By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus approached 1,300, many state governors have ordered residents to stay home to slow the disease’s spread, while others have balked at such mandates – a patchwork approach that reflects the federalist system.
State and local governments have the final say on how to police within their borders, even as President Donald Trump and the White House issue guidelines about what U.S. residents should do.
The most populous “blue” U.S. states, those that generally vote Democratic, have so far been some of the hardest-hit, in part because the virus has spread through their big cities. These states are also key contributors to the overall U.S. economy.
Getting the economy back on track will mean getting the virus under control, economists and policymakers, including Fed Chair Jerome Powell, say.
Overall, Republican and Democratic leaders appear to have different approaches. Here is how the 10 largest U.S. states, ranked by population, have responded to the crisis:
CALIFORNIA (POPULATION 39.5 MILLION, 14.6% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
California on March 19 became the first to issue a stay-at-home order. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s mandate allowed trips outside only for essential errands and exercise like walking or running. Businesses providing essential services have remained open.
TEXAS (POPULATION 29 MILLION, 8.8% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
In the absence of a statewide stay-at-home order from Republican Governor Greg Abbott, officials in the biggest counties have issued their own.
Measures include limiting public gatherings to 10 people, school closures, and 14 days of self-quarantine for people flying to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans.
Abbott’s second-in-command, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, has made headlines by saying that social distancing guidelines will tank the U.S. economy.
“My message is that let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Monday night.
FLORIDA (POPULATION 21.5 MILLION, 5.1% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has not ordered Floridians to stay at home, defying recommendations by public health experts.
DeSantis was the first governor to mandate self-quarantine for travelers arriving from New York City area airports.
County officials have issued stay-at-home orders for cities including Miami and the state capital of Tallahassee. Spring Break destinations Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale closed beaches last week.
NEW YORK (POPULATION 19.5 MILLION, 8.1% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, issued a stay-at-home order similar to California’s effective Sunday night.
Cuomo also issued stricter guidelines for the state’s most vulnerable residents, including senior citizens. Those guidelines are being called “Matilda’s Law,” named after Cuomo’s mother.
PENNSYLVANIA (POPULATION 12.8 MILLION, 3.8% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has ordered residents of 10 counties, including those covering Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to stay at home.
ILLINOIS (POPULATION 12.7 MILLION, 4.2% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
In addition to ordering his constituents to stay home, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker on Sunday urged Trump to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order.
OHIO (POPULATION 11.7 MILLION, 3.3% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Governor Mike DeWine has responded more forcefully to the coronavirus threat than other Republican leaders in populous states. In addition to issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, DeWine postponed the March 17 Ohio presidential primary, even after a judge refused to sign off on the move.
“We haven’t faced an enemy like we are facing today in 102 years, DeWine said on Twitter on March 22.
GEORGIA (POPULATION 10.6 MILLION, 2.9% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Governor Brian Kemp has resisted calls for a statewide stay-at-home mandate, but has closed schools and restricted public gatherings. Kemp, a Republican, has also ordered state residents who have an “increased risk of complications” to stay home.
“I’m having to govern the whole state,” Kemp said on Thursday. “We still have over 50 counties that don’t have a confirmed case yet. We’re trying to balance that.”
The mayor of Atlanta, the state’s capital and biggest city, issued a stay-at-home order on Monday.
NORTH CAROLINA (POPULATION 10.5 MILLION, 2.7% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Governor Roy Cooper has ordered bars and restaurants closed, among other measures, but has stopped short of issuing a statewide stay-at-home order. Some counties and cities have issued their own stay-at-home orders.
The North Carolina Medical Society, a professional organization for the state’s doctors, urged Cooper, a Democrat, to close more non-essential businesses.
MICHIGAN (POPULATION 10 MILLION, 2.5% OF U.S. ECONOMY)
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, issued a stay-at-home order effective March 24.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Heather Timmons; editing by Heather Timmons and Richard Chang)