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

Each day, we:

  • Track the status of reopening in all 50 states.
  • Compare the status of one industry or activity across the country.
  • Answer key questions about state school reopening plans.
  • Give you the latest stories on other reopening plans and ideas.

Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here. For our last edition, click here.

  • Tax Day, the deadline to submit 2019 tax returns and tax payments, is July 15. The federal government extended the traditional April 15 deadline in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced new criteria the state will use to determine if additional mitigation measures are necessary in a region. The indicators include a sustained increase in the 7-day rolling positivity rate average or an 8% or greater positivity rate sustained over three consecutive days.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that the state would remain in Stage 4.5 of reopening for at least two more weeks. Stage 4.5 began on July 4 and the state was originally set to move to Stage 5 on July 17.
  • Kansas (divided government): The Kansas Board of Education voted 9-0 to approve guidelines for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Board members said that the guidelines were not mandates but were meant to help districts craft individual plans.
  • Louisiana (divided government): The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to approve reopening guidelines proposed by Superintendent Cade Brumley. The guidelines include a requirement for all adults and students in grades 3 through 12 to wear face coverings.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): Casinos and museums reopened on July 13. The state requires face coverings and capacity limits in both.
  • Montana (divided government): Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced a statewide mask requirement, effective immediately. It requires individuals to wear masks inside certain businesses and at outdoor gatherings of greater than 50 people where social distancing is not possible.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): The state is expanding its face-covering mandate to require masks in outdoor public spaces when six-foot distancing cannot be maintained starting July 15.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): On July 14, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that schools would be permitted to delay returning students to physical classrooms for longer than originally planned. Previously, state guidance said schools should offer three weeks of virtual instruction to start the year but could lose state funding if they did not return to in-person instruction after that period. Abbot said he would provide more information soon.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced on July 14 that no Washington counties would advance to the next phase of reopening until at least July 28. Inslee first paused reopening on June 29.

Tracking industries: Restaurants

All 50 states are reopening in some way. Here, we give the status of one industry or activity across the states. Today’s question: in which states may you dine in at a restaurant?

We last looked at restaurants in the June 10th edition of the newsletter. Since then, seven states (Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and West Virginia) have allowed for indoor dining at restaurants. One state (New Jersey) moved from allowing no dine-in services to allowing outdoor dining. One state (California) moved from allowing indoor dining to allowing only outdoor dining.

This is an in-depth summary of two state plans to reopen public K-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

Hawaii’s Return to Learn plan

The Hawaii Department of Education released school reopening guidance on July 2. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said, “We know that the delivery of instruction in Hawaiʻi, the nation and the world, is going to look very different. Our HIDOE ʻohana has been diligently working on plans for the new school year, growing from this experience and applying lessons learned toward our commitment to equity of access and quality education.”

On March 16, Gov. David Ige (D) extended spring break through March 27. On March 19, he closed schools through April 6. He extended the closure on March 24 through April 30. On April 17, the Department of Education closed schools for the rest of the school year.

Hawaii’s 2020-2021 school year is scheduled to start on August 4. According to EdWeek, traditional public schools in Hawaii typically start the academic year in early August.

The state’s school guidance is tied to the state’s general reopening plan. In-person instruction cannot fully reopen until the state enters the Recovery phase of reopening. The school plan contained the following graphic:


Hawaii is a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Democratic trifecta in 2011.

The following tables show public education statistics in Hawaii, including a rank comparing it to the other 49 states. Rank one is the highest number of each figure, rank 50 is the lowest. All data comes from the Common Core of Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Hawaii school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $15,305 17
Number of students (’18-’19) 181,278 40
Number of teachers (’16-17) 11,782 42
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 249 49
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.9 25
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 47.6% 24
Hawaii school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $2,699,827,000 14
Percent from federal sources 9.6% 20
Percent from state sources 88.2% 2
Percent from local sources 2.2% 50


District reopening plans

Hawaii’s school reopening plan does not discuss a need for school districts to develop their own plans or submit such plans to the state. Schools must reopen in compliance with the state’s plan.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The Department of Education said instruction will be delivered through in-person, blended, and online channels, depending on the threat presented by the coronavirus and the department’s resources. The Board of Education passed a resolution on June 18 asserting online and hybrid attendance is equivalent to in-person attendance for the purposes of fulfilling the state’s 180 instructional day requirement.

Parents of children from grades 6-12 will be able to select a virtual-only learning option. The state is still developing a virtual solution for grades K-5. Full details are not yet available.

Hawaii’s three multi-track schools (Mililani Middle, Kapolei Middle, and Holomua Elementary schools) will convert to a traditional, single-track schedule at least through the Fall semester.

Mask requirements

Students and faculty are required to wear masks when they are not in the classroom. Students and faculty generally are not required to wear masks in classrooms, but staff and other adults are required to wear masks when they are within three feet of each other or a child. For students, “Masks should be worn when keeping six feet apart is not possible, or when children face each other and interact in similar ways. However, if students are sitting three feet apart, and facing the same way, wearing a mask is not required.”

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The state outlined the following general guidelines for schools:

  • All individuals entering the school building must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Sanitizing/handwashing stations must be set up at school entrances and in every classroom and possible gathering area (library, cafeteria, etc.).
  • Desks and seats must be spaced at least three feet apart when students face the same direction, or six feet apart if students are facing each other.
  • Relevant faculty members must be trained in proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
  • Six-foot social distancing should be practiced to the extent possible.
  • Designated health rooms and separate quarantine spaces should be set up for suspected COVID-19 cases.
  • Schools should consider staggering student arrival and departure times.
  • Nonessential visits should be limited.

For comprehensive guidelines, click here.

Transportation and bussing requirements and restrictions

The Student Transportation Services Branch is working with school administrators and bus contractors to develop adjusted, school-specific arrival and departure schedules. All bus passengers will be required to wear masks. No more than two students will be able to sit in the same bench seat, and seating will be assigned. Heightened cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be implemented between bus trips.

Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools

On June 1, the Georgia Department of Education, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Health, released “Georgia’s K-12 Recovery Plan,” a set of guidelines to help schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods said, “We created these guidelines, in partnership with Dr. Kathleen Toomey and her team at the Georgia Department of Public Health, to give school districts a blueprint for a safe reopening that is realistic in the K-12 setting. We have a responsibility to keep our students, teachers, school staff, and families safe and to provide the best possible education for our children. I’m confident these guidelines will help schools accomplish both of those objectives.”

The guidance was revised and re-released on July 13 at the request of the Georgia Department of Health.

Governor Brian Kemp (R) first closed K-12 schools on March 18. He extended the closure through April 24 on March 26 and announced on April 1 that schools would remain closed to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year.

According to EdWeek, school districts in Georgia typically begin the year in early August, but the specific start date varies by district.

The recovery plan states that the guidance for schools is not mandatory. Local school districts in Georgia can decide when and whether to return students to physical classrooms.


Georgia is a Republican trifecta, with a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

The following tables show public education statistics in Georgia, including a rank comparing it to the other 49 states. Rank one is the highest number of each figure, rank 50 is the lowest. All data comes from the Common Core of Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Georgia school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (16-17) $11,531 36
Number of students (18-19) 1,767,202 6
Number of teachers (Fall 2016) 114,763 8
Number of public schools (18-19) 2,309 15
Student:teacher ratio (18-19) 15.1 23
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (16-17) 62% 7
Georgia school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue 18,772,155 10
Percent from federal sources 10.1 18
Percent from state sources 45.2 30
Percent from local sources 44.7 21


District reopening plans

The plan does not require school districts to submit reopening plans to state authorities. The guidance in the document states that “Local school districts have the authority and flexibility to meet their individual needs and be responsive to their communities. School leaders should engage and communicate with their students, staff, and communities in the development and implementation of their plans.” The guidance is “designed to help districts prioritize the health and safety of students and teachers as they open school buildings and deliver instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.”

The guidance includes a District Decision Tree that provides districts with different options under scenarios that range from the temporary closure of school buildings to a traditional arrangement of students in classrooms. The original version of the document released on June 1 called the three scenarios “Substantial spread,” “Minimal/Moderate Spread,” and “Low/No Spread.” In the revised document released on July 13, the three scenarios were changed to “Temporary Closure(s),” “Enhanced Mitigation Measure,” and “Preventative Practices.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance lays out the instructional model districts should adopt under the three different scenarios.

  • Temporary closure(s) scenario: local school districts are encouraged to adopt a fully distance/remote learning model.
  • Enhanced mitigation measures scenario: local school districts are encouraged to consider the following three options:
    • Traditional model: students return to classrooms.
    • Hybrid model: students learn both remotely and in physical classrooms. Under this model, school districts are encouraged to implement staggered schedules.
    • Distance/remote learning model: Students learn remotely and use of school buildings is minimal.
  • Preventative practices scenario: Students return to classrooms under this scenario, but with enhanced preventative practices and protocols.

Mask requirements

The plan states that face coverings are not mandatory but are strongly recommended where social distancing is difficult to accomplish. The plan recommends that school districts provide information to staff, students, and families on the proper use of cloth face coverings.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The plan recommends that school districts conduct regular screening for symptoms of COVID-19 throughout the day and participate in contact tracing efforts as directed by local health officials.

Under all three scenarios, school districts should communicate regularly with local and state Department of Health Officials. Districts should also post signage around schools designed to communicate how students and staff can prevent the spread of the virus.

In-person recommendations under the Enhanced Mitigation Measures scenario include:

  • Establish a protocol for students/staff who feel ill/experience symptoms when they come to school.
  • Screen students and staff (to the extent practicable):
    • Take temperatures ideally before entering buildings
    • Isolate and send home if internal temperature over 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Limit physical interaction through partner or group work
  • Establish distance between the teacher’s desk/board and students’ desks
  • Identify and utilize large spaces (i.e. gymnasiums, auditoriums, outside spaces – as weather permits) for social distancing
  • A/B schedules
    • Alternating Days
    • Alternating Weeks
    • Half Days: AM/PM Schedule

In-person recommendations under the Preventative Practices scenario include:

  • Implement standard operating procedures while taking preventative measures such as:
    • Use of face coverings/masks is not mandated but is strongly recommended, particularly in settings where social distancing is difficult (i.e. class transitioning)
    • Cleaning hallways and high-touch surfaces throughout the school day
  • Establish an academic baseline:
    • Administer formative assessments toward the start of the school year
    • Conduct meetings with teachers to identify where students are academically
  • Prepare for potential future distance/remote learning by increasing current blended learning:
    • Develop a digital learning plan
    • Integrate virtual learning practices.

Transportation and bussing requirements and restrictions

Under the Temporary Closure scenario, the plan recommends that buses be used to deliver up to a week’s worth of meals to students and families on a designated day of the week.

Under the Enhanced Mitigation Measures scenario, districts should consider the following:

  • Provide hand sanitizer for students and bus drivers
  • Provide face masks for bus drivers; allow students to wear face masks/coverings
  • Screen students and bus drivers for symptoms of illness and utilize spaced seating (to the extent practicable)
  • Eliminate field trips
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the bus at least daily
  • Establish protocols for bus stops, loading/unloading students to minimize congregation of children from different households

Under the Preventative Practices scenario, districts should consider the following related to transporting students:

  • Implement standard operating procedures while taking preventative measures, such as:
    • Providing hand sanitizer for students and bus drivers
    • Allowing bus drivers and students to wear face masks/coverings
    • Limiting field trips
    • Inspecting buses prior to students returning and as part of a regular rotation
    • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces on the bus at least daily
    • Airing out buses when not in use
    • Lowering windows and allowing fresh air in during routes as weather permits

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.

  • Chicago added Iowa and Oklahoma to the list of states from which travelers must self-quarantine for two weeks. That brings the total number of states on the city’s quarantine list to 17.
  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said that the city would halt applying for any other reopening variance requests to the state. The city had planned to apply for variances requesting increased capacity at restaurants and the Denver Zoo.
  • Philadelphia canceled all large events in the city through February 2021. Impacted events include the Thanksgiving Day parade, the Mummers Parade, the Rock and Roll half marathon, and the Broad Street Run.
  • Walmart announced that customers nationwide would be required to wear face coverings effective July 20.
  • The Orange County Board of Education in California approved a recommendation to reopen schools in the fall by a 4-1 vote on July 13. The recommendation includes discouraging the use of face coverings and social distancing.