Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Nevada
- An extended vaccine incentive initiative in Wisconsin
- Vaccine distribution
- Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- State-level mask requirements
- COVID-19 emergency health orders
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.
Colorado (Democratic trifecta):
- On Sept. 4, Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended a coronavirus executive order that gives tenants with pending applications for rental assistance 30 days to make late rent payments.
- On Sept. 2, Polis (D) announced that primary care providers can receive grant funding to support coronavirus vaccination efforts. Polis also announced a testing incentive program for students in Colorado. Students who have opted in to the testing program can receive a $25 gift card for their first coronavirus test, and a $10 gift card for each subsequent test.
Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) extended the first dose vaccination deadline for healthcare workers, teachers, and school staff to Sept. 19. The original deadline was Sept. 5.
Kentucky (divided government): On Sept. 7, a special session of the Kentucky State Legislature began to discuss the extension of the state’s coronavirus state of emergency, the governor’s authority to issue indoor mask requirements, and other coronavirus-related issues. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) called the session on Sept. 4.
Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Sept. 2, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order allowing conventions with more than 4,000 people not to require masks if all attendees are fully vaccinated. Under the rules, organizers who require proof of vaccination can admit attendees who’ve only received one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but those people must still wear masks indoors.
New York (Democratic trifecta):
- On Sept. 2, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed a residential and commercial coronavirus-related eviction moratorium into law. The moratorium would be effective through Jan. 15, 2022.
- On Sept. 2, the New York Department of Health released a regulation requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus testing.
South Carolina (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 2, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected the city of Columbia’s challenge to the state’s ban on mask requirements. In the opinion, the court found that the mask requirement ban, which was established in a state budget amendment, did not violate a rule requiring state laws address a single primary subject.
Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Sept. 3, U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl H. Lipman ruled in favor of two students who sued Gov. Bill Lee (R) after he issued an order allowing students to opt out of school mask mandates. Lipman ruled Lee’s order violated the students’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an order prohibiting local government agencies, officials, and landlords from banning mask requirements or proof-of-vaccination requirements.
Wisconsin (divided government): On Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. Tony Evers (D) extended the statewide vaccine incentive initiative through Sept. 19. The initiative allows anyone 12 and older to claim a $100 Visa gift card if he or she gets the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 2 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 3, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 76%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 76%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 74%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 74%
- Rhode Island (Democratic governor): 72%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 45%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 46%
- West Virginia (Republican governor): 47%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 48%
- North Dakota (Republican governor): 49%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,879 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 578 of those lawsuits.
Since Aug. 31, we have added nine lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional four court orders and/or settlements.
- Norris v. Stanley: On Aug. 31, Judge Paul Maloney, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, declined to block Michigan State University’s (MSU) COVID-19 vaccine mandate. MSU employee Jeanna Norris alleged, that she should be exempted from the vaccine mandate because she has natural antibodies from a previous infection. MSU’s vaccine policy requires all MSU faculty, staff, and students “to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with an FDA-authorized or WHO-approved vaccine.” While the mandate does provide for limited medical and religious exceptions, it specifically excludes natural immunity as a qualifying exemption. Norris argued MSU was “forcing me to choose between performing my professional duties to the best of my ability and protecting my personal health” and “between protecting my constitutional right to bodily autonomy, privacy and protection and keeping my job.” Norris alleged “MSU cannot establish a compelling governmental interest in overriding personal autonomy and constitutional rights.” Maloney said Norris did not show a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” Jenin Younes, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which is representing Norris, said, “We have faith that when the Court has the opportunity to review the insurmountable evidence that supports the existence, durability, and robustness of natural immunity, it will recognize that MSU’s policy violates the constitutional rights of Ms. Norris and others in her position.” Maloney is George W. Bush (R) appointee.
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 31 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Sept. 7, masks were required in ten states with Democratic governors. Thirteen states with Democratic governors and all 27 states with Republican governors had no state-level mask requirements in effect.
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 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.
Since Aug. 31, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order.