More than half of the U.S. population, at least 179 million people, reside in the 18 states, 31 counties, and 13 cities that had issued “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders as of Tuesday for nonessential workers to stem the spread of the deadly and highly contagious novel coronavirus.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported:
By Wednesday, more than a dozen states and the Navajo Nation had called on their residents to stay at home as much as possible, with many cities and counties joining in. This means at least 179 million people in 18 states, 31 counties and 13 cities are being urged to stay home.
U.S. residents living under lockdown measures account for more than half of the U.S. population of about 329 million.
“People can generally still leave their homes for necessities — to go to the grocery store, to go to the doctor, and to get fresh air. Still, the changes so fundamentally alter American life that some states, like Texas, have been hesitant to adopt them,” the Times noted.
A tally compiled by the newspaper showed that the top five states hardest hit by the virus had instituted statewide stay-at-home orders — New York (30,811 cases, 285 deaths), New Jersey (3,675 cases, 44 deaths), California (2,648 cases, 56 deaths), Washington (2,469 cases, 123 deaths), and Michigan (1,783 cases, 24 deaths).
So far, the effects of the coronavirus and the associated restrictions differ region by region. As it stands now, the state of New York, particularly New York City, America’s most densely populated region, is the top coronavirus hotspot in the country.
President Donald Trump’s administration has stopped short of issuing a nationwide quarantine order, leaving it up to the states and localities to decide what kind of restrictions they want to implement.
The result has been a patchwork of local and state orders that use a variety of terms like “shelter in place” or “safer at home” to describe the restrictions.
The New York Times identified the 18 states that have imposed statewide quarantines as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Some states like Kentucky, Maryland, and Nevada have shut down nonessential businesses and verbally urged people to stay at home, but have not implemented an official statewide lockdown order.
In some states, individual counties and cities have taken it upon themselves to issue quarantine orders — Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
Although some state officials have told residents to prepare for weeks of restrictions, it is unclear how long the measures will be in place.
Some U.S. states and localities are quickly discovering that well-intentioned but toothless requests to maintain adequate social distancing might not persuade freedom-loving American residents to comply with the unprecedented restrictions.
Several jurisdictions in the United States, particularly New York, have announced that they are ready to impose legal penalties, including fines to jail time, for residents who ignore the anti-coronavirus restrictions.
Legal consequences for those who ignore coronavirus rules in the U.S. currently range from nothing to fines and jail time. The federal government has left enforcement of coronavirus restrictions in the hands of states and localities.
On Tuesday, President Trump said he wanted to open the American economy back up by Easter before the cure becomes worse than the disease. Ultimately, it will be up to the individual jurisdictions to decide when they want to lift the stay-at-home orders.