A while back, I read a book called The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. I recommend it highly. It’s a been a while since I’ve read it, but what I remember is that the response to that pandemic was highly variable, depending on the city. New York City had a relatively low mortality rate because they also responded strongly, based on their history of building a public health infrastructure independent of the then-weak federal government. (Here’s a paper on that topic with more detail, including an explanation of why they kept schools open.)
For all the bad things I’ve said about Andrew Cuomo, he’s a competent administrator, and his decision to quarantine New Rochelle, and to use the National Guard to disinfect public facilities and deliver food to people in quarantine is a smart move. I expect more of the same from our competent state and local governments.
I’m not a native New Yorker — as a transplant from a red state, I’m always amused by people bitching about taxes and government services here. I’m happy to pay my taxes to get the world-class schools, fire departments, ambulances, hospitals, sanitation, roads and other services that are so much better than anything I saw in the red state where I grew up, and the other red state where I lived before moving here.
The Trump Administration’s handling of this crisis so far has been horribly bad, but it’s mostly consistent with conservative “state’s rights” doctrine. In this case, each state has the right to bury their head in the sands or respond to the pandemic in a pragmatic, science-based way.
In 1918, the weak federal government was way behind the more advanced state’s responses. Unfortunately, in 2020, states are used to taking guidance from the federal government when it comes to infectious disease, so, for example, the screwup with testing kits hurt all states. I can’t find the links right now (I know, I’m lazy) but I’ve read a few stories about red state health departments minimizing and slow rolling their virus responses in the early days. That didn’t happen in New York or Washington state. My guess is that, after this pandemic is over, blue state legislatures will appropriate more money for their state health departments so they will have more resources to respond independently to the next health crisis. This is all consistent with the overall trend in the US: if you live in a blue state, your quality of life will likely be better. If you live in a red state, your life won’t be better, but at least you’ll have the pleasure of blaming it on the liberals and people of color.