Coronavirus weekly update: July 31 – August 6, 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 30:

  • 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

Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

As of Aug. 6, 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.

Details:

  • New Mexico – Secretary of Health Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through Aug. 28.

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 reopened their campuses for students and staff.
    • No new states reopened campuses since July 30.
  • Sixteen states have released reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
    • Three new states have done so since July 30.
  • One state has announced schools will reopen in the fall but has not released reopening guidance.
    • No new states made reopening announcements since July 30.
  • 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.
    • No new states released guidance for reopening schools since July 30.

Details:

  • Alabama – On Aug. 3, the Alabama Department of Public Health released an 85-page school reopening toolkit. It contains recommendations and guidelines for school districts to incorporate into their reopening plans.
  • Arkansas – On Aug. 4, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said public schools in the state were still on track to reopen beginning Aug. 24. “We need to have school this year. Absolutely. I’m firm on that. The educators are firm on that. Public health is firm on [that]. We need to have school,” he said.
  • Connecticut – On July 30, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said school districts would be able to choose between a full in-person and hybrid plan without needing state approval. Districts that want to use a fully remote model must apply for an exemption from the Department of Education.
  • Delaware – On Aug. 4, Gov. John Carney (D) announced public schools could reopen using a combination of in-person and remote learning starting in September.
  • Hawaii – On July 30, the State Board of Education voted to delay the start of the public school year until Aug. 17.
  • Indiana – On Aug. 3, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) modified the mask mandate for schools to allow students to remove masks in a classroom when they can maintain three to six feet of distance between themselves and others.
  • Iowa – On July 30, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) set requirements for public schools to seek a state waiver allowing them to provide online-only education. A school must have at least a 15% positive test rate in its county and a 10% absentee rate among students. Schools in counties with a 20% or higher positive test rate do not need to meet the absentee rate requirement. The waiver would allow a school to operate fully online for two weeks before re-applying for the waiver.
  • Maine – On July 31, the Maine Department of Education released guidance for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance requires all staff and students age five and older to wear masks.
  • Mississippi – On Aug. 4, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) mandated that all students and teachers wear masks on school property. He delayed school reopenings in eight counties to Aug. 17. Previously, the counties were allowed to set their own start dates for the academic year.
  • New Jersey – Murphy announced all students will be required to wear face coverings in schools, with exceptions for students with disabilities.
  • Ohio – On Aug. 4, Gov. Mike Dewine (R) announced all K-12 students will be required to wear face coverings in public schools.
  • South Carolina – On July 31, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced masks will be required in South Carolina public school facilities for staff and students in grades 2-12.
  • West Virginia – On Aug. 5, Gov. Jim Justice (R) released reopening guidance for public schools. Justice set a target reopening date of Sept. 8 and counties are required to submit their reopening plans by Aug. 14.

1918 influenza pandemic %28Spanish Flu%29 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 Oct. 18, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a resolution passed by Episcopal clergymen aimed at a Health Board ruling that closed churches but left stores open.

Declaring that there never was a time when prayer and supplication was more necessary, twenty-three clergymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church yesterday passed a resolution protesting against the closing churches of the epidemic influenza.

The resolutions were prepared and presented at a meeting called at the church house, Twelfth and Walnut streets, by Rev. Floyd W. Tomkins, rector of the Holy Trinity Church. Rev. Samuel Upjohn, of St. Luke’s Church, presided.

It was pointed out that the protest was not made with any intention of defying the rules of the Board of Health, but to assure the people that the services were suspended by the various rectors unwillingly and that in the opinion of those signing the resolution the ruling was wrong.

The resolution declares it is inconsistent to close the churches and yet allow people to crowd in cars and stores on the plea that “businesses must go on.” It further states, “It is more important to pray to God than to carry on business and that it is the opinion of the Protestants that god will care for his people when they meet to plead with Him.”

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 Aug. 3, President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order that made permanent certain regulatory changes that expanded telehealth services, especially in rural areas. On Aug. 4, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced a $2.1 billion deal with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to develop and manufacture up to 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine for U.S. use.
  • On Aug. 5, the president announced the federal government would continue to fund the cost of National Guard units deployed to states through the end of the year, though at a lower level than before. Beginning Aug. 21, the federal government will reduce its level of funding for National Guard units assisting states with their coronavirus responses from 100% to 75% for most states. The federal government will continue to pay 100% of the cost for hard-hit states like Florida and Texas.

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 632 lawsuits in 49 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 238 of those lawsuits.
    • Since July 30, we have added 66 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 19 court orders and/or settlements.
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 157 lawsuits in 40 states dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 86 of those lawsuits.

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

New York v. United States Department of Labor:

  • On Aug. 3, Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York declared parts of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) final rule implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) null and void. The FFCRA mandates that certain employers provide paid emergency sick and/or family leave to employees who are unable to work due to mandated COVID-19 quarantine or symptoms. The mandate extends to parents and guardians in the event of school or childcare unavailability. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) argued the DOL violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because the final rule restricts eligibility under the FFCRA in a manner that is “not authorized by, and conflicts with, the FFCRA. The state also argued the rule imposed additional burdens on employees seeking to claim benefits. As such, the DOL was denying “vital financial support and exposing millions of American workers and their communities to further transmission of infectious disease in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
  • Oetken overturned the final rule’s work-availability requirement, which made employees ineligible for leave under the FFCRA if their employer had no work for them because of COVID-related slowdowns or temporary closures. Oetken also struck down:
    • The DOL’s broad definition of a non-eligible health care provider,
    • the requirement that an employee secure employer consent for intermittent leave, and
    • the requirement that documentation is provided before taking leave.
  • The remainder of the final rule was allowed to stand. Neither party has commented on the ruling, nor has the DOL indicated whether it will appeal or issue a new rule. Oetken is an appointee of Barack Obama (D).

Criswell v. Boudreaux:

  • On July 29, a group of inmates at the Tulare County Jails sued Sheriff Michael Boudreaux in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeking the implementation of an array of COVID-19 safety measures. The plaintiffs are asking that the court issue an order directing Boudreaux to:
    • provide universal staff and inmate COVID-19 testing,
    • release inmates who are medically vulnerable and pose a low-flight-risk,
    • provide (and require staff to wear) personal protection equipment,
    • allow attorney access to incarcerated clients, and
    • quarantine those exposed to the novel coronavirus.
  • Plaintiffs allege that because Boudreaux has failed to implement CDC-recommended response measures, he has “actively interfered with incarcerated people’s ability to protect themselves.” The plaintiffs allege they have been placed in “imminent danger of serious illness or death from the virus.” Plaintiffs also allege Boudreaux’s visitation policy “has prevented incarcerated people from engaging in confidential attorney visits.” They say the policy interferes with “efforts to meet confidentially with civil rights attorneys about the appalling conditions in the jail.” The plaintiffs allege Boudreaux’s actions violate the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Boudreaux said, “We are doing everything that we can with the information and tools available to us to keep our inmates safe and healthy.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. United States Department of Agriculture: 

  • On July 28, a group of unions representing poultry processing plant workers in multiple states filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs say increased processing demands have raised safety concerns. The suit seeks to set aside a 2018 USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) waiver. The waiver allows bird processing line speed to rise to a level the unions argue “could increase risk of injuries and illnesses among establishment employees.” According to the unions, though FSIS adopted a rule in 2014 capping the processing speed of poultry plants to 140 birds per minute, the 2018 waiver they are challenging  “now permits nearly 43 percent of all plants subject to that regulation to operate at 175 [birds per minute].” The unions also allege FSIS adopted the waiver program in violation of notice-and-comment procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). A representative for the USDA declined to discuss the lawsuit, telling reporters the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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 July 30.
  • Nineteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
    • No new state made candidate filing modifications since July 30.
  • Forty states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
    • Six states made voting procedure modifications since July 30.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • No state parties made modifications to party events since July 30.

Details:

  • Connecticut: On July 31, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed HB6002 into law, allowing voters to cite concern over COVID-19 as a reason for voting by absentee ballot in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Minnesota: On Aug. 3, a Minnesota district court approved a consent decree between the plaintiffs and the state defendants in LaRose v. Simon. Under the terms of the consent decree, state election officials agreed to waive the witness requirement for mail-in ballots cast in the Nov. 3 general election. The state also agreed to count all mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received within five business days of Election Day.
  • Nevada: On Aug. 3, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed AB4 into law, directing election officials to automatically distribute mail-in ballots to all active registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Pennsylvania: On July 31, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) announced the state would provide prepaid return postage for all mail-in and absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Rhode Island: On July 31, Judge Mary McElroy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island approved a consent agreement reached by the parties in Common Cause Rhode Island v. Gorbea. Rhode Island officials agreed not to enforce witness or notary requirements for mail-in ballots in both the Sept. 8 primary and Nov. 3 general elections.
  • Tennessee: On Aug. 5, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned a lower court order that had extended absentee voting eligibility to all voters during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the state’s standard eligibility criteria would apply to the Nov. 3 general election. The state granted that “individuals with a special vulnerability to COVID-19” and “or caretakers for individuals with a special vulnerability to COVID-19” would meet the existing statutory criteria for absentee voting eligibility.

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 19 lawsuits were filed in 13 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in 18 cases, with appeals and motions for stays pending in some.
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 27 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  • 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.

Travel restrictions

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

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 25 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 13 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since July 30, one state implemented travel restrictions and four states modified their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on Aug. 4 that Rhode Island had been added to the quarantine list, requiring visitors from that state to quarantine for 14 days upon entering the tristate area. Delaware and Washington D.C. were removed from the list.
  • Florida – On Aug. 5, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ended the requirement that travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
  • Massachusetts – Gov. Charlie Baker’s order (R) requiring most travelers and returning residents to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival or self-quarantine for 14 days went into effect on Aug. 1. Travelers from states classified as lower-risk, which included Connecticut, Vermont, and Hawaii, among others, were exempt from the test or quarantine requirements.

State legislation

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 2,763 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We tracked 42 additional bills since July 30.
  • Of these, 383 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 tracked six additional significant bills since July 30 (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. All six of those have since reconvened.
  • Thirty-eight legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
  • Five state legislatures are in regular session.
  • One state legislature is in special session.
    • One state legislature has convened a special session since July 30.

Details:

  • Nevada – The Nevada Legislature convened a special session on July 31.

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
    • Since July 30, no courts extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level

Details:

  • Colorado – Jury trials were allowed to resume on a limited basis on Aug. 3 if a Chief Judge of a judicial district determined the jury pool could be safely assembled consistent with health directives and executive orders.
  • Kentucky – Criminal jury trials were permitted to resume on Aug. 1, so long as the trial judge overseeing the trial determined that conditions were safe. Civil jury trials were set to resume Oct. 1.
  • Massachusetts – On Aug. 4, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Jury Management Advisory Committee released recommendations for resuming jury trials. The Committee recommended a phased resumption of jury trials, with the first phase beginning in mid-August at a single location.
  • Wyoming – On Aug. 3, jury trials were allowed to resume on a limited basis. The Wyoming Supreme Court encouraged the use of video for most hearings until at least Oct. 5, when the judicial emergency is scheduled to end.

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 states have moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures in place.
    • Since July 30, one state ended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. One state extended a moratorium.
  • Twenty-two 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:

  • Indiana – On July 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) extended the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Aug. 14.
  • Kentucky – In a July 27 order, the Kentucky Supreme Court allowed eviction proceedings to resume on Aug. 1. Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) moratorium on evictions remained in place, however. Three apartment owners are challenging the moratorium challenged in a federal lawsuit.
  • Maine – On Aug. 3, the Maine Supreme Court allowed eviction proceedings to resume.

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
    • Ten 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.
    • Seventy state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Seventy-five 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 21 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 30, one governor, two state representatives, and two members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus. One state representative self-quarantined.

Details:

  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Aug. 6 he tested positive for coronavirus after a routine health screening hours before he was supposed to meet with the president.
  • Michigan state Sen. Tom Barrett (R), who represents District 24, announced on Aug. 2  he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, announced he tested positive for coronavirus on Aug. 1.
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who represents Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, announced on Aug. 6 he tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R), who represents District 94, announced on July 31 he tested positive for and was hospitalized because of coronavirus.
  • Ohio state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D), who represents District 11, announced she tested positive for coronavirus on July 6.
  • Louisiana Judge Richard “Chip” Moore III, who sits on the 19th Judicial District, Division N of East Baton Rouge Parish, was hospitalized with coronavirus in early July.
  • Pennsylvania state Rep. John Galloway (D), who represents District 140, announced on Aug. 3 he would be self-quarantining after coming into contact with someone who 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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