Coronavirus Weekly Update: August 20, 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 Aug. 13:

  • Election changes
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies
  • Travel restrictions
  • Ballot measure changes
  • 1918 story
  • Federal responses
  • Stay-at-home orders
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials
  • State legislation
  • State legislative sessions
  • State courts


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.

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 Aug. 13.
  • Nineteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
    • No states have made candidate filing modifications since August 13.
  • Forty states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
    • Three states have made voting procedure modifications since August 13.
  • 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 August 13.

Details:

  • Kentucky: On Aug. 14, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) announced several changes for the Nov. 3 general election, including the extension of absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to all voters “concerned with contracting or spreading COVID-19.”
  • Nebraska: On Aug. 19, Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that his office would automatically send early/mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election whose home counties had not already done so.
  • New Jersey: On Aug. 14, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced the state would automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters in the Nov. 3 general election.

School closures and reopenings

Read more: School reopenings in the 2020-2021 academic year after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

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.
  • Seventeen states have reopened their campuses for students and staff.
    • Four new states have reopened campuses since Aug. 13.
  • Seventeen states have released reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
    • No new states have done so since Aug. 13.
  • Officials in 16 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 have released guidance for reopening schools since Aug. 13.

Details:

  • Arizona – Beginning Aug. 17, school districts were allowed to reopen to in-person instruction if they meet metrics the state Department of Health released the week of Aug. 3. For a district to reopen, its county must have a two-week drop in the number of COVID-19 cases, a two-week period where the percent of positive cases is below 7% and less than 10% of hospital visits are COVID-19 related. Some school districts that did not meet these criteria also reopened to in-person instruction. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said he supported those districts in their decision and that superintendents and principals could have the final say.
  • Arkansas – On Aug. 14, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) released the Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide. The document is a support guide for teachers and administrators created in partnership with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences. The guide outlines best practices for in-person learning. Schools are allowed to reopen on Aug. 24.
  • Massachusetts – The deadline for schools to submit reopening plans was Aug. 14. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will post all approved plans online.
  • North Carolina – Schools were allowed to reopen beginning Aug. 17. Based on state guidelines, most K-12 districts will begin the year with at least some online learning.
  • Ohio – On Aug. 15, the Ohio Department of Health said the state would not allow face shields to be substituted for face masks in schools unless a child meets certain exceptions. The health department cited CDC guidance saying it is unknown how effective face shields are at protecting people from respiratory droplets.
  • Pennsylvania – On Aug. 19, the Department of Education announced the statewide public mask requirement for everyone over the age of two applies to all public and private schools. Students can remove their face coverings when they are eating and drinking (at least six feet apart), in situations when wearing a face covering might be unsafe, and during socially distanced face covering breaks lasting no more than 10 minutes.
  • West Virginia – On Aug. 14, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced a color-coded school reopening metric for counties. Schools in green and yellow counties will be able to reopen for in-person instruction on the statewide school reentry date (currently Sept. 8, but a finalized date may not be available until Sept. 1). Schools in red and orange phase counties must conduct fully remote operations. Fifty-two out of the state’s 55 counties are currently in the green or yellow phases.

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 746 lawsuits, across 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 287 of those lawsuits.
    • Since Aug. 13, we have added 52 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 14 court orders and/or settlements.
  • Ballotpedia has separately followed another 212 lawsuits, in 46 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 130 of those lawsuits.

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

  • National Rifle Association of America v. Cuomo: On Aug. 14, Judge Mae A. D’Agostino of the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern New York dismissed a National Rifle Association (NRA) lawsuit challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) statewide closure of gun stores. In its complaint, the NRA challenged Executive Order 202.8, which designated gun stores as non-essential businesses and, as such, temporarily closed them to slow the spread of COVID-19. The NRA alleged the closures made it effectively impossible to legally purchase a gun in the state, violating the Second Amendment. The organization also alleged the closure order was unconstitutionally vague, violating the right to due process. D’Agostino dismissed the suit, ruling that, absent direct harm to the NRA because of the closures, the NRA lacked standing because “an association cannot bring an action as the representative of its members.” D’Agostino, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama (D), did not address the merits of the NRA’s case. The NRA said: “Although we respectfully disagree that the NRA lacked standing to pursue this case — then or now — we were pleased the action brought attention to an abuse of power against gun retailers.” Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi said, “It’s no surprise that yet another frivolous suit by the NRA has been laughed out of court.”
  • Virginia State Board of Health v. Calabash Corp.: On Aug. 17, the Virginia State Board of Health filed suit in Hanover County Circuit Court seeking to close a Mechanicsville seafood restaurant for failure to comply with COVID-19 safety requirements. The board alleges the restaurant has continued to operate despite having its license suspended on July 27. The board says a court order closing the restaurant is necessary because it continues “operating with little to no mask usage by employees or patrons, allowed bar seating and dance floors, and has made little to no effort to comply with social distancing requirements.” Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) said, “We all have a part to play in slowing the spread of COVID, and for restaurant and other business owners, that means following the safety guidelines that will help keep their employees and patrons safe and healthy.” The owners of Calabash Seafood have not commented publicly on the lawsuit.
  • Wilkes v. Washington State Board of Education: On Aug. 11, three families filed suit in Washington’s Thurston County Superior Court, arguing that the state’s remote education plans, implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, deny their special needs children the right to a basic education. The plaintiffs allege violations of Article IX, Sections 1 and 2, of the Washington Constitution, which guarantee all students a basic education, and the Basic Education Act, which requires an annual average of at least 1,000 to 1,080 instructional hours over the course of at least 180 school days. The plaintiffs allege the state’s approved instruction methods are “inaccessible to those students with disabilities who need intense support in order to learn and make progress,” and infringe on their right to a basic education. Randy Spaulding, the executive director of the State Board of Education said, “The State Board believes it has acted in a legal and appropriate manner in this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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 14 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since Aug. 13, four states have revised their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey – Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on Aug. 18 that Delaware and Alaska had been added to the tristate quarantine list. Washington was removed from the list.
  • Hawaii – On Aug. 18, Gov. David Ige (D) extended the restrictions requiring travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days through Oct. 1. The restrictions had previously been scheduled to expire on Sept. 1.

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.

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. 10, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on the cancellation of a gathering of suffragists in Lafayette Square whose purpose was to collect signatures for a petition aimed at amending the state constitution to allow women the right to vote.

“Everything conspires against women’s suffrage,” one local suffragist said Wednesday. “Now it is the influenza which is trying to prevent a spread of the suffrage doctrine, but obedient to the demands of the health authorities the suffragists will refrain from public gatherings.”

Miss Florence Huberwald was scheduled to open the suffrage speaking campaign in New Orleans with a mass meeting in Lafayette Square Saturday night. Dr. Oscar Dowling, president of the State Board of Health, has said the people may go into the parks, because plenty of fresh air may be found there, but on strict analysis, Lafayette Square might not be described as a “fresh air park.” The suffragists, however, have decided the question for themselves and Miss Huberwald announced Wednesday the meeting for Saturday night had been cancelled.

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. 14, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense announced a partnership with healthcare company McKesson Corporation to help distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one is available.
  • On Aug. 18, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a memo updating its list of workers considered “essential” to include workers who teach and support children through in-person or virtual learning.
  • On Aug. 19, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a checklist that food manufacturers can use to decide when to safely resume operations.

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. 20, 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.

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 Aug. 13, one state ended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and one state issued 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.

Details:

  • California – On Aug. 13, the Judicial Council of California, the policymaking body of California’s court system, voted 19-1 to end its emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosure lawsuits on Sept. 1. The rules the Council adopted in April suspended all pending judicial foreclosure actions and stopped courts from issuing summonses to tenants.
  • Kansas – On Aug. 17, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) issued an executive order prohibiting evictions and foreclosures for non-payment due to COVID-19 related financial hardship. The order was set to last through Sept. 15.
  • Indiana – On Aug. 14, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) moratorium on evictions and foreclosures ended, allowing eviction and foreclosure lawsuits to resume. The order was originally issued on March 20.

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
    • One federal official has died of COVID-19.
    • Eleven 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-six state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Seventy-seven 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 22 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 27 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since Aug. 13, one senator, two state representatives, and one state senator tested positive for coronavirus. The Chief of Staff to the Governor of Alabama announced he was self-quarantining at home.

Details:

  • Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) announced on Aug. 20 he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Tennessee State Rep. Karen Camper (D) announced on Aug. 20 she had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • On Aug. 16, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison (R), the Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, told House members that Rep. Mike Carter (R), who represents District 29, had been hospitalized due to complications from the coronavirus.
  • Ohio state Senator Tina Maharath (D), who represents District 3, announced on Aug. 17 she tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Tennessee state Rep. Kent Calfee (R), who represents District 32, announced on July 7 that he and his wife tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Texas state Senator Kel Seliger (R), who represents District 31, announced on Twitter on Aug. 12 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Jo Bonner (R), Chief of Staff to the Governor of Alabama, announced on Aug. 14 that he was self-quarantining at home after his wife tested positive for coronavirus.

State legislation

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 2,927 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 107 additional bills since August 13.
  • Of these, 388 significant bills have been enacted into law, 13 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 no additional significant enacted bills since August 13 (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: 

  • Five state legislatures have suspended their sessions. All five of those have since reconvened.
  • Thirty-six legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
    • One legislature has adjourned since Aug. 13.
  • Five state legislatures are in regular session.
  • Four state legislatures are in special session.
    • Two legislatures have convened special sessions since Aug. 13.

Details:

  • Nebraska – The Nebraska legislature adjourned on Aug. 13.
  • Utah – The Utah legislature convened a special session on Aug. 20.
  • Virginia – The Virginia General Assembly convened a special session on Aug. 18.

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 Aug. 13, one state has extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level.

Details:

  • North Carolina –  On Aug. 15, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley extended the emergency directives that include the suspension of jury trials for an additional 30 days. Beasley first ordered that criminal and civil proceedings be delayed on March 13.

Learn more




About the author

Cory Eucalitto

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

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