Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #250: May 19, 2021

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

  • Changes to Connecticut’s statewide mask mandate 
  • Changes to coronavirus restrictions in New Jersey
  • 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.

Since our last edition

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

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks in most indoor public settings starting May 19. Unvaccinated residents still have to wear masks in public indoor areas. Vaccinated individuals 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.
    • Lamont extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order through July 20.
  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) amended the state’s coronavirus emergency order to exempt fully vaccinated people from social distancing and mask requirements, effective May 21.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order easing restrictions starting May 19. The outdoor gathering limit is ending, and the private indoor gathering limit is expanding from 25 to 50 people. Capacity restrictions on most businesses (including restaurants, retailers, and personal care service businesses) are ending, though six-foot social distancing is still required. Large indoor venues can expand from 20% to 30% capacity. Indoor catered events are still limited to 250 people but do 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): 
    • Vaccinated people do 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.
    • Capacity restrictions on most businesses (including restaurants, retailers, and personal care service businesses) are ending May 19. The businesses still have to leave space for social distancing.
    • Percentage capacity restrictions for state-defined large-scale outdoor event venues (like sports stadiums) are ending May 19. Those venues are only limited by six-foot social distancing requirements. Large outdoor event venues can also create sections reserved for fully vaccinated individuals where socially distanced seating between separate parties is not required.
    • Large indoor event venues (like sports stadiums) can operate at 30% capacity starting May 19. 
    • On May 19, the indoor social gathering limit is expanding from 100 to 250 people. The indoor residential gathering limit is increasing from 10 to 50 people on the same day. The 25-person outdoor residential gathering limit (for events like cookouts) is 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.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, May 18, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an order prohibiting local governments and public schools from issuing mask mandates. The order exempts prisons, state-run hospitals, and state-supported living centers. The order goes into effect May 21 for local governments. Public schools can continue their mask policies until June 4.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, May 18, the state Department of Health moved four counties from Phase 2 of reopening to Phase 3, meaning that all Washington counties are now in Phase 3. Under Phase 3, outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people, while indoor gatherings are limited to 10. Businesses like retail stores and bars and restaurants can operate at 50% capacity.  

This time last year: Wednesday, May 20, 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.

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.