These 4 States "Refused to Comply" With the White House's COVID Advice
These "red zone" states received a letter from a White House official for rejecting the task force's advice.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, all 50 states have not been on the same page. From mask mandates to reopening businesses, many states disagree about the best way forward. However, at the very least, governors have been expected to comply with recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. But in the wake of a handful of governors being noncompliant with the COVID advice from the White House, Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent four states letters "demanding extensive documents related to coronavirus response."
According to The Washington Post, Clyburn is requesting that documents on the states' coronavirus response be sent to the White House by Aug. 12. "Failure to comply is allowing the virus to spread, prolonging and exacerbating the public health crisis," he wrote. During a Select Subcommittee Hearing on July 31, Tennessee Rep. Mark Green said four Republican states, including his own, were singled out by Clyburn among the 21 states in the White House's "red zone" (i.e. states with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week).
In response, Clyburn said politics were not behind the letters, clarifying that they were sent to "the four states that refused to comply with the critical recommendations from the task force." The other 17 states' governors have agreed to adhere to the White House's recommendations. "All four [states that received letters] have governors who have publicly stated that they do not plan to comply," Clyburn said during the hearing. Read on to find out the four states that are not heeding the White House's warnings. And for more states in trouble, check out These 13 States Need to Lock Down Immediately, Harvard Researchers Say.
Georgia began to experience a significant increase in cases at the end of June, and officials within the state have consistently had disagreements about how to slow the spread. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp went so far as to sue Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for issuing an executive order mandating masks in the city.
In the latest report from the White House, which leaked earlier this week in The New York Times, the task force says Georgia needs to "mandate use of masks in all current and evolving hotspots—optimally a statewide mandate." Even as the school year approaches, Kemp continues to refuse to issue a mask requirement. For more information on Georgia's mask debate, check out These Major Cities Made Masks Mandatory, Even Though Their States Haven't.
Florida, the state with the second-highest number of COVID cases in America, has gotten a slew of negative attention since cases began to spike once the Sunshine State reopened. According to the Miami Herald, although a spokesman says Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is an advocate of hand-washing, physical distancing, and wearing a mask when you can't social distance, he does not believe in "criminalizing the mask issue nor does he feel it is a good use of law enforcement resources."
The White House guidance says the state needs to "mandate masks in all counties with rising test percent positivity," not that "multiple counties and metros are now in this category." However, DeSantis has not done so, nor has he committed to responding to Clyburn's letter, according to the Miami Herald. And to see how the mayor of Miami is responding, check out The Surprising Thing You Might Be Asked to Do at Home to Stop COVID.
Oklahoma began to see a spike in cases in mid-June and has been on a steady incline since. According to The Tulsa World, Clyburn cited Oklahoma for not complying with five recommendations from the task force, including limiting gatherings to 10 people, closing bars, reducing indoor dining to 25 percent capacity, closing or limiting the capacity of gyms, and implementing mask requirements for businesses.
According to the White House document, the state saw a 35 percent increased in COVID-related deaths in the last week. For more information on who's most affected in Oklahoma, check out This Is How Old Most of the People With COVID Are in Your State.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has been clear about his thoughts on the task force's recommendations. On July 27, during her visit to the Volunteer State, Deborah Birx, MD, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said: "We've done a lot of modeling and we have found that if you all wear a mask—all Tennesseans—in every public area and you stop going to bars, and in fact close the bars, and limit your indoor dining, that we can have as big of an impact on decreasing new cases as we had with sheltering in place."
Just moments later, Lee said. "I've said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there's nothing off the table. I've also said that we are not going to close the economy back down, and we are not going to. But I appreciate their recommendations and we take them seriously."
According to The Center Square, Lee has said he will not issue a statewide mask mandate because he does not think citizens will comply, although he did give county mayors the authority to require masks within their domain. Bars remain open throughout much of the state, although on July 29, the Knox County Board of Health voted to close bars in the county. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.