Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #304: October 5, 2021

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

  • A student vaccination requirement in California
  • An order allowing students to opt out of school mask mandates in Tennessee
  • 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.

Arkansas (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 30, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s mask requirement ban for schools and other government entities could not be enforced.

California (Democratic trifecta): On Oct. 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced the state would require eligible students in public and private schools to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The deadline for vaccination is the start of the term following vaccine approval of the student’s age group, with currently eligible students required to be vaccinated by July 1, 2022.

Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): On Oct. 1, Gov. David Ige (D) announced he would extend the state’s coronavirus emergency proclamation through Nov. 30. The proclamation includes several coronavirus-related measures, like travel restrictions, the indoor mask requirement, and social gathering size limits.

Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) extended the statewide COVID-19 emergency through Oct. 31. 

Massachusetts (divided government): On Oct. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept a case challenging Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) coronavirus restrictions, including stay at home orders and mask requirements. The lawsuit claims the Civil Defense Act, which authorizes the governor to respond to emergencies like invasions or natural disasters, does not include pandemics. The plaintiffs appealed the case after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Baker was within his rights as governor to issue pandemic restrictions.  

Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 1, the Ohio Department of Health announced it had increased the Vax-2-School initiative’s prize pool to $2,000,000. The initiative allows children and young adults 12 to 25 to enter to win school or college scholarships if they’ve received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 30, Gov. Bill Lee (R) extended an order allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates. During September, three U.S. district court  judges blocked Lee’s order in Knox, Shelby, and Williamson counties in response to lawsuits that alleged the order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorney General Herbert Slatery (R) has said he would appeal decisions affecting Shelby and Knox counties. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 30 edition of the newsletter. As of Oct. 4, 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 1,897 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 587 of those lawsuits. 

Since Sept. 28, we have added three lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional three court orders and/or settlements. 


Maniscalco v. New York City Department of Education: On Oct. 1, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected an emergency application seeking to suspend New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public-school teachers and staff. The petitioners asked Sotomayor to suspend the mandate, which required teachers and staff to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 no later than 5 p.m. EDT on Oct. 1, while the case proceeds in lower courts. In their original complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the petitioners alleged the mandate violates their constitutional right to substantive due process and infringes on “deeply rooted liberty interests, including the right to work as teachers.” Judge Brian Cogan, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, declined to grant petitioners a preliminary injunction, ruling the mandate “represents a rational policy decision surrounding how best to protect children during a global pandemic.” Petitioners appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where Judge Joseph Bianco, also a Bush appointee, granted a temporary restraining order against the mandate pending a decision by a three-judge panel. That panel reversed Bianco’s temporary restraining order and declined to issue an injunction pending appeal. Plaintiffs then filed their emergency application with Sotomayor. Sotomayor, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, is the justice responsible for emergency petitions originating in the Second Circuit. Vinoo Varghese, an attorney for the petitioners, said, “We are disappointed, but the fight for our clients’ due process and those similarly situated will go on.”

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Sept. 28 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended Louisiana’s statewide public indoor mask requirement through Oct. 27.

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. 28, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order.