Tracking the breadth and depth of COVID response in U.S. cities

  • Many cities ordered all non-essential businesses to close while others closed a similar set of businesses but didn’t define them as “essential” vs. “non-essential.” Most often, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues closed. It is important to consider that the definition of a nonessential business can vary widely among cities. Church services were considered essential in Texas, sparking controversy since it was conducive to large gatherings of people.
  • In addition, 24 cities closed non-essential businesses before statewide authorities did.
  • As emergency plans and operations ramped-up, other city hall services closed or shifted online. In-person recreational programming was canceled. Public spaces were closed or monitored to ensure proper social distancing guidelines were followed. Resident-facing municipal services moved to appointment only, then online. And nonessential city workers were put on leave, redirected to other needs, or had to work from home.
  • For this category, there are also two types of cities: those that clearly stated that all nonessential city employees were allowed to work from home during the pandemic and those cities that announced the closure of some facilities and cancelation of some services.
  • In early March, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled in Boston, a sign of things to come. Early on, and following CDC advice, cities began to limit mass gatherings — 1,000, 500, 250. Eventually that figure fell to 10 in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
  • In addition, 29 cities limited public gatherings before statewide authorities did.

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