Note: Beginning today, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery will switch to a biweekly schedule. We will send editions out every Tuesday and Thursday. With state news related to coronavirus restrictions slowing down, we hope this adjusted schedule will better serve you.
Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- The reopening of courthouses in Vermont
- An extended utility moratorium in Washington
- Vaccine distribution
- Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- State-level mask requirements
- COVID-19 emergency health orders
- 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 Friday? Click here.
Since our last edition
What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.
Maryland (divided government): On July 3, Baltimore Circuit Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill issued a temporary order requiring the state to continue participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) had said the state would stop participating in such programs on July 3.
New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On July 4, health and safety protocols enacted under the statewide public health emergency expired, including those related to social distancing and masking. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed Assembly Bill 5820 on June 4, ending the public health emergency. After signing the legislation, Murphy issued an order allowing health protocols issued under the emergency to remain in place through July 4.
North Carolina (divided government): On Friday, July 2, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed Senate Bill 116. The legislation would have ended the state’s participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs, which are set to expire in September. The bill passed the Senate 26-22 and the House 66-44.
Vermont (divided government): Effective Tuesday, July 6, most of the state’s courthouses reopened to in-person proceedings. A Vermont Judiciary news release said some small or poorly ventilated courthouses would stay closed. The release also said that because some judges will choose to hold remote proceedings, visitors should check with the courthouse before arriving in-person.
Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, July 2, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) extended the statewide utilities moratorium through Sept. 30. The moratorium prohibits utility companies from charging late fees or disconnecting customers for failure to pay bills while the state is under a state of emergency. Inslee said this would be the final extension.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 1 edition of the newsletter. As of July 2, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 74%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 71%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 70%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 67%
- Maine (Democratic governor): 67%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 36%
- Louisiana (Democratic governor): 39%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 39%
- Idaho (Republican governor): 40%
- Alabama (Republican governor): 40%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,825 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 555 of those lawsuits.
- Since June 29, we have added one lawsuit to our database. We have also tracked one additional court order and/or settlement.
- Alabama Association of Realtors v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: On June 29, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to suspend the nationwide eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Alabama Association of Realtors had asked the Supreme Court to vacate a stay pending appeal issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, a Donald Trump (R) appointee. The stay keeps the moratorium in effect while the CDC appeals Friedrich’s earlier order, which held that the CDC had overstepped its authority in issuing the moratorium. The CDC moratorium provides eviction protection for tenants who have suffered economic harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In their emergency application, the plaintiffs said that the moratorium constitutes administrative overreach, arguing that “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.” The court denied the application to vacate the stay in an unsigned order. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett said they would have vacated the stay, meaning the remaining justices (Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett Kavanaugh) formed the deciding majority. In a concurring opinion, Kavanaugh said that, while he agreed the CDC had “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” a balance of equities favors the stay because “the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks.”
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the June 29 edition of the newsletter. Since then, a statewide mask order expired in Oregon.
COVID-19 emergency health orders
Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, unavailable to them during non-emergencies and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations.
- COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 22 states. Emergency orders remain active in 28 states.
- Since June 29, six states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies.
- Maine – On June 30, Gov. Janet Mills (D) allowed the statewide COVID-19 civil emergency to expire.
- Montana – On June 30, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) ended the statewide COVID-19 emergency.
- Nebraska – On June 30, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) allowed the statewide COVID-19 emergency to expire.
- Virginia – On June 30, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) allowed the statewide COVID-19 state of emergency to expire.
- Minnesota – On July 1, the state House and Senate ended the COVID-19 state of emergency. The vote happened June 30.
- Maryland – On July 1, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) allowed the statewide COVID-19 emergency to expire.
This time last year: Monday, July 6, and Tuesday, July 7, 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, July 6, 2020
- Travel restrictions:
- Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady issued an order requiring travelers entering the city of Chicago from states experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for 14 days. At the time, the order applied to travelers from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
- Election changes:
- Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed a bill extending vote-by-mail eligibility in the fall primary and general elections to all qualified voters.
- School closures and reopenings:
- The Florida Department of Education ordered that all school boards and charter school governing boards must physically open schools for at least five days per week for all students beginning in August.
- The Kentucky Department of Education released guidelines on reopening schools in the fall. The document, a complement to interim guidance the Kentucky Department of Public Health issued in June, did not mandate a uniform course of action for reopening schools. Instead, it was a guide for local districts.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
- Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
- North Carolina Business Court Judge James L. Gale ruled that bowling alleys could reopen immediately. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) had closed them in March. Cooper filed for a stay until the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court could hear the case.
- Travel restrictions:
- Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Delaware, Kansas, and Oklahoma had been added to the joint travel advisory requiring visitors from those states to quarantine for 14 days upon entering Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey.
- Federal government responses:
- The federal government awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax Inc. for clinical studies of a coronavirus vaccine, and $450 million to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to manufacture doses of an experimental treatment for COVID-19.
- Mask requirements:
- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order requiring everyone over the age of nine to wear a face covering in indoor public places when social distancing wasn’t possible.
- School closures and reopenings:
- Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) released guidance for universities and colleges planning on reopening in the fall. It called for reducing capacity in dining halls and requiring all students to receive testing at the beginning of the year.
- Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath released guidance for reopening schools in the fall. It said parents would be able to choose between on-campus and distance learning options.