Coronavirus weekly update: October 16 – October 22, 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 October 16 edition.

  • 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 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: 

  • Thirty-nine states have modified their voting procedures. 
    • Four states have made voting procedure modifications since Oct. 15.
  • Twenty states have modified their candidate filing requirements. 
    • No states have made candidate filing modifications since Oct. 15.

Details:

  • Michigan: On Oct. 16, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court order that had extended Michigan’s receipt deadline for absentee/mail-in ballots. The appellate panel reinstated the original receipt deadline — 8 p.m. on Election Day.
  • North Carolina
    • On Oct. 19, the North Carolina State Board of Elections directed counties to accept absentee/mail-in ballots received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 and postmarked on or before Election Day. The state board of elections also issued new guidance on how voters can resolve problems with their absentee/mail-in ballots.
    • On Oct. 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declined to block the extension of North Carolina’s absentee/mail-in ballot return and receipt deadlines.
  • Pennsylvania: On Oct. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order extending the receipt deadline for mail-in ballots to Nov. 6 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.
  • Tennessee: On Oct. 19, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously upheld a district court decision that temporarily suspended a Tennessee law requiring first-time voters to vote in person.

School closures and reopenings

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

The current status of school reopenings is as follows:

  • Washington, D.C., has a district-ordered school closure
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 85,850 students (0.17% of students nationwide)
  • Seven states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.C., N.M., Ore., W.V.) have state-ordered regional school closures, require closures for certain grade levels, or allow hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,366,079 students (18.51% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ark., Fla.*, Iowa, Texas) have state-ordered in-person instruction
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,180,918 students (18.15% of students nationwide)
    • *Note: Three counties in South Florida are not at the same phase of reopening as the rest of the state and the emergency order to reopen schools does not affect them. 
  • Thirty-nine states have reopenings that vary by school or district
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 31,955,012 students (63.17% of students nationwide)

Details:

  • Hawaii – The Department of Health issued updated guidance for school reopenings. The changes could allow blended learning or full-time, in-person instruction on every island in the state, based on the last two weeks of data. The state also said it would consider schools’ and districts’ abilities to implement mitigation measures before it would allow reopenings.

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 1,172 lawsuits, across all 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 377 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since Oct. 15, we have added 138 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 15 court orders and/or settlements. 
  • Ballotpedia has separately followed another 399 lawsuits, across all 50 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 270 of those lawsuits.

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

  • Linthicum v. Brown: On Oct. 16, three Oregon state lawmakers and a local businessman filed suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Gov. Kate Brown (D), alleging the governor’s stay-at-home orders and business closures exceeded her authority. The plaintiffs – state Reps. Werner Reschke (R) and Mike Nearman (R), state Sen. Dennis Linthicum (R), and Washington County businessman Neil Ruggles – argue Brown “has arrogated unto herself legislative powers of sweeping scope to reorder social life and destroy the livelihoods of residents across the state, which powers are reserved exclusively for the Legislative Assembly by the Oregon Constitution.” The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction blocking Brown’s state-of-emergency declaration and any rules emanating from it, as well as a judgment settling their state constitutional claims. Charles Boyle, a representative for Brown, said, “The governor is focused on implementing measures to keep Oregonians healthy and safe, based on the advice of doctors and health experts and what the data shows will limit the spread of Covid-19.”
  • The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo: On Oct. 16, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York declined to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) COVID-19 gathering-size restrictions on places of worship. The lawsuit stems from a policy that imposes regional capacity restrictions on nonessential businesses and gatherings. In higher-risk “red” and “orange zones,” in-person gatherings are limited to the lesser of 10 people or 25% of capacity and the lesser of 25 people or 33% of capacity, respectively. In its complaint, the Diocese of Brooklyn alleged Cuomo’s order “plainly and unconstitutionally targets religious practice.” In his ruling, Garaufis, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, found that the “public interest analysis, and accordingly the balance of the equities, cuts in favor of the State, which is trying to contain a deadly and highly contagious disease.” In a statement, the Diocese said it “is extremely disappointed” by the ruling and would “continue to advocate for places of worship to be classified as essential, for there is nothing more necessary today than a community of believers, united in prayer, asking the Lord to end this pandemic.” Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo’s press secretary, said, “We will let the decision speak for itself.” The Diocese has filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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 Oct. 15, three states have modified their travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, New York – October 20, 2020: Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) added Arizona and Maryland to the tri-state self-quarantine list. The governors advised against traveling between their three states, but agreed not to mandate self-quarantines for travel between Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. New Jersey also removed Delaware from its quarantine list.

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 at least 18 cases. 
  • Ballotpedia 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. 5, The Spokesman-Review reported on measures taken to reduce the spread of influenza at polling stations. 

Inspectors at the polling places in today’s election have been asked by the city health office to guard carefully against overcrowding.

“Where possible place the polling booths on the outside,” said Dr. Anderson. “Where the booths are on the inside. No more should be admitted to the room than there are booths. In this way congestion may be avoided and the danger minimized. I would further suggest to ventilate the room at least once every hour. Voters should go to the polls early to avoid overcrowding later. No crowds to receive election return will be permitted either in the open air or indoors.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Oct. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance changing the definition of close contact for an individual infected with coronavirus. Under previous guidelines, a close contact was defined as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. The new guidance defines a close contact as someone who was within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

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 Oct. 22, 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 active stay-at-home orders.

Details:

  • New Mexico – Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through Nov. 13.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Seventeen states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
    • Since Oct. 15, one state has announced an end date to the state’s eviction moratorium and one state has extended a moratorium.
  • Twenty-six 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:

  • Illinois – On Oct. 16, Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the statewide moratorium on evictions an additional 30 days.
  • Massachusetts – On Oct. 17, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) allowed the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to expire. 

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.
    • Twenty-five 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.
    • One-hundred and three state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Eighty-one 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 23 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 Oct. 15, one candidate for state treasurer, one congressional candidate, three state representatives, and one lieutenant governor have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Details:

  • On Oct. 13, Texas state Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R), who represents District 1, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Oct. 14, Stacy Garrity (R), a candidate for Pennsylvania Treasurer, announced she had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Oct. 16, Illinois state Rep. David Welter (R), who represents District 75, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Oct. 16, Utah congressional candidate Blake Moore (R) announced he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • On Oct. 19, South Dakota state Rep. Steven Haugaard (R), who represents District 10, announced he had spent the last two weeks battling COVID-19. 
  • On Oct. 21, Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.

State legislation

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 3,495 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 63 additional bills since Oct. 15.
  • Of these, 495 significant bills have been enacted into law, 14% 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 14 additional significant bills since Oct. 15 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.)

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 Oct. 15, one court extended restrictions on jury trials, while one court has announced that trials in some courts can resume.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level

Details:

  • Massachusetts – On Oct. 19, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Cary announced that jury trials would begin no earlier than Nov. 9. The first phase of jury trials had been previously scheduled to begin no earlier than Oct. 23.  
  • North Carolina – On Oct. 15, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order extending and modifying emergency directives issued in response to the coronavirus and announced that jury trials can resume in some districts with approved Jury Trial Resumption Plans.

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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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