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 23:
- 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
- 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 July 30, 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). Seven states never issued stay-at-home orders.
California and New Mexico, both of which have a Democratic governor, are the only remaining states with an active stay-at-home order.
- New Mexico – The state’s stay-at-home is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. MT on July 30. We will provide an update if the order is extended in a future edition.
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. 13, The Deseret Evening News reported on an influenza outbreak at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Twenty cases of Spanish influenza were reported to exist at the Westminster college this morning by Dr. H.W. Reherd, president of that institution. However, the college is under a strict quarantine and the situation is said to be well under control.
According to Dr. Reherd, the disease made its appearance the latter part of last week but absolute obeyance of orders has halted the epidemic and it is now reported on the downward path.
When the influenza attacked the city and state over a month ago, the Westminster college had enrolled about 60 students some of whom came from a distance of hundreds of miles. Therefore, realizing the inadvisability of sending them home, Dr. Reherd communicated with Dr. T.B. Beatty, state health officer.
“We decided,” said Dr. Reherd, “that in view of the isolated location of the college, classes could be continued among the dormitory students without interference from the ‘flu’. The resident students of Salt Lake were sent home and kept in touch with the advance of the dormitory scholars by telephone.”
- On July 23, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar renewed the federal public health emergency originally that he issued in late January and extended in April. Public health emergencies last for 90 days.
- A federal eviction ban created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 expired. The ban applied to tenants in federally assisted properties.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 566 lawsuits, in 49 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 219 of those lawsuits.
- Since July 23, we have added 50 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 17 court orders and/or settlements.
- Ballotpedia has separately followed another 146 lawsuits, in 39 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 81 of those lawsuits.
Here are three lawsuits that have garnered either significant national media attention or involve major advocacy groups.
- Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak: On July 24, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Nevada church’s request for permission to hold in-person services larger than those allowed under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) executive order. The court split 5-4 in the decision. In its emergency application to the court, the church asked for an injunction pending appellate review that would bar enforcement of Directive 021. An injunction would “allow the church to host religious gatherings on the same terms as comparable secular assemblies.” At issue in the case was the church’s argument that the capacity limit violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment in that it “treats at least seven categories of secular assemblies ‘where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time’ better than religious services.” The directive, which imposes a 50% fire-code capacity limit on places of business, such as casinos, restaurants, and movie theaters, limits gatherings at places of worship to a 50-person maximum. The majority did not comment, a common practice when acting on emergency applications. In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the state’s argument that “allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshippers presents a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow.” Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh joined Alito’s dissent. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh each wrote separate dissents.
- Graham v. Brown: On July 8, the owner of a beauty salon in Salem, Oregon filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon alleging that Gov. Kate Brown (D) and other state officials had violated her constitutional rights when they temporarily shut down her salon. In her complaint, salon owner Lindsey Graham argues that Brown’s Executive Order 20-12, which required salons to cease operations immediately and indefinitely, violated her constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Additionally, Graham alleges that various state actors “engaged in a course of conduct intended to harass, intimidate, extort, and bully” Graham for exercising her First Amendment rights to speech and protest after challenging the logic behind, and authority to impose, COVID-19 restrictions. Neither Brown nor her office has commented publicly on the suit.
- Yang v. Powers: On July 20, Judge William Griesbach of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin dismissed a lawsuit that sought to void local COVID-19 orders enacted in Wisconsin. Various counties and cities enacted the orders after the state supreme court overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) statewide order. The lawsuit claimed six violations of constitutional rights, including the right of assembly, the exercise of religion, and equal protection. Without addressing substantive issues in the plaintiffs’ complaint, Griesbach ruled that because the lawsuit failed to allege coordinated action between the local officials, the case failed to properly join all the defendants into one lawsuit. Finding that the claims raised were “largely separate and distinct,” and that each plaintiff was subject to different orders executed in different parts of the state, Griesbach ruled that “[e]ach of the government entities are independent of each other, and the fact that various governmental officials consulted with each other before they issued local orders in response to the pandemic does not transform their independent actions into a single transaction or occurrence.” Griesbach dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled. In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said, “I’m happy that this challenge to critical rules to protect public health was dismissed.” Joseph Voiland, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told news outlets he was considering whether to file an amended lawsuit or appeal the dismissal. Griesbach was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush (R).
- Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- No states have postponed elections since July 23.
- Nineteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
- One state has made candidate filing modifications since July 23.
- Forty states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
- Two states have made voting procedure modifications since July 23.
- 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 July 23.
- New Hampshire: On July 28, Judge Joseph Laplante of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire reduced the number of signatures Libertarian Party candidates need to get on the ballot by 35 percent.
- West Virginia: On July 27, Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) announced all voters “concerned about their health and safety because of COVID-19” would be eligible to vote absentee in the Nov. 3 general election.
- Texas: On July 27, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 general election by six days. Originally scheduled to begin on Oct. 19, early voting would instead start on Oct. 13.
Ballot measure changes
- At least 19 lawsuits have been filed in 13 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
- Ballotpedia has tracked 27 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering or abandoned 2020 efforts.
- There has been at least one new petition drive suspension since July 23.
- Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action.
- At least four initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.
- Oregon: On July 29, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency order suspending Judge Michael McShane’s July 10 ruling that extended the signature deadline and lowered the required number of signatures for the Oregon Independent State and Congressional Redistricting Commission Initiative.
- Nevada: On July 24, Fair Maps Nevada, the committee sponsoring the Nevada Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, announced it would not be able to meet the Aug. 3 signature deadline.
- 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 reopened their campuses for students and staff.
- No new states have reopened campuses since July 23.
- Thirteen states have released reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
- No new states have done so since July 23.
- One state has announced public schools will reopen in the fall but has not released reopening guidance.
- No new states have made reopening announcements since July 23.
- Officials in 21 other states have released guidance for reopening schools to in-person instruction, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.
- One new state has released guidance for reopening schools since July 23.
- Alabama – On July 29, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) modified her Safer At Home Order to require students in second grade or higher to wear masks at school. She also extended the order through Aug. 31.
- Arizona – On July 23, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered public schools to reopen for on-site learning on Aug. 17 for students who have nowhere else to go. Superintendent Kathy Hoffman clarified that the order meant each school district must open at least one site for students to go, but did not have to open every school or require every teacher to work in-person.
- Delaware – On July 28, Gov. John Carney (D) said the state would announce its decision next week on how schools will reopen. Carney said if current statistics hold, he expects students to be learning in person at least part-time.
- Massachusetts – On July 27, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education signed an agreement with the state’s teachers unions to reduce the length of the 2020-2021 school year from 180 days to 170 days.
- Minnesota – On July 30, Gov. Tim Walz (D) released the Safe Learning Plan for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The plan requires a county to have fewer than 9 coronavirus cases per 10,000 residents over a 14-day period in order to fully reopen schools.
- Nevada – On July 28, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a directive ordering all K-12 students and staff to wear a mask in school at all times. The directive also imposed social distancing guidelines of three feet for preschools through middle schools, and six feet for high schools.
- New Jersey – On July 24, the state released guidance regarding a remote-only learning option for public school students. During the 2020-2021 school year, parents will be able to opt their children into a fully online learning schedule.
- New Mexico – On July 23, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced schools will not be able to open for in-person instruction until after Sept. 7. Individual school districts decide when classes begin, so there is no statewide reopening date.
- Oregon – On July 28, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced the metrics that will guide school reopening decisions. Counties must have 10 or fewer coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and a 7-day positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before in-person and hybrid instruction can resume. The state also must have a positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before any in-person or hybrid instruction can resume.
- Tennessee – On July 28, Gov. Bill Lee (R) released guidelines for reopening schools. The recommendations cover testing and contact tracing, immunizations, and resources necessary for returning students to classrooms or teaching remotely.
- 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 23, five states have implemented travel restrictions.
- Kansas – On July 28, The Kansas Department of Health and Environment removed Arizona from its quarantine list. Since July 28, only people who had traveled to or from Florida were required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state.
- Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – On July 28, Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Illinois, Kentucky Minnesota, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico had been added to the joint travel advisory, bringing the total number of states on the list to 34.
- Maryland – Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a travel advisory asking Maryland residents to refrain from traveling to Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Texas. The percentage of positive test results in those states is over 10%. Hogan urged people who have traveled to one of those states to get a coronavirus test.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Since July 23, four courts have extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level.
- Kentucky – On July 28, Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr. announced that jury trials could resume on Aug. 1 and civil jury trials could resume Oct. 1. According to Justice Minton, trial judges will need to determine if conditions are safe, based on local conditions, before trials will be allowed to proceed.
- California – On July 24, Chief judge Phyllis Hamilton announced that jury trials will not resume in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California until at least Sept. 30. In-person proceedings will be limited to 10 people.
- Idaho – On July 27, The Idaho Supreme Court delayed the resumption of criminal jury trials until Sept. 14 and civil jury trials until Dec. 1.
- Hawaii – Third Circuit Court Judge Robert Kim issued an order delaying all jury trials until at least Sept. 1.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Twenty-one states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
- Since July 23, one state extended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
- 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.
- Florida – Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Sept. 1.
State legislative responses
- To date, 2,721 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- We have tracked 89 additional bills since July 23.
- Of these, 377 significant bills have been enacted into law, 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 12 additional significant bills since July 23 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation
State legislative session changes
- Six state legislatures have suspended their sessions. All six of those have since reconvened.
- Thirty-nine 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 23.
- Five state legislatures are in regular session.
- Connecticut – The Connecticut legislature adjourned a special session on July 27.
Officials Diagnosed with Coronavirus
- Nine members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Forty-three federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
- Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
- Sixty-five 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 20 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 23, one congressman, one congressional candidate, one state senator, and one state-level candidate for office have tested positive for coronavirus. Herman Cain died of complications related to coronavirus.
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who represents Texas’ 1st Congressional District, announced he tested positive for coronavirus on July 28.
- Wesley Hunt (R), a candidate in the race for Texas’ 7th Congressional District, announced on July 29 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
- Florida state Senator Rob Bradley (R), who represents District 5, announced on July 28 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
- Christopher Bowen (D), a candidate running to represent District 105 in the Connecticut House of Representatives, announced on July 28 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
- Herman Cain, a businessman who ran in 2012 for the Republican presidential nomination, died on July 30 of complications related to coronavirus. He was hospitalized after testing positive for the virus on July 2.