Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 31, 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 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

August 1

  • Massachusetts (divided government): Starting Aug. 1, most travelers and returning residents must fill out a travel form and self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state or produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Travelers from states classified as lower-risk, which includes Connecticut, Vermont, and Hawaii, among others, are exempt from the test or quarantine requirements.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Umatilla County will move from Phase 2 back to the baseline stay-at-home phase of the state’s reopening plan, effective Aug. 1. Morrow County will move from Phase 2 back to Phase 1. Brown also said she removed Lincoln and Union counties from the state’s watchlist and added Hood River, Marion, and Multnomah.
  • Wisconsin (divided government): Effective Aug. 1, everyone in Wisconsin over the age of five will be required to wear a mask in indoor public settings.
  • Vermont (divided government): Effective Aug. 1, everyone in Vermont over the age of two will be required to wear a mask in public.

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.

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said school districts would be able to choose between a fully in-person and hybrid plan without requiring state approval. Districts that want to use a fully remote model must apply for an exemption from the state Department of Education.
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): The State Board of Education voted to delay the start of the public school year until Aug. 17. Oahu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued an executive order closing bars in the county, effective immediately.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) set requirements for public schools to seek a state waiver allowing them to provide online-only education. A school must have at least a 15% positive test rate in its county and a 10% absentee rate among students. Schools in counties with a 20% or higher positive test rate do not need to meet the absentee rate requirement. The waiver would allow a school to operate fully online for two weeks before re-applying for the waiver.
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): The Maine Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance requires all staff and students age five and older to wear masks.
  • Michigan (divided government): On July 29, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order that takes effect on July 31. The order places restrictions on several counties in northern Michigan, including capping indoor gatherings at 10 people and closing bars that derive more than 70% of their revenue from the sale of alcohol.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Secretary of Health Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through Aug. 28.
  • Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced on July 30 that he directed the State Health Department and the Department of Education to work together to develop a plan to test teachers for COVID-19 on a monthly basis.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): The Ohio Liquor Control Commission adopted a rule first proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) that bans the sale of liquor in all Ohio establishments after 10 p.m. The restriction goes into effect July 31.
  • South Carolina (Republican trifecta): State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced masks will be required in South Carolina public school facilities for staff and students in grades 2-12.

Tracking industries: Bars

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 go out for a drink?

We last looked at bars in the July 24th edition of the newsletter. Since then, Washington began allowing outdoor seating at bars in certain regions. In Hawaii, bars closed in the only county where they were previously allowed to reopen. In Kentucky, bars went from being allowed to operate at 50% capacity to closed.

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

Return to Learn Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Education released its school reopening guidance on June 3. Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said, “It is not necessary to act on every consideration in this comprehensive framework. Rather, in keeping with the guidance we have received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Oklahoma health officials, districts should take a layered approach to COVID-19 mitigation, adopting those policies and practices that are feasible, practical and acceptable within their school community.”

Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma traditionally start the academic year in mid-August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 16, the Oklahoma Department of Education closed schools from March 17 to April 6. The Department closed schools for the remainder of the school year on March 25.


Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma, 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.

Oklahoma public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $8,977 48
Number of students (’18-’19) 698,800 26
Number of teachers (’16-17) 41,090 28
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,807 22
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 16.5 16
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 62.5% 6
Oklahoma public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $6,261,170,000 30
Percent from federal sources 11.5% 11
Percent from state sources 49.4% 24
Percent from local sources 39.2% 28


District reopening plans

School districts are encouraged to assemble a planning team to consider the recommendations put forth in the Return to Learn plan. Additionally, the document says districts should develop contingency plans in case schools need to close short-term or long-term and learning needs to be moved online.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan says school districts should plan to conduct most of the academic year on a traditional, in-person schedule. It also allows schools to conduct operations fully or partially online and encourages schools to develop online and hybrid options in case their community experiences a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Mask requirements

The Department of Education allows school districts to develop their own policies on masks and other personal protective equipment. The plan notes that schools should encourage mask use when possible and says face coverings are especially recommended when social distancing cannot be practiced.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The plan suggests school districts consider the following precautions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and prepare for possible disruptions:

  • Adopt policies for screening staff, students and visitors prior to entry
  • Adopt policies for social distancing and gatherings
  • Develop a plan in the event that a positive case, or suspected case, is identified in the school
  • Create a tiered response for potential school closures
  • Promote a culture of good hygiene practices
  • Evaluate school cleaning practices
  • Review policies regarding school building use for non-school functions
  • Work with facilities manager to mitigate viral spread through ventilation systems
  • Adopt alternate school calendars
  • Consider staggering the days students are in school buildings
  • Adopt policies for virtual instruction
  • Consider adjusting routines to allow for social distancing in common areas
  • Consider reorganizing classrooms to maximize social distancing
  • Adjust attendance policies

For more information on each of the above points, click here (starting on page 11).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Oklahoma’s school reopening plan recommends districts implement social distancing to the greatest extent possible, stagger schedules, and refer to CDC guidance. The plan also encourages districts to:

  • Inspect buses that have not been thoroughly inspected since last fall.
  • Prior to transporting students, clean any school bus used for food distribution.
  • Require school bus drivers to attend in-service training before transporting students to ensure they understand new policies and procedures and how to effectively clean their buses.
  • Include cleaning of high-use areas – including steering wheel, handles and seat backs – in pre- and post-trip inspections.
  • Revise bus rider policies to reflect new district bus safety measures, which may include temperature checks before allowing a child to board, requiring passengers to wear a mask, marking seats off with tape to avoid children sitting too close to each other, etc.
  • Give transportation managers additional time to assign/reassign buses if social distancing requires using more buses in an effort to transport fewer students per bus.
  • Ensure transportation of students with disabilities or accommodations is in accordance with current Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and district policy.
  • Consider using a monitor (teacher’s aide or other staff) to ensure students practice social distancing.
  • Install a clear protective barrier behind or alongside the driver in accordance with applicable safety code.
  • Be mindful that transportation issues will change based on the evolving nature of the pandemic.

South Carolina’s AccelerateED Task Force recommendations

Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman’s AcceleratED task force released recommendations for reopening schools on June 22. School districts are responsible for creating reopening plans based on these recommendations and in consultation with local public health officials.

On March 15, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) closed schools statewide for two weeks. On March 24, McMaster extended the closure through April 30. The closure was made permanent for the rest of the school year on April 22.

South Carolina does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in South Carolina may start no earlier than the third Monday in August (Aug. 17 this year), with the exact date varying by district.


South Carolina is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has been a Republican trifecta since 2003.

The following tables show public education statistics in South Carolina, 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.

South Carolina public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $12,605 30
Number of students (’18-’19) 780,804 23
Number of teachers (’16-17) 50,789 22
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,270 29
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.8 27
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 67.0% 3
South Carolina public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $8,891,519,000 25
Percent from federal sources 9.6% 20
Percent from state sources 47.2% 26
Percent from local sources 43.2% 22


District reopening plans

Districts are responsible for developing their own specific reopening plans in accordance with the AcceleratED recommendations and in consultation with local public health officials.

The Department of Education (DOE) must approve all district plans. Those plans are posted publicly on the DOE website.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

On July 14, McMaster said he would require all district plans to give parents the option to send students to school five days a week in addition to a virtual education option. McMaster instructed Spearman’s department not to approve plans that do not provide both options.

A spokesman for Spearman said she disagreed with McMaster’s requirement for the in-person education option. “School leaders, in consultation with public health experts, are best positioned to determine how in-person operations should be carried out to fit the needs of their local communities. I remain committed to supporting them in this endeavor and will only approve those plans that offer high quality options and keep safety as their top priority,” she said.

On July 27, Spearman approved the first six district reopening plans. Four of them included a five-day in-person learning option for at least some students.

Mask requirements

The task force recommendations defer to districts on mask requirements.

Recommendations for the use of masks and other PPE should be determined by districts in accordance with the latest guidance from DHEC and/or the CDC. The latest DHEC guidance is attached to this report as Appendix B, but districts should review the most recent guidance released closer to the start of school.

On July 31, Spearman announced that all staff and students in grades 2-12 would be required to wear masks in public school facilities.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The task force recommended that schools consider the following when offering a fully in-person learning option:

  • Staggered class dismissal to prevent all students in the hallways simultaneously;
  • Redesigning student arrival in the morning to prevent congregations of large groups. This may include a necessity for students to report directly to classrooms rather than meeting in common spaces;
  • Scheduling restroom breaks;
  • If possible, schools should consider scheduling “cohorts” of students with common courses so teachers, rather than students, rotate between classes;
  • As long as health guidelines recommend maintaining distance between individuals, schools should seek to minimize or eliminate large group gatherings such as assemblies, pep rallies, spirit nights, or other similar activities; and
  • In addition to focusing on transitions within a school, districts should seek to minimize student transitions beyond the school during the instructional day. This will require a careful review of field studies and other activities requiring student travel. This includes developing procedures to allow high school students opportunities to safely engage in career center opportunities if available. Whenever possible, schools should seek to use virtual activities and experiences to reduce the necessity for students to travel off campus during the school day. Schools should also make sure to provide an equal level of access to off-campus opportunities for curricular activities as is provided for co-curricular activities.

The task force also issued the following recommendation for high schools:

When possible, high schools should seek to provide upperclassmen with late arrival or early dismissal in place of study hall periods. Schools should still place priority on building full student schedules for students that do not have the 24 credits required to graduate and for students requiring additional course work to achieve CTE completer status. However, for students that have met these requirements, schools should seek to either provide late arrival or early dismissal when possible. For students desiring to take courses beyond the 24 credits required for graduation, schools should consider VirtualSC when it provides a desired course. However, this recommendation should not be construed as a reason to reduce student access to taking multiple years and credits of an academic program such as performing arts, CTE, etc.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

On July 27, Spearman issued an order requiring students and staff on state-owned school buses to wear masks at all times. She said buses will be able to operate at 67% capacity with the mask mandate.

Initial task force recommendations mentioned guidelines from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control that set a 50% capacity limit for school buses.


  • SC for Ed, a teacher’s union, issued a statement in support of Spearman and in opposition to McMaster’s in-person option requirement. “We ask that all educators contact Superintendent Spearman to encourage her to continue to allow districts to use DHEC guidance to make plans that prioritize student and staff safety, and to contact their local school boards, and their elected representatives in the legislature to demand that districts be allowed the flexibility to temporarily eliminate face-to-face instruction until disease activity in the school area is within safe parameters as defined by the DHEC.”

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 28, Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block the resumption of in-person criminal proceedings in New York City. Such proceedings were suspended in March as a COVID-19 safety precaution. In their complaint, the plaintiffs argued that the Office of Court Administration’s actions “endanger the lives of thousands of New Yorkers by perpetuating the spread of this virus and burden the constitutional rights to access the courts.” The plaintiffs also argued that the reinstatement of in-person criminal proceedings violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Carter disagreed, writing that the plaintiff’s request would require an impermissible “intrusion into state court operations and proceedings,” which would disrupt “[t]he special delicacy of the adjustment to be preserved between federal equitable power and state administration of its own law.” In response to the ruling, a representative for the Office of Court Administration said: “We are pleased with Judge Carter’s decision allowing us to continue deliberate, measured and careful resumption of in-person appearances.” The plaintiffs said: “[We] are enormously disappointed that the federal court relied on a technicality to allow the Office of Court Administration” to place New Yorkers in “unnecessary risk during a pandemic.” Carter was appointed to the court by Barack Obama (D).