Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 20, 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 Thursday? 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.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): On July 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list would begin the school year with online education only. As of July 20, 33 of the state’s 58 counties were on the watch list, which is based on new infections per capita, test positivity rate, and hospitalization rate.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On July 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) ordered that students spend at least half of their schooling time in-person. She said districts could seek waivers to the requirement from the state Department of Education. Des Moines, the state’s largest district, had previously announced one day of in-person instruction for students each week.
  • Michigan (divided government): On July 17, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order that adds to and clarifies an earlier order requiring face coverings in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces. The new order requires public safety officers to wear masks unless doing so would interfere with their responsibilities and says businesses may ask, but cannot assume, if unmasked customers cannot medically tolerate a face covering. Businesses can accept a verbal affirmation from customers, however.
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) extended the state’s Safe Return and mask requirement executive orders. Reeves added 10 additional counties to the original 13 with the mask requirement.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): New York City became the final region in the state to enter the fourth phase of reopening. In Phase IV, outdoor entertainment that the state classifies as low-risk can open at 33% capacity, outdoor sports can resume without spectators, and media production activities are permitted. New York City’s Phase IV does not allow increased indoor activity or allow malls and museums to reopen.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced sports the state classified as high-risk can begin reopening if they take place at outdoor venues. Murphy also said the state’s public school reopening plan will permit parents to opt their children into a fully online learning schedule.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Raymond Romero issued a 10-day injunction allowing restaurants and breweries to reopen for indoor dining at 50% capacity. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) previously issued an executive order rolling back indoor dining effective July 13 after it was initially allowed to reopen on June 1. The New Mexico Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit in response to the Governor’s re-closure. Another hearing is scheduled for July 30 to determine if restaurants will be permitted to stay open after the 10-day injunction expires.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): In an open letter to religious private schools dated July 17, Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) wrote that such entities are exempt from local orders closing or restricting school operations. According to Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said that private schools are not bound by orders that apply to public schools. Additionally, on July 17, the Texas Education Agency extended the time local school districts can keep schools closed and teach students remotely without losing funding. According to the new rules, districts can teach students remotely for up to eight weeks from the start of the school year, so long as the local school board votes on the matter after four weeks.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On July 17, the Utah Department of Health issued an order mandating the use of face coverings in all public and private K-12 schools. The order includes exemptions related to eating and drinking and medical conditions.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) reduced the limit on gatherings in counties in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan from 50 people to 10, effective July 20. Inslee also issued a statewide ban on live music, including drive-in concerts and music in restaurants.

Tracking industries: Face coverings

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 must you wear a face covering in public?

We last looked at face coverings in the July 13th edition of the newsletter. Since then, Alabama, Arkansas, and Colorado have instituted statewide face-covering requirements.

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

New Mexico’s Reentry Guidance

The New Mexico Public Education Department released phased school reopening guidance on June 23. According to the plan, “A phased entry approach will allow the state to collect and analyze data on the impact of a controlled start on the spread of the virus. This information will be essential to ensure that the state is able to move toward the goal of returning all children to a full school schedule as soon as it can be safely accomplished.”

The guidance permits schools to open on a hybrid schedule that allows public schools to comply with social distancing and other requirements as early as Aug. 3. School districts are allowed to set their own reopening dates. According to EdWeek, public schools in New Mexico traditionally start the academic year between early and mid-August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 12, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) closed public schools through April 5, effective March 16. Lujan Grisham ended the public school year on March 27.

Context

New Mexico 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 2018.

The following tables show public education statistics in New Mexico, 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.

New Mexico school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $11,602 35
Number of students (’18-’19) 333,536 36
Number of teachers (’16-17) 21,331 37
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 883 36
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 15.8 18
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 71.4% 2
New Mexico school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $3,986,781,000 37
Percent from federal sources 14.0% 4
Percent from state sources 69.5% 3
Percent from local sources 16.5% 48

Details

District reopening plans

School districts are not required to develop individualized reopening plans or submit plans to the state. Districts and schools must comply with the state’s eight minimum reopening requirements.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

New Mexico’s reopening plan contains a red phase, yellow phase, and green phase. State health officials are responsible for determining what phase is appropriate based on regional and statewide data.

In the red phase, most instruction would be conducted remotely, though schools may make exceptions for small groups of K-3 students. New Mexico public schools are starting the year in the yellow phase of reentry, which uses a hybrid schedule to limit classrooms to 50% capacity and ensure six-foot social distancing can be kept at all times. In the green phase, schools can reopen at full capacity, five days per week, with heightened sanitation and hygiene standards.

Mask requirements

Masks are required for students and faculty except when they are eating, drinking, or exercising.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

New Mexico’s reopening plan contains the following guidance for schools in the yellow phase of reopening to limit community spread:

  • Operate with at least six feet of social distancing at all times.
  • Establish and maintain communication with local and state DOH health officials.
  • Participate in contact tracing efforts and specimen collection efforts as directed by local health officials.
  • Post signage in classrooms, hallways, and entrances to communicate how to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Screen all students for COVID-19 symptoms to the greatest extent feasible. Consider temperature screenings or daily health check questionnaires for students and staff if feasible.
  • Educate parents to be on the alert for signs of illness in their children and to keep the children home when they are sick.
  • Establish a protocol for students/staff who feel ill/ experience symptoms when they come to school (see When a Child, Staff Member, or Visitor Becomes Sick at School).
  • Isolate and deep clean impacted classrooms and spaces.
  • Consider ways to accommodate needs of children, teachers/staff, and families at higher risk for severe illness.

In the green phase, the following guidance applies:

  • Practice social distancing to the greatest extent possible.
  • Establish and maintain communication with local and state DOH health officials.
  • Participate in contact tracing efforts and specimen collection efforts as directed by local health officials.
  • Post signage in classrooms, hallways, and entrances to communicate how to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Establish a protocol for students/staff who feel ill/experience symptoms when they come to school (see When a Child, Staff Member, or Visitor Becomes Sick at School).
  • Consider ways to accommodate needs of children, teachers/staff, and families at higher risk for severe illness.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

New Mexico’s public school reopening plan contains the following guidance for transporting students to and from school and activities:

  • While transporting students to and from schools, require students to sit in spaced and assigned seating according to the following:
    • A maximum of two students may sit together on a bus seat.
    • Schools in the yellow category should take all reasonable steps to limit bus seats to one student to the best of their ability, including encouraging parents to drive their children if possible, staggering bus routes, and expanding the minimum radius of eligibility for bus services.
  • Assign bus attendants or other additional staff to support with safety and screening of students to the extent possible.
  • Provide hand sanitizer for students, bus drivers and bus attendants.
  • Provide face masks or face shields for bus drivers and bus attendants.
  • Require bus drivers, bus attendants, and students to wear face masks or face shields.
  • Screen students, bus drivers and bus attendants for symptoms of illness. Conducting temperature checks on students before they get on the bus is recommended but not required.
  • Eliminate field trips and non-essential travel except travel conducted under NMAA guidelines for sports and extra-curricular activities.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the bus at least daily. It is suggested to install plastic wrap/membrane on high touch surfaces such as handrails that will be changed daily.
  • Establish protocols for bus stops and loading/unloading students to minimize congregation of children from different households.
  • Air out buses when not in use.
  • Restrict group transportation including carpooling.

Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners

The Oregon Department of Education released school reopening guidance on June 10. The document contains recommendations for schools, which are responsible for creating individual reopening plans. Each public and private school must submit an Operational Blueprint for Reentry to their local public health authority.

On March 12, Gov. Kate Brown (D) closed public schools from March 16 through March 31. On March 17, Brown extended the closure through April 28. Brown closed schools for the remainder of the academic year on April 8.

Oregon does not have a statewide date for schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Oregon traditionally start the academic year from late August to early September, with the exact date varying by district.

Context

Oregon school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $13,355 24
Number of students (’18-’19) 573,584 29
Number of teachers (’16-17) 29,756 33
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,257 30
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 20.2 5
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 50.50% 19
Oregon school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $7,077,486,000 28
Percent from federal sources 8.0% 33
Percent from state sources 52.0% 21
Percent from local sources 40.0% 26

Details

District reopening plans

Each individual school is responsible for submitting an Operational Blueprint for Reentry to their local public health authority. The health authority must approve the plan before a school can reopen. Reopening plans must be made available online by Aug. 15.

On June 10, Department of Education Director Colt Gill said, “We understand and honor the importance of local voice, leadership and control. These individual plans will reflect the distinct strengths and needs of each district and community.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Each individual school will decide whether to use in-person teaching, online learning, or a hybrid model. Schools choosing to only offer online learning must explain why they are not offering in-person teaching or hybrid learning.

Mask requirements

Face coverings are required for staff who are regularly within six feet of students or staff, bus drivers, staff preparing or serving meals, front office staff, and school nurses when providing direct contact care. All adult visitors are also required to wear face coverings.

Face coverings are recommended for all staff (based on local public health and CDC guidelines) and students in 6th-12th grade.

Conditions under which children should not wear a face covering are:

  • If they have a medical condition that makes it difficult to breathe through a face covering
  • If they have a disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering
  • If they are unable to remove the face covering independently
  • If they are sleeping.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The plan suggests that schools develop plans that incorporate the following recommendations:

  • Limiting the number of classroom transitions throughout the day
  • Create hallway procedures to promote physical distancing and limit gatherings
  • Cancel, modify, or postpone field trips, assemblies, athletic events, and other large gatherings to meet physical distancing requirements
  • Modify after school programs to meet physical distancing requirements
  • Create staggered arrival and/or dismissal schedules
  • Assign students or cohorts to specific school entrances and exits
  • Only allow one cohort to use playgrounds at a time and disinfect the area between uses
  • Stagger meal times and determine alternate locations for eating meals.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The plan offers the following suggestions for transportation:

  • Bus drivers are required to wear face coverings. Only students displaying symptoms are required to wear a face covering. Students with symptoms are required to stay six feet away from others but should be transported to school and isolated.
  • There must be at least three feet of physical space between passengers. When possible, there should be at least six feet between the driver and passengers.
  • Make routing adjustments and adjust bell times to account for reduced capacity due to physical distancing guidelines.

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.

  • Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova announced the district would not have in-person classes to begin the school year, which will also be delayed from Aug. 17 to Aug. 24. Cordova said the district would consider a gradual return to in-person learning after Labor Day.
  • Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson announced the district would delay its start date two weeks from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17. Johnson said the delay would give the district two additional weeks of information to make sure that reopening is the right decision.
  • A mask mandate in Lincoln, Nebraska, took effect on July 20. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) said state lawyers would analyze the situation and determine whether Mayor Gaylor Baird has the authority to issue the mask mandate.
  • In an appearance on CNN, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said the city reopened too quickly and it may shut down again. Garcetti said the city’s increase in coronavirus metrics were due both to businesses reopening and also to individuals being less vigilant about following public health guidelines.
  • The Smithsonian Institution announced that the National Zoo will reopen on July 24. Animal houses, indoor exhibits, and shops are expected to remain closed, while outdoor souvenir sales kiosks and food and drink vendors will be open.
  • Somerville, Massachusetts, Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced the city would begin Phase 3 of reopening on Aug. 3. The city was scheduled to enter the phase on July 20—two weeks after the rest of the state entered Phase 3 on July 6.
  • On July 14, Chief Judge Thomas Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington refused to prohibit enforcement of Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) emergency COVID-19 business restrictions. A waterpark, Slidewaters at Lake Chelan, which had been forced to shutter summer operations as a result of the restrictions, sought the injunction. In its initial motion for a temporary restraining order, the waterpark challenged the following:
    • Inslee’s Proclamation 20-05, which declared a state of emergency for all counties in Washington;
    • Proclamation 20-25.4, a four-phase plan for reopening the state; and
    • Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) emergency rule WAC 296-800-14035, which established mechanisms to enforce the mandatory business closures.
  • Though the temporary restraining order was denied on June 12, the plaintiff continued to seek a preliminary injunction, arguing, “(1) Governor Inslee does not have the authority to issue the emergency proclamations; (2) LNI does not have authority to issue an emergency rule based on the governor’s unlawful emergency proclamations; and (3) defendants’ actions have violated plaintiff’s substantive due process rights.”
  • Rice rejected these arguments, finding that Washington law allows a governor to proclaim a state of emergency during times of disorder. Rice also ruled that LNI acted within its power to issue emergency rules based on the governor’s proclamation. Lastly, Rice dismissed the plaintiff’s substantive due process claim: “It is not the court’s role to second-guess the reasoned public health decisions of other branches of government.” The plaintiff has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Rice is an appointee of Pres. Barack Obama (D).



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