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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.

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, Oct. 12-16, 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 Oct. 12-16, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, Oct. 12, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • The Michigan Supreme Court voted 6-1 to deny Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) request to delay enforcement of its Oct. 2 decision finding her emergency powers used in response to the coronavirus pandemic were unconstitutional. Whitmer had asked the court to delay its decision for 28 days so her administration could negotiate new restrictions with the legislature.
    • Ohio nursing homes were allowed to resume indoor visitations. Facilities that resumed visitations were required to screen visitors and report their names to state authorities. Only two visitors were allowed at a time for a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Election changes:
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously upheld a directive by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) restricting the number of absentee/mail-in ballot return locations to one per county.
    • The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s order suspending the state’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots.

Tuesday, Oct, 13, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Maine entered Stage 4 of reopening. Stage 4 allowed indoor activities and businesses like restaurants, movie theaters, and religious gatherings to expand operations to 50% capacity or up to 100 people (whichever was less). The order also required masks in municipal buildings and private schools and expanded enforcement of the face-covering mandate.
    • New Hampshire Superior Court Judge David Anderson ruled Gov. Chris Sununu (R) was not required to obtain the legislature’s approval to spend federal dollars in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic legislative leaders filed the lawsuit, alleging that Gov. Sununu did not have the authority to unilaterally spend CARES Act funds.
  • Election changes:
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stayed a lower court’s order that had extended Indiana’s return deadlines for absentee/mail-in ballots. As a result, the original receipt deadline (noon on Nov. 3) was reinstated.
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court’s order that had extended Arizona’s voter registration deadline. The court set Oct. 15 as the new registration deadline.
    • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court order suspending Alabama’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in voters with underlying medical conditions. The panel also reversed the lower court’s order waiving photo identification requirements for voters 65 and older.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency order granting the U.S. Department of Commerce’s request to pause a lower court decision that required the 2020 census population count to continue through Oct. 31 while the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit looked at the case. The order was unsigned, with the exception of a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Wednesday, Oct, 14, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a bill making permanent a provision allowing restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages. The law went into effect immediately. Restaurants had been allowed to offer to-go alcoholic beverages earlier in the year on a temporary basis to help them stay afloat while the state was under a stay-at-home order.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Ohio Department of Health updated its travel advisory to include travelers from Indiana. The advisory asked visitors from states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher to self-quarantine for two weeks. At the time, the list included South Dakota, Idaho, Wisconsin, Iowa, Wyoming, Kansas, Nevada, and Indiana, all states with spiking coronavirus cases. 
  • Election changes:
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge John A. Gibney ordered that Virginia’s voter registration deadline be extended from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15.
    • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina Judge William Osteen ordered election officials to enforce the state’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots. Osteen allowed other ballot curing provisions, and the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline (Nov. 12 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day), to stand.

Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 

  • Travel restrictions:
    • Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program went into effect, allowing visitors to avoid the 14-day quarantine if they could present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Travelers who tested positive or whose results were pending were still required to quarantine.
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies:
    • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) allowed the statewide moratorium on evictions to expire.

Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) added additional restrictions to the state’s public health order. Bars and restaurants that served alcohol were required to close by 10 p.m. every evening, and gatherings were limited to a maximum of five individuals.Travelers from states with COVID-19 positivity rates exceeding 5% could no longer present a recent negative coronavirus test to avoid the state’s 14-day self-quarantine requirement. Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through Nov. 13.
    • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) moved 16 counties into the “high risk” category due to a spike in coronavirus cases. Bars, restaurants, and large venues in “high risk” areas were advised to cap capacity at 25% or 50 people in total.
  • Election changes:
    • A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court order that had extended Michigan’s receipt deadline for absentee/mail-in ballots. The appellate panel reinstated the original receipt deadline: 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

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



Fifteen states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

Since August 2021, 15 states have announced vaccine requirements for healthcare workers.

Thirteen states have a Democratic trifecta. In Maryland and Massachusetts, the governor is a Republican but the state legislature is controlled by Democrats.

Eleven states do not allow healthcare workers to choose between getting a vaccine and getting regularly tested. Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, however, allow healthcare workers to undergo regular testing in lieu of a vaccine.

New Mexico imposed the earliest deadline—Aug. 27—for workers to get at least one dose of a vaccine. However, New Jersey required healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing no later than Sept. 7. Nevada, with a Nov. 1 deadline, has given healthcare workers the most time to become fully vaccinated.

As of Oct. 8, the deadline for healthcare workers to receive at least one dose of a vaccine has passed in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York.

To read more about healthcare worker vaccine requirements, click here.



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, October 5-9, 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 5-9, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, October 5, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Massachusetts cities and towns designated as lower risk on the state’s community spread map advanced to Step 2 of Phase 3 of the reopening plan. In that stage, indoor entertainment businesses like roller rinks and trampoline parks could reopen, and indoor and outdoor performance venues could operate at up to 50% capacity. Additionally, gyms, libraries, and museums were permitted to operate at 50% capacity.
  • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an emergency public health order replacing many coronavirus restrictions the Michigan Supreme Court struck down on Oct. 2, including limits on gatherings and a mask requirement. The court ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) emergency orders were based on an unconstitutional law called the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945.
  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order allowing live outdoor music performances to resume so long as crowds were restricted to 25% capacity or 250 individuals, whichever is less. He permitted indoor live music performances which were streamed across the internet without crowds to resume.   

Election changes:

  • The United States Supreme Court reinstated South Carolina’s witness signature requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots.
  • Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced that counties would be allowed to offer multiple drop-off options for returning absentee/mail-in ballots. LaRose said that these options would be restricted to one site per county.
  • Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson issued an order allowing Iowa counties to send voters absentee/mail-in ballot applications with pre-filled personal information.
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona Judge Steven Logan ordered that Arizona’s voter registration deadline be extended to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23.

School closures and reopenings:

  • Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade students in Florida’s Miami-Dade Public School district returned to classrooms. Students in higher grades were returned to classrooms later in the week. The Miami-Dade Public School district is the largest district in Florida and the fourth largest in the country.

State court changes:

  • Delaware courts advanced into a modified Phase 3 of reopening, allowing jury trials to resume. Phase 3 also allowed courts to operate at 75% capacity and increased the number of people allowed in a courtroom to 50.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) eased coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, businesses, and youth sports. The new rules allowed theaters in counties in Phase 2 of reopening to operate at 25% capacity and theaters in Phase 3 of reopening to operate at 50% capacity. Additionally, restaurants in Phase 2 counties were allowed to sit up to six people together at a table, while restaurants in Phase 3 were allowed up to eight.
  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm issued an order limiting indoor gatherings to 25% capacity. Colleges, schools, churches, polling locations, rallies, and outdoor venues were exempt from the order. 

Election changes:

  • The Iowa Supreme Court stayed a state court’s order that had allowed county election officials to send pre-filled absentee/mail-in ballot request forms to voters.
  • Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R) announced that the state’s voter registration deadline would be extended to 7 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2020.

Thursday, October 8, 2020 

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Connecticut moved into the third phase of reopening, which allowed businesses like restaurants and barbershops to operate at 75% capacity. Outdoor event venues (like amphitheaters and racetracks) and indoor performing arts venues were allowed to operate at 50% capacity. 

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Judge Dan Aaron Polster ordered Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to allow counties to install absentee/mail-in ballot drop boxes at locations other than election board offices.
  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit voted 2-1 to stay a lower court order extending registration and absentee/mail-in ballot return deadlines in Wisconsin.

Eviction and foreclosure policies:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions through Dec. 31. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) modified restrictions to allow gatherings of up to 7,500 people in large outdoor venues or 3,750 in indoor venues.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new restrictions on areas of New York City where coronavirus cases were rising. In areas designated as red zones, state-defined non-essential businesses were required to close, religious gatherings were limited to 10 people, and restaurants could only offer takeout service.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order allowing movie theaters and other indoor entertainment venues to reopen. Capacity at those venues was capped at 20 people per 1,000 square feet. 

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Judge Robert Pitman blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) directive restricting the number of absentee/mail-in ballot return locations to one per county.
  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed a district court’s order directing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to allow counties to install absentee/mail-in ballot drop boxes at locations other than election board offices. As a result, LaRose’s initial order limiting drop boxes to one site per county was reinstated.
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Judge Brian C. Wimes issued an order requiring Missouri election authorities to accept mail-in ballots returned in person. However, on Oct. 10, 2020, Wimes stayed his order pending appeal, leaving the requirement that mail-in ballots be returned by mail in place.

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. 28-Oct. 2, 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. 28 to Oct. 2, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

Federal government responses:

  • President Donald Trump (R) announced the federal government would send the first batch of a planned 100 million rapid coronavirus tests developed by Abbott Laboratories to states. The first shipment was expected to total 6.5 million tests. The tests would be distributed to states based on population data.

Eviction and foreclosure policies:

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the statewide moratorium on residential evictions through Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) extended the statewide moratorium on residential evictions through Dec. 31. The new order did not apply to commercial evictions.

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced that workers and children in daycares and schools were no longer required to quarantine if they came into contact with a person with COVID-19 while wearing a mask. According to the guidance, only the infected individual with COVID-19 was required to quarantine.

Election changes:

  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Judge Sarah Barker issued an order extending the postmark and receipt deadline for absentee/mail-in ballots in Indiana to Nov. 3 and Nov. 13, respectively.
  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a district court decision extending voter registration and absentee/mail-in ballot return deadlines in Wisconsin.

State court changes:

  • The Virginia Supreme Court issued an order extending the statewide judicial emergency through Oct. 11. The order continued requirements like face coverings in courthouses. Courts were still encouraged to conduct as much business as possible remotely. Jury trials remained prohibited in all but 10 jurisdictions at this time. 

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • The California Department of Public Health announced new guidelines that permitted outdoor playgrounds to reopen statewide.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) released an executive order eliminating coronavirus restrictions on businesses and gatherings in 89 of the state’s 95 counties. Six counties, including Shelby, operated according to rules made by their respective health departments.

Federal government responses:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended a ban on cruise ships with a carrying capacity of more than 250 people through Oct. 31. The no-sail order prohibited passenger operations on cruise ships in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. 

Mask requirements:

  • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) allowed the statewide public mask order to expire but said individuals still had to wear masks in schools and at businesses the state defined as close-contact (like barbershops and salons).

Eviction and foreclosure policies:

  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions through Jan. 1. The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 1.

Thursday, October 1, 2020 

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) raised the gathering limit from 50 to 250 people, and allowed sports venues with more than 2,500 seats to reopen at 10% capacity if they submitted a plan and received approval from state and local officials.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Department of Health Services-designee Andrea Palm issued an order easing licensing requirements for healthcare workers during the state of emergency. The order allowed healthcare workers from other states to receive temporary licenses in Wisconsin and made it easier for workers with lapsed licenses to reapply.
  • The Arizona Department of Health Services announced all 15 counties in the state met the requirements to allow businesses like movie theaters and gyms to reopen. Food service at bars was also allowed to resume. 
  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) allowed nursing homes to resume visitations in counties with a COVID-19 positivity rate below 10%. However, any facility that reopened to visitors and registered a coronavirus case was required to close to visitors for two weeks.

Federal government responses:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it would return control of supplies of remdesivir to Gilead Sciences, the biopharmaceutical company that manufactures the COVID-19 drug. Previously, HHS had distributed the drug to states and territories, but a representative for the agency said demand has fallen. Because of the decline in demand, Gilead would sell the drug to hospitals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Remdesivir emergency use authorization in May 2020.
  • The National Park Service (NPS) reopened. Visitors were required to acquire tickets online, and masks were required inside the monument.

Election changes:

  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation limiting the number of return locations for absentee/mail-in ballots to one per county.

Eviction and foreclosure policies:

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) allowed the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to expire.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) allowed the state to advance to Phase 3 of reopening. Phase 3 eased several restrictions on businesses, including allowing bars to provide outdoor service at 30% or 100 guests, whichever was less. Movie theaters were also allowed to reopen at 30% capacity or 100 guests. Large outdoor venues were permitted to operate at 7% capacity.
  • The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) lacked the authority to issue pandemic-related executive orders after April 30, 2020, when the legislature declined to extend the emergency and disaster declarations. The court ruled the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) of 1945—which was one of two laws on which Whitmer justified her orders—violated the Michigan constitution.
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an executive order lifting capacity limits on restaurants.

Election changes:

  • A three-judge panel of the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) could direct counties to offer multiple drop-box locations for returning absentee/mail-in ballots. The panel stopped short of requiring LaRose to do so, overturning a lower court decision to that effect.
  • Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins approved a settlement extending North Carolina’s absentee/mail-in ballot return receipt deadline from Nov. 6 to Nov. 12.
  • A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reinstated Georgia’s Nov. 3 receipt deadlines for absentee/mail-in ballots.

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, September 14-18, 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 September 14-18, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, September 14, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) extended the state’s reopening plan, Safe Return, through Sept. 30. Reeves amended the original order to allow 75% capacity at businesses like gyms, restaurants, and retail shops, and permitted large indoor and outdoor gatherings.
  3. Federal government responses:
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed a requirement that international travelers from countries like China, Iran, and the United Kingdom deplane at one of 15 designated airports and undergo enhanced health screening.
  5. State court changes:
  6. Courts in Delaware resumed issuing failure to appear warrants for individuals who did not show up for court dates. The state suspended issuing such warrants in March 2020.
  7. Jury trials resumed in Iowa after several pilot trials received positive feedback from participating jurors and judges.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced he was adding a new color—gold—to the color-coding system that determined how schools could reopen. Counties with between 10 and 14.9 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people were classified as gold, allowing in-person learning. However, the gold category imposed limits on school gatherings and sports travel.
  3. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed an order instituting a three-phase system for reopening nursing homes to in-person visitation. The phases were based on the rate of testing, length of time since a new case, and community spread.
  4. Election changes:
  5. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s order (R) directing counties to provide no more than one absentee/mail-in ballot drop box per county “lacked a legitimate basis in evidence” and was, therefore, “unreasonable and unlawful.” Frye did not rescind the order.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

  1. Election changes:
  2. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed H5305 into law, extending absentee voting eligibility to all qualified electors in the Nov. 3 general election. The legislation also established Oct. 5 as the start date for in-person absentee voting (i.e., early voting).
  3. U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana Chief Judge Shelly Deckert Dick ordered Louisiana election officials to make available to voters in the Nov. 3 general election the same COVID-19 absentee ballot application used in the state’s summer elections. This application offered COVID-19-specific reasons for requesting an absentee ballot.
  4. Federal government responses:
  5. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) released the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy, which included guidance for working with states, tribes, territories, and local public health programs and a plan for distributing a vaccine as soon as one received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Thursday, September 17, 2020 

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that Oregon and Washington agreed to participate in a multistate pilot test of Apple and Google’s exposure notification technology. The technology notified individuals who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus based on geolocation data.
  3. Election changes:
  4. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued rulings extending the mail-in ballot receipt deadline and authorizing the use of drop boxes for returning mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  5. Mask requirements: 
  6. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed an order imposing a fine of up to $100 for violating the state’s mask mandate. The order also imposed a $250 fine for attending indoor events with more than 25 people or outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people and a $500 fine for individuals organizing such events. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edward (D) announced bars, restaurants, and casinos could extend on-premise consumption of alcoholic beverages to 11 p.m. in parishes where bars were allowed to reopen.
  3. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) released guidelines for celebrating Halloween. The guidelines included a range of recommendations, including canceling hayrides and haunted houses, leaving treats in mailboxes or holding drive-through trick-or-treat events to maintain social distancing, wearing face coverings, and using video conferencing to host costume parties.
  4. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order expanding indoor dining to 75% capacity.
  5. Election changes:
  6. United States District Court for the District of South Carolina Judge J. Michelle Childs issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  7. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that had extended absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to individuals with “pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death.”
  8. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens issued a ruling extending Michigan’s absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline to Nov. 17 for ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 2. Stephens also authorized voters to allow anyone of their choosing to return their ballots between 5:01 p.m. on Oct. 30 and the close of polls on Nov. 3.
  9. Federal government responses:
  10. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced on Twitter that the Department of Homeland Security would extend its prohibition on nonessential travel with Canada and Mexico through Oct. 21.

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.



Recent state court actions suspend state-level universal school mask requirement bans in Florida and Tennessee, uphold a ban in South Carolina

As schools have begun reopening for the 2021-2022 academic year, several states have enacted policies on mask requirements in schools. As of Sept. 9, four states banned school mask requirements, seventeen states required masks in schools, and twenty-nine states left school mask decisions up to local authorities.

Recent legal actions have affected these policies in Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina. In Florida, Second Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled on Sept. 8 that the state Department of Education could not enforce Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) order prohibiting mask requirements without an opt-out option for parents in public schools. Cooper had ruled against DeSantis’ order on Aug. 27, but the ruling had not gone into effect as DeSantis appealed the decision. Following a Sept. 8 hearing on the status of the order pending appeal, Cooper said the government did not present a compelling case for blocking his order. The ban on enforcement will remain in effect until the First District Court of Appeals hears DeSantis’ appeal.

In Tennessee, United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl H. Lipman ruled on Sept. 3 in favor of two students who sued Gov. Bill Lee (R) after he issued an order requiring schools to allow students to opt-out of school mask mandates. Lipman ruled Lee’s order violated the students’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In South Carolina, the state Supreme Court rejected the city of Columbia’s challenge to the state’s school mask requirement ban. The court found that the mask requirement ban, which was established in an amendment to the state’s budget, was related to budgetary concerns and therefore did not violate a South Carolina rule requiring state laws address a single primary subject.

Additional reading:



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.

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Since Aug. 10, four states have implemented universal indoor mask requirements

Between Aug. 10 and Sept. 2, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington announced new indoor mask requirements for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

In Illinois, an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect on Aug. 30. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced the policy on Aug. 26. Illinois had previously lifted its mask requirement, which lasted for 407 days between May 1, 2020, and June 11, 2021.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 11, and announced an outdoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 24. The orders took effect on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27, respectively. Oregon had previously lifted its mask requirement, which lasted for 365 days between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.

On Aug. 17, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals would take effect on Aug. 20. Previously, New Mexico had an indoor mask requirement in place only for unvaccinated individuals. It had lifted the requirement for vaccinated individuals on May 14, 2021.

In Washington, an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals took effect on Aug. 23. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced the policy on Aug. 18. The requirement does not apply to small gatherings or office environments where everyone is vaccinated and interaction with the public is rare, or while working alone. Inslee previously lifted the indoor mask requirement for vaccinated individuals on May 13, 2021.

Three states currently have statewide mask orders for unvaccinated individuals, and 7 states have statewide mask orders for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. All 10 of the states have Democratic governors.

In total, 39 states have issued statewide mask requirements. Thirty-two states (16 states with Republican governors and 16 states with Democratic governors) have allowed statewide orders to expire. Three states (Louisiana, Oregon, and Illinois) that allowed a statewide order to fully expire later reinstated a mask order.



One year ago, Trump administration announced $1.5 billion agreement with Moderna for 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine

One year ago this week, President Donald Trump’s (R) administration, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD), announced a $1.5 billion agreement with Moderna Inc. to develop and deliver 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. This was the third vaccine deal announced last year.

Here are noteworthy events in the development of vaccines from last year:

  1. May 15, 2020: Trump announced the creation of Operation Warp Speed, an administration task force launched to help develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Trump named Moncef Slaoui as the task force’s chief scientist and U.S. Army General Gustave Perna as its chief operating officer.
  2. July 22: Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company BioNTech announced they had reached a $1.95 billion deal with the HHS and DOD to supply 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to the federal government by the end of 2020.
  3. Aug. 4: The HHS and DOD announced a $2.1 billion deal with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to supply 100 million doses of a vaccine for the United States.
  4. Aug. 11: The Trump administration announced a $1.5 billion agreement with Moderna to supply 100 million doses of a vaccine.
  5. Aug. 14: The HHS and DOD announced a partnership with healthcare company McKesson Corp. to help distribute a vaccine when one became available.
  6. Sept. 16: The Trump administration released its vaccine distribution strategy, including guidance for working with states, tribes, territories, and local public health programs to distribute a vaccine when it became available.
  7. Nov. 20: Pfizer announced it had applied for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its vaccine.
  8. Nov. 30: Moderna announced it had also applied for an emergency use authorization from the FDA.
  9. Dec. 11: The FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine.
  10. Dec. 18: The FDA granted emergency use authorization to Moderna’s vaccine.

For a full timeline of federal activity in response to the pandemic, including major legislation, executive actions, and department policies under both the Trump and Biden administrations, click here

Additional reading:

Federal government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020-2021

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