Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 29, 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 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): New restrictions on weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, and gyms will 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). Additionally, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced on July 28 that he was prohibiting counties from advancing to the next phase of reopening indefinitely.

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.

  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) said that the state would announce its decision next week on how schools will reopen. He said that if current statistics hold, he expects students to be learning in person at least part-time.
  • Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order that allows colleges and universities to convert large spaces into instructional areas without needing approval from the Bureau of Fire Services.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a directive ordering all staff and students from K-12 to wear a mask in school at all times. The directive also imposed social distancing guidelines of three feet for preschools through middle schools, and six feet for high schools.
  • North Carolina (divided government): Gov. Roy Cooper (D) issued an executive order on July 28 that prohibits restaurants, wineries, breweries, and distilleries from serving alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The order goes into effect on July 31 at 11:00 p.m.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On July 28, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that the state health department would issue an order restricting activities at fairs that start on July 31 or later. The order will prohibit carnival activities, including games and rides.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced the metrics that will guide school reopening decisions. Counties must have 10 or fewer coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and a 7-day positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before in-person and hybrid instruction can resume. The state also must have a positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before any in-person or hybrid instruction can resume.
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) extended Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan until August 28. Raimondo also announced gathering limits are reduced from 25 people to 15, effective July 29.
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): Gov. Bill Lee (R) released guidelines for reopening schools. The recommendations cover testing and contact tracing, immunizations, and resources necessary for returning students to classrooms or teaching remotely.
  • Wyoming (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced on July 29 that he was extending three public health orders passed on June 15 that deal with limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and school reopenings. Indoor gatherings will continue to be limited to 50 people, while outdoor gatherings will continue to be limited to 250 people. The public health order that relates to school reopenings includes a modification that requires teachers and students to wear masks indoors and outdoors at school when social distancing isn’t feasible.

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 July 22nd edition of the newsletter. Since then, no states have opened or closed dine-in services at restaurants. California and New Jersey remain the only two states that do not allow indoor dining at restaurants.

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

Maine’s Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction

On Friday, July 17, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) and the Maine Department of Education released guidance for reopening schools, titled “Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction.” The framework consists of a series of safety measures, including six requirements for reopening schools, and a color-coded categorization system for classifying the risk of COVID-19 spread in counties. The system was designed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to guide school administrative units (SAU) in deciding the model of instruction to adopt at the beginning of the school year.

On March 31, Mills closed schools through April 30. On April 7, Maine’s commissioner of education, Pender Makin, recommended that schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

In announcing the Framework, Mills said, “Decisions on how best to return to school will be made in Maine, not in D.C. Individual districts and communities who know their schools best will, based on the conditions on the ground, decide for themselves how and when to reopen.”

Maine does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Maine traditionally start the academic year between the middle of August and early September. Individual districts determine the start date.


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

The following tables show public education statistics in Maine, 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.

Maine public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $15,724 16
Number of students (’18-’19) 175,254 42
Number of teachers (’16-17) 14,750 41
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 599 42
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 12.0 49
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 45.5% 31
Maine public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $2,737,132 41
Percent from federal sources 7% 39
Percent from state sources 39.4% 42
Percent from local sources 53.6% 12


District reopening plans

Maine’s guidance includes a mixture of requirements and recommendations. It includes six requirements that school administrative units must implement as a baseline to reopen.

School administrative units can decide when to start the school year and how or whether to return students to classrooms. Each school administrative unit is required to develop and maintain an Emergency Operations Plan.

The six requirements for schools are:

  • Symptom Screening at Home Before Coming to School (for all Staff and Students)
  • Physical Distancing and Facilities
  • Masks/Face Coverings
  • Hand Hygiene
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Return to School after Illness

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance includes a color-coded risk classification system that schools can use to determine which model of instruction to adopt based on the risk of COVID-19 spread in the county. The three colors are red, yellow, and green:

  • Categorization as “red” suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction should not be conducted.
  • Categorization as “yellow” suggests that the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that hybrid instruction models should be adopted.
  • Categorization as “green” suggests that the county has a relatively low COVID-19 risk and that in-person instruction can be adopted as long as the school can implement the 6 Requirements for Safely Opening Schools in the Fall (the requirements are listed directly below this green box) – although a SAU may opt for hybrid instruction if its buildings or readiness make adhering to the required Health and Safety Measures for All Schools a challenge.

Schools are not required to follow the guidelines for each color. However, schools must implement the six requirements regardless of the risk categorization of the county in which it resides.

Mask requirements

Masks are required for most students, staff, and teachers in all schools.

  • Adults, including educators and staff, are required to wear a mask/face covering.
  • Students age two and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth.
  • Masks/face coverings must be worn by all students on the bus.
  • Face shields may be an alternative for those students with medical, behavioral, or other challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings. The same applies to staff with medical or other health reasons for being unable to wear face coverings. Face shields worn in place of a face covering must extend below the chin and back to the ears.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Staff and students are required to check themselves for symptoms before coming to school.

  • Students (parents/caregivers) and staff members must conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day. Schools should provide information to families in their primary language to support them in conducting this check.
  • Any person showing symptoms must report their symptoms and must not be present at school.
  • Schools must provide clear and accessible directions to parents/caregivers and students for reporting symptoms and absences.

The guidance requires adults to maintain six feet of distance from other adults and students, while students are permitted to stay three feet from other students in most cases.

  • Adults must maintain 6’ of distance from others to the extent possible. Maintaining 3 ft distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements.
  • 6’ physical distancing is required for students while eating breakfast and lunch, as students will be unable to wear masks at that time.
  • A “medical isolation room” must be designated for students/staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day.
  • Adequate ventilation is required for classrooms, with schools having flexibility in implementation such as using properly working ventilation systems or outdoor air exchange using fans in open window or door.
  • Groups in any one area, room, or classroom must not exceed the Governor’s gathering size limits.

The guidance includes some of the following recommendations for student learning:

  • Build in learning and practice for remote learning when students are in-person so that everyone is prepared.
  • Emphasize project-based, interdisciplinary learning activities which can provide both organic formative assessment opportunities, high engagement, and efficient delivery of many skills and concepts.
  • Plan to provide equitable services (consider low-tech and no-tech options in addition to online learning; quasi-independent projects that can be completed with minimal resources at home) for each critical skill/concept/set of standards.
  • Keep equity at the forefront of decision-making around grouping.
  • Conduct needs assessments for students regarding access to technology, an adequate at home learning space, basic needs such as nutrition, to gauge their abilities and needs to access remote learning.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Students are required to apply hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting a bus. All students must wear masks while riding the bus. The guidance includes the following recommendations for transportation:

  • School bus contractors collaborate with SAUs to adopt cleaning and disinfecting protocols, referencing use of products with valid label claims against human coronavirus and product label instructions, that will be used when each run is complete for all school buses and school transportation vehicles.
  • Consider supplementing local SAU transportation protocols with the School Transportation Aligned for the Return to School (STARTS) Task Force national recommendations that are estimated to release mid-July.
  • Adopt local implementation procedures for transportation staff and students who ride the school bus to wear a cloth face covering and accommodate students with special or medical needs that may not be able to wear a cloth face covering. Follow U.S. DOT NHTSA guidance letter about school bus driver shields that is estimated to release mid-June.
  • Work with local special education and McKinney-Vento staff and student families to develop a COVID 19 transportation protocol for each special needs and homeless student.

Launch Nebraska

The Nebraska Department of Education most recently updated its school reopening guidance on July 20. It contains a phased approach to reopening schools based on four levels of risk and community spread: significant spread (red), moderate spread (orange), minimal to moderate spread (yellow), and minimal spread (green). According to the plan, “The purpose of this document is to outline protocols schools should consider given their particular level of risk as determined by their Local Health Department and/or the Department of Health and Human Services.”

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

On April 1, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) closed K-12 schools in the state through May 31, effectively ending the school year.


Nebraska is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Republican trifecta in 2011.

The following tables show public education statistics in Nebraska, 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.

Nebraska public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $15,176 18
Number of students (’18-’19) 326,392 37
Number of teachers (’16-17) 23,611 36
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,081 31
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 13.7 37
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 44.7% 33
Nebraska public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $4,168,349,000 36
Percent from federal sources 8.2% 30
Percent from state sources 32.4% 48
Percent from local sources 59.4% 3


District reopening plans

The Department of Education’s plan asks schools to coordinate with local health officials to determine their risk level, consider the corresponding guidance in the document, and create a Return to School team to create school or district-specific plans. Plan-makers should then continue to communicate with their “Local Health Department as they review and approve your plan. Finally, communicate the steps with all stakeholders including parents and family, community, and students.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Nebraska’s reopening plan allows for in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning, depending on a school district’s risk level. In the red phase, the plan says, “Schools should be closed for all in-house activities for an extended period of time,” and directs schools to move teaching to video conferencing. In the yellow and orange phases, the plan encourages schools to use a hybrid schedule to minimize on-site gathering sizes and allow for social distancing. The green phase allows schools to fully reopen for in-person instruction.

Mask requirements

Nebraska’s plan does not require masks in schools. The plan recommends that students and teachers wear masks when feasible, especially when social distancing is not possible. Districts and schools can develop their own mask policies.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The general preparedness guidelines for schools in the green phase include:

  • School preparedness activities primarily focused around awareness and updating emergency operations plans.
  • Close and continuing communication between school and local public health leaders focused on local epidemiology and any changes in disease surveillance that would necessitate a change to “minimal to moderate spread” community spread status.
  • Evaluate whether there are students or staff at risk for severe illness and/or students or staff living with a high-risk individual and develop or refine plans for remote work and education if necessary.
  • Encourage sick students and staff to stay home and consider waiving requirements for doctor’s excuse notes.
  • Clean and disinfect work and school areas regularly (between groups of students, between school day and after school programs, etc).
  • Embed teaching of hygiene practices into regular routines.

In the yellow and orange phases, the plan suggests the following mitigation measures:

  • School preparedness and response activities shift from ongoing surveillance to a series of active mitigation measures.
  • All staff and students should wear facing coverings when feasible.
  • Schools should be prepared to immediately implement physical distancing measures that include:
    • Reducing the frequency of large gatherings,
    • Altering schedules,
    • Limiting inter-school interactions, and
    • Deploying remote learning.
  • Short-term dismissals of 2-5 days and suspension of extracurricular activities should be expected for cleaning and contact tracing purposes
  • Students and teachers at increased risk of severe illness should be prepared to implement distance teaching and learning modalities.

For more information on guidance for in-person operations, click here.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The plan says school bus operations, schedules, and seating schemes can proceed normally in the green phase of reopening. In the yellow and orange phases, the plan outlines the following guidelines:

  • Clean and disinfect transportation vehicles regularly. Children must not be present when a vehicle is being cleaned.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing products securely away from children and adequate ventilation when staff use such products. Ensure proper and adequate ventilation after cleaning and before returning students to the area.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the vehicle (eg. surfaces in the driver’s cockpit, hard seats, arm rests, door handles, seat belt buckles, light and air controls, doors and windows, and grab handles) prior to morning routes and prior to afternoon routes.
  • Keep doors and windows open when cleaning the vehicle and between trips to let the vehicles thoroughly air out.
  • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect equipment including items such as car seats and seat belts, wheelchairs, walkers, and adaptive equipment being transported to schools.
  • Create a policy that if an individual becomes sick during the day, they must not use group transportation to return home and must follow protocols outlined above.
  • Create a plan for getting students home safely if they are not allowed to board the vehicle.
  • If a driver becomes sick during the day, they must follow protocols for sick staff above and must not return to drive students.
  • Encourage the use of hand sanitizer before entering the bus. Where possible, hand sanitizer should be supplied on the bus.
  • Where possible, allow for six feet of physical distancing between students, and between students and the driver, while seated on vehicles if feasible (e.g., by utilizing larger vehicles with more seats, by increasing frequency of routes to reduce occupancy, one rider per seat in every other row)
  • Consider keeping windows open while the vehicle is in motion to help reduce spread of the virus by increasing air circulation, if appropriate and safe.

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.

  • Indianapolis Public Schools announced that the board was considering beginning the school year with fully remote learning and delaying in-person instruction until at least October. If approved, the proposal would also provide devices to all students in pre-K through 12th grade and a mobile hotspot for families without internet access.
  • Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska announced that high schools will open at 50 percent capacity, with two groups of students alternating between in-person and virtual instruction based on last name. The virtual learning will take place in real-time.
  • On July 8, the owner of a beauty salon in Salem, Oregon, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, alleging that Gov. Kate Brown (D) and other state officials and agencies had violated her constitutional rights by temporarily shutting down her salon. In her complaint, salon owner Lindsey Graham argues that Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 requiring salons like Graham’s to cease operations immediately and indefinitely violated her constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Additionally, Graham alleges that various state actors “engaged in a course of conduct intended to harass, intimidate, extort, and bully” Graham for exercising her First Amendment rights to speech and protest after challenging the logic behind, and authority to impose, COVID-19 restrictions. Neither Brown nor her office has commented publicly on the suit.