Coronavirus policies spread quickly across the U.S. Are cities and states learning — or just copying?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) briefs the media inside a nearly completed makeshift hospital at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on March 27. Cuomo said the state wants to build four more temporary hospitals in New York City within weeks. (Darren McGee/Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo/AP)

As the novel coronavirus has spread across U.S. cities and states, so have public policies aimed at stopping the pandemic. Sometimes, states learn from others’ policy successes. Other times, they simply copy neighbors or even compete against them.

So far, state and local government policy choices to stem the tide of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, look more like simple imitation and harmful competition than thoughtful learning and innovation. But we see opportunities for learning going forward.

Here’s why.

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Craig Volden