Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- Changes in coronavirus restrictions in New Jersey
- An announcement about the end of California’s mask mandate
- Vaccine distribution
- Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- State-level mask requirements
- Diagnosed or quarantined public officials
- COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year
We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.
The next 24 hours
What is changing in the next 24 hours?
- Connecticut (Democratic trifecta):
- Fully vaccinated people will not have to wear masks in most indoor public settings starting May 19. Unvaccinated residents will still have to wear masks in public indoor areas. Vaccinated individuals will still need to wear masks on public transportation, at places where medical care is offered (like doctor’s offices and hospitals), and at public transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports).
- Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced the Back to Work CT program will offer $1,000 bonuses for eligible unemployed residents who find full-time work. For more information on the program and eligibility, click here.
- The Connecticut Department of Education announced school districts will not have to offer online instruction when school resumes in Fall 2021.
- New Jersey (Democratic trifecta):
- Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order easing restrictions starting May 19. The outdoor gathering limit will end, and the private indoor gathering limit will expand from 25 to 50 people. Capacity restrictions on most businesses (including restaurants, retailers, and personal care service businesses) will end, though six-foot social distancing will still be required. Large indoor venues can expand from 20% to 30% capacity. Indoor catered events will still be limited to 250 people but will not also have to observe 50% capacity restrictions.
- Murphy ended New Jersey’s interstate travel advisory on May 17.
- Murphy signed an executive order ending the state’s outdoor public mask requirement. The indoor requirement remains in effect for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
- Murphy announced all public schools will have to offer full-time in-person instruction during the 2021-2022 school year. Parents will not be able to choose an online option if their child attends public school.
- New York (Democratic trifecta):
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced vaccinated people will not have to wear masks in most indoor public settings starting May 19, aligning the state’s policy with recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
- Cuomo announced capacity restrictions on most businesses (including restaurants, retailers, and personal care service businesses) will end May 19. The businesses will still have to leave space for social distancing.
- Cuomo announced percentage capacity restrictions for state-defined large-scale outdoor event venues (like sports stadiums) will end May 19. Those venues will only be limited by six-foot social distancing requirements. Large outdoor event venues will also be able to create sections reserved for fully vaccinated individuals where socially distanced seating between separate parties is not required.
- Large indoor event venues (like sports stadiums) will be able to operate at 30% capacity starting May 19. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will be required for attendance.
- On May 19, the indoor social gathering limit will expand from 100 to 250 people. The indoor residential gathering limit will increase from 10 to 50 people on the same day. The 25-person outdoor residential gathering limit (for events like cookouts) will be replaced by the 500-person outdoor social gathering limit. Commercial social events can exceed the 500-person outdoor and 250-person indoor limits if everyone has proof of vaccination or a recent negative test and social distancing is possible.
Since our last edition
What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.
- California (Democratic trifecta): Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced the statewide mask order will end June 15.
- Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): The University of Hawaii system will require all students on campus to be vaccinated for the Fall 2021 semester.
- Illinois (Democratic trifecta): Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed an executive order exempting fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements.
- Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Monday, May 17, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced the state would end its participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs on June 19.
- Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta):
- Gov. Dan McKee (D) announced fully vaccinated individuals will not have to wear masks in most indoor public settings starting May 18.
- McKee also announced all remaining coronavirus restrictions, except three-foot social distancing requirements at indoor businesses, will end May 21. Previously, the remaining restrictions were scheduled to end May 28.
- Texas (Republican trifecta): On Monday, May 17, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the state would end its participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs on June 26, 2021.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the May 13 edition of the newsletter. As of May 17, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 65%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 62%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 61%
- New Hampshire (Republican governor): 60%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 32%
- Louisiana (Democratic governor): 34%
- Alabama (Republican governor): 35%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 35%
- Idaho (Republican governor): 36%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,794 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 537 of those lawsuits.
- Since May 11, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements.
- Missouri ex rel. Schmitt v. Page: On May 11, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) filed a lawsuit over ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in St. Louis County. In his complaint, filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Schmitt alleged that St. Louis County’s COVID-19 mitigation measures were “among the most aggressive and restrictive imposed by any county in the State of Missouri.” Schmitt said the measures “continue to impose unjustified burdens on religious, economic, and personal freedom.” Schmitt also argued that St. Louis County’s policies violated the state constitution’s protection of freedom of association and imposed a requirement for pre-approval of religious activities and restrictions on places of worship in violation of Missouri’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. St. Louis County and St. Louis rescinded most of the challenged restrictions on May 14, following the CDC’s new guidance for vaccinated individuals. Schmitt said the new policy was, “a great victory for the people of St. Louis County.” The case remains pending.
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the May 11 edition of the newsletter. Since then, four states fully lifted statewide mask mandates.
The CDC amended its mask guidance May 13. The guidance says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor public settings, regardless of the number of people gathered.
Since the CDC’s announcement, at least 13 states amended their existing mask orders to align with CDC guidance and exempt fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements. At least three states have announced future changes to mask guidance for fully vaccinated people that will take effect between May 19-24.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia
- Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
- Sixty-five members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
- Ten state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
- Two hundred thirty-three state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Eighty-six state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
- 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 May 11, one state senator and one mayor have tested positive for COVID-19.
- On May 17, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
- On May 14, Tennessee state Sen. Jon Lundberg (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
This time last year: Tuesday, May 19, 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.
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 Aug. 4 primary and Nov. 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.