Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #286: August 3, 2021

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

  • A new mask mandate in Louisiana 
  • Proof-of-vaccination requirements in New York City
  • 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 the government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting your daily life—from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies and beyond. To see epidemiological COVID-19 data, visit these sources: Our World in Data, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.

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.

Arkansas (Republican trifecta): On July 29, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) reinstated Arkansas’ coronavirus public health emergency.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 30, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an order prohibiting K-12 public schools from requiring that students wear masks in schools. 

Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) extended the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency through Aug. 31. 

Louisiana (divided government): On Aug. 2, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) reinstated the indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals through at least Sept. 1.

New York (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 3, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that proof of vaccination will be required for patrons and staff at indoor businesses, such as restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues, starting on Sept. 13.

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On July 29, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that masks would be required indoors at K-12 public schools in the state.

Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 30, Gov. Bill Lee (R) extended the statewide COVID-19 state of emergency through Aug. 31.  

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 29 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 2, 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 1,838 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 562 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since July 27, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked one additional court order and/or settlement. 


  • Schmitt v. Page: On July 26, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) sued the city and county of St. Louis for re-imposing a mask mandate. The mandate requires those aged five and older to wear a mask in indoor public places regardless of vaccination status. Schmitt alleges  “St. Louis County and St. Louis City seek expanded government power that has failed to protect Missouri citizens living within their boundaries in the past and is not based on sound facts and data.” Schmitt says the mandate is “a continuation of a series of arbitrary, capricious, unlawful, and unconstitutional COVID-19 related restrictions.” On July 27, the St. Louis County Council voted 5-2 to terminate the mandate. However, following that vote, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page issued a statement maintaining that the mandate remains in effect, pending resolution of Schmitt’s lawsuit. Schmitt is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the mandate. On July 30, the defendants (including Page and other St. Louis county and city officials) filed a notice of removal to transfer proceedings from state court to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. On Aug. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Clark, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, remanded the matter back to state court, writing, “The fate of the mask mandates under Missouri law belongs in the Missouri state courts.” The case is currently pending in the St. Louis County Circuit Court.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the July 27 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Louisiana reinstated its statewide indoor mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and Nevada altered its indoor mask mandate, requiring both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors in substantial or high transmission counties.

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 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.
  • Since July 27, one state has reinstated its COVID-19 emergency. No states have ended their statewide emergencies.  


  • On July 29, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) reinstated the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency.

This time last year: Monday, Aug. 3 and Tuesday, Aug. 4, 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, Aug. 3, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed high school football and volleyball practices to resume.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said private and religious schools could choose when to reopen. Hogan also issued an emergency order preventing county officials from requiring such schools to remain closed after Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles prohibited private schools in the area from resuming in-person classes. 

  • Election changes:

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed AB4 into law, directing election officials to distribute mail-in ballots automatically to all active registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.

Minnesota Second Judicial District Judge Sara Grewing approved a consent decree between the plaintiffs and the state defendants in LaRose v. Simon, a lawsuit that challenged state election law. Under the terms of the consent decree, state election officials agreed to waive the witness requirement for mail-in ballots cast in the Nov. 3 general election. The state also agreed to count all mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by official county canvassing dates.

  • Federal government responses:

President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order that made permanent certain regulatory changes expanding telehealth services, especially in rural areas.

  • Mask requirements:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) statewide mask mandate was expanded to require everyone older than five to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, including churches, gyms, and stores. The mandate originally required masks only in retail, food service businesses, and public transit.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) modified the mask mandate for schools to allow students to remove masks in a classroom if they could maintain three to six feet of distance from other people.

  • School closures and reopenings:

The Alabama Department of Public Health released an 85-page school reopening toolkit that contained recommendations and guidelines for school districts to use in their reopening plans.

  • State court changes:

In Colorado, jury trials were allowed to resume on a limited basis if a chief judge of a judicial district determined the jury pool could be safely assembled consistent with health directives and executive orders.

Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ordered the Michigan State Police and state departments to prioritize enforcement of her COVID-19 orders. Whitmer also ordered licensing agencies to consider suspending the licenses of violators. 

  • Travel restrictions:

Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Rhode Island had been added to the tristate quarantine list, requiring visitors from that state to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New Jersey, Connecticut, or New York. The governors removed Delaware and Washington D.C.

  • Federal government responses:

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced a $2.1 billion deal with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to develop and manufacture up to 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine for U.S. use.

President Trump (R) announced the federal government would continue to fund the cost of National Guard units deployed to states through the end of the year, though at a lower level than before. Beginning Aug. 21, Trump said the funding for National Guard units assisting states with their coronavirus responses would drop from 100% to 75% for most states. Trump said the federal government would continue to pay 100% of the cost for hard-hit states like Florida and Texas.

  • School closures and reopenings:

Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) announced public schools could reopen with a combination of in-person and remote learning in September. 

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) mandated that all public students and teachers wear masks on school property. He delayed public school reopenings in eight counties to Aug. 17. Previously, the counties had been allowed to set their own start dates for the academic year.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that all K-12 students would be required to wear face coverings in public schools.

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.

  • In an Aug. 2 letter to the University of South Carolina’s interim president, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) said the school could not enforce an indoor mask requirement. Wilson said the requirement violates a condition in the state budget that prohibits mask requirements in schools that receive public funds.