To protect its economy and public health, Maryland needs to stay locked down

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a COVID-19 press conference in Annapolis, Maryland, on March 12, 2020. (Matt McDonald/The Diamondback)

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

As the number of COVID-19 cases rises and the death toll in Maryland continues to grow, President Trump has made his position on reopening the country clear. Once federal social distancing guidelines expire on April 30, he wants business as usual to resume. 

It’s no secret that the president’s mind was made up weeks ago about when to reopen the U.S economy. In the past few weeks, he has warned the country must ensure that the cure is not “worse than the problem” and has even expressed his belief that the economic downturn caused by the shutdown could kill more Americans than the actual virus. 

But this week, Trump took his views a step further by indicating he not only wants state economies to open up, but that he believes he has the power to force them to do so. During a daily White House task force press briefing on Tuesday, Trump shocked many Americans by claiming that “when somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total,” adding that “that’s the way it’s got to be.” 

Obviously, Trump’s declaration of absolute power contradicts the Constitution and essentially every endearing value the U.S. stands for. But the main issue is not the legal accuracy of the president’s claim — the real question is whether governors will choose to follow federal guidelines to lift existing social distancing measures.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will be faced with that dilemma later this month. It is imperative that he reject Trump’s stance. Hogan should ignore Trump’s demands and follow the advice of medical experts before deciding to start reopening any state businesses. 

Not all states are experiencing the same levels of infection, and not all states’ infection levels are peaking at the same time. While it may be safe for states like Montana and Hawaii — which have been spared from the worst of the COVID-19 crisis — to begin to return to a more normal way of life, it will almost certainly not be safe for Maryland to do the same. 

COVID-19 cases in Maryland have yet to peak — deaths are rising every day and when adjusted for cases per one million people, Maryland is the 12th most infected state in the country. Reopening the economy too soon would mean jeopardizing the health of millions of workers.

Plans to reopen state economies cannot be focused on pitting economic repercussions versus medical ones — not only because prioritizing economic gains over human life is clearly unethical, but also because prematurely restarting the economy will almost certainly make economic pains worse. 

Imagine a scenario where state governments prematurely open up businesses, only to have a new wave of infections force businesses to re-close for months. The economic consequences would be dire. I trust that Hogan will follow the counsel of medical experts so that we can be assured Maryland’s economy will be properly and safely reopened.

In the current hyper-partisan political environment, Hogan has been a refreshing voice of unity and transparency during this time of crisis for Marylanders. As chairman of the National Governors Association, he has provided clear guidance and steady leadership for governors across the country struggling with this public health emergency. He has even managed to pull off the balancing act of criticizing a president of his own party without allowing himself to be dragged into unnecessary and counterproductive political brawls. 

With perhaps the biggest decision of his governorship coming up, I hope Hogan will again put science over politics and reject federal government pressure to prematurely open Maryland’s economy.  

David Gordon is a sophomore government and politics and operations management and business analytics major. He can be reached at dgordon9@terpmail.umd.edu.

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