New Hampshire’s “stay at home order” was issued on March 16th. Over two months later, we continue to face serious restrictions that limit our ability to earn a living, that restrain our freedom of assembly, and that restrict our right to worship as we see fit. The continuation of this state of emergency not only inflicts harm in its own right; it makes a mockery of our state’s “Live Free or Die” motto.
At the time of the original emergency order, public health officials expressed grave concerns about the capacity of our hospitals to cope with a wave of COVID-19 patients. We were called upon to stay home to “flatten the curve”. Since the predicted spike in cases did not materialize, we ought to re-examine the case for continued restrictions.
As part of that calculus, we must consider the harm done by continued restrictions. This not only includes job losses, business failures, and economic stability; but also profound human costs, including depression, suicide, stress, drug overdose, and domestic abuse. Many people have delayed medical procedures, resulting in missed diagnoses and untreated conditions. The trade-off is not simply between lives and economic vitality; it is a trade-off of lives versus lives. The impact has been devastating and it has to end.
On the other side of the equation, we should reevaluate the purported benefits of government-imposed restrictions. Every day, we hear about government edicts that seem arbitrary and nonsensical. Even guidelines that seem rational may, in fact, be counterproductive. It is worth noting, for example, that remaining home-bound does not necessarily protect us; 66% of COVID cases in New York were “staying at home”.
In New Hampshire over 75% of COVID-related fatalities took place in long-term care settings. 13% were under 70, 5% were under 60, and most had other serious health risks. We ought to be focusing our attention on protecting those who are truly vulnerable.
Nothing in life is entirely safe. Our government’s primary responsibility is to protect our rights. The “stay at home” order tramples on our rights, beginning with our First Amendment right of free association.
A vaccine is many months, if not years, away. The only way to avoid subsequent waves of this virus bringing more deaths and future economically disastrous economic shutdowns is to achieve “herd immunity”. By reopening quickly, while protecting our vulnerable population, enough of our citizens will develop immunity, while suffering mostly minor or no symptoms, so that the virus will die out because it has no susceptible person to infect. This not only preserves our economic well-being; it saves lives.
We regret every life lost, but the number of sick and dead do not justify the harm to the NH citizens resulting from this “stay-at-home” order.
The time is long overdue for the safe re-opening of the State of New Hampshire. The people have shown by their willingness to cooperate and to share the burdens of this pandemic that they can behave responsibly, re-open safely, and end this economic devastation.
We applaud the recognition that New Hampshire needs to re-open, but it needs to happen NOW. Armed with good information, free people can intelligently evaluate and minimize their risks. Vulnerable people need to protect themselves, and places like senior homes need to continue appropriate precautions, but the rest of New Hampshire has to open for business, not just for jobs and income, but to save people’s lives and our children’s future.