- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2020

The eight states without comprehensive stay-at-home orders for all residents make up less than 2% of the total coronavirus cases and deaths reported nationwide, data show.

As of Monday, the governors of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming had not issued statewide stay-at-home orders, according to the states’ official websites and a New York Times analysis. All 50 states, however, call for social distancing practices.

The eight states recorded more than 9,700 coronavirus cases and 210 deaths as of Monday, state health departments reported.

Across the U.S., the coronavirus has sickened more than 560,800 and killed more than 22,900, according to a Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker. That means the eight states account for 1.7% of all coronavirus cases and 0.9% of deaths reported in the U.S.

U.S. Census Bureau data from 2018 show that the eight states make up about 5% of the total U.S. population, with more than 17 million residents. The bureau reported about 327 million people in the U.S. that year.

Amid calls to join the 42 other states and the District of Columbia in issuing stay-at-home orders, the Republican governors of the eight states have given various explanations for why they haven’t issued such directives.

Michael Pearlman, communications director for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, said state officials have taken precautions to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“Governor Gordon believes that a ‘stay-at-home’ or ‘shelter-in-place’ orders containing large numbers of exemptions like those found in many other states will not provide any additional public health protections beyond the orders Wyoming currently has in place,” Mr. Pearlman told The Washington Times.

Wyoming’s health department has reported the fewest cases among the eight states, with 275 cases and one death as of Monday.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said the state and national constitutions prevent American governments from taking “draconian measures” similar to what the Chinese government has done to limit its citizens’ movements and activities.

“My role in respect to public safety is something I take very seriously,” Mrs. Noem said earlier this month. “The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety. They are the ones entrusted with expansive freedoms. They’re free to exercise their rights to work, to worship and to play or to even stay home or to conduct social distancing.”

She said since February she has been clear that people need to take personal responsibility for the health and well-being of their families by practicing good hygiene and social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. Mrs. Noem said the state has pushed back its peak in coronvirus cases by six weeks via its public health measures.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said his state is turning to its “world-renowned” health experts for advice and is using a “regional approach,” understanding that the virus is not going to spread at the same rate across the state.

“That’s why we’ve broken it up by public health regions and using the rule of thumb about community spread. When you have that one community spread case, that’s when we place those restrictive regimes with directed health measures,” Mr. Ricketts told NET News this month. “And the reason we do that is because we’re really trying to time the directed health measure to get the maximum impact out of it.”

Utah has reported the most number of cases of the eight states, with 2,303 infections. Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday extended a stay home directive, not a shelter-in-place order, until May 1.

Oklahoma also has more than 2,000 cases, while Iowa and Arkansas have reported more than 1,000 cases. North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska have each reported fewer than 1,000 cases.

Some state health departments have relied on projection models published by universities such as Harvard and the University of Washington to predict the coronavirus trajectory.

Oklahoma is projected to reach its peak in daily deaths on April 28, Utah on April 29, North Dakota and Arkansas on April 30, South Dakota on May 1, and Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming on May 2, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent health research center at the University of Washington.

Older people are more likely to develop serious illness or to die from COVID-19. People 65 years and older make up about 15% to 17% of the population in seven of the states without statewide stay-at-home orders, according to 2018 census data. In Utah, people 65 years and older made up about 11% of the state population.

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