Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #284: July 27, 2021

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

  • A law banning vacproof-of-vaccination requirements in New Hampshire
  • Updated indoor masking guidance in Louisiana
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

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

Since our last edition

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

California (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, July 26, the state of California announced that all state employees and healthcare workers would be required to show proof of vaccination or be tested at least once a week for COVID-19. The policy will take effect Aug. 2, for state workers, and Aug. 9, for healthcare workers. The deadline for full compliance for health care facilities is Aug. 23.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 23, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed its July 17 ruling that allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enforce its coronavirus restrictions on cruise lines in Florida. For cruise ships to set sail, the CDC required they mandate that 95% of passengers and 98% of crews be fully vaccinated. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April 2021, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. Florida Senate Bill 2006, which DeSantis signed into law on May 3, prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. On June 18, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday granted Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned that injunction on July 17.

New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 23, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed House Bill 220, which prohibits state and local government agencies from requiring people to provide proof of vaccination to enter public facilities or receive services. 

New York (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, July 26, New York City announced that starting mid-September all government employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination or be tested weekly for COVID-19.

Kentucky (Democratic governor): On Monday, July 26, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) recommended that school districts require all students under 12, all other unvaccinated students, and all unvaccinated adults to wear masks indoors.

Louisiana (Democratic governor): On Friday, July 23, the Louisiana Department of Health issued updated guidance recommending all residents wear face coverings indoors when six feet of physical distancing is not possible.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 22 edition of the newsletter. As of July 27, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,834 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 561 of those lawsuits. 

Since July 20, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional four court orders and/or settlements. 


  • Stepien v. Murphy: On July 1, a group of New Jersey public school students and parents sued state officials in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Plaintiffs asked the court to prohibit officials from implementing school mask mandates and “other Covid-related preventative, isolation, and segregation policies.” Plaintiffs also asked the court to bar schools from administering COVID-19 tests to students without parental consent. Plaintiffs say reimposing these COVID-19 mitigation policies would “violate the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.” The plaintiffs allege mask mandates “burdens and impairs protected speech rights, inhibiting and preventing communication between students, and between students, teachers and aides.” Plaintiffs also allege mandatory nasal swab tests are “invasive and in many cases causes injury, pain, and anxiety.” The case was assigned to Judge Kevin McNulty, an appointee of Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the July 20 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Hawaii has relaxed its outdoor face-covering requirement.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, unavailable to them during non-emergencies and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. 


  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 26 states. Emergency orders remain active in 24 states.
    • Since July 29, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. 

This time last year: Monday, July 27, and Tuesday, July 28, 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.

Monday, July 27, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • As part of Phase Two of D.C.’s reopening plan, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) ordered non-essential travelers from “high-risk” states to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the city. Bowser defined “high-risk states” as areas where the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 case rate was 10 or more per 100,000 people.
  • Election changes:
    • West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) announced that all voters “concerned about their health and safety because of COVID-19” would be eligible to vote absentee in the Nov. 3 general election.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 general election by six days. Originally scheduled to begin on Oct. 19, the proclamation moved early voting to Oct. 13.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) enacted a face-covering requirement. Under the order, anyone eight years or older were required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, commercial businesses, and transportation services. Masks were also required in outdoor public spaces when social distancing was not possible. Holcomb issued the order July 24.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education signed an agreement with the state’s teachers unions to reduce the length of the 2020-2021 school year from 180 days to 170 days.
  • State court changes:
    • The Idaho Supreme Court delayed the resumption of criminal jury trials until Sept. 14 and civil jury trials until Dec. 1.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) closed bars and limited restaurant capacity to 25% for two weeks. Beshear also asked schools to avoid reopening for in-person instruction until the third week of August. 
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Illinois, Kentucky Minnesota, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico had been added to the joint travel advisory, bringing the total number of states to 37. Travelers from states on the advisory were required to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Election changes:
    • U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire Judge Joseph Laplante reduced the number of signatures needed to qualify Libertarian Party candidates for the ballot by 35%.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that schools will not reopen until Sept. 8, when school districts could decide whether to return students to physical classrooms or offer distance learning. 
    • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) ordered all public K-12 students and staff to wear a mask in school at all times. The directive also imposed social distancing guidelines of three feet for preschools through middle schools, and six feet for high schools.
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced metrics that would guide school reopening decisions. Brown said counties must have 10 or fewer coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and a 7-day positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before in-person and hybrid instruction could resume. Brown also said the state must have a positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before any in-person or hybrid instruction could resume.
    • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) released guidelines for reopening schools. The recommendations covered testing and contact tracing, immunizations, and resources necessary for returning students to classrooms or teaching remotely.

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 Monday, July 26, St. Louis, MO, enacted a mask requirement. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) has filed a lawsuit challenging the mask requirement.
  • The U.S. Veterans Administration announced that all Title 38 employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 effective in eight weeks.