Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- The latest decision in an ongoing legal battle over cruise ships in Florida
- A court ruling upholding a COVID-19 vaccine requirement at a university in Indiana
- 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 Thursday? Click here.
Since our last edition
What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.
Florida (Republican trifecta): On Saturday, July 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned a lower court order that blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) restrictions on the cruise industry. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April 2021, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions on June 18.
Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Monday, July 19, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana Judge Damon Leichty upheld the University of Indiana’s vaccination requirement for the fall semester. Eight students sued the University, arguing the requirement to get a COVID-19 vaccine violated their 14th Amendment rights. According to the University policy, students who don’t get vaccinated “can see their class registration cancelled, CrimsonCard access terminated, access to IU systems (Canvas, email, etc.) terminated, and will not be allowed to participate in any on-campus activity.”
Michigan (divided government): On Thursday, July 15, the state Senate voted 20-15 to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) relied on the Act to declare a COVID-19 emergency and issue subsequent restrictions, like the stay-at-home order. If the House approves the initiative, Whitmer would be unable to veto it. If the House doesn’t approve the initiative, it would go on the Nov. 2022 ballot.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 15 edition of the newsletter. As of July 20, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 75%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 72%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 71%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 69%
- Maine (Democratic governor): 67%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 38%
- Louisiana (Democratic governor): 40%
- Idaho (Republican governor): 40%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 41%
- Alabama (Republican governor): 41%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,830 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 557 of those lawsuits.
- Since July 13, we have added no additional lawsuits to our database, and we have added no additional court orders and/or settlements.
- Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. v. Rivkees: On July 13, Norwegian Cruise Line’s holding company sued Florida’s surgeon general, challenging the state’s ban against businesses asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination. In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the cruise line alleged federal law preempts Florida’s prohibition on proof-of-vaccination requirements. The cruise line also alleged the law is unconstitutional. The cruise line says the law, which imposes fines up to $5,000 per violation against businesses that require proof of vaccination, will force it to be “either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law.” Norwegian says Florida’s law “blocks communications between a business and its customers, in violation of the First Amendment” and violates the due process rights of the company, its employees, and its customers. Norwegian is seeking a preliminary injunction allowing it to resume sailing with its CDC-compliant safety protocols in place and to invalidate the Florida law. The case is assigned to Judge Kathleen M. Williams, an appointee of Barack Obama (D).
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the July 13 edition of the newsletter. Since then, there have not been any updates.
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 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.
- Since July 13, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies.
This time last year: Monday, July 20, and Tuesday, July 21, 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 20, 2020:
- Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) reduced the limit on gatherings in counties in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan from 50 people to 10. Inslee also issued a statewide ban on live music, including drive-in concerts and music in restaurants.
- Travel restrictions:
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that all incoming travelers must fill out an online travel health form before arriving. Lamont said visitors could be subject to a $1,000 fine if they fail to fill out the form or quarantine.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued a travel advisory requesting that visitors from nine states self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Officials said the advisory was not a requirement. The nine states in the advisory were: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.
- Election changes:
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) issued a directive that a mail-in ballot be sent automatically to every active registered voter in the Nov. 3 general election.
United States District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Richard Bennett ordered that the nomination petition signature requirement for unaffiliated candidates in Maryland be reduced by 50 percent.
- Federal government responses:
President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would resume his daily coronavirus briefings. Trump discontinued the briefings in late April.
- Mask requirements:
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed an executive order that required individuals to wear masks in public when social distancing was not possible.
- School closures and reopenings:
The Colorado Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines contained separate criteria for elementary schools and secondary schools, but left decisions about start dates and remote learning to local districts.
- State court changes:
North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley extended emergency directives that included the suspension of jury trials for another 30 days.
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
- Travel restrictions:
Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington had been added to the joint travel advisory. Travelers from those states were required to quarantine for 14 days upon entering Connecticut, New Jersey, or New York. The governors removed Minnesota from the list, bringing the total to 31 states.
Evictions and foreclosure policies:
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures an additional 60 days. The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 17.