Americans figure out their own coronavirus response as Trump says it's going 'great'

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In Trump's leadership vacuum, states, localities, companies, and schools are improvising a response.

Donald Trump continues to minimize the growing COVID-19 outbreak, even as the number of confirmed cases in the United States surpasses 1,000.

Despite his widely panned response, Trump has continued to claim his administration's efforts have been a great success, ignoring reports about slow testing worsening the problem and a lack of proper training and medical gear for early responders.

"Our team is doing a great job with CoronaVirus [sic]!" he tweeted on Wednesday.

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Amid the dearth of consistent information or clear guidance, states, localities, colleges, businesses, and event organizers are trying to fill the void and protect Americans from spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

"This has been mostly a state and local effort. The federal government has been sort of behind the times," the director of health services in Sacramento County, California, told Politico on Wednesday. "There clearly could have been testing kits available much more early than there were, [meaning] the entire country is [catching up]."

With little instruction beyond hand washing, staying home when sick, and avoiding touching the face, communities, employers, event planners, and institutions are taking an array of steps to keep their workers, constituents, and students safe.

Here is a partial list of what people are doing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Governors and mayors

  • State of Emergency: Several state governors have declared states of emergency, allowing them more financial and logistical flexibility to respond to cases.
  • California: Santa Clarita County and the city of San Francisco instituted bans on "mass gatherings" of more than 1,000 people, beginning at midnight on Wednesday. The city of San Jose also adopted a moratorium on evictions of those who can't pay rent due to the pandemic.
  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Tuesday that he would send the National Guard to New Rochelle in an effort to contain the cases in that community. On Wednesday, he blasted the federal response as verging on the "public health version of Hurricane Katrina" and urged state governments to take control.
  • Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Tuesday that the state would urge colleges to switch to remote classes and called for the cancellation of large indoor sporting events and concerts. "The decisions that we make as individuals in the next few days, the next several weeks will really determine how many lives are going be lost in Ohio," he explained.
  • Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced Wednesday he would restrict gatherings of more than 250 people, including concerts and sporting events, in three counties. "This is not a time to be going out into public in close contact," he said. "It’s just too dangerous." Additionally, King County purchased a motel last week to quarantine coronavirus patients.
  • District of Columbia: The city Health Department urged Wednesday that all "non-essential mass gatherings, including conferences and conventions, be POSTPONED or cancelled." It defined mass gatherings "events where 1,000 or more people congregate in a specific location."
  • Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Marie Raimondo recommended on Wednesday that residents avoid events with more than 250 people.

Universities and colleges

  • Across the country, at least 130 institutions of higher learning are temporarily canceling in-person classes and replacing them with remote lectures. These include Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Indiana University, Princeton University, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and several schools in California and Washington.

Federal agencies

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission asked on Tuesday that its D.C.-based employees work remotely, after one staffer tested positive for coronavirus.
  • The Veterans Administration announced it would not allow visitors at the nursing homes it operates, noting those residents are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

Media Outlets

  • The Los Angeles Times told reporters on Tuesday that it would limit non-essential reporter travel.
  • The New York Times announced on Tuesday its New York and D.C. newsrooms would receive "deep cleaning" after some employees attended a journalism conference with someone who later tested positive.
  • Talking Points Memo temporarily closed its offices starting Wednesday, switching to remote work.
  • The Washington Post encouraged employees to work from home, if possible, through the end of the month.

Businesses

  • Tech companies in the Seattle area: Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft all urged Seattle-area employees to work from home.
  • Twitter, Square: Jack Dorsey, the CEO of both Twitter and Square, announced last week that all employees would be encouraged to work from home, if possible.
  • Ride sharing: Lyft is giving drivers 200,000+ bottles of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
  • MGM Resorts: The company announced its buffets would temporarily close at ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Luxor, and Excalabur resorts, starting this Sunday.
  • Broadway theaters: The Broadway League, which represents New York City's Broadway theaters and producers, announced stepped-up efforts to disinfect theaters and backstage areas and to provide hand sanitizer in all Broadway theater lobbies.
  • Darden Restaurants: Following public pressure from Judd Legum's Popular Information newsletter, the company that operates Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, and other dining chains, announced this week that it would begin offering paid leave to its employees.

Airlines

  • Multiple airlines, including Delta, JetBlue, United, and Southwest, sent messages out to customers announcing increased cleaning protocols for airplanes. "Hard surfaces such as lavatories, tray tables, window shades and armrests are thoroughly wiped down with a high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner," United said in a statement last week, noting that aircraft will be taken out of service for decontamination after passengers discovered to have the coronavirus fly.

School systems

  • Nationwide: According to Education Week, more than 1,250 K-12 schools have closed or are scheduled to do so over the coronavirus as of Wednesday morning. More than 856,000 students are affected. Many other systems are canceling overnight field trips and other travel.

Sports

  • March Madness: The NCAA said Wednesday that the annual March Madness basketball tournament would continue as scheduled but attendance would be limited to "essential staff" and some family members only. "While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes."
  • Ivy League basketball: The college sports conference announced Tuesday that it would cancel its annual basketball tournaments entirely.
  • BNP Paribas Open: The annual tennis tournament at Indian Wells, California, was canceled on Sunday. "We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance," said tournament director Tommy Haas. "We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options."
  • Professional leagues: Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League announced jointly on Monday that they would limit all team locker room and clubhouse access to players and essential employees only. While the leagues have not yet announced broad decisions to cancel games or ban spectators, state and local moratoriums on mass events in some areas are impacting local teams.

Large events

  • Music festivals: Coachella and Stagecoach both postponed their April festivals in California this week. The events are now rescheduled for October.
  • Cherry Blossom Festival: Washington, D.C., canceled or postponed all of its annual Cherry Blossom Festival events on Wednesday. "It is a difficult decision and one that we do not take lightly," Diana Mayhew, president and CEO of the festival, said in a statement. "We have been working closely with the city government, WHO and CDC as well as our partners to determine the best course of action."
  • South by Southwest: City officials in Austin announced Friday they would cancel the annual arts and technology festival. Hundreds of thousands were expected to attend.
  • Pearl Jam: The Seattle-based band announced Monday it would postpone the first leg of its PJ/Gigaton tour. "We’ve worked hard with all our management and business associates to find other solutions or options but the levels of risk to our audience and their communities is simply too high for our comfort level," the band explained.
  • Federalist Society: The far-right legal group said Tuesday it would cancel its "in-person 2020 National Student Symposium." It attributed the move both to "calls for increased efforts to contain the virus" and "the cancellations of several of our speakers."
  • St. Patrick's Day parades: Boston and Washington, D.C. both announced this week their annual parades would be canceled amid the outbreak.
  • Book festivals: Annual book festivals in ArizonaCalifornia, and Virginia were all canceled or postponed.
  • Google: Last week, the technology behemoth canceled its annual Google I/O developer conference.
  • E3: The Electronic Entertainment Expo, a major video game industry trade show, announced Wednesday that it would cancel its June 2020 conference. "This decision was not reached lightly, but it is the right one for the health and safety of all involved," organizers explained.
  • American College of Physicians: The physicians' organization opted to cancel its annual Internal Medicine Meeting for 2020. The group said the decision was made not only to model social distancing and avoid contributing to the spread of coronavirus, but also to not interfere with "the vital role of internal medicine physicians in diagnosing, managing and caring for their patients and communities on the front lines."

Political campaigns

  • Joe Biden: The former vice president canceled his planned Tuesday night rally in Ohio. "We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events in the coming days," a spokesperson said.
  • Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator also canceled his planned Tuesday rally in Ohio. His campaign later announced that "all future Bernie 2020 events will be evaluated on a case by case basis."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.