Trump resists US lockdown, leaves states to make own decisions

Trump resists US lockdown, leaves states to make own decisions

US President Donald Trump is resisting calls to order a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Trump’s refusal to implement such restrictions across the whole country is despite his administration’s projections that tens of thousands of Americans are likely to be killed by the disease.

But US states are increasingly implementing their own shutdown orders.

Mr Trump said earlier this week that he and members of his administration had discussed issuing a stay-at-home order but it was “pretty unlikely” for now.

Then on Tuesday the White House offered “sobering” new projections that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans are likely to succumb to coronavirus even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

Surgeon general Jerome Adams said the nation’s federalist system leaves much of the authority on how to properly respond to catastrophes to individual state governors and local officials.

Mr Adams said: “We trust the governors and the mayors to understand their people and understand whether or not they feel like they can trust the people in their states to make the right decisions.”

On Wednesday alone, three more states – Florida, Nevada, and Pennsylvania – added or expanded their stay-at-home orders.

The White House’s best-case projection for loss of life assumes statewide stay-at-home orders, according to a senior administration official familiar with Mr Trump’s thinking.

Mr Trump, the official said, is a believer in federalism and that it is up to individual governors to set restrictions for their states. The official said the White House thinking is that states are being hit by the virus with varying degrees of severity and they are best able to adapt the policies for their specific situations.

More than 272 million people live in the 38 states where governors have declared statewide shelter-in-place orders or have recommended that residents stay home.

In other states – places like Iowa, Nebraska and Georgia, among others – governors have resisted state-level decisions, but some localities have declared residents should stay at home. Those types of local orders cover Atlanta, St Louis and Oklahoma City, along with dozens of other counties and cities.

Still, Mr Trump – who has conducted long, near-daily briefings on his administration’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak over the last three weeks – has been reluctant so far to urge governors to issue orders that would help effectively create a national quarantine.

The deference has come even as his administration has issued guidelines that have urged Americans to work from home if possible, cancel on-site instruction at schools, and avoid large gatherings.

The resistance to a more robust response comes even as vice president Mike Pence said White House models for the coronavirus toll show the country on a trajectory similar to hard-hit Italy.

Mr Trump alongside US vice president Mike Pence (AP/Alex Brandon)
Mr Trump alongside US vice president Mike Pence (AP/Alex Brandon)

Mr Pence said: “We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.”

Italy, which has already recorded more than 13,000 deaths, has issued a nationwide quarantine, shutting down almost all industrial production and offices and largely prohibiting residents from leaving their homes.

There are signs that Trump administration officials are pushing behind the scenes for resistant governors to issue statewide quarantines.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis had resisted issuing a statewide order but reversed course and issued one on Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented.

Mr DeSantis, a Republican, told reporters that he decided to issue the order after consulting with Mr Trump and White House advisers.

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