TagCoronavirus

Ballotpedia stories covering coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #298: September 14, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • A court decision allowing school mask requirements in Iowa
  • An extended coronavirus emergency in Mississippi
  • 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 Monday, Sept. 13, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced he would fine local governments up to $5,000 for every employee required to show proof of vaccination. DeSantis said he would begin issuing fines Sept. 16. 

Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Sept. 13, U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Judge Robert Pratt temporarily blocked a law prohibiting schools from enforcing mask requirements. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said she planned to appeal the decision.

Kentucky (divided government): On Sept. 9, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill in special session overriding the state’s mask requirement policy for public schools. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the part of the bill reversing the school mask requirement, and his veto was overridden 69-24 in the House and 21-6 in the Senate. The bill requires school mask requirement decisions to be left to local authorities. Beshear called for the special session on Sept. 4.

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 10, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) extended the state’s coronavirus state of emergency order for an additional 30 days.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 9 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 13, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,883 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 580 of those lawsuits. 

Since Sept. 7, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional two court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Robert v. Austin: On Sept. 1, Judge Raymond P. Moore, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, declined to suspend the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate for active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members while a lawsuit challenging the mandate proceeds in court. The mandate directs “the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces … subject to any identified contraindications” and existing military policies. An Army drill sergeant and a Marine Corps air traffic controller, who said that they were naturally immune as the result of previous COVID-19 infections, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to suspend enforcement of the mandate. The pair allege that “the DoD cannot force them to take a COVID-19 vaccination under existing military regulations, federal regulations, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution.” The pair also say the mandate violates the Administrative Procedures Act, servicemembers’ right to informed consent, and the Nuremberg Code. DoD has not commented publicly on the case. Moore is an appointee of President Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Sept. 7 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Sept. 14, 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

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

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. 

Overview

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.

Since Sept. 7, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

In Los Angeles, California, the board of Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest school district, voted 7-0 in a Sept. 9 meeting to approve a coronavirus vaccine requirement for students 12 years and older.



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, September 14-18, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened September 14-18, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, September 14, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) extended the state’s reopening plan, Safe Return, through Sept. 30. Reeves amended the original order to allow 75% capacity at businesses like gyms, restaurants, and retail shops, and permitted large indoor and outdoor gatherings.
  3. Federal government responses:
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed a requirement that international travelers from countries like China, Iran, and the United Kingdom deplane at one of 15 designated airports and undergo enhanced health screening.
  5. State court changes:
  6. Courts in Delaware resumed issuing failure to appear warrants for individuals who did not show up for court dates. The state suspended issuing such warrants in March 2020.
  7. Jury trials resumed in Iowa after several pilot trials received positive feedback from participating jurors and judges.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced he was adding a new color—gold—to the color-coding system that determined how schools could reopen. Counties with between 10 and 14.9 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people were classified as gold, allowing in-person learning. However, the gold category imposed limits on school gatherings and sports travel.
  3. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed an order instituting a three-phase system for reopening nursing homes to in-person visitation. The phases were based on the rate of testing, length of time since a new case, and community spread.
  4. Election changes:
  5. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s order (R) directing counties to provide no more than one absentee/mail-in ballot drop box per county “lacked a legitimate basis in evidence” and was, therefore, “unreasonable and unlawful.” Frye did not rescind the order.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

  1. Election changes:
  2. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed H5305 into law, extending absentee voting eligibility to all qualified electors in the Nov. 3 general election. The legislation also established Oct. 5 as the start date for in-person absentee voting (i.e., early voting).
  3. U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana Chief Judge Shelly Deckert Dick ordered Louisiana election officials to make available to voters in the Nov. 3 general election the same COVID-19 absentee ballot application used in the state’s summer elections. This application offered COVID-19-specific reasons for requesting an absentee ballot.
  4. Federal government responses:
  5. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) released the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy, which included guidance for working with states, tribes, territories, and local public health programs and a plan for distributing a vaccine as soon as one received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Thursday, September 17, 2020 

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that Oregon and Washington agreed to participate in a multistate pilot test of Apple and Google’s exposure notification technology. The technology notified individuals who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus based on geolocation data.
  3. Election changes:
  4. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued rulings extending the mail-in ballot receipt deadline and authorizing the use of drop boxes for returning mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  5. Mask requirements: 
  6. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed an order imposing a fine of up to $100 for violating the state’s mask mandate. The order also imposed a $250 fine for attending indoor events with more than 25 people or outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people and a $500 fine for individuals organizing such events. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

  1. Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
  2. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edward (D) announced bars, restaurants, and casinos could extend on-premise consumption of alcoholic beverages to 11 p.m. in parishes where bars were allowed to reopen.
  3. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) released guidelines for celebrating Halloween. The guidelines included a range of recommendations, including canceling hayrides and haunted houses, leaving treats in mailboxes or holding drive-through trick-or-treat events to maintain social distancing, wearing face coverings, and using video conferencing to host costume parties.
  4. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order expanding indoor dining to 75% capacity.
  5. Election changes:
  6. United States District Court for the District of South Carolina Judge J. Michelle Childs issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  7. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that had extended absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to individuals with “pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death.”
  8. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens issued a ruling extending Michigan’s absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline to Nov. 17 for ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 2. Stephens also authorized voters to allow anyone of their choosing to return their ballots between 5:01 p.m. on Oct. 30 and the close of polls on Nov. 3.
  9. Federal government responses:
  10. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced on Twitter that the Department of Homeland Security would extend its prohibition on nonessential travel with Canada and Mexico through Oct. 21.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #297: September 9, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • An extended COVID-19 emergency in Delaware
  • A ruling prohibiting school mask requirements bans in Florida
  • 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.

Delaware (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 8, Gov. John Carney (D) extended the state’s public health emergency order for an additional 30 days.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Sept. 8, Florida Second Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled the state Department of Education cannot enforce Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) order prohibiting mask requirements in public schools. Cooper ruled against DeSantis’ order on Aug. 27, but the ruling did not go into effect because DeSantis appealed the decision. Following a Sept. 8 hearing on the status of the order pending appeal, Cooper said the government did not present a compelling case for blocking his order. The ban on enforcement will remain in effect until the First District Court of Appeals hears DeSantis’ appeal.

Maryland (divided government): On Wednesday, Sept. 8, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that residents 65 and older who live in congregate care settings, like nursing homes and residential drug treatment centers, are eligible to get a third COVID-19 shot. 

Vermont (divided government): On Wednesday, Sept. 8, Gov. Phil Scott (R) expanded a vaccine mandate to include all state employees. Previously, Scott’s vaccine mandate had applied only to state employees working in settings with vulnerable populations, such as the Vermont Department of Corrections. The expanded mandate takes effect Sept. 15. State employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 7 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 8, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

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 Sept. 2. Since then, U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl H. Lipman temporarily suspended Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) executive order requiring schools to offer parents the option to opt-out of school mask requirements for their children.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, 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.  

Overview:

  • 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 Sept. 2, no state has banned proof-of-vaccination requirements or rolled out a vaccine status application.   

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Sept. 3, the Biden administration released details on the $65.3 billion “American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming Our Capabilities” plan. The proposal lays the groundwork for future pandemic response, earmarking $24.2 billion to the development of new vaccines and $11.8 billion to antiviral therapeutics. The plan also calls for spending $15-20 billion on a hub housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would coordinate a federal pandemic response.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #296: September 7, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Nevada
  • An extended vaccine incentive initiative in Wisconsin
  • 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.

Colorado (Democratic trifecta):

  • On Sept. 4, Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended a coronavirus executive order that gives tenants with pending applications for rental assistance 30 days to make late rent payments.
  • On Sept. 2, Polis (D) announced that primary care providers can receive grant funding to support coronavirus vaccination efforts. Polis also announced a testing incentive program for students in Colorado. Students who have opted in to the testing program can receive a $25 gift card for their first coronavirus test, and a $10 gift card for each subsequent test.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) extended the full vaccination deadline for staff in long-term care facilities to Sept. 27. The original deadline was Sept. 7.

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) extended the first dose vaccination deadline for healthcare workers, teachers, and school staff to Sept. 19. The original deadline was Sept. 5.

Kentucky (divided government): On Sept. 7, a special session of the Kentucky State Legislature began to discuss the extension of the state’s coronavirus state of emergency, the governor’s authority to issue indoor mask requirements, and other coronavirus-related issues. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) called the session on Sept. 4.

Maine (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 2, Gov. Janet Mills (D) extended the full vaccination deadline for healthcare workers to Oct. 29. The previous deadline was Oct. 2.

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Sept. 2, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order allowing conventions with more than 4,000 people not to require masks if all attendees are fully vaccinated. Under the rules, organizers who require proof of vaccination can admit attendees who’ve only received one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but those people must still wear masks indoors. 

New York (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Sept. 2, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed a residential and commercial coronavirus-related eviction moratorium into law. The moratorium would be effective through Jan. 15, 2022.
  • On Sept. 2, the New York Department of Health released a regulation requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus testing.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 3, Gov. Daniel McKee (D) extended Rhode Island’s coronavirus state of emergency through Oct. 2.

South Carolina (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 2, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected the city of Columbia’s challenge to the state’s ban on mask requirements. In the opinion, the court found that the mask requirement ban, which was established in a state budget amendment, did not violate a rule requiring state laws address a single primary subject.

Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Sept. 3, U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl H. Lipman ruled in favor of two students who sued Gov. Bill Lee (R) after he issued an order allowing students to opt out of school mask mandates. Lipman ruled Lee’s order violated the students’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an order prohibiting local government agencies, officials, and landlords from banning mask requirements or proof-of-vaccination requirements. 

Wisconsin (divided government): On Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. Tony Evers (D) extended the statewide vaccine incentive initiative through Sept. 19. The initiative allows anyone 12 and older to claim a $100 Visa gift card if he or she gets the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 2 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 3, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,879 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 578 of those lawsuits. 

Since Aug. 31, we have added nine lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional four court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Norris v. Stanley: On Aug. 31, Judge Paul Maloney, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, declined to block Michigan State University’s (MSU) COVID-19 vaccine mandate. MSU employee Jeanna Norris alleged,  that she should be exempted from the vaccine mandate because she has natural antibodies from a previous infection. MSU’s vaccine policy requires all MSU faculty, staff, and students “to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with an FDA-authorized or WHO-approved vaccine.” While the mandate does provide for limited medical and religious exceptions, it specifically excludes natural immunity as a qualifying exemption. Norris argued MSU was “forcing me to choose between performing my professional duties to the best of my ability and protecting my personal health” and “between protecting my constitutional right to bodily autonomy, privacy and protection and keeping my job.” Norris alleged “MSU cannot establish a compelling governmental interest in overriding personal autonomy and constitutional rights.” Maloney said Norris did not show a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” Jenin Younes, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which is representing Norris, said, “We have faith that when the Court has the opportunity to review the insurmountable evidence that supports the existence, durability, and robustness of natural immunity, it will recognize that MSU’s policy violates the constitutional rights of Ms. Norris and others in her position.” Maloney is George W. Bush (R) appointee.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 31 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no changes to statewide mask requirements occurred. As of Sept. 7, 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

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

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. 

Overview

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.

Since Aug. 31, no state has ended or enacted a COVID-19 emergency order. 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #295: September 2, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • A vaccine requirement for some healthcare workers in Massachusetts
  • A mask mandate in Pennsylvania schools
  • 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.

Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Sept. 1, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) issued an order exempting schools and daycare centers with consistent mask usage from quarantine requirements. The exemption applies to a student, staff member, or teacher who is a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19, but shows no symptoms.    

Massachusetts (divided government): On Wednesday, Sept. 1, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that staff at long-term care facilities would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 31. Baker said the requirement would also apply to home care workers who provide in-home care. 

Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Sept. 1, ​​Oklahoma County District Court Judge Natalie Mai temporarily blocked the Oklahoma Department of Education from enforcing Senate Bill 658, which prohibits school mask requirements. Several Oklahoma parents and the Oklahoma State Medical Association sued to block enforcement of the law on Aug. 12. 

Pennsylvania (divided government): On Aug. 31, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced masks would be required in all public and private K-12 schools starting Sept. 7.

South Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Aug. 31, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) ordered nine National Guardsmen to assist in COVID-19 testing efforts in the western part of the state, including Meade County, which has seen a rise in coronavirus cases.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 31 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 1, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

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 Aug. 26. Since then, school mask requirement bans were temporarily suspended in Oklahoma and Florida. Additionally, school mask requirements were issued in New York and Pennsylvania.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

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.  

Overview:

  • 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 Aug. 26, no state has banned proof-of-vaccination requirements or rolled out a vaccine status application. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Sept. 1, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said unvaccinated people should not travel over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
  • On Aug. 30, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened investigations in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. Investigators will seek to determine whether statewide bans on indoor mask requirements in schools violate the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which protects children with disabilities from discrimination. The OCR said it was concerned that mask bans could affect students with disabilities that cause underlying health conditions. The OCR also announced it would investigate whether the indoor mask requirements violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.


A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, August 31-September 4, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened August 31-September 4, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, August 31, 2020

Election changes:

  • Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed into law legislation making several changes to administration procedures for the Nov. 3 general election (including the requirement that counties provide some form of in-person Election Day and early voting).
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Judge Eleanor L. Ross issued an order extending the return deadlines for absentee ballots in the general election. Ross ordered officials to accept as valid any absentee ballots postmarked Nov. 3 and received by 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 6.

School closures and reopenings:

  • Connecticut schools were allowed to reopen for in-person instruction. Classrooms had been closed since March 16.
  • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced every public school district in the state except Providence and Central Falls would be permitted to resume in-person instruction when schools reopen for the 2020-2021 academic year. Raimondo said in-person classes were scheduled to start Sept. 14.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

  • Pennsylvania’s statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expired.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Oct. 1. DeSantis’ order allowed landlords to seek an eviction judgment in court, but said final judgments could not happen until the moratorium had ended.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill preventing evictions for nonpayment of rent through Jan. 31, 2021. 
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an order extending the statewide foreclosure moratorium through December.

State court changes:

  • Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera allowed courts to move into Phase IV of the state court’s reopening plan on Aug. 31. Phase IV allowed most in-person proceedings to resume, with the exception of jury trials. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • New Mexico Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home public health order through Sept. 18.

Federal government responses:

  • White House spokesman Judd Deere announced that the U.S. would not join an international initiative called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, the goal of which was to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) spearheaded the initiative.

School closures and reopenings:

  • The Maryland Board of Education approved new minimum requirements for instruction. The Board required schools to be open for at least 180 days and offer at least six hours of instruction, of which 3.5 hours had to be synchronous (e.g., all students taught at the same time) for grades K-12.
  • The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development issued new guidance that required student-athletes to wear face coverings during games and practices when social distancing wasn’t possible.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) closed bars in Monongalia County, two days after allowing them to reopen. He first closed bars in Monongalia in July following a spike in coronavirus cases in that area. 

Election changes:

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced an online absentee ballot request portal for the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Denise Owens ordered Mississippi officials to expand absentee voting eligibility in the Nov. 3 general election to individuals with “pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death.”

School closures and reopenings:

  • The Indiana Board of Education voted to update its definition of what counts as a virtual student for use in the state’s school funding formula. As a result, students who opted for virtual learning during the pandemic were still counted in their school’s funding formula.

Thursday, September 3, 2020 

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) announced the state would remain in Phase Four of reopening for at least two more weeks. Idaho entered Phase Four on June 13.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) moved the state into Phase 2.5 of reopening. Under Phase 2.5, the limit on gatherings increased to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Museums and aquariums were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, while gyms and indoor exercise facilities could reopen at 30% capacity.
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that indoor dining services and movie theaters could reopen with restrictions. 

Travel restrictions:

  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that out-of-state travelers from states with a 5% positivity rate or greater or a new case rate greater than 80 per 1 million residents would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Additionally, she announced that travelers from any state could avoid the quarantine requirement with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before or after entry into the state. Travelers waiting for a test result were required to self-quarantine.

Election changes:

  • Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed into law legislation providing for the use of drop-boxes to return absentee/mail-in ballots. The legislation also provided for prepaid return postage.

State court changes:

  • Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr. extended the judicial emergency through Oct. 5, and announced that the judiciary would move into a modified Phase 3 of reopening on that date. Under the modified Phase 3 plan, the Delaware Supreme Court permitted jury trials to resume and allowed courts to increase capacity from 50% to 75%.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #293: August 26, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • An outdoor mask mandate in Oregon
  • A ban on vaccine mandates in Texas
  • 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.

Upcoming news

What is changing in the next four days?

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 27, a statewide public outdoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will take effect. Gov. Kate Brown (D) made the announcement on Aug. 24.

South Carolina (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 26, the South Carolina Department of Education announced masks would be required on school buses, in accordance with CDC guidance, starting Aug. 30.

Since our last edition

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

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 26, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced he would reinstate an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, effective Aug. 30. Pritzker also announced a coronavirus vaccine or regular testing requirement for public and private pre-K through 12 teachers and staff, higher education teachers and staff, students in higher education, and healthcare workers, effective Sept. 5.

Kansas (divided government): 

  • On Aug. 25, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced she was directing executive branch agencies to work remotely through Oct. 4.
  • On Aug. 24, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a law that allows individuals to challenge county-level mask requirements and public gathering restrictions in court.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to allow Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to implement a mask mandate for K-12 public school teachers, staff, and students. The mandate will apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in middle and high schools through Oct. 1. After Oct. 1, the mandate will only apply to unvaccinated individuals in schools with an 80% or greater vaccination rate. 

New York (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 24, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced she was directing the Department of Health to institute a universal mask requirement in public and private schools. In a press release, Hochul also said she would “pursue options to mandate vaccines for school employees or require weekly testing in the absence of vaccines.”

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) prohibited state and local agencies from requiring proof of vaccination. Abbott’s earlier ban on government vaccine mandates only applied to vaccines authorized under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization. The FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 24 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 25, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

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 Aug. 19. Since then, Rhode Island and Massachusetts issued school mask requirements. Kentucky rescinded a statewide school mask requirement for all schools, but a requirement for public schools remains in place.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

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 creating digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

Overview:

  • 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 Aug. 19, one state has banned state and local government proof-of-vaccination requirements.

Details:

  • On August 25, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) prohibited state and local agencies from requiring proof of vaccination.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 and older. The vaccine remains under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for people 12 to 16 years old.
  • On Aug. 25, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memo requiring military members to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Austin’s memo directed military leaders to “impose ambitious timelines” for mandating vaccines. 

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

On Aug. 19, the school board of North Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania voted 6-3 to override the superintendent’s mask requirement. The board said masks would be optional in school starting Aug. 23. On Aug. 23, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Horan issued a temporary order reinstating the mask requirement.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #292: August 24, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • A vaccine requirement for corrections staff in California
  • A COVID-19 vaccine incentive initiative in Wisconsin
  • 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.

California (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, the California Department of Public Health issued an order requiring corrections staff who provide healthcare or who could be exposed to the coronavirus in a healthcare setting to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 14.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order requiring all state employees, staff in childcare facilities, and staff in pre-K through 12 schools to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27 or receive regular coronavirus testing. State hospital and long-term care employees do not have the option to receive regular testing instead of a vaccination.

Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Aug. 19, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued an order prohibiting county or local governments from forcing private organizations, including businesses and sports teams, to comply with COVID-19 health restrictions. 

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 20, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) renewed the state’s coronavirus disaster proclamation for an additional 30 days.

Kentucky (divided government): On Aug. 23, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) rescinded his executive order requiring masks be worn in schools. Masks are still required in Kentucky public schools due to a separate Kentucky Board of Education order. Beshear’s action followed a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion issued Aug. 21 upholding limits the state legislature placed on the governor’s emergency powers.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Friday, Aug. 20, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued an order requiring executive branch employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 17. 

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Aug. 20, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order requiring all state colleges, universities, and community colleges to require students to provide proof of vaccination after Nov. 1, 2021. 

New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 23, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order requiring all teachers and staff in pre-K through 12 schools to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or receive regular coronavirus testing. Murphy also announced that state employees would also be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or receive regular coronavirus testing.

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 19, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that the state’s coronavirus vaccine requirement for healthcare workers would no longer have a regular testing alternative, and workers will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. Brown also announced all teachers and staff in K-12 schools would be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval of a coronavirus vaccine.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): 

  • On Aug. 19, Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued an executive order requiring masks be worn in K-12 public schools.
  • On Aug. 19, Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to the Delta variant and other emerging variants of the coronavirus.

Wisconsin (divided government): On Monday, Aug. 23, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced an initiative that awards residents who receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine a $100 Visa gift card. The initiative will run through Labor Day. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 19 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 23, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,868 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. 17, we have added eight lawsuits to our database. We have tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Children’s Health Defense, Inc. v. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey: On Aug. 16, a group of 18 students filed suit against Rutgers University in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. At issue is Rutgers’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which requires all students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the beginning of the fall term. Plaintiffs allege “unjustified fear and insatiable greed drive the vaccine industry,” and the University’s mandate is “an affront to human dignity and personal freedom.” The plaintiff’s attorneys are with the Children’s Health Defense, an advocacy group founded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. In response, Rutgers issued a press release, saying, “The university’s position on vaccines is consistent with the legal authority supporting this policy.” The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 17 edition of the newsletter. Since then, indoor public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect in New Mexico and Washington. As of Aug. 24, 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

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

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. 

Overview: 

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 24 states. Emergency orders remain active in 26 states.

Since Aug. 17, no states have ended their COVID-19 emergencies. 

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

Last week, Culver City, California’s school system announced it would be requiring vaccinations among all students ages 12 and older. The state of California mandates vaccination or regular testing for teachers and staff.



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, August 24-28, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened August 24-28, 2020.

Monday, August 24, 2020

  • School closures and reopenings:
    • K-12 public schools in Arkansas resumed in-person instruction. Schools were originally supposed to reopen to in-person instruction on Aug. 14, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) delayed the reopening date on July 9 to give school officials more time to prepare. 
  • State court changes:
    • North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order extending and modifying some directives related to the coronavirus. The directives waived most notary requirements and allowed most court proceedings to occur remotely. Additionally, Emergency Directive 22 required senior resident superior court judges to submit plans for the resumption of jury trials by Sept. 30.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced they had removed Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, and Montana from the joint travel advisory list because of a decline in coronavirus infection rates. Travelers from states on the list were required to quarantine upon arrival. 
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies:
    • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) lifted the state’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. The order required landlords to waive late fees accrued since the pandemic began and give tenants 30 days notice before beginning the eviction process.
  • State court changes:
    • New Hampshire’s first jury trial since the start of the pandemic began in Cheshire County as part of a pilot program. The state’s judicial branch required everyone in the courtroom to wear a mask, and for jurors to be spread out in the gallery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) issued an order requiring restaurant and bar patrons to wear a mask anytime they interact with a server, including whenever beverages or food are brought to a table. Additionally, Pritzker enacted new restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties because of rising coronavirus cases. Pritzker’s order prohibited bars and restaurants from offering indoor dining, and limited social events and gatherings to 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity (whichever was less).
    • Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced the state would remain in Phase 4.5 of its reopening plan. Holcomb also extended the statewide mask mandate for another 30 days.
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, including the statewide mask mandate, 50-person indoor gathering size limit, and statewide bar closure to on-premises consumption, through Sept. 11.
    • In Arizona, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks were allowed to begin reopening in Apache, Cochise, Coconino, La Paz, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, and Yavapai counties. Gyms were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity while the other businesses were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Pentagon lifted restrictions on the movement of military personnel and their families between military installations at five Air Force bases and three Army bases. The restrictions had been in place since March.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) signed the 25th modification to his emergency declaration, requiring students in kindergarten and above to wear face coverings inside schools at all times. The order also required school districts and charters to notify parents when a positive coronavirus case was identified in their child’s building.
    • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced students would be permitted to participate in marching bands and cheerleading activities at football games this fall.

Thursday, August 27, 2020 

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) approved Oahu Mayor Kirk Calwell’s order reimplementing a stay-at-home order in the county for two weeks. Individuals were only allowed to leave their homes to conduct certain essential activities.
    • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order describing the symptoms an employee must have to stay home from work and avoid disciplinary measures from his or her employer. The order stipulated that employees aren’t shielded from disciplinary measures if known medical conditions could explain the symptoms.
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closed bars, nightclubs, and breweries in Polk, Linn, Johnson, Story, Dallas, and Black Hawk counties through at least Sept. 5. Reynolds cited high positive test rates among young adults in those counties, which are home to the state’s major universities.
  • Election changes:
    • Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) signed an executive order extending the mail-in voter registration deadline from Oct. 13 to Oct. 19.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Robert Redfield sent a letter to governors across the country asking states to expedite licensing and permitting so that COVID-19 vaccine distribution sites could be operational by November 1.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the state’s mask mandate through Oct. 2.

Friday, August 28, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) released a new color-coded reopening plan called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.” Counties were classified as one of four colors—purple, red, orange, and yellow—based on coronavirus spread. Different business restrictions applied to each of the color levels.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had authorized the drug remdesivir to be used on all patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Previously, the FDA had permitted the use of remdesivir only on patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #291: August 19, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • A proof-of-vaccination requirement at large events in California
  • A COVID-19 vaccine requirement for teachers in Washington
  • 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.

Upcoming news

What is changing in the next four days?

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, Aug. 18, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that vaccinated and unvaccinated people would be required to wear masks indoors in most circumstances beginning Aug. 23. The requirement does not apply to small gatherings or office environments where everyone is vaccinated and interaction with the public is rare, or while working alone. Additionally, Inslee announced that all public and private K-12 educators, staff, and volunteers would be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.   

Since our last edition

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

Arizona (Republican trifecta): On Aug. 16, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said he would withhold school grants taken from federal coronavirus relief funds from schools that implemented mask requirements.

California (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 18, the California Department of Health announced that proof of coronavirus vaccination or a negative coronavirus test would be required for attendees at indoor gatherings of more than 1,000 individuals.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Aug. 18, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools board voted 7-1 to approve a mask mandate for students, teachers, and staff. On July 30, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an order allowing parents to decide if their children wear masks at school. Miami-Dade is the largest school district in Florida.  

Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Aug. 17, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge James Kirsch overturned a trial court ruling that blocked Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) attempt to end the state’s participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs. Holcomb pulled out of those programs on June 19, but Marion Superior Court Judge John Haley ordered the state to resume paying pandemic unemployment on June 28. The federal programs are scheduled to end Sept. 4 unless Congress extends them. 

Maryland (divided government): On Wednesday, Aug. 18, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced he would require nursing home staff and healthcare workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing. 

New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 17, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced the state will re-implement an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, effective Aug. 20. Lujan Grisham also announced a separate public health order requiring all workers in hospitals and congregate care facilities, like nursing homes, to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Vaccine distribution

Read more: Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine distribution by state

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Aug. 17 edition of the newsletter. As of Aug. 18, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School mask requirements

Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic year

As of Aug. 19, 30 states leave school mask requirements up to local authorities, seven states ban school mask requirements, and thirteen states require masks in schools. Recent developments include the temporary suspension of a school mask requirement ban in Arizona, a Texas Supreme Court ruling upholding the state’s school mask requirement ban, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R)’s order mandating parental choice in school masking.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about vaccine requirements (vaccine passports)

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 creating digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

Overview:

  • 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.
  • Fourteen states have issued requirements that some or all state employees get vaccinated or undergo regular testing.  

Since Aug. 12, one state has announced a state employee vaccine requirement.  

Details:

  • On Aug. 12, Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) announced that state employees would be required to provide proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing beginning Sept. 30.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Aug. 18, President Joe Biden (D) announced a plan to offer a third COVID-19 vaccine shot to Americans beginning Sept. 20, pending Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Biden said the third shot would only be available to people eight months after their second shot. 
  • On Aug. 18, President Biden (D) directed the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) to determine if governors or other officials are providing K-12 public school students the opportunity to participate in in-person instruction. Biden authorized Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to look into tools the DoE can use to ensure students can safely be in the classroom. Cardona said the DoE may use its Office for Civil Rights to investigate discrimination allegations against schools or officials prohibiting students from getting in-person instruction.
  • On Aug. 13, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected a lawsuit challenging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) evictions moratorium. Friedrich said she did not have the authority to block the moratorium because of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s earlier ruling on the CDC’s moratorium.
  • On Aug. 13, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) authorized members to continue proxy voting through Oct. 1. Proxy voting allows members to vote on legislation and participate in committee meetings remotely.