Coronavirus in the US: How all 50 states are responding – and why eight still refuse to issue stay-at-home orders

Jorge L. Ortiz and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY

South Carolina this week joined the ranks of states mandating their residents to stay home to combat the coronavirus pandemic, leaving eight holdouts.

The governors of those eight states have offered different reasons for their refusal to issue the kind of directives implemented across most of the nation, covering more than 310 million Americans.

Some say the specific circumstances of their state don’t merit such a mandate, others have advocated social responsibility instead, and yet others have expressed a preference for following the advice of their state officials.

The governors do have one significant trait in common: They’re all Republican.

Of course, so is President Donald Trump, who has resisted calls for a national mandate that might send the strongest, most unambiguous message about the importance of social distancing to curb spread of the virus.

It’s not clear the president can actually supersede the governors’ authority in this area, but he could strengthen federal guidelines that stop short of directing citizens to remain at home except for essential activities.

In the absence of such a command, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming continue to resist calls from some of the leading experts to issue a statewide lockdown.

Why hasn't there been a national lockdown? 

Legal experts have said Trump doesn’t have the authority to impose a national lockdown as the heads of countries such as Italy, Spain, France and Britain have done. But he does have some tools at his disposal, including the bully pulpit and the ability to restrict air travel between COVID-19 hot spots.

Trump has pointed out some states haven’t had a large number of cases. Those tend to be sparsely populated states in the middle of the country, such as Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. As of Thursday morning, none of them had as many as 400 cases, although the numbers were rising, especially in South Dakota.

What do stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders mean? 

While some states have issued shelter-in-place orders, others are calling their directives stay-at-home orders. The mandates differ by location but generally require people to avoid all nonessential outings and stay inside as much as possible.

They allow residents to continue performing tasks essential to the health and safety of family and pets. It's still fine to buy groceries, go for a run, walk the dog, pick up medicine, visit a doctor or get supplies to work from home.

Federal guidelines give state and local authorities leeway in what they consider "essential" businesses during an emergency. But in general, those industries include grocery stores and food production, pharmacies, health care, utilities, shipping, banking, other governmental services, law enforcement, emergency services and news outlets.

Here's what the mandates to fight off the coronavirus look like in each state as of Thursday:

Alabama

Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on April 3, which went into effect at 5 p.m. the next day.  

"I can’t say this any more clearly—#COVID19 is an imminent threat to our way of life, & you need to understand that we’re past urging people to stay home. It is NOW the law," Ivey said in a tweet announcing the order.

Alaska

The Last Frontier on March 27 implemented what it's calling a “social distancing” mandate, which is similar to a shelter-in-place order. Gov. Mike Dunleavy directed residents to stay at home and banned most travel within the state. Visitors to Alaska also have to self-quarantine.

“We crossed a line today for Alaska,” Dunleavy said after the state's first death linked to the coronavirus.

Arizona

Gov. Doug Ducey’s "Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected" order, announced March 30, extends until April 30.

Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed residents not to gather in groups larger than 10 but has not forced them to stay in. “I do not want to go to a shelter-in-place environment,” said Hutchinson, who prefers what he called "a targeted approach.''

California

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the nation's first statewide shelter-in-place order March 19 and identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors to remain open – including those providing food, health care and energy.

"This is a dynamic situation," Newsom said. "I don't expect this to be many, many months, but for the time being, we are recognizing the next eight weeks" as especially important.

Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis on March 25 issued a statewide stay-at-home order that went into effect the next morning and was to run until April 11. It was later extended to April 26. The order stipulates that Coloradans should leave their homes only for "critical activities."

"Now is the time to stay at home,” Polis said. "You have the chance to be a hero and save thousands of lives by staying at home. The lives of many Coloradans hinge on your ability to be able to stay at home for the next couple weeks to the most of your ability ... Now is not the time to die."

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Connecticut

Gov. Ned Lamont announced a "Stay Safe, Stay Home'' executive order March 22 that directed all nonessential businesses and not-for-profit entities to prohibit all in-person functions if possible. The order excludes essential business, such as health care, food service, law enforcement and similar critical services.

The order recommended that people maintain social distancing, limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and limit the use of public transportation, among other items. However, some feel the directive doesn't go far enough.

Delaware

Gov. John Carney ordered residents of The First State to stay at home and closed nonessential businesseson March 24.

Florida

Two days after mandating that the residents of four hard-hit counties in the state's southeast stay at home, Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 1 relented and extended the order to the whole state. He had been under heavy pressure to do so.

Before that, other counties had issued their own orders, and some of the state’s beaches closed their parking lots to discourage large gatherings. DeSantis has ordered visitors to the state from the New York metro area and Louisiana to self-quarantine for 14 days. The Florida Keys have closed to visitors.

Georgia

On April 1, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a stay-at-home order that would also keep schools closed through the end of the school year. Before that, the city of Atlanta and Cobb and Gwinnett counties had required residents to stay home.

Hawaii

Gov. David Ige signed a stay-at-home order March 23 that went into effect two days later, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. The order will be effective through April 30.

Residents can leave home "only for essential activities or to engage in the essential businesses and operations." As long as social distancing is practiced, "ocean activities such as surfing and swimming" are also exempted. 

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Idaho

Gov. Brad Little on March 25 signed an "Order to Self-Isolate" that became effective immediately and will run for three weeks. The order exempts residents who need to leave for essential activities. Little also signed an "extreme emergency declaration" and mobilized the Idaho National Guard "to support civil authorities and local jurisdictions."

Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a "stay-at-home" order March 20 that began the following day and was to last until at least April 7. It was later extended to April 30.

All nonessential businesses must close, and all people who can work from home must do so, Pritzker said. All Illinois schools will stay closed until at least April 30.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the order "is not a lockdown or martial law." Pharmacies, grocery stores, clinics and airports remain open and garbage is being collected. 

Indiana

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb told residents on March 23 to stay at home until at least April 7, asking "Hoosiers to hunker down" in an executive order. The mandate, which has been extended to April 20 and could go beyond that, includes law-enforcement provisions.

Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds has not mandated that Iowans stay home, saying an informal guidance that they do so is “equivalent’’ to an order, although it does not have law-enforcement power.

Kansas

After citing models that predicted a possible increase of local cases in Kansas to 900 over the following week, Gov. Laura Kelly signed an executive "stay home" order March 28. The order became effective March 30 and will run until April 19. It allows Kansans to leave their homes for essential activities.

“I know this is hard, and I can’t tell you how much I wish it weren’t necessary,” Kelly said. “But we have a small window to ensure that Kansas does not suffer the same terrible fate of other hard-hit states like New York and Missouri."

Kentucky

Gov. Andy Beshear on March 25 signed an order encouraging residents to remain "Healthy at Home,'' which he later said amounts to a directive to remain in the house except for essential activities. While many medical facilities have complied with a request to cease elective procedures, it became a mandate starting March 30.

He further tightened restrictions, and on March 30 signed an executive order telling Kentuckians they cannot travel outside the state with a few exceptions. If they do, they'll need to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

In Kentucky: Why the coronavirus couldn't have come at a worse time for reeling Appalachian 

Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a stay-at-home order March 22 for nonessential workers and businesses. The order went into effect the next day. All public schools and many businesses, such as bars and gyms, were already closed by previous executive orders, but the order expanded the closures. On March 30, he extended the order through at least April 30

Maine

Gov. Janet Mills issued a stay-at-home order on March 31 that went into effect on April 2. Portland, the state's largest city, issued its own order on March 25.

Maryland

As part of a virtual shutdown of the capital region, which has a population of 15 million, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on March 30 tightened restrictions in ordering residents to stay home. Maryland has grappled with a major outbreak in one of its nursing homes.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker on March 23 announced a stay-at-home advisory for all unnecessary activities. The order was to run until April 7 but was extended to May 4, as was the limit on gatherings to 10 people or less. 

“We’re asking everyone to use their common sense, think about the impact this virus is having on the sick and elderly, and to limit their interactions with other people,'' Baker said.

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 23 signed a "Stay Home, Stay Safe'' executive order that runs through April 13. Violating the order is a criminal misdemeanor and could bring fines and also result in businesses being shut down.

As of  April 8, Michigan had the third largest number of both coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, so the order is almost certain to be extended.

"We are not close to the apex yet,'' Whitmer said April 6. "We haven't hit that yet, and until we do it is absolutely essential that we're continuing to be aggressive, so I would anticipate an additional order probably in the next week."

Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order March 25 that directed residents to stay in their homes and limit movement to essential activities. It was scheduled to run until April 10 before Walz extended it to May 4. The order was based on models released by the Minnesota Department of Health and University of Minnesota that predicted more than 70,000 residents could die if no action was taken.

The measure has paid off with a low infection rate, but Walz said on April 8, “We cannot rest easy. This thing can explode overnight if you don’t take the proper precautions.”

Mississippi

Gov. Tate Reeves had encouraged residents to stay home but did not mandate it until April 1, when he said at a news conference: "We know that there are some who still do not have a healthy fear of this virus. They are wrong, and they are risking lives if they do not take this very, very seriously.”

The day before, Reeves had issued such an order for Lauderdale County only.

Missouri

Gov. Mike Parson issued a statewide “Stay Home Missouri” order to run through April 24. Among its provisions, the order says residents "shall avoid leaving their homes or places of residence." It also closes schools, limits gatherings to 10 people and restricts the operations of non-essential businesses.

Montana

Gov. Steve Bullock issued an order March 26 that went into effect two days later, directing residents to stay at home and closing nonessential businesses.

"I'd rather be accused of overreacting than having a health care system overwhelmed and unable to help our most-at-risk Montanans when they need it the most," Bullock said.

Nebraska

Gov. Pete Ricketts on April 3 issued an updated directed health measure for the entire state. The order closes restaurant and bars' dining rooms, cancels classes at schools and imposes an 10-person limit on public gatherings, among other provisions.

The current order will stay in effect until May 11. Ricketts has declined to mandate that all residents stay at home despite pleas from a large group of doctors in the state, but Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House coronavirus task force said the governor's actions were "functionally equivalent.''

Nevada

On April 1, Gov. Steve Sisolak changed his stay-at-home guidance to a directive, at the same time extending closures of schools and nonessential businesses to April 30. 

That meant the rally known as "Light Up Las Vegas," which was to feature a procession of cars down the Strip, was canceled.

New Hampshire

Gov. Chris Sununu released an emergency order March 27 mandating the closure of all nonessential businesses and requiring Granite Staters to stay home.

The order is expected to be in place until May 4. The state saw its first death from the virus just days before Sununu's order.

New Jersey

On March 21, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered residents to stay at home. He also canceled gatherings of any number, including parties, weddings and religious ceremonies. 

"We have to change our behaviors," Murphy said, adding the restrictions would not change "anytime soon" and could continue for weeks or months.

New Mexico

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a public health order that called for nonessential businesses to be closed until at least April 10. She later extended the order through April 30 and included liquor stores, auto dealerships and payday lenders among those businesses not deemed essential.

The order said residents "should stay at home and undertake only those outings absolutely necessary for their health, safety or welfare." The order also prohibits gatherings of more than four people.

New York                     

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced March 20 that all New York residents must stay home "to the maximum extent possible."

Cuomo called the order the "New York State on PAUSE" plan, and it bans all nonessential gatherings of individuals "of any size for any reason."

Residents can leave their homes for solitary exercise or to obtain essential services or items, including trips to the grocery store. 

Times Square in Manhattan was far emptier than usual for a Saturday afternoon March 21, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have closed almost all businesses and kept most New Yorkers indoors.

North Carolina

After some counties mandated that their residents stay home, Gov. Roy Cooper extended the order statewide on March 27. Calling the decision “a matter of life or death,” Cooper said the order will extend until April 29.

North Dakota

Gov. Doug Burgum shut down all nonessential businesses but has not ordered residents to stay in the house: “It’s not about staying home, it’s about avoiding contact,’’ Burgum said.

Most Indian reservations in the state have either imposed curfews or stay-at-home orders.

Ohio

Gov. Mike DeWine imposed a mandate for Ohio's residents to stay at home, an order that went into effect March 23.

The order has been extended to May 1 and will be reassessed as necessary, DeWine said. The order can be enforced by local health and law enforcement departments, the governor said.

Oklahoma

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s “Safer at Home’’ order only applies to elderly people and those with immuno-deficiencies. However, mandates by the cities of Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman apply to all their residents. He also issued an order March 29 requiring travelers from six states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Louisiana and Washington – to self-quarantine for 14 days.

At an April 1 news conference in which he announced new guidelines, Stitt was pressed about his refusal to direct all state residents to stay home and he said, “In my opinion, I cannot shut things down and bunker in place.” 

Oregon

Gov. Kate Brown told residents on March 20 to stay home, calling the directive "both an order and a public awareness campaign." Three days later, Brown made it an official mandate.

“On (March 20), I frankly directed them to stay home,'' Brown said. "And now I am ordering them to stay home.”

Pennsylvania

On March 23, Gov. Tom Wolf issued stay-at-home orders for seven counties in Pennsylvania that have been hit hardest, including the areas surrounding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, its two largest cities. Philadelphia, Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe and Montgomery are the affected counties. On April 1, the order went out for the whole state.

On his verified Twitter account, Wolf had written that "residents must stay home unless someone’s life depends on leaving."

Rhode Island

Gov. Gina Raimondo on March 28 ordered residents to stay at home until April 13, with some exceptions. Her order also restricts gatherings to no more than five people and requires two-week quarantines of visitors from other states. On April 7, Raimondo extended the order to May 8.

South Carolina

On April 6, Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order for residents to stay home or at work unless they're visiting family, exercising or obtaining essential goods or services. The order went into effect on April 7 and carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail or a $100 fine for violators.

McMaster had earlier made a recommendation that residents stay home but "too many people are not complying," he said. Retail stores that remain open are required to limit the number of people inside at one time.

South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem has not imposed severe restrictions, but several cities and counties have taken action, including Sioux Falls and Huron. Noem has said she does not believe some of the limits applied to cities work well in smaller towns.

Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee on March 30 followed the lead of the mayors of cities like Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville and issued a “Safer at Home’’ order that imposes restrictions on residents’ movement and requires nonessential businesses to close. Some smaller cities in the state had previously implemented similar orders.

Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott had left decisions on stay-at-home restrictions to local governments rather than issuing a statewide edict, but on March 31 he signed an executive order that said residents should avoid leaving home for the next month except for essential activities. He declined to call it a stay-at-home order but acknowledged that's essentially what it is.

The most populous counties in the state had already taken action, directing their residents to stay home. Among them: Dallas County, Harris County – which includes Houston – Bexar County – which includes San Antonio, Collin County, El Paso County, Tarrant County, Austin and Hunt County.

On March 29, Abbott expanded the state’s mandatory self-quarantine order for travel from coronavirus hot spots, including noncommercial road travel out of Louisiana. The expanded order also includes travelers on flights from Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and anywhere in California and Washington state. Abbott’s previous quarantine order applied to air travelers from airports in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans.

Light traffic flows on I-35 in downtown Austin on Sunday March 29, 2020, during the shelter in place order due to the coronavirus.

Utah

On March 29, Salt Lake County ordered a number of businesses closed and told residents to only venture outside the home for “essential activities.’’

There is no statewide mandate in place from Gov. Gary Herbert, who on March 27 issued a set of directives while also stating that they "are not to be confused with a shelter-in-place order.'' 

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has repeatedly called for such an order, tweeting on April 2: "Every county in the state relies on metropolitan hospitals for critical care needs. A statewide order is necessary to slow the spread everywhere so we don’t overwhelm our hospitals.''

Vermont

An order by Gov. Phil Scott requiring that residents stay home went into effect March 25. Scott said on April 3 that he intends to extend the directive beyond its original April 15 expiration date and add new restrictions.

"As we head into the next few weeks, we need to be prepared for things to get worse before they get better," Scott said. "This is a once-in-a-century challenge.''

Virginia

A week before joining forces with Maryland and Washington, D.C., in their stay-at-home decrees, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had signed an executive order mandating all schools to be closed through the end of the academic year and many nonessential businesses to close for at least 30 days. The order has been extended to June 10.

The order also banned any public or private gatherings of 10 or more people. "I have said repeatedly, ‘Stay at home unless it’s essential that you go out,''' he said.

Washington

The Evergreen State became the first in the country to suffer an outbreak. On March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an order that prohibits Washingtonians from leaving their homes except for essential tasks.

“This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project,” Inslee said. “It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight.”

West Virginia

Though West Virginia was the last state in the U.S. to report a confirmed coronavirus case, Gov. Jim Justice issued a stay-at-home order March 23. The order also shut down all nonessential businesses and will last until a subsequent order terminates it.

Wisconsin

Gov. Tony Evers signed a "Safer at Home" order March 24, banning all nonessential travel.

"Issuing a 'Safer at Home' order isn’t something I thought we’d have to do and it’s not something I take lightly, but here’s the bottom line: Folks need to start taking this seriously," Evers said.

Wyoming

Gov. Mark Gordon said March 30 he doesn’t plan to order residents to stay at home, as the number of cases in the state climbed near 100. It's now at 230. Gordon has shut down schools and several businesses through April 30.

In an April 6 interview on Fox, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said state residents don't need an order to keep their distance: “Remember that people are spread out here,'' he said. "We only have about five people per square mile. We have been socially distancing the entire 130 years that we have been a state.”

Contributing: Mike Snider, Lorenzo Reyes and Jordan Culver, USA TODAY; Ashley Balcerzak, NorthJersey.com; Bethany Bruner, The Columbus Dispatch; Greg Hilburn, Monroe (La.) News-Star; Sarah Ladd, Louisville (Ky.) Courier Journal.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, by state