Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 28th, 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.

The next two days

What is changing in the next two days?

July 30

  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced new restrictions on weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, and gyms that take effect on July 30. Weddings and funerals will be limited to 20% capacity (with a maximum of 30 people) and event receptions will be prohibited. In Phase 3 counties, restaurants will be limited to 50% capacity, members of the same table will have to be from the same family, and the maximum number of people at a table will decrease from 10 to five. Bars will be closed for indoor service (outdoor service will still be permitted). Gym occupancy will be reduced to 25% in Phase 3 (or five people in Phase 2).

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 the state would spend $52 million in eight counties in California’s Central Valley to fund improved isolation protocols, testing protocols, and more medical personnel.
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced he is closing bars and limiting restaurant capacity to 25% for two weeks starting July 28. Beshear also asked schools to avoid reopening for in-person instruction until the third week of August.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education signed an agreement with the state’s teachers unions to reduce the length of the 2020-2021 school year from 180 days to 170 days.
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) amended the statewide Safe Return order. The new order limits gatherings to 10 people indoors or 20 outdoors, requires bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and only allows bars to serve alcohol to seated customers. Reeves also added six counties to the county-specific mask order.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said the state was abandoning its phased reopening strategy in favor of what he called a “long-term system of mitigation levels that will allow our businesses and residents to have advanced notice and understanding on what direction their county could be heading based on updated criteria.”
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On July 27, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued updated reopening guidelines that allow restaurants to resume self-serve buffets. Under the new guidelines, which affect restaurants in counties in the orange and yellow phases of the reopening plan, restaurants must replace serving utensils every 30 minutes and customers must use hand sanitizer whenever they enter a new food bar line. The new guidelines also require restaurants open 24 hours a day to close for cleaning and sanitizing every morning and evening.
  • Vermont (divided government): Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced on July 28 that schools will not reopen until Sept. 8. School districts will decide whether to return students to physical classrooms or offer distance learning.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an executive order placing new restrictions on businesses in the Hampton Roads area, including the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Restaurants in the Hampton Roads area will be limited to 50% capacity for indoor dining and must stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m., and gatherings will be restricted to 50 people. The restrictions take effect on July 31.

Tracking industries: 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 21st edition of the newsletter. Since then:

  • Mississippi decreased its indoor gathering size limit to 10.
  • We reclassified Utah as having no statewide indoor gathering size limit after several counties moved into the green phase of reopening, which has no limit.

The following is an overview of gathering limits by state:

  • Sixteen states have no statewide indoor gathering size limit. Thirteen of those states have Republican governors and three have Democratic governors.
    • On July 21, 15 states had no limit.
  • Fourteen states have a limit between 1 and 25. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and five of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 21, 13 states had a limit between 1 and 25.
  • Twelve states have a limit between 26 and 50. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and three of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 21, 14 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 21, two states 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 21, six states had limits greater than 100.

Featured school reopening plans: Kansas and Kentucky

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

Kansas’ Navigating Change

The Kansas State Department of Education released school reopening guidance on July 13. The plan contains recommendations and consideration for schools and districts. It does not discuss requirements. The document’s introduction says, “The purpose of this document is not to prescribe what schools should do, but rather what considerations and discussions should happen in schools as they plan to support their students and communities as they navigate the uncharted waters of providing a quality education during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Kansas does not have an official date for public schools to reopen—individual districts can set their own timelines. According to EdWeek, public schools in Kansas traditionally start the academic year in mid-August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 27, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) closed K-12 schools in the state from March 23 through May 31, effectively ending the school year.


Kansas has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has had a divided government since 2019.

The following tables show public education statistics in Kansas, 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.

Kansas public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $12,703 29
Number of students (’18-’19) 491,442 34
Number of teachers (’16-17) 36,193 29
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,314 28
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 13.6 38
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 48.2% 21
Kansas public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $6,225,153,000 31
Percent from federal sources 8.9% 26
Percent from state sources 64.3% 7
Percent from local sources 26.8% 44


District reopening plans

Kansas’ school plan encourages school districts to create contingency planning task forces to develop and review district-specific reopening frameworks. The document recommends district plans include input from students, parents, teachers, and medical professionals. Districts are also encouraged to consult with local health officials to ensure compliance with local laws.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan contains recommendations for schools conducting on-site, hybrid, and remote operations. Schools and districts are encouraged to consider which method is appropriate for their communities and make changes to their schedule throughout the school year as circumstances allow.

Mask requirements

On July 20, Gov. Kelly (D) signed an executive order requiring everyone five years of age and older entering private and public schools to wear a face covering. On July 23, Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) said local school districts and counties have the constitutional authority to opt-out of the mask order. The governor has maintained that local governing bodies cannot opt-out of the order.

The Department of Education plan encourages school districts to require students and faculty to wear face coverings whenever cohorting and social distancing measures cannot be practiced. It contained the following recommendations:

  • Best practices suggests that visitors, staff, and students should wear masks or face coverings while inside school facilities unless it inhibits the person’s ability to perform his or her job, inhibits a student’s ability to participate in the educational process or is disruptive to the educational environment.
  • Masks or face coverings are also recommended outside when social distancing is not possible.
  • Face coverings, masks and/or shields, should be required anytime social distancing and cohorting cannot be maintained. Unless otherwise required by state or county order, the requirement to wear face coverings could be waived for Pre-K – 5th/6th grade students.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Kansas’ plan contains the following general recommendations for classrooms:

  • Practice and prepare to model proper hygiene practices, such as handwashing, using hand sanitizer and social distancing techniques, including alternatives to handshakes.
  • Post signage in classrooms, hallways and entrances to communicate how to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Practice and prepare to model the proper wearing and disposal of personal PPE, including masks.
  • Train staff in trauma-informed practices to strengthen the trauma- informed culture for students. Prepare to communicate effectively and empathetically with students about the pandemic and about the necessary changes to school life.
  • Reduce class sizes as needed, and maintain adequate staffing levels for teaching and learning to occur in a safe and equitable manner (i.e. band, choir, physical education).
  • Social distance as possible by increasing space between students during in person instruction. Understand there may be times that it will be necessary to provide close individual contact to provide comfort, private discipline or personal instruction. When in close contact for long periods of time, staff should wear PPE, as feasible.
  • Extra furniture should be removed from the classroom to increase the space available to provide distance between students.
  • As much as possible, furnishings with fabric and other hard-to-clean coverings should be removed from the classroom.
  • Arrange student furniture to have all students face in the same direction.
  • When possible, assign seats and require students to remain seated in the classroom.
  • Utilize outdoor spaces as appropriate.
  • Prepare to accommodate students with disabilities, including students who may be nonverbal, so they are safe from harm.
  • Support equitable access to continuous instruction by ensuring that all students have the required hardware, software and connectivity to be successful.
  • Students who have underlying conditions or risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should be provided with opportunities to continue learning while prioritizing their health and safety.
  • Staff members who have underlying conditions or risk factors identified by the CDC should communicate with their supervisor about appropriate protective measures and accommodations.
  • Consider delaying academic instructional activity to start school with a focus on social and emotional learning activities that includes trauma screening and supports to help students and adults deal with grief, loss, etc. Assess students’ capacity and readiness to learn and address gaps from previous year prior to focusing on academics and classroom plans. Socio-emotional supports should then be continued throughout the school year and be integrated into students’ regular learning opportunities.
  • Practice what different learning environments may look like as schools fluidly move from one learning environment to another in response to local transmission. Align school response to community response.
  • Districts may consider adopting an alternate calendar for the school year (have multiple calendars ready for several scenarios).
  • Districts might consider staggering the days students are attending (half-day rotation, one-day rotation, two-day rotation, or A/B week) and stagger students’ schedules.

For complete on-site health and safety guidelines, click here (starting on page 1002).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The Department of Education suggested the following general recommendations for transporting students in buses and other school vehicles:

  • Assigned seating for students on all routes.
  • Have individuals from the same household sit together.
  • Fill the bus seats at the back of the bus first, and then load to the front to avoid students walking past each other in the aisle. Within the scope of this process, school districts still need to be cautious about having students of various age groups sit together due to bullying and other issues.
  • Unload students from the front of the bus first to avoid students walking past each other in the aisle.
  • If the bus is not full, spread students out as much as possible.
  • When possible, open the windows while transporting students to improve air circulation.
  • Minimize loading times by prestaging students for bus transportation home.
  • Masks are recommended for all students. If masks are required by the health department and/or the local school board, a plan needs to be in place on what occurs if a student shows up to the bus without a mask.

For complete transportation guidelines, click here (starting at page 1031).

Kentucky’s Healthy At School

The Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) released school reopening guidance in June. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released additional guidance on July 6 after releasing interim guidance on May 15. The KDE guidance says it is meant to be used as a companion to the KDPH guidance and that both should be used as guides for school districts developing their own individual school reopening plans.

On March 13, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) closed public schools from March 16 through March 30. He extended the school closure on March 20 (through April 2) and extended it again on April 2 (through May 1). On April 20, Beshear closed public schools for the remainder of the school year.

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


Kentucky has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has had a divided government since 2019.

The following tables show public education statistics in Kentucky, 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.

Kentucky public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $11,518 38
Number of students (’18-’19) 677,821 27
Number of teachers (’16-17) 42,029 27
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,536 23
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 16.2 17
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 58.7% 11
Kentucky public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $7,453,976,000 26
Percent from federal sources 11.5% 11
Percent from state sources 54.9% 18
Percent from local sources 33.6% 35


District reopening plans

Districts must use state guidance to develop their own reopening plans. The guidance says state plans should evolve over time and “districts should work closely with their local health departments and other partners to ensure their policies, procedures and protocols align with the current scientific information.”

The guidance does not say if state-approved plans must be made publicly available.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance released in June and July does not say what sort of model districts must use for learning. The initial guidance released in May asked schools to “prepare for three contingencies for the start of the school year: an early opening, a traditional opening and a late opening” based on local conditions.

KDE established four potential alternative schedules for schools to consider:

  • Rotating schedules where groups of students would attend school on alternating patterns, such as A/B days, AM/PM patterns, or alternating weeks.
  • A synchronous opt-in model where parents could choose whether their children attend school in person or virtually, with instruction delivered synchronously to students both at school and at home through live streaming.
  • A hybrid model between rotating and synchronous opt-in models where students not learning in school are learning at home in real time through live streaming.
  • A fully online model where students receive instruction at home through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning.

Mask requirements

The guidance recommends that staff and all students in first grade or older should wear a cloth mask unless the student has a medical exemption. The following guidelines for masks are also included:

  • Masks can be lowered during classroom time if all students and staff are seated 6 feet apart and no persons are walking around inside the classroom.
  • Masks should:
    • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
    • Be secured with ties or ear loops Include multiple layers of fabric Allow for breathing without restriction
    • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
    • Cover both nose and mouth
  • Schools should develop a standard for masks to assure messaging or images on masks align with school dress code.
  • Schools should develop a plan for purchase/donation of cloth masks for provision to students who arrive without a mask or do not have resources to obtain a mask.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance includes the following safety expectations for schools:

  • Stagger arrival and dismissal times.
  • Increase space between students by rearranging seating to maximize space between students to be 6 feet or greater.
  • If the physical space in the school doesn’t allow for spacing students’ desks 6 feet apart, space desks as far away as possible and require masks at all times in that classroom for students and staff. All desks should be arranged so students’ seats face the same direction.
  • Reduce class sizes to allow for smaller cohorts of students to decrease potential need for contact tracing.
  • Cancel field trips, assemblies, and other large group activities to avoid mixing students in large common areas. Adhere to the Governor’scurrent guidance regarding group gatherings.
  • Limit non-essential visitors on school property.
  • Ensure students go straight from vehicles to their classrooms to avoid congregating.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance says students should wear masks on the bus unless they have a medical waiver. It recommends that passengers from the same household be seated together and that staggered, arranged seating be used.

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. 

  • On July 20, Judge William Griesbach, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, dismissed a lawsuit seeking to void local COVID-19 orders enacted in Wisconsin. The local orders, which were enacted after the state supreme court overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) statewide order, originated in various counties and cities across the state. The lawsuit claimed six violations of constitutional rights, including the right of assembly, the exercise of religion, and equal protection. Without addressing substantive issues presented in the plaintiffs’ complaint, Griesbach ruled that, because the lawsuit failed to allege coordinated action between the local officials, the case failed to properly join all the defendants into one lawsuit. Finding that the claims raised were “largely separate and distinct” and that each plaintiff was subject to different orders executed in different parts of the state, Griesbach ruled that “[e]ach of the government entities are independent of each other, and the fact that various governmental officials consulted with each other before they issued local orders in response to the pandemic does not transform their independent actions into a single transaction or occurrence.” Griesbach dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled. In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said, “I’m happy that this challenge to critical rules to protect public health was dismissed.” Joseph Voiland, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told news outlets he was considering whether to file an amended lawsuit or appeal the dismissal. Griesbach was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush (R).
  • Regal Cinemas announced it would reopen theaters across the U.S. beginning Aug. 21, with theaters opening according to state and local ordinances. The company has 549 locations in 42 states.