Sunday, March 29, 2020

Controlavirus Has Pushed American Civil War Into Its Pre-Shooting Acrimonious Divorce Phase

Guardian |  Hundreds of US counties and all 50 states now have confirmed coronavirus cases – despite a widespread lack of testing – underscoring the indifference of the virus to the familiar political boundaries separating red states, dominated by Republicans, and blue ones, dominated by Democrats.

But while the virus does not select for party affiliation, contrasting emergency responses at the state and local levels have split dramatically along partisan lines.

States with Democratic governors have been quicker to declare emergencies, close schools, shutter non-essential businesses and impose limits on bars and restaurants, according to data collected by the Kaiser Foundation. Fifteen of 21 states to have issued stay-at-home orders have Democratic governors.

States with Republican governors, meanwhile, have been less eager to ask businesses to close, and more likely to downplay the threat. “Go to the grocery stores. For crying out loud, go to the grocery stores,” Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia told residents on 16 March. “If you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat.”

The night before, Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt tweeted a picture of himself and his two sons at a restaurant, boasting: “It’s packed tonight.” The tweet was later deleted.

The divergence in state responses to coronavirus does not cleanly split along the red-blue line, with Republican governors in states such as Ohio and Maryland among the most proactive in responding to the threat, said University of Southern California professor Manuel Pastor.

All partisan disagreements in the United States in 2020 seem to emanate from or end with Donald Trump. But the president has encouraged a partisan divide on the coronavirus threat, analysts said, pitting state governors against each other and setting off bidding wars for medical equipment.

While states and localities have primary responsibilities for public health under the American system of federalism, the president has an important role in focusing the national attention on the emergency and channeling the massive resources of the federal government to the states most in need, said Lawrence O Gostin, a professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins University.

“This is something that’s really unprecedented and clearly American federalism is not well equipped to do it. You need every oar to work together. We have fragmentation, name-calling and wildly different responses,” Gostin said.