TagCoronavirus

Ballotpedia stories covering coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.

Biden administration implements vaccine mandate through emergency rulemaking

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Nov. 4 issued an emergency rule effective immediately to implement President Joe Biden’s (D) proposed vaccine mandate on certain private business employees. The rule requires the roughly 80 million individuals who work for companies with 100 or more employees to receive a COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine or undergo weekly testing. The rule does not require employers to pay for or provide testing.

Biden on Sept. 9 announced that OSHA would develop a rule to implement the administration’s proposed vaccine mandate. OSHA issued the rule through an emergency temporary standard (ETS)—a type of interim final rule that allows OSHA to set emergency workplace standards without first following the public notice-and-comment requirements of the federal rulemaking process. Though effective immediately, OSHA must follow rulemaking procedures within six months if the agency decides to adopt the ETS as a permanent standard, according to the agency. Affected parties may challenge the validity of an ETS through the U.S. Courts of Appeals.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also issued a rule requiring that healthcare workers in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. The CMS rule does not include a testing option. The Biden administration aligned the vaccination compliance deadlines for private business employees, healthcare workers, and federal contractors to Jan. 4, according to reporting from CNN.

“Together the OSHA and CMS rules, along with the other policies the administration has previously implemented means that over two thirds of all workers in the United States are now covered by vaccination policies,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN. “Higher vaccination rates protect our workers, reduce hospitalizations and deaths. It’s good for workers and importantly, this is good for the economy.” 

Private businesses that violate the OSHA rule could face monetary penalties up to $14,000 per violation. Healthcare facilities that fail to comply with the CMS rule could face monetary penalties, payment denials, or removal from participation in the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

Lawmakers have mounted challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate on private businesses at both the federal and state levels. U.S. Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and a coalition of Republican senators on Nov. 3 announced their intent to introduce a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act in an effort to nullify the mandate. At the state level, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) on Sept. 14 filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona arguing that the proposed vaccine mandate on private businesses violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, might further strain the labor market, and does not properly fall within OSHA’s jurisdiction. Two days later, 24 Republican secretaries of state sent a letter to Biden stating their intent to, in their words, “seek every available legal option” to challenge the ETS.  

Additional reading:



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.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #306: October 12, 2021

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

  • An executive order banning vaccine mandates in Texas
  • A ruling on Oregon’s vaccine mandate for certain state employees
  • 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.

Alabama (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 11, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended Alabama’s coronavirus state of emergency through Oct. 31.

Delaware (Democratic trifecta): On Oct. 7, Gov. John Carney (D) extended Delaware’s coronavirus public health emergency order for an additional 30 days.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 7, the Florida Board of Education voted unanimously to withhold funding from eight school districts that issued mask mandates. The amount of funds withheld varies based on district board member salary and federal funding received.

Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 8, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt granted a preliminary injunction against a state law banning mask mandates in schools. Pratt’s ruling allowed the approximately 20 districts in the state with mask mandates to keep them. The state announced it will appeal the decision.

New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 8, Attorney General John Formella (R) published an opinion at Gov. Chris Sununu’s (R) request regarding language included in two federal COVID-19 grants. Formella said the state is not required to adhere to any federal mandates (such as with vaccines) in order to accept $27 million in federal aid.

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 11, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order banning private-sector vaccine mandates. According to The Washington Post, several large companies in the state have already announced plans to comply with the federal vaccine mandate. Those companies include Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Oct. 7 edition of the newsletter. As of Oct. 8, 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 1,913 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 595 of those lawsuits. 

Since Oct. 5, we have added 16 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional eight court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Oregon Fraternal Order of Police v. Brown: On Oct. 7, a judge declined to suspend Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for certain state employees. At issue is Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) Executive Order No. 21-29, which mandates that all executive branch employees submit either proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a written request for exemption on or before Oct. 18 or face termination. In their complaint, a group of Oregon State Troopers, together with police and firefighter associations, alleged the mandate violates “the Oregon Constitution’s guarantee of free expression and conflicts with the United States Constitution guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process.” The plaintiffs asked the court to suspend the mandate. In his order, retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Jack Landau, writing on behalf of the Jefferson County Circuit Court, ruled plaintiffs had not shown any “likelihood of success on the merits under any of the legal theories alleged in their complaint” and were not entitled to a temporary restraining order against the mandate. Landau also dismissed the plaintiffs’ arguments that emergency action was necessary to prevent irreparable harm. Dan Thenell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “the plaintiffs are assessing their options for moving forward.”

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Oct. 5 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Oct. 12, masks were required in 10 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 Oct. 5, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 


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.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #301: September 23, 2021

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

  • Changes to Florida’s school quarantine rules    
  • Booster shots in Colorado nursing homes
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School mask requirements
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
  • Federal responses

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 Tuesday? Click here.

Upcoming news

What is changing in the next four days?

Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Sept. 22, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said he would announce a new vaccine incentive initiative on Thursday. DeWine said the initiative would be aimed at younger residents. The initiative follows Ohio’s Vax-A-Million program, which gave out $5 million in prizes to people who got vaccinated. 

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. 21, Gov. Jared Polis (D) said the state would begin administering booster coronavirus vaccinations in nursing homes this week. He said the state would begin administering boosters to other residents once the FDA approves them for other groups. He also said the state would launch an at-home coronavirus testing program, and open four new community vaccination sites.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 22, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) called a proclamation calling the Connecticut General Assembly into special session beginning Sept. 27 to extend the coronavirus public health emergency declaration.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that asymptomatic students in public schools who’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not necessarily need to quarantine at home. DeSantis said the quarantine decision for asymptomatic students would be left up to parents, but that symptomatic students or students that test positive would still be required to stay home.  

Wyoming (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 21, Gov. Mark Gordon (R) activated 95 National Guard soldiers to assist with the COVID-19 effort at 24 different hospitals around the state. Tasks will include administering COVID-19 tests and overseeing food services. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 21 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 22, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School mask requirements

Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic year

We last looked at school mask requirements on Sept. 16. Since then, no states have changed their school mask requirement policies.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

State governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof of vaccination. Other states have assisted in the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

Overview:

  • Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government. 
  • Four states have assisted in the creation of digital vaccination status applications. 

Since Sept. 16, no state has banned proof-of-vaccination requirements or rolled out a digital vaccine status application. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

On Sept. 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 booster shots using Pfizer’s vaccine for people 65 and older and people with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19. The FDA also authorized booster shots for people whose work makes them more likely to contract the virus.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended restrictions on nonessential travel at the Canadian and Mexican borders through October 21.

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. 

On Wednesday, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced that athletes hoping to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics will need to provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 1. The Winter Olympics will commence Feb. 4, 2022. 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #300: September 21, 2021

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

  • The return of Nebraska’s COVID-19 dashboard
  • A vaccine mandate for childcare workers in New Jersey
  • 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.

Nebraska (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 20, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) issued an order allowing the state to share data on hospital bed capacity. Ricketts said he issued the order because the percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose above 10% of all hospitalizations. The order allows Ricketts to restart the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 20, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring childcare facility employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or receive weekly coronavirus testing by Nov. 1. The order also said that all employees, visitors, students, and children over the age of two in childcare facilities, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask.

Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Sept. 16, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that people vaccinated in Virginia can use a QR code to prove their vaccination status. Vaccinated individuals can go to vaccinate.virginia.gov to access the QR code that, when scanned, will pull up a digital copy of their vaccination records.  

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 16 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 20, 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 1,886 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 581 of those lawsuits. 

Since Sept. 14, we have added three lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked one additional court order and/or settlement. 

Details:

  • Brnovich v. Biden: On Sept. 14, Arizona’s attorney general filed the first legal challenge to Pres. Joe Biden’s (D) COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal workers and large companies. At issue are Biden’s executive orders requiring all federal executive branch workers and all employees of contractors doing business with the federal government to be vaccinated. Also at issue is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s development of a rule requiring employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing. In his complaint, Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) argues that Biden is unconstitutionally favoring immigrants who do not have legal permission to be in the country. Brnovich’s suit contends that “unauthorized aliens will not be subject to any vaccination requirements even when released directly into the United States (where most will remain), while roughly a hundred million U.S. citizens will be subject to unprecedented vaccination requirements.” Brnovich contends that this disparate treatment amounts to a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, suggesting that the mandates reflect “an unmistakable—and unconstitutional—brand of favoritism in favor of unauthorized aliens.” Brnovich is seeking a court judgment declaring the mandates unconstitutional and an injunction barring their enforcement. In a press statement, Brnovich said, “There can be no serious or scientific discussion about containing the spread of COVID-19 that doesn’t begin at our southern border.” The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and has been assigned to Judge Michael Liburdi, an appointee of President Donald Trump (R).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Sept. 14 edition of the newsletter. Since then, New Mexico extended its statewide indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, and New York announced mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in several settings, such as state-regulated childcare facilities and congregate facilities. As of Sept. 21, 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 Sept. 14, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 



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



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #299: September 16, 2021

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

  • An extended indoor mask requirement in New Mexico
  • State employee vaccine requirements in Nevada and Wisconsin
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School mask requirements
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
  • Federal responses

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 Tuesday? Click here.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

Florida (Republican trifecta): U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Chief Judge Kevin Michael Moore, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush (R), declined to block Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) executive order prohibiting school mask requirements. A group of parents of disabled children filed the lawsuit, arguing the order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Moore said the parents should have pursued administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit.

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, Sept. 14, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order requiring state employees who work in healthcare settings or state facilities, like prisons, to provide proof of vaccination beginning Nov. 1. 

New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 14, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) extended the statewide indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals through at least Oct. 15.

New York (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Sept. 15, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in several settings, such as state-regulated child care facilities and congregate facilities, such as shelter programs for homeless youth.
  • On Sept. 14, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York Judge David Hurd, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, temporarily suspended New York’s vaccine requirement for medical workers pending litigation on whether the mandate’s lack of a religious exemption violates the Constitution.

Wisconsin (divided government): The Department of Administration announced that all executive branch employees, interns, and contractors would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing starting Oct. 18. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 14 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 15, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School mask requirements

Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic year

We last looked at school mask requirements on Sept. 9. Since then, a U.S. district court upheld Florida’s ban on school mask requirements, while a federal court temporarily blocked Iowa’s mask requirement ban. The Kentucky General Assembly voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto of a law preventing the state from issuing a statewide school mask requirement. Under Kentucky’s current law, school mask requirement decisions are left to local jurisdictions.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, state governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof of vaccination. Other states have assisted in the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

Overview:

  • Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government. 
  • Four states have assisted in the creation of digital vaccination status applications. 

Since Sept. 9, one state has rolled out a vaccine status application. No state has banned proof-of-vaccination requirements.     

Details:

  • On Sept. 10, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) unveiled the Hawaii SMART Health card, a digital vaccination record. The application allows users to upload a digital copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card. Ige said people are not required to use the application, which is only available to those who’ve received vaccinations in Hawaii. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Sept. 14, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle announced that active-duty troops would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 15, 2021, while National Guard and Army Reserve members would have until June 30, 2022, to get a vaccine.
  • On Sept. 14,  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that foreign residents applying to immigrate to the United States will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the immigration medical examination beginning Oct. 1, 2021.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #298: September 14, 2021

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

  • A court decision allowing school mask requirements in Iowa
  • An extended coronavirus emergency in Mississippi
  • 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.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 13, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced he would fine local governments up to $5,000 for every employee required to show proof of vaccination. DeSantis said he would begin issuing fines Sept. 16. 

Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 13, U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Judge Robert Pratt temporarily blocked a law prohibiting schools from enforcing mask requirements. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said she planned to appeal the decision.

Kentucky (divided government): On Sept. 9, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill in special session overriding the state’s mask requirement policy for public schools. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the part of the bill reversing the school mask requirement, and his veto was overridden 69-24 in the House and 21-6 in the Senate. The bill requires school mask requirement decisions to be left to local authorities. Beshear called for the special session on Sept. 4.

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 10, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) extended the state’s coronavirus state of emergency order for an additional 30 days.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 9 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 13, 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 1,883 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 580 of those lawsuits. 

Since Sept. 7, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional two court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Robert v. Austin: On Sept. 1, Judge Raymond P. Moore, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, declined to suspend the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate for active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members while a lawsuit challenging the mandate proceeds in court. The mandate directs “the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces … subject to any identified contraindications” and existing military policies. An Army drill sergeant and a Marine Corps air traffic controller, who said that they were naturally immune as the result of previous COVID-19 infections, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to suspend enforcement of the mandate. The pair allege that “the DoD cannot force them to take a COVID-19 vaccination under existing military regulations, federal regulations, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution.” The pair also say the mandate violates the Administrative Procedures Act, servicemembers’ right to informed consent, and the Nuremberg Code. DoD has not commented publicly on the case. Moore is an appointee of President Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Sept. 7 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Sept. 14, 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 Sept. 7, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 

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. 

In Los Angeles, California, the board of Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest school district, voted 7-0 in a Sept. 9 meeting to approve a coronavirus vaccine requirement for students 12 years and older.



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.