Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: February 16, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Alaska (divided government): Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) allowed the state’s coronavirus emergency order to expire on Feb 14. Four health advisories replaced the order, including recommendations for mitigating virus spread among individuals (like wearing a face-covering and social distancing). Alaska’s interstate pre-travel testing requirements also expired with the emergency order, but individuals who have COVID-19 are still prohibited from entering the state. Pre-travel testing is still encouraged. Click the interstate and intrastate travel links to read more about Alaska’s travel advisories.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Feb. 15, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued a new executive order requiring restaurants and other businesses to ensure their ventilation systems properly increase air circulation and purification. The order also allows individuals to apply to renew their weapons carry license up to 120 days after the expiration date if the license expires during the pandemic.  
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Feb. 15, schools were required to offer full-time in-person instruction. Legislation Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed on Jan. 29 requires schools to open but also allows parents to request a hybrid or all remote option for their children. Additionally, schools can request a waiver from the requirement to provide in-person instruction from the state Department of Education based on factors such as the number of teachers quarantining because of the virus. The bill passed the state House and Senate with the support of all Republicans and one Democrat. 
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) expanded gathering limits for large houses of worship on Feb. 12. Gatherings of five people per 1,000 square feet are now permitted with no attendance cap. Previously, the state only allowed religious gatherings of up to 50 people, regardless of square footage. Smaller houses of worship are still allowed to have gatherings of up to 50 people.
  • Maryland (divided government): On Monday, Feb. 15, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed into law the RELIEF Act of 2021. The $1 billion relief measure includes direct stimulus payments to families and individuals and tax relief and grants for small businesses and nonprofits. 
  • Minnesota (divided government): Capacity restrictions on restaurants, gyms, and private gatherings were relaxed on Feb. 13. Gov. Tim Walz’s new order permits restaurants to serve up to 250 people or 50% capacity, whichever is fewer, while indoor entertainment venues and gyms can serve up to 250 people or 25% capacity.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Feb. 12, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced he would begin lifting coronavirus restrictions over a three-month period beginning Feb. 15. The capacity limit on bars and restaurants increased from 25% to 35%, and the limit on private outdoor gatherings increased from 10 to 25. The new rules also allow houses of worship, casino floors, and gyms to operate at 35% capacity. Sisolak said he would loosen restrictions again on March 15 and May 1. 
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an order allowing limited spectators at youth sporting events. Two parents or legal guardians are allowed to attend per athlete, and total attendance can never exceed the lesser of 35% capacity or 150 people.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All adults with certain underlying conditions became eligible for vaccination starting Feb. 15. Qualifying conditions include cancer, moderate to severe asthma, obesity, and hypertension.
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also signed an order extending nightly closing times for businesses like restaurants, bars, gyms, and casinos from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., effective Feb. 14.
  • Vermont (divided government): 
    • On Sunday, Feb. 15, Gov. Phil Scott (R) extended the coronavirus state of emergency. 
    • On Tuesday, Feb. 16, residents age 70 and above became eligible to register to receive coronavirus vaccines. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Five of the eight regions in Washington’s reopening plan advanced to the second phase on Sunday, Feb. 14. In the second phase, indoor dining can resume at 25% capacity, while gyms and entertainment venues, like bowling alleys, can reopen at 25% capacity. Only the South Central region, comprising six of the state’s 39 counties, remains in the first phase. 

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,652 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 480 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since Feb. 9, we have added three lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional four court orders and/or settlements. 


  •, Inc. v. James: On Feb. 12, Amazon filed suit against New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, seeking to preempt state-level regulation of its COVID-19 workplace safety protocols. Amazon alleges the suit is necessary to block James’ threats “to sue Amazon if it does not immediately agree to a list of demands, many of which have no connection to health and safety and have no factual or legal basis.” The company says New York “lacks the legal authority it purports to wield,” arguing that federal law preempts state-level laws regulating workplace safety. James said, “This action by Amazon is nothing more than a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus.” The case has been assigned to Judge Allyne Ross, an appointee of President Bill Clinton (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Feb. 9 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) let the state’s face-covering requirement expire on Feb. 12. Montana was the fourth state to lift a statewide mask order.

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
    • Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Fifty-eight members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Eight state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Two-hundred and two state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Eighty-four state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least five local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 43 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since Feb. 9, seven state representatives have tested positive for COVID-19. One governor announced a self-quarantine. 


  • On Feb. 9, Pennsylvania state Rep. Tarah Toohil (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Feb. 10, South Dakota state Rep. Tamara St. John (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Feb. 10, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced he would self-quarantine after a member of his family tested positive for COVID-19.
  •  On Feb. 10, Montana state Sen. Jason Ellsworth (R), who chairs the COVID-19 panel, announced that state Rep. Becky Beard (R) tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Feb. 11, South Dakota state Rep. Taffy Howard (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Feb. 11, South Dakota state Rep. Nancy York (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Feb. 12, South Dakota state Rep. Will Mortenson (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Feb. 12, Montana state Rep. Ross Fitzgerald (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 

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. 

  • On Friday, Feb. 12, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance for schools returning to in-person instruction. The report says schools that want to return students to the classroom should use layered mitigation strategies, including universal mask usage, physical distancing, and contact tracing in partnership with local health departments. The CDC said the amount of community spread should guide reopening decisions, as well as the use of in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning schedules. The CDC said schools should be prioritized over nonessential businesses and activities and should be the last to close and the first to reopen.