On Thursday night, Governor Gavin Newsome took unprecedented action and locked down the entire state of California. The following day, Governor Andrew Cuomo locked down the state of New York and Gov. J.B. Pritzker locked down the state of Illinois.
Today, as of the time of publication, 70 million Americans are in mandatory isolation at home in the hopes of stopping – or at least slowing down – the Covid-19 virus that is beginning to spread exponentially across the country.
Borders between the US, Canada, and Mexico have also been closed by mutual consent between the three governments.
While this may be necessary to curb the virus so as not to overwhelm the medical system, many Americans are feeling distinctly uneasy about their movements being restricted. Especially worrisome is the idea of the National Guard being brought in to enforce the lockdowns, as has been discussed. Somewhere, there’s a fine line between maintaining our constitutional rights and the need to stop a global pandemic.
What do the lockdowns entail?
In all three states, non-essential businesses will be closed and residents have been ordered to stay in their homes unless they must leave for “vital reasons.” Many of our largest cities are encompassed in the lockdown: New York City, Chicago, Los Angelos, San Francisco, and San Diego.
All sorts of euphemisms are being used for the situation. Cuomo prefers to call this a “pause.” California is referring to this as “safer at home.” And Illinois is calling it “shelter in place.”
But for all the nice-sounding words, it is what it is: a lockdown on a massive scale.
The most populous state in the country with 40 million residents, on March 19th, California was the first to lock down entirely and the situation will remain in effect “indefinitely.”
“We’re going to keep the grocery stores open,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that you’re getting critical medical supplies. You can still take your kids outside, practicing common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog, you can still pick up food at one of our distribution centers, at a restaurant, at a drive-thru — all those things we will still be able to do.” (source)
Newsom is confident that Californians will be cooperative.
The order will not be enforced by law enforcement, he added.
“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home-isolate, protect themselves,” Newsom said. “We are confident that the people of the state of California will abide by it and do the right thing.” (source)
However, Newsom instructed the National Guard to be on alert and has activated about “500 guard personnel to help with humanitarian work and food distribution.”
Interestingly, only 3 days before locking down the state, Cuomo said that the effort would be ineffective.
In New York, where coronavirus has killed 32 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has no plans to impose a statewide mandate.
“My job is to make sure that the state has a coordinated plan and it works everywhere,” he said this week. “I don’t think shelter-in-place really works.” (source)
However, on March 20th, the day after California locked down, he changed his mind, saying, “I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”
“No, this is not life as usual,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the death toll in the U.S. topped 200, with at least 35 in his state. “Accept it and realize it and deal with it.” (source)
Cuomo has banned all businesses except grocery stores, hospitals, laundromats, gas stations, veterinarians, and doctor’s offices. Restaurants can operate on a take-out or delivery basis. Residents can go outside to walk their dogs or exercise but must maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
And breaking the rules will have consequences.
“These provisions will be enforced,” Mr. Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany. “These are not helpful hints.” (source)
In New York City, police officers will patrol and begin giving out warnings on Sunday evening.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said summonses and arrests would be issued as a “last resort.” (source)
The state of New York has a population of close to 20 million people.
In Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker instituted a “stay at home” order which will begin today, March 21st, and remain in effect until April 8.
Pritzker has said that no matter how tight the lockdown becomes, “interstate highways, gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies would remain open.” He asked people to keep this in mind when stocking up.
“There is no need to run out and hoard food, gas and medicine,” the governor said Thursday. “Buy what you need within reason. There is enough to go around, as long as you do not hoard.” (source)
Although Pritzker activated the National Guard earlier in the week, he says that they will not be taking quarantine enforcement roles.
Instead, 60 service members will be deployed to establish drive-up testing sites, help with food delivery to disadvantaged families impacted by school closures and possibly prepare closed hospitals to reopen.
The vast majority of currently activated troops are health care professionals — doctors, nurses, medical technicians — who would not be tapped for an law-enforcement assignment. (source)
Illinois has a population of about 12.6 million people.
Where and when will the lockdowns spread?
Other states already have strict rules in place but are not quite “locked down.” Maryland was the first state to order “drastic actions.” Pennsylvania has closed down all non-essential businesses. Hoboken, New Jersey has instituted curfews. It’s really only a matter of time before this spreads across the country, whether by state mandates or on the federal level.
Last week, I wrote an article about when the lockdowns would occur based on the patterns established by China and Italy. The first lockdowns occurred right on cue, on the 19th and 20th.
We have already had some small regional lockdowns and people in quarantine after traveling, but the quarantining of large groups of people has not yet occurred in the US. YET. We are on day 50 since the initial case was diagnosed in the United States. However, the first case of community spread was on February 26, and this may be a more important marker than the first case in a country the size of ours. “Community spread” means the illness was not contracted through traceable means, like a family member with the virus or travel history to places where the illness was running rampant. So if we’re counting from the first day of community spread, the US is on day 15.
If massive lockdowns are occurring on about day 22-23 in other countries, that means we may have 7-8 days before we see major lockdowns and quarantines here. That would put us at March 19th or 20th. We may see some early lockdowns of cities or regions where the virus is rapidly spreading like Seattle and New York City. The lockdowns in other countries expanded in about a week to encompass greater geographic areas and larger numbers of people. This would put us at approximately March 26-27th. (source)
So if this pattern still holds true, we may see many more regional lockdowns coming within the next 5 or 6 days.
States that already have restrictions in place, like Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are likely to increase those restrictions next. Places with a large exponential spread like Washington state are also likely to mandate lockdowns.
Is a national lockdown in the works?
It depends on who you ask.
President Trump has said as recently as yesterday that he doesn’t think that there will be a need for a national lockdown.
Despite approval for the states’ actions, Trump said he does not think a national lockdown order will be needed, adding that other areas don’t have the same hotspots as California, New York and Washington.
“We are working with the governors, and I don’t think we’ll ever find it necessary,” he said. (source)
On the other hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert for the National Coronavirus Task Force, has said for at least a week he believes stronger measures need to be taken and that he’d like to see a “dramatic reduction in activity” to curb the spread of the virus.
Asked by CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “State of the Union” if he’d like a “national lockdown” where people are being told they need to stay home and out of restaurants and bars, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said he’d “like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see” in those places.
“Whatever it takes to do that, that’s what I’d like to see,” Fauci added. (source)
Given the speedy turnaround made by Governor Cuomo, it is certainly not impossible that we might see a lockdown mandated at the federal level. If you aren’t yet prepared for what this entails, check out this article and this PDF guide that is specific to the Covid-19 pandemic. If supplies are low in your area, you may be able to find some ideas for substitutes here. And finally, this article has some advice on how to prep for potential lockdown without spending any more money.
The National Guard has been activated in many states and other Guard members are on “enhanced readiness” status. But don’t worry, all the governors assure us that they’re only there to help dispense supplies, not to enforce lockdowns.
Numerous sources have reported being given “federal travel papers” over the past 48 hours. People working in food delivery, the medical field, distribution, and grocery stores have said under cover of anonymity that they’ve received papers from their employers to “show to the police” if they’re stopped during their travel to and from work.
Whether our country is turning into one in which authority figures demand to see your “papers” remains to be seen.