By World Tribune Staff- As coronavirus curves are flattened, business owners are defying extended lockdown orders, contending the greater risk to the public are authoritarian power grabs by Democratic governors.
In Colorado, a restaurant in Castle Rock which opened to a huge Mother’s Day crowd on Sunday was shut down for at least 30 days by Gov. Jared Polis.
A viral video showed C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen serving dozens of customers in its dining room. Polis’s lockdown order mandates that restaurants can only offer delivery and takeout services until at least May 26.
President Donald Trump lauded the restaurant owners, tweeting: “We are standing for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against the overreach of our governor in Colorado!!”
On Monday, the Tri-County Health Department issued an order for the restaurant to close for at least 30 days, CBS Denver reported.
A YouTube video showed that citizens had taped money to the outside of the restaurant after Polis shut it down.
Polis, a Democrat, accused the restaurant of causing a health hazard. He also blasted what he called the “anti-scientific views” of people who ignore his orders.
“I joined most Coloradans in our frustration watching videos of people illegally packed into restaurants and thinking about all the moms and grandmothers and aunts and everyone who was put at increased risk of dying from this horrible virus,” the governor said, CBS Denver reported.
Polis threatened any business that defies him, saying they could lose their licenses and face costly court battles if they reopen early.
A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said violating the state public health order is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $1,000 or up to a year in jail, The Denver Post reported.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf threatening to withhold federal funding from counties, and licenses from businesses, that defy his lockdown order.
Wolf, a Democrat, warned “cowardly” and “selfish” politicians that the state would withhold discretionary state and federal CARES Act funding to counties that fail to fall in line.
“To those politicians who decide to cave in to this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” Wolf said. “The funding we have put aside to help with fighting this crisis will go to the folks who are doing their part, and that includes our CARES Act funding, which will be used to support counties that are following the orders to prevent the spread.”
He added: “However, other discretionary funding won’t go to counties that put us all at risk by operating illegally.”
Washington Times reporter Valerie Richardson noted that “a half-dozen Republican-led counties are moving to take unilateral action to hasten their reopening, backed by sheriffs and district attorneys who have said that they will refuse to penalize or prosecute local businesses that leapfrog ahead of schedule.”
“Enough is enough,” Jeff Haste, chairman of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners, said Friday in a social media post. “It is time to reopen the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship.”
Trump sided with the county commissioners, tweeting that the “great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails.”
Republican legislators lost two court fights to limit Mr. Wolf’s authority. A bill to require the governor to adhere to the federal guidance on business shutdowns passed the state legislature without a single Democratic vote, but Mr. Wolf vetoed the measure.
What sparked the local outcry was Mr. Wolf’s recent relaxing of restrictions in stages on some counties but not others. Among those still under the “red phase” order are some sparsely populated rural counties with a conservative political bent.
“There’s been a lot of pushback from counties that either have fewer cases, or they have more cases but almost all of the cases are in nursing homes, which they don’t think should apply to business and other reopenings,” said Nathan Benefield, COO of the free-market Commonwealth Foundation in Harrisburg.
After allowing 24 counties in the state’s northern tier to move from the “red phase” to the “yellow phase,” the governor added Friday another 13 southwestern counties to the yellow list while extending the stay-at-home restrictions for the remaining red counties until June 1.
Commissioners in Berks, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties erupted, according to PennLive, declaring that they will begin moving to the yellow phase even without the state’s blessing.
“We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely re-open their businesses and safely return to work,” said the letter from Schuylkill County, where 437 people have tested positive and 13 have died, according to the Morning Call.
Meanwhile, sheriffs in Cumberland and Perry counties said they would refuse to cite businesses in breach of the governor’s order.
“Our Office will stand with the citizens in defense of all of our Constitutional Rights! Our Office will not be enforcing any ‘order’ that violates our Constitutional Rights,” said the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook post. “Sheriff Anderson has stated ‘I have no intentions in turning local business owners into criminals.’”
The Lebanon County District Attorney’s office said it would not prosecute reopened business as long as they comply with social-distancing, face masks, and sanitation requirements.
“Law enforcement exists to protect and serve our communities; we do not exist to enforce arbitrary regulations which rip away a roof over a family’s head or food in a child’s mouth,” Lebanon County DA Pier Hess Graf. “Our police officers have tough enough jobs without the added duty of prosecuting local small businesses.”
Mr. Haste said that 25% of the county’s 764 cases are in nursing homes, as were 65% of the deaths. Remove them from the equations, he said, and just 0.2% of the population has tested positive.
“I have great sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19,” said Mr. Haste in his post. “I also have great concern for the families that now have to struggle with financial concerns, mental health stress, addiction and more because of the shutdown. Again, our governor has pitted groups of Pennsylvanians against one another.”
He added: “And he has not included county commissioners in this process.”
At his Monday press conference, Wolf spoke directly to business owners, warning them not to “follow the whims of politicians and ignore the law and welfare of the customers,” saying they would put their health-department certification, liquor licensing and insurance coverage at risk.
“All these depend on your doing everything you can to keep your patrons safe, and by opening before the evidence suggests you should, you’re taking undo risks with the safety of your customers,” said Wolf. “That’s not only morally wrong, it’s also really bad business.”
Wolf also had a message for workers: “Let me be clear: Employees that fear for their safety because a business has opened illegally, well, they don’t have to go to work. They can stay home and stay safe and collect their unemployment benefits.”
A host of states with Democratic governors and GOP-controlled legislatures, including Louisiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, have seen lawmakers protesting gubernatorial executive mandates which set the coronavirus agenda with little if any legislative input.
In Michigan, legislative Republicans have sued Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to overturn her strict stay-at-home orders, while GOP legislators in Wisconsin have asked the state Supreme Court to squelch Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order and his ability to extend it.
Louisiana Republicans erupted after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards extended his stay-at-home order until May 15, advancing legislation to limit his ability to enforce penalties on businesses that violate the shutdown.
Under pressure from Republicans, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday the state would begin its gradual reopening on Friday, adding that he would work with local leaders in more coronavirus-intensive Northern Virginia about allowing them to proceed at a slower pace.
The Virginia Republican Party responded by assailing his “strict, authoritarian and draconian lockdown,” accusing him of offering little in the way of data, details or transparency on how he plans to reopen the state’s economy.
“At this point, Governor Northam’s lockdown is more of an exercise in raw power as opposed to policy,” said party Chairman Jack Wilson.
Meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia celebrated the state’s lowest number of hospitalized coronavirus patients and the fewest number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators on Saturday, 15 days after the Republican loosened lockdown restrictions in the face of persistent attacks from the mainstream media, The Daily Wire reported.
“Today marks the lowest number of COVID-19 positive patients currently hospitalized statewide (1,203) since hospitals began reporting this data on April 8th,” Kemp tweeted on May 9. “Today also marks the lowest total of ventilators in use (897 with 1,945 available). We will win this fight together!”
Kemp reopened large parts of Georgia’s economy on April 24.
A CNN headline published April 28 blared, “Georgia’s daily coronavirus deaths will nearly double by August with relaxed social distancing, model suggests.”
“Kemp allowed for the reopening of hair and nail salons, barber shops, massage businesses and gyms under new safety standards. He allowed restaurants and theaters to reopen with new restrictions Monday,” the CNN report said. “With the assumption of relaxed social distancing, the model predicts that the number of Covid-19 deaths per day in Georgia will jump from 32 people dying on May 1 to a projected 63 people dying per day by August 4.”
“Currently, 995 people have died from Covid-19 in Georgia, according to the model, and it projects that number could climb to 4,691 by August 4. The projection for total deaths in the state provides a range of estimates between 1,686 deaths on the lower end to up to 15,620 deaths on the higher end,” the report added. “According to the model, the top five states out of the 12 in the Southeast with the highest projected total deaths by August 4 are: Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina.”
Fifteen days after the lockdown ease, however, hospitalizations in Georgia have hit a low.
As noted by The Daily Wire late last month, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida ripped into the media for their failing, dire predictions of his coronavirus response.
Asked about criticism that he’s face for not implementing a full shutdown early on, DeSantis let the media have it. “What have the results been?” he rhetorically asked, according to Fox News. “You look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida in terms of our hospitalizations per 100,000, in terms of our fatalities per 100,000.”
“I mean, you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, you name it. Florida has done better,” the governor continued.
“And that has not happened because we understood we have a big, diverse state, we understood the outbreak was not uniform throughout the state, and we had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward,” explained DeSantis. “And I have 6,500 ventilators that are sitting idle, unused throughout the state of Florida.”