A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, October 19-23, 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 19-23, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, October 19, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Barron County Circuit Court Judge James Babler allowed Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) Oct. 6 order limiting public gatherings in bars and restaurants to go into effect, overturning a court ruling last week that blocked enforcement of the order while the case was being litigated. The Tavern League of Wisconsin, which filed the lawsuit along with two bars, said it would not appeal the decision.
  3. Election changes:
  4. The North Carolina State Board of Elections directed counties to accept absentee/mail-in ballots received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 and postmarked on or before Election Day. The state board of elections also issued new guidance on how voters could resolve problems with their absentee/mail-in ballots.
  5. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order extending the receipt deadline for mail-in ballots to Nov. 6 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.
  6. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously upheld a district court decision that temporarily suspended a Tennessee law requiring first-time voters to vote in person.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a draft of the state’s plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine once one became available.
  3. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced he would be extending an executive order allowing local governments to impose mask requirements through the end of the year.
  4. Election changes:
  5. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declined to block the extension of North Carolina’s absentee/mail-in ballot return and receipt deadlines. As a result, ballots would be accepted if they were postmarked on or before Election Day and received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an executive order implementing targeted mitigation measures in nine counties with high rates of coronavirus infection. The order limited gatherings in those counties to 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. It also required masks in all indoor public places where social distancing was not possible. Hospitals statewide were also required to maintain at least 10% of their total capacity for coronavirus patients. Facilities that could not maintain that capacity were required to pause elective procedures.
  3. Election changes:
  4. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld an Iowa law barring county election officials from sending absentee/mail-in ballots to voters who omitted information on their ballot application forms.
  5. The U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-3 vote, reinstated Alabama’s prohibition against curbside voting.
  6. Federal government responses:
  7. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance changing the definition of close contact for an individual infected with coronavirus. Under previous guidelines, a close contact was defined as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. The new guidance defined a close contact as someone who was within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
  8. School closures and reopenings:
  9. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced some schools in New York City’s state-defined hotspots were allowed to reopen. He also said the state would consider loosening restrictions in hotspot zones and drawing the zones on a block-by-block basis instead of using zip codes.
  10. Mask requirements:
  11. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced an extension of the state’s mask mandate for “the foreseeable future.”

Thursday, October 22, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered nursing homes and assisted living facilities to allow children to visit residents indoors. His order also allowed outdoor visits regardless of a facility’s case count, as long as visitors and residents practiced social distancing and wore masks. DeSantis said residents would also be allowed to leave facilities for overnight visits with family.
  3. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) amended the state’s coronavirus emergency order. The new order required restaurants to complete the state’s Safe Certification training program no later than Oct. 30 if they wish to continue offering indoor dining at 25% capacity beyond that date. Restaurants that did not complete the certification were still able to offer outdoor service at 75% capacity. The order also required retail establishments to close by 10 p.m. every night and shut down state museums and historical sites.
  4. Election changes:
  5. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit blocked a district court order that would have allowed Missouri voters to return their mail-in ballots in person. As a result, the law requiring voters to return their mail-in ballots by mail was upheld.

Friday, October 23, 2020

  1. Election changes:
  2. Texas’ Third Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s Oct. 14 ruling that suspended Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) order restricting the number of absentee/mail-in ballot return locations to one per county.
  3. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled election officials could not reject a mail-in ballot because the signature on the ballot return documents did not appear to match the voter’s signature on file.

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