Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: October 22, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at personal care services reopening in California, mitigation policies in two more Illinois regions, 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?

  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced mitigation policies will be implemented in Regions 7 and 8 starting Oct. 23. Bars and restaurants will not be able to offer indoor service, and outdoor service will have to close by 11 p.m. every night. Gatherings will be limited to the lesser of 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity.

Since our last edition

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

  • California (Democratic trifecta): The California Department of Public Health issued updated guidance for personal care service businesses that permits them to resume limited in-person operations, regardless of the risk status of their county.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced an extension of the state’s mask mandate for “the foreseeable future.” Holcomb also said the state would remain in Stage 5 of its reopening plan.
  • New Hampshire (divided government): The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office ruled that college students living outside the state due to the coronavirus pandemic could continue to claim New Hampshire as their permanent residence and vote in the November election. The ruling came after the state Republican Party requested that the office prevent those students from voting in the state.
  • North Carolina (divided government): Gov. Roy Cooper (D) extended Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan through at least Nov. 13.
  • South Dakota (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kristi Noem (R) decreased the eligibility requirements for the state’s Small Business and Healthcare Provider Relief Program from a 25% reduction in business to a 15% reduction in business. The maximum grant limit was increased from $100,000 to $500,000.
  • Vermont (divided government): Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced an additional $76 million in funding for the state’s Economic Recovery Grants. The money comes from federal CARES Act funding. The state previously appropriated $152 million for the grant program.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued updated guidance for religious and faith-based organizations. The updated guidance says that physical distancing between non-household members must be six feet in all directions. The guidance now allows for “brief physical contact among up to five individuals, excluding religious leaders, if the brief contact is a critical component to the organization’s religious service, so long as masks are worn and hands are sanitized immediately before and after the contact.” Inslee also opened the state’s Immigrant Relief Fund to applicants who were unable to access federal stimulus programs due to their immigration status.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced the distribution of $25 million in CARES Act funding to help individuals pay utility bills. Public Service Districts will distribute the money to utility customers with unpaid utility bills from March 1-July 31 as a result of coronavirus-related economic hardship.

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 indoor capacity restrictions in Wisconsin.

Tavern League of Wisconsin, Inc. v. Palm

On Oct. 19, Judge James Babler of Wisconsin’s Barron County Circuit Court declined to block state officials from enforcing capacity limits in bars and restaurants across Wisconsin.

What is at issue?

At Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) direction, Wisconsin Health Secretary Andrea Palm issued Emergency Order #3, limiting indoor public gatherings to no more than 25% capacity, with certain limitations. In its complaint, the Tavern League of Wisconsin alleged the emergency indoor capacity limits were an attempt to “regulate businesses and public gatherings in a manner nearly identical to portions of Emergency Order #28,” which the state supreme court struck down on May 13.

On Oct. 14, Judge John M. Yackel issued a temporary restraining order in favor of the Tavern League.

How did the court rule?

Babler said the Tavern League and other plaintiffs had failed to meet the standard of irreparable harm necessary for an injunction. Babler wrote: “I merely have the theoretical issue that if they were to comply, they would suffer harm,” adding, “I don’t see how anyone has been harmed by the order … because no one has told me they changed their behavior” after it was issued. Babler said, “I beg the Supreme Court for clarity because should this issue be decided by them, trial judges need to know how they need to rule.”

Babler issued his ruling orally from the bench. An excerpt of that order can be viewed here.

What are the reactions, and what comes next?

Scott Stenger, a lobbyist for the Tavern League, said the group is not currently planning to appeal the ruling: “Maybe somebody now will listen to the fact that this isn’t a joke anymore. We’re going out of business.” Evers said, “This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings.”

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.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance changing the definition of close contact for an individual infected with the 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.
  • The Cheyenne-Laramie County Board of Health ordered county health officer Dr. Stan Hartman to issue a countywide mask mandate. At the time of the vote, Teton County was the only other county in Wyoming with a mask mandate.