Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: October 21, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at Hawaii’s updated school reopening guidance, Oregon’s expanded face-covering requirements, a featured story from the 1918 influenza pandemic, and more. Want to know what happened yesterday? 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.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): The state released guidance for reopening theme parks. Under the rules, large parks like Disneyland will not be able to reopen until the counties where they are located enter the yellow risk tier.
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): The Department of Health released updated guidance for school reopenings. The changes could allow blended learning or full-time, in-person instruction on every island in the state, based on the last two weeks of data.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said that he had no plans to roll back the state’s phased reopening at a news conference. Baker said that recent growth in new cases could be traced to informal events (such as house parties, backyard events, and celebrations) and not business reopenings.
  • Michigan (divided government): Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued an emergency order allowing for indoor visitation at nursing homes in counties where the current coronavirus risk level is A, B, C, or D and the facility has had no new cases within the last 14 days. Visitations are not allowed in counties with a risk level of E. As of Oct. 21, more than 30 counties in the state were at risk level E.
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an executive order implementing targeted mitigation measures in nine counties with high rates of coronavirus infection, effective Oct. 21. The order limits gatherings in those counties to 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. It also requires masks in all indoor public places where social distancing cannot be maintained. Hospitals statewide are also required to maintain at least 10% of their total capacity for coronavirus patients. Facilities that cannot maintain this capacity will have to pause elective procedures.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced some schools in New York City’s state-defined hotspots are allowed to reopen. He also said the state will consider loosening restrictions in hotspot zones and drawing the zones on a block-by-block basis instead of using zip codes.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): The Oregon Health Authority released expanded face-covering guidance, effective Oct. 19. Under the rules, employers are required to provide free masks or face shields to employees if the business has indoor or outdoor public spaces. Individuals have to wear face coverings in all workplace settings unless they are alone in an office or isolated workspace. Masks are also required at outdoor street fairs and markets, and at private and public universities.
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): The state announced the creation of a new COVID-19 website that Gov. Bill Lee (R) said would “help Tennesseans quickly and easily find important information as they navigate decisions for themselves and their families.” The site includes dashboards and daily reports with state and county-level data, including case counts, hospitalizations, and number of tests performed.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee announced (D) new guidelines for colleges and universities. Some of the guidelines include: masks are required at all times when students are outside of their sleeping room, no more than two people may share a sleeping room, and only five people may be in one place at the same time.

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. 11, the Los Angeles Evening Herald reported on the effect the influenza pandemic was having on one candidate for governor.

The placing of the ban on public gatherings as an epidemic preventative measure will materially change the plans for Theodore A. Bell, independent candidates for governor, unless the restrictions going into effect this evening are lifted at the end of the coming week.

It was Bell’s intention to come to Los Angeles for a series of meetings in and about the city for the week starting Oct. 20, but it is now doubtful if he will stump in the south inasmuch as the principal voting center is closed to him. Bell’s local managers have informed him of the situation here regarding public gatherings and until word comes from the north, the arrangement of meetings in the southern part of the state will be held in abeyance.

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. 14, a Montana State University (MSU) student filed a class-action lawsuit against the university, seeking tuition reimbursement after the cancelation of in-person classes due to Covid-19. Attorneys for Anthony Cordero, a former MSU undergraduate student, allege that Cordero “has not been provided a pro-rated refund of the tuition for his in-person classes that were discontinued and moved online, or the Mandatory Fee he paid after MSU’s facilities were closed and events were canceled.” They further argue that “MSU’s failure to provide the services for which tuition and the mandatory fees were intended to cover since approximately March 23, 2020, is a breach of the contracts and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing between MSU and Plaintiff Anthony Cordero and the members of the Class and is unjust.” Tracy Ellig, a university spokesman, said that the university does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana and has been assigned to Chief Judge Brian Morris, an appointee of President Barack Obama (D). According to, approximately 200 class-action suits like Cordero’s had been filed in the United States as of early October.