A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, October 5-9, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened October 5-9, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, October 5, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Massachusetts cities and towns designated as lower risk on the state’s community spread map advanced to Step 2 of Phase 3 of the reopening plan. In that stage, indoor entertainment businesses like roller rinks and trampoline parks could reopen, and indoor and outdoor performance venues could operate at up to 50% capacity. Additionally, gyms, libraries, and museums were permitted to operate at 50% capacity.
  • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an emergency public health order replacing many coronavirus restrictions the Michigan Supreme Court struck down on Oct. 2, including limits on gatherings and a mask requirement. The court ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) emergency orders were based on an unconstitutional law called the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945.
  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order allowing live outdoor music performances to resume so long as crowds were restricted to 25% capacity or 250 individuals, whichever is less. He permitted indoor live music performances which were streamed across the internet without crowds to resume.   

Election changes:

  • The United States Supreme Court reinstated South Carolina’s witness signature requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots.
  • Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced that counties would be allowed to offer multiple drop-off options for returning absentee/mail-in ballots. LaRose said that these options would be restricted to one site per county.
  • Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson issued an order allowing Iowa counties to send voters absentee/mail-in ballot applications with pre-filled personal information.
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona Judge Steven Logan ordered that Arizona’s voter registration deadline be extended to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23.

School closures and reopenings:

  • Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade students in Florida’s Miami-Dade Public School district returned to classrooms. Students in higher grades were returned to classrooms later in the week. The Miami-Dade Public School district is the largest district in Florida and the fourth largest in the country.

State court changes:

  • Delaware courts advanced into a modified Phase 3 of reopening, allowing jury trials to resume. Phase 3 also allowed courts to operate at 75% capacity and increased the number of people allowed in a courtroom to 50.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) eased coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, businesses, and youth sports. The new rules allowed theaters in counties in Phase 2 of reopening to operate at 25% capacity and theaters in Phase 3 of reopening to operate at 50% capacity. Additionally, restaurants in Phase 2 counties were allowed to sit up to six people together at a table, while restaurants in Phase 3 were allowed up to eight.
  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm issued an order limiting indoor gatherings to 25% capacity. Colleges, schools, churches, polling locations, rallies, and outdoor venues were exempt from the order. 

Election changes:

  • The Iowa Supreme Court stayed a state court’s order that had allowed county election officials to send pre-filled absentee/mail-in ballot request forms to voters.
  • Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R) announced that the state’s voter registration deadline would be extended to 7 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2020.

Thursday, October 8, 2020 

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Connecticut moved into the third phase of reopening, which allowed businesses like restaurants and barbershops to operate at 75% capacity. Outdoor event venues (like amphitheaters and racetracks) and indoor performing arts venues were allowed to operate at 50% capacity. 

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Judge Dan Aaron Polster ordered Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to allow counties to install absentee/mail-in ballot drop boxes at locations other than election board offices.
  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit voted 2-1 to stay a lower court order extending registration and absentee/mail-in ballot return deadlines in Wisconsin.

Eviction and foreclosure policies:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions through Dec. 31. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) modified restrictions to allow gatherings of up to 7,500 people in large outdoor venues or 3,750 in indoor venues.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new restrictions on areas of New York City where coronavirus cases were rising. In areas designated as red zones, state-defined non-essential businesses were required to close, religious gatherings were limited to 10 people, and restaurants could only offer takeout service.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order allowing movie theaters and other indoor entertainment venues to reopen. Capacity at those venues was capped at 20 people per 1,000 square feet. 

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Judge Robert Pitman blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) directive restricting the number of absentee/mail-in ballot return locations to one per county.
  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed a district court’s order directing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to allow counties to install absentee/mail-in ballot drop boxes at locations other than election board offices. As a result, LaRose’s initial order limiting drop boxes to one site per county was reinstated.
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Judge Brian C. Wimes issued an order requiring Missouri election authorities to accept mail-in ballots returned in person. However, on Oct. 10, 2020, Wimes stayed his order pending appeal, leaving the requirement that mail-in ballots be returned by mail in place.

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