A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, Oct. 12-16, 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 Oct. 12-16, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, Oct. 12, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • The Michigan Supreme Court voted 6-1 to deny Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) request to delay enforcement of its Oct. 2 decision finding her emergency powers used in response to the coronavirus pandemic were unconstitutional. Whitmer had asked the court to delay its decision for 28 days so her administration could negotiate new restrictions with the legislature.
    • Ohio nursing homes were allowed to resume indoor visitations. Facilities that resumed visitations were required to screen visitors and report their names to state authorities. Only two visitors were allowed at a time for a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Election changes:
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously upheld a directive by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) restricting the number of absentee/mail-in ballot return locations to one per county.
    • The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s order suspending the state’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots.

Tuesday, Oct, 13, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Maine entered Stage 4 of reopening. Stage 4 allowed indoor activities and businesses like restaurants, movie theaters, and religious gatherings to expand operations to 50% capacity or up to 100 people (whichever was less). The order also required masks in municipal buildings and private schools and expanded enforcement of the face-covering mandate.
    • New Hampshire Superior Court Judge David Anderson ruled Gov. Chris Sununu (R) was not required to obtain the legislature’s approval to spend federal dollars in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic legislative leaders filed the lawsuit, alleging that Gov. Sununu did not have the authority to unilaterally spend CARES Act funds.
  • Election changes:
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stayed a lower court’s order that had extended Indiana’s return deadlines for absentee/mail-in ballots. As a result, the original receipt deadline (noon on Nov. 3) was reinstated.
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court’s order that had extended Arizona’s voter registration deadline. The court set Oct. 15 as the new registration deadline.
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court order suspending Alabama’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in voters with underlying medical conditions. The panel also reversed the lower court’s order waiving photo identification requirements for voters 65 and older.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency order granting the U.S. Department of Commerce’s request to pause a lower court decision that required the 2020 census population count to continue through Oct. 31 while the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit looked at the case. The order was unsigned, with the exception of a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Wednesday, Oct, 14, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a bill making permanent a provision allowing restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages. The law went into effect immediately. Restaurants had been allowed to offer to-go alcoholic beverages earlier in the year on a temporary basis to help them stay afloat while the state was under a stay-at-home order.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Ohio Department of Health updated its travel advisory to include travelers from Indiana. The advisory asked visitors from states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher to self-quarantine for two weeks. At the time, the list included South Dakota, Idaho, Wisconsin, Iowa, Wyoming, Kansas, Nevada, and Indiana, all states with spiking coronavirus cases. 
  • Election changes:
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge John A. Gibney ordered that Virginia’s voter registration deadline be extended from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15.
    • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina Judge William Osteen ordered election officials to enforce the state’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots. Osteen allowed other ballot curing provisions, and the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline (Nov. 12 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day), to stand.

Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 

  • Travel restrictions:
    • Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program went into effect, allowing visitors to avoid the 14-day quarantine if they could present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Travelers who tested positive or whose results were pending were still required to quarantine.
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies:
    • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) allowed the statewide moratorium on evictions to expire.

Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) added additional restrictions to the state’s public health order. Bars and restaurants that served alcohol were required to close by 10 p.m. every evening, and gatherings were limited to a maximum of five individuals.Travelers from states with COVID-19 positivity rates exceeding 5% could no longer present a recent negative coronavirus test to avoid the state’s 14-day self-quarantine requirement. Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through Nov. 13.
    • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) moved 16 counties into the “high risk” category due to a spike in coronavirus cases. Bars, restaurants, and large venues in “high risk” areas were advised to cap capacity at 25% or 50 people in total.
  • Election changes:
    • A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court order that had extended Michigan’s receipt deadline for absentee/mail-in ballots. The appellate panel reinstated the original receipt deadline: 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

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