Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 21, 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.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced guidelines for hair salons, barbershops, and other personal care services. Those services are required to close indoor operations in counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list, but may continue operations outdoors with customers and staff wearing masks at all times.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): The Colorado Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines contain separate criteria for elementary schools and secondary schools. Decisions about school start dates and remote learning would be left to local districts.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): At a press conference, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey requested Georgia residents wear a mask in public or when social distancing inside is not possible. Georgia is one of 20 states with a Republican governor to not have a face mask mandate.
  • Kansas (divided government): Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed an executive order delaying the start of the public school year until Sept. 9 and requiring students, faculty, and visitors to wear face coverings in school buildings.
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced he was limiting social gatherings to 10 people. The state had permitted social gatherings of up to 50 people since the end of June.
  • Maryland (Divided government): Health officers in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City sent a letter to Maryland Deputy Secretary of Health Fran Phillips asking the state to roll back some of its reopenings. The letter focused on reducing gathering sizes, mandating face coverings for indoor and outdoor activities, and closing indoor service at restaurants and bars.
  • Nebraska (Republican trifecta): The Loup Basin Public Health Department became the first public health district in the state to proceed to Phase Four of reopening. Phase Four removes the capacity limits on bars, restaurants, and childcare facilities. Outdoor venues can operate at 100% capacity, while indoor venues can operate at 75% capacity.

Tracking industries: Indoor gathering limits

All 50 states are reopening in some way. Here, we give the status of one industry or activity across the states. Today’s question: what is the indoor gathering size limit in each state?

We last looked at indoor gathering size limits in the July 14th edition of the newsletter. Since then, the following changes took place:

  • Kentucky’s limit decreased from 50 people to 10.
  • Washington’s limit for counties in Phase Three decreased from 50 people to 10. The limit for counties in Phase Two did not change.
  • West Virginia’s limit decreased from 100 people to 25.

The following is an overview of gathering limits by state:

  • Fifteen states have no statewide indoor gathering size limit. Twelve of those states have Republican governors and three have Democratic governors.
    • On July 14, 15 states had no limit.
  • Thirteen states have a limit between 1 and 25. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and four of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 14, 11 states had a limit between 1 and 25.
  • Fourteen states have a limit between 26 and 50. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and five of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 14, 17 states had a limit between 26 and 50.
  • Two states (New Jersey and Vermont) have a limit between 51 and 100. New Jersey has a Democratic governor and Vermont has a Republican governor.
    • On July 14, one state had a limit between 51 and 100.
  • Six states have limits greater than 100. Four of those states have Republican governors and two of those states have Democratic governors.
    • On July 14, six states had limits greater than 100.
This is an in-depth summary of two state plans to reopen public K-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

Reopening Pre-K to 12 Schools in Pennsylvania

On June 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released preliminary guidance to assist schools in reopening for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance applied to school districts, charter schools, regional charter schools, cyber charter schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units. It was informed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) phased, color-coded reopening plan. On July 16, the Department of Education released updated guidance.

In a press release announcing the updated guidance, Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera said, “The health and safety of students, teachers and staff must be paramount as schools prepare for the upcoming school year. The Department of Education has been focused on supporting schools with resources and best practices to help school leaders make informed decisions within their local contexts and in response to evolving conditions.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education must approve district plans to reopen. Direct governing bodies (like school districts) must approve individual school plans to reopen.

On March 13, Wolf first ordered schools to close on March 16. He extended the closure on March 23 and again on March 30, before announcing on April 9 that students would not return to physical classrooms for the remainder of the academic year.

Pennsylvania does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, school districts in Pennsylvania traditionally select the start of the academic year, which can vary from late August to early September.


Pennsylvania has a divided state government. Democrats hold the governorship, while Republicans have majorities in the House and Senate.

Pennsylvania public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (16-17) $17,810 9
# of students (18-19) 1,710,571 7
# of teachers (Fall 2016) 122,552 6
# of public schools (18-19) 2,973 8
Student:teacher ratio (18-19) 14 36
% qualifying for free/reduced lunch (16-17) 47.5 26
Pennsylvania public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue 28,983,071 4
Federal revenue % 6.9 40
State revenue % 37.1 44
Local revenue % 55.9 5


District and school reopening plans

Before resuming in-person instruction, all local education agencies in Pennsylvania must submit a Health and Safety Plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. All plans must follow Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine’s July 1 order mandating universal face coverings.

Similarly, individual schools must also develop Health and Safety Plans before returning students to physical classrooms. A school’s governing body must approve the individual plan, and it must be made available to the public online. The plans should consider how schools can pivot to remote learning when necessary with minimal disruption to student learning.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan Template that schools and Local Education Agencies must fill out includes four options for reopening. Schools can determine which options to adopt based on local conditions and the county’s current designation under the state’s reopening plan:

  • Total reopen for all students and staff (but some students/families opt for distance learning out of safety/health concern).
  • Scaffolded reopening: Some students are engaged in in-person learning, while others use distance learning (i.e., some grade levels in-person, other grade levels remote learning).
  • Blended reopening that balances in-person learning and remote learning for all students (i.e., alternating days or weeks).
  • Total remote learning for all students. (Plan should reflect future action steps to be implemented and conditions that would prompt the decision as to when schools will re-open for in-person learning).

Mask requirements

On July 1, Health Secretary Rachel Levine issued an order requiring individuals to wear face coverings outside of the home, including on school property. The order applies to all individuals aged two and above.

All students, staff, and visitors are required to wear a face covering while on school property. Details include:

  • Individuals must wear a face covering (mask or face shield) unless they have a medical or mental health condition or disability, documented in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, that precludes the wearing of a face covering in school.
  • Teach and reinforce use of face coverings among all staff.
  • Face coverings may be removed to eat or drink during breaks and lunch periods; however, at those times, social distancing must be practiced.
  • Staff are not required to wear a face covering in situations where wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition to operate equipment or execute a task.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance calls for all schools to implement social distancing strategies for adult and staff interactions, as well as for students in hallways and classrooms.

For adult and staff interactions, the guidance calls for some of the following:

  • Hold group meetings such as parent-teacher conferences, staff meetings, and curriculum planning virtually.
  • Implement strategies to increase adult-adult physical distance in time and space, such as staggered drop-offs and pickups, and outside drop-offs and pickups when weather allows. Discourage parents from entering the school building.
  • Use physical barriers, such as plexiglass, in reception areas and employee workspaces where the environment does not accommodate physical distancing.

When students are in classrooms, the guidance calls for students to be seated at least six feet apart and facing the same direction. Additionally, the guidance recommends holding classes in gyms, auditoriums, or outdoors, where physical distancing can be maintained, when possible.

The guidance recommends the following for hallways:

  • Create one-way traffic pattern in hallways.
  • Place physical guides, such as tape, on floors or sidewalks to create one-way routes.
  • Stagger class times to limit numbers of students in hallways at any time.
  • Assign lockers by cohort or eliminate lockers altogether.
  • When feasible, keep students in the classroom and rotate teachers instead.

The guidance recommends some of the following for meals and cafeterias:

  • The best option is to serve individual meals and have students eat in classrooms or other spaces as an alternative to the cafeteria.
  • If meals are served in a cafeteria setting, sit students at least 6 feet apart and have students wear face coverings when walking to and from the cafeteria as well as when getting their food.
  • Seat students in staggered arrangements to avoid “across-the-table” seating.
  • Have students eat in cohorts.
  • Utilize outdoor space, when possible.

For outdoor playground spaces, the guidance recommends students be grouped within a cohort, and that the size of groups should be limited at any one time. Students and staff should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after playground use.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The following guidance is included for transportation and busing. This is not a complete list.

  • Require students and parents/guardians/caregivers to perform a symptom screening prior to arriving at school or the bus stop each day.
  • Bus drivers and passengers must wear face coverings while on the bus, in accordance with the Secretary of Health’s Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings issued July 1, 2020.
  • Promote social distancing at bus stops. Consider adding more bus stops to minimize the number of students waiting together.
  • Load the bus by filling seats from back to front to limit students walking past students to find a seat.
  • Assign seats by cohort (same students sit together each day) or encourage students from the same family to sit together, or both.
  • Disinfect buses after each run. Thoroughly clean and disinfect buses daily.

Nevada’s Path Forward

The Nevada Department of Education released school reopening guidance on June 9. According to the plan’s introduction, “This document is designed to help districts and schools make community-based decisions regarding the re-opening of school buildings and builds on their unique strengths to address local challenges. We hope the Framework will serve as a starting point for conversations. It is not formal guidance or a directive. While we hope that the Framework will be a valuable resource, districts and schools may apply the concepts and guidelines of the Framework at their discretion and as relevant to local circumstances.”

On the day the Department of Education released the guidance, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a directive requiring school districts, charter schools, and private schools to develop individualized reopening plans. The plans must be made public and approved by a district or school’s governing body at least 20 days before the 2020-2021 school year begins.

On March 15, Gov. Sisolak closed public schools through April 6. The state extended the closure on March 21 and again on April 1. Sisolak ended the public school year on April 22.

Nevada does not have a statewide date for schools to reopen, but they have been allowed to reopen since June 10. According to EdWeek, public schools in Nevada traditionally start the academic year between mid- and late August, with the exact start date varying by district.

The plan encourages decision-makers to refer to the CDC’s school reopening decision tree in assessing whether or not they should resume in-person operations.


Nevada 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 2019.

The following tables show public education statistics in Nevada, 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.

Nevada public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $10,528 43
Number of students (’18-’19) 498,614 32
Number of teachers (’16-17) 23,705 35
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 745 39
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 21.5 13
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 60.8% 8
Nevada public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $4,522,125,000 35
Percent from federal sources 9.2% 23
Percent from state sources 35.9% 45
Percent from local sources 54.9% 7


District reopening plans

Districts, character schools, and private schools are required to develop their own specific reopening plans. The plans have to be publicly available and approved by the body governing the district or school at least 20 days before the school year begins.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan recommends schools reopen using a hybrid schedule that incorporates online and in-person learning. However, the plan suggests local schools and boards work with local health authorities to develop an appropriate schedule using the online and in-person resources at their disposal.

Mask requirements

The guidance recommends that schools require students and faculty to wear masks whenever feasible. The document says mask-wearing is especially important when social distancing cannot be maintained.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The reopening plan recommends schools develop answers to the following questions to ensure general in-person operations resume safely:

  • Who will be responsible for overall maintenance during daily operations?
  • How will you determine if external entities will be allowed to use outdoor facilities, fields, playgrounds, etc. (e.g., teams, clubs, and other groups within the school community)?
  • Will all students and staff be brought back at one time or gradually starting with a small group before expanding?
  • What data will be used and who will be involved/consulted in the decision-making?
  • How do you ensure buildings and facilities are cleaned and ready to welcome students?
  • Who is responsible for adjustments to HVAC systems to maximize indoor air quality, and at what intervals will verifications be needed?
  • What steps will be taken to ensure that all water systems and features are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water?
  • Are there any parts of your campus that you need to close to students in the interest of health and safety (e.g., playgrounds)?
  • How will the following considerations be examined and resolved?
    • Not enough classroom space for social distancing (i.e. desks to be 6-feet apart)
    • Closing or limited use of cafeterias and playgrounds
    • Extended time for the use of facilities
    • Teachers rotate rather than students to reduce corridor/hallway traffic
    • Playgrounds and field usage – cleaning standards
    • Building systems and equipment cleaning standards

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Nevada’s reopening plan suggested schools and boards answer the following questions regarding busing and transportation:

  • How will you determine the usage of bus transportation based on the district/school facility usage plan, school schedules, school calendar, and the number of buses and/or drivers that a school district has available? …
  • What process will you use to review the capacity of the bus fleet as capacity may be severely decreased with physical/social distancing? …
  • What type of training will school bus drivers need before transporting students? How will drivers be informed about new policies and procedures, including how to effectively and efficiently clean their buses? …
  • Who has the responsibility to ensure that buses have the markings and signage necessary to ensure physical distancing?
  • How will you ensure the safety of school bus drivers who cannot be 6 feet away from passengers as they board and disembark the bus? If funding is available, consider installing plastic barriers to provide extra protection for the driver from the students.
  • How will you determine and implement guidelines for the transportation of students who are at higher risk of exposure and/or transmission of an illness?
  • How will the district or school communicate screening concerns (i.e. a student was screened at school and exhibited symptoms) to drivers and transportation aides?
  • Consider providing PPE to be used by the drivers and transportation aides and promote student use of cloth face coverings.
  • Will you require students and staff to use hand sanitizer upon boarding the bus?

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, as well as influencers relevant to recovering from the pandemic.

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) added Kansas to the list of states from which travelers must quarantine for two weeks. There are now 18 states on the city’s mandatory quarantine list.
  • On July 16, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) and members of the Atlanta City Council, seeking to have the Superior Court of Fulton County invalidate and prohibit enforcement of local orders related to COVID-19. The local orders mandate that people wear face coverings inside all businesses and restrict the number of individuals who can congregate on city property, exceeding current state requirements. Kemp’s complaint argues Atlanta “may only exercise the powers delegated to it by the state, and Mayor Bottoms’ attempts to exercise an undelegated power against the state are” beyond her legal authority. Kemp also claims Georgia law provides him “the power to suspend municipal orders that are contradictory to any state law or to his executive orders.” Kemp has asked the court to invalidate the orders and prohibit Bottoms from making press statements indicating she has the authority to impose measures beyond those ordered by the governor. Bottoms responded to the suit on Twitter: “3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19,” adding that “[a] better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing.” The case was originally assigned to Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe, who later recused herself and canceled a hearing scheduled for the morning of July 21.