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.

(2) comments

Cremona

GOTCHA ... This dramatic photo of an exotic woman with goggles and metal spikes on her gas mask was taken in the Czech Republic, not in the US as implied. The photo in no way portrays any issues on the Easton Shore or related to Andy Harris except that Harris is purposefully using it to raise the 'fear/worry/drama' quotient for his baseless claims that mask wearing etc. erode civil liberties. Harris has it exactly backwards ... failure to wear masks and denial of science, facts and common sense about the Covid 19 virus are the problem. The economy can only improve when mask wearing etc. becomes universal. The actual caption for the photo was 'A woman holds her face mask during a protest against the government restriction measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 on the occasion of the celebrations of the 31st anniversary of the pro-democratic Velvet Revolution that ended communist rule in 1989, in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)'. The link to the original is http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Virus-Outbreak-Czech-Republic/804b73a3d41e45138ea283099a90c037/1/0 . Shame on you Andy Harris and Star Democrat.

MDSOXFANLC

Representative Harris worries 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 Friday. 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.

Linda Cades

Easton, MD

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