If the Maryland General Assembly accomplishes nothing else in its 2021 session, it is imperative to revise the statutes governing the state government’s powers in a catastrophic health emergency (Public Safety § 14-3A-01). The governor is presently authorized to unilaterally declare a state of emergency and extend it indefinitely without any oversight, checks and balances, or procedural due process.
It is proposed that the public safety statute prohibit the declaration of a catastrophic health emergency based in whole or in part on computer-generated, theoretical mathematical models and statistical predictions. For example, a study found the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was wrong as much as 70%, and its updates led to prediction ranges too broad to be useful. The Johns Hopkins model predicted 360,000 cases and 12,240 deaths by June 1 in Maryland. As of Nov. 13, there have been 161,769 cases and 4,124 deaths, an error of 55% and 66%, respectively.
It is proposed that statute 14-3A-02 be amended to require that all 30-day extensions of a public health emergency must have the concurrence of two-thirds of the governing bodies of the 23 counties plus the city of Baltimore — a total of 16 of the 24 jurisdictions.
It is proposed that the the public safety statute be amended to prohibit the categorization of commercial enterprises and public entities as “essential” or “non-essential” or the use of comparable relational terminology in a public health emergency.
It is proposed that the authority to restrict or prohibit the operations of commercial enterprises and public entities, and the activities of people, is reserved to each county or city’s board of health and must be based on an objective risk assessment of those operations or activities. No restrictions or closures are to be imposed without first implementing good faith actions to attempt to mitigate the health threat by other means.
It is proposed that mass “stay-at-home”/lock-down orders are prohibited on a statewide or community-wide basis because such orders burden more conduct than is reasonably necessary and exceeds the authority and due process of imposing quarantines.
It is proposed that the imposition of a congregate limit on the number of people that may gather for political, social, cultural, educational, and other expressive gatherings, while permitting a larger number for commercial gatherings, is arbitrary and prohibited.
Arguably, the COVID-19 measures imposed in Maryland have not been strictly necessary and the least intrusive and restrictive to achieve the objective of not overwhelming the health system, based on proven scientific evidence, neither arbitrary nor discriminatory, and subject to review.
I urge public support of these proposals by contacting the members of the St. Mary’s County delegation (see https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/gacosm.html). Never again should a public health emergency become the means of inflicting more harm than the disease itself.