Coronavirus Regulations: A State-By-State Week In Review

By Jeannie O'Sullivan
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Law360 (May 19, 2020, 4:36 PM EDT) -- In signs of hope this week that COVID-19 won't totally sabotage the summer's economy, four coastal states announced the reopening of beaches and Delaware lifted the ice cream truck moratorium, marking a sweet development in pandemic recovery efforts.

Other phased reopenings over the past seven days saw Texas restaurants resuming dine-in operations with limits, community gardens blooming for the public in New Jersey, and worshippers returning to church in Delaware, albeit in small gatherings. New York horseracing fans won't be able to return to the track just yet, but the sport can return in June.

Federal funding came through for Texas domestic violence victims, those battling substance abuse in Florida, New Jersey's public transit system and local governments in Massachusetts.

Here's a breakdown of some COVID-19-related state measures from the past week.

Click for state-by-state data on COVID-19 legislation and executive orders, powered by Lexis Nexis.

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and New York announced Friday that public and private beaches could reopen May 22 with social distancing measures in place.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday submitted to the legislature a revised 2020-21 budget proposal to close a $54 million budget gap caused by the coronavirus recession. The revision calls for canceling certain initiatives and reducing spending, along with tapping into reserves and special funds, and increasing revenue and efficiency. The "most painful" cuts can be avoided if a federal funding package for local governments, he said.

In partnership with state health officials, Gov. John Carney scaled back restrictions on churches Monday by issuing guidance that encourages virtual gatherings but allows in-person worship subject to a 30% fire code capacity limit and social-distancing mandates. High-risk individuals, such as those older than 65, are encouraged not to attend.

Carney on Thursday extended the order reopening beaches on May 22 to ice cream shops and trucks.

Also on Thursday, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. extended the state's judicial emergency to June 13, keeping in place restrictions that barred most in-person court proceedings and paper filings and temporarily revised compliance requirements for some basic practices.

First Lady Casey DeSantis announced Monday that the state's Department of Children and Families received a $1.9 million federal emergency grant to provide crisis intervention services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and other related addiction recovery support to those affected by the pandemic.

Gov. J.B. Pritzger on Wednesday extended immunity from civil liability to emergency medical technicians and health care professionals and facilities with respect to their coronavirus response efforts.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday extended the work-from-home order for executive branch employees until further notice.

On Thursday he announced $502 million in federal funding to help local governments navigate the pandemic.

New Jersey
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal on Tuesday announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs authorized licensed New Jersey pharmacists to administer coronavirus tests to customers to advance the goal of doubling statewide testing by the end of the May. The authorization applies to the state's 2,239 pharmacies.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday further defined the state's phased approach to reopening. The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health began with maximum restrictions and has progressed to stage one, which relaxes restrictions on low-risk activities as long as safeguards are in place. Stage two will entail further relaxations on low-risk activities, and stage three will scale back restrictions on most activities, subject to safeguarding.

Also on Monday, Murphy signed an executive order allowing certain indoor recreational businesses and community gardens to open with social distancing measures in place.

On Saturday, Murphy signed an order allowing charter fishing and watercraft rental businesses to resume operations, and he announced $1.4 billion in federal funding to support the state's public transportation services during the pandemic.

Under executive orders signed Friday, certain establishments may sell take-out alcoholic beverages, and elective medical procedures may resume on May 26.

New York
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday that the state enlisted more expertise to help navigate its reopening. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Imperial College London lecturer Samir Bhatt will offer technical advice and analyze data.

Cuomo said Saturday that horse racing tracks may reopen — although without fans — as of June 1. Also Saturday, he announced that Westchester and Suffolk counties may now resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

In what Cuomo said Thursday was a first for the nation, the state has issued criteria to health care professionals for evaluating coronavirus-related inflammatory illnesses in children to help standardize tracking and reporting.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Treasurer Joe Torsella on Tuesday unveiled a property tax and rent rebate program to help senior homeowners and individuals with disabilities struggling financially during the pandemic.

Wolf announced Friday that 12 more counties will move to the "yellow" phase of reopening as of May 22, for a total of 49 counties. During the yellow phase, non-essential businesses may operate with social distancing and crowd limits. Employees must telework when possible.

According to an announcement Wednesday, the state's contact tracing efforts will include the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity information as a way to foster fair treatment of the LGBTQ community and include it more in coronavirus data.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an order allowing restaurants to resume in-person dining subject to a 50% occupancy limit and social distancing protocols.

The state's Department of Emergency Management and Abbott said Friday that local fire departments and health authorities are partnering to provide coronavirus testing in nursing homes.

On Thursday, Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission received more than $3 million in federal funding to provide services to domestic violence survivors and their family during the pandemic.

--Editing by Adam LoBelia.

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