Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at a slate of COVID-19 bills in Florida, a new disaster emergency in New York, and other news since Nov. 18.
We’ll also give the latest tracking on:
- Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- Vaccine distribution
- State-level mask requirements
- COVID-19 emergency health orders
- School mask requirements
- State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
Since our last edition
What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.
- On Nov. 30, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel voted 13-10 to recommend approval of a Merck antiviral pill to treat the coronavirus.
- On Nov. 30, Pfizer submitted a request to the FDA for authorization of its booster vaccine for individuals ages 16 and 17.
- On Nov. 30, U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty, who was appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump (R), issued an injunction against the Biden Administration’s national vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. This followed Federal District Court Judge Matthew Schelpa’s separate Nov. 29 ruling that temporarily blocked the requirement in 10 states.
- On Nov. 26, President Joe Biden (D) announced travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi would be barred from entering the United States in response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The travel restriction took effect on Nov. 29.
- On Nov. 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccination eligibility to all individuals 18 and older. The FDA also authorized the booster expansion on Nov. 19.
Florida (Republican trifecta): On Nov. 18, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed House Bill 1B/Senate Bill 2B, which prohibits COVID-19 vaccine requirements in K-12 public schools and state government agencies. The bill also requires private employers to offer five exemptions from vaccine requirements, including for religious reasons and previous COVID-19 infection. DeSantis also signed House Bill 7B/Senate Bill 8B, which prohibits the state surgeon general from issuing vaccine requirements.
Kansas (divided government): On Nov. 23, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed a bill (HB2001) into law allowing employees to submit waivers to be exempt from employer-vaccine requirements. The law also prevents employers from punishing unvaccinated employees.
Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Nov. 30, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order easing gathering requirements at indoor events with more than 4,000 people. Under the new order, children up to 12 years old do not need to provide proof of vaccination. Children who don’t provide proof of vaccination must wear masks during the event.
Pennsylvania (divided government): On Nov. 30, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 5-1 to temporarily block a lower court ruling that would have ended the state’s school masking requirement on Dec. 4.
To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,960 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 608 of those lawsuits.
Since Nov. 18, we have added two lawsuits to our database. We have tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements.
- Robert v. Austin: Two military service members stationed in North Carolina, one Army staff sergeant and one Marine staff sergeant, seek certification of a class action on behalf of the estimated 250,000 U.S. service members who have contracted and recovered from Covid-19 to exempt them from the military’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate. The plaintiffs, who filed their original lawsuit on Aug. 17 in U.S. district court in Colorado, allege in their amended complaint (filed in October) that the Department of Defense is engaged in “coercing and forcing military members to be injected with unlicensed drugs in violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.” The plaintiffs also allege Army Regulation 40-562 grants service members who have contracted and recovered from Covid-19 an exemption to the vaccination requirement, given their acquired immunity to the virus. This week, Judge Raymond Moore, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, declined to grant the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against the vaccine mandate pending a full trial on the merits.
As of Dec. 1, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- New Hampshire (Republican governor): 88%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 86%
- Vermont (Republican governor): 86%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 84%
- Rhode Island (Democratic governor): 83%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 51%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 54%
- West Virginia (Republican governor): 54%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 54%
- Louisiana (Democratic governor): 56%
Since Nov. 18, Oregon lifted its outdoor large social gathering mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. As of Dec. 2, masks were required in nine states with Democratic governors. Fourteen states with Democratic governors and all 27 states with Republican governors had no state-level mask requirements in effect.
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 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.
Since Nov. 18, one state has ended its statewide COVID-19 emergencies and one state has issued a new COVID-19 emergency.
Since Nov. 18, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily allowed the state’s school mask requirement to stay in effect.
As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, state governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements in their states. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof-of-vaccination. Other states have assisted in the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.
- Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government.
- Five states have supported the creation of digital vaccination status applications.
Since Nov. 18, no states have enacted policies related to proof-of-vaccination requirements or digital vaccination status applications.
State employee and healthcare worker vaccine requirements
The Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization to several COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021. Since then, many states have required state employees and healthcare workers to get vaccinated. In some cases, states have allowed workers to opt for regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of getting a vaccine.
- Fifteen states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers.
- Twenty states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees.
Since Nov. 18, no states have enacted policies related to state employee or healthcare worker vaccine requirements.