The New Regionalism of the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the absence of federal leadership in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, East Coast states and West Coast counties have collaborated to implement uniform containment strategies to arrest the spread of COVID-19, and it's catching on.

3 minute read

March 19, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


UC Berkeley and North Berkeley

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

"The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, citing 'a lack of federal direction and nationwide standards' announced Monday they have agreed to jointly reduce density throughout the region, closing movie theaters and limiting public gatherings to fewer than 50 people," report Berkeley Lovelace Jr.Noah Higgins-Dunn, and William Feuer for CNBC.

The federal government has “been behind from day one on this crisis,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “States, frankly, don’t have the capacity or the power to make up for the federal government.” He called on U.S. officials to coordinate closings across the country, saying state and local leaders have adopted a “hodge podge” of different actions in response to COVID-19.

"Viruses do not know borders, which is why taking a regional approach on this issue is the best plan forward," said Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) in a statement.

"I don't know if there are any three governors in the country right now who are harmonizing and coordinating as much as the three of us are, and I think that is a good thing and can hopefully set an example," said Gov. Phil Murphy in a transcript of a conference phone call among the three "Tri-state" governors. 

In fact, I do back and forth exchanges with our good friend and colleague Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, to New Jersey's west, and I hope that we can mimic a similar harmony there.

That effort to widen the coalition to address the pandemic on a regional basis took all of two days. On Wednesday, "New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont today announced Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is joining their coalition to implement a regional approach to combatting COVID-19."

County coalition to "shelter in place" broadens in Northern California and Central Coast

As with Pennsylvania, it didn't take long for neighboring counties of the six Bay Area counties whose public health officers had enacted joint "shelter in place" legal orders on Monday to follow suit.

North Bay

Sonoma County Interim Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase, who only took office on March 13,  "announced the order late Tuesday, saying that even the limited testing done so far has proved the virus has begun spreading within the community," report Tyler Silvy and Julie Johnson for the Press Democrat.

Sonoma County's two northern neighbors, Mendocino and Lake counties, though not part of the 9-county Bay Area, are expected to join as well.

"A shelter in place order issued by the Lake County Public Health Officer is anticipated in the next 24-36 hours for all of Lake County due to the COVID-19 Virus threat," according to a message from the Lake County Sheriff's Department issued Tuesday evening. Mendocino County's public health officer issued the order around 8 p.m. that evening, according to the North Bay Business Journal.

Johnson of the Press Democrat reported on Wednesday that Napa County, one of the nine Bay Area Counties, had joined as well. Solano County signed-on by 6 pm, meaning the entire Bay Area must now shelter in place.

And to the south

On Wednesday, KSBW reported that three Central Coast counties, San Benito CountySanta Cruz County and Monterey County, had also enacted shelter in place orders. A news video accompanying the article features the opening of the city of Monterey's Emergency Operations Center.

"The biggest difference between this one and some [formed for] wildfire storms is [that] this one we can't see so it's all on the information we get," states one of the emergency center workers, who likened the virus outbreak to other crises presented by floods and fires. "This is a time when we truly need to come together," he added. Food deliveries to seniors will be a major service provided.

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