government distributes 13.6 million doses nationwide, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data. By contrast, Massachusetts won’t hit that threshold until 25.5 million doses have been distributed—meaning that by the time Massachusetts inoculates the last person in its highest-priority group, Nevada will have begun vaccinating lower-priority residents, such as grocery workers and elderly people who are living independently.
Washington, D.C., which fares worst under the distribution model, won’t be able to vaccinate all of its health-care workers until the federal government has distributed 27.3 million doses of the vaccine across the country.
Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter to officials overseeing the vaccination plan, saying that less than 10% of the district’s 85,000 health-care workers would be inoculated with the 6,800 doses it is initially slated to receive under the current formula. By contrast, Maryland expects to receive 300,000 doses, while Virginia anticipates around 140,000, the Washington Post reported.
Bowser said that a majority of the district’s health providers reside in either Maryland or Virginia, and that thousands of them use coronavirus testing sites in the city.
“We allow Maryland and Virginia residents to use our testing sites because we know they work here, and their being able to isolate if they have an infection makes us safer,” she said at a news conference. “We think a vaccination strategy along those lines makes us safer.”
Federal officials have defended the distribution formula, saying that doses will eventually even out between the states and that the method was the simplest way to avoid having to shift to a different model later.
“We wanted to keep this simple,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last month. “Once we pass through these initial tranches where we’re in much more of a scarcity situation, we’ll eventually get to where we need to be per capita.” [Washington Post, USA TODAY, Politico]
POLICE PROCEDURES | Police in New Jersey will need to comply with new limits on use of force and police dogs under the state’s updated use-of-force policy. The rules, unveiled Monday by state Attorney General Grubir Grewal, prohibit police from using force to speed up an arrest or using police dogs on suspects who are only resisting arrest. The policy also requires police departments to review every incident where force was used. The updated guidelines will take effect at the end of 2021, with training expected to start earlier for the state’s more than 38,000 officers. The policy will help “ensure law enforcement is held to the highest professional standards, especially for Black and Brown communities who have suffered far too many incidents of improper and excessive force,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter. [NJ.com]
VACCINE HONOR SYSTEM | Kansas and Missouri have few enforcement mechanisms in place to prevent people from “jumping the line” to receive the Covid-19 vaccine before they’re supposed to, state officials said this week. The shots are currently available only for certain groups of residents, including doctors, dentists, teachers and other frontline workers, with rollout to the general public occurring in the coming months. But recipients self-identify, and there is no verification process in place to ensure that people are who they claim to be, leaving officials to depend largely on “human decency” to enforce the prioritization order. “We’re hoping that people will self-police and the spirit of goodwill and community service will carry the day,” Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told The Wichita Eagle. [Wichita Eagle]
ONE-TIME HAZARD PAY | The city council in Shreveport, Louisiana approved a one-time lump-sum hazard payment for city employees, to be awarded before Christmas. The measure, approved 6-1, includes a $1,000 payment for full-time workers and $500 for part-time employees. The money is hazard pay for workers during the pandemic, not a bonus, council members said, and will be paid using the city’s general operating reserve fund. The resolution notes that the city can’t afford to increase pay permanently, but has enough cash on hand to provide one-time payments. All employees are eligible as long as they were employed by the city as of Dec. 1. [The Shreveport Times]
LIABILITY SHIELD | Some lawmakers in Indiana are hoping to shield businesses from lawsuits related to Covid-19 when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. Supporters of the measure say that factories, stores, restaurants and some schools need liability protection to stay open without fear of legal repercussions from visitors who later test positive for the coronavirus. There have been no such lawsuits in the state thus far, “but as long as people have a fear of a potential civil lawsuit it’s going to handcuff the state from ever moving back to some sort of normal,” state Sen. Mark Messmer, a Republican from Jasper, told the Journal Gazette. Under the proposed legislation, lawsuits would still be allowed in cases of “willful misconduct” and “gross negligence.” Labor and civil rights groups oppose the proposal. [The Journal Gazette]
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.