California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home directive, effective March 19, and 41 states and the District of Columbia have followed. Eight states have not.
The leaders of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming have taken steps to limit the size of gatherings, close schools and some nonessential businesses, and prohibit on-site dining at restaurants. But they have stopped short of directing all residents to stay home except for essential business.
The Republican governors in those states have defended their decisions, arguing that their hospitals aren’t overrun and their rural states haven’t been hit as hard as others with denser urban centers, such as New York, Washington or Louisiana. The governors have said they don’t want to hurt small businesses or infringe on individual freedoms.
At the same time, several of the states are dealing with outbreaks at meat processing plants, senior homes and long-term care facilities, and prisons that have raised concerns about the absence of stricter regulations. A lack of widespread testing, experts say, makes it difficult to gauge the full extent of the outbreak. Two studies in California suggest official counts have missed thousands of cases as a result of a slow start to testing and shortages that prioritized people showing symptoms. Several states have sought to increase testing or are focusing testing in areas with growing outbreaks, but for now official tallies offer only an estimate.
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