Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- State employee vaccine requirements in Hawaii and Washington
- The resumption of federal pandemic unemployment programs in Oklahoma
- 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.
Arkansas (Republican trifecta):
- On Aug. 6, the Arkansas General Assembly adjourned its special session without making alterations to the state’s mask mandate ban to allow school districts to impose mask requirements. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) had called for the session on Aug. 3.
- On Aug. 6, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox temporarily suspended the state’s mask requirement ban. Fox ruled the law discriminated between public and private schools and infringed on the governor’s emergency powers, the authority of municipal officials, and the authority of the state supreme court.
Florida (Republican trifecta): On Sunday, Aug. 8, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Judge Kathleen Williams blocked Florida from enforcing its restrictions on proof-of-vaccination requirements. The ruling allows Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to proceed with a plan to require passengers boarding in Miami to provide COVID-19 vaccination documentation starting on Aug. 15.
Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 5, Gov. David Ige (D) announced all state and county employees would be required to provide proof of vaccination or receive regular coronavirus tests. The requirement takes effect Aug. 16.
New Jersey (Democratic trifecta):
- On Aug. 6, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring masks indoors in private and public schools, effective Aug. 9.
- On Aug. 6, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring workers in healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings to be fully vaccinated or be tested for the coronavirus at least once or twice per week. The requirement takes effect on Sept. 7.
Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): On Sunday, Aug. 8, Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner ordered the Oklahoma Department of Labor to reinstate federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) ended the state’s participation in the federal program on June 26.
Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Aug. 6, Gov. Bill Lee (R) issued an order allowing the state commissioner of health to approve out-of-state medical workers to practice in the state without a license if they are supporting COVID-19 patients. The order also allows the commissioner to bring retired medical professionals back into the workforce if their licenses have expired.
Texas (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 9. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called on the Texas Hospital Association to voluntarily postpone elective procedures to increase hospital capacity. Abbott said the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will rely on staffing agencies to bring out-of-state healthcare workers to the state to assist with COVID-19 patients.
Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 9, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced state employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. The requirement also extends to healthcare workers in private hospitals and long-term care facilities.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 5 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 9, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 76%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 73%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 72%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 71%
- Maine (Democratic governor): 69%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 42%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 42%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 42%
- Louisiana (Democratic governor): 45%
- Alabama (Republican governor): 45%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,839 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Since July 27, we have added five new lawsuits to our database.
- Zywicki v. Washington: On Aug. 3, 2021, Todd Zywicki, a George Mason University law professor, sued the school seeking an exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. In his complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Professor Zywicki argues that vaccination is medically unnecessary because he has naturally acquired antibodies from earlier infection. Zywicki maintains the University’s policy of requiring all unvaccinated faculty and staff to mask, socially distance, and undergo routine testing, regardless of previous infection, is “unmistakably coercive and cannot reasonably be considered anything other than an unlawful mandate.” Providing evidence of multiple positive antibody tests conducted over the past year, Professor Zywicki says his doctors believe vaccinating him would be unnecessary and unethical. As such, the University’s vaccine policy “represents an unconstitutional condition being applied to Professor Zywicki’s constitutional rights to bodily integrity and informed medical choice.” The case is assigned to Judge Anthony Trenga, an appointee of President George W. Bush (R).
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 3 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 27, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies.
This time last year: Monday, Aug. 10, and Tuesday, Aug. 11, 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, Aug. 10, 2020
- Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
- The Minnesota Department of Health released guidance for reopening long-term care facilities. Facilities with no exposure to COVID-19 in the last 28 days were allowed to consider reopening to visitors.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued new guidance for gyms and fitness centers in counties in Phase Two or Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan. The guidance required gyms and fitness centers to allow at least 300 square feet of space per customer. For gyms or fitness centers larger than 12,000 square feet, the guidance limited occupancy to 25%.
- Election changes:
- Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order authorizing the Maryland State Board of Elections to operate a limited number of centralized voting centers in lieu of precinct polling places for in-person voting in the Nov. 3 general election.
- Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order directing election officials to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Aug. 11 and delivered by Aug 13. The order applied only to the Aug. 11 primary election.
- Eviction and foreclosure policies
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Sept. 5.
- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended a requirement that landlords give tenants who were late on their rent 30 days notice before beginning eviction proceedings. Polis extended the requirement for 30 days.
Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020
- Travel restrictions:
- Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Hawaii, South Dakota, and the Virgin Islands had been added to the tristate quarantine list. Travelers from states on the list were required to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. The governors removed Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Rhode Island from the list because of a decline in coronavirus cases.
- Federal government responses:
- The Trump administration, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, announced a $1.5 billion agreement with pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. to develop and deliver 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
- State court changes:
- Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an order extending the state’s judicial emergency, which had been set to expire on Aug. 11, through Sept. 10. Jury trials and most grand jury proceedings remained prohibited.