Massachusetts needs to shift gears to enabling its citizens to be responsible voluntarily, to supporting private and local initiative, and to focusing resources on targeted protection of the vulnerable.
Today, after nearly two months of shutdown, Governor Baker announced the details of “Phase 1” of his plan to re-open Massachusetts. While there is some progress with this announcement, the detailed list leaves many questions open. And in areas where it is clear, it does not go far enough - by a long measure.
The changes announced today continue to put an undue burden on local businesses giving an advantage to large chains. It is not reasonable to allow large crowds into some stores, while limiting local shop owners that don’t have capabilities such as online-shop presence to only curbside pickup. At a minimum the state should have set clear safety requirements that are applied consistently for large and small businesses alike. The capacity limit of 25% for offices is overly restrictive, hitting smaller businesses harder than large corporations that can afford advanced digital infrastructure.
Another example of a key problem is the lack of a clear and expedient plan for opening child care services. Even if we accept that the school year is ending digitally, summer programs all over the state have been cancelled. This leaves families in a dire situation, even if businesses reopen. How can you go to work when you have to take care of your kids at home? Children are already paying a high price for the shutdown. It is time to let them out again.
The situation for preventive healthcare and non-COVID related issues continues to be murky at best. Worldwide, there is a growing concern over the health impact of care not given due to the forced shutdown of non-COVID related services. And while the Massachusetts plan is moving towards restoring services, a faster change is needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a great risk, especially to those with an already weakened health. It was and continues to be important to ‘flatten the curve’ of exponential spread in order to avoid overwhelming the health care systems. At the same time we can not risk ‘flattening’ the economy or giving up our civil rights, because both can and will cause even greater harm in the long-term. All indications are that the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for the long-haul and we need to develop a sustainable way to deal with it. That can only work with voluntary compliance to well understood best practices.
Instead of central planning with a government-mandated shutdown that has further undermined civil liberties and worsened the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts should have enabled its citizens to be responsible voluntarily, should have supported private and local initiative, and should have focused resources on targeted protection of the vulnerable. It is time to shift gears and move in that direction.
One thing that the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, is that Massachusetts needs a change in its political landscape. Join the LIbertarian Party and help us bring about that change.