Turning to the States for Leadership

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While there are encouraging signs of international cooperation in dealing with strategies to contain and efforts to treat COVID-19, there is no clear international leadership orchestrating the global defense effort. Instead, it falls to each country to assess the situation, learn from the experiences of others and chart a course of defense. In the United States, that strategic role was expected to be filled by the federal government, under the direction of the president and his advisers, with the help and support of the agencies charged with protecting the health of the American people.

Unfortunately, it took some time for the White House to acknowledge the severity and scope of the coronavirus threat. While Congress addressed some of the financial consequences of the pandemic’s disruptions — and did so working with the White House — the practical, protective steps that were needed were rolled out too slowly (and grudgingly) by the president and his team. Critics blame that delay for some of the mind-numbing numbers of illnesses and deaths that have wreaked havoc in several cities.

But even as the federal government struggled to gain its coronavirus footing, several notable state government leaders rose to the challenge, acted decisively and stayed calm under pressure — all while providing necessary reassurances to their constituents, and telling them in plain language what they needed to know and do.

Two of the most active have been Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Gov. Hogan, for example, directed the closure of public schools on March 12 — a move viewed as very aggressive at the time — which inspired nonpublic schools, houses of worship and businesses to follow suit. He then gradually limited the size of private gatherings, leading to a statewide stay-at-home order that has helped Maryland limit the spread of the virus. As chair of the National Governors Association, Hogan has had the platform and the poise to emerge as a leader in the nation’s fight against the coronavirus.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has proven to be a highly credible, effective and engaging leader during the crisis. Americans across the country have been tuning in to hear Cuomo’s regular briefings, which include comprehensive presentations that provide information and inspiration as he leads the response in the nation’s hardest-hit state.

Cuomo and Hogan are two examples. Fortunately, there are other governors, like Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), and local officials, like Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who have also provided much needed leadership at a time when our country’s approach to the problem has been so decentralized. We are inspired by their leadership, and thank them for helping to manage our response to the debilitating attack of COVID-19.

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