The Government Wakes Up to the Scale of the Coronavirus

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announcing the city’s “shelter order” to go into effect until April 7. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It wasn’t just President Trump who wished to underplay the reaction to the pandemic. In New York, Bill de Blasio reportedly wanted to maintain the rhythms of public life, keeping schools open, the restaurants full, and the gyms well attended by at least one lanky, mayoral body. It was only after teachers threatened to stay home on Monday and city public health officials threatened to quit that de Blasio closed the city’s schools, bars, and restaurants, save for takeout and delivery.

Across the country, local and state officials are having similar responses to the coronavirus, as the government begins to respond with measures not often seen outside of wartime. In the Bay Area, six counties issued a shelter-in-pace order beginning at midnight, requiring residents to stay at home for three weeks, allowing only “essential” business — which includes health services, food retail, pharmacies, child care, gas stations, banks, sanitation, and services for the elderly. Governor Gavin Newsom encouraged Californians over 65 to stay home: “The most important thing is to protect our most vulnerable.”

In the tri-state area, restrictions expanded on Monday: The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced that all bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms would indefinitely close tonight. Travel has been impacted, too: The governors also discouraged travel between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Similar closures have been enacted in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington State, and Washington, D.C.

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine recommended that the Democratic primary be pushed until June after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to avoid gatherings of 50 people or more. “It is clear that tomorrow’s in-person voting does not conform, and cannot conform, with these CDC guidelines,” DeWine said. “We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to these guidelines.” As of publication, Buckeye Democrats will still head to the polls tomorrow, as a judge rejected DeWine’s lawsuit that would push back the vote.

After dismissing the importance of the health crisis and its economic impacts for weeks, even President Trump is treating the pandemic with the solemnity it requires. To help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the president announced on Monday a new set of guidelines encouraging the now-familiar practice of social distancing: Trump suggested that Americans start homeschooling children if possible; avoid bars, restaurants, or any groups of 10 or more; and hold off on discretionary travel. Though Trump remained solemn and generally avoided ad-libbing, he did drop a notable lie, claiming that “a month ago, nobody thought about” the coronavirus. Other Republican leaders did not appear to take the threat as seriously, however:

With businesses shuttering for the foreseeable future across the United States, the next challenge will be to help provide those affected by the closings to stay afloat through the coming months. Democrats are pushing for a $750 billion stimulus package to prop up those impacted, though Texas Republican Louie Gohmert — who refused to self-quarantine after contacting an infected person at CPAC — is holding up the bill in the House. In the Senate, Mitt Romney has proposed a measure reminiscent of Andrew Yang’s universal basic income pledge: “Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” the Utah senator said in a statement.

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The Government Wakes Up to the Scale of the Coronavirus