Jane Brady: It is Time to Open up Delaware!
By Jane Brady
Governor John Carney just extended his emergency order relating to the COVID pandemic for another 30 days. Delaware citizens are saying it is time to open up. Small businesses and employees living from paycheck to paycheck are more worried than ever how, and if, they are going to survive.
Remember, this all began when an unfamiliar strain of a potentially toxic virus left China and came to our shores. Within China, travel was being restricted from the very city from which people were traveling to all parts of the world. We lacked information and were suspicious of what we did hear. Experts predicted as many as 1.2 million people could die. Responsible leaders were concerned that our health care systems would be overrun by the medical needs of the expected multitudes of critically ill patients.
Based on those circumstances, the country and the economy were essentially shut down. By government edict, businesses and occupations were deemed essential or not. No matter how essential your income was to you or your family’s ability to remain in your home or keep food on the table, if the government deemed otherwise, you were not able to continue to work.
And, we complied. We were “all in this together”. We applauded those who were keeping us safe and making us well.
Now, we know more. We have measured the impact of the virus, evaluated who is at risk and determined that the dire predictions of the experts did not materialize. Sadly, there have been deaths. But, with very limited exceptions, there has been no over demand on the medical health systems.
It is time for the Governor to amend his policies to reflect the realities of our experience. In Delaware, the objective of protecting our ability to provide for the health care needs of those affected was met or never developed. But the objective seems to have changed – now we are trying to prevent anyone from getting the virus, not a realistic goal.
The government’s response, in retrospect, was not only excessive, but also very uneven. Government policies picked winners and losers. While state government workers and many individuals who work for large corporations have continued to be paid, someone who works in a small retail store selling clothing or books and the wait staff in nearly every restaurant have suffered. You could buy a book at Walmart, but you couldn’t walk into Browseabout Books and purchase the same item. Indeed, you could not even order a book from them online and pick it up at the curb. You could go to Home Depot and get plants, and every weekend hundreds of people did, but Wharton’s could not open and sell the plants they had ordered for the spring season.
Small businesses count on month-to-month income to survive, and form the bedrock of our economy. Many of the stores will not survive this pandemic solely because of government policies. A balanced approach would equally limit access to any store by the same formula and permit curbside delivery by every business.
Recently we have heard much about the other, non-economic impacts of the excessive
government response to this pandemic – depression, suicide, substance abuse, lack of diagnostic testing, delay of other, non-emergency surgeries. Those consequences are beginning to take a toll on our community as well.
Governor Carney at one point stated that he was going to follow the lead of New Jersey and New York. That is simply wrong. Delaware should make decisions that are right for Delaware. While we should respect the recommendations of the CDC – wear masks when we can’t socially distance, evaluate our risks given our personal health issues, wash our hands frequently and use sanitizer – we should also recognize the realities that many of our neighbors face when businesses are not permitted to compete fairly. We need to open up our economy. We need to get people back to work. We need to get our children back in school. We need to recognize that while this virus is indeed a threat, we now can identify for whom it has the greatest risk. We now know the unintended consequences that policies, blind to realities and not adjusted to new information, can cause.
We are a resilient people. We know how to protect ourselves, and we can make informed choices for ourselves and our families. Government does not need to do that for us. It is time to open up!
Jane Brady chairs the Republican Party of Delaware. She was elected in 1994 as Delaware’s first female attorney general and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. She resigned as attorney general in 2005 to become a judge on the Delaware Superior Court where she served until 2017.