September 11, 2020 | BY| Newsweek |
“Thousands of lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as citizens, business owners, government officials and more contested the legality of measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
Government officials quickly became a popular magnet for legal challenges as local and state leaders began implementing stay-at-home orders, instituted mask mandates, restricted businesses’ indoor capacities and more during the spring.
Hunton Andrews Kurth, an international law firm that got its start in the U.S., launched a COVID-19 legal complaint tracking database in partnership with Cognicion shortly after the pandemic began spreading in the U.S. More than 4,800 lawsuits related to the pandemic have been filed in the U.S. since March, and more than 300 of those included a state governor among the list of defendants, according to the complaint tracker.”
“Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s senior adviser, told Newsweek he has “lost track” of the legal challenges mounted against Cuomo.
“I’ve lost track of the frivolous lawsuits filed against us during this pandemic,” Azzopardi said. He did not comment on any one lawsuit in particular but repeated the safety tips that Cuomo’s office has emphasized for months: “Stay smart, wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.”
Like Cuomo, most state leaders are facing legal challenges to restrictions they put in place due to the pandemic. According to the law firm’s tracker, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham—all members of the Democratic Party—have each faced at least 20 pandemic-related lawsuits since March. The governors of Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia have also each been named as defendants in 10 or more pandemic-related lawsuits.
As the virus began spreading across the U.S., Newsom became the first governor to shutter non-essential businesses and implement a stay-at-home order on March 19. Cuomo followed shortly thereafter, as did most other state leaders. In the months since, the U.S. unemployment rate skyrocketed to its highest since before World War II as millions of Americans lost their jobs. By Friday, September 11, health officials across the country reported case totals exceeding 6.4 million and said virus deaths in the U.S. surpassed 192,000.
Despite the strain that closures placed on the U.S. economy and the frustrations Americans have expressed at social distancing and face covering requirements, health experts continue to warn that a vaccine is likely still months away. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said the earliest a vaccine candidate could collect enough data to prove that it is both safe and effective is late 2020 or early 2021.
Hunton Andrews Kurth declined Newsweek‘s request for comment and said it is not in a position to discuss trends in lawsuits filed against governors or other government officials.”