LETTER from CHIP NORTHRUP
To the Editor:
In Texas, a city or county can issue and enforce stay-at-home health orders without the state’s permission. Some West Texas counties have prohibited out-of-county residents from staying in the county overnight, the landlords are fined $1,000 a day.
In New York, only the state can issue such sweeping health directives, no such balkanization is allowed.
This centralization of authority proved to be fatal in New York, since the state was too slow to act fast enough on major metropolitan areas – namely New York City.
The first coronavirus case was reported in San Antonio, Texas, on March 1, the same day the first case was recorded in New York. Acting without waiting on the state, the mayor of San Antonio prohibited large gatherings the next day and canceled the annual municipal fiesta.
In New York City, Mayor DiBlasio did not prohibit anything; legally, he couldn’t. Instead, he rode the subway on March 5 to “show it was safe.”
San Antonio recorded its first COVID-19 death on March 20. Two days later, the city and county issued stay-at home orders for all non-essential workers.
New York recorded its first COVID-19 death on March 14. Had New York City acted as quickly as San Antonio, Austin, El Paso or Dallas, the city would have been locked down by the 16th. But New York could not act without the state’s permission.
New York State ordered a statewide shutdown that went into effect on the 21st, almost three weeks after the first case and a week after the first death. In those precious weeks, the virus had already spread all over New York City – infecting thousands.
To its shame, Texas did not issue a state-wide shelter-in-place order until April 2. To their credit, all major cities and counties in Texas had issued such orders on their own by then. New York City, at the cost of thousands of lives, was slower to react to the plague than sleepy old San Antonio.
As of April 11, there have been 24 COVID-19 deaths in San Antonio, a city of 2 million. At 8.4 million, New York City is 4.2 times the size of San Antonio, so that should equate to about 100 deaths, which is about what the death rate has been in cities of comparable size, such as Tokyo, which has had 98 deaths.
Unfortunately, as of April 11, New York City has had 6,898 COVID-19 deaths.
This tends to indicate that you don’t have to be Korean, Japanese or Norwegian to figure out this plague business. You can even be a Texan. In San Antonio, Austin or El Paso. No tests, no contract tracing, no vaccine, just stay in your house and read a book. A lot of books.