During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom were hailed as heroes of the fight to contain the virus through draconian shut-down measures, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was heavily criticized for respecting individual liberty.
A year later the narrative has changed dramatically. Cuomo is mired in a growing sexual harassment scandal and is being investigated for hiding the true number of seniors who died in Empire State nursing homes as a result of his failed COVID-19 policies. In California, Newsom is all but certain to face a recall election as people rebel against his harsh policies.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ political star is on the rise. He finished far ahead of the pack in a CPAC poll of potential 2024 presidential candidates when former President Donald Trump was not included in the question, second only to Trump when the he was included.
Florida, despite the lack of state restrictions, has fared at least as well – in fact much better – than New York, California and other restrictive states including Pennsylvania. As a result, the Florida economy is booming, while others continue to wallow in the pandemic induced recession.
Governor Tom Wolf has largely avoided the national spotlight despite also being complicit in enforcing policies that resulted in massive deaths in state nursing homes. His administration has also botched handling of every phase of the pandemic from being unable to provide accurate statistics, to the lagging processing of unemployment compensation claims, to their inability to keep up with the rest of the nation in deploying the vaccine.
Throughout all of the Wolf Administration’s ineptitude, incompetence and general ineffectiveness the governor has clung to his emergency powers like a banana republic dictator. Recently he again renewed his emergency declaration for a fourth time despite a dramatic drop in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
A state legislature, fed up with Wolf’s refusal to engage in any meaningful dialog on pandemic-related issues has placed on the May primary ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide some measure of checks and balances. Wolf has inexplicitly denounced the referendum – which voters will have the final say – as “anti-democratic.” He is deploying every trick in the book to prevent the constitutional amendment from being approved, going so far as to craft slanted, highly misleading language to place on the ballot in an effort to confuse voters.
All this while the draconian restrictions placed on the residents of Penn’s Woods continue in effect. The hospitality industry has been especially hard hit as indoor dining limits and a ban on gathering at bars remains in effect. In a PR move the governor proposes to offer financial aid to such businesses, but the money involved amounts to mere crumbs compared to the economic plain he has inflicted.
As a state and nation we have all along been confronted with the need to deal with the virus and at the same time cope with the economic pain it has caused. As the Florida experience has demonstrated it is clear shut-downs and restrictions have had minimal to no effect on the virus. At the same time the economic pain they have caused has been great.
Add in backsliding in the fight against opioid abuse, increasing suicide rates, a lost year of educational opportunities, record unemployment and mounting business closures and there no longer is any doubt but that the cure proscribed by Wolf and his fellow travelers has become worse than the disease.
Dr. Martin Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that because infections have been more widespread than the data suggests spread of the virus has slowed. He cited that as a reason for declining case numbers and his conclusion that COVID-19 will be “mostly gone” by mid-April.
Those declining case numbers coupled with more and more Pennsylvanians receiving the vaccine have made the continued imposition of draconian state-ordered restrictions unnecessary. At this point in the pandemic the Centers for Disease Control has published enough guidelines for every aspect of society, from schools to restaurants to individual families to know what steps must be taken to protect themselves and others.
It’s time for Governor Wolf to end the emergency declaration and the state imposed restrictions that clearly were not necessary to get us to this point, and certainly are not needed going forward.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal and American Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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