A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, August 10-14, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened August 10-14, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, August 10, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. The Minnesota Department of Health released guidance for reopening long-term care facilities. Facilities with no exposure to COVID-19 in the past 28 days were allowed to consider reopening to visitors.
  3. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued new guidance for gyms and fitness centers in counties in Phase Two or Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan. The guidance required gyms and fitness centers to allow at least 300 square feet of space per customer. For gyms or fitness centers larger than 12,000 square feet, the guidance limited occupancy to 25%.
  4. Election changes:
  5. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order authorizing the Maryland State Board of Elections to operate a limited number of centralized voting centers in lieu of precinct polling places for in-person voting in the Nov. 3 general election.
  6. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order directing election officials to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Aug. 11 and delivered by Aug. 13. The order applied only to the Aug. 11 primary election.
  7. Eviction and foreclosure policies
  8. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Sept. 5.
  9. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended a requirement that landlords give tenants who were late on their rent 30 days’ notice before beginning eviction proceedings. Polis extended the requirement for 30 days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

  1. Travel restrictions:
  2. Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Hawaii, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands had been added to the tristate quarantine list. Travelers from states on the list were required to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. The governors removed Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Rhode Island from the list because of a decline in coronavirus cases. 
  3. Federal government responses:
  4. The Trump administration, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, announced a $1.5 billion agreement with pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. to develop and deliver 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
  5. State court changes:
  6. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an order extending the state’s judicial emergency, which had been set to expire on Aug. 11, through Sept. 10. Jury trials and most grand jury proceedings remained prohibited.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

  1. Election changes:
  2. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) directed each county election board to provide one drop-box for absentee/mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  3. The Maryland State Board of Elections voted to conduct early voting from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2 at approximately 80 voting centers statewide. The board also announced its intention to make at least 127 ballot drop-boxes for absentee/mail-in ballots available statewide.
  4. School closures and reopenings:
  5. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order on Aug. 12 allowing public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to offer in-person instruction when they reopened. The order allowed schools to decide whether to offer remote learning, in-person instruction, or a hybrid approach. Schools that could meet requirements set out by the New Jersey Department of Education were required to begin the school year remotely.
  6. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced on Aug. 12 she was delaying the start of the school year until Sept. 14. 
  7. Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said on Aug. 12 that the Tennessee Department of Education was encouraging school districts to mandate face coverings for middle and high school students.
  8. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) issued a revised public health order that extended restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms, and performance spaces through the end of the month. The order also eased restrictions on outdoor gatherings beginning Aug. 16. The new outdoor gathering restrictions allowed venues to accommodate up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 1,000 people so long as social distancing was observed.

Thursday, August 13, 2020 

  1. Election changes:
  2. The Supreme Court of the United States denied an application by the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Rhode Island to block a consent decree suspending witness/notary requirements for mail-in ballots cast in Rhode Island’s 2020 elections.
  3. Eviction and foreclosure policies
  4. The Judicial Council of California, the policymaking body of California’s court system, voted 19-1 to end its emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosure lawsuits on Sept. 1. The rules the Council adopted in April suspended all pending judicial foreclosure actions and stopped courts from issuing summonses to tenants.

Friday, August 14, 2020

  1. Election changes:
  2. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced that the state would automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  3. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) announced several changes for the Nov. 3 general election, including the extension of absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to all voters they said were “concerned with contracting or spreading COVID-19.”
  4. Federal government responses:
  5. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) announced a partnership with healthcare company McKesson Corporation to help distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one was available.
  6. Eviction and foreclosure policies
  7. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) moratorium on evictions and foreclosures ended, allowing eviction and foreclosure lawsuits to resume. Holcomb originally issued the order on March 20.
  8. School closures and reopenings:
  9. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) released the Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide. The document was a support guide for teachers and administrators created in partnership with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences. The guide outlined best practices for in-person learning. Schools were allowed to reopen on Aug. 24.

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, April 6-10, 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 March and April, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened April 6-10, 2020. This list is not comprehensive.

Monday, April 6, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • The “Stay Home Missouri” order took effect in Missouri. It directed individuals in the state to stay home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses. Governor Mike Parson (R) and Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services Randall Williams issued the order on April 3, and it was originally set to expire on April 24, 2020.
  • School closures:
    • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to this order, schools in the state were closed through April 17.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 15 to April 29.
  • Election changes:
    • The Wisconsin state supreme court voted 4-2 to block an executive order issued earlier in the day by Governor Tony Evers (D) postponing in-person voting in the spring election, scheduled for April 7, 2020, to June 9. As a result, in-person voting was set to take place as scheduled on April 7.
    • Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued an order authorizing political parties that nominate by convention to postpone those conventions or conduct them remotely.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Executive Order 2020-21 took effect in South Carolina. The order directed individuals in South Carolina to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses in the state. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued the order April 6. South Carolina was the last state to implement a stay-at-home order. In total, 43 states issued stay-at-home orders.
  • School closures:
    • Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) recommended that schools in the state remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
    • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 10 to April 24.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

  • Travel restrictions
    • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued an order requiring all visitors over 18 entering Utah through airports or roadways to complete a travel declaration within three hours. He said drivers entering Utah would receive a text message with a link to the form. Travelers in airports would receive a card from an airport employee with instructions to fill out a form online. The form required travelers to answer a number of questions related to COVID-19 symptoms and travel history.
  • School closures:
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 28.
  • Election changes:
    • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that he would issue an executive order suspending existing eligibility criteria for absentee voting, allowing all voters to cast their ballots by mail in the June 23, 2020, election.
    • Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) postponed the statewide primary, originally scheduled for June 9, 2020, to June 23.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a $500 million contract with General Motors to produce 30,000 ventilators under the Defense Production Act.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

  • Travel restrictions
    • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered all people traveling to Arizona from areas of the country with widespread COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for 14 days. The order specifically mentioned Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey as areas with significant community spread. 
  • School closures:
    • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools had been closed indefinitely from March 16.
  • Election changes:
    • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) postponed Georgia’s statewide and presidential primaries to June 9, 2020, and its primary runoff to August 11. The state had previously postponed its presidential primary to May 19, the original date of its statewide primary.

Friday, April 10, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signed B23-0733 into law, directing the district’s election officials to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in advance of the June 2, 2020, primary election.
    • New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner (D) and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald (R) released a memo to election officials advising them that any voter in the September 8, 2020, primary or November 3, 2020, general election could request an absentee ballot based on concerns related to COVID-19.
    • Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) issued Executive Order No. 39 FY 19/20, postponing the statewide primary election, originally scheduled for June 9 to July 14.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Trump announced he was forming a new council to discuss the process of reopening the U.S. economy. Trump referred to the group as the Opening Our Country Council and said members would be announced on April 14.

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.

1.19 million signatures verified in Newsom recall

On March 19, the California Secretary of State’s office released an update on signature verification in the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). According to the official report, 1.834 million signatures were turned in through March 11. Of those, 1.188 million were deemed valid. Another 380,060 signatures remain unprocessed. At least 1,495,709 signatures must be deemed valid to trigger a recall election.

According to media reports, recall organizers said they turned in more than 2.1 million signatures by the March 17 deadline. At the current verification rate of about 82%, that would amount to 1.722 million valid signatures, which would be enough to trigger the recall election.

Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a sitting California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen as Davis’ replacement.

A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second would ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election without needing a majority of votes cast. In the 2003 recall, 135 candidates ran and Schwarzenegger received 48.58 percent of the vote.

Effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers fails to collect enough signatures

The chief organizer behind an effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) told supporters on Monday that the effort had failed to collect enough signatures to require a recall election.

Chief organizer Misty Polewczynski wrote in a Facebook post about the failed recall effort on October 26, “It is with a heavy heart we announce that after proofing and what came in over the weekend we have fallen short. We do not have enough signatures to turn in.”

Supporters of the recall effort had until Oct. 27 to submit 668,327 signatures to require a recall election. Polewczynski also filed a recall effort against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D).

Polewczynski’s announcement came a little over a week after she told the Racine Journal Times that supporters had collected more than 620,000 signatures. At that time, the Wisconsin State Journal cast doubt on her claim after she posted on Facebook that she would be lying to the media about the recall effort. She said,

“I’m going to do an interview this afternoon and will probably make up some crap to tell them,” Polewczynski said in a Facebook post. “I like when they look dumb. Plus they drug my name through the mud.”

Polewczynski started the recall efforts against Evers and Barnes in August. Both recall petitions criticized Wisconsin’s governor and the lieutenant governor over their responses to the coronavirus pandemic and over the violence and protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August.

Wisconsin is under a divided government and does not have a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the Wisconsin State Senate by an 18-13 margin with two vacancies and the Wisconsin State Assembly by a 63-34 margin with two vacancies. Evers was elected as Wisconsin’s governor in 2018 with 49.5% of the vote.

Sixteen gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. Nine of those efforts are against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

Additional reading:

Coronavirus Daily Updates: May 12th, 2020

As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, we are compiling a daily summary of major changes in the world of politics, government, and elections happening each day. Here is the summary of changes for May 12, 2020.

State stay-at-home orders

Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Forty-three states issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.
  • As of May 12, 16 governors have ended their state’s stay-at-home orders. Twelve of those states have Republican governors and four have Democratic governors. Of the 27 states where governors have not ended their state’s stay-at-home orders, seven have Republican governors and 20 have Democratic governors.

The 1918 influenza pandemic

Read more: 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle

The 1918 midterm elections occurred during the 1918 flu pandemic, one of the most severe in history. Each day, we’ll look back at a story from the 1918 elections to see how America met the challenges of holding elections during a national health emergency.

On November 1, 1918, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin published an article titled, “Draft And ‘Flu’ Hit Election Systems.” The article discussed how the draft for World War I and the influenza pandemic would affect election systems ahead of the midterm elections. 

“The draft and influenza epidemic have combined to turn the election system of the city topsy-turvy. 

Next Tuesday, to a degree unprecedented, the 1,349 polling places will be manned by judges, inspectors and clerks unfamiliar with election details.

Within the last week more than 300 changes of judges of election have been made by Common Pleas Court No. 4, designated by the Board of Judges as this year’s Election Court.”

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia

Federal responses

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

  • House Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion dollar coronavirus relief package. 

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

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


  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 70 lawsuits, spanning 32 states, relating to governmental actions undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 19 of those lawsuits.
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 53 lawsuits, spanning 25 states, dealing with the administration of elections in light of the pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 19 of those lawsuits.

Election changes

Read more: Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
  • Fourteen states have modified candidate filing requirements.
  • Twenty-seven states have made modifications to voting procedures.
  • Political parties in 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.


  • Connecticut – Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order reducing petition signature requirements for all candidates by 30 percent. He also extended the filing deadlines for major-party and unaffiliated candidates by two days, to June 11 and August 7, respectively. 

Ballot measure changes

Read more: Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures.
  • At least 11 lawsuits were filed seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
  • At least one initiative campaign is reporting it has enough signatures but is delaying signature submission so its measure appears on the ballot in 2022 instead of 2020.

School closures

Read more: School closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Forty-eight states have 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.
  • All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.


  • Pennsylvania – State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said in a Senate committee hearing that he expected students to return to school in the fall. Rivera said his agency would work with the state’s health department to give districts a range of options to choose from in order to meet social distancing guidelines. 

Travel restrictions

Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Twenty governors or state agencies have issued an executive order placing restrictions on out of-state travelers.

State court changes

Read more: State court closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.


  • Alaska – The Alaska Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through June 1. Jury trials were suspended through July 6.
  • Florida – Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady issued a memo to chief judges in both the Florida District Court of Appeals and the state’s Circuit Courts outlining best practices to help courts navigate new remote procedures. Best practices include ensuring technology is sufficient to allow courts to preside over and resolve matters effectively and accounting for ADA requirements and web content accessibility standards. 
  • Georgia – The Georgia Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials through June 12.
  • Utah – The Utah Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials until further notice. The court further directed that all hearings, with an exception for urgent matters, should be conducted “on the papers,” per the order, or remotely. 

Prison inmate responses

Read more: State and local governments that released prison inmates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Nineteen states have released inmates at the state level.
  • Thirteen states have released inmates on the local level.
  • Twelve states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
  • Two states have prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
  • Four states have temporarily released certain populations of inmates.


  • North Dakota – The North Dakota Parole Board granted parole to 120 inmates in the month of March related to the coronavirus pandemic. In the month of April, more than 100 inmates were granted parole, though there is no official statement as to whether these releases were due to the pandemic. 
  • Virginia – As of May 7, the Virginia Department of Corrections released 130 inmates and approved the early release of an additional 100 inmates due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Eviction and foreclosure policies

Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Forty one states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.


  • Pennsylvania – Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced that he was allocating $10 million in federal relief funds to assist residents who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. The “COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program” would provide rental assistance to nearly 3,000 families in the city.  

State legislative responses

Read more: State laws in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • To date, 1,054 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
  • Of these, 107 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 10 percent of the total number that have been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business. 

State legislative session changes

Read more: Changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Twenty-four state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Ten of those have since reconvened.
  • Nineteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
  • Five state legislatures are in regular session.
  • Two state legislatures are in special session.


  • South Carolina – The legislature reconvened on May 12 to consider budget issues and future session dates.

Multistate Agreements
Read more: Multistate agreements to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Student Loan Multistate Agreement – Last week, nine states reached an agreement with more than a dozen private student loan organizations to provide relief to private student loan borrowers. The agreement covers residents in the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. New York secured its own agreement separately.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Federal politicians who self-quarantined for coronavirus

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced he would self-quarantine for 14 days after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.