Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: December 17, 2020

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • California (Democratic trifecta): The state will add the Bay Area region to its regional stay-at-home order effective Dec. 17 at 11:59 p.m. The restrictions will last until at least Jan. 7. The Bay Area will be the fourth of the state’s five regions to enter the stay-at-home order.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): Gov. David Ige (D) issued an executive order reducing the required self-isolation period for untested out-of-state and inter-island travelers from 14 days to 10 days, effective Dec. 17.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced she was loosening restrictions on some businesses and activities. Under the new rules, bars and restaurants can resume normal hours. Additionally, students participating in high school recreational activities can now invite members of their household to watch. The new restrictions take effect Thursday, Dec. 17.
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced he was loosening restrictions on some businesses beginning Dec. 19. Under the new order, up to 10 people from two households can gather indoors. Fifteen people from three households can gather outdoors. Additionally, fitness centers can reopen at 25% capacity with a limit of 100 people, and outdoor events can resume at 25% capacity with a limit of 100 people. On Jan. 4, amateur sports practices can resume, though games are prohibited. 
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): The Department of Health announced all 33 counties are in the Red Level for the two week period from Dec. 16-30. Previously, 32 counties were in the Red Level from Dec. 2-16. San Miguel County county was in the Yellow Level. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta):  On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) released updated school reopening guidance for returning students to the classroom. The guidance, which isn’t binding, gives schools three options based on the level of COVID-19 spread. For schools in counties with low spread, the guidance recommends in-person learning for all students. For schools in counties with moderate spread, the guidance recommends a phased approach that starts with elementary students and increases by grade level. In counties with high COVID-19 spread, the guidance recommends in-person learning in small groups for elementary and high-need students only.  

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year


  • We last looked at schools in our Dec. 10 newsletter. Since then, no states have issued an order closing or reopening schools statewide.
  • Washington, D.C. has a district-ordered school closure.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 85,850 students (0.17% of students nationwide)
  • Eleven states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, Ky., Mich., N.C., N.M., N.Y., Ore., R.I., W.Va.) have state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allow hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 14,450,688 students (28.57% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, Texas) have state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,180,918 students (18.15% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-five states leave decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 26,870,403 students (53.12% of students nationwide)

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 26 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 14 of those orders have been rescinded.   
    • Since Dec. 10, one state has modified its travel restrictions. 


  • Hawaii – On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Gov. David Ige (D) modified the quarantine requirement for out-of-state and inter-island travelers. See our write-up in “Since our last edition” above for more information. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Friday, Dec. 11, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine. This is the first EUA issued for a vaccine developed to combat COVID-19. The EUA allows the vaccine to be distributed throughout the United States.
  • On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to medical technology company Ellume’s over the counter, at-home COVID-19 test. This is the first over the counter COVID-19 diagnostic test the FDA approved for emergency use.
  • On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the FDA released data on biotechnology company Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, calling the two-dose regimen “highly effective” at preventing infection. The FDA meets Dec. 17 to discuss whether to grant the vaccine an emergency use authorization (EAU).