There should be a national stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, on Thursday night, adding: “I don’t understand why that’s not happening.”
Fauci made the recommendation during an interview on CNN, and hours later location data published by Google backed up his claim that the state-by-state patchwork of restrictions currently in place is leading to a huge disparity in how effectively social distancing is being implemented across the country.
“The tension between federally mandated versus states' rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into,” Fauci said of a federal order to stay home. “But if you look at what is going on in this country, I do not understand why we are not doing that. We really should be.”
But so far, President Donald Trump has held back from implementing a nationwide order to stay at home.
“It’s awfully tough to say close it down,” Trump said Wednesday. “We have to have a little bit of flexibility.”
Federally mandated shutdowns have been implemented in numerous countries around the world, and Fauci’s recommendation echoes those of other U.S. experts.
“Despite urging from public health experts, some states and counties haven’t shut down completely,” Bill Gates, who has been warning about the threats of a pandemic for years, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this week. “In some states, beaches are still open; in others, restaurants still serve sit-down meals. This is a recipe for disaster. Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus.”
The U.S. has by far the most confirmed cases of any country in the world, with more than 245,000 cases — more than twice the number reported in the next hardest-hit country, Spain. The number of deaths in the U.S. jumped by over 1,000 on Thursday, with the death toll now at more than 6,000.
So far 38 states have implemented statewide stay-at-home orders, but despite the grim figures, some state governors — most of them Republicans — have resisted calls to impose stricter social distancing measures.
In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has resisted calls to issue a stay-at-home order, saying “people are making their own decision to stay home.”
However, data published by Google on Friday morning does not back that up.
The location data, collected anonymously from billions of Google users around the world, shows where people have been traveling to during the pandemic.
According to the data for Arkansas, visits to retail and recreation locations have fallen by just 29% at the end of last month, compared to a similar period earlier this year. This is the lowest drop of any state in the U.S. and compares to a 50% drop in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a statewide stay-at-home order two weeks ago.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has belatedly issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect at 6 p.m. Friday, after claiming he only learned this week about new evidence that asymptomatic carriers can infect others. The CDC and others have been warning since mid-February that patients with no symptoms could be spreading the disease.
Similarly, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis only relented on issuing a statewide order on Wednesday after confirmed cases in Florida passed 8,000. He initially resisted doing so because President Trump hadn’t told him to, he said.
In Iowa, where visits to parks have increased by over 40% during the outbreak, according to Google data, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds is also holding out. She said this week that she is resisting issuing a blanket order to keep the economy going, despite the number of cases in the state spiking in recent days.
“I can’t lock the state down,” Reynolds said, claiming that restrictions like closing schools and businesses, and restricting gatherings, were enough to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
But the current restrictions don’t seem to be working too well. On Thursday more than 500 people gathered for the Midwest Trotting Horse Sale after it was postponed earlier in the month, local station KCCI reported.
Cover: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence listens. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)