America is finally beginning to open back up, and Governors in at least 17 states are working with neighbors to coordinate the reopening of their jurisdictions. California, Oregon, and Washington are orchestrating how they will start lifting stay-at-home orders, while seven states in the Northeast and seven in the Midwest are doing the same. Most of the South, however, has chosen strategies independently, regardless of the actions of surrounding areas.
The Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, has seen a lot of criticism for being the first state in the nation to kick off its economy. In terms of reducing restrictions, Kemp has been one of the most aggressive, and he will permit places where social distancing may be difficult to reopen this week.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee, also a Republican, said that most businesses in his state would reopen as soon as next week. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster removed the barricades from public boat ramps; next on the list, if social distancing is followed, will be department and specialty stores.
Republican Governors Tate Reeves of Mississippi and Ron DeSantis of Florida have already allowed their beaches to reopen. Reeves also has lifted some other restrictions, so that curbside pickup and delivery for non-essential businesses can begin soon.
Louisiana has been hit hard with the Coronavirus, experiencing some of the highest death rates. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said he’d allow some types of non-emergency medical procedures to begin as early as next week. The stay-at-home order expires on April 30, and Edwards said next steps depend on the state’s improving trajectory.
In Alabama, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has decided to keep in effect the stay-at-home order through the end of the month. And Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas’ Republican governor, never had a mandate in place, although he did impose some social distancing restrictions.
The southern governments are not coordinating with each other, which has some people concerned that their independent efforts may allow the virus to spread. Some argue that lifting some restrictions in one state may spike cases in adjoining regions. However, Dr. Richard Oberhelman, an infectious disease specialist at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, said, “Coordination makes sense, but the flip side is different states are in different parts of the epidemic,” so there isn’t “one playbook.”
As April comes to a close and May begins the reopening of our nation, all we can do is wait and watch as the newest drama unfolds.