Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is one of seven governors – all Republicans – who have yet to issue a stay-at-home order to his citizens as a way to limit the spread of coronavirus nationwide.
“We want to take the long-term approach to this and you’re not going to win simply by a lockdown,” Hutchinson explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, adding: “There’s a lot of hope and optimism this Easter that our tough time is behind and we’re going to be getting better.”
According to CNN’s tracking, just under 1,400 Arkansans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 29 deaths. The state will reach its peak – in terms of deaths from coronavirus – on April 30, according to a projection by the Institute for Medical and Health Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Given that 97% of the country’s population is currently under stay-at-home restrictions and the guidance from infectious disease experts – including the US surgeon general – to continue policies of social distancing, Hutchinson and his six other Republican colleagues are very much an exception to the rule.
“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month of the lack of stay-at-home orders in every state.
To that end, they’ve been asked regularly about their decision (or lack thereof). With the help of my producer Alli Gordon, here’s what each of them have said of late about their thinking when it comes to stay-at-home orders.
What you need to know about stay-at-home orders
• Iowa (1,587 cases, 41 deaths; projected death peak: May 2): “It would be irresponsible for me to just do a statewide [shelter-in-place order] when, according to Dr. Fauci, many of the mitigation efforts that I have put in place are actually aligned with the results that they’re trying to get.” – Gov. Kim Reynolds
• Nebraska (814 cases, 17 deaths; projected death peak: May 2): Last Thursday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts ordered that all hair salons, tattoo parlors and strip clubs be closed through May 31. And on Friday he issued a directive that urged social distancing practices to stay in place; “We’re calling on people to exercise their freedom to do the right thing, that individual responsibility, that civic duty, to do the right thing here in our state,” Ricketts said. He noted that his directive was not a stay-at-home order: “This is not that kind of thing, this is about asking Nebraskans to do what’s right,” Ricketts said.
• North Dakota (308 cases, 8 deaths; projected death peak: April 30): There is an active online petition – signed by 2,800 people – to try to force Gov. Doug Burgum to issue a stay-at-home order. But Burgum doesn’t seem to be reconsidering. “We get to listen to people who think we’ve locked down too much and people who think we need to lock down more but we would invite those people that signed that petition to really dig into the numbers with us,” he said last week. “I mean we moved early and fast on a number of restrictions that is producing this low positive rate today and we moved fast on increasing our testing.”
• South Dakota (730 cases, 6 deaths; projected death peak: May 1): In pledging not to issue a stay-at-home order, Gov. Kristi Noem said this: “I have all the faith in the world of the people of South Dakota,” Noem says. “They’ve been absolute rock stars in working to protect their communities and their families.” The South Dakota Medical Association sent Noem a letter last week asking her to issue a stay-at-home order but there’s no indication she has any plans to reverse course.
• Utah (2,303 cases, 18 deaths; projected death peak: April 29): Gov. Gary Herbert issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” directive on March 27 – and extended it through May 1 last Friday. Utah House Democrats have pushed Herbert to go further, using a statement last week to “send a stronger, clearer message to every person in the state about the severe threat of COVID-19 to our health, our welfare, and our economic well-being” by issuing a stay-at-home order.
• Wyoming (270 cases, 0 deaths; projected death peak: May 2): Last week, the Wyoming Medical Association sent a letter to Gov. Mark Gordon calling on him to issue a stay-at-home order “before it was too late.” Gordon has issued some self-quarantine restrictions for people visiting Wyoming but has largely left local government enforce the order (or not). “If you’re waiting for me to issue a shelter-in-place order… what are you waiting for?” Gordon said earlier this month. “Are you waiting for, ‘mother may I?’ Or are you taking care of yourself and practicing the common sense that we expect? One of our Wyoming values is ‘talk less, say more’. Our orders talk less and say more.”
None of these states are in the top 10 in terms of cases or deaths. Or even close. But given what we know about asymptomatic transmission, the lack of her immunity and a year (or more) expected until a vaccine exists, there’s no question that these governors are taking a calculated risk in their actions (or inaction) on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.