It is darned hard to make reasonable inferences based on the data we’re getting and, especially, based on the media reports. Keep in mind that most of the people in the national media live in the New York City metro area, the Washington, DC metro area, or Los Angeles.
Roughly one third of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States are in the New York metro area. We’re not sure why that is. Population density, temperature, the number of people returning from China during January and February, and the behavior of the people, e.g. crowding into subway cars, probably all play roles.
More than one third of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California have been in the Los Angeles metro area. The reasons for that are even less clear than for New York. The only two that seem to apply are the number of people coming from China during January and February and behavior.
Composed as it is of parts of Maryland, Virginia, and the district itself, Washington, DC is harder to ferret out. To my eye there actually haven’t been a lot of cases in the DC metro area.
Compare New York and LA with some other places. There have been more confirmed cases in the Bronx than there have been in the ten states with the lowest number of cases put together (Minnesota, West Virginia, Nebraska, Kentucky, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Kansas, North Dakota). Those states are all over the map but quite a few of them have things in common. The Upper Midwestern states in that list plus a few others are relatively homogeneous, socially cohesive, known for maintaining “social distancing” even under ordinary circumstances, and tend to have low population densities. Hawaii has a warm climate going for it.
Shoehorning a policy crafted for New York City into the rest of the country does not sound like a formula for success to me, especially when you can’t even shoehorn it into New York City. The subway is still running, albeit with a much lower ridership.
Now maybe all that will change. Maybe it won’t.