By Edward Achorn
A new survey by Wallet Hub, based on data gathered Monday, concludes that the most restrictive states (and the District of Columbia) for coronavirus lockdowns are (in order):
50. Rhode Island
49. District of Columbia
44. New Mexico
43. New York
The least restrictive states:
1. South Dakota
2. Wisconsin (thanks to a court case)
9. North Dakota
You’ll notice the dichotomy. Restrictive states tend to be heavily Democratic and leftist ones; less restrictive tend to be Republican, conservative ones.
The disease has exploded in many of the Democratic Northeastern states, despite heavy restrictions, and has been less lethal in other states.
I’m glad that different states, probably responding to the relative level of fear in their populace, have tried different approaches. One of the beauties of our federalist system of government is that the states act as laboratories for experimentation; one size does not fit all, and we get to see what works and what doesn’t.
Despite his often absurd, offensive and bombastic pronouncements at his press conferences, President Trump has respected this system, by leaving governors to run their states as they see fit and trying to provide help (ventilators, makeshift hospitals, including ships, protective gear, testing) where needed.
The mainstream news media, which have increasingly become a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, have tended to laud Democratic governors such as New York’s Mario Cuomo, while blasting Republican governors for opening their economies too soon. But in Georgia and Florida, the relaxation of restrictions has not equated to runaway infections. In fact, the dreaded virus seems to be receding.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lashed out at the coverage on Wednesday.
“Our data is available, our data is transparent, in fact Dr. [Deborah] Birx has talked multiple times about how Florida has the absolute best data, so any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun,” DeSantis said. “And part of the reason is because you got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York: wait two weeks Florida’s going to be next, just like Italy, wait two weeks.
“Well hell, we’re eight weeks away from that, and it hasn’t happened. Not only do we have a lower death rate — well, we have way lower deaths generally — we have a lower death rate than the Acela Corridor, D.C., everyone up there,” DeSantis said. “So we’ve succeeded and I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption, so they got to try to find a boogeyman.”
South Dakota continues to be the least restrictive, focusing its attention on a coronavirus outbreak in its meat packing industry. Governor Kristi Noem (below) could come out of this with a bright political future — depending on whether the disease runs amok from here on out.
Despite Republicans’ complaints about coverage, it’s too early for a report card on all this. We still don’t know basic information about how the disease is spread and whether it made sense to contain it with society-wide lockdowns. Scientists disagree about whether such lockdowns are better than other mitigation techniques that might have built up herd immunity and defeated the disease earlier. We don’t even know whether masks work.
The final report card will include not just death totals from coronavirus but how much governors destroyed their economies and damaged public health in other ways. Small businesses, in particular, have been devastated in the most restrictive states. Whether that had to be done remains an open question.
We’re still on a steep learning curve. Without basic knowledge, different approaches responsive to local people make sense.
(Read Edward Achorn’s books about American history.)