The November 28 edition of the Star Democrat reports that representative Andy Harris is worried about the effects of COVID-19, but he is worrying about the wrong things. No one likes the massive disruption in everyday life the pandemic has caused. Everyone wants life to return to normal. However, the recent surge in coronavirus cases and deaths requires responsible leaders to take whatever actions are necessary to protect the health and safety of those they serve. Governor Hogan’s recent actions demonstrate that he understands that responsibility. This is not a political issue. It is a public health issue.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland reported 2378 new cases on November 27. Twenty-two more people died. Since the pandemic began, there have been 192,858 confirmed cases in Maryland and 4414 people have died. Counting only those counties on the Eastern Shore, 11,861 cases and 225 deaths have occurred in Maryland’s 1st District which Mr. Harris represents. If we add parts of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties, which Mr. Harris also represents, those numbers are higher.
The coronavirus is a highly contagious, sometimes fatal disease which spreads quickly and easily from one person to another. Until there is a safe, effective vaccine available to everyone, only mitigation measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding large and most indoor gatherings will prevent more people from getting sick and dying.
Recent data about the effectiveness of two prospective vaccines offers hope that life may return to normal within a few months. However, until those vaccines are widely available, everyone must continue to do what they can to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and overwhelming our hospitals and health care workers.
As Mr. Harris asserts, civil liberties are important, but those liberties come with responsibilities to do what we can to keep ourselves and others safe. Mr. Harris also worries about the effects of current coronavirus restrictions on small businesses. He’s right. Small businesses do need help. So do state and local governments and many of his constituents who are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. The House of Representatives, of which Mr. Harris is a member, passed the HEROES act, an economic stimulus bill, on May 15. That bill would have provided exactly the kind of help everyone needs. Mr. Harris voted against the HEROES act, and it remains stalled because his Republican colleague, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, refuses to let the Senate take it up for a vote.
Instead of worrying, Mr. Harris should act. He should urge his constituents to wear masks, to practice social distancing, to avoid large gatherings and to keep celebrations for the holidays limited to people within their own households. He should also talk with Senator McConnell about passing the stimulus bill his constituents need to tide them over until there is a widely available vaccine.
Living with the kinds of restrictions necessary to prevent further spread of the coronavirus is hard. Watching people we love suffer and die is harder.