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Seven governors — all Republicans — have requested and received federal major disaster declarations for their states for the COVID-19 pandemic but have still refused to issue stay-at-home orders for their constituents.

As of Tuesday, 42 states have implemented statewide emergency orders mandating social distancing in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and requiring residents to stay home at most times.

But eight governors have resisted explicit guidance from Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who said on April 1 that the Trump administration's guidance on social distancing should be considered "a national stay-at-home order" that all governors should implement.

Seven of those eight, however, convinced the Trump administration that the COVID-19 situation in their state was serious enough to be classified as a federal major disaster. This designation allows a state to access a significant amount of federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson has refused to issue a stay-at-home order, saying his "targeted response" of encouraging social distancing "has proven to be effective."

"If you look at any of the measuring sticks, we have reduced the spread. Our growth rate is lower than it is in most of the other states, some with even a stringent stay-at-home order," he told NPR Monday. Still, he requested a federal emergency declaration on March 30 and received it on April 3.


Gov. Kim Reynolds has rejected calls for a stay-at-home order, saying, "This has become a divisive issue at a time when we must be united in our response to this crisis." She said Friday that such an order would promote have "a lot of downsides," including more "suicides and domestic abuse."

She requested a federal declaration last month and obtained it on March 24.


Gov. Pete Ricketts has declined to issue a stay-at-home order, saying it was not necessary for Nebraska. He asked for a federal declaration last month and received it Saturday.

North Dakota

Gov. Doug Burgum has opted against a stay-at-home order because he doesn't believe one "makes sense."

"We're a low population state and a large low population state," he explained last week. He requested a federal disaster declaration last month, which was granted one on April 1.


Gov. Kevin Stitt said last week that he would not issue a stay-at-home order because doing so would be unrealistic.

"In my opinion, I cannot shut things down and bunker in place,"x he claimed. His federal disaster request was approved on Sunday.

South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem rejected the idea of a stay-at-home order, saying last week that she believes in limited government to protect "citizens rights." She added that the people are responsible for their own safety and must take "personal responsibility" for their health. She received a federal disaster declaration on Sunday.


Gov. Gary Herbert urged citizens to stay at home last month, but has made it clear that it was not a mandatory "shelter in place" order. He requested a federal declaration last month and received it Saturday.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has also refused to issue a stay-at-home order, but has not yet received a federal disaster declaration.

Another five Republican governors belatedly issued stay-at-home orders after the surgeon general's April 1 guidance. But they requested federal disaster aid first, before issuing those orders.


Gov. Kay Ivey obtained a federal disaster declaration on March 30. She did not issue a stay-at-home order until April 3.


Gov. Brian Kemp announced a federal disaster declaration on March 29. He did not issue a stay-at-home order until April 2.


Gov. Mike Parson received a federal declaration on March 26, two days after he requested one. He did not issue a stay-at-home order until April 3.

South Carolina

Gov. Henry McMaster obtained a federal declaration on March 27. He did not issue a stay-at-home order until Monday.


Gov. Bill Lee requested a federal declaration in late March, and his request was approved on April 2. He did not issue a stay-at-home order until that day.

None of the governors in either group immediately responded to inquiries about their COVID-19 responses and requests for disaster aid.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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