Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #298: September 14, 2021

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

  • A court decision allowing school mask requirements in Iowa
  • An extended coronavirus emergency in Mississippi
  • 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.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 13, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced he would fine local governments up to $5,000 for every employee required to show proof of vaccination. DeSantis said he would begin issuing fines Sept. 16. 

Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 13, U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Judge Robert Pratt temporarily blocked a law prohibiting schools from enforcing mask requirements. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said she planned to appeal the decision.

Kentucky (divided government): On Sept. 9, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill in special session overriding the state’s mask requirement policy for public schools. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the part of the bill reversing the school mask requirement, and his veto was overridden 69-24 in the House and 21-6 in the Senate. The bill requires school mask requirement decisions to be left to local authorities. Beshear called for the special session on Sept. 4.

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 10, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) extended the state’s coronavirus state of emergency order for an additional 30 days.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 9 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 13, 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 1,883 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 580 of those lawsuits. 

Since Sept. 7, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional two court orders and/or settlements. 


  • Robert v. Austin: On Sept. 1, Judge Raymond P. Moore, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, declined to suspend the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate for active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members while a lawsuit challenging the mandate proceeds in court. The mandate directs “the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces … subject to any identified contraindications” and existing military policies. An Army drill sergeant and a Marine Corps air traffic controller, who said that they were naturally immune as the result of previous COVID-19 infections, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to suspend enforcement of the mandate. The pair allege that “the DoD cannot force them to take a COVID-19 vaccination under existing military regulations, federal regulations, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution.” The pair also say the mandate violates the Administrative Procedures Act, servicemembers’ right to informed consent, and the Nuremberg Code. DoD has not commented publicly on the case. Moore is an appointee of President Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Sept. 7 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Sept. 14, masks were required in ten states with Democratic governors. Thirteen 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 Sept. 7, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 

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. 

In Los Angeles, California, the board of Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest school district, voted 7-0 in a Sept. 9 meeting to approve a coronavirus vaccine requirement for students 12 years and older.