SEPTEMBER 4, 2020 -- State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, says Gov. John Carney is abusing his authority after he renewed his State of Emergency declaration for Delaware for a sixth time on Thursday.
Under Delaware law (Title 20, Chapter 31), the governor has the authority to declare a State of Emergency in response to a current or anticipated crisis posing a dire threat to public health or safety. The law allows the initial declaration to last up to 30 days, after which the governor can renew it at his own discretion.
“The clear intent of the law was to give the state’s chief executive the ability to quickly respond to a natural or man-made disaster to protect public welfare,” Rep. Collins wrote in an opinion column posted on social media earlier today. “Governor Carney has abused this unchecked authority to rule by executive fiat, without the need for citizen input or the consent of their elected officials in the General Assembly. Thus far, he has modified the declaration on 26 occasions, issuing rules that carry the weight of law on diverse topics ranging from shutting down hundreds of businesses to how churches could conduct services.”
Rep. Collins said since the governor first declared a State of Emergency nearly seven months ago, much has changed.
“Remember the mantra of the Carney administration during the first two months after the arrival of COVID-19 in The First State was ‘flatten the curve,’” Rep. Collins said. “The strategy contained in that slogan was to slow the spread of the virus to prevent a rapid spike of cases that would overwhelm the capacity of our medical system.”
Rep. Collins notes in his column that goal was accomplished more than four months ago when the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked at 337 in late April. According to the American Hospital Association, Delaware has more than 2,000 permanent acute care beds. Hospitalizations related to the coronavirus have been hovering around 60 in recent days.
“The ‘flatten the curve’ dogma has morphed into a destructive doctrine of ‘stop the virus at all costs,’” Rep. Collins said, adding that the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions have severely hurt small businesses, thrown tens-of-thousands of Delawareans out of work, and kept children out of the classroom.
Citing both state and federal data, Rep. Collins writes that Governor Carney’s actions are not being driven by facts.
According to information posted by the Delaware Division of Public Health, since mid-July the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 has consistently averaged under 5% -- the benchmark recommended by the World Health Organization. Hospitalizations have steadily declined since peaking in late April and have remained comparatively low for months. Deaths related to the virus have slowed to a crawl. More than 92% of Delaware’s COVID-19 related fatalities took place prior to July 1. Despite a dramatic increase in testing availability, the average number of new positive cases has trended downward since hitting its peak May 10.
Nationally, key COVID-19 indicators are also trending downwards. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the seven-day average of new cases peaked on July 24th at 66,960 cases. It has steadily fallen since then. On September 2, the reported seven-day average of new cases was 41,193 – a nearly 40% reduction from peak. The seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths peaked nationally on April 21st. More than 56% of all detected U.S. coronavirus cases are considered recovered.
“We now know that the virus, while a potential health threat, is not a life-threatening illness for the vast majority of the population,” Rep. Collins wrote.
The virus has a disproportionate impact on specific demographic groups. More than 60% of Delaware’s coronavirus deaths involved long-term care residents. People age 50 and over account for 95.9% of all Delaware fatalities. Those age 65 and over are especially vulnerable, with more than 83% of deaths occurring in this group. People with underlying health issues are also at high-risk. According to recently released CDC data, only 6% of deaths related to COVID-19 were attributed to the virus alone.
“Our decisions should be driven by data, undertaking manageable risks and making informed choices,” Rep. Collins wrote. “It is past time to fully engage Delaware’s economy, set a date for safely returning kids to the classroom, and scholastic sports to the athletic fields. Let’s continue to protect those well-defined demographic groups most at-risk from life-threatening COVID-19 complications, while allowing Delawareans the freedom to pursue their dreams, return to work, and live their lives as they see fit.”