Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #289: August 12, 2021

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

  • A vaccine requirement for K-12 school teachers and staff in California
  • An order limiting gatherings in Hawaii
  • 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.

Upcoming news

What is changing in the next five days?

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 13, a statewide public indoor mask requirement will take effect for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Gov. Kate Brown (D) made the announcement on Aug. 11.

Since our last edition

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

California (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Aug. 11, the California Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) emergency powers allowed him to alter or create new laws under the 1970 Emergency Services Act.
  • On Aug. 11, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced teachers and staff in private and public K-12 schools would be required to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or receive a coronavirus test at least once per week.

Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 10, Gov. David Ige (D) issued an executive order reinstating limits on social gatherings and capacity limits on businesses. 

Kentucky (divided government): On Aug. 10, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued an executive order requiring all individuals to wear masks inside of public and private schools.

Minnesota (divided government): On Wednesday, Aug. 11, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that state employees, including all instructors and staff at state universities, would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing starting Sept. 8. 

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 10, Gov. Dan McKee (D) announced healthcare workers in state-licensed facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and group homes, would be required to show proof of vaccination or receive regular coronavirus testing. The order will take effect on Oct. 10.

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Aug. 10, 57th District Court Judge Antonia Arteaga allowed officials in San Antonio and Bexar County to require masks in schools, temporarily overriding Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) order prohibiting mask mandates. Judge Arteaga paused enforcement of Abbott’s order until Aug. 16, when San Antonio and Bexar County officials are scheduled to return to court to argue for an extension. 

Vermont (divided government): On Tuesday, Aug. 10, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that state employees who work with vulnerable populations would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Scott said the requirement would apply to veterans homes, correctional facilities, and a psychiatric hospital. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 10 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 11, 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 Aug. 5. Since then, no states announced school reopenings or closures.


  • 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 Aug. 5, no state has changed its travel restrictions.

State vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about vaccine requirements (vaccine passports)

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 assisted in 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.
  • Six states have issued requirements that some or all state employees get vaccinated or undergo regular testing.  
    • Since Aug. 5, three states have announced that state employees would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination.  


  • On Aug. 11, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that state employees, including instructors and staff at state universities, would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing starting Sept. 8.
  • On Aug. 10, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that state employees who work with vulnerable populations would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • On Aug. 5, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that state employees in 48 facilities would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination or undergo weekly testing by Sept. 1. 

Federal responses

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

  • On Aug. 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its vaccine guidance to recommend that pregnant women get a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • On Aug. 9, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that he would require military members to get a COVID-19 vaccination no later than the middle of September. Austin said he would move up the deadline to be fully vaccinated if the Food and Drug Administration approves a COVID-19 vaccine before mid-September.

This time last year: Wednesday, Aug. 12, Thursday, Aug. 13, and Friday, Aug. 14, 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. 12, 2020

  • Election changes:

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) directed each county election board to provide one drop-box for absentee/mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.

The Maryland State Board of Elections voted to conduct early voting from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2 at approximately 80 voting centers statewide. The board also announced it would make at least 127 ballot drop-boxes available for absentee/mail-in ballots available statewide.

  • School closures and reopenings:

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order on Aug. 12 allowing public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to offer in-person instruction when they reopened. The order allowed schools to decide whether to offer remote learning, in-person instruction, or a hybrid approach. Schools that couldn’t meet New Jersey Department of Education requirements were required to begin the school year remotely.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced on Aug. 12 she was delaying the start of the school year until Sept. 14. 

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said on Aug. 12 that the Tennessee Department of Education was encouraging school districts to mandate face coverings for middle and high school students.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) issued a revised public health order that extended restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms, and performance spaces through the end of the month. The order also eased restrictions on outdoor gatherings beginning Aug. 16. The new outdoor gathering restrictions allowed venues to accommodate up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 1,000 people so long as social distancing was observed.

Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 

  • Election changes:

The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal from the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Rhode Island to block a consent decree suspending witness/notary requirements for mail-in ballots cast in Rhode Island’s 2020 elections.

  • Eviction and foreclosure policies

The Judicial Council of California, the policymaking body of California’s court system, voted 19-1 to end its emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosure lawsuits on Sept. 1. The rules the Council adopted in April suspended all pending judicial foreclosure actions and stopped courts from issuing summonses to tenants.

Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

  • Election changes:

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced that the state would automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters in the Nov. 3 general election.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) announced several changes for the Nov. 3 general election, including the extension of absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to all voters they said were “concerned with contracting or spreading COVID-19.”

  • Federal government responses:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) announced a partnership with healthcare company McKesson Corporation to help distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one was available.

  • Eviction and foreclosure policies

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) moratorium on evictions and foreclosures ended, allowing eviction and foreclosure lawsuits to resume. Holcomb originally issued the order on March 20.

  • School closures and reopenings:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) released the Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide. The document was a support guide for teachers and administrators created in partnership with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences. It outlined best practices for in-person learning. Schools were allowed to reopen on Aug. 24.

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 Tuesday, Aug. 10, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced she would require city employees, including public school teachers and staff, to get a COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing.