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James McAllister

James McAllister is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Michigan, West Virginia end statewide face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 18-24.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ended most remaining statewide coronavirus restrictions, including the statewide mask mandate, on June 22. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports).

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) ended the statewide mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals on June 20. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 10 states had statewide mask orders. All 10 states have Democratic governors. Nine of the 10 states exempted fully vaccinated people from most requirements.

Of the 29 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 16 have Republican governors, and 13 have Democratic governors. Twenty-six states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Vermont ends statewide face-covering requirement

One state ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 12-17.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the state, including capacity restrictions and mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals on June 14. Masks are still required in health care settings, in long-term care facilities, on public transportation, and at transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports). 

The California Department of Health also exempted fully vaccinated individuals from the statewide mask mandate starting June 15. Fully vaccinated residents still have to wear masks on public transit and in transportation hubs, in indoor childcare and K-12 school settings, in healthcare settings, and in congregate settings (including prisons and homeless shelters). The statewide mask requirement still exists for unvaccinated people in all indoor public settings and businesses. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 12 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and one of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 12 states, 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 27 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 15 have Republican governors and 12 have Democratic governors. Twenty-four states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Illinois, Kentucky end face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 5-11.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) moved the state to Phase 5 of reopening June 11, ending the statewide mask mandate. The state still requires masks in schools, on public transit, in hospitals, and at congregate facilities like prisons and homeless shelters. Masks are also recommended in indoor public spaces for individuals who are not fully vaccinated. 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) ended the statewide mask requirement, remaining social distancing requirements, and all capacity restrictions June 11. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transit, at schools, and in healthcare settings.

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 13 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and two of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 13 states, at least 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 26 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 14 have Republican governors and 12 have Democratic governors. Twenty-three states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina end mask requirements

Three states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between May 14 and May 20.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) ended the statewide mask requirement on May 14. Masks are still required for unvaccinated visitors to nursing homes, prisons, and hospitals, and in certain school settings. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people must still comply with federal law, which requires masking on public transportation and at public transportation hubs like bus stations and airports.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) ended the statewide mask mandate on May 15. The state still requires vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in schools and hospitals, as well as on public transportation.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) ended the statewide mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on May 14. Masks are still required for all people, regardless of vaccination status, on public transportation and in healthcare settings.

Additionally, at least eight more states amended their existing mask orders to align with the CDC guidance issued May 13, exempting fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements. Those states are Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-one states had statewide mask orders at the time of this writing, including 17 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and four out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of those 21 states, six required masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Fifteen states exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 18 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 12 have Republican governors, and six have Democratic governors. Fifteen states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



17 states have announced dates to end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits

On May 4, 2021, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) became the first governor in the U.S. to announce his state would opt out of all federal unemployment benefit programs related to the coronavirus pandemic by June 30. Gianforte said, “Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good. We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce. Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work.”

Since Gianforte’s announcement, at least 16 additional states have also announced plans to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. All 17 states that are ending pandemic federal unemployment benefits have Republican trifectas.

The table below summarizes when each state will end federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits:

The American Rescue Plan, signed on March 11, 2021, extended federal unemployment benefit programs related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including the federal government’s $300 per week add-on to state unemployment benefits, through September 6, 2021.

Want daily updates about changes to government policies regarding vaccine eligibility, travel restrictions, and more? Our Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter delivers the latest coronavirus-related updates to our subscribers’ inboxes each weekday. Click here to subscribe.

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At least 7 states amend mask requirements to align with updated CDC guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) amended its mask guidance May 13. The new guidance says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor public settings, regardless of the number of people gathered.  

The guidance still recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks and social distance at doctor’s offices, hospitals, and long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Masks are also recommended in congregate settings (like homeless shelters and prisons), when traveling on public transportation (like on planes and buses), and at transportation hubs like airports and bus stations.

At least 7 states amended their existing mask orders to align with CDC guidance and exempt fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements, as of May 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST.

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Kentucky
  3. Nevada
  4. Oregon
  5. Washington
  6. Vermont
  7. West Virginia

Ballotpedia tracked four other changes and announced changes to state mask requirements:

  1. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) fully ended the statewide mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents on May 14. 
  2. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced May 13 he would amend the state’s mask requirements to align with CDC guidance starting May 19. 
  3. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced May 13 he would amend the state’s mask requirements to align with the CDC guidance but did not say when he would update the order.
  4. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he will lift the statewide indoor mask mandate once 70% of adult residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. At the time of the announcement, that figure stood at 65%.

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-four states had statewide mask orders at the time of this writing, including 19 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and five out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of those 24 states, 17 required masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Seven states exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 15 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 11 have Republican governors, and four have Democratic governors. Twelve states have ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) have ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) has ended its mandate through court order.

Additional Reading: 



Minnesota, Pennsylvania announce plans to lift face covering requirements

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) announced May 6 that he will end the statewide mask mandate on July 1. Walz said the mask mandate could be lifted earlier if 70% of residents age 16 and older receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) said on May 4 he will end the statewide mask mandate when 70% of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Wolf did not announce a target date for ending the restrictions.

Ballotpedia tracked four other amendments to statewide mask orders over the last week:

*Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) amended the state’s mask order on May 2. The updated order lifts the requirement for people to wear masks in indoor spaces with more than 10 people if 80% of those individuals are fully vaccinated. The order does not say what proof is necessary to demonstrate vaccination status.

*Michigan Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Hertel issued an order May 4 lifting the outdoor mask requirement for gatherings of fewer than 100 people. Additionally, players in organized contact sports are no longer required to wear masks.

*Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an emergency directive updating the statewide mask mandate order to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance on May 3. The updated language states that people “shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face covering in a manner consistent with current guidance issued by the CDC, and any subsequent guidance issued by the CDC.” 

*Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) revised the outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents and visitors on May 1. Masks are now only required in crowded settings when social distancing isn’t possible. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including 20 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and five out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 14 states that have ended statewide public mask requirements, 11 have Republican governors and 3 have Democratic governors. Eleven states have ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) have ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) has ended its mandate through court order.



Alaska ends coronavirus state of emergency for second time

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) lifted the state’s coronavirus emergency order on April 30. Dunleavy’s emergency powers originally expired Feb. 14, causing his emergency declaration to end. But the emergency order’s expiration prevented the state from accessing an additional $8 million of federal food assistance benefits for April.

In response, the legislature passed House Bill 76, and Dunleavy signed the legislation on April 30. The bill retroactively extended the disaster emergency from Feb. 14 through the end of 2021. The retroactive extension allowed the state to access the federal food assistance benefits. 

The bill also allowed Department of Health and Social Services Director Adam Crump to issue a limited disaster emergency order April 30 to secure future federal assistance. After Gov. Dunleavy signed the legislation and Crump signed the limited order, the governor re-ended the state’s emergency order, effective April 30.

HB 76 passed the state Senate April 28. The state House approved the legislation April 29. The new law also enacts legal immunity for businesses against claims related to COVID-19.



Mississippi becomes second state to open vaccinations to everyone over 16

All Mississippi residents over the age of 16 became eligible for vaccinations statewide on March 16. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced the change in a tweet on March 15. Before the change took effect, residents aged 50 and older had been eligible for vaccinations since March 4. Mississippi is the second state to open vaccinations up for anyone over the age of 16 statewide, after Alaska. 

Alaska opened vaccination appointments to everyone aged 16 and older statewide on March 9. Previously, those 55 and older had been eligible for appointments since March 3. 

Several other governors have announced dates for lifting restrictions on vaccine eligibility:

  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced a revised timeline for vaccine distribution on March 15. Lamont said scheduling will open to all individuals ages 45 to 54 starting March 19. The state is targeting April 5 to open vaccinations to everyone age 16 or older.
  • Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced an updated timeline for vaccine distribution on March 12. The state is aiming to open eligibility to everyone 50 and older on April 1 and anyone 16 and older on May 1. 
  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced the state will expand vaccine eligibility to include everyone 16 and older on April 19.  
  • Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced on March 16 that everyone 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 1.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced that residents 16 and older with medical conditions or disabilities will become eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on March 22. All residents 16 and older will become eligible on April 5.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said on March 16 that all residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a vaccine on March 29.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced on March 12 that everyone 16 and older will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting May 1.

Note: In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data in the map below details the loosest restrictions in each state and may not reflect statewide accessibility.

As of March 17, at least one county in each state allowed the following age groups to access the vaccine:

  • Four states allowed vaccinations for anyone 16+. (A limited number of counties in Michigan and Arizona allow individuals 16+ access to vaccinations. Mississippi and Alaska are the only states that permit vaccinations for people 16+ statewide).
  • One state allowed vaccinations for anyone 45+.
  • 11 states allowed vaccinations for anyone 50+ or 55+.
  • 33 states and Washington, D.C., allowed vaccinations for anyone 60+ or 65+.
  • One state allowed vaccinations for anyone 75+.


Arizona is 7th state to order in-person school instruction, others schedule openings

On March 15, Arizona became the seventh state to require at least part-time instruction for certain grade levels. Oregon will join the list in two weeks, and Washington will join in three.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R-Ariz.) March 3 executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction took effect March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties are exempt from the order. Parents can still keep their children in virtual classes.

On March 12, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The order also requires public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also said on March 12 he will soon issue an emergency proclamation requiring elementary schools to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5. Schools must provide older students the same by April 19. As of March 15, Inslee had not signed the proclamation.  

All three states had previously left reopening decisions to school districts.

Nationwide:

  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction
  • Two states (Ariz., W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
  • Thirty-nine states left decisions to schools or districts