Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #293: August 26, 2021

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

  • An outdoor mask mandate in Oregon
  • A ban on vaccine mandates in Texas
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School mask requirements
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
  • Federal responses

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 four days?

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 27, a statewide public outdoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will take effect. Gov. Kate Brown (D) made the announcement on Aug. 24.

South Carolina (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 26, the South Carolina Department of Education announced masks would be required on school buses, in accordance with CDC guidance, starting Aug. 30.

Since our last edition

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

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 26, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced he would reinstate an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, effective Aug. 30. Pritzker also announced a coronavirus vaccine or regular testing requirement for public and private pre-K through 12 teachers and staff, higher education teachers and staff, students in higher education, and healthcare workers, effective Sept. 5.

Kansas (divided government): 

  • On Aug. 25, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced she was directing executive branch agencies to work remotely through Oct. 4.
  • On Aug. 24, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a law that allows individuals to challenge county-level mask requirements and public gathering restrictions in court.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to allow Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to implement a mask mandate for K-12 public school teachers, staff, and students. The mandate will apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in middle and high schools through Oct. 1. After Oct. 1, the mandate will only apply to unvaccinated individuals in schools with an 80% or greater vaccination rate. 

New York (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 24, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced she was directing the Department of Health to institute a universal mask requirement in public and private schools. In a press release, Hochul also said she would “pursue options to mandate vaccines for school employees or require weekly testing in the absence of vaccines.”

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) prohibited state and local agencies from requiring proof of vaccination. Abbott’s earlier ban on government vaccine mandates only applied to vaccines authorized under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization. The FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 24 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 25, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School mask requirements

Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic year

We last looked at school mask requirements on Aug. 19. Since then, Rhode Island and Massachusetts issued school mask requirements. Kentucky rescinded a statewide school mask requirement for all schools, but a requirement for public schools remains in place.

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 assisted in creating 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 assisted in the creation of digital vaccination status applications. 

Since Aug. 19, one state has banned state and local government proof-of-vaccination requirements.


  • On August 25, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) prohibited state and local agencies from requiring proof of vaccination.

Federal responses

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

  • On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 and older. The vaccine remains under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for people 12 to 16 years old.
  • On Aug. 25, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memo requiring military members to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Austin’s memo directed military leaders to “impose ambitious timelines” for mandating vaccines. 

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 Aug. 19, the school board of North Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania voted 6-3 to override the superintendent’s mask requirement. The board said masks would be optional in school starting Aug. 23. On Aug. 23, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Horan issued a temporary order reinstating the mask requirement.