March 27, 2020
The coronavirus crisis is a dark cloud, but even this modern plague has a silver lining: Americans at the state and local levels are finding ways to link arms and handle it themselves, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Indeed, absent a federal focus on the health of Americans, rather than on the vitality of the economy, the nation’s governors have taken up the cause. Among those who have assumed leadership during the U.S. emergency are two Republicans— Mike DeWine of Ohio and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts—and three Democrats—Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gavin Newsom of California, and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois.
Indeed, Cuomo is even being hyped as a shoo-in for the presidential nomination—replacing Joe Biden at a brokered Democratic Convention.
On March 22, for example, amid continuing mixed messages from the White House and Congress about the severity of the problem, a handful of governors took decisive action to effectively close bars and restaurants to slow the spread of the disease.
In the opinion of the Journal, “the most effective leader in the nation so far, in fact, may be … DeWine of Ohio”—chosen by the new outlet because, “He was among the first to ban large public gatherings and order schools closed. He declared that NCAA basketball tournament games scheduled for his state would have to be played without fans in the stands; within days, the NCAA followed by canceling the entire tournament.”
For his part, New York’s Governor Cuomo has relentlessly campaigned to receive funding and mandated manufacturing for the countless numbers of respirators, ventilators, and hospital beds that his state—the current U.S. epicenter of the virus—will need, if the healthcare community is not to be overwhelmed.
Citizens seem to have noticed. In a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday, Americans were asked who they have confidence in to handle the coronavirus. About half said President Trump, 62% said the federal government and 72% said their local government. The largest share—75%—said they had confidence in their state government.
Meantime, other institutions also are helping fill the void. Churches are making their own decisions about telecasting services so their flocks don’t have to gather; mayors are setting policies on public gatherings; businesses are developing new workplace protocols.
Still, there are limits to this grassroots coping. Active as others might be, the coronavirus crisis also serves as a reminder that there remain vital tasks only the federal government can perform.
The most important voice in guiding state and local leaders in their decisions has come from Washington, D.C., the Journal says—but it is not the president. It belongs to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Only the federal government can devise a plan to ensure that all Americans who need a test for the coronavirus can get one—a task that Dr. Fauci acknowledges it has failed at so far,” the Journal says.
Research contact: @WSJ