Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: September 11, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling on in-person instruction in Dane County, schools in California receiving in-person education waivers, travel restrictions, and more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 14, bars may reopen at 50% capacity. The state’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation announced the reopening on Sept. 10.
  • Nebraska (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 14, all counties except Lancaster County will enter Phase Four of reopening. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) made the announcement on Sept. 10. At the time of his announcement, 27 counties were in Phase Four.

Since our last edition

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

  • California (Democratic trifecta): The California Department of Public Health released a list of 414 schools that had applied for and received a waiver to begin in-person instruction. An additional 10 schools applied for the waiver but were denied. The waiver applies only to grades Transitional Kindergarten through 6th. These schools are all in counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced that schools opting for fully virtual instruction were not allowed to have in-person activities. “If students can’t be in school safely it makes no sense to have in-person extracurricular activities,” Reynolds said. Des Moines Public Schools, the state’s largest district, began fully virtual instruction this week without seeking the required waiver from the state.
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Sept. 11, Gov. Tim Walz (D) issued an executive order extending the peacetime emergency through Oct. 12. He first enacted the peacetime emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic in March.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the state will spend $88.6 million of its CARES Act funding to help childcare providers reopen. Cuomo said an application for the funding will be available to childcare centers later in September and will remain open through Dec. 31.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 11, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued an executive order moving Box Elder County and Carbon County into the green phase—the least restrictive of Utah’s four reopening phases. Thirteen counties are in green, while the remaining counties are in yellow.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 10, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an executive order moving the Hampton Roads area of Virginia back into Phase Three of reopening. Northam reimposed restrictions on Hampton Roads on July 28 following a spike in coronavirus cases.
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Sept. 10, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, temporarily blocked restrictions on in-person learning at public and private schools in Dane County. The court agreed to hear legal challenges raised by several private schools. Because of the injunction, all schools in Dane County can reopen to in-person restrictions.

Daily feature: Travel restrictions

Every Friday, we take a closer look at the restrictions governors and state agencies have placed on interstate travelers, including a recap of the week’s travel-related news. To see our full coverage of travel restrictions enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, click here.


To date, 25 states issued at least one executive order restricting interstate travel. Of the 25 executive orders governors or state agencies issued restricting out-of-state visitors, at least 14 have been rescinded. Eleven states have active travel restrictions.

Weekly recap

Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – On Sept. 8, Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia had been added to the joint travel advisory list. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were removed from the list.

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. 2, a gaming arcade filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, against Gov. Charlie Baker (R), challenging Baker’s designation of gaming arcades as Phase IV businesses under the state’s reopening plan. Phase IV businesses are allowed to reopen only after a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available. The arcade claims this policy violates its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Citing discussions with surrounding states, Baker announced in a Sept. 10 press briefing that gaming arcades would be designated as Phase III businesses, allowing them to reopen. Bit Bar owner Gideon Coltof, said, “I’m certain our lawsuit had something to do with it.” There has been no public comment on whether the lawsuit will proceed.