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

By Jeannie O'Sullivan
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Law360 (January 5, 2021, 6:15 PM EST) -- Despite difficulties surrounding the coronavirus vaccine rollout in some areas, including a Wisconsin pharmacist accused of intentionally spoiling 500 doses, the new year ushered in the first round of inoculations for Illinois veterans in long-term care facilities as well as plans to administer the vaccine to first responders in Massachusetts. 

Testing remained a priority in Texas, where a virus therapeutic infusion center has been established and four community test sites will extend operations throughout the month. The state is also delivering relief in the form of increased food benefits throughout January. 

Elsewhere, response efforts included unemployment insurance tax breaks for New Jersey businesses and a $2 billion safety plan for California schools.

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 LexisNexis.


California

In a coronavirus news briefing Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the pace of the state's vaccination efforts, saying, "It's gone too slowly." State health officials said that as of Jan. 3, residents had received 454,306 of the 1.9 million vaccine doses allocated to the state.

Newsom on Dec. 30 unveiled a plan for safe in-person school operation, featuring $2 billion to support safety measures such as testing, ventilation and personal protective equipment. The plan also spells out measures to ensure mitigation, oversight and transparency.

On Dec. 28, Newsom announced that the state has opted into the COVID-19 Pharmacy Partnership, a free service in which the CVS and Walgreens drugstores will administer the Pfizer vaccine to nursing home residents and staff.

Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday unveiled a plan to increase vaccine access to senior citizens and other vulnerable populations by converting testing sites to vaccination sites, identifying places of worship and underserved communities where the vaccine can be administered and hiring an additional 1,000 contract vaccination nurses.

DeSantis' Dec. 23 executive order including all persons 65 and older in the first phase of the vaccine rollout was followed by news reports of seniors standing in line and camping outdoors to get inoculated. The governor and his media representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. 

Illinois

The first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have been administered to all residents and staff of veterans homes in the state who opted to receive it, the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs announced on Dec. 31. The second dose was scheduled to be administered at the homes in three weeks.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced that vaccinations for first responders, the third priority group in the state's vaccination timeline, will begin on Jan. 11.

Baker on New Year's Day signed a law that increases health insurance coverage for telehealth services, expands the scope of practice for nurses and optometrists and extends requirements for insurance carriers to cover virus testing and treatment.

On Dec. 31, Baker announced $67.4 million had been given to small businesses in the second round of grants administered through Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation's COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program.

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would allow restaurants and other business to expand their operations to sidewalks during the pandemic, subject to regulation and oversight by municipalities. The governor acknowledged in a statement that the restaurant industry has been hard hit by the public health crisis, but said that the measure would divest the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control of the enforcement powers it shares with municipalities.

On Monday, Murphy signed into law a measure to reduce businesses' unemployment tax contribution rate through fiscal year 2023.

On Dec. 31, Murphy and state Police Superintendent Patrick J. Callahan clarified that while indoor sports practices and competitions are subject to a 10-person limit, the activities can proceed with more than 10 persons integral to the activity, such as athletes and coaches, as long as spectators aren't present. The activities are still subject to a 25% room capacity limit and may not exceed 150 persons.

Murphy on Dec. 30 signed legislation that will extend the time period for seasonal retail consumption license holders to sell alcoholic beverages during and after the public health crisis.

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that the state had confirmed its first case of a strain of the virus that originated in the United Kingdom. The New York case was traced back to an individual affiliated with N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga County. All individuals who visited the store from Dec. 18 through Dec. 24 are urged to contact the state Department of Health and receive a coronavirus test immediately.

Pennsylvania

Temporary mitigation orders enforced during the holidays, such as an indoor dining ban and stricter limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, expired on Jan. 4. Gov. Tom Wolf said that the mitigation measures helped flatten the curve following a post-Thanksgiving surge of cases in the state.

Texas

With the aim of expanding access to treatment and reducing hospitalizations, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced that the state's Division of Emergency Management has established a virus therapeutic infusion center in Austin to treat outpatient cases.

Also on Monday, Abbott said health officials will provide about $204 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for January as part of the state's response to the pandemic. Recipients will also see an additional 15% increase in their January benefits.

On Dec. 30, Abbott said that four community-based testing sites will extend their operations through Jan. 31 or until they conduct 50,000 tests.

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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