A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, May 18-22, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout that spring, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened May 18-22, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, May 18, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) allowed the stay-at-home order to expire. He issued the order March 23 and renewed it on March 31 and May 4. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) replaced the state’s stay-at-home order with the “Ohioans Protecting Ohioans Urgent Health Advisory.” The order eased the requirement that most residents stay at home, but kept the 10-person gathering limit in place.
  • Election changes:
    • Judge Samuel Frederick Biery, of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, ordered that all eligible Texas voters be allowed to cast absentee ballots in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay against Biery’s order later that day.
    • A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court decision reinstating New York’s Democratic presidential preference primary on June 23.
    • Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced that all registered voters in the August 4 primary and November 3 general election would receive mail-in ballot applications automatically.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) issued an executive order directing federal agencies to remove regulatory barriers to economic activity as part of a coronavirus pandemic recovery effort.
    • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced the U.S. would extend travel restrictions in place at the Canadian and Mexican borders another 30 days. The Department of Homeland Security enacted the restrictions in late March in cooperation with both countries, and extended them for an additional 30 days on April 20. The orders prohibited travel for tourism or recreation but allowed travel for trade and commerce.
    • The White House announced that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, had awarded a $354 million contract to Phlow Corp., a Virginia-based pharmaceutical company, to manufacture generic medicines and ingredients used to treat COVID-19. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire, beginning the first phase of a four-phase reopening plan. The first phase allowed some businesses—like offices and retail stores—to reopen with restrictions. 
  • Election changes:
    • Lamont issued an executive order extending absentee voting eligibility to any registered voter in the August 11 primary if there is no “federally approved and widely available vaccine for prevention of COVID-19” at the time he or she requests an absentee ballot.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

  • Travel restrictions
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ended the requirement that out-of-state travelers quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the state. Abbott first issued the travel restriction on March 26. 
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Department of Defense ended a ban on new recruits who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 at any point in the past. Matthew Donovan, the under secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, said the military would evaluate recruits who had recovered from the disease on a case-by-case basis.

Friday, May 22, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) replaced the statewide stay-at-home order with a “Safer at Home” order. The order allowed restaurants to open to indoor dining at 50% capacity, but kept bars and playgrounds closed. 

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery