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Further fuel for the stay at home debate

Individuals, employers and local governments beat states to the punch when it came to limiting the spread of the coronavirus and shutting down much of the U.S. economy, according to a new research paper by William Luther, an assistant professor of economics in Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.

William Luther, an economics assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University

In analyzing Google Mobility data, Luther found that consumers, workplaces and local governments started imposing their own restrictions even before the states took action in March and April. Roughly three-quarters of the change in residential, retail, recreation, workplace and public transportation activity preceded orders by states to shelter in place.

“Many employees who could work from home were already doing so,” Luther said. “Consumers were making fewer trips out, and most of those trips were to stock up on groceries so they would not have to venture out as much when the risk of spread increased over the weeks that followed.”

Luther’s conclusion creates problems for both sides in the debate over state-sponsored, stay-at-home orders.

Some insist that state orders are vital to keeping COVID-19 under control and saving lives, but others suggest that forcing non-essential businesses to close leads to massive unemployment, economic hardship and psychological effects from which the country won’t soon recover. Instead, the evidence shows that much of the desirable mitigation and undesirable slowdown in economic activity would have happened even without state-level, stay-at-home orders.

Local governments took their own mitigation measures before state governments. Elected officials in state and federal governments tend to be slower to act because they’re waiting until they have widespread support for their policies, Luther said. While local leaders also have to worry about re-election, their smaller jurisdictions allow them to gain consensus and respond quicker.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘Well, the state was too slow to respond,’ but that’s a feature of democracy, not a bug,” Luther said.

In times of crisis, people often wonder what state and federal governments can do to fix the problem—and there is plenty they can do, Luther said. But he also suggests looking for local solutions.

“Local leaders have a much better understanding of local life,” he said. “They can identify which locations and interactions are likely to encourage spread and where it is relatively safe to continue on more or less as usual. The result is locally tailored policy that is much more likely to be followed.”

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.