Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: September 30, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at the easing of restrictions in Nevada, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee, new outdoor playground guidelines in California, a featured story from the 1918 influenza pandemic, and more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

The next two days

What is changing in the next two days?

  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 29, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced he would issue an executive order effective Oct. 1 easing some coronavirus restrictions, including raising the gathering limit from 50 to 250 people. Sports venues with more than 2,500 seats will be permitted to reopen at 10% capacity if they submit a plan and receive approval from state and local officials.
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Sept. 30, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that the state would advance to Phase 3 of reopening on Oct. 2. Phase 3 eases several restrictions on businesses, including allowing bars to provide outdoor service at 30% or 100 guests, whichever is less. Movie theaters can also reopen at 30% capacity or 100 guests. Large outdoor venues will be permitted to operate at 7% capacity. Some restrictions, such as mandatory face coverings in public, will remain in place.

Since our last edition

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

  • Alabama (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the state’s Safer at Home order, which includes the public mask requirement, through Nov. 8.
  • California (Democratic trifecta): The state’s public health department announced new guidelines that permit outdoor playgrounds to reopen statewide.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 30, Cody Hall, the press secretary for Gov. Brian Kemp (R), announced that the Governor would issue an executive order extending the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Hall did not say if the new order would modify any of the existing restrictions, which were last extended on Sept. 15.
  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced additional mitigation measures will be into effect in Region 1 (Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, and Winnebago counties) starting Oct. 3. Under the new restrictions, bars and restaurants will not be able to offer indoor service and gatherings will be limited to 25 people.
  • Michigan (divided government): On Sept. 29, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) extended the statewide state of emergency through Oct. 27.
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an executive order relaxing the state’s coronavirus requirements. Under the order, gatherings of up to 20 people indoors and 100 outdoors will be permitted when social distancing is not possible. Reeves also announced the public mask requirement will expire. Individuals still have to wear masks at schools and at businesses the state defines as close-contact (like barbershops and salons).
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 29, Gov. Bill Lee (R) released an executive order eliminating coronavirus restrictions on businesses and gatherings in 89 of the state’s 95 counties. Six counties, including Shelby, operate according to rules made by their respective health departments.

Daily feature: The 1918 influenza pandemic

Every Wednesday, we 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.

On Oct. 13, 1918, The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on a decision by St. Paul’s health commissioner to allow schools in the city to remain open.

St. Paul has so carefully safeguarded against the spread of Spanish influenza that public schools will not be closed unless there is a marked increase in the number of cases here.

This announcement was made last night by Dr. B.F. Simon, city health commissioner. It followed compilation of influenza reports made since October 1. The results obtained from the reports were taken up in a conference between Dr. Simon and state health officials. The latter concurred in the local physician’s stand on the school closing question.

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 Sept. 24, seven Alabama residents represented by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) filed suit in federal district court against Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. The plaintiffs allege that both Ivey and Harris have repeatedly exceeded their constitutional authority by issuing emergency orders. The plaintiffs said the “Orders, Proclamations, and Mandates of both Governor Ivey and State Health Officer Harris” have been enforced as law and “violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The plaintiffs allege Ivey and Harris have “unlawfully and in direct contradiction to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment … effectively prohibited worship services” by imposing gathering size restrictions and social distancing orders. A representative for Ivey said, “The governor is pleased with our state’s progress in terms of COVID-19 and reminds everyone to keep at it.” Although the suit was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, it was later moved to the Middle District. A judge has not yet been assigned.