Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at an extended coronavirus emergency in Louisiana, a Georgia lawsuit against the Biden administration, and other news since Dec. 16.
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
A note to readers: This is the last edition of the Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter. Our first edition went out on April 27, 2020, and we want to thank you for following along with us—whether you’ve been with us since the start or subscribed along the way. Although this newsletter will end, our coronavirus coverage will not. We’ll continue tracking state, local, and federal COVID-19 and vaccine policy changes at Ballotpedia.org.
We hope you have a safe and healthy rest of your 2021.
Since our last edition
What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.
- On Dec. 22, President Joe Biden (D) signed an executive order extending the student loan repayment moratorium through May 1, 2022.
- On Dec. 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a Pfizer antivirus pill coronavirus treatment for individuals 12 and older.
- On Dec. 17, Pfizer and BioNTech requested full approval for use of their coronavirus vaccine in individuals 12 and older. Currently, the vaccine is fully approved for individuals 16 and older, and authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization for individuals 12 and older.
- On Dec. 17, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a lower court’s stay on the federal government’s vaccine requirement for large businesses. The U.S. Department of Labor set Feb. 9, 2022, as the new vaccination deadline.
California (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 22, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced the state would require healthcare workers to receive a booster vaccination by Feb. 1, 2022.
Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Dec. 21, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced Attorney General Chris Carr (R) sued the Biden Administration over its vaccine and masking mandate for Head Start program staff and students. The mandate requires that all Head Start staff and some contractors and volunteers be fully vaccinated by Jan. 21, 2022. The mandate also requires children older than two to wear face coverings.
Louisiana (divided government): On Dec. 21, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended the state’s coronavirus public health emergency.
Massachusetts (divided government): On Dec. 21, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a mask advisory recommending people wear face coverings in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.
Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 21, the Legislative Commission voted 6-6 against extending the state’s requirements that college students and healthcare workers at state-run facilities get a COVID-19 vaccine. Six Republicans voted against continuing the mandates, while six Democrats voted in favor. The split means the mandates, which were enacted on a temporary basis in September, will expire. The Legislative Commission is composed of 12 members from both the state Senate and state Assembly and is charged with passing regulations when the legislature is not in session.
Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 21, Gov. Kate Brown (D) extended the state’s coronavirus state of emergency declaration through June 30, 2022.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,963 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 609 of those lawsuits.
- On Dec. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments in two sets of cases challenging federal vaccine policies. At issue in the first set of cases is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) policy requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that employees either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly tests and wearing face coverings at the workplace. At issue in the second set of cases is a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule requiring healthcare workers at facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions for medical and religious reasons. The court will hear arguments in both sets of cases on Jan. 7, with one hour being allotted to each. In the meantime, the Biden administration has indicated it will not begin enforcing the OSHA rule until Jan. 10. The HHS rule remains in force in approximately half of the states (lower courts in the other states have suspended enforcement of the rule).
As of Dec. 22, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- New Hampshire (Republican governor): 95%
- West Virginia (Republican governor): 90%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 90%
- Vermont (Republican governor): 88%
- Rhode Island (Democratic governor): 88%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 52%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 55%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 55%
- Louisiana (Democratic governor): 57%
- Indiana (Republican governor): 57%
State mask requirements
Since Dec. 16, no states changed their statewide mask requirements. As of Dec. 23, masks were required in ten 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 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.
Since Dec. 16, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. Rhode Island extended its emergency order.
School mask requirements
Since Dec. 16, no states changed their school mask requirements.
State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
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 Dec. 16, 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. Two states—California and New Mexico—have required healthcare workers to get booster shots.
- Twenty states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees.
Since Dec. 16, no states have enacted policies related to healthcare worker vaccine requirements. One state—Nevada—voted against extending a requirement that state workers who interact with vulnerable populations get a COVID-19 vaccine.