US governors expand shutdowns amid coronavirus concerns
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A growing number of governors ordered a partial shutdown of their state economies Monday to limit the spread of the coronavirus, mandating that certain retailers cutoff sales, restaurants kick out diners and fitness centers close their doors.
In other states, governors deferred those decisions to mayors and other local officials who went even further. Six counties in the San Francisco Bay area ordered nearly 7 million residents to stay inside, allowing them to venture out only for necessities during a three-week period starting Tuesday.
“This disease is a challenge unlike any we've experienced in our lifetimes,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday as she issued a ban on dining in at restaurants and followed several other governors in closing bars, movie theaters and gyms. “Fighting it will cause significant but temporary changes to our daily lives. ... This is about saving lives.”
Even as governors and local officials took sweeping action, governments lacked consensus on how to respond to a crisis that is pummeling state and local economies, idling millions of workers and threatening to severely strain health care services in the hardest-hit areas. Business churned on, almost as usual, in some parts of the country.
The Trump administration and federal health authorities tried to provide some clarity on Monday. They recommended that Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10, educate their children at home and avoid discretionary travel over the next 15 days. Older Americans should remain at home to avoid coming in contact with the virus.
Still, the White House stopped short of ordering such restrictions nationwide. The lack of governmental consensus has resulted in a national patchwork of precautions — and general public confusion about what's OK to do and what's not, as public health officials try to slow the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
“It's chaos,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. "I think it actually feeds the feeling that the country's out of control. There is no clear direction; there is no clear path."
The Democratic governors of Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington on Monday all ordered the full or partial closure of certain categories of businesses, though it was unclear in some cases exactly how that would be enforced.
Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters across the state effective at 5 p.m. Monday, though he still allowed for drive-through, carryout and delivery services. He also announced a prohibition on social, community, recreational or religious gatherings of more than 50 people in close proximity.
“The governors are really leading and taking charge in their individual states, and they’re acting on what they think is the best thing," said Hogan, who is chairman of the National Governors Association, "because while the federal government has had some guidelines, which are changing, they have not given clear directives.”
While suggesting that New York's governor could “do more" in the fight against coronovirus, Trump on Monday also sought to assure people that there is cross-governmental cooperation.
"I think it’s very important that all of the governors get along very well with us and that we get along with the governors, and I think that’s happening,” Trump said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, praised the federal government's response as he took only limited action amid the outbreak. Unlike other governors of heavily populated states, Abbott has not made explicit calls for limiting mass gatherings — instead leaving those decisions up to local officials.