Coronavirus daily update: April 21, 2020

Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics
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 21, 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

Yesterday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) announced that select businesses would be permitted to reopen beginning on April 24. Today, we turn our attention to Kemp’s announcement and the reactions to it.

  • On announcing the plan to allow some businesses to reopen, Kemp said, “Given the favorable data, enhanced testing, and approval of our healthcare professionals, we will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday, April 24, 2020. Unlike other businesses, these entities have been unable to manage inventory, deal with payroll, and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place. This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations that most other businesses in the state have maintained since I issued the shelter-in-place order.”

  • Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s Democratic opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial election, said, “There’s nothing about this that makes sense. The mayors of Atlanta, Albany and Savannah have all questioned the wisdom of doing this. And the fact is the governor didn’t consult with mayors before making this decision. These jobs that are reopening, these businesses that are reopening, are going to force front-line workers back to work without having been tested, without having access to a health care system to help them if they are in need.”

  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms disapproved of Kemp’s decision, saying, “It appears the governor’s order supersedes anything I can do as mayor, but I still have my voice and what I will continue to do is ask Atlantans to please stay at home.”

  • Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush (R), said, “I see MSM is pounding Gov. Kemp for outlining new measures for when Georgia slowly opens up. Anyone want to guess why they’re not pounding Colorado Gov. Polis who also announced the easing of his stay-at-home order? Hint: One is an R. The other a D…”

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 6, 1918, The Charleston Evening Post, published an article titled, “Less Than 1,000 Votes Cast Here.” The article discussed the results of the general election, despite low voter turnout in Charlston county.

“The Democratic candidates selected in the primaries during the summer were elected yesterday and the state constitutional amendment providing payment by property owners [f]or street improvements in Charlston was accepted by local voters by a large majority of the votes cast.  There was no opposition to the Democratic candidates.  Less than 1,000 votes were cast in Charleston county and most of these were in the city. Returns were received at the Hibernian hall. With only five boxes from Wadmalay, Edisto, Meggette, Adams Run and McClellanville missing, the city and rural vote was: State and county, 864; federal, 890.  But three votes were cast at Sullivans Island.”

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

  • President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

  • Twelve states have modified candidate filing requirements.

  • Twenty-three states have made modifications to 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.

State legislative responses

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

Overview:

  • To date, 578 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.

  • Eighty-seven significant bills have been enacted into law, 15 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 had suspended their sessions. Three of those had since reconvened.

  • Seventeen legislatures had either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.

  • Five state legislatures were in regular session.

  • Three state legislatures (Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) were in special session.

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:

  • New York – Chief Judge Colleen McMahon for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York suspended jury trials indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • New Jersey –  The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that all court proceedings should continue to be conducted remotely using video or phone as much as possible.

Prison inmate responses

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

Overview:

  • Sixteen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.

  • Fifteen 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:

  • Iowa – The Iowa Department of Corrections announced that the department was processing the early release of an additional 428 inmates.  Since March 23, the Iowa Department of Corrections has released 811 inmates due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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:

  • So far, 43 of the 50 states issued statewide shutdown orders. Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end dates.

Details:

  • Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced that he would let the state’s stay-at-home order expire on April 26.

  • Tennessee – Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced that he would allow the state’s stay-at-home order to expire on April 30.

Plans to reopen

Read more: State government plans to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Details:

  • Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced that he would not extend the state’s stay-at-home order, which is set to expire on April 26. He said he still encouraged residents to practice social distancing and vulnerable populations to exercise caution until the state was able to increase testing capacity and ability to investigate confirmed positive cases. Polis said that retail curbside delivery and elective surgeries could begin April 27 and his goal was to have bars, restaurants, and clubs open by mid-May.

  • Georgia – Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses could reopen as early as April 24. He also said that restaurants and theaters could reopen on April 27, though bars and nightclubs would still remain closed. The state has been under a stay-at-home order since April 3.

  • South Carolina – Gov. Henry McMaster (R) rescinded a portion of his stay-at-home order that closed nonessential retail businesses in the state. This allowed the following types of businesses to reopen: department stores, sporting goods stores, book, music, shoe, and craft stores, jewelry stores, floral shops, and luggage and leather goods stores. The state has been under a stay-at-home order since April 7.

  • South Dakota – Gov. Kristi Noem (R) announced a medical review committee to evaluate President Trump’s plan for reopening state economies. The members of the committee include Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon and two members each from three hospital groups in the state.

  • Tennessee – Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced that he would not extend the state’s stay-at-home order, which is set to expire on April 30. His office announced that “the vast majority of businesses in 89 counties” would be allowed to reopen on May 1.

  • West Virginia – Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed an executive order allowing hospitals to resume elective procedures after a state official reviews each hospital.

School closures

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

Overview:

  • Thirty-four states have closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Those states account for 76.1% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.

  • All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.

Details:

  • Kentucky – Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.

  • Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.

Travel restrictions

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

Overview:

  • Nineteen governors or state agencies have issued an executive order restricting out-of-state travelers.

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:

  • Massachusetts – On April 20, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill that placed a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in the state. The moratorium applies to residential and small commercial tenants and is set to expire in 120 days or 45 days after the end of the state of emergency, whichever comes first.

  • Michigan – On April 17, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) extended her March 20 executive order temporarily suspended evictions for nonpayment through May 15.

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 37 lawsuits in 22 states relating to actions or policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rulings have been issued in eight of those lawsuits.

Details:

  • New York State Nurses Association v. New York State Department of Health et al – The New York State Nurses Association sued the state department of health, over what it claims are unsafe working conditions and a lack of personal protective equipment. The suit was filed in the New York Supreme Court division in New York County.

  • South Wind Women’s Center LLC et al v. Stitt et al – A federal judge issued a temporary injunction against Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R) order banning abortions by defining them as elective surgeries. The injunction means abortion services in the state can resume effective April 24 and last until a decision is reached in the case.

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

Local politicians who self-quarantined for coronavirus

  • Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price announced she would self-quarantine after coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus. She said she had not experienced any symptoms.

Click here to learn more.




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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