One researcher at West Virginia University suggests that we need to set aside political partisanship as the U.S. responds to the novel coronavirus. 

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday (March 13).

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, states made emergency declarations and entities ranging from universities to professional sports leagues to public schools have shuttered or altered operations.

As of March 13, known coronavirus cases in the U.S. grew to at least 1,872, with 41 deaths. Reports of tests not being widely accessible and the stringent guidelines in place to qualify for testing have further fueled the frustrations of Americans.

Chris Plein, a policy expert at WVU, has offered perspective on what he considers three big questions surrounding the social, political and policy dimensions of the crisis. Plein is a professor of public administration in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences whose expertise is public policy formation and implementation, welfare reform and health policy.


“First, the U.S. response to COVID-19 lays bare age-old tensions between self-interest and the public good. The balancing of individual rights and liberties against actions taken in the public interest has long been a dimension in American political culture. We have seen this tension in the way that the crisis has been covered in the media, in public response, and in the often-conflicting messaging that have been sent out to the public by officials and others regarding response and action.”

“Second, mobilizing support for collective, public action for the general welfare of the country requires a level of trust and confidence in public authority. In our hyper-partisan environment, it may be even more difficult to mobilize public support, especially in a time when the capabilities of elected officials and the legitimacy of government institutions have been subjected to sustained criticism.”

“Third, the U.S. response to COVID-19 is taking place in our federal, intergovernmental system. This means that there may be conflict and tension between local, state and federal authority. We may see more proactive efforts in some states that may set the tone for federal response. We may see strains in the coordination of effort.”

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