Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Hospital capacity concerns in Nebraska … ‘Ticking bomb’ septic tanks in Florida … Oklahoma jail workers charged after making inmates listen to ‘Baby Shark’.
Hurricane Delta, has strengthened into a powerful Category 4 storm, and appears to be on track to hit the Gulf Coast of the U.S. later this week. It could weaken somewhat by that time, but still threatens to bring storm surge and dangerous winds to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. The storm on Tuesday was churning in the Caribbean Sea, making its way towards the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters are predicting it will likely make landfall in the vicinity of southeast Louisiana on Friday or Saturday as a Category 2 hurricane. Accuweather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski cautioned that the storm could still pose serious hazards even if it is downgraded. “What happens with a storm like this is it creates a large wind field,” he said. “It already will have an increase in water ahead of it and all that will create a really dangerous storm surge along the coast. So just because it drops a category from one to the other is really not going to make any difference in the impact.” Nine named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this hurricane season, including Hurricane Laura, which devastated parts of southwest Louisiana in late August. [NOLA.com, South Florida Sun Sentinel]
VIRUS RISKS | In Nebraska, scientists and doctors are warning that more people are getting sick from the coronavirus, increasing the pressure on hospitals and raising concerns about the available number of beds. "The thought of having a flu season and a Covid-19 pandemic on top of it at the same time makes us extremely uneasy," said Dr. Daniel Johnson, the division chief of critical care at Nebraska Medicine. In a joint statement, medical professionals in Nebraska said moves by state and local officials to ease public health restrictions intended to help prevent the spread of the virus have allowed more people to catch it. Johnson said that residents need to make greater efforts to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. "The assumption that if you get sick we're going to have a hospital bed for you is a false assumption," he added. [Lincoln Journal Star]
BUDGET WOES | The president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities told the state’s governor that the higher education system is in a “budget crisis” and needs a $69 million infusion from the state. CSCU President Mark Ojakian said enrollment is down by thousands of students, which is hurting revenues. He also complained that unions haven’t been willing to budge on cost-saving concessions. The only options left, Ojakian said, are draining reserves or asking the state for a bailout. “The community colleges in particular are facing reserves near zero,” he noted. “We desperately need help in building a bridge to take us beyond this troubled year.” [CT Mirror]
SEPTIC TANKS | More than 120,000 septic tanks throughout Miami-Dade used to dispose of sewage are posing serious environmental and public health risks, particularly as sea levels rise, experts say. Many of the tanks are old and leaky. But getting rid of them and connecting more houses to sewer service lines is costly. “We have a big problem down the road,” said Irela Bagué, chair of the Biscayne Bay Task Force. “We’re running out of time.” Another person involved in Florida’s septic sector says the tanks are, “Like ticking bombs.” [Miami Herald]
SERVICE CUTS | Denver Parks and Recreation has pulled trash cans from local parkways that people out walking dogs would commonly use to drop their pets’ poop. The move is the result of budget cuts stemming from the coronavirus, officials say. The parks department says they sharply reduced seasonal hires that would typically empty the cans. Some people are still reportedly leaving baggies of dog doo where the cans once stood. [The Denver Post]
‘BABY SHARK’ | Three Oklahoma County jail employees have been charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy after forcing inmates to listen to the kid’s song ‘Baby Shark’ on repeat at loud volumes. [The Oklahoman]
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.