Debate about stay-at-home orders highlights federal-state discord in U.S.

WASHINGTON-- An ongoing debate in the United States about whether it's time for governors to lift their stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 has highlighted a discord between federal and state governments, fueled by the outbreak and partisan politics.


Protesters, with some armed, have taken to the streets in a number of states across the nation this week, calling for stay-at-home orders issued by their governors to be ended, despite concern that it may be still early to loosen social distancing restrictions.

U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted support for the protesters, calling for "liberating" numerous states, including Michigan and Virginia, claiming that he feels some state orders are "too tough."

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, speaking on ABC's "This Week" television show on Sunday, said that the tweets were encouraging "people to violate the law."

"It is dangerous because it can inspire people to ignore things that actually can save their lives," he said.

Washington was an early epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. Inslee, a former Democratic presidential contender, has joined governors Gavin Newsom of California and Kate Brown of Oregon in a partnership to develop plans to reopen the West Coast.

The debate came days after the White House issued guidelines that defer to states on reopening decisions, but recommended a three-phase approach, as the administration has been eager to put the nation's economy back on track, which has been hit hard by business closures and job losses.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, has announced that the state begins the process of reopening on May 1. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" show on Sunday, DeWine explained the decision that would make Ohio one of the earliest states ending stay-at-home orders.

"We're going to do what we think is right, what I think is right, and that is, try to open this economy, but do it very, very carefully so we don't get a lot of people killed, but we have to come back, and that's what we're aiming to do beginning on May 1," DeWine said.

According to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, the number of COVID-19 infections in the country has surpassed 755,000 as of Sunday, with more than 40,000 deaths. New York state has been hit the hardest, with over 242,000 confirmed cases and nearly 20,000 deaths.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that they believe the state is "past the peak."

"We must tread VERY carefully now. The worst thing that can happen is for us to go through this hell all over again," the Democrat tweeted. "Social distancing saves lives. Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Save Lives."

Nearly 60 percent of U.S. voters say they are more concerned that a relaxation of stay-at-home restrictions would lead to more coronavirus deaths than they are that those restrictions will hurt the nation's economy, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday.

As for the federal government's response to the coronavirus, 50 percent of voters say they're satisfied with the measures intended to limit the disease's spread, versus 48 percent who are dissatisfied. But only 34 percent are satisfied with its efforts in ensuring that there are enough tests to suppress its spread.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday that "testing is the key to opening our economy."

"The truth is the administration has failed on testing. We need to acknowledge that fact and move forward," she said. "Our effort to fight it -- and to reopen our economy -- must be based in science, data, and facts."

Trump and Pelosi have traded barbs over the federal response to the coronavirus crisis as the administration has been scrutinized for downplaying the threat from the coronavirus early on and faulted for delays in testing.

Scott Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said on Sunday that "states are largely on their own trying to get testing resources into their states."

"One of the things they should be doing right now is trying to work together, at least on a regional basis, to move around samples, to take advantage of capacity for testing that exists in a regional location within the country," he told an interview with CBS. "Where we need a national strategy, first and foremost is on the testing supply chain."

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview with Fox News's Chris Wallace on Sunday, acknowledged a need to ramp up coronavirus testing in the nation, where 150,000 tests are currently being performed each day.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said on Sunday that the state doesn't "even have enough swabs believe it or not," urging the White House to focus on tests rather than protests.

"Our president has been unable to deliver on tests, now he has chosen to focus on protests, and this is not the time for protests," Northam said on CNN's "State of the Union" show.

"This is not the time for divisiveness," he continued. "This is time for leadership that will stand up and provide empathy, that will understand what's going on in this country of ours with this pandemic, it's the time of truth, and it's time to bring people together."

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