Newt: Coronavirus shouldn’t keep America closed for months – Let’s reopen based on local conditions


By Newt Gingrich |

ZooMontana in Billings, Mont., is scheduled to reopen to members May 4 and to the general public May 11, allowing in up to 500 visitors a day, which is 10 percent of its capacity.

This small event by a small zoo (the only one in Montana) is symbolic of America beginning a great experiment in managing the coronavirus pandemic while reopening society.

Since most of the zoo is outdoors, visitors can socially distance themselves and minimize the threat of spreading the virus.

This decision for Billings, which has a population of 109,000, will not work everywhere.

A similar hypothetical decision to reopen the Central Park Zoo in the middle of Manhattan would be disastrous. The Manhattan population is more than 1.6 million, while New York City’s is around 8.4 million. What works in one place may not work in another.

In fact, the entire state of Montana (147,040 square miles) has a population of just over 1 million. This is less than the population of Manhattan, an island that covers 22.7 square miles.

Montana has had just over 440 confirmed cases of COVID-15 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – and 14 deaths. New York City has had over 150,000 confirmed cases, with more than 16,000 deaths.

Clearly, a policy that makes sense for Montana would be a nightmare in New York City.

However, the initial one-size-fits-all approach to shutting down America was as inappropriate for Montana as reopening would be for New York City. America is a huge country, and there are many different characteristics depending on where you are and what you are doing.

Montana’s ability to make a local decision based on local circumstances is a tribute to President Trump’s move to decentralize the reopening process to the states and their governors.

Having a Washington bureaucrat decide when every zoo in America could open would be an invitation to calamity. The same would be true if Washington bureaucrats had the power to decide when to reopen every restaurant, bowling alley and beauty shop.

Christopher DeMuth made a good point in a brilliant article for The Wall Street Journal headlined “Trump Rewrites the Book on Emergencies:”

“Wash­ing­ton’s re­sponse to the Covid-19 pan­demic is up­end­ing one of the most durable pat­terns of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics,” DeMuth wrote. “Through­out his­tory, na­tional emer­gen­cies have led to a more pow­er­ful and cen­tral­ized fed­eral gov­ern­ment and to the trans­fer of fed­eral power from Con­gress to the ex­ec­u­tive branch. This time, the fed­eral re­sponse rests largely on state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment and pri­vate en­ter­prise, with a wave of dereg­u­la­tion clear­ing the way. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has seized no new pow­ers, and Con­gress has stayed en­er­get­i­cally in the game.”

DeMuth added that “as soon as the mag­ni­tude of the epi­demic was grasped, it was man­aged and sub­dued through vig­or­ous lo­cal­ism, pri­vate en­ter­prise and pro­fes­sional ded­i­ca­tion, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ing es­sen­tial na­tional lead­er­ship but stay­ing within its con­sti­tu­tional rails. … Di­ver­si­fied cen­ters of au­thor­ity and ini­tia­tive aren’t lux­u­ries. They are the keys to re­silience in the face of emer­gen­cies large and small.”

Some states will reopen cleverly and with minimum problems. Other states will reopen clumsily – and have more health problems. Yet other states will try to avoid reopening while they suffer growing societal and economic pain.

Read more here.