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

By Jeannie O'Sullivan
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Law360 (April 14, 2020, 9:19 PM EDT) -- As the one-month mark of measures designed to enhance social distancing while easing the COVID-19 pandemic's financial burden approaches, governors on both coasts joined forces to figure out how to restore the economy while slowing the virus' spread.

The East Coast endeavor will comprise a health expert, an economic development expert and the chiefs of staff from each state in order to "develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states' stay-at-home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus," according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Monday announcement. Joining New York are New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

On the West Coast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington said each is "building a state-specific plan" to reopen their respective economies, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom's Monday statement.

In other coronavirus laws and orders over the last seven days, New Jersey and Massachusetts extended civil immunity to health care workers grappling with medical supply shortages as they treat patients with the novel coronavirus, while Pennsylvania and Illinois took measures to prevent the virus' spread within jail populations.

Also, tax relief is on the way for New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and health care licensure requirements have been scaled back in Texas in order to boost a critical workforce on the front lines of the pandemic. Other states ensured continuous internet and phone service, produced multilingual COVID-19 resources and enacted transportation capacity limits.

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



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

Delaware

Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collin J. Seitz Jr. on April 14 ordered most state courts closed to the public for another 30 days.

Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker suspended all transfers from county jails to mental health treatment programs, effective April 10. In the same order, Pritzker said that any Department of Human Services employee who is the subject of a workplace investigation must be allowed to return to work if the alleged conduct, if proven to be founded, would not result in their termination.

On April 9, Pritzker relaxed temporary licensure requirements for out-of-state pharmacists engaged in disaster response services.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker on April 11 unveiled an unemployment benefits application in Spanish. The state's Department of Unemployment Assistance will also make applications available in Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Vietnamese and other languages in the coming days, Baker said.

The governor previously announced that a Spanish version of the state's coronavirus text message alert system was available.

On April 8, Baker introduced a bill that would grant broad legal immunity for the state's health care professionals and facilities who are treating patients affected by the coronavirus. The measure would also provide legal protections for the health workers staffing the field medical stations being erected around the state.

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy on April 13 prohibited cable and phone service providers from cutting off internet and voice services for nonpayment until 30 days after the public health emergency ends. Service downgrades, reductions and late fees due to nonpayment are also banned unless approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Also, any service disconnected after March 16 must be reconnected.

During its first remote voting session, the New Jersey Legislature on April 13 passed bills that shield health care workers and facilities from civil liability stemming from over their efforts to treat COVID-19 patients, and that push back the the fiscal year and the tax filing and payment deadlines for the state's gross income tax and corporation business tax.

The Senate on the same day advanced a measure that would expand New Jersey's family leave law during "epidemic-related emergencies" to give workers a guaranteed break to address coronavirus-related situations.

Murphy ordered New Jersey Transit and private transportation carriers on April 11 to limit occupancy to 50% of capacity until further notice.

Insurers doing business in New Jersey must grant extensions for premium payments owed by businesses and individuals enduring financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, per an April 10 directive issued by the Department of Banking and Insurance.

Murphy signed an executive order on April 8 that ceases all nonessential construction projects.

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on April 13 ordered essential businesses to provide face masks or shields to employees who interact with customers.

New York lawmakers on April 9 unveiled tax relief measures to allow deferring or suspending property tax payments and extend some tax abatement deadlines.

Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott on April 11 relaxed restrictions on physician-in-training, or PIT, permit holders to allow them to perform duties outside their graduate medical education training programs so they can assist emergency departments experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases. The PIT holders must only perform expanded duties with proper physician oversight.

In other health care-related measures, Abbott said April 9 the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will allow nurse aides who have not yet completed a full certification program to serve residents in long-term care facilities, and also lifted restrictions on telehealth limitations for pathologists, audiologists, behavior analysts, hearing instrument fitters and dispensers, and dyslexia therapists and practitioners.

Earlier in the week, Abbott said end-stage renal disease facilities are allowed to operate off-site outpatient facilities without obtaining a new license, and that pharmacy technicians can now accept prescription drug orders over the phone, a function previously limited to pharmacists.

Also on April 9, Abbott announced that notaries may appear via videoconference when executing certain documents requiring notarization.

Crime victim advocacy groups seeking grants won't be held to the federally required donation match under a measure Abbott announced April 8. The waiver allows grant recipients to use budgeted cash matches for other needs.

On April 7, Abbott ordered the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to close all state parks and historic sites to the public until further notice.

Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf said April 14 that businesses collecting Pennsylvania sales tax will not have to make accelerated sales tax prepayments over the next three months. No penalties will be charged during the 90-day reprieve.

Hospitals bracing for a surge of coronavirus patients will benefit from a $450 million loan program funded by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, Wolf announced April 10. The Hospital Emergency Loan Program, or HELP, will be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development through the Pennsylvania First Program.

Also on April 10, Wolf ordered the state's Department of Corrections to establish a program to release certain inmates to community corrections facilities or home confinement to prevent the coronavirus' spread throughout prisons. The program would only apply to nonviolent inmates. Qualifying inmates must be otherwise eligible for release within nine months, or be considered high-risk for catching the infection and be eligible for release within one year.

--Editing by Breda Lund and Alanna Weissman.

Update: This article has been clarified to indicate that only certain documents are subject to videoconference notarization in Texas.

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

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