“For the last eight months I have been asking Oregonians to follow to the letter and the spirit of the law and we have not chosen to engage law enforcement,” Brown said. “At this point in time, unfortunately, we have no other option.”
Both states had lockdowns earlier in the year, but the coronavirus is coming back with a vengeance across the country, and the U.S. is facing a long, dark winter. The scourge is blamed for 10.6 million confirmed infections and almost a quarter-million deaths in the U.S., with the closely watched University of Washington model projecting nearly 439,000 dead by March 1.
Deaths have climbed to about 1,000 a day on average. New cases per day are soaring, reaching another all-time high Thursday of more than 153,000. Hospitals are getting swamped.
Still, there is little will among many governors and other elected officials for going back to the kind of lockdowns and large-scale business closings seen last spring. Some governors also continue to resist issuing statewide mask rules.
Among the reasons given: public fatigue, fear of doing more damage to already-crippled businesses, lack of support from Washington, and the way efforts to tame the virus have become fiercely politicized.
“I think that governors and mayors are, again, in a really tough spot. The American population is emotionally and economically exhausted,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and professor at Brown University in Providence.
Governors in many states, such as New York, Maryland, Virginia and Minnesota, have instead taken largely incremental measures during the last few days, such as restricting the size of gatherings, making businesses close early, restricting capacity or cutting off alcohol sales earlier in the evening.
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has repeatedly argued that containing the virus is largely up to individuals.
“Some people are going to ask, ‘Why not limit retail, or casino resorts, or restaurants right now?’ That’s a fair question,” he said. “That is the tightrope of trying to balance controlling the COVID-19 spread, protecting our hospitals from surges, and at the same time, not destroying and shutting down our economy.”
In Texas, which this week became the first state to surpass 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has emphasized new treatments and vaccines that are expected to become available soon.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken an even harder line against new restrictions, suing after El Paso closed nonessential businesses because of a surge so severe that mobile morgues are being brought in. An appeals court Thursday temporarily lifted the shutdown.