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Republican lawmakers are trying to force states to reopen before it's safe

Republicans in multiple states across the country are trying to override their governors’ social distancing orders — ignoring expert advice on how to stop the novel coronavirus.

By Emily Singer - April 16, 2020
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Coronavirus protesters

Republican lawmakers across the country are challenging social distancing measures put in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, either by passing or trying to pass legislation that overrides virus mitigation regulations put in place by both Democratic and Republican governors.

GOP-controlled legislatures in three states have passed laws to either exempt religious groups from social distancing measures or to end the measures altogether.

That goes against the advice of public health experts — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease specialist on Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.

Fauci told the Associated Press Tuesday that “we’re not there yet” with regard to the necessary testing and tracing capabilities to safely allow Americans to go back to life as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections,” Fauci told the Associated Press of ending social distancing measures.

Here’s a list of the states where Republicans are ignoring expert advice to try and override social distancing measures.

Kansas

Republican lawmakers in Kansas have tried multiple times to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s social distancing measures.

On April 7, Kelly issued an order to include religious services among the mass gatherings limited to 10 people.

A day later, Republican lawmakers on the state’s Legislative Coordinating Council revoked her order, saying it violated the right to freedom of religion.

Kelly appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court. The court sided with Kelly and kept the ban on religious gatherings in place.

Michigan

Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature has been fighting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders since she first implemented them on March 23.

In early April, Whitmer asked for a 70-day extension of her emergency powers. But Republicans only agreed to extend them until April 30, NPR reported. The refusal will ultimately force the lawmakers back to the Capitol during the pandemic to debate the emergency powers again — even after a fellow member of the state legislature died from a suspected coronavirus infection.

And it’s unclear if Republicans will extend those powers another time.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey angrily posting on Facebook about Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.

“OUR Governor IS DESTROYING OUR HEALTH BY KILLING OUR LIVELIHOODS!” he wrote in a post on April 10, three days after the vote. “Under the guise of protecting our health….she is DESTROYING our HEALTH by killing our Livelihoods.”

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled legislature on Wednesday passed a bill broadening what constitutes as an essential business in the state.

The bill would allow more businesses to open during the COVID-19 pandemic, thus weakening social distancing measures Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf put in place.

The state’s health secretary, Rachel Levine, responded to the bill, writing in a letter to the Legislature that, “Encouraging increased social movement of Pennsylvanians at this time by reopening a significant amount of businesses would be reckless and irresponsible.”

Wolf said he will veto the measure, with a spokesperson telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that “reopening businesses too early will only extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic.”

Since it does not appear that Republicans have the votes to override that veto, Wolf’s social distancing orders will remain in place.

Other efforts

At least 10 Republican state lawmakers in New Hampshire are fighting back against the social distancing measures GOP Gov. Chris Sununu put in place in there, signing a petition calling for the measures to be lifted by April 24.

“We believe that the occasion of this virus does not warrant the suspension of liberty that has been attempted, and that many citizens of New Hampshire are suffering undue hardships from loss of livelihood, purpose and community, and that such suspension of liberty is unwarranted, and now, the ‘public liberty is manifestly endangered,'” the petition from ReopenNH reads.

The group is planning to hold an in-person rally on Saturday at the state Capitol building — an event that itself would violate social distancing measures.

Republican state lawmakers in Virginia are also starting to push for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to end social distancing measures — with some GOP lawmakers pushing false conspiracy theories about why Northam instituted the measures in the first place.

Sen. Amanda Chase (R) said Northam instituted the measures not for public health reasons, but to silence conservatives who oppose Northam’s policies, including gun control measures and laws that make it easier to vote.

“He is setting this so that when all of those laws go into effect July 1 and you’re angry and you’re upset and you want to storm the Capitol … he’s setting it up — mark my words, so that you can’t go out to protest because Virginia will still be under his executive order,” Chase said in a video posted to Facebook.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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