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Voting by video allowed in some circumstances, Arizona judge rules

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People wash their hands by the entrance to Sapphire of Tucson Nursing and Rehab on May 1, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)

Election officials in Arizona can use videoconferencing to help some voters confined to hospitals, nursing homes or living with severe disabilities cast their ballots, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting calls to declare the new pandemic-era practice illegal.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the court to strike down plans adopted by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and Arizona Secretary of State’s Office for limited “virtual” voting assistance, arguing that state law does not allow anyone to cast a ballot by video.

Gov. Doug Ducey also opposed the policies, contending that state law requires officials provide such services in person.

But in a ruling that reflected how unusual this election year is, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall H. Warner found that videoconferencing may be necessary for some voters with very particular circumstances who would otherwise have to choose between protecting themselves from COVID-19 or forgoing their right to participate in the electoral process.

“Federal law does not allow Arizona to impose on a disabled voter the choice between voting and protecting their health,” he wrote.

The judge warned, however, that his ruling “does not mean the County Recorder is free to use video voting whenever he wants or for any voter who asks.”

Still, Fontes declared victory.

“This is a win for accessibility,” the county recorder said in a statement. “We will continue to provide this option to the most vulnerable population of Maricopa County voters when necessary, ensuring compliance with all applicable law.”

A longstanding practice and COVID-19

The legal battle over the practice began in earnest last week but stems from longstanding policies for assisting a small portion of the state’s voters who are physically unable

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Whitmer revises rules on nursing homes with virus patients

Under an order issued late Wednesday, they instead will be transferred to “care and recovery” centers that will replace the hub network.

LANSING, Mich — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revised rules related to the care of Michigan nursing home residents with the coronavirus, saying they should be sent to facilities with solid federal staffing ratings.

Currently, infected residents from homes without a dedicated COVID-19 unit go to one of 21 state-designated “hub” nursing homes when they leave the hospital or when they need a higher level of care but not hospitalization. Under an order issued late Wednesday, they instead will be transferred to “care and recovery” centers that will replace the hub network.

A hub home can be a care and recovery facility but only if it meets certain standards. The facility has to have a staffing rating of at least three out of five stars, for instance, and cannot have an abuse or neglect citation.

Whitmer did not, as Republican lawmakers have suggested, establish COVID-only facilities or buildings. She also lifted a ban on communal dining, instead requiring that dining and group activities be consistent with federal and state guidance.

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New Rules Allows Indoor Visits At NC Nursing Homes

NORTH CAROLINA — Following months of stringent visitation restrictions amid the ongoing pandemic, nursing home and long term care facility patients will now be allowed to have visitors indoors, state public health officials announced.

Visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and must wear a face mask, according to the new guidelines. The new visitation rules will apply to facilities that haven’t had any positive COVID-19 cases in a 14-day span in counties where the percent positive rate is less than 10 percent.

Monday, at least 224 nursing homes and 91 residential care facilities in North Carolina reported a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The policy change is due to the stabilization of key metrics, such as hospitalizations, new case confirmations and the percentage of positive tests.

“Our progress in testing, infection control and slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities allows us to move forward with safe indoor visitation in accordance with federal guidance,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a statement.

As of Sept. 28, North Carolina reported 208,248 positive COVID-19 cases, and 3,445 deaths. Nearly 16,000 of the state’s COVID-19 cases and at least 1,750 deaths have been reported in state nursing homes and residential care facilities since late March.

The new order, which went into effect Sept. 28, applies to nursing homes and large residential settings of seven or more patients, including adult care homes, behavioral intermediate care facilities and psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

The new DHHS guidelines call for:

  • Designated visitation areas that allow for social distancing and limits movement within the facility.

  • Adequate staffing to supervise, monitor, and assist as appropriate for the individual’s needs.

  • Screening of visitors for symptoms of illness, known exposure to COVID-19, and presence of a face covering.

  • Refusing visits based upon screening,

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Appeals court rules against Anoka-Hennepin schools in ‘landmark’ bias case

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that a transgender student at Coon Rapids High School had a right to use the boys’ locker room.

Instead, the Anoka-Hennepin School District directed the student, N.H., to use an “enhanced privacy” bathroom separate from the boys’ locker room in violation of the state’s human rights act, the court said in a decision filed Monday.

The state Department of Human Rights called it a landmark ruling.

“This decision means that schools are now safer and more welcoming for transgender and gender nonconforming students across Minnesota,” Human Rights Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman said in a statement.

The Court of Appeals also referred to the statewide significance of the Anoka County case.

“An estimated 24,250 adults in Minnesota identify as transgender, all of whom were high school students at some point,” the court said.

Anoka-Hennepin said in a statement it was reviewing the decision and carefully considering its next steps.

“The district’s top priority is maintaining a learning environment that is safe, secure and free from discrimination, and its decision will be guided by those values,” the district said.

N.H. was a member of the boys’ swim team in 2015-16 and had used the boys’ locker room for much of that season before the district moved to halt the practice.

His mother sued the district alleging discrimination in February 2019, and six months later, Anoka County District Judge Jenny Walker Jasper rejected the district’s effort to have the case dismissed — setting the stage for Monday’s decision.

The district based its argument in part on a reading of the employment provision of the state’s human rights act, which also has a provision covering education.

In 2001, the district said, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that an employer’s designation of employee restrooms based on biological

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