Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day, but millions of Americans will have to tip their glasses in their apartments and houses.
A succession of states joined other parts of the country Monday in announcing closures of restaurants, bars and other venues, further disrupting the lives of everyday Americans and businesses as governors take increasingly more drastic measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
The swift action follows the implementation of similar measures in Ohio, Illinois, California and Massachusetts and weekend guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending the cancellation or postponement of events with crowds larger than 50 people for the next two months.
While New York, New Jersey and Connecticut took joint action as a unified region, other states like Michigan, Maryland, Indiana, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Washington state moved independently to shutter dine-in service at bars and restaurants and patronage at other popular venues.
The Supreme Court announced that it would postpone oral arguments and expand capabilities for remote work, while the White House announced the cancellation of its annual Easter Egg Roll.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, was hemmed up in the White House with no public appearances listed on his schedule. The White House’s daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing was also pushed back to Monday afternoon, overlapping with the president’s private intelligence briefing.
Still, Trump weighed in on the global pandemic through Twitter.
“Everybody is so well unified and working so hard. It is a beautiful thing to see,” he wrote. “They love our great Country. We will end up being stronger than ever before!”
Everybody is so well unified and working so hard. It is a beautiful thing to see. They love our great Country. We will end up being stronger than ever before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2020
As of Monday afternoon, nearly 4,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., though experts expect that number to rise as more testing becomes available. Sixty-nine people have died.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the pandemic a “national problem” that requires federal leadership.
“You see a whole hodgepodge of efforts being taken across the country. This state is doing this, this state is doing this, this city is doing this,” Cuomo told reporters. “It’s chaos. I think it actually feeds the feeling that the country’s out of control. And there is no clear direction, and there is no clear path.”
New York’s closures includes gyms, where New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was spotted Monday morning.
“The mayor wanted to visit a place that keeps him grounded one last time,” spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said in a statement, explaining why de Blasio was at a YMCA. “That doesn’t change the fact that he is working around the clock to ensure the safety of New Yorkers. After today, gyms will close and he will no longer be visiting the YMCA for the foreseeable future.”
In Washington, D.C., restrictions on restaurants were met with resistance by at least one company, sparking a clash between Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Hill Restaurant Group, which owns seven establishments around Capitol Hill. HRG wrote in a private Facebook group that it “will not bow down to pressure” to shut down, arguing that the coronavirus outbreak “is not our burden to bear nor is it our staffs burden to bear.”
Bowser tweeted Monday morning that the group’s “compliance is required,” warning that she would “exercise the full force of” her police department and government agencies. The group later acquiesced, agreeing to close all its restaurants.
Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, called the governors’ actions “cause for optimism.”
“States are taking this very seriously. Measures to limit mixing of people by closing bars, restaurants, venues; and those taken by businesses to keep employees at home where possible, will undoubtedly impact the scope of this epidemic,” he tweeted.
“We have hard days ahead. We can’t become complacent,” he added. “But the collective action of states and businesses to mitigate spread will have a tangible impact on spread. We need to continue these actions, and protect vulnerable Americans from the impact of these necessary actions.”
The surge in closures, however, has also put a spotlight on elections. Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Ohio will hold their presidential primary elections on Tuesday, even though the governors of Illinois and Ohio have shuttered dining at bars and restaurants to prevent community spread of the coronavirus.
“I don’t understand why these elections are still taking place tomorrow,” tweeted Joshua Douglas, who teaches election law and voting rights at the University of Kentucky Law School. “OH, IL have shut down all restaurants, bars, etc. FL and OH have moved several polling places. I’m convinced we should delay these elections and then pass emergency laws allowing anyone to vote by mail.”