Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

Canceling Everything Was the Easy Part

| Apr. 02, 2020

Shutting entire states down was painful but clearly necessary. Governors still have many ugly choices ahead of them.

Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump are political allies, but the Florida governor still wasted weeks playing a deadly game of chicken with the president. Neither man wanted to be the one to tell residents of the third-most-populous state to stay home. Doing so was DeSantis's job all along, but he was still insisting earlier this week that he would act only if the president told him to. Never mind that Florida has a large elderly population, that the state's case count had soared past 7,000, or that the White House's medical experts had been trying to signal the governor to issue an order. Yesterday, after needlessly jeopardizing his own citizens, DeSantis finally made the choice that more than 30 other governors had made, in some cases weeks before.

He wasn't the only holdout; Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, belatedly issued his own order yesterday, insisting that he had only just learned that "this virus is now transmitting before people see signs." In hindsight, the length of time that he, DeSantis, and others dithered over the stay-at-home orders will look all the more reckless because the decisions that public officials—and especially governors—will have to make are only going to get harder. The choices these officials face will in some cases pit citizens against one another. In many cases, there will be no correct answer, just choices among miserable options....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“Canceling Everything Was the Easy Part.” The Atlantic, April 2, 2020.

The Author

Juliette Kayyem Headshot