Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: October 1, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at the expiration of a moratorium on evictions in Florida, an announcement that Idaho will remain in Phase Four of reopening, a featured lawsuit, and more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • North Carolina (divided government): On Sept. 30, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that the state would advance to Phase 3 of reopening on Oct. 2. Phase 3 eases several restrictions on businesses, including allowing bars to provide outdoor service at 30% capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less. Movie theaters can also reopen at 30% capacity or 100 guests. Large outdoor venues will be permitted to operate at 7% capacity. Some restrictions, such as mandatory face coverings in public, will remain in place.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): The Arizona Department of Health Services announced all 15 counties in the state meet the requirements to allow businesses and activities like movie theaters, gyms, and food service at bars to reopen.
  • Idaho (Republican trifecta): Gov. Brad Little (R) announced the state will remain in Phase Four for at least two more weeks. Idaho entered Phase Four on June 13.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order extending a rule allowing medical professionals whose licenses have expired, or those who are licensed in other states, to get temporary medical licenses to practice in Indiana.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Iberia and St. Martin parishes met the state’s positivity rate requirements to reopen bars.
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued a curtailment order cutting state spending in response to a more than $525 million budget shortfall. Mills also extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order through Oct. 29.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 29, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced he would issue an executive order effective Oct. 1 easing some coronavirus restrictions, including raising the gathering limit from 50 to 250 people. Sports venues with more than 2,500 seats will be permitted to reopen at 10% capacity if they submit a plan and receive approval from state and local officials.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Oct. 1, the State Corporation Commission said that it would not extend a moratorium on utility service disconnections that expires Oct. 5. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) requested an extension of the moratorium through Dec. 1 in a letter sent earlier that day.
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Oct. 1, Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Department of Health Services-designee Andrea Palm issued an order easing licensing requirements for healthcare workers during the state of emergency. The order allows healthcare workers from other states to receive temporary licenses in Wisconsin and makes it easier for workers with lapsed licenses to reapply.
  • Connecticut, New Jersey, New York (Democratic trifectas) Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced Colorado had been added to the tristate quarantine list. Arizona and Virginia were removed from the list. Murphy and Cuomo also announced the launch of a coronavirus exposure notification app in their states.

Daily feature: Featured lawsuit

Once a week, we take a closer look at a noteworthy lawsuit involving governmental responses to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. We define a noteworthy lawsuit as one that has garnered significant media attention, involves major advocacy groups, or deals with unique legal questions. This week, we look at a lawsuit involving school restrictions in Florida.

Levine v. School District of Palm Beach County

On Sept. 28, Judge Glenn D. Kelley, of the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, refused local teachers’ request to transition students to distance learning.

What was at issue?

The teachers allege Palm Beach County’s school district reopening plan arbitrarily and capriciously denied “students, public school staff, their family members, and the public with whom they come in contact within the public-school system their basic human needs for health and safety,” violating the state constitution.

How did the court rule?

In his order, Kelley wrote that, while he “is not unsympathetic to the safety concerns demonstrated by the Plaintiffs,” he was unable to “second guess the plan developed and implemented by the School Board.” Kelley said that “the Court simply cannot, and should not, determine the wisdom of public policy.”

What are the reactions, and what comes next?

The school district said: “The School District of Palm Beach County appreciates and respects Judge Kelley’s very thoughtful decision in upholding the School Board’s Reopening Plan.” The plaintiffs have not publicly indicated whether they intend to appeal.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic.

  • Public middle and high schools in New York City are reopening for in-person instruction on Oct. 1. Families can still choose to enroll in fully remote classes.