Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #241: May 6, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Changes to coronavirus restrictions in New York
  • A way to access digital proof of vaccination in Louisiana through the state’s driver’s license app
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • Federal responses
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Minnesota (divided government): Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) office said he will announce at a Thursday, May 6, press conference several dates on which coronavirus restrictions will change or end. Beginning May 7, Walz will end mandatory curfews on bars and restaurants and remove the outdoor gathering limit on gatherings of 500 or fewer people. On May 28, he will end all indoor and outdoor gathering limits. Walz will also end the statewide mask mandate on July 1, although that could happen sooner if 70% of residents receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 
  • New York (Democratic trifecta):
    • Barbershops, salons, and other personal care service businesses will be allowed to expand from 50% to 75% capacity starting May 7. Indoor dining will also expand to 75% capacity in New York City on the same day.
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Broadway theaters will fully open at 100% capacity starting Sept. 14. 
    • Cuomo also announced percentage capacity restrictions for state-defined large-scale outdoor event venues (like sports stadiums) will end May 19. Those venues will only be limited by six-foot social distancing requirements. Large outdoor event venues will also be able to create sections reserved for fully vaccinated individuals where socially distanced seating between separate parties is not required.

Since our last edition

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

  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate passed House File 889 by a 32-16 vote. The bill would prohibit state and local government agencies from putting vaccine status on government-issued identification cards. The bill would also prohibit state and local governments from asking people about their vaccine status as a condition of entering government buildings. The House passed the bill 58-35 on April 28. It now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).
  • Louisiana (divided government): Gov. John Bel Edward (D) announced residents can access digital proof of vaccination through LA Wallet—the state’s digital driver’s license app. The feature is optional and is not digitally connected to a person’s driver’s license or ID card. Louisiana’s current health order does not contain looser restrictions for vaccinated residents, but the state does not have an order or legislation prohibiting state agencies or private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination for services. 
  • Maryland (divided government): On Wednesday, May 5, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that appointments will no longer be necessary to receive a coronavirus vaccine at the 13 mass vaccination sites dotted around the state. 
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Wednesday, May 5, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that six of the state’s seven mass vaccination sites will allow walk-up vaccinations beginning Monday, May 10. 
  • Michigan (divided government): On Tuesday, May 4, director of the Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Hertel issued an order lifting the outdoor mask requirement for gatherings of fewer than 100 people and revising the gathering limit to allow more people to congregate outside in one location. Under the order, up to 300 people can gather for outdoor events like graduation parties so long as there are fewer than 20 people per 1,000 square feet. The order also allows up to 1,500 people in outdoor stadiums. Additionally, players in organized contact sports are no longer required to wear masks.
  • Missouri (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mike Parson (R) directed all state employees to return to pre-coronavirus in-person work settings no later than May 17. On the same day, all state buildings must reopen to the public during normal business hours.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced one county has Yellow Level restrictions, two are Green, and 30 are Turquoise for the two-week period starting May 5. No counties are in the Red Level. In the previous period, three counties were Yellow Level, six were Green, and 24 were Turquoise.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, May 6, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced he would end capacity limits on businesses if coronavirus cases continued to decline and vaccination rates continued to increase. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the May 4 edition of the newsletter. As of May 5, the states with the highest first-dose vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School closures and reopenings

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

  • Two states (Del., Hawaii) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 403,664 students (0.80% of students nationwide)
  • Twelve states had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 14,468,241 students (28.60% of students nationwide)
  • Two states (Ariz., Mass.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 2,087,651 students (4.13% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-four states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 33,628,303 students (66.48% 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 27 states and the District of Columbia issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 22 of those orders have been rescinded. 
    • Since April 29, one state has ended its travel restrictions.  


  • Maine – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention ended the requirement that out-of-state travelers from outside New England quarantine or provide a negative COVID-19 test upon entering the state.

Federal responses

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

  • On May 4, President Joe Biden (D) announced a goal of getting 70% of Americans partly vaccinated by the 4th of July. To further that goal, Biden said he is directing pharmacies in the federal vaccine program to begin offering vaccinations without an appointment. He also announced that states will no longer be able to carry over unused vaccine doses from one week to the next. Instead, doses will be reallocated to states with higher demand.
  • On May 5, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not have the authority to enact a moratorium on residential evictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The moratorium, which the CDC put in place September 1, 2020, was extended several times and was set to expire June 30. Friedrich’s ruling called for the moratorium to be ended, but the Justice Department appealed the decision and asked for an emergency stay to keep the moratorium in place in the meantime.
  • On May 5, the CDC released details for an initiative that will allow cruise lines to test their COVID-19 precautions on short trials trips with volunteers before resuming normal operations. Cruise lines must request authorization from the CDC for a trial trip at least 30 days before departure. Cruise lines can skip test trips if they require 95% of passengers and 98% of crew members to be vaccinated.

This time last year: Thursday, May 7, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Thursday, May 7, 20200:

  • Travel restrictions
    • Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) ended a requirement that out-of-state travelers quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state.