Coronavirus weekly update: July 3 – July 9, 2020

Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics: Coronavirus Weekly Updates
From March 18 to June 10, 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 July 2:

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

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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 July 9, stay-at-home orders have ended in 41 states. Nineteen of those states have Republican governors and 22 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state supreme court invalidated the stay-at-home order).

California and New Mexico, both of which have a Democratic governor, are the only remaining states with an active stay-at-home order.

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 to close for the year. Montana schools were allowed to reopen on May 7 and Wyoming schools were allowed to reopen on May 15.
  • Seven states (Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Wyoming) have reopened their campuses for students and staff.
    • No new states have reopened campuses since July 2.
  • Eleven states have issued reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
    • One new state has done so since July 2.
  • Two states have announced schools will reopen in the fall but have not released reopening guidance.
    • No new states have made reopening announcements since July 2.
  • Officials in 13 other states have issued guidance for reopening schools to in-person instruction, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.
    • No new states have released guidance for reopening schools since July 2.

Details:

  • Florida – On July 6, the Florida Department of Education ordered that all school boards and charter school governing boards must physically open schools for at least five days per week for all students beginning in August.
  • Kentucky – On July 6, the Kentucky Department of Education released guidelines on reopening schools in the fall. The document, a complement to interim guidance the Kentucky Department of Public Health issued in June, does not mandate a uniform course of action for reopening schools. Instead, “it is intended to be a guide for local school districts when developing and adapting their return-to-school plans.”
  • Montana – Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced guidelines for reopening schools. The plan encourages schools to consider several precautions, including limiting occupancy, adjusting transportation schedules, and adopting special cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Texas – On July 7, Education Commissioner Mike Morath released guidance for reopening schools in the fall. Parents will be able to choose between on-campus and distance learning options. Masks will be required in school buildings.

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

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.

On Nov. 6, 1918, the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune published “Health Before Politics.” Covington, Ohio’s Health Department issued an order that prohibited crowds from gathering to hear election results.

“Covington’s Health Department issued an order Tuesday prohibiting the congregation of crowds in the County Clerk’s office Tuesday night to hear the election returns. It is usual for several hundred eager voters to crowd the office on election nights.” 

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 July 7, the federal government awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax Inc. for clinical studies of a coronavirus vaccine, and $450 million to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to manufacture doses of an experimental treatment for COVID-19.

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 381 lawsuits, in 45 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 150 of those lawsuits.
    • Since July 2, we have added 61 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 29 court orders and/or settlements.
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 127 lawsuits, in 37 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 62 of those lawsuits.

Here are three recent lawsuits that have either garnered significant national media attention or involve major advocacy groups.

  • Michigan v. DeVos: On July 7, Michigan, California, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Mexico, and Wisconsin sued U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging the U.S. Department of Education has unlawfully and erroneously interpreted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Plaintiffs claim the CARES Act “directs states to distribute CARES Act funds to local educational agencies” in proportion to “the number of children who are economically disadvantaged,” in accordance with Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The plaintiffs say, counter to congressional intent, the Department’s allocation of the $30.75 billion earmarked for schools has been based on the total number of all students—public and private—regardless of economic disadvantage. Plaintiffs say this “deprives low-income and at-risk students, their teachers, and the public schools that serve them of critical resources to meet students’ educational and social-emotional needs during and after pandemic-related school closures.”
  • When asked about the lawsuit, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said, “This isn’t how it should work. This is a virus that has had a disproportionate impact on low-income students and communities of color. Schools in these areas deserve a government that will support them throughout this crisis.” U.S. Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito said, “The secretary has said many times, this pandemic affected all students, and the CARES Act requires that funding should be used to help all students.” The case is currently assigned to Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.
  • Forest v. Cooper: On July 1, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) filed suit against Gov. Roy Cooper (D) in Wake County’s Tenth Judicial District Court, alleging procedural violations in Cooper’s implementation of COVID-19 restrictions. Forest seeks an injunction against enforcement of Cooper’s executive orders 118, 121, 135, 138, 141, and 147 (collectively referred to as the “shutdown orders”). These orders have limited food and beverage service at restaurants, mandated social distancing, limited mass gatherings, restricted travel, closed certain businesses, and provided for business reopening plans. Forest alleges Cooper failed “to receive the concurrence of the council of state prior to the shutdown being issued, “violating the North Carolina Emergency Management Act. The council of state is the collective name for North Carolina’s elected senior executive offices, including the lieutenant governor. Forest also alleges Cooper’s orders violate provisions of North Carolina’s quarantine and isolation statutes. In a press release, Forest said his intention was not to challenge the substance of the orders, but the nature of their issuance. Cooper has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
  • Sehmel v. Weisman: On July 1, a group of seven Washington residents sued Secretary of Health John Weisman in Lewis County Superior Court, seeking to prevent enforcement of Health Order 20-03, which mandates face coverings in public. Plaintiffs allege the mask requirement is arbitrary, capricious, and outside the statutory authority of the health secretary. Plaintiffs also say masks have become so politicized they amount to symbolic speech. Compelling people to wear masks “prohibits plaintiffs from expressing dissent” in violation of their right to free speech. Plaintiffs also claim that because they “have a fundamental right to wear the clothing of their choice and protect their own health as they see fit,” the mask requirement invades their personal autonomy in violation of their right to substantive due process. Shella Sadovnik, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “[The] Secretary of Health does not have sweeping power to pass rules and regulations imposing criminal penalties for refusing to kneel in submission.” Weisman has not yet commented, and the case does not yet appear on the court’s docket.

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 have postponed elections since July 2.
  • Eighteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
    • No new states have made candidate filing modifications since July 2.
  • Thirty-six states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
    • Five states have made voting procedure modifications since July 2.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • One state has made modifications to party events since July 2.

Details:

  • Alabama – On July 2, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily suspended a district court order barring Alabama election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff. This action allows the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to hear a pending appeal of the district court’s decision.
  • Arkansas – On July 2, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Secretary of State John Thurston (R) announced that voters in the Nov. 3 general election would be allowed to cite concerns over COVID-19 as a valid excuse for voting absentee.
  • Maryland – On July 8, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered the state board of elections to automatically send all qualified voters absentee/mail-in ballot request forms automatically to all qualified voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Massachusetts – On July 6, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed into law legislation extending vote-by-mail eligibility in the fall primary and general elections to all qualified voters.
  • Texas – On July 8, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the cancellation of the state convention of the Republican Party of Texas. The convention had been scheduled for July 16 through July 18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
  • Vermont – On July 2, Vermont S348 became law without the signature of Gov. Phil Scott (R). The legislation authorizes the secretary of state to implement modifications to election procedures without the approval of the governor.

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 18 lawsuits were filed in 13 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
    • Ballotpedia has tracked two new lawsuits since July 2.
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in 17 cases, with appeals pending in some.
    • Ballotpedia has tracked two new rulings since July 2
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 26 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
    • Ballotpedia tracked one new petition drive suspension since July 2.
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action.
    • No new changes have been enacted since July 2, although an executive order in Colorado allowing remote signature gathering was overturned.
  • At least four initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.

Details:

  • California – On July 2, Judge James P. Arguelles ordered the deadline for the 2022 Packaging Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative be extended to September 28, 2020, to account for the shelter-in-place order and coronavirus-related government restrictions. Michael J. Sangiacomo, the CEO of Recology and one of the three individuals who filed the initiative, sued Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) on June 23, 2020. The lawsuit sought to extend the deadline to file signatures for the initiative beyond July 6. The lawsuit asked the court to extend the deadline until all California counties have moved into the third reopening stage following the coronavirus stay-at-home order or by at least 90 days. In California, campaigns have 180 days to collect signatures for their ballot initiative. Arguelles also previously ordered a deadline extension for a 2022 sports betting initiative.

Travel restrictions

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

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 24 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 13 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since July 2, four states have modified their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, New York – Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on July 7 that visitors entering their states from Delaware, Kansas, and Oklahoma will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The three governors announced the joint travel advisory on June 24. The initial list included eight states. It now applies to 19 states.
  • Pennsylvania – The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommended that residents who travel to 15 states with rising COVID-19 cases quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Pennsylvania. The states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

State legislation

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 2,469 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 71 additional bills since July 2.
  • Of these, 308 significant bills have been enacted into law, approximately 12.5 percent of the total number introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
    • We have tracked 68 additional significant bills since July 2 (also omitting 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: 

  • Seven state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Six of those have since reconvened.
    • No legislatures that had suspended their sessions have adjourned since July 2.
  • Thirty-eight legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
    • One legislature has adjourned a regular or special session since July 2.
  • Five state legislatures are in regular 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 at the local level

Details:

  • Delaware –  Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins Seitz, Jr. extended the statewide judicial emergency through Aug. 6, keeping courts in phase two of reopening. Phase two prohibits jury trials.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

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

Overview:

  • Twenty-two states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
    • Since July 2, one state has extended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
  • Twenty 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.

Details:

  • Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) extended the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Aug. 31. The order had been scheduled to expire on June 10.

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

  • Federal
    • Seven members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-four federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Forty-eight 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.
  • Local
    • At least two local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 18 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 July 2, five state politicians, one local politician, and one influencer have tested positive for coronavirus.

Details:

  • Keisha Bottoms, the Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, announced on July 6 that she had tested positive for coronavirus but did not have symptoms.
  • New York State Senator Julia Salazar (D), who represents District 18, tested positive for coronavirus, according to a July 2 press release from Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D).
  • Mississippi State Rep. Philip Gunn (R), who represents District 56, announced he tested positive for coronavirus on July 5.
  • Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann (R) tested positive for coronavirus on July 7, according to a statement released by his spokesperson.
  • Mississippi State Rep. William Brown (D), who represents District 70, tested positive for coronavirus on July 4.
  • California State Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D), who represents District 62, tested positive for coronavirus on July 6.
  • Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (R) announced on July 2 that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

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About the author

Cory Eucalitto

Cory Eucalitto is a managing editor at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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