Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: August 26, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at Delaware’s requirement that students wear masks in school, Texas issuing a rule that may allow bars and breweries to reopen, a featured story from the 1918 influenza pandemic, and much more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.


The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 25, Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said that Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties are on track to reopen bars that serve food, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks beginning Aug. 27. The businesses must follow state guidelines, including capacity limits and mask requirements.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) signed the 25th modification to his emergency declaration, requiring students in kindergarten and above to wear face coverings inside schools at all times. The order also requires school districts and charters to notify parents when a positive coronavirus case is identified in their child’s building.
  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): New restrictions are taking effect for Region 7 (Will and Kankakee counties) on Aug. 26. As part of the new restrictions, bars and restaurants cannot offer indoor dining, social events and gatherings are limited to 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity (whichever is less), and casinos have to close no later than 11 p.m. each night. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) also announced an additional statewide order requiring restaurant and bar patrons to wear a mask anytime they interact with a server, including whenever beverages or food are brought to a table. The rule is also effective August 26.
  • Idaho (Republican trifecta): The state House of Representatives passed a resolution that would end Gov. Brad Little’s (R) coronavirus emergency declaration if it becomes law. The resolution passed the House by a 48-20 margin.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced he will extend Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, including the statewide mask mandate, 50-person indoor gathering size limit, and statewide bar closure to on-premises consumption, through at least Sept. 11.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced indoor dining services will be permitted at restaurants and bars at 25% capacity, starting on Aug. 29. Church gathering capacity will also be increased from 25% to 40%.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced gyms and indoor amusement facilities (like movie theaters and bowling alleys) will be able to reopen starting Sept. 1.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 25, Interim Ohio Department of Health Director Lance Himes signed an order allowing indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, including auditoriums and theaters, to reopen with capacity limits. Outdoor venues are limited to 15% of the fixed seating capacity or 1,500 people, whichever is less. For indoor venues, the limit is 15% of fixed seating capacity or 300 people.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 25, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) adopted an emergency rule allowing bars and breweries to reopen as restaurants if they serve food from trucks or other vendors. Establishments must also set aside a dedicated area for preparing and storing food.
  • Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York (Democratic trifectas): On Aug. 25, Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, and Montana had been removed from the joint travel list requiring visitors to the tristate area to self-quarantine for 14 days. Guam was added to the list.

Daily feature: the 1918 influenza pandemic

Starting today, every Wednesday we’ll feature a newspaper story written during the 1918 influenza pandemic that illustrates how the country contended with a national health emergency in the midst of an election year. To see more stories from 1918, click here.

November 3, 1918 – “Precautions At Polls Ordered To Prevent Spread Of Plague”

On Nov. 3, the Rocky Mountain News reported on an order issued by health authorities to limit the spread of influenza in polling places.

To prevent the spread of the influenza epidemic at the polling places Tuesday, the state board of health yesterday issued an order setting forth precautions to be observed by voters and election officials. The order urges “upon the electors of the state to exercise every precaution to prevent a further spreading of the epidemic on election day; on the part of the election judges, clerks, and other officials in the polling places by wearing the standard Red Cross gauze mask; on the part of the voters by refraining from crowding into the election rooms and from assembling in groups for political discussions. On the part of the officers of the election by preventing all others from remaining in the polling places after the closing of the polls; and on the part of both state and municipal police authorities by co-operating to enforce these precautionary measures in their respective jurisdictions.”

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.

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. 24, Judge Charles W. Dodson, of Florida’s Second Circuit Court for Leon County, blocked an emergency order requiring that school districts physically open their schools or risk state funding. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued the emergency order. The court combined two lawsuits alleging the order violated the Florida Constitution. The plaintiffs, including the Florida Education Association (FEA), said that the order pressured school districts to physically reopen schools, as only those schools with state-approved reopening plans would be granted flexibility on student enrollment reporting, effectively losing state funding for students who attend school online instead of on campus. Dodson found the order “unconstitutional to the extent it arbitrarily disregards safety, denies local school boards decision making with respect to reopening brick and mortar schools, and conditions funding on an approved reopening plan with a start date in August.” Dodson said, “the day-to-day decision to open or close a school must always rest locally with the board or executive most closely associated with a school.” The state filed an appeal with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, which automatically stayed Dodson’s order. In turn, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to dismiss that stay, with FEA president Fedrick Ingram saying, “Shame on a Commissioner of Education who would spend taxpayer dollars to try and reinvent some kind of privileged defense when you already have been proven that you are wrong.” Corcoran countered in a statement, saying he was “100% confident we will win this lawsuit.”