A handful of Republican-led states have so far avoided taking draconian “stay-at-home” measures to contain the coronavirus — but the numbers show they account for less than 2% of infections and less than 1% of deaths from the disease in the U.S., according to The Washington Times.
The eight states have just a few hundred deaths from COVID-19 between them, The Washington Times reported, a striking contrast with Democratic, metropolitan states that have seen surges of the disease despite lockdown orders that President Donald Trump, for his part, is eager to end sooner than later.
In the weeks since it took over American life, the coronavirus has driven a debate on where civil liberties end and where public safety begins. For about 90% of Americans, state and local leaders have decided heavily on the side of restricting social movement, with drastic consequences for the economy: nearly 17 million Americans have lost their jobs in just a few weeks, according to CBS News.
As the downsides of draconian lockdowns have become apparent, some have begun to question the prudence of shutting down most of the country, and President Trump has been clear that he is eager to restart the economy soon. While Democratic governors insist on moving cautiously to relax “stay-at-home” orders, the handful of states that do not have sweeping orders — Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming — counted fewer than 300 mortalities between them as of Wednesday afternoon, according to their websites, and roughly 11,000 cases.
The hardest hit among them is Utah, with 2,500 or so cases, while Wyoming has the fewest, with less than 300. Nationwide, America had nearly 620,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 27,760 deaths as of Wednesday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
The leaders of the Republican states credit more targeted approaches and voluntary social distancing with their ability — so far — to avoid the catastrophic outbreaks seen in places like New York and Michigan. South Dakota’s governor, Kristi Noem — whose state is home to an infected food plant that is among the nation’s hotspots, according to CBS — has said that stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional and that citizens are taking action themselves to slow the spread.
“My role in respect to public safety is something I take very seriously,” the Republican said in early April, according to The Washington Times. “The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety. They are the ones entrusted with expansive freedoms. They’re free to exercise their rights to work, to worship and to play, or even to stay home or to conduct social distancing.”
In Wyoming, Republican Gov. Mark Gordon’s office said that stay-at-home orders would not provide any health benefit beyond the state’s existing guidelines, according to the Times. All eight states are projected to reach their peaks in deaths at the end of April or early May.
For some, these Republican hold-outs are seen as part of a problematic “patchwork” approach to tackling the virus. Democrats have for weeks faulted Trump with failing to coordinate a more rigorous, national response to the virus — but the coronavirus isn’t impacting America equally, with metropolitan areas like New York, New Orleans, and Detroit among the hardest hit.
There is, of course, the issue of population density; collectively, those eight Republican states comprised about 5% of the U.S. population in 2018, according to the Times. Another counterpoint: populous states like California, the first to implement a statewide lockdown, appear to have “flattened the curve.”
But as President Trump seeks to restart the economy, these eight states seem to offer a counter-example to those who have pursued more draconian restrictions, with often uncertain results. New York, for example, has started to flatten its curve, but still has more infections than any country in the world besides China.
In some states, governors are using the development of a vaccine, or rigorous systems for tracking the virus with controversial surveillance techniques, as benchmarks for when Americans can return to normal life again, as MSN reports. Such draconian measures have led to anger and even protests in parts of the country as fear rises of authoritarian overreach.
Indeed, Democrats complain about a “patchwork,” but that’s just part and parcel of living in a large country with a federal system of government — perhaps lockdowns are appropriate in some places and not in others. In the meantime, the relatively low numbers in these states may change, but as various governors double down on mandatory, indefinite house arrest, it’s worth questioning the path much of the country is taking.