New Research Shows States With Republican Governors Were Slower to Adopt Social Distancing Policies

Those delays “are likely to produce significant ongoing harm to public health.”

Mike Ehrmann/Getty

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

In the middle of March, as millions of people across the country started to practice social distancing measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Florida’s Spring Breakers did the opposite. Thousands of people, seemingly unfazed by the pandemic, took to the state’s coastline after the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, decided not to order the beaches closed.

DeSantis still hasn’t enacted statewide stay-at-home orders, garnering plenty of criticism from local leaders and public health officials. The governor’s resistance probably isn’t just about the number of cases of the virus in his state. A new white paper shows that states with Republican governors, along with states with higher number of supporters of President Donald Trump, were slower to adopt social distancing policies—and those delays “are likely to produce significant ongoing harm to public health.”

The biggest influence in how states acted was not the number of confirmed cases, but rather politics, according to new research by a group of professors at the University of Washington. They focused on five measures taken directly from state government websites: restrictions on gatherings, school closures, restaurant restrictions, non-essential business closures, and stay-at-home orders. Trump initially downplayed the threat of the virus, and “numerous surveys have found significant partisan divides in public opinion about the severity of the coronavirus threat,” the researchers point out.

Their research showed that states with Republican governors and more Trump voters introduced social distancing policies 2.7 days later than more liberal states. “Does a 2.7 day delay matter?” the researchers write, concluding: “Given the quick doubling time of COVID-19, these delays have the potential to cause a dramatic increase in the peak volume of cases.”

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate