Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #287: August 5, 2021

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

  • A vaccine nursing home requirement in Massachusetts
  • A school mask mandate in Nevada
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
  • Federal responses
  • 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 Tuesday? 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 Aug. 3, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) called the Arkansas General Assembly into special session. Hutchinson wants lawmakers to create an exemption in Act 1002. The existing law bans state and local governments from imposing mask requirements. Hutchinson wants an exemption that will allow school boards to require masks for students 11 years old and younger who can’t receive the coronavirus vaccine. The special session began on Aug. 4.

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 4, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced masks would be required in all Illinois public schools for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Wednesday, Aug. 4, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all nursing home staff. The state will begin enforcing the requirement Oct. 10, and staff will be required to have received at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine by Sept 1. 

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, Aug. 4, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order requiring staff and students at public, private, and charter schools in counties with more than 100,000 people to wear face masks while in school buildings or buses. Sisolak’s initial directive applied to schools in all counties. School superintendent objections prompted him to issue an additional order later in the afternoon exempting schools in counties with fewer than 100,000 people.

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 4, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that healthcare workers would be required to receive a coronavirus vaccination or be tested weekly for the coronavirus.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 3 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 4, the states with the highest 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

We last looked at school closures and reopenings on July 29. Since then, no states changed school reopening guidelines.


  • 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.

2019-20 enrollment: 410,896 students (0.81% of students nationwide)

  • Thirteen states had state-ordered in-person instruction.

2019-20 enrollment: 15,697,460 students (30.96% of students nationwide)

  • One state (Ariz.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.

2019-20 enrollment: 1,152,586 students (2.27% of students nationwide)

  • Thirty-four states left decisions to schools or districts.

2019-20 enrollment: 33,449,499 students (65.96% 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 24 of those orders have been rescinded. Travel restrictions remain active in Hawaii, Kansas, and Rhode Island.
    • Since July 29, one state has changed its travel restrictions. . 


  • Kansas – On July 29, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment updated its travel quarantine list to include people who’ve traveled to or from Botswana, Cuba, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, or Martinique on or after July 29.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, state governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements in their states. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof-of-vaccination. Other states have supported the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  


  • Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government. 
  • Four states have facilitated the creation of digital vaccination status applications. 
    • Since July 29, two states have issued orders related to proof-of-vaccination requirements.  


  • On Aug. 5, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced state employees would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine or be tested for the virus on a weekly basis. The requirement will begin Sept. 1. 
  • On July 29, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order that emphasized a previous prohibition on proof-of-vaccination requirements. Executive Order No. GA-38 bans government entities at the state, county, and local levels and private entities that receive public funding from asking people to prove their vaccination status. The order also prohibits government entities from requiring that people get vaccinated. Like Abbott’s previous order, this one does not apply to nursing homes. Abbott banned proof-of-vaccination requirements on April 6, 2021.

Federal responses

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

  • On Aug. 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium prohibiting landlords in areas of the country experiencing what it defines as “substantial or high” levels of COVID-19 spread from removing tenants for nonpayment of rent. The CDC scheduled the moratorium to last through Oct. 3.
  • On July 29, President Joe Biden (D) announced that all federal workers and onsite contractors would need to get a COVID-19 vaccine or receive a weekly COVID-19 test.

This time last year: Wednesday, Aug. 5, Thursday, Aug. 6, and Friday, Aug. 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.

Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced the state would stay in Phase 2 of reopening for five more weeks.

  • Election changes:

The parties in League of Women Voters of Virginia v. Virginia State Board of Elections reached a settlement providing for the suspension of the absentee ballot witness requirement in the Nov. 3 general election.

  • Mask requirements:

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an order that required individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces and outdoors when social distancing was not possible.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an order that required people wear masks in restaurants, in state government buildings, and at large gathering venues and events like movie theaters, festivals, auditoriums, and concerts.

  • School closures and reopenings:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced a new metric for determining if schools can reopen to in-person instruction. She said schools in any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents would be prohibited from fully reopening to in-person instruction.

Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020 

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced a phased reopening plan for long-term care facilities. Facilities could submit an application to the state to begin the reopening process on Aug. 12. The plan called for easing restrictions on visits as facilities move through the phases of reopening. 

  • Election changes:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 423 into law, authorizing counties to consolidate polling places in the Nov. 3 general election, among other modifications to administration procedures.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive permitting counties to conduct the Nov. 3 general election entirely by mail. Bullock also authorized counties to expand early voting opportunities for the general election.

  • Travel restrictions:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) rescinded the executive order requiring travelers from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) issued an executive order updating the state’s quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers and returning residents. The new order exempted New Mexico residents who left the state to seek medical care or who left the state for less than 24 hours as part of their parenting responsibilities.

  • Mask requirements:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order requiring children over the age of two and all employees to wear face masks at Michigan camps and childcare centers.

Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

  • Election changes:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) issued an executive order extending absentee ballot eligibility to all voters in the Nov. 3 general election “who conclude their attendance at the polls may be a risk to their health or the health of others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The order formalized a policy Hutchinson and Secretary of State John Thurston (R) announced on July 2.

  • Eviction and foreclosure policies

In a 5-3 ruling, the Virginia Supreme Court granted Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) request to extend an eviction moratorium. The moratorium was set to last through Sept. 7.

  • School closures and reopenings:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) released reopening guidance for colleges and universities. The guidance called for requiring students and staff to wear masks in all indoor public spaces. In counties on the state’s monitoring list, the guidance said only courses like labs and studio arts would be allowed to take place in-person.