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Iran Press TV

Lack of strong leadership in fight against pandemic in US prompts states to take charge

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 17 March 2020 3:17 PM

US state and local officials have taken charge in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic amid the lack of central leadership.

In the absence of strong federal leadership, US states are improvising rules to combat the coronavirus crisis, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

The lack of strong leadership on a national level has caused a chaotic situation in the fight against the disease, the report noted.

It said the Trump administration had not issued guidelines until Monday, leaving it up to patchwork of state and local authorities to decide on rules.

Governors and mayors had made the necessary decisions to close restaurants, bars, and schools as the nation hit chaos with people panicking to stock up on grocery supplies, toilet paper and water.

Gun stores started seeing a similar run on weapons and ammunition as the panic intensified.

The chaos started after the government's top infectious disease expert urged Americans to hunker down as the worst was yet to come.

To help slow the spread of the virus, in Ohio and Massachusetts, officials closed restaurants and bars, in Florida, they closed beaches and at least 32 states closed schools.

The measures taken against the coronavirus outbreak have all been slightly different from state to state – but for weeks they have had one thing in common: nobody was acting on guidelines issued by the federal government, because there weren't any.

"You see a whole hodgepodge of efforts being taken across the country," said Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, which announced a tri-state agreement on Monday with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut on Monday to close all gyms, movie theaters and casinos.

"This state is doing this, this state is doing this, this city is doing this – it's chaos. I think it actually feeds the feeling that the country's out of control and there is no clear direction … This is a national problem, and we need federal leadership."

"You look at the countries who have handled this ...they were all handled by national leadership," noted Cuomo.

The Trump administration, by contrast, had not issued guidelines for the closure of businesses or restrictions on travel or large gatherings until Monday.

US President Donald Trump had downplayed the pandemic for weeks, calling the threat "mild", saying "I'm not concerned" and promising "it will go away, just stay calm" and "Take it easy. Relax. We're doing great."

He, however, finally advised Americans to avoid gatherings of 10 or more and stay home if they were sick.

"My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants, and public food courts," Trump said on Monday.

Trump instructed state governors to pursue the acquisition of key medical equipment themselves, and not wait to receive help from Washington.

"Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment – try getting it yourselves," Trump told the governors, according to a recording obtained by The New York Times as quoted by The Guardian. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point-of-sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself."

In the absence of central guidance, governors and local officials have in some cases issued conflicting orders. In Pennsylvania, the governor at the weekend advised people to stay home, and the commissioner of Montgomery county, which includes the Philadelphia suburbs, told people to cancel gatherings.

But the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, had different advice, telling people to go out to eat, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"I would recommend you wash your hands, you stay out from within three feet of people, and go out and have dinner – and tip your waitstaff because they're struggling right now," Kenney said.

While school districts across California closed, schools stayed open in the district of House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, a close Trump ally who calls Covid-19 "Chinese coronavirus."

McCarthy's Republican colleague, Devin Nunes, encouraged people at the weekend to "go to your local pub".

Where many Americans hear conflicting messages, Trump heard harmony.

"Everybody is so well unified and working so hard," he tweeted on Monday. "It is a beautiful thing to see."

The virus has so far killed 85 people in the United States and there are now more than 4,660 confirmed cases in the country, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

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