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States Decide Own Shutdown Orders      04/02 06:15

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is resisting calls to issue a 
national stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the new coronavirus despite 
his administration's projections that tens of thousands of Americans are likely 
to be killed by the disease. One by one, though, states are increasingly 
pushing shutdown orders of their own.

   Trump said Wednesday he wants to give governors' "flexibility" on whether a 
stay-at-home policy is the best option for their constituents but acknowledged 
that he's looking at limiting air and rail travel between hot spots within the 
United States. The Republican president remains hesitant to press a unified 
policy even after the White House released "sobering" new projections  on 
Tuesday that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will likely succumb to the 
coronavirus even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained. 

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

   "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," Adams said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

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

   But the invocation of federalism in the midst of a crisis that threatens a 
nationwide body count on par with some of the deadliest American wars suggests 
that Trump and his advisers are cognizant of the political ramifications of 
their response. Republican governors in states like Florida, Texas and Nebraska 
have questioned the necessity of applying strong social distancing rules to 
rural or exurban areas that haven't reported much evidence of the virus. 

   The lack of a unified, 50-state response also collides with evidence 
emerging that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no 
clear symptoms, complicating efforts to gain control of the pandemic. A study 
conducted by researchers in Singapore and published by the U.S. Centers for 
Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday is the latest to estimate that 
around 10% of new coronavirus infections may be spread by people who were 
infected with the virus but not experiencing symptoms.

   Even while deferring to governors. the Trump 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 akin to 
hard-hit Italy.

   Speaking to CNN, 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. The U.S. has recorded more than 5,000 deaths, according to 
figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

   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 Trump's thinking. Trump, the official said, is a believer in federalism 
and that it is up to governors to set restrictions for their states. The 
official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

   More than 285 million people live in the 40 states where governors have 
declared statewide shelter-in-place orders or have recommended that residents 
stay home. In other states --- places like Iowa and Nebraska, among others --- 
governors have resisted state-level decisions, but some localities have 
declared residents should stay at home.

   According to a poll published Wednesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center 
for Public Affairs Research, 78% of U.S. adults, including 84% of Democrats and 
76% of Republicans, favor requiring Americans to stay in their homes except for 
essential errands. Americans in states that already had stay-at-home orders in 
place when the survey began are more likely than those in states that did not 
to approve of their state's response, 63% to 51%.

   Still, Trump --- who has conducted long, near-daily briefings on his 
administration's response to the virus outbreak over the last three weeks --- 
has been reluctant to use his bully pulpit to urge governors to issue orders 
that would help effectively create a national quarantine. 

   "There are some states that are different," Trump told reporters Wednesday. 
"There are some states that don't have much of a problem."

   But there are signs that Trump administration officials are pushing behind 
the scenes for holdout governors to issue statewide quarantines. 

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

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

   Rep. Donna Shalala, a Florida Democrat, said earlier Wednesday that Trump 
should be pressing governors for a unified approach to help stem the spread of 
the disease, calling his response so far "fragmented, weak and uneven." 

   "He hasn't made a national plea to say we're all in this together, and he 
hasn't even talked to the governors about all doing the same thing," Shalala, 
who was secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton, 
said in an interview.

   Authority to order quarantines inside states rests almost entirely with 
states under provisions in the U.S. Constitution ceding power not explicitly 
delegated to the federal government to states, courts have ruled consistently 
for years. While the federal government itself can't order nationwide 
quarantines or impose quarantines on states, courts have said it has clear 
power under constitutional clauses regulating commerce to quarantine 
international travelers or those traveling state to state who might be carriers 
of deadly diseases. 

   A few legal scholars have argued that the Constitution's Commerce Clause may 
vest Trump with powers to impose a multiple state or national lockdown with or 
without states' approval, though any such move under that minority 
interpretation would almost certainly be challenged immediately as 
unconstitutional.

   Pence told CNN that leaders and residents of states that haven't been hard 
hit are already taking action to slow the virus' spread.

   In Nebraska, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he's basing his 
decisions on the advice he gets from public health experts at the University of 
Nebraska Medical Center, which has dealt extensively with outbreaks and served 
as a quarantine space for Ebola patients. In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds 
has resisted a mandatory shelter-in- place order, saying the data she looks at 
doesn't yet justify it in her state.

   South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another Republican, said her voluntary 
guidance had helped slow the infection rate. "The calls to apply a 
one-size-fits-all approach is herd mentality, it's not leadership," she said.

   Ricketts, a vocal Trump supporter, has repeatedly said he won't impose a 
stay-at-home order in Nebraska but has ordered restaurants either to close 
their dining areas or allow no more than 10 people inside at once, depending on 
their location in the state. 

   In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered schools to stay closed 
through at least May and imposed restrictions that doctors and even his critics 
say are tantamount to a stay-at-home order for the state. Still, Abbott refused 
to call it that.

   "This is not a stay-at-home strategy. A stay-at-home strategy would mean 
that you have to stay home," Abbott said. "This is a standard based upon 
essential services and essential activities."


(KR)

 
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