President Donald Trump has so far decided not to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order, instead leaving the decision up to the states. Now, however, he is facing criticism from those who argue that his choice could be enabling the spread of the novel coronavirus, potentially harming more Americans.
As The Hill reports, states like Texas, Iowa, and Missouri — all led by Republican governors — have held out on declaring a stay-at-home order.
Although there is some question as to whether or not the president has the legal authority to require governors to close their state borders, he can issue clear guidelines on the best course of action.
Florida Governor Rick DeSantis said during a recent press conference that he hadn’t issued a lockdown within the state because he hadn’t received guidance from the White House to do so, even though Surgeon General Jerome Adams called for people across the country to stay at home through April and possibly beyond.
“My advice to America would be that these guidelines are a national stay at home order,” Adams said. “They’re guidelines that say the more we social distance, the more we stay at home, the less spread of disease there will be.”
DeSantis said that he would issue a lockdown if Trump advised him to. The state currently has around 7,700 confirmed cases of the disease and a death toll of over 100. On Wednesday, the governor issued a stay-at-home order after facing increasing pressure to do so.
Critics point to Florida as a reason why Trump should take a firmer stance and issue a clear stay-at-home order. If he does, they argue, the holdout states — nearly one-third of the nation — would potentially comply. But Trump said that each state should be able to decide how to handle the outbreak for themselves.
“Different kind of a state,” Trump argued, speaking of Florida. “Also, great governor. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Has a very strong view on it. And we have spoken to Ron.”
Experts — like Dr. Sanjay Gupta — have pointed out that the disease doesn’t respect borders, making a national stay-at-home order a necessity for mitigating the spread of the virus.
“The truth is we’re only seeing fairly good social distancing in coastal states but not in southern states like Florida and in the Midwest,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.
But those states are the ones in which the president has the most influence, Gostin argues. He could ” encourage particular red-state governors to do a lockdown.”
Presidential hopeful Joe Biden and philanthropist Bill Gates have also called for an immediate stay-at-home order. Biden has argued that the Trump administration hasn’t taken the pandemic seriously enough.