Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #290: August 17, 2021

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

  • An order in Michigan directing COVID-19 booster shots to long-term care facilities
  • A temporary Texas Supreme Court order blocking local mask mandates
  • 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.

Alabama (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 13, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) declared a coronavirus state of emergency.

Arizona (Republican trifecta): 

  • On Aug. 16, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner ruled that a state law banning school mask requirements would not take effect until Sept. 29.
  • On Aug. 16, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued an executive order saying local officials who implement vaccine requirements would be subject to legal action. The order also said local officials who fail to provide earned sick leave to an employee exposed to the coronavirus would be subject to legal action or action through the Industrial Commission.

Delaware (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 12, Gov. John Carney (D) announced staff in healthcare and long-term care facilities would be required to show proof of coronavirus vaccination or receive regular coronavirus tests, effective Sept. 30.

Maine (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 12, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced the state would require healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 1.

Michigan (divided government): On Friday, Aug. 13, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an order directing state agencies to supply COVID-19 booster shots to people living in long-term care facilities.  

Minnesota (divided government): On Sunday, Aug. 15, Gov. Tim Walz (D) extended the $100 vaccination reward initiative an extra week. Residents 12 and older who’ve gotten vaccinated after July 30 can claim a $100 Visa gift card. 

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 16, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that large venues that require patrons to be at least partially vaccinated can allow fully vaccinated people to go without masks indoors. Partially vaccinated people would still be required to wear masks.   

New York (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 12, the New York State Education Department released school reopening guidance for the 2021-2022 academic year. The guidance included recommendations for mask usage, vaccine promotion, and physical distancing within classrooms.

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): A statewide indoor masking requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect Aug. 13. Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced the requirement on Aug. 11.

Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 16, Gov. Bill Lee (R) issued an order allowing parents to send their children to school without masks in K-12 public schools that enact mask requirements. 

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Sunday, Aug. 15, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked court orders in Dallas County and Bexar County that allowed school districts to disregard Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order banning school mask requirements.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 12 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 16, 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 1,860 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 574 of those lawsuits. 

Since Aug. 10, we have added 21 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 13 court orders and/or settlements. 

  • City of San Antonio v. Abbott; Jenkins v. Abbott: On August 15, 2021, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily affirmed the validity of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order prohibiting local mask mandates across the state. Both Bexar and Dallas counties issued local mask mandates in contravention of Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which prohibits schools and local governments from requiring masks. Earlier, two state trial courts, from the 45th and 116th Judicial District Courts, found that Dallas and Bexar counties would be irreparably harmed if unable to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through mask mandates. As a result, the district courts issued temporary restraining orders against the enforcement of Executive Order GA-38. Those restraining orders were left in place by the Fourth and Fifth Courts of Appeals. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) then took the matter to the Texas Supreme Court, asking the court to order the trial courts to overturn their decisions. Although the state supreme court did not immediately issue a written opinion ruling on the ultimate merits of Abbott’s and Paxton’s arguments, the stays temporarily overturn the restraining orders won by Dallas and Bexar counties in the lower courts, and therefore limit their ability to proceed with mask mandates. 

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 10 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Oregon reinstated an indoor public mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

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 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.

Since Aug. 10, one state has reissued its COVID-19 emergency.   


  • Alabama – On Friday, Aug. 13, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) declared a statewide state of emergency in response to rising COVID-19 cases. Ivey ended the previous statewide COVID-19 state of emergency on July 6, 2021. 

This time last year: Monday, Aug. 17, and Tuesday, Aug. 18, 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. 17, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an order to move Malheur County in eastern Oregon from Phase 2 to Phase 1. Malheur was the third county Brown returned to a previous phase of reopening because of a rise in coronavirus cases.

  • School closures and reopenings:

Arizona school districts were allowed to reopen to in-person instruction if they met state Department of Health metrics released the week of Aug. 3. A district could reopen if its county experienced a two-week drop in the number of COVID-19 cases and a two-week period where the percent of positive cases was less than 7%. Additionally, a district could not reopen if more than 10% of hospital visits were COVID-19 related.

  • Eviction and foreclosure policies

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) issued an order prohibiting evictions and foreclosures for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19 related financial hardship. The order was set to last through Sept. 15.

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) extended the restrictions requiring travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days through Oct. 1. The restrictions had previously been scheduled to expire on Sept. 1.