Governors Who Reopened Too Early See Virus Surge, Ratings Crash

Ron Desantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Four Republican governors who rushed to reopen their states prematurely amid the pandemic have seen their approval ratings tank, according to a new poll.

The SurveyMonkey poll, published Friday byAxios, found that constituents no longer approve of the way Govs. Doug Ducey of Arizona, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Brian Kemp of Georgia, and Greg Abbott of Texas are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases have spiked in all four states recently.

The White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of guidelines in April for how states could more safely reopen their economies after most shut down due to curb the coronavirus's spread. Despite not meeting the criteria, each of the four governors plowed ahead with reopening against expert advice.

Predictably, things have since worsened in those states.

In Arizona, only 36 percent of adults in the state now approve of Ducey's handling of the coronavirus response, compared to 62 percent who disapprove. In May, his approval rating stood at 60 percent.

Ducey let his stay-at-home order expire on May 15 and quickly allowed gyms, pools, restaurants, and salons to reopen.

The number of new cases in the state was 565 on May 15. By early June, it had grown to more than 1,000 per day. By the end of the month, several days saw more than 5,000 cases.

Ducey ordered bars and gyms to close again in late June, but by mid-July the state's hospitals were nearing capacity even as the number of new daily cases began to slow.

Public health experts have linked the spike to the reopening. "Perhaps, Arizona will be a warning sign to other areas," University of Arizona epidemiologist Katherine Ellingson told Kaiser Health News in June. "We never had that consistent downward trend that would signal it's time to reopen and we have everything in place to do it safely."

In Florida, 40 percent now approve of DeSantis' handling of the coronavirus response, compared to 58 percent who disapprove. In May, his approval was 58 percent.

DeSantis, who had been slow to act in the early days of the pandemic, allowed gyms to reopen and indoor dining to expand in mid-May. In early June, he expanded that to include bars and cinemas.

At that point, the number of daily cases was at 1,317. On Thursday, the state reported more than 10,000 new cases. Still, a defiant DeSantis said earlier this month that despite spikes in cases, he would not reimpose restrictions. "We're not going back, closing things. I don't think that that's really what's driving it, people going to a business is not what's driving it," he told reporters.

In Georgia, 44 percent now approve of Kemp's handling of the coronavirus response, compared to 55 percent who disapprove. In May, his approval was just 43 percent, but he had seen it increase to above 50 percent in June.

Kemp announced in late April that he would allow many businesses to reopen within a week. Even President Trump, who had pushed for a speedy reopening everywhere, criticized the move, saying, "I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia."

At the time, the state was seeing a few hundred new cases each day.

By mid-June, the state's daily cases had soared to nearly 1,800. Kemp said around that time, "And if the virus comes back I don't see us shutting our economy down anymore. We have to figure out how to live with this virus."

As of Thursday, the daily total risen to more than 4,200.

Kemp recently announced he was suing to block localities from requiring mask use.

In Texas, 44 percent now approve of Abbott's handling of the coronavirus response, compared to 55 percent who disapprove. In May, his approval was 58 percent.

Texas was one of the earliest states to begin reopening, starting on May 1. In mid-May, Abbott announced he was opening of bars, bowling alleys, schools, and rodeos, even as cases hit a daily high of 1,801 cases.

He plowed forward in early June, allowing nearly all businesses to open at 50 percent capacity, even as the state saw is highest daily average rising again. Abbott dismissed this as "largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants."

On June 25, Abbott temporarily paused reopening. A day later, he said he regretted reopening bars so quickly and shut them down again. At that point, the number of daily cases had grown to nearly 6,000.

On Thursday, Texas reported more than 9,500 new cases.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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