Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #310: October 28, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. As a reminder, starting today we publish this summary weekly on Thursday. 

Today we look at an FDA committee’s recommendation on COVID-19 vaccines for children, the end of Louisiana’s indoor mask mandate, and other news since Oct. 21.

We’ll also give the latest tracking on:

  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • Vaccine distribution
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • School mask requirements
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Since our last edition

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

Alabama (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 25, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) issued an executive order  prohibiting state officials and entities from penalizing individuals and businesses for not complying with federal vaccine requirements.

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Oct. 22, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) issued an executive order requiring individuals who work in licensed daycare centers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or receive weekly coronavirus testing. The deadline to receive the first dose is Dec. 3, and the deadline for the second dose is Jan. 3.

Louisiana (divided government): On Oct. 26, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) lifted the statewide indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in all settings except for K-12 schools. School districts have the option not to require masks if they follow CDC quarantine guidelines.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Oct. 26, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley extended the K-12 mask requirement through Jan. 15, 2022. The requirement applies to all staff and students aged five and older in most indoor public school settings. 

Michigan (divided government): On Oct. 26, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) directed state agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to prepare to provide COVID-19 vaccines to children as soon as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes children ages 5 to 11 to get the vaccines. 

South Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Oct. 27, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) issued an order allowing state employees to opt out of President Joe Biden’s (D) upcoming federal vaccine mandate on medical or religious grounds.

Vermont (divided government): On Oct. 21, Gov. Phil Scott (R) added the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to the state’s booster shot program. The FDA authorized Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots on Oct. 20. 

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Oct. 25, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington Judge Thomas Rice declined to temporarily block Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) state employee vaccine mandate while the case works its way through court. A group of public employees, including ferry workers and Washington state police, sued Inslee, alleging the vaccine mandate violated their constitutional rights. Plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order against the mandate. 


  • On Oct. 26, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in children ages 5-11. In order for the vaccine to be fully approved for that age group, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must formally authorize the vaccines for children.
  • On Oct. 25, the Biden Administration announced that beginning Nov. 8, individuals traveling to the United States will be required to show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of traveling.
  • On Oct. 25, the CDC issued guidance allowing some immunocompromised individuals to receive a fourth booster vaccination. Individuals would be permitted to receive a fourth booster vaccination at least six months after their most recent dose.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,930 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 605 of those lawsuits. 

Since Oct. 19, we have added 13 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional nine court orders and/or settlements. 

  • Does v. Mills: On Oct. 19, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer declined to suspend Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The plaintiffs alleged the mandate violates their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion because it does not provide for a religious exemption. Chief Judge Jon Levy, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order and later refused to grant a preliminary injunction against the mandate. Levy, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, said plaintiffs had not been “prevented from staying true to their professed religious beliefs,” because they were still able to refuse vaccination, albeit at the risk of being terminated from their jobs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit declined to intervene, prompting the plaintiffs to petition Breyer, who handles emergency requests from Maine, to suspend the mandate while the case is appealed. Later on Oct. 19, the First Circuit affirmed Levy’s decision, finding that “Maine’s interest in safeguarding its residents is paramount.” The plaintiffs then filed another emergency application with Breyer, seeking an injunction pending the full Court’s decision as to whether to take up the appeal. Breyer is a Bill Clinton (D) appointee.

Vaccine distribution

As of Oct. 27, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

State mask requirements

Since Oct. 19, Louisiana lifted its statewide public mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. As of Oct. 28, 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

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 Oct. 19, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. 

School mask requirements

Since Oct. 21, Massachusetts extended its school mask requirement and Louisiana changed its school mask requirement to only apply to school districts that do not follow CDC quarantine guidelines.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

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 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. 
  • Five states have assisted in the creation of digital vaccination status applications or enacted orders or laws exempting vaccinated people from some restrictions.

Since Oct. 21, no states have enacted policies related to proof-of-vaccination requirements or digital vaccination status applications.  

State employee and healthcare worker vaccine requirements

The Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization to several COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021. Since then, many states have required state employees and healthcare workers to get vaccinated. In some cases, states have allowed workers to opt for regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of getting a vaccine. 

  • Fifteen states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. 
  • Twenty states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees.