Coronavirus Daily Update: April 16th, 2020

As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, we are compiling a daily summary of major changes in the world of politics, government, and elections happening each day. Here is the summary of changes for April 16, 2020.

Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Read more: Arguments in support of and opposition to government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

On April 14, President Donald Trump (R) announced that his administration was suspending funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and opening an investigation into the group’s handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Today, we turn our attention to the debate over this action. 

  • In announcing his decision, Trump said, “The world depends on the WHO to work with countries to ensure that accurate information about international health threats is shared in a timely manner, and if it’s not, to independently to tell the world the truth about what is happening. The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.  It’s time, after all of these decades.  The WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in Wuhan that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.  There was credible information to suspect human-to-human transmission in December 2019, which should have spurred the WHO to investigate, and investigate immediately.”
  • In a statement, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) said, “We can only be successful in defeating this global pandemic through a coordinated international response with respect for science and data.  But sadly, as he has since Day One, the President is ignoring global health experts, disregarding science and undermining the heroes fighting on the frontline, at great risk to the lives and livelihoods of Americans and people around the world.  This is another case, as I have said, of the President’s ineffective response, that ‘a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility.  A weak person blames others.’ This decision is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”
  • The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal wrote the following in support of Trump’s action: “From the start of the crisis, WHO leadership let political considerations color what should have been unbiased public-health advice. The decisions to oppose early travel bans and to delay declaring a “public-health emergency of international concern” were particularly deadly. Instead of demanding more transparency from Beijing—which has provided dubious data and punished domestic truth-tellers—WHO officials echoed Chinese claims.”
  • In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof criticized the decision to suspend funding to the WHO: “Thousands of Americans would be alive today if President Trump had spent more time listening to the World Health Organization instead of trying to destroy it. Trump’s announcement that he is halting American funding for the W.H.O. just as the world is facing a raging pandemic is a dangerous attempt to find a scapegoat for his own failings. It is like taking away a fire department’s trucks in the middle of a blaze.”

The 1918 influenza pandemic

Read more: 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle

The 1918 midterm elections occurred during the 1918 flu pandemic, one of the most severe in history. Each day, we’ll look back at a story from the 1918 elections to see how America met the challenges of holding elections during a national health emergency.

On November 18, 1918, the Oakland Tribune published an article titled “Was the ‘Flu’ to Blame?” It questioned the closure of a voting precinct in a state Senate race that was decided by three votes.

“How important results sometimes hinge on inconsiderable and unexpected incidents is illustrated in the fight in the second senatorial district. Because of the prevalence of the influenza, the polls of Ingot precinct in Shasta county remained closed on election day. In that precinct, 95 voters are registered

“It is believed that the State Senate will be so constituted by this result that ratification of the national prohibition measure may be defeated. Eifendahl might have been elected if the polls of Ingot precinct had been open. It is also possible that a refusal by California to endorse this national amendment may be the turning of a tide against it.”

 

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On a call with caucus members, House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) suggested a temporary rules change that would allow for remote voting on coronavirus-related legislation.

Election changes

Read more: Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
  • Ten states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
  • Twenty-two states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
  • Political parties in 17 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.

Ballot measure changes

Read more: Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  • Five states changed ballot measure procedures.
  • At least five lawsuits seeking court orders suspending or changing requirements and deadlines.

Details:

  • Missouri – New Approach Missouri, which proposed the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative, announced that it was suspending its campaign.

State legislative responses

Read more: State laws in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • To date, 518 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
  • Eighty-four significant bills have been enacted into law, 16 percent of the total number that have been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.

State legislative session changes

Read more: Changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • Twenty-five state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Four of those have since reconvened. 
  • Seventeen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.   
  • Four state legislatures are in regular session. 
  • Three state legislatures (Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) are in special session. 
  • One state (Minnesota) has partially suspended legislative activity.

Details:

  • Utah – The Utah State Legislature convened a special session on April 14.
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin State Legislature convened a special session on April 14.

State court changes

Read more: State court closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.

Details:

  • Maine – The Maine Supreme Court issued an order on April 14 extending the suspension of certain in-person proceedings through May 1. Petit and grand jury proceedings are suspended through May 29.
  • Maryland – Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera ordered all courts closed to the public through June 5.  

Prison inmate responses

Read more: State and local governments that released prison inmates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Fifteen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
  • Sixteen states have ordered the release of inmates on the local level.
  • Fourteen states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
  • Two states have prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
  • Three states have temporarily released certain populations of inmates.

Details:

  • Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued temporary reprieves for the first group Pennsylvania state inmates who qualified under criteria established in Wolf’s April 10 order.  Inmates considered for release under Wolf’s order are nonviolent inmates due to be released within the next nine months, or vulnerable inmates who are within 12 months of their release date. The inmates would return to prison upon the expiration of the disaster emergency to serve the remainder of their sentences.
  • Michigan – The Michigan Department of Corrections reported that nearly 5,000 of the state’s 38,000 inmates are eligible for parole.  Officials are looking to first release eligible inmates who are nonviolent and over the age of 60 with health issues.  However, according to the agency, no offenses are off-limits.  According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the number of inmates paroled in the state reportedly increased by about 1,000 people per month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Maryland – On April 14, Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera ordered trial courts in the state to identify and release inmates who are vulnerable to coronavirus and pose no risk to the public. 

State stay-at-home orders

Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Forty-three states issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Seven of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 36 announced end dates.

Details:

  • Missouri – Gov. Mike Parsons (R) extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 3. The initial order took effect on April 6 and was set to expire on April 24.
  • New York – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that the state’s stay-at-home order was extended through May 15. Cuomo said that the order was helping to reduce the state’s hospitalization and intubation rates, but not enough to lift the order. According to Cuomo, New York’s rate of infections caused by sick individuals was down to 0.9 people per sick individual.
  • Wisconsin – Gov. Tony Evers (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 26. Executive Order #12 was first issued on March 24 and initially set to expire on April 24.

School closures

Read more: School closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Twenty-five states closed schools for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Those states account for 47.8% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
  • All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.

Details:

  • Tennessee – On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee (R) recommended that schools close for the remainder of the academic year. Schools in the state were previously ordered closed from March 20 through April 24

Travel restrictions

Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • 19 governors or state agencies have issued an executive order restricting out-of-state visitors

Eviction and foreclosure policies

Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Forty states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.

Details:

  • California – City leaders in San Jose extended a temporary moratorium on residential evictions through May 31.  They also announced a plan which prohibits landlords from increasing rent temporarily.
  • Maine – On April 14, The Maine Supreme Court issued an amended order suspending eviction cases through May 1.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 33 lawsuits in 20 states relating to actions or policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rulings have been issued in seven of those lawsuits.

Details:

  • Kentucky – On Tuesday, three residents filed suit against Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and other state officials, arguing that executive orders limiting mass gatherings violated their religious freedom. The plaintiffs in the case argue that the governor specifically targeted religious services. “In his evening briefings, the Governor made clear that he was going to target religious services for these notices, apart from other gatherings. Based on the activity of the Kentucky State Police on April 12, 2020, the Governor carried out his threat,” they wrote.

    • Last Friday, Beshear said that at least six churches in the state still intended to hold in-person Easter services and issued an emergency order making it a misdemeanor to attend mass gatherings of people. At a press conference he said, “This opportunity to worship, which is so important, is still there. We just ask folks to choose one that doesn’t spread the coronavirus.”

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

State politicians who tested positive for coronavirus

  • State Rep. Delores McQuinn (D-VA)



About the author

Cory Eucalitto

Cory Eucalitto is a managing editor at Ballotpedia and can be reached at cory.eucalitto@ballotpedia.org

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