Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at new stages of reopening in Connecticut and Michigan, an announcement of aid to families facing evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic in Maryland, 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?
- Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order effective Oct. 9 that will allow movie theaters and other indoor entertainment venues to reopen, including bowling centers and indoor climbing facilities. Capacity at those venues will be capped at 20 people per 1,000 square feet.
Since our last edition
What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.
- Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): The state is moving to the third phase of reopening on Oct. 8. Phase 3 allows businesses like restaurants and barbershops to operate at 75% capacity. Outdoor event venues (like amphitheaters and racetracks) and indoor performing arts venues can operate at 50% capacity. Private indoor gatherings of up to 25 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 150 people are allowed.
- Louisiana (divided government): On Oct. 7, Assumption and Vermilion parishes met the state’s positivity rate requirements to reopen bars.
- Maryland (divided government): On Thursday, Oct. 8, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Attorney General Brian Frosch (D) announced that $12 million was being directed to the Maryland Legal Services Corporations to assist families facing eviction.
- Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Oct. 8, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced that more than $220 million in federal aid would be distributed to K-12 public schools to support COVID-19 preparedness for the ongoing school year.
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 restrictions on religious gatherings in Colorado.
Andrew Wommack Ministries, Inc. v. Polis
On Sept. 29, Judge Christine M. Arguello of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado declined to block Gov. Jared Polis’ restrictions on religious gatherings. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit declined to hear an appeal of Arguello’s decision.
What was at issue?
Andrew Wommack Ministries alleged Polis’ orders infringed upon the church’s “constitutional rights by discrimination against its right to assembly, speech, free exercise of religion, [and] equal protection.” The church sued after it received a cease-and-desist order for hosting a conference event exceeding the 175-person limit for indoor events.
How did the courts rule?
In her order, Arguello, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, wrote that allowing such large indoor gatherings “would be compromising the health of the public, which could cause the death of an untold number of innocent citizens.” On Sept. 29, Andrew Wommack Ministries appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. On Oct. 5, the Tenth Circuit declined to take up the appeal, finding that Andrew Wommack Ministries “has not made a sufficient showing that it is likely to succeed on appeal as to merit the requested relief.”
What are the reactions?
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents the church, said, “This is just the beginning. The case is far from over.” In response to news that the church planned to move forward with hosting a conference, Polis filed a motion for contempt of court. The church opposed the motion, and Arguello set a hearing for Oct. 8.
In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic.
- The Milwaukee Health Department in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said it would not enforce Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) order limiting businesses to 25% capacity. Health Department officials said Evers’ order allows cities to impose more stringent requirements and said current local restrictions meet that standard, which requires bars and restaurants to submit individualized safety plans to the Health Department for approval.