Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #266: June 15, 2021

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

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in California
  • An extended coronavirus emergency in Minnesota
  • 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.

Since our last edition

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

California (Democratic trifecta): 

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is ending the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and lifting most state restrictions on business activity statewide June 15. Social distancing restrictions and all remaining capacity limits are ending. Indoor events with more than 5,000 people have to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test from all attendees.
  • Fully vaccinated residents are exempt from the statewide mask mandate starting June 15. Fully vaccinated residents still have to wear masks on public transit (and in transportation hubs like airports), in indoor childcare and K-12 school settings, in healthcare settings, and in congregate settings (including prisons and homeless shelters). Masks are still required for unvaccinated people in all indoor public settings and businesses. 

Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced the state will offer $1,500 payments to workers who stop taking unemployment and start full-time jobs between June 15-30. Eligible workers who start full-time jobs in July will receive $1,000 bonuses. The bonuses will be first-come, first-serve, and there can be up to 7,500 recipients. For more information on eligibility, click here.

Massachusetts (divided government): Effective Tuesday, June 15, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) ended the statewide COVID-19 state of emergency. Baker first declared an emergency in response to the pandemic on March 10, 2020. 

Minnesota (divided government): On Monday, June 14, the Minnesota Executive Council approved Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) request for a 30-day extension of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. The extension allows Walz to maintain his emergency powers. 

New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced the state will offer $100 cash payments to residents who receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine between June 14-17. To read more about identification and eligibility requirements, click here.

New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced six upstate public transportation providers will offer free seven-day transportation passes for anyone who receives at least one dose of a vaccine between June 15 and July 14. For more information, click here.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the June 10 edition of the newsletter. As of June 14, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

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 1,808 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 542 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since June 8, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked one additional court order and/or settlement. 


  • Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital: On June 12, Judge Lynn Hughes, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, dismissed a lawsuit over Houston Methodist Hospital’s requirement that most employees (i.e., those without a religious or medical exemption) be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by June 7. Employees who failed to meet this requirement were suspended without pay and given 14 days to be fully vaccinated or face termination. The plaintiffs – 117 hospital employees – alleged the vaccine mandate violated federal drug laws because it required employees to become “human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.” Plaintiffs alleged the pending terminations constituted wrongful discharge. Hughes, a Ronald Reagan (R) appointee, ruled the plaintiffs “can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.” Hughes wrote that if plaintiffs refused to get vaccinated, they would “simply need to work somewhere else.” Houston Methodist Hospital president and CEO Marc Boom said, “We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation.” Jennifer Bridges, the lead plaintiff in the case, said, “We are appealing. This will be taken all the way to the Supreme Court. This is far from over. This is literally only the beginning.” 

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the June 8 edition of the newsletter. Since then, statewide mask mandates ended in Illinois, Kentucky, and Vermont.

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.
    • Sixty-five members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • 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.
  • 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 June 8, no candidates or officeholders have been diagnosed with, died from, or quarantined because of COVID-19.

This time last year: Tuesday, June 16, 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, June 16, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Hawaii State Department of Health announced that inter-island travelers would no longer need to follow a 14-day quarantine. However, all passengers and crew would need to fill out a travel and health form before boarding a flight.
  • Election changes:
    • As the result of a lawsuit settlement, the absentee ballot postmark deadline in Minnesota was extended to Election Day in the Aug. 11 primary election, while the receipt deadline for absentee ballots was extended to Aug. 13. The witness requirement for absentee ballots was suspended.
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed SB 863 and HB2238 into law, requiring local election officials to deliver vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to all voters who cast ballots in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 primary election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced the U.S. would keep restrictions limiting non-essential travel to or from Mexico and Canada in place through July 21.
    • In a joint press release, the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) hearings and in-person document services would likely resume on July 20. Under MPP, individuals seeking asylum were told to wait in Mexico until their immigration court appointment.