At a press conference Monday, President Trump issued “guidelines” to slow the spread of the coronavirus. What should be noted, however, is what Trump didn’t do — he did not announce a nationwide quarantine order. You see, the consensus opinion inside the CDC was that such a nationwide action was advisable, but as Trump noted at the press conference, the threat of the disease is not evenly distributed nationwide. So what he did was to defer to state and local governments to take whatever actions they deemed necessary, based on local circumstances. In the San Francisco area, for example, six counties just got a “shelter in place” order prohibiting any non-essential activity. In Maryland, the governor ordered the closing of all bars, restaurants and gyms. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut also imposed shutdowns Monday. Restaurant chains also responded: McDonald’s closed its dining areas, offering takeout and drive-through orders only.Federalism works.
For the next couple of weeks, then, much of the country will be in emergency shutdown mode, but not on federal orders. These are state and local decisions, and also decisions by private businesses, so that constitutional federalism is preserved. We are now in a wait-and-see posture: If these measures succeed in slowing the spread of the virus, no further action will be necessary. On the other hand . . .
Well, I don’t want to indulge any worst-case-scenario speculation.
As of 10 p.m. ET Monday night, there had been 4,459 coronavirus cases reported, with 86 deaths. More than half of that death toll (48 people) was in Washington State, where one nursing-home patient who had traveled to China was the source of a disastrous outbreak. Five states — New York (950 cases), Washington (909), California (448), Massachusetts (197) and New Jersey (178) — account for 60% of U.S. coronavirus cases. Given how disproportionately the disease has been confined to a handful of states on the two coasts, it seems absurd to take drastic action affecting rural states in the Midwest. However, until the outbreaks in the coastal urban centers are brought under control, the rest of the country will be forced to go along with the crisis mentality.
I had an interesting "WuFlu" moment today. Last night I broke the frames on my very expensive glasses. Today I went to the optical center I got them at, and there were no cars in the parking lot, and when I tried to get into the empty waiting room, the assistant made me wear a mask. After determining that they could reorder the frames (for a mere $200), she told me that they were closing entirely tomorrow, and there would be no one to receive the order. But she did at least give me the model number of the frames so I could try elsewhere.
On the way out, another masked customer was waiting his turn a safe distance away. As I was leaving he said something to the effect of "I thought the Apocalypse would be more exciting", and I replied, "Yeah, we should at least have zombies."
So I went to one of the local commercial optical shops, where the guy at the desk tried to find the frames in his list, and couldn't. But he suggested I try on line, given that I had the model number. He wasn't sure they would be open long enough to help me move the lenses, once they came, but he showed me how. If this all works, I'll go back, and give him something.
Once home, it took 10 minutes to find the frames on line for a fraction of the original cost.