In the rest of today’s newsletter: Red states and blue states are experiencing different pandemics (and enacting different responses). Plus: It wasn’t just the Trump administration that got the COVID-19 response wrong.
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(YUSKIKI / SHUTTERSTOCK / THE ATLANTIC)
State of the States
In just a few weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has upended American life. While the federal government muddles through its response to the pandemic, state and local governments have canceled schools, closed down restaurants, and even postponed elections.
While some states are imposing serious lockdowns, others are being far more lax, and others have fallen somewhere in between. California and New York have ordered all their residents to stay at home for the foreseeable future, for instance, while Alaska remains one of two states that has yet to declare a state of emergency. Despite shuttering restaurant service and public schools, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama shared the president’s desire to lift the restrictions sooner than later at a call-in conference today. Predictably, states that have yet hold primaries—Georgia, Maryland, Idaho, Ohio, Louisiana, and Kentucky—have shifted their elections to later this summer.
As my colleague Ron Brownstein reports, states with Republican governors, such as Oklahoma and Texas, have been slower to impose restrictions, while states with Democratic leaders, such as California, have moved more swiftly to shut down all non-essential businesses. A rural-urban disparity in confirmed cases has emerged, too: Left-leaning metro areas such as Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Boston have seen more clusters of COVID-19 cases than Republican-leaning small towns.
There are exceptions. The Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, for example, declared a state of emergency after just three confirmed cases of COVID-19 appeared in his state.
President Trump himself doesn’t seem keen to continue the public health-supported social-distancing response to the outbreak. “We will be back in business as a country pretty soon,” in order to mitigate damage to the economy, he claimed today. (This is just one of a continuing series of concerning declarations about COVID-19.) And after the World Health Organization announced that the mortality rate for the novel coronavirus is about 3.4 percent, Trump swatted away the claim based on his “hunch” that “only a fraction of 1 percent” will die from the disease.
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What President Trump Has Gotten Wrong about the Coronavirus So Far
Since his first public comments about COVID-19, the president has continued to make misleading to outright erroneous statements about the nature of the virus and the federal response to the pandemic.
False statements add confusion for state and local officials trying to coordinate their pandemic-mitigation efforts and fuel worry that the government lacks a cohesive national strategy. They could also lead some Americans to take the crisis less seriously, cause more people to get sick, and strain an already strained medical system.