Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- A law allowing workers to opt out of vaccine mandates in Arkansas
- A law in Ohio prohibiting public schools from mandating vaccines that haven’t been fully authorized
- 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.
Since our last edition
What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.
Arkansas (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 13, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed a bill permitting employees to opt out of employer vaccine requirements to become law without his signature.
Massachusetts (divided government): On Oct. 12, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that Hopkinton High School was the first school in the state allowed to lift its indoor mask requirement. Schools in Massachusetts can lift their mask requirements if at least 80% of students are vaccinated.
Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 13, House Bill 244, which prohibits public K-12 schools and universities from mandating vaccines that haven’t received full Food and Drug Administration approval, took effect. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the bill on July 14.
New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 13, the Executive Council, a board of elected officials that advises the governor and approves expenditures in the state budget, voted 4-1 to reject $27 million in federal funding earmarked to promote COVID-19 vaccines. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) supported using the funding for vaccine outreach.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Oct. 12 edition of the newsletter. As of Oct. 13, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 79%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 78%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 77%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 77%
- Rhode Island (Democratic governor): 76%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 48%
- West Virginia (Republican governor): 49%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 50%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 51%
- North Dakota (Republican governor): 52%
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 Oct. 7. Since then, Massachusetts began allowing school mask requirement exemptions for schools with at least 80% of students vaccinated.
State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements
State governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof of vaccination. Other states have assisted in the creation of 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 Oct. 7, two states have issued orders or enacted laws allowing people to opt out of providing COVID-19 proof of vaccination.
- On Oct. 13, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed Senate Bill 739/House Bill 1977 to become law without his signature. The law requires employers to allow workers to opt out of vaccine requirements if they undergo weekly COVID-19 testing or prove they’ve had a prior infection. The law is scheduled to take effect 90 days after enactment.
- On Oct. 11, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order prohibiting public and private organizations and businesses from requiring customers or employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they object on personal, religious, or medical grounds.
Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- On Oct. 12, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced he would lift restrictions on nonessential travel at the Canadian and Mexican borders for fully vaccinated individuals in early November. Mayorkas, who did not specify a start date for the policy, said travelers entering the United States would be required to show proof of vaccination. Under the revised policy, the prohibition on nonessential travel remains in effect for unvaccinated people. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed to close their borders to nonessential travel in March 2020.