Reason Roundup

Democratic Governors Threaten Business Owners Who Reopen Ahead of Schedule

Plus: Most people started practicing social distancing well before the government forced them, Elon Musk plans to defy lockdown orders, and more...


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, issued a stern warning to small-business owners in his state: Reopen ahead of schedule and suffer the consequences.

"Dine-in restaurants that open in counties that have not been authorized to reopen will risk receiving a citation," Wolf wrote on Twitter. "These citations can ultimately lead to the loss of a restaurant's liquor license."

If local officials turn a blind eye to irresponsible reopening, the state will punish them by withholding stimulus funds.

"I won't sit back and watch residents who live in counties under Stay at Home orders get sick because local leaders cannot see the risks of #COVID19 and push to reopen prematurely," wrote Wolf.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, also a Democrat, followed through on a similar threat, announcing that the health department would indefinitely close a restaurant that had opened for dine-in service over the weekend.

Texas has gone in a different direction. As frustration with the lockdown increases among some small-business owners, Gov. Greg Abbot, a Republican, has eliminated jail as a potential punishment for defiers. Meanwhile, the Dallas salon owner who was jailed for continuing to operate her business is now a free woman—and even gave Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Tex.) a haircut.

Media commentators who tend to be more positively disposed toward continuing the lockdowns tend to point out that the public is actually broadly supportive of them. Of course, the lockdowns affect everyone differently, and it might very well be the case that a small but vocal sector—small-business owners—feels differently. (Also, word choice matters here: Widespread public approval of social distancing measures, which could still be practiced even during a partial reopening, is not quite the same thing as support for a complete shutdown of the economy.)

While it's important for public officials to listen to health experts and reopen slowly in line with the guidance from the White House, heavy-handed enforcement in the face of mounting opposition is a questionable strategy. Bullying people into obedience isn't sustainable.

In any case, available evidence suggests that most people began to follow social distancing protocols before governments formally shut down public life. According to FiveThirtyEight:

But, at least on the front end of this crisis, Americans weren't deciding what to do based on politics. Americans living in red states appear to have taken the crisis plenty seriously; data shows that residents there were staying home well before their governors issued stay-at-home orders.

Cuebiq, a private data company, assessed the movement of people via GPS-enabled mobile devices across the U.S. If you look at movement data in a cross-section of states President [Donald] Trump won in the southeast in 2016—Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky—23 percent of people were staying home on average during the first week of March. That proportion jumped to 47 percent a month later across these six states.

If defying social distancing orders were really a political statement, you'd think that the southeast would be a hotbed for dissent. Yet people in the six states we examined changed their behavior around mid-March, before the states' official stay-at-home orders. In fact, about 90 percent of the total change between early March and mid-April had occurred in the week before the stay-at-home orders were passed in each state.

This suggests that intimidating dissenters should not a critical component of a state government's strategy for enforcing quarantines.


Twitter announced Monday that it will add labels to certain tweets that contain misleading information about coronavirus:

These labels will link to a Twitter-curated page or external trusted source containing additional information on the claims made within the Tweet.

Depending on the propensity for harm and type of misleading information, warnings may also be applied to a Tweet. These warnings will inform people that the information in the Tweet conflicts with public health experts' guidance before they view it.

While false or misleading content can take many different forms, we will take action based on three broad categories:

  • Misleading information — statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts, such as public health authorities.
  • Disputed claims — statements or assertions in which the accuracy, truthfulness, or credibility of the claim is contested or unknown.
  • Unverified claims — information (which could be true or false) that is unconfirmed at the time it is shared.

It's not clear exactly who will be making the determination about whether a tweet is false or misleading: the company says that it will rely on "trusted partners." Twitter is a private company and can do whatever it wants, but vetting the factual accuracy of every claim that appears on the platform is probably logistically quite hard.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk will reopen his California factory in defiance of lockdown orders and is threatening to move his business to either Texas or Nevada, where the tax and regulatory environment is less hostile. According to CNN:

The decision follows the executive's sharp Twitter outbursts in recent weeks objecting to state lockdown orders meant to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. In a tweet on Monday, Musk said he would be at the factory, "on the line with everyone else."

"If anyone is arrested, he tweeted, "I ask that it only be me."

Musk has argued that restrictions closing non-essential businesses put in place by Alameda County, where Tesla's Fremont factory is based, are overly aggressive and unconstitutional. On Saturday, the company filed a federal lawsuit against the county. Musk has also threatened to relocate Tesla's headquarters out of California and suggested he might move manufacturing from there as well.

In a statement Monday afternoon, county officials said they are negotiating with Tesla on a plan to reopen the plant more fully.


  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a plan to reopen his state.
  • Emergency room visits for non-coronavirus medical issues—asthma attacks, for example—are substantially down.
  • Los Angeles will reopen beaches on Wednesday, but only for physical activity.
  • White House staffers are now required to wear masks.
  • The Department of Justice is considering filing hate crime charges against Gregory and Travis McMichael, who were arrested for shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was out jogging.
  • Trump angrily cut his Monday press briefing short after CNN's Kaitlan Collins refused to back down when the president ignored her.