Coronavirus Weekly Update: June 18th, 2020

Since March 18, 2020, Coronavirus Daily Update provided a daily summary of major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic in politics, government, and elections. Now, we cover those same stories in a weekly format sent out on Thursday afternoons.

Today, you will find updates on the following topics, with comparisons to our previous edition released on June 11:

  • Stay-at-home orders
  • Federal responses
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies
  • Election changes
  • Ballot measure changes
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • State legislation
  • State legislative sessions
  • State courts
  • Prison policies
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials

For daily news on state reopening plans and which industries and activities are permitted across the country, subscribe to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.

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:

As of June 18, stay-at-home orders have ended in 38 states. Nineteen of those states have Republican governors and 19 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court invalidated the stay-at-home order).

The five states with active stay-at-home orders have Democratic governors. They are (with expiration date):

  • New York (June 27)
  • New Mexico (June 30)
  • California (no set expiration date)
  • Kentucky (no set expiration date)
  • Oregon (no set expiration date)

Details:

  • New Hampshire – Gov Chris Sununu’s (R) stay-at-home order expired on June 15 at 11:59 p.m.

The 1918 influenza pandemic

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

The United States held midterm elections as scheduled during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. More than 50 million people perished from the disease worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S., making it one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history. Each week, 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.

An Oct. 20, 1918, a Seattle Daily Times article reported that candidates needed to find ways to reach individual people because in-person meetings had been banned. 

“The campaign that Chairman Sam Walker of the Republican state committee’s planning does not call for any public meetings. With the ban on such gatherings still on, Chairman Walker believes that there is little prospect it will be lifted before election day, November 5, a little more than two weeks distant.  So Walker will work out a new scheme to reach the voters.”

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

  • On June 16, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced that the U.S. would keep restrictions limiting non-essential travel to or from Mexico and Canada in place through July 21.

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 229 lawsuits, in 44 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 72 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since June 11, we added an additional 25 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 31 court orders and/or settlements. 
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 108 lawsuits in 36 states dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 50 of those lawsuits.

Noteworthy lawsuits:

  • Don’t Shoot Portland v. Portland: On June 9, Judge Marco A. Hernandez, of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, issued a temporary restraining order limiting the use of tear gas as a crowd control method in Portland, Oregon. The plaintiffs, a group named Don’t Shoot Portland, alleged the city had violated members’ First and Fourth Amendment rights when law enforcement officials used tear gas to disperse the group’s protest. Hernandez agreed, writing, “[Given] the effects of tear gas,” which is “specifically designed to irritate the respiratory system and to cause people to expel mucus and aspirated saliva,” a principal method of COVID-19 transmission, “Plaintiffs have established a strong likelihood that Defendant engaged in excessive force contrary to the Fourth Amendment.” Hernandez added the plaintiffs had presented “at least a serious question as to whether they have been deprived of their First Amendment rights.” Hernandez said his order did not bar the use of tear gas altogether, but instead limited use “to situations in which the lives or safety of the public or the police are at risk.” As of June 16, the city had not indicated whether it intended to appeal the decision.
  • Illinois Republican Party v. Pritzker: On June 15, the Illinois Republican Party and three local Republican groups sued Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs said their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated because, “unlike churches, political parties are barred from gathering in groups greater than 10 under the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-38.” Plaintiffs said “[w]hen the state grants access to one set of speakers, it must give equal access and treatment to all speakers of a similar character,” contrasting their treatment to both that of churches and protesters. Plaintiffs asked the court to prevent the state from enforcing Executive Order 2020-38 against political parties. Pritzker’s spokeswoman, Jordan Abudayyeh, said, “[As] the Republicans who attended protests against the public health guidance are well aware, the State has never prevented people from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Election changes

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

Overview: 

  • Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections. 
    • No new states postponed elections since June 11.
  • Seventeen states have modified their candidate filing requirements. 
    • One new state made modifications since June 11.
  • Thirty-five states have made modifications to their voting procedures. 
    • Six new states made modifications since June 11.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • No state parties made modifications since June 11.

Details:

  • Alabama – Judge Abdul Kallon, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.
  • Illinois – Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed SB 863 and HB2238 into law, requiring local election officials to deliver vote-by-mail applications to all general election voters who cast ballots in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 primary election. 
  • Louisiana – Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed HB751 into law, extending the candidate qualifying deadline for the Nov. 3 election to July 24.
  • Minnesota – As the result of a lawsuit settlement, the absentee ballot postmark deadline in Minnesota for the Aug. 11 primary election was extended to Aug. 11. The receipt deadline for absentee ballots was extended to Aug. 13. The witness requirement for absentee ballots was also suspended.
  • Missouri – Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed SB631 into law, permitting any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot in any 2020 election, subject to a notarization requirement.
  • New York – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law a bill extending the submission deadline for absentee ballots in the June 23 election to June 23.
  • North Carolina – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed HB1169 into law, reducing the witness signature requirement on completed absentee ballots from two to one.

Other news: 

  • California – California Judge Perry Parker, of the Sutter County Superior Court, issued a temporary restraining order suspending Executive Order N-67-20, which had authorized counties to consolidate polling places in the Nov. 3 general election, provided they offer three days of early voting.

Ballot measure changes

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

Overview:

  • At least 15 lawsuits were filed in 12 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines. 
    • No new lawsuits have been filed since June 12.
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in 13 cases. 
    • One ruling has been issued since June 12.
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 23 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering. 
    • No new petition drives were suspended since June 12.
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action. 
    • No new changes have been enacted since June 12.
  • At least two initiative campaigns reported they had enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but are delaying submitting those signatures in order to appear on their state’s 2022 ballot.

Details:

School closures and reopenings

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

Overview:

  • In March and April, 48 states closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. Those states accounted for 99.4% of the nation’s 50.6 million public school students. Montana and Wyoming did not require in-person instruction for the year. Montana schools were allowed to reopen on May 7 and Wyoming schools were allowed to reopen on May 15.
  • Five states (Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Wyoming) have reopened their campuses for students and staff. 
  • Seven states have announced schools will reopen in the fall. 
  • Officials in 10 other states have released guidance for reopening schools to in-person instructions, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.

Details:

  • Connecticut – On June 11, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said he expected schools to reopen for classes in the fall.
  • Vermont – On June 17, the Vermont Agency of Education released a 25-page guidance document for reopening schools. The guidance includes health checks on entry, staggered drop-off and pickup times, and hand sanitizing stations at entrances.
  • Washington – On June 11, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal released guidance for reopening schools. The guidelines require face coverings for all students and staff and the development of alternate instruction plans for each school. Reykdal said that his expectation was for schools to reopen to in-person instruction in the fall.

Travel restrictions

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

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 21 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 11 of those orders have been rescinded. 
    • Since June 11, one travel restriction has expired. 

Details:

  • Arkansas – The 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers expired on June 14.
  • Hawaii – Self-quarantine requirements were lifted for inter-island travelers on June 16. Travelers need to fill out a mandatory Travel and Health Form. The quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers remains.  
  • Oklahoma – There is no longer a quarantine requirement in place for out-of-state travelers. On March 29, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) issued the sixth amendment to Executive Order 2020-07 which required people entering Oklahoma from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Louisiana, and Washington to self-quarantine for two weeks. The quarantine requirement was written into six subsequent executive orders but was last mentioned in the Fifth Amended Executive Order 2020-13, issued April 30. 

State legislative responses

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 2,080 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
  • Of these, 190 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 9 percent of the total number 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: 

  • Thirteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Twelve of those have since reconvened. One (Nebraska) has not. 
  • Twenty-nine legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.  
  • Five state legislatures are in regular session. 
  • Three state legislatures are in special session. 

Details:

  • Colorado – The Colorado Legislature adjourned on June 15. 
  • Iowa – The Iowa Legislature adjourned on June 14. 
  • Minnesota – The Minnesota Legislature convened a special session on June 12. 
  • New Mexico – The New Mexico Legislature convened in special session on June 18.
  • Utah – The Utah legislature convened in special session on June 18. 

State court changes

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

Overview:

  • In-person proceedings were suspended in 34 states.

    • Since June 11, two state supreme courts announced that state courts could resume more operations.
    • Since June 11, Three states allowed courts to move into a new phase of reopening. 
    • Since June 11, one state extended its judicial emergency.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level.

Details:

  • California – Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile issued an order allowing some court operations to resume on June 22. That day, mental health courtrooms, juvenile dependency courtrooms, juvenile delinquency courtrooms, and complex personal and civil injury courtrooms may resume full operations. Probate courtrooms, civil courtrooms (except for small claims and collections), and family law can begin phased reopening on June 22. On June 25, the Appellate Division will resume full operations and arguments. Unlawful Detainer courtrooms can resume law and motion and ex-parte applications on June 29. The Criminal Division will begin a phased reopening on July 6. Nonessential court business remains closed through July 9. 
  • Georgia – Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an order extending the state’s judicial emergency through July 12. Melton laid out a plan to reimpose deadlines, time schedules, and filing requirements imposed on litigants by statute, rules, and regulations beginning July 14. Melton also encouraged courts to continue using and increasing the use of technology to conduct remote proceedings. The order authorizes courts to use their discretion to hold in-person proceedings, except petit and grand jury proceedings, if they comply with public health guidance. Jury trials and grand jury proceedings are still prohibited. 
  • Hawaii – The Hawaii Judiciary announced that state district courts on Oahu would reopen for court business, including proceedings and business with the Traffic Violations Bureau and the Legal Documents Branch, on June 15. Face masks are required for anyone entering a court facility, and courthouses have put social distancing measures in place. Those who have symptoms, have come into contact with someone with coronavirus, or who have traveled within a 14-day period will not be permitted to enter court facilities.  
  • Maine – The Maine Judicial Branch moved into Phase 2 of reopening on June 15. Under this phase, the court may begin handling more matters. Anyone entering the courthouse must wear a mask and sanitize their hands upon entrance and exit. Social distancing measures are expected to be followed, including limiting courtroom gatherings to no more than 10 people, including staff.  Phase 2 is in effect through July 2. The Judicial Branch is expected to move into Phase 3 on July 6, which will remain in effect through July 31. Under that phase, grand juries may resume. Phase 4 is expected to begin Aug. 3 and run through Sept. 4. Jury trials may resume in Phase 5, which is expected to begin on Sept. 7.
  • New Jersey – The New Jersey Supreme Court approved a post-pandemic plan that will allow state courts to move from Phase 1, in which courts remain closed to the public, to Phase 2 beginning June 22. In Phase 2, some proceedings will be able to resume in-person, including five jury trials that began before courthouses were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the plan, many proceedings will continue to be conducted remotely.  
  • New York – The New York Unified Court System announced that courts outside of New York City could move into Phase 2 of reopening on June 12. Under this phase, essential family matters can be conducted in-person. Nonessential proceedings, mediation and alternative dispute matters, and “criminal, juvenile delinquency and mental hygiene law proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult” will continue to be held virtually.  Face masks and face coverings are required. Other safety measures include social distancing and the regular sanitation of court facilities.

Prison inmate responses

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

Overview:

  • Twenty-one states have released inmates at the state level.

    • Since June 11, Oregon issued criteria for the early release of inmates on the state level.
    • Hawaii ended a program for the early release of inmates on the state-level
    • In North Carolina, a judge denied a request to release inmates on the state-level.
  • Twelve states have released inmates on the local level.
  • Eleven states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
  • Two states have prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
  • Four states have temporarily released certain populations of inmates.
    • Since June 11, Pennsylvania temporarily released inmates on the state-level.  

Details:

  • California – The California Judicial Council voted 17-2 to rescind the coronavirus emergency bail schedule, effective June 20. The emergency bail schedule, adopted April 6, set bail at $0 for almost all misdemeanor and low-level felonies. The Judicial Council suggested courts could keep the emergency schedule or reduced bail schedules where appropriate. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 20,000 defendants accused of lower-level offenses have been released pre-trial. On June 16, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced that inmates in state prisons for nonviolent offenses with less than 180 days left on their sentences are eligible for supervised release effective July 1. 
  • Hawaii – The Hawaii State Supreme Court announced that it ended a program granting early release to inmates held in state jails implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus. The program began in early April when the state Supreme Court ordered state law enforcement authorities to quickly release as many nonviolent offenders from the state’s eight jails as possible. The court also announced it appointed a Special Master to assist prosecutors and public defenders in determining which inmates would be granted early release.  
  • North Carolina – U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan for the Eastern District of North Carolina denied a request from 11 inmates at Butner Federal Prison to compel prison officials to release medically vulnerable inmates and to institute additional safety measures. Flanagan said the plaintiffs did not prove Butner and the Bureau of Prisons treated the inmates with “deliberate indifference” in their effort to slow the spread of coronavirus in the facility. Flanagan said, “The court agrees with petitioners that the public interest is served by preventing unnecessary illness and death and slowing the spread of the virus…Respondents, however, have made reasonable efforts to achieve those goals…Particularly in the absence of substantial evidence showing respondents were deliberately indifferent to the spread of COVID-19, the record at this stage does not present ‘extraordinary circumstances’ justifying judicial intervention in the management of FCC-Butner’s response to the virus.”   
  • Oregon – Governor Kate Brown (D) provided the Oregon Department of Corrections with criteria for the agency to use in creating a list of inmates who may be eligible for early release. Criteria include medically vulnerable inmates, those not serving a sentence for crimes against another person, and those who have served half of their sentences. The Department of Corrections reported that about 100 inmates fit the criteria.  
  • Pennsylvania – Since the beginning of Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration, 159 inmates have been temporarily released due to the coronavirus pandemic. The program was established in April and is scheduled to end either when Wolf’s Disaster Declaration expires or he decides the coronavirus pandemic has been mitigated. When the program ends, those inmates will return to prison to finish their sentences.      

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

    • Since June 11, Michigan extended their eviction moratorium.
    • New Hampshire announced an end date to eviction and foreclosure policies.
    • California delayed the decision to end the state’s eviction moratorium.
    • Massachusetts and Los Angeles, California face legal challenges to eviction and foreclosure policies implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Details:

  • California – The California Judicial Council delayed its decision to end the judiciary’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic. The Council was considering ending the halt on evictions and judicial foreclosures in August, ahead of its original timeline. In April, the Judicial Council voted to suspend evictions and foreclosures until 90 days after the expiration of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) state of emergency, which remains in effect. California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said, “After discussions with the Governor, legislative leaders, and Judicial Council members—as well as hearing from residents with many different viewpoints—I have suspended for the time being the vote on the emergency rules dealing with evictions and judicial foreclosures.”

    • The state’s largest landlord organization, The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, filed a federal lawsuit challenging Los Angeles’ eviction policies implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic, including a Los Angeles City Council measure which halted rent increases for more than 600,000 apartments covered by the city’s rent stabilization program. The group alleges the policies violate its 5th Amendment rights against their property being taken by the government without just compensation.
  • Massachusetts – Two landlords petitioned Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court challenging the state’s moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic. In April, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed a law that halted most nonessential housing removals through Aug. 18 or 45 days after the expiration of his state of emergency. Baker could choose to extend the moratorium for 90 days, so long as it is not more than 45 days past the expiration of the state of emergency. The plaintiffs allege the moratorium left them unable to recoup financial losses. They also alleged the law violates both Massachusetts and the U.S. Constitution as it infringes on their rights to access state courts and enforce contracts.
  • Michigan – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D)  extended the state’s eviction moratorium through June 30.  
  • New Hampshire – Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued Emergency Order #51, which will end protections granted in Emergency Orders #4 and #24 on July 1. Executive Order #4 prohibited landlords from initiating eviction proceedings and prohibited nonjudicial and judicial foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic. Executive Order #24 provided exceptions for landlords to begin eviction proceedings for lease or law violations, property damage caused by tenants, or substantial adverse impact on the health and safety of the other person. The order also allowed for eviction proceedings to be started in cases where a tenant abandons their rental unit or space.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

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

Overview:

We have tracked the deaths, diagnoses, and quarantines of political incumbents, candidates, and government officials resulting from COVID-19. At this time, tracked incumbents, candidates, and government officials are limited to those within Ballotpedia’s scope of coverage.

  • Federal

    • Seven members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State

    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Thirty-five state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Sixty-seven state-level incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local

    • At least two local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least twelve local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 23 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since June 11, one member of Congress tested positive for coronavirus, and one member of Congress tested negative for coronavirus. One state-level officeholder tested positive for the virus.

Federal officeholders or candidates who tested positive for coronavirus

  • Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.)

Federal officeholders or candidates who tested negative for coronavirus

  • Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tx.)

State officeholders or candidates who tested positive for coronavirus

  • Attorney General of Illinois Kwame Raoul (D)



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