Coronavirus weekly updates: July 16, 2020

Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics: Coronavirus Weekly Updates
The Coronavirus Weekly Update summarizes major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic in politics, government, and elections. Today, you will find updates on the following topics, with comparisons to our previous edition released on July 9:

  • 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 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. 

Details:

  • New Mexico – On July 13, Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through July 30. The order first took effect on March 24.

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.
  • Seven states (Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Wyoming) have allowed schools to reopen for students and staff.
    • No new states have reopened campuses since July 9.
  • Thirteen states have released reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
    • Two new states have done so since July 9.
  • One state has announced schools will reopen in the fall but has not released reopening guidance.
    • No new states have made reopening announcements since July 9.
  • Officials in 17 other states have released guidance for reopening schools to in-person instruction, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.
    • Four new states have released guidance for reopening schools since July 9.

Details:

  • Arkansas – On July 9, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced that the reopening of public schools would be delayed until Aug. 24. Schools in the state were previously set to open on Aug. 13.
  • Delaware – Gov. John Carney (D) released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Districts will use the guidance to create reopening plans that account for in-person, hybrid, and distance learning models.
  • Idaho – Gov. Brad Little (R) announced a reopening plan for public schools. Guidelines include encouraging face coverings for students and faculty, teaching hygiene, and complying with regular cleaning and disinfecting protocols. It also recommends schools be prepared to teach students in-person, with a hybrid schedule, and completely online.
  • Kansas – The Kansas Board of Education voted 9-0 to approve guidelines for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Board members said that the guidelines were not mandates but were meant to help districts craft their own individual plans.
  • Louisiana – The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to approve reopening guidelines proposed by Superintendent Cade Brumley. The guidelines include a requirement for all adults and students in grades 3 through 12 to wear face coverings.
  • Missouri – The Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools. Recommendations include screening students and faculty for symptoms, limiting students and faculty to the same group of people every day (cohorting), and requesting students and faculty wear masks.
  • New Hampshire – Gov. Chris Sununu (R) released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Sununu said the plan is meant to give school districts local control over how they reopen. Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said he expected students back in schools in September.
  • New York – The State Department of Education released a framework for public school reopening plans. Each school district will be required to submit a district-specific reopening plan based on the template between July 17 and July 31.

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 Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on how the 1918 influenza pandemic dampened election night energy.

“Darkest night, pierced only by lame street lights and far-scattered horns. A quiet stream of pedestrians and automobiles, moving east and west or stopping on side streets to wait for news.

Such was election night. Someone dared recall the nights of torchlight parades, when red flares and drums aided shouts and blows in expressing partisan fervor. Though torchlights fell from favor, horns were still ‘aces high’ when election night last came around. Memories of hilarious hands of young men, older men and old men–even girls and women joining them–parading the streets with banners and blatant horns, prompted a search for such troops last night.”

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 16, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced on Twitter that the Department would extend its prohibition on nonessential travel to Canada and Mexico through Aug. 20.
  • On July 14, retired General Joseph Dunford, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, withdrew his candidacy to lead a congressional commission established to oversee the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus relief fund. The five-member commission has been without a chair since its creation for the last four months.

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 433 lawsuits in 46 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 175 of those lawsuits.
    • Since July 9, we have added 52 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 25 court orders and/or settlements.
  • Ballotpedia has separately followed another 132 lawsuits, in 38 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 68 of those lawsuits.

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

  • Page v. Cuomo: On July 1, an Arizona resident filed a lawsuit challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order requiring travelers entering New York from states with high COVID-19 infection rates to self-quarantine. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The plaintiff, Cynthia Page, said she was forced to cancel a planned trip to Brooklyn as Arizona’s current rate of infection would require her to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The plaintiff alleges Cuomo’s order violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. The suit also alleges Cuomo’s order violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause, which guarantees legal protections related to distinctively national citizenship, such as the right to interstate travel. The plaintiff alleges the quarantine is “the equivalent of a house arrest.” The plaintiff further alleges Cuomo’s order “lacks any rational basis, is arbitrary, capricious, and vague, has no real or substantial relation” to the aim of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, “and is beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by fundamental law.” Cuomo has yet to release any statement related to the complaint. The case is assigned to Judge David N. Hurd, an appointee of President Bill Clinton (D).
  • Power v. Leon County: On July 10, Judge John Cooper, of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit Court, denied a motion to prohibit Leon County’s mask ordinance. The lawsuit, one of nine filed by attorney and state Representative Anthony Sabatini (R) on behalf of plaintiffs across the state, challenges the constitutionality of Leon County’s Emergency Ordinance 20-15, enacted on June 23 as a response to COVID-19. The ordinance requires individuals to wear face coverings while inside public businesses to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The plaintiff, a Leon County resident and business owner, alleges the ordinance violates guarantees of privacy, due process, religious freedom, and equal protection under the Florida Constitution. Cooper dismissed arguments that the ordinance was impermissibly vague and found the science justifying the ordinance convincing, stating, “If people are going to go into businesses and spread it all over the place, then about the only thing available is a face mask.” Sabatini, who has filed similar lawsuits against Martin, Miami-Dade, Seminole, Orange, and Hillsborough counties, as well as the cities of St. Augustine, DeLand, and Jacksonville, has indicated he will file an appeal in the First District Court of Appeal.

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 states have postponed elections since July 9.
  • Eighteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
    • No states have made candidate filing modifications since July 9.
  • Thirty-seven states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
    • One state has made voting procedure modifications since July 9.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • One state party has made modifications to party events since July 9.

Details:

  • Texas – On July 9, Judge Larry Weiman, of the Texas 80th District Court, rejected requests from both the Republican Party of Texas and Steve Hotze, a Houston Republican, to bar Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner from canceling the state Republican Party convention, originally scheduled for July 16-18. The GOP petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to intervene and direct the city to allow the convention to proceed as planned. On July 13, the state supreme court dismissed the petition, and the party’s executive committee voted to hold the convention online.
  • Vermont – Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) announced that the state would send mail-in ballot request forms to all eligible voters in the Aug. 11 primary election.

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.
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in all of the pending cases, although some are still pending appeal.
    • At least one ruling has been issued since July 9.
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 26 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action.
    • No new changes have been enacted since July 9.
  • At least four initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.

Details:

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 9, five states have modified their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, New York –  Governors Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on July 14 that New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota had been added to the joint travel advisory originally announced June 24. Travelers from those states will need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the tristate area. The governors removed Delaware, which was added July 7, from the list. The list now includes 22 states. Gov. Cuomo also announced that visitors to New York from those 22 states will need to fill out a form with contact information or face a $10,000 fine. Gov. Lamont said Connecticut would join New York in requiring visitors to fill out a contact form.
  • Hawaii – Gov. David Ige (D) announced on July 14 that he was extending the quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers through Sept. 1. Previously, Ige said a new program would take effect Aug. 1 that would allow visitors to avoid the quarantine requirement by presenting a negative coronavirus test. The program will not start before Sept. 1.
  • Pennsylvania – On July 12, the Pennsylvania Department of Health added Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma to its quarantine list. Visitors from those states are recommended to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering Pennsylvania. On July 15, the Department of Health removed Delaware from the list.

State legislation

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 2,564 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 95 additional bills since July 9.
  • Of these, 349 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 14 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 41 additional significant bills since July 9 (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: 

  • Six state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Five of those have since reconvened.
    • One state legislature that had suspended and then resumed its session has adjourned since July 9.
  • Thirty-seven legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
  • Five state legislatures are in regular session.
  • Two state legislatures are in special session.
    • Two state legislatures have convened special sessions since July 9.

Details:

  • Hawaii – The Hawaii Legislature adjourned on July 10.
  • Minnesota – The Minnesota Legislature convened a special session on July 13.
  • Nevada – The Nevada Legislature convened a special session on July 8.

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
    • Since July 9, two local courts and one state have extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.

Details:

  • Massachusetts – Effective July 13, visitors can enter Massachusetts courthouses subject to restrictions put in place by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
  • Georgia – Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an order extending the state’s judicial emergency, which had been set to expire on July 12, through Aug. 11. Jury trials and most grand jury proceedings remain prohibited.
  • Chicago – On July 13, Rebecca Pallmeyer, the Chief judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, announced that all criminal and civil jury trials set to begin before Aug. 3 in Chicago’s federal courts will be rescheduled.
  • Los Angeles – On July 13, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California announced that jury trials would not resume until August.
  • Iowa – On July 13, courtrooms reopened to in-person proceedings with restrictions. Social distancing of at least six feet is required, and anyone who talks must be behind a transparent face shield while doing so. Jury trials will not resume until Sept. 14.
  • New York – Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals in New York, announced that grand jury proceedings could resume in all judicial districts except New York City. Grand jury proceedings are set to resume on Aug. 10 in New York City.
  • North Carolina – Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced on July 16 that she was maintaining the pause on jury trials through the end of September. She also announced that masks will now be required in courthouses.

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-one states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
    • Since July 9, one state has ended a moratorium on evictions.
  • Twenty-one 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:

  • Michigan – The state’s moratorium on evictions expired on July 16.

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
    • Six members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-three federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Fifty-seven 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 19 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 9, one governor, one congressman, one city councilmember, and one state senator tested positive for coronavirus.

Details:

  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced on July 15 that he tested positive for the coronavirus. Stitt, who assumed office in 2019, is the first governor known to have tested positive for the virus.
  • Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who represents Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, announced on July 14 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Chicago City Councilmember Carrie Austin, who represents Ward 34, announced on July 13 that she tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams (D), who represents District 8, announced on July 14 that he tested positive for the 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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