January 2022 marks two years of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which was arguably worsened by the ill-conceived actions of federal and state officials. Occurring in a presidential election year, the virus was exploited as a politicized biological agent by the Democratic Party.

In Maryland, throughout these two years, the disease has remained concentrated (70% of cases) in six jurisdictions — Baltimore city and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties — where the population density exceeds 1,000 people per square mile, according to the Maryland health department. Contagion is greatest where people are in closest contact.

St. Mary’s County has only 2% of the total cases, which is comparable to its population ratio in the state.

Notably, 85% of the deaths in Maryland affect people aged 60 years or older, and 40% of these deaths occur in congregate senior care facilities, according to the state health department. Of the total cases, 18% are under the age of 20 years, and only twelve deaths out of 11,522 as of Dec. 31.

Therefore, those at greatest risk are elderly, especially in assisted care/nursing homes, and children are least at risk. Yet, parents and children have been targeted with fearmongering.

The basic response to a pandemic is mitigation through non-pharmaceutical interventions: isolation of the ill at home, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, enhanced sanitary measures, quarantine and physical separation measures in public places. Lamentably, inept officials contrived imprudent actions, such as the unwarranted closure of schools and so-called “non-essential” entities and activities, with grossly adverse outcomes.

The Maryland General Assembly convenes this year from Jan. 12 through April 11. If the members of the St. Mary’s delegation genuinely want to serve and protect their constituents, they will introduce legislation to revise the governor’s health emergency powers in Maryland Public Safety §14-3A-01, -02, -03, and §14–107.

§14-3A-01 must prohibit the declaration of a catastrophic health emergency based in whole or in part on computer-generated, theoretical models and statistical predictions. §14-3A-02 must require that all 30-day extensions have the concurrence of local boards of health. §14-3A-03 must prohibit the categorization of commercial enterprises, public entities and public activities as “essential” or “non-essential.” §14-107 must clarify that the power to control the occupancy of premises in a health emergency is restricted to local boards of health.

Mass stay-at-home/lock-down orders must be prohibited because such orders burden more conduct than is reasonably necessary and exceeds the authority and due process of imposing quarantines. 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 larger numbers for commercial enterprises, is arbitrary and discriminatory.

The containment of pandemics must focus on susceptible, exposed, and infected people instead of statewide, one-size-fits-all, feel-good/false security interventions lacking in necessity and proportionality. Never again should a Maryland governor be permitted to unilaterally declare a state of emergency and extend it indefinitely without any oversight, checks and balances or procedural due process.

Health emergency measures must be prescribed by law and evidence-based medical science — not trial-and-error models and mandates; strictly necessary; the least intrusive and restrictive to achieve the objective; neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in the application; of limited duration; and subject to review.

The purpose of public health laws is to protect the public’s livelihood – the means of securing the necessities of everyday life. A public health emergency is not grounds for the suspension or violation of civil liberties and rights with ruinous social, educational, and economic consequences.

Vernon Gray, California