Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- An order easing healthcare licensing requirements in Nebraska
- An extended indoor mask mandate in New Mexico
- 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.
Nebraska (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 14, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) issued an order allowing various health workers, including physical therapists and alcohol and drug counselors, to practice in Nebraska without a license if they are licensed in another state. Ricketts said he issued the order to address staffing shortages.
Washington (Democratic trifecta): Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy declined to block Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) state employee and healthcare worker vaccine mandate. The mandate’s deadline was Oct. 18. A group of public employees, including ferry workers and Washington state police, sued Inslee, arguing the vaccine mandate violated their constitutional rights. Murphy’s ruling keeps the mandate in place while the lawsuit progresses.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Oct. 14 edition of the newsletter. As of Oct. 18, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 79%
- Vermont (Republican governor): 79%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 78%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 78%
- Rhode Island (Democratic governor): 77%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 48%
- West Virginia (Republican governor): 49%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 50%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 51%
- North Dakota (Republican governor): 52%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,917 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 596 of those lawsuits.
Since Oct. 12, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked one additional court order and/or settlement.
Dr. A. v. Hochul: On Oct. 12, a U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of a group of 17 healthcare workers seeking religious exemptions to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Judge David Hurd, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, issued a preliminary injunction barring the New York State Department of Health “from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from Covid-19 vaccination going forward or with the operation of exemptions already granted.” The plaintiffs alleged their religious beliefs forbade them from consenting to inoculation with any vaccines “that were tested, developed or produced with fetal cell lines derived from procured abortions.” They said the mandate, absent a religious exemption, violated protections provided under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York State’s Human Rights Law, and the U.S. Constitution. In his order, Hurd, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, noted that the mandate had been amended to eliminate a previously permitted religious exemption. Hurd said, “[T]his intentional change in language is the kind of ‘religious gerrymander’ that triggers heightened scrutiny,” Hurd concluded that the “plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of this constitutional claim” and were entitled to an injunction. Hurd said his order did not address “whether plaintiffs and other individuals are entitled to a religious exemption from the State’s workplace vaccination requirement,” but whether they had the “right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers.” Hurd had previously blocked the mandate’s enforcement against those claiming religious exemptions on an emergency basis, issuing the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order against the state on Sept. 14. Hurd’s Oct. 12 injunction extends that earlier order. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said, “I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the Oct. 12 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) extended New Mexico’s public indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals through at least Nov. 12. As of Oct. 19, masks were required in 10 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 Oct. 12, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order.