Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #215: December 9, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at the federal government’s contractor vaccine mandate, a Maryland Board of Education policy allowing school districts to end mask mandates in some circumstances, and other news since Dec. 2.

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

A note to readers: We are retiring the Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter. The Dec. 23 edition will be the last to reach your inbox. Our first edition went out on April 27, 2020, and we want to thank you for following along with us—whether you’ve been with us since the start or subscribed along the way. Although this newsletter will end, our coronavirus coverage will not. We’ll continue tracking state, local, and federal COVID-19 and vaccine policy changes at

Since our last edition

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


  • On Dec. 7, ​​U.S. District Court Judge Stan Baker, who was appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump (R), suspended enforcement of the federal government’s vaccine requirement for federal contractors.
  • On Dec. 2, President Joe Biden (D) announced that insurance reimbursements for at-home coronavirus tests would be available to individuals with private insurance.

Louisiana (divided government): On Dec. 6, the Louisiana House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee voted 13-2 to reject a Louisiana Department of Health proposal that would have added the coronavirus vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for some students.

New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 2, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) issued an amended emergency public health order requiring workers in higher-risk environments, like healthcare and congregate care workers, to be vaccinated and receive a booster vaccine by Jan. 17, 2022.

Maine (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 8, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced she would be activating additional members of the Maine National Guard to assist in the state’s hospitals and inpatient care facilities in response to the coronavirus.

Maryland (divided government): On Dec. 7, the Maryland State Board of Education voted 12-1 to allow local districts to end mask mandates if one of three conditions is met: 1) the county vaccination rate is 80% or higher, 2) 80% of school staff and students are vaccinated, or 3) COVID-19 transmission in the county is considered moderate or low for 14 straight days. 

Minnesota (divided government): On Dec. 8, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced “Celebrate Safely, Minnesota,” a campaign to encourage residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine, wear masks indoors, and take other preventative steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Dec. 7, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced four walk-in COVID-19 vaccination sites. The sites are in Berlin, Plymouth, Claremont, and Rochester. 

Wisconsin (divided government): On Dec. 8, state Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake announced that 60 National Guard nurses would fill in as nursing assistants at state-run mental institutions to make up for staffing shortages amid a rise in COVID-19 cases. 

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,961 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 608 of those lawsuits. 

  • Georgia v. Biden: On Dec. 7, U.S. District Court Judge Stan Baker issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of President Joe Biden’s (D) executive order mandating that federal contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19 and adhere to other mitigation  measures. Baker’s order prohibits the Biden administration from enforcing the executive order in all states and territories while the legal challenge to the mandate is pending. Baker ruled the administration’s mandate likely exceeded the scope of its authority under the Procurement Act. Baker, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, said Biden’s order went “far beyond addressing administrative and management issues in order to promote efficiency and economy in procurement and contracting, and instead, in application, works as a regulation of public health, which is not clearly authorized under the Procurement Act.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. Department of Justice would defend the executive order in court: “The reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work and we are confident in our ability legally to make these happen across the country.” 

Vaccine distribution

As of Dec. 8, 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 Dec. 2, no states changed their statewide mask requirements. As of Dec. 9, 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 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.

Since Dec. 2, no state has ended its statewide COVID-19 emergencies and no state has issued a new COVID-19 emergency.

School mask requirements

Since Dec. 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas’ school mask requirement ban could be enforced, and the Maryland State Board of Education voted to allow local school districts to end their mask requirements if certain coronavirus-related metrics were met.

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 supported the creation of digital vaccination status applications.  

Since Dec. 2, 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.

Since Dec. 2, no states have enacted policies related to state employee or healthcare worker vaccine requirements.