EXCLUSIVE | Delaware State Rep. Rich Collins speaks out on coronavirus shutdown
Delaware State Representative Rich Collins is speaking out about the ongoing shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic, saying the country and the state has “vastly overreacted” and as a result hurt small businesses and threatened the economy.
“I don’t want to beat around the bush, and I’ve been beating around the bush for three or four weeks, and now I’m going to come out with what I really believe,” Rep. Collins told WGMD’s Duke Brooks in an interview earlier this week. “We have vastly overreacted, and we have taken away our civil liberties in ways that we have never imagined.”
As a result of the shutdown, the right to worship and the freedom to assemble has been infringed upon during the coronavirus crisis, according to Rep. Collins who emphasized how churches have been closed over strict social distancing orders.
“Right now, we don’t have the freedom to worship, the freedom to assemble, we don’t have the right to travel freely about the country even if we own property and pay taxes in another state,” Rep. Collins said. “There are states that won’t even allow you to go to your second home in that state, they want you to stay in your primary home.”
Rep. Collins also expressed concerns about some businesses being able to operate while others are ordered not to when both offer similar services.
“A lot of businesses are not allowed to operate while others that are very, very similar just go right on,” Rep. Collins explained. “Walmart can stay open and sell furniture but a company like a furniture store is not even allowed to be open.”
Last month, gun rights advocates across the state were outraged when they learned that gun shops and stores that exclusively sell firearms were deemed non-essential and would be closing at the direction of Governor Carney. On March 26, the Governor rescinded that decision allowing gun stores to operate on an appointment basis.
Most recently, pawn shops across the state were ordered closed in a follow up executive order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Following concerns from owners, they too were allowed to operate on by appointment just days after the decision to close them was ordered by the Governor.
“The government is creating winners and losers by these executive orders under the authority of one person and then many times they have to be immediately modified or changed because something wasn’t thought of and of course there’s always something that wasn’t thought of,” Rep. Collins said. “A lot of people just get left out in the cold.”
Rep. Collins went on to express concerns over the potentially dangerous precedent that the shutdown could set by granting too much authority to certain branches of the government.
“Precedents are being set that are going to be almost impossible to set aside once we ever get this virus over with,” Rep. Collins stressed. “The precedents like curfews happening in some states, prevention of travel, telling you that you can’t leave your home, these kinds of things are there to be used whenever it’s convenient for the people in power, and basically we’ve just allowed the government to make all of its decisions for us lately which is not what we do in America.”
Meanwhile, senior citizens and those already suffering from an underlying health condition continue to comprise the majority of those who have died from the virus, and in many cases involved nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
“We should absolutely offer full protection to seniors and others in the long-term care facilities or anyone else whose health is impaired, and we’re not doing a very good job of that,” Rep. Collins said. “But it should have been their choice.”
Rep. Collins cited two recent instances that did not involve the coronavirus where families were forced to separate from their loved ones who required hospitalization. Hospitals across the state will not allow the family of patients inside to see their loved ones over the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of what the patient is admitted with.
“A person that I know, 27-years-old, had a motorcycle accident and his wife was not allowed in the hospital,” Rep. Collins said. “Now, he has maybe brain damage and they sent him to a long-term care facility and she’s not allowed to visit him there. She has not seen him since the date of the accident which was several days ago.”
Senior citizens who otherwise would’ve chose to be with family will die alone under the current guidance, according to Rep. Collins who said the fact that they’re not allowed to make that choice is wrong.
Most of the stores and businesses that have been permitted to remain open and operate have been issued strict social distancing guidelines which Rep. Collins feels could be implemented at many that were ordered to close so they could have remained open as well.
“Businesses like grocery stores and drug stores that are open, the same techniques that have allowed people to go there could have been used in our other businesses so they could have stayed open as well,” Rep. Collins said. “How are people going to get back to work if the businesses that were supporting them are no longer there, or in many cases if they figure out how to operate with far fewer employees.”
Delaware recently joined a multi-state coalition to look at ways to begin to reopen and gradually end the shutdown.
The coordinating group of states – comprised of one health expert, one economic development expert and the respective Chief of Staff from each state – will work together to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.