Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #238: May 3, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • The end of Alaska’s coronavirus emergency 
  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Georgia
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered Friday? Click here.

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) lifted the state’s coronavirus emergency order on April 30. Dunleavy’s emergency powers originally expired Feb. 14, causing his emergency declaration to end. But the emergency order’s expiration prevented the state from accessing an additional $8 million of federal food assistance benefits for April.
    • In response, the legislature passed House Bill 76, and Dunleavy signed the legislation on April 30. The bill retroactively extended the disaster emergency from Feb. 14 through the end of 2021. The retroactive extension allowed the state to access the federal food assistance benefits. 
    • The bill also allowed Department of Health and Social Services Director Adam Crump to issue a limited disaster emergency order April 30 to secure future federal assistance. After Gov. Dunleavy signed the legislation and Crump signed the limited order, the governor re-ended the state’s emergency order, effective April 30.
    • HB 76 passed the state Senate April 28. The state House approved the legislation April 29. The new law also enacts legal immunity for businesses against claims related to COVID-19.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jared Polis (D) amended the state’s mask order on May 2 and extended the order until June 1. The updated order lifts the requirement for people to wear masks in indoor spaces with more than 10 people if 80% of those individuals are fully vaccinated. The order does not say what proof is necessary to demonstrate vaccination status.
  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Outdoor business restrictions ended May 1. The seating limit of eight people per table ended and alcohol sales without food are permitted outside. Indoor and outdoor businesses previously subject to the 11 p.m. curfew (including bars and restaurants) can now stay open until midnight each night.
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Monday, May 3, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed Senate Bill 2006, which limits local emergency orders unrelated to hurricanes or other weather events to a maximum of 42 days and bans businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations. The bill takes effect July 1. DeSantis also issued an executive order immediately invalidating all local COVID-19 orders.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Friday, April 30, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued an order removing coronavirus restrictions on most businesses, including bars, movie theaters, and daycare centers. The order encourages people to practice social distancing but, unlike previous orders, does not require it. Live performance venues and graduation ceremonies are no longer required to follow specific rules but must follow general mitigation guidelines that apply to all businesses, such as keeping sick workers home and engaging in enhanced sanitation. 
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): On April 30, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions (including all capacity restrictions on sports and entertainment venues) except for the mask requirement inside schools.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): County governments assumed control over most COVID-19 mitigation policies on May 1. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed the directive on April 20. Counties are permitted to set social distancing measures and restrictions on schools and large events. The Nevada Gaming Control Board still controls mitigation in casinos until June 1, when all state mitigation policies—except for the statewide mask mandate—will end. County commissioners had to approve a Local Mitigation and Enforcement Plan and submit it to the state for approval before May 1. County school districts also gained control over all COVID-19 mitigation measures.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until May 28.
    • Three counties have yellow level restrictions, six are green, and 24 are turquoise for the two-week period starting April 30. To see your county’s color and read more about criteria and restrictions for each level, click here
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Catered events can resume at private residences May 3. Bar seating is also resuming in New York City.
    • Graduation and commencement ceremonies were permitted to resume with capacity restrictions on May 1. To read the state’s full guidance, click here.
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced barbershops, salons, and other personal care service businesses can expand from 50% to 75% capacity starting May 7. Cuomo also said indoor dining will expand to 75% capacity in New York City on May 7. Gyms in the city will expand to 50% capacity May 15.
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Dan McKee (D) ended the state’s outdoor mask requirement for fully vaccinated people who can stay at least three feet away from others. 
  • Vermont (divided government): On Saturday, May 1, Gov. Phil Scott (R) revised the outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents and visitors. Masks are only required in crowded settings when social distancing isn’t possible. Scott also changed indoor gatherings restrictions to allow one unvaccinated individual per 100 square feet with a maximum of 150 unvaccinated people. Additionally, Scott replaced specific restrictions on most types of businesses—including restaurants, manufacturing and construction, and places of worship—with general mask-wearing and social distancing guidance.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, April 30, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an order allowing fully vaccinated residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes to gather together without masks. 

This time last year: Monday, May 4, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, May 4, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. The order first took effect on April 2 and was set to expire on April 30. On April 29, DeSantis extended the order to May 4 to coincide with the planned economic reopening of the state.
    • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. McMaster first implemented the order on April 6.
    • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. Justice replaced the state’s stay-at-home order with a safer-at-home order that encouraged people to stay home unless engaged in essential activities but did not require it. Justice issued the stay-at-home order on March 24.
  • Travel restrictions
    • The Virginia Department of Health recommended visitors or residents self-quarantine for 14 days if they had traveled internationally, on a cruise ship or riverboat, or to an area of the U.S. with high rates of community spread.
  • School closures:
    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that public and private schools would remain closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Private schools were required to remain closed through June 30.
  • Election changes:
    • The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a notarization requirement for absentee ballots. The court ruled the requirement did not qualify as an exception under a state law establishing that statements signed and dated under the penalty of perjury carry the force of an affidavit.
    • Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) announced that all eligible voters in the Aug. 11 statewide primary and Nov. 3 general election would automatically receive absentee/mail-in ballot applications.