No one wants to catch the coronavirus. That goes just as much for policy makers, who don’t want to have to handle it, as it does for ordinary citizens, who don’t want to get sick from it.
As case counts soar in Arizona and Texas, governors in those states are loosening restrictions on what local leaders can do to fight COVID-19 that they’d earlier imposed. By now, that may be too little and too late to meaningfully stop viral spread, but it does shift the onus from state capitols to city and county officials.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey announced yesterday that, in a reversal, local authorities would be allowed to mandate that people wear masks in public. On May 16, Ducey issued an order barring local governments from more stringent rules than what the state had ordered. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said he would not block Bexar County, home to San Antonio, from forcing employees and customers at businesses to wear masks.
These are the latest examples of elected officials seizing the buck, then thinking better of it and passing it along. In April, President Donald Trump asserted “total authority” over state pandemic plans. That claim was false as a matter of constitutional law, and Trump recognized soon that with the virus spreading quickly, it was politically unwise to take ownership of the response, too. He then told governors, “You are going to call your own shots.” (This did not preclude Trump from tweeting demands to “LIBERATE” Democratic-led states, nor from green-lighting and then criticizing a reopening plan from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican.)