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 18:
- 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
As of June 25, stay-at-home orders have ended in 39 states. Nineteen of those states have Republican governors and 20 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court invalidated the stay-at-home order).
The four 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)
The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
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.
On Nov. 4, 1918, the Oakland Enquirer reported that health officials assured voters in Oakland, California that voting would be safe, so long as masks were worn:
“The fear that danger lurks in visiting the polls and exercising the right of franchise has been dissipated. [H]ealth authorities have assured the public that as long as masks are worn, and this precaution being compulsory, is certain to be observed, there is perfect safety in going to the various polling booths and carrying on the election tomorrow.”
- On June 24, The Department of Health and Human Services announced it was ending support for 13 federally-managed coronavirus testing sites, and encouraging states to take them over. Five states, including Texas, have drive-in sites.
- On June 22, President Donald Trump (R), citing economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, signed a proclamation restricting the issuance of some visas that permit immigrants to work in the United States. Visas affected include L-1s, H-1Bs, H-4s, H-2Bs, and J-1s. The restrictions take effect on June 24 and expire on Dec. 31.
- On June 19, the Department of Defense lifted travel restrictions on additional installations in 46 states and eight host nations, allowing military and civilian personnel to travel to those locations.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 278 lawsuits in 45 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 93 of those lawsuits.
- Since June 18, we have added an additional 49 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 21 court orders and/or settlements.
- Ballotpedia has separately followed another 116 lawsuits, in 36 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 55 of those lawsuits.
Here are 3 lawsuits that have garnered either significant national media attention or involve major advocacy groups:
- Auracle Homes, LLC v. Lamont: On June 16, a group of eight Connecticut landlords sued Gov. Ned Lamont (D) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, seeking to block two executive orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Order 7G, issued on March 19, suspends non-critical court operations. Executive Order 7X, issued on April 10, prohibits landlords from initiating new evictions through July 1, provides an automatic 60-day grace period for April rent, and a 60-day grace period for May rent upon request. It also mandates landlords allow tenants who paid a security deposit in excess of one month’s rent be allowed to use that excess amount toward April, May, or June rent. Attorneys for the landlords argue these orders “illegally deprived them of their constitutional right to private contract, right to due process of law, right to equal protection under the law, and right against having their property taken for public use without just compensation.” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong defended the executive orders, saying they “have been very clearly constitutional and fully legally justified.” The case is assigned to Judge Victor Bolden, who was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama (D).
- R.V. v. Mnuchin: On June 19, Judge Paul Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that a group of children, who are U.S. citizens, and their parents, who are not, had standing to sue the Trump administration over the denial of benefits under the CARES Act. Plaintiffs seek to “challenge the allegedly intentional and discriminatory denial to U.S. citizen children of the benefits of emergency cash assistance distributed … in response to the COVID-19 pandemic solely because one or both of a child’s parents are undocumented immigrants.” Grimm dismissed the government’s argument that, because the children would not directly receive the benefits, the plaintiffs lacked standing to file suit. Instead, Grimm found that each child should be construed as a “qualifying child” under the CARES Act and, “but for the discrimination against them based on their parents’ alienage,” would “have the opportunity to benefit from the economic impact payments.” As such, Grimm found that the court has proper subject-matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims, the plaintiffs have standing to sue, and the plaintiffs have adequately alleged an equal protection claim. The government was given until July 10 to file an answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint. Grimm was appointed to the court by President Obama.
- Pletcher v. Giant Eagle, Inc.: On May 26, the first of 35 lawsuits challenging supermarket chain Giant Eagle’s mandatory face mask policy was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuits, which Judge Nora Barry Fischer, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, has combined, accuse Giant Eagle of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Pennsylvania Human Relations Act by requiring all customers to wear face coverings while inside stores. The chain instituted the policy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But plaintiffs allege their physical and/or mental impairments, including respiratory diseases, anxiety disorders, and past traumas, prohibit their ability to wear face coverings while shopping inside. They argue that barring entry into stores for failure to wear a mask violates the ADA because the law “expressly prohibits, among other things, discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of . . . services [and] public accommodation.” The plaintiffs also allege Giant Eagle has misinterpreted a state order mandating that businesses require face coverings except where customers “cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition.” Giant Eagle representative Dick Roberts said the “lawsuits have no merit,” and noted the chain offers curbside and delivery service.
- Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- No new states have postponed elections since June 18.
- Eighteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
- One new state has made modifications since June 18.
- Thirty-five states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
- No new states have made modifications since June 18.
- Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
- No state parties have made modifications to party events since June 18.
- Maryland – On June 19, the Maryland State Board of Elections and the Green Party of Maryland reached a settlement in Maryland Green Party v. Hogan. Under the terms of the settlement, the petition signature requirement for obtaining party status for the Green and Libertarian parties was reduced from 10,000 to 5,000 signatures. The terms of the settlement applied only to 2020.
Ballot measure changes
- 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 18.
- Rulings or settlements have been issued in 14 cases.
- One ruling has been issued since June 18.
- Ballotpedia has tracked 25 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Two new petition drive suspensions since June 18.
- Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action.
- No new changes have been enacted since June 18.
- At least three initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.
- Nebraska: On June 24, Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting, the campaign behind the Nebraska Redistricting Commission Initiative, announced it was ending its effort to put the initiative on the November ballot.
- Idaho: On June 23, United States District Court Judge Lynn Winmill ruled that Idaho officials must either allow Reclaim Idaho, the campaign sponsoring Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically or place the initiative on the November ballot.
- Ohio: On June 18, Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections, sponsors of the Ohio Voting Requirements Initiative, announced it was ending its signature gathering campaign.
- 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.
- No new states have reopened campuses since June 18.
- Ten states have announced schools will reopen in the fall.
- Three new states have made reopening announcements since June 18.
- Officials in 13 other states have released guidance for reopening schools to in-person instructions, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.
- Three new states have released guidance for reopening schools since June 18.
- Arkansas – On June 24, Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key released updated guidance for schools. The new guidance recommends that students older than 10 wear face coverings while riding on the bus and that younger students wear face coverings whenever practical.
- Illinois – On June 23, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) released guidance for reopening schools. The guidance requires face coverings for all students and staff, prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people, and establishes temperature screenings and social distancing protocols.
- Massachusetts – On June 24, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) released guidance for reopening schools. The guidance requires all staff and students in second grade or higher to wear masks, social distancing of desks in classrooms, and students to eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms.
- New Mexico – The Public Education department released rules and guidance for schools reopening in the fall. Public schools must begin the year using a hybrid in-person and online model with classrooms limited to 50% capacity.
- South Carolina – On June 22, Superintendent of Education Molly Mitchell Spearman released recommendations on reopening schools in the state. The recommendations included required face coverings for all students and staff, social distancing protocols, one-way hallways, staggered arrivals and dismissals, and buses operating at 50 percent capacity.
- Texas – On June 18, Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the state’s schools would open to students in the fall. Morath said guidance for schools would be released in the future.
- Wisconsin – On June 22, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released reopening guidance for schools. Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said schools would reopen to in-person instruction for the fall. The guidance outlined several scenarios for physical distancing, including four-day school weeks, a two-day rotation, an a/b week rotation, and virtual learning.
- Governors or state agencies in 24 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 11 of those orders have been rescinded.
- Since June 18, three states have implemented travel restrictions.
- Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on June 24 that travelers arriving in their states from states with a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days. The infection rate is based on a seven-day rolling average of the number of infections per 100,000 residents. As of June 24, the states meeting the threshold are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
- Hawaii – Gov. David Ige (D) announced that beginning Aug. 1, out-of-state travelers can bypass the 14-day quarantine requirement if they can present a recent negative COVID-19 test at the airport. Travelers will be unable to get tested upon arrival and will need to quarantine for 14 days without a negative test.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide
- Since June 18, three courts have extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
- Two states extended the suspension of jury trials.
- Arkansas announced it was lifting restrictions on jury trials.
- New Jersey courts moved into a new phase of reopening
- Florida extended the term of their COVID Workgroup
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level
- Alaska – The Alaska Supreme Court issued a statewide order on visitor health precautions for people entering court facilities. Precautions include requiring face masks and screening visitors as they enter the facility. The court also extended jury trials through Sept. 1.
- Arkansas – The Arkansas Supreme Court will lift the suspension of jury trials on July 1. The order does not mandate in-person proceedings to resume, but only lifts the previous restrictions.
- Colorado – The Colorado Supreme Court extended its suspension of jury trials through Aug. 3.
- Florida – Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an order on June 15 which extended the term of the COVID-19 Workgroup through the end of the year. The Workgroup is charged with recommending ways state courts can return to full operation following the coronavirus pandemic.
- New Hampshire – The New Hampshire Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials in the Circuit Court, Superior Court, and Supreme Court through July 6.
- New Jersey – On June 22, the New Jersey Judiciary moved into phase 2 of reopening. Under that phase, 10% to 15% of judges and staff are to be onsite. Suspended jury trials, sentencings, guilty pleas, and violations of monitoring and probation for defendants in custody may resume in Phase 2. Most proceedings will continue to be held remotely.
- Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials through Sept. 7.
- Wyoming – The Wyoming Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials through Aug. 3.
Prison inmate responses
- Twenty-one states have released inmates at the state level.
- No states have released inmates at the state level since June 18.
- 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.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Twenty-eight states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
- Since June 18, Virginia announced an end date to the state’s eviction moratorium.
- New York ended one moratorium on evictions.
- Fourteen states have ended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
- California has current local moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
- Seven states did not issue a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on the state or local level.
- New York – One of the state’s moratoriums on evictions expired June 20, allowing housing courts to resume eviction proceedings. Another moratorium is set to expire in August for people unable to pay rent due to financial difficulties resulting from the coronavirus.
- Virginia – Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Lemons issued an order on June 22 that will allow state courts to resume eviction hearings on June 29. A second order allows state courts to immediately resume eviction hearings that are unrelated to nonpayment.
State legislative responses
- To date, 2,269 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- We have tracked 189 additional bills since June 18.
- Of these, 212 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 9.3 percent of the total number that has been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
- We have tracked 22 additional significant bills since June 18 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.)
State legislative session changes
- Eleven state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Ten of those have since reconvened. One (Nebraska) has not.
- Two legislatures that had suspended their sessions have adjourned since June 18.
- Thirty-three legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Four legislatures have adjourned regular or special sessions since June 18.
- Five state legislatures are in regular session.
- One state legislature (Utah) is in special session.
- Two legislatures have adjourned special sessions since June 18.
- Minnesota – A special session of the Minnesota Legislature adjourned on June 19.
- New Mexico – A special session of the New Mexico Legislature adjourned on June 22.
- Tennessee – The Tennessee Legislature adjourned on June 19.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia
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.
- Seven members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Forty federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
- Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
- Forty-one state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
- Seventy-four state-level incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
- At least two local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
- At least 16 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- At least 26 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
Since June 18, one state representative tested positive for coronavirus.
- S.C. State Rep. and candidate for the U.S. House Nancy Mace (R) announced she tested positive for the virus on June 23.