Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:
- A ruling on mask requirements in Florida schools
- A state employee union lawsuit in Washington over a vaccine requirement
- 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.
Florida (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 27, Florida Second Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled the Florida Department of Education could not enforce Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) July 30 order authorizing Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran to withhold funding from school districts that require masks. Doing so, Cooper said, would violate a separation of powers statute. On Monday, Aug. 30, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he would withhold funding from school districts in Broward and Alachua counties that require students to wear masks.
Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 30, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) directed the Georgia Department of Defense to authorize 1,500 additional National Guard troops to assist with COVID-19 recovery efforts. The order also suspended commercial vehicle weight regulations and restrictions on the amount of time commercial drivers can spend driving.
Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 30, the statewide public indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals took effect. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) made the announcement on Aug. 26.
Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) extended for two days an order that suspended licensing requirements for retired and out-of-state healthcare workers who assist in the COVID-19 recovery in Indiana. The order also allowed EMT and National Guardsmen to administer vaccines.
New York (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 27, the New York State Department of Health filed an emergency regulation requiring masks be worn in schools. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced she was directing the agency to implement this policy on Aug. 24.
North Carolina (divided government): On Monday, Aug. 30, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed an education bill related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, Senate Bill 654 allows school districts to revert to remote learning in response to rising COVID-19 infections. The new law says districts must notify the Department of Public Instruction within 72 hours and return to in-person instruction following a quarantine period.
Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Aug. 26, the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) sued Gov. Jay Inslee (D) in Thurston County Superior Court, seeking to pause his state employee vaccine requirement. Inslee issued an order requiring state employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. WFSE President Mike Yestramski said in an email to members that he filed the lawsuit because he did not think Inslee negotiated fairly with the WFSE over the mandate.
West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Aug. 30, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced a vaccine incentive initiative to provide school supply vouchers worth $150 to families where fully vaccinated grandparents are the primary caregivers.
We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 26 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 30, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:
- Vermont (Republican governor): 76%
- Massachusetts (Republican governor): 75%
- Hawaii (Democratic governor): 74%
- Connecticut (Democratic governor): 74%
- Rhode Island (Democratic governor): 71%
The states with the lowest rates were:
- Idaho (Republican governor): 44%
- Wyoming (Republican governor): 45%
- Mississippi (Republican governor): 46%
- West Virginia (Republican governor): 47%
- North Dakota (Republican governor): 48%
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,870 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 574 of those lawsuits.
Since Aug. 24, we have added two lawsuits to our database. We have tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements.
- McCarthy v. DeSantis: On Aug. 27, Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper temporarily suspended Florida’s ban on local mask mandates. In their complaint, a group of parents claimed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) executive order barring school districts from mandating masks violated the Florida Constitution. The plaintiffs alleged the mask ban denied their children safe schools. The plaintiffs also alleged the order “makes arbitrary and capricious demands on public schools,” attempts to “usurp the mandate of the Florida Department of Health,” and “will cause further spread of the virus.” Cooper found that DeSantis had “overstepped his authority.” Cooper also said that in light of scientific evidence, school district face mask policies were “reasonable and consistent.” Cooper also said local school district mask mandates do not violate the Florida Parents’ Bill of Rights, a statute signed into law on June 29. Instead, Cooper said DeSantis’ order violated the statute. Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, said DeSantis plans to appeal the decision.
State mask requirements
We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 24 edition of the newsletter. Since then, an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect in Illinois and an outdoor mask requirement for vaccinated and vaccinated individuals went into effect in Oregon. As of Aug. 31, masks were required in ten states with Democratic governors. Thirteen 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 Aug. 24, one state has replaced a broad COVID-19 state of emergency with a narrower one.
- Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) ended the original COVID-19 state of emergency he issued on March 13, 2020. However, Parson issued a new, narrower state of emergency that eased medical licensing requirements and authorized state boards, agencies, and commissions to waive or suspend requirements or regulations that could hinder the state’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. The new order expires Dec. 31, 2021.