UPDATE: On Friday, the governors of Alabama and Missouri announced stay-at-home orders on Friday.
As of Thursday afternoon, 12 governors still had not issued the statewide stay-at-home orders that are the best defense against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
We have to ask ourselves how many of their residents have yet to catch the virus and how many have to die before these 12 heads of state wake up. We have to ask ourselves if they understand that they are endangering all Americans. A pandemic does not respect any state line.
There is not a moment to lose. The toll of the virus is increasing day by day. More than 225,000 Americans – and more than a million people worldwide – have contracted COVID-19. Over 5,000 Americans, including 157 in Illinois, is dead.
And the worst by far – possibly as many as 240,000 American deaths – is yet to come.
Yet these 12 governors ignored the advice of top public health experts. They refused to shut down daily activity as completely and widely as possible.
I can’t look to Trump
President Trump has been of little help in this regard. He has been ubiquitous on how to respond to the spread of the coronavirus, creating unwarranted skepticism. He initially predicted that the virus would magically disappear. Then he appealed a week ago that the United States be “open for business” again by Easter.
Now Trump says dramatic measures to contain the virus will have to remain in effect at least until April, but he has been loath to call on governors – all Republicans – who refuse to act.
Trump may also lack the constitutional power to order states to self-quarantine. As constitutional scholars Laurence Gostin and Sarah Wetter wrote this week in Atlantic, “The constitutional authority to order major public health interventions, such as mass quarantines and physical distancing, rests primarily with states and localities in the United States through their ‘police powers.
That leaves it up to the governors of the country to act quickly and decisively, as Governor JB Pritzker did in Illinois. Yet many simply won’t.
One-off closures are not enough
In Missouri, which of course shares a border with Illinois, Governor Mike Parson and public health officials have issued orders that constitute suggestions. Residents are “encouraged” to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and “to avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars or food courts,” according to NPR. Parson closed schools, but nothing else.
You are free to catch the virus at a burger restaurant in Missouri, row a boat on the Mississippi River, and spread the disease to anyone you chat with in Illinois.
The same is true in Arkansas and Nebraska. Have a beer in a crowded bar, catch the virus and take it on the road.
This piecemeal approach is woefully inadequate. As Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote this week in the Washington Post: “This is a recipe for disaster… The country’s leaders must be clear: to stop anywhere means to stop everywhere.”
All of this must be infuriating for the millions of people in Illinois and 37 other states – including neighboring Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky – who have made extraordinary personal sacrifices to fight the virus. They are squatting at home day and night, venturing out only for necessities and emergencies, maybe going a little crazy. They have lost their jobs and their wages, or are at risk of losing them, and they are unable to see their friends, family and neighbors.
By government decree, schools, workplaces and non-essential businesses were closed. Public gatherings have been reduced. Parades, concerts and sporting events have been canceled. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has close our beloved lake.
We are moaning. We love our lakeside. But for the most part, we understand that our health and that of everyone else should come first.
Best bet to beat the virus
Is all this social distancing working? You bet.
A massive lockdown has been credited with pushing the coronavirus back into China. Similar measures went a long way in defeating the Spanish Flu of 1918 in the United States. And new search from California and Washington state – great news – suggests that social distancing in those two states has slowed the rate of infection. It flattens the curve.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, has not called for a national lockdown. We wish he would, even though we understand that he struggles to deal with Trump’s ego in order to stay in the President’s good graces and to remain effective.
Yet in an interview on Thursday, Fauci made it clear that he believed some governors were too lax, allowing too many exemptions to stay-at-home orders or not fully enacting them.
“I can’t make official proclamations here, but I can say, ‘Really, seriously, are these exemptions appropriate when you think about what’s going on? “,” Fauci told NBC’s Today Show. “I urge leaders at the state level to take a close look at these decisions. “
To the Governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming we would say this:
Do what’s right or watch people die.
Send letters to email@example.com.