“In the present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” Ronald Reagan.
It’s about saving lives. Follow the science. We’re all in this together. For almost a year, state and county governments have chanted this COVID-19 mantra to justify closing or restricting businesses, classrooms, churches and individual freedoms. But it’s one thing for government to tell people what to do; it’s quite another for government to follow its own admonitions, and deliver to the people it exists to serve. How’s that working out for us?
According to the CDC, 8 of 10 COVID-19 deaths are over age 65. COVID-19 deaths for those infected under 30 are less than 1 in 100. Yet in Maryland and Anne Arundel County, young teachers, with no pre-existing conditions, are given the same priority for COVID-19 vaccines as people 65 and over. If “saving lives” and, “following the science,” are Maryland and Anne Arundel County’s primary focus, why aren’t they vaccinating people over 65 before healthy 28 year-olds? Especially when vaccine supplies are limited. Other state and local governments are doing this; it saves lives.
Want evidence? The federal government, independent of state and county efforts, completed direct delivery of COVID-19 first shots to Maryland nursing homes in January. Nursing home deaths have declined dramatically, from 148 on December 23rd, when the vaccines began arriving, to 34 on February 17th , a 77% drop. Yet deaths for people over age sixty outside nursing homes remain high; 114 died the week of December 23rd, and 137 died the week of February 17th a 20% increase.
When it comes to saving lives, state and county governments failure to follow the science, and move people over 65 to first in line for scarce vaccines, is the problem.
Are we, “All in this together?” Public education is a core government function. Ignoring data from Europe, where schools had been safely open for months, and despite meeting CDC and state recommendations/criteria to re-open in September, Anne Arundel County public school classrooms remained empty. Meanwhile, across the United States, other public schools reopened classrooms safely. Currently, Maryland ranks last in schools reopened. However, you don’t have to go outside our county to find classrooms that reopened safely;16,200 Anne Arundel religious and private school students and teachers (without vaccinations) went back to class in September. Their elementary school students attend class 5 days a week; older students have multi-day hybrid classes. They safely continued classes even as COVID-19 cases peaked in January. Since September, only 109 teachers and students have tested positive for COVID-19, with no hospitalizations or fatalities. Private/religious schools and teachers followed the science and safely delivered in-classroom education to their students. Our county government/school system didn’t. They followed the political science of the teachers’ union, and were the problem.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman’s executive order to lockdown restaurants, which Judge William Mulford designated “arbitrary and capricious,” would’ve cost 65,000 jobs. Mulford pointed out that it was based on, “completely flawed data that did not play out in reality.” Pittman’s hospital capacity “projections” were 5,000 beds too high, even with the restaurants Pittman wanted to close remaining open.
To restaurant workers struggling to make ends meet, county government was the problem.
We deserve better than this, especially in a crisis. While Reagan did say government was the problem, he added,” so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather, to make it work. Work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our backs. Government can, and should, provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”
It’s time for government to remember it exists to serve us-not the other way around; and its time for government to deliver.
Herb McMillan represented Annapolis in the Maryland house of Delegates for 12 years, and may be reached at [email protected].