Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: August 24, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states.

Today we look at schools in Arkansas returning to in-person instruction, Pennsylvania’s application for federal unemployment benefits, mask mandates, and much more. Want to know what happened Friday? 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.

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 21, Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey (R) requesting the governor issue a statewide mask mandate for students in schools and on buses.
  • Arkansas (Republican trifecta): Schools in Arkansas reopened to in-person instruction on Aug. 24. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement announced that district-level data on testing rates and active coronavirus cases would be made available online.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 21, Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended and modified his executive order implementing an earlier “last call” for alcohol. Under the modified order, last call will be moved one hour later to 11 p.m. The order will last for another 30 days.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Aug. 21, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidance instructing teachers and support staff in districts starting the school year with remote learning to teach and work from school buildings.
  • New Hampshire (divided government): On Aug. 21, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that restaurants in Hillsborough, Rockingham, Strafford, and Merrimack counties could offer dine-in services at 100% capacity. Restaurants in those counties were previously limited to 50% capacity. Sununu said tables must still be spaced six feet apart and employees serving food must still wear face coverings.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced high school sports classified as lower-risk (including soccer, tennis, field hockey, and swimming) will be able to resume practice and play starting on Sept. 21. Teams will only be allowed to travel to play against schools in neighboring regions and counties. School sports the state considers higher-risk (including football, wrestling, and ice hockey) can begin practices at the same time as lower-risk sports but cannot resume play.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 21, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) released early details of a forthcoming order that would allow performing-arts venues to reopen with restrictions. Restrictions will include a cap on attendance at 15% of the venue’s seating capacity. DeWine did not say when he would issue the order.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced the state is applying for President Donald Trump’s (R) partial extension of unemployment benefits. If the request is approved, individuals receiving at least $100 of weekly unemployment from the state who are unemployed because of the coronavirus will be eligible to receive an additional $300 per week from the federal government. The payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1.

Daily feature: 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 Aug. 17th edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have adopted a statewide public mask mandate or let a face covering requirement expire.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic.

  • On Aug. 21, Public Health Madison and Dane County issued an emergency order requiring county schools to start the year with fully virtual learning for grades 3-12. The order took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 24. Private and parochial schools were set to begin their school years in the county on Aug. 24.
  • On Aug. 21, Bloomington, Indiana, Mayor John Hamilton issued an executive order setting the indoor gathering size limit to 15 people within city limits. Hamilton said the order was the result of photos and videos shared on social media that showed students at Indiana University engaged in large social gatherings without masks or social distancing.
  • On Aug. 21, Judge Barbara Rothstein of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington granted Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s (D) request to block a U.S. Department of Education interim final rule regulating distribution of roughly $13.5 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) aid. In its complaint, the state argued that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had violated “the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), separation of powers, and the Spending Clause in the United States Constitution,” when she issued a rule “contrary to the clear, express statutory language of the CARES Act.” The state said the rule, if implemented, would prevent Washington’s public elementary and secondary schools from receiving emergency relief funds, as it would “either limit which public schools can use the funds, or reallocate significant funds to private schools regardless of student need.” Rothstein ruled in the state’s favor, finding that “private schools [would] receive a larger share of CARES Act funding than they would under a straight-forward application” of the Act’s poverty-based formula. Rothstein said the rule “was in excess of statutory authority and not in accordance with law.” Neither party has publicly commented on the ruling. Rothstein was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter (D).