Well, here we are on this April 29, 2020, also known as Day 38 of the John Bel Edwards’ statewide lockdown order. This past Monday the Governor extended Louisiana’s lockdown through May 15th, or should we say Day 54. However, many of our neighboring states are going down a different path and preparing to leave their lockdown orders. Georgia has already gone back to work.
As the Governor commented during his Monday press conference, he consulted with several medical specialists before he made his decision to extend the lockdown. They advised him that some regions within the state were still spiking with new Coronavirus cases. While he admitted during the press conference that most regions of the state were improving, he failed to consult legislators, industry leaders, or plain ordinary working folks before making his decision to extend the lockdown. His reasoning was that business and political leaders just did not have the latest medical facts, so apparently he did not feel it was worth the effort to talk to them before he made his decision.
Now try as one might keep politics out of the pandemic crisis, one quickly finds this to be an impossibility. As I recently wrote in another article, “This is unfortunate but is to be expected in a republic riven by a deep and growing partisan divide, wherein every issue has become politicized.” True enough, and the Governor’s press conference starkly illustrated one of the main reasons why Democrats seem to be so insensible to conservatives’ concerns about the extended lockdown’s effect on our economy.
Basically, so few Democrat elected officials now have any business management experience (or serious business experience of any kind), that they simply cannot comprehend the level of carnage that the extended lockdown has wrought on Louisiana’s economy. Trial lawyers have no such business experience, nor do community activists and pastors, and certainly not careerist liberal-progressive politicians. Without substantial input from working folks and the business community, John Bel Edwards should never have made his decision to lock down our economy for fifty-four straight days.
To adequately portray the true gravity of the situation, consider that Louisiana started this crisis with the worst economy of any state in the nation. Add in one of the highest unemployment rates and one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and it quickly becomes evident that our citizenry had fewer savings and other resources on which to rely than most Americans.
Then add in the fact that two of our basic industries, petrochemicals, and tourism, are among the worst hit, and another, shipping and trade, is also in serious trouble. Finally, factor in the hundreds of thousands of just received unemployment claims, and you can only then begin to understand the urgency of getting Louisianians back to work as quickly as possible.
Yes, we are experiencing a pandemic crisis, but we are also experiencing an unemployment crisis and a business crisis, which could soon reach the point wherein so many businesses begin to fail at the local and national levels that we will be unable to provide even basic necessities for our people. These are the high stakes involved in Gov. Edwards’ decision last Monday.
Now before Democrats begin to fall back on their usual defensive tropes, i.e., that everyone who disagrees with their progressive ideology is a loutish deplorable, a mass murderer, or even a truly horrible “science denier,” consider the fact that what science doesn’t know about COVID-19 would fill a very, very big book. We are certainly not implying that COVID-19 is anything other than a serious disease that specializes in killing the more vulnerable among us, but we are suggesting that it is time to take a more nuanced view of this pandemic than our Governor has managed to achieve.
The obvious facts are that Louisiana‘s diverse geography contains parishes with six-figure populations, parishes where alligators substantially outnumber people, and everything in between. John Bel Edwards’ standardized statewide response to the crisis was never the best answer for Louisiana, and this becomes more evident with every passing day.
Epidemiologists, the doctors who specialize in epidemics and pandemics, have advised Gov. Edwards that the longer we maintain the economic lockdown, the more lives will be saved. True or not, other healthcare providers daily remind us that death rates are surging, and this is by no means entirely due to COVID-19 or natural causes.
Experts tell us that the social costs of unemployment, wealth destruction, business failures, delayed medical treatments, and pervasive societal fear are actually quite high. Increased rates of depression, suicide, homicides, and crime generally, drug overdoses, and other pathological behaviors, as well as the daily stresses of obtaining basic necessities, all take their toll. These factors must be weighed against the human costs of COVID-19, considerable as they may be.
Waiting for a vaccine and an effective drug treatment before restarting our economy is simply not a realistic option. While it is entirely likely that such medicines will become available much sooner than heretofore thought possible, a year for effective treatment and two years for a safe vaccine is extremely optimistic projections by past standards. We cannot wait anywhere near that long; hence we are forced to make a choice between the possibility that restarting our economy may cause an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, versus the certainty that our economy will soon be shattered beyond near-term repair if we remain on lockdown.
There can be but one answer to this dilemma. Louisiana’s economy must be re-opened, and soon. The process need not be all or nothing. It should be phased in, but over as brief a time as the circumstances permit, and by region or parish, depending on the prevailing situation in each location. Precautionary measures should continue to be observed as long as necessary and reinstituted if, God forbid, a recurrence of the virus is detected.
But the fact remains that the longer the Governor orders that the entire state be kept on lockdown, the longer it will take to return to normal, whatever that may be going forward. If our Governor will not reconsider his decision and begin the process of reopening our state by May 1st, we urge the legislature to take immediate action to overrule his decree.
Louis Gurvich, Chairman
Republican Party of Louisiana