Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: September 8, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at upcoming expanded restaurant capacity in Pennsylvania, nursing home visitation in Delaware, school reopenings, and much more. Want to know what happened Friday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Louisiana (divided government): Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is expected to announce on Sept. 9 whether the state can move into the third phase of reopening.

Since our last edition

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

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Several of the state’s largest school districts reopened to in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. Schools were allowed to reopen beginning Aug. 31, but many districts delayed their start until after Labor Day.
  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Long-term care facilities may begin submitting indoor visitation plans if they meet the following criteria: no new coronavirus cases within the last 14 days and adequate staffing and personal protective equipment.
  • Maryland (divided government): Public schools were allowed to reopen virtually. How long virtual instruction will last varies by district.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced restaurants will be able to increase indoor capacity to 50% starting Sept. 21. Owners who want to expand capacity will have to fill out a self-certification form stating their compliance with state guidelines. Restaurants will also have to stop alcohol sales by 10 p.m. starting Sept. 21.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 7, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order extending the statewide COVID-19 disaster declaration. Abbott first enacted the declaration in March and has subsequently extended it several times. The disaster declaration allows the state to access and direct resources to combat the pandemic.

Daily feature: Schools

All 50 states closed schools to in-person instruction at some point during the 2019-2020 academic year. Beginning in May 2020, schools in certain states began to reopen. In which states are schools allowed to open? In which states are they ordered to remain closed?

The current status of school reopenings is as follows:

  • Four states (N.M., R.I., Vt., W.V.) have a state-ordered school closure
  • Two states (Calif., Hawaii) have a state-ordered regional school closure
  • Three states (Del., N.C., Va.) are open for hybrid or remote instruction only
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, Mo., Texas) have state-ordered in-person instruction
  • Thirty-six states have reopenings that vary by school or district

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 Sept. 3, two Pennsylvania couples filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Gov. Tom Wolf (D), challenging Wolf’s COVID-19 contact tracing program and mask mandate. Pennsylvania’s mask mandate, which requires that people wear face coverings in public when they are unable to maintain a distance of six feet from others, and the contact tracing program, were both implemented through executive action. In their complaint, the plaintiffs object to “Wolf’s unilateral exercise of power,” alleging he “has assumed the power to lord over the lives of Pennsylvanians like a king, mandating restrictions that deprive citizens, including plaintiffs, of their fundamental liberties.” The plaintiffs allege that Wolf’s actions violate their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs also allege Wolf’s actions violate the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the federal government to guarantee that the states maintain a republican form of government. Wolf’s office has not commented publicly on the lawsuit. The case is assigned to Chief Judge John E. Jones III, an appointee of President George W. Bush (R).