The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our entire way of life, from restaurant closures to school cancellations. While the federal government is heading a task force and keeping the public informed, it’s up to individual state governments to enforce temporary coronavirus regulations for their residents.
All 50 states have already declared states of emergency to give governors emergency powers. Now governors are responding with a wide range of policies to address the ever-changing needs of their states. Here’s a look at just a few of the hardest-hit states and how they have tackled the looming threats of COVID-19.
California is leading the way in comprehensive COVID-19 policies. Along with other states like Washington, Ohio, and Illinois, California has closed all bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery, banned gatherings of all kinds, closed all nonessential businesses, closed all schools, and ordered mandatory, statewide quarantines.
Governor Gavin Newsom has become the face of his state’s response and is holding daily briefings about the development of the virus along the west coast. On March 30, Newsom declared that California’s fight against COVID-19 “is entering a new phase” as they prepare for Los Angeles to be hit as hard as New York City. Other than 16 critical infrastructure sectors allowed to remain open, including energy, health care, and food, the state is essentially in shutdown mode.
According to Newsom, “This is a dynamic situation. I don’t expect this to be many, many months, but for the time being, we are recognizing the next eight weeks” as especially significant.
New York has been in the headlines more than nearly any other state, largely due to the impact of COVID-19 on New York City. Governor Andrew Cuomo implemented a shelter-in-place order on March 20, banning all nonessential gatherings “of any size, for any reason.” Unless they’re exercising outside alone or obtaining essential services, New Yorkers must remain at home.
New York has also preemptively announced that residents can receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free once it’s available. Lawmakers base their decision on the cost of free vaccination compared to the devastating economic cost of having the virus resurge again in the future. If employees contract COVID-19, New York State now also offers paid sick leave.
Florida’s response to COVID-19 has been largely split between two coasts. This was put on full display at the height of spring break season. The mayors of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale forced beach shutdowns and turned spring breakers away, while the beaches along Clearwater were still crowded with thousands of tourists and sunbathers.
As of March 31, Governor Ron DeSantis had still not implemented a statewide shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite many surrounding states doing so. Instead, DeSantis is encouraging residents to only gather in small groups and follow the CDC recommendations. Bars and restaurants in Florida are also closed except for takeout and delivery to ensure social distancing.
With some states taking more drastic action than others, the ultimate effects of the spread of COVID-19 remain to be seen.