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A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, Sept. 21-25, 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 Sept. 21-25, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here.  

Monday, Sept. 21, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • In Texas, several types of businesses, including retail stores, restaurants, and office buildings, in 19 out of the state’s 22 hospital regions were allowed to expand operating capacity to 75%. 

Travel restrictions:

  • North Dakota Interim State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani announced that North Dakotans traveling internationally were no longer required to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin Judge William M. Conley issued an order extending the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline in Wisconsin to Nov. 9 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.

Federal government responses:

  • In an update on travel restrictions on military installations, the Department of Defense announced that pandemic travel restrictions had been lifted on 51% of installations around the world.

Mask requirements:

  • Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Development Commissioner Beth Bye announced that children age three and older were required to wear face masks at daycares and preschools.

State court changes:

  • In South Carolina, state courts were allowed to resume normal scheduling and in-person hearings.
  • In New Jersey, courts in the state were allowed to resume jury trials.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • California Health and Human Services Director Mark Ghaly announced Riverside, Alameda, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, and Solano counties could move from purple into the red phase of reopening. Ghaly also said El Dorado, Lassen, and Nevada counties could move into the orange phase, and Mariposa County could enter the yellow phase.  

School closures and reopenings:

  • The Miami-Dade County Public Schools board voted to return students to in-class instruction. Prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and students with special needs would return on Oct. 14. All others would return on Oct. 21. Families could opt for virtual learning. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth largest district in the United States.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced he was changing the risk level designation for 15 counties. Burgum reduced the risk level for three counties, moving them from green to blue on the state’s five-tiered risk-level system while increasing the risk level for the other 12.

Travel restrictions:

  • Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced that Massachusetts travelers entering Maine would no longer be required to test negative or quarantine for 14 days.
  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) added Colorado, Oregon, and Rhode Island to the list of high-risk states. Travelers from high-risk states were required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New Mexico. 

Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 

Election changes:

  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit voted 2-1 to stay a lower court decision suspending South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots in the general election. As a result, the witness requirement was reinstated.

Friday, Sept. 25, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that Florida would enter Phase 3 of reopening effective immediately, allowing bars and restaurants to operate at full capacity. The order overrode local ordinances unless cities could justify bar or restaurant closures on health or economic grounds.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, Sept. 7-11, 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 Sept. 7-11, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

Eviction and foreclosure policies:

  • Virginia’s statewide evictions moratorium expired. On the same day, the Virginia Supreme Court declined to grant Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) request to extend it. 

Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that conditions in Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties had improved enough to move them into Phase Two of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. Indoor dining at restaurants, in-person religious services, and operation of movie theaters resumed at 25% capacity. 

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Judge Orlando Garcia ordered Texas Secretary of State Ruth Ruggero Hughs to advise all local election officials that it was unconstitutional to reject an absentee ballot due to a perceived signature mismatch unless the voter is given pre-rejection notice of this finding and a “meaningful opportunity to cure his or her ballot’s rejection.”
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he would sign an executive order providing for the installation of absentee ballot return drop boxes at more than 300 locations statewide.

School closures and reopenings:

  • Several of Connecticut’s largest school districts reopened to in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. Schools were allowed to reopen beginning Aug. 31, but many districts delayed their start until after Labor Day.

Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an order allowing gyms, bowling alleys, swimming pools, and other similar businesses to reopen at 25% capacity.

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee Judge Eli Richardson temporarily suspended a Tennessee law requiring first-time voters to vote in person.

Federal government responses:

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development ended its coronavirus pandemic task force. An official for the agency, which had helped distribute aid to other countries, including ventilators, said other bureaus and divisions would assume the task force’s responsibilities.

Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order moving the Hampton Roads area of Virginia back to Phase Three of reopening. Northam reimposed restrictions on Hampton Roads on July 28 following a spike in coronavirus cases.

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona Judge Douglas Rayes ordered Arizona election officials to give voters until 5:00 p.m. on the fifth business day after an election to sign their vote-by-mail ballot envelopes if they failed to sign at the time they submitted the ballots.

Federal government responses:

  • Sept. 10 was the deadline for states to apply for additional unemployment insurance funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Lost Wages Assistance program. President Donald Trump (R) authorized FEMA to use disaster relief funds to supplement state unemployment insurance programs.

School closures and reopenings:

  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, temporarily blocked restrictions on in-person learning at public and private schools in Dane County. The court agreed to hear legal challenges raised by several private schools. Because of the injunction, all schools in Dane County could reopen to in-person instruction.

Friday, Sept. 11, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) moved the state into Phase Three of reopening. In Phase Three, bars were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity with a maximum of 50 people if their parish’s COVID-19 positivity rate remained at or below 5% for 14 days. Restaurants, churches, salons, spas, and gyms were also allowed to expand capacity to 75%.

Election changes:

  • Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D) announced her office would send absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all active registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Ohio’s Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Stephen L. McIntosh enjoined Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) from rejecting absentee ballot applications submitted via fax or email.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #296: September 7, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Nevada
  • An extended vaccine incentive initiative in Wisconsin
  • 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.

Colorado (Democratic trifecta):

  • On Sept. 4, Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended a coronavirus executive order that gives tenants with pending applications for rental assistance 30 days to make late rent payments.
  • On Sept. 2, Polis (D) announced that primary care providers can receive grant funding to support coronavirus vaccination efforts. Polis also announced a testing incentive program for students in Colorado. Students who have opted in to the testing program can receive a $25 gift card for their first coronavirus test, and a $10 gift card for each subsequent test.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) extended the full vaccination deadline for staff in long-term care facilities to Sept. 27. The original deadline was Sept. 7.

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) extended the first dose vaccination deadline for healthcare workers, teachers, and school staff to Sept. 19. The original deadline was Sept. 5.

Kentucky (divided government): On Sept. 7, a special session of the Kentucky State Legislature began to discuss the extension of the state’s coronavirus state of emergency, the governor’s authority to issue indoor mask requirements, and other coronavirus-related issues. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) called the session on Sept. 4.

Maine (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 2, Gov. Janet Mills (D) extended the full vaccination deadline for healthcare workers to Oct. 29. The previous deadline was Oct. 2.

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Sept. 2, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order allowing conventions with more than 4,000 people not to require masks if all attendees are fully vaccinated. Under the rules, organizers who require proof of vaccination can admit attendees who’ve only received one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but those people must still wear masks indoors. 

New York (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Sept. 2, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed a residential and commercial coronavirus-related eviction moratorium into law. The moratorium would be effective through Jan. 15, 2022.
  • On Sept. 2, the New York Department of Health released a regulation requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus testing.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. Daniel McKee (D) extended Rhode Island’s coronavirus state of emergency through Oct. 2.

South Carolina (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 2, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected the city of Columbia’s challenge to the state’s ban on mask requirements. In the opinion, the court found that the mask requirement ban, which was established in a state budget amendment, did not violate a rule requiring state laws address a single primary subject.

Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Sept. 3, U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl H. Lipman ruled in favor of two students who sued Gov. Bill Lee (R) after he issued an order allowing students to opt out of school mask mandates. Lipman ruled Lee’s order violated the students’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an order prohibiting local government agencies, officials, and landlords from banning mask requirements or proof-of-vaccination requirements. 

Wisconsin (divided government): On Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. Tony Evers (D) extended the statewide vaccine incentive initiative through Sept. 19. The initiative allows anyone 12 and older to claim a $100 Visa gift card if he or she gets the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 2 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 3, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,879 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 578 of those lawsuits. 

Since Aug. 31, we have added nine lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional four court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Norris v. Stanley: On Aug. 31, Judge Paul Maloney, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, declined to block Michigan State University’s (MSU) COVID-19 vaccine mandate. MSU employee Jeanna Norris alleged,  that she should be exempted from the vaccine mandate because she has natural antibodies from a previous infection. MSU’s vaccine policy requires all MSU faculty, staff, and students “to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with an FDA-authorized or WHO-approved vaccine.” While the mandate does provide for limited medical and religious exceptions, it specifically excludes natural immunity as a qualifying exemption. Norris argued MSU was “forcing me to choose between performing my professional duties to the best of my ability and protecting my personal health” and “between protecting my constitutional right to bodily autonomy, privacy and protection and keeping my job.” Norris alleged “MSU cannot establish a compelling governmental interest in overriding personal autonomy and constitutional rights.” Maloney said Norris did not show a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” Jenin Younes, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which is representing Norris, said, “We have faith that when the Court has the opportunity to review the insurmountable evidence that supports the existence, durability, and robustness of natural immunity, it will recognize that MSU’s policy violates the constitutional rights of Ms. Norris and others in her position.” Maloney is George W. Bush (R) appointee.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 31 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Sept. 7, 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

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

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. 

Overview

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.

Since Aug. 31, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 



U.S. Census Bureau will release easier-to-use format of 2020 census data on Sept. 16

The U.S. Census Bureau will release data from the 2020 census in easier-to-use formats at data.census.gov on Sept. 16, the agency recently announced. The Census Bureau also said it would deliver DVDs and flash drives of the data to state legislatures and redistricting authorities on that date. It had previously announced that it would release this summary data by Sept. 30.

The Census Bureau released block-level data from the 2020 census in a legacy format on Aug. 12, which included county-level demographic information. That release allowed allows states to begin the process of drawing congressional and state legislative district maps.

The decennial census is mandated by the U. S. Constitution, and a census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. The 2020 census was the 24th conducted.

The Census Bureau was originally scheduled to deliver redistricting data to the states by March 30, but the process was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sixteen states have constitutional deadlines requiring that they complete their legislative redistricting this year, and eight have such deadlines to complete their congressional redistricting.

Additional reading:



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, August 31-September 4, 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 August 31-September 4, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, August 31, 2020

Election changes:

  • Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed into law legislation making several changes to administration procedures for the Nov. 3 general election (including the requirement that counties provide some form of in-person Election Day and early voting).
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Judge Eleanor L. Ross issued an order extending the return deadlines for absentee ballots in the general election. Ross ordered officials to accept as valid any absentee ballots postmarked Nov. 3 and received by 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 6.

School closures and reopenings:

  • Connecticut schools were allowed to reopen for in-person instruction. Classrooms had been closed since March 16.
  • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced every public school district in the state except Providence and Central Falls would be permitted to resume in-person instruction when schools reopen for the 2020-2021 academic year. Raimondo said in-person classes were scheduled to start Sept. 14.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

  • Pennsylvania’s statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expired.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Oct. 1. DeSantis’ order allowed landlords to seek an eviction judgment in court, but said final judgments could not happen until the moratorium had ended.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill preventing evictions for nonpayment of rent through Jan. 31, 2021. 
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an order extending the statewide foreclosure moratorium through December.

State court changes:

  • Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera allowed courts to move into Phase IV of the state court’s reopening plan on Aug. 31. Phase IV allowed most in-person proceedings to resume, with the exception of jury trials. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • New Mexico Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home public health order through Sept. 18.

Federal government responses:

  • White House spokesman Judd Deere announced that the U.S. would not join an international initiative called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, the goal of which was to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) spearheaded the initiative.

School closures and reopenings:

  • The Maryland Board of Education approved new minimum requirements for instruction. The Board required schools to be open for at least 180 days and offer at least six hours of instruction, of which 3.5 hours had to be synchronous (e.g., all students taught at the same time) for grades K-12.
  • The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development issued new guidance that required student-athletes to wear face coverings during games and practices when social distancing wasn’t possible.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) closed bars in Monongalia County, two days after allowing them to reopen. He first closed bars in Monongalia in July following a spike in coronavirus cases in that area. 

Election changes:

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced an online absentee ballot request portal for the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Denise Owens ordered Mississippi officials to expand absentee voting eligibility in the Nov. 3 general election to individuals with “pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death.”

School closures and reopenings:

  • The Indiana Board of Education voted to update its definition of what counts as a virtual student for use in the state’s school funding formula. As a result, students who opted for virtual learning during the pandemic were still counted in their school’s funding formula.

Thursday, September 3, 2020 

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) announced the state would remain in Phase Four of reopening for at least two more weeks. Idaho entered Phase Four on June 13.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) moved the state into Phase 2.5 of reopening. Under Phase 2.5, the limit on gatherings increased to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Museums and aquariums were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, while gyms and indoor exercise facilities could reopen at 30% capacity.
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that indoor dining services and movie theaters could reopen with restrictions. 

Travel restrictions:

  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that out-of-state travelers from states with a 5% positivity rate or greater or a new case rate greater than 80 per 1 million residents would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Additionally, she announced that travelers from any state could avoid the quarantine requirement with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before or after entry into the state. Travelers waiting for a test result were required to self-quarantine.

Election changes:

  • Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed into law legislation providing for the use of drop-boxes to return absentee/mail-in ballots. The legislation also provided for prepaid return postage.

State court changes:

  • Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr. extended the judicial emergency through Oct. 5, and announced that the judiciary would move into a modified Phase 3 of reopening on that date. Under the modified Phase 3 plan, the Delaware Supreme Court permitted jury trials to resume and allowed courts to increase capacity from 50% to 75%.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #292: August 24, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • A vaccine requirement for corrections staff in California
  • A COVID-19 vaccine incentive initiative in Wisconsin
  • 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.

California (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, the California Department of Public Health issued an order requiring corrections staff who provide healthcare or who could be exposed to the coronavirus in a healthcare setting to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 14.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order requiring all state employees, staff in childcare facilities, and staff in pre-K through 12 schools to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27 or receive regular coronavirus testing. State hospital and long-term care employees do not have the option to receive regular testing instead of a vaccination.

Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Aug. 19, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued an order prohibiting county or local governments from forcing private organizations, including businesses and sports teams, to comply with COVID-19 health restrictions. 

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 20, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) renewed the state’s coronavirus disaster proclamation for an additional 30 days.

Kentucky (divided government): On Aug. 23, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) rescinded his executive order requiring masks be worn in schools. Masks are still required in Kentucky public schools due to a separate Kentucky Board of Education order. Beshear’s action followed a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion issued Aug. 21 upholding limits the state legislature placed on the governor’s emergency powers.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Friday, Aug. 20, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued an order requiring executive branch employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 17. 

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Aug. 20, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order requiring all state colleges, universities, and community colleges to require students to provide proof of vaccination after Nov. 1, 2021. 

New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 23, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order requiring all teachers and staff in pre-K through 12 schools to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or receive regular coronavirus testing. Murphy also announced that state employees would also be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or receive regular coronavirus testing.

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that the state’s coronavirus vaccine requirement for healthcare workers would no longer have a regular testing alternative, and workers will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. Brown also announced all teachers and staff in K-12 schools would be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval of a coronavirus vaccine.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Aug. 19, Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued an executive order requiring masks be worn in K-12 public schools.
  • On Aug. 19, Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to the Delta variant and other emerging variants of the coronavirus.

Wisconsin (divided government): On Monday, Aug. 23, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced an initiative that awards residents who receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine a $100 Visa gift card. The initiative will run through Labor Day. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 19 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 23, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,868 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 574 of those lawsuits. 

Since Aug. 17, we have added eight lawsuits to our database. We have tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Children’s Health Defense, Inc. v. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey: On Aug. 16, a group of 18 students filed suit against Rutgers University in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. At issue is Rutgers’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which requires all students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the beginning of the fall term. Plaintiffs allege “unjustified fear and insatiable greed drive the vaccine industry,” and the University’s mandate is “an affront to human dignity and personal freedom.” The plaintiff’s attorneys are with the Children’s Health Defense, an advocacy group founded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. In response, Rutgers issued a press release, saying, “The university’s position on vaccines is consistent with the legal authority supporting this policy.” The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 17 edition of the newsletter. Since then, indoor public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect in New Mexico and Washington. As of Aug. 24, 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.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

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. 

Overview: 

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.

Since Aug. 17, no states have ended their COVID-19 emergencies. 

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

Last week, Culver City, California’s school system announced it would be requiring vaccinations among all students ages 12 and older. The state of California mandates vaccination or regular testing for teachers and staff.



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, August 24-28, 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 August 24-28, 2020.

Monday, August 24, 2020

  • School closures and reopenings:
    • K-12 public schools in Arkansas resumed in-person instruction. Schools were originally supposed to reopen to in-person instruction on Aug. 14, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) delayed the reopening date on July 9 to give school officials more time to prepare. 
  • State court changes:
    • North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order extending and modifying some directives related to the coronavirus. The directives waived most notary requirements and allowed most court proceedings to occur remotely. Additionally, Emergency Directive 22 required senior resident superior court judges to submit plans for the resumption of jury trials by Sept. 30.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced they had removed Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, and Montana from the joint travel advisory list because of a decline in coronavirus infection rates. Travelers from states on the list were required to quarantine upon arrival. 
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies:
    • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) lifted the state’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. The order required landlords to waive late fees accrued since the pandemic began and give tenants 30 days notice before beginning the eviction process.
  • State court changes:
    • New Hampshire’s first jury trial since the start of the pandemic began in Cheshire County as part of a pilot program. The state’s judicial branch required everyone in the courtroom to wear a mask, and for jurors to be spread out in the gallery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) issued an order requiring restaurant and bar patrons to wear a mask anytime they interact with a server, including whenever beverages or food are brought to a table. Additionally, Pritzker enacted new restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties because of rising coronavirus cases. Pritzker’s order prohibited bars and restaurants from offering indoor dining, and limited social events and gatherings to 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity (whichever was less).
    • Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced the state would remain in Phase 4.5 of its reopening plan. Holcomb also extended the statewide mask mandate for another 30 days.
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, including the statewide mask mandate, 50-person indoor gathering size limit, and statewide bar closure to on-premises consumption, through Sept. 11.
    • In Arizona, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks were allowed to begin reopening in Apache, Cochise, Coconino, La Paz, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, and Yavapai counties. Gyms were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity while the other businesses were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Pentagon lifted restrictions on the movement of military personnel and their families between military installations at five Air Force bases and three Army bases. The restrictions had been in place since March.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) signed the 25th modification to his emergency declaration, requiring students in kindergarten and above to wear face coverings inside schools at all times. The order also required school districts and charters to notify parents when a positive coronavirus case was identified in their child’s building.
    • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced students would be permitted to participate in marching bands and cheerleading activities at football games this fall.

Thursday, August 27, 2020 

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) approved Oahu Mayor Kirk Calwell’s order reimplementing a stay-at-home order in the county for two weeks. Individuals were only allowed to leave their homes to conduct certain essential activities.
    • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order describing the symptoms an employee must have to stay home from work and avoid disciplinary measures from his or her employer. The order stipulated that employees aren’t shielded from disciplinary measures if known medical conditions could explain the symptoms.
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closed bars, nightclubs, and breweries in Polk, Linn, Johnson, Story, Dallas, and Black Hawk counties through at least Sept. 5. Reynolds cited high positive test rates among young adults in those counties, which are home to the state’s major universities.
  • Election changes:
    • Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) signed an executive order extending the mail-in voter registration deadline from Oct. 13 to Oct. 19.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Robert Redfield sent a letter to governors across the country asking states to expedite licensing and permitting so that COVID-19 vaccine distribution sites could be operational by November 1.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the state’s mask mandate through Oct. 2.

Friday, August 28, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) released a new color-coded reopening plan called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.” Counties were classified as one of four colors—purple, red, orange, and yellow—based on coronavirus spread. Different business restrictions applied to each of the color levels.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had authorized the drug remdesivir to be used on all patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Previously, the FDA had permitted the use of remdesivir only on patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Bold Justice: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for August 1

Bold Justice

Welcome to the August 9 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

We are officially in the dog days of summer, dear readers! SCOTUS is still on its summer break, but there’s plenty of federal judicial activity on the docket. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

Stay up to date on the latest news by following Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

We’re between October Terms when the court isn’t releasing opinions or hearing arguments. 

Before the next term starts, let’s take a brief look at what happened during the 2020-2021 term:

  • The court agreed to hear 62 cases during the term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term, but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar.
  • The court issued 67 opinions. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Ten cases were decided without argument. 
  • Since 2007, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year. During that period, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision 751 times (70.7 percent) and affirmed a lower court decision 303 times (28.5 percent). Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS decided more cases originating from the Ninth Circuit (207) than from any other U.S. circuit court of appeal.
  • For more historical term data, click here.

Grants

SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases to its merits docket since our July 19 issue. To date, the court has agreed to hear 31 cases for the 2021-2022 term. Two cases were dismissed after they were accepted.

Arguments

SCOTUS has not scheduled any more cases for argument since our July 19 issue. 

As you may recall, the court released the calendar for its October sitting on July 13. It will hear nine hours of oral argument in nine cases between October 4 and October 13. 

As a refresher, click the links below to learn more about those cases:

October 4, 2021

October 5, 2021

October 6, 2021

October 12, 2021

October 13, 2021

To date, 20 cases granted review for the upcoming term have not been scheduled for argument.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

The court held its final conference and issued its final opinions for the 2020-2021 term on July 1, 2021. The court issued its final order list on July 2 before starting its summer recess. The court will resume hearing arguments in October.

SCOTUS trivia

True or false: Article III of the Constitution of the United States provides for the creation of the U.S. Supreme Court and its structure.

  1. True
  2. False

Choose an answer to find out!

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. This month’s edition includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from July 2 to August 1. 

Highlights

Vacancy count for August 1, 2021

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies on the federal courts, click here.

*Though the United States territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are created in accordance with the power granted under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Two judges left active status since the previous vacancy count, creating Article III life-term judicial vacanciesThe president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial position vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from President Joe Biden‘s (D) inauguration to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of August 1, 2021.

New nominations

President Biden announced no new nominations in July.

New confirmations

As of August 1, the Senate has confirmed eight of President Biden’s judicial nominees—five district court judges and three appeals court judges—since January 2021.

The first confirmations occurred on June 8, when Julien Neals and Regina Rodriguez were confirmed to their respective courts. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed on June 14, was the first confirmed nominee to receive her judicial commission. Jackson was commissioned on June 17.

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • The average number of judicial appointees per president through August 1 of the first year is three. President Biden has made the most, eight, while two presidents had no confirmed Article III judicial nominees in that time: Presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D).
  • President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through his first year with 41. President Obama  made the fewest with 13.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through four years with 234. President Reagan  made the fewest through four years with 166.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! This edition of Bold Justice journeys us to a time somewhere over the rainbow, through a dust bowl and a world war, and across the piano keys with Duke Ellington. Today, we highlight President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (D) federal judicial nominees from 1933 to 1945.

During his time in office, 197 of President Roosevelt’s judicial nominees were confirmed. Four nominees declined their nominations, two were withdrawn, and the U.S. Senate rejected six nominees. 

Among the most notable appointees were nine Supreme Court Justices:

President Roosevelt’s first Article III appointee was confirmed on April 12, 1933—Judge Joseph Woodrough to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. By the end of his first year in office, nine of Roosevelt’s nominees had been confirmed–four to U.S. circuit courts, four to U.S. district courts, and one to the U.S. Customs Court. 

Roosevelt averaged 17.1 judicial appointments per year. For comparison, President Jimmy Carter (D) had the highest average from 1901 to 2021 with 65.5 appointments per year.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on September 13 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.



U.S. Supreme Court issues decision in donor disclosure case. What comes next?

U.S. Supreme Court issues decision in donor disclosure case. What comes next?

On July 1, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, striking down a California policy that required nonprofits to disclose their donors’ identities to the state’s attorney general. 

What comes next in the wake of this decision? First, we’ll discuss the case background and the Supreme Court’s ruling, then we’ll turn our attention to the implications of that ruling. 

What’s at issue, and how lower courts have ruled

The California policy in question required nonprofits to file copies of their IRS 990 forms with the state. Form 990 includes Schedule B, which contains the names and addresses of all individuals who donated more than $5,000 to the nonprofit in a given tax year. Although the law did not allow the public access to Schedule B information, court documents show that inadvertent disclosures had occurred. 

In 2014, Americans for Prosperity challenged the law in U.S. district court, triggering a series of legal developments spanning several years:

  • 2014: Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, filed suit in U.S. district court, alleging that the California law violated its First Amendment rights. 
  • 2015: The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, filed a similar suit in the same U.S. district court. 
  • 2016: Judge Manuel Real of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found in favor of AFPF and barred the state from collecting the group’s Schedule B information. In a separate 2016 ruling, Real also found in favor of TMLC and prevented the state from collecting the group’s Schedule B information. Real was appointed to the court by Lyndon Johnson (D).
  • 2018: The two suits were combined on appeal. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously overturned Real’s rulings in 2018. Judges Raymond Fisher, Richard Paez, and Jacqueline Nguyen issued the ruling. Fisher and Paez are Bill Clinton (D) appointees. Barack Obama (D) appointed Nguyen.
  • 2019: The plaintiffs petitioned the Ninth Circuit for en banc review. That petition was rejected March 29, 2019. On Aug. 26, 2019, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • 2021: On Jan. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the consolidated appeal. Oral argument took place on April 26.

How the Supreme Court ruled   

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the plaintiffs, striking down the California law.  Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush (R) appointee,  wrote the majority opinion. Roberts said, “California has an important interest in preventing wrongdoing by charitable organizations.” But, he went on to say that there was “a dramatic mismatch” between that interest and California’s donor disclosure requirements. He wrote: “The upshot is that California casts a dragnet for sensitive donor information from tens of thousands of charities each year, even though the information will become relevant in only a small number of cases involving filed complaints.” Roberts added, “In reality, then, California’s interest is less in investigating fraud and more in ease of administration.” He said that interest did not “reflect the seriousness of the actual burden that the demand for Schedule Bs imposes on donors’ association rights.” 

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett – all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents – concurred in the judgment. 

Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas declined to join some parts of the majority opinion, disagreeing about whether an exacting scrutiny or strict scrutiny standard should be applied in cases like this. Under the exacting scrutiny standard, a law that infringes on a constitutional right will be upheld only if it is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest. The strict scrutiny standard, which is more stringent, requires that a challenged law be narrowly tailored using the least restrictive means available to serve a compelling government interest.

In the majority opinion, Roberts said the exacting scrutiny standard should be applied to all cases of this type. Alito said he was “not prepared at this time to hold that a single standard applies to all disclosure requirements.” Gorsuch joined Alito in this opinion. In his concurrence, Thomas said the court should have invoked the strict scrutiny standard because “our precedents require application of strict scrutiny to laws that compel disclosure of protected First Amendment association.” 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan – all Democratic appointees. Sotomayor said the majority opinion “discards [the Supreme Court’s] decades-long requirement that, to establish a cognizable burden on their associational rights, plaintiffs must plead and prove that disclosure will likely expose them to objective harms, such as threats, harassment, or reprisals.” Sotomayor added, “The evidence shows that California’s confidential reporting requirement imposes trivial burdens on petitioners’ associational rights and plays a meaningful role in [state] attorneys’ ability to identify and prosecute charities engaged in malfeasance,” which she said is “more than enough to satisfy the First Amendment.” 

What are the reactions, and what comes next

Bartlett Cleland, counsel and chief strategy and innovation officer for the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Lee E. Goodman, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, wrote the following in an op-ed praising the Supreme Court’s ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta

Fortunately, six Justices reaffirmed in definitive terms the First Amendment’s powerful protection for speech, assembly, and privacy.  In striking the California donor disclosure rule, they demonstrate that they understand the history of government abuses and the need for people to be secure in their associations and the importance of conscience to freedom.

It is unclear how this ruling will affect donor disclosure and privacy laws in other states. David Strauss, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said

The Court has tried to draw a line between disclosures that are really going to hurt people … and disclosures that are unlikely to be harmful. The question is whether, after this decision, the Court is still going to try to draw that line, or is instead going to say: disclosure laws of all kinds risk chilling speech.

Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said that the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect campaign finance laws more broadly:

The court’s ruling calls into question a number of campaign finance disclosure laws. Perhaps even more significant, it also threatens the constitutionality of campaign contribution laws, which are judged under the “exacting scrutiny” standard, too. Lower courts can now find that such laws are not narrowly tailored to prevent corruption or its appearance or do not provide voters with valuable information — two interests the court recognized in the past to justify campaign laws.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 39 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Recent legislative actions

No legislative actions have been taken on relevant bills since our last issue.

Thank you for reading! Let us know what you think! Reply to this email with any feedback or recommendations. 



Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney dies

Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney (R) died while in office on July 17, 2021, due to long-term health issues. 

Carney was first elected to represent House District 51 in 2008. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Richard Steele (D) 78.6% to 21.4%. He was elected as state House majority leader in 2018 and served in that role until January 2020, when House Republicans named Rep. Steven Rudy (R) to serve as acting majority leader while Carney was ill. 

Carney was admitted to the ICU with pancreatitis in December 2019. He had spent the past year and a half in hospitals and was diagnosed with pneumonia in June 2021. He died on July 17 at age 51.

“Our hearts are broken at the loss of our friend and brother, Bam Carney. Bam was a passionate educator, an outstanding legislator, and a tremendous leader for our Commonwealth,” House Speaker David Osborne (R) said in a statement. 

Carney is the second member of the Kentucky legislature to die this month; former state Senator Tom Buford (R) died on July 6.

When a vacancy occurs in the Kentucky General Assembly, a special election must be held to fill the vacant seat. The governor must call for an election if the General Assembly is not in session. If lawmakers are in session, the presiding officer in the house where the vacancy happened calls for the election. The person elected to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Carney’s term was set to expire on December 31, 2022.

Kentucky is one of 25 states to fill state legislative vacancies through special elections.

Additional reading: