“South Dakota is not New York”. With that phrase, the state governor justified a month and a half ago her decision not to impose confinement despite the doctors’ requests. And it’s true that South Dakota has not suddenly become New York, but right now that state has the worst outbreak of the country’s coronavirus, with more than 600 cases in the same factory. Despite this Governor Kristi Noem, like seven others Republican state leaders, is determined not to back down and order its citizens to stay home. Everyone appeals to “personal responsibility” and their faith in “limited government.”RELATED
In the US, the power to close businesses and order people to stay home belongs to the states and local authorities. They are the proper things of a country founded after a colonial war against the King of England: that the political system is designed with a good dose of skepticism towards the benefits of centralized power. Trump himself has had to admit it. He started the week boasting of having “full authority” to reopen the US economy and before Friday already I had to recognize that it will be each one of the governors who decides how and when. All he can do (and does) is push them on social media.
Those eight rural and republican states that continue to reject confinement are very striking and so is Trump’s fight to force several Democratic governors to reopen their businesses, but the truth is that the role of the federal government is very limited. That is why the measures measured against the coronavirus differ so much from one point to another in the country.
In a dozen states, break the confinement can take you one year in jail, while in others you can get away with a warning or a fine of less than 100 euros. In New York and several more statesYou must wear a mask or similar, but in most parts of the country it is not necessary. But the most important differences come when deciding the exceptions to the rule, the activities and businesses considered “essential” and that they can remain open while the rest have to close. And they depend a lot on the state, the county and the municipality.
As a general rule, all grocery stores, banks, and gas stations are allowed to open, but the Trump government further recommends that gun shops not be closed. In Delaware they still allow florists to order at home and in Arizona, where the national parks have closed, you can still play on many golf courses. Furniture stores may remain open in Houston, and in other parts of Texas, some sporting goods and fishing stores also open because their owners consider themselves essential as part of the food industry. To find out if you have to go to work or if you can go shopping, it is best to call first.
This abundance of regulations, exceptions, and interpretations results in comparative grievances. In Nebraska you can go outside without much trouble and almost everything is open, but hairdressers, tattoo artists and strip clubs have had to close. In Pennsylvania, liquor stores have closed, never having sold as much as the day the order was issued, but marijuana dispensaries are still open. In fact, in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia, orders were given not to sell to out-of-state people to avoid crowds at liquor stores.
With Trump pressuring different governors to reopen the economies of their states as quickly as possible, several of them have decided to join forces. The country’s two great economic locomotives, California and New York, governed by Democrats, have pushed regional alliances to make common policies against the coronavirus and decide together when to return to normality.
All the coastal states from Canada to Mexico have joined on the west coast: California, Oregon and Washington. In the east coast alliance are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and also Massachusetts, the only one of all those states governed by a Republican. Two large groups that concentrate a large part of the country’s population and the vast majority of its wealth, a counterweight that Trump cannot ignore.