EASTON — U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, worries about the wave of new government COVID-19 restrictions and orders hurting small businesses as well as potential infringements on civil liberties.
Harris is a conservative who represents the Eastern Shore.
The recent rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Maryland and other states have resulted in new government restrictions on restaurants, church services and private gatherings.
Gov. Larry Hogan has rolled back hours and allowed indoor capacities at restaurants, warned against private gatherings and holiday travel and launched new COVID enforcement efforts via the Maryland State Police. The state has also cut capacities at fitness centers, retail stores and churches in response to rising coronavirus cases.
Since Wednesday evening, the state police have conducted “compliance checks” on more than 730 restaurants and bars and received more than 200 tips from Marylanders reporting on neighbors and businesses who are resisting mask and social distancing orders.
Other states, including New York, California, Ohio, Vermont and Pennsylvania , are imposing everything from new curfews to more formal bans on private gatherings. Pennsylvania banned alcohol sales on Thanksgiving eve.
While Gov. Larry Hogan wants more enforcement and compliance of his COVID orders, Harris is concerned about government overreaches and new orders hurting small businesses and jobs.
“I am sure the police will use their discretion in enforcing these orders — in a free society citizens should be able to conduct their own households without government strong-arming,” Harris told The Star Democrat. “Furthermore, our small businesses cannot be harmed any more by government shutdowns. On the brink of vaccines that will protect our vulnerable, we have to respect principles of liberty and freedom this country was founded on.”
New COVID restrictions in the U.S. and other have countries have prompted some protests regarding their impacts on the economy, mental health and civil liberties.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Wednesday against New York’s COVID restrictions on religious services.
Hogan and public health officials contend the new restrictions and warning are crucial to curtailing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Hogan said Nov. 23 there is no constitutional right not to wear a mask as he pressed for more police and local enforcement of the state’s coronavirus orders.
Talbot County Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley sought to explain the new enforcement actions statewide as well as locally where two food stands at the Amish Country Farmers Market were temporarily closed in the week before Thanksgiving for alleged mask violations.
“With the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Maryland, Governor Hogan is enhancing enforcement of his Executive Order for wearing facial coverings in public and practicing social distancing. Residents are being asked to use the hotline for reporting violations of his mandate and these will be transferred to local law enforcement and health officers,” Wadley wrote in her Nov. 24 update to Talbot County residents.
She also noted the change in the state’s efforts when it comes to COVID orders. “It appears that the lack of compliance and the surge in new cases has now changed the approach from education to enforcement,” Wadley said.
She also defended the closure of the two businesses at Amish market. Those stands reopened Tuesday, Nov. 24 but were shuttered the weekend before the big holiday.
Wadley and Hogan have discouraged out-of-state Thanksgiving related travel over fears of the virus.