December 23, 2021 – Ballotpedia News

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we are looking at a protracted coronavirus emergency in Louisiana, a Georgia lawsuit against the Biden administration, and other news since Dec.16.

We will also give the latest follow up on:

  • Lawsuits Regarding State Actions and Policies
  • Vaccine distribution
  • State level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • Mandatory school masks
  • State proof of vaccination requirements and policies

A note to readers: This is the latest edition of Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter. Our first edition was released on April 27, 2020, and we want to thank you for following us, whether you’ve been with us from the start or subscribed along the way. Although this newsletter is ending, our coverage of the coronavirus will not be. We will continue to follow national, local and federal policy changes on COVID-19 and vaccines on Ballotpedia.org.

We hope you have a safe and healthy rest for 2021.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions change in each state? For a continuously updated article, click here.

Federal:

  • On December 22, President Joe Biden (R) signed an executive order extending the moratorium on student loan repayments until May 1, 2022.
  • On December 22, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved treatment for the coronavirus with the Pfizer antivirus pill for people 12 years of age and older.
  • On December 17, Pfizer and BioNTech requested full approval for the use of their coronavirus vaccine in people 12 years of age and older. Currently, the vaccine is fully approved for people 16 years of age and older, and licensed under emergency use authorization for people 12 years of age and older.
  • On December 17, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned a lower court suspension over the federal government’s vaccine requirement for large businesses. The US Department of Labor has set February 9, 2022 as the new vaccination deadline.

California (Democratic Trifecta): On December 22, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that the state would require healthcare workers to receive a vaccination booster by February 1, 2022.

Georgia (Republican Trifecta): On December 21, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that Attorney General Chris Carr (R) is suing the Biden administration for his vaccine and masking mandate for Head program staff and students Start. The mandate requires that all Head Start staff and some contractors and volunteers be fully immunized by January 21, 2022. The mandate also requires children over two years of age to wear face coverings.

Louisiana (government divided): On December 21, Governor John Bel Edwards (D) extended the state’s coronavirus public health emergency.

Massachusetts (government divided): On December 21, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a mask advisory recommending that people wear face coverings in indoor public places, regardless of their immunization status.

Nevada (Democratic Trifecta): On December 21, the Legislative Committee voted 6-6 against extending state requirements that students and healthcare workers in public institutions receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Six Republicans voted against retaining terms, while six Democrats voted in favor. The split means the terms, which were promulgated on a temporary basis in September, will expire. The Legislative Commission is made up of 12 members of the Senate and the State Assembly and is responsible for making regulations when the legislature is not in session.

Oregon (Democratic Trifecta): On December 21, Governor Kate Brown (D) extended the state’s declaration of a coronavirus state of emergency until June 30, 2022.

Lawsuits Regarding State Actions and Policies

To date, Ballotpedia has followed 1,963 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders were made or settlements reached in 609 of these lawsuits.

  • On December 22, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments in two sets of cases challenging federal vaccine policies. In the first set of cases, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) policy requires all employers with 100 or more employees to require that employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly tests and wear face coverings in the workplace. The problem in the second set of cases is a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule requiring that healthcare workers in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions for medical and religious reasons. The court will hear arguments in both sets of cases on January 7, with one hour each. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has indicated it will not begin enforcing the OSHA rule until January 10. The HHS rule remains in effect in about half of the states (lower courts in other states have suspended application of the rule).

Vaccine distribution

As of December 22, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of the total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Status mask requirements

Since December 16, no state has changed its statewide mask requirements. As of December 23, masks were mandatory in ten states with Democratic governors. Thirteen states with Democratic governors and the 27 states with Republican governors had no state-level mask requirements in effect.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Governors and state agencies in all 50 states have issued orders declaring emergencies active in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, such as stocks of goods and medical equipment, that were inaccessible to them outside of emergencies and to waive or temporarily suspend certain rules and regulations.

COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.

As of December 16, no state has ended its statewide COVID-19 emergencies. Rhode Island has extended its emergency order.

Mandatory school masks

Since December 16, no state has changed its requirements for school masks.

State proof of vaccination requirements and policies

As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, state governments have promulgated various rules regarding the use of proof of vaccination requirements in their states. In some cases, states have prohibited state or local governments from requiring people to show proof of vaccination. Other states have helped create digital apps – sometimes called vaccine passports – that allow people to prove their vaccine status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.

  • Twenty states have passed laws or issued orders prohibiting proof of vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government.
  • Five states supported the creation of digital immunization status apps.

As of December 16, no state has adopted a policy on proof of vaccination requirements or digital requests for vaccination status.

Vaccine Requirements for Government Employees and Health Care Workers

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for several COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021. Since then, many states have required state employees and workers health workers get vaccinated. In some cases, states have allowed workers to opt for regular COVID-19 testing instead of getting vaccinated.

  • Fifteen states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. Two states, California and New Mexico, have required health care workers to receive booster shots.
  • Twenty states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees.

As of December 16, no state has adopted a policy on vaccine requirements for healthcare workers. One state, Nevada, voted against extending the requirement that state officials who interact with vulnerable populations receive a COVID-19 vaccine.


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