TagCoronavirus coverage

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announces stay-at-home order to end June 4

On June 3, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced that he would let the state’s stay-at-home order expire on June 4 at 11:59 p.m. There are currently 10 red-phase counties under the stay-at-home order. Wolf announced on June 3 that those counties could move into the yellow-phase on June 5. When that happens, all counties in Pennsylvania will either be in the yellow-phase or green-phase of Wolf’s reopening plan.

Pennsylvania will be the 36th state to end a stay-at-home order. After it ends, stay-at-home orders will remain in seven states. Six have Democratic governors. One (New Hampshire) has a Republican governor.

Florida to open bars, bowling alleys, and movie theaters

Today, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that starting June 5, bars will be able to reopen at 50% capacity inside and full capacity outside, with service only for seated patrons. Movie theaters and bowling alleys will also be permitted reopen at 50% capacity the same day. These new rules will apply to all counties in the state except Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.

Florida began its phased reopening in late April, with the above three South Florida counties excluded due to heightened positive coronavirus case rates and hospitalizations. Each of those counties has since been granted permission by the governor to reopen at a slower rate than the rest of the state.

Pennsylvania extends absentee ballot receipt deadline to June 9 in six counties; postmark deadline remains June 2

On June 1, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued an executive order extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline for the June 2 primary to 5:00 p.m. on June 9 (with a postmark deadline of June 2, 2020) in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. In all other counties, a return deadline of June 2 remains in effect.

Pennsylvania’s primary was originally scheduled to take place on April 28. On March 27, Wolf signed into law legislation postponing the primary to June 2. The law also authorized counties to consolidate polling places without court approval and begin processing mail-in ballots beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that have modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Oklahoma moves into Phase 3 of reopening plan today

Oklahoma entered Phase 3 of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R) “Open Up and Recover Safely” plan on June 1, 2020. Church and school summer camps may open, businesses may resume unrestricted staffing at worksites with social distancing and sanitation measures, and businesses that were operating by appointment only may accept walk-ins.

Residents are encouraged to minimize time spent in crowds and vulnerable individuals are urged to continue following safer-at-home guidelines. Also under Phase 3, visits to hospitals can resume, with limitations such as one representative per patient and social distancing measures. Visits to senior care facilities are still prohibited.

All of Virginia now operating under Phase One of reopening plan

On May 29, Northern Virginia, as well as Richmond and Accomack County, moved into Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” reopening plan, leaving no part of the state under a stay-at-home order.

The stay-at-home order ended for parts of the state on May 15, but Gov. Ralph Northam (D) delayed Northern Virginia’s entry into Phase One to give the region more time to bring down the number of COVID-19 cases. Northam also delayed the implementation of Phase One for Richmond and Accomack County after leaders requested more time to prepare for reopening.

Phase One eases restrictions on several types of businesses. Non-essential retail, for example, can reopen at 50% capacity, and restaurants and breweries with outdoor seating permits can allow 50% seating capacity outdoors. Gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Beginning May 29, face coverings are required in public indoor settings for people 10 years and older.

Stay-at-home orders have ended in 31 states. Eighteen of those states have Republican governors and 13 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court invalidated the stay-at-home order). Of the 12 states with active stay-at-home orders, one has a Republican governor and 11 have Democratic governors.

Arizona schools set to reopen in the fall

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced that schools in the state would reopen for in-person instruction in the fall. No firm start date was provided, but Ducey said the state would release guidelines for schools on June 1. Schools in the state have been closed to in-person instruction since March 15.

Forty-eight states were closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Those states account for 99.4% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country. The two states to not close schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year are Montana and Wyoming.

Texas Supreme Court rules that a voter’s lack of immunity does not qualify as a disability for absentee voting purposes

On May 27, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19 does not qualify as a disability under the state’s election laws and, therefore, cannot be cited as an excuse for voting absentee. The court ruled unanimously on the matter.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht wrote the following in the court’s opinion: “We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code. But the State acknowledges that election officials have no responsibility to question or investigate a ballot application that is valid on its face. The decision to apply to vote by mail based on a disability is the voter’s, subject to a correct understanding of the statutory definition of ‘disability.'”

This ruling overturned two lower state court rulings to the contrary. On May 19, a federal district court judge ordered that all voters be allowed to cast absentee ballots, but the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed that order later that same day.

Delaware Governor will end travel restrictions June 1

On May 26, Gov. John Carney (D) announced that restrictions on travelers entering Delaware will expire on June 1, the same day the state is scheduled to begin the first phase of its reopening plan. Carney issued the restrictions, which require travelers who enter the state to self-quarantine for 14 days, on March 29 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions didn’t apply to people traveling through the state.

Carney also announced that both the ban on short-term rental units and the statewide stay-at-home order will expire June 1. Additionally, outdoor events with of up to 250 people will be permitted in special circumstances, so long as organizers submit a plan to the Delaware Division of Small Business at least seven days in advance.

Ballotpedia is tracking restrictions placed on out-of-state travelers by governors and state agencies.

Illinois state representative tests positive for COVID-19

Illinois state representative Edgar Gonzales Jr. (D) announced in a Facebook post on May 18 that he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Gonzales was appointed to represent District 21 in January, 2020, to fill the vacancy left by former Rep. Celina Villanueva (D), who was appointed to the Illinois State Senate.

All Illinois legislators were tested prior to returning to work at the State Capitol. Gonzales received his positive test result two days before the General Assembly was set to reconvene. He said he was quarantining at home while he recovered.

Ballotpedia tracks politicians and government officials who have been diagnosed or tested for coronavirus, or become quarantined.

As of May 27, we have tracked:
• Six federal officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 40 federal officials quarantined
• 32 state officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 67 state officials quarantined

Travel restrictions on Brazil go into effect Tuesday

The White House on Sunday fast-tracked a proclamation prohibiting travelers from Brazil from entering the United States, moving the date the restrictions take effect from Thursday, May 28, to Tuesday, May 26 at midnight.

The proclamation prohibits foreign travelers who have been in Brazil in the last 14 days prior to trying to enter the United States.

The restrictions were enacted to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the proclamation, signed by President Donald Trump on May 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that “the Federative Republic of Brazil is experiencing widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2.” The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S.

The proclamation was set to remain in effect until ended by the President.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has placed restrictions on travelers from a number of countries, including Mexico and Canada. Last week, the The Department of Homeland Security announced it was extending a ban on inessential travel from Canada and Mexico through June 22.

In addition to travel restrictions placed on foreign countries by the federal government, Ballotpedia is tracking restrictions placed on out-of-state travelers by governors and state agencies.