A surge in coronavirus deaths in the United States has prompted the vast majority of governors to order their residents to stay home, but a small number of states are resisting increasingly urgent calls to shut down.
By Friday, nine states had yet to issue formal statewide stay-at-home orders. It is the most direct, stringent measure available, going beyond closing down restaurants and schools and instructing all residents to stay at home, except for necessities. In some of those states, cities and counties had stepped in to issue their own orders, leaving a patchwork of restrictions.
For many conservative governors who believe strongly in small government and personal responsibility, the prospect of mandatory stay-at-home orders is anathema and they rejected what they called a catchall approach that could wreck their states’ economies. Though governors issuing the orders elsewhere have spanned the political spectrum, with some Republican governors emerging as early and strong advocates, the remaining holdout states are all Republican-led.
“I can’t lock the state down,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, which has recorded more than 600 confirmed cases and at least 11 deaths. “People also have to be responsible for themselves.”
Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota said he was appealing to residents “who love liberty and freedom” to respect social-distancing rules. “It’s important that we exercise individual responsibility,” he said at a news conference. “By following these guidelines, we’re literally saving lives.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said in an interview that the typical stay-at-home order was a misleading “illusion” because it includes so many exemptions allowing people to go out in public, such as for groceries or exercise. He said Arkansas had taken “very aggressive measures,” and said ordering people to stay at home would simply leave thousands jobless.
“If I signed it today, more than 700,000 people would get up and go to work tomorrow,” he said, adding another 100,000 would be suddenly unemployed.
A small number of states in the Midwest and the South are under growing pressure to order all residents to stay at home to fight the coronavirus.