Law360 (February 17, 2021, 3:41 PM EST) -- The push to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible in underserved areas over the past week made progress in states including Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas, even as the Lone Star State prepared for the record snowfall and freezing temperatures that left power outages throughout the state over Presidents Day Weekend.
New York continued to take heat over allegations that health officials underreported coronavirus-related nursing home deaths, but also enjoyed decreasing case and hospitalization totals, leading to the easing of restrictions for spectator sports, subway operations, and bars and restaurants, among other businesses.
Here's a breakdown of some of the COVID-19-related state measures from the past week.
Click for state-by-state data on COVID-19 legislation and executive orders, powered by LexisNexis.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday unveiled the Safe Schools Reopening Map, an interactive digital tool in which schools that have reopened offer their data to guide communities in making decisions about resuming classroom operations. State health officials will be adding other key data, such as school district outbreak updates. Information such as student enrollment data will be collected and displayed publicly subject to legislative approval.
Ahead of the winter storm expected to hit Thursday, the second-dose clinic jointly operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state will begin Sunday instead of Saturday. Officials expect the weather could impact travel for federal personnel.
The coronavirus federal retail pharmacy program began offering COVID-19 vaccines at 490 pharmacy locations throughout the state as of Feb. 12.
In announcements on Feb. 10 and 11, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the establishment of three-day vaccination sites at the Venice Community Center in Sarasota County and Kings Gate in Charlotte County.
Three additional state-run mass vaccination sites will launch in southern and central Illinois to allow for the administration of the vaccine in an "efficient and equitable manner," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday. Two will operate in Carbondale and one site will operate in Springfield. Also, Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams will set up mobile sites in Sangamon and Jackson counties.
On Feb. 12, Pritzker and state health officials announced an expanded partnership with federally qualified health centers, or FQHCs, across the state to administer the coronavirus vaccine. The partnership will redirect the vaccine from the state's allocation to certain FQHCs starting in March. The move comes as part of the state's goal of "equitable administration" of the vaccine, according to Pritzker.
The Pritzker administration on Feb. 11 said that three disaster survivor assistance teams will be deployed throughout the state to serve as community outreach specialists at county-run vaccination sites. The teams are provided by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Illinois is among the states that will reopen its health insurance marketplace for enrollment during the pandemic, as allowed per an order by the Biden administration, Pritzker said on Feb. 11. The special enrollment period runs through May 15.
Citing the steadily increasing vaccine supply, Pritzker said on Feb. 10 that the state will expand eligibility to people who have comorbidities and underlying conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Feb. 25. Individuals with disabilities will also be prioritized.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday unveiled a vaccine outreach initiative targeting the 20 municipalities most disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, along with a $1 million investment to the MA League of Community Health Centers to support vaccination efforts in underserved communities. The outreach entails service gap identification, stakeholder engagement and multilingual vaccine information campaign materials, among other efforts.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday extended the state of public health emergency for another 30 days, marking the 12th renewal of the March 9 order.
On Friday, Murphy unveiled the launch of a community-based vaccination partnership to deliver the vaccine in underserved communities throughout the state. The first site began operation Monday at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset. The initial phase will also include sites in Elizabeth, Paterson, Trenton and Vineland.
Also on Friday, Murphy imposed spectator limits on indoor youth sporting events. Each athlete under the age of 21 may have up to two parents or guardians present.
On Feb. 9, Murphy and state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio announced that the state will follow the federal government's lead by making Paycheck Protection Program loans tax-exempt at the state level.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will restore some overnight service on the New York City subway beginning Feb. 22 pending a continued downward trend of positive coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. The service, which was previously closed between 1 and 5 a.m. under coronavirus operations limitations, will now be closed between 2 and 4 a.m.
Citing the decline in positive COVID-19 tests and hospitalizations, Cuomo on Sunday eased the coronavirus operation curfew on bars, billiards halls, casinos, gyms and restaurants from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. statewide. The new curfew was effective immediately.
In a statement Sunday, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa defended her office's response to state legislators' inquiry into claims that health officials underreported the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes by failing to report those that occurred in hospitals. DeRosa indicated that the vaccine rollout and a parallel probe by the U.S. Department of Justice took priority. "We informed the houses of this at the time. We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout," the statement said in part.
Major sports stadiums and arenas can reopen to spectators on Feb. 23 subject to a 10% capacity limit, Gov. Cuomo announced on Feb. 11.
The state's COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program will distribute $145 million in funding throughout all 67 counties in the form of grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, Gov. Tom Wolf said Feb. 10. The money will be administered through a designated certified economic development organization or community development financial institution.
Mobile vaccination units will be deployed to San Saba, Goliad, Sterling, Jeff Davis and Crockett counties, Gov. Greg Abbott said on Feb. 11. The development furthers a joint effort by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Military Department to make immunization more accessible in rural areas.
Abbott announced on Feb. 10 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to establish mass community vaccination sites in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston to increase immunization access in underserved communities.
--Editing by Bruce Goldman.
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