Governors and mayors across the U.S. issued orders to shut down normal human contact and commercial life even as the Trump administration debates dialing back guidances that officials fear is smothering the economy.

On Monday, Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Massachusetts ordered residents to stay at home while Virginia and Maryland placed restrictions on non-essential movement. South Carolina banned gatherings of more than two people. The actions by the governors -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- show that even if President Donald Trump relaxes the recommendations, states won’t necessarily follow.

“It’s the biggest event of any living person in the United States today,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said about the pandemic.

Trump’s administration has weighed loosening “social distancing” guidelines and encouraging more Americans to get back to work. Convention cancellations, school closures, drops in bus and rail ridership and bans on dining-in at restaurants are raising the chances the U.S. is headed into or is already in recession. Unemployment claims are surging.

Back to Work?
Trump had made the booming economy his main argument for re-election, and last week he began discussing how to move people back to the workplace, according to two people familiar with the matter. That was three days after he announced a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan recommending most Americans stay home for 15 days to help stem the outbreak. That period concludes on March 31, and internal discussions have centered on what to do once it ends.

“We will be back in business as a country pretty soon, and you’ll be hearing about that also pretty soon,” Trump said. “I’m not looking at months.”

The president has little direct power to order sectors of the U.S. economy to start and stop, and American federalism means governors hold sway in their states. Many are issuing their own directives that go further, closing schools for weeks or months, shuttering nonessential businesses and setting stringent shelter-in-place orders.

The governors of New York, Ohio, Illinois, California, Connecticut, Nevada and Pennsylvania within the last week told their residents -- one-third of the U.S. population of 328 million -- that nonessential businesses must close and they shouldn’t venture out other than for groceries, medicine or emergencies. This week, more are following that lead.

Justice of West Virginia, a Republican, acted after a televised speech Saturday in which he spoke of the gravity of the crisis but gave little direction. The Gazette-Mail of Charleston had a banner headline Sunday: “Governor urges action, takes none.”

On Monday, he took it, announcing a stay-at-home order effective Tuesday at 8 p.m. Justice said at a news conference that nonessential businesses must close.

Jim Hurley, the owner of O’Hurley’s General Store in Shepherdstown, said that he would try to continue the Thursday-night concerts that have been going on for 40 years, but without guests -- only musicians.

“The music is going to go on, but the crowds are not,” he said.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, issued an executive order that bars gatherings of more than two people unless in their homes. It applies to “parties on the beach,” concerts, and other public gatherings.

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