Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #292: August 24, 2021

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

  • A vaccine requirement for corrections staff in California
  • A COVID-19 vaccine incentive initiative in Wisconsin
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders

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 Aug. 19, the California Department of Public Health issued an order requiring corrections staff who provide healthcare or who could be exposed to the coronavirus in a healthcare setting to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 14.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order requiring all state employees, staff in childcare facilities, and staff in pre-K through 12 schools to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27 or receive regular coronavirus testing. State hospital and long-term care employees do not have the option to receive regular testing instead of a vaccination.

Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Aug. 19, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued an order prohibiting county or local governments from forcing private organizations, including businesses and sports teams, to comply with COVID-19 health restrictions. 

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 20, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) renewed the state’s coronavirus disaster proclamation for an additional 30 days.

Kentucky (divided government): On Aug. 23, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) rescinded his executive order requiring masks be worn in schools. Masks are still required in Kentucky public schools due to a separate Kentucky Board of Education order. Beshear’s action followed a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion issued Aug. 21 upholding limits the state legislature placed on the governor’s emergency powers.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Friday, Aug. 20, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued an order requiring executive branch employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 17. 

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Aug. 20, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order requiring all state colleges, universities, and community colleges to require students to provide proof of vaccination after Nov. 1, 2021. 

New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 23, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order requiring all teachers and staff in pre-K through 12 schools to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or receive regular coronavirus testing. Murphy also announced that state employees would also be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or receive regular coronavirus testing.

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that the state’s coronavirus vaccine requirement for healthcare workers would no longer have a regular testing alternative, and workers will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. Brown also announced all teachers and staff in K-12 schools would be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval of a coronavirus vaccine.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Aug. 19, Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued an executive order requiring masks be worn in K-12 public schools.
  • On Aug. 19, Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to the Delta variant and other emerging variants of the coronavirus.

Wisconsin (divided government): On Monday, Aug. 23, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced an initiative that awards residents who receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine a $100 Visa gift card. The initiative will run through Labor Day. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 19 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 23, 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 1,868 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. 17, we have added eight lawsuits to our database. We have tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements. 


  • Children’s Health Defense, Inc. v. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey: On Aug. 16, a group of 18 students filed suit against Rutgers University in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. At issue is Rutgers’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which requires all students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the beginning of the fall term. Plaintiffs allege “unjustified fear and insatiable greed drive the vaccine industry,” and the University’s mandate is “an affront to human dignity and personal freedom.” The plaintiff’s attorneys are with the Children’s Health Defense, an advocacy group founded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. In response, Rutgers issued a press release, saying, “The university’s position on vaccines is consistent with the legal authority supporting this policy.” The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 17 edition of the newsletter. Since then, indoor public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect in New Mexico and Washington. As of Aug. 24, masks were required in nine states with Democratic governors. Fourteen states with Democratic governors and all 27 states with Republican governors had no state-level mask requirements in effect.

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. 17, no states have ended their COVID-19 emergencies. 

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. 

Last week, Culver City, California’s school system announced it would be requiring vaccinations among all students ages 12 and older. The state of California mandates vaccination or regular testing for teachers and staff.