Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: May 15, 2020

This is our daily update on how federal, state, and local officials are planning to set America on a path to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Each day, we:

Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

The next three days

What is reopening in the next three days? Which stay-at-home orders will expire?

May 16

  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): The following businesses are permitted to reopen on May 16: smaller retailers (25 percent capacity), offices and call centers (25 percent capacity), big box stores and larger retail (20 percent capacity), places of worship (10 percent capacity). Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced the changes on May 14.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): According to Gov. Gary Herbert (R)All but Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Wasatch County, Summit County, and Grand County will move from the orange phase to the yellow phase of Utah’s reopening plan on May 16. Under the yellow phase, limits on gatherings rise from 20 to 50 people, but face coverings must be worn in public, and individuals should stay 6 feet from others when outside the home. All businesses can reopen in the yellow phase. Businesses that do open must follow social distancing guidelines and industry-specific requirements, such as limiting tables in restaurants to groups of 10 and symptom checking all employees who work in gyms. The plan also eases restrictions on team sports, so long as social distancing guidelines are followed and participants are checked for symptoms. Utah’s plan puts additional restrictions on high-risk individuals across all phases of reopening. It defines high-risk individuals as those with underlying medical conditions, those over the age of 65, and those living in long-term care facilities.

May 18

  • Florida (Republican trifecta): At a press conference on May 15, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Florida would enter “full phase one” on May 18. This means gyms will be allowed to reopen with social distancing guidelines, restaurants can operate at 50% capacity (up from 25%), and museums and libraries may operate at 50% capacity. The state began phase one reopenings in most of the state on May 4.
  • Kansas (divided government): On May 14, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced Phase 1.5 of Kansas’ reopening. Effective May 18, the following businesses will be permitted to reopen: personal service businesses by appointment only (e.g., nail salons, barber shops, and tattoo parlors) and gyms and fitness centers. Gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. The following businesses must remain closed: bars and nightclubs; non-tribal casinos; theaters; museums; indoor leisure spaces; community centers; outdoor and indoor large entertainment venues; fairs, festivals, carnivals, and parades; swimming pools; organized sports facilities; and summer camps.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): Massachusetts’s stay-at-home order expires on May 18. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said he will announce whether he will extend or lift the order that day.
  • Missouri (Republican trifecta): Missouri state park campgrounds will begin reopening on May 18. Reservations will be required. State park beaches will also open to the public on May 21.
  • New Hampshire (divided government): Outdoor dining at restaurants will be permitted under Gov. Chris Sununu’s “Stay-at-Home 2.0” order on May 18, with social distancing and hygiene measures for employees and the public.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): The following businesses are permitted to reopen on May 18: nonessential retail stores for curbside pick up only, nonessential construction under social distancing measures, and drive-through and drive-in events, including church services and drive-in movies, if people remain in their cars. If cars are unable to maintain six feet of distance, windows must stay closed.
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Businesses that are open in the state have until May 18 to develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan detailing precautions they have taken to prevent the spread of the virus. The state released a required Control Plan template for businesses to fill out. Businesses do not need to submit their plan to the state for review, but they must provide it to the Rhode Island Department of Health if requested. Non-essential retailers must also sign and display a compliance checklist in an area visible to employees and visitors. Businesses that have not yet opened must complete the Control Plan and checklist requirements before they reopen. The state will also begin allowing outdoor dining at restaurants.
  • South Carolina (Republican trifecta): Close-contact businesses (barbershops, salons, spas, and tattoo parlors), gyms, and public pools can reopen on May 18. Businesses that reopen must follow state guidelines, which include keeping people six feet apart when possible, installing physical barriers at work stations, and putting up signs to remind employees and customers of safety and hygiene practices.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): Gyms, office spaces, and non-essential manufacturing businesses can reopen at or below 25% capacity on May 18 as part of the next phase of the state’s reopening plan.
  • Vermont (divided government): Non-essential retail businesses can reopen on May 18 at or below 25% capacity. Employees must wear masks. On May 15, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced he was replacing the state’s stay-at-home order with a “Stay Smart, Stay Safe” order. Scott said he hopes to increase the maximum crowd size to 25 over the next few days and allow some businesses, like hair salons and outdoor restaurants, to reopen before June 1. Private campgrounds, marinas, and hotels can reopen on May 22 with restrictions.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): Gov. Jim Justice (R) said gyms and health clubs can reopen on May 18 at or below 40% capacity and keep equipment separated to allow for at least six feet of space between people. Other restrictions include keeping showers, locker rooms, swimming pools, and basketball courts closed and limiting the size of group classes.

Since our last edition

Have any states opened? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here. For our last edition, click here.

  • Statewide stay-at-home orders in five states—Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont—ended on May 15. These became the 19th through 23rd states where stay-at-home orders have ended. Of those five states, three have Republican governors and two have Democratic governors.
    • In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on May 14 that the state’s stay-at-home order was extended through May 28 for regions, including New York City, that do not meet the state’s reopening criteria. However, five regions that met the criteria could proceed with reopenings of some nonessential businesses beginning May 15, including construction, manufacturing and retail for curbside pick up only. Those regions are the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North County, and the Southern Tier. Cuomo said in a tweet that as soon as a region hits its benchmarks for reopening, they can do so before May 28.
    • Delaware’s stay-at-home order was also scheduled to expire, but Gov. John Carney (D) announced on May 8 that it would be extended through May 31. Five other states have orders scheduled to expire on May 31.
  • Arkansas (Republican trifecta): Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced the state would not be ready to move to phase two of the state’s reopening plan on May 18 as originally anticipated. The announcement came after the state saw an increase in patients and hospitalizations in the last two days.
  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) announced that restrictions on Delaware’s beaches and community pools would be lifted beginning 5:00 p.m. on May 22. Ice cream stores and trucks may also reopen for take-out or curbside pick-up services. These openings only apply to Delaware residents. A 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors is still in effect.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Phase 1 of Louisiana’s reopening took effect on May 15. The following businesses were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity: gyms and fitness centers; barber shops and hair/nail salons; shopping malls; gaming establishments; theaters; racetracks (no spectators); museums, zoos, and aquariums (no tactile exhibits); and bars and breweries with food permits. Individuals, particularly those belonging to high-risk groups, are still encouraged to stay home. Individuals who do go out in public are encouraged to wear facial coverings, practice good hygiene, and maintain six feet of distance from others. For businesses, employees who interact with the public must wear facial coverings and enforce social distancing guidelines. Gaming establishments must register and obtain approval before reopening. No other business owners are required to do so.
  • Maryland (divided government): Phase 1 of Maryland’s reopening took effect on May 15. The following businesses were allowed to reopen: retail stores (50% capacity), manufacturing, churches and houses of worship (50% capacity), and personal services (by appointment only).
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey confirmed that casinos in the state would be able to reopen on May 21.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): Outdoor dining at bars and restaurants is allowed and personal services, such as salons and barbers, can reopen as of May 15.
  • Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): The second phase of Oklahoma’s reopening plan began May 15. Under this phase, vulnerable individuals are directed to continue following safer-at-home guidelines. Individuals are directed to maintain social distancing measures and avoid group socializing. Employers must close common areas or enforce social distancing and hygiene measures, honor requests from vulnerable employees for special accommodations, and implement social distancing measures, including the use of personal protective equipment when working with the public. Also under phase two, organized sports activities can reopen with social distancing and sanitation measures, bars can operate with diminished standing room and social distancing and sanitation measures, childcare areas in places of worship can reopen, and funerals and weddings can resume with social distancing measures. Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals are still prohibited under phase two.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown announced that 31 counties would be able to enter Phase 1 of reopening on May 15. The first phase of the plan allows restaurants and bars to open for dine-in. It allows permitted retailers and malls, personal service businesses like hairdressers and salons, and fitness centers to reopen, contingent on their compliance with state guidelines. Brown also said that stand-alone retail stores would be able to open for limited business statewide.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): On May 15, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that 12 additional counties would be ready to move into the yellow phase of reopening by May 22: Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York. During the yellow phase, theaters and gyms remain closed, but some types of businesses, such as retail, can begin to reopen with restrictions. Bars and restaurants are limited to carry-out and delivery.
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced that beginning on or after May 22, he will lift some restrictions on restaurants, retail, and large attraction venues like amusement parts and theaters across much of the state. Six Tennessee counties, including Shelby and Knox counties, are following county-specific plans and won’t be impacted by these changes. Lee said new guidelines would be released next week.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): The first phase of Virginia’s reopening plan began on May 15, for many parts of the state except Northern Virginia, including Arlington, Fairfax, Vienna, Alexandria. On May 14, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) approved requests from the City of Richmond and Accomack County to delay entering Phase 1 until May 29. The Accomack County Board of Supervisors and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney cited high rates of COVID-19 infections relative to the rest of the state to justify the delay. In the parts of Virginia entering phase one, retail stores can reopen at 50% capacity, and bars and restaurants will also be able to offer outdoor dining at 50% capacity. Many types of businesses will remain closed, including entertainment and public amusement venues. Places of worship can hold services at 50% occupancy.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said he could not guarantee that Washington would be ready to move to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan by June 1. Inslee said advancing to the next phase will depend on infection rates and contact tracing and isolation initiatives in Washington counties.
  • Wyoming (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced that he was easing some restrictions on businesses beginning on May 15. Under the new order, restaurants can resume indoor and outdoor service so long as staff wear face coverings and tables are spaced out. Movie theaters and venues can reopen to a maximum of 25 people at a time, and gyms can provide group classes with up to 20 people.

Update on stay-at-home orders

Forty-three states issued orders directing residents to stay home except for essential activities and the closure or curtailment of businesses each state deemed nonessential. Seven states did not.

As of May 15, stay-at-home orders have ended in 23 states. Governors ended stay-at-home orders in 22 states—16 Republican governors and six Democratic governors. Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) administration overstepped its authority in extending that state’s stay-at-home order. Of the 20 states with stay-at-home orders in place, three have Republican governors and 17 have Democratic governors.

Here’s which stay-at-home orders have expired, and when the rest are scheduled to expire.

Reopenings status

The table and maps below show the status of plans to lift restrictions on activities because of the pandemic. We update them daily.

We place states into six categories. How does your state stack up?

  • Reopenings in progress: the state has already lifted restrictions on some industries put in place because of the pandemic.
  • Announced reopenings, effective date: the state will reopen or partially reopen three or more industries on a set date.
  • Announced reopenings, contingent date: the state will reopen or partially reopen three or more industries on a targeted date, dependent on other conditions.
  • Announced reopenings, no date: the state has a plan to reopen three or more industries entirely dependent on conditions.
  • Limited or no announced reopening plan: the state has not yet put forth a plan to reopen three or more industries
  • No state-mandated closures were issued.

Featured plan: Pennsylvania’s reopening plan

This is an in-depth summary of one of the latest reopening plans. Is there a plan you’d like us to feature? Reply to this email and let us know.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced his three-phase, color-coded reopening plan on April 22. It includes allowing regions of the state to reopen at different times depending on public health benchmarks and other data.

Thirty-seven of the state’s 67 counties have moved from the red phase to the yellow phase—24 counties on May 8 and an additional 13 on May 15. The counties are in the Northwest, Northcentral, and Southwest regions of the state.

The yellow phase allows all businesses except those specified to resume in-person operations as long as they adhere to state Department of Health guidelines. Businesses not allowed to open in the yellow phase include indoor recreation, health and wellness/personal care services (such as gyms, hair salons, massage therapy), entertainment venues (such as casinos and theaters), and restaurants and bars (except for carry-out and delivery).

On social and individual behavior restrictions, the plan states:

All Pennsylvanians should continue to maintain social distancing even as the reopening and easing of restriction process begins. With few exceptions, Pennsylvanians should maintain a distance of six feet from each other, gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited, and non-essential travel should be avoided. In addition, individuals should engage in frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and surfaces should be disinfected as often as possible.

On May 15, Wolf announced an additional 12 counties will move to the yellow phase on May 22. Most of the counties are in the Southcentral and Northeast regions.

Wolf said the plan’s phases were designed using the following six standards and the White House’s Opening Up America Guidelines. Click the links to learn more details about each standard. More details on business guidance and the regional approach are provided below.


  • Wolf issued an order directing all non-life-sustaining businesses to close March 19. On March 23, Wolf issued a stay-at-home order for seven counties in the state. Between then and March 31, Wolf amended the order six times to include a total of 33 counties. On April 1, Wolf issued a statewide stay-at-home order directing residents to stay home except for life-sustaining activities, prohibiting gatherings, and requiring social distancing as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. The original order was set to expire on April 30. On April 20, Wolf extended the order to May 8.
  • On May 7, Wolf issued an order moving 24 counties into the yellow phase of his plan effective May 8 and extended the stay-at-home order for remaining counties to June 4. On May 14, he amended the yellow phase order to include 13 additional counties effective May 15.
  • As of May 14, Pennsylvania had 59,636 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 4,218 deaths. As of July 2019, the state’s estimated population was 12.8 million. Pennsylvania had 465.8 cases per 100,000 residents and 32.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.
  • Pennsylvania has a divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Plan details

Wolf’s plan contains the following table:

Business guidance

Businesses must adhere to state guidance as they reopen.

Wolf, state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, the Department of Health, and the Department of State had released the following guidance documents as of May 15:

The May 4 guidance for all businesses with in-person operations includes a number of guidelines on cleaning, operations, providing equipment to employees, and creating a plan in case a business is exposed to COVID-19.

Guidelines include:

  • “Conduct business with the public by appointment only, whenever possible”
  • “If appointment-only service is not feasible, limit the number of people inside the building to no more than 50% of the total maximum occupancy”
  • “Designate a specific time for people at high risk, including those over the age of 65 to use the business at least once a week”
  • “Require all customers to wear masks while on the premises” (with exceptions)
  • “Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour”

Regional approach

The state will consider both regional and county data when deciding what may move to the next phase of reopening. Not all counties within a region necessarily move to the next phase at the same time. For example, Beaver County in the Southwest region did not advance to the yellow stage at the same time as the rest of the region.

Criteria for moving to the yellow phase include:

  • Fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported in the previous 14 days
  • Testing capacity
  • Contact tracing/case investigation ability
  • Adequate safeguards in high-risk settings

In addition to the above criteria, the state will use a modeling dashboard created in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. Wolf’s plan said the tool will “enable a balance between maximizing the results of our economy while minimizing public health risks. This tool will help better understand the current health and economic status, as well as the inherent risks and benefits to easing restrictions by sector and region.”

The plan includes the following sample image of the dashboard:

The secretary of health, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, and director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency make recommendations to the governor on when to move a region from one phase to the next.

Additional details on Pennsylvania’s regional approach can be found here.


  • After Wolf released the list of 24 counties allowed to begin reopening on May 8, state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R) said, “I think it is absolutely ridiculous we are not leaving this up to our county elected officials to decide these things for the good and welfare of their county. … They know what their numbers are accurately and where those numbers come from. … Say, for example, Beaver County [with 426 COVID-19 cases and 67 deaths] almost all those instances came from one nursing home. That does not depict the entire scenario of that county as a whole. We have to take those things into consideration and I think county commissioners have the ability to do that more than anyone.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D) said, “Moving from red to yellow in many counties in the northcentral and northwest regions of our state is an exciting step, but I would ask residents to still take as much precaution as possible.” He said Wolf’s and Levine’s recommendations “along with those from the CDC are designed to keep everyone healthy. Economic recovery will be a long road, and we need to stay healthy for it to work.”

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of activities by other federal, state, and local governments and influencers relevant to recovering from the pandemic. 

  • Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that racing would return to Talladega Superspeedway without fans the weekend of June 21. The city will host the NASCAR Cup Series Geico 500, NASCAR Xfinity Series MoneyLion 300, and ARCA Menards Series’ General Tire 200. The Geico 500 was originally scheduled to take place in April.
  • Colorado: Commissioners in El Paso County voted unanimously to reopen restaurants ahead of Gov. Jared Polis’ (D) proposed timeline. The measure still requires approval by both Polis and the state’s health department, however.
  • Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that racing would return to Atlanta Motor Speedway in June. The NASCAR Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, originally scheduled for March 15, will run on June 7. The race will take place without spectators.
  • Wisconsin: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced a new order allowing barbershops, tattoo parlors, spas, and playgrounds to reopen with certain restrictions. He announced details of his Business Restart Program on May 15. Eighteen surrounding suburbs issued a joint order allowing salons, spas, and indoor shopping malls to open with certain restrictions. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released six, one-page “decision tool” documents for bars, camps, childcare centers, mass transit systems, schools, and workplaces. The documents are designed to assist those who run such facilities and systems in deciding when to reopen. The documents can be found here.
  • On May 14, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released guidelines for reopening casino restaurants. Restaurants within licensed gaming properties could reopen on May 9. Under the guidelines, restaurants must comply with the same standards as other restaurants, as outlined in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reopening plan, including operating at 50 percent, employees being required to wear PPE, and tables needed to be 6-feet apart. Casino restaurants must also report if there is a separate entrance for guests to enter, or explain how guests enter the restaurant without stepping on the gaming floor. Similarly, if there is no internal restroom, casino restaurants must explain to the Gaming Control Board how guests can use the facilities without stepping on the gaming floor.
  • New Hampshire’s Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force approved guidelines for reopening Hampton Beach on Thursday, May 14. Original guidance set a June 1 open date but the task force decided to omit that date for now and will instead reach out to public health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu about a specific timeline. The governor would make the final decision.
  • The City of Durham, North Carolina announced an extension to the city’s stay-at-home order until it is rescinded by the mayor. The new order retains a local requirement that residents and store employees wear face masks. Under the new order, gatherings are limited to 10 people (per the governor), and funerals are limited to 25 people (the state allows for 50). The order also requires employers to screen employees for symptoms of coronavirus.