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States Set Their Own Restrictions to Combat Coronavirus

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security

Perhaps not since the Civil War has the United States exhibited Jeffersonian Democracy more emphatically than now, during the novel coronavirus pandemic that so far has killed more than 70,000 Americans.

Thomas Jefferson was an advocate of personal liberty from government oppression and monarchy. As such, he preferred a limited federal government in favor of the ability of the individual states – just 13 at the time – to control their own destiny.

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When the Trump administration passed most of the responsibility for mitigating the COVID-19 disease to the individual states, most abided by suggested federal restrictions: stay-at-home orders, social distancing, closures of all but essential stores, and shutting schools and sporting events.

As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, “White House recommendations released last month encouraged states to wait to see a decline in cases over a two-week period, as well as having robust testing in place for front-line workers before entering ‘Phase One’ of a gradual comeback.”

But now a “slew of states — such as Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Florida — have pushed forward with relaxing social distancing guidelines even as the number of people testing positive in many states has increased in recent weeks and testing continues to lag behind,” the Post pointed out.

Recently, however, some states – prompted in part by angry demonstrators – have begun to lift restrictions on their own, allowing small businesses, malls and beaches to re-open even as the pandemic rages on.

Some States Generally Ignored Accepted Rules against a Rush to Reopen

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Monday announced new steps to reopen restaurants and parks, in the latest step to lift coronavirus restrictions in Mississippi after a nearly month-long lockdown.

According to the Jackson Clarion Ledger, “Reeves has been pushing for Mississippi to reopen its economy for weeks, citing businesses and residents that are financially struggling during the coronavirus crisis. He and other state officials have said the number of cases in the state [is] plateauing, even as Mississippi saw 397 new cases and 20 deaths — record-high numbers — confirmed on Friday.”

According to an earlier report, Reeves “had been prepared to announce more businesses could reopen, but said a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths caused him pause, and he will wait at least through the weekend to allow more reopening.”

On Friday the Mississippi Health Department reported “the highest number of new cases and deaths reported in one day in Mississippi to-date,” the Jackson Clarion Ledger said. The department reported 20 additional deaths and 397 new cases of coronavirus. That brought the state’s total cases to 7,212 with 281 deaths.

California Will Loosen Stay-at-Home Order and Allow Some Businesses to Reopen

California was the first state to recommend testing for some residents without symptoms.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California will loosen its stay-at-home order and allow some businesses to reopen on Friday, May 8. The re-openings are the beginning of step two of the state’s four-step plan to return the state to normalcy.

“We are entering into the next phase this week,” Newsom said in his daily press briefing Monday as reported by National Public Radio. “This is a very positive sign and it’s happened only for one reason: The data says it can happen.”

Businesses that will be allowed to reopen include book, clothing, toy and sporting goods stores, as well as music shops and florists.

California – the most populous state with 39.5 million residents – has reported 54,937 confirmed cases and 2,254 deaths.

New York Governor Announces Strict Benchmarks State Will Follow before Reopening

By contrast, as of May 5, New York State reported 324,357 coronavirus cases and 24,788 deaths, The New York Times reported. New York City accounted for 18,580 of those fatalities. Those numbers are the highest in the nation. The state ranks third in U.S. population with 19.45 million residents.

As coronavirus cases continue to decline in New York State, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo provided new details on Monday about the strict benchmarks that the state will follow for reopening. They include a 14-day decline in virus-related hospital deaths, or fewer than five a day; a steady rate of new hospitalizations below two per 100,000 residents a day; and a hospital-bed vacancy rate of at least 30 percent.

Cuomo acknowledged that some parts of the state will probably meet the thresholds much sooner than others.

Maine Orders All Travelers to Self-Quarantine to Be Allowed into the State

Maine last month enacted one of the strictest laws when it ordered all travelers coming from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days regardless of state of residency. The order likely will affect the summer tourism season which provides a good deal of the state’s annual tax revenue.

Maine is operating under Stage 1of Governor Janet Mills’ plan, meaning that only certain entities can be re-open. The statewide extended stay-at-home order runs through at least May 31.

Under the Governor’s plan, the stages are based on calendar months, to allow for time to assess the effectiveness of the health and safety precautions. The stages also give businesses a predictable time frame to plan for their re-opening.

“The earliest stages are focused on resuming business operations and activities which can be conducted in a safe manner, meaning they have a low risk for potential transmission of the virus.

“In addition, new public health guidance will also go into effect. Maine people will be newly required to wear cloth face coverings in public settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Maine, with a population of 1.34 million, has reported 1,205 confirmed and likely cases and 57 deaths.

“A lot of people have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the governor’s plan,” WGME in Bangor reported. Ken Graves, a pastor who held services on Sunday inside his church, spoke for many dissenters of the state’s restrictions when he said, “So our governor and other governors like her have decided to become our kings and queens rather than our elective representatives, passing laws.”

David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies.

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