So, we are told to stay home, wear a mask, social distance. Do it for grandma. Then poof, a split second later our streets are filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, bunched together, as if the coronavirus never happened. What crazy times we are living in!
Gov. John Bel Edwards added to the madness on Monday announcing he’ll keep restaurants and other businesses half-empty for at least another month because of the threat of COVID-19.
Edwards used words like alarming and troubling to describe the increase in the numbers of COVID-19 cases as the justification for not moving on to Phase 3. He wants us to believe removing restrictions on businesses is too dangerous. And yet during the protests, the ever-pandering and politically correct Edwards did not ask people to stay off the streets during the global pandemic.
[Columnist Will Sutton: Spreading coronavirus in the name of stupid fun is deadly. Please stop killing us.]
Edwards admitted mostly young people are testing positive, and contact tracing may ultimately reveal whether demonstrations played a role. He blamed those going to bars and graduation parties but didn’t mention the mostly young people who took to the streets to protest. But can you blame him?
This is 2020. There’s not much that will get you canceled quicker than criticizing protesters. That is unless you’re willing to grovel and apologize and completely repudiate your previous position. Just ask Drew Brees.
Now Louisiana business owners will have to continue to operate and dig their way out of the hole they’re in, with considerable restrictions in place for at least another month.
“Obviously, we're disappointed,” said Daniel Erspamer, chief executive officer of the Pelican Institute, a think tank advocating for the free market. “Our perspective from the beginning has been every day that we restrict the ability for people to go back to work and entrepreneurs pursue their businesses, the more people will end up unemployed and families are already having a hard time making ends meet.”
Erspamer says business owners are frustrated because Edwards keeps changing the criteria as to when he’ll allow them to fully reopen.
“The justification to shut down businesses and force us to stay home was originally to flatten the curve and make sure we don't overrun hospitals,“ said Erspamer. “There's no evidence or at least I've not seen any that suggests we're going to be anywhere near that. I just don’t understand why we keep extending the economic restrictions. They keep moving the goal posts.”
The governor’s quashing of the private sector is not without consequence. Some businesses may never recover. If it were not for Edwards’ consistent anti-private sector record as governor, it might be easier to give him the benefit of the doubt on his decision making when it comes to COVID-19. But his record makes it clear Edwards places little value on the health and vibrancy of the private sector.
During his first term, the liberal Democrat raised billions in new taxes draining the private sector of much-needed capital and transferring it to government. Edwards also gutted tax incentives for manufacturing businesses and did nothing to stop his big-money trial lawyer donors and their all-out war with Louisiana’s oil industry. And the governor just recently vetoed much-needed tort reform legislation that would have lowered auto and truck insurance rates for businesses.
Edwards' continuing oppression of the state’s businesses is not justified by the metric that matters most: the COVID-19 daily death rate. It’s dropped dramatically in Louisiana. The daily average death rate peaked on April 18. Since then, it dropped 80% over the past two months. Nationally, the daily death rate has dropped 62% since it peaked on April 22.
Dr. Matteo Bassetti, a Yale University graduate, and an Italian infectious disease specialist, believes COVID-19, while still contagious, is losing its virulence. Bassetti says the lowering fatality rate proves the coronavirus has become less deadly and could disappear on its own without a vaccine.
While COVID-19 deaths decrease dramatically, the pain and suffering caused by the shutdown linger. Edwards’ unwillingness to release his grip on Louisiana’s private sector is troubling.
Some Republican legislators have talked about repealing the governor’s public health emergency declaration, essentially undoing his restrictions on businesses. The GOP claims to be the friend of business. We’ll see.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org