Mayors across the country are on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus, but several Republican governors are being accused of slow-walking or even undermining local officials’ efforts.
By Monday, at least 29 states had put statewide “stay at home” orders in place, meaning more than two-thirds of US residents are ordered to stay home except for essential activities, including medical appointments and grocery shopping. But major states like Texas and Florida have so far refused.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, has refrained from publicly criticizing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, but insisted in an interview with Insider that the expert advice he’s gotten demands a robust, aggressive response. Last Tuesday, Turner and the county judge ordered all Houstonians to stay inside.
The mayor said the medical and scientific evidence and advice presented to him before he decided to shut his city down were “so overwhelming that you just couldn’t ignore that.”
“I don’t know what information the governor may have received or been given, but based on the information and the facts and the strong recommendation being made by the medical community in a unanimous way, to not impose a ‘stay at home’ order I think would have been going against the facts and the advice and the science,” he told Insider in a phone interview.
Turner argued that if the state doesn’t act cohesively, it will hurt the efforts he and other Texas mayors have made to slow the spread in their cities.
“We recognize that whatever you do in one jurisdiction, if it’s not done in other jurisdictions then it weakens the overall impact,” he said. “We have to work together.”
Turner stressed that if he had waited even a day longer, it might have been too late to contain the spread in his city.
“What I’m being told is the best time to implement these aggressive stay home, work safe orders is when the numbers are relatively lower,” he said.
Critics have pointed out that while Abbott is urging local officials to devise their own individual responses to the public health crisis, he’s long lamented the patchwork of laws and regulations that result from allowing local officials to govern themselves.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican, declared last week that “lots of grandparents” are willing to sacrifice themselves to COVID-19 if it means the economy can get back up and running more quickly.
“My message: let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed.”
Patrick’s comments provoked widespread backlash. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg slammed Patrick.
“It’s easy for someone of power and privilege to say something so callous,” Nirenberg said.
Turner similarly took issue with the argument.
There are 232 confirmed coronavirus cases in Houston, but because of a severe shortage of tests, the mayor said he’s operating under the assumption that hundreds, if not thousands, of Houstonians are infected.
“Frankly, I kind of take that number in my own mind and multiply it by 10,” Turner said.
Manicures are deemed ‘essential’ in Arizona
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for weeks rejected calls from his own local officials to issue a statewide shelter in place order and undermined those officials’ ability to make their own decisions. On Monday afternoon, the Republican was finally forced to issue a “stay at home” order after nine Arizona mayors signed a letter demanding he do so. It goes into effect on Tuesday at 5 p.m. local time.
Major Arizona cities including Phoenix and Flagstaff were the first to take action to staunch the spread of the virus by ordering the closure of bars, while limiting restaurants to take-out in mid-March. The move pressured Ducey to do the same a few days later in all counties with confirmed infections.